Terrena despicere?

Someone thoughtfully forwarded a link to me this morning – Reading Dreher with Schmemann and MacIntyre (and thus Marx). The subject is the so-called Benedict Option expressed in writings by Rod Dreher and others, especially in America. The article is quite long and challenging, and is worth a good read.

I have mentioned before that the idea quite intrigued me, and I could see the obvious comparisons with monasteries, less enclosed religious orders, the Brüderhof, charismatic communities, various intentional communities based on ecology or other common themes. There are also the Amish communities in the USA which, perhaps, are to be “admired but not imitated”. If such a community is founded and those in it find fulfilment, I can only encourage them to continue in this vast human experiment in known history. The New World was a powerful archetype in history, but now the new world has become the old in terms of human impiety and iniquity. The first European Americans set out to found something new, not merely escape from the world that oppressed them. The Benedict Option seems to be different in that it seeks to create new micro-societies or tribes away from society. The difference seems to be subtle but real.

Several things emerge from this article. One is the analysis of the modern world. Another is how the micro-society is intended to work, not fall victim to the worst aspects of human nature. Can Christianity only subsist in a Christian society, or can it live in a neutral or hostile world like in the Roman Empire before the Peace of Constantine? We are constantly reading things on the internet, full of foreboding warnings of a collapse of civilisation or the end of the world – neither of which have occurred despite prophecies that they were imminent. Many such prophecies are tired out and old. Apocalypticism seems to be a psychological need for some people, like conspiracy theories that turn out to be fallacious.

The article discusses the theme of the guru, the leader of a totalitarian sect or cult. A monastery has its prior or abbot, and unquestioning obedience is demanded of the community’s members. Where is the dividing line between asceticism and spirituality, and depersonalisation and abuse by an amoral leader? It also happens in non-religious communities, unless, perhaps, a democratic or collegial system is put in place where the leader is bound to consult his peers. How many dictators in history asked their people to choose between “me or chaos”?

The argument is put forward that the plight of the Church and Christianity are never beyond hope, since both have been threatened in the past. The Church rebounded where it was least expected. Is Christianity finished in western mainstream society?

There is also a danger of like-minded people seeking to build a society in which thinking alike is a prerequisite. That is something that needs thinking about. I usually find that people can get very nasty the more they share an interest. I have even found this in the sailing world where there can be bad disputes about whether one may have an engine on his boat for when sailing isn’t possible or what kind of life-jacket should be worn. These are purely practical matters, and are compounded when it is a matter of ideology! This happens in various identity groups like gays and people with Aspergers. One can only take so much in the hothouse.

Is Christian living to be another “lifestyle” for those who can afford it and come from a yuppie or bourgeois-bohemian background? In the intentional community world, the choice is essentially between a guru and unpaid work – or buying-in at more than it costs to buy a house in the countryside. A solution? I don’t think there is any one solution for the future of Christianity. It depends to a great extent on where we live, in cities, suburbs or the countryside. Then, whether it is with families and children, alone, with an intense social life, involved in local community activities and politics, whatever. All communities are exposed to the risk of human nature: corruption, abuse, exclusion of “others” and everything else that has happened, causing the community to reform itself or fall apart.

It is a good thing that I have been exposed to monastic life for my six-month stint. The Abbot made it easy for me, because he knew that I did not aspire to a monastic vocation. I had interesting work to do corresponding with my knowledge and skills. I had some realistic idea of the life of the monks. It is essentially a totalitarian “Orwellian” society where each person allows his personality to be eclipsed by the collective. It is the most radical Communism that exists, the only difference being that it is voluntary – accepted by the pronouncement of the Vows. Not everyone is made for that. I am not. Monastic life is everything that is the most ordinary, commonplace, boring and earthly. The corridors smell of sweat and boot polish. It could almost be compared with the Army except for the absence of noise and weapons! The various bits of advice for a young man thinking about monastic life have a ring of realism – go and get some boring job in an office or a factory and don’t think of yourself as anyone special. The almost-nihilism of it is quite surprising! It is the exact opposite of Romanticism, in which the creative imagination is exalted, but Romantics are not always very holy people…

Fr Charles de Foucault comes back to me. He was a hermit, though he intended to found a very austere monastic community. The people around him were all Muslims. There is something to be said for “monastic” life in a city without any trappings or habit, just service to others. I have thought of leaving my present life to live alone in some remote place – but it just won’t work. It would be based on wrong, and that can’t be justified. Nor would I be justified in joining some intentional community where I would be followed by — myself.

