Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Enemies, Opponents, and Brothers in Christ


Wool over one's eyes.Recently a Christian speaker stood before an audience desiring to gain acceptance for a path that conflicted quite clearly with their tradition. The technique he used is tried and true. He began to describe how there’s a difference between crazy and not crazy. Always he drew associations with his theoretical opponents and craziness, always with his own views and sanity. In other words:

  • He presented a false dilemma: Your choices are: my novel views or else these extreme and unpleasant attitudes and motivations; those are your choices. He didn’t define craziness, of course. You could insert the word ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘liberal’ or any other undesirable buzzword. The important thing is to leave it vague enough, and to indicate, without indicating why or how, it is undesirable: You don’t want to be thought of as “x”, do you? Well then, the only alternative is my views.
  • He poisoned the well: Those who would oppose me are, by opposing me, demonstrating that their motivations are irrational. Of course, he did not have any actual opponents on hand to prove him wrong – the goal was to prevent opposition, and stereotype it in advance.
  • He mischaracterized his opponents, theoretical or otherwise. By attributing to them irrational, he easily escapes contest with the many rational books and articles that have been written to refute his position. He likewise, escapes having to engage such things, since a scholar needn’t, after all, debate with the irrational. [1]

In short, this speaker silenced opposition, embarrassed concern, and slid a pre-packaged point of view into the minds of those least educated on the matter, least versed in the relevant body of thought, and most likely to desire an easy avenue to intellectual status – namely, the mass of new converts and under-educated members of churches that cater to every novelty while fostering ignorance of tradition. He pled to dilettants.

These techniques are cited here, because they’re not uncommon among Western Rite enthusiasts. Frequently, those who express concern, potent questions, and certainly challenges to things done in the name of “Western rites” are characterized as “hysterical” [2], “raving”, “railing”, “polemicists” [3] “bashing”, “attacking”, “hostile”, “attempting to demean the rite” [4], and so on.

In other words, a variety of irrational emotions (rage, hysteria), evil motives (hostility, hatred, the desire to demean), and extreme actions (railing, raving) are attributed to those who would express concern over some of the enthusiasm being expressed, question the wisdom of some of the initiatives undertaken, or oppose the novelties introduced. The technique is the same, and it’s effects are:

  • Present a false dilemma: you must choose the “balanced view” of the enthusiasts, or the extreme emotions, motives, and actions presumably characterizing their opponents. There is no third choice – namely that of happy approval of what is good, and firm, even adamant opposition to what is not, coupled with cautious consideration of what is questionable. There is only, in this presentation, “us” and “them”, and “them” aren’t really an option.
  • Poison the well: when you see opposition, you must read it with the remembrance that it cannot come from genuine and legitimate concern, a righteous desire for fidelity and purity, and a human struggle to balance the need to admonish and sometimes correct one’s brother for his own salvation, for ours, and for the sanctity of the Faith, with the need to seek dispassion, find humility, and pray for the best. No, opponents must be ‘read’ with a certain pre-packaged hermeneutic – with eyes provided to you by the enthusiasts.
  • Mischaracterize opponents: you are encouraged to read opponents with prejudice and feelings, all the while being admonished not to read the enthusiasts with prejudice and feelings, except of course where prejudice and feelings are deemed to favor the enthusiasts. The first step in persecuting anyone (as the enthusiasts so frequently claim to be persecuted) is to dehumanize them – to make them into caricatures of honest, honorable, reasonable people. This is how you become the enemy of another, and not merely the opponent. Once you have decided that your opponents are not honest, honorable, reasonable people with whom you can seek and indeed find the truth together, you may feel safety from them, but in fact you are no longer safe from yourselves. The truth is, we all need each other, to challenge one another, question one another, admonish one another, and indeed to listen to us. Once we willingly decide to end that, no position we hold is worth having.

Opponents need not be EnemiesThis capacity, to treat opposition as warfare, which always reduces opponents to something less than our fellows, lies in wait as a temptation for any of us, and we are most vulnerable when wounded by one another. As St. Nikolai said, “Men can do me no evil as long as I bear no wound.” And likewise, he offered an entirely different way of looking at enemies in [this wonderful prayer].

