Thursday, December 28, 2017

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

So I went and saw the new Churchill bio-pic and my overall reaction was good, but not great. Gary Oldman's is certainly the standout performance. He really does a good job at the acting, which IMO makes the film worth seeing. However he seems to overshadow some of the others to the point where I was left wondering what their function was other than as historical props. Which brings me to one of my pet peeves with historical dramas in general and this one is sadly no exception. I understand that in Hollywood when you are trying to recreate often deeply complex historical situations and cram them into around two hours, that some things are going to get left out, some are going to be condensed and for the sake of entertainment a few liberties with the sometimes dry historical record are to be expected and tolerated. Unfortunately Hollywood tends to leave out a great deal while taking extravagant liberties with historical reality. Those who are familiar with the actual events in this very critical moment in world history or who have read any decent Churchill biography will have no difficulty picking out the howlers. And if you are like me, they can become a distraction. My overall rating...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Trouble in the Greek Archdiocese

This has been floating around for a while on the web and some news outlets. Can't say I am honestly shocked. There have been rumors for years of dodgy financial activity in the Greek Archdiocese. Back in the 2000's the OCA went through its own reckoning over shady bookkeeping and misappropriation of funds. Eventually the Holy Synod manned up and cleaned house. There was a lot of hurt and damaged trust. More than a few high ranking clergy wound up with egg on their face. The Metropolitan was packed off to a monastery in PA and the Chancellor was deposed from the clerical rank. The last I heard he had been excommunicated for refusing to accept the sanction.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's official

The United States no longer has a conservative political party. In case there was any doubt, the Republican Party is a prostitute for Wall Street and the uber wealthy. We are actually going to borrow $1.5 trillion in order to subsidize billionaires and big business. This is like handing your Visa or MasterCard to Jeff Bezos and telling him to have fun with it.

Who is going to pick up the tab for all of this? Well we know who isn't.

My advice, live for the moment and enjoy. But you don't want to live too long because one day the bill for all of this high living is going to come due, just like your credit card tab. And when it does... things are going to get ugly.

The National Debt Clock 
(Note this only counts the current debt outstanding. It does not include the tens of trillions in unfunded future liabilities, i.e. promises we have made without any clue where the money is coming from.)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Canada won’t fund student summer jobs unless employers support abortion LGBTBBQ rights

OTTAWA, December 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau will ban any employer from receiving summer job grants for students if the employer doesn't first sign an “attestation” that they agree with abortion and transgender "rights."
The new criteria were sent to all MPs and will be made public when the Canada Summer Jobs Program officially opens December 19, 2017.

In order to receive federal Canada job grants, employers must attest that:
  • both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. 
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The bells of all churches in Romania will toll for King Michael

The bells of all cathedrals, churches, and monasteries in Romania will toll at the same time for King Michael, the country’s last sovereign. This will happen on three occasions in the next days, during the events related to the king’s funeral, the Romanian Orthodox Church has announced.

The first time the bells will toll on Wednesday, December 13, at 11:00, when the plane bringing the king’s casket from Switzerland to Romania is supposed to land at the Henri Coanda International Airport in Otopeni.

The second bell toll will take place on Saturday, December 16, at 12:30, marking the beginning of the funeral service to take place at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest.

The third time all Church bells in Romania will toll for the king will be on Saturday at 18:30, when the burial ceremony will start at the new Curtea de Arges Royal Cathedral.

King Michael I of Romania died on December 5 at his private residence in Switzerland, at the age of 96.
Romania will hold three days of mourning in his honor, starting Thursday, December 14.

The king’s body will be brought to the country on December 13, and taken to the Peles Castle in Sinaia. The king’s coffin will lie in the castle’s Hall of Honour from 14:00 to 16:00. President Klaus Iohannis will go to Peles to pay his last respects to the late king. The public will not have access to the Hall of Honour, according to the program of the funeral announced by the Royal House of Romania.

In the evening of December 13, the king’s coffin will be taken to the Royal Palace in Bucharest, where it will remain until December 16. People can come to the Royal Palace to pay their respects in this period. However, the National Art Museum of Romania (MNAR), which is located in the Royal Palace, will be closed from December 14 to December 16.

On Saturday morning, December 16, the coffin will be taken to the Patriarchal Cathedral of Romania on a gun carriage. The funeral cortege will walk from the Royal Palace Square, along Calea Victoriei, then Unirii Square, to the Patriarchal Cathedral. The public and the press will not have access to the Cathedral during the funeral mass.
Then, the king’s coffin will be taken to Baneasa Royal Train Station, from where the Royal Train will take it to Curtea de Arges. At 5.50 p.m., His Late Majesty’s burial service will take place in Curtea de Argeș Cathedral. The ceremony will be attended only by the Custodian of the Crown, the Royal Family of Romania, and members of foreign royal families. The public will not be allowed past the front gates of the Park of the Curtea de Arges Monastery, the Royal House announced.

Also, the New Cathedral will be closed to visitors during the seven days following the funeral.

Books of condolence are open at Peles Castle, the Royal Palace, and Elisabeta Palace. The full program of King Michael’s funeral is available on the Royal Family’s official website.

Romanian Parliament meets in special joint sitting to commemorate King Michael

European royals come to Romania for King Michael’s funeral

Prince Charles will come to King Michael’s funeral in Romania


Priest and wife, partners for 6 decades, die within hours of each other

ALBANY — The Rev. Alvian Smirensky, a Russian Orthodox priest recalled as accomplished, compassionate and wise, had his life’s final wish fulfilled, according to the Rev. Peter Olsen, who referred to the older priest as his spiritual mentor.

“He had said to his son in law, I don’t want to live without my wife,” said Olsen, archpriest of St. Basil’s Russian Orthodox Church in Watervliet.

In fact, Alvian and Helen Smirensky, married for 59 years, died Sunday within hours of each other, on adjoining beds at Albany Medical Center Hospital.

Their deaths on the same morning were not the result of an accident, crime or other shared tragic circumstance, but were the endings through unconnected natural causes of two lives intimately joined for six decades. That was fitting, according to another fellow clergyman who knew them well.

“They were very much a partnership,” said the Rev. Christopher Savage, prior at New Skete Monasteries in Cambridge.

Helen Smirensky went to Albany Med late last week for emergency surgery, Olsen said. (He did not say what her ailment was, and family could not be reached Thursday.

The surgery was not successful, however, and on Saturday night, Father Alvian, as he was called in the Russian Orthodox tradition, went to his wife to perform ministrations at her death bed.

As he was being driven home to the Beverwyck senior living community in Slingerlands, Alvian had a massive stroke, Olsen said. He was promptly transported back to Albany Med, where staff arranged for them to be together.

Helen, 84, whom Olsen called Matushka (for “priest’s wife”) died around 5 a.m. Alvian, 88, passed away about three hours later, Olsen said.

Read the rest here.

Memory eternal!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


There was no good outcome for last night's Senate election in Alabama. Predictably, the usual suspects are calling this a rejection of Trump when it is no such thing (though I wish it were). No the voters did not reject Trump who remains extremely popular in Alabama. No Alabama did not just become a swing state. All they did was reject a fringe candidate who has been credibly accused of acts involving what we used to refer to as moral turpitude. This was a political blip and unless Doug Jones votes primarily as a conservative on most issues and in particular flips on the issue of abortion, his chances of being re-elected in 2020 are pretty slim.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

States seeking new methods for capital punishment

Details here.

