Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sigh...A Response to Derek "Fr. Aidan" Keller

Why did Derek "Fr. Aidan" Keller post a seven-part article about me, a man with whom he hasn't been in contact for 19 months, in response to a message I left on the Occidentalis Yahoo group nearly two years ago? It seems Keller's friend, a Milan Synod priest, had commented on an Orthodox blog that the "Sarum Use" had been " translated, published & used" by Milan and ROCOR -- the latter a canonical Orthodox church. Our friend Ari Adams then clarified, "our ROCOR Sarum is *not anything* like that of 'Milan Synod'. Here they conflate our Western Rite with their own, elsewhere they condemn it as 'unOrthodox' as that of AWRV...The important thing: Vladyka Hilarion of Sydney has only approved and has in use in his archdiocese the Sarum use of Saint Petroc - *not* that being sold by the 'Milan Synod'. " As Keller is the translator and chief promoter of Milan's "Old Sarum Rite Missal" (OSRM), Ari's truthful words got Keller all worked up...at me!

After posting Ari's comments, the Milan priest asked Keller, "what are the differences in the Sarum Use between ROCOR & Milan?" Keller repLIED, "There is no specific text which is the official ROCOR 'Use of Sarum.'" In fact, the only Sarum text authorized for diocesan celebration in ROCOR, approved by Abp. HILARION of Sydney, is right here; it will also appear in the soon-to-be-published St. Colman Prayer Book. The text had also been posted on Occidentalis in 2004. It would have been easy to compare the two side-by-side and note the differences.

...As I did two years ago. (Well, sorta.)

Instead, Keller chose to distort my long-ago post. Like Ari and others, I'd seen Keller conflate his OSRM with that used by ROCOR. (His group description even throws MosPat and Antioch into the mix.)[1] This and other statements led people to believe ROCOR dioceses use his OSRM. (They do not.)

As I noted in my original message, which was entitled Sarum vs. "Sarum," I was responding to Keller's claim that his OSRM "is approved within the Holy Synod of Milan and within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia...Our Sarum rite, specifically as published by St. Hilarion Press, has found approbation within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia." I pointed out Vl. HILARION (ROCOR) has blessed a Sarum liturgy for celebration in his diocese -- and it's not the one published by SHP/Keller. "The differences are clear to anyone who has eyes...If these are your disciples, they have erred."[2] Then I listed a total of 45 "notable differences" between the liturgy approved by Vladika and Keller's "Old Sarum Rite." These differences often began, "ROCOR Sarum has..." or "Authentic Sarum has...." Immediately following these dozens of differences, I concluded, "If ROCOR HAD wanted to approve your liturgy, [it] obviously failed." Keller's linguistic sleight-of-hand would be like me "claiming since my name is Ben Johnson, I 1) was in plenty of movies with John Wayne; 2) won an Olympic gold medal for track in 1988; and 3) was buried in Westminster Abbey." Thus, it should be clear the purpose of these 45 "notable differences" was to distinguish between the liturgy Vl. HILARION had approved for celebration within his God-protected ROCOR diocese and Keller's liturgy (OSRM). Even one of his defenders in the discussion acknowledged this.[3]

Instead of admitting His Grace had not blessed the OSRM for celebration, Keller labeled the many differences I found in my narrow comparison of OSRM with ROCOR, "Ben's 45 challenges," and treated my post as though I were claiming there were no source whatever for any of those practices. Thus, by citing a single source for any one of them, he could "defend" his OSRM from my "challenges" and "win." As he has long maligned the AWRV and Antiochians in general, this would have the added benefit of vanquishing someone he portayed as a "public advocate for the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate."[4]

To make his recent "defense" the stranger, he actually began such posts in 2004, posting several messages based on this strawman premise. By the time he posted his original "responses," he had conveniently placed me on message review, [5] so I could not post messages without his approval. I told him he was misconstruing my post in a message I asked be posted online during this time, which he somehow deemed not fit to print.[6] Soon, he censored all his critics and lost interest in providing sources. Then, two years later, immediately before Holy Week, he decided to resume the charade.

To be clear: My aim was to document that OSRM was not the text approved by ROCOR, but I accidentally referenced the wrong URL. I had not seen a complete text of ROCOR's Sarum until shortly before the post, though I knew some specific differences, and had been given a URL to the wrong liturgy. As a result, I inadvertently based my comments on the other WRITE liturgy authorized by Vl. HILARION: "The English Liturgy," an adapation of the historical Anglican liturgy (BCP). It contains many Sarum elements.[7] Nonetheless, the differences with OSRM jumped off the page, and I read the text/wrote the post quicker than I would if doing a careful historical study. Although the URL error was mine, it actually undermines Keller's case: ROCOR not only does not celebrate the OSRM but approves a Tikhonite service he has viciously attacked with rare savagery and tenacity, as "Protestant," "Zwinglian," "the Episcopalian Rite," "Reformed Protestant rite," etc. Score two for canonical Orthodoxy.

