Tuesday, May 28, 2024

New digs for ponderings about Levantine Christianity.


 The interior of Saint Paul Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Harissa, Lebanon.

I have decided to set up a Substack exploring Eastern Christianity (especially the Melkite Greek Catholics) from the perspective of a near-complete noob. 

A near-complete noob nigh unto double-nickels in age, no less.

You can find it here, and follow/subscribe as you prefer. I do not have paid-only posts, nor do I judge if you do. I'm a paid subscriber to a couple myself.

But if you feel compelled to sling change over, I won't stop you, either. 

Prayers for your and yours.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Secret to Thriving during the Eastern Great Lent.

A couple secrets, actually.

The first is Lebanese and Syrian cooking.

At our new Melkite parish, the Divine Liturgy has been followed by Lenten brunches. Vegan compliant, even.

But it's so good I almost don't believe it. My middle son, who cares little for veganism, gave a big thumb's up. And rightfully so--the creativity forced by the restrictions of Great Lent (no meat, no eggs, no dairy) leads to some great cuisine. 

It would not be true to say that we have followed it strictly--we're still Latins working our way into it. But the Church advises edging your way into fasting, as jumping right into the deep water is a great way to fail. Still, my enthusiastic wife has made both Wednesdays and Fridays meatless, so that's working so far.

The second thing that works, but is not recommended, is being sick for ten weeks, most of it lung-ailment related.

For variety's sake that has been punctuated by another torn cornea, evergreen pollen allergies, and a strained back. The gumminess in my lungs has made me almost entirely eliminate dairy during the same time-frame. Early I had a little lactose free milk in my coffee (now replaced with non-dairy creamer) and I had some of my own famous mashed potatoes on Sunday, which are always leavened with sour cream and milk. But other than that, nope. And my appetite vanished with my sense of smell.

Making a virtue out of necessity, I am now down fifty pounds from my worst weight and had to punch out two holes on my best dress belt, and will have to add another to my jean belt.

I'm still entirely too heavy, but it's nice seeing it go away. And the cardio has been good, even if I think the loss of dairy protein has taken a notch out of my bench press. Still and all, it could be a lot worse.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

So I have been trying to figure out what to do.

 Those who have followed this space no doubt noticed a bit of an eastward drift, spiritually. 

Largely, but far from entirely, due to Catholicism's current CEO, who seems to have certain similarities with a failed American business executive when I think about it

I can't quite pull the trigger on Orthodoxy for a clutch of reasons. I think a lot of the Catholic apologetic against Orthodoxy is unpersuasive to laughable, especially in light of the last decade.

But I also can't shake that there was a real primacy in the undivided Church, if not of the Vatican I variety. I may post about my thinking over the past year and a half one day, as it may be of some value. We'll see.

Where does that land me? It lands me in the Catholic branch of the Church of Antioch, better known as the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The most ambivalent and independent of the Eastern Catholic Churches (though the current pontiff is also teaching the Ukrainian Catholics a valuable, if painful, lesson), the Melkites have spent the last three-plus generations recovering their Orthodox traditions, with full encouragement from That Council. And my wife is intrigued, which is essential. 

 So off we go. May God grant you and yours a blessed (Great) Lent.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Well and truly tired of this.

Edward Feser is an admirable thinker and superb digital pugilist. He makes the Thomist case with considerable energy, and is a welcome read.

That said, Catholicism has a papacy problem, and this article unwittingly proves it in spades.

As I said to a thoughtful Catholic recently, far from being a guaranteed custodian of Tradition, the unlimited powers vested in the papal office just as readily make it an engine of innovation and novelty. And that's what we are seeing. Plus, if you are being honest, you have to admit that the current guy has bad examples from his predecessors to draw upon in his management decisions.

This ride has no brakes, save those which the Almighty may deign to apply. And as with Israel demanding a King, God via Vatican I may be giving Catholicism the same "fine, you can have it--good and hard" that His chosen endured for centuries. 

