Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ecumenism vs. the Ecumenical Movement

...just like there's Vatican II vs the "Spirit of Vatican II." Ochlophobist explains why the "ecumenical movement," as it has been expressed in the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the legions of joint commissions, and all so-called "interdenominational" orgs, is dead. He's not singing any Panikhidas for this corpse though. Memory infernal, in fact:
No serious Orthodox theologian or bishop ever went to a WCC meeting expecting to learn something true which Orthodoxy lacked, and then come home and teach the flock, "you know, we need to start doing (or believing) this..." That being the case, the only person who could still believe that the WCC was actually for the unification of the different sects and Churches would be that person who believed that all the groups actually believed the same thing, or that none of them believed anything that was not in some fashion negotiable (such people believing such things do exist). The WCC ended up a self-righteous bureaucracy that is functionally impotent. The NCC is a political propaganda machine, a fact which even most on the theological left admit, and it remains solvent only through the financial support of groups that have no interest in ecumenism, that are not even churches at all but political groups - and every player in the current and former NCC scene knows as much.
On a simple fact that Catholic apologists refuse to honestly address:
We [the Orthodox] have very, very, few bishops who speak grave theological error in public, and this is in part because we take hierarchical order so seriously. Make fun of us as you will, we prefer disputes over who stands where in line to all of our bishops holding hands in a circle while each pursues his own particular theological, liturgical, and sociological agendas.
On the naivete of the current "reunification" pipe-dream in fashion in RC circles:
If the RCC returns to Tradition, it will be the work of the Holy Spirit, which is generally subversive, confronts banality at every turn, and is frequently almost absurd. This does not happen through meetings of high ranking ecclesial Tradition consultants. Many Orthodox (and not a few Catholics) think that a dose of Orthodox Tradition could fix some of the serious problems in the RCC. It simply does not work that way. Even more overt, perhaps, is the belief that the Papacy will fix the problems of the EOC. If we reunited with the RCC, especially under the terms that Catholic friend Mike Liccione suggests, there would still be Orthodox bishops walking out of rooms when other Orthodox bishops walked in. If the Pope tried to arbitrate between them simply as the authority, the losing side (and there would be a losing side) would in most cases go into schism and reunite with those Orthodox Churches which never joined with Rome in the first place.
On the iron cage of dialecticism in the West:
It is worth noting that Christ, as the Gospels well show, refuses dialectic at every turn, and especially at the most brutal turn. He does not defeat Death by Life. He defeats Death by death. He refuses to enter into a relationship of necessary conflict even with death. Because of this, death is destroyed, as Death had set itself up in a necessary dialectic with Life. Life refused to honor a necessary conflict, and thus we have the situation where Life itself goes to Death, and the bargains Death makes, those petty existential resolutions made between life and death, are now pointless. Death is thereby overcome, and there is no Death, now only Life. Christ honors no determinism, He accepts no terms but those the Father has given. There is no synthesis of necessary conflicts, there is only Christ, all in all. The reconciliation of Christ is that of bringing persons who have in reality embraced irresolvable futility (perhaps seeking dialectic resolution), turning them in the opposite direction (repentance, as opposed to progressive movement towards dialectic resolution), and having their lives recapitulated in Christ.
The only authentic ecumenism:
We should hold no hope in programs or schools, including ecumenism, but we should cultivate real things, such as friendship....the most significant shared relationship that Christians of different traditions can have with one another is a relationship of shared suffering....It seems to me that those Christians who are serious about unity are those who suffer in the Name of Christ. If the state or Islam or some other foe is not attacking us at the moment, let us outdo one another in our voluntary sufferings for Christ - serious prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Let us give up our vain attempts at projects and schoolings, and give ourselves over to be recapitulated into the Man who emptied Himself. There is our only unity.
There's really too much to blockquote. Just read it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cardinal Daneels at CUA

