Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Why?

Why are you being critical, instead of cheering it all on?

The wave of enthusiasm for the Western Rite that’s currently sweeping Orthodoxy in the United States needs to be balanced with substantive criticism, a free expression of critique, sober inquiry, and judicious examination.

Too often those caught in said wave exhibit a “rush to judgment” when it comes to criticism, evincing an almost gnostic prohibition of questions that uses guilt by association, ad hominem, and straw men, to lump opponents into easily dismissable categories. Not all criticism comes from ethnic bias, fear of change, a fetish for doing things the same way, a condemnation of all things Western, or any number of the overly simplistic categories into which opposition is cast.

In fact, with the current ‘fever’ about Western Rite, a balanced opposition is needed to draw attention to deep-seated concerns in a variety of areas that frequently are ignored or not considered. One such example might deal with the triumphalist attitude toward post-1979 Anglicans and post-Vatican II Roman Catholics. Whether or not it is good to bring in people by any means that works, and thereby portray Orthodoxy as primarily about membership, conversion, and affiliation in an almost anabaptist “lets get them saved” kind of way, is certainly a worthy question for consideration.

There will be some who will not like what this site is attempting to do (ask difficult questions, post substantive challenges, and provide a venue for concern and real criticism). We can only observe that every single time the Orthodox have been asked to “get on board” with something, without sufficient debate, it has been a disaster.

The haste with which some Orthodox parishes are being founded, with rapid (some would say “drive through”) catechesis, sometimes even quicker chrismations, speedy ordinations, and almost instantaneous placement of microphones in front of the newly ordained/converted (something the canons forbid), not to mention pushing them overnight into their own quarters, before they even know the meaning of either rite, is unfortunately illustrative, if not the most serious, of the problems to be considered.

We hope that a circumspect and critical approach will involve just as many Western Rite as Eastern Rite Orthodox Christians.

God save the Orthodox and all men.

18 Comments »

  1. I confess to having written the words above (“My gut feeling,” etc.).

    Hieromonk Aidan+
    a sinner

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | October 7, 2008 | Reply

  2. I post the following since e-mailing you has been discouraging:

    Dear “Western Rite Critic”

    I must point out an error on your WRC blog. In the right hand column you have attributed the following to me:

    The York Forum
    “My gut feeling about the site’s owner turned out to be correct. He is not at all a rabid anti-Western riter but, like St. Thomas, wants to “put his hand into the side” of the Western rite so as to revere what is reverend about it. So far it has been a discussion zone less heated than other WR discussion fora. It shows some promise.” – Fr. Stavrophormonk Symeon

    Actually, this quote can be found in posting # 11 which, according to the moniker, appears to belong to the Rev. Hieromonk Aidan of Austin and owner/moderator of the Occidentialis Yahoo Group.

    Please make your correction at your earliest convenience.

    respectfully in Christ,
    Fr Stavrophoremonk Symeon
    the unworthy.

    Comment by Fr. Stavrophoremonk Symeon | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  3. This site has been a huge help to me as someone newly received into the Russian Orthodox Church through chrismation. I recently attended a Liturgy in an Antiochian parish, Byzantine Liturgy. I prefer the way the Liturgy is celebrated in the Russian Church. If the omissions were meant to save time… I’m looking to save my soul.

    Comment by publican123 | February 11, 2008 | Reply

  4. […] You can read the rest of this interesting and constructive (and now award-winning) comment [here]. […]

    Pingback by The Commie Award! « Western Rite Critic | February 4, 2008 | Reply

  5. Father,
    Sorry. I confess I always thought it was proper to ask a blessing of monks, to kiss their hand, etc.

    I don’t, personally, see the necessity of a WR that you do, but I’ve nothing against it in mere principle. I do feel there should be things handled first, but which can’t be handled b/c of a slew of other even more serious problems, which if resolved, I fear will be resolved in terms of institutionalizing ultimate problems.

    While I hesitate to open any other cans of worms here, I’ll just briefly give this example: If for instance, a pan-Orthodox approach were agreed upon, would it help or hinder the formation of one American Orthodox Church (for example). And if the basis for forming the latter were much that has been done in the name of a ‘pan-Christianity”, would that be a good thing, and what then would be the point of a Western Rite, since presumably the West would already be Western Rite? Or would the Western Rite serve in fact as the bridge? How many of the proponents of a pan-good would feel comfortable in a pan-everything?