"Our Patriarch is not just the First of his ancient brethren and presider over ecumenical councils, but he has unlimited immediate control over the church, is infallible and answers to no-buh-dee! W00t!"

How's that working out for you, 125 years on?

So now the Faithful, seeing there is no fine print or "void where prohibited" in Denzinger, are left to noodle hypotheses about invalid resignations, unanswered dubia, the pope as a leader of schismatic faction, or here, the escape hatch of a "suspended magisterium."

Hey, if it helps you get through the week, go for it. I'm not interested in doing it any more.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Need a new author to read? Take up something by the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann.

Things proceed apace in Casa Price. My daughter tires of the endless bakery weather of south Texas and will be visiting us in August, and the fatted calf with be slaughtered with great rejoicing. We helped clean out a pole barn as part of helping my Dad and Mom sell property they are no longer interesting in bothering with. I now have to figure out what to do with the first and second series of the American Law Reports, but at a minimum they will offer fine law geek reading in retirement, which [checks mental watch] hopefully is just eight years off.

God willing and the creek don't rise or the 401(k) fall.

In the meantime, I have made the acquaintance of the great Russian-American Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983).

I have yet to read a wasted word from him. Best known as a liturgical scholar, he was also a gifted preacher and became famous (at least behind the Iron Curtain) for his regular broadcasts on Radio Liberty. Thoughts of mortality have crept up on me, and O Death, Where Is Thy Sting? is a superb series of brief meditations on the topic. In it, Schmemann demolishes the secularized look at death and the afterlife, and emphasizes over and over again that Christianity does not have answers for death--Christ is the Answer, full stop. In a society where secularism has turned the worldscape into a "cosmic graveyard" where people scurry about trying to avoid the very thought of death, we must always remember that Christ has triumphed, defeating death by death. 

With that starter in mind, delve into his two volume collection of Radio Liberty talks. Most of them, at least. Others were collected into separate books, depending upon the topic--O Death is one such example. In the Radio Liberty anthology, the timelessness of the topics leap from the page. Which, if you're paying attention, should give you a sense of unease. Much of the West has turned into a funhouse mirror version of the old, materialist, religion-hating Soviet Union, albeit with more food and gadgets in its stores. Consequently, the talks truly are for our time as well.

Finally, there is For the Life of the World, which explains the centrality of liturgy to not only our lives as Christians, but to the cosmos itself. I'm not that far into it, but each chapter offers at least one mental earthquake and helps you to appreciate what worship really should mean.

As I said, not a wasted word. Take and read.


Monday, May 08, 2023

The world continues to spin on its axis. Albeit with unwelcome sound effects...

Life goes on, and it occasionally surprises with good news. As in, 

"Hey, your student loans have been forgiven under the PSLF program!"

My Much Better Half and I are still processing that one, but a debt that was bidding fair to stretch into retirement is now gone. Thanks be to God.

Sometimes something in your life has cast a shadow for so long that becomes a perpetual drizzle: an inevitable part of existence that is taken for granted, but weighs on you at a subconscious level. But no more, wondrous to relate.

The confirmation letter is now a treasured document in our fire safe.

The children continue to grow in encouraging ways. The one grim note is that while I have convinced myself that most of what sound like gunshots in our neighborhood probably aren't, "most" is not a win. The last two I heard were certainly the signature "pops" of a 9mm handgun.

And to think I believed the worst neighborhood problem I would have to deal with this summer was the cloying skunk-stink of marijuana fumes floating upwind from two houses down or the next block over. At least the pops happened long after the children of the block had gone inside.

If you wonder why I doom-scroll and have prepper plans, some already carried out, wonder no longer.

On the spiritual front, I have hewn to the Church Fathers and find them a veritable Astronomican in the grim darkness of the Third Millennium. St. Gregory of Nazianzus is at the top of my bookshelf, and Andrew of Caesaria's commentary on Revelation is also in rotation. 

