Tuesday, May 31, 2022


War changes many things, primarily people’s minds, but also the usual flow of time. What takes years or even decades in peacetime takes a few months, or sometimes even days, during war. 

On May 27, the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the highest governing body of the church, after much debate, expressed its disagreement with Patriarch Kirill’s support for the war in Ukraine and adopted amendments to the Statute of the UOC, “Testifying to the full independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

It is beyond the scope of this report to analyze in detail the decisions of the UOC Council—not all of the documents have been published, nor have there been official statements from the hierarchy. My aim is to explain the logic of Metropolitan Onufry’s actions, because I hope that this will allow me to put the decisions of the Council of the UOC into the appropriate context.

It is not surprising that, confronted with a lack of information, commentators are divided into two antagonistic camps. Some believe that the UOC is simply salvaging its reputation, that the distancing from Moscow is insincere and coordinated with the Moscow Patriarchate. Others believe that this is an important step towards the autocephaly of the Church and true independence from Moscow.

From the first days of the war, a number of UOC dioceses refused to commemorate Patriarch Kirill in protest of his anti-Ukrainian stance, and this decision received the tacit support of Metropolitan Onufry. A little later, there were efforts to hold a council to make a decision “about the future of the Church,” which many understood to be the groundwork for a complete separation from the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Onufry was slow to convene the council, and his inner circle, Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanich) and the oligarch deacon Vadim Novinsky, took an openly pro-Moscow position. It is hard to assess how well Metropolitan Onufry understood the mood of the Ukrainian flock in the initial months of the war. Yet Onufry understood Patriarch Kirill’s position: while during the pandemic the Patriarch called him almost every week, he did not call him even once during the three months of the war. For Onufry, Kirill’s silence spoke volumes.

The situation changed dramatically on May 12. On that day there was a meeting of the Holy Synod of the UOC, whose documents were prepared as usual by Metropolitan Anthony, the Chancellor. There was not a single word about holding a council in these documents. Until that point, Moscow had made every effort to maintain the current status quo and did not approve the gathering of any council. The first surprise occurred during the gathering of bishops. Metropolitan Onufry demanded that the Synod’s decisions include a response to the calls of the clergy and that a meeting with clergy and laity be held. Thus, the Synod declared...

Read the rest here.
HT: Blog reader John L.

Note: The author of this piece is Fr. Sergei Chapnin. This piece is published by Public Orthodoxy, a website of which in the past, I and many others have been critical for their open promotion of heterodox beliefs. That said, I have no reason to doubt the factual details of this essay. 

Sacrilegious theft

A more than century-old church artifact worth $2 million was stolen from its New York City sanctuary, authorities said, in a brazen break-in that local Catholic leaders called a crime of "disrespect and hate."

A tabernacle made of 18-carat gold and decorated with jewels had been housed at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn before someone stole it at some point between Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, officials said.

Police are "investigating a brazen crime of disrespect and hate," according to statement by the Brooklyn Diocese.

To remove the tabernacle, thieves had to cut through a metal protective casing. Statues of angels were left decapitated and destroyed from the heist.

St. Augustine was closed for construction at the time of the theft and camera recordings from the security system were also stolen, the church said. The stolen tabernacle dates back to the church’s opening in the 1890s.

There had been no arrests or other significant developments by Tuesday morning, an NYPD spokesperson said.

Erin Thompson, who teaches art crime at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, fears jewels from the stolen tabernacle have already been removed for sale and the rest of the artifact has been melted down for its gold.

"I would be very surprised if we ever see the tabernacle again," Thompson said Tuesday.

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Ukraine: The jurisdictional mess deepens

The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) has taken steps towards ending its ties to the Russian Church. 


Friday, May 20, 2022

Archbishop Cordileone (SF) bars Nancy Pelosi from Communion

The Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco has ordered priests in the archdiocese to deny House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the sacrament of communion because of the California Democrat’s support for abortion rights.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s move to bar Pelosi from receiving the Eucharist in churches in her home district comes as the Supreme Court is expected within weeks to overturn the constitutional right to abortion embodied in the 49-year-old court decision Roe v. Wade.

The Roman Catholic Church opposes abortion, considering it a “grave sin.”

“After numerous attempts to speak with Speaker Pelosi to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion,” Cordileone wrote in a tweet.

Most Catholic bishops have been loathe to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights.

