Posts Tagged ‘OCA’

New OCA Primate ex-Episcopalian; Serbia Patriarch staying on; new Mexican ruling hierarch

On the 1st of this month Abbot Jonah (Paffhausen) from California was consecrated Titular Bishop of Ft. Worth, Texas, and Auxiliary Bishop in the OCA’s Diocese of Dallas and the South — probably the newest Bishop in the entire Orthodox Church.  Yesterday (Wed.) he was elected Primate of the OCA, quite possibly the first convert Patriarch or Autocephalous Primate in Orthodoxy in over a thousand years, succeeding Metropolitan HERMAN, who retired for health reasons in September.  Some say clergy and laity taking part in the OCA’s 15th All-American* Council in Pittsburgh, PA, this week, were really impressed when Bishop JONAH presented theological as well as frank responses, at the Synod’s request, to some poignant questions raised regarding the financial scandal of the last few years – the main topic of the Council apart from the primatial election – attracting several standing ovations.  (I’ve never heard him speak before, but after listening to a couple other excerpts of him, and hearing in this brief Ancient Faith Radio interview that he got only about 5 minutes to prepare his remarks, and that things were getting a bit unruly in the hall just prior, I think it’s reasonable to think he was just nervous and/or maybe a little emotional.)  His banquet speech after being elected is moving.  (I wonder if he slept, or was up all night pondering it, and everything else!!)  If you want to hear his sermon right before the election, use this audio MP3 link (availing yourself of the opportunity to use your own, more flexible, software), and advance to about 41 minutes in; the sermon is about 11 minutes long.  (The whole Liturgy is about 2 hours [“…Blackwood!’].  NB: The Scripture Readings used, Metropolitan JONAH says, were those of the day, and not specially chosen for the occasion of the Council or the Election.  Through the Fathers of the Church who composed the Orthodox Lectionary, the Lord moves in mysterious ways!)

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the local newspaper of record, provides their version of coverage (although at 62, Archbishop JOB of Chicago is hardly “elderly”!!!  Though DMITRI of Dallas, who’s 85 and has been trying for a few years to get an Auxiliary, certainly qualifies, and not as a put-down: his place in history starts with the Warren Commission investigation, in 1964, of the JFK assassination, since he was ministering to Russians and others in Dallas and vicinity, with whom Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife might have interacted.).  This link includes details about the election procedure.  Briefly, the clergy and lay parish representatives nominate candidates, and the Synod elects them, or if one receives two-thirds support from the clergy and laity, may only reject him with stated reasons why.  A Provincial (or Patriarchal) Synod prerogative or requirement to confirm the election and translation of Bishops was established I believe around the middle of the first Christian millennium.  Later lower clergy and laity corporately – not counting Orthodox (or Muslim) Monarchs – mostly lost the right to nominate or elect Bishops, but the Moscow Council of 1917-18 attempted to re-establish it there in some form.  Although the Patriarchate was prevented from going forward with this plan by Bolshevik rule, those in North America followed through with it; also owing to their early developmental stage, and the importance lower clergy and laity had in swelling the size and structures of the North American Diocese (‘proto-OCA’) with the conversions and immigration from the late 1800s.  (It should be noted that in the final decades of the Ottoman Empire, the Patriarch of Constantinople was chosen by a “mixed council” of Bishops and laity, though this council was abolished after the fall of the empire.  Also, I believe I have read that the actual Synod of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem includes some lower clergy, who participate in Patriarchal elections.  And in Romania, as we recently saw, lay reps also take part.)  God Grant Metropolitan JONAH Many Years!

I’ve been busy with politics the last few weeks, so I didn’t know Patriarch PAUL of Serbia (Serbian PAVLE) asked to retire on account of physical disability.  But his Assembly of Bishops has just gotten him to agree to stay on.  I believe he’s been ailing for quite some time.

