Saturday, January 13, 2007

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 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 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.


Monday, January 08, 2007

The Next Western Rite Ordination

The once-and-future Fr. John Fenton has announced that his:

ordinations would take place at St George Orthodox Church in Troy [Michigan, near Detroit]. The ordination to the diaconate will be on Saturday, 10 February at 10:00 a.m. The ordination to the holy priesthood will be on Sunday, 11 February, at 10:00 a.m. His Grace, Bishop MARK, will be the ordaining hierarch.
Thank God for this announcement, and may He grant Fr. Fenton a fruitful ministry within the Western Rite.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

A WR Apologia for the Old Calendar

On the day our Western Rite brethren in ROCOR celebrate Christmas, I chose to post this for further elucidation. At this blog, we are occasionally asked what we think of the Old Calendar. Here are a few words from a Western Rite priest (and monk) who follows this calendar, Dom James M. Deschene of Christminster Monastery:

Q: Why does Christminster follow the Old (Julian) Calendar? And isn't this confusing? Doesn't this conflict with being western-rite?

A: It can be occasionally confusing, but not so much as people may think. A good liturgical calendar with dual dates obviates most confusion. (See our Calendar link.) We follow the Old Calendar because it is the tradition of the majority of Orthodox Christians throughout the world and throughout the centuries. Here in the United States one easily overlooks the fact that the vast majority of Orthodox outside the USA still follow the Julian Calendar. Thus our maintaining this tradition reflects our community and fellowship with the worldwide community of Orthodox Christians. This does not diminish, in our estimation, our respect for and fellowship with those Orthodox, in thiscountry and elsewhere, who follow the new calendar. We hope, in return, that we will be respected for our own observance. We do not see the Old Calendar as inappropriate for the western rite, since the western rite is simply the Orthodox rite of the west before the Great Schism, and the Old Calendar is the calendar of the Orthodox west. Naturally we regard the Gregorian/papal revision of the calendar as possessing no more validity than any other papal revisions of theology, liturgy or custom. Following the Old Calendar actually helps to distinguish western-rite Orthodox Christians from non-Orthodox western Christians. It can be a blessing to find ourselves out of step at times - especially at Christmas - with contemporary American life. This is especially beneficial in two ways. First, it reminds us that while we must live in our secular culture, we do not owe it our ultimate allegiance. This is an appropriate reminder not just for monastics, but for all Orthodox Christians. Secondly, it permits us to celebrate Christmas in a quieter atmosphere, unsullied by commercial and consumerist diversions.

Also, see my earlier post here. I wrote at the time, "Western Rite faithful generally are more traditional than most of their brethren (including some Byzantines). As a rule, they oppose changing 'the old ways' of any rite." This is proven by Fr. James, Fr. Michael, Fr. Barry, and all those in the Western Rite who observe Christmas today.

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Merry Christmas to Those on the Old Calendar

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish a very Merry Christmas to all our Orthodox brethren who celebrate Christmas today. (How's that possible? Read this post.) Specifically, I'd like to send the warmest holiday greeings to Fr. James Deschene, Fr. Michael, Fr. Barry, Dr. John Ward, Ari Adams, and all those in ROCOR's Western Rite.

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Happy Anniversary

Yesterday marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. Our very first post went online on Epiphany 2006. Thanks to those who have commented or read, and I hope we will have a productive coming year.