I've been pondering this topic for some time now and I only recently decided that it needed to be brought up publicly. One of the worst things that any of us can do is to pretend that things are what they really are, and writing openly (and using our names rather than shooting like a sniper in hiding, being called "Anonymous"--are we adults who let their yea, be yea, and their nay, nay?) is the only antidote that I know of. I write openly, with my name and I welcome queries and discussions.
So, as the title of this post suggests, I would like to make a couple of observations--based upon my intuition--about the sickness of Romophobia in the Western Rite. I have seen this for some time and I honestly cannot understand it. My incredulity comes from a couple of places: (1) from the mind of the Western Rite itself, and (2) from Orthodoxy. There will be some who will question my Orthodoxy I know, but of those who are serving in our Western Rite parishes, how many studied in an Orthodox seminary? How many were formed by living within an Orthodox (in this case Eastern Rite) community where Orthodox was taken for granted? How many of them checked their assumptions at the door as they came into Orthodoxy, rather than becoming simply "propositional Orthodox" (they just change conclusive propositions from their former way of life and don't let go of their primary assumptions)? I'm not aware of any. I did this myself, preferring to leave a good paying job behind and sacrifice through seminary work. I don't make light of any of the sacrifices that our clergy in the Western Rite have made--they have made very deep sacrifices. I'm simply giving my pedigree as an Orthodox.
Romophobia is an absurdity within the Western Rite because the Rite itself finds its historic character in, um… well… uh… Rome. I rather suspect that there are some who want to make certain that they look as un-Catholic as possible. On the surface several of these folks have tried to put an "English vernier" on their statements, for example, "The Sarum Use" does this or that or the other. If one is honest, one would have to come to the realization that, through Alcuin, the Roman Rite was powerfully effected by the English. But it was digested and developed within the Diocese of Rome. The Western music of the Church, Gregorian Chant, comes from (here comes that awful place again) Rome. It was codified by (oh horrors!) a Pope, Gregory the Great by name. The Canon of the Mass, called the Liturgy of St. Gregory by our WRV, was set in its normative form by the same Pope Gregory I, in his Sacramentary.
But I know that the concerns flow from certain "devotions" that are thought of a Roman: Sacred Heart (a parallel to the Akathist to the Sweetest Lord Jesus); Stations of the Cross (St. Tikhon of Moscow even led meditations on the Stations when he was in Poland before the US--with both Orthodox and Roman Catholics joining in!). The list goes on to include Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi, and so on. It is almost as if the Romophobes are looking to the 39 Articles of Religion for a guide to their theology, certainly they are held hostage to the 16th century!
This phobia, and even deep hostility, causes them to desire to recreate the WR according to their lights. They desire "to purify" the texts and make them compatible with their assumptions. One has even gone so far as to change the text of the Exsultet, written by St. Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century. I had no idea that we had a theologian and saint that is so exalted in his powers that he can correct a Saint universally beloved in the Church. How fortunate we must be. But the truth is that it is simply a habit of a former Anglican to create his own liturgy. (I am a former Anglican to be sure, but I want to use what is authorized and not to create something from my own prejudice.)
Some of these folks believe that this will make Protestants feel more welcome in their midst and that their churches will thrive and grow. Well, point out to me one of them that has done so with this mindset. Nada, goose-egg, there aren't any. And yet the (gosh I hate to bring it up again) Roman Catholic Church is bringing in Evangelicals and Protestants in great numbers! Romophobia doesn't seem to be at the heart of those who would look at from where they are. It simply doesn't wash.
Romophobia is also a very un-Orthodox illness. Saying that, I have to admit that I've seen Romophobes in Orthodoxy but they aren't particularly healthy. It is impossible to define oneself by saying what one is not. Such negative definitions ought not to be thought of as yet another form of apophaticism. I have been told that back in the 1940s and 1950s Orthodox clergy were very often good friends with their Roman Catholic counterparts. There was no sense of fear of them, rather most of them saw an historic kinship which needed correction, but which still existed in some sense. With the increase of converts, Romophobia has been imported into Orthodoxy from the outside. There have always been tensions and sometimes there have been martyrdoms on both sides of this fence, but it was never from a phobia.
I find that if one holds to this sort of phobia, then there are many things that one will not be able to embrace that are absolutely part of the Orthodox treasury. Another Orthodox priest and I were speaking about the Romophobic content in our WRV and he asked, why didn't they just become Eastern Rite is they are so fearful of things Roman? As we discussed it further, we agreed that those with such an attitude would have problems with things done in Eastern Rite parishes too. [Veneration of the Belt of the Virgin (yes, I've venerated a fragment of it myself)?] Patriarch Cyril Lukaris found that ultimately Protestantism (which is little else but Romophobia made ecclesial) is incompatible with Orthodoxy. No wonder that there have been so very few genuine Anglo-Catholics who came into our WRV, most were "prayer book Catholics" of some sort or another.
It is not my job to correct these things of course. But I will say that unless they are dealt with decisively, then the WRV will implode from the inside because of several visions vying for predominance. The authentic vision must given and enforced, or it will truly be over. The job falls to the Vicar General and we'll all wait to see what he does. The longer he waits to act, the deeper the disease infects and the less likely will there be a cure. I hope that he recognizes that his experience with Eastern Rite parishes does not help him here because he is not dealing with Middle-Easterners but Westerners who want and need a firm direction and clarity. There is something to letting the Holy Spirit do his work, but that should not be relied upon when the same Spirit has given authority to act. Failure to act, is failure to let the Holy Spirit do his work through us--which he is ever wont to do.
As I said at the beginning, I write openly with my name being known because this must be discussed and resolved once and for all, and no one seems to be doing so. Because I am not in a WR parish currently I needn't fear any reprisals for my comments (except perhaps being forbidden to serve in the WR in some future and unknown case and date). So, my question is this, what is your vision of the WR in Orthodoxy? Is it a reintegration of the Western Church's life into Orthodoxy? or is it a new thing created on the biases of the 16th century Reformation and Romophobia?