Monday, March 31, 2014

France sees a conservative backlash

PARIS — Steeped in conservative rage and tasting of grass roots, a political backlash has traditional politicians and the news media asking the once-unthinkable: Is le tea party brewing in France?

If it were, it would be populated by the likes of Catherine Mas-Mezeran, a Parisian mother of three who wrinkles her nose at the mention of President François Hollande. She calls him “the Socialist,” which, technically, he is. But if President Obama had the birthers, Hollande now has the baptismists.
Read the rest here.

Damian Thompson: Pope Approves "Ecumenical Missal" for English Language Catholics...

Complete with a Eucharistic Rite that will be uniform among most of the English speaking Christian denominations with a liturgical tradition.  Read the story here.

(Yes, for the better part of a minute to a minute and half my reaction was "WHAT THE BLEEEEP!" Then I remembered the calendar has already shifted over in England... I tip my hat to Mr. Thompson. This one is going to be hard to top.)

Is the stock market rigged?

If you have to ask that question then you need to stay very far away from investment securities until you have done a lot of research.

Rumor: Former Met Jonah released to ROCOR

No sources are cited but Joseph over at Byzantine Texas is well connected and doesn't have a track record of posting inaccurate reports. Assuming this is true, I can't say I am surprised.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The End of an Era

Metropolitan Philip is laid to rest. During his long tenure as the head of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese he established his place as one of the most important, and controversial, figures in the history of American Orthodoxy. May his memory be eternal!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Met. Hilarion in a frank interview on the Ukraine

Read it here. Please leave comments there.

Italy's liberal Catholic clergy are coming out of the closet

...Most of all, the new pope’s words and deeds have emboldened liberal Italian priests to push boundaries they never would have under Benedict XVI.

From his perch at the millennia-old Sant’Alessandro parish nestled high above the olive groves of Tuscany, for instance, the Rev. Giorgio Mazzanti has long baptized the children of unmarried parents and offers the Eucharist to divorced worshipers. But he recently set a new standard for progressive clerics here by authorizing local actors to stage a production of “Bent,” the 1979 Martin Sherman play about the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany.

The four sold-out shows — performed in a hall that shares a common wall with this village’s ancient Catholic church — depicted two men who fall in love at the Dachau concentration camp. At one point, the two male leads kiss.

“It seemed to me to be the right thing to do, to give space to this issue now,” said Mazzanti, 66, the longtime pastor at Sant’Alessandro. “The atmosphere created by our new pope has, in a sense, made it official for us to have a more open door.”
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In India a revolt against a culture of political privelege

NEW DELHI — A prominent Indian lawyer was stuck in traffic for nearly two hours, waiting for dozens of VIP motorcades to sail by on their way to a politician’s funeral. If he ever got out of the jam, Harish Salve vowed, he would do something about a phenomenon that has spun out of control.

In India these days, everybody is a VIP (or, if you’re lucky, a VVIP).

Politicians and bureaucrats have privileges that civil servants in other countries can only dream of: private lounges and ticket counters at railways and airports and seats in roped-off sections at cricket matches and concerts. Political figures travel in motorcades of dozens of vehicles. For those who get in scrapes with the law — a surprisingly high number — there are even VIP jail cells.
Read the rest here.

Ask me again why I am a monarchist

These are the people who will choose the next Congress and the next President of the United States.

Jimmy Carter slams Catholic (and by extention Orthodox) rejection of female ordination

“The fact that the Catholic Church, for instance, prohibits women from serving as priests or even deacons gives a kind of a permission to male people all over the world, that well, if God thinks that women are inferior, I’ll treat them as inferiors,” said Carter. “If she’s my wife, I can abuse her with impunity, or if I'm an employer, I can pay my female employees less salary.” 
From here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Robinson and Spong - Birds of a feather

An unnecessarily nuanced observation about Mr. Robinson and his theological relationship to Mr. Spong, followed by an even more pointless expenditure of words in the comments section. They are both apostate hierarchs in an apostate church. Everything beyond that is just details.

HT: T-19

Monday, March 24, 2014

Did Nixon try to cover up My Lai?

...The documents, mostly hand-written notes from Nixon's meetings with his chief of staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, lead some historians to conclude that President Richard Nixon was behind the attempt to sabotage the My Lai court-martial trials and cover up what was becoming a public-relations disaster for his administration.