At the time I did note the election of the OCA’s Bishop ALEJO (Pacheco-Vera) of Mexico City to be Ruling Hierarch there, but didn’t make it over here to post it.  Fascinating story here.  In 1972 now-Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas was instrumental in bringing into the canonical Orthodox Church (a contingent from?) the Mexican National Catholic Church — an “independent Catholic” group that IIUC has been the source of Westernly-“valid” episcopal consecrations for many independent, uncanonical, or vagante groups — and as the OCA news brief notes, adding their bishop, JOSE (Cortes y Olmos), to the Holy Synod after Orthodox consecration.  (JOSE was even a Rome-trained canon lawyer before joining the MNCC.)  In fact 2008 is the 25th anniversary of JOSE’s 1983 repose.  (Memory Eternal!)  The MNCC’s discovery of Orthodoxy foreshadowed that of the Evangelical Orthodox who in ’87 were received into the Antiochian Archdiocese en masse after study:

The new bishop and his clergy became gradually convinced, through study and reflection, that the Old Catholic ecclesiological principles did not conform to the criteria of the One, True, Catholic Church. They came to identify with Orthodox Holy Tradition, and adopted the designation “Orthodox” – Iglesia Ortodoxa Catolica en Mexicao (Orthodox {Catholic} Church in Mexico).

Or put more chronologically, the EOs’ conversion echoed the Mexicans’.  Now, ALEJO was considered ‘only’ Titular Bishop of Mexico City before last month, serving as Auxiliary Bishop and Administrator for the Exarchate of Mexico under Abp DMITRI and/or Metropolitan HERMAN.  As Ruling Hierarch he now becomes actual Bishop of Mexico City.  And why “Exarchate”?: I believe the OCA doesn’t consider Mexico part of its ‘proper’ canonical territory … only the U.S. and Canada, as reflected in its Autocephaly documents.  IIUC they call Mexico an exarchate in the sense that it is a ‘jurisdiction-outside,’ the literal meaning of exarchate from the Greek, and akin to what they often call the exarchates of other Patriarchates here in the Western world outside their canonical territories as commonly understood.  I know of Greek, Antiochian, Moscow Patriarchal, and Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) institutions also in Mexico; I’m not sure if there are others there.  And while Orthodoxy doesn’t encourage us non-Bishops to play Canon Lawyer at home, ISTM functioning outside your canonical territory is considered OK if it isn’t anybody else’s canonical territory, “according to the ancient Fathers” as I believe it says somewhere, probably in the spirit of evangelizing new lands sooner or later — think of it as ecclesiastical Common Law perhaps … though preferably there’d only be one jurisdiction in each place embracing all Orthodox of all languages and cultures and identities, etc….  Anyway, Many Years to Bishop ALEJO of Mexico City!

(*–The expression “All-American” here isn’t necessarily meant to evoke patriotism or non-ethnicity, simply that it covers all of “America” in the East European [not Latin American] sense of all North America, including Canada.  [So technically it wasn’t ironic to have the previous All-American Council in Toronto.]  The precedent comes from the OCA’s mother Church of Russia, which has “All-Russian” councils; in fact, there are many “all-Russian” things, even non-religious, and this habit even survived during Communism, when instead they were “all-Union” as in Soviet Union-wide.  Similarly, the biggest gatherings of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia [ROCOR] are “All-Diaspora” Councils.  ISTM possible this usage came from the Greeks, who even today have numerous “Pan-Hellenic” entities and organizations, pan being Greek for all.  The same for the OCA Primate’s title, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, parallelled by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus … which is similar but not the same as “Tsar of All the Russias,” where historically you had Great Russia, Little Russia, White Russia, etc., hence, “All the Russias.”  Unless this is simply a translation issue, where I’m sure I’ll welcome correction!)

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Many Russian and Georgian Orthodox outside Eurasia seem to be refraining from taking sides in the conflict between their two countries in the Caucasus.  The war currently is highlighted on the homepage of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), including a link to the words of one of their priests calling it “a terrible, fratricidal tragedy provoked by the enemy of our salvation,” ie, the devil.  And the Primate of the historically-Russian, Orthodox Church in America (OCA), Metropolitan HERMAN, wrote in sympathy to both countries’ Patriarchs, and issued a strong statement of concern and prayer regarding the conflict.

While Georgian Orthodox emigres in Western and Central Europe have a diocese of their own, which is part of their homeland’s Patriarchate, Georgians in the U.S. seem to belong to these two Churches’ parishes, and possibly others’.  And as ROCOR pointed out, there are also Ossetian Orthodox in their Church here.

