Due to an ongoing health crisis in the family, blogging will be 'on and off' as time and circumstances permit for the foreseeable future. I also beg your indulgence if I am slow in responding to emails. New posts will appear below this notice.

Monday, May 31, 2010

+Patriarch Bartholomew is willing to advance convening of the All-Orthodox Coucil

Strelna, May 31, Interfax - Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople thinks it necessary to advance convening of the All-Orthodox Council with the participation of all local Orthodox Churches.

"We decided to facilitate the process of convening the holy and great Council of all Orthodox Churches," Patriarch Bartholomew said in an interview to Vesti 24 TV which was recorded Sunday in the Constantinovsky Palace in Strelna near St. Petersburg.

He referred to the Council as one of the major objectives for the Constantinople Church and stated that the Council and its outcomes would "have the greatest impact on the entire Orthodox world."

According to him, the event's agenda "has been already set up and is well-known to the Orthodox community," it covers ten major points, including the principles of autocephaly and autonomy of the Orthodox Churches, challenges of fasting, and a set of issues related to diptych (the order of mentioning Churches during service - IF.)

"Our Orthodox Church continuously seeks to keep up with the times avoiding to give up anything of its teaching, but at the same time, respond to the spirit of the time helping believers to stand up to the current real world," Patriarch Bartholomew said.

The preliminary work to convene the Council was started as far back as 1960s. The All-Orthodox Council is preceded with the meetings of All-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference and Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission. The Council shall decide the problems which have been accumulating within several centuries, from the time of the last 7th Ecumenical Council, which should be addressed by the entire Church.
Source

+Bartholomew urges Ukrainian schismatics to return to the Church

Strelna, May 31, Interfax - Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople urged Ukrainian dissenters to repent and join the canonic Orthodox Church. "Let them (dissenters - IF) not hesitate, but join the canonic Orthodox Church which is a ship of salvation," Patriarch Bartholomew said in an interview to Vesti 24 TV which was recorded Sunday in the Constantinovsky Palace in Strelna near St. Petersburg.

He noted that speaking with Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and all Ukraine he wished him that "he be honoured by God to see the solution to this problem while alive, and that the schism ceased to exist."

"Our Church does everything with due respect to the existing canonic order (in Ukraine - IF)," Patriarch Bartholomew commented current standpoint by Constantinople Patriarchate on Ukrainian schism.

He expressed willingness of his Church to pray both for "Russian and Ukrainian people."
Source

Egyptian Court: Coptic Church must permit divorce and remarriage

In response to today's ruling, Bishop Armiya, Secretary to Pope Shenouda, issued a statement stressing the respect of the Coptic Orthodox Church for the Egyptian judiciary and its rulings, but saying "there is no force on earth that can force the Church to violate the teachings of the Bible and Church laws, based on "What God has joined together let no man separate." He added that Islamic law allows the Copts to resort to their own laws, and the state respects the freedom of religion.

Egypt's highest court has ruled that the Coptic Orthodox Church must allow divorce and remarriage.

The Supreme Administrative Court, siding with a lower court decision, rejected an appeal by Coptic Pope Shenouda II. The court said that "the right to family formation is a constitutional right."

In Egypt all marriages must be solemnized in a religious ceremony. The court ruled that the Christians who make up 10% of the country's population have the same right to marriage and remarriage as their Muslim neighbors, and Christian churches, regardless of their religious doctrines, must allow divorced people to remarry. The decision cannot be appealed.

Coptic Church leaders have said that they will not abide by the court's order, setting up a potentially serious church-state clash.
Source

A Letter for Memorial Day

July the 14th, 1861

Camp Clark Washington

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

Sullivan
Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861. He was 32.

Memory Eternal


"My country owes me no debt. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance. It gave me schooling, independence of action, opportunity for service and honor. In no other land could a boy from a country village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope. My whole life has taught me what America means. I am indebted to my country beyond any human power to repay."

-Herbert Hoover 31st President of the Unite States

May we never forget those who through the sacrifice of their lives gave truth to these words.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

George Weigel wades into the Ukrainian mess

George Weigel (RCC) has decided to inject himself into the ecclesialogical mess that is the Ukraine. Within his essay however, there are so many problems that in the interest of coherence I am going to take a note from one of Mr. Weigel's co-religionists, Fr. Z, and post the entire article highlighting those parts I think deserve special attention and inserting my comments where appropriate.
Public expressions of piety at civic events may tell us something about a culture, but they rarely disclose geopolitical ambitions or strategic designs. One exception to that general rule of religion and public life took place this past February, in Kiev, capital of Ukraine—an exercise in hardball politics under the veil of public piety that was, in fact, a harbinger of danger for religious freedom, for Ukrainian democracy, and for the future of Europe (sounds ominous).

Prior to Ukraine’s two previous presidential inaugurations, an ecumenical and interreligious prayer service had been held at the Church of Holy Wisdom in the Ukrainian capital, with all confessional leaders invited to participate and pray for the country and its about-to-be-inaugurated leader (does "all" include schismatic Orthodox sects?). In a country as fractious as Ukraine, with an underdeveloped political culture and little experience of the tolerance essential to democratic civil society, these two prayer services were important indicators of a national intention to build a political community in which Ukrainians of all ethnic and religious persuasions would have a place in the public square. Indeed, Ukrainians of all parties seemed sufficiently impressed with what the pre-inaugural prayer service symbolized for their future that provisions for such an ecumenical and interreligious service were legally codified , in a presidential decree, as an integral part of presidential inaugurations. (How does one legally codify something like this? Does this make ecumenism a sort of state religion in Ukraine? Does it take into consideration the problems many Orthodox have with the modern concept and practice of ecumenism, especially as it is understood in the West?)

That protocol was ignored in February at the inauguration of President Viktor Yanukovych. There was no ecumenical and interreligious service at the Church of Holy Wisdom (OH! The horror!). Rather, at Yanukovych’s invitation, pre-inaugural prayers were offered at Kiev’s Monastery of the Caves by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. No other religious leader was invited to participate. (I am not seeing a major problem so far. Yanukovych is Orthodox. Patriarch Kyril is the head of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine. Contrary to the modern and near universal custom in the Christian West having "ecumenical " prayer services in Orthodox temples and monasteries is generally frowned upon. I suspect that a great deal of this is a consequence of Mr. Weigel's confusion about Orthodox ecclesiology. Of which more shortly...)

For that matter, no religious leaders other than those affiliated with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Moscow Patriarchate—one of three contending Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine (As I suspected... Mr. Weigel needs to brush up on his ecclesiology and reacquaint himself with the definition of the term "schismatic." There are not "three" contending Orthodox jurisdictions. There is one, and two schismatic sects that are not recognized by ANY canonical Orthodox churches.)—have been invited to meet with President Yanukovych since he assumed power. The UOC–MP is, for all intents and purposes, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, which means, in effect, that the principal interlocutor of the Ukrainian government on religious affairs is not a Ukrainian, but a Russian: Patriarch Kirill. (And your point is? The principal interlocutor on matters religious in Italy is a German.)

Those who detect in these maneuvers echoes of the geopolitical aspirations of Vladimir Putin, prime minister of Russia and the true center of power in that country, cannot be accused of paranoid speculation . (Cue the Imperial March theme heard whenever Darth Vader made his appearances in Star Wars.) Putin has long made it clear that he is determined to restore Russian influence—and possibly Russian control—over the old “near abroad,” including Belarus, Moldova, the post-Soviet states of the Caucasus and Central Asia, and, of course, Ukraine. (There is a fair sized grain of truth here. Russia has long asserted that Ukraine among other former parts of the Russian Empire and later the USSR fall within Moscow's sphere of influence.)

That this intention, fulfilled, would have serious consequences for the nascent democracies of the former Soviet Union should be obvious, as should the geopolitical and strategic consequences for the West—although what seems obvious to others is often not-so-obvious to the present American administration. (We are now veering into the purely political, which for the sake of staying on track I am going to avoid commenting on.) Be that as it may, the Russian Orthodox Church is making a tacit claim to spiritual jurisdiction in Ukraine; that claim threatens both religious freedom and the ecumenical future. (The Russian Church's claims are not tacit. They are explicit. Further they are fully backed by the canon law of the Orthodox Church and are further supported by all of the autocephalous Orthodox churches. I see no relavence to the subject of ecumenism since the Russian Church's claims in no way impact non-Orthodox entities.)

This tangled web of history, ethnicity, and theology is one of the world’s most striking examples of an intersection of religion and public life with real, on-the-ground consequences. (Can we say hyperbole?)

The Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine, Byzantine in liturgy and polity but in full communion with Rome since the 1596 Union of Brest, was the repository of Ukrainian national identity and aspiration throughout the Soviet period. (This is just plain outright rubbish.) Knowing this, Stalin used his control over the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow to attempt a canonical liquidation of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine. (Actually Stalin's move against the UGCC had nothing whatever to do with Ukrainian nationalism. It had to do with suppressing a church controlled by an outside entity, in this case the Vatican, that he could not manipulate.) In the so-called L’viv Sobor of 1946, “representatives” of the Greek Catholic Church (under the watchful eye of the secret police) dissolved the Union of Brest and placed themselves under the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

Those who accepted the L’viv Sobor became Russian Orthodox. Those who did not became members of the largest illegal religious body in the world. From 1946 until 1991, the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine lived underground: clandestinely worshipping in the woods, clandestinely training and ordaining clergy, with most of its hierarchy dying martyrs’ death in the camps of the Gulag or by outright execution.

(OK. This is a fair point and one that deserves some discussion. The suppression of the UGCC was certainly a violent and evil act that was undoubtedly done against the will of the vast majority of its faithful. I think however that care needs to be exercised in imputing willing collaboration on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church. The UGCC's history is undoubtedly a painful one and they have their share of heroic martyrs. But the history of the Russian Church during the reign of Stalin is the history of the bloodiest persecution in the history of Christendom, period. Every singly bishop in 1918 died a martyr, either in the camps or by outright murder. By 1940 more than 90% of the clergy and monastics were martyred. In short, the Russian Orthodox Church was crucified and nearly obliterated by the Communists. When Mr. Weigel speaks of the Russian Orthodox at L’viv, he is referring to agents of the NKVD dressed in byzantine vestments. For the most part, the real Orthodox Church in Russia in 1947 was deep underground, either in the thousands of mass graves which even today are still being discovered throughout Russia, or in the modern catacombs praying and waiting for their turn to wear the martyr's crown.)

One of the crucial figures in the modern life of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Cardinal Iosyf Slipyi, spent almost two decades in the Gulag before being released to Pope John XXIII in 1963 (and becoming the model for the Ukrainian pope in Morris West’s novel, The Shoes of the Fisherman). In his Roman exile, Slipyi worked to sustain the life of the Greek Catholic Church within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, not least by recreating in Rome the L’viv Theological Academy. The academy had been banned in Soviet Ukraine, but Slipyi imagined it as the seed from which might eventually grow the Ukrainian Catholic University that was one of the great dreams of his noble predecessor, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi. (The university would indeed be born in L’viv in the aftermath of the Soviet crack-up of 1991, and is now the only Catholic institution of higher education in the former Soviet Union.)

Pope John Paul II admired and protected Slipyi, despite frequent and sometimes volatile tensions caused, on the one hand, by the Ukrainian prelate’s tenacity and determination, and on the other by the conviction of the Vatican’s diplomats and ecumenists that Rome principal interests ad orientem lay in a rapprochement with Russian Orthodoxy, largest of the Orthodox communions. The latter did not, of course, acknowledge that Slipyi’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church existed; the Greek Catholics, for their part, not infrequently denounced what they regarded as a naive and potentially dangerous Vatican dialogue with Russian Orthodox leaders who were tools of the KGB.

The choice of Lubomyr Husar as major archbishop of L’viv and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in January 2001, and his elevation to the cardinalate a month later, meant that two men of high intelligence and considerable political sophistication—Husar and Karol Wojtyla—were now the senior figures in the dialogue between Rome and Ukraine, and positive results were not long in coming. John Paul II’s June 2001 pilgrimage to Kiev and L’viv was a triumph for both the Pope and for Ukraine (a matter of opinion): a visit respectfully and, in some cases, enthusiastically received by those parts of Ukrainian Orthodoxy not allied with the Moscow patriarchate. (Again Mr. Weigel seems determined to grant recognition to schismatic sects not recognized by the Orthodox Church. I wonder how he would feel if Orthodox Christians started recognizing as legitimate various so called "Old Catholic" or "Traditionalist Catholic" sects not in communion with Rome?)

Throughout the pilgrimage, John Paul, speaking fluent Ukrainian, lifted up a compelling vision of the Ukraine of the future: an independent country living out its distinctive cultural and linguistic reality while integrating itself into Europe, its various Christian communities working together to rebuild a shattered civil society and to carry out the Christian missions of education and charity. The only churlish comments on the pope’s Ukrainian visit came, predictably, from the Patriarchate of Moscow and its Ukrainian adherents. (The implication being that Moscow is the interloper in a country that is historically Orthodox and falls within the canonical territory of the Russian Church?)

Under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, those golden days now seem rather distant. The flourishing Ukrainian Catholic University, led by Father Borys Gudziak (a Ukrainian–American priest with a Harvard doctorate in history), continues to be one of the most impressive educational institutions in the lands of the former Soviet Union, drawing support from all responsible sectors of Ukrainian society. Its students played a not-insignificant role in the 2005 Orange Revolution that reversed Viktor Yanokovych’s fraudulent victory in Ukraine’s previous presidential election. But Fr. Gudziak now believes himself to be under regular surveillance by the SBU, the successor to the Ukrainian KGB, and was recently visited by an SBU officer for a lengthy conversation redolent of old KGB recruitment and intimidation tactics (see this document for Gudziak’s memorandum on the encounter.) As Edward Lucas of the Economist suggested while posting lengthy excerpts of the Gudziak memorandum, “it is a good thought experiment to ask oneself in which European countries this sort of thing would be inconceivable, in which it would be possible but outrageous, and it which it would be all too likely.” (Although this once again is veering into the realm of secular politics, I will concede it's a fair point. Secret Police forces and other forms of internal coercion are not conducive to a democratic form of government.)

The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has been working hard to create a new image of itself in the West. (Maybe I am being overly sensitive after reading as much as I have. But this sounds frankly rather condescending.) Patriarch Kirill’s successor as the Church’s chief of “external affairs” (the patriarchate’s curious name for ecumenism), Metropolitan Hilarion, has spoken publicly of the Russian Orthodox Church’s need for deep internal reform, and Hilarion was recently in Rome for several days, participating in Vatican events highlighting the glories (and they are many) of Russian Orthodox culture. Russian Orthodox leaders have spoken of the possibility of a papal visit to Russia—a courtesy they cruelly and obstinately refused to extend to John Paul II.

Under other circumstances, these might be regarded as welcome signs of a new realism in Russian Orthodoxy about its need for both internal renewal and for a genuine ecumenical engagement with the Catholic Church. (I find it curious that Catholics of late have been so concerned with "internal renewal" on the part of the Orthodox Church. Would this be the sort of renewal Rome embarked upon in the 1960's? As for the "genuine ecumenical engagement," what does he think has been going on for the last forty plus years? If it wasn't a "genuine ecumenical engagement" I would be curious how Rome defines such. I have my suspicions of course. File this under things that make you go HMMMM. )

But then one comes back to the image of Patriarch Kirill, alone, come from Moscow to Kiev to bless President Yanukovych’s inauguration.

Kirill is far too intelligent and sophisticated to think that such an act could be passed off as simply a pastoral response to an innocuous invitation.

Given contemporary recent Ukrainian history, the internal tensions between Ukrainian citizens who remember fondly the old Russophone Soviet order and those determined to forge a new, democratic, path, as well as Putin’s Great Russian revanchism, Kirill’s presence at Yanukovych’s inauguration, and the Yanukovych administration’s freezing-out of religious communities other than the Orthodox allied with Moscow, could indicate that the Patriarchate of Moscow is prepared to work in tandem with, or at least parallel to, the Russian state in order to diminish, eviscerate, or even end Ukrainian independence. (Maybe and maybe not. I suspect it has much less to do with kowtowing to Putin than sending a message to the schismatics that there is only ONE Orthodox church in Ukraine.)

If that is not the case, it would be helpful if the Patriarchate of Moscow would publicly affirm the legitimacy of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine and foreswear any intention to involve itself in internal Ukrainian political affairs. (I do concur that the MP should repudiate the false union of 1947. That they have not done so is frankly a bit embarrassing. That said I also think it would be helpful if Roman Catholics refrained from sticking their noses into the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church by implying the canonical legitimacy of schismatic bodies. It would also be helpful if they stopped trying to act like the Catholic Church was the spiritual guardian of a country that has been overwhelmingly Orthodox since the tenth century. If you are going to make snide comments about the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church it would perhaps be best to first get a handle on our, admittedly often messy, canon law and ecclesiology.)

A quiet nudge toward that statement and that posture from the diplomatic and ecumenical leadership of the Holy See might be helpful. Meanwhile, those who admire what has been built out of the rubble of Soviet totalitarianism in Ukraine will want to do whatever they can publicly to support Fr. Gudziak, the Ukrainian Catholic University, the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, and others in the Ukrainian Christian community who have been laboring to build an ecumenical and religious civil society capable of sustaining Ukrainian democracy. (I wonder why the word "ecumenical" seems to garner more reverent usage in this article than either the terms "Catholic" or "Orthodox?")

Those men and women, and the Ukrainian democratic project, are in danger.
The original essay may be found here.

A passing thought... If somehow communion were to be magically restored, into whose canonical territory does Rome think the Ukraine would fall?

NOTE: This post has been slightly edited to correct my initial and mistaken belief that Mr. Weigel was a Roman Catholic priest and also fix a few typos and such. No substantive changes have been made.

COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED on this thread due to repeated violations of the house rules for commenting (see the sidebar).

Friday, May 28, 2010

I gotta get back to New York

I've been gone for too long and am starting to feel the yin for a trip back East.
My mother had eyes in the back of her head; Doug Quinn must have them in the palms of his hands. How else to explain the way he muddled mint for a mojito — and went on to make the rest of the cocktail — while glancing alternately at the door to see if anyone new was coming in, at the far end of the bar to see if anyone was telegraphing thirst, and at the guy in front of him, who was babbling anew about something or other? Not once did Mr. Quinn look down at the drink. It was like bartending in Braille.

He filled beer mugs without watching what he was doing. He could apparently tell, by the weight of them, when to stop. He plucked bottles from their perches without pausing to check labels. He apparently had, in his head, the whole liquor layout at P.J. Clarke’s, on the East Side.

And he remembered what my companion and I were drinking, even though we had ordered just one round so far, and there were at least 35 people clumped around the bar on this early May night, and he was dealing — alone — with all the tickets from all the servers in the adjacent dining rooms, and he wasn’t writing anything down, not that I could see.

“Another?” was all he asked, and a half minute later I had a Hendrick’s gin martini, up, with olives and jagged little floes of ice, just like the martini before it. My companion was sipping a second Manhattan with rye, not bourbon, per his initial request. Mr. Quinn works quickly, and he works without error.

It is legend, this efficiency of his. I learned of it one night at PDT, a faux speakeasy in the East Village — secret entrance, abundant taxidermy — that’s about as far in spirit (and spirits) from the blunt, timeless rough-and-tumble of P. J. Clarke’s as you can get. I asked Jim Meehan, the cocktail shaman there, whom he and other celebrated young mixologists of the moment looked up to.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Easy Money, Hard Truths (A must read)

Are you worried that we are passing our debt on to future generations? Well, you need not worry.

Before this recession it appeared that absent action, the government’s long-term commitments would become a problem in a few decades. I believe the government response to the recession has created budgetary stress sufficient to bring about the crisis much sooner. Our generation — not our grandchildren’s — will have to deal with the consequences.
Read the rest here. This is an outstanding piece by the highly respected David Einhorn and I recommend it strongly.

Hat tip T-19

The Episcopal Assembly

Yes, I have been keeping tabs on the goings on in NYC. Last night I even started to write a post on the subject. But halfway into it, I realized I had very little to note that others haven't already said, in many cases better than I could. So I will confine myself to referring those interested in the much anticipated meeting of our hierarchs to some of the sites covering or commenting on the affair.

For coverage of the meeting and the text of some of the opening speeches Josephus over at Byzantine Texas has been doing a good job of keeping up on things. Two good blog posts dealing with the hopes for the Assembly that I strongly recommend were written by Fr. Jonathon (hat tip Owen) and Fr. Stephen Freeman. Both are in my opinion excellent posts.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem: The Eastern Churches need liturgical revolution

Somehow I missed this, but it's significant.

Via Rorate Caeli:
One peculiarity of the Middle East is the large number of sui iuris Eastern Churches that have taken root here: the Melkites, Syrians, Maronites, Copts, Armenians and Chaldeans. These churches need to live their liturgical and linguistic particularity on the one hand, and a greater communion among themselves on the other. Currently, this communion leaves something to be desired. They also need pastoral and liturgical renewal. The Latin Church went through this change at the Second Vatican Council, which revolutionized its liturgy and ecclesiology and gave it a new openness to the world. The Eastern Churches are in need of a similar revolution so that they might be able to adapt and modernize and thus better meet the needs of their congregations today...

...60. The Liturgy promises to be an area of regular collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox. Many desire a liturgical renewal which is grounded in Tradition and cognisant of modern sensitivities and current spiritual and pastoral needs. As far as possible, such work needs to be collaborative undertaking.
Read the rest here. The comments are interesting. Not surprisingly a lot of the Trad Catholics are obsessing about the use of dead languages for the liturgy and are missing the point. It's not the language... it's the Language that matters.

As for liturgical collaboration with the Orthodox; I have no idea what planet these people are from, but I hope the weather is nice. The last time I checked the Jerusalem Patriarchate (the real one) does not even accept Latin baptisms. If they think they are going to score points with us by suggesting "liturgical collaboration" and that we do a Novus Ordo on the ancient liturgy of the Church then the Vatican needs to start drug testing its bishops.
“The Church is conservative by nature, as it maintains the apostolic belief. If we want to pass the belief from one generation to another for centuries, the belief must be intact. Any reform damaging the belief, traditions and values is called heresy.”
-Patriarch Kyril of Moscow and all the Russia's

Fr. Anthony Chadwick (TAC): New Hope in Europe – Holy Russia

...Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, said to the Pope: that the Catholic Church will not be alone in the new evangelization of dechristianized Europe, because it will have at its side the Russian Orthodox Church, “no longer a competitor, but an ally.” The Russian Church has seen many things change for the better under Benedict XVI, quite apart from the fact that the Russians detest the Poles. Benedict XVI is made of the theological and intellectual stuff that the Orthodox admire, and the fact that dechristianisation has to be beaten before it beats the Churches. We can only do this together. The third vital dimension is mutually embracing the great Christian Tradition at the heart of the Church’s mission to Europe.

What strikes me in Patriarch Kirill’s writing, Norm of Faith as Norm of Life, is a convergence with a former reflection of mine in The Anglo-Catholic, that of the futility of moral and political combats without first transmitting the faith. Before we can fight the evils of abortion and perverted sexuality and other such problems of society, we have to transmit faith in God and the experience of conversion to Christ. Otherwise, activism is futile. How refreshing it is to read the teaching of the Patriarch of Moscow!

The first notion to come out is that of Tradition, but the great tradition and not the ideology of marginal groups of western Christian reactionaries. He urges us to a totally different philosophy of life based on man’s transfiguration and sanctification. The big problem we all suffer is not having the spiritual health needed to defend ourselves from the rot of relativism and what Pope John Paul II called the culture of death. The Patriarch traces the history of the liberal Enlightenment ideas and the rejection of Tradition, chiefly expressed by the French Revolution and the Protestant Reformation.

He has this to say about some of the current problems in the west:
If we look at the question of female priesthood or that of the admission of homosexuality, is not this perhaps precisely what happens today? Both of the questions confirm, among other things, the thesis about the liberal nature of Protestantism, as previously defined. It is absolutely evident that the introduction of female priesthood and the admission of homosexuality have taken place under the influence of a certain liberal vision of human rights: a vision in which these rights are radically opposed to sacred tradition.
Now, the Patriarch would not then go and deny man all freedom and subject him to slavery, but rather establish the basis of a different anthropology from that with which we have become familiar in the liberal and anti-traditional west. It is the same liberty of perfection as we find in the moral theology of St Thomas Aquinas. The truth makes us free. True liberty is freedom from sin, determinism and mechanisation. It is the freedom that comes through suffering and asceticism. A vital dimension in this emancipation is the communion of the Church. We are made for love and community, not for individual isolation and alienation.

The modern conception of liberalism has penetrated into every institution and each one of us, and it is the greatest obstacle to evangelisation. How do we do something about it? Do we resort to terrorism and violence, or what? This is precisely the question I asked in my other article.
Read the rest here. I strongly recommend it in its entirety.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Memory Eternal: H.I.M. the Dowager Empress Leonida (Romanov) has reposed

MOSCOW, May 24 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow Patriarchate expressed its condolences on Monday over the death of Grand Duchess of Russia Leonida Georgievna Romanov.

"Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, who had lived a very dramatic, complicated and long life, never forgot Russia," archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who is in charge of the Russian Orthodox Church's relations with society, said.

The de-jure empress, the eldest representative of the Romanov family, died late on Sunday at the age of 95 in Madrid.

"Yesterday, the senior priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate in Madrid, Father Andrei Korodchkin, visited her and administered the Holy Mysteries. Towards evening, there was deterioration [in her health], and the monarchess was taken to hospital," spokesman for the Romanov house Alexander Zakatov said.

He said Leonida Georgievna's daughter and Head of the Romanov Dynasty Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, remained by her mother's side until the end.

Leonida Georgievna was the last representative of the Romanov Imperial House born before the Russian Revolution in 1914. She was descended from the House of Mukhrani, a collateral branch of the Bagrationi dynasty. Her family ruled ancient Georgia and Armenia from the early Middle Ages until the beginning of the 16th century.
Read the rest here.

It is reported that she is to be laid to rest in the imperial crypt at the Fortress of Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg.

May her memory be eternal!

A glimpse back: Russian Monks in 1986

A well preached funeral

I draw the reader's attention to the sermon of the late Dr. E. V. Hill at his wife's funeral. He was a Protestant so I am not making any theological endorsements. But I found it quite moving.

Hat tip: Fr. John Whiteford

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sweden's Royal Romances (and scandals)

Sweden has got royal wedding fever, and it's got it bad: when Victoria, 32, first in line to her country's throne (and 196th in line to ours), marries on June 19 after a courtship of eight years, it will mark the culmination of Love Stockholm, a two-week extravaganza of music, theatre, food and outside events that begins on June 6, National Day. At least half a million people are expected to throng the cobbled streets of the capital to watch the celebrations, which will include a voyage by the newlyweds across Stockholm Bay on the royal barge Vasaorden. The date coincides with the 200th anniversary of Sweden's reigning Bernadotte dynasty. There has been nothing this big in the royal world since Charles and Diana walked down the aisle of St Paul's in 1981 — though we all know how that one ended.

The souvenir sellers of Gamla Stan, the old town in which the palace lies, are already laying out their merchandise. Want a Victoria and Daniel fridge magnet? Or a Sweden Year of Love snow globe? "We're getting the T-shirts in next week," says an Indian shopkeeper. Sales so far have been mostly to foreigners, but he's optimistic Swedes will start to buy as the great day approaches.

Not everything has been going to plan on the domestic front, however. First, Victoria's brother, Carl Philip, 31, ended a decade-long relationship with his girlfriend, Emma Pernald, and began stepping out with Sofia Hellqvist, a glamour model and reality-TV star who posed for a shoot wearing nothing but a G-string and an artistically arranged python. Then came an even worse moment: with weeks to go until Victoria's big day, her glamorous younger sister, Madeleine, 27, once spoken of as a match for Prince William, stunned Swedes by breaking off her engagement to her dashing lawyer fiancé, Jonas Bergström, after he reportedly two-timed her with Tora Uppström Berg, a Norwegian former handball star, now studying at university in Bournemouth.
Read the rest here.

This is a rather sad indication of how low things have sunk among Europe's modern royals. As someone recently noted on a related issue; if they keep marrying commoners at this rate, incest and inbreeding won't be an excuse for their dysfunctional behavior much longer.

Is liberal Catholicism dead?

One can only hope. Some good points despite the all too common sloppy journalism in the MSM when the topic is religion. Try to ignore the rather glaring factual errors.
The liberal rebellion in American Catholicism has dogged Benedict and his predecessors since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. "Vatican II," which overhauled much of Catholic teaching and ritual, had a revolutionary impact on the Church as a whole. It enabled people to hear the Mass in their own languages; embraced the principle of religious freedom; rejected anti-Semitism; and permitted Catholic scholars to grapple with modernity.

But Vatican II meant even more to a generation of devout but restless young people in the U.S. Rather than a course correction, Terrence Tilley, now head of the Fordham University's theology department, wrote recently, his generation perceived "an interruption of history, a divine typhoon that left only the keel and structure of the church unchanged." They discerned in the Council a call to greater church democracy, and an assertion of individual conscience that could stand up to the authority of even the Pope. So, they battled the Vatican's birth-control ban, its rejection of female priests and insistence on celibacy, and its authoritarianism.

Rome pushed back, and the ensuing struggle defined a movement, whose icons included peace activist Fr. Daniel Berrigan, feminist Sister Joan Chittister, and sociologist/author Fr. Andrew Greeley. Its perspectives were covered in The National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal and America. Martin Sheen held down Hollywood, and the movement even boasted its own cheesy singing act: the St. Louis Jesuits. The reformers' premier membership organization was Call to Action, but their influence was felt at the highest reaches of the American Church, as sympathetic American bishops passed left-leaning statements on nuclear weapons and economic justice. Remarks Tilley, "For a couple of generations, progressivism was an [important] way to be Catholic."

Then he adds, "But I think the end of an era is here."
Read the rest here.

Is Europe a ticking economic bomb?

If the trouble starts -- and it remains an "if" -- the trigger may well be obscure to the concerns of most Americans: a missed budget projection by the Spanish government, the failure of Greece to hit a deficit-reduction target, a drop in Ireland's economic output.

But the knife-edge psychology currently governing global markets has put the future of the U.S. economic recovery in the hands of politicians in an assortment of European capitals. If one or more fail to make the expected progress on cutting budgets, restructuring economies or boosting growth, it could drain confidence in a broad and unsettling way. Credit markets worldwide could lock up and throw the global economy back into recession.

For the average American, that seemingly distant sequence of events could translate into another hit on the 401(k) plan, a lost factory shift if exports to Europe decline and another shock to the banking system that might make it harder to borrow.

"If what happened in Greece were to happen in a large country, it could fundamentally mark our times," Angelos Pangratis, head of the European Union delegation to the United States, said Friday after a panel discussion on the crisis in Greece sponsored by the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
Read the rest here.

S. Korea severs nearly all ties with the North

SEOUL, South Korea — President Lee Myung-bak said on Monday that South Korea would drastically reduce trade with North Korea, restrict North Korean merchant ship use of South Korean sea lanes and call on the United Nations Security Council to punish the North for what he called the deliberate sinking a South Korean warship two months ago.

“We have always tolerated North Korea’s brutality, time and again,” Mr. Lee said in a nationally televised speech. “But now things are different. North Korea will pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts.

“Trade and exchanges between South and North Korea will be suspended,” he added.

Cutting off trade with North Korea is probably the strongest unilateral action the South can take against the impoverished North. South Korea imports $230 million worth of seafood and other products from the North a year. North Korea earns $50 million a year making clothes and carrying out other business deals with South Korean companies.

Mr. Lee also said that South Korea would block North Korean merchant ships from using South Korean waters off the southern coast. That would force the ships to detour and use more fuel.
Read the rest here.

Dissent in Cyprus

As noted in an earlier post the Archbishop of Cyprus had some strong words for those protesting the Papal visit. Many of these people are associated with some of the schismatic sects out there. Now however, Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesou (Cyprus) has chimed in. Mincing no words in a recent interview; he blasted the Pope's planned visit and launched into a fierce attack on the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church...
"Frankly and before all I disagree with the coming of the Pope to Cyprus and I say with my whole soul that the Pope is a heretic, he is not a bishop, he is not an Orthodox Christian and this is what the Holy Fathers say. If I am wrong, I am ready to be corrected, but on the basis of the Holy Fathers, not based on the mindset of globalization. Just because I disagree does not mean that I am being disorderly and am outside the Church [as some have claimed]."
Read the rest here.

Frankly, I see no reason for this sort of invective. As I have noted on numerous occasions there is absolutely no danger of any pending restoration of communion. Let the Pope go where he will within reason. Somehow I doubt that this sort of virulent reaction would be forthcoming if the person visiting Cyprus was the Archbishop of Canterbury (whose orders and sacraments the Church of Cyprus is actually on record recognizing as of the early part of the last century!).

Seriously, how is the Pope threatening the Orthodox Church? Is it because we refer to him as the Pope and address him with the honorifics customary to the office? We do that with Protestant clergy all the time. It's called courtesy and does not imply acceptance of anyone's sacraments or holy orders. It is a given that the Orthodox Church is not of one mind on the subject of the grace of Catholic sacraments.

I don't have a problem with pointing out the silliness of those who constantly predict the imminent end of the schism. I have done that quite a bit myself. It is one thing to point out that we have major issues dividing us and despite four decades of "dialogue" no real progress has been made. It is altogether a different matter to be unnecessarily rude to a guest and make comments which some might call petty (see the references to the Pope's car).

I am inclined to agree with some of what +Athanasios said. The Roman Church is heretical. If I did not believe that I would still be Catholic. But in my experience I haven't seen a lot of people converted by insulting them. Nor is this likely to advance relations with a body (heretical or no) with whom we share a great deal of common interests like combatting the rising tide of secularism and Islamo-Facism and promoting charity. Surely this does not imply the abandonment of the Orthodox Faith.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sunday May 23: Feast of the Great New Martyr St. Evgeny Rodionov


Evgeny (or Yevgeny) Aleksandrovich Rodionov was eighteen years old and serving his obligatory military service when he was captured by Muslim insurgents near Chechnya. After enduring months of extremely harsh captivity he was told he could save himself by converting to Islam. But he refused to remove the cross he wore. On May 23rd 1996, his 19th birthday, after enduring great torture he was decapitated by his captors and buried with three other murdered soldiers in a shell crater. His mother went to great lengths and expense to locate and recover her son's remains which have been reburied with honor. His grave is now a popular shrine for pilgrims and St. Evgeny has become the unofficial patron of the Russian Army.

His mother is still alive and often writes and speaks about her son.

Great Martyr Evgeny pray for us!

Mother Earth, Pagan Rituals, Ancestor Worship, Dancing Girls—the Consecration of Mary Glasspool (Episcopal Bishopess)

Its just...I don't know what to say. I've never seen anything like it.
-Matt Kennedy

Source with a link to the full video. Caution: Be sure to put your coffee down and remove any blunt instruments from arms reach before watching this.

Europe's reality check

PARIS — Across Western Europe, the “lifestyle superpower,” the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They have also translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net. “The Europe that protects” is a slogan of the European Union.

But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing climbing deficits, with more bad news ahead.

With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing working hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.
Read the rest here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Britain: New Prime Minister is resisting the security bubble

The guys with wires coming out of their ears are there for a reason...
David Cameron is rejecting the advice of top security officials by insisting on walking around Whitehall, refusing police motorcycle escorts and demanding to be allowed to keep his BlackBerry smartphone.

There is increasing nervousness about the protection of the Prime Minister, who officials believe is making himself vulnerable to terrorists, lone obsessives and cyber-criminals.

Security analysis would suggest that if Mr Cameron is more vulnerable to attack, then the ministers and police officers walking with him, and the members of the public around him, are also at greater risk. Deeper concerns have been expressed that his actions undermine the Government’s message on national security. The MI5 threat assessment is now at “severe”, meaning that an attack is highly likely.
Read the rest here.

I empathize with Mr. Cameron. Nobody wants to live their life in a bulletproof goldfish bowl, no matter how comfortable the bowl might be. But some things have to be put up with, and in his job security is near the top of that list. The article is correct in noting that when VIP's step outside the security bubble they are not just putting themselves at risk. They put all of those in their vicinity in danger as well. It's not fair but that's the way things are.

When he first took office President Reagan bristled at the constant presence of his Secret Service minders and one evening complained aloud about being "crowded" by them. The senior agent responded matter-of-factly "Mr. President, we are like Hail to the Chief. We come with the job." Several weeks later that agent (Jerry Parr) body slammed President Reagan into his bulletproof car as a madman tried (and nearly succeeded) to kill him outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. Three other people were gravely wounded in that attack.

Memo to anyone seeking high political office: The guys in suits and sunglasses with wires coming out of their ears are not stage props. If you don't want them around, consider another line of work.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

PA Attorney General Subpoenas Twitter to Name Bloggers

Harrisburg, Pa. - The state attorney general's office has issued a subpoena threatening officials of the social networking service Twitter with arrest unless they reveal the names of two bloggers who have been critical of Attorney General Tom Corbett and his public corruption investigation.

The subpoena orders Twitter's custodian of records to provide "any and all subscriber information" pertaining to the accounts "bfbarbie" and "CasablancaPA," including name, address, contact information, creation date, and Internet protocol address.

The accounts have criticized Corbett's use of grand juries, suggesting he used the investigations for political gain and to go after political opponents.

The Twitter representative was supposed to appear before the statewide investigating grand jury on May 14 to "give evidence regarding alleged violations of the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." The court document does not specify what crime is being investigated.

The subpoena, issued May 6, further states that failure to attend may result in an arrest warrant for contempt of court. It is not clear whether Twitter has turned over the information.
Read the rest here.

Quote of the day

Let’s face it. The Euro was never anything but the Deutsche Mark in drag.
-New Pilgrim
Source

Here they go again

To the various readers who have very kindly sent me links to the plethora of recent news reports on Ortho-Cath relations, my thanks. I have seen many of them, though several were new. My silence should not be interpreted in this case so much as ignorance as rather ignoring. The vast majority of these reports are from the Catholic press, which to be frank, has a rather unfortunate reputation for making rosy predictions of pending meetings between Moscow and the Pope or even talk of imminent restoration of communion every time there is any contact between the Orthodox and Rome. Indeed I shudder to think of the forests laid waste by this repetitive ritual. It seems that they are unable (or unwilling?) to discern the difference between our legitimate interest in closer relations and cooperation with Rome on matters of mutual interest from evidence of serious progress in healing the schism.

Just for the record; my silence on the latest wave of fluff reporting is simply because I have already addressed this silliness so many times that I don't see any point in going over it every time the Catholic press (sadly the secular press too often takes their cue from them) decides to start trumpeting the latest thaw in relations with us. The facts have not changed. No progress worthy of mention has been made on the very serious theological issues that divide Rome from Orthodoxy. If/when that changes it will be a story worthy of front page coverage. Until then we would all be well advised to calm down.

For now I am glad H.H. is traveling to Cyprus and wish him a pleasant and safe trip. One hopes he will have some time to relax a little. I am reliably informed that Cyprus is very beautiful in the spring.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Orthodox Primate of Cyprus condemns anti-Catholic protesters

THE ARCHBISHOP yesterday slammed religious groups who oppose the Pope’s visit in June, warning that they put themselves outside the Church. A group, calling itself the ‘Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Motherland Traditions’, has been circulating a booklet entitled Pope: The Cause Of Evil. “Unfortunately there are in Cyprus too, the mindless who go against the decisions of the official Church,” Archbishop Chrysostomos II said.

He warned that these people were placing themselves outside the Church. The Archbishop said the Pontiff had been officially invited to Cyprus by the government with the Church’s agreement and “as the official Church we will welcome him with love and respect.” Chrysostomos II said there will not be any talks between the Church and Pope. “We will exchange views and I believe his visit will be positive and beneficial for our country and our people,” Chrysostomos II said. He urged those who opposed the visit to “come round” and listen to the official church.
Read the rest here.
Note: The above excerpt was slightly modified in format, though not wording, to make it more readable.

A brief history of the Islamic persecution of the Coptic Church of Egypt

At 11:30 p.m. on January 6, the Orthodox Christmas for millions of Egyptian Christians, gunshots rang from a drive-by car, killing 7 parishioners exiting evening mass. The Nagaa Hamadi Church Massacre, as it became known, left 26 seriously injured in the small southern town.

During the funerals, greater mayhem erupted. In surrounding towns and villages some 3,000 Muslims broke into Coptic properties, agricultural plots, and businesses, looting and setting fires to shops. Across the country churches were burned. It took Egypt’s police three days to show up and six weeks to arrest a single culprit.

As it has become customary, the government described the attack as ‘’an individual incident’’, another dispute among villagers. The phrase has become so habitual in describing attacks on Christians over the past 40 years, it is used as a practical joke.

In reality The Nagaa Hamadi Church Massacre was the latest spike in a 40-year-long campaign of killing and violence against of Egypt’s estimated 12 million Christians, known as Copts It’s a campaign that is all the more ghastly for the fact that it has been largely ignored by the world of elite opinion. Yet in the past 40 years, the numbers of victims has soared to well more than 20,000, if the count includes those killed, wounded, dispossessed, or otherwise harmed, according to human rights groups.
Read the rest here.

Britain begins dismantling the nanny state

LONDON — Defying those who said it might be paralyzed by internal divisions, Britain’s new coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on Wednesday unveiled the most ambitious plan in decades for upending the highly centralized and often intrusive way the country is governed.

The plan, as laid out by the new deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, would roll back a proliferation of “nanny state” laws, non-elected administrative bodies and surveillance systems — many of them a product of Labour’s 13 years in power — that critics say have severely curbed individual freedoms and enlarged state powers to a degree unrivaled by most other democratic societies.

Vowing that the coalition would end “the culture of spying on its citizens,” Mr. Clegg said it would “tear through the statute book,” scrapping a nationwide system of identity cards on which the Labour government spent huge sums, and abandoning a new generation of “biometric” passports that would hold a vastly expanded archive of personal data. In addition, he said, there would be new restrictions on the government’s right to intercept and hold personal Internet and e-mail traffic and to store DNA data from people not convicted of any crime.

Mr. Clegg said the changes would also place new curbs on tens of thousands of closed-circuit television cameras in public places — a field in which, critics say, Britain is a world leader. Those critics, including Mr. Clegg during the recent election campaign, have complained that despite the cameras — which the police use to trace the movement of suspects and victims through shopping centers, city streets, hospitals, gas stations and other public places — there has been little impact on crime rates over the years.

“It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding citizens get treated as if they have got something to hide,” Mr. Clegg said.

The plan would also create a fully elected House of Lords, scrapping heredity and political favor as a passport to power, and commit the government to a referendum on changing the voting system for the House of Commons. Under the coalition’s proposed “alternative vote” system, similar to one used in Australia, candidates would have to accumulate 50 percent or more of the vote in their constituencies to secure election, effectively shaking up the politics of “safe” parliamentary seats that has given scores of M.P.’s what amounts to lifetime employment.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fr. Stephen on the struggle for True Communion

An outstanding post. Read it here and leave your comments there please.

Breaking: Joe Sestak has defeated Arlen Specter

MSNBC is reporting that veteran PA Senator Arlen Specter (D) who defected from the Republican party last year has been defeated by his primary challenger Joe Sestak. This is likely to greatly improve the odds of the GOP gaining the seat in November. It is also further evidence of a powerful anti-incumbent and anti-establishment sentiment in the country at large.

S. Korea to blame the North for ship sinking but plans no retaliation

South Korea will formally blame North Korea on Thursday for launching a torpedo at one of its warships in March, causing an explosion that killed 46 sailors and heightened tensions in one of the world's most perilous regions, U.S. and East Asian officials said.

South Korea reached its conclusion that North Korea was responsible for the attack after investigators from Australia, Britain, Sweden and the United States pieced together portions of the ship at the port of Pyongtaek, 40 miles southwest of Seoul. The Cheonan sank on March 26, following an explosion that rocked the vessel as it sailed in the Yellow Sea off South Korea's west coast.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because South Korea has yet to disclose the findings of the investigation, said that subsequent analysis determined that the torpedo was identical to a North Korean torpedo that had previously been obtained by South Korea...

...South Korea's conclusion underscores the continuing threat posed by North Korea and the intractable nature of the dispute between the two Koreas. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak must respond forcefully to the attack, analysts said, but not in a way that would risk further violence from North Korea, whose artillery could — within minutes — devastate greater Seoul, which has a population of 20.5 million...

...The sinking — and the reluctance of the South to respond with an in-kind attack — is the latest example of the raw military intimidation that North Korea has practiced for decades. With 1.19 million troops on active duty, the Korean People's Army has positioned about 70 percent of its fighting forces and firepower within 60 miles of the border with the South.
Read the rest here.

I empathize with S. Korea's position. But I also believe that part of the problem is that N. Korea has gotten away with this kind of outrageous behavior for so long that they feel they can commit acts of war and mass murder with impunity. Something needs to be done to send a message that business as usual is over.

Rand Paul's win in Kentucky sends a tremor through the political world

WASHINGTON – Rand Paul, one of the early leaders of the Tea Party movement, won the Republican nomination for Senate from Kentucky Tuesday night, delivering a powerful blow to the party’s establishment and offering the clearest evidence yet of the strength of the anti-government sentiment simmering at the grass-roots level.

Mr. Paul, the son of Representative Ron Paul of Texas, easily defeated Trey Grayson, the Secretary of State from Kentucky. Kentucky voters turned against Mr. Grayson even though he had the support of the state’s best-known political leader – Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader.

"I have a message," Mr. Rand said, delivering a victory speech in Bowling Green. "A message from the Tea Party. A message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back."
Read the rest here.

Mr. Paul may well become the first Libertarian Senator in our country's history. Of course Peter Schiff is also running in Connecticut.

Gay Couple Convicted in Malawi

A gay couple in Malawi were found guilty on Tuesday of unnatural acts and gross indecency, the consequence of their holding an engagement ceremony in an insular nation where homosexuality is largely seen as nonexistent or something that must be suppressed.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 33, and Steven Monjeza, 26, face up to 14 years in prison. A magistrate said he would sentence the men on Thursday.
Read the rest here.

Is their conduct worthy of condemnation from the pulpit? Yes. Is this the legitimate business of the government? No.

+Bartholomew to visit Russia

ROME, MAY 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Moving forward in a sometimes troubled history, the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople will visit his counterpart in Moscow, arriving Saturday and staying through the end of the month.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia invited Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to make the visit. Bartholomew I will be accompanied by an entourage including a few ranking Orthodox prelates and several laypeople.

The program includes Moscow, the Laura of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius, the Monastery of the Transfiguration on Valaam, and St. Petersburg.

The two patriarchs will celebrate Divine Liturgy together Sunday, and other activities on the program include marking Kirill's name day on May 24, the opening ceremony of the Days of Slavonic Literature and Culture, a concert to be performed at the State Kremlin Palace and a reception given on behalf of the government of Russia.

The two patriarchs will join to celebrate the Divine Liturgy the next Sunday as well, Orthodox Sunday of All Saints, in St. Petersburg.
Source

Oh to be a fly on the wall...

Calif pension fund asks state for additional $600M

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Facing massive investment losses, the board of California's giant pension fund voted Tuesday to make the state increase its contributions to employee retirement benefits by $600 million in the coming fiscal year.

The increase comes as California grapples with a $19 billion budget deficit and a threat by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to eliminate its welfare program.

The contribution increase would be for one year starting in July, but the board is likely to require similar increases in future years. Local school districts, already facing their own budget struggles, also will see their pension contribution rates grow.

The development is driven largely by huge investment losses by the California Public Employees Retirement System, but also because people are living longer and retiring earlier.
Read the rest here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"There's no money left."

Liam Byrne, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, last week wrote a letter for his successor - the Liberal Democrat David Laws - stating: "I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.”

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Mr Laws said: "When I arrived at my desk on the very first day as Chief Secretary, I found a letter from the previous chief secretary to give me some advice, I assumed, on how I conduct myself over the months ahead.

"Unfortunately, when I opened it, it was a one-sentence letter which simply said ’Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left’, which was honest but slightly less helpful advice than I had been expecting."
Read the rest here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

'Obliterating' Iraq's Christians

What is most startling about the report of the heartless double bus bombings on May 2 that targeted and injured 80 Christian students traveling to northern Iraq's Mosul University was that the young Christians there attend university at all. Since the U.S. invasion, Iraq's Christians have been mostly driven out of the country by violence directed against them for their religion. Their communities are shattered. That these young people continued to dream of preparing themselves to serve their country signals that community's deep commitment to Iraq and a modicum of hope they still harbor for its future.

Unless the Obama administration acts fast to develop policies to help them, though, their hope will likely be in vain.

Relentless waves of bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, extortions and rapes have triggered a mass exodus of Christians from Iraq over the past seven years. Since 2003, over half of the estimated 1.5 million Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian, Syriac Orthodox, and Armenian Christians, as well as some Protestants have fled to Syria, Jordan and farther flung places. While only 3 or 4 percent of Iraq's pre-2003 population, they account for 40 percent of its refugees, the UN reported.
Read the rest here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ortho-Cath discussion

I draw the reader's attention to the current discussion at Eirenikon where the topic is the same one I addressed here. A lot of the comments are just the usual boiler plate back and forth about the Pope, Vatican I etc. But if you scroll down you will find a series of excellent and very thoughtful comments by Carlos Antonio Palad. Mr. Palad is a traditional Catholic and regular contributor over at Rorate Caeli, whose comments on matters Orthodox I have tended to find both well reasoned and fair. He stands out among many online Catholics who too often tend to one of two extremes, being either utterly lost to the Kumbaya "can't we all just get along" wing, or the polemically anti-Orthodox who have little use for the "schismatic Easterners" until we kneel and kiss the Pope's ring.

I commend his comments as well worth the read.

Please leave comments at Eirenikon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The pattern is set - betting the bank on a Keynesian free lunch

Kyle Bass writes his investors again

This is one of the best (and shortest) reads on what just happened, and what is going to happen.

Illinois: Trying to make California look good

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - For 35 years, frail senior citizens in southern Illinois could turn to the Shawnee Development Council for help cleaning the house, buying groceries or any of the chores that make the difference between living at home or moving to an institution.

No more. The council shut down the program Thursday because of a budget crisis created by the state of Illinois' failure to pay its bills.

Paralyzed by the worst deficit in its history, the state has fallen months behind in paying what it owes to businesses and organizations, pushing some of them to the edge of bankruptcy.

Illinois isn't bothering with the formality of issuing IOUs, as California did last year. It simply doesn't pay.

Plenty of states face major deficits as the recession continues. They're cutting services or raising taxes or expanding gambling to close the gap. But Illinois is taking the extra step of ignoring bills.

Right now, $4.4 billion worth of bills, some dating back to October, are sitting in the Illinois comptroller's office waiting to be paid someday.
Read the rest here.

Owner of exploded oil rig citing 1851 law seeks to limit liability to $27 million

NEW YORK - The company that owns the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig said Thursday it will petition a federal court in Houston to cap its overall liability from the incident at less than $27 million.

If successful, Transocean Ltd. would be left with as much as $533 million in insurance money from the failed venture. That's almost enough to cover the revenue the company was expecting from a three-year contract with BP PLC.
Read the rest here.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
-Shakespeare; Henry VI Part 2 - Act 4 - Scene 2

Clearly this is a company that is already morally bankrupt. Let us hope that actual fiscal bankruptcy follows quickly. And no, I don't give a damn about the share holders.

Top ten most likely sovereign defaults

Highest Default Probabilities
Entity Name Mid Spread CPD (%)
Venezuela 1002.63 48.82
Argentina 900.74 44.58
Pakistan 668.50 36.28
Greece 526.00 35.56
Ukraine 568.07 32.44
Dubai/Emirate of 429.58 25.63
California/State of 265.00 20.84
Latvia, Republic of 333.05 20.58
Sicily/Region of 250.10 19.45
Iraq 304.00 19.26

Source

Hawaii to birther loons: Go away!

HONOLULU — The conspiracy theorists who cling to the false belief that President Obama was born outside the United States outrage many Democrats and embarrass many Republicans. But to a group of state workers who toil away in a long building across from the Capitol, they represent something else: a headache and a waste of time.

The theorists, known as “birthers,” have deluged the state Health Department here with so many demands for information about the president’s birth in Hawaii that Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, signed a law this week allowing state agencies to ignore repeated requests from people who have had a request answered in the last year.

It comes none too soon for Health Department workers, who have been inundated with so many requests for the president’s birth records that a printout of the e-mail messages they have received on the topic through March stands some 13 inches high. Each one required a response, and many required consultations with state lawyers.

“It became really, really a burden,” said Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the department, who said that handling the hundreds of requests took up huge amounts of the department’s time as it was trying to respond to an H1N1 flu outbreak. Many requests, she said, came from the same handful of people.
Read the rest here
My take on birthers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Western world keeps spending its way to disaster

The Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements (BIS), the oldest international financial institution in the world, has functioned as the central bank of central bankers for 80 years. In a working paper written by three senior staff economists (“The future of public debt: prospects and implications”), released in March, BIS warns that Greece isn’t the only Western economy with hazard lights flashing.

Indeed, it names 11 more: Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Britain – and the United States. Without “drastic measures,” BIS says, all of these countries will hit a wall of debt.

When the senior economists at BIS warn 12 of the richest countries on Earth that they must take drastic action to reduce debt, you know that it’s time to check the air bags. The only thing you don’t know, that you need to know, is the precise time of the crash. The lesson is already obvious: Governments can’t drive recklessly, use only the accelerator for braking and not eventually crash.
Read the rest here.
Hat tip Jim Sinclair

As a followup; the original paper by BIS referenced above can be found online here. It is well worth reading.

A couple of bumps

I would like to draw the reader's attention very briefly to two minor changes in the side bar. First Mike Liccione's excellent blog Sacramentum Vitae is back. Mike was off in the big city working for a while. And secondly please take note of Saint George's Military Orthodox Association (SGMOA) whose blog is now linked in the sidebar. This is an organization dedicated to supporting the Orthodox members of our armed forces. Please check out their blog and lend your support in any way you can.

16 Reasons why California is the next Greece

1. California has a $20 billion budget gap -- despite last year's ravaging cutbacks.

2. Without a federal bailout, Schwarzenegger will TERMINATE at least six major state programs. These programs include Healthy Families, CalWORKS, Adult Day Health Care, In-Home Supportive Services, California Food Assistance Program, and all funding for Transitional Housing Placement for foster kids.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The NY Times on our coming Greece moment

It’s easy to look at the protesters and the politicians in Greece — and at the other European countries with huge debts — and wonder why they don’t get it. They have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford. No mass rally and no bailout fund will change that. Only benefit cuts or tax increases can.

Yet in the back of your mind comes a nagging question: how different, really, is the United States?

The numbers on our federal debt are becoming frighteningly familiar. The debt is projected to equal 140 percent of gross domestic product within two decades. Add in the budget troubles of state governments, and the true shortfall grows even larger. Greece’s debt, by comparison, equals about 115 percent of its G.D.P. today.

The United States will probably not face the same kind of crisis as Greece, for all sorts of reasons. But the basic problem is the same. Both countries have a bigger government than they’re paying for. And politicians, spendthrift as some may be, are not the main source of the problem.

We, the people, are.
Read the rest here.

I think the Times has underestimated just how serious the debt bomb is. But I do give them credit for nailing the responsibility part. The American people want it all. We just don't want to pay for it. Americans are all of one mind when the question is asked; do we need to reduce the debt? They absolutely agree it should be a major priority... as long as none of the measures touch either their wallets or their favorite government service/entitlement program.

The problem is debt

May 10 (Bloomberg) -- Governments will only bring about an end to the credit crisis through the “blood, sweat and tears” of cutting the amount of public debt, “Black Swan” author Nassim Taleb said.

“The crisis came from debt and you don’t escape it with more debt,” Taleb said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio’s “Bloomberg Surveillance” today. “We’re in a situation where we had a patient who we discovered had cancer a year and a half ago and all we’ve been giving the patient is painkillers. The tumor is getting worse because we are transforming private debt into public debt and public debt is not manageable.”
Read the rest here.

Britain has a government

Five days after the people spoke, Britain has a new government. A little over an hour ago Gordon Brown resigned as Prime Minister and moments ago David Cameron arrived at No. 10 Downing Street as the country's new Prime Minister. Unlike in the United States there is no real "lame duck" period. Mr. Brown had no sooner departed the palace then H.M. the Queen summoned Mr. Cameron and asked him to form a government. After the proforma meeting at the palace Mr. Cameron became at once the Prime Minister.

Governing as a minority Prime Minister will be challenging If history is a guide this might not last that long. We will have to see. But the last hung parliament was dissolved in less than a year.

The Euro's rescue... NOT

Confidence in the ability of nations to get their debts under control is not high. Yesterday’s big move in the stock market was a dead cat bounce. Greece is still broke. The EU is now on the hook for another trillion or so dollars. These are facts that can’t be papered over. And the markets are taking notice.

As I write gold is up more than $20 per oz.

Monday, May 10, 2010

70 years ago today: A fateful moment for civilization

Nazi Germany launched its long planned invasion of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In Britain a long simmering political crisis came to a head. Neville Chamberlain was forced to resign and Winston Churchill became Prime Minister in one of the darkest hours in history. Within a month Continental Europe would be lost and Britain would be living under the threat of invasion for the first time since Napoleon's era.

The Netherlands surrendered within days, Rotterdam was bombed with thousands killed even after the Dutch had sued for peace. Belgium fought for ten days before capitulating with her king becoming a prisoner of war. Luxembourg was swallowed in hours. The French army fought well but they were outmaneuvered and unable to stop the massive rush of tanks and bombers. Their vast system of much vaunted fortifications were shown to be of little use. Defeatist sentiment swelled up.

And the British army was forced to retreat to the harbor city of Dunkirk. With their back to the sea and hopelessly encircled the British undertook one of the epic military evacuations of history. Under continuous attack from air and artillery the Royal Navy supported by nearly every water craft in the British Isles that was able to get underway removed the vast bulk of Britain's army and many French troops, sans their heavy equipment which was lost to the enemy.

On June 4th 1940 Winston Churchill stood up at the Treasury Bench in the Commons to report on the events of the war. It was one of the most sobering and at the same time inspiring speeches of the 20th century.


Part 1


Part 2

The final three words of the speech were cut off. They were "...of the old."

Stalin's Ghost

Over the objections of many Russians, posters bearing Stalin’s image were approved by Moscow’s city government for display during celebrations marking Victory Day in Russia on Sunday. The issue was debated in the weeks leading up to the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, and, in the end, the anti-Stalinists won. Only a few such posters were on display, and they were hardly prominent.

This latest battle over how to remember The Great Patriotic War is part of an ongoing struggle for Russia’s post-Soviet identity. Since 2007, a widely used high school history textbook for teachers, developed by the Kremlin, has openly praised Stalin’s wartime leadership and condemned Allied behavior as perfidious. And in 2009 the Kremlin created a history commission dominated by the security services to counter foreign and domestic arguments that the Soviet Union shared responsibility with Nazi Germany for starting the war.

Western scholars and commentators have used such facts to argue that Russia has clearly failed the “Stalin test” — that the brutal dictator (and the Soviet era as a whole) has enjoyed a gradual rehabilitation under Vladimir Putin.
Read the rest here.

An "I told you so" moment for conspiracy theorists?

Federal agents have launched parallel criminal and civil probes of JPMorgan Chase and its trading activity in the precious metals market, The Post has learned.

The probes are centering on whether or not JPMorgan, a top derivatives holder in precious metals, acted improperly to depress the price of silver, sources said.

The Commodities Futures Trade Commission is looking into civil charges, and the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division is handling the criminal probe, according to sources, who did not wish to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.

The probes are far-ranging, with federal officials looking into JPMorgan's precious metals trades on the London Bullion Market Association's (LBMA) exchange, which is a physical delivery market, and the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) for future paper derivative trades.
Read the rest here.

Various conspiracy theorists have long argued that there is widespread price manipulation in the precious metals markets.