You can thank the latter gentleman for the Eastern part of the Church finally accepting Revelation as a canonical book, by the way. 

On a related note, a quote from the script of Amistad has been going through my head lately, and here it is, in full:

We've long resisted asking you for guidance. Perhaps we have feared in doing so, we might acknowledge that our individuality, which we so, so revere, is not entirely our own. Perhaps we've feared an appeal to you might be taken for weakness. But, we've come to understand, finally, that this is not so. We understand now, we've been made to understand, and to embrace the understanding that who we are *is* who we were. We desperately need your strength and wisdom to triumph over our fears, our prejudices, ourselves. Give us the courage to do what is right.

That is part of John Quincy Adams' argument to the Supreme Court in the film, and it is a riveting delivery by Anthony Hopkins.

To me, that looking back is the key to resolving our social crisis as Americans and our ecclesiastical crisis as Christians in the West. 

For the former, we need to put paid to the derision of them as part of the problem and the narcissistic reduction of the Founders to their worst behaviors. Any quest by men and women to reach for a great principle will inevitably be stained by the sins of those who so reach. But that says nothing about either the principle or the attempt. And to argue otherwise is the ignoble, ignorant slander of the morally-stunted.

All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights is worth every candle that will ever be made.

For the latter, reading the Fathers of the Church reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. Certain sins and charging into rabbit holes will inevitably recur. Nor is there any value in cringing before nor making excuses for error simply because of the title of the one who is erroneous. Truth is always worthy of those who take up its fallen standard, no matter the hour or the age. And the Fathers can show you how to do it. Should you fail, even then you helped keep it alive.

In any event, I can tell I am near to maxing out the "Windbag Moralizer" gauge. May God bless you and yours.

Monday, February 06, 2023

The Synodage of Satan.

The Catholic Church announces that it is discontinuing support of its previous OS. 

I mean, TC and the Coddling of the Krauts makes that clear, but I will point to you a recent ballyhooed and vetted statement from one of Rome's most prominent pontifical ideologues, Robert McElroy, broadcast from the pontiff's most important American megaphone.

Note that the link is indirect because washing gas fumes off your gloves is an annoying process. (Fn 1)

If you are looking for a more objective examination of RM's carbon monoxide for the soul, go over to Amy Welborn's discussion here

I have no such interest. Mine is more targeted and less dialoguy--just like his.

When you wade through RM's explanation for what the Synodalite Church will offer, I ask that you pause a moment at his use of the term "demonic." It's how he describes what he believes to be the animus that "so many men and women" have towards the LGBT community.

And he places this spiritual indictment, which he regards as a self-evident fact, in the midst of a deeply, deeply fraudulent discussion about how the Synodalite Church really, really wants to embrace everyone.

Sure, Robert.

For starters, there is no shortage of men and women who think your life as an accessory to the predatory corruption of Cardinal McCarrick (Fn 2) makes you uniquely unqualified to call any non-sociopath "demonic." 

Not to mention that you, of all people, offer a truly hideous example of how to embrace "victims of clergy sexual abuse." 

But you know: senses of shame and Catholic hierarchs go together like arsenic and Thanksgiving.

I, on the other hand, am a bit ambivalent on the former point: after all, your career just might give you an up close and personal insight into the phenomenon of demonic activity. Be that as it may, that's ultimately going to be hashed out between you and God.

Further, and going back to the third person, I'm not really interested in the part of the Culture War which he highlights and the side he clearly wishes to take. I only note it because it comes as part of a paragraph with ends with the following Rome-approved message:

Rather, the dignity of every person as a child of God struggling in this world, and the loving outreach of God, must be the heart, soul, face and substance of the church’s stance and pastoral action.

If my nearly 24 years as a Catholic has taught me nothing else, it's that when clerics lie, they lie big. Hellishly so. As in, "have I got a Donation of Constantine for you!"

For the love of Pete, the paragraph starts with calling fellow Catholics demonic and then ends with a call to recognize the dignity of each soul.

