Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a quick note to wish everyone a joyful and relaxing holiday. I will be taking a break from the Nativity Fast tomorrow and enjoying a rare down day. The rest of this week is looking kinda rough. So barring something urgent, I don't expect much time for posting again before Monday.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI on interfaith diaglogue

...In comments from the letter that appeared on Sunday in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily, the pope said the book “explained with great clarity” that “an inter-religious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible.” In theological terms, he added, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”

But Benedict added that “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas” was important. He called for confronting “in a public forum the cultural consequences of basic religious decisions.”

You just know he is gonna take all kinds of heat for this. Which brings to mind the old axiom that the most offensive word in the English language is "truth."

Read the entire article here.

A Depression coming? Kipplinger says not likely...

Expect to see a recession similar to those in the 1970s and early 1980s.

What are the odds that this economic slump will deepen into a genuine depression not seen since the 1930s? In my judgment, it's not likely. Instead, I foresee a moderately severe recession.

We're all hearing more and more comparisons being drawn to the Great Depression. Yes, we're in the worst financial crisis since that era, but by no means the worst economic crisis since then -- not comparable to, say, the mid-1970s.

Former Goldman Sachs chairman John C. Whitehead got a lot of attention last week with his statement that the federal government could face a downgrading of its credit rating, aggravating the recession. The result, he said, "would be worse than the Depression." Now, "would" is a squishy word in forecasting, but the headlines screamed, "Whitehead Sees Slump Worse Than Depression."

Whitehead, a distinguished American of 86 years, was an adolescent during the 1930s, so he should remember those horrible times well. I wasn't born until after World War II, so my knowledge of the Depression comes largely from books. Here are some things I've learned:

The Great Depression was a global economic collapse of unfathomable magnitude, and today's statistics of pain would have to be multiplied manyfold to match those of the 1930s.

And the Depression was preventable -- if governments worldwide had responded earlier and smarter after the stock market crash of 1929. The lessons learned since then greatly reduce the likelihood of a reprise of that decade of hardship.

Read the rest of this very interesting and detailed article here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Episcopacy, Primacy, and the Mother Churches: A Monastic Perspective

A Paper delivered at the Conference of the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius,
St Vladimir’s Seminary, June 4–8, 2008

Abbot Jonah

A prominent orthodox theologian has remarked that he thinks bishops have become useless. And he is only echoing a widespread and long-standing sentiment in our tradition. This is clear evidence of a crisis of episcopal leadership and primacy in the Church, a crisis that cuts to the heart of the apostolic and catholic identity of the Church.

While most of the problems I will address in this paper are specific to the extraordinary situation of Orthodoxy in America, they have broader application because they reveal the crisis of primacy on the ecumenical level. (And I use “ecumenical” to refer to the oikumene – the whole Orthodox Catholic Church). They also reveal the challenge to the Church’s organization and ecclesiology posed by the new political and cultural realities of the third millennium.

A fascinating essay from our new Metropolitan. I still can't believe he used to be an Episcopalian! Would anyone care to compare this with any of the writings of Ms. Schori (the Presiding Bishopess of the Episcopal Church)?

The ecclesiological issues addressed here are weighty, and this essay written by one now elevated to the First See of the Orthodox Church in America should be read by any concerned with the jurisdictional chaos in the modern Orthodox Church.

Read the entire essay.

Hat tip to Bill (aka the Godfather).

Friday, November 14, 2008

The new job reality check...

CHICAGO — A couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama headed to the Hyde Park Hair Salon for a trim. He greeted the staff and other customers and plopped down in the same chair in front of the same barber who has cut his hair for the last 14 years.

But when he wanted a trim this week, the Secret Service took one look at the shop’s large plate-glass windows and the gawking tourists eager for a glimpse of the president-elect and the plan quickly changed. If Mr. Obama could no longer come to the barber, the barber would come to him and cut his hair at a friend’s apartment.

