Monday, November 30, 2009

Please Stand By: We are experiencing technical difficulties

Well, I got home late yesterday afternoon and the computer has apparently decided it needs more than a weekend off. I am posting this from a computer at the public library. Yes this means that as of right now I have no regular internet connection. So please go easy on emails unless they are urgent (I am time limited to an hour here). I am not sure how serious the problem is. But it looks like a major crash right now. More to follow as time permits.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hang on: It could be an ugly day

We interrupt our scheduled down time to gently caution readers who care about such things that today (black Friday) is probably going to be a tough one on Wall St. There has been a very steep sell off in overseas markets on news that Dubai (and its principal development fund) is in serious danger of defaulting on its debt.

The Nikei Index is down over 3%, the Hang Seng is down almost 5%, The main European Exchanges which have just opened are dropping like a rock. As far as I can tell the only thing going up right now is the US Dollar (talk about resurrection from the dead) and closely related Treasuries. Commodities are getting hammered with oil down over 6%, gold down about 4% and silver reminds me of some road kill I have seen recently. DOW Futures are down around 300.

All of which brings to mind some sage advice I once got. In a panic the second one who yells "SELL!" is the first looser.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Barring something significant to report or discuss there will be little or no posting through the weekend. Also please be patient with emails as I anticipate being out of town. Have a great holiday and see you all on Monday.


Blagoslovi Dushe Moya Gospoda (Vespers)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NY Times book review: "History of Russia. XX Century"

A new two-volume history of Russia’s turbulent 20th century is being hailed inside and outside the country as a landmark contribution to the swirling debate over Russia’s past and national identity.

Written by 45 historians led by Andrei Zubov, a professor at the institute that serves as university to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the weighty history — almost 1,000 pages per volume — was published this year by AST Publishers and is already in its second printing of 10,000 copies.

Retailing at the rough equivalent of $20 a volume and titled “History of Russia. XX Century,” the books try to rise above ideologically charged clashes over Russia’s historical memory. They are critical both of czarist and Communist Russia, and incorporate the history of Russian emigration and the Russian Orthodox Church into the big picture of a chaotic, violent century. While written from a clearly Christian perspective — one author is a Russian Orthodox priest — the history avoids overt nationalism or anti-Semitism.

Eminent historians in the United States and Poland who often take a critical view of Russia’s passionate, partisan discussion of history lauded its balance.

“Nothing like it has ever been published in Russia,” Richard Pipes, the Harvard University Sovietologist, wrote in an e-mail message, noting that he was trying to raise money for a translation and publication in English. “It is a remarkable work: remarkable not only for Russia but also for Western readers. For one, it has gotten away from the nationalism so common in Russian history books, according to which the Russians were always the victims of aggression, never aggressors.”

Mr. Pipes noted that it made extensive use of Western sources — rare in Russia — and praised its attention to often overlooked questions of the role of morals and religious beliefs.
Read the rest here.

Australians are learning a lessson: Credit cards are a scam...

SYDNEY — When Steve Franklin bought four plane tickets on Qantas last June, he faced an unexpected expense: a surcharge of 7.70 Australian dollars on each of the 136.70 dollar ($126) tickets — just for using his Visa credit card.

Mr. Franklin, who planned to fly his parents and his 7-year-old twin daughters from Sydney to Adelaide, knew that changes to credit card rules had affected the cost of using plastic, but the extra 5.6 percent seemed excessive.

The charges were the consequence of changes in credit card rules in Australia that were aimed, in part, at reducing the cost of hidden fees for using plastic. But the law, passed six years ago, also allowed merchants to tack on new charges, and many have done just that, in some cases with fees that exceed the old ones.
Read the rest here.

Credit cards are a scam and the companies that issue them are crooks. With apologies to New Hampshire my motto is "Live debt free or die."

Evangelical Protestant Missionaries in Islamic nation converting... Coptic Orthodox Christians

CAIRO // As the largest religious minority in a nation of Muslims, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians have long felt a sense of battered yet unimpeachable pride: their faith is strong, their institutions sound and, perhaps most importantly, their presence on the banks of the Nile predates Islam’s by several centuries.

But over the past few months, the Orthodox church’s traditionally defensive stance has turned to face a new opponent. Prominent Orthodox leaders have publicly accused Protestant Evangelicals – a Christian sect with strong roots in the United States – of recruiting Orthodox youth as part of a broader plot to evangelise Egypt’s estimated eight million Christians.

The growing row among Christian denominations has challenged old assumptions about the pre-eminence of the Orthodox faith in Egypt’s vibrant Christian life.

“There are many rules among [Christians]. One of the most important of these rules is not to recruit people from one church to another,” said Father Abdel Masiih Basiit, the pastor of St Mary’s Orthodox Church of Mostarid in Qalubiya, about an hour north of Cairo. “[The Evangelicals] did not respect this rule.”

While Evangelical leaders acknowledge that they receive financial backing from the United States – just as the Coptic church takes support from the Orthodox diaspora – they have fervently denied that there is any such recruitment scheme. Like any religious institution, community leaders say, Evangelicals welcome all those who want to learn more about their faith. To the extent that Evangelicals do proselytise, it is to those Christians whose faith has lapsed and who may lack allegiance to a specific Christian sect, say Protestant leaders.
Read the rest here.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols 'offered flowers at the altar of Hindu deities'

Damian Thompson has the story.

