Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What Makes a Priest Rejoice at Confession

What gives you joy when one person after another lines up to take confession? Not when you hear the confession that many call, “on duty”, but when you become a witness to change that’s happened (perhaps even before your very eyes) in a person; when you have become the witness of his struggle, the result of his work on himself and the action of God’s grace that goes with it. This is always experienced as a marvelous miracle—the most important and most necessary of all miracles, the most unbelievable and most saving.

However, it’s not only the miracle that makes you rejoice, but even the more for the person standing before you. He just now stood far from God, was veritably shrouded in a twilight shadow, and in an amazing way happened this turnaround, this conversion and return to the Father; and he is no longer in that deathly shadow, but in the light that illumines him and you together.

A person can repent of the most terrible sins, the most barbaric evil-doing; his tale may be bitter and worthy of tears. But if an inner change occurs, that very “metanoia”, that is, a change of mind, or more precisely, of the entire human personality, there is no feeling of weariness. To the contrary: the soul becomes so light, like after a thunderstorm when the thunder claps and the lightning strikes, and the water pours down to cleanse and refresh the poor, sinful earth.

Usually when you hear another’s confession or when you yourself confess, you think, “For what does the Lord love us so much?! No, of course He doesn’t love us for something, but in spite of everything…” And here something reveals itself to you... It’s the beauty of the human soul that words cannot express—wondrous, primordial, hidden usually by the deformity of the passions, the wounds of vice, the scabs of sins. It reveals itself—and you understand at last why the Creator loves His creation: As St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) says, in a drop of dew, in the human soul is reflected the light of the Sun, the light of the Divinity, and you admire it in a moment, giving thanks for this mercy and gift.

And more… you rejoice because you feel that you are not standing there in vain in your priest’s stole before the analogion with the Gospels and Cross; nor is your tiny labor in vain or futile, and there is some benefit from your service, your prayer, your words, or at least from your attention and inner sympathy. You are only a witness, and not the performer (there is only one true Performer!), but how good it is that this witness is not fruitless!

And, of course in order to feel and experience all this it is not necessary to see another Mary of Egypt turning from a harlot into a great saint, or Abba Moses the Ethiopian, a murdering thief who once brought fear to all but later became the humblest of monks. You don’t necessarily have to hear a confession filled with dramatic details, “unusual” or “out of the ordinary”. There may not be anything particular to its content. The main thing is that very feeling of change spoken of above. The main thing is the feeling that the person is truly laboring, and the Lord accepts and blesses that labor. And that painful, by no means swift, modest and yet infinitely glorious—ascent to the heights…

-Igumen Nektary (Morozov)

Monday, July 27, 2015

On Park Avenue, a Picture of the Catholic Church Divided

Here’s the broad outline: Our Saviour was a sleepy parish in the Murray Hill neighborhood of midtown Manhattan when Father George W. Rutler, noted author and preacher, was appointed its pastor in 2001. He breathed new life into it. He hired and collaborated with Ken Woo, an artist who filled the sanctuary with stunning iconography. It won awards. Rutler added the traditional Latin Mass to the weekly schedule. During his twelve-year term, twelve parishioners entered the seminary. That’s a lot. When Rutler arrived, he inherited a deficit. When he left, Our Saviour was running surpluses and had money in the bank. 

In 2013, Rutler was reassigned to a parish on the other side of town, in Hell’s Kitchen. The incoming pastor at Our Saviour told Rutler that he would keep the Latin Mass. A few weeks into his term, he discontinued it, without notice. Last summer he started removing the icons — again, without notice.

...Shortly after his arrival in 2013, the new pastor invited a man who was a server at the Latin Mass at Our Saviour to leave the parish. He left. By now, most parishioners of a more conservative or traditional sensibility have probably moved to parishes they find more congenial. If Our Saviour has been distilled to a core who are mostly okay with the new tone, what’s wrong with that? 

One possible answer is “Nothing.” We might shrug and say, “Let people sort themselves out. The Ancients are no longer welcome at Our Saviour, but the Moderns are. Good for the Moderns. Bad for the Ancients. They can go to Holy Innocents.” At that point, we’ve accepted that the Church is riven. It is, but we shouldn’t accept it. 

