Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roman Catholics, Anglican Rite

It occurs to me the strangeness of those who wish to become Roman Catholic but to take with them their own rite (s). From the seventh century on and most especially in the Council of Trent, the unity of the Roman Catholic Church was a liturgical unity and, for lack of a better term, uniformity. Now we find that both Rome and Constantinople are offering converts a way to enter communion and retain the distinctive features of their Western and/or parochial rites.

Perhaps it started with the Byzantine Rite Roman Catholics, who, as most know, have their own distinctive liturgical tradition as well as married priests (but celibate bishops). Anyway, it now has spread to the possibility of Anglicans entering communion with Rome and retaining the distinctive features of their own liturgical tradition and married priests (but not married bishops and married priests only so long as their wives are still alive because they cannot remarry).

Some know that the Antiochians have a Western Rite group within the Orthodox Church - complete with their distinctive liturgical tradition and vestments. Father John Fenton, formerly LCMS, is one such priest in the Detroit area. His parish uses a western rite and even statues. I do not have a great deal of knowledge of this parish and its practices but I know people who know him and have visited his blog and website often.

My point is this -- when you leave the tradition you are in to enter communion with another, why would you want to keep your liturgical tradition? Is not the essence of Rome manifest in the Mass of the Roman Rite? Is not the essence of Constantinople manifest in the Eastern liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil?

I wonder if being allowed to keep the rite is not one way of bringing legitimacy to their lives prior to entering communion with another church and allowing the appearance, at least, that is it not a big change but an evolution both natural and logical. In other words, if I can keep my Anglican rite and priest, then it is as much as saying that it was catholic in both the small c and big C sense of that term. So for the Western rite used by those who enter communion with Eastern Orthodoxy.

If that is how communion with Rome works, then why would Rome not offer a Lutheran rite, Methodist rite, and Presbyterian rite, as well? For these liturgical rites (at least the traditional ones) are fairly close to the Roman rite and no more out of the tradition than the Anglican. This way we can be Roman and Lutheran (insert your tradition here) at the same time (I say this tongue in cheek).

It seems to me as a Catholic who is non-Roman and as an Orthodox who is non-Eastern (that ought to muddy up the terminology waters a bit), that if you wish to enter communion with another church, it must involve, at bare minimum, adopting their liturgical tradition. So if you enter Rome, be Roman on Sunday morning... and likewise Eastern Orthodoxy... These traditions are not doctrinal statements that sit apart from or distinct from their liturgical expression so in adopting the faith, it is expected that you adopt the piety and practice.

Which is my beef with those who want to believe as Lutherans but worship as non-denominational, quasi-denominational, or anti-denominational free churches. If you want to be Lutheran, worship like a Lutheran... (you fill in the blanks for other traditions). Otherwise, why accept the beliefs and reject the liturgical tradition that practices that faith on Sunday morning?

It leaves me scratching my head...


OldSouth said...

Very thoughtful comments, as always.

I think in the case of the Anglicans, this is Rome finally getting some payback for a long history of, shall we say, shabby treatment from the Anglicans and British in general. Ireland immediately comes to mind.

Who could have ever imagined the Pope walking into Canterbury and announcing he would be leaving the door wide open for disaffected Anglicans to join Rome? For its many shortcomings, the Vatican has not abandoned some very basic ideas germane to Christianity itself.

Canterbury, on the other hand, has tolerated openly atheist clergy, and all manner of other abuses. So, the sharks circle on all sides, from Rome, from evangelicals, and from a secular British culture that has decided faith just doesn't matter.

Which is a shame, because the Anglican approach, informed by genuine belief and embrace of the creeds, is a rich and wonderful tradition of Christian faith.

I mused on it, a bit more wryly, at my place.
Look for the post 'Cold, and at a Distance'.

Chris said...

Fr. Peter,

The issue of western rite parishes is a controversial one in Orthodoxy. As you may know, only the Antiochians and the ROCOR have western rite vicariates here and in Western Europe (mainly to accommodate converts in France). The Greeks are opposed to this, as was the OCA though things may change since Metropolitan JONAH is considerably more open to this than his predecessors.

