Thursday, June 28, 2007

Breaking News: Ecumenical Patriarch is not Ecumenical

From Ankara:
All you Orthodox types out there obviously did not get the memo. You can not presume to order your Church in any way without checking with us. The Patriarch of Istanbul is not "Ecumenical" in any way shape or form. Why? Because we are the Turkish government and we said so. Next time check with us before making any decisions regarding the structure or ecclesiology of your church. Whats that? We weren't around when you made up that canon? Well you should have had the sense to wait. Have a nice day.

(Hat tip to Orthodixie)

Orthodox vs orthodox

This is the equivalent of a e-bitch-slap. “So, call yerselves ‘orthodox’ do ya? Well, guess what? Ya’ll ain’t what’s referenced in the dictionary when it comes to ‘orthodox,’ and dang if ya’ll don’t look anything like a ‘real’ Orthodox Church.” In other words: Calling yourselves “orthodox” is a whole bunch of meaningless twaddle.

AO go on to point out the difference in Orthodoxy and orthodox Anglicans. They’ve done some reading, it appears, and have come to some interesting conclusions. You know, thoughtful chaps, what? It seems that Orthodoxy centers it’s life in the liturgy, while orthodox Anglicans center their lives in the Scriptures. (Or so dichotomizes the AO folks.) But let’s hear it from the AO peeps.

Read the rest here.

Hat tip to the Young Fogey.

Non Habemus Pontificator

Fr. Al Kimel better known to most of us simply as the Pontificator has announced the end of his blog Pontifications. His departure will leave a large void in the religious corner of the blogosphere. While most of us will undoubtedly feel a sense of loss at his departure, it sounds like his decision at least for now is the right one. Fr. Kimel wrote movingly of the personal and spiritual struggles in his life. Being torn from the Episcopal Church by its apostasy left him scarred. And as he wrote in his emotional farewell, some wounds do not fully heal. We all suffer at times from what Catholics used to call the dark night of the soul or what we Orthodox refer to more generally as spiritual warfare. And we must all do what we think is right under spiritual direction to deal with these crisis.

Thus it is with sadness that I bid farewell to the Pontificator whose website was one of the best on the web, and will likely remain the gold standard against which most other Catholic blogs are judged. Fr. Kimel was a great intellectual (and occasional critic of yours truly). Reading the lively and generally civil debates on Pontifications helped give me clarity at a time in my life when I really needed it. And for that I am deeply grateful. I ask the reader to keep Fr. Kimel in your prayers as he carries on in whatever calling God has in mind for him.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Motu Proprio is likely imminent

Roman Catholic traditionalists and conservatives can start icing that bottle of champagne now. It appears that the publication of the long awaited Motu Proprio making available the Tridentine Mass is in fact imminent. I have generally been cautious about any discussion of dates while maintaining that the document was coming. However I am going to shed some of that caution and say that it is likely to be published soon. Very soon.

Multiple sources have indicated that copies of the MP were actually given to a select number of bishops today in Rome. The document is supposedly about three pages in length with a four page cover letter from +Benedict XVI to the world's bishops. According to two sources cited at Rorate Caeli the likely publication date is July 7th. However others are opining that if copies have been distributed to some bishops already, the formal release may come much sooner. Whatever the date we are clearly no longer talking about months or years. I think that the phrase "any day now" is probably apt.

And not a moment too soon when one sees some of the bilge still emanating from various quarters.

As a side note The Curt Jester has posted a humorous list of suggestions for the mainstream media when covering this impending story.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Of Mad Men and the Three Martini Lunch

AMC is getting ready to roll out a new television series that is supposedly set in a high powered ad agency circa 1960. It’s called "Mad Men" and the previews suggest that it is going to give an unvarnished look at business and social life in that period. I have always had a bit of a weakness for period movies or television if they are good. This program might be one of the good ones.

Maybe I am starting to feel my age but while watching a program that gave a glimpse into the making of the series and the extraordinary efforts made by the producers and cast to be period correct, I got small chills. I suddenly realized that I can remember things like rotary telephones, a television that only got a few channels and you actually had get up from the couch to change the channel manually! I can remember a time before cell phones and blackberries, pagers and the internet. There were no microwaves until I was a teenager. And we were always worried about radiation poisoning. Bringing a weapon to school when I was a kid generally meant one of those bright orange plastic squirt guns. I could go on but I am sure you get the picture.

However, this series does not sound like it's intended to be a sort of Leave it to Beaver nostalgia trip for the close of the 1950's. The 1950's-60's was a period where a woman's place in business was generally limited to that of secretary or switchboard operator. It was also a period when what we would call sexual harassment today was not only accepted, it was fairly normative in many offices. People were open in their prejudices. Office politics was rough, even brutal. And all of this is going to be shown in the series.

OK, so maybe setting aside the crazy hairdos on the girls and super thin neckties ending about 3 inched above the belt on men this could be a sort of look in the mirror for a lot of us today. In fairness though, some things have mercifully changed since then. We can start with smoking.

I can see all of the various anti smoking groups throwing a HUGE fit over Mad Men out of fear that it will glamorize smoking. There is a lot of it in the show. But guess what. In the middle of the last century people smoked. I mean really smoked, like chimneys. They smoked at home, in the car, in their office, in the company lounge, in meetings, and of course in restaurants night clubs and that wonderful social nexus of the era, the cocktail bar (of which more shortly). I can still remember my mother setting out ashtrays whenever we had guests coming over (this was in the 70’s and 80’s). Polite people always asked if it was OK to smoke when visiting someone else’s house. And polite hosts always said “yes of course.” I don’t remember when my mother got rid of the ashtrays and people stopped asking if they could smoke in our house. It was probably after I joined the Navy. My grandfather was the only real smoker in the family other than my occasional fondness for a good cigar or pipe (rarely indulged these days). But that aspect of the show is pretty dead on.

The other social vice portrayed (that some people actually complain about missing) was the drinking. In those days people drank. A business man would often have a drink on arriving at the office. A few would make a point of not indulging before noon, but this was not altogether common. One would start a board meeting with drinks. Drinks would be offered to the boss if he entered your office or you were called to his (unless you were in trouble). Drinks were offered to clients and of course after a long day at work the boys (and girls) would get together and head to their favorite watering hole for the after work cocktail, or two or three.

Which brings up one of the great American social institutions now largely gone by. Back in the day when your boss could not text message you on your lunch break and when deals and business were often based on personal relationships rather than email correspondence, it was not uncommon for people to take a leisurely business lunch with friends or clients (who were often both). These could sometimes last well over the hour that is typically the high end lunch break for most working people today. One defining element of them was the lunch cocktail. The so called three martini lunch was a reference to the fact that one could until the mid 1980’s deduct business lunch expenses from your taxes including your drinks. Incredibly people really did go out and have three or more martinis over lunch. I have this from people who attended some of those lunches and lived to tell the tale.

Now consider if you will the ingredients in a martini. Some people today are tragically unfamiliar with this drink.