    As best, we have such substantive issues to attack and deal with that I can’t see this being high on the list. Some will say that this is precisely the vehicle that would help solve the other issues, but then I content that’s approaching a claim that the Church is not the Church in fullness, and does not have the resources it needs in Christ. In short, it’s branch theory thinking, and I worry it came with the converts and wasn’t washed away as it should have been. When I see the world gripped by a policy of perpetual war, policies and trends toward mass starvation, epidemic, slavery, and genocide unparalleled, it’s hard to think the thing that should be high on the list is pews and kneelers, and an exposed altar, with some gregorian chant that most of the converts have to actually *learn* rather than already know. In fact, what’s left? The obsession w. texts, or particular wordings of hymns, or the color of the clothes? I tend to see a people using the WR as a cover for merely being with people like them – for homogeneity. And therefore, is it not part of the same cultural syndrome that is driving the above policies and trends of world disorder over precisely the same issues and questions writ not on the religious screen but on the political and social one? When someone says “Great Somaliland should be for ethnic Somalis and their culture, so they shouldn’t be bound by Tutsi and other cultural influences in the area (their Byzantines)” isn’t it exactly the same argument, but in a different field? And is our reflection of the cultural syndrome standing against or reinforcing the larger behaviors and attitudes that plague our world.

    I don’t like the attitude of most WR enthusiasts, because they sound like Somalis and Hutu to me, and any number of other tribalists arguing for their cultural self-determination. And I see this as the service of Baal. Not meaning to grievously offend, but I think it’s a weightier issue than anyone’s giving it credit for, in many ways, this being one of them.

    We have a lot of cleaning up to do as it is, and a world that doesn’t, imo, need more religious people focused on creating new internal issues to resolve that don’t provide grain to one starving child, prevent one armed conflict, or deliver vaccinations to one tribe. I just see a world descending into a cauldron, and the culture telling us it’s not that bad, and us lulled into the kind of comfort that can play around w. things that aren’t nearly as necessary as resolving a homousia vs. homousion.


    resource

    Comment by tuD | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  6. Rosco: The intention of my post was very unclear; I was simply trying to say “hello” to the active participators in this site, by posting my overall opinion of your site’s mission (and trying to give people an over-view of who I am and where I come from). In short, I was just trying to say “I’m glad somebody is trying to talk about this rationally, and if you’re wondering who I am or what I think…here’s my ‘take’ on the WR in a nutshell.” I wasn’t trying to respond to your post, directly. I’m sorry for the ambiguity.

    You said: “I will have to simply register that the suggestions regarding my note neither admit of careful reading, nor represent my position, and the suggestions about my person and my faith that are made admits of little caution. I find this extremely hazardous ground and unwarranted.”

    I haven’t followed you… I wasn’t attempting to answer your post, I wasn’t trying to represent your position, and I wasn’t trying to suggest anything about your person or your faith. So, I apologize if I was unclear. If you can identify what I did that upset you, I’ll try to offer a more specific apology.

    tuD: I’m sorry; I don’t yet know your name! I pray the Lord will bless you… but I’d like to point out I’m only a monk, and not a priest – if there was any confusion; I’ve learned after years with the “cradle” Orthodox, that many of the faithful want to kiss my hands, or greet me with “evloghite” anyway!

    Anyway, thank you for the kind words. It’s good for us to be open to changing our minds, and examining things, as you say. I actually turned my back on the Western Rite at one point, especially frustrated with how it was being handled (and believing that Orthodoxy didn’t need one more thing to fight about). But, something in me knew it was wrong to do so… I did a lot of deep thinking about it, and came to two conclusions: 1) There is something vitally imporant about a real Western Rite succeeding; 2) That’s not going to happen, if things keep going this way – we need to re-examine our motives and methodology and try to do this in a way that pleases God and the Saints, and not ourselves.

    Anyway, pray for me, too. Hopefully something good will come out of the discussions here. To that end, I pray God’s blessing will be upon us all, and upon the ideas exchanged here. God grant us all an open mind and a willingness to sacrifice everything for Him.

    Comment by fatheraugustine | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  7. Fortuin: Thank you for your query.