Those are a few of my reflections on reading this article, which might be a little too hard on Dreher’s idea and desire to escape the quagmire of modern American or western life. Usually, we do God’s will by staying put, being where He put us so that we can do good in some small and insignificant way. Communities do exist and are said to do good and work out for the best. There are none anywhere near where I live, apart from a couple of Roman Catholic monasteries, so it seems to be something of a non-sequitur. That is the limit of the internet unless we have the lack of responsibilities at home, time and leisure to travel.

Thomas Merton once said succinctly, the entire wisdom of the desert fathers and mothers, thus: “Shut up, and go to your cell!”


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26 Responses to Terrena despicere?

  1. J.D. says:

    Personally I find that guys article to be unduly harsh; he doesn’t just disagree with Dreher he positively takes him to the cleaners and hangs him out to dry with his rebuttal!

    I tend to think he does have a few points though, as do you. Will the Ben-Op just become a gimmick,or some semi mainstream Christian country club for the well off? Will it too become a tangled web of red tape, exclusivist attitudes and officialdom?

    I’m more on your page with Charles de Foucault, I think it ought to be lived by individuals even in obscurity. The moment it becomes regulated and institutional all the nobility of it turns into what you saw at the monastery– a military style communism reeking of sweat and shoe polish. I can just imagine the Roman Catholics will turn it into some sort of ” Order” under the patronage of a bishop with a bunch of rules and stuff.

    These days I’m already living this obscurity as are you.

    I tend to think institutional Christianity is over in the West, at least as we know it. No Benedict Option will save the big churches from collapse but it might save our faith as individuals and as small communities.

    • I would agree that the article author was too hard on Dreyer, probably from a perspective of being politically and socially motivated. He perhaps represents a kind of Church I would not want to think of as mine. He does make the point that alternative communities can be very easily exploited by men with personality issues or ambitions to control others.

      We will be very much alone to find God within ourselves and the Transcendent. Even my own wife is not really on the same page. She is a fish in water at Roman Catholic novus ordo Mass, and she does believe in the manner of a catechised lay person. She shows no interest in my vision of things. She does find my chapel a nice place to be. This is how things usually are. I have to be free in myself even if I am not free exteriorly.

      Eventually, the Ben Op, if it ever gets off the drawing board, will be regulated and institutionalised like environmentalism and monastic life.

      But, as individuals, we can live the wisdom of contemplative life within ourselves and take every opportunity to do good and work towards love of wisdom, beauty, love and everything that is an icon of God. Institutional Christianity will continue from its latitudinarian ways of the 18th century, a tool of the State to control populations with moral rules in exchange for wealth and status. Present-day Churches fall for the same temptation of wealth and power, and my little Church will probably do so too when the salt loses its savour. But, it hasn’t done so yet…

      That is human nature. Some are made to be philosophers and creators. Most are made for the Kampf: power and wealth and Lebensraum. We cannot compete – just do and be what we can where we are.

  2. Dale says:

    Normally, I rather like Dr DeVille. But in this case I am not so impressed. He seems to really have a personal grudge against Dreher, perhaps because Dreher was a former Protestant who became a Roman Catholic and then went to the Russians and has been spending quite a lot of time lambasting the Roman establishment, especially concerning the pedophile issue. In Dr DeVille’s defense, much of Dreher’s anti-Catholicism is troublesome in that when the same issues arise in Orthodoxy, he tends to ignore.