The basic martini recipe is

6 oz. of gin

5 drops of dry vermouth (The dryer the better.)

2 small twists of lemon rind

2 olives

And with apologies to James Bond a true martini is never shaken. It is stirred.

Take the above ingredients times three and you have over a pound of gin! Forget all the other social and business drinking that went on and just think about a lunch where you have three or more(!) martinis. I suspect I would need help getting back to my office. For that matter, I suspect I would need help finding my office. How American business did not just grind to a halt every day around 1pm with everyone getting totally blotto is beyond me. Perhaps it will be revealed in Mad Men.

The fast pace of modern life that is always on the run can be brutal. But at least our lungs and liver seem to have gotten the better end of the deal. In the meantime we can all sit back and take a glimpse at life in a simpler if perhaps more coarse time. Unless of course your boss texts you on your blackberry about that project in the middle of the show.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Greg Griffith on the Muslim Priestess

There is a must read article over at Stand Firm on the subject of the TEC priestess who now claims to be both Muslim and Christian. A small sample is below.
It's because our Worthy Opponents figured out long ago how to sneak the nose of the gay agenda's camel under the tent of mainstream Episcopalianism: Frame it in terms of civil rights and post-modern notions of tolerance and inclusion, while playing the soft but insistent background music of oppression and marginalization. But what they haven't figured out is how to sell to that same mainstream the fact that their agenda - gutting 2,000 years of Christian teaching on sexual morality in order to devise a "Gospel" that bestows the blessings of the church on same-sex unions - at best allows, and at worst requires, a profound alteration of the lordship of Jesus Christ. There are complex reasons why this is so, but stated simply, it is because it is extremely difficult to assert on the one hand that the Scriptures don't mean what they say about sexual morality, and on the other insist that they do mean what they say about who Jesus Christ is. Leaving open all manner of possibilities for the former requires that one also leave open all manner of possibilities for the latter. This is why the orthodox side of this debate continually insists that the real debate is not about homosexuality, but Christology - who Christ is, why He came to earth, and the nature of His revelation to us.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More on Archbishop Chrysostomos' mission to Rome


From the International Herald Tribune...
VATICAN CITY: A Cypriot Orthodox archbishop seeking to arrange a groundbreaking meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Russian Orthodox patriarch said Monday that Cyprus would be an ideal location for the talks.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus has just completed a six-day visit to Rome for talks with Benedict and other Vatican officials and now plans to meet with Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II in Moscow on July 13.

He said the Orthodox Church is "open" to a meeting with Benedict and that while it is not clear where it would be held, "Cyprus would be a solution."
Read the rest here.

The Apostles' Fast 3 (take 2)

(I have been unable to recover Fr. David's 3rd installment in his series on the Apostle's Fast. However I was able to locate its copy in the archives although the comments appear to have been wiped out. So I am reposting Fr. David's original post. To those who left comments please accept my apologies. Blogger appears to have eaten them. The only way I could restore the comments was by copying them from my email records. John / Ad Orientem)

The Apostles and Walls

This past week the world commemorated the 20th anniversary of words about a wall. They were in a speech that shook a generation and marked the changing of the tides of human history. I am referring, of course, to Ronald Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. To many folks on this side of that old wall, Reagan’s words seemed impossible: that massive barrier, and the ideological polarizations that inspired it, seemed impenetrable. I remember wondering: “Is Reagan for real, or is this just political grandstanding or hopeless naiveté?” The Cold War—those words seem almost archaic now—spawned years of fear and power that only perpetuated a kind of cynical paralysis. Now, Reagan towers as a kind of prophet whose words of authority crushed the giant and led people to freedom. A sentence of six simple words, so obvious that no one hardly dare utter them, were long enough, at the right time and place, to become Archimedes’ lever and move the world. Like “Thus saith the Lord, ‘Let my people go’” and “I have a dream today,” Reagan’s challenge demonstrates the power of words.

Christ’s holy Apostles also prophesied against a wall. Such was the heart of their apostolic ministry, a ministry of reconciliation. As significant as Reagan’s words were—and the breaking they evoked—the preaching by Christ’s holy Apostles catalyzed a still greater revolution, announcing the destruction of The Wall. St. Paul called it “the middle wall of partition:”

“Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:13-14).

What is this Wall that St. Paul is talking about? In short, it was the Wall in the Jewish temple that separated the Gentiles from the Jews, limiting the Gentiles to the outer court. The Wall was the physical expression of a Spiritual Reality, one that restricted the works and grace of God to God’s covenant people, the Hebrew people. Paul knew this Wall all too well; not only was Paul a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” but as an Apostle of Christ he was falsely accused of (and imprisoned for) bringing a gentile into the inner courts of the Temple precincts (Acts 21:28-29, 24:6). Now, this Wall had been demolished by Jesus Christ, and the covenantal gifts of God available to both Jew and Gentile alike. St. Paul and the other Apostles announced the destruction of this Wall, and the liberation of God’s gifts previous held behind the dam of covenant and ethnicity.

Of course, destroying walls is one thing; actually knowing and experiencing newfound unity and freedom is another. The walls of the heart loom large, deceiving even the faithful. I suppose that is one reason why St. Paul called Christ’s destruction of the middle wall of partition a mystery: something once hidden, but now established and revealed. This is the mystery of the Church, which St. Paul actually calls “the fellowship of the Mystery” (Ephesians 3:8-10). Now God’s covenant promises, His gift of salvation, is for all peoples, Jew and Gentile alike, who are united in God’s New Creation in Christ. Isn’t it strange that the City of Ephesus, so far from Jerusalem and its religious institutions, needed St. Paul’s words about the unity of the people of God resulting from the destruction of The Wall? It was far away, but that wall still existed when Paul wrote the Ephesians, its physical destruction was perhaps ten years off. In 1871 archaeologists actually discovered pillar of the “middle wall of partition” once described by the ancient historian Josephus. On that pillar appeared the words:

“No man of another nation to enter within the fence and enclosure round the temple, and whoever is caught will have himself to blame that his death ensues”

The threat of the physical wall was all too real in St. Paul’s day; his words were concerning a spiritual destruction and liberation revealed in Jesus, in His death on the cross and holy resurrection.

Spiritual divisions, even anachronistic ones, do have a way of extending far beyond physical ones. The Church was the very place—the locus—of spiritual reconciliation and unity in Christ. Where else on earth could all peoples worship God “in spirit and in truth” but in the mystery of the Church? Amazingly, the Apostles had to continue to proclaim the destruction of spiritual divisions, not only to the local churches, but even amongst themselves. St. Paul had to rebuke Peter and Barnabas when they were intimidated to break table fellowship with Gentiles who were brothers and sisters in Christ. When the Gentiles began flowing into the Church, the Apostles had to hold the first Church Council, as described in Acts 15, to discern what God had done and was doing in Christ. Yet, as Jesus promised, the Spirit of God did in time lead the Apostles into all truth (John 16:13) about God’s work of salvation in Christ.