    On epistemology: I’m planning an article on this for the site soon. It’s just that the Feast has me too tired at the moment. But you’ve encouraged me to write it. I’ll try to do my best in a short space as soon as I can. Stay tuned.

    The site itself: isn’t a personal site at all, and so doesn’t reflect only one opinion. It’s also not an advocacy site that’s already fixed on one position or another, and just using the venue to advocate that. We think there are many different spectrums of thought on this that can stand up to rational dialogue.

    Instead of a personal or advocacy site, WRC is a consolidator site – bringing together critique/concerns related to the topic “Western Rite” from Orthodox people across a broad spectrum. Our goal is the facilitation of a global dialogue on the topic, a better understanding of all parties, and to preserve the possibility for Orthodox to think about, correct, improve, revise, reject, or accept the things discussed without that being clouded by the common tactics of obfuscation, which are often used to shield from critique anything done in the name of WR or used to punish, dismiss, or falsely stereotype Orthodox who have concerns and criticism related to WR. We rely on this site not so much to have a perfect balance, which is never really possible in any environment of ideas, but rather to serve as a balance to the sum of the WR enthusiast sites and discussions out there, where it is deemed that there is insufficient capacity for rational discourse.

    On my own thoughts on WR: My role is simply and primarily to preserve the possibility of rational discussion (e.g. calling out some of the logical fouls), to facilitate thinking (by contributing some articles and information), and trying my best to answer questions. That said:

    As for my personal opinion: since you ask. Thus far, as of this time/date stamp, I am in agreement with 99-100% of everything Fr. Augustine has said. He expresses it better than me. Of course, I don’t know everything he thinks – only what he has said on this site so far. And I am open to changing my mind. I too, am looking, listening, and watching.

    Hope that helps. Pray for me, the sinner.

    Comment by tuD | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  8. Fr. Augustine: And the people all said ‘Amen’. Bless Father.

    Comment by tuD | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  9. Rosco: I beg your forgiveness. I was probably tired, and less than charitable. I have no real excuse, and am doing the best I can to carry out my part in this. I am sure what I have in ability, I lack in insight, and vice versa.

    Perhaps if you could ask one or two direct questions at a time, simply enough that I can understand them properly, and I’ll see if I can answer them, and try to do so better.

    Comment by tuDr | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  10. Thanks for your response. If you will forgive me, I think the character of further discussion of some of these matters in a web-based public forum is akin to shouting epithets in a shower in that it echoes and too often amounts to grand-standing rather than honest discourse. I find this neither constructive, nor creative and nor that it leads anywhere. I would be happy continue this in direct email if you have an address… or similar. But otherwise, I will have to simply register that the suggestions regarding my note neither admit of careful reading, nor represent my position, and the suggestions about my person and my faith that are made admits of little caution. I find this extremely hazardous ground and unwarranted. If I have done the same, consider me admonished. Otherwise, best to you my friend. I will leave you to your work.

    Comment by roscoetuff | February 2, 2008 | Reply

  11. I was directed to this site, recently, and I have to say I thank God for it.

    I am a believer that the Western Rite is viable and possible; I also believe that we are going about it rather poorly! I have long wanted people within the Western Rite to question themselves, their presuppositions, and to look critically at what they are doing. I had begun to despair that this would happen anytime soon, as I have watched many people in the Western Rite viciously resist such critical thought. But, I’ve been heartened by the growing awareness amongst the most astute Western Riters (of any stripe), that some real changes are needed.

    My main concern, is that we have allowed the WR to become a haven for disgruntled Anglicans/Catholics/Episcopalians, etc. – and not challenged them to go beyond this. It was a good thing to offer a Western Rite outreach to traditional-ish, Western Christians being abandoned by their churches. These people were in difficult circumstances, wanted to preserve their culture, and worship God in Truth. But rather than help these converts ease into a richer expression of Orthodoxy, we seem to have given them the impression that they were already Orthodox. I speak as a convert myself: I realized that, whatever good there was in my church, it was not – and I was not – already Orthodox. I had to repent and convert, rejecting the vast bulk of my heterodox heritage. We have done them a disservice, insofar as we have not made this plain.

    Orthodoxy is something *radically different* from the Western ethos – and not only in aesthetic and non-essential matters.

    I am fortunate enough to have a spiritual father, that met St. John the Wonderworker, spent many years as a disciple of Seraphim Rose (who answered all his questions about St. John’s position on the Western Rite), and who was in fact in the Western Rite for a time.