One document, scribbled by Haldeman during his Dec. 1, 1969, meeting with Nixon, reads like a threatening to-do list under the headline "Task force - My Lai." Haldeman wrote "dirty tricks" (with the clarification that those tricks be "not too high a level") and "discredit one witness," in order to "keep working on the problem."
Read the rest here.

Are the super wealthy the enemy?

Anti-Gnostic has an interesting and provocative post up suggesting the answer may be 'yes.' I have long seen banks, or at least the really large ones, as entities that do far more harm than good and are often little more than criminal cartels that have figured out how to game the system. But banks are usually run by the wealthy, on behalf of the very wealthy. Follow the money...

Liturgy for the Sunday of the Holy Cross

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vigil for the Adoration of the Precious and Life Giving Cross

Quote of the day...

Religion is founded on a notion that it has teachings or scriptures from a divine (supernatural) source, and this source is provides insights into ultimate truths which can not be discerned by mere mortals investigating nature.

Any religious institution which believes it needs to modernise its beliefs is admitting that its beliefs have never had such a divine source - they are man-made and, like all man-made things, need to be modernised periodically. Consequently, that institution no longer represents a spiritual belief system, but is simply a political organisation [sic] which pretends to be founded on spiritual beliefs.

That pretty much sums up the C of E.
From here.

Adoration of the Holy and Life Giving Cross

O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians, over their adversaries. And by virtue of Your Cross preserve Your habitation!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs

Islamic law is to be effectively enshrined in the British legal system for the first time under guidelines for solicitors on drawing up “Sharia compliant” wills. 
Under ground-breaking guidance, produced by The Law Society, High Street solicitors will be able to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether. 
The documents, which would be recognised by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock – and even those who have been adopted – from being counted as legitimate heirs. 
Read the rest here.

Britain's cultural suicide continues apace.

Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another

LAS VEGAS — The wedding was a modest affair, held in a reception hall overlooking an artificial lake tucked behind a suburban strip. But just minutes after it ended, the bride and groom hurriedly scurried past dozens of protesters here who were chanting “Bigamist!” and “Shame on you!”

One of the wedding guests on Thursday evening glared at the demonstrators, repeatedly hissing: “Mazel tov. Mazel tov. Mazel tov.” The bride, in a lace and sequin floor-length gown, grasped the hand of her husband and looked at the crowd in silence.

Meir Kin, the new husband, has been divorced for more than seven years, under California’s civil law. But he has refused to give his previous wife the document known as a “get,” as required by Orthodox Jewish law to end a marriage. In the eyes of religious authorities, the woman he married in 2000 is what is called an agunah — Hebrew for chained wife. Without the get, the woman, Lonna Kin, is forbidden under Jewish law to remarry.
Read the rest here.

Kenya legalises polygamy without wife's consent

Nairobi (AFP) - Kenya's parliament has passed a bill allowing men to marry as many women as they want, prompting a furious backlash from female lawmakers who stormed out, reports said Friday.

The bill, which amended existing marriage legislation, was passed late on Thursday to formalise customary law about marrying more than one person.

The proposed bill had initially given a wife the right to veto the husband's choice, but male members of parliament overcame party divisions to push through a text that dropped this clause.

"When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife... this is Africa," MP Junet Mohammed told the house, according to Nairobi's Capital FM.
Read the rest here.

A comment and a reply

A comment recently added to an old thread...
lannes said...
There are others less cowardly than you who will publish my comment about same-sex marriage.

I think maybe you should take a careful look at the guidelines for commenting that I have long had linked in the sidebar of the blog. Your commentary of late has become decidedly uncivil. I have no issues with strong opinions, or with criticism. But I do have limits. If you are just coming here to be obnoxious or provoke an internet fight, perhaps you should start your own blog. That's not what this one is for.

Here is the bottom line though. My blog = my house = my rules. When you comment here, you are doing so as a guest. Comport yourself accordingly or you will be asked not to return. For now you are welcome to continue to comment. But tone it down.

Under the mercy

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pope Francis launches fierce attack on Mafia

Pope Francis has launched a stinging attack on the mafia, warning gangsters that they will go to hell unless they repent and stop doing evil. "Blood-stained money, blood-stained power, you can't bring it with you to your next life. Repent," he said.