American Papist has a fine summary of the lecture delivered yesterday by Cardinal Daneels of Belgium on Catholic liturgy 40 years after Sacrosanctum Concilium. One point which particularly warmed me heart:
The presider is crucial to the praxis of liturgy. The presider must be humble. He must not look at his homily as the "high point" of the Mass. So too, an equal portion of time (at least) must be given to the liturgy of the Eucharist as to the liturgy of the Word.
An ancillary point His Eminence made was that liturgy is ultimately not a theatrical performance, which ruffled one priest's thespian feathers and became the subject of the 2nd Q&A. He apparently did not appreciate the way Daneels's praise of humility denigrated the uplifting contribution a little theatricality can make to worship. He waxed on about once witnessing at Mass the "most profound bow" he had ever seen which he claims inspired reverence in the people. I rolled my eyes: give me a break - if I wanted to see profound bows, I'd hang out more with my Japanese or Korean friends who really know how to do it. I thought the priest's comments proved Daneels' point that once the Mass is no longer centered in Christ who IS the divine-human nexus, the true spirit of the liturgy is lost (not his words).

Drama queens in liturgy deceptively draw attention away from Christ to themselves or to some experience extrinsic or incidental to the Mass. They invariably fetishize and eroticize individual liturgical acts; they inflate the subjective experiential dimension of "reverence" which effectively distorts liturgy. The priest also egotistically suggested that just because he was once an actor/performer, his former occupation needs to be validated at the altar and thrust upon the congregants. It's this "Sheilaism" that has ruined so many Catholic liturgies. (Forget bad liturgy, it's bad acting as well.) Daneels however had already made the important point in his lecture that the celebrant should "almost become invisible," which I even found a bit extreme. (I thought "translucent" or "iconic" would have been more accurate.)

There's a huge difference between liturgical reverence that is manufactured out of self-assertion and liturgical reverence that effortlessly emanates out of kenosis. I only wish Daneels had stuck to his guns and confronted this obviously heterodox priest. Instead, he responded weakly by conceding how the West has different cultural attitudes towards what is reverent (I think he really was getting tired at that point).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free marketplace of ideas what the university loves to pride itself as being. What happens when the ivory towers of the West tire of the quest for Truth and marriage to Reason? This.
Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu says he will not accept an invitation to speak at the University of St. Thomas unless a demoted professor is reinstated as director of the university's peace and justice studies program.

"I will make an acceptance on my part dependent on your reinstatement and the clearing of your file," the Anglican archbishop wrote to Cris Toffolo, who was dismissed from her position on Aug. 1 following a dispute over whether Tutu should be invited to speak at the St. Paul campus.
Academic speaking engagements as political ping-pong, or as the Chinese say, ping-pong.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Faith in the Halls of Power

Fascinating new OUP (Oxford U Press) blog by Prof. D. Michael Lindsay of Rice U. (sociology). His new book, Faith in the Halls of Power, takes an insider's look at the new generation of "cosmopolitan evangelicals" that are being trained in our elite institutions and appointed to positions of great power, a phenomenon mostly ignored by the MSM because it religiously restricts its evie diet to the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells. Lindsay relies primarily on Barbara Walter-styled interviews with CEOs, megachurch pastors, Beltway mavens, Hollywood bohemians, and entrepreneurs to reveal a very hip and "with-it" evangelical substratum.

While I find it all fascinating, I'm also deeply skeptical of evangelicalism's capacity to really make a lasting Christian mark on our postmodern society. Its ecclesiological integrity is too thin to take a soaking from secular utilitarianism and technocracy, such that every attempt to be "in the world" invariably leads to becoming more "of it." I still have trouble distinguishing most of evangelicalism from American self-help Gnosticism and Lindsay's book doesn't seem to do much to disspell my harsh opinion. Lindsay's blog is full of quaint anecdotes of the many ways that evangelicals are making their voice heard -- but they're just too quaint, almost too cute, to take seriously. The resurgent evangelicalism that Lindsay presents is primarily subcultural identity politics, full of vague privatized spirituality and "values," devoid of religious substance.

