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This is the second in a series of articles by Deacon Joseph Suaiden discussing the ROCOR-MP’s absorption of a vagante jurisdiction under the claim of “Western Rite Missionary Work” and its consequences. The first article can be found here.
A few days ago, an email appeared on a Western Rite Orthodox list moderated by a priest of the ROCOR-MP asking why vagantes were now serving as clergy of the ROCOR.
The author of the email noted the biographical notes of the mission of St Seraphim in Singapore, which is linked to the new mission website of Fr Michael (Wood), now apparently in charge of ROCOR-MP Western Rite missions throughout Europe, Asia and Oceania. The biographical notes indicate that:
“Father Raphael+ (or Father Seamus+) is a bi-vocational priest (“tent maker”) and spiritual director (anamchara). He is a consecrated priest from apostolic traditions, with episcopal recognition from various traditions, whose bishops have Orthodox and Catholic apostolicity. Fr Raphael received his call to vocation when he faced a tremendous challenge in life, when God called him specifically and gave him great mercy of healing and peace, and Fr Raphael accepted the faith and the call to vocation, studied, prayed, and eventually took up the call to the priesthood, as spiritual director, writer, and “bridge building” of Christ’s people.”
Lest our readers get confused by the above, the author does take great pains to explain himself under “Orthodoxy in brief”:
“We pray for, respect and honor all apostolic equals in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, including His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome, Patriarch of the West (Primus inter pares), His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, First Hierarch of the Holy Orthodox Church, His Holiness Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, His Holiness Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, His Beatitude Ignatios IV, Patriarch of Great Antioch and All the East, and His Beatitude Theofilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, and all hierarchs of historic, regional and national patriarchal and metropolitan sees, and those in the diaspora.”
Fr Seamus does have some excellent offerings for sale, such as a handbook based on the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. (As a digression, we also simply must note the picture on Fr Michael’s Orthodox Western Rite page, an excellent shot of an Anglican liturgy.)
If taking in an entire vagante group seemed problematic on the part of the ROCOR-MP to do, the subsequent weeks provided a series of unpleasant surprises. Not only was the vagante Bishop-cum-ROCOR-MP-Bishop-elect received as head of Western Rite missions in the United States, but the new administration never completely followed through on its work– the vagante Bishop-cum-ROCOR-MP-Bishop elect, Anthony Bondi, was never officially elevated in rank.
The entire “Western Rite” movement in the ROCOR-MP, the “Fraternity of St Gregory”, dubbed by some to be the “anti-Milan” (as it is now alleged to be specifically erected to attempt to convert members of the Old Calendarist Milan Synod to the ROCOR-MP) — complete with priests ordained at breakneck speeds by Metropolitan Hilarion himself— is now headed by a subdeacon with permission from Metropolitan Hilarion to serve over priests.
Some have been wondering why it has taken so long to write a follow up to the initial article; the simple reality is that it has been like trying to clean cobwebs determining the facts of a given matter.
Since our first article, the ROCOR-MP has been issuing contradictory directives almost every month. There are apparently at least three heads of the “Western rite” for different regions and each one claims followers in overlapping areas. Some claim to have ranks they don’t and some are recognized as priests when they aren’t (or have never even been ordained in an Orthodox Church). There is no uniformity in their ritual use, and in some cases their positions on the use of modernist, Papist or Protestant ritual changes daily and often. In some cases, even the basics of Orthodox ecclesiology and teaching are completely lacking.
The fact is that the ROCOR-MP’s front office seems, in the name of increasing their numerical rank, to have lost any sense of the actual importance of Orthodoxy in their increasingly contradictory actions.
Our next and final article will be dealing with the Ecumenism and Sergianism in these pseudo-Western rite groupings, which now make up the ROCOR’s growing “Western Rite” movement.