Sunday, February 28, 2016

Religion: The balance between submission and individual or local expression

The first words of the psalm quoted in the introit remind me of what a friend told me some time back: false religion is always about self; "fakedty-fake." Inculturation and even a semi-congregationalism can be good things; the local church as the steel-mill town Sportsmen's Club, a community and its customs, strong just like in the Middle Ages, being a hedge against heresy and the merely banal or silly. (If only more Catholics 50 years ago had that fight in them like Archbishop Lefebvre and Fr. De Pauw did.) I refer to "my Mass." But putting that above the church is taking your eyes off the Lord and stepping into a trap, the besetting sin of the alterna-Catholicisms (which do have a point) vs. the church, such as the Orthodox ("Christianity and Greekness"; as C.S. Lewis observed, that eventually becomes only about Greekness) and of the Anglo-Catholics, either thinking they're the true church vs. us (a lot of people assume all A-Cs were would-be Catholics; A-Cism started as a competitor's claim against us so only some wanted to reconcile with us "with honor") or putting off coming into the church because of our human failings, understandable stuff such as local inhospitability, even heresy locally (Anglo-Papalism in theory wasn't an alterna-Catholicism but simply trying to come into the church "with honor"). Rather, we're bigger than the apparent sum of our parts, the paradox of the infallible, sinless church made of fallible, sinful people. Even the Pope's person is fallible; his office, part of the church, in infallible. (The Articles of Religion are hooey.)

Classic A-Cism in either form, anti- or pro-Roman, really believed: "We do these things because they're objectively true." Trading the Prayer Book for copying the church appealed to a higher authority, "the larger church."

There's a difference between that and "this practice fits my religious needs; I happen to think pre-conciliar Catholicism is neat" so I come up with something that looks like it, even better-looking. John's ultimate religious authority becomes John, not God through the church. Protestant private judgment, even if it uses the Tridentine Mass. That's not the church. Also, when the local club becomes just "me and my friends," powered by the supposed warmth of the personalities involved, it's the error of well-meaning liberals such as St. Lydia's. It's not Catholic partly because it's no longer catholic. The parish, one faith for all, vs. the private club, the boutique, even if anyone is welcome to join.

Today's liberal high churchmen are the old anti-Roman party, indeed demonstrating a loyalty to Anglicanism by adopting innovations. Wrong? Sure. But sincere. But their boutique still isn't the church.
The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people the Anglican Church will do.

— Oscar Wilde
Mark Bonocore once said the same thing: Catholic cultures have extreme holiness and extreme evil; Protestant ones favor lukewarmness, mediocrity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Notes on a council


An acquaintance writes on a book I've not read, Roberto de Mattei's The Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story:
It was an exhaustive chronicle, occasionally dry, which admirably avoided tempting digressions. Some thoughts:
  • 1. If you're looking to point fingers at a single group for "hijacking" the Council, look no further than the German hierarchy. Seriously. Especially Julius Cardinal Döpfner.
  • 2. The conservatives at the Council should have been more organized; Pius XII had decided against convoking a council precisely because of the likelihood that a Modernist phalanx would form. The conservatives, especially in the Curia, should have known better. By the time the Coetus Internationalem Patrum got itself up and running their victories were too little, too late. But there were relative victories; do not be mistaken about that.
  • 3. The unsung heroes of the conservative resistance were Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini, Archbishop Geraldo de Proença Sigaud, Bishop Luigi Maria Carli, and Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Without them the conservatives would have had no organization and less intellectual focus.
  • 4. Pope Paul VI is often depicted as having a dithering "Hamlet complex," but if anything this applies more accurately to Cardinal Siri; between his abstention from membership — let alone leadership — in the Coetus and his lack of resolution in the papal conclaves, the regret His Eminence felt late in life is little wonder.
  • 5. Who would have thought the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Maximos Saïgh, would prove to be one of the most consistent liberals at the Council?
  • 6. Charles de Gaulle connived to get a liberal elected at the 1958 conclave, specifically Cardinal Roncalli, rather than a Pacellian "reactionary" such as cardinals Ottaviani and Siri, while Konrad Adenauer privately preferred a conservative to be elected.
  • 7. With the exception of the drafting of Dignitatis Humanae, the American bishops were surprisingly conservative. What was less surprising perhaps was that they spearheaded the opposition to a debated resolution condemning the use of nuclear weapons.
  • 8. For a brief, shining moment Leo Cardinal Suenens broke from the Modernists to criticize a schema perceived as diminishing the role of Mary in redemption.
Who would have thought the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Maximos Saïgh, would prove to be one of the most consistent liberals at the Council?
Exactly. "Inspiring" the "Orthodox in communion with Rome" a**holes on the Internet (rare in real life) 50 years on, or as I call them, the National Catholic Reporter disguised by a cool liturgy. "See how cool and spiritual we are, unlike those dumb traddies who dare to use our churches as a refuge." Got to give the Byzantines credit; they turned me against them.

