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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