To the chancery at the Archdiocese of New York, a parish touched by traditional Catholicism, rooted in the Latin Mass and the preconciliar Church, may seem analogous to the immigrant ethnic parish of a century ago: Old World, un-American, unassimilated, non-English-speaking, embarrassing. They see “phase me out” written all over it. To those who assumed that Latin and all the foul dust that floated in its wake were disappeared two generations ago, it must seem like nasty, stubborn mold. “Eww, I thought we painted over that.”

Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Illinois Moves to Slash Welfare for the Dead

As anyone paying any attention at all will be aware, Illinois is a fiscal train wreck, plagued by years of one party government (guess which one), coupled with rampant cronyism and corruption. The legislature has been the object of excoriating criticism for its stubborn refusal to face budgetary reality and take urgently needed steps to rein in the state's dangerously high level of debt.

But no more.

Acting under the strong encouragement of Illinois' new Republican governor, the legislature has passed a bill that effectively strips all welfare benefits... from the deceased. Now the state's Department of Social Services will be required to cross check every month the entire roster of those receiving state aid against death certificates on file with the Department of Health, with the requirement that those who have joined the Great Majority are to be cut off. Yes, even their food stamps.

I am reliably informed that there was also active discussion of disenfranchising deceased voters. However this was dropped following a threat by the ACLU to file a civil rights suit if any attempt was made to deprive the dead of their constitutional right to vote for the Democratic candidate in general elections.

One step at a time...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fr. John Whiteford on Monarchy

... So is monarchy superior to democracy? St. John of Kronstadt once observed "Hell is a democracy but heaven is a kingdom." However, we live in a representative democracy that has afforded us freedom of religion -- and we are grateful for that. But on the other hand, we have also begun to see in recent years that the problem with democracy is that it only works well for a moral people, and given fallen human nature, it can facilitate a rapid decline in morality. The 20th century, especially in the wake of the two world wars, saw the rise of democracy around the world and the rapid decline in monarchy, and in the course of just under a hundred years we have essentially seen the end of Christendom as a result.

Read the rest here.

A good and nuanced, albeit short discussion of the topic.The problem with democracy, including in its more limited forms, is that it asserts the sovereignty of man. And that proposition, born in the so called Enlightenment, has served as the catalyst for the appalling collapse of Christian Civilization.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The LCMS Calls a Post a Post

If the role of religion in America today is to teach the faithful to bend over and kiss the ring of postmodernity and beg for forgiveness for actually believing something, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod just failed spectacularly, flubbed its lines, and fell off the stage. I, for one, am elated. 

Tuesday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed the grand faux pas with this somewhat ironic lede: “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod recently carried out what various members consider the equivalent of a modern-day heresy trial.” 

My enthusiasm is, of course, mixed with sadness. The Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker (the hero/victim of the breathlessly Hawthornean Post-Dispatch piece) has agitated against the church’s plainly worded doctrinal statements, to which he was bound, for many years, and should have been removed from the LCMS’s clergy roster a long time ago. Though he teaches at Valparaiso University, which is not affiliated with the LCMS, he has managed to maintain his status on the clergy roster, despite several previously unsuccessful attempts to remove him. Tuesday’s news is therefore a victory for orthodoxy. Nonetheless it is tragic to witness a man persisting in promoting false and harmful doctrine, and tragic to see him face the consequences. And yes, the rich etymology of tragic traces back to the Greek tragos, which means “goat,” and yes, the sheep needed to be separated from this one.

Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Some welcome news from our Reformed Protestant brothers and sisters and a break from the almost unending stream of bad news from the mainline denominations.

Monday, July 20, 2015

America the Great?

...America has not yet become Babylon the Great, despite the recent legal ruling. But even if it does, so what? We can peek at the end of the Book, and see how the story will end. And it turns out that it will end with glory, with the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Babylon the Great will fall, and when it does, the saints and apostles and prophets in heaven will rejoice, for it had become the dwelling place demons, the haunt of every foul spirit, and every foul and hateful bird (Rev. 18:2). 

Read the rest here.