Life for the newly chosen president and his family has changed forever. Even the constraints and security of the campaign trail do not compare to the bubble that has enveloped him in the 10 days since his election. Renegade, as the Secret Service calls him, now lives within the strict limits that come with the most powerful office on the planet.
Read the rest here.

I did not vote for the guy. But I do feel for him and his family. I often think that anyone who actually wants that job has to be either incredibly patriotic or nuts. Maybe a little of both.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Must Listening...

The remarks of then bishop Jonah on the eve of his election as Metropolitan. As background he is responding to some tough questions dealing with the various problems and scandals that have plagued the OCA from delegates at the 15th All American Council in Pittsburgh. But the real themes are accountability, love and forgiveness. This is REALLY powerful stuff. I can not recommend it too highly. I don't care if your Orthodox. It works for anyone (though Roman Catholics especially might find much to ponder). Listen to it all and pass the recording to your friends.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rome: Recant or else...

More evidence that Pope Benedict XVI seems to be serious about cleaning up some of the mess left over from the late 1960’s and 70’s…

In a rather rare display of backbone, the Roman Catholic Church has warned a dissident priest to recant his open calls for the ordination of women or face excommunication. Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a longtime champion of leftist causes, has received a letter from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) warning of the extreme sanction should he continue his calls for women's ordination (wo). He has been given thirty days to respond. In an open letter to the CDF Fr. Bourgeois has rejected their demands and reiterated his position which is considered to be heretical by the Roman Catholic Church. In August he actively participated in the "ordination" of Janice Sevre-Duszynska by a religious sect claiming to be women with Roman Catholic Holy Orders. Needless to say their orders are not recognized by Rome (or the Orthodox Church).

I have a feeling that the Episcopalians may be about to get a new priest.


Many Years!!! (Breaking News)

To His Beatitude Archbishop Jonah of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of all North America and Canada. Met. + Jonah was elected (in a stunning upset) at today's session of the 15th All American Council of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Until very recently His Beatitude was the abbot of St. John's Monastery in Northern California. He was elected Bishop of Ft. Worth (TX) and auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of the South in the spring of this year and was only consecrated a bishop twelve(!) days ago.

Read the whole story here.

Hat tip to Bill (aka The Godfather)

The audio from the council announcing his election and his first remarks as Metropolitan can be found here.

A second update:
Video of the election.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A brief reminder

In the nearly three years I have been blogging I have been continuously impressed by the very thoughtful and sometimes thought provoking comments posted on Ad Orientem. Some of those have expressed disagreement with my opinions, and that is fine too. However, there are some basic guidelines which I have posted (see the link in the sidebar) that I feel are reasonable and necessary.

To say that problematic comments have been rare would be seriously exaggerating their frequency. But in the last week I have had a couple that I felt were inappropriate and I was obliged to remove. If you have not read the guidelines, please take a minute to do so. As always questions, comments and suggestion are welcome either in the com box or by email (my address is also linked in the sidebar).

Under the mercy,

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bp. Hilarion (Alfeeyev) Speaks

Bp. Hilarion (Alfeeyev) of Vienna

His Grace Bp. Hilarion of Vienna has of late been the subject of much talk in the OCA and indeed the broader Orthodox world. He has been widely touted as a potential successor to the recently retired Metropolitan Herman. However, in an open letter he has requested that his name be withdrawn from consideration for that post. The reasons he cites are in my opinion weighty, and should be respected.

Now in an October 30th interview posted on Orthodoxy Today (hat tip to the Young Fogey) +Hilarion addresses a wide range of subjects including Orthodoxy in America, the recent problems in the OCA and Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement. On the latter subject I think his comments are very interesting. One can not but take note of his fairly direct criticism of the more liberal Protestant sects and their constantly evolving standards and theology. Perhaps most telling is his view (which I have held for sometime) that serious ecumenical dialogue with anyone other than the Roman Catholics and Oriental Orthodox is pretty much a waste of time. (Roman Catholic readers may find his reference to their sacraments encouraging.) A few of the highlights are below. I encourage the reader to check out the entire interview.