    Much of DeVille’s criticisms of Dreher’s Benedict Option is quite solid, but when he starts to play the “Church of the Poor” class-card it becomes problematic. Perhaps because I am also Middle Class I find the dismissal of an idea or position simply because of class more than tiresome; it resembles the perpetual cry of racism from the left when they disagree with an idea. I do know that much of modern Roman Catholicism is now the concept of the Social Justice Warrior, but for the world’s richest institution to play this game is really ludicrous.

    What is interesting is that on Gabriel Sanchez’s site (https://www.gssanchez.com/blog/2017/3/26/rod-drehers-striking-omission), he mentions that Dreher’s Benedict Option seems, at least according to Sanchez, to be part-and-parcel of the Catholic conservative SSPX ideal (having had some contact with this Society, I am not really convinced), but which would tend to discredit some of DeVille’s opposition.

    I have also had contacts with young modernist Roman Catholics, and I do not hold DeVille’s glowing endorsement of what seems to be a culturally dangerous mixture of modernist liturgics, social justice, and papolatry.

    None of this means that I support Dreher’s position. I agree very much with Fr Anthony’s interpretation; but not mentioned by DeVille is its fancy-dress party aspect; a bunch of mostly Byzantine Konvertzi taking Russian names, dressing up in exotic costumes of what they think turn-of-the-century Russians peasants wore, and building little holy Russias in their gardens, compete with either bright, florescent blue or gold garlics topped by three-barred crosses hardly seems serious.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I hope I am not rashly or burdensomely passing this on, as I have not yet read it right through, but did enjoy the start I made reading it and thought I would pass it along at once on the strength of that!:


    • William Tighe says:

      I’ve just now read it (but very quickly). I know nothing about the author, but the general “tone” of the article, and especially the phrase “cultural mandate” strike me as very Reformed/Calvinist (even Kuyperian).

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thanks! His reference to “common grace” is definitely Kuyperian, and one of the defining quotations, about “Culture” is from a book entitled The Basic Ideas of Calvinism! I haven’t read enough Kuyper, but think you are right about the formulation of “cultural mandate”. Then, again, that section leading up to the “Culture” quotation struck me as very ‘Inklings compatible’, with Tolkien as well as Lewis (or Williams or Barfield) – and the post reminded me, there, and elsewhere, of Lewis’s striking January 1941 article, ‘Meditation on the Third Commandment’, with its appreciation of Maritain and it emphasis on any hope of effectively having political impact being by true conversion of citizens.

        I’ve only read scattered posts by Rod Dreher, so far, but wonder how much his accent may be on the “strategic”, “a situational strategy”, with sufficient emphasis on the indefinite article, as the commenter, timothysasaki, is perhaps suggesting – not the whole or only approach, but an important one, now.

        I think Professor Sandlin is right that “There are no ‘safe spaces’ from secularists for Christians”, but that seems equally problematical for what he proposes as for what Rod Dreher may. (Here, I think of Lewis’s Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength: what places like St. Anne’s, in the latter, are how likely to go how undetected for how long, and with what ‘cultural’/’Evangelizing’ effectiveness?)

      • ed pacht says:

        You know, I don’t need or want a safe space from secularists. They are the very ones My Lord has commissioned me to reach with the Gospel. So far I get along well with them and take what opportunities appear to share the Good News in the hope that some of it will (by the power of the Spirit) be heard. If that should change (as well it may), the worst “they” can do is to make me a martyr, i.e. send me on the fast lane home.I hate to say it, but what I do want and need is a safe space from some of my fellow Christians (I’m tempted to say ‘false Christians’) both those who preach a salvation without repentance and those who change the invitation to salvation to a message of anger and exclusion. So many of my fellow believers seem be concerned only or mainly with what they condemn and seldom speak of the joy of what they believe. Jesus spent little time on condemning sin or in political activism, and spent a huge chunk of his time.with open sinners and with ‘publicans’ (political enemies of the Jewish people), offering them love and mercy and an assurance that repentance would lead to redemption. He condemned nobody but the religious leadership who, though legitimately in Moses’ seat, set themselves above the sinners. I love my church and my fellow Christians, but I am usually uncomfortable among them these days.

