Disneyland

Brits who have visited the United States are usually familiar with the “I’m Irish!” phenomenon. The bewildered Brit is usually told this by a very American seeming person on the strength of a grainy black and white photograph of a great-grandfather who may or may not have been wearing a green item of clothing. This flimsy evidence is then used to justify a bewildering series of observances involving plastic leprechauns, green lager and corned beef that seem to have almost nothing to do with the fair Hibernia of actual experience. Of course, the Irish (particularly in the Republic) do tend to connive at this phenomenon, however disparaging they may be in private, as it pays serious financial and geo-political dividends.

Even more irritating for an English Catholic is the expression of admiration by American Catholics for the ‘wonderful’ Anglicans. Who are apparently ‘so English’ despite the fact that the English people (Catholic, Non-Conformist, godless and even many of the Anglicans themselves) have always held the absurd Anglican confection in contempt as a cultural substitute for Christian faith invented for the political, financial and sexual convenience of Caesar. As Tolkien put it “a pathetic and shadowy medley of half-remembered traditions and mutilated beliefs”.

One of the very few positive aspects of the “I’m Irish!” and ‘wonderful Anglican’ phenomena is that they prepare you psychologically for the even more ludicrous phenomenon of the American ‘Greek Catholic’. Usually we are talking here about ‘Ruthenians’ although the individuals in question often have no idea that the churches they frequent are, or were once supposed to be, Ruthenian. In this case there is seldom even the pretence of any ancestral or cultural connection to Eastern Europe. Mention of Uzhgorod or Mukachevo is met with blank stares. The best one can hope for is a nervous defensive supressed grimace from someone (perhaps a cleric) with a vague sense that he is supposed to have something to do with these places. Often, ironically, these ‘Greek Catholics’ actually are Irish (or at least of Irish descent). Often too one finds they are former Protestants who the eviscerated post conciliar liturgy and a residual desire to be their own magisterium has sent on a trip to Disneyland invent-your-own Byzantium.

Any ‘real’ familiarity the plastic-Byzantine may have with Byzantine tradition begins and ends with the schismatic ‘tradition’ of the ‘Orthodox’. They have read a few books by Kalistos Ware and are now ready to tell you all about what ‘we Byzantines’ do in ‘the East’. The music is terrible. A friend said to me in shock after visiting an American Greek Catholic church “I didn’t realise it was possible to do the Divine Liturgy badly”. Even more terribly they have attempted to create a Novus Ordo Divine Liturgy where the first third of the rite is abbreviated into a single paragraph and the veneration of the Gospel is thrown in as a coda to its proclamation.

The most dreadful thing of all for those who know and love actual Greek Catholics and actual Greek Catholicism is the veneration for and identification with the schismatics. Real Greek Catholics have preserved the flame of Byzantine tradition through centuries of persecution. Often their parents and grandparents have been imprisoned, tortured and killed by Communist and Tsarist authorities inspired and encouraged by the ‘Orthodox’, often too they have had to fight physically to retake their stolen churches from the schismatic Soviet stooges. Imprisoned Greek Catholic clergy were frequently offered their freedom and great advancement if they would only conform themselves to the schism. These are the descendants of the converts of Cyril and Methodius and of the people of Volodymyr, of the Romans who have lived and endured for centuries under Muslim domination in the Middle East. To now be told by some Anglophone colonials in fancy dress that they fall short because they insufficiently resemble Muscovite upstarts and Hellenic nationalists is impertinence and vulgarity that beggars belief.

Perhaps this vindicates the traditional disapproval for promiscuity of rite. There are many reasons why this may be best avoided but this obscene invention and appropriation (not to say desecration) of tradition is not the least of them.

Is there any remedy? Yes! Fasting, history lessons, penitential pilgrimages to Uzhgorod, the repudiation of all Agonyclite tendencies, singing lessons!, the restoration of the Filioque to the Creed (if they are Ruthenians), learning Old Slavonic, shredding their awful gender inclusive bowdlerised translation of the Liturgy, zeal for the true faith, horror of schism!