This is just idiotic. I'm not a big fan of capital punishment but our obsession with finding new and more scientific ways of killing people has gotten out of hand. Lethal injection is simply barbarous. Any method of execution that can take hours should be dismissed out of hand. If your going to have capital punishment, then just do it and don't be so damned squeamish. Low tech works surprisingly well. A bullet to the back of the head is pretty definitive, and cheap. If you feel the need for something more cutting edge, the French method is also fairly fast and decisive. It might be a tad disturbing to witnesses, but hey they are signing up to see someone killed. Hell, even hanging works surprisingly well. The only reason it got a bad rep here in the US is because we have never had a trained professional class of executioners. Hanging requires some skill and training. But the British had it down to a science. Generally their executions were over within a minute of the hangman entering the condemned man's cell. (The gallows was secretly right next door, literally only steps away.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Memory Eternal: King Michael of Romania

King Michael I of Romania, his forced abdication is not recognized in this corner of the blogosphere, has reposed.

Memorie veșnică!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Of Bitcoins and Dutch Tulips

December 1, 2017 Boston and Beijing—The digital currency called bitcoin has made speculators a fortune, drawn in drug dealers, technology optimists, and those who distrust traditional banks.

Now, it’s ever-more mainstream. From small investors in Japan to big institutional ones in the West, bitcoin is attracting new waves of people anxious to pour money into the latest craze.

It’s hard to resist the action. Worth 6 cents seven years ago, a bitcoin now sells for more than $10,000 – a mind-blowing rise of more than 16 million percent. This year alone, it’s value jumped from $998 to a record $11,155 on Wednesday morning. Seven hours later it had dropped 17 percent, then rose above the $10,000 mark, only to drop another 15 percent on Thursday. By Friday, it was up around $10,500.

“I talk to a lot of people and they say: ‘I have bitcoin’ – average households, many colleagues, friends,” says Daniel Heller, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former official at the Bank for International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund. “It’s definitely very big.”

It also looks like a financial bubble, he and other financial experts say.

Read the rest here.

My take: Could someone show me a Bitcoin? Can I lock one in a safe deposit box at the bank? This sounds like the greatest racket since someone decided to market pet rocks. Of course when you paid for a pet rock, you actually got... a rock.

What's holding the Democrats back?

In the forthcoming special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions in Alabama it's likely (though not certain) that Roy Moore will win. How is this possible given the very credible allegations that he is a sexual predator? How could the Democrats not win an election against such a morally compromised man? The answer is that they have ceased to be a political party that even attempts to win elections in culturally conservative states like Alabama. For better or worse the party that once stood for the working man, the idea that he should be able to get an honest wage for an honest day's work, that he should be able to work in a safe place, that his kids should have a chance to go to a decent school and maybe even college, and that those who through no fault of their own found themselves in a jam should not be put out on the street or left to depend on charity but rather should be provided for... in short the party of FDR and Harry Truman, is dead.

It has been supplanted by a party dedicated to three main issues... support for unrestricted immigration including defense of illegal aliens. Support for the current wave of identity politics which seeks to balkanize the country along racial, ethnic and sexual lines.  All the while encouraging a belief in victimization among those favored groups and stoking racist hostility towards the hitherto majority group and its culture. And lastly it's unquestioning, almost religious support for abortion on demand with no questions or caveats being tolerated.

When you nominate someone who supports abortion on demand in a state like Alabama you are announcing loudly and clearly that you have no interest in winning a statewide election there and that the people of that state simply don't matter. Then again that has long been true for most of the benighted people who have the misfortune of inhabiting the vast swath of real estate between Manhattan and LA.

But given how far the GOP has gone off the rails, if the Democrats ever abandoned their demand for fealty to the three sacraments of the church of the left, and returned to being a party for the working and middle class while leaving abortion to the conscience of its candidates, they could again become a national party and pose a mortal threat to the party of Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, Donald Trump and yes, Roy Moore.

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky): Sermon against the pogroms

April 20, 1903

The joyous feast of reconciliation, the Resurrection of Christ, continues. We have completed the commemoration of St. Thomas, who was the first to confess that the risen Jesus is our true God, and we are now singing of the deeds of the myrrhbearers. We commemorate those women who did not grow weak in their faithfulness to Christ even during the terrible days when He was betrayed and put to death, and who were accounted worthy to announce His resurrection to the apostles. The apostles would enlighten the world by proclaiming the resurrection, but these holy women had first enlightened the apostles with it.

In extolling their faith, the Church calls all of us to imitate this struggle and to participate in the preaching of the resurrection. We are called upon to become so penetrated by joy in Him that we not only forget about the evil done against us by enemies, but to forgive from our hearts their hatred toward us and not only forgive them, but even love our enemies. We must now strive to embrace with love all mankind, inviting them to share with us the spiritual ecstasy of that new life revealed so clearly to us, that everlasting life filled with blessed communion with God. Now is fulfilled that prophecy of Isaiah; “And everlasting joy ... illness, sorrow and sighing have, fled away” (Is 35:10).

The grace of Christ’s resurrection shines brightly even in our corrupt age, and it shines not only on the pious but even on those who are unconcerned. During these sacred days, those who did not pray earlier now turn to prayer; even those whose hearts were hardened. We greet one another with the kiss of peace, and even the unmerciful and miserly find pleasure in showing love toward their neighbour. “Christ is risen and life springs forth” as the God-fearing voice of Chrysostom proclaims. But amidst such comforting circumstances in our Christian life, sorrowful, shameful news reaches us that in the city of Kishenev, on the very day of Christ’s resurrection, on the day of forgiveness and reconciliation, there occurred the cruel inhuman massacre of unfortunate Jews.

At the very time when in the holy temples there was being sung, “Let us embrace one another and say ‘brother’ even to those who hate us...” yes at that very time, outside the church walls, a drunken, beastly mob broke into Jewish homes, robbing the peaceful inhabitants and tearing human beings into pieces. They threw their bodies from windows into the streets and looted Jewish stores. A second crazed, greed filled mob rushed in to steal the clothing and jewelry from the bloodied corpses, seizing everything they could lay hand on. Like Judas, these robbers enriched themselves with silver drenched in blood—the blood of these hapless human sacrifices!

O God! How did Thy goodness endure such an insult and offence to the day of Thy saving passion and glorious resurrection! Thou didst endure Thy terrible struggle so that we would be dead to sin and live in Thee (Rm. 6:11), but here they cruelly and in a most beastly manner slaughtered those who are Thy relatives according to the flesh, who, though they did not recognize Thee are still dear to Thy heart as Thou Thyself didst say not long before Thou didst suffer in the flesh, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou who killest the prophets and stone those who are sent to thee; how often have I longed to gather your children as a hen gathers its chicks under its wing, and you desired it not” (Matt. 23:37).

O brethren, I wish to make you understand this so that you would comprehend that even today the Jewish tribe is dear to God’s heart, and realize that God is angered by anyone who would offend that people. Lest anyone suppose that we are selecting words from the sacred scripture with partiality, let me cite for you the words of that man whom the Jews hated above all men. This is the man whom a company of the Jews vowed neither to eat nor drink until they had killed him (Acts 23:12)—Apostle Paul.

Hearken to the words of God’s spirit speaking through him: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing my witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen” (Rm. 9:1-5).

Startling and frightening word! Did you truly write them, Paul, you who came to love Christ, who began to live in Christ as Christ lived in you? For whose sake did you consent to be separated from Christ? Was it not you, Paul, who wrote the lines preceding this verse “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm. 8:38-39). Even the angels could not have done that which you would voluntarily have done for the sake of the salvation of the Jews - those who were your enemies, your betrayers, they who beat you with whip, chained you in prison, exiled you and condemned you to death.

  Behold, brethren and marvel: these words of Apostle Paul are spoken concerning the Jews, even though they were opposed to Christ’s faith. Lest your perplexity i continue, that same apostle and martyr explaining in the following chapter, the reason for his love of the house of Israel! “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (10:1-2).

The words are confirmed in our own day by the life of the Jews. Observe for yourselves their dedication to their law, their preservation of the Sabbath, their faithfulness to their spouses, their love of work and their love toward their children, whom they encourage toward obedience. There was a time not so long ago when Christians excelled them in all these things, but in our present corrupt and degenerate age, we must look with regret upon all these qualities of the way of life of pious Jews. In our cities, the majority of Christians no longer distinguish between the ordinary day, feast days and fasts, but have fallen into negligence and a loose life.