Although by nature misleading, Keller's "defense" is not entirely without value. So many Sarum-philes and experts have told me they looked at his OSRM and concluded the entire thing was his invention. There are so many eyebrow-raising passages and Byzantized eccentricities one could be forgiven for assuming it is liturgical science fiction; certainly it bears no resemblance to anything anyone familiar with the Sarum use would recognize. For the most part, Keller's response to questions heretofore has been self-reverential assertion: "Trust me." Now those so minded can look up his footnotes and determine:
  • whether his text is actually in the original sources;
  • if it is whether its origins are pre-Schism or later;
  • whether he's used the sources appropriately;
  • whether it is a representative example of a widely established practice or his preferred idiosyncrasy;
  • how the source was treated by history;
  • the wisdom of his inclusions and deletions;
  • whether other examples might be more meritorious substitutions;
  • how other sources treat his source in each instance;
  • the theological and devotional value or inferiority of the original;
  • whether Keller's translation is adequate and standard; etc., etc.
It seems like a great deal of trouble in order to verify an obscure and redundant recension of a liturgy that will further divide the WRO practice and for which there seems to be no constituency within Orthodoxy.

Understandably, no Orthodox hierarch has undertaken this task. Nor has any body of recognized canonical Orthodox scholars, such as the Russian Synod of 1904 or the first WRV Commission of Frs. Schneirla, Schmemann, Upson, and Meyendorff did for the present WRO liturgies. Thus, the "Old Sarum Rite Missal" remains the unverified, non-approved, and still largely undocumented work of one layman, produced while he was still "Old Catholic." (And there are abundant reasons to question Keller's liturgical scholarship.)

I have not checked his footnotes, but they seem to confirm what so many of his critics said all along: it is an eclectic service in which Keller chose the most isolated Byzantine-sounding examples of local customs from varying eras and localities, all drawn from books published long after the Schism (even into the 19th c.), gave them an even more Byzantine translation into stilted English, mashed them all together into one liturgy he called "Sarum," and claimed the result was representative of nearly all pre-Schism Europe.

As one noted Anglican scholar points out, "the various [Sarum liturgical] books that survive (cf. above) come from a great many different places and dates." Nearly all are post-Schism. (Keller once claimed all, though that's false.) "There was not, therefore, one 'Use of Sarum,' and even when a particular source describes something as being 'according to the use of Sarum' (secundum usum Sarum) it only means Sarum Use as it was understood at a particular time and place and not as it was set down for all eternity in some one single source book...A composite 'Sarum Use,' therefore, must be pieced together from a great many different books and manuscripts coming from different places and periods." Even Keller, when pressed, admits the "variety" of the texts. Some practices were confined to one diocese or even one parish. The difficulty of stringing together several local uses (perhaps abuses) should be apparent. The question, then, is whether the OSRM is properly compiled -- an open question to be sure. It seems certain no one in pre-Schism England celebrated liturgy exactly as it is layed out in the OSRM. Much less did they prostrate numerous times upon entering a parish with "Western Rite" monks dressed in Byzantine habits serving Presanctified Liturgy weekdays in Lent and administering communion with a spoon and cloth under the chin. (Keller claims this was done "for pastoral reasons" -- reasons apparently never encountered in Western history, nor by anyone presently serving Sarum Mass in ROCOR.)

Since Ari's words started this, perhaps I'll let them summarize, as well:
[The OSRM's] sources vary widely...The ceremonial and much of the rite is based upon finding Byzantine analogues in Western customs that were either quite singular, irregular, or modern misinterpretations of antique material...it is not a version, but a new rite of its own...It is a work of liturgical archaeology, and has not been vetted by liturgists with experience in Western Rite towards whether it [is] (or can) [be] what it purports to represent: Anglo-Saxon liturgy of the 9th c.
I would merely add if its sources were ever fully vetted and, somehow, approved, WRO must then discuss: whether such liturgical archeology is wise; how communities based on resurrected liturgies fared in the past (L'ECOF); and whether it is necessary and prudent to introduce (at least) the seventh liturgical variation in the 130-year history of the Western Rite (AWRV Gregorian and Tikhon; ROCOR Sarum, Gregorian, and English Liturgy; and L'ECOF's Gallican). I'd answer all (tentatively): negative.