So we must encourage those who are enthusiasts, those who are critics, and those who aren’t sure, to use moderation in characterizing opponents. The very caution that we use in examining these matters for approval or disapproval, let us use in choosing how we portray our counterparts, for agreement or disagreement. Let charity teach us to use more strictness with ourselves and more leniency with others. We who are writing this have often failed in this regard. We have sometimes let prejudice, defensiveness, and the desire to finish the course easily determine our words. We are resolved to do better. At the same time, we must, for the sake of the things for which we are striving, point out misleading and harmful techniques, when they endanger our brothers among Western Rite enthusiasts, our fellows anywhere, and ourselves in the temptation to respond in kind. We only seem to be opponents, after all, but to the degree we seek salvation in this striving, we are not opponents – not really. And just as we must acknowledge behaviour sometimes unbecoming, we must seek forgiveness, too, for driving our opponents to behaviours unbecoming fellows in Christ.

Let us love one another, that with one mouth, one mind, one accord we may confess, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Trinity, One in Essence, and Undivided. Amen.



End Notes:
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April 10, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Two households, both alike in dignity…


“In particular I want to look at liturgical life. In the extremely primitive condition of the early Church, it was logical that there should be a number of different local liturgical uses. It is likewise sensible to assume that this was not the ideal condition. The early Church is not the pure prototype we must always seek to emulate as so many Christians nowadays seem to think. Instead it was the seed from which the lofty tree of the fully developed Church would one day sprout. So I’m not an advocate of having 300 different liturgies just because the “early church” had them. Some Orthodox are so in love with liturgical archeology that they want a Mozarabic liturgy for Hispanics, a Syriac liturgy (or two) for middle-easterners, a “Celtic” liturgy for those Americans who are a quarter Irish, etc. This is unnecessary and more than a bit silly, I think. Once again, all the little local liturgies are pretty, but I don’t think they reflect the ideal condition of what the Church was meant to eventually develop into. Instead, we would be better off thinking of the Church’s liturgies developing into two distinct “families”. So even though I don’t believe in having a zillion local liturgies so that all the converts can feel proud of their ethnicity when they go play their medieval reenactment games in Church on Sunday, I would be foolish to deny the existence of two distinct liturgical mentalities that existed within the Church by the end of the first millennium.” [source]

Rejoinder: To the two families theorum: So, what does one tell the Irish? That they had a Celtic rite for hundreds of years, but that now they should accept a Norman one? How do you determine, in fact, that an Anglican rite is somehow more appropriate to Mexico than a Byzantine one? Perhaps the best response to this, taken out of context of course, is that of St. Sava of Serbia in the 13th century:

At first we were confused. The East thought that we were West while the West considered us to be East. Some of us misunderstood our place in the clash of currents so they cried that we belong to neither side and others that we belong exclusively to one side or the other. But I tell you Ireneus we are doomed by fate to be the East in the West and the West in the East to acknowledge only heavenly Jerusalem beyond us and here on earth–no one.”

This isn’t West Side Story or Romeo & Juliet. The world is bigger than a stage, and if you respond with the kind of localism that denies the Eastern heritage of the US, for instance, including all of her Saints and the rites they brought with them, and in fact separates from them liturgically for the sake of a false localism, then you can’t speak of families, or stop that process elsewhere.

February 2, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Texts or Devotions?


“The actual text of the Eucharistic liturgy is usually one of the slowest changing and most “calcified” part of any Christian tradition. That is why it is easy to find certain elements and themes in even the earliest times (the Didache, the writings of Justin Martyr or St. Cyril of Jerusalem, etc.) that correspond to nearly all modern liturgies whether Coptic, Constantinopolitan, or Tridentine Roman. The really big changes and the parts that usually push heresies in any heretical body’s devotional life are the private, domestic devotions.

If you don’t believe me, try the following experiment: read just the plain text of the Mass or the Office from a traditionalist Roman Catholic site. Now read the interpretation/”guide to understanding the Mass” from one of those sites or read up on some of the private devotions, chaplets, or spiritual exercises practiced in counter-reformed Catholicism. Which one had ideas that were more bizarre and disturbing to you as an Orthodox Christian? In which one did you read more about “making reparations”, “offering up” one’s suffering for the “poor souls in purgatory”, and engaging in excessively sentimental and overly imaginative spiritual “exercises”? In short, where is the real *soul* of what makes counter-reformed Catholicism different from Orthodoxy?” – [source]

The author of this post goes on to appeal to authority, presenting the same fait accompli argument that so many have, not being familiar enough with our history and its meaning. The interesting aspect of the above comment is that this is PRECISELY the question at hand when we’re looking at Western Rite adherents doing the rosary, keeping the “sacred heart”, and doing stations of the cross. (What’s next? Statues?) In short, he’s right, but he misses the point that this debate is far from over in the larger Orthodox world, just like many others.