It is true that there are also some like this among the Jews, but from whom did they learn such a disorderly path? Alas, from those whose forefathers confess Christ, from European and Russian nihilists who, like toads, swarm over our land, whose books and newspapers poison the air around us like the plague and cholera.

The Karaim and Talmud Jews must be respected, but woe to both those nihilists from among the Jews and from among us, who are corrupting both family and society, who sow the seed of their contagion among Russian and Polish youth, and who are the main cause of the hatred toward the descendants of the holy forefathers and prophets beloved by the Lord. I am not speaking about respect for these nihilists among the Jews.

Listen as the blessed apostle further explains the reason for his warm, self-denying love toward this people; hear how he explains their unbelief and obduracy toward Christ “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (11:11). If the Jews had all accepted Christ’s faith, then the heathens who despised the Jews would have rejected it. If the Jews had all believed, then we, brethren, would not have become Christians, but would still be worshipping Jupiter and Venus or Perun and Volass as our pagan ancestors did. Be cautious, therefore, about slandering the unbelief of the Jews; rather grieve over it and pray that the Lord may be revealed to them. Do not be at enmity with them, but respect the apostolic word about the Israelite root and the branches that broke from it “Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. “ (11:20-21)

O Christians, fear to offend the sacred, even though rejected, tribe. God’s recompense will fall upon those evil people who have shed blood which is of the same race as the Theanthropos, His most pure mother, apostles and prophets. Do not suppose that this blood was sacred only in the past, but understand that even in the future reconciliation to the divine nature awaits them (2Pt.1:4), as Christ’s chosen vessel further testifies, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written. There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (11:25-27).

Let the savage know that they have slain future Christians who were yet in the loins of the present day Jews; let them know that they have shown themselves to be bankrupt opponents of God’s providence, persecutors of a people beloved by God, even after its rejection (11:28).

How sinful is enmity against Jews, based on an ignorance of God’s law, and how shall it be forgiven when it arises from abominable and disgraceful impulses. The robbers of the Jews did not do so as revenge for opposition to Christianity, rather they lusted for the property and possessions of others. Under the thin guise of zeal for the faith, they served the demon of covetousness. They resembled Judas who betrayed Christ with a kiss while blinded with the sickness of greed, but these murderers, hiding themselves behind Christ’s name, killed His kinsmen according to the flesh in order to rob them.

When have we beheld such fanaticism? In Western Europe during the middle ages, heretics and Jews were shamefully executed, but not by mobs intent on robbing them.1

How can one begin to teach people who stifle their own conscience and mercy, who snuff out all fear of God and, departing from the holy temple even on the bright day of Christ’s Resurrection, a day dedicated to forgiveness and love, but which they rededicate to robbery and murder?

O believers in God and His Christ! Fear the Lord’s judgment in behalf of His people. Fear to offend the inheritors of the promise, even though they have been renounced. We are not empowered to judge them for their unbelief; the Lord and not we will judge. We, looking upon their zeal even though it is “not according to knowledge” (Rm.10:2) would do better to contemplate their fathers: the righteous Abraham, Isaak, Jakob, Joseph and Moses, David and Samuel and Elijah, who rose to heaven still in the flesh. Look upon Isaiah who accepted voluntary death for the faith, Daniel who stopped the mouths of beasts in a lions’ den, and the Maccabbee martyrs who died with joy for the hope of resurrections. Let us not beat, slay and rob people, but soften their hardness toward Christ and Christians by means of our own fulfilment of the law of God. Let us multiply our prayer, love, fasting and alms and our concern for those who are suffering, let us be zealous about the true essence of the faith; let our light so shine before people that they may glorify our heavenly father and Christ. Let us overcome unbelief and impiousness among Christians first, and then concern ourselves with the Jews, “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:20-21).


God’s Un-American View of the Poor and Why It Matters

America has an odd view of the poor. It is a view that reveals much about the underlying theological assumptions that create and support our culture. I will quickly quell any protests about the mixing of theology and politics by saying, everything, even politics is rooted in theology. More about that later on…

In general terms, when Americans encounter the poor, our first thoughts go to the individual and his/her story. What happened to them? What decisions did they make? Why are they stuck in this situation? Our stories of success do the same thing. We see the rich and focus on their individual accounts of luck, entrepreneurship, and brilliance. It is an analysis and a cultural reflex that is of a piece with Adam Smith’s musings about economics and commerce. Classically, it is called Capitalism.

We have a hard time in American culture managing a critique of Capitalism. The word acquired almost deified valuation during the Cold War. In the American mind, Communism was bad and Capitalism was good, and there was little nuance in the sentiment. Adam Smith did not write in a vacuum. He was a major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment (1700’s), perhaps the most rigorous and thorough application of reason and individualism the world has ever known. One author has described it as the movement that gave birth to modernity.1

Reason and individualism, though rarely identified as such in contemporary parlance, are at the very heart of American consciousness. When we see the poor, our individualism draws our attention to each single instance. Our rationality asks questions regarding that individual’s choices, virtues and failings. Occasionally that same individualism and rationality turn their attention to God and wonder why He allows such problems to exist.

Adam Smith’s contribution to economic theory was rooted in “rational self-interest.” It was put forward that if markets are free, rational self-interest will be the engine of success and prosperity. It is an idea that is so current that it stalks the hallways of government to this day. It operates as a general assumption – something that need not be defended because it appears to be self-evident truth.

It is not God’s truth.

Read the rest here.
Also, please leave any comments there as well.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

If you ever wondered where is the best place to get away with murder...

It's San Francisco. But only if your an illegal alien with a lengthy criminal record who has been previously deported five times. Excuse me while I go throw up.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mass shootings and the harassment of victims by conspiracy nut jobs

Mike Cronk was sitting half-naked on a street corner, hands covered in blood, when the TV news reporter approached. The 48-year-old, who had used his shirt to try to plug a bullet wound in his friend’s chest, recounted in a live interview how a young man he did not know had just died in his arms
Cronk’s story of surviving the worst mass shooting in modern US history went viral, but many people online weren’t calling him a hero. On YouTube, dozens of videos, viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, claimed Cronk was an actor hired to play the part of a victim in the Las Vegas mass shooting on 1 October.

Conspiracy theorists harassed him on Facebook, sending messages like “How much did they pay you?” and “How does it feel to be part of a hoax?” The claims multiplied and soon YouTube’s algorithm began actively promoting the conspiracy theory.

Two months later, Cronk’s online reputation appears damaged beyond repair. Type “Mike Cronk” into Google and YouTube, and the sites automatically suggest searches for “actor” and “fake”, leading to popular videos claiming he and his wounded friend were performers and that the Mandalay Bay tragedy that killed 58 people never happened.
“It’s awful that we have to go through what we did and then you have a whole new level of attacks on you and who you are,” said Cronk, a retired teacher. “I don’t want negative stuff associated with my name, but how do we stop that?”

As record-breaking mass shootings have become a ritual of life in the US, survivors and victims’ families across the country have increasingly faced an onslaught of social media abuse and viral slander. Bullying from the ugliest corners of the internet overwhelms the grief-stricken as they struggle to cope with the greatest horror they’ve ever experienced.

The cycles of hoaxer harassment are now as predictable as mass shootings. And yet those with the most power to stop the spread of conspiracy theories have done little to address victims’ cries for help.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ross Douthat: Is There an Evangelical Crisis?

About 20 years ago, the eminent sociologist of religion Christian Smith coined a useful and resonant phrase, describing evangelical Christianity in the post-1960s United States as both “embattled and thriving.”

