Friday, October 30, 2009

Another dose of reality

The redoubtable Carlos Antonio Palad (a moderator and contributor over at Rorate Caeli) has posted an excellent piece casting more cold water on the kumbaya UNITY NOW crowd. Mr. Palad has consistently demonstrated a very level headed attitude towards the relationship between Rome and Orthodoxy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More on the birther loons...

Apparently the recent fine of $20,000 for abusing the legal system with frivolous lawsuits has not deterred Orly Taitz, one of the leaders of the so called "birther" movement (previously addressed in this post), from attempts to advance the lunatic fringe's agenda through the courts.

Judge David O. Carter in dismissing Taitz's latest attempts at judicial knavery writes in part...
"Plaintiffs have attacked the judiciary, including every prior court that has dismissed their claim, as unpatriotic and even treasonous for refusing to grant their requests and for adhering to the terms of the Constitution which set forth its jurisdiction," he writes.

"Respecting the constitutional role and jurisdiction of this Court is not unpatriotic,"... "Quite the contrary, this Court considers commitment to that constitutional role to be the ultimate reflection of patriotism."

..."The Court has received several sworn affidavits that Taitz asked potential witnesses that she planned to call before this Court to perjure themselves,"... "This Court is deeply concerned that Taitz may have suborned perjury through witnesses she intended to bring before this Court."

..."Plaintiffs appear to assume that should the Court receive a document from Kenya, the Court would give credence to this document over the American birth records of the President and the case would be resolved."
Read the entire opinion here.

80 years ago today: Black Tuesday

The great stock market crash of 1929.

A somewhat humorous look at a very unfunny event.

Metropolitan Paul of Kyrenia sharply criticizes the recent Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

On the 8th to the 14th of October in 2007, the 10th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics had convened in Ravenna of Italy. At the end of the session, a document was issued which included everything that was agreed upon and is known as the "Ravenna Document".

The Ravenna Document had, as its theme:



The basic error of the Ravenna Document is that the Orthodox members of the Joint International Commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholics had regarded their heterodox interlocutors as belonging to the same Church, thus giving the impression that between the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholicism there actually exists an ecclesiological unity, albeit without the necessary theological prerequisites.

The attempt by members of the Orthodox Representation to suppress or bypass the dogmatic diversification between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy as something secondary is undermining the self-awareness of the Orthodox Church as the only true Church - which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church - and is giving the impression that the Roman Catholics comprise a partial or local Orthodox Church.

Even though the interruption of sacramental intercommunion is attributed to the Roman Catholics' diversifications from the common Faith of the first centuries, nevertheless, in the Ravenna Document it is mutually confessed by both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic members of the Joint Commission that their faith is common. In this way, the discussion and settlement of organizational and administrative issues have been set forth, as, for example, the matter of the Pope's primacy, while the theological issues have been bypassed and left pending. As a consequence of this, the Ravenna document concluded with the statement that "It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth." (Ravenna Document, para.45)

It is therefore imperative that the serious dogmatic issues be discussed first, and furthermore, a framework be determined with the necessary prerequisites that should be based on Patristic criteria, which will ensure that the Dialogue will be conducted on a sound and immovable dogmatic basis and not on unstable secular grounds. It is only with persistence in the precision (akriveia) of the Orthodox dogma and the dogmatic teaching of the Orthodox Church that we can be certain we are working towards the re-induction of the strayed into Christ's Flock.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Arnold sends a message

Be careful who you disrespect. Sometimes it comes back to bite you.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger typically attaches a message to bills he signs or vetoes telling lawmakers why he took the action.

A Democratic assemblyman who heckled the governor during a recent event in San Francisco actually received two messages: the veto letter itself and a not-so-subtle rebuke creatively hidden within it.

Like a find-the-word puzzle, the second message was visible by stringing together the first letter of each line down the left-hand margin. It consisted of a common four-letter vulgarity followed by the letters "y-o-u."

"My goodness. What a coincidence," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "I suppose when you do so many vetoes, something like this is bound to happen."
Read the rest here.

Not terribly classy. But sometimes rude people need to be put in their place. This will probably have to do since modern society has lost the fine art of the Social Cut.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can We Talk About Religion, Please?

The Issue

Last week the Vatican invited Anglicans who are, as The New York Times put it, “uncomfortable with female priests and openly gay bishops” to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church. If a secular institution, Wal-Mart or Microsoft, for example, made a similar offer — Tired of leadership positions being open to women and gay employees? Join us! — it would be slammed for appealing to bigotry. Some criticism was directed at the church, but it was faint. Are we right to speak softly when discussing a subject as sensitive as religion?

The Argument

Etiquette holds that religion, especially another person’s religion, should be treated with deference or, better still, silence by nonbelievers. Hence the familiar dinner-party injunction: don’t discuss religion or politics. Even at a table full of co-religionists, feelings can run high, and there is a reluctance to combine digestion with discord (particularly where knives are nearby). To the observant, a nonbeliever’s comments on church doctrine can feel less like a discussion of theology than a personal attack.

Yet despite the risk of provoking the ire of believers, we should discuss the actions of religious institutions as we would those of all others — courteously and vigorously. This is a mark of respect, an indication that we take such ideas seriously. To slip on the kid gloves is condescending, akin to the way you would treat children or the frail or cats.

The passionate intensity unleashed by religious matters is evinced in responses to The Ethicist, my other column for The Times Magazine. When I take up a secular question that provokes broad disagreement, I typically receive a few hundred responses by e-mail that begin: “Dear Sir, I am appalled…” When I write about religion, I cause a tidal wave. The week I rebuked an Orthodox Jewish real estate agent whose beliefs forbade his shaking the hand of a female client, I stopped counting after receiving 4,000 ferocious messages, lambasting not only my argument but my character, my appearance and my parentage: it was speculated that dogs played a part.

My political beliefs, my ideas about social justice, are as deeply held as my critics’ religious beliefs, but I don’t ask them to treat me with reverence, only civility. They should not expect me to walk on tiptoe. It is not as if religious institutions occupy a precarious perch in American life. It is not the proclaimed Christian but the nonbeliever who is unelectable to high office in this era when politicians of every party and denomination make a public display of their faith.

Some of my most indignant critics have declared religious practice a matter of free association: what people do voluntarily among themselves is nobody else’s business. But children raised in a particular faith did not choose it. And sometimes one spouse is pushed into a pew by the other. Even when membership is truly volitional, once a group reaches a certain size and acquires power and influence in the larger community, to treat it like four people getting together in someone’s rec room to play bridge is disingenuous. Its actions are still subject to moral scrutiny, whether the group is the Boy Scouts or Nascar or the Roman Catholic Church.
Read the rest here

An interesting and thoughtful piece from someone who desperately wants to break the social conventions against attacking other people's religious beliefs. My position on the subject is essentially libertarian. You are free to criticize to your heart's content. Just as I and others of religious belief are free to practice our religions and to respond to said criticism. The rights of all involved end at the tip of the other's nose. Which is to say your rights end when they materially interfere with someone else's.

That said, social conventions exist for a reason. And those who contemplate breaking them should do so with great caution. The same principal by which you claim the right to flaunt convention and offend people, gives the more polite element the right to snub you or exclude you from their society in various ways. To some it means little if they are thought of as rude or boorish. But most people would prefer to avoid that kind of label as it carries a certain stigma even in our rather sad modern world.

Escape From New York

New Yorkers are fleeing the state and city in alarming numbers -- and costing a fortune in lost tax dollars, a new study shows.

More than 1.5 million state residents left for other parts of the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy. It was the biggest out-of-state migration in the country.

The vast majority of the migrants, 1.1 million, were former residents of New York City -- meaning one out of seven city taxpayers moved out.

"The Empire State is being drained of an invaluable resource -- people," the report said.

What's worse is that the families fleeing New York are being replaced by lower-income newcomers, who consequently pay less in taxes.
Read the rest here
Hat Tip to Bill (aka The Godfather)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cell Phones in Church = 100 Prostrations

“Not turned-off cell phones in church – 100 prostrations”

Picture shamelessly stolen from here.

Rumors: +Jonah and the Western Rite

I am hearing things. Is anyone else?

Orthodox may not use elevators on the Sabbath

No. Not us. The other Orthodox.
JERUSALEM - The Jewish day of rest has become a bit more labor-intensive for Yosef Ball.

The Orthodox Jew and his wife are no longer using elevators custom-built for the Jewish Sabbath, ever since a rabbinical ruling last month outlawed them. Instead, they have been hiking up seven flights of stairs to get home each Saturday, lugging with them their five young children and a double stroller.

"It's been very hard, but we're walking up the stairs slowly and with a lot of patience," said Ball, 29, while pushing a baby carriage with two toddlers in tow on a recent day.

Jewish law, or halacha, forbids the use of electrical items on the Sabbath. But for decades rabbis have allowed special elevators that automatically stop at every floor without the riders pushing any buttons, permitting Orthodox Jews to ride them and live in high-rise buildings.

Debate over elevators reignited
The ruling last month by one of Israel's leading rabbis, calling the elevators a no-go, has reignited a vigorous debate over the lifts, forcing Orthodox Jews living on top floors to decide if they're up for the steep hike home from synagogue on Saturdays.

The decision stretches far beyond Israel's borders. Buildings with Shabbat elevators are common in Orthodox communities around the world, and residents in places as far away as New York are now struggling with how to interpret the ruling.
Read the rest here.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Hopes rising for unifying Orthodoxy's U.S. churches

America's Orthodox Christians, divided for decades among about 10 churches based on Greek or Serb or other ancestry, soon may be moving toward the formation of a united American Orthodox church.

Many of them have dreamed of that for decades, especially as conversions to Orthodoxy have skyrocketed. But most church patriarchs have squelched such talk.

Now it appears that the patriarchs are not only supporting but demanding some sort of unity. To explore what this may mean for believers in the United States, the independent, pan-Orthodox group Orthodox Christian Laity will gather for three days, starting Thursday, at Antiochian Village in Ligonier.

In 1994 that retreat center hosted the first and only gathering of all Orthodox bishops in North America. Believing they had approval from church patriarchs overseas, those bishops called for a united church in which the faithful would not be treated as "scattered children" of ancestral homelands.

But the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople -- the spiritual head of global Orthodoxy -- denounced it as a rebellion against the ancient church and replaced the Greek archbishop who had led it. The unity movement lay dormant for 15 years.

Then, in June, the 14 Old World patriarchs gathered in Chambesy, Switzerland, and declared that all Orthodox bishops outside of traditional Orthodox lands -- including North America -- will begin meeting to address their own issues in their own lands.
Read the rest here.

Somebody wake me up in April

A World Series between the Evil Empire and the Evil Empire's National League cousin... I will pass thank you very much.

Why do I have the nagging feeling that somehow this is because of that cheeseburger I ate during Lent?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Western Rite: A celebration of Vespers and Holy Mass according to the Use of Sarum

This announcement via Fr. Chadwick's (see the preceding post) liturgical egroup:

With the blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia it is announced that on Tues., Oct. 27, 2009, at 6:00 p.m., at the Russian Orthodox Monastery of St. Nicholas in Ft. Myers, Florida, Vespers will be sung in the Sarum Use of the Roman rite. The service will be mostly in English.

On Wed., Oct. 28, 2009, at 6:30 a.m., the Hours will be sung followed by Holy Mass according to Sarum Use,at 7:00 a.m. (Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist). The service will be mostly English. The procession and relics-veneration appointed for this day will be done after the Liturgy at about 8:30 a.m. The monastery's substantial Saints'-relics will be available for veneration with special prayers invoking their aid for every affliction. Oct. 28 is, on the old calendar (Sarum Use), the Feast of the Holy Relics. Many hundreds of Saints'-relics will be laid out in the church with great solemnity, and part of the procession of the relics is the reading of the names of all the relics.

Notes to those who may be able to attend: If you are Orthodox and wish to receive Holy Communion, please make arrangements in advance for Confession. The monastery, realizing that people often drive long distances of several hours to attend, extends hospitality to the extent possible. For overnight accommodations, contact the monastery as soon as possible.

These divine services will be held at 111 Evergreen Road, North Fort Myers, FL 33903. (239) 997-0579

(Note: I had to do some internet searching to locate the phone number for the monastery. I have not verified its accuracy. The last time I was in Ft. Myers this was a women's monastery under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA). Apparently they have since passed under the omophorion of ROCOR.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

An Anglo-Catholic priest writes on recent events

I refer the reader to the blog Reflections from Normandy by Fr. Anthony Chadwick (TAC) for those interested in some fascinating, personal and often moving reflections on the recent announcements from Rome. For a little background Fr. Chadwick has been down a difficult and often lonely spiritual road, passing through the schismatic Catholic Society of Saint Pius X and later getting involved with various episcopi vagantes before settling into the Traditional Anglican Communion. His continued yearning to return to full communion with the Holy See despite some troubling experiences with the canonical Roman Church inspires a sense of deep respect from me.

Fr. Chadwick maintains a very interesting website the home page of which can be found here.

Here we go again

Some comments regarding unity with the Roman Catholic Church from a bishop of the Bulgarian Church that may or may not have been quoted accurately or in context are creating a stir among the kumbaya "UNITY NOW!" crowd all over the internet. Assuming he was quoted accurately and in context I find some of his remarks to be somewhat problematic. You can read the report of his remarks here. I posted a couple of responses to them which may be found here and here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The GOP: Has the party of Lincoln become the party of Jefferson Davis?

Is the GOP in danger of becoming a far right party with little strength outside of the old Confederacy? Some seem to think so...
Is there room in the Republican Party for genuine moderates? Truth to tell, the GOP can't decide. More precisely, it's deeply divided over whether it should allow any divisions in the party at all.

That's why the brawl in a single congressional district in far Upstate New York is drawing the eyes of the nation. Conservatives are determined to use the race to prove that there is no place in the party for heretics, dissidents or independents.

President Obama set up the fight by nominating the district's former representative, John McHugh, as his Army secretary. Maybe Obama is as fiendishly clever as his more paranoid opponents believe him to be.

When local Republicans picked a moderate, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, as their candidate for the Nov. 3 contest, many on the right rebelled. They are backing a third-party conservative, Doug Hoffman, and he may well drive Scozzafava into third place. For the moment, at least, polls show that Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate, has jumped into first place on the split.

It demonstrates just how right-wing some Republicans have become that former House speaker Newt Gingrich is on the moderate side of this civil war against his old nemesis Dick Armey, who served under Gingrich as majority leader.

Gingrich, who backs Scozzafava, always understood that he would never have become speaker without help from Republican moderates. Armey prefers ideological purity and, like fellow members of the Tea Party movement, is supporting Hoffman.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why the Vatican Wants Anglicans

The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it would make it easier for Anglicans who are uncomfortable with the Church of England’s acceptance of women priests and openly gay bishops to join the Catholic Church. The Vatican will set up a formal conversion structure to allow Anglicans to preserve some of their liturgical traditions, including allowing married Anglican priests to remain married after they convert to Catholicism.

What does this announcement say about the Catholic Church and its willingness to grant such flexibility?

* David Gibson, author, “The Rule of Benedict”
* John L. Allen Jr., The National Catholic Reporter
* M. Cathleen Kaveny, professor of law and theology
* Colleen Carroll Campbell, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Read the rest here.

Pope’s Offer Raises Idea of Marriage for Catholic Priests

ROME — In making it easier for traditionalist Anglicans to become Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI once again revealed the character of his papacy: to reach out to the most fervent of like-minded believers, even if they are not Catholic. Yet some observers wonder whether his move could paradoxically liberalize the church — or at least wedge it open — on a crucial issue: celibacy.

In a momentous move on Tuesday, the Vatican said it would help Anglicans uncomfortable with female priests and openly gay bishops join a new Anglican rite within the Catholic Church.

The invitation also extends to married Anglican clergy. And so some have begun to wonder, even if the 82-year-old Benedict himself would never allow it, would more people in the Roman Catholic Church begin to entertain the possibility of married Catholic priests?
Read the rest here.

Note: I received an email today from one of the regular readers of the blog who indicated that the text color I have been using for quoted material (a very light gray) does not show up well on RSS Feed. I am experimenting a bit to try and find a suitable color that stands out against the background without becoming invisible on a Feed that has a white background.

Feedback on this is appreciated. Drop me an email.

The Pope causes an internet stir

OK. I give up. I have been making a serious effort at keeping up with the discussion of the move by what one wag called "the Vatican's mergers and acquisitions department." But if there is another topic in the blogosphere getting much more attention right now I don't know what it is. There is a lot out there at the moment.

The press (especially in Britain) have been all over this with articles ranging from solid and steady reporting to the kinds of sensationalism I would expect from a supermarket tabloid. It seems that everyone is chiming in on this one. I even found a blog run by a heavy metal rocker(!) who posted on the subject. Judging from the young man's errr... colorful... comments I am guessing he is not a regular church goer. But it was amusing.

In any case here are a few links to web sites posting some of the better stories or blog posts on the subject for those interested.

Anglican sites:

Thinking Anglicans - News on all things Anglican

Stand Firm

Virtue Online - News from the Episcopal Resistance


Roman Catholic sites:

RORATE CÆLI- (Traditionalist)

What Does The Prayer Really Say?


National Catholic Register

Chiesa - Sandro Magister's Vatican Insights

Links to some of the British Press-Media


Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke


London Times

London Telegraph

Inflation: A contrary point of view

As anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows, I am not a fan of running high deficits or printing money, both of which we are doing in spades. I have posted on this subject repeatedly cautioning of the danger to our currency and the high risks of inflation. That said, there are more than a few smart people who think the real danger lies in deflation, not inflation. Generally I have found those arguments weak on numbers and rather anemic in their reasoning. However, this morning I stumbled on a contra-inflation article that is well written and reasoned and which I would encourage those interested in getting the alternative point of view to read.

The article is in PDF Format so I can't post any excerpts. But you can read it here.

Hat tip to John Jansen author if the excellent blog Across the Curve.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Anglicans and Orthodoxy: A reality check

Orthodox will never beat Rome at Rome's game, and we need to get any hint of such a notion out of our heads. We can talk all we want about past ties and chumminess between Orthodox and Anglicans, but it makes more sense for the vast majority of faithful Anglicans to go to Rome than it does for them to go to Orthodoxy. Rome has an ecclesial apparatus that can efficiently and coherently make a place for them, and it can market those efforts in a manner that Orthodox cannot come close to competing with. And the theology of most conservative Anglicans reflects the influence of Augustine and Aquinas in a manner that Orthodoxy outside of David Bentley Hart and a few of his friends does not...

...Then comes along the OCA with its wooing words. True, and thank God, +Jonah spoke about the incompatibility of WO with Orthodoxy, and the problem of the filioque, and the heresy of Calvinism. Rhetorically speaking +Jonah at least placed some serious restraints on the table. I think what is going on is that the ACNA, and perhaps other conservative Anglican groups (the ACNA is not in any real sense a traditionalist Anglican body), is in such a state of excitement and euphoria over gaining size and momentum that when Orthodox or RCs show up and speak nice and talk about their commitment to dialogue and the duty to pursue unity, etc., these euphoric Anglicans only hear that they are being courted and think themselves to have been somehow recognized to be "within" the Church and they do not hear the "fine print"-speak. What I find crass about these ecumenical gatherings (and yes, no matter how much tea and lace and crumpets, it is crass) is that, at least with what is presented of these meetings for public consumption, the hard facts that get in the way of the euphoric, urgent, union-is-just-around-the-corner metanarrative rarely seem to make it beyond "fine-print"-speak or the occasional tangent. It would seem to me that in an honest dialogue would involve as much public and forthright discussion of what divides us as it does those things we supposedly have in common. That said, I have to say that I appreciate that +Jonah at very least says some "hard" things that one rarely publicly hears coming out of the mouths of hierarchs involved in these sorts of meetings.

I have another worry about the ACNA. Many of the groups within the ACNA are made up of a lot of folks who stayed in ECUSA through WO, Spong, and outright heresy and left only after an openly homosexual bishop was ordained. The ethos of the ACNA is not traditional. It is not catholic. It is white, middle class Republican - Dobson in vestments. It is moralist. Heck, these folks promote on their own website the fact that they are "conservative" and "biblical" on the issue of homosexuality. Their ecclesial identity is tied up in the fact that they reject the Church blessing homosexual unions. Friends, that may be correct but it does not have staying power, and it does not necessarily make a person or group somehow a more significant candidate for communion with Rome or Orthodoxy than another person or group. To pursue them on the basis of their manner of conservatism is the sort of demographic association seeking that political parties make use of, but going after particular religious groups because of their cultural conservatism strikes me as a rather repugnant form of evangelism. It reeks of that peculiar pathetic display of religious forms that feel increasingly isolated culturally and so desperately want a few more friends on the playground of culture.
-Owen the Ochlophobist throwing a little cold water on the current enthusiasm for ecumenical talks with conservative Anglicans. I encourage everyone to read his post carefully. It has more than a few solid points.

Rome welcomes Anglo-Catholics into communion

Today's announcement in Rome can not be realistically described as a surprise. It has been rumored and predicted to a large degree all over the internet and in print for months and even years (including on this blog). However, this in no way detracts from its significance. What the Holy See did today was the equivalent of dropping an ecumenical bomb.

The exact mechanics of all this are still not clear but should be coming out in the near future. Some things are clear however, more clear indeed than they have been for years. Clarity has been established on a number of subjects.

1. Rome has run out of patience with the Anglican Communion. The old dream of Anglican Catholic corporate reunion is now dead. Any bloviating from Rowan Williams notwithstanding this is an earthquake that spells the end of the Anglican Catholic dialogue as it has been run for decades. No this does NOT mean Rome will no longer talk to the Anglican Communion. They will certainly do so. Just as they talk to Jews, Mohammedans and Buddhists. But the goal is no longer reunion. It will simply be mutual tolerance.

2. Conservative Anglo-Catholics now have a refuge from the lunacy in the Anglican Communion. This means the internal politics in that communion are now going to have to take into account the new reality. On which note I find it curious that the CofE made what some saw as the almost inexplicable decision within the last week or so to postpone the ordination of women bishops and reconsider the protections which they were going to offer to those who could not in conscience accept ministry from female clergy. Coincidence? We think not.

3. Likewise this is going to have effects and ramifications within the so called Anglican Continuum. It is no secret that the Anglo-Catholic component of the recently founded ACNA has been profoundly uncomfortable being in communion with female clergy and having a primate who supports W/O. Many of these have been in discussions with Met. +Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. This will add a new element to that already complicated scene.

4. The Roman Catholic Church is going to feel the effects of this as well. The TAC by its own (possibly inflated) estimate has around a half million members. That is more than many of the sui juris uniate Eastern churches in communion with Rome. While Rome has been very careful to avoid referring to this new arrangement as a separate church within the broader Papal communion, it looks like it is going to come very close to that in fact, if perhaps not name.

The potential absorption over the coming years of in excess of 500,000 High Church Anglicans is likely to have broad implications in everything from church discipline on clerical celibacy to liturgy. The Anglicans have a long history of a married clergy. How that is going to work out remains to be seen. They (the High Church wing) also have a liturgical tradition that at least since the disaster of the post Vatican II era is frankly more Catholic than anything Rome has seen in decades. I can not believe that Pope +Benedict, a renowned theologian who has written extensively on the important connection between liturgy and faith, did not have this in mind when preparing his invitation to traditional Anglo-Catholics.

I suspect that the only people who will be as unhappy as Rowan Williams over this will be many of the Roman Catholic bishops and 60's era guitar and folk Mass types, especially in English speaking countries.

For now, I am prepared to suspend my generally hostile sentiments towards uniatism. Since the Anglican Communion jumped off a theological cliff several decades ago when they started ordaining women, and appear to still be in free fall, I believe the Pope acted correctly from a Roman Catholic perspective. It is obvious to anyone with more than 2 brain cells firing off at the same time that the Anglican Communion is lost to the catholic tradition and thus no hope of corporate reunion can be rationally entertained. In the final analysis this is the requiem for the dream of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey of a full blown Anglo-Catholic reunion.

Memory Eternal.

Russia’s Leaders See China as Template for Ruling

MOSCOW — Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Communist Party, Russia’s rulers have hit upon a model for future success: the Communist Party.

Or at least, the one that reigns next door.

Like an envious underachiever, Vladimir V. Putin’s party, United Russia, is increasingly examining how it can emulate the Chinese Communist Party, especially its skill in shepherding China through the financial crisis relatively unbowed.

United Russia’s leaders even convened a special meeting this month with senior Chinese Communist Party officials to hear firsthand how they wield power.

In truth, the Russians express no desire to return to Communism as a far-reaching Marxist-Leninist ideology, whether the Soviet version or the much attenuated one in Beijing. What they admire, it seems, is the Chinese ability to use a one-party system to keep tight control over the country while still driving significant economic growth.
Read the rest here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Metropolitan Zizoulas defending dialogue with Rome

Paphos (AsiaNews) - The 2nd round of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox is being held in Paphos (Cyprus) from October 16 to 23. Progress, however, appears a distant goal. Two days ago, groups of traditionalist Orthodox monks and Orthodox priests from Larnaca interrupted the meeting of the Joint Commission, asking Archbishop Chrisostomos to stop it. They believe that dialogue between the two Churches is designed to "subjugate the Orthodox to the pope in Rome". Yet it is to this very island, a martyred land of ancient Christian traditions, divided by the last wall in Europe, the one between Greece and Turkey, that Benedict XVI will come on a papal visit in June 2010.

The dialogue of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches began in Ravenna in 2007 where a road map for process towards full unity was signed. The Ravenna document, of great importance, is based on the ecclesiology of the first millennium, when the two churches were in full communion, although even then differences arose from time to time.

The Ravenna document was not signed by the Russian Orthodox Church, which withdrew over differences with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on the question of the Church in Estonia. But these days it was involved in the work. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople confirmed two days ago that "engaging in dialogue is our duty and obligation. Dialogue is a road of no return".

The issue of dialogue is the theme of an in depth interview that the Metropolitan of Pergamon, John Zizoulas, gave to Cypriot journalist Aris Viketos. Zizoulas is Co-chairman - along with the card. Walter Kasper - of the Joint Commission, an eminent theologian and a charismatic figure, as well as a strong supporter of dialogue.

In ecumenical circles it is said that with this interview Zizoulas is sending an important signal to certain areas of the Orthodox world. They, although a minority, are loudly contesting the dialogue, because they themselves are victims of a traditionalist narcissism bordering on infallibility. The interview also criticizes certain sectors of the Catholic Church who impose a disproportionate dogmatic rationalism, and who want nothing to change.
Read the rest here

It looks like it's going to be a busy week in ecumenical news.

Big news from Rome on Anglican relations

The Holy See will be making what is widely believed to be a significant announcement on their relationship with the Anglican Communion tomorrow. The speculation (with which I agree) is that it will be an announcement that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) is to be received into communion with the Roman Church.

Hat tip T-19

A hearty one and a half cheers...

...for the Antiochian Archdiocese.

1. They re-retired Bp. Dimitri. His continued employment was a terrible scandal. That's worth a cheer.
2. They agreed to an "internal" audit. Not much in details. This strikes me as at best a half step in the right direction. But a lot will depend on how this is handled and who will be doing it. The bottom line though is that anything less than a fully transparent audit conducted by a reputable independent entity will be seen as suspect by some. This warrants a half cheer.
3. The manual on hierarchical responsibilities has been put off for a while. There are some logical reasons for this given the possibility that the Holy Synod of Antioch may finally be taking an interest in what's been going on over here. This is a neutral action, neither good nor bad.

See OCANews and the Ochlophobist for details and analysis.

Possible news pending from the Antiochians

Rumors are circulating about the response of the Antiochian Archdiocese to demands for an independent audit of its books. Let us pray the rumors are false. Keep an eye on OCANews and The Ochlophobist who are likely to have the news as soon as something firm is known.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quote of the day...

Americans seem to have finally realized that taking on a third mortgage to buy a second 74-inch TV for the bathroom is not a sensible decision.

Baseball... its going on 1AM in New York...

Going to the 13th and tied 3-3


And at 1:08 AM the evil empire wins again.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I may have to amend the poll in the sidebar.

Anti-Zionism & Anti-Semitism

Teófilo de Jesús has a very interesting post up that addresses (from a Catholic perspective) the often blurred lines between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. I strongly recommend perusing it here. As is usually the case on his blog I find this post well written and thought provoking. Please leave your comments at Vivificat!.

20 years ago today: The Loma Prieta (SF bay area) earthquake

A car crushed by a collapsed apartment building
The Loma Prieta earthquake, also known as the Quake of '89 and the World Series Earthquake,[4] was a major earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area of California on October 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m. local time. Caused by a slip along the San Andreas Fault, the temblor lasted 10–15 seconds[1] and measured 6.9 on the moment magnitude scale[5] (surface-wave magnitude 7.1, Richter magnitude scale 7.0.[1]) The quake killed 63[2] people throughout northern California, injured 3,757[3] and left some 3,000,[1] 8,000,[6] 10,000[7] or 12,000[8] people homeless.

The earthquake occurred during the warm up for the third game of the 1989 World Series, coincidentally featuring both of the Bay Area's Major League Baseball teams, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants. Because of game-related sports coverage, this was the first major earthquake in America to have its initial jolt broadcast live on television.[9]
Read the rest here.

Series Tied: Dodgers 2 Phillies 1

Read the story here.

In other news the evil empire won the first game in the ALCS.


Russia: Struggling with the crisis of the monotowns

>VIEWED from the outside, things have been going quite well for Russia recently. The United States has scrapped, at least for now, the plan to base missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Germany and Russia seem to have overcome opposition in Europe to their Nord Stream pipeline, despite fears that it will solidify Russia’s dominance of the European natural gas supplies. Oil prices have recovered from the disastrously low — for Russia — levels of last winter. And, far from buckling under pressure from the United States over sanctions against Iran, Russian leaders felt confident enough to concede almost nothing to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Moscow this week.

Yet on the inside the country remains dangerously close to a serious breakdown of authority. In addition to the Muslim North Caucasus, which is already barely governable, the most vulnerable places are the company towns, which could catalyze a nationwide explosion of political turmoil.
Read the rest here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Mother, a Sick Son and His Father, the Priest

O’FALLON, Mo. — With three small children and her marriage in trouble, Pat Bond attended a spirituality retreat for Roman Catholic women in Illinois 26 years ago in hopes of finding support and comfort.

What Ms. Bond found was a priest — a dynamic, handsome Franciscan friar in a brown robe — who was serving as the spiritual director for the retreat and agreed to begin counseling her on her marriage. One day, she said, as she was leaving the priest’s parlor, he pulled her aside for a passionate kiss.

Ms. Bond separated from her husband, and for the next five years she and the priest, the Rev. Henry Willenborg, carried on an intimate relationship, according to interviews and court documents. In public, they were both leaders in their Catholic community in Quincy, Ill. In private they functioned like a married couple, sharing a bed, meals, movie nights and vacations with the children.

Eventually they had a son, setting off a series of legal battles as Ms. Bond repeatedly petitioned the church for child support. The Franciscans acquiesced, with the stipulation that she sign a confidentiality agreement. It is now an agreement she is willing to break as both she and her child, Nathan Halbach, 22, are battling cancer.

With little to lose, they are eager to tell their stories: the mother, a once-faithful Catholic who says the church protected a philandering priest and treated her as a legal adversary, and the son, about what it was like to grow up knowing his absentee father was a priest.
Read the rest here.

I hesitated quite a bit before putting this up. Any post that deals with the Catholic Church tends to draw accusations of either being an "online Orthodox" anti-Catholic bigot, or of still having one foot left on the other side of the Bosporus and being too sympathetic to my heretical former co-religionists. But I think this one is worth discussion so here goes.

My own take on this is that it is a tale of bad choices and irresponsible behavior on the part of many people with one truly innocent victim.

Fr. Willenborg: The man is a cad. I don't know what else to say except that he has utterly failed at his moral responsibilities. He needs to man up.

Ms. Bond: While I empathize with her plight it is to a large degree one of her own creation. No one forced her to shack up with a priest. She seems to have tried to do right by her son, but irrespective of the low character of the priest in question, it takes two to tango. Rape was not among the accusations here.

The Franciscans: It's not their fault that one of their members has more issues than Time Magazine. It is their fault that they chose to look the other way over this and similar behavior. More on that a little later. It also sounds like they had to have their arm twisted a bit before they decided to do the right thing for the boy. Unfortunatly at every step the evidence suggests a greater concern for their own position than that of the family now in existence thanks to the activities of one of their members.

The Roman Catholic Church: It's time to broach a subject that will land me in all kinds of hot water with my Catholic readers. But oh well; sometimes things need to be said. Obligatory celibacy for all ranks of the clergy does not work. It never has. Anyone who believes otherwise is delusional. This is not a doctrinal issue. (I do not want this post to become a springboard for an Orthodox-Catholic debate on doctrine.) The issue is disciplinary.

Back in the days before swimming the Bosporus I knew my share of priests. A few of them were fairly candid on this subject. While I know of no serious study that's been done, the numbers quoted in here don't sound terribly off base to me. It is quite clear that a substantial percentage of Roman Catholic clergy habitually break their vows of celibacy. This occurs in every diocese and in most cases (unless they choose to remain willfully ignorant) the bishops know what's going on. Some of these priests live, to varying degrees, semi-openly with their "wives" in monogamous relationships. Others, like the subject of the linked story, are serial philanderers. And of course the Roman Catholic priesthood has historically been a popular career choice for homosexuals because it provided them with a convenient place to hide in plain sight where no one would ask them how come they don't have a girlfriend or get married.

The problem is that the hands of the bishops are from a pragmatic point of view tied. It's not that they don't want to discipline their clergy (though I suspect that may be the case in at least some places). The same rule (obligatory celibacy) which creates these scandals has in recent years severely hamstrung the bishops by creating a dearth of priests. Like it or not, we live in an age when large numbers of people who feeling called to a religious vocation, and are then being told that they must abandon any hope of a married life to pursue that vocation, are walking away. If by conservative estimates a quarter of your clergy are playing around routinely how does a bishop sack them all when he already doesn't have any-where's near enough priests to keep things up and running properly?

And blaming this on Vatican II or liberalism (which I know is popular) is hogwash. This sort of thing has gone on in every diocese in every country since the day Rome said "NO" to married clergy. In the old days, especially in culturally Catholic countries it was a lot easier to cover it up. But there are more than sufficient records to demonstrate this problem throughout history.

OK lets dispense with the inevitable cries of "Orthodoxy has its share of problems too!"

Yes we do. But they are not on the same level. Not even close. Yea we have priests (and at least one bishop) who cross the line. But we don't have a system in place that attempts to impose burdens on young men that not everyone is able to bear. And we do accept the possibility that those who are not called to a life of celibacy (which we hold in great honor) may still be called to the religious life including the ordained priesthood. By and large our scandals are more often about power and money. I would also note that in those instances where sexual scandals do occur it is as often as not in a monastery.

The bottom line here is that Rome's insistence on celibacy is turning away thousands of young men who would make terrific priests and setting up those who enter seminary for burdens that many will not be able to bear. Many of these will fall into grievous sin. Frankly, I think the rule is nuts.

And lastly Nathan: He is the one tragic and truly innocent victim in this mess. To be honest, I am not really overwhelmed by the story if you take him out of the picture and probably would not be posting on it.

OK a quick reminder on comments... READ THE GUIDELINES FOR POSTING FIRST.

Federal Deficit Sets a Record: Highest as a percentage of GDP since World War II

NEW YORK ( -- It's officially official.

The Obama administration on Friday said the government ran a $1.42 trillion deficit in fiscal year 2009.

That made it the worst year on record since World War II, according to data from the Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Tax receipts for the year fell 16.6% overall, while spending soared 18.2% compared to fiscal year 2008. The causes: rising unemployment, the economic slowdown and the extraordinary measures taken by lawmakers to stem the economic meltdown that hit in fall 2008.

Consequently, the annual deficit rose 212% to the record dollar amount of $1.42 trillion, from $455 billion a year earlier.

As a share of the economy, the deficit accounted for 10% of gross domestic product, up from 3.2% in 2008. As breath-taking as that may be, it's still not in the same stratosphere as the 1945 deficit, which hit 21% of GDP.
Read the rest here.
The New York Times also has the story here.

Editor's Note: About 5 minutes after posting the original version of this I discovered that my closing paragraph contained a factually inaccurate set numbers. I have deleted that paragraph.

Quote of the day...

Is there anyone on earth, from the Pope to Mao Tse Tung, who can be entirely certain that he is not an Episcopalian?
-Uncertain but widely attributed to William F. Buckley


Health Reform: Preparing to go nuclear

The House Ways and Means Committee has agreed to send H.R. 3200, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, to the House Budget Committee.

By packaging the bill as a budget bill, House leaders might be able to use a process called the “reconciliation” process to get a health reform bill through the Senate with just 51 votes, rather than 60 votes normally required.

Senators trying to win passage of ordinary Senate bills need to have 60 votes to prevent opponents from “filibustering,” or engaging in endless rounds of discussion. But Senate budget reconciliation procedures permit budget bills to pass with a simple majority of the votes cast.

The vote to send H.R. 3200 to the Budget Committee “does not change the substance of the health reform bill, and it does not indicate a change in process as the bill moves toward a vote in the House of Representatives,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., says in a statement.

But “there is a possibility that a handful of Senate Republicans could choose to engage in partisan tactics to stall this important health reform bill,” Rangel says. “By sending the legislation to the Budget Committee, we simply preserve the option of advancing health reform legislation in a manner that would allow a majority of this Congress to answer the call of the American people and President Obama to address this growing crisis.”

Hat tip tip John Jansen

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The BBC: Global warming stopped 10 years ago...

I think the BBC wanted to slip this one out quietly, but a Matt Drudge link put paid to that. The climate change correspondent of BBC News has admitted that global warming stopped in 1998 – and he reports that leading scientists believe that the earth’s cooling-off may last for decades.

“Whatever happened to global warming?” is the title of an article by Paul Hudson that represents a clear departure from the BBC’s fanatical espousal of climate change orthodoxy. The climate change campaigners will go nuts, particularly in the run-up to Copenhagen. So, I suspect, will devout believers inside the BBC. Hudson’s story was not placed very prominently by his colleagues – but a link right at the top of Drudge will have delivered at least a million page views, possibly many more.
Read the rest at Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke.

He is safe! Now what?

The balloon boy has been found safe hiding in a box in the garage attic. Obviously I am overjoyed as I am sure is every normal person. But this moves us to the next question. What should happen to the little creep who riveted several hundred million people here and around the world and caused the mobilization of half the state of Colorado to rescue him? Vote in the poll in the side bar or leave your more personal recommendations in the comments section below.

A constitutional speed bump for Obama's Nobel Prize

And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.

-Constitution of the United States of America Article I sec 9
The award of the peace prize to a sitting President is not unprecedented. But Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson received the honor for their past actions: Roosevelt's efforts to end the Russo-Japanese War and Wilson's work in establishing establish the League of Nations. Obama's award is different. It is intended to affect future action. As a member of the Nobel Committee explained, the Prize should encourage Obama to meet his goal of nuclear disarmament. It raises important legal questions for the second time in less than 10 months -- questions not discussed, much less adequately addressed anywhere else.

The five-member Nobel commission is elected by the Storting, the Parliament of Norway. Thus the award of the peace prize is made by a body representing the legislature of a sovereign foreign state. There is no doubt that the Nobel Peace Prize is an "emolument" ("gain from employment or position," according to Webster).

An opinion of the U.S. Attorney General advised, in 1902 that "a simple remembrance," even "if merely a photograph, falls under the inclusion of 'any present of any kind whatever.' " President Clinton's Office of Legal Counsel, in 1993, reaffirmed the 1902 opinion, and explained that the text of the clause does not limit "its application solely to foreign governments acting as sovereigns." This opinion went on to say that the Emolument Clause applies even when the foreign government acts through instrumentalities. Thus the Nobel Prize is an emolument, and a foreign one to boot.

The DOW breaks 10k

Wall Street cheered today as the stock market broke over the 10,000 mark (DOW Jones Industrial Average). I suppose it's nice to have clawed our way back to where we were 10 years ago.

I feel so much better off now. Don't you?

In the meantime the dollar lost 20% of its value against foreign currencies (US Dollar Index) during the Bush Administration and after a short lived rally over last fall / winter during the great panic of '08 it has resumed its slide. The dollar is down around 16% since March! In the stockmarket a comparable slide would be worrisome. But when your currency drops 16% in six months that's a giant neon sign flashing a one word message...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You just can't make stuff like this up

CANTON, N.C. (October 13, 2009)—The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, N.C. will celebrate Halloween by burning Bibles that aren’t the King James Version, as well as music and books and anything else Pastor Marc Grizzard says is a satanic influence.

Among the authors whose books Grizzard plans to burn are well known ministers Rick Warren and Billy Graham because he says they have occasionally used Bibles other than the King James Version, which is the sole biblical source he considers infallible.

According to the church’s Web site, members will also burn “Satan's music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul (and) oldies.

“We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa, The Pope, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning (and) William Young.

During the book burning, according to the Web site, barbecued chicken fried chicken and “all the sides” will be served.

It's heeeere....

Our home has its first confirmed case of the Swine Flue (H1N1 aka Mexican Influenza). So far I am fine. Last spring I had a nasty case of influenza that lasted about 10 days and stretched through Holy Week. I suspect that may have been the same thing and am hoping I have some immunity. Fingers crossed. Prayers are coveted and appreciated.

The dollar's collapse the stock market's rally and gold

The Stock Market (S&P 500) and the US Dollar Index. Click to enlarge.
Why has the SP500 continued higher even when earnings have been weak and unsustainable and demand has been virtually non-existent? There are several contributing factors such as the oversold condition, sentiment, etc. but our favorite one is that the Government is debasing our currency and in the process it is driving asset prices but not their actual values higher. After all, if your investment in the SP500 is up but the actual value of your dollar is equally low then have you actually made any money?
Read the rest here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A response to an attack on Metropolitan +Jonah and the OCA

As much as I dislike criticizing other Orthodox bloggers, a recent post I stumbled on is really over the top and requires a response. I am not going to quote extracts of the blog post in question. Rather I would encourage the reader to peruse it for themselves in its entirety. It can be found here.

Done? Good.

In my opinion this is an extremely unfortunate piece which is based on misconceptions and a rather pronounced anti-convert / American prejudice. But here are a few quick points ...

1. Met +Jonah is meeting not with the Episcopal Organization (I refuse to refer to that body as a church) but with a group of High Church Anglo Catholics who have separated from the Episcopal Organization over precisely the issues which the author decries.

2. Only one diocese in the ACNA admits women to ordination. The others do not. And there is strong internal pressure to end the practice.

3. The rejection of homosexuality is quite clear on the part of the ACNA.

4. +Jonah in his address to the inaugural convention of the ACNA laid down a series of conditions that they would be required to meet in order for them to be accepted in Orthodoxy. Among those points were an unconditional acceptance of the decrees and canons of the seven OEcumenical Councils, a rejection of iconoclasism, a rejection of Calvinism which he pointed out is a condemned heresy, repudiation of the filioque, and the rejection of female ordination. He affirmed that these points were non-negotiable.

5. +Jonah has made it quite clear the OCA will not hold any dialogue with the Episcopal Organization nor any other "church" which has so grievously abandoned the most basic tenets of Christianity.

6. The very snarky and rather personal judgments and comments about Orthodox clergy and Hierarchs in good standing are unbecoming. I will not dignify them with any further comment.

7. The OCA is the daughter church of the Russian Church and is recognized by the Russian Church as THE CANONICAL AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH in North America. Further the Patriarch of Moscow has not forbidden any other Orthodox Church from holding dialogue with anyone. Indeed he could not do so if he wished (which happily is not the case). Patriarch Kyril is no more the Orthodox Pope than the Ecumenical Patriarch (though at times I wonder if Bartholomew gets it).

8. The question “should the OCA be permitted to continue its partnership with the Anglican Church?” is first offensive and secondly inaccurate as there is no partnership. This is a discussion with High Church Anglicans who have been alienated by their own communion and many of whom are looking at the Roman Catholic Church as a possible place to go. +Jonah is presenting them with an alternative to Rome.

The entire tone of this blog post is frankly shocking and filled from beginning to end with misconceptions, inaccuracies and really offensive references to clergy and converts casting aspersions on their faith while highly suggestive of a desire to preserve the Orthodox faith as some sort of ethnic club. Fortunately it bears no resemblance to the position of the Russian Church with whom the OCA enjoys very cordial relations.

For what it’s worth I have serious doubts about the process. I think the idea of bringing the whole of the ACNA into Orthodoxy is silly. But there are clearly some very strong Anglo-Catholic elements who are not far removed from Orthodoxy on a doctrinal level. Apparently the author sees no point in speaking with such people in the hopes of bringing them into the Church. But then again I haven’t seen any enthusiasm on the part of the author for missionary work on the part of Orthodoxy post 10th century when the Slavs were converted.

The last time I checked the Great Commission has not been repealed. And you can't convert people you wont talk to.

Hat tip to ROCOR UNITED.

Friday, October 09, 2009

More Disturbing Antiochian Developments

Fr. Oliver Herbal of the Antiochian Orthodox Mission Parish in Fargo ND (St. Nicholas) has been notified by Metropolitan Philip that he is now forbidden from exercising his priestly ministry in any AOANA parish. The mission being deprived of its priest and effectively disowned by the Antiochian Archdiocese subsequently voted to disband itself. What provoked this act?

Apparently Fr. Oliver dared to question El Supremo a bit too closely (which is to say at all) during a meeting between +Philip and his clergy. There were sundry other charges, none of which appear to hold any water, thrown in as well. You can read a summary with the salient facts here. For more details our favorite Ochlophobist has a write up on the matter which I strongly recommend. Be warned though. This is likely to turn your stomach unless you have a high tolerance for gross injustice.

The good news (and this really is good news from my POV) is that Fr. Oliver is back in the OCA now. Also his mission parish is now in the OCA as well. The bad news is they are hurting for money.

We live in hard times. I can attest to this from very personal experience as can a number of other bloggers like Owen (the aforementioned Ochlophobist), Perry Robinson of Energetic Processions, and Mike Liccione who (Deo Gratias) recently landed a job in New York City. Thus I am very careful about asking people to make sacrifices when you may already be struggling to make ends meat. But for those who are able, any help for the struggling mission in Fargo would be deeply appreciated and a great act of charity. As Owen notes in his own post they are probably the only Orthodox parish within a three hour radius. They and their priest have suffered a terrible injustice and they are in need.

Why is a weak dollar bad?

John Wilkins asks the question and I answer it here.

And the consolation prize for not getting the Olympics is...

...The Nobel Peace Prize. This is a joke right? What war has he stopped? Has he negotiated a single treaty of any significance? What monumental contribution has he made to the cause of human rights? (I pause here to acknowledge that liberals consider abortion to be a fundamental human right.)

The late Pope John Paul II who helped topple Communism, tirelessly stood up for peace and helped prevent at least one war, spent his life championing human rights and fighting for the poor and dispossessed was repeatedly snubbed by the Nobel committee, probably due to his support for the unborn. And yet they can give the award to this ZERO? I could even see a plausible argument for Jimmy Carter getting it a few years ago. But this is just too much.

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that this will be somewhat controversial. It's not exactly a state secret that the process for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize is highly politicized. But this is repulsive and has severely diminished my regard for the award.

If the president wishes to avoid a great deal of ridicule I think he would be well advised to politely decline this wholly undeserved honor.

75 Years Ago: The Regicide of King Aleksander I of Serbia & Yugoslavia

H.M. Aleksander I of Yugoslavia and The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes

On October 9th 1934 King Aleksander of Yugoslavia (also the last King of Serbia) arrived in Marseilles France to complete diplomatic negotiations on a treaty aimed at isolating Nazi Germany. The King was an ardent anti-Nazi who saw Hitler as a danger to the peace of Europe. En-route to the rail station in an open touring car Alexander was poorly protected by only an escort of mounted police. Riding with him and enjoying the enthusiastic public reception was French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou.

