Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Is You Is or Is You Not My Baby?

Filed under: Christian,monasticism,Orthodox life,religious,Uniates,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00

New Skete Cambridge NY

New Skete, Cambridge NY… is you is or is you not my baby? That is, are you fish or are you fowl… Orthodox or heterodox? Stand and deliver!

Many of us know that New Skete (OCA) in Cambridge NY has a “unique” understanding of Orthodox monastic practise and liturgical ordo. Quite often, they defend it by claiming that they base their interpretations on the life and observances of Optina Pustyn Monastery in Russia. I have a modest proposal.


It’s put up or shut up time for this pack of Renovationists. What we should do is to take the ordo as found in New Skete and compare it to the ordo as performed by the contemporary Optina Pustyn brotherhood. In every instance where the practises differ, New Skete must agree to change its ordo to that of the Optina Pustyn. The first thing that they have to put on the table is the so-called “Orthodox Feast of ‘St’ Francis of Assisi”. If Optina celebrates such… fine. If not… they should acknowledge this as an aberration and halt its observance. I say that this method is eminently fair, scrupulously objective, and without bias of any kind whatsoever. Secondly, New Skete agrees to remove any icon in its chapel that portrays a “saint” not accepted by the Optina brotherhood. If Optina recognises that Dorothy Day, Edith Stein, and Alexander Schmemann are saints… well, I have no quibble either.

We should use the above method to test the entire New Skete ordo… it is only taking them at their own word, after all. Even though this “test” is fair and based on their utterances, I do not think that they shall ever carry it out. You see, when they claimed that Optina is the inspiration for their ordo, they did NOT mean it. It was only an empty set of “weasel words”. Laurence Mancuso (who wrote up the New Skete ordo) was nothing but a Vatican II RC fanatic who drew up his own fantasy ordo… he based it on nothing in the real world. In truth, it was nothing but his notional “reconstruction”, his fancied imagining of a “pristine” past.

Indeed, he did not follow his Uniate Catholic traditions. Whilst they were still Uniates, New Skete commemorated the RC Bishop of Albany in their liturgy (you can hear it on an old vinyl LP issued by them in the 70s)… that is a major faux pas liturgically. Uniates are only supposed to commemorate their own bishop… not the RC bishop… so, one can see that New Skete was a rebellious, wilful, and defiant lot even before they became Orthodox. To compound it all, New Skete took its property with them. New York State recognises the legal principle that the bishops of hierarchical churches own the property, not the parish or monastery. However, New Skete held on to its property after it bolted the Uniate Franciscans. At the time, rumours floated in Orthodox circles that the RC Diocese of Albany owned the property under the monastery. I fear that Mancuso screwed the Uniate bishop (Stephen Kocisko of Pittsburgh) out of his just and due rights in the real estate.

I don’t bloody care about their posh cheesecakes or their upmarket dogs. What matters to me is that these folks claim to represent Orthodoxy. I don’t think that I am the only person who notices that their practise and preaching are not the same as the rest of the Church. Would the Athonite Fathers accept this muddled hotchpotch as Orthodoxy? I think not! I’d like to see them try to convince the brotherhood at the Great Lavra to adopt their aberrations! They’d chase them off the Mountain with clubs… in very short order.

Again, I repeat my modest proposal:

Take the ordo as found in New Skete and compare it to the ordo as performed by the contemporary Optina Pustyn brotherhood.

It’s a wonderful and beautiful proposal… it shall never be implemented, for it would destroy the illusionary constructs of the Renovationists. I say the following to Jonas Paffhausen:

“If you claimed that this seditious monastic establishment was ‘mature’, you owe all of us an apology. Indeed, you owe all Orthodox in all Local Churches an apology. Is defending a little band of malcontents that important to you? If so… compare their ordo to that of the rest of the Church. I would argue that your words were untrue; they were disrespectful to the rest of the monastics of the Church, who are content to follow the traditional monastic path. Compare New Skete and Jordanville… which one follows the Orthodox Way?”

Which do you want? Do you want “the Orthodox Feast of ‘St’ Francis of Assisi” or do you want the Orthodox Way, straight-up, just as faithful people still follow it all over the world? The choice IS yours.

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Albany NY

Editor’s Postscript:

I give many thanks to an e-mail correspondent who asked me questions about New Skete. God willing, the above gives you clear answers. I found that as I was writing a reply to you that others might find this informative as well. Be good.


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