Take for example his interview with this evangelical exec:
One of my favorite stories was I interviewed Debra Waller, she’s the CEO of Jockey underwear. And we met here in New York in their showroom where they bring buyers in. And the room is plastered with larger-than-life photo shoots from their advertising. And I don’t know if you’ve seen underwear advertising recently, but it’s got a lot of flesh in it. And I told her I had never given an interview surrounded by so much flesh, it was rather distracting. And so we were talking about advertising, and I said, “You know, what difference does your faith make in how you advertise, or does it make any difference?” And she told me an interesting story. Jockey is something that she has been involved with for a long time, and she said, “You know, I wanted my faith to have some kind of involvement in our advertising decisions, or our spokespersons, and who represented the company.” And so she made a decision a number of years ago that if they had a picture with a man and a woman that was in the same photo shoot that they would be wearing wedding bands. And she said, “You know, that’s not something that’s necessarily hitting them over the head with the Bible, or anything like that, but it is a way in which I sort of try to encourage that there is a norm where we’re not trying to say this is the most promiscuous thing that we can do.” And she said, “We don’t have models who are twisted together like pretzels.” She alluded to a couple of other advertisers which I won’t mention.
A kindler, gentler Bible-thumping, all fine and dandy, but there's a certain fey and naive pretentiousness here that seems quite common among the evangelicals I've known.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The problem of "magisterialism"

A fine piece by Fr. Ripperger of the FSSP seminary in Nebraska, on the distinction between traditionalists and neo-conservative Catholics:
Neo-conservatives have fallen into this way of thinking i.e. the only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current magisterium. Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture(41), intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it.
My only gripe is that Fr. Ripperger's analysis doesn't go far enough; he doesn't root the problem of magisterialism in our collective abandonment of the fourth note of the Church: apostolicity. In fact, he seems to take for granted how the Catholic Church has largely reduced "apostolicity" itself to a positivistic attribute, a quasi-magical and mechanical passing down from bishop to bishop of that precious lump of ecclesiastical authority. Apostolicity, however, is, more broadly, the mens ecclesiae which he speaks of. Furthermore, he doesn't address the way "traditionalist Catholicism" has its own problems with amnesia by paying little more than lip service to the first millennium of undivided Catholic Christianity and hence has no sense of a shared apostolicity with the other ancient churches of the East and Orient. Finally there's no confrontation with the way our doctrines on the papacy (particularly its juridical aggrandizement) have been interpreted and applied to contribute to the magisterial positivism he so reviles.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Virile and strong chant

From Sandro Magister of La Chiesa thru Amy:
There’s still much to do to bring back to life in St. Peter’s what was, in ancient times, the Cappella Giulia – the choir specifically founded for the basilica – and to revive the splendors of the Roman musical style, a style in which the sacred polyphony pioneered by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Gregorian chant, also sung in the Roman manner (virile and strong, not like the monastic models inspired by Solesmes), alternate and enrich each other.

But there has been a new beginning. And Benedict XVI wanted to tell the chapter that this is the right path.
Amen! I wish more traddies would not just drool over anything that's not Haugen/Haas but realize how so much of that crap shares the same DNA with the gooey, effete chanting of Solesmes. And enough already with the meme that Gregorian chant is the be-all of Roman liturgy.

What remains lacking is a confrontation with the root causes of the problem. This current "restorationist" mode we're seeing under Benedict could be just that: a swing, a phase based on nothing more than papal whims. Liturgical norms become analogous to the weather: if you don't like them, just wait till the winds change. This would only invite the next ambitious pope to foist his own tastes on the rest of us. Catholics have yet to dig themselves out of the hole that reduces Liturgy to a voluntaristic exercise of papal authority in dialectic tension with the will to power of local liturgists. Unfortunately, most of Western liturgy is still stuck in the logic of power analysis.