By this Smith meant that evangelicals had maintained an identity in a secularizing country that was neither separatist nor assimilated, but somehow mainstream and countercultural at once. Evangelicals were both fully part of American modernity (often educated suburbanites, rather than the backwoods yokels of caricature) and also living lives in tension with pluralistic and permissive values. And this combination, far from undercutting their communities, was actually a source of religious vitality and demographic strength.

Smith’s description still holds up pretty well. The story of American religion lately has been one of institutional decline, of Mainline Protestantism’s aging and Catholicism’s weakening and the rise of the so-called “nones.”
But there has been an evangelical exception. The evangelical market share has held steady while other traditions have declined, evangelical churches have continued to win more converts than they lose, and evangelical resilience is the main reason why religious conservatism retains an intense and active core.

The question is whether this resilience will survive the age of Trump. Some evangelical voices think not: Whether the subject is the debauched pagan in the White House, the mall-haunted candidacy of Roy Moore or the larger question of how to engage with secular culture, there is talk of an intergenerational crisis within evangelical churches, a widening disillusionment with a Trump-endorsing old guard, a feeling that a crackup must loom ahead.

Read the rest here.

Britain's Great North Road in 1939

A glimpse of a world now long gone. The Great North Road on the eve of World War II filmed in color.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How to Think About Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is a powerful ideological symbol and a highly effective ideological litmus test. He is a hero to populist conservatives around the world and anathema to progressives. I don’t want to compare him to our own president, but if you know enough about what a given American thinks of Putin, you can probably tell what he thinks of Donald Trump.

Let me stress at the outset that this is not going to be a talk about what to think about Putin, which is something you are all capable of making up your minds on, but rather how to think about him. And on this, there is one basic truth to remember, although it is often forgotten. Our globalist leaders may have deprecated sovereignty since the end of the Cold War, but that does not mean it has ceased for an instant to be the primary subject of politics.

Vladimir Vladimirovich is not the president of a feminist NGO. He is not a transgender-rights activist. He is not an ombudsman appointed by the United Nations to make and deliver slide shows about green energy. He is the elected leader of Russia—a rugged, relatively poor, militarily powerful country that in recent years has been frequently humiliated, robbed, and misled. His job has been to protect his country’s prerogatives and its sovereignty in an international system that seeks to erode sovereignty in general and views Russia’s sovereignty in particular as a threat.

By American standards, Putin’s respect for the democratic process has been fitful at best. He has cracked down on peaceful demonstrations. Political opponents have been arrested and jailed throughout his rule. Some have even been murdered—Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Chechnya correspondent shot in her apartment building in Moscow in 2006; Alexander Litvinenko, the spy poisoned with polonium-210 in London months later; the activist Boris Nemtsov, shot on a bridge in Moscow in early 2015. While the evidence connecting Putin’s own circle to the killings is circumstantial, it merits scrutiny.

Yet if we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the pre-eminent statesman of our time. On the world stage, who can vie with him? Only perhaps Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.

When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that. In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Atatürk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he rescued a nation-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country’s plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gerald McDermott: Is Pope Francis a Liberal Protestant?

Is the pope Catholic?” For at least a century, this was the way we Anglicans joked about anything that seemed too obvious to state. Now we must ask in seriousness whether the pope is a liberal Protestant.

Early this month, an American theologian resigned under pressure from his post as theological advisor to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What had Fr. Thomas Weinandy done to deserve this public rebuke? He had made public a July letter to the pope, in which he charged that the Holy Father was causing “chronic confusion.” The pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia is “intentionally ambiguous” on grave moral and doctrinal matters. It “risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,” and “demean[s] the importance of Christian doctrine” by inviting changes to traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce. The pope “resents” criticism and “mock[s]” those who have challenged Amoris Laetitia “as Pharisaic stone-throwers.”
As an outsider, I can’t help but wonder whether the pope and the USCCB were particularly provoked by Weinandy’s suggestion that Jesus had allowed this controversy in order “to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops.” Catholics will have to make up their own minds—but I’ll admit I have questions about the faith of Pope Francis, which seems, if not weak, at least different from that of the Catholic tradition.

Even before the release of Amoris Laetitia in March 2016, Francis had caused many to question his fidelity to that tradition. In 2014, the midterm report of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family recommended that pastors emphasize the “positive aspects” of cohabitation and civil remarriage after divorce. He said that Jesus’s multiplication of bread and fish was really a miracle of sharing, not of multiplying (2013); told a woman in an invalid marriage that she could take Holy Communion (2014); claimed that lost souls do not go to hell (2015); and said that Jesus had begged his parents for forgiveness (2015). In 2016, he said that God had been “unjust with his son,” announced his prayer intention to build a society “that places the human person at the center,” and declared that inequality is “the greatest evil that exists.” In 2017, he joked that “inside the Holy Trinity they’re all arguing behind closed doors, but on the outside they give the picture of unity.” Jesus Christ, he said, “made himself the devil.” “No war is just,” he pronounced. At the end of history, “everything will be saved. Everything.”

Read the rest here.

A Republic of Lies

Rod Dreher on the willingness to accept patent lies and reject facts based on political convenience.

"A democratic nation where ‘truth’ is what feels good will not be democratic for long."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

$450 Million

I really hope that whoever just dropped all that bank on a painting gets their big tax cut for Christmas. After all, society has a duty to support billionaire art collectors.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rod Drehere's thoughts on the Roy Moore debacle

An interesting and wide ranging take on the political nightmare in Alabama where the choice for the US Senate appears to be between a fundamentalist theocratic wingnut who is also very probably (though not definitely) a child sex predator on the one hand and a man who is comfortable killing children who are inconvenient, provided they haven't been born yet on the other.

My take: Hold your nose and vote for the theocratic wingnut molester. I think it unlikely he will spend much time in the Senate. He is too much of a political liability, and it seems that there are actually some lines that even Republicans won't let one of their own cross. I think if he is elected that the Senate will either refuse to seat him or they will expel him immediately after he takes the oath of office. Like Mitch McConnell I believe the women. But I also believe that the Washington Post had this story in the can for a while and deliberately held it back until after the loon won the GOP primary and the last date where he could be replaced on the ballot was safely past.  If Moore gets elected and subsequently barred from the Senate (or expelled) then the governor gets to name his replacement pending a new election.

All of which said, this is one of those situations where the overused expression, "the lesser of two evils" is definitely apropos.

Monday, November 13, 2017

California: How did CalPERS dig a $153 billion pension hole?

During the next five weeks, the CalPERS board, custodian of $326 billion in assets needed to fulfill retirement promises for 1.8 million California public employees and beneficiaries, will make decisions affecting government budgets for decades to come.

 The problem is, despite their fiduciary duty under the state Constitution to “protect the competency of the assets” under their absolute control, CalPERS is roughly $153 billion short of fully funding the retirement promises earned to date.

How did CalPERS dig this huge hole?  During the last decade, they manipulated actuarial assumptions and methods to keep employer and employee contribution rates low in the short term.

Besides over-estimating investment returns, CalPERS uses very long amortization schedules to push debts onto future generations, greatly increasing the pension system’s long-term cost.  As a result, CalPERS is just 68 percent funded, barely above what would be “critical” status for private-sector pension plans.

Just like a family that assumes it will receive healthy raises every year and only makes minimum payments on its credit card debts, there must be a day of reckoning. Yet it is not clear the CalPERS board recognizes this important momentis now.

This week, CalPERS will discuss its quadrennial Asset Liability Management process, one that assesses its financial position and proposes course corrections.  The results are pretty bleak.

Read the rest here.

Civil service employees in California should be really worried. Just like in Illinois and other liberal fantasy lands they have been promised this, that and the other thing, with no realistic idea of how it's all going to be paid for.  The basic idea at the moment is to not worry; someone thirty years down the road will figure it all out or just send the bill to the tax payers. The problem is that the tax payers are not going to pay. All they will do is flip Sacramento what those of us from New York used to call the Bronx salute as they pack up and move out of that insane asylum masquerading as a state.