Judge slams State Department over Hillary Clinton-related records

A federal judge is lashing out at the State Department for delaying for years in providing responses to Associated Press Freedom of Information Act requests seeking records about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's schedules and her top staffers.

At a contentious hearing last week, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon demanded explanations for why some of the AP's requests received no reply for four years or more before the wire service filed suit in March.

Leon said he was determined to establish "what has been going on in the State Department for four years dragging their feet, not addressing these issues for four years."

"I want to find out what's been going on over there. I should say, what's not been going on over there," the judge added. "The State Department, for reasons known only to itself ... has been, to say the least, recalcitrant in responding."

Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

On the Sacramental Nature of Marriage

One of the obvious differences between the Orthodox and Western understanding of marriage is that in the West, marriage is what two people do, while in the East, it is something that is done to them. This difference is expressed in the wedding service. In the West, the two people give a set of vows, thus entering into a contract with each other. In the Orthodox service, no vows are exchanged; after the initial inquiry as to whether they want to be married to each other (more on that later), they say absolutely nothing. They also do nothing: something is done to them—crowns are placed on their heads, they are led by the priest around the gospel stand, the common cup is given to them, even their wedding rings are placed on their fingers by other people. Whatever the historical development of the Orthodox rite may have been, its form points to the belief in the sacramental nature of marriage. In this way, the rite of marriage similar to the Eucharist. One does not produce the Body and Blood of Christ the way that one would negotiate and produce a contract. All of the actions of the priest and the congregation are not aimed at the production of the Gifts, but at preparing their own hearts and souls for receiving the sacrament.

But when we speak of the sacramental nature of marriage, I think that we have mean some specific thing. Marriage is not a sacrament because it is listed as such in the catechism; and it is not a sacrament because God blesses the couple in some general way. One of the ways we can define a sacrament to be more precise for the purposes of this study is to look at it as transformation: it is not quantitative (whereby vows, blessings, certificates, etc. are added to the couple) but qualitative—the couple does not remain the same two people they were before the weddings but is transformed (“changing them by Your Holy Spirit” in the Eucharistic sense) into something they were not–a specific icon of Christ and His Church.

Just saying this, however, does not make it so. Many—if not most!—of our Orthodox marriages do not resemble the icon of Christ and look very similar to whatever model of marriage that our current society presents. If our theology is not having any practical effect in the actual marriages, then we must strive harder to make theology relevant to the lives of Orthodox spouses. The sacramental nature of an Orthodox marriage and the real presence of God as the third Person in the “trinity” of God, man and woman, needs to be made real in order to help move toward the sacramental transformation of the spouses. 

Read the rest here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Donald

Donald Trump is a political chameleon and always has been. He will say whatever he thinks will score him points with whoever he is trying to get something from at the given moment, whether it’s the Clintons or conservative voters. The man is playing conservatives for a bunch of suckers, and so far he is succeeding. I honestly have no idea what his real political convictions are because he keeps changing them. Do I like what he is saying on immigration these days? Yes and no.

But do I trust him? Not for a New York minute.

Feast of the Royal Martyrs of Russia

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New York City Council Moves To Decriminalize Urination In Public and Turnstile Jumping

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (left) is moving forward with a controversial plan to decriminalize such offenses as urinating in public — part of an effort to rollback on criminal offenses used by police to stop and detain suspects under the “broken windows” approach of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Critics have charged that the murder rate and other crimes are already up under Mayor Bill de Blasio due to the tensions with police and new policies against stop and frisk maneuvers. 

Read the rest here.

Man Says He Danced on Police Car's Roof to Summon Aid Against Vampires


In a world where men are being encouraged to believe they are women, and to submit to surgical mutilation, who am I to judge?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How liberalism became an intolerant dogma

At the risk of sounding like Paul Krugman — who returns to a handful of cherished topics over and over again in his New York Times column — I want to revisit one of my hobby horses, which I most recently raised in my discussion of Hobby Lobby.

My own cherished topic is this: Liberalism's decline from a political philosophy of pluralism into a rigidly intolerant dogma.