Navy SEALs Face Assault Charges for Capturing Most-Wanted Terrorist

Navy SEALs have secretly captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq — the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. And three of the SEALs who captured him are now facing criminal charges, sources told

The three, all members of the Navy's elite commando unit, have refused non-judicial punishment — called an admiral's mast — and have requested a trial by court-martial.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named "Objective Amber," told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

Now, instead of being lauded for bringing to justice a high-value target, three of the SEAL commandos, all enlisted, face assault charges and have retained lawyers.
Read the rest here.

I desperately want to comment on this. But I don't think I can without recourse to language that is not appropriate for a Christian blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Martyred Priest Daniil is buried

MOSCOW, November 23 (Itar-Tass) - The Reverend Daniil Sysoyev murdered at the Church of St Thomas on November 19 has been buried at Moscow’s Kuntsevskoye cemetery.

Father Daniil was buried near the tombs of Prince Nikolai Obolensky and famous publisher Sergei Sabashnikov and next to the Holy Saviour Church.

The funeral service at the Church of Apostles Peter and Paul in Yasenevo was attended by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

The murder of the Reverend Daniil Sysoyev testifies to the grandeur and strength of the Orthodox idea for which he gave his life, he said.

“Very often violence is aimed against those who gives evidence of God and truth. When hatred blurs the eyes and there are no other arguments, they direct violence against those who speak of God and truth. Being unable to resist a priest’s word with their head and heart, they pour torrents of slander and spite upon the clergyman or even raise hand against him,” the patriarch said.

“Father Daniil did much to assert God’s truth. He participated in different discussions and disputes and defended God’s truth to the best of his ability and talent. But perhaps the strongest word he has ever uttered is the one we can all witness now,” His Holiness said.

In his opinion, “when a person is killed for God’s truth, this means that this truth hurts those who resist it and has a great force.”
Read the rest here.

Greek Orthodox Church sues Turkey

The Greek Orthodox church of Cyprus has sued Turkey in a European court for allegedly preventing worship at religious sites in the divided island's breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, a church lawyer said Monday.

The lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights concerns 520 churches, monasteries, chapels and cemeteries the church lost when Turkey invaded in 1974, after a coup by supporters of union with Greece, said Simos Angelides, a lawyer representing the church.

The Orthodox Christian faithful cannot worship at these sites because they are either derelict or have been converted into mosques, army barracks, stables or nightclubs, Angelides said.

Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.
Read the rest here.

The Revenge of the Gold Bugs

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Gold has long been favored by a fringe of the investment world, but this year some of the world's leading hedge-fund managers have loaded up on the precious metal amid concern government efforts to avoid another Great Depression that could undermine major currencies and fuel rampant inflation.

"I have never been a gold bug," Paul Tudor Jones, chairman of hedge-fund giant Tudor Investment Corp., wrote in an Oct. 15 letter to investors. "It is just an asset that, like everything else in life, has its time and place. And now is that time."

Tudor has been building positions in gold and other precious metals in recent months and they now represent the firm's largest commodities exposure, he noted.

John Paulson's Paulson & Co., one of the world's largest hedge fund firms that made billions betting against subprime mortgages, is launching a new gold fund Jan. 1 and became the largest holder of the SPDR Gold Shares exchange-traded fund /quotes/comstock/13*!gld/quotes/nls/gld (GLD 112.94, +0.64, +0.57%) this year.

Greenlight Capital, run by David Einhorn, reversed a long-time aversion to gold, while Kyle Bass's Hayman Advisors LP held more than 15% of its portfolio in gold and other precious metals earlier this year. Eton Park Capital, headed by former Goldman Sachs /quotes/comstock/13*!gs/quotes/nls/gs (GS 170.01, -2.82, -1.63%) trader Eric Mindich, has also got in on the act.

"I can't remember in 20 years so many respected investors focused on a single strategy," said Bradley Alford of Alpha Capital Management, which invests in hedge funds. "Some of these people are icons of the industry with at least 15-year track records. It's a losing proposition to bet against guys like that. They aren't billionaires because they make bad bets."
Read the rest here.

I strongly recommend a careful read of the above linked article in its entirety.

Caesar calling the tune

When you take Caesar's coin you dance to Caesar's tune. Churches will eventually learn the price of taking government money. But I fear the lesson will be a painful one.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Payback time is fast approaching

WASHINGTON — The United States government is financing its more than trillion-dollar-a-year borrowing with i.o.u.’s on terms that seem too good to be true.

But that happy situation, aided by ultralow interest rates, may not last much longer.

Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.

Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages.

With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year, even if annual budget deficits shrink drastically. Other forecasters say the figure could be much higher.

In concrete terms, an additional $500 billion a year in interest expense would total more than the combined federal budgets this year for education, energy, homeland security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Read the rest here.

Iran’s Death Penalty Is Seen as a Political Tactic

CAIRO — A flurry of executions and death sentences in Iran has raised concern that the government is using judicially sanctioned killing to intimidate the political opposition and quell pockets of ethnic unrest around the nation, human rights groups and Iran experts said.