Can anyone figure out what this is about?

This article is so riddled with confusing, and in some cases obviously erroneous claims that I can't grasp who this so called bishop is or what church they claim to be a part of. I seriously doubt he was consecrated a bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church based on his wearing western vestments.

Never mind: It's as I suspected. This man is a member of some silly vegante church that has no relationship with either Rome or Orthodoxy. This article may make my list for one of the worst attempts at journalism I have ever come across where the subject is religion. 

Let little boys wear tiaras: Church of England's new guidance to schools

Boys as young as five should be able to wear tiaras at school without criticism, teachers in Church of England schools are to be told.

Male pupils should also be free to dress up in a tutu or high heels without attracting any comment or observation, according to anti-bullying rules sent out by the Church yesterday.

The instructions for the CofE’s 4,700 schools said they should not require children to wear uniforms that ‘create difficulty for trans pupils’.

This appears to give official backing to schools that ban skirts to avoid discrimination against transgender children.

Schools are also told they cannot use the Christian faith or Bible teachings to justify behaviour that is considered to amount to bullying – for example, identifying a transgender pupil by a sex other than the one they have chosen. The advice contains instructions on how to report bullying, including sample forms on which teachers are encouraged to name the alleged bully and their target, and use tick boxes to describe what happened.

Examples include name-calling, social media trolling, or insulting gestures.

Read the rest here.
HT: Blog reader TD

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Marc A. Thiessen: The New York Times keeps whitewashing communism’s crimes

The Trump administration marked this week’s 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by declaring a National Day for the Victims of Communism. The New York Times marked the same anniversary in a different way: by running a series of articles extolling the virtues of communism.

The irony of the series’ title, “Red Century,” seems lost on the Times’s editors. The 20th century was “red” indeed — red with the blood of communism’s victims. The death toll of communism, cited in “The Black Book of Communism,” is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting). In all, Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history.

Never mind all that. University of Pennsylvania professor Kristen R. Ghodsee writes that Communists had better sex: “Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women . . . [who] had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.” She has tough words for Joseph Stalin because he “reversed much of the Soviet Union’s early progress in women’s rights — outlawing abortion and promoting the nuclear family.” Yes, that was Stalin’s crime. Not the purges, not the gulag, but promoting the nuclear family.

In “How Did Women Fare in China’s Communist Revolution?” Helen Gao recalls her grandmother “talking with joyous peasants from the newly collectivized countryside” and writes that “for all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.” Mao’s revolution killed tens of millions of Chinese — not counting the millions killed under China’s brutal “One Child” policy, which led to widespread female infanticide. Those Chinese girls never got a chance to dream at all.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Memorial Service for the Victims of Communism

Solemn Panikhida for the victims of Communism, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Revolution of 1917 (in English and Church Slavonic). From the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Quote of the day...

Stanley Hauerwas’ Dictum: “As soon as we agree to take charge of the outcome of history, we agree to do violence.”

I would add to that the observation that from that point on, every discussion will ultimately come down to figuring out who should be killed and when. That the devil was a “murderer from the beginning” should be born in mind as we think such a thing through.

-Fr. Stephen (Freeman) from the comment thread under this excellent reflection.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Why the far right believes a US civil war will start on Saturday

Since late September, ‘alt-right’ members have advanced the idea that anti-fascist groups will begin a violent insurrection on 4 November. But no antifa groups are planning to protest – so what gives?

Some websites are telling their readers that antifa groups are “planning to kill every single Trump voter, Conservative and gun owner” this weekend. Hundreds of Facebook posts show how seriously consumers of such media are taking the news, and comments like “One more threat against white people and I swear to God I’m going to take a goddamn car and run over every fucking one of them” are not unrepresentative of the response.

But antifa groups have no plans to protest that day, and the small leftist groups who are planning protests have only dubious connections to the antifa movement. So what gives?

The whole thing rests on some very slender reeds, according to Spencer Sunshine, who recently wrote a report on the theories for the far right-monitoring group Political Research Associates. In the conspiracy underground on YouTube, he explains, there has been talk that “there was going to be a civil war” starting in November for some months.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Oberlin Declaration by the Orthodox delegation on ecumenism and inter-communion

As delegates to the North American Faith and Order Study Conference, appointed by His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, to represent the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, we want to make the following preliminary statements.

We are glad to take part in a study-conference, devoted to such a basic need of the Christian World as Unity. All Christians should seek Unity. On the other hand, we feel that the whole program of the forthcoming discussion has been framed from a point of view which we cannot conscientiously admit. "The Unity we seek" is for us a given Unity which has never been lost, and, as a Divine gift and an essential mark of Christian existence, could not have been lost. This unity in the Church of Christ is for us a Unity in the Historical Church, in the fullness of faith, in the fullness of continuous sacramental life. For us, this Unity is embodied in the Orthodox Church, which kept, catholikos and anelleipos, both the integrity of the Apostolic Faith and the integrity of the Apostolic Order.

Our share in the study of Christian Unity is determined by our firm conviction that this Unity can be found only in the fellowship of the Historical Church, preserving faithfully the catholic tradition, both in doctrine and in order. We cannot commit ourselves to any discussion of these basic assumptions, as if they were but hypothetical or problematic. We begin with a clear conception of the Church’s Unity, which we believe has been embodied and realized in the age-long history of the Orthodox Church, without any change or break since the times when the visible Unity of Christendom was an obvious fact and was attested and witnessed to by an ecumenical unanimity, in the age of the Ecumenical Councils.

We admit, of course, that the Unity of Christendom has been disrupted, that the unity of faith and the integrity of order have been sorely broken. But we do not admit that the Unity of the Church, and precisely of the "visible" and historical Church, has ever been broken or lost, so as to now be a problem of search and discovery. The problem of Unity is for us, therefore, the problem of the return to the fullness of Faith and Order, in full faithfulness to the message of Scripture and Tradition and in the obedience to the will of God: "that all may be one".

Long before the breakup of the unity of Western Christendom, the Orthodox Church has had a keen sense of the essential importance of the oneness of Christian believers and from her very inception she has deplored divisions within the Christian world. As in the past, so in the present, she laments disunity among those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ Whose purpose in the world was to unite all believers into one body. The Orthodox Church feels that, since she has been unassociated with the events related to the breakdown of religious unity in the West, she bears a special responsibility to contribute toward the restoration of the Christian unity which alone can render the message of the Gospel effective in a world troubled by threats of world conflict and general uncertainty over the future.

It is with humility that we voice the conviction that the Orthodox Church can make a special contribution to the cause of Christian unity, because since Pentecost she has possessed the true unity intended by Christ. It is with this conviction that the Orthodox Church is always prepared to meet with Christians of other communions in inter-confessional deliberations. She rejoices over the fact that she is able to join those of other denominations in ecumenical conversations that aim at removing the barriers to Christian unity. However, we feel compelled in all honesty, as representatives of the Orthodox Church, to confess that we must qualify our participation, as necessitated by the historic faith and practice of our Church, and also state the general position that must be taken at this interdenominational conference.

In considering firstly "the nature of the unity we seek," we wish to begin by making clear that our approach is at variance with that usually advocated and ordinarily expected by participating representatives. The Orthodox Church teaches that the unity of the Church has not been lost, because she is the Body of Christ, and, as such, can never be divided. It is Christ as her head and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that secure the unity of the Church throughout the ages.

The presence of human imperfection among her members is powerless to obliterate the unity, for Christ Himself promised that the "gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church." Satan has always sown tares in the field of the Lord and the forces of disunity have often threatened but have never actually succeeded in dividing the Church. No power can be mightier than the omnipotent will of Christ Who founded one Church only in order to bring men into unity with God. Oneness is an essential mark of the Church.