This is good news, because it represents closer cooperation of another “canonical” jurisdiction with the main grouping of other canonical jurisdictions.  Bishop MERCURIUS of Zaraisk, who administers around three dozen parishes in the U.S. – referred to sometimes as “the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA” – on behalf of the Patriarch of Moscow personally, has attended some SCOBA meetings in recent years as an observer.  AFAIK there has never been any question about the “canonicity” of the Patriarchal Parishes of the ROC in the USA (as they are also called) as such, ie, their Communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church, at least since Moscow and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) reconciled in 1970.  (Don’t ask me about before 1970 though; my history’s rusty.)

The PPs aren’t officially a diocese, but are under the personal jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, though as far as I can gather, they function almost like a diocese.  (There’s a similar cluster of parishes in Canada with its own administrator-bishop under the Patriarch.)  They were part of a rival diocese Moscow launched here, also called The Exarchate, after the OCA, then referred to as the Metropolia, declared temporary autonomy as a result of the Russian Revolution and Civil War through the 1920s and the disruptions it inflicted on the Patriarchate.  IOW, Moscow officially didn’t always recognize the Metropolia between the ’20s and ’70, although OCA histories point out that at least a couple times they continued to submit their newly-elected Primates to the Patriarchate for confirmation, and it confirmed them, sometimes years later.  After 1970, these were parishes that didn’t wish to be merged into the OCA right away, when Moscow assigned its canonical territory here to the OCA, and so it was agreed they wouldn’t have to, and that Moscow would only facilitate their integration into the OCA when each parish desires it.

To my knowledge, essentially only two other local canonical “jurisdictions” are not in SCOBA now, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR, aka ROC Abroad / ROCA) and that of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.  AFAIK there is no question about their Communion with the rest of the Orthodox Church, it’s just that SCOBA membership isn’t mandatory.

A word about SCOBA itself is in order.  The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas* actually is comprised ‘only’ of the 9 member-primates of certain jurisdictions headquartered in the U.S., and now also the PP administrator vicar-bishop, Mercurius (at this writing SCOBA hasn’t updated this page yet).  Jurisdictions themselves technically aren’t part of SCOBA, and neither are the other Bishops of jurisdictions with Primates in SCOBA, although SCOBA has organized so far three meetings of many of their other Bishops here, in Ligonier, Penna., in 1994; in Washington in 2001; and in Chicago two years ago.  SCOBA also sponsors several officially interjurisdictional ministries or organizations.  SCOBA is not a synod or jurisdiction, but a voluntary working-group for greater collaboration among Orthodox here, with an ultimate goal of jurisdictional unity of the Orthodox here.  There are (or perhaps have been) similar organizations in Australia, Germany, and France.  SCOBA has its critics: some say they’re going too slow towards Orthodox unity, others say they’re too involved with the Ecumenical Movement.  The Primates convene twice a year; this is interesting because according to ancient Orthodox Church Canons (rules), a local (provincial) synod of bishops is supposed to meet twice a year.

(*–“Americas,” I believe, because at the time the Greek Archdiocese of America was “of North and South America,” although today a couple other groups have some parishes in South America also.  But most Orthodox there are not part of SCOBA.)

An interesting brief talk with Metropolitan HERMAN (Swaiko) by the newspaper of the OCA’s Archdiocese of Canada addresses succinctly his views on Orthodoxy here, and ‘Why Orthodoxy at all?’:

“The Orthodox Church is the light of faith in the Word of God in the darkness of whimsical opinions, the pillar of morality amidst the quicksand of relativist societies. Our purpose is to transform the modern world, rather than conform to it, as the Scripture tells us.”

I’m intrigued to hear him promote parochial schools too. I’m a product of Latin parochial schools, and know at least some Eastern Catholic parishes have had them as well. I also know that in the Catholic Church in the U.S. parochial schools are seen as in trouble because of increasing costs and shrinking enrollment, though I haven’t researched why this is – fewer religious Sisters to teach and support for little money, and the end of the Baby Boom?? And I believe OCA parishes tend to have 100-200 households or fewer, a fraction of many Latin parishes; what about getting Orthodox parishes of numerous jurisdictions in a vicinity to collaborate on a shared school? There are also other models available today than the traditional Catholic parochial school, such as what might be called ‘joint homeschooling,’ co-operative schools, cyberschools, etc. Just brainstorming here.