Editing at America is evidently not a strenuous job.

Sure, why not?

The rest of the verbiage from his approved interoffice memo makes clear that that sentence is a titanic fraud, limited only to those he likes. And if you are attached to the old Catholic OS, too bad so sad.

We aren't supporting that any more. 

It's being sunsetted. 

Time to upgrade to Catholicism's Windows Vista. The one where Contemporary Conscience Trumps All.

Not only is your fidelity not enough, RM makes sure you know it is a huge part of the problem, what with your racism, hatred of the poor and your un-upgraded conscience with its sexual fixations [Oh, great: another projection meter just detonated]. 

Worse yet, you unenlightened kine also "perceive doctrinal infidelity in that [radical] inclusion." Hell, your perceived doctrinal fidelity probably clutters Our Common Home™ with people you care for first instead of being radically inclusive.

Get with the program. 

The Current Pope Has Spoken. 

Sacrifice is for losers, and worse yet, gives the people whose approval we really want the wrong idea.

Anyway, it's easier this way--jump right in, the water's lukewarm.

And note that Radically-Inclusive RM is showing us the way in his personal diktats, shutting down the old liturgy in his diocese that was just fine until the Current Roman Oracle got testy. Radical Inclusivity™ always has limits. Especially for those who stubbornly insist on believing that outdated shit.

Besides, you lay types have already shown them there's no end to what you will take. 

And if they have to, they'll just weaponize Jesus and ask you where are you going to go? 

For once, they'll solemnly say that it's Jesus' Church, and He has the words of eternal life.

As filtered through them and their Lord Vetinari-ish communing with the Spirit.

So you'll shake your head, sigh heavily and stay. Because that's what Catholics do. Obey.

And then next year you'll get the latest ad-hominem laden missive from the Spirit, reminding you what else needs to be downsized from your soul....


[Footnote 1: The link is to Abp. Aquila, by all reports a fine man and sound modern shepherd. But honestly, quoting the current pope as a rebuttal to McElroy reads like Grigory Zinoviev trying to quote the General Secretary to defend himself in his show trial. So I will leave to others to suss out the effectiveness of his essay. I will say this: at least he responded, knowing that RM had Rome's imprimatur.]

 [Footnote 2: Please note that the New, Inclusive, Caring and Transparent Synodal Church of Vos Estis and the Other Window-Dressing That Ought To Hold The Little Bastards has not seen fit to actually show us the documentation for Cardinal McCarrick's laicisation. Ditto the underlying survey material that supposedly drives all of its Just Listened to the Spirit With Our Sibs--Honest! door-slamming. 

So until then, I will continue to refer to that well-connected rapist, network-builder and fundraiser par excellence as "Cardinal."]

Thursday, February 02, 2023

And the Black Pill Truck came by.

  The laity are always Flounder.


1. "Truth to tell, this kind of  'leadership' is why I am drifting away from Catholicism. I have had to eat my share of s--t during my following of Christ, and with age I have become fine with that. Rejoice, as He said on the Mount.

