Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Did you know you’re “Byzantine Orthodox”?

Western Orthodox - Byzantine OrthodoxNo, I don’t know what it means either. Nor am I aware that the various synods of the world have declared themselves to be any such thing as “Byzantine Orthodox”. But that’s what Western Rite enthusiasts are calling you. It’s because they want to reformulate Holy Orthodoxy into a religious system defined by the selection of a particular rite, the religious endorsement of a body of cultural baggage, and the importation of a whole set of heterodox pieties on the justification that they’re “Western” and “Orthodox” people are willing to use them. They call themselves by the misnonmer “Western Orthodox”, and the only way to keep it from looking like a schism, a fetish, or a ploy (like “Charismatic Orthodox” – no such thing), is to try to rename the rest of us after their heresy. Yes, heresy, for it is certainly heresy to create another “Orthodoxy” in competition with the Orthodoxy already here present, and wed it to anything but itself, and claim that it is the rightful religion of those who live in already-evangelized lands. If it is Orthodoxy, let it be simply that. If it is Orthodoxy-plus or Orthodoxy-light, it is a deception, as well as a heresy.

Those who claim the need to Americanize Orthodoxy, for instance, have reversed the entire order of Orthodox evangelism. Orthodoxy is planted by missionaries in a land, and grows organically from there, without campaigns of special interests trying to ethically cleanse and culturally sanitize and reformat the Faith. The Orthodoxy planted, grown, and still growing in the United States is Orthodoxy planted in a multicultural environment, and it is no wonder that it should be Russian, Greek, Arabic, etc. And there would be no wonder in it being Roman, were such a thing to exist, and were it to keep itself free of stain by abstaining from heterodoxy rather than, like Corinth, remixing its own religion. But it prefers to create a religious fiction – that of a “Western Orthodoxy”, typified across diverse lands and times by liturgical similarities.

It tries both in the US and in history to create homogenization where none exists or existed. It cannot bear diversity, not really. Observe that enthusiasts do not find it enough to be approved, they insist on quelling dissent and claiming they are the legacy and heritage of all future Orthodox here. Homogeneity is their goal, under the term “Western”. What we are witnessing is something that was never Western when the West was Orthodox, nor Orthodox when Orthodoxy was in the West. A presumed “religion of the West”, only in the Orthodox rather than Papal fold. In actuality, it is a vehicle for translating the cultural implications of US and Western European imperialism into religious attitudes. In fact, this is what we mean by ‘religion’ in the negative sense: the process of translating cultural imperatives into religious rubrics.

Just a point to keep in mind: there never was a “Western Patriarch”. There certainly was a Roman Patriarch and, if they want that, let them revive it; let them fill the vacant see. But if they mean to create what never was – a hybrid of Orthodox affiliation with the heterodox notion of a religion based not on the local episcopate, as the Church that Christ and our Fathers have given us once for all, but some quasi-jurisdiction – a popeless or pope-courting ‘Western Orthodoxy’, then let us remember the full and unexpurgated anathemas in our Synodikons, which have much to say to such an ecclesiological-liturgical homonculus.

Indeed, the recent initiatives seem to be an effort to create an ‘Orthodoxy of all the West’ rooted neither in the local Bishop nor even in synods of local Bishops according to some unrealistic plan for episcopal gerrymandering, but rooted in Americanism and the Roman Catholic atmosphere of the Godfather era, sans the Pope (though that can’t be far behind – they’ll eventually need him). Make no mistake, the notion of “Western Orthodoxy” and the fabrication of a “Byzantine Orthodoxy” is an attack on Orthodox ecclesiology in the first place, and a preparation for neopapism in the second.

While we wait for that ridiculous day, let us who are not “Western Orthodox” neither be called “Byzantine Orthodox”, nor any other neologisms, so we don’t cause our brothers to stumble by taking up their error. Those who were first called Christians should beware taking up new names that contradict the very things that make them Christians in the first place.


June 9, 2008 - Posted by | -- What is Western? | ,


  1. And here’s the irony. A group of Orthodox (a majority of them converts?) who are not without issues in being WR attempt to homogenize and marginalize the Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, the OCA and even their own sponsors through resorting to a Roman Catholic approach to describing rites. Nice. Very sad.

    Did John Paul II ever specify which lung the Orthodox Faith is, since the left lung has 2 lobes and the right lung has 3.

    Comment by publican123 | June 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. Well, there is a point. Even if the two words aren’t put together, they certainly “sound together” in these folks’ writings. “We do this because we are Western. They do that because they are Byzantine.” For shame. People excuse what they wish in the name of “Western” Orthodoxy– and that is the worse shame still, because they attack Orthodoxy.

    I just received “Orthodox Prayers of Old England”. What a joy! It was just Orthodox. Western, but Orthodox. My wife, forever the skeptic on things “Western”, was awestruck. If that was how “Western Orthodoxy” was, there would be no “Western-rite” controversy.

    Comment by joesuaiden | June 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. Ah, well if you did say it, it was probably picked up inadvertantly from the Enthusiasts.


    That’s the goal, of course, of sowing all these neologisms among us – they start to stick, and we start to feel they have tradition, a basis in Orthodox thought. It’s kind of like the iconography of Russian captivity. People thought it was Russian. It wasn’t Russian, it was an import w/o history in our tradition.

    Comment by tuD | June 9, 2008 | Reply

  4. Well, shoot, I hope I didn’t say that. I think of Orthodox as Orthodox, but when we start getting into the whole “rite” thing I always get mixed up. I just call those who are Eastern “Eastern”. “Byzantine” makes them sound like Ruthenian Uniates.

    Comment by joesuaiden | June 9, 2008 | Reply

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