...Within this situation, I believe that the uniqueness of the OCA consists in the fact that it is the first Orthodox Church on the American continent that has declared itself American. It is meant to be not one of the ethnic churches of the “diaspora,” but the national Orthodox church of the USA, Canada and Mexico. It is meant to be the living testimony to the universality of Orthodox Christianity. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware said, “The Orthodox Church is not something exotic or oriental. It is mere Christianity.” So, we can say to whoever wants to join the Orthodox Church: “You don’t need to be or to become Russian, or Greek, or Antiochian in order to be Orthodox. You don’t need to become exotic or oriental. You can be Orthodox while retaining your national and cultural identity.”

…After more than thirteen years of intensive ecumenical involvement I can declare my profound disappointment with the existing forms of “official” ecumenism as represented by the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and other similar organizations. My impression is that they have exhausted their initial potential. Theologically they lead us nowhere. They produce texts that, for the most part, are pale and uninspiring. The reason for this is that these organizations include representatives of a wide variety of churches, from the most “conservative” to the most “liberal.” And the diversity of views is so great that they cannot say much in common except for a polite and politically correct talk about “common call to unity,” “mutual commitment” and “shared responsibility.”

I see that there is now a deep-seated discrepancy between those churches which strive to preserve the Holy Tradition and those that constantly revise it to fit modern standards. This divergence is as evident at the level of religious teaching, including doctrine and ecclesiology, as it is at the level of church practice, such as worship and morality.

In my opinion, the recent liberalization of teaching and practice in many Protestant communities has greatly alienated them from both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. It has also undermined the common Christian witness to the secularized world. The voice of Christendom is nowadays deeply disunited: we preach contradictory moral standards, our doctrinal positions are divergent, and our social perspectives vary a great deal. One wonders whether we can still speak at all of “Christianity” or whether it would be more accurate to refer to “Christianities,” that is to say, markedly diverse versions of the Christian faith.

Under these circumstances I am not optimistic about the dialogue with the Protestant communities. I am also far less optimistic about the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue than my beloved teacher Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. In my opinion, the only two promising ecumenical dialogues are between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, and between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox families. While there are well-known theological differences between these three traditions, there is also very much in common: we all believe in Christ as fully human and fully divine, we all uphold the apostolic succession of hierarchy and de facto recognize each others’ sacraments.

But even with regard to relations between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, both Eastern and Oriental, we need new forms of dialogue and cooperation. It is not sufficient to come once every two years for a theological discussion on a topic related to controversies that took place fifteen or ten centuries ago. We need to see whether we can form a common front for the defense of traditional Christianity without waiting until all our theological differences will disappear. I call this proposed common front a “strategic alliance” between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. I deliberately avoid calling it a “union” or a “council,” because I want to avoid any historical reminiscences and ecclesiastical connotations. Mine is not a call for yet another “union” on dogmatic and theological matters. I am rather proposing a new type of partnership based on the understanding that we are no longer enemies or competitors: we are allies and partners facing common challenges, such as militant secularism, aggressive Islam and many others. We can face these challenges together and unite our forces in order to protect traditional Christianity with its doctrinal and moral teaching.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What Price Justice?

MIAMI — Public defenders’ offices in at least seven states are refusing to take on new cases or have sued to limit them, citing overwhelming workloads that they say undermine the constitutional right to counsel for the poor.

Public defenders are notoriously overworked, and their turnover is high and their pay low. But now, in the most open revolt by public defenders in memory, the government appointed lawyers say budget cuts and rising caseloads have pushed them to the breaking point.

In September, a Florida judge ruled that the public defenders’ office in Miami-Dade County could refuse to represent many of those arrested on lesser felony charges so its lawyers could provide a better defense for other clients. Over the last three years, the average number of felony cases handled by each lawyer in a year has climbed to close to 500, from 367, officials said, and caseloads for lawyers assigned to misdemeanor cases has risen to 2,225, from 1,380.