Years ago Andrew Greeley discovered that graduates of Latin parochial schools tended to give more money to that Church as adults than Latin graduates of public schools, even alumni of the weekly religious ed programs called CCD. Or as he put it – ‘half-jest and full earnest’ – parochial schools were profit centers – data not widely accepted by U.S. Catholic bishops, he complains. I think it’s fair to say he believes they’ve been overcome by an ill-advised form of ‘political correctness’ opposed to parish schools for some reason.

Perhaps I should clarify two things. First, when I’m talking about “Latin schools” here, I mean parish schools of the Latin Church, not, for instance, this place. Secondly, the parochial schools Greeley and I are talking about were comprehensive educational institutions, September thru June, Monday thru Friday, 8am-3pm, all typical elementary educational subjects (Kindergarten or 1st Grade thru 8th), not just Religion, and actually very little ancestral-homeland culture, and in my experience, no languages besides English. Just ‘normal education’ in a faith context. (This would apply to pan-ethnic parishes, ie, most Latin Church parishes in this country from my childhood and still today. Ethnic parishes – whether ‘old ethnic’ ones like Polish and Italian, or newer ones like Latino or Asian here in the Northeast – might emphasize their ethnic culture more, I’m not certain. However, even in my theoretically-pan-ethnic school – mostly Irish, Poles, Italians, and Germans – we were taught a little about these and other cultures, usually around holiday traditions.) One might place them in-between public schools and “private schools” / academies. They didn’t aspire to extraordinary academic greatness like the latter, but did alright by us generally anyway. (Statistically, Irish Catholics have been the best-educated non-Jewish group in the U.S. for at least a century!) They were located right in the neighborhood or community where the parishioners lived, usually right on or near the parish grounds. School life included weekly class Masses during Advent and Lent, all-school Masses on First Fridays and other occasions, altar servers being released from class for weekday Masses and funerals, days-off for Holydays of Obligation as days of rest and attendance at Mass (comparable to Orthodox Great Feasts), “pagan babies,” the Rosary, Stations of the Cross during Lent, First Confession and Communion classes (1st-2nd Grades), Confirmation class (4th Grade then), memorized Questions and Answers cribbed from the old Baltimore Catechism combined with a Vatican II ‘brand new attitude'(!), morning prayers, lunchtime Angelus and Grace Before Meals, class visits by the parish priests and sometimes other priests and Religious, as well as other religious and secular activities. There was also a little bit of promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, yielding just in the last generation or two, one bishop, at least one missionary priest to East Africa (keep in mind the celibacy requirement), and at least two short-lived other vocations – one of whom ended up an Orthodox layman. 😉

My parochial school in Philadelphia charged no tuition as such to parishioners while I was there in the early-mid 1970s, completely supported by all parishioners and not only those with children currently enrolled – and these were working-class folks, few if any wealthy. Later they felt they had to start charging tuition on top of the parishioner support, very small at first, growing into hundreds, then a couple thousand, dollars; at the same time their Sisters’ community shrank to nothing, replaced mostly by laywomen and men with their own residences and expenses and sometimes families, and not professing a Vow of Poverty. Currently its basic costs seem to be around $4,000.00 per year. For comparison purposes, the same rate at a nearby Catholic academy seems to be around $9,500.00, so even now, the parochial school is running less than half the cost to students of the truly “private” school.

Here in the Latin Archdiocese of Philadelphia (the five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania) the parochial schools were theoretically open to non-Catholics in the ’70s if not before, at that time charging them tuition closer to actual cost, saying that as “non-parishioners” they didn’t have the opportunity to support the school indirectly through Sunday collections and such. Since then, especially in parts of the City, as Catholics moved to the suburbs, non-Catholic enrollment grew, and the schools were also seen as a community service ministry, a relatively affordable quality alternative to the public schools; I believe they continued to teach Catholic Religion classes, because they always had, but without knowingly pressuring non-Catholic children to convert. As the non-Catholics of their communities, generally poorer Protestant African-Americans, increased in their enrollment, some scholarship funding was raised at some times and places; sometimes partnerships were established with better-off suburban parishes, area corporations, and other benefactors. But the truth be told, Philadelphia has not been completely immune from the wave of parochial school closures and consolidations seen elsewhere in the U.S. Catholic Church in the last decade or so; as you can see on their website, my own alma mater has been merged with several nearby parishes’ schools, and one or two of them have been closed in the process. (One slated for closure, belonging to an ethnic Polish parish – canonically completely under the control of the local Archbishop – appealed to Polish Pope John Paul II anyway, and was ‘saved.’)

