Saturday, October 07, 2006

Christminster: Western Orthodox FAQ

The living saint of Rhode Island, Dom James M. Deschene, has posted a FAQ on his monastery's website. It is valuable in many rights, but the following are some of the most FAQ we receive from inquirers at this blog. Rather than bungle the answers, I'll present those of Dom James:
How are you different from traditionalist Roman Catholics or Anglicans?

Very simply - but most importantly - we're Orthodox. We hold the ancient Orthodox Catholic faith in its fullness, in union with all Orthodox believers of east and west. We read and accept the Scriptures according tothe unchanging tradition of the ancient Church, the seven councils and theholy fathers. We remain - by the grace of God - free from the doctrinal dissension and moral deterioration that in our time have often plagued western Christianity in its various forms.

Traditionalist Roman Catholics often have concerns about papal authority. In some cases, they assume Rome has lost it and they alone have preserved it. In other cases, they assume that there can be no orthodoxy apart from the Roman see and its claims. Unfortunately, these groups - in common with modernist Roman Catholics -- have little appreciation of or use for Orthodoxy. (Pope John Paul II may be an exception here.) As Orthodox Christians, we are able to recognize the traditional role of the bishop of Rome as first among equals - but only when he and his church return to the faith and communion of Orthodoxy, renouncing false claims and invented doctrines (e.g., papal infallibility, Immaculate Conception, universal jurisdiction, etc.). For this reunion, we long and pray.

Traditionalist Anglicans are presently suffering a disintegration of the worldwide Anglican Communion - a dissolution precipitated over severalgenerations by erosions of traditional faith and morals and departures from traditional ecclesiastical order. Among these are the ordination of women,blessing of same-sex unions, and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. Again - by the grace of God - Orthodoxy remains blessedly free of these issues and concerns. Undistracted by these matters, we are able to focus onthe primary work of Orthodoxy which is the worship of God, the saving of our souls, and the proclamation of the Gospel in its Orthodox fullness and purity to all the world.

Inevitably, because we exist in a homely and familiar western liturgical form, we can be a haven for disenchanted and disenfranchised Roman Catholics and Anglicans (as well as other Protestants) who seek an Orthodox home where they will be welcomed and will truly feel at home.

It is our joy and mission to provide that home to those lost seekers. As converts ourselves, we know both the pain of leaving one's old church and the joy of finding the fullness of Christ's true Church in holy Orthodoxy - and finding there too those familiar western liturgical and devotional forms and traditions that have meant so much to us and are part of our heritage. But we believe very strongly that such seekers should come to Orthodoxy not merely on the rebound from an unsatisfactory church situation, but because they see Orthodoxy as the original Church of Christ, possessing the fullness of the apostolic faith and teaching.

How does Christminster compare to the western-rite in the Antiochian Church?

It should first be noted that we have excellent relations with theAntiochian western-rite vicariate, both with members of the clergy and with Bishop Basil and Father Paul Schneirla, its Vicar. In fact, some of our oblates (clerical and lay) are members of the Antiochian vicariate. Liturgically and ritually, our Liturgy is very similar (nearly identical) to their Liturgy of St. Gregory, though some of their parishes use the St. Tikhon Liturgy as well.

Our orientation is monastic where theirs is parochial, but we both provide avery open, "non-ethnic" and welcoming atmosphere to visitors seeking the authentic Orthodox faith in a western setting.

It is our hope that our good relations with the Antiochian vicariate will only deepen and mature as we seek to bring a living and dynamic Orthodoxy to an increasingly secular world.

What kind of music is used at the monastery?

We use mostly Gregorian and Ambrosian chants. Our psalmody is sung to tones in the traditional eight modes. Our hymns come largely from the 1940 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church, Hymns Ancient and Modern, the Westminster Hymnal, the St. Ambrose Hymnal, and from other suitable sources. At present we sing everything unaccompanied, but look forward one day to having organ music to enhance our worship.
He also relates the present structure is too small to accomodate any more vocations. Imagine square yardage preventing someone from joining an Orthodox Benedictine monastery. (Of course, one could always fly to Tasmania and join a Sarum monastery with another pastoral hieromonk; I think he has room for expansion.) Read the whole FAQ; then support Dom James in his ascetic struggle.


WR Pharisees and the "Dress Code"

Fr. Matthew Thurman has tackled the big daddy taboo and scandal facing all of Christendom at this historic juncture: the proper Western Rite "Dress Code."

A certain source with his own rumor mill Yahoo Group has made this an issue of late, focusing on the "standard" for beards on WR priests (the evangelization of the West apparently hanging in the balance).

