The Veracian Orthodox Church

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The Veracian Orthodox Church

Postby Alberich » February 3rd, 2013, 4:19 pm

Jack Rothwell wrote:OOC Are there any details about the Church anyone could send me? Organisation, order of rank, numbers, usual method of advancement, etc? Pretty please?/OOC


As I mentioned in the other thread, the Wiki doesn't really talk about it much, and neither does the comic. In the earlier parts of the game I believe Orthodox priests mostly showed up as foils with attitude problems, and while the Reformist heroes often decried the hierarchy, only a little has been said about how it actually works. So I'm going to summarize what I've seen so far and make my own suggestions as to how it ought to be. It seems to me we're free to make it any blessed way we want, but I think what I'm saying here fits what we've seen so far. Some of it comes from my own posts in the past and my interpretation of Graybeard's posts. I'm writing this to help answer Jack's questions and to invite everyone else (Jack included) to do the same.

For all the parts of the game I've seen, the rank structure has been kind of loose - for example there are "abbots" even though there are no monastic orders, and the "nuns" act a lot like female priests...this fits the comic as well, since I believe there were some high-ranking females around Jeramel during the big fight between Ian and Luminosita.

"Brothers" are junior priests and "Fathers" are senior priests, and above them are bishops, archbishops, and cardinals (in that order; cardinals lie right below the Patriarch). "Abbots" sometimes go by "Father" and I recommend that this term (which after all comes from a word for "father") to be treated simply as an extra honorific added to a senior Father after extensive good service. Maybe it's conferred by a bishop or archbishop and signifies "the man who will serve as acting bishop if the current bishop drops off the twig." Novices - like Audie - are priests in training and do not have the spiritual powers of a priest.

The Council of Cardinals, from which the Patriarch is always drawn, issues pronouncements on theology with the Patriarch's blessing, and any pronouncement issued by them becomes binding on all Orthodox. (Rose has in the past hinted that the College is decidedly factional - with distinguishable "parties.")

Inquisitors are a separate branch - they have church rank but do not have ordinary priestly duties. They serve as a combination Inspector General's Corps/ideological police, with a special mandate to monitor the "unorthodox" sects to make sure they don't step over the line into punishable heresy. Presumably they carry an extra "fear factor" beyond what their formal ranks suggest - that's why Tim always referred to Blaise as "Inquisitor Blaise" instead of "Father Blaise" (though this has also been seen) - he might not rank with a bishop but bishops would've been afraid to draw his attention, I mean, even if they thought he was just like any other inquisitor.

Tim has made occasional reference to "Church Advocates" - my notion is that these are learned theologians who present arguments before the ecclesiastical courts and also serve as "devil's advocates" (in the old Catholic sense of the word) when the Cardinals are deciding an important question of theology - presenting alternative arguments to ensure that the issues are thoroughly explored. My notion is that they carry the rank of bishop but do not preside over bishoprics.

Most churchmen give up their family names upon joining the church (I got this from an old Graybeard post), but the ones who simultaneously hold military rank (such as Tim and Rose) keep their family names for that purpose. (This was part of my inspiration for Tim's discourse on why Orthodox priests are celibate. Mind you, he was drunk at the time, but I think he got the idea mainly right.)

Other notions in no particular order:

(1) Veracia is a theocracy, where the church is the state. There is no secular aristocracy (and since the priesthood is celibate, there is no hereditary one within the Church itself either; in fact, Tim has explained the rule of celibacy as designed for that very purpose). Thus, Church appointments and promotions are entirely a Church matter; there is no secular political system to placate.

(2) There are no monastic orders or other "separate hierarchies" -- except for the Inquisition and, arguably, the Ensigerum (whose existence is of course entirely secret). Unorthodox sects do have their own hierarchies, but they carry the same ranks and - at the lower levels - have the same powers and duties as other Churchmen. But their highest-ranking members also issue opinions that are binding on their particular sects (for example -- this is my memory from a discussion Rose had with Tim -- if the highest-ranking Reformists are one archbishops and a bunch of bishops, they have the power to settle questions of theology for Reformists - and I think Rose said they take a more "collegial" view of this, as far as who gets a say in presenting questions to them, than the Orthodox).