Cordileone’s order applies only to priests in his diocese, not to priests elsewhere. Pelosi could still receive communion in a church outside San Francisco.

Read the rest here.

Did Rome Accept the Canons of Trullo?

This may be considered a myopic debate, but it pertains to the question whether or not the Church of Rome accepted the Canons of the Council of Trullo (i.e. the Quinisext Council). The ramifications of whether they did, or did not, will not be discussed in detail here. Rather, the history of whether they at one time were accepted will be.

Arguments In Favor of the Acceptance of Trullo’s Canons. The historical evidence that Rome accepted the Council of Trullo is extremely strong. Rome had one (questionable) legate (Basil of Gortyna, who also acted as a legate during Constantinople III; Price, The Canons of the Qunisext Council, p. 35) and 11 additional bishops in their jurisdiction attending (Sissius of Dyrrachion, Ibid., and 10 from East Illyricum, Ibid., p. 11). These aformentioned attendees signed onto the council. The preceding demonstrates that Rome had some element of participation in the council through representatives, even if it was relatively minimal.

The Liber Pontificalis (a source which was updated during the 8th century) notes that Pope Saint Gregory II appears to have accepted the Council. He went to Constantinople and questioned Emperor Justinian II (who had convened the Trullo) about the Council. After receiving “an excellent reply” from Justinian II, his earlier opposition to Trullo had vanished as the emperor “resolved every question.” (Ibid., p. 43; passage in question is dated to the 740s) This is corroborated by a letter between Gregory II and Patriarch Germanos I quoted during Nicea II. It explicitly quotes Canon 82 of Trullo as from “the assembly of the holy [fathers].” (Price, The Acts of the Second Council of Nicea, p. 330) It should be noted that Canon 82 forbade the depiction of Christ as a lamb (opting for the depiction of His incarnate hypostasis–i.e. as a human). Interestingly, this Canon was anti-Roman, as the Church of Rome had followed this practice. (cf Price, The Canons of the Qunisext Council, p. 23) The fact that Rome had actually ceased conducting this practice immediately after the Trullan Council, as evidenced by a fresco commissioned by Pope John VII (approx 706-707 AD) which deliberately avoided the lamb depiction in conformance with the aforementioned canon, additionally implies the acceptance of Trullo. (Ibid., p. 42)

The preceding may imply full acceptance of Trullo, but it is not explicit evidence of such. However, such explicit evidence soon makes itself apparent. During the Council of Nicea 2, Canon 1 explicitly accepts all “the divine canons…those composed by the holy apostles, the celebrated trumpets of the Spirit, those published by the six holy ecumenical councils and by the councils convened locally to issue such injunctions, and those of our holy fathers.” (Price, Nicea 2, p. 610) This canon of Nicea 2, accepted by the West, clearly affirms Trullo. First, the fifth and sixth councils did not have canons and so by invoking the canons of “the six holy ecumenical councils,” it would have to be referencing the introduction to the Trullan canons. In this introduction, it asserts it is providing the canons the fifth and sixth canons lacked. (Price, The Canons of the Quinisext Council, p. 73) Second, the criteria of Canon 1 of Nicea 2, in its affirmation of both local councils and “those of our fathers,” is clearly is a citation of Canon 2 of Trullo. Canon 2 explicitly lists exactly which local councils and fathers are at issue.

Why this canon alone does not solve the dispute of whether the West accepted the Trullan canons is a question that there is no good answer to. It is on the basis of this canon that Nedungatt (2010) observes, “Recent scholarship, however, has rescued it [Trullo] and placed it back in the canon of the ecumenical councils.” (“The Council in Trullo Revisited,” p. 661) He calls this a “scholarly consensus.” (Ibid., p. 662)

There is a good reason for this consensus on the basis of corroborating evidence surrounding Nicea 2. Pope Adrian I in two separate occasions had accepted the Trullan canons. In his Letter to Taurisius (JE 2449) it is stated that , “I also accept the work of the same holy sixth council with all the canons,” a statement found intact in both the Greek and Latin manuscripts. (cf Price, The Acts of the Second Council of Nicea, p. 176) On top of this, Adrian I in a letter directed to Charlemagne cites Canon 82 of Trullo and attributes it to the “holy sixth council.” (Price, The Canons of the Qunisext Council, p. 50)

The Latin tradition since Nicea 2 has affirmed that the Trullan canons were accepted by Rome. In so doing, this tradition in time reconciled its anti-Roman canons as disciplinary and only applicable to the local context in the East. While this is a questionable reconciliation, it is a plausible (re-)interpretation of the “excellent reply” given by Justinian II which was accepted by Gregory II. How so? Justinian II probably put forward a compromise that allowed both sides to save face by employing economia. This worked due to the Trullan canons having great leeway in their application, thanks to the 102nd canon. In effect, Rome would be able to canonically not apply canons they found objectionable. The Trullan canons, such as Canon 30, had already explicitly applied economia in contexts which would otherwise forbid Roman practices. (Ibid., p. 38-39)

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

'The New York Times' can't shake the cloud over a 90-year-old Pulitzer Prize

The New York Times is looking to add to its list of 132 Pulitzer Prizes — by far the most of any news organization — when the 2022 recipients for journalism are announced on Monday.

Yet the war in Ukraine has renewed questions of whether the Times should return a Pulitzer awarded 90 years ago for work by Walter Duranty, its charismatic chief correspondent in the Soviet Union.

"He is the personification of evil in journalism," says Oksana Piaseckyj, a Ukrainian-American activist who came to the U.S. as a child refugee in 1950. She is among the advocates for the return of the award. "We think he was like the originator of fake news."

A new voice now adds himself to the cause: former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller — himself a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1989 for his own reporting for the Times on the Soviet Union.

In the 1930s, as now, an autocrat's decrees led to mass deaths of Ukrainian civilians and relied on misinformation to try to cover it up. Reporters, including Duranty, were censored and threatened. (A U.S. diplomat once wrote that Duranty told him his reports had to reflect "the official opinion of the Soviet regime.") Yet in a time before social media and the internet, foreign journalists were among the only ones who could get news out to the rest of the world.

Duranty was The New York Times' man in Moscow, as the line went, with a cushy apartment in which to entertain expatriates and a reputation as a leading authority on the Soviet Union. Duranty had staked his name on the idea that Josef Stalin was the strong leader the communist country needed. He is often credited with coining the term "Stalinism."

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Texas Opens a Constitutional Can of Worms

Texas residents can now sue Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for allegedly censoring their content after a federal appeals court sided Wednesday with the state's law restricting how social media sites can moderate their platforms.

The 15-word ruling allowing the law, which had been blocked last year, to take effect has significant potential consequences. Most immediately, it creates new legal risks for the tech giants, and opens them up to a possible wave of litigation that legal experts say would be costly and difficult to defend.

Texas's law makes it illegal for any social media platform with 50 million or more US monthly users to "block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression."

The law creates enormous uncertainty about how social media will actually function in Texas, according to legal experts, and raises questions about what users' online spaces may look like and what content they may find there, if the companies are even able to run their services at all.

The ruling also sets the stage for what could be a Supreme Court showdown over First Amendment rights and, possibly, a dramatic reinterpretation of those rights that affects not just the tech industry but all Americans — and decades of established precedent.

In short, the decision has allowed Texas to declare open season on tech platforms, with huge ramifications for everyone in the country. It could reshape the rights and obligations of all websites; our relationship to technology and the internet; and even our basic, fundamental understanding of the First Amendment.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Crypto currencies hammered by heavy selling

Bitcoin fell below $26,000 for the first time in 16 months, amid a broader sell-off in cryptocurrencies that erased more than $200 billion from the entire market in a single day.

The price of bitcoin plunged as low as $25,401.29 on Thursday, according to Coin Metrics. That marks the first time the cryptocurrency has sunk below the $27,000 level since Dec. 26, 2020.

Bitcoin has since pared its losses and was last trading at $28,569.25, down 2.9%.

Ether, the second-biggest digital currency, tanked to as low as $1,704.05 per coin. It’s the first time the token has fallen beneath the $2,000 mark since June 2021. Ether was last down 8.8% at a price of $1,937.88.

Investors are fleeing from cryptocurrencies at a time when stock markets have plunged from the highs of the coronavirus pandemic on fears over soaring prices and a deteriorating economic outlook. U.S. inflation data out Wednesday showed prices for goods and services jumping 8.3% in April, higher than expected by analysts and close to the highest level in 40 years.

Also weighing on traders’ minds is the downfall of embattled stablecoin protocol Terra. TerraUSD, or UST, is supposed to mirror the value of the dollar. But it plummeted to less than 30 cents Wednesday, shaking investors’ confidence in the so-called decentralized finance space.

Stablecoins are like the bank accounts of the barely regulated crypto world. Digital currency investors often turn to them for safety in times of volatility in the markets. But UST, an “algorithmic” stablecoin that’s underpinned by code rather than cash held in a reserve, has struggled to maintain a stable value as holders bolted for the exits en masse.

On Thursday, UST was trading at about 41 cents, still well below its intended $1 peg. Luna, another Terra token that has a floating price and is meant to absorb UST price shocks, erased 99% of its value and was last worth just 4 cents.

Investors are scared about the implications for bitcoin. Luna Foundation Guard — a fund set up by Terra creator Do Kwon — had amassed a multibillion-dollar pile of bitcoin to help support UST in times of crisis. The fear is that Luna Foundation Guard sells a large portion of its bitcoin holdings to shore up its ailing stablecoin. That’s a risky gamble — not least because bitcoin is itself an incredibly volatile asset.

The fallout from Terra’s collapse led to fears of a market contagion. Tether, the world’s biggest stablecoin, also dropped below its $1 peg Thursday, at one point sinking to 95 cents. Economists have long feared that tether may not have the required amount of reserves to bolster its dollar peg in the event of mass withdrawals.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Financial Markets Take a Hit

April's southward drift has continued in May as all three major stock indices fell yesterday by more than 3%. The tech heavy NASDAQ was down by 5% following the Fed's decision to raise their fund rates by a half percentage. The Fed Rate remain below 1% with inflation officially clocking in at 8.5%. Bond yields continue to rise which means currently held bonds are losing value. The yield on the ten year US bond is now slightly over 3%. In 2020 the yield fell below .5%. Oil remains firmly over $100/barrel and metals have been sluggish amid expectations of further interest rate hikes. Bitcoin fell sharply and as of this post is trading under $36k. Broadly speaking Wall Street seems to be less than impressed by the Fed's actions to curb inflation and the expectation is that even if inflation peaks, it is likely to remain high in the near to intermediate term. Some observers have noted that according to the Taylor Rule, interest rates should be near 10%. But a move that high would almost certainly plunge the country into a severe recession.  It now appears that with the inflation genie out of its bottle, getting it back in is going to be both challenging and painful. 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Bank of England raises interest rates amid warnings of recession and 10% inflation

The government is facing calls to launch a fresh package of emergency financial support for households after the Bank of England warned Britain’s economy could plunge into recession before the end of the year.

As the nation went to the polls in the local elections, the Bank raised interest rates from 0.75% to 1% to tackle spiralling inflation made worse by Russia’s war in Ukraine. With a fresh jump in home energy bills expected in October, it forecast inflation would rise above 10% this year, the highest level since 1982.

The rate rise brings borrowing costs to levels unseen since the recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis, but the Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) said action was warranted despite the gathering economic storm clouds.

Andrew Bailey, the Bank’s governor, said there was a “narrow path” the central bank had to navigate between the dual risks of inflation and recession facing the British economy. He said the inflation shock had been made worse by the impact on supply chains from Covid lockdowns in China and the rise in energy costs since Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Read the rest here

Monday, May 02, 2022

Leaked Draft Indicates Roe v Wade Will be Reversed

The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO.

The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.” “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Deliberations on controversial cases have in the past been fluid. Justices can and sometimes do change their votes as draft opinions circulate and major decisions can be subject to multiple drafts and vote-trading, sometimes until just days before a decision is unveiled. The court’s holding will not be final until it is published, likely in the next two months.

The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. It’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft.

No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending. The unprecedented revelation is bound to intensify the debate over what was already the most controversial case on the docket this term.

The draft opinion offers an extraordinary window into the justices’ deliberations in one of the most consequential cases before the court in the last five decades. Some court-watchers predicted that the conservative majority would slice away at abortion rights without flatly overturning a 49-year-old precedent. The draft shows that the court is looking to reject Roe’s logic and legal protections.

Read the rest here.

Obviously this is not a final opinion. But I have no reason to believe it is not authentic. POLITICO is a highly reputable news site and this must be acknowledged as one of the great "scoops" in the history of journalism.

Glory to God!