In Iran, where there is precedent for executions to surge in the wake of a crisis, human rights groups said there was mounting evidence that the trend had emerged in response to the political tumult that followed the June presidential election. This month, a fifth person connected to the protests was sentenced to death.

In at least one instance, a Kurdish activist was hanged after the government added a new charge, raising concerns that cases with political overtones were drawing more serious penalties.

In the short period between the disputed June election and the inauguration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August, 115 people were executed, according to statistics compiled by human rights groups and Iranian news agencies. Though the executions mostly involved violent criminals and drug dealers, the number and pace of the killings appeared to be sending a message to the opposition, said human rights groups and Iran experts.

“The regime never expected to see people demonstrate so openly since the elections,” said Hossein Askari, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University. “The executions are intended to frighten them. It is absolutely intended for that purpose.”
Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Florovsky on the boundaries of the Church

I draw the reader's attention to a recent post on Fr. George Florovsky's famous article on the limits of the Church over at Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog Glory to God for All Things (linked in the sidebar). In particular I commend a rather long comment posted in the ensuing discussion by deathbredon which discusses the history of the canonical practices with respect to the reception of converts by baptism or through other means (Confession and Chrismation). The entire thread is well worth a careful read.

Please leave comments on the original thread.

The Manhattan Declaration

The text of the document referred to in a previous post.

Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire's sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce's leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes - from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.
Read the rest here here.

Those inclined to add their signatures to The Manhattan Declaration may do so here.

For the record I have signed this document. The increasing willingness of the liberal elements in society to use the power of the state to punish or coerce those religious groups who do not conform to their post-modern "morality" should be a source of grave concern to all. Very often these are the same people who rail against the co called "religious right" for legislating religious morality (and as a libertarian leaning monarchist, I would agree with those concerns as well). Matters of religious conscience should never be the subject of coercive legislation.

Quote of the day...

“A political system based on force, oppression, changing people’s votes, killing, closure, arresting and using Stalinist and medieval torture, creating repression, censorship of newspapers, interruption of the means of mass communications, jailing the enlightened and the elite of society for false reasons, and forcing them to make false confessions in jail, is condemned and illegitimate,”
-Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in recent comments condemning the Iranian police state.


The Vatican and the Lefebvrists: Not a Negotiation

Noted Roman Catholic author George Weigel writes...
Prior to the opening of formal conversations between officials of the Holy See and leaders of the Lefebvrist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which began on Oct. 26, the mainstream media frequently misrepresented these discussions as a negotiation aimed at achieving a compromise that both sides can live with. That was to be expected from reporters and commentators for whom everything is politics and everything is thus negotiable. Alas, similar misrepresentations came from “Vatican insiders” who suggested that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council was under joint review by the Holy See and the SSPX, which only made matters worse.

Here is what’s going on here, and what isn’t.

1. The conversations between leaders of the SSPX and the Holy See are just that: conversations. These are not negotiations, for there is nothing to be negotiated; nor is this a dialogue between equal partners. On the one hand, we have the bishop of Rome and those curial officials whose work is an extension of his papal office; on the other hand, we have a society of clergy who have been living in disobedience to the Roman pontiff for decades, and their lay followers, many of whom are more confused than willfully schismatic. The purpose of these conversations is to make clear what the Second Vatican Council taught (especially about the nature of the Church), to listen politely to what the SSPX has to say, and to invite the SSPX back into the full communion of the Catholic Church, which the SSPX broke in 1988 when Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre committed the schismatic act of illicitly ordaining bishops without the authorization of the Roman pontiff (and against the direct, personal pleas of Pope John Paul II).
Read the rest here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Russian Priest Killed in Church

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A masked gunman entered a church and murdered a Russian Orthodox priest who had received death threats for converting Muslims to Christianity and criticizing Islam, prosecutors and church officials said Friday.

The killing could threaten delicate relations between the powerful majority Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the Kremlin, and the country's growing Muslim minority of about 20 million.

The gunman approached priest Daniil Sysoyev, 34, in St Thomas Church in southern Moscow Thursday night, checked his name and then opened fire with a pistol, a spokesman for the investigating committee of the Prosecutor-General's office said.

"The main theory is that religious motives are behind the crime," spokesman Anatoly Bagmet said.

Sysoyev died on the way to hospital. His choirmaster was injured in the attack, Bagmet said, and is in hospital under armed guard.
Read the rest here.

May the memory of Fr. Daniil be eternal.

National Geographic article on Mt. Athos

There is an excellent article on Mt. Athos with some great pictures. You can find it here.

Hat tip The Crescat

Religious leaders vow to resist laws that violate religious conscience

Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” it says.

The manifesto, to be released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.
Read the rest here.
Hat tip to Brian

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rowan Williams fires a shot across Rome's bow

The Archbishop of Canterbury has effectively told Pope Benedict XVI where to put his proposed Anglican Ordinariate. In a speech in Rome the ABC told those assembled that there was no turning back on women's ordination and he challenged the Roman Catholic (and implicitly the Orthodox) doctrine excluding women from Holy Orders. In an uncharacteristically frank address Rowan Williams threw down the gauntlet and even briefly hinted at the question of whether there was any real point to continued dialogue between Rome and the Anglican Communion if there is no hope of bridging their differences.

Overall he attempted to assert that female ordination aside there were few points of significant doctrinal differences between the his communion and the Roman Church that should impede sacramental communion and reunion.