You convert to the faith, not to the rite. The Orthodox faith is expressed and prayed just as suitably in the western rite as the eastern rite. I, myself, prefer the eastern rite, though I grew up with a (modified) western rite. There is nothing wrong with this.

Eastern RIte Catholicism is a differen bag of worms since that was established for the expressed purpose of getting Orthodox away from their churches and bringing them, by subterfuge, to Catholicism. That is why the Unia is an extremely controversial topic in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

The point is that even before the schism between east and west when all Christendom was orthodox/catholic in its dogma and belief though the expression was different in London than in Constantinople. But those saints in England are our saints in the eastern rite just as well.

I don't know why the Catholics would allow this. I think it's being done for unity at any cost, regardless of true doctrinal agreement.

The rite shouldn't be the issue (whether eastern or western), but the fulness of the faith.

Anonymous said...

This is again, clear evidence that the Catholic Church is not the historic Catholic Church.

I remember the "Old" Mass my Dad took me to as a little girl. He always used to say proudly that being Catholic he felt at home in every Catholic church in the world because the liturgy was the same everywhere.

What a rather sorry situation -- the Anglicans will retain some modicum of beauty and dignity in their worship while the average Catholic in the 'burbs, at least here in the U.S., still has to endure Marty Haugen, the St. Louis Jesuits and the cantor with her arms waving as if she were directing traffic.

Sounds hard, I know, but that's what I encountered in my ten years in the Church of Rome.

Nor would giving Lutherans a "Lutheran Rite" solve some very important doctrinal hurdles.


Anonymous said...

Eastern RIte Catholicism is a differen bag of worms since that was established for the expressed purpose of getting Orthodox away from their churches and bringing them, by subterfuge, to Catholicism. That is why the Unia is an extremely controversial topic in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

That's a fine slap in the face for those Ukrainian Catholics who suffered so much under Stalin when he starved millions to death.


Reformation said...

Rome just parked her tanks, row upon row, in fine, decent, orderly and military fashion on the front lawn of Canterbury.

Although C o E clerics, UK and elsewhere, have always been free to join Antichrist's legions, as married men, this overture is a public relationship tour de force.

It's a huge slapdown of old Rowan Williams.

"Pour me a scotch, old boy, let's fire up a few cigars and watch this play out, shall we?"

Reformation said...

edit, "public relations tour de force."

Anonymous said...

Fascinating commentary on the Anglican move by the National Catholic Reporter:

Suggestion is offered that some Anglicans could reciprocate and offer a haven for disenchanted Catholics:

Picking up on this theme was NCR senior correspondent John Allen, writing for The New York Times: “There’s also nothing preventing the Anglican Communion from creating similar structures to welcome aggrieved Catholics who support all the measures these disaffected Anglicans oppose. Certainly, after today, the Vatican would have no basis to condemn such a move as an ecumenical low blow.”

Chris said...


What does Stalin's execution of Uniate Catholics have to do with the issue of rite? Orthodox were also executed under Stalin, lots of them, but that is not the issue.

Besides, my point was that the Unia was created (Read some documents like the Balamand agreement) where Catholic officials readily admit that the Unia was created to help ease the Orthodox into Catholicism by letting them retain their rights but sneaking in Latin theology.

Anonymous said...

Two things, Chris. Without denying that the Orthodox also suffered the attempted purge was deliberately aimed at the non-Russian, non-Orthodox Ukrainians under a Kremlin-ordered "reunion" of the Greek Catholic Church with the state-controlled Moscow Patriarchate, including NKGB/MGB agents, officials, and propagandists involved. The intentional starvation of 4-7 million Ukrainians was one of the most heinous of Stalin's acts.

Secondly, Eastern Catholics find the term "Unia" or "Uniate" quite offensive and in this day and age it really doesn't serve any purpose, as they are not going away.