But the fact remains: none of this was the point of my Occidentalis post, and Keller knew it. Should he wish to publish an article delineating the ways his OSRM differs from nearly every other version of Sarum and explain his editorial choices, he would do so more accurately without twisting my words in the process.


1. "One feature of Occidentalis is 'Daily Ordo,' a message that informs Western Rite priests and cantors how to arrange the next day's services according to the Gallo-Roman usage of Sarum. The Sarum Use or Rite is kept by certain Old Calendar and Russian Orthodox communities...Anglicans and Roman Catholics have made use of the rite." All this conflates Keller's OSRM with ROCOR, implying his "Daily Ordo" has something to do with ROCOR, Moscow, Antioch, Rome, and Canterbury.

2. I'd read Sarum missals years earlier, but to jog my memory I also referenced another recognizably Sarum text I'd quickly perused online, posted by an Occidentalis member, to make sure the ROCOR Sarum wasn't some bizarre mutant missing numerous elements Keller's had retained; it is not.

3. Timothy Hoopes, "I said that he had made an error bysaying that the authentic Sarum does not have tropes added to theKyrie litany. Upon a further reading of his post, I see that heactually says that the one particular ROCOR Sarum, which he saw, didnot have them; he most likely only meant to say, then, that the Sarumapproved by ROCOR was therefore not the same one prepared by Fr.Aidan and published by St. Hilarion's press."

4. For revealing the actions of one of his supporters.

5. I confess I was amused to see him call me "a noted published author in Orthodox journals and public advocate for the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate (AWRV)." First, as I stress, I am not an AWRV spokesman and everything I write is unofficial. Second, I have written perhaps two articles in three years for Orthodox periodicals. I have been on the periphery of the Western Rite for a few years, met many of our Vicariate's wonderful faithful, and still no one on earth understands that I'm not Benjamin Andersen. I run a four-month-old blog that can't get a dozen comments on any thread (as opposed to Keller, who has hundreds of sycophants on his Yahoo group). In other words, by worldly standards, I'm a complete nobody who just happens to love God, love His Holy Church, and believe in the importance of the Western Rite.

6. This was before his plebiscite.

7. This is the chief difference: Fr. Michael adapts the Anglican material to the Sarum ritual, whereas the AWRV placed it within that of the Gregorian/Latin Mass.

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Blogger Father Aristibule Adams said...

I've noticed the latest is to claim ROCOR Western Rite is against 'Traditional Western Rite' - 'Traditional' means 'only that translated by monk Aidan'. The strange thing is that many in Milan Synod do use ROCOR Western Rite (specifically, the Mount Royal/Christminster Use.) That is the *traditional* Benedictine use of the Roman rite ... handed down of tradition, and corrected of post-schism error. The same can be said of the other usages in ROCOR, the Sarum use of the Roman rite, the English use, and even the Gallican (the older form before the changes by Bertrand-Hardy etc.): truly Traditional, without post-schism error. He makes much of study of texts at Oxford, et al - the same work done by the ROCOR clergy already (with different results.) The difference being, ROCOR is a true Traditional Orthodox Church.

What are the differences? A case in point is the schematic for a church and altar from the 'OSRM' (available on Fr. Jack's website as a pdf last time I checked): the schematics are for a *Byzantine* altar and church. There is an iconostasis close up to the altar, with the choir outside in the nave - 'Royal Doors' with deacon's doors (Byzantine, not Sarum or pre-Schism western), a square altar set up as Byzantine with a 'Lamb' - nothing like any of the surviving Celtic or Anglo-Saxon churches. As things are, schematics are also available from ROCOR Western Rite - the same pattern one finds in the existing Saxon churches, as well as existing Celtic churches of the first millennium.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Eric John said...

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about this whole topic. I'm putting it in my "Book of Cunundrums" (sp?) along with "The Liturgical Calendar Mess" and "Moscow Pat/ROCOR Schism--What the Heck Was That About?"

The way I see it, AWRV and ROCOR WRite are looking at the Western Rite from a different angle than Fr. Aidan and his sympathizers, perhaps the Milan Synod WRite. (As a note, I think I have to add "Old Calendar Greek Churches--Who are they and with whom are they in Communion?" to the Cunundrum list.)

Again, as I see it, the Antiochians and ROCOR WR favor a more organic rite, making use of post-schism liturgical developments as they accord with Orthodox theology and piety. The other side, however, favors a return to pre-schism Orthodox useage.