“Right now a lot of public defenders are starting to stand up and say, ‘No more. We can’t ethically handle this many cases,’ ” said David Carroll, director of research for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Shed No Tears For The GOP

(With a few exceptions inserted into the text, the essay below closely reflects my sentiments. -John / Ad Orientem)

This election's stunning results are testament to Barack Obama's oratory, background, and skills as a politician. They also amount to a repudiation of today's Republican Party.

The rejection is richly deserved. Over the last eight years, Republican politicians increased the national debt by roughly 2.5 times, ran up what may be a multi-trillion dollar tab in an unnecessary war in Iraq, and spent hundreds of billions on a Wall Street bailout that seems to be doing little good. (I hate to say this but the so called bailout was probably a necessary evil. Things would be much worse if that had not passed.)

Then there was the debacle called Gitmo, a general disdain for basic principles of federalism, the warrantless wiretapping program and hostility to the rule of law, the ascent of so-called neoconservatives, and dizzying fiscal recklessness and government growth. In this decade alone, over 700,000 new pages of proposed or final federal regulations have appeared. (Can I have an AMEN please!)

President Bush can claim some successes, including his 2001 tax cuts (bad idea while we still were running a national debt), his sincere support for immigration reform, and his enthusiasm for free trade (with some protectionist lapses). He was on the right track with private accounts for Social Security and health savings too. (Another bad idea. If those accounts had been privatized they would have been murdered along with the rest of the stock market.)

But those stands can't make up for the rest of his party's policies, such as its enthusiasm for a war that has yielded infamous torture memos and caused the deaths of thousands of American troops and at least 88,000 Iraqi civilians.

If a Democrat had proposed many of the above ideas, Republicans would have yowled. Instead, they adopted them as part of the GOP platform.

No wonder we're not hearing about President-Elect John McCain today.

Perhaps this was an impossible election for any Republican to win. But it was McCain's position during the September debate over the bailout bill that seemed to doom his campaign.

In mid-September, both McCain and Obama enjoyed roughly even odds of winning. Then, after the Arizona senator signed onto the bailout, he slipped so far down he could never climb back. Republican pollster Frank Luntz says McCain could have been a "hero to tens of millions of hard-working middle-class voters who resent seeing their tax dollars handed over to fund the retirement packages of the Billionaire Boys Club." (I think it was less the bailout than the general collapse of the financial markets which precipitated the great awakening on the part of the American people to the realization that we are in serious trouble.)

From the Republicans' perspective, perhaps the best that can be said about their losses on Tuesday is that the GOP has been given a second chance to figure out what its principles are.

In a 1975 magazine interview, Ronald Reagan said: "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism... The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is."

Unfortunately, that describes concepts that today's Republicans have either discarded or forgotten. Neither the act of creating the U.S. Department of Homeland Security nor the choice to push for the No Child Left Behind law, to take just two examples, would jibe with Reagan's ideas of "less government interference" and "less centralized authority."

Neglect of those principles has created a dangerous situation in the U.S. Congress, where Democrats have just gained five Senate seats and are close to becoming a political monopoly.

Neither party is especially prudent on fiscal matters, of course. But the ability of either to exercise monopoly power in Washington, or something close to it, should worry anyone concerned about limits on government and worried about new taxes and harmful restrictions on free trade.

Divided government has its benefits. One calculation says the best times for the U.S. stock market -- a 20.2 percent stock market return and a 4 percent GDP increase -- happened under a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. Then there's the remarkable stock market boom after the 1994 mid-term election.

If the GOP can do some honest soul-searching and kick its big government addiction, it might get somewhere in the 2010 elections. Otherwise, we may have just witnessed the dawn of a long-lasting Democratic majority.

Too many Republicans have gotten away with talking up free markets, limited government, and the power of the individual, while quietly doing the opposite once elected. This year, at least, voters seemed to have figured that out.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Please Pray For Our Country

On the eve of the great election...
For our country, the president, those in the armed forces and all those in public service as also those seeking elective office and the electorate, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Maria Antonia Josefa Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen : Princess of Austria and Queen of France

Marie Antoinette
Born November 2nd 1755, the Feast of All Souls in the Western Church

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy. 0h, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.

Edmund Burke - 1793