Saturday, May 22, 2010

Western Rite Orthodox Catholicism?

Sigh. After writing that Athos post, it got me thinking that most of what I want in the Catholic Church, almost all of the reforms I plug for around here...are already present in the Orthodox churches.

The "vision" I have in almost all its aspects (except perhaps the streak of very Western individualism and tolerance, which the Orthodox don't necessarily have in practice, even if some of their rhetoric would seem to support it) is essentially a vision of the Catholic Church if it were to, well, become more Orthodox. Or, I'd like to think, more like it itself was in the First Millennium.

Of course, there are reasons I remain Catholic, and if I were Orthodox I would want those things (and probably experience a lot less tolerance in advocating them). First of all, of course, communion with Rome. Secondly, dogmatic precision on issues I am convinced are true like purgatory, the Immaculate Conception, soteriology, etc...which some Orthodox are downright hostile towards, and which are only ever at best "optional" theologoumenon that will likely make you suspect of being a "Latinizer" even if you try to parse them in Eastern terminology.

Also very important, however, is the question of Rite. Though some might say to me, "Well, why not become an Eastern Catholic," the fact is that my spirituality (and certainly my liturgical home) is definitely Western. I am a Latin, for better or worse. Thoughts of running off and joining the Ethiopian church are affected at best, though tempting given how much our own eccelsiastical and especially liturgical life need the spirit of the East.

One option that has remained tempting, if it weren't for it being in schism with Rome, are the Western Rite Orthodox groups that have been set up, especially in Europe. They have the beautiful fullness of traditional Western liturgy, but sometimes in hieratic vernacular translations. They also have an organic diversity of old uses that the Roman bureaucracy has been very strict about in its insistence on centralization and needing explicit permission to try anything different. They have small parishes with married priests that look like they really build personal communities, and their organization is, of course, not over-centralized. Their disciplines are more rigorous I'm sure, while also maintaining that "Orthodox" pastoral style that is accommodating of human frailty.

Hence the title of this post. While people attached to Eastern Orthodoxy and its way of doing things have, within Catholicism, the Eastern Catholic Churches...there is no such equivalent for Western Orthodoxy. It is assumed to be equivalent simply to the Latin Rite, and anyone converting from that would probably just be lumped with the Latins. If Rome wants to insist on maintaining the big, bureaucratic, institutional, hyper-centralized, authoritarian Western Church...couldn't it at least carve out a sui juris church for "Western Rite Orthodox-in-communion-with-Rome" to reunite?

Of course, my only hope is that they may in effect be doing something like this in the creation of the Anglican Ordinariates, which will represent a model of Western Christianity more like what I imagine. And yet, though people speak of the generosity of the Pope in making this offer...I actually think they are being quite stingy. As far as we can tell, only converts will be able to remain married priests, liturgy will still have to be approved in a centralized bureaucratic way, and don't expect an "oikonomic" attitude about divorce, annulment, and remarriage or anything like that.

And yet, I can only think that having such a "Western Rite Orthodox" model, or at least niche structure, would not only woo back traditional Anglicans, but also groups of traditionally minded Old Catholics, Polish National Catholics, and other Western-Rite independent groups (which have likewise seemed appealing to me) which split off mainly just because of over-bearing administrative tactics from the Roman apparatus, but some (some, not all by any means) of which are still very much traditionally-minded doctrinally and liturgically. And, I'd have to think, it would help unity with the Orthodox too.

Yet, even though it never invokes its power to do anything useful, the Vatican remains utterly terrified, for some reason, of loosening its clutches even just a little bit, even just on non-doctrinal issues of discipline and administration.


Mark of the Vineyard said...

There's a video floating around on youtube of the Eastern Orthodox Western rite.

Anonymous said...

"Sigh. After writing that Athos post, it got me thinking that most of what I want in the Catholic Church, almost all of the reforms I plug for around here...are already present in the Orthodox churches."

Life in the Church is not about changing her to resemble our vision for her but in remaking ourselves so that we are like Christ. By our own efforts alone we cannot achieve anything of lasting value. But when we cooperate with God's grace nothing is impossible. It is very easy to become frustrated with the state of the Church, especially when we have our own cherished ideas about how to improve the lives of her members. Ultimately, however, we are not the source of the Church's life or of her future. Only God is.

I do not mean to suggest that we should be silent about methods of aiding the Church. Rather, I only mean to say that we err when we suppose that we alone possess the true path the Church should follow.

Best regards,

A Sinner said...

All good things to remember as long as, as you say, we don't let that make us silent. We don't let that turn into a sort of defeatist quietism.

I get this sort of thing a lot from various people, and I definitely do need to hear it. As a private individual.

At the same time, this gets into what I see as part of the whole problem in the Church today, and which I've discussed before.