RCC-EOC reunification proposals

Read Mike Liccione's here. Ad Orientem comments here:
But the bottom line is this… If Vatican I is not heresy, we Orthodox have no business doing anything other than kneeling in front of the Pope and kissing his ring. And the Pope has no need or legitimate reason for not exercising his universal jurisdiction throughout The Church. If God gave him the authority it was not done with a view to only using it in the West. And if Vatican I is heresy, then Orthodoxy must never ever under any circumstances compromise with it. Whatever failings I have (and they are legion) I am not a relativist. Any attempted compromise in a matter of Truth is a recipe for disaster. It is the foundation for another Florence. As Owen the Ochlophobist once observed in one of his more memorable quotes (I paraphrase) 'In order for communion between Rome and Orthodoxy to be restored, one or the other must cease to exist.' Either Rome is right or we are.

Those are not comfortable words. But there it is.
Oh, East, have a heart. Rome's still struggling to shake off the burden of its barbarian infiltration. And where were you during the era of Byzantine glory? You basically left Rome, the seat of Sts. Peter and Paul's martyrdoms, to shrivel into an outpost in the Gothic sticks. Why didn't the emperor convene a council to stop the Western slide towards theological Gomorrah? Of course, it's not that simple, but Rome is more frequently seen as perpetrator than victim, when, as we now know from criminal sociology, the two types are usually flip sides of each other.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Are there closets in heaven?"

More Catholic Babel over sexuality in the Church of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

I'm becoming more convinced that Pat Buchanan is right: we are an "infantile nation," which makes AmChurch an infantile religion. Look, it's all quite simple in a way and really doesn't demand all the adolescent blood, sweat, and tears that people are pouring into the sexuality wars. Here it goes: we are far, far more than our sexuality. That's pretty much it.

Yes, sexuality is a critical aspect of our human nature. But it's extraordinarily complex (and therein lies its simplicity). It cannot be reduced to biology/genetics on the one hand, or individual choice on the other, nor is it just social/cultural conditioning. Why can't it be a multivariate thing or a "mystery," as is everything else that's truly human? I really don't see how this is a controvertible point at least from a Catholic POV.

Sexuality is but one dimension of our individuality. It is NOT identical with the self, personhood, or one's identity. Therefore there is no such thing as a "homosexual" or a "heterosexual," ontologically speaking. Humans have the capacity to reduce themselves to one dimension of their appetites, as in the case of over/undereating, but few would accept that individuals are reducible to their eating habits and inclinations. I may be a bulimic, but that's just one part of who I am, and not a very good part at that. It's not just eating, we do it with our political ideologies, ethnicities, families, anything appetitive.

Eros is poorly understood in American culture. Rather than seeing the erotic in all dimensions of our humanity, we've fragmented, demonized, reified, ontologized, and fetishized it. As Catholics, we should have no problem admitting that the erotic underlies all intimate human relationships, including those between family members, friends of the same sex, even between ourselves and Christ. Eros does not mean sexual, coital, or erogenous, though they all are clearly dimensions of it. Eros is also expressed through our food, our music and arts, through our liturgies and prayers. It's a good thing in and of itself. We'd save ourselves a lot of trouble if we created a culture that celebrated a healthy sense of eros in which we can admit same-sex attraction without automatically fearing the onset of sex, with all its naughtiness and eroticism. Same-sex attraction needs a culture that isn't afraid of it and thus can properly guide, mold, and sanctify it. We don't live in that culture unfortunately. When bishops and priests play right into this "Dignity" game, they're capitulating to this radically eros-phobic culture's terms. They're no longer true shepherds but wolves in sheep's clothing.