Since I am no longer Catholic I really don't have a stake in this, but as I recall in a joint communique, signed on June 29, 1995, Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew expressed their acceptance of the Balamand principles. Their communique includes the following statement: "The Joint Commission [which met at Balamand] was able to proclaim that our Churches are recognized mutually as Sister Churches, responsible together for the preservation of the One Church of God."


Chris said...


Again, I don't know why you brought up the execution of the Uniates to begin with. That was not part of the discussion. I was talking about the preservation of rites. Just as the Uniates kept the Eastern Rite but were now full fledged papal catholics, I thought the comparison was apt.

Second, I know they find the term "uniate" offensive, but that's what they are.

Third, despite any agreements on Balamand by the EP and the Pope, the EP has consistently said that the Uniates (sorry, that word again) are not a model of acceptable unity. Besides, most of the hierarchs since that meeting have since recanted and admitted their mistake in signing that pro-papist document.

Anonymous said...

Chris -- please note, one more time, they were not "executed" in the proper sense, they were communally starved to death. En masse. A little human sympathy might be in order.

I brought it up because the term "Uniate" is offensive, plain and simple. Nor is the Orthodox world united in its view of Catholic orders and sacraments. Saw this this morning:

A Bulgarian Orthodox prelate told Benedict XVI of his desire for unity, and his commitment to accelerate communion with the Catholic Church.

At the end of Wednesday's general audience, Bishop Tichon, head of the diocese for Central and Western Europe of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, stated to the Pope, "We must find unity as soon as possible and finally celebrate together," L'Osservatore Romano reported.

"People don't understand our divisions and our discussions," the bishop stated. He affirmed that he will "not spare any efforts" to work for the quick restoration of "communion between Catholics and Orthodox."

Bishop Tichon said that "the theological dialogue that is going forward in these days in Cyprus is certainly important, but we should not be afraid to say that we must find as soon as possible the way to celebrate together."

Since there is no central authority in Orthodoxy it just might come to pass, but however it plays out is really not of concern to me.

Getting back to the original theme of this post, I agree with the comments posted here. Some Anglicans in Africa have already declined the offer from the Vatican, stating doctrinal concerns.


Chris said...


Are you Ukrainian? I can't see why you're getting upset over an issue that YOU made over something that has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the point I was trying to relate. I'm sorry I didn't use the proper term to describe the annihilation (is that better) of Ukrainians. I guess execution isn't a negative enough term any more.

To your other point, first of all this bishop is insignficant and his own blatherings are not shared by the other Orthodox hierarchs. Second, you are right to say that there is no central authority in the Orthodox Church as we don't speak of that in western terms. We see authority as auxiliary. The Spirit makes the Church, the Church. The Spirit makes present Christ in and among men realized through the sacramental life in the Church. Authority is always spoken of externally. The key is the Life in Christ.

This is an argument for another time, but I will not debate "authority" in western categories as that is alien to the Orthodox ethos. If you wish to pursue it, I suggest reading up on A.S. Khomiakov as well as Fr. John Meyendorff's Scritpure and Tradition.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters, I recall the Jesuit Gustave Weigel who even before Vatican II convened was already suggesting that if Lutherans "returned to Rome" they could be assured of a married clergy and receiving the chalice in Holy Communion. Seems to me that unity trumps everything else but I just don't see how confessional Lutherans would ever sacrifice the doctrinal issues for the sake of unity with Rome.


Anonymous said...

I remember reading a book by Ram Dass wherein he said, and I am paraphrasing here: Many people spend their lives trying to pick a boat. Some boats are ornate, some plain, et al. But they spend their lives in trying to decide which boat they like. He urged the reader, Get into a boat, find one, any one, and immerse yourself in the flavor (tradition) of that boat and use it to get to the other side. Obviously, the boat is a metaphor for spirituality and the journey and other shore is spirituality and enlightenment or heaven. I really enjoyed that analogy and you make the very same point albeit in different words. Well said, friend!
A Lutheran in Owensboro, KY