The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber, trying to protestantize the church for the space age (the actual spirit of the council, the mode of progressivism at the time):
Why are the Germans such bad theologians?
Because they were never fully Christianized? The Orthodox use that as an excuse for being in schism: the Frankish Pope was no longer part of their Christian empire. But there is a point here. Why the northern Germanic countries left the church in the 1500s.

By the way, Vatican II didn't define any doctrine and our doctrine's unchangeable anyway.
The temptation towards Arianism has never died in the Anglo-Saxon West. It continuously reappears in new guises, always appearing (like most fads do) as the sophisticated option, before landing back on history's ash heap.
The wise teacher, more than man but less than God; the Anglosphere sophisticates' Jesus.
The problem with theologians is that, as intellectuals, they're tempted to gravitate to this stuff even more deeply than your average bear.
Right. Vatican II wasn't a revolution from the people in the pews. It was sophisticated European churchmen.
The post-war "space age" aspect must have been pervasive. You find it even in the writings of the so-called traditionalists. Ottaviani's Eleanor Roosevelt-like fawning over the UN as the source of world peace, to name just one example that comes to mind.

In the end, we are men of our age, whether we like it or not. That's why the term Modernism is a bad one, very confusing. Apt to turn its heresy hunters into hapless reactionaries.
I did not know that about the traditionalists. The space age in many ways was neat: unprecedented prosperity and upward mobility, and decreasing inequality, in America while at the same time the old values and norms still were in force. You have innovation in design, "populuxe," the American '50s look. But we see now that its assumptions could be dangerous; a continuation of the "Enlightenment," they begat the Sixties.

Photo: Pope Paul VI and Msgr. Meliton of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. If the libcaths really cared about the Christian East, they wouldn't have rewritten the Roman Rite, although ecumenical types go on about how Eastern the new services really are, just that we traddies are too dumb or ignorant to see it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Those goofy kids and more


  • Sanders supporter literally cries over Trump supporters disagreeing with her. I wonder what she said on the phone or how she said it to tick them off; we're only hearing her version. It can give one a false sense of security, that our opponents are that fragile. They can still do a lot of harm when they're in power in the workplace, for example. Make an innocent political comment to a friend, one of these little brats hears it and cries to another brat manager or HR, and another brat is threatening your job. "You will comply" or at least be silenced. By the way, this girl has quite an accent, a big generational and class marker, not a regional one like a normal accent. I remember America before people were, like, talking like this? The fashionable English-based romance-novel name (give your girl a man's first name or that of a London neighborhood) is another marker. Many Sanders supporters' hearts are in the right place; I don't hate them. His candidacy like Trump's (my choice) is actually a good sign.
  • Brown students complain homework is interfering with their activism partying, networking, and bragging/virtue-signaling. In a lot of cases, college isn't really for the education but a kind of sleepaway camp for the rich whose purpose is social; people of a certain class keeping their kids (daughters) away from riffraff. (Same as soccer's place in American culture as exercise and a social marker for the elite, not a competitive sport for the masses.) The smarter, socially gifted kids network. And Brown U. is an Ivy League college! Good goin', folks! Exactly. Seems to prove the point that it's more a place for a class to stay together or to aspire to the class than to get a real education. The lesser schools promise that to rip off the proles trying to move up.
  • "Survey says": American Catholics are socialized to say they agree with Pope Francis but many will vote for Trump. Understandably, the man in the pew has conflicting feelings. Pope Francis is appealing to altruism, seemingly Christian, while the man's instincts tell him to defend his family including the extended family who are his people, his tribe, his nation. The answers: charity is for citizens first and we are not obligated to commit suicide by letting in terrorists. Also, Pope Francis's opinions are not our doctrine. Trump '16: let's make America great again.
  • The B-52. Roughly the same age as my car and STILL part of America's first line of defense.
  • FBI wins lawsuit forcing Apple to install spyware on iPhone devices. I wonder if the hipster class who love Apple know they're the bad guys from 1984 (which I read in 1984).
  • Hypervigilant college mistakes skin-care masks for blackface. Seriously, things such as blackface and minstrel shows went away pretty quickly after World War II, nothing to do with the Sixties' "consciousness" (preening). My theory is the Holocaust shocked many decent white Americans into stopping it where it persisted. Same reason many good-intentioned people who looked like me (as in "not the hippies") did the dog work for civil rights.
  • Corn syrup by another name. How food packaging lies.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The north end, the Lutheran claim about the Eucharist, and more


