Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Bishop Anthony’s Concerns


The concerns of Bishop Anthony of San Francisco, expressed in an encyclical to his diocese, have been dismissed, attacked, and ignored, rather than listened to for their pastoral concern, their substantive evaluation (expressed and hinted at) of the implications of the Antiochian WRV, and so deserve quotation and explication here, with commentary, rebuttal, riposte, etc. Likewise, it should be presented, if for no other reason than that the mere expression of an “unfavorable” commentary on the Western Rite is so often treated as unacceptable in the midst of a fever of uncritical enthusiasm and this particular piece is not merely an opinion but an episcopal decision and so should give the more perceptive reader greater circumspection and hopefully, more pause.

October 4, 1995. Protocol no. 3.

To the Reverend Clergy of the Holy Diocese of San Francisco
Dearly Beloved,

The current existence of “western rite” parishes in California, Oregon and Washington within the Antiochian Archdiocese has recently been brought to my attention by a number of clergy seeking direction regarding our relationship as a Diocese to these communities.

These parishes use, as a basis for worship, modified versions of the old Anglican missal or the pre-Vatican II mass. This is, at best, liturgically unsound and pastorally unwise: liturgically unsound because these rites are not in direct continuity with t he worship of the early Church in the West, but are primarily the result of 16th century Reformation and Counter-Reformation debates; pastorally unwise because this adds still further to our fragmentation as a Church in the Americas and creates a tiny grou p of missions and parishes that are liturgically isolated from the rest of the Church.

We are thus placed in the awkward position of having to accept the “western rite” vicariate of the Antiochian Archdiocese as belonging to the canonical Orthodox Church while at the same time recognizing that this is a foreign element within the Body of Christ, analogous to the creation of the Unia by the Roman Catholic Church.

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Scarecrow


This is just a random example (one can find them all day long) of the Straw Man Fallacy so widely prevalent among enthusiasts for Western Rite. The writer is, in the space of a sentence, supposedly summing up Bishop Anthony’s encyclical on the one hand, and Fr. Alexander’s (Schmemann) articles on the other:

“To wall oneself off from canonically ordained fellow-priests is a serious affront to the unity of the Church, and to discourage or speak poorly of the WR because some would be uncomfortable makes it seem as though it were some insurmountable obstacle for Orthodox to overcome.” – 1/26/2005

The writings alluded to are present on this site and even a cursory read would indicate that Bishop Anthony has not “Walled himself off” (he set limits for concelebration, which any bishop may do), and Fr. Alexander has not based his reasoning on whether some would be uncomfortable. But this is useful, because it illustrates one purpose of this site, to provide an area of constructive criticism without subjecting it to straw man misrepresentation.

December 23, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The WRV = Unilateral Shift in General Policy


“More recently, some Orthodox churches have also accepted the policy of admitting a “Western rite” to be used not by entire ecclesiastical bodies joining corporately the communion of the Orthodox Church, but by smaller splinter groups, who seceded from these Western churches to join Orthodoxy. As is well known, the Roman Catholic Church was–and is– following a similar policy in reverse by accepting small (or big) splinter groups into its own communion with the proviso that they would keep and preserve their Eastern rite.” – Fr. John Meyendorff, SVTQ 1980

One may express concern that this really is, therefore, a shift in general policy in the history of Orthodoxy (there are exceptions, but these demonstrate the rule), and therefore really is a matter for pan-Orthodox consideration rather than the unilateral behavior that resulted in Bishop Anthony’s encyclical, which few have shown that they understand in this light. But this is indeed precisely the driving problem that he addresses.

December 14, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ER is the Mother-Rite of America and Orthodox World


Fr. John Meyendorff writes: “It is also true, however, that since ths schism which occurred in the Middle Ages, Orthodoxy has *in practice* been preserved in the framework of an “Eastern” civilization, and its tradition has been shaped by the Great Church of Constantinople, i.e. Byzantium. It is from there that it spread to many other areas, and it is the Byzantine liturgy, translated into many languages, which has served for centuries as the principal, and sometimes the only vehicle for the living tradition of the Orthodox faith. In this Byzantine liturgical form, Orthodoxy was also brought to America.

Meanwhile, the Christian Tradition of the West was embroiled in changes and crises, which we, as Orthodox, cannot consider uniformly legitimate. And today, the schism still exists, and differences in faith show themselves in different forms of worship.” – SVTQ 1980

One cannot help but further observe that not only have the Orthodox, who used the Eastern Rite, preserved the living Faith of Orthodoxy, but also transmitted it to the Celts, the Russians, to America, Australia, and so on. The Eastern Rite, in some sense at least, is our Mother, just as those Churches are our Mother Churches.

In the case of the US, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South (OCA) replied to the Pat. of Constantinople concerning the latter’s assertion to be Patriarch of our Mother Church, that in fact the Russian Church is the Mother Church of the Americas; it is from her that our churches came, and from her so many American Saints. The Orthodox roots of America, one may conclude, our in the Russian Church, the Eastern Rite, and the Saints who brought them both to us. The idea that Westerners who wish to truly convert now insist on a different rite, begs the question of whether they or we any longer truly regard it as conversion. It may be argued quite reasonably that the American Orthodox tradition lies in continuity with, not irregularity regarding, our great Mother Church of Russia and her holy, righteous, and glorified Saints of America. One might ask, in this sense, then, what Antioch has to do with it, and whether this pushing so hard for the WRV to become the norm is with these things in mind.

December 13, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Platonism, Fullness of Faith, Unity, Open Debate


Fr. John Meyendorff: “I will not try to enumerate here all the dimensions of the issue, which clearly involves the very nature of the current Orthodox witness in the world. The Orthodox Church has never considered its liturgy to be frozen once and for all in the limited cultural forms of tenth-century Byzantium. Of course, these forms are unequalled as an expression of the Tradition of the Church, but even they, as Fr. Schmemann likes to insist in his writings, have been often misunderstood and misinterpreted in categories of a platonizing symbolism of doubtful quality. On the other hand, if it wants to be credible in the West, the Orthodox Church can and should not only liberate itself of that which is unauthentic in its own historical past, but also assume everything which is true and beautiful in Western Christianity. But, in so doing, it must avoid simplifications, amateurism, superficiality, deceit and arrogance, which it so easily condemns in others. The liturgy is not a game of arbitrarily interchangeable rites, but an act of faith reflecting our salvation in Christ within the unity and the catholicity of the Church.

The debate about the Western rite is, therefore, both ecclesiological and pastoral. It is concerned with the relationship between the *lex orandi* and the *lex credendi* in the Catholic Church–a relationship which has remained very real in Orthodoxy, and has been greatly loosened in the West–and with concrete needs of the Orthodox mission. It is not about the legitimacy of a Western rite as such, but about the real situation of today’s Western Christianity, about the confused religious situation in America today, about the highly responsible task of building up an American church truly Orthodox and genuinely united, and finally about the issue of Christian unity in general. What is also needed is a joint pan-Orthodox decision on the matter, and therefore a preliminary open debate.1980 SVTQ [all emphasis ours]

December 11, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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