    He ultimately left the Western Rite, because he saw that not many people wanted to follow St. John (Maximovitch’s) advice – which was to move towards better, richer and more complete (early) forms of the Liturgy as scholarship improved on the Western Rite. My spiritual father watched more than one parish resist an Orthodox mentality towards worship, fasting, etc., – including allowing the Protestant Confessions of faith to remain in their prayerbooks after the bishop asked for them to be removed! He left the movement in frustration. Another priest-friend of mine has a simply fantastic congregation. They were an Episcopalian Church that had entered the AWRV. They have since gone Byzantine Rite, because there was no real liturgical discipline to their Western Rite lives; they would sing whatever song they liked for the Offertory, etc. Eventually, they realized the Byzantine Rite was simply richer and more Orthodox… so they have also left the movement.

    My experience with Western Rite people has, therefore, been varied. I’ve met many sincere, good people in the Antiochian Vicariate, and others in two Slavic-tradition (canonical) jurisdictions. These people generally realized that some kind of movement *away* from later liturgies and devotions would have to come about, if the WR was to survive.

    On the other hand, I’ve met many, many people who were simply “hiding out” in the Orthodox Church. They were simply so convinced that their “Western” customs were a legitimate part of their own “tradition,” that they had no intention of ever leaving them behind. The fact that the West, when it was Orthodox, did not employ many statues, did not employ Eucharistic Adoration, did not use instruments in their worship, did not fast one day a year (at most), etc., was not enough to convince them that their tradition may have been Western – but it certainly wasn’t Western Orthodox.

    In part, this is because we did these folks a disservice. Our hierarchs very kindly received them into Orthodoxy. But, not being well-informed about the West (and, no doubt, having good intentions not to meddle in their native customs), little guidance was offered to these Western Rite people, so as to bring them into a fuller Orthodoxy. In fact, a certain jurisdiction told me that if I could get ten more people together (we had a group of eight already), they would set me up with a stole and a WR parish of my own! That would have been a disaster, as we were all converts from fundamentalist Protestantism! Thank God, I ran away from that deal.

    The matter is complex, and I’m not sure that blaming people is a constructive thing to do. But I’m trying to do what I think *is* constructive; my experience with a Western Rite that looked more Anglican than Orthodox convinced me that people who really want a Western Rite should do a few things.

    1) In the first place, *enter the Orthodox Church through the Eastern Rite.* I have decided that since the Eastern Rite people have the living Tradition (both inside and outside), it is really quite indispensable for the first batch of WR people to spend a few years being formed in the Orthodox ethos within a fully functioning expression of that Tradition.

    This will develop the “Orthodox Heart and Mind,” so necessary to Orthodox living. After a few years have been spent doing this, step two can begin:

    2) Get a real understanding for the *Orthodox* Latin Church’s way of doing things. That is, what was the liturgical and devotional life of the Orthodox (read: pre-schism) Latin Church like? To a certain extent, this can be extended up to the Western Church’s piety before the Council of Trent, although one needs to watch out for the explosion of Corpus Christi and Purgatory-related pietisms from this period. But, once one has developed the groundwork of an Orthodox heart (and looks at the Latin Orthodox Church’s religious life through these eyes), one can move on to the last step.

    3) Very sound scholarship on the Western Church’s liturgy should be done by humble, pious, praying people. I believe that a modern, Orthodox, Western Liturgy will need to look and feel a lot like the ancient, Orthodox, Western Liturgy. I am not one who believes that the Western Rite is supposed to be an “archaelogical museum-piece,” or an exercise in “Liturgical Archaeology.” I don’t believe that, if we missed or omitted one or two elements of the Orthodox, Western Liturgy, we would somehow break a fixed and untouchable sine qua non of the Mass.

    But I firmly believe that the Spirit of the ancient, Orthodox Liturgies of the West must meet the Spirit of the living and ever-young Orthodox faith. Then, people with discernment and expertise on the topic will be able to put together some good service books. Obviously, I’m not arguing for an entirely piece-meal reconstruction of whatever we like. I’m talking about the adaptation, almost wholly, of complete and extant Western Rite books from before the Schism (or shortly thereafter). These would receive very limited and very carefully considered adjustments for our present pastoral needs.

