Friday, January 28, 2005

Eastern churches
Russian Orthodox reunion in America: what would it mean?
What would it mean for mainstream America and the possible conversion of same to some kind of the Catholic faith? Except allowing for miracles (which one must do!), as great as the Russian recension of the Byzantine Rite is, probably not a whole lot.

Internally, would the Church of Russia turn its back on/revoke the independence of its old dioceses in the States (the Orthodox Church in America) in favour of ROCOR, with whom culturally and in praxis it has more in common? I don’t think so. Even though AFAIK the Russian Church doesn’t get any money from its old dioceses since independence, a look at the numbers shows such a change wouldn’t make any sense. There are four times more OCA congregations than ROCOR in the States, so even though the OCA are a small church it seems they’d have more clout.

(Though it’s been pointed out that ROCOR are international, serving not only a few people in Europe but also Russian expats in Australia.)

Add to that the long history of the American dioceses and that there are more of them than there are ROCOR ones in the States.

No, what will happen in the short to medium term is the Russian Church will renege on only part of its grant of independence in 1970, the promise not to add more churches to its tiny holdings in America (about 30 congregations exempt by choice from the independence grant).

It seems OCA Metropolitan Herman is amenable to that. (BTW, here is why he participates in the March for Life.)

In time, numerical superiority (though the OCA are a small and shrinking church), assimilation, good basic Catholic ecclesiology (one bishop per see) and common sense would mean the combined Russian Church holdings eventually would pass into the OCA.

More interesting numbers:

• There are about as many Coptic congregations in America as there are ROCOR. These are Egyptian immigrants, the descendents of the ancient Egyptians who are a persecuted minority in their own now-Arab Muslim country.
• The RC Archdiocese of New York has almost as many parishes (often very big) as the whole OCA has congregations. Their site is very telling: pastoral FAQ are mostly to do with annulments (in practice lots of people want a divorce) and there is lots of attempted damage control in the wake of the gay-priest scandal. It practically screams ‘Come back, please! We don’t molest boys anymore, we promise!’ How about adding a counter showing how many months since the last case or lawsuit? (No wonder the Holy See thinks Americans are sex-mad. If I had a teen-aged son and saw this site I’d run like hell the other way.) Of all the liturgical and socio-political matters dealt with in the Catholic faith and of interest to this blog, only one is represented: abortion, full stop. No wonder the March for Life and suchlike for many have become a substitute for fuller religious life (seen from the Middle Ages until around 50 years ago in city neighbourhoods).
• About 400,000 people in the US practise Greek Orthodoxy, making their archdiocese numerically the No. 1 Eastern Orthodox church in that land, an ethnic chaplaincy that sends much money to the beseiged patriarch of Constantinople in Turkey. (They’re not under the Church of Greece — complicated story.)
• ROCOR have about 3,000-4,000 members in North America.

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