So, for us today, to be Apostolic is to proclaim and live out this spiritual unity in Christ, as “the fellowship of the mystery.” The spiritual barriers have been shattered; all peoples can be reconciled to God, and to one another, in Christ. To know this and to live this reality continues to be a struggle in the Church, especially in America. Are we not divided once again by ethnicity? Why do we place the moniker “Greek” or “Russian” or “Serbian,” et al., before the word “Orthodox” on the signs in front of our churches in this land? This not only separates the brethren from one another, but intimidates those who would visit our worship, only to perceive that such was only for a particular group. Besides our labels, we continue in our churches to be divided by language in our service. There may be a place for some use of ancient liturgical languages, but to allow incomprehensible tongues to dominate the landscape of our worship is again contrary to the spirit of the Apostles, dividing us not only from the unchurched, but even from our children.

Such impediments cannot be rationalized; such words are contrary to the spirit of the apostolic gospel. We who on Sunday proclaim the words “I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” from the Nicene Creed must remove all contrary words from our life together. And perhaps there is even someone amongst who will stand up, in the right place and occasion, and utter the words about our jurisdictional divisions that we all yearn to hear:

“Patriarch Bartholomew, tear down these walls!”

and/or:

“Patriarchs of Orthodoxy, tear down these walls!”


Whoever will do this, and all that I mention, will truly be apostolic. And the greatest revolution of human history—of liberation in Christ, will be furthered in our day.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Missing Post

Fr. David's post "The Apostles' Fast 3" has vanished. I note there is still the link for it to the right in the archives, but the post itself is now gone. Does anyone have any ideas how this might have occurred? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

ICXC
John

More on the Muslim Episcopal Priest

As a follow up to my previous post on this subject...

Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.

On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.

She does both, she says, because she's Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she's ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she's also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.

Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?

The answer of course, is that you can't. Being an Episcopalian however negates both. Liturgical unitarianism strikes again.

Read the rest here.

Hat tip to T-19.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A History of Arrogance

From the Midest Conservative Journal...

"Why has the controversy over Gene Robinson created the firestorm that it has? Why was it the factor that caused many of us to leave parishes in which we had spent most if not all our lives? After all, many of us rationalized our way through episcopal atheists like John Shelby Spong, besides whom Robbie is a model of Christian orthodoxy.

For me, it was not just the fact that the Episcopal Church had voted in convention that it would not let the Bible get in its way anymore. It was the decision's titanic arrogance. In 2003, ECUSA created a fact on the ground and destroyed, in one stroke, 2,000 years of Christian and Anglican teaching and every measure every GenCon had ever passed on the subject without caring about or being particularly interested in what the rest of the Anglican world thought about it."

Read the rest here

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Apostles' Fast 3

The Apostles and Walls

This past week the world commemorated the 20th anniversary of words about a wall. They were in a speech that shook a generation and marked the changing of the tides of human history. I am referring, of course, to Ronald Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. To many folks on this side of that old wall, Reagan’s words seemed impossible: that massive barrier, and the ideological polarizations that inspired it, seemed impenetrable. I remember wondering: “Is Reagan for real, or is this just political grandstanding or hopeless naiveté?” The Cold War—those words seem almost archaic now—spawned years of fear and power that only perpetuated a kind of cynical paralysis. Now, Reagan towers as a kind of prophet whose words of authority crushed the giant and led people to freedom. A sentence of six simple words, so obvious that no one hardly dare utter them, were long enough, at the right time and place, to become Archimedes’ lever and move the world. Like “Thus saith the Lord, ‘Let my people go’” and “I have a dream today,” Reagan’s challenge demonstrates the power of words.

Christ’s holy Apostles also prophesied against a wall. Such was the heart of their apostolic ministry, a ministry of reconciliation. As significant as Reagan’s words were—and the breaking they evoked—the preaching by Christ’s holy Apostles catalyzed a still greater revolution, announcing the destruction of The Wall. St. Paul called it “the middle wall of partition:”

“Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:13-14).

What is this Wall that St. Paul is talking about? In short, it was the Wall in the Jewish temple that separated the Gentiles from the Jews, limiting the Gentiles to the outer court. The Wall was the physical expression of a Spiritual Reality, one that restricted the works and grace of God to God’s covenant people, the Hebrew people. Paul knew this Wall all too well; not only was Paul a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” but as an Apostle of Christ he was falsely accused of (and imprisoned for) bringing a gentile into the inner courts of the Temple precincts (Acts 21:28-29, 24:6). Now, this Wall had been demolished by Jesus Christ, and the covenantal gifts of God available to both Jew and Gentile alike. St. Paul and the other Apostles announced the destruction of this Wall, and the liberation of God’s gifts previous held behind the dam of covenant and ethnicity.

Of course, destroying walls is one thing; actually knowing and experiencing newfound unity and freedom is another. The walls of the heart loom large, deceiving even the faithful. I suppose that is one reason why St. Paul called Christ’s destruction of the middle wall of partition a mystery: something once hidden, but now established and revealed. This is the mystery of the Church, which St. Paul actually calls “the fellowship of the Mystery” (Ephesians 3:8-10). Now God’s covenant promises, His gift of salvation, is for all peoples, Jew and Gentile alike, who are united in God’s New Creation in Christ. Isn’t it strange that the City of Ephesus, so far from Jerusalem and its religious institutions, needed St. Paul’s words about the unity of the people of God resulting from the destruction of The Wall? It was far away, but that wall still existed when Paul wrote the Ephesians, its physical destruction was perhaps ten years off. In 1871 archaeologists actually discovered pillar of the “middle wall of partition” once described by the ancient historian Josephus. On that pillar appeared the words:

“No man of another nation to enter within the fence and enclosure round the temple, and whoever is caught will have himself to blame that his death ensues”

The threat of the physical wall was all too real in St. Paul’s day; his words were concerning a spiritual destruction and liberation revealed in Jesus, in His death on the cross and holy resurrection.

Spiritual divisions, even anachronistic ones, do have a way of extending far beyond physical ones. The Church was the very place—the locus—of spiritual reconciliation and unity in Christ. Where else on earth could all peoples worship God “in spirit and in truth” but in the mystery of the Church? Amazingly, the Apostles had to continue to proclaim the destruction of spiritual divisions, not only to the local churches, but even amongst themselves. St. Paul had to rebuke Peter and Barnabas when they were intimidated to break table fellowship with Gentiles who were brothers and sisters in Christ. When the Gentiles began flowing into the Church, the Apostles had to hold the first Church Council, as described in Acts 15, to discern what God had done and was doing in Christ. Yet, as Jesus promised, the Spirit of God did in time lead the Apostles into all truth (John 16:13) about God’s work of salvation in Christ.