    The life of such a Western Rite would look a lot like Orthodoxy in the East. Mass would be celebrated after Matins/Lauds, or at least after some of the hours. It would contain things like Bidding Prayers, Sequences, some tropes and whatnot for high feasts. It would restore the processions and special blessings. It would restore all of the ancient pontifical prerogatives, etc. I think you get the picture – Church would be a two-to-four hour event, just like in the Eastern Churches. Some services should be done daily, if this is at all possible. The faithful would fast more than half the year, just like the East (how silly it would be to hear all the prayers for people fasting during Advent and the Apostles’ fast, if nobody really was fasting)! The para-liturgical devotions would be those of the ancient West, or ones closely based thereupon.

    In short, Western Orthodoxy would need to look like Western Orthodoxy, and not like the Western Reformation (or Counter-Reformation, for that matter).

    Once this was done, these types of Western Rite folk would be able to help new converts get formed in the Western Rite from the get-go. Until that time, however, I think that those of us who are serious about the Western Rite need to make some sacrifices, and take steps to become Orthodox first and foremost – and that means going “East,” for a while. Furthermore, we can’t be blind to the concerns of Eastern Orthodox folk, who can’t help but feel something is deeply wrong with a BCP service – and who don’t know (and frankly, don’t often trust) us. Spending time amongst the Eastern Orthodox first, making connections and friendships, is a brotherly sign of good faith, that we should be willing to make. We need to make the effort to assuage their fears, and demonstrate our seriousness about being Orthodox first, and only secondarily about seeing our own Orthodox heritage (and not merely our Western Protestant heritage) affirmed.

    I worry that if the Western Rite does not go through this difficult process of self-correction, in the end ALL Western Rite will be rejected as a failure. I look forward to participating in some of the discussions on this site, and I encourage people who love the Western Rite to allow the Western Rite to enter more deeply into its Orthodox heritage. Trust me, I’ve spent years looking into it (and have received a blessing to begin incorporating it into my prayer life). It is astoundingly beautiful, and we should be zealous to conserve and celebrate it. Please allow the Western Rite to make *every* attempt to survive, lest we all go down with the ship, so to speak.

    Last but not least, we all know that an Orthodox Church’s health depends upon its monastic life. I am a monk myself, and I hope to someday do the work, which I have listed above. I would encourage men who love the Western Rite to pray about a monastic vocation. Be sure that Orthodoxy and Monasticism are top priorities for you, followed distantly by the Rite you’ll have. Someday, I hope to be part of a monastery celebrating our authentic, Western Orthodox heritage. That monastery will need good men. The monastery will be important to the health of the Western Rite spiritually – but more than this, the daily celebration of the full cycle of services (nowadays only done in monasteries, for the most part) will be an indispensable part of really learning the Western Rite inside and out, and being able to help other communities get a handle on what to do.

    The Western Heritage of Orthodoxy is beyond price. May St. Gregory the Great pray for us – and the Virgin Mother of God, Salus Populi Romani!

    Comment by fatheraugustine | February 2, 2008 | Reply

  12. Would you explain what you mean by “…a heterodox appeal to authority as presumably settling the matter (something an Orthodox epistemology can never accept, does not accept, and rejects in fact as being of the world and of the Evil One in the world”? Why such an appeal is heteredox per se, and how – in your view – an orthodox epistemology would go about correctly settling such matters. Please provide examples.
    Furthermore, would you be so kind to provide your view of an orthodox western Orthodoxy? And how would it be different, in substance or approach (or otherwise) than WR?
    I think you raise valid points, worthy of consideration and discussion. A more positive approach (not merely critiquing what is wrong, but expounding as to what is deemed to be the correct, or a more correct approach to these matters) would be much valued. Unworthy newbie…

    Comment by fortuin | February 2, 2008 | Reply

  13. Rosco, you’ve asked several questions. I’ll take a stab at some of them.

    1. Purpose On the two questions as to the purpose of the site, of course these are rhetorical forms of enquiry, choosing to proffer a particular frame for the debate. That’s fine, but I think we’ve pretty much explained to site readers what the site’s purpose is and also we have also answered, more or less, these specific questions in other comment sections on other articles, and in the articles themselves. So you get the air time to offer a particular ground/frame for argument, but to take you up on it is to accept your ground, and we’re more experienced than that.