There's nothing in the sexual teachings of the Church that exempts heterosexual behavior from the judgments laid upon homosexual behavior. If I have any complaint with the Church's predominant magisterial and pastoral approach to homosexuality, it's in the way its communicators have made homosexuality out to be a special case, something ontologically different from heterosexuality. In so doing it buys into the world's definitions of what eros is. But sin has corrupted eros in human sexuality, all of it, which therefore needs redemption and deification. To obsess over sexual orientation (or the silly issue of which gender in general really turns your erogenous zones on) is a myopia that's causing so much of this distracting and foolish sturm und drang we call sexual politics.

Church teachers on sexuality need to tie together more explicitly how pornography, sex addiction, adultery, masturbation, fornication, pederasty, pedo/ephebophilia, sodomy, etc. are all of a piece in the mind of the Church; they're all distortions and perversions of human eros. Whether heterosexuals are committing them or homosexuals are committing them is really a secondary issue, if one at all. In this sense, "homoes" aren't all that different from "heteroes."

Things get really messy when gays demand that the Church not just accept them as sinners like all the rest of us, but their hypersexualized anthropology (sexuality-is-identity). And the Church rightly rejects this anthropological doctrine, which derives mostly from the same victimization culture that demands America view blacks as ontologically victimized blacks first and foremost. This anthropology is just as, if not more, dehumanizing as homosexual acts themselves. The evilness of homosexual acts derives from this demonic anthropology. So I refuse to look at my self-proclaimed gay, straight, bi, or whatever friend as a sexual orientation. Sexual orientation doesn't even have the same ontological density that race/ethnicity does because it is far less determined by genetics than skin color, and the Church doesn't even grant skin color ontological status.

The Church ultimately calls us to one sexual orientation: spouse-sexuality, not heterosexuality per se. I'm not supposed to be attracted to every member of the opposite sex. Rather my sexuality must be oriented, expressed, trained, and sanctified towards my spouse exclusively, whether that be a wife, husband, parish, diocese, Christ, apostolate, or mission. But being a "spousesexual" is not normlessly determined by individual will and desire, nor is it primarily a "pelvic" matter. Like everything else it must conform to natural and divine law. Hence, the otherness of human gender is implicated and requires that spouses be Other to each other. Homosexual unions cannot be spouses in any Christian sense because they deny the otherness of gender, which is carved no less into our very DNA and our theological origins as male and female. If the Logos did not think human gender mattered, it would have assumed hermaphroditic flesh or angelic androgyny.

In conclusion, is homosexuality disordered? Yes, no less than heterosexuality in the modern world is, but differently nonetheless. We go off the rails once we start differentiating sexual heresies quantitatively, rather than theologically. Too many Catholics think the Church teaches homosexuality to be more sinful than heterosexuality, as if sin operated on a scale of one to ten. The Catholic gay agenda is warped for its anthropological heresy. The hyper/pan/heterosexed culture we live in is warped for its denial of eros and ascesis. Are there "closets in heaven?" Of course not, but heaven is redeemed, deified eros. Only the most grotesquely childish, infantile religion would suggest heaven is a place where we get to freely express our sexual deviancies like finger paint.

Catholics who have same-sex orientation definitely have a difficult cross to bear, one I dare not suppose comprehension, but so do porn addicts and pedophiles (calm down, stop being defensive; of course they're not morally equivalent, for what it's worth). Sexual orientation is no more and no less under the jurisdiction of individual will. Therefore, to speak of SSA simply as a matter of choice on the one hand or determinism of any kind on the other is ridiculous. Redemption is never just about individual choice or will. It is a participation in the divine energies of Christ. It is a battle in which holy ascesis and virtue determine victory and defeat. But any Catholicism that plays to the gay agenda is a clear path to disaster and theological suicide.

Friday, October 12, 2007

An Orthodox balm for Europe

...and for Western Christianity, particularly Catholicism. From Christian Science Monitor:
With the exception of Greece, this sad legacy has made Western Europeans notoriously slow to accept countries with large Orthodox populations into pan-European institutions. In the current expansion eastward, however, it is inevitable that the values and mores of European institutions and alliances will be shaped more and more by the traditionalist views of Orthodox Christian believers and less and less by the modern, secularized Protestant assumptions of Western European democracies. Orthodox believers already far outnumber Protestants across Europe, and by some estimates they may eventually even surpass Roman Catholics. If 21st-century Europe ever develops a religious complexion, it will be predominantly Eastern Orthodox.
Amin, amin.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More liberal high dudgeon

Michael Perry needs a break:
Give me a break!