He was speaking at a prayer vigil for relatives of those killed by the mafia.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fred Reed on the Crimea

Now, about this Crimea thing: What I figure is, the top part of the Feddle Gummint got dropped on its head when it was little, and the rest is just asleep, or might as well be. We look to be ruled by a bus-station of dumb-ass rich brats in a constant state of martial priapism. I can’t understand it. Out of three hundred million Americans, and lots of them went to school and can pretty much read, we get a slick minor pol out of Chicago for President and Pickle-Boy Kerry for Secretary of State, God knows why. Before that, we had Hillary, former First Housewife. Even god couldn’t explain that. And they throw their weight around just like they had some.

Now Obama’s threatening Russia about the Crimea. He may know where it is. I admit the possibility. We live in a strange world, and unexpected things can happen. What I can’t see is, why he thinks the Ukraine is Washington’s business. Last I heard, the Crimea was hung off into the Black Sea by the Isthmus of Perekop, like a hornet’s nest from a peach tree.

Why do we care about it? I guess if it gets to be part of Russia, Arkansas is next to go.
Read the rest here.

Usual caveat: Approach at your own risk. Brother Fred does not mince words or particularly care who he offends.

Fred Phelps has died

Notorious Westboro cult leader Fred Phelps has died at 84. No one should celebrate another persons death, nor call down Divine Judgment, lest that judgement be applied to ourselves. But if anyone is searching for tears at his passing, I don't know where to suggest looking. I think even the Klan had harsh words for the man. For my part, I will confine myself to the venerable prayer uttered by judges when pronouncing death sentences. May God have mercy upon his soul.

Memory Eternal: Metropolitan Philip

A (sometimes controversial) giant in the history of American Orthodoxy has passed. May his memory be eternal!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WWI bomb kills 2 workers in Flanders Fields

YPRES, Belgium — An armament from World War I has exploded at an industrial site in the former Flanders battlegrounds, killing two construction workers and injuring two more.

Johan Lescrauwaert of the Ypres prosecutor’s office said a shell or grenade from the 1914-1918 war exploded near the workers. The circumstances were unclear because there was apparently no digging at the site, the usual cause of such accidents, he told VRT network.
Read the rest here.

A Roman Catholic critique of the Orthodox discipline pertaining to divorce and remarriage

Divorce and Remarriage, Oikonomia, and the peril of following the Greeks 

Generally forgotten, or at least downplayed, when discussing the myriad issues which divide Rome from Orthodoxy, and firmly ignored by the "our only real difference is the Papacy" crowd, is the reality that restoration of communion with Rome would require us to excommunicate a sizable percentage of Orthodox Christians. Many thanks to Fr. Dylan for pointedly thrusting this issue back into view.

News from Greece

Via the excellent blog Mystagogy...
  • Two of the innumerable schismatic Old Calendarist groups are moving towards unity.
  • The Holy Synod of Greece has reiterated its longstanding condemnation of Free Masonry.

Consecration of the Altar and Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel at Optina

700 Years ago today; Jacques de Molay is burned at the stake

The bloody suppression of the Knights Templar makes for fascinating reading.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Fred Reed: Education then and now

Despite much wringing of teeth and gnashing of hands about the decline in schooling in the United States, I have seen very little concrete comparison between then and now, whatever one means by “then.” In my small way, as a mere anecdote in a sea of troubles, I hereby offer an actual comparison. Permit me to preview the result: Much of the United States has sunk to the level of the lower ranks of the Third World.

As an example of documented current practice in urban schools—I have seen similar from Detroit, Chicago, and Mississippi—here are a few emails sent to the New York Post by students of Manhattan’s Murry Bergtraum HS for Business Careers. These have been posted by various horrified writers, but I repeat them here in case the reader hasn’t seen them. They concern the students’ support for something called “Blended Learning,” in which one watches a video, answers a few questions, and gets credit. The Post had written a piece critical of same, putting the students into an uproar.

A junior wrote: “What do you get of giving false accusations im one of the students that has blended learning I had a course of English and I passed and and it helped a lot you’re a reported your support to get truth information other than starting rumors . . .”

Right out of Milton, that.
Read the rest here.

As usual, approach at your own risk. Brother Fred pulls no punches and doesn't care who is offended.

Consecration of a church and a bishop

On the Feast of St. Gregory Palamas, the parish church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a new bishop are consecrated.

Feast of St. Patrick Enlightener of Ireland

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all my fellow Irish in blood and spirit.