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Holy Toledo, Batman! What a beautiful Explanation!


Responding to: “BTW, I have never had any Western Rite detractor actually *tell* me what phrases or portions of St. Gregory’s or St. Tikhon’s liturgies are actually expressing vile heterodox dogmas. It is usually just a vague complaint that it “isn’t Orthodox” followed by no clear reason why that is so.”

“First, it doesn’t really matter whether any Orthodox believer can give anyone a clear reason for anything. Orthodoxy isn’t about clear reasons; it’s about a revelation that’s beyond reasons. Historically, particular clear reasons had been formulated over long periods of time in answer to particular alien attacks on revelation. When I receive the heavenly Spirit on Sundays, the furthest thing from my mind are clear reasons. As a reminder, academic-style theology is a RECENT transpiration in Orthodoxy, and its similarity to Latinist rationalizing is not without controversy.

Second, I sympathize with your position, but the problem with the Western Rite is that it’s coming out of a heretical West. Heresy has infected the West for centuries and it takes long periods of hindsight to distinguish between heretical stuff and stuff that simply reflects innocuously different cultural forms. That none of the “detractors” makes that determination at this point in time isn’t an argument against those folks. Rather, your expectation that they should be able to make such a determination is simply an outgrowth of your impatience with the unhurried way in which Orthodoxy deals with such matters.

I hope that I don’t seem harsh, because I really do sympathize with your position. The outreach function of the Western Rite addresses a real need: Eastern stuff is foreign to the Western mind and requires the changing of a weltanschauung acquired over a lifetime. This is a huge issue.

You’re absolutely correct about the necessity for a convert’s belief in Orthodoxy as the repository of revealed Truth. When I talk to enquirers and catechumens, I spell out the matter as a dichotomy: Truth v. utility. If one is looking for a church on every corner or being able to live amongst lots of fellow believers or being able to choose among lots of similarly-believing potential spouses or some other utilitarian or ethnic convenience, Orthodoxy ain’t the place to be. Believing in Truth entails a kind of martyrdom, and many Westerners aren’t equipped for it.

I’ve always hated the “Western Rite as reverse Uniat” argument. To me, such an argument implicitly questions the sincerity of Western Riters’ belief in Orthodoxy. The real issue is whether the Western Rite conveys a REALITY, not whether its adherents are sincere Orthodox.” – [source]

January 31, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Roman Catholic points out WRO Weakness


A great critique of WRO thinking from [this source]

“I have written apologias on my own blog for Roman Catholicism, and to tell the truth, it just feels that your advocacy of a Western rite in Orthodoxy can go not much further than the level of abstraction. To have attachments to Western externals while denying the theological patrimony of the Western Church would make me say, “Thanks, but no thanks”. These externals were the result of a coherent world view that were expressions of “heretical” concepts in your eyes. Case in point: Marian devotion in Hispanic culture. Most of the Virgins that are venerated are Inmaculadas, that is, representations of the Immaculate Conception as the vision of the Woman in the Apocalypse. The most famous of these is the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City. (That is where you get the tradition of celebrating Mass in blue vestments: it is only permitted for the Mass of a Virgin who is also an Inmaculada.) The historical greeting in many circumstances in the Spanish speaking world has been, “Ave Maria Purisisma! Sin pecado concebida!” – Arturo Vasquez

So the question becomes obvious. Can one really adopt the 16th century Anglican prayer book, the 20th century Roman Catholic fasting rules, and a mishmash of vestments, calendar items and formats, postures, and gestures, prayers and species, hymns and pieties… a buffet menu of mostly post-schism Western history, and not adopt the attitudes and psychology (or preserve that psychology, for converts) of those periods and the whole of their history? Or if you repudiate that psychology, why keep the forms and claim they are your Western heritage.

In fact, we are faced with the very real question of whether the Western rite represents a genuine Western Orthodoxy at all, or rather a poor substitute, which is actually shortchanging a genuine Western Orthodox mind, while giving false support to one that remains essentially heterodox. At best, might it not currently represent the very piecemeal museum-collection that one so often finds in self-made groups like the CEC.

January 28, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , | 20 Comments

Another Interesting Discussion


This is an… [odd source]… but we really don’t do ad hominem here, so we’re including it anyway.

It is, an interesting discussion – much more so than we’re finding on the WR enthusiast sites.

December 11, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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