A Proposal for an Amazonian Rite

 

pope-bolivia2.jpgSo, as I’m sure most of those in traditionalist circles are aware, the Catholic church will be holding a synod this October in South America. This Amazon Synod is poised to completely uproot traditional Catholicism and leave in its stead what really can only be described as a new age paganism with a Christian veneer. That is, if we are to take the synod documents seriously, which at this point, as we continue to learn what it calls for, seems undeniable. I feel that traditional Catholics have been placed into a similar position that I once found myself in, as I found the protestant denomination I was part in start to consider blatantly anti-Christian doctrines. This was the final push that convinced me to pursue Orthodoxy as a faith and not simply as an interest. For when institutions that claims sanctity fail to uphold their own traditions and absolutes, how can they expect us to see them as authoritative and worthy of respect? For churches to even be able to consider such errors, (even if they ultimately refuse them) the very act of giving consideration to heresy shows that the church has become morally bankrupt and no longer fit for purpose.

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In prior writings, I have made my view of Catholicism clear. I see the Roman church as a schismatic body outside of the full grace of God. I won’t speculate as to their salvation, having removed themselves from the communion of the Church, but in similar fashion I would not speculate on my own salvation or the salvation of my fellow Orthodox, as possessing the full Truth results in us being held to a higher standard than the Latins, and ultimately salvation is the exclusive purview of God. So my giving an opinion in regards to the Amazon Synod may seem a touch untoward. After all, Rome can do whatever it wants, as their business is not my own and their doctrines do not bind me (unless Rome is actually the one true exclusive Church, in which case my salvation in forfeit). But, Rome saw fit to promote and support the Ecumenical Patriarch in his creation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Rome and her laymen petitioned and agitated for Constantinople to lift the anathemas against the schismatic churches of Ukraine and from these disparate “churches” create what is now Ukraine’s national “Orthodox church”. This was of course accomplished at the expense of Ukraine’s canonical Church, the one which was acknowledged as the sole legitimate Church for that nation by all other Orthodox communions. The situation of Ukraine is an internal Orthodox affair, but Rome decided to thow its influence and political weight in the favour of Orthodox schismatics. These efforts seem to have been advantageous for Rome, as politicians in Ukraine are now proposing for the Uniate Catholics and the new Orthodox church to share sacraments. Now in all fairness, similar things have happened before, especially in the Middle East. I believe in Alexandria the Orthodox Church there commemorates the Oriental patriarch in blessings as well as their own. I do not support this ecumenism; however, I won’t denounce it either. As a Canadian who usually attends Slavic Orthodox Churches, I am willing to be sympathetic to the unique circumstances of Middle Eastern Churches and defer to their discernment, and the discernment of the Orthodox hierarches. As the Alexandrians haven’t been denounced or anathematized by the Church, I will not as a layman denounce them.

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In theory, the Uniates and the Orthodox are similar enough to share in some kind of communion (not in sharing the Eucharist though certainly), although what form this would even take is not for me to say. But regardless of what were to happen that way, it problematic for the Church as a whole as having different segments or local churches being in half-communion with schismatics or heretics. In this case, the ultimate result of common recognition between the uniate and Orthodox Church in Ukraine would effectively be a union by submitting to Rome. This is the goal of the Vatican, and it is probably fair to say that goal is shared by Ukrainian politicians who wish to see Ukraine become more aligned with the west, the European Union and NATO. Adopting Catholicism would cement Ukraine’s pivot west, sacrificing the Truth of Orthodoxy for the sake of geopolitical gains. Rome should be ashamed for so blatantly exploiting the faithless leaders of Ukraine and their actions to its gain. Yes, if Rome wants to convert Ukraine, by all means they are free to try but they should do so by dialogue and debate, not political maneuvers, alas Rome has always been both a political institution as well as religious. So, all this was being said, I hold that I am in a position to take interest in and give my view on what is happening in South America. I, with no institutional power or influence, wish to offer a solution to Rome in regard to the peoples of South America and the Amazon Synod. middle-east-synod-mass-005.jpg