Fr. Thurman finally stood up and gave the appropriate answer: We are a hierarchical Church; if you are a priest, obey your bishop.* He then passes on this uplifting information:
For the Western Rite, the dress code for the clergy was defined by our first Vicar General, Fr. Alexander Turner, and implemented by Metropolitan Antony (BASHIR) over 40 years ago and has remained unchanged. While on the grounds of one's parish, a priest may wear a Western style cassock and biretta. When a priest is off of the parish grounds, he is to dress in a Western clerical shirt/collar and a conservatively cut black suit. Cassock and biretta are not to be worn as regular street dress. Also, Byzantine dress (such as the Byzantine cassock, kamilavka, etc.) are prohibited as street dress for Western Rite clergy.
This last sentence is only common sense: the WRV absolutely forbids the mixing of Rites. (Interestingly, the former monastery of this discussion's source, St. Hilarion's in Austin, TX, wore Byzantine robes even while putatively "Western Rite.")

Fr. Thurman also related this valuable personal experience:
As someone who has dressed in both "western clericals" and "Byzantine cassock" while at seminary, I've notice that the "western clericals" were better received than the "Byzantine cassock." Those instances in the past when I've worn the "Byzantine cassock" in public, the general reception has been stares and whispers. In contrast, the response to "western clericals" typically involved the friendly greeting "hello, Father!" or curiosity questions about "what kind of minister" I was. Just in terms of a Christian witness to an increasingly secular world, my experience has been that western clerical are more accessible and less threatening than the Byzantine garb.
I had a similar discussion with a priest stricken with Convert Fanaticism SyndromeTM. After a Greek chef he'd never before met in a strange town would not give him a free meal because he was not wearing a Byzantine cassock (I'm not making this up!), he decided he had to wear the cassock everywhere. He brought into his parish another convert priest who discussed the importance of wearing the cassock, since it was "a readily identifiable form of clerical dress."

"Readily identifiable" for whom? The average American:
1. Has no idea what the Orthodox Church is;
2. Has never seen an Orthodox priest; and
3. Has no idea how unknown clergy in an unknown church dress on the street (and even less interest in learning).
The only "readily identifiable" clerical dress for clergy in Western society is the clerical collar. An American may well recognize the Byzantine garb as clerical dress but, without the pectoral cross, won't recognize it as Christian, much less Orthodox. He may even think the priest is a Muslim. (If you think I'm exaggerating, ask the Sikhs who were abused post-9/11 because they were mistaken for Muslims.) Either way, the average American will not feel inclined to open up and ask for prayer and guidance.

This is another strength of the Western Rite: it retains those cultural factors that already resonate with Western Christians. Familiar (but Orthodox) liturgical forms, familiar vestments, and familiar dress help make Orthodoxy look like what it is: a catholic Church for all people.

But that wouldn't be "unique," now, would it?

* - Lest I be accused of having a blind, "papal" allegiance to all Church authorities: yes, sin and heresy excepted. (Rolls eyes.)


10 Signs Your Bishop is a Vagante

Our friend Eric John posted this as a comment on this post, but it's too funny to leave in the comments section. BTW, I had a (less funny) list here for comparison's sake:

Ten warning signs your "bishop" might not be a real one:

10. He refers to himself as Metropolitan Archbishop (of course, it would be better to add something like Catholicos to the mix as well, but one's creative powers must needs be directed elsewhere--such as web design and a clever cover-up operation).

9. His friends call him "Skip" or "Bubba" or even "Catholicos."

8. The ratio of faithful to clergy is often less than 1 layman to 1 clergyman.

7. Despite being a small and forgotten jurisdiction, the Holy Synod your "bishop" belongs to is quite impressive--with an exarch are two and a Western Rite.

6. Your "bishop's" apostolic succession credentials read like a cross between a computer software and/or Ikea manual, a Kant treatise, and the Joy of Experimental Cuisine cookbook (a little o' this, a little o' that).

5. During "liturgy" or "mass" or the "commemorative get together" your "bishop" begins twitching nervously when he hears police sirens outside the "church."

4. Your "bishop's" "church's" name uses three, four, or, preferably, all of the following adjectives in its official name (in different orders somtimes): Orthodox, Roman, Catholic, Traditional, Ecumenical, Old, Celtic, Ancient, African, Eastern, American. (Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic is exempted here, lest we anger the Russians and OCA.)

3. Your "bishop" has a name like Mar Joseph Thaddeus, when he's really a white guy with no link to an Oriental Church, real or imagined.

2. Your "church's" website has a heck of a lot of corporate tax exempt info on it.

And the number 1 warning sign your "bishop" might just have been consecrated in the changing room of an ecclesastical clothing store:

1. People quoting (and misquoting) Jesus get off scott free while those caught quoting your "Primate," who has been diagnosed with something mysterious like "OSB, SSJt., Ph.D." could be slapped with a big fat lawsuit: [Quotes from Metropolitan Archbishop +Joseph Thaddeus, OSB, SSJt., Ph.D. - "Copyrighted" ask for permission (you could face legal action otherwise) to use our "Quotes" which are Continuously updated]--from the website.