        Contemplative communities have been of powerful value to the Church, and, perhaps such communities as Dreher proposes might be of similar value, but ONLY if most of us are out in the middle of the mess, uncomfortable though that may be.

      • Dale says:

        Ed, I really appreciate your response to this issue.

        Although the concept of removing ourselves from this dreadful, corrupt world of woe may have its appeal, I think that if we bother to look closely at communities that have successfully done so, they are in some fundamental manner not Christian.

        I am thinking mostly of the Russian Orthodox Old Believers and the Strict Order Mennonites, and although they may be cute and folkloristic, such groups often have serious issues. In both cases they have limited Christianity to usually a racial and ethnic sense of superiority for salvation; German 19th century in the case of the Mennonites, and 17th century Russia in the case of the Old Believers, they have become cut off from the rest of humanity, refuse to allow anyone not of their ethnic or cultural group to be admitted. Personally, I have great difficulty in really believing that one must accept 19th German or 17th century Russian peasant culture to be saved.

        Also, as Fr Anthony so well outlines, they may appear, from an outside superficial observation to be cute and worthy of touristic interest, the groups tend to be narrow, and controlling of their own membership. Excommunication for small faults or failings and the demand for complete conformity is one of their main guiding principals. I am too middle-class and too eccentric to have any attraction to such groups or ideals. Also, I like a good argument.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Dear ed pacht,

        For better or worse (shall we say?), Professor Sandlin follows up with, “Nor are there any ‘safe spaces’ from Christians for secularists. Christians need to wake up to both sides of this equation.” In the context of the ‘problematic’ you sketch, that is, practically-speaking, also no ‘safe spaces’ for “secularists” from any and all varieties of self-described Christians, or for any of those varieties from each other (!). And, I suppose it would be fair to say, that has been (in varying degrees or senses of ‘safety’) the case since the assorted local Reformations of the early 1500s, and since the Great Schism – and at various times and places throughout the history of the Church before and after that (e.g., of Arian or Donatist or Albigensian ascendency).

        Martyrdom has its experiential horrors – those applying it being (historically) often interested in as slow a lane as possible for those receiving it – but is the goal of a ‘revised witnessing’ not worse? (E.g., to bring someone to confess ‘I love Big Brother’ or its equivalents, and mean it. I don’t know what details of Church history Orwell knew, in this context, but some of the details of means in 1984 have exact precedents in the matter chronicled by Henk van Nierop in Treason in the Northern Quarter: War, Terror, and the Rule of Law in the Dutch Revolt – though the goals here were to confess guilt and incriminate others.)

      • ed pacht says:

        I’m not talking about the need of protection from ‘heretics’ or those of other sects. That’s yet another question I wasn’t dealing with. The lives of the saints will frequently show the opposition and mistreatment by others of their own fellowship. Identical beliefs are often held by those of diametrically opposed attitude, and some of those attitudes are less consonant with Christianity than are many of the most despised heresies. It is this kind of insular and exclusionary attitude that often becomes intensified in those who withdraw from the secular world. I think that I see a lot of evidence of just that in much of the political rancor and division on the USA and perhaps some other places.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Dear ed pacht,

        Thanks! We were rather talking a cross-purposes (no Seasonal pun particularly intended) to a considerable extent, then – I suppose I tend to start at a diffuse level of ‘self-description’, a least in part (where the Arians, Donatists, Albigensians – and others – would probably consider themselves uniquely ‘the true Christians’, with which I would join what I take to be ‘the visible Church(es)’ in disagreeing!), though (as that last parenthesis suggests) I also tend to start with a sort of (Erasmian) eirenical, Lumen gentium, Book III of Hooker’s Laws, Lewisian ‘mere Christian’ perspective, which would leave me lots of room to discuss who means what by ‘sects’. I can think of lots of senses in which I’d agree with “Identical beliefs are often held by those of diametrically opposed attitude” – Lewis is quite interesting in his Latin letters to St. Giovanni Calabria about something like this. And “The lives of the saints will frequently show the opposition and mistreatment by others of their own fellowship” is certainly true (I got a vivid sense of this from St. Teresa of Avila’s wonderful autobiographical book, for instance!).