The Catholic church is not exclusively Latin. The Roman/Latin/Novus Ordo rite is by far the largest and most widespread Catholic rite, but it is not the exclusive or uniformly Catholic rite. Now Rome holds the Latin/western rite in what I would say higher esteem than their other rites. This is because the Latin rite is seen as the universal rite, having originated in the pre-Christian capital of the Roman empire, and being the lingua franca for the empire. So during its early history, Latin was a universal language for western Europe, and it remained widely understood even after Europeans began to develop their own national languages. After the 1054 schism, the Latin rite of the western church became the dominant rite even though there existed pockets of separate traditions in communion with Rome. In missioning, the Latin rite was what was promulgated, and is why today Catholics in Africa and India celebrate mass in a similar manner to westerners even though culturally they have no relationship to European practice, custom or understanding. So in a sense, Catholicism remains always a foreign outsider faith because it is something that is not made intuitive to the people, who first need to be taught to think and view the world as Europeans do. In Orthodoxy, there is an emphasis in missionary work to “baptize the culture”. This is to have Church practice and custom reflect the distinctive needs of the people it is serving, while preserving the Truth of Orthodox tradition and doctrine. To Rome’s credit, they have also begun to implement similar customs. In the US, Anglican parishes that become Catholic have been permitted to keep their customs, and their clergy (even if married) are recognized and permitted to conduct sacraments. The Uniates are also an example of this, former Orthodox remaining more or less Orthodoxy in everything in name while having placed themselves under the authority of Rome.

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Rome does, now more so than at any time in its history, permit a diversity of rite within Catholic communion. This is a good thing, as it is in accordance with the custom of not only Orthodoxy, but the ancient Church as a whole. When saints Cyril and Methodius missioned to the Slavs, they did not convert them by making them learn/worship in Greek or abandon their culture. The Slavs were converted by showing the compatibility of their culture with, and its evident longing for, Christ. For Catholics, this should in no way minimize the significance of the Latin rite. They are fully capable of believing that the Latin rite is the supremely true mass without fault. However, they can also realize that not all Catholics may be at a stage, either individually or as a nation, to experience and participate in the mass in its temporal perfection. Therefore, Roman Catholics can accept a diversity of lessor rites in the hope that eventually all Catholics will share in the same mass. Not being able to have that yet does not mean a lack of salvation, just a sign for a need of growth. It is better for those who are not spiritually mature to have what they can relate to as they are than potentially being lost and possibly damaging their faith. The rite becomes then a glass, in which salvation is kept. As long as truth, doctrine and orthodoxy are preserved, then it should not matter if the glass (rite) is golden with jewels or wooden and plain. The western mass may be the perfect vessel for the dispensation of truth, but in the end it is only a vessel.

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So in the case of the Amazon, in a similar manner as to how the Catholic church allows a distinct Uniate rite as well as other rites for other nations, they should create a new rite and a new tradition for the native peoples of South America , while of course keeping Catholic orthodoxy. Doing this accomplishes two main goals. Firstly, it protects the traditions and integrity of the Latin rite. An Amazonian Catholic rite could have innumerable traditions opposed to the practice of Roman Catholics, so there needs to be a clear distinction between the two rites. The issue with the Amazonian Synod is that it, for the sake of an invisibly small minority, seeks to develop and change doctrines for the Catholic church as a whole. Local problems require local solutions, not massive church wide upheavals. A local South American church could govern and keep to its practices almost autonomously, only requiring Vatican or Papal involvement when major errors or heresies manifested themselves. Need be, the pope could even excommunicate the entire rite if he found them to be operating outside of Catholic doctrine and tradition.

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An Amazonian rite would also be able to serve the people of South America by bridging its distinctiveness with Catholic belief. Married priests could be permitted for a local rite, as could be female deaconess in some form. In my Orthodox readings, there was a reference to the deaconess St. Phoebe, showing that the ancient Church did have some type of deaconate for women. Now, I do not believe Orthodoxy or Catholicism should ordain female deacons, only that something of that name could be established for a separate Amazonian rite if such a thing was seen as mandatory for the salvation of South American natives. This is only even a possible consideration (for me) because of historical female deacons. I am of the belief that it was a limited time specific practice, and not doctrinal. Even the emphasis on the sanctity of nature from native paganism could be used and reinterpreted in a Catholic/Christian manner, as we can see how nature is a testament to its Creator. The synod documents also postulated changing the manner and implements used in communion. In theory, I do not oppose this. During Soviet oppression, the Orthodox Church of Russia was forced to use water and tree bark for communion because Soviet authorities confiscated the wine and bread. The Roman church also takes no issue with eastern Catholics using leavened bread for their communion as well as the adding of warm water to the communion chalice. However, in both these cases there were circumstances that required a change from the norm. As far as I can gather, what is being proposed by the synod documents do not justify a change in church practice.