Certainly, advocating for reforming the Church isn't going to save me. I could just suffer through it and maybe do better spiritually. But someone needs to do it. And, to be frank, as a public writer/ really shouldn't matter to people whether I go to hell or not. What should matter is the validity of what I say.

I think it was Yves Congar who said "We need a really good bad Pope." And I couldn't agree more.

Holiness is one thing, but that's a private individual matter. I think one of the huge attribution errors in the Church today is valuing "holiness" in our leaders. Personal holiness, salvation, the state of the soul...have nothing to do with the legitimacy of someone's ideas, the competence of their leadership, or skill in fixing institutional problems.

It's one reason why I think that the emphasis on Fr Maciel's crimes in the deconstruction of the Legion is the wrong emphasis. The emphasis should be on their creepy cult-like atmosphere.

But, in itself, Fr Maciel's reprobate behavior is really neither here nor there when it comes to the legitimacy of the group if what he said was good and he was an effective leader in implementing a certain vision (even if he himself didn't believe nor follow it).

All this talk of a bad man not being able to establish a "real charism" blah blah blah strikes me as a form of Donatism.

It's the point I think the Simpson's made long ago when Lisa refused to expose Jebediah Springfield as the vicious pirate he really was, because "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man"

sortacatholic said...

The only thing I'd watch out for with the "Western Orthodox" is episcopi vagantes and invalidly ordained priests. Sure, they'll show you some elaborate chart that'll claim "apostolic lineage" from the PNCC, the Utrecht Old Catholics, Thuc, or some retired Catholic bishop that does "fly-by" consecrations. Some of these guys receive the imposition of hands multiple times to vainly back up their validity. The SSPX consecrations and ordinations are illicit but valid because Lefebvre acted without the consent of Rome. I don't think these guys stand a chance at conditional ordination given that Rome granted no sanction to the orders of vagantes or their priests.

I can wear a watered silk cassock with a super-lace alb and a mantelletta, but I'm no Cardinal Richelieu. Many of these guys have a chapel in their basement where they butcher the Tridentine private Mass (see Youtube for numerous examples).

There are other issues, like really bad hieratic translations of the Mass ordinary, but I won't get into that here.

sortacatholic said...

Oops, the Western Orthodox wouldn't go for Catholic orders necessarily. But the concept remains the same: vagantes try to get as many rouge consecrations and ordinations as possible regardless of the approval of synods or the titular heads of autocephalous Orthodox churches. I wouldn't be surprised if many try to throw some Western episcopal flavor in the mix. Dress up is really fun! whatever.

A Sinner said...

The Western Rite Orthodox are an approved branch of the Antiochean Churc (oddly enough) in Eastern Orthodoxy.

They aren't some independent group; if there was a reunion with the Eastern Orthodox, they would be a part of it.

One wonders how Rome will handle THAT!

I'm not seeking any sort of illicit ordination, lol. God forbid! But your comments make a good point about the sort of certainties that can develop when you start going outside the true Church.

John in Dallas said...

My grandparents attend a Western Rite parish and they love it for the exact reasons that you mentioned above, namely the beautiful, reverent liturgy and a small, close community.

I am jealous of them, frankly, and sometimes wish I had gone their route instead of joining the RC.

Jmousetrap said...

i think you mean that you are ENVIOUS of them:

Agostino Taumaturgo said...

Well, my first "knee-jerk" reaction was to say that ...qui ex Patre FILIOQUE procedit... was more than enough reason to stay away from Orthodoxy. That and the sacramentology, purgatory, etc. But the "F-word" is reason enough for me.

At the same time, though, you make a solid point about the pastoral style (one I agree with strongly), in that a style more tolerant of human frailty is something sorely needed in the Western Church. Truth is, I believe that many of the people who leave Rome leave precisely because of the type pastoring they encounter there; I've encountered it far too often, and I think the current institution would do well to learn from its own mistakes in that regard.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has been involved in the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate for many years, I would caution Roman Catholics such as yourself not to fall victim to the old "grass-is-greener" syndrome. Western Rite Orthodoxy is a beautiful idea in theory but it falls apart in practice. As far as I'm concerned, Papa Ratzinger is about as close to "Western Orthodoxy" as one can get. Keep fighting the good fight where you are!

Chris said...

I do not think it falls apart in practice always. It depends who your priest is. having celebrated Sarum rite vespers ans mass in ROCOR somewhat regularly.. I can tell you, it Latin/western rite Orthodoxy is a reality that is achievable. Don't give up on it if you feel called to it and that you'd be within the True Church. Many convert priests dont know what theyre doing so well, but on the other hand some do !!!

It definitely has certain superiority over the current anglican use (papal) ordinariate, which continues to be marred by novus ordo liturgical modernism and anti traditional ordinary Msngr. Steenson. Traditional anglican catholics are not welcome there.