In response to Kenneth Slattery, C.M. (here), who is no doubt a good man, those of who who believe that contraceptive intercourse is *not* immoral are at least--at least!--as warranted in calling those who believe that contraceptive intercourse is immoral "invincibly ignorant" as Kenneth Slattery is in calling us invincibly ignorant. My God, why can't we just accept that there is room for reasonable disagreement here?
Who's the one having difficulty accepting that there is room for reasonable disagreement here?

Taiwanese appointed to Pontifical Academy of Sciences

One of the few international arenas where Taiwanese can still function relatively free from the meddling of the Mainlanders. It might not be much from a secular perspective, but for Taiwanese-American Catholics (all ten of us), it's proud moment.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI appointed two new members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. They are Klaus von Klitzing, professor of physics at the Max-Planck-Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgard (Germany), and Yuan-Tseh Lee, professor of chemistry and president of the Academia Sinica in Taipei.

Yuan Tseh Lee was born on November 19, 1936, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and earned a B.Sc. in 1959 from the National Taiwan University. After a M.Sc. from the National Tsing Hua University, he moved to the United States where he got a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1965. As a post-doctoral student he began experiments on reactive scattering in ionic-molecular reaction.

In 1968 he became assistant professor at the University of Chicago, which in a few years became an important centre for the study of crossed molecular beams.

In 1974, he returned to Berkeley as professor of chemistry. Here he pursued his research into various primary photochemical processes and the spectroscopy of ionic and molecular clusters.

In 1994 he retired as professor and principal investigator at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC-Berkeley, and was appointed president of Taiwan’s Academia Sinica

In 2006 he became President Emeritus and Distinguished Research Fellow.

Professor Lee was also awarded many international prizes, including the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1986.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

After Asceticism & Bankruptcy

There's something wonderfully apt and ironic about dioceses filing for "bankruptcy." Bishops appeal to the mercy of the State, requesting absolution and salvation, by putting on the sackcloth of Chapter 11 of the Gospel According to Civil Bankruptcy. Woe's me, I am financially (but not morally or spiritually) bankrupt! Grant me mercy from the onslaught of judgment creditors, o thou great bankruptcy judge! It's divine comedy.

Has anyone in the American Church read the Linacre Institute's study, After Asceticism, on the deeper disciplinary and formation issues that conditioned the pedophile priest scandal? It doesn't seem like it, from Bishop Brom of San Diego's latest diocesan appeal, which asks priests to "donate" a month's salary and extends a "personal invitation" to the laity to contribute generously to a fund for "compassionate outreach to our brothers and sisters who have suffered sexual abuse within the family of the Church." Did earlier Christians ever "donate" anything to the Church? We used to use the language of alms, tithes, indulgences, penance; today it's tax-deductible donations and invitations.

More Oprah-esque therapeutic-bureaucratic claptrap that has come to be the hallmark of USCCB lingo. Total absence of language from the Catholic tradition. Zero ascesis. Why should anyone "donate" a dime to a hierarchy that looks to public relations science and the legal system for solutions rather than its own 2000-yr old traditions which it either callously ignores or contemptuously spurns. Where's the pentitential and sacramental framework for all this? Where's the soul-searching for the root spiritual causes of the scandal? I only hear about bankruptcy proceedings (legal), zero-tolerance policies (bureaucratic), compassion and forgiveness (therapeutic).