But what I will not abide are zucchettoed and compromised mediocrities who only have my back so they can shove a crozier-shaped shiv into it. For the likes of McElroy, I am a piece to be curated to fit their latest buzzword-laden agenda instead of a soul to be cared for. 
I get plenty of that at work, thank you, and I can manage being a lukewarm compromiser on my own. The certainty of this gaining strength as I spend the rest of my life under darkening skies is not something I can endure, nor do I see any demand from Him to submit to false prophets and con men."
2. "[Good Guy Interlocutor], you're one of the electronic people I would really like to meet IRL one of these years before the actuarial windshield smashes into my buzzing self. 
But there's no fighting Rome from the inside after 1870. No one beats the house. The ultramontanes won in the end, with "religious submission of mind and will" being the ideal understudy for "I am Tradition!" 
Even Vatican II tells us to diligently attend to the oracle in Rome, with LG 25 telling us to note "His mind and will" which "may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking."
Amoris? He wins. The death penalty? He wins. Traditiones Custodes (points for trolling perfection there)? He wins again. Hell, he's probably already banned life sentences, given 'his frequent repetition of the same doctrine' on that deranged tangent.
Speaking of TC: so when my decent archbishop retires in July, the men who brought me back to the Faith (the ICRSS) are going to get the boot from his slogan-reciting successor, who will also get a red hat. It's already happened in Chicago: no public masses or confessions for the order there any more. And how do I fight their suppression, exactly?
Speaking of red hats: That's especially appropriate these days, as the Synodal Church resembles nothing so much as a Soviet Party Congress. 
I'm old and I've seen this movie before in other theatres. Something I or a friend revere gets killed by people who pretended to revere it and the killers wear its face with Lecter-like brio.
The good bishops (bound as they are by the same religious submission) are on the clock, and the seminaries will be straining out the good priests as the Party Line Bishops take over.
To crib from a much worthier man and stylist than I am:
The lamps are going out all over the Church, and we shall not see them lit again in our life-time. 
Lest God re-light them. And kairos is not chronos."

Monday, January 30, 2023

A worthwhile read.

 The Vatican Dogma, by Fr. Sergius Bulgakov. 

Published in 1946, it presents a detailed, albeit polemical, argument against Vatican I. It deserves consideration. It was not Catholicism's most edifying hour, to put it mildly:

To begin with, bishops, of whom a church council is normally composed, are present there as representing, or bearing witness for, their respective dioceses—there can only be a council when people give and take counsel. But in this case there could have been no such thing, since the very purpose of the Council had been kept secret. No one knew why it was being called, and its main object was revealed only after it had assembled, though the leading party—the Jesuits­—had a fairly clear notion of it. The papal allocution of 26.VI.1867 referred to convoking the Council, but during the two and a half years that passed not a single question of importance was put down for its de­liberation. The committee of theologians, which under the chairmanship of a cardinal was preparing the agenda, did not inform the episcopate of the result of its labours. Thus secrecy enveloped the Council's transactions from the first.

 When the delegates arrived, they received printed instructions from the pope who had already appointed all the officials of the Council. The instructions made provision for several committees, but the chief commit­tee of projects, apart from which no resolutions could be proposed, had already been appointed by the pope. The two other committees were elected by a simple ma­jority vote, but the majority clearly belonged to the papal party, because of the composition of the Council. The three committees included only about a hundred persons, i.e. one sixth or one seventh of the total num­ber of the members, which varied from 764 to 601. The rest remained in enforced inactivity, and were not even allowed to hold private consultations. They had to languish in the expectation of general meetings for which no definite times were fixed. While the Council was still sitting, the instructions were changed by the pope and made more stringent. General meetings were held in a hall with such bad acoustics that most of those present could not hear the speakers at all; the chairman had the right to determine the order in which the speakers were to address the audi­ence, and to stop the discussions. Members of the Council were presented with certain resolutions drawn up by the committees; they had no books at their dis­posal (the Vatican library was closed to them) and had only a few days to prepare themselves for discussion meetings. There was a general atmosphere of eaves­dropping and espionage, of which many delegates complained. In view of all this, the proceedings can hardly be described as a Council; letters and much other material that has been published make abundantly clear the dejection and even dismay that possessed its members[4].

But, it will be asked, how could all the bishops present give their consent to something that was repug­nant to the conscience of many of them? It is not as though they were threatened with the Bolshevist hor­rors, torture and death; at the worst, their career would have been spoiled. The explanation is, in the first place, that the composition of the Council had been pre-arranged, so as to secure a majority obedient to the pope. This was done by including, in addition to real bishops representing their diocese, a considerable number of titular bishops who represented no diocese whatever and were, at bottom, simply obedient officials of the pope’s consistory, and also of men who were not bishops at all—cardinals and generals of different orders[5].