So, for us today, to be Apostolic is to proclaim and live out this spiritual unity in Christ, as “the fellowship of the mystery.” The spiritual barriers have been shattered; all peoples can be reconciled to God, and to one another, in Christ. To know this and to live this reality continues to be a struggle in the Church, especially in America. Are we not divided once again by ethnicity? Why do we place the moniker “Greek” or “Russian” or “Serbian,” et al., before the word “Orthodox” on the signs in front of our churches in this land? This not only separates the brethren from one another, but intimidates those who would visit our worship, only to perceive that such was only for a particular group. Besides our labels, we continue in our churches to be divided by language in our service. There may be a place for some use of ancient liturgical languages, but to allow incomprehensible tongues to dominate the landscape of our worship is again contrary to the spirit of the Apostles, dividing us not only from the unchurched, but even from our children.

Such impediments cannot be rationalized; such words are contrary to the spirit of the apostolic gospel. We who on Sunday proclaim the words “I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” from the Nicene Creed must remove all contrary words from our life together. And perhaps there is even someone amongst who will stand up, in the right place and occasion, and utter the words about our jurisdictional divisions that we all yearn to hear:

“Patriarch Bartholomew, tear down these walls!”

and/or:

“Patriarchs of Orthodoxy, tear down these walls!”


Whoever will do this, and all that I mention, will truly be apostolic. And the greatest revolution of human history—of liberation in Christ, will be furthered in our day.

Breaking: Nifong is disbarred

Mike Nifong has been disbarred by the North Carolina Bar for his conduct in the Duke Lacrosse hoax.

Nifong: 'I should be disbarred...'

In a surprise move Mike Nifong indicated that he believes he should be disbarred and will not appeal any sanctions imposed by the bar committee. I think this may be the first honorable thing he has done in this sad sordid affair.

Breaking News: Nifong Guilty

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has been found guilty of multiple alleged violations of the rules of ethics and court procedures in relation to the Duke lacrosse hoax. The verdicts have been overwhelmingly damning. The trial is now moving into phase 2 to determine sanctions. IMO Nifong should be disbarred. These were not bad judgment calls. This was a deliberate attempt to railroad three innocent you men.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Catholic Bishops React to the Motu Proprio

I couldn't resist...

Hat tip to Petrosius.

Motu Proprio said to be imminent

Rorate Caeli, a Traditionalist Roman Catholic blog with a reputation for good and fairly reliable posts, reports that a highly credible Italian website has posted actual excerpts from the cover letter intended to accompany the MP liberalizing the Tridentine Mass. According to this report the document has been signed and the cover letter is in the final stages of translation into various languages. Although a precise date for release is not given, it is believed that it will occur before +Benedict XVI departs for his summer vacation in the first part of July.

Again, I want express a healthy dose of skepticism about any predictions of dates. However we have known beyond reasonable doubt that the MP really does exist and it's coming. So everyone take a deep breath and wait to see what happens.

Read the details here.

Some quick notes

First please accept my apologies for the dearth of posts this week. My work schedule this week and next is unusually heavy. I suffer from the same contradictory problem that most of us have. I really wish I had more free time. And I also wish I had more money. Sigh. Posting will likely be less frequent during this period. However I would like to draw the reader's attention to a few items which may be of interest. I again regret that I don't have the time right now to comment at length on most of these.

Crisis Magazine has an interesting (and very Catholic) article on the often discussed problems surrounding Boniface VIII's bull Unam Sanctum which declared...
We declare, say, define and pronounce, that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
This has been a fairly huge thorn in Rome's side, especially since Vatican II. I hope to address some of this in a more detailed post later as time permits. For now the reader can draw their own conclusions on the strength of the defense.

Southern Baptists appeared to make a small move back towards the center after years of conservative domination within their convention. The measures announced Wednesday move to reinforce a more moderate definition of doctrine originally adopted in 2000. Conservatives seemed unimpressed though. Indeed they quickly got passed a resolution expressing strong doubts about the influence of human beings on global warming. They warned that increased regulation of so called greenhouse gases would injure the poor. This would seem to put them at odds with the overwhelming majority in the scientific community. Not exactly a place the SBC is unknown to occupy though.

The ongoing soap opera within the Anglican Communion continues... The Church of Kenya announced it will consecrate its own bishop here in the United States to minister to those parishes that have defected from the Episcopal Church and its continuing slide into apostasy. Many of those parishes have been seeking to affiliate with one of the various African Churches. There has of course been the predictable outcry from the other side. (Caution: Some of the comments posted here are really ugly.)

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz of the Philippines has urged Pope Benedict XVI not to travel to his country. He fears for the safety of the Pope. The Philippines suffer from a wide variety of problems including a rise in Islamic terrorism. There has been widespread violence against Christians in this predominantly Catholic country.

Fr. Al Kimel of Pontifications has posted an excellent essay on the subject of the renewal of the Western Liturgy within the Roman Church. I agree with almost everything he wrote and I recommend it to those interested.

Following up on the previously mentioned story about Archbishop Chyrsostom's efforts to mediate a meeting with Patriarch +Alexeii of Moscow, CWN News says the archbishop will leave for Moscow immediately after his meeting with Pope +Benedict XVI. In a related vein +Alexeii recently reemphasized the need for cooperation between Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church. This is especially true in Europe where secularism and post modernism are rampant. Stay tuned.

On a closing note, I have never made any pitch for money on this blog. However I am going to make an exception today. The mission parish of St. Mary Magdalene in Merced California (my home parish) is in pretty tough financial straights. Even worse than my own finances (and thats pretty bad). If there is anyone who has some spare funds that they would not mind being put to a good and Christian use please drop me a line privately. Any contributions are tax deductible and of course, deeply appreciated.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Two Trials

Two trials began today. In New York Fr. Robert (Bob) Kondratick is accused of a wide range of serious ethical lapses during his tenure as the Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America. In North Carolina the Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong is accused of multiple violations of the canon of ethics and potentially the civil rights of three young students from Duke University. The case has gained widespread publicity and there is something very close to a unanimous consensus that the lacrosse players were railroaded. Nifong's trial before the state bar is expected to last about 5 days. No time table has been projected for the Church Court. However it is unlikely to be a protracted case. Stay tuned.

Detailed reports on Nifongs trail can be found here.

Any news about the trial of Fr. Bob will probably be posted at the OCA website.

The Apostle's Fast

Superstars for the Kingdom

The household asleep, I wandered into the night. We live just outside the city, and with the moon rising late, the stars are stunning. As I walked, words of Psalm 19 tumbled into my mind—but perhaps not the verses one would expect:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the
universe (v. 4).”

We Orthodox sing this verse every time there is a feast of the holy Apostles. Yet, this Psalm actually begins not with people who glorify God, but rather the very cosmos itself; in midst of our singing, the reader intones verse 2:

“The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His
handiwork.”

This is a strangely beautiful juxtaposition: the so-called natural revelation of God in the glory of his creation on the one hand, and the special revelation of God in the Good News proclaimed by Apostles. Nevertheless, this isn’t some blithe invention of Orthodox worship; the Psalmist himself weaves together such a tapestry of the glorification of God. Of course, the Apostles are not named, per se, in the Psalm; rather, it is both the heavens and the Law of God that are his messengers. The glory of God is written in both the parchment of creation—the heavens—as well as on tables of stone in the Law of God. Today, we sing the Psalm with New Covenant hearts awakened with the eyes of New Creation—a vision only possible with the Apostolic proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The chorus of nature is itself joined by God’s special servants, all proclaiming the glory of God.

Who were these Apostles, whom holy tradition identifies with the brilliance of the starry night? How are they like the heavens? How are they like the blessed Law of God?

In short, they are undeniable guides, filled with divine beauty.

The world has its own stars, of whom we know too much, to be sure. Even the varied traditions of Protestant Christianity looks to its own such luminaries. Far be it for me to pick on somebody or take a cheap shot, but one of the more ludicrous or humorous features (you pick) of Evangelicalism is the use of star athletes and “the power teams” as foils (no pun intended…I think) for evangelistic outreach or youth ministry. No megachurch Father’s Day weekend would be complete unless there was a “father-son” event featuring such studly spirituality. The brilliant glory of such “stars” draw our attention, it is hoped, to the glory of the gospel. Somehow such stars legitimatize our faith, or so we think. It is not my job to judge the matter, but such constellations leave me strangely cold and empty—their glory a far cry from the glory of the Cross.

In the historic Christian Faith, the holy Apostles are the true stars, whose glory never eclipsed the glory of God, but rather shone forth only with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, their glory wasn’t physical prowess, or even intellectual brilliance. As we sang on Pentecost:

“Blessed art thou, O Christ our God,Who hast revealed the fishermen as most by
sending down upon them the Holy Spirit.”

The glory of the Apostles was the fulfillment of Jesus’ word that God would create men and women who worshiped Him “in Spirit and in truth.” That same Spirit would guide them into all truth that they then proclaimed with a divine power. Yet, above all, that glory and power was that of the Cross of Christ, which they lived to the utmost:
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians
6:14).
Here is a glory to be embraced, especially during this current season, the Apostles’ Fast, when we are especially mindful of our Apostolic heritage—of being “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” (the Nicene Creed). The glory of these stars, these luminous Apostles, is not in outward shows but through spiritual transformation by the power of Jesus’ Cross, in dying to the world of the passions. To use the language of St. Paul, their lives were living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, as their spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1-2). If we are to truly be Apostolic as Christians, we too must reflect such glory: the glory of the Cross. Then we too will be at least lesser lights, luminaries in a darkening world.

Monday, June 11, 2007

George Bush's Generosity

G. W. Bush on his way out of Europe yesterday gave a magnificent present to the Albanians. He gave them a large piece of land that currently belongs to Serbia. Unfortunately President Bush forgot to check with the Serbs. For some unimaginable reason they are highly ticked off that President Bush declared that Kosovo should become an "independent" country. The territory of Kosovo has historically been Serbian but currently has a large Muslim Albanian majority in it. In the 1990's the United States lead a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in response to a perceived campaign of large scale human rights violations orchestrated by the former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević. Since NATO's occupation of Kosovo began the Serbian minority has been suffering widespread persecution ranging from minor harassment and discrimination to overt violence and murder. It is impossible to estimate the number of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries that have been destroyed and desecrated by the Muslim Kosovars.

The Serbian Government has expressed its indignation over President Bush's comments supporting the secessionist Kosovars. Few seriously think the Kosovars will not move quickly to cement ties with Muslim Albania if they gain independence. Also the fate of Serbian Christians in Kosovo is very much a matter of grave concern. Russian President Vladimir Putin has thus far been highly critical of any plans for separating Kosovo from Serbia. It is questionable whether any plan can succeed without Russian acquiescence. At present that does not seem highly likely. Stay tuned.

Read more here.

A good day for justice

Two unrelated court decisions today struck separate but important blows for justice in our country. First the United States Court of Appeals (4th circuit) ordered Mr. Ali al-Marri, a lawful immigrant who had been arrested in the United States and held without any formal charge to be released. Mr. Al Marri was originally arrested in 2001 and was about to go on trial for credit card fraud and making false statements to Federal Agents when he was summarily declared an enemy combatant and transferred to military custody. And that has been his status since 2003. Essentially a military prisoner in legal limbo.

Writing for the court the majority note...
“To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians, even if the President calls them ‘enemy combatants,’ would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution — and the country.

...We refuse to recognize a claim to power, that would so alter the constitutional foundations of our Republic"
This is a long overdue blow from the courts against an overreaching president who has unilaterally suspended the writ of habeas corpus. It may be that the goverment is correct in its suspicions about Mr. Al Marri. However, they need to prove that in court. Read the rest here.

In the second case a court in Georgia has ordered the release of Genarlow Wilson who was convicted of having consensual oral sex with a 15 year old when he was 17. Mr. Wilson was subsequently sentenced to 10(!) years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for life. This obviously disproportionate sentence produced indignation which crossed racial (Mr. Wilson is African American) and political lines. The Georgia state legislature later changed the law making consensual oral sex between teenagers a misdemeanor. However the district attorney who prosecuted Mr. Wilson (originally for rape) refused to recognize the law as applying retroactively. And he fought tooth and nail against any reduction in his sentence unless Wilson acknowledged guilt and accepted the sex offender registration. The judge in today's hearing reduced Wilson's sentence to one year in jail (the maximum sentence under the new law) and removed the taint of registering as a sex offender.

Since Mr. Wilson has already served two years in prison this should translates into an immediate release. Sadly the state is appealing this decision. Worse it is possible that the State Attorney General may be correct on the letter of the law when arguing that a court can not arbitrarily reduce the sentence imposed by a trial court. The obvious solution is for the governor to step in and simply commute his sentence to time served or better still, grant him a full pardon so Mr. Wilson does not have a felony criminal record hanging over him for the rest of his life. This young man has already been the victim of an egregious miscarriage of justice. It's time to end the games people are playing with his life.

Read the story here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Apostasy... not an issue

It would appear that being an apostate is not a bar to serving as a priestess in the Episcopal Church (TEC). The Rev. Ann Redding of Seattle has embraced Islam and yet remains a practicing clergy person in TEC. This would seem to be inline with the Rev David Hart who converted to Hinduism however he also remains a licensed Anglican cleric.

I confess that I was shocked when I read this. But I really should not have been. This is after all the church of Bishop Jack Spong and company. I have at various times wondered aloud (and online) if TEC had not crossed the line from mere heresy into institutional apostasy. However at the risk of being called judgmental I think its time to say bluntly what I have been kinda thinking for a while. The Episcopal Church is not heretical. It's apostate. It has ceased to be a Christian body, and I will no longer refrain from saying so out of respect for people's feelings.