If it be true that Christ founded the Church as a means of unifying men divided by sin, then it must naturally follow that the unity of the Church was preserved by His divine omnipotence. Unity, therefore, is not just a promise, or a potentiality, but belongs to the very nature of the Church. It is not something which has been lost and which should be recovered, but rather it is a permanent character of the structure of the Church.

Christian love impels us to speak candidly of our conviction that the Orthodox Church has not lost the unity of the Church intended by Christ, for she represents the oneness which in Western Christendom has only been a potentiality. The Orthodox Church teaches that she has no need to search for a "lost unity," because her historic consciousness dictates that she is the Una Sancta and that all Christian groups outside the Orthodox Church can recover their unity only by entering into the bosom of that Church which preserved its identity with early Christianity.

These are claims that arise not from presumptuousness, but from an inner historical awareness of the Orthodox Church. Indeed, this is the special message of Eastern Orthodoxy to a divided Western Christendom.

The Orthodox Church true to her historical consciousness declares that she has maintained an unbroken continuity with the Church of Pentecost by preserving the Apostolic faith and polity unadulterated. She has kept the "faith once delivered unto the saints" free from the distortions of human innovations. Man-made doctrines have never found their way into the Orthodox Church, since she has no necessary association in history with the name of one single father or theologian. She owes the fullness and the guarantee of unity and infallibility to the operation of the Holy Spirit and not to the service of one individual. It is for this reason that she has never felt the need for what is known as "a return to the purity of the Apostolic faith." She maintains the necessary balance between freedom and authority and thus avoids the extremes of absolutism and individualism both of which have done violence to Christian unity.

We re-assert what was declared at Evanston and what has been made known in the past at all interdenominational conferences attended by delegates of the Orthodox Church. It is not due to our personal merit, but to divine condescension that we represent the Orthodox Church and are able to give expression to her claims. We are bound in conscience to state explicitly what is logically inferred; that all other bodies have been directly or indirectly separated from the Orthodox Church. Unity from the Orthodox standpoint means a return of the separated bodies to the historical Orthodox, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

The unity which Orthodoxy represents rests on identity of faith, order, and worship. All three aspects of the life of the Church are outwardly safeguarded by the reality of the unbroken succession of bishops which is the assurance of the Church's uninterrupted continuity with apostolic origins. This means that the uncompromised fullness of the Church requires the preservation of both its episcopal structure and sacramental life. Adhering tenaciously to her Apostolic heritage, the Orthodox Church holds that no true unity is possible where episcopacy and sacraments are absent, and grieves over the fact that both institutions have either been discarded or distorted in certain quarters of Christendom. Any agreement on faith must rest on the authority of the enactments of the seven Ecumenical Councils which represent the mind of the one undivided Church of antiquity and the subsequent tradition as safeguarded in the life of the Orthodox Church.

We regret that the most vital problem of Ministry and that of the Apostolic Succession, without which to our mind there is neither unity, nor church, were not included in the program of the Conference. All problems of Order seem to be missing in the program. These, in our opinion, are basic for any study of Unity.

Visible unity expressed in organizational union does not destroy the centrality of the spirit among believers, but rather testifies to the reality of the oneness of the Spirit. Where there is the fullness of the Spirit, there too will outward amity be found. From Apostolic times the unity of Christian believers was manifested by a visible, organizational structure. It is the unity in the Holy Spirit that is expressed in a unified visible organization.

The Holy Eucharist, as the chief act of worship, is the outward affirmation of the inner relation rising from unity in the Holy Spirit. But this unity involves a consensus of faith among those participating. Intercommunion, therefore, is possible only when there is agreement of faith. Common worship in every case must presuppose a common faith. The Orthodox Church maintains that worship of any nature cannot be sincere unless there is oneness of faith among those participating. It is with this belief that the Orthodox hesitate to share in Joint prayer services and strictly refrain from attending interdenominational Communion Services.

A common faith and a common worship are inseparable in the historical continuity of the Orthodox Church. However, in isolation neither can be preserved integral and intact. Both must be kept in organic and inner relationship with each other. It is for this reason that Christian unity cannot be realized merely by determining what articles of faith or what creed should be regarded as constituting the basis of unity. In addition to subscribing to certain doctrines of faith, it is necessary to achieve the experience of a common tradition or communis sensus fidelium preserved through common worship within the historic framework of the Orthodox Church. There can be no true unanimity of faith unless that faith remains within the life and sacred tradition of the Church which is identical throughout the ages. It is in the experience of worship that we affirm the true faith, and conversely, it is in the recognition of a common faith that we secure the reality of worship in spirit and in truth.

Thus the Orthodox Church in each locality insists on agreement of faith and worship before it will consider sharing in any interdenominational activity. Doctrinal differences constitute an obstacle in the way of unrestricted participation in such activities. In order to safeguard the purity of the faith and the integrity of the liturgical and spiritual life of the Orthodox Church, abstinence from interdenominational activities is encouraged on a local level. There is no phase of the Church’s life unrelated to her faith. Intercommunion with another church must be grounded on a consensus of faith and a common understanding of the sacramental life. The Holy Eucharist especially must be the liturgical demonstration of the unity of faith.

We are fully aware of deep divergences which separate Christian denominations from each other, in all fields of Christian life and existence, in the understanding of faith, in the shaping of life, in the habits of worship. We are seeking, accordingly, an unanimity in faith, an identity of order, a fellowship in prayer. But for us all the three are organically linked together. Communion in worship is only possible in the unity of faiths. Communion presupposes Unity. Therefore, the term "Intercommunion" seems to us an epitome of that conception which we are compelled to reject. An "intercommunion" presupposes the existence of several separate and separated denominations, which join occasionally in certain common acts or actions. In the true Unity of Christ’s Church there is no room for several "denominations." There is, therefore, no room for "'intercommunion." When all are truly united in the Apostolic Faith and Order, there will be all-inclusive Communion and Fellowship in all things.

It has been stated by the Orthodox delegates already in Edinburgh, in 1937, that many problems are presented at Faith and Order Conferences in a manner and in a setting which are utterly uncongenial to the Orthodox. We again must repeat the same statement now. But again, as years ago in Edinburgh, we want to testify our readiness and willingness to participate in study, in order that the Truth of the Gospel and the fullness of the Apostolic Tradition may be brought to the knowledge of all who, truly, unselfishly, and devoutedly seek Unity in Our Blessed Lord and His Holy Church, One, Catholic, and Apostolic.

Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis, Chairman
Very Rev Georges Florovsky
Very Rev Eusebius A. Stephanou
Rev George Tsoumas
Rev John A. Poulos
Rev John Hondras
Rev George P. Gallos

September 3-10, 1957
Oberlin Ohio

Quote of the day...

"You wish to be only a spectator, the gentleman in the balcony who wipes the glasses of his lorgnette in order to lose none of the comedy. Well, you can not do so. That role is not permitted a man. He must act, and he acts always, even when thinks he is looking on, even when he washes his hands as Pontius Pilate, that dilettante, too, who uttered the words of your masters and of yourself. What is truth? Truth is that there is always a duty to fulfill." 

