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Author Topic: A Small Remark on the Vagante Issue  (Read 2287 times) Average Rating: 0
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Keble
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« on: May 31, 2003, 08:15:47 AM »

Though I am wary of opening up another battle about who is and who isn't vagante, I want to make a general comment about the whole phenomenon.

I have to agree with Serge that when we have to go on elaborate searches to find a line of succession, there's a problem. Or at least the signs of a problem. But the real problem, it seems to me, is somewhat different. The real problem is accountability.

Free-floating episcopates may be Orthodox, or they may be orthodox, or they may be more or less out in left field. What determines this? Well, they do. They don't answer to a hierarchy, after all. Some groups which exist to be more pure than the parent may well be able to maintain their O/orthodoxy over the long haul, especially if they are large enough to maintain some internal mutual accountability. But when things start to go astray, who's going to stop the slide? Well, you can do it baptist-style, where members of the congregation stomp off to other churches. But then, some others may come to take their places.

The accountability issue functions on larger levels too. The Episcopal Church clearly has a serious accountability problem in the House of Bishops. The mechanisms are there, but seriously out of line bishops are not called on the carpet. From a Protestant perspective, Orthodoxy and Catholicism both have accountability problems because they refuse external criticism.
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2003, 01:24:20 PM »

Re: lack of accountability equals vagante, then Roman Catholicism is the largest vagante group out there.  There is no accountability after the Pope.  Pius IX wants to be infallible, he makes himself so.  John XXIII, Paul VI want to destroy the church they do etc.  It is pretty obvious though that the RCC IS NOT vagante...

I think a better example to work with (because it's not a personal issue to most people here thus hopefully less heated) is Tridentine Mass groups.  The SSPX has real congregations and is a respectable organization.  "Pope Pius XIII"  (for those unfamiliar he coronated himself Pope after deciding Pius XII was the last real on...he currently rules from Montana) is 100% vagante OTOH.  That is why I think discernment with each and every group and looking at their circumstances is needed before applying the vagante label.
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Keble
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2003, 06:05:35 PM »

The difference is in degree, not kind. Orthodoxy is not accountable to the non-Orthodox, Catholics are not accountable to the Protestants..... Larger groups have more internal accountability; small groups may have next to none.
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Linus7
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2003, 12:41:57 PM »

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The real problem is accountability.

I think you hit the nail on the head.

But absent Caesaro-papism or state churches, how is there to be absolute accountability?

Of course, there is Judgment Day accountability to the Lord, but the fear of that has not done much to stop the rise of all sorts of groups.

Vagantism among the apostolic churches is like the problem of splintering among the multifarious Evangelical sects: a problem of religion in free societies. Aren't the two just versions of the same thing: schism?

Ultimately the success of a group, and the corresponding loss of the "vagante" label (or the loss of the "cult" label among Evangelicals), seems to be based on popularity. If the group can attract enough followers, it will probably eventually be recognized as legitimate.

I am not saying that is necessarily an easy process, especially in the Orthodox world. But doesn't it seem true that if the group is large enough, and orthodox enough, it will be recognized as legitimate by at least some other Orthodox jurisidictions?
« Last Edit: June 05, 2003, 12:45:25 PM by Linus7 » Logged

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Keble
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« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2003, 01:26:13 PM »

Well, I think absolute accountability to something one can find on earth is sought in vain. Your reference to the Judgement Day I think is well taken.

Juridical systems (e.g. US law) because of their inexorability establish ultimate authorities (e.g. the supreme court). Other systems (e.g. the sciences) do not. Catholic has chosen the juridical route and placed the magisterium (and more centrally, the pope) in the place of the court of last resort. Orthodoxy is less organized and as a result the tendency toward the same sort of system is blocked to a large degree. But all three of these have the problem that they treat their fields as closed systems. The supreme court does make decisions that are wrong (in the sense that the arguments made to justify the decisions are defective). Orthodoxy and Catholicism, starting from the same material, assert different conclusions, and never mind all the Protestant criticism.

What's going on in vagante groups is that they are trying to borrow the authority of some larger group which they then refuse to be accountable to. Not all divisions are like this. Big schisms result in the division of the parent structures and set up competing authorities; there's not generally a question of borrowing the parent authority and internal accountability is preserved. Groups that split off but cannot convince sufficient bishops or the equivalent to come with them are born with an authority issue that already has them in a questionable state; the accountability issue starts to stick out because the structures are out defective. But at least there is a theological history from the parent to which appeals can be made. Then there are Serge's "Mar Bob" groups which come out of nowhere and which don't even have a theological history to be held to. These are innately fraudulent because they are pretending to a history which they simply don't have, and they are utterly without accountability.

It's one thing when small parts of a larger group make preposterous claims. People in Orthodoxy say things about The West all the time which just don't wash (present company excepted, of course Wink ). I don't see that this has an effect on Orthodoxy's legitmacy per se. But when you're looking at a small group and everyone is saying these things, then the danger lightes should be flashing. If the main Orthodox groups don't want to be in communion with a small group, and it doesn't want really to be accountable to them, anyone should be suspicious. When I see a group which is a splinter that claims a relationship with another group that already has some polity issues, and this first group is playing fast and loose with historical claims about the West, I'm sorry: the woo-woo light starts flashing.
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« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2003, 01:38:59 PM »

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What's going on in vagante groups is that they are trying to borrow the authority of some larger group which they then refuse to be accountable to.

Well said.

Don't get me wrong, I do not wish to be critical of my own Church, but I do see the lack of accountability, the lack of a juridical system, as a weakness.

Orthodoxy is supposed to be conciliar, so I wonder why we don't have more high-level councils (i.e., of the various patriarchs).

But then, I have expressed that wonder before.  Grin

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The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers.
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Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2003, 02:00:26 PM »

Keble, thank you for this post and thread.  Vagantism both bothers and interests me.  

I know of one vagante group--that under pseudo-Metropolitan Pangratios of Vasilopoulis (Queens), NY--that includes some clergy received who had been suspended and defrocked by their canonical Orthodox jurisdictions (usually for disobedience, not moral issues).  And then I know of one ROCOR priest who blessed one of his parishioners to attend Services and even receive Communion in one of Pangratios's monasteries.  And I have to ask myself: How can this be?  Is this ROCOR priest saying to this parishioner that vagantism is okay under certain circumstances or what??!!  Or that an individual priest from a canonical jurisdiction (ROCOR) has the authority to make a judgment call on which jurisdictions are vagante and which are not without reference to his own bishop?  

Hypo-Ortho
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Keble
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« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2003, 03:18:28 PM »

H-O, I'm obviously venturing outside my own polity a bit on this one, but I have to think this is highly questionable. The priest is supposed to be acting as a deputy of the bishop, after all; he should be giving the direction that the bishop would give. At the very least a consultation with the bishop would be called for here. It's one thing where one wouldn't even have to ask what the bishop would say (e.g. the unitarians or the OCA, to take extreme cases). This case is precisely the kind of accountability escape that I've been lamenting, and I can't see how a priest can take it upon himself to allow these lines to be crossed outside of his bishop's consent.
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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2003, 03:26:42 PM »

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What's going on in vagante groups is that they are trying to borrow the authority of some larger group which they then refuse to be accountable to. ...


One of the best things I've read. Thanks.

I agree that it was presumptuous for an Orthodox priest (right, he's the bishop's deputy) to tell a member of his congregation that this person could commune at a vagante church/monastery, if (and this is a big if) the priest knew the group was not really Orthodox and was in fact vagante.
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Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2003, 03:44:32 PM »

Quote
What's going on in vagante groups is that they are trying to borrow the authority of some larger group which they then refuse to be accountable to. ...


One of the best things I've read. Thanks.

I agree that it was presumptuous for an Orthodox priest (right, he's the bishop's deputy) to tell a member of his congregation that this person could commune at a vagante church/monastery, if (and this is a big if) the priest knew the group was not really Orthodox and was in fact vagante.

AFAIK, this priest did indeed know that the monastery was under Pseudo-Metropolitan Pangratios's omofor, Serge.  Apparently, without reference to Bishop Gabriel, this ROCOR priest blessed his parishioner to go to this monastery, etc., because the monastery's abbot was a defrocked OCA priest just as he, the ROCOR priest, was.  His parishioner once had the defrocked OCA priest as his spiritual father when the latter was still in good standing with the OCA--this, to my mind, was the ROCOR priest's justification for giving his blessing.  

I know these circumstances to be substantially true because I know all the parties--except for Pangratios--first-hand.  And I wish I could say that this was edifying--but it simply isn't, and it shouldn't be hidden under a rug so that we pretend things like this don't happen.

Hypo-Ortho
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Keble
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« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2003, 03:58:25 PM »

I gotta say that the notion of priests being defrocked for disciplinary reasons being received/re-ordained in other jurisdictions bothers me a lot. It smells, well, vagante.
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« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2003, 04:00:18 PM »

Well, there you are - objectively, he was wrong! Also, it doesn't make EOxy look so good when priests suspended by real Orthodox churches jump to other real Orthodox churches without releases from their old bishops and get away with it. Again, that accountability thing. All because of the EO jurisdictional chaos in America dating from the Russian Revolution.
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Linus7
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« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2003, 09:22:30 PM »

Well, there you are - objectively, he was wrong! Also, it doesn't make EOxy look so good when priests suspended by real Orthodox churches jump to other real Orthodox churches without releases from their old bishops and get away with it. Again, that accountability thing. All because of the EO jurisdictional chaos in America dating from the Russian Revolution.

Amen!

Did someone say Great and Holy Council?
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« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2003, 03:32:34 AM »

I want to express my thanks for this thread too. I've not paid much attention to this issue in the past and probably wont in the future, but it was nice to have a simple, clear and concise description of what lies beneath Vagantism (is that a word?) that even my poor intellect could follow.

Many thanks Keble.

John.
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The young fogey
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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2003, 10:54:04 AM »

As I wrote elsewhere, vagantes fascinate and scare me too because the straight-arrow and orthodox of the lot remind me of me - where they are and where the crazies are at the logical end of the vagante course are a lesson in how wrong one can go once one's ecclesiology goes off the rails.

Which is why, to be fair to EOxy, I insist that grabbing a 'line' of succession from an Orthodox bishop, buying the right 'tat' from an ecclesiastical tailor and putting on all the other right 'Orthodox' airs don't ipso facto make one Orthodox. You have to be part of the real Orthodox Church first.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2003, 10:54:44 AM by Serge » Logged

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