Neither way has been "the norm" in Orthodox WR thought, when examined in breadth. St. Tikhon and those of his time leaned toward the AWRV/ROCOR idea. St. John Maximovitch leaned the other way, with the use of the Gallican rite and the encouragement to conduct further research.

I think the problem many in the Eastern Orthodox world have with Western Rite is that, as it is used today, it has a lot of post-schism elements. Thus, the thought is among some, that the fullness of Orthodoxy is not being transmitted through the WR services. Now, you might say that's hogwash. And you may even be justified for that opinion. But, I think, there is something to be said for examining the ancient liturgical and Orthopraxitic (there's a new word) heritage of the ancient Orthodox West. Of course, it would be difficult, if not impossible to reconstruct it--although it has been done before--since the ancient Western Orthodox uses were very localized and now exist in scattered fragments.

However, it would certainly be a good thing to learn from our ancient Orthodox ancestors, to give the Orthodox Western saints a vote in our WR life. I think it would be good to even give them the pre-eminence. How this is done is not up to me, of course. But I think it is necessary to consider it if we want to really get into Orthodoxy. It would be good to know (with the mind and heart) what was the belief, practice, and piety of the ancient Western Orthodox--for why should this be inferior to the current spiritual praxis of the Western Rite?

Now, I'm not saying that this isn't already being done in the AWRV or ROCOR WRite. Indeed, many wonderful things are being done. What everyone should recognize (how pretentious of me!) is that the modern Orthodox WR is only 150 years old and its uses, while blessed by Saints and Synods, did not descend from heaven etched on stone tablets. Thus, there should be room for growth, and acceptance of the notion that the status quo is what works for now and not what abideth forever.

What does this mean for the modern OWR? That's up for them to decide. As I said, I think the process of growth has already started. I hope that it will continue and flourish. Someday we will all be learning about ancient Western Orthodox Saints and liturgies, etc.--the Orthodox tradition in the West. This will only happen, however, when we can brush off criticism and debate of liturgical minutiae and apply ourselves to weightier matters.

Now, if this message has offended you, Ben, I apologize. I didn't mean it to be offensive or even critical of you or your views. Anyone whose feathers I've ruffeled should just keep in mind that I'm rather curmudgeonly and have no knowledge of WR uses today or yesterday. I dabble in the Divine Office. But, since I'm ER, I don't bother much with the text of the Mass. I also barbarously ignore nit-picky rubrics I happen not to like or understand without thinking twice. Nonetheless, I don't think any of this in the least disqualifies me from telling y'all what you should do and how you should do it. (He he he.) Just take everything with a grain of blessed salt.

10:52 AM  
Blogger OrthodoxMonk said...

Ari stated in his comments: "The strange thing is that many in Milan Synod do use ROCOR Western Rite (specifically, the Mount Royal/Christminster Use.) That is the *traditional* Benedictine use of the Roman rite ... handed down of tradition, and corrected of post-schism error."

I am interested in knowing where in the Milan Synod is the ROCOR WR being used? Fr Aidan's Missal was never required outside his former Archdiocese (which is now mainly if not completely ER). In the Eastern Archdiocese (& in the UK & Serbia) all WR monastics, missions & parishes are supplied by the Archdiocese with an Anglo-Roman Rite from the scholarship of Archbishop John. One can view a sample at OrthodoxWest.info/WesternRite.htm

11:48 PM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hi Eric,

Naturally, no one will interfere with your prerogative to become the next WR Pontificator!

I think if you read on, you'll find it's not merely a misunderstanding but precisely self-defense from an assault made by someone who, for many years of the warfare, was not Orthodox. If you read on, I think you'll get some idea why we're weary.

With that said, the substance of your post is worth discussing. If you read "Unserious Criticisms of the Tridentine Rite, Pt. 2," you'll see Keller admits his liturgy is not strictly pre-Schism, and in fact reflects a much later piety than the uses of AWRV/ROCOR's Gregorian/Sarum liturgies. So the issue isn't really pre-Schism vs. post but verified/approved liturgies vs. unverified/unapproved.

In terms of the two approaches amongst Orthodox: St. John the Wonderworker (ora pro nobis!) also blessed the monastery of Dom Denis Chambault (Benedictine/"Tridentine" liturgy) and Fr. Augustine Whitfield (same). In general, L'ECOF was an attempt to restore a pre-Schism liturgy without success. I think the other approach, as it were, was tried and failed, and most everyone regards that experiment as a failure. IMHO, the failure confirms the lack of pastoral wisdom behind the approach in general...but that's just my opinion.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Eric John said...