-Andre Cornelis (1886) by Paul Bourget

Friday, October 27, 2017

Deaconesses (again)

A handful of individuals have signed a letter praising the Patriarchate of Alexandria for reviving the ancient order of deaconesses. See the letter here. And my take...
Alexandria needs to be very very careful. They are playing with fire. Make no mistake; the real cause that animates the vast majority of those agitating for deaconesses is women priestesses. For them this is the camel's nose under the tent flap. Some may say that I am being unduly alarmist, but I've seen this game played too many times in other religious sects. Any attempt to go down the road of W/O would almost certainly end in schism.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the International Consultation on Christian Persecution

Your Holiness, Your Excellencies and Eminences, Esteemed Church and Secular Leaders,

Welcome to Budapest. Today I do not wish to talk about the persecution of Christians in Europe. The persecution of Christians in Europe operates with sophisticated and refined methods of an intellectual nature. It is undoubtedly unfair, it is discriminatory, sometimes it is even painful; but although it has negative impacts, it is tolerable. It cannot be compared to the brutal physical persecution which our Christian brothers and sisters have to endure in Africa and the Middle East. Today I’d like to say a few words about this form of persecution of Christians. We have gathered here from all over the world in order to find responses to a crisis that for too long has been concealed. We have come from different countries, yet there’s something that links us – the leaders of Christian communities and Christian politicians. We call this the responsibility of the watchman. In the Book of Ezekiel we read that if a watchman sees the enemy approaching and does not sound the alarm, the Lord will hold that watchman accountable for the deaths of those killed as a result of his inaction.

Dear Guests,

A great many times over the course of our history we Hungarians have had to fight to remain Christian and Hungarian. For centuries we fought on our homeland’s southern borders, defending the whole of Christian Europe, while in the twentieth century we were the victims of the communist dictatorship’s persecution of Christians. Here, in this room, there are some people older than me who have experienced first-hand what it means to live as a devout Christian under a despotic regime. For us, therefore, it is today a cruel, absurd joke of fate for us to be once again living our lives as members of a community under siege. For wherever we may live around the world – whether we’re Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians or Copts – we are members of a common body, and of a single, diverse and large community. Our mission is to preserve and protect this community. This responsibility requires us, first of all, to liberate public discourse about the current state of affairs from the shackles of political correctness and human rights incantations which conflate everything with everything else. We are duty-bound to use straightforward language in describing the events that are taking place around us, and to identify the dangers that threaten us. The truth always begins with the statement of facts. Today it is a fact that Christianity is the world’s most persecuted religion. It is a fact that 215 million Christians in 108 countries around the world are suffering some form of persecution. It is a fact that four out of every five people oppressed due to their religion are Christians. It is a fact that in Iraq in 2015 a Christian was killed every five minutes because of their religious belief. It is a fact that we see little coverage of these events in the international press, and it is also a fact that one needs a magnifying glass to find political statements condemning the persecution of Christians. But the world’s attention needs to be drawn to the crimes that have been committed against Christians in recent years. The world should understand that in fact today’s persecutions of Christians foreshadow global processes. The world should understand that the forced expulsion of Christian communities and the tragedies of families and children living in some parts of the Middle East and Africa have a wider significance: in fact they threaten our European values. The world should understand that what is at stake today is nothing less than the future of the European way of life, and of our identity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must call the threats we’re facing by their proper names. The greatest danger we face today is the indifferent, apathetic silence of a Europe which denies its Christian roots. However unbelievable it may seem today, the fate of Christians in the Middle East should bring home to Europe that what is happening over there may also happen to us. Europe, however, is forcefully pursuing an immigration policy which results in letting extremists, dangerous extremists, into the territory of the European Union. A group of Europe’s intellectual and political leaders wishes to create a mixed society in Europe which, within just a few generations, will utterly transform the cultural and ethnic composition of our continent – and consequently its Christian identity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We Hungarians are a Central European people; there aren’t many of us, and we do not have a great many relatives. Our influence, territory, population and army are similarly not significant. We know our place in the ranking of the world’s nations. We are a medium-sized European state, and there are countries much bigger than us which should, as a matter of course, bear a great deal more responsibility than we do. Now, however, we Hungarians are taking a proactive role. There are good reasons for this. I can see – and I know through having met them personally – how many well-intentioned truly Christian politicians there are in Europe. They are not strong enough, however: they work in coalition governments; they are at the mercy of media industries with attitudes very different from theirs; and they have insufficient political strength to act according to their convictions. While Hungary is only a medium-sized European state, it is in a different situation. This is a stable country: the political formation now in office won two-thirds majorities in two consecutive elections; the country has an economic support base which is not enormous, but is stable; and the public’s general attitude is robust. This means that we are in a position to speak up for persecuted Christians. In other words, in such a stable situation, there could be no excuse for Hungarians not taking action and not honouring the obligation rooted in their Christian faith. This is how fate and God have compelled Hungary to take the initiative, regardless of its size. We are proud that for more than a thousand years we have belonged to the great family of Christian peoples. This, too, imposes an obligation on us.

Dear Guests,

For us, Europe is a Christian continent, and this is how we want to keep it. Even though we may not be able to keep all of it Christian, at least we can do so for the segment that God has entrusted to the Hungarian people. Taking this as our starting-point, we have decided to do all we can to help our Christian brothers and sisters outside Europe who are forced to live under persecution. What is interesting about this decision is not the fact that we are seeking to help, but the way we are seeking to help. The solution we settled on has been to take the help we are providing directly to the churches of persecuted Christians. We are not using the channels established earlier, which seek to assist the persecuted as best they can within the framework of international aid. Our view is that the best way to help is to channel resources directly to the churches of persecuted communities. In our view this is how to produce the best results, this is how resources can be used to the full, and this is how there can be a guarantee that such resources are indeed channelled to those who need them. And as we are Christians, we help Christian churches and channel these resources to them. I could also say that we are doing the very opposite of what is customary in Europe today: we declare that trouble should not be brought here, but assistance must be taken to where it is needed.

Dear Friends,

Our approach is that the right thing to do is to act virtuously, rather than just talk about doing so. In this way we avoid doing good things simply in order to burnish our reputation: we avoid doing good things out of calculation, as good deeds must come from the heart, and for the glory of God. Yet now it is my duty to talk about the facts of good deeds. My justification, the reason I am telling you all this, is to prove to us all that politics in Europe is not necessarily helpless in the face of the persecution of Christians. The reason I am talking about some good deeds is that they may serve as an example for others, and may induce others to also perform good deeds. So please consider everything that I say now in this light. In 2016 we set up the Deputy State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians, which – in cooperation with churches, non-governmental organisations, the UN, The Hague and the European Parliament – liaises with and provides help for persecuted Christian communities. We listen to local Christian leaders and to what they believe is most important, and then do what we have to. From them I have learnt that the most important thing we can do is provide assistance for them to return home to resettle in their native lands. We Hungarians want Syrian, Iraqi and Nigerian Christians to be able to return as soon as possible to the lands where their ancestors lived for hundreds of years. This is what we call Hungarian solidarity – or, using the words you see behind me: “Hungary helps”. This is why we decided to help rebuild their homes and churches; and thanks to Hungarian Interchurch Aid, in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon we also build community centres. We have launched a special scholarship programme for young people raised in Christian families suffering persecution, and I am pleased to welcome some of those young people here today. I am sure that after their studies in Hungary, when they return to their communities, they will be active, core members of those communities. And we are also working in cooperation with the Pázmány Péter Catholic University on the establishment of a Hungarian-founded university. The Hungarian government has provided aid of 580 million forints for the rebuilding of damaged homes in the Iraqi town of Tesqopa, as a result to which we hope that hundreds of Iraqi Christian families who now live as internal refugees may be able to return to their homes. We likewise support the activities of the Syriac Catholic Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church. I should also mention something which perhaps does not sound particularly special to a foreigner, but, believe me, here in Hungary is unprecedented, and I can’t even remember the last time something like it happened: all parties in the Hungarian National Assembly united to support adoption of a resolution which condemns the persecution of Christians, supports the Government in providing help, condemns the activities of the organisation called Islamic State, and calls upon the International Criminal Court to launch proceedings in response to the persecution, oppression and murder of Christians.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we support the return of persecuted Christians to their homelands, the Hungarian people is fulfilling a mission. In addition to what the Esteemed Bishop has outlined, our Fundamental Law constitutionally declares that we Hungarians recognise the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood. And if we recognise this for ourselves, then we also recognise it for other nations; in other words, we want Christian communities returning to Syria, Iraq and Nigeria to become forces for the preservation of their own countries, just as for us Hungarians Christianity is a force for preservation. From here I also urge Europe’s politicians to cast aside politically correct modes of speech and cast aside human rights-induced caution. And I ask them and urge them to do everything within their power for persecuted Christians.