(3) Promotions...I think any Bishop should have the power to promote a Brother to a Father, but are slow to do so as they are mindful of their own reputations and prospects for promotion, and carelessly promoting the wrong man would be bad for a reputation. Promotion to the higher ranks should require a recommendation from the next step above the rank being sought (i.e., you aren't considered for a bishopric unless an archbishop recommends you, or for an archbishopric unless a cardinal recommends you), and a confirmation by the Patriarch or the Cardinals.

Presumably they have an appropriately political and sclerotic efficient and scrupulously fair promotion bureaucracy to screen candidates and deliver recommendations to the Council, who then vote so as to repay favors and pack the church with their ideological allies make sure the best man gets the job every time. As we've seen in the game, if the Bishop dies, the senior Father in the area takes over his duties 'til a new one is appointed.

Of course, you couldn't be promoted to a bishopric or higher until the previous occupant dies or a new one is created. And I believe there was a "trap" in the comic where a churchman was supposed to be hiring the Gewehr to make such a position open up a little early, or knock off a rival for one that just had.
Last edited by Alberich on February 4th, 2013, 1:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Veracian Orthodox Church

Postby Graybeard » February 4th, 2013, 12:27 am

This is a pretty good summary, and to it I would add that there's a bit more in the Errant-Road-specific part of the wiki; start here and see where the links may lead. (Speaking of which, I have some work to do there, and not just in the Errant Road part. Gotta get off my e-duff and get on with that.)

There is nothing in Errant Story proper that names any "structure" of the church other than the Patriarch (note that Jeramel, while never seen in Errant Road, is Patriarch here, just as in Errant Story, and has been mentioned by name) and the title of "Cardinal," without clarity on just how senior that is. We've sorta winged it to come up with the other titles: Archbishop, Bishop, "Abbot" (used to describe the senior priest at a mission or temple regardless of whether it's monastic). One minor tweak to what you wrote: note that on occasion, the terms "Father" and "Brother" (or equivalently, "Mother" and "Sister") have been used interchangeably to denote the same person, with the choice of terminology having more to do with the relative age and seniority of the speaker as compared to the subject, rather than with some formal appointment as a "Father" by some senior church official. Two other minor things: previous usage here is that the senior body is the "Council" of Cardinals, rather than College as in the real-life Catholic church, and there actually has been room left for a mendicant/monastic component to the church; there was even a player character from such an outfit for a while.

A slightly bigger deal is this:
Alberich wrote:Inquisitors are a separate branch - they have church rank but do not have ordinary priestly duties. They serve as a combination Inspector General's Corps/ideological police, with a special mandate to monitor the "unorthodox" sects to make sure they don't step over the line into punishable heresy. Presumably they carry an extra "fear factor" beyond what their formal ranks suggest - that's why Tim always referred to Blaise as "Inquisitor Blaise" instead of "Father Blaise" (though this has also been seen) - he might not rank with a bishop but bishops would've been afraid to draw his attention, I mean, even if they thought he was just like any other inquisitor.

The Inquisitors report to a Cardinal, the unsurprisingly-named "Cardinal Inquisitor," who is directly responsible to the Patriarch. However, they monitor (or, if you prefer, afflict) the Orthodox church at least as carefully as the minor sects, precisely because they are Orthodox, and can't be simply arm-waved away if something goes wrong with them. A key part of the original construction of the Reformed denomination -- I have some stuff on this written somewhere -- was that the Orthodox church found it convenient, when dealing with the godless masses beyond Veracia, to have some "plausible deniability": if something messy came up beyond the borders, they could just say, "hey, it's those loonies in our weird denomination/diplomatic corps, they don't speak for us." Of course that kind of repudiation would then put the entire Reformed denomination at risk of being declared heterodox -- which has been a powerful incentive for them not to stray too far when they're overseas. Note that all of the "missions" to places beyond Veracia that have been encountered so far have an Orthodox priest/abbot nominally in charge, even if they're largely staffed by Reformed people. This could become important soon, depending on exactly how the search for Brother Dalton proceeds.