I have to say that I find all this argument about liturgics a bit unsettling. When God gives me more patience, I'll definitely delve deeper. Until then, let me just say that I like anything Western Rite, provided it's Orthodox, whether it's gone through channels of canonical approval (not always that scrupulous, I think) or not. (I'm not trying to be hard on the Roman Catholics, but, much of their modern spirituality I find unnerving in rather subtle ways. I sang "Stabat Mater Dolorosa" today, but there was just something about it that didn't seem to fit. "Pange Lingua" gave me no problems. Perhaps I'm crazy. (Well, we all knew that.)

Anyway, here's wishing you a blessed Pascha. (Once again, I've been squeezed out of the running for reading the Gospel for Agape Vespers in Latin. I guess I'll have to teach myself Gaelic or Yup'ik Eskimo.)

10:14 PM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Eric, the only point being if it hasn't been vetted by the Church, it is not "Western Orthodox," particularly when its provenance is an Old Catholic monastery. I think there are ample reasons to question Keller's scholarship in general.

Much in modern RCC spirituality is heterodox, which is why it's never been approved by AWRV or ROCOR. Those parts that have are approved but should be practiced (if they are paraliturgical) under advisement of one's spiritual father.

None of this should be taken to question this blog's unequivocal acceptance of Eric Johnian primacy.

A blessed Pascha to you, my friend. Christus (re)surrexit!

God bless,

4:39 PM  
Blogger Eric John said...

And a very blessed Pascha to you, Ben!

Well, I'm not at all well-versed on the Fr. Aidan situation. The tone of your last postings just troubled me a bit. I will be adding the prayers from OPFOE to a compendium I'm passing along to my spiritual father for review. Basically, it will be the Benedictine Office with Communion prayers.

I'm understanding more where you are coming from. The real Western Rite does have to contend with the imitation varieties. I'm no fan of weirdos and charlatans, but I often give the benefit of the doubt to converts with checkered pasts. Historically, there have been many Orthodox churches which have not had canonical status but have been fully Orthodox. The whole Bulgarian Church, for example, was in such a situation after they seized autocephaly. The Macedonian Orthodox Church is, unfortunately, in the same state as it is run by vapid Communist-nationalists who care nothing about the catholicity of the church. Archbishop Jovan, the Serbian Exarch (canonical) of Macedonia was just recently released from prison because of his success in bringing Macedonians into the catholic church. As I understand it, the Milan Syond was set up by a Greek Old Calendrist group. I don't know if they're still in communion or not. The Greek Old Calendrists received their episcopacy (partly) through ROCOR.

Anyway, thanks for bearing with me. If you ever receive a lot of money and feel like building an Orthodox Benedictine monastery (I'd like a replica of Santo Domingo de Silos, wouldn't you?), Wisconsin is a very nice place. :) That's my random plug. File it away for future reference. Of course, you may also want to publish a handsomer, more user friendly Orthodox missal and an Orthodox Breviary (I'm working on that one). So much to do, so little time.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Father Aristibule Adams said...

Re: 'Orthodoxmonk' (Fr. Symeon, if I'm correct?)

Abbot Augustine's Mount Royal use has continued in use *according to some* and as I have witnessed with Milan Synod - and, the connection with Mount Royal, Woodstock, etc. seems to be stressed by some in Milan Synod.

Re: Eric John

I don't think AWRV and ROCOR WRite are looking at Western Rite from the same angle - they have different approaches: enough that some AWRV folk have spent a good amount of effort trying to malign ROCOR WRite as 'archaeology', or 'Protestantism' (for using catercaps, English surplices, etc.), etc. However, that doesn't make one approach right or wrong.

However, the constant attacks/criticism (note: not 'critiques') by some (monk Aidan, Orthodoxwest.info, etc. ) have been constantly littered by both trying to coopt ROCOR's approval, while at the same time attacking personages, use, praxis, and much else of ROCOR and its Western Rite (such as rapprochement with Moscow.)

I'll put it simply: ROCOR Western Rite *is* the living 'approach' of St. John the Wonderworker, with the addition of having added for pastoral reasons the ROCOR approach to St. Tikhon and the Russian Synod's recommendations on the English/Scottish/American traditions. AWRV is the approach of the Holy Synod of Antioch, and the old Russian Metropolia in the USA. However, I think one finds far less animosity towards the AWRV from our ROCOR WRO than is displayed from other quarters. (We may disagree, nor care for some particulars or generalities - but, one isn't going to find our clergy - and hopefully not our layfolk, saying such uncharitable... and even untrue things, about AWRV.) Then again - our goals aren't to divide Orthodox, nor to sell off overhead stock or futures.

2:14 PM  

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