However, one of the defenses of Canon law and Traditionalism which I admit I was unprepared for was the surprising claim that Orthodox Traditionalists (of the type I address) don't even exist! That's right. My points would be okay, except for the fact that the radical and fringe Traditionalists (who believe Canon law is divine and/or should be enforced in the modern world) aren't a part of modern day reality. In other words, I'm just making all of this up! (Funny that my publisher didn't think that.)
The claim that “Traditionalists don't exist” actually comes in two versions. The first comes from very genuine Orthodox Christians who honestly have never met any Traditionalists, nor have they read any of their books, websites, and thankfully don't know anyone who has been abused by Traditionalism. Generally these Orthodox Christians live in the largest and most multicultural parts of the country. Places like San Fransisco, Boston, and Atlanta are – as they should be – places of sanity where the people I'm referring to seem so outlandish that my arguments appear to be all for nothing. People tend to think that there may be 5 guys living somewhere in Arkansas who believe this stuff, but that doesn't make them a “movement” which must be “addressed.” If I had this view, I would agree too! And I respect this view and those who hold it because these types of responses to the book are always cordial and genuine. The reader just cannot understand why I'm making an issue out of nothing.
Again, I understand this view but let us for a moment assume that the Traditionalism I'm referring to doesn't exist. As a lover of history, I still find the fact that such people once existed in the Church – even if it was over 1000 years ago – an intriguing and fascinating issue. Isn't it worth knowing how the Church once viewed women? Slavery? The importance of the pecking order within the hierarchy? To me, even if Orthodox Traditionalism didn't exist today, these Canons are still a fascinating and sometimes disturbing part of our Church history which is worth exploring and beginning a conversation about.
And these views were still held by the compilers of The Rudder, which was first published just over 200 years ago. In Eastern Orthodox time, that's like last weekend! it's not like these beliefs died out in the 8th century. If they died out, they only did so very recently (post Enlightenment). It may very well be true that if you're living in NYC you probably have never encountered the people I'm referring to in the book. Yet they do exist. They are not 5 guys in Nebraska, nor are they limited to a couple of practical jokers posting on blogs. Nor are they confined to the so called Ephraimite Monasteries which have become such a troublesome issue within the heartland of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (though that's probably where the heart of the problem lies at the moment). I know people on the East Coast who have no clue as to what this troublesome issue even is, yet it exists (see: http://gotruthreform.org/) and it is in part a product of the type of “Traditionalism” and view of the Canons which my book addresses. Traditionalists are not limited to Greek Churches, nor are they limited to America. In fact, I have personally corresponded with someone from England who has also had her own problems with Traditionalists for a number of years. (And no, please don't email me and ask me to give you her name, address and telephone number, if she wants a date -- she'll email you herself!)
These Traditionalists do exist – and ironically the second version of the “Traditionalists don't exist” argument comes not from the good people at great Churches like St. Sophia Cathedral in LA, or St. Mary's in the Twin Cities (if all Churches were like that, I wouldn't even have written a book) but from the Traditionalists themselves. I've gotten emails telling me that no such fanatics exist -- or so they tell me right before they explain that I'm committing blasphemy, cursing God, and that I'm going to hell! After all, what's fanatical about condemning someone (me) to hell for criticizing something I'm told doesn't even exist? That's perfectly sane! I've also been told that the Canons are but man made tools -- but questioning them is blasphemous! Makes perfect sense, right?
My intention is not to refute “the Canons” per se but a very specific misunderstanding of them: that being that they cannot change and that God had something to do with writing them. This makes people uncomfortable but it is what it is and I stand by my arguments, and more importantly I stand by the fact that there ARE Traditionalists who do claim that Canon law is on par with Scripture – in fact it is part of “Sacred Tradition,” (see: which for my non-Orthodox readers means it came from God the Holy Spirit). These are not the claims of a couple of people posting on the internet which we can write off because – well, it's the internet. Yes, apparently some people still think the internet is still an obscure upstart fad and not the modern world's fastest and most efficient method of communication.(Welcome to the 21st century!)
So finally, what is my proof for the existence of a “problem”? Well, other than my book's Bibliography and the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew felt the need to actually release an encyclical addressing it in 2010 I've selected just a few websites to post here. A few of these appear in my Bibliography, most do not. These only scratch the surface of the Traditionalist world -- which as I explain in the book is NOT all bad -- but it does have a more disturbing form which, not only exists, but does hurt the Orthodox Church today in many different ways.
A couple of more scholarly works on THE RUDDER: