Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quote of the day...

...I do ask that Anglicans recognize when they have changed Anglican doctrine, and my argument runs thus

Major Premise: Changing the doctrine on the ordination of women is a departure from “biblically faithful, traditional Anglicanism.” Call it what you will, but the decision to ordain women was an innovation and a departure from the received teaching of Anglicanism on the Sacrament of Orders.

Minor Premise: Changing the doctrine on the marriage of homosexual persons is a departure from “biblically faithful, traditional Anglicanism.” Call it what you will, but the decision to marry homosexual persons is an innovation and a departure from the received teaching of Anglicanism on the Sacrament of Marriage.

Conclusion: Those Anglicans who accept the ordination of women have no standing to reject the marriage of homosexual persons.

Both decisions are radical innovations in Christian doctrine, totally rejected as unbiblical and untraditional by the vast majority of Christians of every time and place (including almost all Anglicans until this generation), and those who accept the first change cannot give a coherent argument from Scripture or Tradition for rejecting the second change. Either doctrine can be changed by majority vote of the General Convention, or it cannot. The doctrine on the ordination of women was changed by majority vote, and even the party of resistance in TEC (represented by Nashotah and Trinity) accepts the legitimacy of that change; on what basis, then, is a change on homosexual marriage by majority vote rejected by those who accepted the first change?

The only possible answer is, We approved of the first change, but we don’t approve of the second change. And that is simply the Will to Power, not an argument about the proper role of authority in the Church. To provide an adequate rejection of homosexual marriage (which I believe must be done by faithful Christians), it is also necessary to admit that the ordination of women was an illegitimate innovation in the life of the Church. And that’s not a Catholic argument; that’s just the operation of right reason and ruthless honesty.

-Fr Jay Scott Newman (Roman Catholic)

From a wide ranging discussion at T-19.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A little baseball wrap up

First of all... congrats to the Boston Red Sox. They won the big enchilada, and they deserved it. Given the choice in this year's World Series I rooted for Boston mainly because I am from the East Coast (though I currently live in California). But neither team had any real emotional pull for me. Boston snapped its dry spell back in '04 and that was when my sympathy cheer expired. Boston is now the new baseball dynasty team replacing the fragmenting Yankees. Speaking of which...

Alex Rodriguez (aka Pay-Rod) opted out of his $252 million contract tonight. He did not wait for the Yankees to present their offer. I confess to a certain amount of surprise in this move. I kinda expected him to opt out. But I figured he and his agent Scott Boras would wait until close to the end of the deadline to do it. The timing here is a clue to motives. It kinda says to me that Alex was not really happy in pinstripes. In which case his moving on is probably a win win situation. (It certainly is a huge win for the Texas Rangers who are now relieved of their obligation for $21 million they would have had to pay the Yankees had the Bronx Bombers kept him.) My reason for suspecting this is that he is unlikely to get a much better offer from any other clubs. The Angels and the Giants would be strapped to come up with his money without gutting the rest of their payroll. The Mets don't want him. The left side of our infield is set thank you very much. I think realistically we are left with Boston and the Cubs. Since the Cubs were for sale last I heard that could make negotiating with them for a hefty contract problematic. Boston may or may not be interested in him. They can certainly afford him. But do they really need him? And do they need the baggage that would come with him?

If this was done for money, I think it will be recorded as a really bad business decision. If on the other hand it was because he is not happy in NY and wants a change in scenery even at the expense of a modest pay cut, then I am happy for him and wish him the best. My guess is that this is the real story. Alex already has more money than the Federal Reserve Bank. Whatever faults he may have, he never struck me as being all about the money. If he liked playing in New York I think he would have waited to at least give the Yankee's offer a show of consideration. He had nothing to loose from that. This basically is Alex shaking the dust of the Bronx from his sandals.

Oh well, five months and four days til opening day. :-)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Benedict XVI &The Spirit of Assisi

It's hard not to notice when the Pope shows up. And you can sometimes say the same when he doesn't. Last fall, Pope Benedict XVI was a notable no-show at a September ceremony to mark 20 years since John Paul II had hosted a groundbreaking gathering of world religious leaders in Assisi, Italy. Some viewed the Pope's absence as a slap to those working for inter-faith dialogue, both inside and outside the Catholic Church,. On Sunday, however, Benedict will be center stage at the most lavish, and well-attended inter-religious ceremony of his papacy, organized by the same Sant'Egidio community that helped launch Assisi. What has changed? Why is Benedict marking 21 years since "the spirit of Assisi" was uncorked, after skipping out on the 20th anniversary?
Read the rest here.
(Hat tip to T-19)

On a practical level I understand why he is doing this. But I really do wish he wouldn't. Unfortunately I have read too much about the history of Islam and the way it works to entertain any serious hope for an understanding. My feeling is that we should extend to them the same level of tolerance that they extend to Christians in predominantly Muslim countries, except for the killing them part. I do draw the line there. Beyond that I think they should stay in their part of the world until they learn to play and get along well with others.

With respect to discussions within Christendom, I think my feeling is what is the point? Protestants are Protestants and are not gong to change. The only exception might at one time have been the Anglicans but they reached a fork in the road back in the 70's. Their choice was go Catholic or Protestant. They have clearly made that choice, and they are realistically way past the point of no return. The dream of Anglican-Catholic reunion is dead (with the possible and intriguing exception of the TAC). The sooner Rome grasps this, the better for all concerned. Among Christians the only ones Rome really has any business holding serious talks with are the Orthodox.

The Christian world is fast dividing into two camps, the apostolic churches on one hand and the theological flavor of the moment groups on the other. Sorry if that offends some readers. But from the Roman / Orthodox perspective that’s really what it comes down to. I am perfectly OK with talking to other groups in order to promote improved understanding and mutual tolerance (which I do think is extremely important). But ecumenism for the sake of getting that cheap warm fuzzy is not a good idea. There has been enough dilution of truth. I have something less than zero use for groups like the NCC and the WCC. My profound albeit respectful theological disagreements with the Roman Church notwithstanding I think B-16 is the best thing to hit their side of the Tiber in a LONNNGGG time. The man calls it like he sees it. I may not agree with him all the time. But I have never failed to respect him. Truth is NOT relative.

Banning God from (religious) schools?

(Swedish)Education Minister Jan Bjorklund told a Swedish newspaper that new rules being drafted by the government would ban religious elements in subjects other than religion, such as biology. He said, "Students must be protected from every form of fundamentalism."

Bjorkland's spokeswoman says, "A student shouldn't be able to pass a natural science test by answering that God created the world. We don't think that's OK."

She said the new rules, which need parliamentary approval, would be introduced in 2009.

From One News Now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Take this job and...

Breaking News:
Joe Torre declined a 1 year $5 M contract offer (with bonuses based on playoff performance) offered by the New York Yankees. This officially ends his 12 years as manager of the club. During his tenure the Yankees went to the playoffs every year, and the world series six times. They won the World Series four of those six. Torre is universally recognized as one of the classiest men in baseball (unlike his employer). I suspect that all of the polite statements aside he may have finally had enough of Mr. Steinbrenner. Those of us who are not Yankee fans are going to have some mixed emotions to sort through over this. Clearly this is great news for the rest of the baseball world. But it is also the end of an era. I wish Joe the best in his future. But I somehow doubt he will remain unemployed for very long (unless he decides to go lie on a beach somewhere for a year).

Ecumenical Sand Castles

Over at the excellent Sacramentum Vitae Mike Liccione has posted his thoughts on recent developments in the world of ecumenism. His report on the developments with the TAC was very interesting (and not terribly surprising). I wish them luck in their efforts since Rome is a vast improvement over being a splinter sect of the fast disintegrating Anglican Communion. However that is not the subject of tonight’s post. I wish to address very briefly Mike's suggestion of a compromise that he feels might help us Orthodox get around Vatican I. Those who have read some of my earlier posts know that I generally see the decrees of that council as quite likely the single greatest obstacle to eventual restoration of communion.

Before proceeding let me begin by noting that I abhor the schism dividing the Latin Church from Orthodoxy. It is an open wound in Christendom that has been aggravated by all too often petty and self interested parties on both sides of the great chasm. And I have no patience for knee jerk anti-Catholics who seem too often more possessed of small minded prejudice than Christian agape. But my great concern is that any restoration of communion be based on a mutual understanding of Truth in the great issues which have separated us. Anything less than that is like trying to build a castle out of sand. It may look pretty, but what is its life expectancy when the tide comes in?

Now let me present Mike's views and idea in his own words.

"...But there is hope nonetheless, and action motivated by such hope. Constantinople and Athens remain closely involved in the current panel discussions. My optimism about the Orthodox stems from the fact that they have held no council, of a kind even they would consider ecumenical, committing Orthodoxy dogmatically to rejecting the Roman communion as one of true, particular churches. There seem to be many Orthodox who take the view that "we know where the Church is, but we don't know where she isn't." Not all Orthodox take the view of the Athonites that popery is a diabolical scourge of Christendom and that Rome doesn't even have a canonical bishop. That actually allows many Orthodox to consider the Latin Church a church with true sacraments, even if she's gone off the rails somewhat about doctrine. Imagine that. But what, realistically, could talks on primacy yield?

Taking their cue from the generation-old Ratzinger proposal made in his book Principles of Catholic Theology, some Eastern Catholics seem to take the view that Vatican I's decrees about papal authority would hold only in the West, not in the East, within a reunited Church. That's a non-starter. If the pope is what Vatican I says he is, then he is that in the East as well as the West. The Orthodox should not expect Rome to retract anything she considers dogma any more than Rome should, or does, expect the Orthodox to retract anything they consider dogma. The real room for compromise is on the level of the exercise of jurisdiction. And that's where theology can help.

The compromise might look like this: to end the schism, the Orthodox patriarchs would defer to Rome on matters not resolved otherwise, and Rome would confine her interventions in those patriarchates to matters not resolved otherwise. The theoretical basis for such an arrangement exists in nuce in the work of Ratzinger on communio and of Zizioulas on eucharistic ecclesiology. I for one believe this is how one aspect of the Ratzinger proposal can be worked out: the one where he says that Rome can require no more of the East than was "held in common during the first millennium." To be sure, views about what was thus held in common diverge, and often diverge sharply. Getting agreement on the point will require consensus about what general form the development of doctrine may take. I think that's where the hard work remains to be done. But it's far from hopeless. I've encountered a good number of Orthodox authors who, while averse to the phrase "development of doctrine" as smacking of addition to the faith-once-delivered, admit what amounts to development in a sense not irreconcilably different from what Newman and Vatican II meant."

First let me restate that I think many Catholics put way too much stock in the lack of a council anathematizing any of the various dogmas of the Latin Church. Councils are not generally held to discuss something which is not controversial. And the decrees of Vatican I relating to Papal Infallibility and Universal Jurisdiction are simply not controversial over on our side of the fence. That’s not to say that we accept them. Rather it’s to say that we are more or less of one mind on the subject. And since we can’t even agree on what day it is, that’s pretty impressive. In the minds of even the most ecumenically minded Orthodox, the decrees of Vatican I are heretical (though many are too polite to say it). Those few who don't see it as heresy either have swum the Tiber or they probably should as a matter of personal honesty.

Having said all this, Mike’s suggestion for getting around the problem of Universal Jurisdiction is an interesting one. But it has a fairly major flaw. This compromise lasts only for as long as Rome chooses to adhere to it. In other words it is a compromise of choice for Rome not of obligation. The decrees of Vatican I remain fully in place. The lack of papal intervention in the Churches of the East is based on restraint, not a lack of authority. And the Pope could at any time choose to set aside that compromise if he deemed it proper to do so. Living under an absolute monarch who chooses to exercise restraint in the use of his powers is not the same thing as having rights which he is bound to respect. However benevolent or restrained the current Pope may be, what guarantee is there for the next, or the one after that?

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

Those are not comfortable words. But there it is.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quote of the day...

...It is an officer’s duty to disagree in private with civilian authority if he believes that an egregious mistake has been made. Then, if the order is not changed, it is that officer’s duty to resign, to throw his stars down on the table and to publicly condemn the policy in question.

It makes me sick that our generals did not have the guts or the courage to condemn Mr. Rumsfeld’s poor planning. Instead, they allowed thousands of our troops to die needlessly.

- Debra A. Ciamaccia (former Captain USMC)
From a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Apologia Contra Letum

This year the Supreme Court will address the constitutionality of certain aspects of the death penalty (DP). At one time I was a strong supporter of the DP. However as Winston Churchill once observed when asked why he was reversing his position on a policy, "I absolutely reserve the right to be smarter today, than I was yesterday." Today I am opposed to capital punishment. My opposition is not based on the issue of cruelty or justice. The truth is that some of those on death row deserve a level of punishment that we as a civilized nation can not impose. My reasons for opposing the DP are...

1. It has no proven deterrent value. Indeed the overwhelming body of evidence indicates the DP has no statistically significant deterrent effect.

2. There are no uniform standards for effective legal council. In some states if the defense attorney has a pulse and is not CURRENTLY disbarred he will do. Examples of some who have passed muster in the courts as adequate legal council in capital trials include lawyers who had no experience trying criminal cases (one was a tax lawyer who had never even tried a traffic ticket), drunks, a lawyer who slept through most of the trial, lawyers who called no witnesses for the defense and did not cross examine any prosecution witnesses, attorneys who have been previously suspended or disbarred and so on. It is not surprising that those states with the higher rates of executions tend to be the ones with the lowest (or no) standards for effective council.

3. Both in capital and non-capital cases there have been a disturbingly high number of wrongful convictions which have been brought to light in recent years. There are also at least two post Furman cases (one in Texas and one in Missouri) where available evidence indicates an overwhelming likelihood that innocent persons were put to death.

4. The appeals process is excruciatingly long and so expensive that it is generally cheaper to incarcerate someone for their natural life than pursue a death sentence.

5. Some states have severely limited the right of appeal in order to reduce expenses and speed up the rate of executions. In some of those states this even extends to prohibiting the introduction of exculpatory evidence discovered after the conviction! This greatly increases what I believe to be an already unacceptable risk of miscarriage of justice.

6. Statistics show that cases where the defendants were able to afford good legal council prosecutors rarely seek the death penalty even when the vital circumstances of the crime are demonstrably the same as other cases where the defendants could not afford top notch lawyers and the death penalty was sought. Translation: Those that got the capital, don't get the punishment.

7. States that do (or did in New York's case) have high standards for competent legal defense in death penalty cases see few capital sentences and very few or no executions.

New York had the highest standards for capital defense lawyers in the country during the roughly ten years the death penalty was on the books. Of the seventy-two capital cases prosecuted in New York between 1995 and 2005, sixty-three resulted in First Degree Murder convictions, fifty-one of those resulted in Natural Life sentences, eleven in death sentences and one died before being sentenced. Of the nine not convicted of First Degree Murder, seven were convicted of lesser charges and two were acquitted.

Of the eleven sentenced to death over that ten year period, in 2005 five were still on death row, six had had their sentences overturned on appeal and none had been executed. Shortly thereafter New York's Court of Appeals overturned part of the death penalty law. Subsequently the state legislature declined to amend the law to restore capital punishment to the state. The cost to the taxpayers over that ten year period exceeded $100 million (!) dollars. (Exact figures were not available from my primary sources since several counties had not reported their total expenses. The aforementioned figure is therefore conservative.)

8. There have been numerous documented instances of prosecutorial and police misconduct in capital cases. Those who question if this really ever happens should take a look at the recent case in Durham NC where a prosecutor attempted to railroad three young students from Duke University for a crime he knew never happened. It is likely the only reason they were not packed off to prison is that they came from families with the means to hire outstanding criminal defense teams.

9. Although the United States is a sovereign country, and we are within our rights to order our justice system as we see fit, I think that when virtually the entire of the developed world has abolished capital punishment and we have not, that should be cause for reassessing our position. When we stand alone in the developed world in defense of an institution that has been uniformly rejected, to not ask ourselves some very tough questions is perhaps tending towards the sin of pride and hubris. Why are we so isolated on this matter?

10. The argument for the death penalty as a form of societal self defense against irreformably violent offenders has been effectively nullified by the introduction of natural life sentences (life without parole). Yes, there are violent inmates in prisons. However, once identified they can be isolated in so called "super-max" security facilities and neutralized as a danger without killing them.

More clergy kidnapped in Iraq

Via Rocco Palmo there are reports that two Eastern Rite Catholic priests have been abducted in Iraq. A one million dollar ransom is being demanded by their captors. According to the reports this figure is quite beyond the resources of the local church. Christian Clergy and laity alike are routinely being abducted or just simply murdered outright by Islamo-fascists and terrorists there. Please pray for their safety and for the relief of the persecuted Christian faithful of that tragic country.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Crisis in the OCA

Back in May I opined that the OCA was moving into a situation where the continued leadership of Met. +Herman might well be openly challenged. In that post I sharply criticized some of the actions His Beatitude had taken in regards the recent scandals in the central administration. With a view to his suspension of the special committee investigating those scandals (from which all but two of its members subsequently resigned in protest), I suggested that a possible response might include a formal vote of "No Confidence" by the Metropolitan Council.

In the last few weeks the Diocese of the Midwest whose Archbishop (+Job) has been at the forefront of the demands for full disclosure, actually did in fact pass a No Confidence resolution, among others. This weekend the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania followed with their own vote calling for +Herman to be replaced. Both dioceses also have now voted to withhold vital funds from the central administration of the church pending sweeping reforms.

I will refrain from making any judgments beyond what I have posted elsewhere. However it is now clear that what was a scandal is becoming a moderately serious crisis in the OCA. There are at present two dioceses that have openly declared their lack of trust in the leadership of our primate. These sentiments are almost certainly felt in many other quarters of the OCA where diocesan conventions are not currently meeting. This is the situation which confronts the Holy Synod as it prepares to meet this week.

Setting aside for now all of the questions which have been raised about +Herman's actions in response to the scandals, the most serious issue is whether or not the Metropolitan can continue to effectively lead a church which is increasingly and openly hostile to his primacy. The central administration is in something close to extremis financially. You have two diocese withholding funds. At least one hierarch (+Job) has openly called for +Herman to resign and the same two dioceses have passed No Confidence resolutions. Of course as I noted in my earlier post suggesting this course of action, we are not a democracy. The Holy Synod makes these decisions. But the bishops must be aware that it is one thing to say "we accept him as our primate." It is an entirely different matter to govern the church effectively when the faithful do not also accept him as their primate.

How can the Holy Synod force people to send money to Syosset? How can they prevent next years All American meeting of the OCA from becoming a highly contentious event? The answer may well be learned at the conclusion of this weeks meeting of the Holy Synod. As I said before I will make no judgments in this matter beyond my previously expressed concern over some of the decisions made by Met. +Herman in dealing with the scandals. I hold no office of responsibility beyond a seat on my parish council so it is not my place to pass judgments (for which I thank God). But I feel that events may be moving at long last to some sort of decisive moment in the life of the church. Frankly I would not be terribly surprised if His Beatitude announced his retirement at this meeting. There have been some hints that the Synod may have concluded that the time has come for a change.

Should this in fact happen we must take great care to avoid the sin of triumphalism. This is especially true for those of us who in the past have been critical of the central administration and the Primate's handling of things. The issues confronting our church will not vanish with the departure of any hierarch. And I think we should also all be deeply mindful of our own shortcomings and failings before judging someone who has born the heavy cross of office like Met. +Herman.

In closing I ask all who may have occasion to read these words for your prayers for the OCA and its Synod. These are challenging times and it is doubtful that there has been a meeting of the Holy Synod since receiving autocephaly that has been faced with decisions of such moment. Let us all pray that God will grant to our bishops the wisdom to discern right from wrong, and the strength to act for the right.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An Orthodox Europe?

+Alexei II Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

From a fascinating article over at Yahoo (originally published by the Christian Science Monitor)...

For decades, many social scientists had pretty much two things to say about Eastern Orthodox Christianity: 1) that like all religions, it was disappearing with the advance of modern civilization; 2) that it derived most of its support from the reactionary tides of authoritarianism and nationalism.

Those pronouncements are being proved wrong. Today, as in the parable of the prodigal son, throughout Eastern Europe people are returning to the Orthodox Church in droves, and the effect in the public sphere, contrary to most expectations, is quite benign.

Though historically viewed with suspicion by Catholic and Protestant Europe, Orthodox Christianity can actually help bridge the Russia-West gap.

At the heart of much of the miscommunication between Russia and Europe today lies the unacknowledged and untapped longing of Orthodox Christians to be recognized as part of a common European cultural family again. The latest effort to bridge this divide was Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II's remarks in France, where he spoke poignantly of how the Christian identity Europeans historically share should promote dialogue on issues like human rights and peace, even with atheists and members of other faiths...

...Western suspicion of Eastern Orthodoxy can be traced back to before the Great Schism that divided the Christian Church in 1054. One hundred and fifty years later, it fueled the Crusaders' zeal for the sacking of Constantinople. In the 18th century, it became a main theme of Edward Gibbon's influential interpretation of the Roman Empire, which was later echoed in the writings of Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee. And in modern times, Samuel Huntington, among others, has warned direly of the potential for clashes between "Slavic-Orthodox" civilization and the Catholic-Protestant West.

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

In the long run, therefore, while the greatest challenge to Europe's cultural and political identity may come from the growth of Islam, its more immediate challenge is how to deal with some 40 million to 140 million Orthodox Christians who, when given a voice in European policymaking, will argue that churches should have a more prominent voice than heretofore in the shaping of social policy.

Read the entire article here.

Mass in San Francisco

Read this first. WARNING: Some of the pictures are disturbing.

I saw the pictures before I read the text of the report. (I refuse to post them on this website.) My first thought was "nothing new here, just the Episcopalians doing their thing." Then I read the report and I have to confess my astonishment. Yes. It is well known that the Roman Church has some bishops who are a little sketchy in terms of their adherence to what comes from Rome. But this is beyond the pale. I really don't want to sound like I am picking on my former co-religionists. The overwhelming majority of RCC bishops (even most of the sketchy ones) would not be OK with this. But still...


I mean really... What was the man thinking? I know that one of the Latin Church's alleged advantages I am repeatedly reminded of is that they have the Pope to maintain some sort of discipline. I will be very interested to see what comes of this sacrilege. In Orthodoxy we don't have the centralized chain of command that exists in the Western Church and yes we have our share of problems. But I can tell you that it is inconceivable that something like this could happen in an Orthodox church. In the unimaginable circumstance that a bishop did do something like this; I think he would be called on the carpet very quickly by the Holy Synod.

Forget the Pope in Rome. I will be most interested in any reaction from his fellow bishops here in America. Is that the sound of crickets I hear?

On a related note this sort of thing does not help the ongoing efforts by Pope +Benedict XVI aimed at restoring communion with Orthodoxy. Ignoring for the moment the very real theological issues dividing us, most Orthodox see this and shudder. 'What further evidence do we require, that the time has not yet come to restore communion with the Latins?' It is a stark reminder of all the baggage that would necessarily come with the Roman Catholic Church in the event of restored communion. And frankly it is baggage no one over here feels we need.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More on Salvation in The Church

At the risk of being seen as a cheering section for Fr. Stephen (I have been accused of worse things); I draw to the reader's attention another excellent post following up on his discussion of salvation and The Church. This one is a home run.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Hierarchical Liturgy

Scenes and music from a hierarchical liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Who should be saving whom?

Find out by reading this excellent essay by Fr. Stephen Freeman. My first reaction was that this was must reading for Episcopalians. (I still think they would do well to read it.) But then after reading it a second time, I began to realize this is must reading for everyone in the Orthodox Church in America. And then after reading it a third time I realized that this was must reading for everyone in my home parish. And after reading it for the fourth time, I realized he was talking to me.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Picking up the pieces

Well… we lost. That’s it in a nutshell. Now how did we get here? With 17 games left in the regular season the Mets enjoyed a comfortable 7 game lead in NL East. And it was confidently noted that no team with such a lead and 17 games left had ever blown it. Ummm…yea.

Being on the left coast I was spared actually witnessing the collapse (we don’t usually get east coast games out here). But reading it in the papers was enough to get the gist. The New York papers and for that matter all of the talking heads on the various sports shows are now trying to dissect what went wrong. I am not going to get into all of the numbers or who did (or did not) do what. Others are doing that quite well enough thank you. My diagnosis is simple.

We lost because we deserved to. Somewhere in the early part of September the team essentially went on auto-pilot and just figured the season was over in all but name. Thus we have the bizarre numbers alluded to above. Some players were acting as though they were entitled to the division pennant. I have heard more than a few people observe that the Mets essentially stopped playing serious ball. That’s probably a fair assessment.

But it is not the whole story. I have heard some people say that the Mets essentially gave the pennant away. That is not fair. The Phillies won the pennant. It was not given to them. While the Mets went on paid vacation for the last several weeks of the season the Phillies never gave up. If it had just been a case of the Mets folding in the last few weeks they would still have won. But the Phillies never gave in to despair. They were hungry and they played like their lives depended on the outcome of each game. In short the Phillies deserved to win as much as the Mets deserved to loose. And while I don’t like loosing; I tip my hat to Philadelphia. They proved in many ways that they were the better team.

As one might expect there is a lot of talk about hubris and humble pie going around. I can confirm that I have been taking a lot of not so gentle ribbing from various (cough cough) friends. Most of these are fans of the other team from New York (the name escapes me). And I must say that it’s not fun. One can only imagine what the guys on the team are feeling right now. I can think of some words that probably are good descriptives like pain, humiliation, guilt and anger. And that is all for the good.

Frankly I hope that they are getting their noses rubbed in it. Not just because they deserve it. Rather, because they need to remember how they felt Sunday afternoon for the rest of their lives. What happened over the last few weeks was unprofessional and inexcusable for players who are being paid as much as them. They were playing like the keystone cops in baseball uniforms. And if they are smarting from their own failure then again, that’s a good thing. They need to dine on some crow and get razzed and suffer with being the laughingstock of the National League. And they need to remember Sunday afternoon every day between now and April, and thereafter every time they stand in the batters box or play in the field.

David Wright (one of my favorite players and one of the few who honestly bears little blame for the collapse) observed a couple days before the end that he did not want this on his resume. Well sadly it’s there. If any member of this team died tomorrow somewhere in the first paragraph of his obituary would be something to the effect of “blank was a member of the 2007 New York Mets who suffered the most spectacular late season collapse in the history of major league baseball.” Nothing any of them can do will ever completely remove that line from their resume or obituary. But what they do in the future can help determine where that line fits in their resume, i.e. at the top or buried somewhere underneath a long list of remarkable accomplishments. For the Mets the long road to redemption (and maybe a little good old fashioned revenge) needs to start today. For the Mets, today needs to be treated like the first day of April.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Alexei II: Meeting with Pope likely in a year or two

This via the traditionalist Roman Catholic website Rorate Caeli; Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow indicated in an interview with the French paper Le Figaro that he expects to meet with Pope Bendict XVI in the next year or two. Assuming the accuracy of the story, this is a significant development. It would be the first explicit declaration by Moscow that there will be a meeting with the Pope of Rome. The Russian Church has been very cool towards Rome for years and has resisted attempts by the Vatican to arrange a meeting with the Pope. This was especially true under the previous pontificate. However since the election of B-16 there has been a noticeable warming in relations between the world's largest Orthodox church and the Holy See. Read the details here.