An assassin still divides 100 years on

(Reuters) - The woman paused before a photograph of a young man with dark eyes and a tightly trimmed moustache.

"That's that Serb terrorist those Chetniks (Serb nationalists) are praising," she said to a journalist inspecting the image. "He started that war. They started all the wars."

Gavrilo Princip stared down from the outer wall of a museum at the riverside spot in Sarajevo where on a summer's morning in 1914 he opened fire on the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

The killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, lit the fuse for World War One, turning out the lights on an age of European peace and progress.

Empires crumbled and more than 10 million soldiers died. The world order was rewritten. Yet 100 years on, in Princip's native Bosnia, time, in many ways, has stood still.

A hero to some, a harbinger of destruction to others, the assassin is being fought over anew as Sarajevo prepares to mark the June 28 centenary of his act.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Notorious cult leader Fred Phelps reportedly near death

The estranged son of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church said his father is "on the edge of death."

Fred Phelps Sr. became famous for organizing picket lines of brightly-colored signs carrying hateful messages against tolerance during the funerals of military personnel and famous figures. His actions led to at least two federal and several state laws restricting protests during military funerals.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Nathan Phelps, who has been estranged from his father for 30 years, said the senior Phelps was dying in hospice care in Topeka, Kan., and that he had been excommunicated from his own church in August of 2013.

"I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made," Nathan Phelps wrote.
Read the rest here.

Crimea votes to join Russia

In a referendum widely dismissed as a farce by the international community, residents of the Crimea have allegedly voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The semi-autonomous province of Ukraine has been under Russian military occupation since February 26th.

Caution: SPAM Alert

Over the last week or so I have received a number of indications that my email account may have been compromised and someone has gotten hold of my email address book. If you receive strange email, even if it appears to be from me, please treat it with some caution. Especially if it has any links or attachments.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

God's Traitors - The Protestant Inquisition in Elizabethan England

Post-Reformation England was jittery with fears of a Catholic revival. Sir Francis Walsingham, the spymaster and priest-hunter at the court of Elizabeth I, regarded Jesuits as a sinister sect involved in popish attempts to dethrone his patron-monarch. Spain’s ill-fated attack on England in 1588 intensified Walsingham’s clampdown on perceived traitors. In the paranoid post-Armada years, Jesuits and other “Romish” suspects were smoked out of hiding and publicly executed.

Historian Jessie Childs won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography with her first book, Henry VIII’s Last Victim. Now she has written a superb account of cloak-and-dagger religious intrigue in Tudor England. God’s Traitors describes a John le Carré-like world of political double-dealing and “spiery” (as the Elizabethans called it). This was a time when moles were planted in Catholic seminaries abroad and Elizabethan diplomacy created a looking-glass war in which priest was turned against priest, informant against informant.

The brutal and insistent Protestant dogma under Elizabeth I had much in common with the anti-Protestant Inquisition in Spain. The Spanish courts of inquiry controlled by Philip II, like the Tudor courts of inquiry controlled by his arch-enemy Elizabeth I, extracted confessions by means of the rack or burning tongs. Its methods of intimidation and control were designed above all to spread fear and suspicion.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Russian troops seize gas plant in Ukraine

Russian troops have seized a natural gas plant inside Ukraine hours after Moscow's ambassador vetoed a League of Nations... er I meant UN resolution condemning Sunday's referendum in the Crimea as illegitimate and illegal. Russia's was the only dissenting vote.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rethinking Capital Punishment

The year was 1573, and 19-year-old Frantz Schmidt was beheading stray dogs in his back yard. He was not a troubled teenager in need of psychological attention. Frantz was practicing for his life's calling.

Unlike teens today, Frantz didn't have to decide what he wanted to be when he grew up. Male teens followed in their fathers' footsteps. For Frantz, that meant becoming an executioner. It also meant having to live with enormous social stigma.

Despite the shame, Frantz, a Lutheran, believed his executioner's role was divinely sanctioned. Martin Luther wrote that "the hand that wields the sword and strangles is … no longer man's hand but God's." Executioners, he believed, are "very useful and even merciful," since they stop villains and deter crime. Historian Joel Harrington (The Faithful Executioner, Macmillan, 2013) called Luther's comment "a celebrity endorsement for the profession." If there is a lack of hangmen and you are qualified, Luther urged, apply for the job.