If you see any of these warning signs in your "bishop," RUN AWAY, and seek immediate spiritual attention from a REAL Orthodox bishop or priest.

Pretty good, but I think he missed the top one: they claim they are "legitimate, canonical" bishops. Honest.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Roman Catholic: Behold Your Future

Ecce femina! Anne Marie Mahoney, "Substitute Preacher" for the priest.
While the world looked the other way, the Roman Catholic Church has slowly conferred many of the powers of the priesthood on laywomen. As this story indicates, dioceses have been training "substitute preachers" to preside over "Communion services," in which priestless parishes may commune from the Reserved Sacrament.
“Increasingly, we expect [lay] people to find themselves in the same position as Anne Marie” when she got that late-night call, says Mongelluzzo, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, who serves as IREPM’s coordinator of liturgical life. Besides communion services, the rituals reviewed in Mongelluzzo’s introductory and advanced classes have included Evening Prayer, commonly known as Vespers; Vigil for the Deceased, for wakes; the Rite of Committal, for burials; imposition of the ashes, on Ash Wednesday; and the Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, in which the sacred host is removed from the tabernacle and exposed on the altar for periods of quiet devotion. The students this semester are evenly divided between men and women, and range from young adult to retiree. (Emphasis added.)

The Orthodox Church (both Eastern and Western rite) has a similar service, in which a Deacon leads a worship service, then communes the faithful with "Presanctified Communion" (or "Reserved Sacrament"). However, the person leading the modern RCC worship is -- a woman. At this point, a baptized Roman Catholic woman may exercise nearly all the parish functions of an ordained deacon in the traditional Church. One wonders what it might do to the ecumenical dialogue if Orthodoxy knew Rome had created female deacons by stealth?

A conservative Lutheran professor of mine once asked, "How can the Roman Catholics hope to avoid female ordination when they have altar girls?" How can they possibly avoid it now that they have stealth priestesses?

Meanwhile, Mark Shea has the latest on the move for married priests (an innovation I don't oppose which might just cap the bottle on the priestesses).*
(Hat tip: LeoXIII at York Forum)
* - Yes, I recognize mandatory sacerdotal celibacy has a long history in the Orthodox West, beginning in the fourth century; however, such a state was not universally compulsory in the Occident for centuries. (And, in practice, never....) I can see how a married presbyterate could be a benefit...but I ain't no Roman Catholic and ain't got no dog in that fight. I's jus' sayin' is all.

Another Pseudodox Pedophile, This One Western Rite

Connecting with our discussion from yesterday, another character of importance is "Metropolitan Archbishop Joseph Thaddeus, OSB, SSJt., Ph.D." (Alan S. "Skip" Stanford), Primate of the vagante "American Orthodox Church." reports he pleaded "no contest" to multiple charges of molesting teenage boys. According to press statements, he tried to break the seal of confession in order to change this plea. There were also allegations of drug abuse, check fraud, and posing as a legitimate Orthodox Church. (This site has jpegs of the original stories.) The AOC has a "Western Rite Orthodoxy" webpage and claims to be tied to the vagante "Western Orthodox Church in America."



Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Church Pedophiles Created Mark Foley?

Rep. Mark Foley, the Congressman who resigned after acknowleding that he sent sexually explicit messages to underage boys, has pulled the PC sympathy trump card: he has claimed he was molested by a clergyman.* Some believe this, coupled with his sudden alcohol problem, is more illusory than real.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt yields nightmarish thoughts. What if his genuinely is a case of the victim becoming the victimizer? What if an ordained minister is the ultimate cause of this scandal? The pathological cycle of abuse has been verified time and again; that a priest could set off such a cycle, in the name of God, would be one of the foremost abominations.

This is relevant due to the "alleged" molestation at Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, Texas. This blog reported the details at the time. I'm thankful for the efforts of to document the guilty.

For the Church, the next layer of guilt comprises those who protected, enabled, praised, or continued to associate with such molestors. ROCOR cast COTH out. Antioch retired a bishop for a far lesser transgression. But in Rome, bishops and cardinals who transferred molestors from one parish to another still wield the scepter.

Among "Western Rite Orthodox" (real or Pseudodox), many know of Derek "Fr. Aidan" Keller, the self-proclaimed "genuine liturgical expert" of "Old Sarum Rite Missal" fame. Keller — by word and example — invited Orthodox Christians to come to Blanco long after these allegations had come to light, calling it part of "the Texan Thebaid." (The Thebaid housed holy monasteries founded by Sts. Pachomius and Antony the Great and inhabited by many saints.) He encouraged pilgrims even while the predators were still living at the Blanco vagante "monastery." He announced an event and took a man with him to visit Blanco more than a year after two predators' respective conviction and confession. And he praised one of their publications on his bookstore's website until he had to leave his monastery in Austin in late 2004.