To those reading this who may still remain in TEC, please leave. Don't walk away. RUN! It's not going to get better. Stop fooling yourselves. Go Baptist. Go Roman. Or better yet go Orthodox. But wherever you go, get out of TEC! The Anglican Communion will not save you. The CofE is almost as bad as TEC. It's time for a reality check. There is no argument that can justify remaining in an apostate religion. You are endangering your soul by doing so. I understand converting is hard. It took me a very long time to do what I had known for many many years I needed to do. In fairness I was not leaving a church that was remotely in the same situation as TEC. But I do have a firsthand knowledge of the terrible spiritual agony that comes from breaking with a faith tradition you were raised in. Although for me at least it was the decision that was agony. After actually doing it the sense of peace has been remarkable.

Wherever you go (and thats not an unimportant issue), the most important thing is that you go. Stop putting it off. And start the search for a new spiritual home, today.

Now having offending every Episcopalian reading this blog, I will add insult to injury by offering very seriously to discuss this extremely tough issue with anyone who needs to talk about the processes and pains of changing religious confessions in private. Please feel free to email me by clicking on the link in the sidebar.

May God bless and preserve all those who are struggling with this great crisis of faith.

Read Rev. Redding's story on page 9 here. (pdf doc)

Read about Rev Hart here.

Hat tip to the young fogey

Friday, June 08, 2007

Odds & Ends...

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is not "absolutely certain" that the Anglican Communion can get its act together. However he asserts that schism is not inevitable. Currently the Churches of Nigeria and Uganda are threatening to boycott the Lambeth conference. Also many bishops and lay persons in the Episcopal Church (USA) are urging a boycott unless Bishop V. Gene Robinson is invited. +Williams left him off the invitation list (at least for now) due to his "manner of life." Robinson is divorced and a practicing homosexual. His election and consecration after repeated warnings from conservatives in the AC that such an act would be intolerable to them has placed severe strains on the communion. Several Anglican churches have since broken communion with TEC. The Anglican primates are currently awaiting a response to an ultimatum issued earlier this year demanding that TEC promise not to consecrate any more gay bishops and refuse to bless same sex unions.

In Australia Roman Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth has been taking a lot of heat for his declaration that Catholic politicians who vote in favor of a therapeutic cloning bill should not receive communion. Fred Riebeling, the speaker of the legislative assembly of West Australia has accused the Archbishop of making threats against a member of parliament. He has called for +Hickey to be questioned on the matter.

Iowa University Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez has been effectively sacked (denied tenure) for co-authoring a book in which he opines that the universe's complexity suggests some form of intelligent design. This opinion was never expressed in any class room or taught in any way to students. However a number of his colleagues acknowledged that his opinions expressed in the book were a factor in their rejection of his tenure application. This seems rather peculiar given at least one other individual who was given tenure at IU despite making some highly controversial statements in class.

The Episcopal Church is not the only mainline denomination seeing a mass exodus of members. The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) lost another 45,000+ members last year. They have now lost about 45% of their numbers since 1965. For a detailed breakdown of their membership woes go here.

In Great Britain an effort is underway to add some English/ Western saints to the official calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church. Rev. Andrew Phillips the rector of St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church says that although largely unknown to many Orthodox, there are more than 300 Orthodox saints and martyrs of English origin. One bishop has confirmed that at least nine English saints are already in the process of being added to the Russian Orthodox calendar and may soon be approved for worldwide veneration and commemoration.

The Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black has been formed with its first chapter in Detroit MI. This is a society of black Orthodox Christians whose mission is to help spread the truth of Orthodoxy in the African American community. Those seeking more information will find contact information at the linked news article. Let us all pray for this very important missionary work.

The Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus +Chrysostomos II has offered to mediate a possible meeting between Patriarch +Alexei II of Moscow and Pope +Benedict XVI of Rome.
``I asked to see the pope, and I thank him for the opportunity,'' the archbishop was quoted as saying about the mediator possibility. ``We want to help him in every way to improve the relations between the two churches, because we are children of the same Father. I would be happy if he accepted the offer.''

Asked if the conditions were right for Benedict to meet with Russian Patriarch Alexy II, the archbishop was quoted as saying: ``Every moment is a good moment because the aim is that of doing what is best for both churches. It's clear that we're not talking about organizing a meeting in 24 hours.''
+Chrysostomos acknowledges the difficulties in this endeavor but believes that with good intentions, "obstacles can be surmounted."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

On this date: Port Royal Destroyed


There has been a lot of talk about pirates lately. This is probably the result of the latest Hollywood film that deals with the genre in its typically romantic manner. But the history of piracy is not a pretty one. Its interesting to note that today is a bit of a red letter date in pirate history.

On this day (June 7th) in 1692 the city of Port Royal in modern day Jamaica was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake. Port Royal was even then a place whose very name had become synonymous with Sodom and Gomorrah. It was described simply as "the wickedest city on earth." Since then of course it has become the stuff of romantic legend. However this is one case where the legends probably pale next to the reality. In its heyday Port Royal was the wealthiest city in the new world. But it had really only three industries... piracy, rum, and women of easy (or at least commercial) virtue. At its hight the city had one drinking house for every ten residents! In the final years before its destruction an effort was made to clean up its vices and to replace piracy and the bordellos with a more respectable form of commerce... the slave trade.

But of course it is the city's colorful and criminal reputation that lives on. It was an almost entirely lawless city inhabited by pirates, thieves, cutthroats, prostitutes and drunks (not necessarily in that order). Charles Leslie describes the pirates thus...
Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night; and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked. They used to buy a pipe of wine, place it in the street, and oblige everyone that passed to drink.
Most of the pirates made their short lived fortunes by raiding the rich treasure ships bound from the Spanish Main and packed with gold and silver. However unlike in Hollywood movies and other romantic silliness real pirates were not all like Errol Flynn. These pirates generally murdered the crews of those ships unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. And of course after a hard days work at sea the pirates would retire to Port Royal to unwind. Gambling, murder, drunkenness and debauchery were so common that their absence would have been far more remarkable than their presence.

Against this background (and the introduction of the slave trade) one is almost compelled to wonder if God is really completely disinterested in what goes on in this world.
On June 7, 1692, a devastating earthquake hit the city causing the sand spit on which it was built to liquefy and flow out into Kingston Harbour. The water table was generally only two feet down prior to the quake. The effects of three tidal waves caused by the earthquake further eroded the sand spit, and soon the main part of the city lay permanently underwater, though intact enough that archaeologists have managed to uncover some well-preserved sites. The earthquake and tsunami killed between 1,000 and 3,000 people combined, over half the city's population. Disease ran rampant in the next several months, claiming an estimated 2,000 additional lives.
Coincidence or divine justice?

Read more here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On politicians who oppose abortion personally but...

Bp. +Tobin (the guy in purple)

One of my pet peeves is those who say I am a good (fill in the religious group of your choice) and am morally opposed to abortion but I don't think it's my place to impose my will on others. That little confession may sound odd since I do tend to be more libertarian in my politics than some. But I draw the line at killing children because they are inconvenient or almost any of the other lame reasons advanced in defense of this abhorrent practice. Anyways the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rhode Island recently wrote an op-ed piece on this subject targeting Rudy Giuliani. For the record I don't have anything personal against Mr. Giuliani. But his position on life makes it impossible for me to support him. If he gains the nomination of the Republican Party, I may have to consider voting for him as the lesser of evils. But that would only be because there are no pro-life Democrats running. However I digress.