  4. I have greatly appreciated these comments, and considered writing a new article, but I have a lot of translating work and Holy Week is nearly on us.

    We are all different and have different ways of life, even by simply comparing those who live in cities, suburbs, villages, out in the sticks – or in different parts of the world. Where I live, there isn’t much of a threat from Big Brother, Frankenstein science or Jihadist Islam. People here don’t hate religion – they just don’t care. When I came to our village, the RC parish priest of the pastoral sector said one Mass a month in the church I see from my house. Now, it is four times a year plus funerals. My “secular world” isn’t that of someone who lives in central Paris, London or New York.

    I have sympathies with Dreher’s project, as with the idea of intentional communities. Some people are made to live in them, as there are men and women called to be monks and nuns. Intentional communities can be like totalitarian cults or very well-organised societies with a democratic system for keeping everything in check – and they work. Generally, those communities that leave people as free individuals are those you have to buy into. That presupposes having a certain level of financial resources and the freedom to make changes like selling one’s house and giving up one’s job. It is a commitment based on security in life. Why not? It is a vocation and an ability to accept the reality of community life.

    Would I prefer to conform to the established ways of a community or find my way spiritually in my freedom as a person? If you’re not in a community, you can pretty well live your ideas and beliefs on your own terms. I have been reading the notion that the only future of the Christian community is in cities, through the many dynamic parishes in a place like Paris. I don’t think there is much life in the average city parish. It’s just bigger and better organised than a village parish, but just as anonymous and alienating. Cities are multicultural, which is both an advantage and a threat. There are city communities, in which I have some experience – Bickersteth House in West Kensington where I rented a room as a student, and there is Toynbee Hall in the East End. They were inspired foundations in their time, but have little relevance now and find it difficult to meet the financial demands of city life.

    Some are committed to politics and social action, which is a good thing. I am more interested in music and the arts. But, you can’t use these things to get people into your churches. You do your thing in society as a Christian, with Christian morals, ideals and philosophy of life, but you can’t turn a secular organisation into a church! This is a constant thought in my mind.

    Safe places? Buy a house in the country having worked out all the practical and financial aspects, and then you can be safe from Orwellian dystopias and terrorists. Living in the country is great for some people, but not for all. A Christian can be “safe” by pretending not to be one or keeping his religious practice secret or discreet. It depends on what that person believes he should be doing in life. As a priest, I can walk round in a cassock, but here in France, that means SSPX and nationalist politics. Perhaps my long hair would send out a different signal. Perhaps – some odd guy in disguise going to a carnival! In the 1980’s as a seminarian, it still went quite well, but now the cassock is no longer a positive witness for Christianity or the Church. Times have changed.

    I detest city life and I am quite sure that I would not be happy in an intentional community. I have lived in those two city loose communities where I had an affordable room. I have been to university and seminary. I spent some of my teenage years as a pupil in an English public school, so I understand institutional life. It is more or less respectful of the person, freedom and fundamental human rights – or it exists to depersonalise the individual and emphasise the collective and the leader holding absolute authority. Communities like the Amish are like the Jews: you don’t join them – you are born into them.

    For most people, parish Christianity is a thing of the past. Most people could go into town on Sundays and find something to their taste in terms of preaching or style of liturgy. Fewer are inclined to make the effort. Christianity must find another way to revive a healthy way of life as a mystery religion and the complete fulfilment of both Judaism and Paganism. We know no way other than monastic and parish life, but we will have to find another way. My intuition is that it begins with ourselves and our profound knowledge of the immanent divinity within us, and how the mustard seed may again grow without the choking weeds of institutional corruption. For this, we need to open our minds beyond our immediate religious boundaries. If we find this freedom within ourselves, if we keep our soul, then nothing can threaten us.

    What about church buildings, priests, Sacraments, liturgies, doing things together? It will all continue in some places and not in others, and those respective places can and will change.