Luther believed that civic order is divinely ordained. The cities of Frantz's native Bavaria had been plagued by bandits, feuds between noble houses, and roving knights who supported themselves by pillaging. Bavaria needed a justice system to curb such violence and discourage vengeance and vendettas.

Nevertheless, Luther's endorsement was sharply at odds with the teachings of the early church Fathers. They didn't oppose the state's use of capital punishment. They didn't even address that question, since Christianity was still a countercultural minority with an ethic for "resident aliens."

 But as Ron Sider noted in The Early Church on Killing (Baker Academic, 2012), those Fathers who discussed capital punishment found it unthinkable that a follower of Christ could take a life, even as part of a judicial sentence. Lactantius said that a Christian should not even accuse someone of a capital crime, "because it makes no difference whether you put someone to death by word or by sword since it is the act of putting to death itself which is prohibited." Origen, recognizing that capital punishment had a place under the Old Covenant, drew a stark contrast between the law of Moses and the law of Christ. Christians, he said, cannot "condemn [someone] to be burned or stoned." Tertullian asked whether a Christian could be a civil magistrate and concluded that believers must avoid "sitting in judgment on someone's life."
Read the rest here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Is Russia preparing to invade Ukraine?

There is growing alarm as Russian troops mass on Ukraine's border.

More commentary on the Great and Holy Council

An interesting article from First Things and a post from Dr. Adam DeVille over at Red River Orthodox soliciting comments on what people would like to see come out of the Council. I tried repeatedly to post a comment on the latter, but it would not go through.

HT: Byzantine Texas for the First Things article

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A pleasant thought...

We are halfway through the second week of Lent after what for many has been a tough winter. But summer is coming!

Some Roman Catholic commentary on our forthcoming Great and Holy Council

Well worth a read with some good points though there are areas of respectful disagreement obviously.

Louisiana admits wrongful conviction of man who spent 30 years on death row

Ooops. Sorry about that chief. No hard feelings?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Feinstein Publicly Accuses C.I.A. of Spying on Congress

The chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday accused the Central Intelligence Agency of improperly removing documents from computers that committee staff members had been using to complete a report on the agency’s detention program, saying the move was part of an effort to intimidate the committee.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the committee, suggested on the Senate floor that the agency had violated federal law and said the C.I.A. had undermined Congress’s constitutional right to oversee the actions of the executive branch.

“I am not taking it lightly,” she said.
Read the rest here.

Czar Nicholas II Reviewing Troops at Krasnoye Selo

Some very rare and excellent footage of the Czar Martyr along with the Czarevitch Alexei and various members of the Imperial Court reviewing troops during the summer military encampment at Krasnoye Selo. Among those who are can be identified are the Grand Duke Nicholas (later Russian military commander during World War I) and the elderly Count Vladimir Fredericks the head of the Imperial Household from 1897 to the fall of the monarchy in 1917. The date is uncertain but most likely in the late 1900's.


The president's power grab

Recently, a bizarre scene unfolded on the floor of the House of Representatives that would have shocked the framers of the Constitution. In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced that he had decided to go it alone in areas where Congress refused to act to his satisfaction. In a system of shared powers, one would expect an outcry or at least stony silence when a president promised to circumvent the legislative branch. Instead, many senators and representatives erupted in rapturous applause; they seemed delighted at the notion of a president assuming unprecedented and unchecked powers at their expense.

Last week, Obama underlined what this means for our system: The administration unilaterally increased the transition time for individuals to obtain the level of insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act. There is no statutory authority for the change — simply the raw assertion of executive power.

The United States is at a constitutional tipping point: The rise of an uber presidency unchecked by the other two branches.
Read the rest here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Triumph of Orthodoxy concelebrated by the Primates of the local churches

Notorious speed trap in N. Florida may be shut down

Anyone who has traveled on US 301 in North Florida will know the route's dreadful reputation for its myriad speed traps. It's so bad that the last time I went down that road late last year, some people had actually put up giant billboard sized signs on their own lawns warning motorists of the speed traps ahead. But the story behind the tiny "city" of Hampton (pop. 477) and the more than ten thousand tickets it handed out each year, even managed to shock me. The corruption sounds breathtaking...
HAMPTON, Fla. — It’s easy for motorists driving down busy Route 301 to miss this speck of a city in rural north-central Florida: Fiddle with the car radio, unwrap a pack of gum, gaze out the window at the sunset and, whoosh, it’s gone.