As I wrote at the time, "That he, as a 'hieromonk,' was willing to laud and promote these pedophiles should put him forever beyond the pale." It should hold true for anyone in an analagous situation, as well — in the Church far more than in Congress.

* - Actually, the PC trump card would be if he blamed his actions on the "intense pain of being a closeted gay man in a heterosexist society."

Abp. of Canterbury: Masculine God "Contributes to Domestic Abuse"

Think Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is going to preserve "orthodoxy" in the Anglican communion? Here's the latest wake-up call:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is backing a Church of England report that claims viewing God in masculine terms can validate "overbearing and ultimately violent patterns of behavior" in intimate relationships and "contributes to domestic abuse," the London Daily Mail reports.

The document, entitled "Responding to Domestic Abuse, Guidelines for Pastoral Responsibility," is a response to a motion passed by the church's General Synod in July 2004 for guidelines to assist dioceses in working with other agencies and "speak[ing] out against the evil of domestic violence"...

"[U]ncritical use of masculine imagery," the report says, can validate "overbearing and ultimately violent patterns of behavior" responsible for domestic abuse.

So, the Anglican communion decided to "speak out against the evil of domestic violence" by blaming it on traditional Christian theology, and the ABC signed off on it. You can read the whole story here.

Met. Vitaly, RIP

The former head of ROCOR has passed away. Note the MP's conciliatory statements herein.

Moscow, September 26, Interfax - Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov), former first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, died at a hospital in Mansonville, Canada, on Monday evening, at the age of 97.

Metropolitan Vitaly's condition deteriorated sharply last week, sources in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia told Interfax.

The late metropolitan was the primate of the ROCOR for many years. He was known as an implacable critic of the Moscow Patriarchate for its obedience to the Soviet authorities, ecumenism, etc. It was under him that the ROCOR began opening its parishes in Russia - the policy that the Church Outside of Russia itself was to admit erroneous.

During his last years Metropolitan Vitaly led his Church only nominally due to his old age. In 2001, the ROCOR Council sent him into retirement, but later he declared the Council invalid and was made head of one of the Church's small parts, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (B), which continued to recognize him and was to split into three irreconcilable church groups, who pulled out from the ROCOR.

"May the Lord give rest to his soul," Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, secretary for inter-Orthodox relations at the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, commenting on the death of Metropolitan Vitaly.

"The late metropolitan was implacable to the Church in Russia. Nevertheless, we are praying for this repose," he added.

The story seems a bit confused about Met. Vitaly's retirement. After retiring from ROCOR, he was made head of a new jurisdiction known as the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (ROCiE), which calls itself the true ROCOR. By most accounts, by this time, the late Met. Vitaly was no longer fully in possession of his faculties and was manipulated by those implacably opposed to rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate.

May he rest in peace.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Pope and Boss Hogg: Dare to Compare

A great post from The Continuing Anglican Churchman:

I was watching a rerun of the Dukes of Hazzard the other day and noticed that there is an uncanny resemblance between Boss Hogg and the pope.

The pope dresses in all white and wears a fancy hat; so does Boss Hogg.

The pope rules over the Vatican City; Boss Hogg rules over Hazzard County.

The pope has the Vatican as his HQ; Boss Hogg has the Boar's Nest.

The pope has a fancy car - the popemobile; Boss Hogg has his white convertible with the steer horns on the front of it.

The pope has a fancy chair - the throne of St. Peter; Boss Hogg has a fancy chair - his barber chair.

The pope is surrounded by smoke - incense; Boss Hogg is surrounded by smoke - cigars.

The pope has his doctrinal enforcer/watchdog - the head of the CDF; Boss Hogg has his - Sheriff Roscoe Pete Coltrane.

The pope speaks English with a heavy accent - so does Boss Hogg.

The pope has people that cause him a great deal of trouble and try to usurp his authority - schismatics, heretic, etc.; Boss Hogg has the Duke boys.

The pope is sort of friends with the ABC, who has a big bushy beard and a big church/communion that he can barely keep together. The two go way back, but the pope would really like to see the ABC and his communion submit to papal authority; Boss Hogg has a similar relationship with Uncle Jesse (who has a big bushy beard). He is always scheming to take over Uncle Jesse's farm, which is constantly teetering on the brink of financial disaster, and lock up the Duke Boys.

Is this a coincidence? Could the Dukes of Hazzard serve as a metaphor for the church in an even larger way? What about Daisy Duke, Cooter, and the General Lee? What about Roscoe's pet basset hound that rides around with him? The possibilities for theological reflection are endless. Hmmmm, I think I know what I am going to do my ph.d. about. Yee haw!

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