    2. Fallacies You mention the ad hominem fallacy, and indeed that has been the topic of prior conversation here. You’re misattributing a fallacy in this case, however: One cannot argue that in critiquing the Western rite, one is using ad hominem simply because it involves critiquing the Western rite. It’s only ad hominem if there aren’t any reasons given. In fact to make such a claim is to fall into the fallacy of Petitio Principii (Begging the Question).

    Restated: An ad hominem would be an outright dismissal of the WR just because it was WR and w/o reasons (this is what qualifies an ad hominem as a non sequitur; the entirety of the discussion on the site thus far witnesses that this is not what’s occurring. The specific issues raised as challenges to the enthusiasm concerning the WR preclude the non sequitur character of an ad hominem and so preclude the attribution of that fallacy.

    3. Straw Man: You refer to a judgement (not ours) that “Orthodoxy can only be presented in one form”. This has not been argued. In fact the contrary has been argued, at least by the site’s owners, and in the articles. We do not accept then the straw man being offered.

    4. Romanides: We’ve never offered to treat Fr. John’s thesis, or the popular understanding of it, as gospel. This too is a straw man. To my knowledge, neither the articles nor the owners of the site have put forth a particular theory of the causes of the Schism, and I’m not certain of the relevance you attribute to such a question. For myself, I consider the primary causation to have been religious in character, and there to have been other substantive causes. And I follow Scotus is distinguishing types of causes: primordial, necessary, effectual, contingent, proximate, etc. Likewise, Fr. John is not the only, nor even the primary theorist or historiographical analyst on this subject, explicitly or otherwise.

    5. Dichotomy of truth vs. religion: “many converts come to Orthodoxy to escape precisely the sense of Pharisee-ism which the purpose of this blog suggests… sacrificing and giving up all for the gain of worshipping simply in Truth.” I do not acknowledge that “phariseeism” is being practiced here, especially since this is a canard – a term you haven’t defined, showed cause for the definition, then shown that this definition is met in an objective way by the substantive purpose of the site, which you assume as a straw man rather than derive from either its stated purpose or concrete analysis. Calling something a name does not make it so; it is merely an attempt to turn tautology into argument, itself yet another use of fallacy. Also, I reject as false your dichotomy between religion and truth, or thought and truth, or critique and truth, or concern and truth (you can pick one) as Augustinist, and not Orthodox at all. Ours is a both/and not an either/or approach to these things. The dialectic you’re using is Protestant in recent vintage, Roman Catholic before that, and actually gnostic in origin. Marcion and the others argued it before you, attempting to “purify” the Faith, while the Martin Luther’s of the world merely flavored it their own way later. In Orthodoxy, it is a rejection of our way of thinking, our modus of though, and indeed of the fullness of our Faith.

    6. Familiarity: You write, “While I see increasing acceptance of the Western Rite even among quarters once critical… as they have come to know and witness the faith practiced.” This does not seem to be either an argument or a question, so one cannot deduce if you’re implying that argument in general comes from lack of familiarity. That would be an interesting thesis, if you argued it, but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that all of us are unfamiliar, just because some are.

    7. Conversion as a process: You write, “if as many suggest the conversion takes up to 10 years and more…. remains a ways off. Would you discourage this?” Actually, that’s true of all of us. Even a so-called “cradle Orthodox” is a misnomer and a false distinction. The Apostle made quite clear that we all spend our whole lives converting, even if raised up as Orthodox from our youth. So in that sense, there’s no distinction either between Eastern and Western rites; a rite is not a conversion process – in fact, this is the very point being argued to people who are misunderstanding conversion altogether, and talk of “converting to the Western rite”. There is no such thing in Orthodox soteriology; such thinking, to the degree it exists, is heterodox. This is as some Western Rite practitioners have also pointed out and agreed, finding themselves squarely, in that regard, within Orthodox soteriological thought.