Suddenly and with no warning Vlado Chernozemski, a Bulgarian nationalist, leaped from the crowd onto the side board of the limousine and opened fire with an automatic pistol. King Aleksander was killed almost instantly along with the unlucky chauffeur. In the chaos of the moment Minister Barthou was tragically and fatally wounded by a policeman aiming for the gunman. The assassin was immediately cut down by a saber wielding mounted police officer. However before police could remove him from the scene he was seized by the hysterical crowds and beaten to death. The entire event was captured on newsreel footage.

In a sad coincidence King Aleksander rarely made public appearances on Tuesdays as several members of his family had died on that day and he was quite superstitious. However official duty could not be avoided in this case.

The consequences of this infamous but largely forgotten crime were significant. Aleksander was one of very few European statesmen in the early 30's who clearly saw Hitler for what he was. His death derailed the planned strengthening of the so called Little Entente treaty (of which the King was a major architect) that was aimed at providing a unified front against German aggression or expansionism a full two years before the Nazis reoccupied the Rhineland.

His son succeeded as King Petar II. However given his age (11) the new King was unable to rule and his cousin Prince Paul was appointed as regent. Prince Paul quickly abandoned the anti-Nazi policies of the late sovereign and against the wishes of the royal court and the new King began adopting a progressively more friendly foreign policy towards Nazi Germany. This culminated in the signing of the Tripartite Pact on March 25 1941 in Nazi occupied Vienna. This was the last straw for King Peter and his supporters who with massive public support overthrew the unpopular regent. But the damage was long since done.

King Aleksander was an imperfect ruler and no one has suggested he be glorified as a saint. His reign was largely authoritarian in style and some of the ethnic groups in his kingdom felt the heel of his boot firmly planted on their necks. This was certainly a contributing factor in his murder (despite persistent rumors that it was actually a Nazi conspiracy).

But he was also quite clear in his grasp of international and domestic politics. He perceived the menace of Nazi Germany long before almost anyone else on the continent and was working diligently to put Hitler in a box right up to the day of his death. His assassination radically altered the balance of power in central Europe and removed one of the linchpins from the carefully crafted alliances designed to isolate Germany. France would later abandon its ally Czechoslovakia in 1938 and again in early 1939 citing as a partial excuse for their dishonorable conduct the lack of any other credible ally in the region.

The tomb of H.M. King Aleksander I

Note: This post was slightly modified to more closely reflect the Serbian spelling of the King's name.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

After 40 Years: Seeking justice for torture

William Thomas Massie's nightmares almost always begin in a dusty prison cell. His arms are lashed behind his back, and North Korean guards are karate-chopping his neck, kicking his groin and ankles, and smashing his face with fists and rifle butts.

The frigid room is illuminated only by tannin-tinted light trickling through newspaper-covered windows. The guards are screaming. One thrusts an assault rifle into Massie's mouth. The soldier's finger is on the trigger. Sweat stings Massie's eyes. He is terrified.

When he wakes up, his body aches. Sometimes he sobs.

Those nightmares have pursued Massie for decades, vivid flashbacks of his "11 months of hell" in a brutal North Korean prison after he and 81 other members of the USS Pueblo were captured in 1968. Ever since, Massie and many of the other men have struggled with torture's legacy.

Coping hasn't been easy for the Pueblo's crew. Marriages imploded. At least two men committed suicide. Many have seen therapists and still take medication for stress and depression.

Massie, a thick 61-year-old with gray hair and a gray goatee who likes wearing all-black clothing, has seen countless doctors and therapists for severe back pain, impotence, incontinence and depression, all the result of torture.

On the advice of a counselor who thought he needed a calming influence at home, he even took in a lovable yellow Labrador named Bruno. But while the experts he has seen have helped ease Massie's lingering anger, pain and fear, they haven't delivered what he has truly craved: vengeance and vindication.

For that, he turned to the law.

Massie, two other Pueblo crew members and the widow of their captain sued North Korea for their torment. A federal judge in the District awarded them $65 million in damages last year. Their lawyers are trying to locate North Korean assets frozen by the U.S. government that they can seize.
Read the rest here


The Republicans are criticizing Obama for the falling dollar and high debt. See my comment here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Daily Telegraph on the Russian Orthodox Church

The search for an identity that began after the collapse of Communism remains a critical question for Russians. The Orthodox Church is the only institution that unites Russians with their “near abroad” and has survived throughout the country’s long history. Today, the state needs the church much more than vice-versa.

When foreigners convert to Orthodoxy, more often than not it is because they are impressed by the splendour and majesty of Russian liturgy.

They appreciate that strict Orthodox priests do not connive at human weaknesses or play up to the individual, accustomed to indulgence. They are attracted by the centuries-old spiritual tradition, which is inevitably conservative and inflexible but all the stronger for that.

It stands in stark contrast to the “flexibility” of Western Churches adapting to changing circumstances, which in many ways has left them today in a “social ghetto”.

The Russian faith, like the Russian revolution and like life in Russia itself, never condescends to the individual.
Read the rest here.

No room for the dead

MOSCOW — Aleksei Orlov’s grandfather was buried in Moscow’s Danilovskoe Cemetery in 1946. His grandmother was laid to rest there four decades later. And, about 11 years ago, Mr. Orlov buried his father there.

But when his mother died unexpectedly last August, he found there was no room for her in the family plot. Or almost anywhere else.

Moscow, it turns out, is largely closed to the dead. Of the 71 cemeteries in the Russian capital, only one is open to new burials. The shortage of space has left relatives without room in family plots to choose between burial far from the city and cremation, a practice that is frowned upon by the Russian Orthodox Church.

“Mama was a Christian and wanted to be buried according to Christian tradition,” Mr. Orlov, a Moscow business analyst, said. “On the other hand, it wasn’t possible to bury her. New plots are either far away, expensive or both.”
Read the rest here.

More debate over the Shroud of Turin

The Russian Church has issued a brief statement on recent claims that the Shroud of Turin is a forgery. FWIW I do not know or particularly care whether the Shroud is the original or not. If it's not the original then it is in a sense an icon not unlike what we Orthodox venerate in the form of the Icon Not Made by Hands. It is almost impossible to imagine someone in the medieval period who could create such a work. But in either which case I would call it an object of supernatural sanctity much worthy of veneration.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Kyle Bass writes a must read letter...

Allow me to summarize 24 pages in a single sentence. We are in very very deep trouble.

Kyle Bass, a top drawer Wall Street money man and fund manager for Hayman Advisors was one of very few people who saw the coming of the sub-prime real estate collapse. (He actually made money last year, and I mean a lot of money.) His October letter to investors is one of the best pieces I have read in a long time on the state of the economy and where things might be going. It is not short, but I think it is a must read.

Pay very close attention to what he writes about our national debt and the mass printing of money. This is far more detailed than the usual mantra of "printing money = inflation." Finally take note of his detailed dissection of the rest of the world's economic standing. This is sobering reading.
Hay Man
Note: For unknown reasons the embedded document does not show up in Mozilla FireFox. It does however work fine in Internet Explorer.