BTW, by the time I entered parochial school, it really had stopped being the “horror story” you hear about from Baby Boomers, mostly. Say what you will about Vatican II, it provided a healthful-feeling breath of fresh air to many quarters of the Latin Church.

One other thing: Philadelphia has a historical claim to having invented the Catholic parochial school system. The See’s 4th bishop, St. John Neumann (1852-60), spearheaded the establishment of dozens of parish elementary schools in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware, as well as the adoption of similar school systems in other dioceses throughout the U.S. IIRC, in the 1970s most of the more than 300 parishes of this Archdiocese – by then taking in just the five counties (the rest spun-off into their own dioceses) – had schools. They are considered a system because they have a single diocesewide superintendant of schools (currently a layman with a doctorate) and central administration, here not unlike a sizable public school district. In fact – here’s a childhood memory – they used to close for snow only all together – even if the hills of Manayunk where I lived – William Penn thought of them as Little Switzerland – were far harder to navigate than the flatlands elsewhere – and less often than the city public schools! (Grrr! 😉 ) As you can see at the link, each school is not left to fend for itself, reinvent the wheel, etc. But each school remains parochial because of its vital and necessary relationship to one or more local parishes and their clergy, staff, parishioners, and liturgical and prayer-life, as I’ve outlined above. They’re not just outposts of the Archdiocesan Chancery or Cardinal’s Office or something, like most public school systems are of the Board of Ed, Superintendant’s Office, or City Hall. Fr. Greeley points to “social capital,” the way that Catholic communities (neighborhoods, or more mobile suburban social ‘communities of choice’), parishes, and schools, all serving the same group of people, join forces to reinforce Catholic faith in them. (And don’t believe what some say; Catholics have been consistently about a quarter of the U.S. population for at least a century; they’re not losing ground … myself and my godmother excepted of course!)

What follows is an extended quote (from pp. 9-10) from Women and Men in the Church, a 1980 work/study by a committee of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). I’m still wrestling with all its implications, myself, but thought I’d offer it here as an example of an Orthodox approach to questions and issues:

Sacraments and Saints, Councils and Canons

The Holy Tradition of the Church is rooted and grounded in the Holy Scriptures and is thoroughly shaped by biblical words and images. It is expressed in the Church’s liturgical worship and sacramental rites, as well as in her ecumenical councils and canons, the writings of her fathers and the lives of her saints. It is expressed also in her sacred art, particularly the holy icons.

Of particular relevance to the issue of women and men in the Church are the following specific sources:

  1. The sacramental rituals, particularly those dealing with baptism, churching and marriage.
  2. The more than one hundred canons of the ecumenical councils which deal specifically with men and women in the Church.
  3. The writings of the Church fathers, particularly Clement of Alexandria, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and most especially Saint John Chrysostom.
  4. The liturgical services, particularly of the conception and nativity of John [t]he Baptist and the Virgin Mary; the Annunciation; the Nativity of Christ, the Presentation of Christ to the Temple; the Entrance of Mary to the Temple; the Dormition of Mary and many services to the saints, especially saintly women.
  5. The lives of the saints, particularly the women saints. The lives and acts of women martyrs and missionaries, as well as the women ascetics and married saints, especially those who bear the title “equal to the apostles.”
  6. The holy icons, particularly the icons of the Virgin Mary, [of] the liturgical festivals mentioned above, and [of] the women saints.

In these sources, and in these sources alone, are to be found the basic, essential and final revelation of the truth of God about women and men in the Church [emphasis in original]. All other sources are additional, and are to be judged and interpreted in the light of these sources, which means in the light of Christ and the Holy Spirit, as this light shines forth from God in the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church. This does not mean that the findings of “modern science” — biological, sociological, psychological, medical, political, economic [–] are unimportant and valueless. It means rather that they are subject to examination in the light of God’s revelation in Christ, the Spirit and the Church. It means that they are always limited and partial, and that they may sometimes simply be wrong; not “science” at all, but merely the opinions of persons who voluntarily or involuntarily are blinded by ignorance or evil. (See Romans 1:18ff). The final word in every instance belongs to the Word Himself, Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God who remains the Lord and Master of all creation in the Church which is his body, “the pillar and the bulwark of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15).