And so it fell to the police to force hurried travelers to stop and savor the 1,260-foot ribbon of roadway belonging to this city. Hidden by trash bins or concealed in a stretch of woods, the officers — a word loosely applied here — pointed their radar devices. Between 2011 and 2012, Hampton’s officers issued 12,698 speeding tickets to motorists, many likely caught outside Hampton’s strip of county road.

But, as it turns out, surprised motorists are not the only ones getting burned. So many speeding tickets were churned out for so many years and with such brazenness that this city of 477 residents came under scrutiny — and not just for revenue raising with a radar gun. Now, Hampton, an 89-year-old city, is fighting legislative momentum to wipe it off the map, after a state audit last month uncovered reams of financial irregularities, shoddy record-keeping and missing funds.
Read the rest here.

The nuns have been freed!

The nuns abducted from their monastery in Syria have been freed. Glory to God!

Great and Holy Council to meet in 2016

As widely reported in the Orthodox blogosphere the recent Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Church held in Constantinople made some very important announcements.
  • The long anticipated Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church is to convene sometime in 2016.
  • It will be composed of twenty hierarchs from each of the canonically recognized autocephalous Orthodox Churches (some may have less than twenty bishops). No, the OCA will not be represented.
  • The agenda currently has eight items on the list. This may grow.
  • Each local Church will have one vote. Decrees of the Council will require the unanimous support of all the local churches.
  • Presumably the local Holy Synods will give some form of authority to their delegates to speak on their behalf, so that the Council's decrees will have binding effect upon the universal Church.
Some, mostly non-Orthodox are referring to this as an Orthodox Ecumenical Council.  And in fairness it might eventually become an Ecumenical Council. But Ecumenical Councils don't become Ecumenical before they meet. In the Orthodox Church a council first needs to meet, and then have its pronouncements received by the universal Church before it is considered Ecumenical. And even then the actual term 'Ecumenical' may not be everywhere applied.  There have been seven councils that are universally accepted within the Church as Ecumenical. But there have been nine Great and Holy Councils whose edicts are universally recognized. The last two are also termed as Ecumenical by many Orthodox (including this blog's author). But others have shied away from that term though all accept their pronouncements. So yes, it is possible that this could become either the eighth or tenth, depending on your reckoning, Ecumenical Council.

But don't get too worked up over it. The way things work in the Orthodox Church any such final determination, if it actually happens, would almost certainly come long after anyone reading this has been reduced to dust. The last Great and Holy Council met over 700 years ago and we are still not all agreed if it was Ecumenical! (It was, but that's another topic.)

Catching up on news

Last week was a major one for news. For those who weren't paying attention I will be posting some of the more important developments along with more current stuff.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Thank you

For the numerous prayers and expressions of sympathy in comments and emails. Normal blogging will resume tomorrow. I will also try to get through the backlog of emails.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Memory Eternal!

My step-father Harold died a short while ago, bringing to a close his long battle with dementia. There will be no blogging for a little while and your indulgence is begged if I don't respond to emails promptly. As always, prayers are deeply appreciated.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Interview with Fr. Joseph Huneycutt: Syrian Christians in a Time of Conflict

Two-and-a-half years ago Fr. Joseph Huneycutt traveled to Syria as part of an official delegation of Christian pastors and leaders to investigate the emerging political crisis and to assess the situation of Syria’s Christians. The September 2011 trip was sponsored by the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, and a report of the delegation’s findings was issued here. Now in its third year, the Syria conflict has taken countless lives and has left much of the country destroyed. Reports seem to come in weekly detailing the struggles of Syria’s ancient Christian community. Reports of kidnapping, murder, rape, torture, and destruction of churches at the hands of rebel insurgents are now a common theme of the Syria crisis. Last December, Fr. Joseph’s parish, St. Joseph Orthodox church in Houston, hosted the “Hope, Humanity, Healing” benefit concert to spread awareness of the plight of Syria’s Christians and to raise funds for the relief of all suffering innocents of the conflict. Fr. Joseph agreed to speak with Levant Report this week:
 Read the rest here.

German Catholic bishop defies Rome on doctrine

The responses to the Vatican questionnaire on the family are a clear signal that certain changes concerning the church’s teaching on sexual morality are imperative, according to Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, Germany.