Soli Deo gloria!



Saturday, October 14, 2017

Coptic Orthodox Bishop Killed outside Cairo, Egypt

CAIRO (Morning Star News) – A Coptic Orthodox bishop from Upper Egypt was slain outside Cairo, Egypt yesterday.

The assailant struck Bishop Samaan Shehata in the head, neck and torso with a machete in the El Salam area near El Marg District on the outskirts of Cairo, according to local reports. Shehata was born in 1972.

While a security spokesman said the suspect, Ahmed Saeed Ibrahim, was mentally ill, neighbors reportedly denied this, saying he was a Muslim who had been “radicalized” a year ago. Since then, they said, Ibrahim had begun praying in the street, shouting loudly and calling Christians infidels.

The suspect walked calmly out of the warehouse after killing Shehata, according to security camera footage. Captured by people on the street and now in custody, Ibrahim had reportedly approached Shehata wielding the large knife while the bishop was waiting for another clergyman in his car.

Visiting from his Church of St. Julius Akfazi in Ezbet Girgis village, in Beni Suef Governorate, Shehata was waiting for another priest, the Rev. Beimen Moftah, when Ibrahim accosted him and attacked him, eyewitnesses told local press. Reports conflicted on whether Moftah, of the Church of the Arch Angel Malak in Ezbet Francis, Mattay village, was injured, but he did reportedly confront the assailant.

Stabbed in the neck and torso near the Virgin and Bishop Shenouda El Daeiry church, the wounded Shehata fled on foot into the warehouse, according to security camera footage obtained by El Youm el Sabe News agency, which shows the assailant following with the machete.

Police said eyewitnesses reported that the assailant had seen Shehata in his car, forcibly stopped him, ordered him out and then started to stab him in the neck and torso. Shehata fled, and the attacker followed him into the warehouse and finished his attack there with several blows to the head, they said.

Shehata’s driver, identified as Gerges Kamel, reportedly said the bishop had gotten out of the car to retrieve his cell phone at the warehouse when the assailant stopped him and stabbed him in the side, neck and skull. Kamel said the assailant used the bishop’s blood to form a cross on his forehead, according to a local newspaper.

An ambulance didn’t arrive until 90 minutes after the assault, according to Kamel, who added that the bishop was alive for half an hour after being struck and could have been saved if the ambulance had arrived timely. He denied that the suspect was mentally ill.

Read the rest here.

Memory eternal!

Bishop Athanasius Yevtich: discusses Fr. George Florovsky's "The Limits of the Church"

It will be difficult for me to duly expound on the magnitude and importance of Fr. George Florovsky, the “ecumenical first-priest”, as he was referred to by his student, bishop Daniel (Krstich).[1] Nonetheless, with great love and gratitude to God and to Fr. George, I will always remember when as a Priestmonk I served Divine Liturgy with this great father, celebrant and theologian, in a 9th C Byzantine church, in the monastery of Saint Nicodemus in Athens, which later became known in the 19th C as the “Russian Church”. Afterwards, with the providence and grace of God, I had the honor to succeed him for three years (1970-1972) at the Orthodox Theological Institute of Saints Sergius in Paris, as chair of Patristics, along with Fr. Andrew Fyrilla. Before I met him, however, and got acquainted with him on a personal level, Fr. Justin Popovich spoke frequently about Fr. George Florovsky, with whom he spent years together during the German invasion in Serbia, when they would meet and discuss. Fr. Justin Popovich would call Fr. George Florovsky an “icon on the iconostasis of orthodox theology of the modern age”.

The organizers of this present colloquium asked me to speak on the subject, “Fr. George Florovsky on the Boundaries of the Church”. It concerns a very difficult subject and I will try to speak as objectively as I can, with complete respect towards Fr. George Florovsky, but with a critical approach towards the position that he formulated in his article. In previous sessions, there were already some presentations about Fr. Florovsky’s ecclesiology, which happens to be rich and multi-dimensional. His article on the “Boundaries of the Church”2, in my opinion constitutes an early phase in Fr. George Florovsky’s evolution. It was written in Paris on the feast day of Saint Sergius in 1933. It was published in English, then in Russian, and even then, in French and Serbian. There exists a translation in Greek3. Without a doubt, the article of Fr. Florovsky is written within the framework of the ecumenical movement, which also is a leading subject for his time as well as in our own. This fact is highlighted by the author himself, as he refers to an article of his, “On the Reunification of Christians”, which was published in a volume collection in 1933 in Paris, just as another older article of his, “The Problems of Christian Unification”4.

We will not [sic] continue the exhaustive analysis of this article by Fr. George Florovsky. The author briefly mentions in the text the apostolic and patristic events concerning the unity of the Church, by giving special emphasis on Saint Cyprian of Carthage. He presents and exercises criticism on the positions of Cyprian, and then goes to Saint Augustine and the practice of the Church in relation to the acceptance of heretics. Subsequently, the author refers to modern Russian theologians. Thus, on the one hand there is a mention of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and of Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) who considered that the charismatic boundaries of the Church coincide with the canonical. On the other hand, he refers to (Aleksey) Khomyakov and Philaret (Drozdov), the Metropolitan of Moscow, who considered that the charismatic and canonical borders of the Church did not coincide. I also remember Fr. Justin Popovich, who would say that the more correct and theologically orthodox position was held by Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Hilarion, that in other words, the charismatic and canonical boundaries of the Church coincide. It is interesting that in the same year, of 1933, an article was published, written by bishop Sergius (Stragorodski), the later Patriarch of Russia, which Fr. George Florovsky most likely did not have a chance to consider. These two theologians [Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Hilarion], although they wrote independently from each other, almost echo the same views word for word, resulting in concurring opinions on the limits of the Church. Fr. George Florovsky elicits the Greek theologians, [Christos] Androutsos and [Konstantinos] Diovouniotis, – rather old and conservative theologians, and mostly refers to them in relation to a commentary of his concerning economy of the Church. We must note that this commentary in particular was also weak. Fr. Florovsky does not proceed to analyze the great Fathers of the Church, although in approximately the same period he writes some of his greatest and famous works on Patristics, such as, “The Eastern Fathers of the 4th C”5, and “The Byzantine Fathers of the 6th- 8th Cs”.6

Read the rest here.
See also Fr. George Florovsky's actual essay here.

Many thanks to Fr. Peter Heers for posting this excellent translation.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Papal adviser: We can no longer ‘judge people’ based on moral norms

BOSTON, Massachusetts, October 6, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- Jesuit priest and papal confidant Father Anthony Spadaro said that Pope Francis holds that the Catholic Church can no longer set down general norms that apply to entire groups of people.

Spadaro, editor of the Italian magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, made the comment today at a conference at Boston College where liberal Cardinals met with dissident theologians to discuss strategies for implementing Pope Francis’ controversial teachings on marriage and family in dioceses across the United States.

The Jesuit priest told attendees that Amoris Laetitia, the Pope's 2016 teaching on marriage and family, recognizes that people living in "irregular" family situations, such as the divorced and remarried living in adultery, "can be living in God's grace, can love and can also grow in a life of grace."

"We must conclude that the Pope realizes that one can no longer speak of an abstract category of persons and ... [a] praxis of integration in a rule that is absolutely to be followed in every instance," he said, according to a report by National Catholic Reporter.

"Since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same," he added.

"It is no longer possible to judge people on the basis of a norm that stands above all," he concluded.

Jesuit Fr. James Keenan, a dissident theologian at Boston College and one of the main organizers of the October 5-6 event, said the conference will “fortify and further the ongoing reception of Amoris in the U.S."

Read the rest here.