  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I have probably praised it here before, but I heartily enjoyed R.W. Southern’s treatment in Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (Penguin, 1970), chapter 6, of “The Religious Orders”, and, in chapter 7, of “Fringe Orders and Anti-Orders”, and their varied and often surprising and unintended successes – and wonder what analogies to some of the latter might thrive (or, now be thriving?), today?

  6. jimofolym says:

    I’m anratherly member (80 years) as a 40+ year convert in an Eastern Orthodox parish in Washington State. I used to sing in the choir until a few weeks ago but as my voice is not what it was I no longer do so. Today on Palm Sunday I was blessed! to see a little guy scoot around me whilst he conducted his own liturgy quietly and attentively. We served matins and Liturgy, and then a procession around the church, lasting around two hours. No one was vexed, no one was not fed.

    Four priests served Communion which made it much shorter than normal. Many of the people sang or hummed quietly, knowing the various hymns. and a new person,clothed in a white vestment received his first communion. Then afterwards a very nice fish dinner was served and we all went home (hopefully after some were washing up!)

    Just hoping that most of you, had a similar experience of unity and sanity this Sunday, especially Dale who seems to have some thoughts about us EOs. I wish he could visit our multi-cultural and multi-ethnic parish sometime..

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      A heartening glimpse of what sounds like thriving parish life – thank you, and good wishes for ‘Hagia kai Megale Hebdomas’ (or so Wikipedia tells me it is called in Greek)!

    • Dale says:

      Jim, thank you for this.

      In my experiences when the Byzantines mention “multiculturalism” it is along this example: and Italian family converts to the local Russian church, they throw out all of their traditional statues, dump their old prayer books and replace them with an “Ikon corner” full of cheap Russian style paper ikons, get the Jordansville Russian prayer book in English and learn to make the sign of the cross in the Russian manner, including that little bump thing they do at the end…but for Lenten supper they bring spaghetti (that’s the multiculti part); of course the spaghetti has been made with Byzantine fast demands, tastes like poop and no one eats it (this is not a make believe scenario by the way).

      So, I am so happy to hear of your truly Orthodox multicultural parish. Tell me how did you assimilate, as an example, western liturgical traditions into your Lenten services? Did you do the Stations of the Cross, do you recite the rosary before Liturgy or vespers or both? When you sing the Salve Regina after services, do you use Latin or English? In your choir what western hymns do you use, or do you limit the hymns to the ancient hymns of the western offices? (Helmore’s Hymnal Noted is a good source), or do you also use hymns from Anglican and other sources? What musical instruments do you use? Do you limit your use of western music to only Gregorian, or do you also use Anglican chant?

      Speaking of these four priests, did they wear the vestments of their ancestral tradition if they are not of a traditional “Orthodox” heritage; was the “English” priest vested in Gothic vestments etc?

      Or when you mention “multicultural,” well do you mean…spaghetti?

      The local OCA parishes had quite a few Ethiopians, all of the elderly Ethiopians continued to cross in their ancient manner, left to right (too old to change, and they stupidly considered themselves to have always been Orthodox), the younger are forced to make the Sign of the Cross in the modern, post 1666, Russian manner. This really seems to be the real limit, well in at least my own not limited experience of the Byzantines, obviously your parish is special.

      Although I am not a Roman Catholic, within one hundred miles of my home one can attend Catholic liturgies in five very different traditions: Novus Ordo, Traditional Roman rite, Maronite, Chaldean, and Byzantine. Silly me, but that seems a more honest interpretation of multicultural.

      Not too long ago they even had a small Anglican-use parish. What is interesting is that this parish originally approached the Orthodox, to be told that unless they adopted the Byzantine rite and culture, they were unwelcome.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        When I was living in St. Gregory’s House (the former house of the Rev. Dr. William Archibald Spooner) the Church in the back garden was certainly at least bi-Orthodox-Church-cultural, being shared by parishes of Russian and Greek-speaking Churches, namely under the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople – but in practice in was multi-Orthodox-Church-cultural, as a lot of those who attended the Greek services were Cypriots, including at least one impressive cantor, whose chanting was, I understood, characteristically Cypriot – which that of Kallistos Ware was not. (And I imagine it was more complexly so than I realized, then, or yet realize.) It was certainly quite multi-ethnic. And, happily, I don’t recall any of the food of various cuisines prepared to fasting demands I was invited to taste was unpalatable (not even, I think, my own vegan efforts, when cooking for fasting friends and housemates – though I’m not sure I even ventured on oilless cookery).