    8. Cart before horse: “I salute your intent, my friend… if it is to make the WRV better…” Well, that would be reversing the order; one cannot rationally/ethically set out to make better a thing whose inauguration and practice one has set out to question in the first place. And this would seem at face value to correlate w. your next argument, but it does not:

    8. Excellent! “in truth, the philosophers recommendation is to take the opponent’s best argument and strengthen it – if it can be. Then and only then is one qualified in assessing and attacking it fairly.” A hearty Amen to this. This is exactly something I would like to do, for myself – I cannot speak for others. But to do that, and get there, we must move to a place of rational discourse and away from mere enthusiasm on the one hand mere bigotry on the other. We cannot be asked to strengthen an argument that offers itself not as an argument but as (in pt 7 above) a foregone conclusion and standard for which there can only be support. The result of this is for the WR enthusiast to fall into the very bigotry he presumes to see in others: it results in the demonization of critics, because the WR is accepted as an absolute for which there can be no moral, rational, or just criticism. The fathers teach us otherwise, that we are “to depart even from the Bishops if they fall into error” (to quote Vladimir Lossky’s summary) – look at St. Mark of Ephesus just as one example, but then also St. Maximus, St. John (Chrysostom), St. Photius, St. Nectarios, and the list could run on and fill the page.

    You have hit upon the purpose of the site in your final query. Namely to provide a venue that can allow fair and reasoned discourse in the first place. The WRC site is not a place designed to advocate only one point of view, as some WR enthusiast sites are; it is not properly their opposite. Rather, it is to provide a place where questions are clarified, arguments are made, and those who can escape their bigotry/enthusiasm (which are precisely the same thing) can argue these things out, or think about them in new ways. If one comes w. an open mind, it is possible. If one comes w. it already made up, it is not.

    Keep in mind that there are dozens of WR enthusiast sites out there. This site does not exist in a vacuum (as illustrated by how much it summarizes and consolidates the other views out there), but rather exists as a necessary balance, to serve Orthodoxy and Orthodox people, the Faith, the Church, and God by allowing us to move beyond enthusiasm/bigotry to provocative consideration. If something cannot stand up to the light of maximum criticism, but fails utterly even on ONE point, to be in keeping w. the Faith, then all good Christians will shun it. If the WR cannot stand the test, it is to be shunned. Likewise, if the only critique can be to take what one is told, to accept, to go along, or to support and help, but at least not oppose, then the thing in question (i.e. the WR) is not worthy of Christian support, and is not the will of God, the mind of Christ, or the work of the Church. It is a castle built on sand. I am comfortable with either result; are you?

    For now, my default position is one of intense skepticism of the thing itself, and concerted criticism of both the implementation of it and its implications for the Church which, in Orthodoxy, are not the separable things they may be in Roman Catholicism. I think since the employment of a revolutionary technique of fait accompli has been applied – over and against substantial and widespread concerns, coupled with a heterodox appeal to authority as presumably settling the matter (something an Orthodox epistemology can never accept, does not accept, and rejects in fact as being of the world and of the Evil One in the world), each of us will have to (and indeed are left to) make our own decisions and develop our own understanding of it. As implemented, the WRV for instance, has created a situation of partial-chaos, embarked on a campaign of quasi-gnostic consciousness raising, and provoked an epistemological crisis, in this area, to do what it wants to do, regardless of the costs. Very well. As in ages past, as in the example of our fathers, as in the teachings of the Church, many of us will resist the co-opting of our consciences and not simply go along, not turn away, and will indeed offer up as a sacrifice our own consciences for utility to Orthodox faithful. We have been faced with this very same situation, exactly the same, in the modern age regarding ecumenism, for instance. When someone says, “Nope, I’ve decided to put heterodox clergy in the dyptichs, concelebrate, recognize their orders and mysteries, and you’ll just have to accept it now as a fait accompli – I have the authority – you have to go along – done deal, sorry – this is your new religion now.” it becomes the duty of the Orthodox to listen to their consciences and to struggle, and to offer themselves up as a sacrifice for the sake of the Faith they love dear enough. We would rather we didn’t have to do this; there are other good things we could be doing; this is the call and demand of our age and time, for us who are troubled in conscience over these things.

    Pray for us. We pray for you, and for the world.

    Comment by tuD | February 2, 2008 | Reply

  14. Do I understand that the purpose of this blog is to question the right of those accepted by their bishops to worship in their churches according to ways approved by their bishops and whose faith is accepted as it is presented… in the course of continual repentance? Am I also given to understand that the purpose of this blog is to question the acceptance of a particular order of worship by these same bishops? or is it merely the extent of conversion that is questioned? And is the basis of judgment any different than a freshly minted parish of converts worshipping according to the Rite of St. John C… or is this simply an ad hominem against one particular form of worship as somehow foreign and not attesting to the universality of the Church, its faith and its people? Indeed… is the basis of this judgment that Orthodoxy can ONLY be presented in one form and therefore the other eastern liturgies are suspect, or that somehow the thesis of Fr. John Romanides on the schism is false, and it was the rite and not the people that caused the split? and that somehow politics had nothing to do with the unraveling?