The bishop made what I thought was a very powerful indictment against those who hold positions of public trust and use the power that comes with it to promote a right to kill children. (The issue of those children being born or not is utterly irrelevant.) The comments he makes are pointed. But they are on target.
Rudy’s public proclamations on abortion are pathetic and confusing. Even worse, they’re hypocritical.

Now, this is what we get from Rudy as he attempted to explain his ambiguous position on abortion in a speech at Houston Baptist College earlier this month: “Here are the two strong beliefs that I have, here are the two pillars of my thinking . . . One is, I believe abortion is wrong. I think it is morally wrong . . . The second pillar that guides my thinking . . . where [people of good faith] come to different conclusions about this, about something so very, very personal, I believe you have to respect their viewpoint. You give them a level of choice here . . . I’ve always believed both of these things.”

What? This drivel from the man who received high marks, and properly so, for his clear vision and personal courage in healing New York City, and by extension the nation, after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11?

Rudy mentions the two pillars of his position. But you know what happens if you sit on a stool with two legs? Yep, it collapses. And so does Rudy’s position, and along with it his integrity and reputation.

Rudy’s explanation is a classic expression of the position on abortion we’ve heard from weak-kneed politicians so frequently in recent years:

“I’m personally opposed to but don’t want to impose my views on other people.” The incongruity of that position has been exposed many times now. As I’ve asked previously, would we let any politician get away with the same pathetic cop-out on other issues: “I’m personally opposed to . . . racial discrimination, sexual abuse, prostitution, drug abuse, polygamy, incest . . . but don’t want to impose my beliefs on others?”

Why is it that when I hear someone explaining this position, I think of the sad figure of Pontius Pilate in the Gospels, who personally found no guilt in Jesus, but for fear of the crowd, washed his hands of the whole affair and handed Jesus over to be crucified. I can just hear Pilate saying, “You know, I’m personally opposed to crucifixion but I don’t want to impose my belief on others.”

I really want to post the whole thing. It's that good. But of course copyright etc. So I will just strongly recommend the entire article. Well said Bp. +Tobin!

A Church Trial

I received this afternoon an email from my spiritual father containing an excellent letter written by Igumen Philip (Speranza) from the Archdiocese of Canada (which Fr. David enthusiastically endorsed). I don't think there is any copyright issue so I am going to post it in its entirety.

I also wish to take this opportunity to append some comments I made in my previous post regarding the current situation in the OCA. It is very important to remember to approach all things with a Christian spirit. It is also important to remember that due process must be observed. Recent events in North Carolina have demonstrated all too well the dangers of prejudging a case based on rumors and innuendo. To the extent that any of my comments have shown or implied a lack of respect for the presumption of innocence pending a thorough hearing before an impartial court, I repent and ask forgiveness.

It has also been pointed out to me that there is a lot going on behind the scenes which may not be public knowledge. And yes, some of the people who have been calling for more accountability in the Church have been using immoderate and intemperate language. Such actions do no service for the Church.

I remain deeply concerned about the direction events have taken since Holy Pascha. And I am also convinced that Met. +Herman has a conflict of interest which should cause him to recuse himself from any further role in the investigation of the misconduct which has been publicly acknowledged to have occurred. However beyond this I will suspend judgment pending further evidence and the outcome of the forthcoming trial.

THE TEST OF OUR INTEGRITY

Sources report that Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, former Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, will appear before a Spiritual Court on June 11 to answer various finance-related charges. How the Spiritual Court conducts the trial and what we expect of it will be the acid test of our moral integrity and our spiritual maturity as individual persons and as the Orthodox Church in America. The standard against which we will be measured is found in Micah 6:8, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

The moral virtue of justice might best be defined as “the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbour.” Justice towards God requires us to give to God the worship, the glory, the respect, the obedience and the love that are His by right; justice towards other people disposes us to respect their rights and to establish (insofar as we are able) that harmony with them which creates and develops equity (fairness and equal treatment) of persons and the common good. To “do justly” means actually living that definition, as God expressly commands through the prophet Amos: “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream (5:24, RSV).”

In the case of Fr. Kondratick, the virtue of justice demands of him what he owes to the Spiritual Court and to the Church as a whole: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In Ephesians 4:15 the Apostle teaches that one inalienable characteristic of spiritual adulthood is “speaking the truth in love;” in verse 25 Paul insists that being “members of one another” in the one Body of Christ demands that “each one of you speak truth with his neighbour” (NKJV). The former Chancellor owes it to all of us to tell us the plain, unvarnished truth about how finances were handled in the Central Church Administration and what his role actually was. If he is guilty of wrong-doing, he must heed the injunction of James 5:16 to “confess your trespasses to one another,” because that is the only way for him and for the Church to even begin to find the healing we so desperately need. If he has made mistakes, bad decisions, and/or errors in judgment, he needs to own up to that as well, and in as much detail as possible. More painfully, he must break the ingrained habit of discretion and speak the truth in love about other leading figures in our drama and about their roles in our financial fiasco. We deserve to know.

By the same token, the Metropolitan, the Accuser, the attorney for the prosecution, and the Spiritual Court, both members and president, owe a great deal to Fr. Kondratick in this matter. They owe him clarity in the charges and full disclosure of the evidence against him. As has been noted elsewhere, in Matthew 18:15, the Lord Jesus Christ commands us bluntly, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault…;” hence, the prosecution has a duty to be very explicit and focused in its charges; to tell the accused in detail why such charges are being brought (i.e., disclosing all the evidence upon which they are based); and to bring only charges for which the accused can legitimately be held responsible.

One would also suggest that, although it be a departure from ordinary practice, because this is so high-profile a case, the prosecution owes it to all of us to disclose publicly exactly what the charges are and to disclose at least the Special Commission’s report, upon which (reportedly) the charges are based. To give the whole Church the mushroom treatment, especially in a case like this, is to withhold from us what is certainly our due, viz., information which concerns all of us.

In that vein, justice also requires the Spiritual Court to cite explicitly, not only to Fr. Kondratick but also to all of us, some Canon, some provision of The Statute, or some officially-sanctioned document which makes crystal-clear what responsibilities and areas of accountability the Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America actually had during the time in question. Simply to assume that the Chancellor bore ultimate responsibility for anything and everything that happened in the Central Church Administration overall and from day to day, especially with respect to financial matters, for example, violates the provisions of Canons 38 and 41 of the Holy Apostles, which lay such responsibility on the shoulders of the Bishop (and by extension here, the Metropolitan), and Canon 26 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which lays responsibility for day to day financial administration on the shoulders of the steward (who corresponds more to the Treasurer than to the Chancellor). Another example: was it the Chancellor’s responsibility to examine each employee’s work product to make sure that person was actually doing the job he/she was paid to do, and doing it properly; and, if so, how often? If failure to do so is one of the charges (directly or by implication), upon what authority is that charge based?