The "spirit of Vatican II" which suffeuses Bishop Brom's letter demonstrates how little the Catholic hierarchy has learned from the scandal. Too much of our clergy are functional atheists who slurp and swig language as if it were a smoothie, when it's not. Truth-language emanates out of the logos of God, and without a recognition of this dimension of episcopal authority, their statements have the roar of papers nervously shuffling.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Exegeting SCOTUS

David B. Hart, "The Pornography Culture," The New Atlantis, shows us how the theologian-cultural critic can relativize and contextualize constitutional jurisprudence without looking like a Con law dilettante:
We have, as a society, long accepted the legal fiction that we are incapable of even that minimal prudential wisdom necessary to distinguish speech or art worthy of protection from the most debased products of the imagination, and so have become content to rely upon the abstract promise of free speech as our only sure defense against the lure of authoritarianism. And perhaps, at this juncture in cultural history, this lack of judgment is no longer really a fiction.
This is why I profess so little interest in the question of the constitutionality of COPA [Child Online Protection Act]; the more interesting question, it seems to me, concerns what sort of society we have succeeded in creating if the conclusions we draw from the fundamental principles of our republic oblige us to defend pornographers’ access to a medium as pervasive, porous, complex, and malleable as the Internet against laws intended to protect children.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ad Orientem - not just a liturgical rubric

From Daniel Greeson's blog, The Way of a Pilgrim
“Orthodoxy is summoned to witness. Now more than ever the Christian West stands before divergent prospects, a living question addressed also to the Orthodox world… The ‘old polemical theology’ has long ago lost its inner connection with any reality. Such theology was an academic discipline, and was always elaborated according to the same western ‘textbooks.’ A historiosophical exegesis of the western religious tragedy must become the new ‘polemical theology.’ But this tragedy must be reendured and relived, precisely as one’s own, and its potential catharsis must be demonstrated in the fullness of the experience of the Church and patristic tradition. In this newly sought Orthodox synthesis, the centuries-old experience of the Catholic West must be studied and diagnosed by Orthodox theology with greater care and sympathy than has been the case up to now… The Orthodox theologian must also offer his own testimony to this world — a testimony arising from the inner memory of the Church — and resolve the question with his historical findings.” - Georges Florovsky, Ways of Russian Theology II, pp. 302-304
We've all witnessed how easy it is these days for "conservative" and "liberal" Catholics to be more attached to their secular ideological bedpartners than to Catholicism. It's telling that the term "Catholicism" is becoming ever more difficult to utter without any modifiers. Even among "traditionalist" Catholics, the tendency to read Catholicism with all the polemical imbalance of a hyper-Tridentine mindset/aesthetic continues to distort our ancient faith as much as it defends against the invasive heresies du jour.

But let us admit that the travesty of the Episcopal Church USA is just a canary in the coal mine that is Western Christianity (whose mother is the Church of Rome), that the liturgical and spiritual chaos arising in the aftermath of Vatican II shares a common pathology with the nihilistic mockeries of Christianity in modern aesthetics and rationality. Amidst the confusion of what is truly Catholic (not just in terms of propositional faith and morals but phronema), I'm becoming more convinced that Orthodoxy's the only thing left that can help us find our way back to the Church of the Martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul - truly Western, truly Apostolic.

So "ad orientem" is not just a sound rubric for our Masses, but consistent with the lex orandi, lex credendi principle, it signifies the only future and hope for contemporary Catholic theology. The familiar Catholic megaphone needs to also be a satellite dish pointed east, tuned to the long-lost voices of the Fathers (besides selective bits of Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas). Along with Fr. Florovsky's commendation of Orthodoxy's witness, it remains up to Catholics to figure out how to reconcile our doctrinal and liturgical "developments" since the Carolingian era (pace Newman) with the mind of the Apostolic Churches. It's the only way V2's aggiornamento and novus habitus mentis can be interpreted without dissolving into the nothingness of the modern world.

Liberals love to talk about "active participation" of the laity; listening to the Eastern Churches would be a new, constructive start, especially seeing how stalled discourse between left and right currently stands. It's the only ecumenism that matters today.