The British press is all over the story. However a few links are below (courtesy of Dr. Tighe).

The Times of London
The Guardian
The Daily Telegraph

I am going to take an educated guess that this is not going to go over well in the Vatican. Oh to be a fly on the wall when he meets the Pope in private.

Many Years!

To the little boy pictured with his great granduncle who tomorrow celebrates his 97th birthday...

Archduke Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius of Austria; better known to the world as Prince Otto von Hapsburg.

H.I.H is the last living member of any of the royal houses of Europe who was alive at the time of the First World War. Prince Otto has lived a truly remarkable life. Born into the Imperial House of Hapsburg and heir to the thrones of both Austria and Hungry after the repose of his sainted father Emperor Karl, he was an active player in the history of most of the last century including being a hunted fugitive from the Nazis and serving for many years in the European Parliament. In 2007 he relinquished his position as head of the Imperial House of Hapsburg in favor of his son Archduke Karl. Today he lives in quiet retirement with his wife in his native Austria.

May God grant Prince Otto many (more) years!

Prayer Requests

I refer the reader to some urgent prayer requests from Fr. Oliver Herbal (OCA) which may be read at The Ochlophobist. In your charity I also implore your continued prayers for the RightWingProf, a fellow Orthodox blogger, who is facing the end of a difficult battle with cancer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Israeli expansionism continues

JERUSALEM — Dov Hikind, a member of the New York State Assembly, was in this disputed city on Wednesday looking for property to buy. He said he was most excited about a new apartment complex overlooking the Old City called Nof Zion.

At noon, Mr. Hikind led a group of about 50 American Jews in laying a cornerstone for the next phase of Nof Zion, with construction scheduled to start next spring. “I want to buy here,” Mr. Hikind said. “I might make a deal while I am here this time.”

More than a real estate deal, though, it would be a statement: Nof Zion, a private Jewish project, is in Jebel Mukaber, a Palestinian Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem, in territory Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war. Israel claims sovereignty over all Jerusalem; the Palestinians demand the eastern part as the capital of a future state.

Even within Israel, the idea of Jews moving into predominantly Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem stirs heated debate. Two well-known Israeli families refused City Hall’s offer to name the street leading to Nof Zion for their deceased relatives, according to the local Jerusalem press.

But illustrating the complexity of the Jerusalem conundrum, others argue that Jews, Christians and Muslims should be able to live wherever they like. Not allowing Jews to live in certain neighborhoods of the city “is segregation,” said Mr. Hikind, a Democrat who represents several heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
Read the rest here.

Israeli concerns about 'segregation" would perhaps not be quite so laughable if they were not actively and aggressively segregating the Palestinians. Palestinians in Israel are at best second class citizens who face constant harassment and discrimination. We will not even discuss Israel's treatment of those living outside of its (claimed) borders.

I think one can be sympathetic to Israel's right to exist and to the challenges they have had to face from terrorists and Arab military attacks while at the same time recognizing that they have a clearly expansionist foreign policy. You can only steal someone else's land and bulldoze their homes for so long before they will pick up a rock, a knife, or a gun.

Arab terrorism can not justify Israeli imperialism. And I would argue that Israel is the author of a great deal of their own problems. The United States should tell the Israelis to knock it off or we are going to take a knife of our own... to the military aid we send them every year. We have enough problems in this country right now. We don't have the money to be supporting the neo-colonialism of other nations.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why the Filioque must go

Periodically one hears Roman Catholics explain the filioque using their concept of Doctrinal Development. The current position of the Roman Church they argue is that when they say "from" they really mean "through." To which my response has always been that it is a nice distinction but irrelevant since filioque in Latin means "from" and that is certainly the wording employed in the English translation of the Creed of the Council of Lyons.

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

The wording affirms a double procession irrespective of current "understanding." Said double procession is heretical. It's a non-negotiable point from an Orthodox perspective. We can not recite a heretical creed or be in communion with those reciting one.

But just as important, perhaps even more so, is the point I have repeatedly attempted to make to Catholics. What well versed theologians in their ivory towers understand is a whole different world from what the layman in the pews understands. He reads "from" and not being in possession of advanced degrees in theology he takes the wording at face value. Ergo "from" means "from."

Clearly large numbers of Catholics have not gotten the memo that the double procession has been developed away. For some evidence I would refer the reader to a recent post over at the Traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli. The post expressly defends the filioque and a casual glance at the comments suggests that the double procession remains a point of carved in stone dogma for these Catholic traditionalists.

I believe the aforementioned blog post is the best refutation I have read in a long time of the many Catholics (and some Orthodox) who periodically spout off about how the filioque doesn't matter and Rome has "fixed" its interpretation to make it Orthodox. No they haven't. And clearly to the extent that there has been some movement on their part no one in the pews seems to have gotten the word.

The filioque is patently heretical and it must go.

-Inscription of Pope Leo III on a pair of silver tablest with the Creed (sans Filioque) placed in St Peter's Basilica in repudiation of the alteration to the Symbol of Faith.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Memory Eternal!

Today, on November 15, 2009, at 10.45 at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade, after receiving the Sacrament, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovac , Patriarch Pavle of Serbia reposed in the Lord.
May his memory be eternal!

From a Serbian website. There is some video and a number of other pictures there. (Hat tip Again & Again)

Ready or not here they come

Women bishops in the CofE with no provision of any kind for traditionalist Anglicans who are opposed to W/O. Perhaps they could at least shine a light on the exits.

Read the story here.
Hat tip to T-19

For those who have had enough it's fast becoming decision time. Can you or can you not remain in an overtly heretical body? If not then the question is not whether to leave but rather where to go? If one is of a Protestant disposition and simply looking for a church, there are many. Pick one.

If one is of a catholic mindset, by which we mean you are seeking The Church, not a church, then logically your choices boil down to Rome or Orthodoxy. The ACNA is not a safe harbor. They ordain women and will one day consecrate female bishops. The rest of the so called Continuum is so fragmented into tiny sects that are mostly not even in communion with one another that they can not make any plausible claim to being a part of the church catholic.

This returns us to Rome or Orthodoxy. I can respect either decision provided it's made with an appropriate degree of discernment including prayer and study of the major differences. But again the clock has run down on the Anglican Communion. As one of its own bishops said recently "the Anglican experiment is over."

Memory Eternal

Grant rest O Lord to the souls of thy servants who have departed this life in the service of our country, and make their memory to be eternal.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Western Rite news from ROCOR

This from Fr. Aidan Keller (ROCOR) via the Use of Sarum Yahoo Group.
By a decision of the Synod of Bishops, all Western rite communities of our Church, wheresoever they may be, are directly under the authority of the Metropolitan, and not the local ruling bishop. That is, all Western rite communities have been made stavropigial.

The Russian Orthodox Church will sever ties with the German Evangelical Church

The Russian Orthodox Church may sever relations with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a major Protestant church of Western Europe that has elected a woman to chair the EKD's council.

The Orthodox clergy say this runs counter to evangelical principles. Analysts fear this could provoke a big inter-faith conflict.

Bishop Margot Kassmann, the first woman to lead the Evangelical Church in Germany, which unites some 24 million Protestants of more than 20 Lutheran and Reformed churches, was elected at the council's meeting on October 28. The 51-year-old bishop of Hanover is divorced and has four daughters.

"We plan to celebrate 50 years of dialog with the German Lutheran Church in late November and early December," Hilarion, the bishop of Volokolamsk and head of the Moscow patriarchy's external church relations department, said on Wednesday. "The celebrations will also mark the end of that dialog."

The Russian Orthodox Church does not accept female clergy.

"A female bishop is a contradiction of the evangelical principles," said Georgy Zavershinsky, the PR head of the external church relations department. "Therefore, there can be no church relations between us. We will most likely have to deal with their church as with a public organization."

Russian Lutherans support the arguments of the Russian Orthodox Church. Alexander Prilutsky, chief secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria (Russia), said female bishops were evidence of "a crisis in the Western society."

"Our relations with Western Protestants have recently become more complicated because of their liberal theological practices," said Bishop Konstantin Bendas, director for temporal affairs at the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith. "Unfortunately, the West is departing from the evangelical principles. Sweden, for example, has deviated the most by electing a lesbian bishop."

If the inter-faith dialog stops, "this could lead to severance of diplomatic relations between German Christians and the Russian Orthodox Church," said Roman Lunkin, director of the Institute of Religion and Law and a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of Europe. "This could provoke the largest inter-Christian conflict of the past years."

The pro-infanticide (abortion) feminists are having a fit, and that is good

Granted, the evidence is anecdotal. However if we may draw any conclusions at all from a spate of recent op-ed pieces by left wing feminists, then things are looking up for the unborn. There have been a whole slew of editorials and columns attacking (sometimes in near hysterical terms) the passage of the so called Stupak amendment to the omnibus health care reform bill that (barely) cleared the House of Representatives last Saturday. Most of these see the ammendment as one of the greatest threats in years to the abortion rights movement.

I think they are right.

The amendment prohibits the use of government funds either directly or indirectly for abortion coverage. It effectively would exclude insurance plans that cover abortion from the government run "exchange" that is envisioned. This is since all those plans would be eligible to receive subsidy money from lower income or cash strapped middle class families as part of the mandate for universal health insurance. In theory the government wants the vast majority of insurance to be provided through the private sector.

An effort was made by pro-abortion legislators to replace the amendment with one that would have admitted insurance plans that cover abortion into the exchange provided they segregate any funds from government subsidies This was justly dismissed as an accounting gimmick that would still have left abortion providing insurer's holding government money. Effectively creating what the New York Times, in a rare moment of editorial honesty, labeled "a distinction without a difference."

There is much that I find disturbing in the House bill that recently passed. But it does have some redeeming elements to it. This is clearly one of them. I think the bill is profoundly flawed in its mechanics and in urgent need of revision. But the inclusion of this amendment is enough to make me pause and draw a very deep breath before condemning the bill out of hand. If (a very big word) some form of major health reform were to pass Congress this year, and if this amendment or something functionally identical were included, it would severely limit the ability to employ insurance to cover the cost of killing one's child.

On a purely secondary but not unimportant level it would have the effect of putting abortion under the censure of public law. By so very firmly prohibiting federal funds (there are a handful of narrowly defined exceptions) from being used to cover abortions or subsidize abortion covering insurance Congress would be making a clear statement that however legal it might be, the practice is repugnant to the sensibilities of most Americans. This is in keeping with recent polls that show for the first time since Roe v Wade a majority of Americans self identify as "pro-life."

For years the pro-life movement has been obsessed with an all or nothing strategy that I think has been self defeating. This is not a battle that will be won in an afternoon. It is a war that will be won over many years with lots of small battles playing out over that time. We will win some and we will loose some. Indeed we already have.

But after years of reversals I sense a shift in the tide of fortune. Public opinion is moving in the right direction. It is important to remember though that even among those who now self identify as pro-life you will get a diversity of opinion. Many would still tolerate the practice in the first trimester. Point in fact there is vast disagreement within the pro-life movement about where to draw the line.

The Roman Catholic Church's position is that there is no line. We Orthodox are very close to that position although the Church does not presume to judge in cases where the mother's life is in danger. Beyond that most pro-life seem to be comfortable with exceptions for rape and incest. For the record I am not. I draw the line at the life of the mother.

But even if we set the bar fairly low by the pro-life standard it is possible by means of an "inch at a time" strategy to envision a slow process by which abortion once again falls under the harsh judgment of a civilized society and becomes progressively more restricted.

If you will pardon the ubiquitous sports analogy, in baseball this is called winning by small ball. What we have been doing for the last thirty years is going for the dramatic long ball, or home run. As repulsive as it is, we must accept the fact that the Supreme Court is most unlikely to admit they made a mistake in Roe and overturn three decades of judicial precedent. With this view in mind we should be focusing on nibbling at the edges of this odious ruling until we reduce it to near meaninglessness. We need to start fighting the small battles and taking imperfect compromises where we can get them if they move a runner to the next base.

This is ultimately how the war for the lives of the unborn will be won.
"I am usually glad to get some of what I want today as opposed to nothing, especially when I know I can still fight for the rest later on."
-Ronald Reagan

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The legacy of bad law

It was arguably the worst Supreme Court decision since Roe v Wade that legalized theft by eminent domain.
From the edge of the Thames River in New London, Conn., Michael Cristofaro surveyed the empty acres where his parents’ neighborhood had stood, before it became the crux of an epic battle over eminent domain.

“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company, announced it would leave the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the United States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.

The announcement stirred up resentment and bitterness among some local residents. They see Pfizer as a corporate carpetbagger that took public money, in the form of big tax breaks, and now wants to run.

“I’m not surprised that they’re gone,” said Susette Kelo, who moved to Groton from New London after the city took her home near Pfizer’s property. “They didn’t get what they wanted: their development, their big plan.”
Read the rest here.

Russian President Dimitri Medvedev delivers a sobering speech to his country

MOSCOW -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called on his country Thursday to shed its "humiliating" dependence on exports of oil and other raw materials and to adopt a more pragmatic foreign policy aimed at attracting investment and promoting growth.

In an unusually blunt appraisal of the state of his nation, Medvedev also warned that Russia has been hit harder than most by the global economic crisis and needs to undertake sweeping reforms to build a modern, high-tech economy if it is to remain a world power.

"Our relations with other countries should be focused on the task of modernizing Russia. We mustn't, as they say, puff out our chests," he said during a 100-minute televised address. "We are interested in the flow of capital, new technologies and modern ideas."

Medvedev avoided directly criticizing his patron and predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who sat without smiling in the audience of lawmakers and other officials at the Kremlin. But the speech represented a subtle rebuke of Putin's legacy. In his most stinging remarks, Medvedev said the country had been "kept afloat" by Soviet-era achievements, without mentioning Putin's eight years as president.
Read the rest here.

A highflying patriarch

The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church has flown fighter jets and passenger airliners and has tried to convince colleagues of the joys of parachute jumps, according to a senior cleric in Moscow.

Patriarch Kirill, enthroned as leader of the world’s 160 million Russian Orthodox believers in February, spends much of his time following rituals little changed since the Middle Ages. But he has other ways to get close to the heavens.

“He has taken the control stick of passenger planes, to which I am a witness, and of fighter jets,” said Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, quoted by Interfax news agency.

“Once he even tried to convince me to make a parachute jump,” said Alfeyev, a senior cleric who oversees the church’s relations with other Christian denominations. “I said I was ready so as long as I knew the date in advance so I could leave my papers in order.” He said the 62-year-old patriarch had not yet set a date.

The Greek Orthodox Church is urging support for the Catholic Church

The Greek Orthodox Church is urging Christians across Europe to unite in an appeal against a ban on crucifixes in classrooms in Italy.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled last week that the presence of crucifixes violated a child's right to freedom of religion.

Greece's Orthodox Church fears the Italian case will set a precedent.

It has called an emergency Holy Synod meeting for next week to devise an action plan.

Although the Greek Orthodox Church has been at odds with Roman Catholicism for 1,000 years, the judicial threat to Christian symbols has acted as a unifying force.

The European Court of Human Rights found that the compulsory display of crucifixes violated parents' rights to educate their children as they saw fit and restricted the right of children to believe or not to believe.

'Worthy symbols'

The head of the Greek Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, shares Catholic complaints that the court is ignoring the role of Christianity in forming Europe's identity.

It is not only minorities that have rights but majorities as well, said the archbishop.

One of his subordinates, Bishop Nicholas from central Greece, lamented that at this rate youngsters will not have any worthy symbols at all to inspire and protect them.

Football and pop idols are very poor substitutes, he said.

The Greek Church has ostensibly intervened in this case in response to an appeal by a Greek mother whose son is studying in Italy.

But without doubt it is concerned that its omnipotence in Greece is under threat.

A human rights group called Helsinki Monitor is seeking to use the Italian case as a precedent.

It has demanded that Greek courts remove icons of Jesus Christ from above the judge's bench and that the gospel no longer be used for swearing oaths in the witness box.

Helsinki Monitor is urging trade unions to challenge the presence of religious symbols in Greek schools.

The socialist government here is also considering imposing new taxes on the Church's vast fortune, but at the same time is urging it to do more to help immigrants and poor Greeks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The latest in retro fashion from the 90's... the 1890's

Living in California it's been a while since I have been in the city (for those not from the east coast "the city" unless otherwise specified refers to New York). So I will admit that I have not kept up on the fashion trends too much. For most of the last couple of decades my observation has been, at least among men, a steady downward trend to the point where it is no longer unusual to see males in shopping malls wearing their pajamas or lounge-wear. That is certainly the case here on the left coast where the standards of dress have become so casual that I am frequently embarrassed for my gender. So one may imagine my surprise when I stumbled on this piece in the New York Times.
Not long ago, big brass-buttoned military coats looked a bit extreme. So did high-button, high-lapel vests and slim tweed trousers. And so did guys who tucked said trousers into high, old-fashioned hunting boots. Now these clothes (along with those ever-present beards and mustaches) look like downtown defaults compared with fall runway looks like cardinal-red tailcoats at Ralph Lauren, capes and bowlers at Alexander McQueen and knee breeches at Robert Geller.

As with home design, where curio cases, taxidermy and other stylish clutter of the Victorian era have been taken up by young hipsters, many of today’s popular men’s styles have their roots in the late 19th century. There are the three-piece suits once favored by mustachioed Gilded Age bankers; the military greatcoats and boots of Union officers; and the henley undershirts, suspenders, plaid flannel shirts and stout drill trousers worn by plain, honest farmers.

Just ask Taavo Somer, whose restaurant Freemans, with its mounted animal heads and antique oil landscapes, has been one of the trend’s most active petri dishes (and who lives the fantasy sufficiently to enjoy shooting skeet on weekends upstate). Even his eyebrows went up recently when he saw a young man dressed in a bowler, cape, breeches and knee socks on the Lower East Side.
Read the rest here.

It was enough to warm my reactionary heart. That was until I saw the money they are charging for some of this which was nearly enough to induce cardiac arrest. Still, if there is indeed some sort of trend toward more formal dress among men taking hold, then I am all for it (even if it is carrying retro to new lengths). ANYTHING to restore some sense of self respect among the male of the species in our deportment and appearance. But please, if your going to go 1890's, get the rules right. A bowler is a casual form of head gear. The cape (full length) on the other hand is strictly formal. Hollywood movies notwithstanding the two do not go together.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cell Phones & Cancer

For as long as there have been cell phones my sister has refused to use them, swearing that they cause cancer. And of course we all laughed. Well we aren't laughing anymore. (In fairness I would note that my sister is a technological Luddite who still only uses a rotary phone in her apartment and whose usual references to computers can't be quoted on a Christian blog.)

I am not too worried since I don't use my phone often and I rarely carry it on my person. Still it is a bit disconcerting to keep hearing about the growing body of circumstantial evidence connecting cell phone use to various cancers, especially brain tumors.

CNN has the story on the subject which can be read here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

What does a Tsunami look like?

The United States monetary base 1975 - present (click to enlarge).

The United States monetary base 1998 - present.


Prayer Request...

Fellow Orthodox blogger and an occasional commenter on these pages "RightWingProf" is gravely ill. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Well it wasn't all bad news

When you have the lefties and pro-infanticide feminists as upset as they clearly are then something must have gone right. For evidence I refer the reader to this piece by Jodi Jacobson who appears to be having a stroke over the Stupak amendment, which with a very few exceptions bars any Federal funding directly or indirectly for abortion services in the health care reform bill passed last night. Looking for someone to blame she of course latches onto a convenient target... the Catholic bishops.
Tonight, with the aide of some 60 Democrats, women's rights were effectively negated by the US Congress as the House passed the Stupak amendment to HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care Act of 2009.

More in-depth analysis of how we got here is forthcoming. But one thing is clear: The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) apparently is running the US government, aided by a cadre of "faith-based advocacy groups," the House Democratic leadership, the White House and members of the Senate.

If you didn't know that before, be clear about it. Know it now.And this is particularly true when it comes to women's rights. Any time there is an "important" vote that implicates women's rights and onto which a politician has hitched their political star--in this case President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi among them--you can bet that the Bishops will be wielding huge influence to make sure no "gains" can be made unless women are screwed. You will hear a lot tomorrow and in the days ahead as to how "this important bill" could not be "held hostage" to any one issue, "it's not perfect," and how "compromises needed to be made," in order to "get things done."
Read the rest here.

To the extent that the Catholic bishops were indeed involved in this victory I can only say... well done!