        Admittedly, and, I would say, sadly, there were distinct Orthodox-Church-cultural limits – about which Fr. Anthony can probable say something as well – for, while Fr., later, Bishop Kallistos was supportive in many ways of Dr. Winch’s Gregorian Club and reconstruction of a usable pre-Great-Schism Latin liturgy in English translation, it was never as far as I know celebrated in fact.

      • I have made a pdf of Dr Ray Winch’s proposed Canonical Mass, which you can download. I never heard of it ever being celebrated. I had a lot of sympathy for Ray’s general ideas and medievalism, but this ultra-austere rite is reminiscent of Jubé’s Mass in Asnières or the ideas of the Synod of Pistoia in 1786, or even Bugnini’s Novus Ordo. For me, the proposed rite is a curiosity, and I see Ray Winch as promoting Western Orthodoxy through the optic of perhaps less Augustinian views than Jansenism. His was an interesting perspective. You can read Dr Winch’s introduction.

        Orthodox-Church-cultural limits? I am on more shaky ground, because I have no experience of Orthodox life other than going to Liturgy a couple of times in London more than thirty years ago. I enjoyed Ray Winch’s company during those sleepless nights in Essex Street, Oxford, and I miss him now that he has been promoted to glory, and I was interested in the idea – but it never went anywhere. Continuing Anglicanism has had more life and will to live than that! I have lived through a monastic Lent which is more moderate that the boiled vegan Orthodox fare. I also baulked at the banning of the organ from the liturgy. Anglicans have fought bravely against iconoclasm and for the restoration of medieval sensuality.

        One thing I have noticed outside the USA is that the idea of Western Orthodoxy reacted excessively against the Roman Catholic notion of “development” and sought to restore liturgical forms that were entirely alien to anyone’s experience, and thus a convergence with modern Roman Catholic and Anglican liturgical experiments. There is a notion of “archaeologism” that breeds quite unhealthy tendencies and distorts the notion of Tradition. Some WR experiments have worked in the USA, notably with Antioch and to some extent with the Russians outside Russia.

        I might seem to be preaching to my own choir, but Continuing Anglican has for me proven a much better growth medium for the western liturgical and spiritual-cultural tradition than Orthodoxy. The issue for some is the validity of our Orders. I believe them to be valid – from the organic coherence of our Church (ACC) and proven tactile Succession. For me, there is no need for western rite Orthodoxy, since I reject the “true-church” claim made, not by the Orthodox Churches, but by the former Protestant and RC converts to Orthodoxy.

        We Anglicans are called to do what our Bishops are doing, getting our act together and getting our Churches united, coherent and credible. Our presence in England and Europe is very marginal, but it is available and exists in practice.

      • William Tighe says:

        “One thing I have noticed outside the USA is that the idea of Western Orthodoxy reacted excessively against the Roman Catholic notion of “development” and sought to restore liturgical forms that were entirely alien to anyone’s experience, and thus a convergence with modern Roman Catholic and Anglican liturgical experiments. There is a notion of “archaeologism” that breeds quite unhealthy tendencies and distorts the notion of Tradition. Some WR experiments have worked in the USA, notably with Antioch and to some extent with the Russians outside Russia.”

        In the light of this, how would you evaluate the “experiment” of the Eglise Orthodoxe Gallicane de France? I used to know something about its history of in-communion/out-of-communion with other Orthodox jurisdictions, and an acquaintance of mine was acquainted with an Englishman who (IIRC) had been ordained in that jurisdiction, but that was all in the mid/late 1980s, and I know nothing about how that body has fared over the past 25 years.

      • I have met Bishop Germain several times, and he and I got on well. He is intelligent and pastoral. Their liturgy seems to “work” and attracts people to their parishes. I just could not make the step at any time (late 1980’s). I last met him in about 2000 in his church in Poitiers. They have lost their status in the Romanian Church and are now autonomous. There are other churches in France – see http://www.orthodoxie-occidentale.org/ where they have a version of an old Celtic rite and a version of the Gallican Liturgy slightly different from but almost the same as ECOF. I would like to visit the Celtic Church in Brittany – perhaps I might make a detour when I go to my big sailing gathering the last week of this May in south Brittany. ECOF dwindled somewhat when they were kicked out of the Romanian Church, but they still seem to be there – see http://eglise-orthodoxe-de-france.fr/.

        I don’t judge any of these small “uncanonical” Churches. They are all doing their “thing”, they are honest and serve a real pastoral need.

      • Dale says:

        I have also met Bishop Hardy several times, and will concur with what Fr Anthony has mentioned, he is both kind as well as pastoral.

        I was a student at the Orthodox theological institute in Paris when he was consecrated by the Romanians for France. The reaction of the other ethnic jurisdictions, especially the Greeks and the Russian diocese under the Greeks was hysterical. The level of nastiness and ad hominem directed against Bishop Hardy and his diocese had to be experienced to be believed. He was refused a place on the committee of canonical bishops as an example, although he was canonical. The Greeks refused to allow any of their members to communicate in the French parishes and con-celebration was absolutely refused. The reaction of Moscow Patriarchate was not too much better.

        On the question of their liturgy, it is simply bizarre. It is not liturgical archaeology, but fantasy. Invented by a single, unqualified individual, who was a Russian by the way. But it does seem to attract a certain type. It is very exotic.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        (Reverend) Gentlemen,

        Thank you! All very new to me, re. the Eglise Orthodoxe Gallicane de France (and the others mentioned), and very interesting! (Fr. Anthony, I have the feeling you have posted about them before, but recall no details!)

        Most of what I know about any liturgy is still only thanks to Dom Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy – of which I finally got a copy at a second-hand shop about halfway “Uphill” in Lincoln while on a pilgrimage with Ray Winch for the septcentenary of the episcopal election of St. Hugh, as it happens!

        I’ve wondered if there is enough of anything ‘Celtic’ to continue, revive, or even be responsibly ‘archaeological’ about! Can you tell me more?

        By the way, I never managed to engage Ray Winch in an epistolary conversation about the reconstructions of Marcel Pérès (having only encountered them after moving to the Netherlands) – can any of you direct me to anything useful, online?

  7. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Meanwhile, I just encountered a report that the Alabama state Senate just passed a special law to allow a Presbyterian Church to create its own private police force – a Church with, reportedly, 4,100 members, its own school for Kindergarteners through Twelfth-Graders, and its own theological seminary with 2,000 students and teachers.

    It sounds positively mediaeval – and, where the Universities Act 1825 is concerned, Georgian! (A new body to be nicknamed ‘ Bulldogs’?)

    • York Minister has its own police force – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_Minster_Police Security was enhanced in 1829 after the entire roof of the cathedral and the choir were burned down by arson committed by a madman called Jonathan Martin. Martin was an interesting character, a hell-fire fanatic with some artistic talents and ideas similar to those of William Blake. He cheated the gallows by being found guilty but insane, and spent the rest of his life locked up in Bedlam.

      They now hold the same powers as all police officers in England.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thank you – I had no idea! One of the Wikipedia article’s External Links led me to a post including, “York Minster is one of only seven cathedrals in the world to maintain its own police force, which has played an important role in the rich history of the Minster for hundreds of years” and “The Minster’s Cathedral Constables will join officers from Canterbury, Liverpool and Chester who are attested and hold the powers of constable in their respective cathedral and precincts.”

        I’ve now heard that in Alabama it is (at present) a matter of being able to hire one person! (but the principle’s the thing, I take it).

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