Saturday, November 03, 2007

Q: What About New Western Rite Priests?

Q: Ben, I'm excited by the existence of the Western Rite in Orthodoxy, but I have a reservation. I've heard from a Continuing Anglican that the Orthodox Church is not ordaining "Western Rite priests de Novo," meaning if you want to be a WR priest, you have to be ordained before you become Orthodox. This would mean once the convert priest who started the mission dies, it would not get a new priest and would eventually wither, a back door way to kill the Western Rite. What will happen to Western Rite churches when their priests die?

A: This is false in every particular, and positively monstrous: in addition to presenting Antiochian bishops as reveling in sheep-stealing, it also implies a bait-and-switch is going on.

This is a variant on the old saw that "the Western Rite is temporary and will be phased out," and it is equally false. Anyone born into the WRV or who converts as a layman can be ordained to the holy priesthood, just as Byzantine laymen can be ordained priests. I'm told our bishops prefer ordaining "cradle" WRO, since they do not have to unlearn some of the things "convert" clergy do.

Of course there can be new, "de Novo" priests of the succeeding generations. To give one example: just a few years ago, when Fr. Stephen Walinski decided to retire as from St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church (WRV) in Omaha, Nebraska, Bp. BASIL promptly ordained Fr. Theodore Eklund as priest-in-charge. Fr. Eklund was, at that time, a subdeacon at a Western Rite Orthodox church and had never been ordained elsewhere -- and he is not the only person to be ordained in the WRV without being clergy in another church first.

I first encountered this same myth several years ago, probably from the same Continuing Anglican (who was affiliated with a small Continuing Anglican group and with The Anglican Breviary). Its effect would be to make any catholic-minded Westerner who heard it think ill of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate and go elsewhere.

Of perhaps the large influx of recent Western Rite parishes to the Antiochian Archdiocese, complete with clergy, has confused someone else?

Either way, this shows the perils of going to those outside the canonical Western Rite for information on it, whether Continuing Anglicans or vagantes spreading myths on the internet.

Thanks for writing!

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Blogger Matthew the Critical said...

Thanks Ben for the info. This is an issue I have been concerned with in light of several missions I have heard about closing over the years. Of course, I later learned the sources of some of these reports were false. Some others, I don't really know.
Anyway, on another point, I tried to access the OBLATES OF THE ORDER OF SAINT BENEDICT link and nothing was there. Can you post a link or links to learn more from the WR practice?
In CHRIST the Savior.

Matthew the Curmudgeon

3:38 PM  
Blogger James the Thickheaded said...

Folks are well advised to apply an old adage when absorbing info: "consider the source". Admittedly, the anonymity of the Internet makes this more difficult. And I don't pretend to know the source.

FWIW, I spent a year with the CA's, and many are worthy and good Christian folks. In fairness, but without animus, the source likely meant no worse than to suggest that the same problem CA's face (i.e. no or few seminarians) is common among the WRO, and the comments are no worse than what they say about each other... where "the other guy" is always a "vagante"... but "we" are the good guys. It is here where it is often of interest whether the source would find the same deficiencies in his own or other competing CA jurisdiction... and in fairness, my guess is he or she would readily admit, "Yes". For nothing could be more temporary than a movement begun out of dissension on a limited number of issues, led by a small coterie of adherents, and without the official support of significant numbers of the official hierarchy of the original institution. In this, even the Old Catholics have found it difficult to sustain themselves but seem to have withered.

This just ain't a game worth playing, and though often baited, WRO should not and do not fall for this trap. For though Western Rite Orthodox may for the moment seem a practice analogous to Continuing Anglicanism...because many of our parishes are "mission size" at the moment and there are some similarities in our worship... the Truth is something else. WRO benefits from the confidence of a secure future in the fullness of the Church where there is no uncertainty of "direction" or picking of "parties". Western Rite Orthodox are first and foremost Orthodox... and this is such a positive conversation starter - where few have pre-conceived ideas that we can say we share no confusion as to our identity beyond the usual odd looks most Orthodox Christians find here in the States. We stand with our bretheren and for Christ; we are protected and nurtured by our bishops, and the support among the broader Church for our mission seems to be quickening not lessening. And the impact of the reunion of the Russian Churches on their Western Rite... has yet to be felt... but this optimist expects more good news from this in a conciliar Church.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Benedictus said...

Maybe there should be a special section on titled "Urban Legends about WRO."

1:51 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

James, I should say, the original question doesn't list a source. I'd only heard it from one source, but you know how myths spread, much less in the internet age. The important thing in this case is setting the record straight. That said, I generally share your views of the CAs: very good people who would be at home in the Western Rite, if they'd only give us a look.

Benedictus, my thoughts exactly. No one else is doing it, so unfortunately, that's one of the major reasons I'm here.

MTC, thanks for pointing out the link. I'll try to fix that promptly.

God bless,

11:44 AM  

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