Anyway, to get back to the Inquisitor's office, the extent of their interactions with the rest of the church isn't totally clear, but it's a bit greater than what you've implied here. A very important point is that the late, not-too-lamented Father Blaise was NOT part of the Inquisitor's office, at least its regular staff. He somehow pulled strings and talked his way onto the team that met the PCs at Umbertiel, with consequences that we have seen (although several more have yet to appear ... patience...). This suggests that the Inquisitor's office is not quite as independent as what you've written here. This may be important because it offers a means for the Veracians to intervene in the stuff breaking out in Lorrel, if appropriate.
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Re: The Veracian Orthodox Church

Postby Alberich » February 4th, 2013, 1:05 am

Fair 'nough. (I did have that in mind, hence my "Inspector General" reference.) Didn't know that part about Blaise, for which thanks. I'll edit the other post to change "college" into "Council."
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Re: The Veracian Orthodox Church

Postby Jack Rothwell » February 4th, 2013, 9:21 am

Thanks for the info. I was asking because I was curious to see what avenues of advancement were available to Brother Tim to follow, the Ralkin want to make their 'investment' as useful as possible after all.
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Re: The Veracian Orthodox Church

Postby Graybeard » March 12th, 2013, 12:56 pm

To return to this much later, in anticipation of a couple of things possibly arising because of the entanglement between Veracian Church in Lorrel and Eisenfaust: The Powers That Be in the Veracian Church, if Jeramel is any example (he may be an officious twit, but he handled his surprising "visit" from Anita competently enough once he got over his natural condescension), are basically competent, and shrewd enough to know that they must handle themselves differently in foreign countries than at home; furthermore, that the way they handle themselves abroad may differ from country to country.

Consider the "Mission to the Faithless" in Kiyoka, compared both to the well-established temple in Lorrel and the rudimentary mission in Douaga. The Kiyoka mission (with the exception of Brother Miguel's flamboyant fiancee Sister Marilyn) isn't really there to conduct much evangelism despite its name, and just as well since Tsuirakuans are not enthusiastic about being evangelized. Instead it has two main functions, one of which needs to be spoilered. The "overt" one is to minister to the growing number of Veracian expats in Kiyoka as trade between Veracia and Tsuiraku becomes normalized and the Mage/Priest War fades into the background. The less overt one is
Spoiler: show
to provide the nucleus of a special-ops base for getting more aggressive about reconnaissance, and if necessary, even "unconventional warfare," of the Kiyoka region in case relations between the two countries take a turn for the worse. This explains why there were so many Reformed people, with special-ops-like military pasts, among the staff there, and why that staff was so large for a relatively small mission; on-the-ground spooks were going to be needed in that eventuality for doing underhanded things while the named characters stayed nominally above it all.
This function showed signs of being important in the very earliest days of Errant Road based on the way player characters at the time were behaving, and it's still there, although obviously de-emphasized by the play since then. It has a lesser role as part of a "cultural exchange" program to reduce tensions -- at least until that spoilered capability is needed -- but that has played little role in Errant Road, apart from explaining how characters like Sister Rose and Brother Farley got there and how they behave.

By contrast, the Douaga and Lorrel branches go to other extremes. Lorrel, like the rest of Farrel, was more heavily under the Veracian thumb formerly than today, and the (fairly large) temple in Lorrel would be a remnant from that time, primarily there for the diminishing-but-still-considerable number of believers in town and also as a semi-official diplomatic consulate. They would certainly know about the Eisenfaust (although they would not necessarily know how far up their gardener, "Mr. Jones," is in the organization, it would be reasonable to expect them to know he's connected to it) and would have a reluctant but still functional detente with them, since for practical purposes the Eisenfaust are a government body that they need to interact with in the semi-consulate role. (The Tsuirakuans, incidentally, probably haven't figured that out.) The head -- "Abbot" by convention, in contrast to the way the real-world Catholic church uses the term -- of that temple would probably be a Bishop, would be politically well plugged in with all that that implies, and hasn't been seen in the game and probably won't be. Douaga, on the other hand, has a bare-bones mission that really is mainly about evangelism; there aren't enough visitors/expats from Veracia to justify it as a worship center, the Southern Continent is of no military significance (yet...) to Veracia, and the intelligence-gathering function that they share with the Kiyoka mission is at the more basic level of "how does this place work, and how do we survive working with it?" This leads to a small staff there that resembles pre-1950 missionaries in Africa (a close friend of mine growing up was a missionary's kid, and I got all sorts of stories on how they did things) more than the usual structure of the Veracian church.

Maybe this will be helpful in driving further events in Lorrel, JR. It might also be useful background for whatever happens down south; as soon as they deal with the bear that shouldn't be there, things are going to start to move fast...
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