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Similarly, I cannot justify the overt inclusion of pagan practices and terminology. Referring to God as female and implying pantheism is heresy. Regardless of the native people’s culture in regard to the role of women, the Catholic church is a patriarchal institution, in which men occupy the positions of authority and leadership. The hierarchy of Rome is designed to be an imitation of the hierarchy of Heaven. Women have a set role within the church community, but they are not capable of and not permitted to occupy the role of men. For the Amazonians, this difference of gender roles can be used to illustrate the flawed aspects of their culture and pagan practices in relation to the Catholic west.

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An Amazonian rite would also serve traditional Catholics. Men such as Dr. Marshall decry the destroying of Catholic tradition by the adopting of modernism. He looks at the push for married priests as something existentially dangerous for the church. Alas, such proclamations are hypocritical because he, on his show, has interviewed Byzantine Catholics who receive communion from married priests. So what is it Dr. Marshall? What is more damaging to the church, a traditional ancient rite with married priests, or liberal protestantized masses conducted by a celibate priest? Is married clergy a satanic effort to undermine the church, or a completely legitimate custom practiced by Christians that have a longer and more traditional lineage to the ancient Church than contemporary Rome has? Well in a sense, you can hold to both positions if there is a doctrinal definition of what separate rites mean within the Catholic church. If the Vatican declared the superiority of the Latin rite (something which I believe most traditional Catholics believe), then the affairs of the lessor rites would not harm Rome or delegitimize the church. But, a symptom of modernity is that everything, every practice is made to appear equal, and Rome would not wish to alienate its other rites by saying they are inferior, even if in practice that is the attitude Rome seems to have.
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All of this theorizing and writing, in the end is vanity. This document will probably not persuade many Catholics, nor will Rome consider any of what I have said. After all, the purpose of the Amazon synod is not to improve the church or better serve the South American people, but to undermine Catholic tradition and belief. Reading the synod document that is clear, and knowing the times in which we live, a good chunk of that document will probably be enacted. I do not wish to see Rome sink further into apostasy, but that is a side effect of being severed from the Church Christ founded. As hard as it may be for traditional Catholics to accept, the spirit of Catholic church is the same now as it was in 1054. The modernist church in the west won in 1054, and every consecutive modification to church doctrine has been following in that line. Of course, there have been numerous schisms within Rome’s territory, some for the sake of orthodoxy, and some for modernism. But what traditional Catholics must come to peace with is that their revulsion of Rome’s innovation is not a uniquely contemporary thing. For example, sedevacantism and old Catholic churches have existed for over a century. If you can accept that Rome is in or soon going to be in apostasy, then you must question the integrity and pedigree of a church that could even stoop so low, especially if it claims to be the one Church of Christ. I hope the Amazon Synod does not pass, and that its authors may be anathamized. I am not hopeful though, as after every battle Rome has faced against modernity, she has been altered. Not made more liberal necessarily (although that has happened), but she has been altered in the face of modernity, even if she is supposedly doing so for the sake of tradition. This is suspect, tradition is something that is kept and guarded and not something that can be imposed. It is innate, and if you have to act outwardly for it you are in error. Before the Great Schism, the Popes of Rome would send letters to the Byzantine emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople. In it, they swore to uphold Church tradition and practice, as well as to uphold the Orthodox faith and her doctrines. When Rome started to drift away from the Church, it ceased this practice as Rome alone came to be seen as the holder of Orthodoxy. Since the schism, Rome has continued to drift away from Orthodoxy, and further on even from their own orthodoxy. At this point, I think it is futile to hope for a reunification of the churches, but despite this, there is still hope that Rome may be able to at least return to a less errant iteration of itself. In doing this, some may even desire to look further back in history and see what the Church was before the rise of the spirit of the age. The spirit of every age, which the Orthodox Church has always opposed.

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