 The overwhelming number of diocesan bishops were Italian (out of the total number of 541 European bishops, Italy had 276, Austria-Hungary—­48, France—84, Germany— 19). It is clear enough what this preponderance of Italian bishops meant: they were directly subordinate to the pope as their patriarch and entirely dominated by Rome. The non-diocesan members of the Council together with the disproportio­nate number of Italian bishops constituted a majority which could carry any resolution submitted to the meet­ing. This is precisely what happened.

The gruesome aftermath is also worth noting, as the Melkite patriarch was literally battered by Pius IX's guards during an ad limina visit following a statement of the patriarch's reservations.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

A good Christmas.

Even if the family could not entirely assemble, for reasons of job and covid-eaten leave time. But through the miracle of the internet, we could watch our eldest open her presents, so there's that.

Spiritually...probably the less said the better, for the moment. I attended what was probably the last Midnight Mass celebrated by the ICKSP at the Shrine in Detroit. Archbishop Vigneron will be retiring this summer, and the Friend of Rupnik's doozy will be inbound. 

Interestingly enough, it was celebrated by the head of the Institute's U.S. mission, Canon Tallerico. Which makes sense, since Chicago is the "capital" of said mission, and is a short trip. 

Alas, he cannot publicly celebrate Mass in Chicago, thanks to another doozy from the Friend of Rupnik, which makes no sense at all. Except as an exercise in arbitrary, corrupt power. Which, given the Friend, has at least an internal logic.

Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours. May we all have a good 2023.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

And it's November.

 I look forward to making some kind of effigy of 2022 and setting it on fire on December 31. 

Things have steadified, to coin a term. My son's truck was stolen last month and then recovered, largely intact.

So, crime is at the top of my ballot next Tuesday, and my redistricted neighborhood is surprisingly competitive for once. Though, truth to tell, I rather liked Andy Levin, who was an old-school labor Democrat, albeit one who had to mouth the identitarian pieties which have consumed his party.

Anyhoo, that's obscenely-wealthy Oakland County's loss now. As for the GOP, it has not missed the chance to miss the chance to select good candidates for the local ballot--one or maybe two exceptions aside.

I'll try to avoid making honking noises at the ballot station.

We are trying to stay ahead of inflation, which is 1B on my ballot. That's becoming tougher, though we soldier through. I hope and pray the Russo-Ukrainian War does not go global, though I have little confidence in the nuclear-armed leadership on either side of the fight. Putin is atrocious, but history teaches that the Russians can and will find someone worse in the aftermath of a military catastrophe.

Spiritually, I find myself (unofficially) in the Melkite camp. The late Bishop Elias Zoghby asserted that the papacy of the first millennium--and not an iota more--was something both Catholics and Orthodox could buy into. More Catholics than Orthodox did, but such are the times.

The Vatican I papacy, as codified in the 1917 and 1983 Codes of Canon Law, is the platonic ideal of overreach. "Hypertrophy," to borrow the exercise term. Or "single point of failure," to use an engineering phrase. In any event, magisterial statements like this are, flatly, bonkers:

It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.

How about no? As in "No, the Faith is not the wet clay of the reigning pontiff?"

But canon law and the popes themselves say otherwise, so here we are.

And it won't be fixed by a better guy as pope--not that such would be difficult, of course. 

By now it should be clear that the problem is larger than a manifestly-unfit CEO. Rather, it resides in an autocratic system that requires saintly self-abnegation to work--making it not a good system. In human terms, what your powers allow you to do will, in the absence of countervailing forces, inevitably trump what custom says you should do. Yes, it is making me take a hard look at Orthodoxy--or at least the less-caesaropapist versions.

Anyway, I hope you and yours have safe and blessed holiday seasons. Prayers, please, for dear friends who have a loved one who has been arrested for murder. I remember the young man as a boy, and this is beyond a nightmare.

New digs for ponderings about Levantine Christianity.

   The interior of Saint Paul Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Harissa, Lebanon. I have decided to set up a Substack exploring Eastern Christi...