Saturday, June 18, 2011

Q&A for the Western Rite Vicar of ROCOR

There has been a lot of understandable curiosity resulting from the recent reception by Fr. Kimel into the Orthodox Church.  Fr. Anthony, the Western Rite Vicar for the Russian Church Abroad, has popped in over at Vivificat on the discussion thread relating to Fr. Kimel's conversion and ordination.  He has very kindly offered to take questions.  I don't want to overstate things, but I personally have no recollection of a priest of the Russian Church Abroad going onto a conservative Roman Catholic blog to do a Q&A.  Which is to say I think this is both unusual and very gracious on the part of all concerned.

On a side note I have closed the comments on the previous related thread here at A/O.


The Anti-Gnostic said...

Somebody remind me again, what is the justification for the Western Rite? I'm not hostile to it. I just never saw the rationale. Is it simply a matter of practicum, e.g., shortage of qualified Byzantine or Slavonic chanters?

Next question, what is the justification for ROCOR? I can understand when the Russian Church was full of KGB but what is ROCOR's raison d'etre now?

Of course, I could ask the same question for each separate Orthodox archdiocese in the West.

Fr John W Fenton said...

According to the Western Rite Directory issued in 1962 by Metropolitan ANTONY (Bashir), which still governs Antiochian Western Rite parishes, the purpose of the Western Rite is (1) to provide a home in the Orthodox Church for western people of non-Byzantine cultural and religious background; and (2) to witness to the catholicity of the Orthodox Church to her Byzantine Rite people, priests and theologians.

Fr John W Fenton
Assistant to the Vicar General
Western Rite Vicariate
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North American

Visibilium said...

It's been my observation in dealing with Western enquirers and catachumens (the priests' wives just love to send them my way) that cultural stuff counts a whole lot more than theological stuff. Orthodox theology gets swallowed more easily and more agreeably than the names, beards, terms, Easter more important than Christmas, calendar, fasting, alien temperaments, alien physical features, and so on. It's a real problem, and the Western Rite is seen by some as a possible work-around.

You know, we get Prot and Anglican enquirers who are so turned off by Orthodoxy's alien ethnicities that they seriously consider the RCC as an alternative--despite the plain fact that all of the trash they talked about the RCC was true back when they talked it and is still true now. I get my jollies by pointing this out to them.

I don't want to be ingracious to Fr. John, but my own view of the Western Rite, after initial enthusiasm, is somewhat, ah, contingent.

As to the rationale for the continuing existence of separate Russian-legacy jurisdictions, such as the ROCOR, we'll see. Logic would dictate that they should all be combined when the old animosities die down. Logic would dictate that the combination would take place within the OCA's autocephalous administrative framework, provided that the OCA can provide such an administrative lead and that all three can agree with power-sharing.

Visibilium said...

Before someone reminds me, I'm not counting the Carpathos among the Russian-legacy churches mentioned above owing to its EP sponsorship.

Anonymous said...

Visibilium - man are you right: my experience is that many people who see Byzantine rite Orthodoxy as "foreign" and are "uncomfortable" with it, will turn around and say "I'd definitely do that" when you mention the Western rite, especially the more Anglican BCP-type configuration). There is no logic to it at all.

As distressing as it may be to most Orthodox, including myself, a vibrant Western rite is likely the only way the Orthodox Church will grow in America, excepting through immigration. And the immigration will lead to further cultural marginalization in the broader American context for the Eastern Rite.

I also think a robust WR movement will never happen, as there is no real possibility of that developing. The current WR is too much a marginal development and while I have met several good WR priests, I've also met one I believe is clinically psychotic: how the movement develops is limited on continually sourcing enough good priests.

Anyway, these are all real challenges for Orthodoxy in the US - will take a long time to sort it all out. All we can do is pray for the best.

Anonymous said...

"...such as the ROCOR, we'll see. Logic would dictate that they should all be combined when the old animosities die down."

And when OCA becomes genuinely friendly to the Russian Orthodox tradition as preserved in OCA -- All Night Vigils instead of mere Vespers, the use of the Julian Calendar, stricter asceticism and monastic practice.

Anonymous said...

"And when OCA becomes genuinely friendly to the Russian Orthodox tradition as preserved in OCA..."

That should be "as preserved in ROCOR", sorry.

Visibilium said...

Like the OCA's Alaskan Diocese? Co-existence could get worked out. It'd be nice if all of the Patriarchal parishes observed the Vigil, too.

Moscow's concern is with the OCA's ability to assume a leadership role. So far, it hasn't accomplished squat with autocephaly. Too much drama.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Thanks to everybody for the informative comments.

The WR strikes me more as an excuse for carving out an Anglo-Celt reservation in the Antiochan and ROCOR jurisdictions. The Slavs and the Levantines get to keep the ethnic clubbiness, and the Anglo's get the cachet of Orthodoxy without the Old World baggage. I would by no means impute such a motive to all or even most WR advocates, but having been inside for a bit now I am comfortable saying for at least some people that would be the case.

Perhaps there is a place for the WR with, for lack of a better term, 'corporate' conversions, where an entire parish or even, say, an Episcopal diocese decided to head over.