Let us also note that “doing justly” demands that the charges against the former Chancellor be only those “breaches of canonical or moral discipline” over which The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America (Article XI,3) gives the Spiritual Court jurisdiction. Since the one and only penalty prescribed by The Statute for clergymen in these cases is deposition from Holy Orders; and since nowhere do the Sacred Canons order the deposition of any presbyter or deacon guilty of incompetence, errors in judgment, well-intentioned but ultimately bad decisions, and/or sheer stupidity; therefore the charges against Fr. Kondratick can be legitimately only those breaches of discipline which are the product of knowing, deliberate and sinful wrong-doing. Making mistakes and/or generally screwing up are not sufficient canonical grounds for deposition; deliberate wrong-doing is.

Fairly obviously, “doing justly” requires the Spiritual Court to give to the accused, not only all the evidence against him, but also any exculpatory evidence; sufficient time to review the evidence; and both full opportunity and fairly wide latitude to present evidence and testimony to refute the charges. All of these we find in secular courts; and because the Lord tells us in Matthew 5:20 that unless our righteousness “exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” our standards certainly cannot be any lower than those of secular courts. Admittedly, Article XI,4,d of The Statute empowers the Court to determine what “experts and witnesses” are “acceptable to the court” (one of the more dangerous provisions, in this writer’s opinion); but given the weight of power and authority against the accused, justice demands that the power to exclude “experts and witnesses” as unacceptable be used sparingly, if at all.

The bottom line is really quite simple: for the Spiritual Court, “doing justly” means providing what all of us raised in the traditions of the British and American justice systems would see as a genuinely fair trial.

But to what end? Here, the test is whether or not we genuinely “love mercy.” In a recent reflection, Fr. John Garvey wrote, “ …the calls for heads to roll, the anger, the gleeful desire to see clerics on perp walks, the unwillingness to take to heart the understanding that repentance means not only the confession of the guilty but also the compassion of all the rest of us---all of this is disheartening.” Amen! How often must we hear the words of the Apostle in Galatians 6:1 before we actually take them to heart and live them: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted”? How often will we deliberately choose to pass over in silence the Lord’s insistent teaching in Matthew 18:15ff that the purpose of discipline in the Church is not punishment but to “gain your brother,” to effect repentance on the one side and forgiveness and reconciliation on the other? Calling for Fr. Kondraticks head does neither.

Further, many of us among the clergy of the Archdiocese of Canada remember well how the then-Chancellor was present at the trial of one of our brother priests in the Spiritual Court of another diocese to which he had been transferred. Perhaps improperly, but with genuine pastoral love, Fr. Kondratick intervened several times, entreating the accused simply to promise to be obedient to his Bishop (in a matter in which the Ruling Hierarch had every right to demand obedience). If the accused had done so, the charges against him would have been dropped. Only because he continued to refuse such obedience was he ultimately deposed. Fr. Kondratick understood clearly that the Scriptural object of that exercise was to gain his brother, not lop off his head.

Do we understand that in his case? Do we understand that to “love mercy” is not optional? Do we understand how chilling we should find the words of the Lord in Matthew 7:2, “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you”? Even supposing (purely for the sake of argument in matters which demand real, concrete, substantial proof) that Fr. Kondratick were guilty of everything with which he is charged and of all our worst imaginings: what then? If anyone’s desire and goal is anything other than to gain a brother, that person does not love mercy and will receive none from the Lord.

Which leads us to the point that doing justly and loving mercy can occur only when we do “walk humbly” with our God. It is only when we are bluntly, brutally honest before God with ourselves about ourselves…and our own sins…and our own failings…and our own nasty little secrets we want to take to the grave with us…and our own mistakes and errors and dumb decisions…and our own stupidities…and our own pride and arrogance…and our own rationalisations of our sins and faults…and all the excuses for our bad behaviours and bad attitudes that we pull from our soul like Kleenex from a box: only then are our “righteous indignation” and demands for the punishment of that evil s.o.b. over there transformed into a hunger and thirst for true justice and a longing to exercise mercy. This does not preclude appropriate discipline; but the spirit in which that discipline is desired and deployed makes all the difference.

June 11 it begins. By what happens, by what all of us allow to happen, by what we want to happen, our moral integrity and our spiritual maturity will be tested yet so as by fire. What will the verdict be…on us?

Igumen Philip (Speranza) is a priest in the Archdiocese of Canada.

Well done...

To the Vatican Security Service for their alert response today when a man jumped over a police barricade and attempted to climb onto the back of Pope Benedict's open air jeep. Happily the man does not appear to have been armed. However as one might imagine security has been an issue since Benedict's predecessor was nearly killed in the same square back in 1981, also while riding in an open vehicle. The individual was overpowered by alert security agents and quickly removed from the scene. The video of the incident suggests that +Benedict was not even aware of the disturbance behind his car. Vatican officials have been tight lipped about the whole thing but it appears the individual was questioned by police and subsequently sent to a psychiatric hospital for observation.

See the video clip here

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Quote of the day...

“I am very grateful that I had a grounding in faith that gave me the courage and the strength to do what I thought was right, regardless of what the world thought,”

- Hillary R. Clinton, United States Senator
from New York (D) speaking on her faith and its role in her marital difficulties.

I think we will leave the comments off for this one.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A SORROWFUL EPISTLE


Archbishop +Job writes to the clergy of the Diocese of the Midwest on the current situation in the OCA.
... In the short time since Pascha, serious and tragic mistakes have been made, the suspension of the Special Commission being, in my judgment, one of the worst. My friends, we have a crisis of leadership. I had stated that I stood in support of the Metropolitan in this crisis. I should have clarified this and should have stated that I support the positive decisions that he has made – and there certainly have been some. But there have been far more poor decisions, made unilaterally, without consultation and communication, which, as we see have had devastating results. At the Diocesan Council meeting I described myself as being “ at the end of my rope.” Now I find myself in a worse state of mind. I ponder on such things as “Desperate situations require desperate measures.” I am persuaded that I am not alone, because I have heard that there are those who were against the Palatine Resolution who have now changed their positions. Fathers and Brothers, souls are at stake! We cannot forget that.

A few days ago, I read a comment by someone on the ocanews.org website. It concluded with, “God, save us from our bishops!” and I confess that I cried. Never would I have imagined that such a statement could be made. Now it appears that it is held by many. God help us!

Read the rest here.

Like so many I have been struggling with this sad scandal. It has been at the least a terrible distraction to the faithful and at most it has damaged people's confidence in the Church and caused serious spiritual harm. In the Synod of Bishops there have not been many heroes. I believe Archbishop +Job to be one of them. It is difficult to put in words the sense of deep frustration and disappointment I feel with regards the conduct of the Holy Synod and of those generally in positions of responsibility in the Church. What is worse is that at times I catch that sense of frustration and disappointment turning to anger. This is the kind of Epistle that should have been penned by every bishop in the Church. Where are our bishops?

Hat tip to OCA News