    My guess is that we all have our reservations… even and especially about each other…. as merciless and sinful as this may be and we would prefer otherwise. Reminiscent of the Publican and the Pharises in itself… the truth is that many converts come to Orthodoxy to escape precisely the sense of Pharisee-ism which the purpose of this blog suggests… sacrificing and giving up all for the gain of worshipping simply in Truth. And thus, while I see increasing acceptance of the Western Rite even among quarters once critical… as they have come to know and witness the faith practiced… and even as some priest’s kids have gravitated and been retained by the Church there…much of the continuing criticism lies more in the nature of the process of evangelism and conversion. The truth is that many of these are convert parishes… and their full conversion… if as many suggest the conversion takes up to 10 years and more…. remains a ways off. Would you discourage this? If so, to what end, to what gain for the Kingdom of God and for these souls in particular ?

    I salute your intent, my friend… if it is to make the WRV better – if you feel yourself somehow sufficiently schooled to offer criticism of this nature. And I salute as well even your comment regarding the charity of argumentation… but in truth, the philosophers recommendation is to take the opponent’s best argument and strengthen it – if it can be. Then and only then is one qualified in assessing and attacking it fairly. This is extremely difficult – regardless of the task. Here, could well lead to an unorthodox tendency to venture into judgment and condemnation, or invite others to risk the same. For your own sake, I hope you will proceed with care. All the best!

    Comment by roscoetuff | February 1, 2008 | Reply

  15. On the contrary. Arguably… arguably, mind you… it may be that only when the fullness of the richness of Western Liturgical tradition finds full place in the East (that is, the genuinely Orthodox corpus of it – judged not by a simple timeline, and not simply mechanically reconstructed like an NRSV, but judged by its full correspondence to the height of Orthodox *Faith*), will the Church be helped out of her own situational chaos (multijuridictionalism, ecumenism, ethnocentrism, Americanism, etc.). But this is a theory, and acting on a popular theory may not be the wisest move at all.

    This site provides criticism of numerous concerns and questions concerning what’s being done in the name of “Western Rite” that are being almost universally swept under the rug in an enthusiastic fever for going forward w. this train, without adequate thought. And many of the people advocating it have themselves spent little time actually being Orthodox and learning and living the fullness of the Faith, so it’s difficult to have a meaningful dialogue in the first place. A site like this is necessary to ask hard questions about the genuine-ness of the rites, the extent of the catechesis, the tendency toward Americanist ghettoes, the implications for ecumenism, the substance of the Church’s soteriology, mysteriology, ecclesiology, which are being at best ill treated. The concerns of most people are met with ad hominem and straw men. Supposedly, we mostly are just a) stuck in ethnocentrism (many of us see the WRV as precisely a form of that), or just too used to what we know (not very sophisticated), or are suspicious of anything Western (no, some of us are quite interested in these things). Just as excess is never a good thing, so too much enthusiasm without sufficient consideration is an alarm bell. Avoiding the Straw Man fallacy requires one to select from his opponents the most substantive and reasonable representative, not the weakest, most childish, and most bigoted one, which is easily knocked aside. So far, we don’t see the most enthusiastic supporters of things happening in the WRV, or in the name of Western Rite, Western Orthodoxy, etc. doing that. Unworthy, we are here.

    Comment by DUCK | January 18, 2008 | Reply

  16. Query. I’ve read what you’ve said, but try this: Is there any value to interest in a Western Rite at all, or do you believe that are all interest in it is potentially harmful or at best unneeded or undesirable?

    Comment by Asher | January 18, 2008 | Reply

  17. Remember, clergy are in jurisdictions, laity can go to any Orthodox church. But what you mean is clear, so yes.

    Comment by DUCK | January 18, 2008 | Reply

  18. I only have one question about this. I think what you’re trying to do is reasonable. Not to be rude and demand a pedigree or anything, but are you in a canonical jurisdiction?

    Comment by jdelphiki | January 18, 2008 | Reply


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