Thursday, February 24, 2005

Eastern churches
Howling about Fátima
Happened upon this yesterday: reactions to the recent death of the last seeress of the vision, Sister Lucia (dos Santos).

Oh. My. Lord.

To quote a former friend, a lot of this sounds like it came right out of the pit of hell. It probably did.

Warning: After slogging through all these postings you may need to take another bath or shower, perhaps at your local hazmat unit.

A few things strike me about this recent but classic example of a thread of online Eastern Orthodox posting:

• I personally am not a Fátima devoté, which gives this entry some objectivity. My reaction is based only on principle.
• The Fátima devotion can go off the rails as a kind of devotional hysteria (what Ronnie Knox would call ‘enthusiasm’) inimical to the sober Mass-and-office Catholicism that’s this blog’s ideal and indeed that of much of the Orthodox tradition (a very sensual one though rightly on guard against delusion — прелесть — from ‘the passions’). And it does seem to exist peacefully in the unliturgical, theologically iffy world of the Novus Ordo. Sed abusus non tollit usum.
• As I’ve mentioned in the blog comments, private revelation including Fátima strictly speaking isn’t part of the Catholic faith. It’s tolerated but one isn’t required to accept it. To rubbish a church as not a church or even Christian because of it is, frankly, stupid. (As for the stock objections trotted out as theological differences, as if one were comparing Baptists to Bahá’ís, here are some answers.)
• With that understood, the rule that all traditional rites must be respected and preserved (an authentic traditionalism indeed) trumps any attempt to impose a non-native devotional practice on a people already ‘churched’ with the apostolic ministry and the sacraments (with the result of miraculous icons and, more importantly, scores of canonized saints, and of course a rite that both contentwise and æsthetically kicks the crap out of modern RC practice). To give these listserv people some due credit, the Russian Orthodox rightly feel insulted by some crude attempts to do that. (Not only from misguided traditionalists but ‘charismatic’ types who have travelled to Russia for that purpose. Puts some of Russia’s harsh laws into perspective as self-defence. Как сказать по-русски ‘Yankee, go home’?)
• I’m fairly sure that the Holy See has no objection to interpreting the messages as predicting a possible return of the Russians to their native rite and church, not a change to the Roman Rite! Rome does not solicit born Orthodox. (Although, logically, corporate church reunion, not individual conversions, is the terminus ad quem of dialogue.) The messages condemned Communism, not Russian Orthodoxy, as Monk Vasyl rightly pointed out — twice.
• Credit is due several decent people in the thread such as Monk Vasyl, Bishop Alexander (Mileant) quoted by Fr Ambrose, Vladimir Hindrichs and Mary Lanser, though I don’t understand why a sometime church worker for the Novus Ordo would really care about the Orthodox — seems insincere/condescending, a point for the other side. Such makes ‘œcumenism’, these people’s bogeyman, seem dodgy indeed. And they have a point regarding Protestantism. There’s that sad irony with these people — the most fervent and observant often are hostile as well. Or more simply put, they’re quite Catholic but also quite mad.
• Quite unintentionally I’m sure, the ‘anti-’ writers show that all roads do lead to Rome (not the Novus Ordo but Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s ‘eternal Rome’). As much as these people hate the Roman Catholic Church they just can’t stop talking about it! Something that for all his failings the late Gerard Bugge nailed them on. (Archimandrite Serge [Keleher] would smile.)
• The Immaculate Heart of Mary: it’s a devotion, not doctrine. It’s a metaphor. (Duh.) Get real.
• Answering the accusation that Fátima is false, even demonic, because it directs people’s attention to Our Lady instead of Our Lord ... sorry, have I clicked into a Baptist forum? I imagine a lot of these people came from that background and brought all their prejudices with them, reinforced with xenophobic, nationalistic screeds in the best/worst Eastern European manner that they’ve looked for and dredged up from the sewers of history. Put another way, these chaps are Catholics who still don’t want to effing admit they’re Catholic — the schismatic act par excellence. You know, their own rite says things like ‘Most holy Mother of God, save us’, which without an explanation is easily misread as heretical, arguably more so than this devotion. Our Lady by definition always refers people to Our Lord as any Catholic who’s had a couple of catechism lessons can tell you. Ad Jesum per Mariam. It’s not an either/or thing.
• Some visitors might want to discredit me, in the same spirit as this damnable listserv, by pointing out that a long time ago I bought into this sort of thing including online. (In fact one of the people in the thread did exactly that to me about six years ago to blackmail/sabotage me on a Byzantine Catholic board. Serious breach of netiquette that. It eventually worked for him. Way to work towards theosis, old son. There’s no fool like an [upstate Pennsylvania coal-country] old fool.) Here is my explanation and apology.
• AFAIK all the hateful things posted are in the allowable range of Orthodox opinion. And it’s in this blog’s allowable range of teachings to affirm that they suck.
• At least one of the worst offenders also signed a petition against the war in Iraq. Thank the Lord for small mercies. Or as this tradition says, glory to God (слава Богу).
• One of the other offenders isn’t even from a fringey church but rather a mainlinish one. Horrific.
• I admit that this entry is largely negative but I tried to show some good things as well. I don’t see anything positive from these people’s tradition reflected in most of these postings, anything that would make anybody else but a KKK or Ulster Unionist rally happy. (With whiffs of the martyrs of England being drawn and quartered and of American Nativists burning down convents.) Not the love and joy of the anonymous wandering Pilgrim nor the ‘spirit of peace’ of St Seraphim of Sarov... none of the beauty and palpable holiness of the Byzantine Rite, not only the ceremonial but the theological profundity as well as beauty of St Basil the Great’s prayers... no homespun grandmotherly Russian and Greek piety... (As the old Russian lady in the story says, ‘They’re Orthodox but are they Christian?!’)
• Reading postings like these rather makes me want to never post any links or quotations from their church again, as much as I like the rite (in spite of these people), the Russian language and many actual Russian people (most of these people aren’t).

About the only reason I would change my mind on that is people like Bishop Alexander.

Господи, помилуй и прости (Lord, have mercy and forgive).

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