The decline is especially pronounced on a range of issues wrapped up with religion and sex. For a time, electoral self-interest kept these intolerant tendencies in check, since the strongly liberal position on social issues was clearly a minority view. But the cultural shift during the Obama years that has led a majority of Americans to support gay marriage seems to have opened the floodgates to an ugly triumphalism on the left.

The result is a dogmatic form of liberalism that threatens to poison American civic life for the foreseeable future. Conservative Reihan Salam describes it, only somewhat hyperbolically, as a form of "weaponized secularism."

The rise of dogmatic liberalism is the American left-wing expression of the broader trend that Mark Lilla identified in a recent blockbuster essay for The New Republic. The reigning dogma of our time, according to Lilla, is libertarianism — by which he means far more than the anti-tax, anti-regulation ideology that Americans identify with the post-Reagan Republican Party, and that the rest of the world calls "neoliberalism."

Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Solzhenitsyn Mourned Bastille Day - So Should All Christians

Tuesday, July 14 probably passes without much fanfare in your home, but the date, Bastille Day, marks the beginning of the greatest organized persecution of Christians since the Emperor Diocletian. This day, the beginning of the French Revolution, also planted the seeds for the murderous ideologies of socialism and nationalism that would poison the next two centuries, murdering millions of believers and other innocent civilians. Between them, those two political movements racked up quite a body count: In Death By Government, scholar R. J. Rummel pointed out that
during the first 88 years of this century, almost 170,000,000 men, women and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; or buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens or foreigners.
But the first such modern genocide in the West took place in France, beginning in 1793. It was undertaken by modern, progressive apostles of Enlightenment and aimed at pious peasants in the Vendée region of France. By its end up to 300,000 civilians had been killed by the armies of the Republic.

This story is little discussed in France. Indeed, a devout historian who teaches at a French university once told me, “We are not to mention the Vendée. Anyone who brings up what was done there has no prospect of an academic career. So we keep silent.”

It is mostly in the Vendée itself that memories linger, which may explain why that part of France to this day remains more religious and more conservative than any other region. The local government opened a museum marking these atrocities on their 200th anniversary in 1993 — with a visit by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who noted during his eloquent address that the mass murders of Christians in Russia were directly inspired by those in the Vendée. The Bolsheviks, he said, modeled themselves on the French revolutionaries, and Lenin himself pointed to the Vendée massacres as the right way to deal with Christian resistance.

Read the rest here.

Firefox blocks Adobe Flash, the much-loathed, bug-plagued relic of a browser plugin


Thank God! That thing has been nothing but a giant pain in the @$$ for ages. Constant computer slowdowns and even outright freezing of the browser.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pope Francis Calls for More Church Openness

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay— Pope Francis called for a more welcoming Catholic church, open even to those don’t accept its teachings, as he preached at a large open-air Mass on the last day of a weeklong South American tour.

Speaking to hundreds of thousands of people at a military air base on the outskirts of Paraguay’s capital city on Sunday, the pontiff taught a lesson in how the church should—and shouldn’t—attempt to spread the Gospel.

He called for “welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it, at times through our own fault. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, with which this land is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners.”

Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”

Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.

The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.

Read the rest here.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Lotteries, payday lending, and the swindling of America’s poor

...But there is one set of related policy ideas that would dramatically help the poor and should not be ideologically divisive. How about a renewed effort to help the poor by refusing to cheat them?

I am referring to a broad and growing collaboration between government and business to systematically defraud and exploit the poor through state lotteries, payday lending and payday gambling.

The lottery is a particularly awful example of political corruption. Here government is raising revenue by selling the Powerball dream of wealth without work. Studies in a number of states have shown that lottery ticket sales are concentrated in poor communities, that poor people spend a larger portion of their income on tickets and that the poor are more likely to view the lottery as an investment. “This could be your ticket out,” promised one typical billboard in a distressed Chicago neighborhood.

Think on this a moment. In a place where government has utterly failed to provide adequate education and public services, government is using advertising to exploit the desperation of poor people in order to raise revenue that funds other people’s public services. This is often called a “regressive” form of taxation. The word does not adequately capture the cruelty and crookedness of selling a lie to vulnerable people in order to bilk them. Offering the chance of one in a 100 million is the equivalent of a lie. Lotteries depend on the deceptive encouragement of mythical thinking and fantasies of escape.

Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Revisiting Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's warnings to the West

... According to Solzhenitsyn it was no coincidence that Soviet Russia shared certain common problems with the West, for he saw socialism and liberalism as kindred ideologies. Both were rooted in a common utopian project that began during the Enlightenment, he claimed, and thus both were marked by anthropocentricity—the belief that man is the measure of all things. Each ideology began by rejecting tradition and transcendent authority in favor of theories of liberation, and each was destined to afflict mankind with moral chaos. Although more economically efficient than socialism, liberalism will in the end prove just as unsatisfying, he concluded, for “the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer” than “commercial advertising, TV stupor, and intolerable music.”

Unsurprisingly, the Harvard address shocked Americans, particularly journalists, and even struck some of them as ungrateful. How could a man who had escaped the jaws of a despotic regime have the nerve to criticize the country which had taken him in? While Solzhenitsyn insisted that his criticisms were meant to be constructive, coming “not from an adversary but a friend,” he alienated Americans across the political spectrum by condemning a “destructive and irresponsible freedom” that had, in America, been granted “boundless space.” President Ford, put out by Solzhenitsyn’s intransigent anti-Communism, had already declared the dissident a “horse’s ass.” Now others agreed.

Asinine or no, Solzhenitsyn’s speech must be read in the context of Russian conservatism, a tradition which differs in key respects from its American counterpart. Whereas the American conservative imagination is typically informed by the US Constitution and the Founding Fathers, the Russian conservative takes his bearings from iconography, liturgical music, and folk tales. For better or worse, Russian patriotism is bound up with Slavic heritage and the Orthodox Church, not the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

Read the rest here.

Thank you Aleksandr Isayevich. May your memory be eternal.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Bill Cosby

I don’t pay much attention to celebrities and their often bizarre lifestyles and politics (this criticism coming from an avowed monarchist, so take it for what its worth). But Bill Cosby was an exception. I really liked the guy, enjoyed his humor and respected him for having the courage to stand up to the PC crowd and say some uncomfortable truths.

That said the evidence that he is a serial rapist, liar and all around creep has reached the point where I don't think rational people can pretend it is anything but damning. Rarely have I been more disappointed in someone I had hitherto held in high regard. I really feel let down in ways I would have thought unimaginable when talking about an entertainment personality.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Tolerance is Dead

...What does this show us? Three things, I think.

It shows us that tolerance is over. I’m not breaking new ground here–but this must be said. Tolerance is dead. Oppenheimer’s piece ran all of two days after the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. He wants to crush those who dare to stand against the fullest possible acceptance of what Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield has called “samesexuality.” Sexuality liberated from any constraints is now a full-blown worldview. This is paganism, 21st-century version. The body is all; sex is all.

The hippies now wear steel-toed boots. The earlier “free love” movement was all about doing what you want–live and let live. Today’s version of this pagan impulse is militaristic–live and you better approve. There’s a menace, a fury, in this cultural momentum. There will be no tolerance. There will be no dissent. Churches and organizations that stand bravely against the rushing tide of the late stages of the sexual revolution will be crushed.

Read the rest here.

State Silences Bakers Who Refused to Make Cake for Lesbian Couple, Fines Them $135K

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian finalized a preliminary ruling today ordering Aaron and Melissa Klein, the bakers who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the couple they denied service.

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage,” Avakian wrote. “It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”

In the ruling, Avakian placed an effective gag order on the Kleins, ordering them to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.

“This effectively strips us of all our First Amendment rights,” the Kleins, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which has since closed, wrote on their Facebook page. “According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech.”

Read the rest here.
HT: The Deacon's Bench

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Quote of the day...

"The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character. We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God. We want to shout to the whole world, ‘Stop!'"

-Patriarch Kyril of Moscow and all Russia

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Memory Eternal: Sir Nicholas Winton

On the eve of the Second World War, Sir Nicholas, a private citizen, undertook a plan that saved more than 600 children, mostly Jewish, by getting them out of Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. He kept this part of his life secret for decades until his wife found the records in the attic.