Pope John Paul II: the WR Pseudodox "Icon"
I couldn't let Subdn. Benjamin Andersen post all the crazy "icons."
The next "Western Rite" Pseudodox "icon" will feature: "Pope John Paul the Great."
The new "icon" will be offered for sale by Mustard Tree Books, which also sells some decent older liturgical items — and its own "2007 Liturgical Calendar. For Western Rite Orthodox." (Click these links to view January and February.)
Being the curious codger I am, I decided to look the group up — and my goodness, what a bizarre story unfolded.
According to its website registration, the site is run by "Transfiguration Ministries" of Springfield, Massachusetts, and its listed contact is Brianna Martin. Transfiguration Ministries is the ministry of Brianna's husband, one "Bp. Dominic" Martin (formerly Dominic Biltcliffe, formerly Tod F. X. (Francis Xaver) Biltcliffe, formerly Tod Donald Biltcliffe). The husband is head of the "Traditional Western Rite Archdiocese of America," a "Western Rite Orthodox Catholic Church."
According to his online biography, Martin/Biltcliffe made his "Benedictine Profession 1996 at Holy Name Abbey, West Milford, NJ," a monastery now associated with the Milan Synod; "I was elected Abbot [in] 1998." He is one of the Archbishops of the "Synod of Orthodox Bishops of the Western Rite," a group to which Holy Name and St. Hilarion Monastery in Austin, Texas, once belonged. (See here and here. The SOBWR webpage still links to the "Occidentalis" Yahoo group, as well as "St. John Cassian Press" and several other pages of the apparently defunct All Merciful Savior church in Austin, TX.)
As vagantes are wont to do, SOBWR's swooped in and snatched up the website of a former legitimate Western Rite church. Its domain name — WesternOrthodoxy.org — used to belong to Holy Cross Orthodox Church, an Antiochian Western Ritt Vicariate parish "pastored by the late Father Charles Austin Dinkler, RIP." However, the Synod of Orthodox Bishops of the Western Rite has kept you from seeing the website's past, because it has blocked Archive.org from archiving the old site.
SOBWR claims to be traditional and Orthodox. A local newspaper, The Valley Advocate, describes Martin as a "Sarum Rite Catholic. He obeys the laws and rituals of the Catholic church as it existed before 1054 AD, when the church split, creating the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches."
Oh, and he married two men to each other. (Advocate; get it?)
According to Martin, "The Sarum Rite allows its priests and bishops to marry; the church is considering allowing women to join the priesthood; and it is beginning to allow same-gender couples to receive the wedding sacrament." When asked why he called the marriage of Tim McKee to Nick Platanitis (a cradle Orthodox?) a "sacrament," the "bishop" said: "This is two people in love. How can we not?"
He ordains gay men to the episcopacy, too.
For added spice, The Boston Globe reports Dominic and Brianna Martin were arrested in 2003 and charged with extortion and larceny, accused of threatening to reveal sexually charged 'net conversations "His Grace" had with a Roman Catholic priest if the priest didn't fork over thousands of dollars. (No reporting on who turned the conversation sexual first.) According to the Catholic League, under his birth name, Martin received a settlement for priestly molestation, which the author considered dubious.
For all this, Martin is "Dean of the School of Orthodox Studies" at St. Wolbodo's Seminary. (Keen name.)
At any rate, Transfiguration Ministries is apparently the financial engine behind the SOBWR. Caveat emptor.
Update: I see our friend at Deacon's Blog has also written about this pair's snarky comments about the PNCC on Ebay (???).
Update II: I see Brianna Martin also heads the web design firm Webs Architect of Springfield, MA. One would assume this group also funds SOBWR.