This excellent post by the Anglican Curmudgeon. Don't delay. GO NOW!

Hat tip: Bill (aka The Godfather)

Leave comments there please.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Breaking News: The House Vote on Health Care

The House of Representatives has approved an amendment that prohibits Federal funding for abortion with a few narrow exceptions. They are now voting on the Republican alternative bill which is purely a formality. The real nail biter will be when the vote is called for the main bill. It is not certain that enough Democrats are prepared to back it although some pro-life (there are a few) Democrats have indicated they would if abortion funding is excluded. It remains to be seen if enough moderate and pro-life Democrats will now vote for it.

Update: The GOP alternative bill has been voted down. No surprise.

Update: It looks like the GOP is trying to pull a rabbit out of their parliamentary hat. An amendment dealing with tort reform has been presented that was not expected. The Democrats sound ticked since they claim to have been given no notice. I think this is little more than a delaying tactic which will slow things up by perhaps 20 minutes in the end.

Update: The surprise GOP amendment has been voted down. The House is now voting on the health care bill amended to include severe restrictions on abortion funding.

Update: The House bill appears to have passed. It has the required 218 votes although a couple of members have not yet cast their votes. Very surprising is that a (one) Republican actually voted for the bill. If the bill passes with the bare minimum that could make life uncomfortable for the lone Republican supporter.

Final Update: The bill has passed 220-215 with one Republican voting for it and 39 Democrats voting no. The bill now goes to the Senate which is expected to move on their own bill in the near future. It seems exceedingly unlikely that the House bill with its robust public option will survive intact in a much more centrist body like the Senate. Assuming the Senate is able to pass a health care bill the two bills would then go to a conference committee where differences would be hammered out and a uniform bill then sent back to each house for an up or down vote.

The President's signature is not in doubt if a uniform bill is actually passed.

The Normandie

A beautiful and bittersweet tribute to arguably the greatest ocean liner ever built.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

US Catholic, Orthodox prelates criticize Cardinal Kasper’s milestone Ravenna document

Abandoning the diplomatic language typical of ecumenical pronouncements, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, chaired by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, has issued a candid critique of the 2007 “Ravenna document,” a modest milestone in Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical relations.

The Ravenna document, while not purporting to be the Church’s official teaching, was issued by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, chaired by Cardinal Walter Kasper and Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamon. A month after the document was issued, Cardinal Kasper told other cardinals that “for the first time the Orthodox representatives recognized a universal level of the Church and admitted that at this level there also exists a Protos, a Primate, who can only be the Bishop of Rome according to the taxis [order] of the ancient Church. All the participants are aware that this is only a first step and that the journey toward full ecclesial communion will be long and difficult; yet, with this document we have set a base for future dialogue.”

After praising aspects of the Ravenna document, the North American Catholic and Orthodox participants in ecumenical dialogue issued their candid critique:
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Quote of the day...

Like gold, U.S. dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.

Of course, the U.S. government is not going to print money and distribute it willy-nilly
-Ben Bernanke from a speech in 2002

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

California to withhold a bigger chunk of paychecks

Starting Sunday, cash-strapped California will dig deeper into the pocketbooks of wage earners -- holding back 10% more than it already does in state income taxes just as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks into gear.

Technically, it's not a tax increase, even though it may feel like one when your next paycheck arrives. As part of a bundle of budget patches adopted in the summer, the state is taking more money now in withholding, even though workers' annual tax bills won't change.

Think of it as a forced, interest-free loan: You'll be repaid any extra withholding in April. Those who would receive a refund anyway will receive a larger one, and those who owe taxes will owe less.
Read the rest here

Hat tip T-19

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A reflection on death and the modern American funeral

...When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s body was borne on a mule-drawn sharecropper’s cart through the thronged streets of Atlanta, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy wisely and symbolically wore scuffed marching boots under his pulpit robe. “A good funeral,” says Thomas Lynch, a poet and undertaker in Milford, Mich., “is one that gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be.”

Today, however, our death rituals have become downsized, inwardly directed, static and, as a result, spiritually and culturally impoverished. We tend now to recognize our dead only for their partial passions and whims. They were Mets fans, good for laughs at the office, pleasant companions on the links. At upbeat, open-mike “celebrations of life,” former coaches, neighbors and relatives amuse us with stories and naïvely declare that the dead, who are usually nowhere to be seen and have nowhere to go, will nevertheless live always in our memories. Funerals, which once made confident public pilgrimage through town to the graveyard, now tread lightly across the tiny tableau of our psyches.

Even those mourners who, by will or habit, wish to take their dead to the place of departure often find their way blocked. Some cemeteries, fearing liability lawsuits from falls and the like, no longer allow funeral processions to go the distance to the open grave but encourage the mourners to leave the coffin in a faux sanctuary at the entrance. And many American crematories, unlike their European counterparts, are not designed to allow mourners to accompany the body all the way to the fire. Instead the dead must be dropped off, like a night deposit at the bank.

We hardly complain, though. For the first time in history, the actual presence of the dead at their own funerals has become optional, even undesirable, lest the body break the illusion of a cloudless celebration, spoil the meditative mood and reveal the truths about grief, life and death that our thinned-out ceremonies cannot bear.
Read the rest here.