Interviewed by the Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, Ackermann, 50, said the responses showed “quite clearly” that for the majority of the faithful the church’s teaching on moral sexuality was “repressive” and “remote from life.” Declaring a second marriage after a divorce a perpetual mortal sin, and under no circumstances allowing remarried divorced people ever to receive the Sacraments, was not helpful, he said and added, “We bishops will have to make suggestions here. We must strengthen people’s sense of responsibility and then respect their decisions of conscience.”
It was also no longer tenable to declare that every kind of cohabitation before marriage was a grievous sin, and “the difference between natural and artificial birth control is somehow artificial. No one understands it I fear,” Ackermann said.

As far as homosexual relationships were concerned, the church would have to appeal to people’s sense of responsibility, he continued. “The Christian concept of the human being emanates from the polarity of the sexes but we cannot simply say homosexuality is unnatural,” he explained. While the church must “hold fast” to the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman, it could not just ignore registered same-sex unions where the couples had promised to be faithful to and responsible for one another.
Read the rest here.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris

A blessed Fast to those observing Ash Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

White dinner jackets at the Oscars, oh my!

We interrupt the blog fast to post something incredibly snobbish.

In the United States the rule of thumb is that gentlemen eschew white excepting the period from Memorial Day through Labor Day. (An exception is usually admitted in the tropics.) So that was the first mistake. But setting aside that social faux pas, there just aren't many men who can make the white dinner jacket work. Think Bogart in Casablanca. As always the rule in polite society, is don't draw attention to yourself. (Mistake #2) But if you are going to attempt something out of the ordinary in a social setting make sure you have the necessary skills to carry it off. White dinner jackets are NOT advised for the novice, lest you end up looking like you stopped by on your way home from the Junior PROM (circa 1984).

And on a side note, if the invite says "Black Tie,"  a burgundy bow tie is probably not a good idea either.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

On the Eve of the Great Fast

I ask pardon for any offense that I may have caused in word, action or by neglect, especially for anything written on this blog. Please forgive me.

It has been my custom in years past to minimize blogging during Clean Week and refrain entirely during the first several days of the Fast. I hope to continue that practice this year, events personal and otherwise permitting. In closing I again ask your prayers for my step-father Harold who has been disconnected from all life support and is now in hospice.

I wish you all a blessed fast.

Please pray for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Russia Seizes the Crimea (and maybe that's not such a bad thing)

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — As Russian armed forces effectively seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula on Saturday, the Russian Parliament granted President Vladimir V. Putin the authority he sought to use military force in response to the deepening instability in Ukraine.

The authorization cited a threat to the lives of Russian citizens and soldiers stationed in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, and provided a blunt answer to President Obama, who on Friday pointedly warned Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.
Read the rest here.

Let's see. The Crimea is overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Russians who want nothing to do with Ukrainian nationalists. The Ukraine itself has been a part of Russia in one form or another for at least 500 years. How would we react if China decided to meddle in the affairs of our neighbors? I suspect that that there would be a huge outcry and demand for action. The Monroe Doctrine would be dusted off and waved from every flagpole. 

Here is the bottom line from my perspective. The Ukraine borders Russia. The Crimea is a vital piece of real estate to Russian national security because of its access to the Black Sea and its being the home port of a large part of the Russian Navy. And around half the country's population is solidly pro-Russian. In short, Russia has legitimate interests in the Ukraine.

Does that mean war is justified? Probably not. And if Russian troops were to move into the western part of the Ukraine that would be going too far. But anybody who thought that Russia was going to stand by and allow a bunch of pro-West Ukrainian nationalists, almost certainly supported by Western intelligence services, overthrow a legitimately elected (albeit heavy handed) pro-Russian government and move the country into the anti-Russian EU and maybe even NATO, was delusional.

Does anyone remember what we (the US, EU and NATO) did to Serbia and Kosovo? My guess is we are witnessing the same thing in the Ukraine. And that might not be a horrible thing if war can be avoided. The entity we call the Ukraine is inhabited by two groups of people, in roughly equal proportion, who detest one another. Given that they rather conveniently inhabit different parts of the country, a divorce might be the best solution.

In the meantime, unlike Russia, we have no vital interests. We should offer diplomatic council if that can help avoid bloodshed, but in the end this is none of our business.

On a side note... 

Memo to Russia and China: Stay out of Mexico and Canada.