  • Archbishop Peter Robinson: The view from the north end. Right; the Catholic ceremonial I love isn't really Anglican. A bare commemoration ("the sacrifice is of thanks and praise given by Christians") with church in the round, like Catholic liberals minus the guitars, is what the framers did, going beyond the Lutherans. Luther proposed doing this but never did, being inconsistent plus willing to bait and switch. Once the king was really on their side, Cranmer and his pals were upfront about being Protestants. Bare commemoration is not really Anglican either. Zwinglian Memorialism gets as much stick as Transubstantiation in the Articles of Religion. Which, according to Michael Davies, still make it clear that the Reformed religion doesn't believe in Christ's sacrifice made present on an altar, the elements completely changed, the Sacrament literally giving the grace it signifies. Also from Davies: when Protestants use realistic-sounding language about the Eucharist being Christ's body and blood, they don't mean what we mean. Pictured: the Communion service as Anglicanism's framers made it, not nearly as conservative as the Lutherans but still too Catholic for the Puritans.
  • One of our Lutheran close cousins: Luther did not bait and switch. He restored the Communion doctrine as it had been in the late 5th century. Take a look at what Gelasius wrote then, when he was Pope; it's the Lutheran doctrine exactly. Luther from the first set out to restore the catholic doctrine as it had existed in the first five centuries, and on the Communion, that was exactly what he accomplished. We truly receive Christ's Body and Blood. Gelasius, in 490, actually used the then well-established doctrine of the sacramental union of the Body and Blood with the elements to explain the then-controversial doctrine of the hypostatic union. As Christ is true God and true man, but one Christ, so the Communion is true Body and Blood and true bread and wine, but one Sacrament, neither confusing the natures nor dividing the substance. The Roman transubstantiation loses sight of the reality of bread and wine; the Zwinglians lose sight of the reality of Body and Blood; the High Calvinists (Cranmer, et al., following Bucer and the late followers of Melanchthon) recognizing the reality of bread and wine and the reality of Body and Blood but considering them separate. The sacramental union is not the same as the hypostatic union, but it is analogous to it. Luther never set out to separate from Rome. Rome kicked him out at the end of 1520, and he refused to back down, holding that he was teaching the catholic faith. The Augsburg Confession in 1530 was the Lutherans' effort to reach out to Rome, to show that they were good Catholics. In fact, many high-ranking Catholics agreed that there was nothing in the Augsburg Confession that a good Catholic could not believe, and there are some prominent Catholics now who say that. But at that time, Rome would not bend, and the opportunity for reconciliation passed. But this wasn't bait and switch at all. On the position of the celebrant, Luther wrote that it would be desirable for the celebrant to face west, but that, because of the way the churches of the time were built, this was impractical; so until churches had been built for celebration facing. Pope Gelasius interpreted the only way he can be in our teachings: the Sacrament has the true "accidents," outward manifestations, of bread and wine, and in fact remains the Sacrament only as long as they are there. The essence (substance), however, is no longer those things. If the church got the Eucharist wrong after the 400s, the Jews are right that Jesus was a fraud.
  • As part of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is encouraging governments, particularly Catholic politicians, to suspend the death penalty for the year, an impressive example of mercy; something he can say. But it's being reported as a change in our teachings, of course, a distortion of the old seamless garment going back to Cardinal Bernardin: "'thou shalt not kill' is an absolute." (The old Prayer Book: thou shalt do no murder. Different.) We can spare the lives of the guilty in capital offenses but don't have to. There he goes again, seemingly getting his cues from the secular world, but, like him or not, he seems to have a quality of great men in that nobody owns him. But that's irrelevant to his job, which most people don't understand. His job is limited to defending our teachings, which allow the death-penalty option.
  • Pope Francis may well be trying to melt down the Catholic Church. The thing is, it can't be done! His reign is a cakewalk to me because unlike Paul VI or even John Paul II, as Elena Maria Vidal wrote, he's leaving us alone to be Catholic at the traditional Mass, etc. Like St. Clement's, Philadelphia, 30 years ago under the benign neglect of a Protestant Episcopal bishop, Lyman Ogilby, who like many such with extreme Anglo-Catholic parishes in his diocese was "hands off" because he didn't know what to do with them. The system's semi-congregationalism helped. So I can just filter out the crap and continue indefinitely this way in the church, even without a Pope Benedict the Great.
  • The 74th anniversary of Japanese internment in America during World War II. The Democrats who suckered us into the war, in order to help the USSR win (Joe McCarthy was right), scapegoated not only innocent immigrants (number of spying and sabotage incidents in heavily Japanese Hawaii, where internment was impossible: zero) but born Americans because of their race (including Pat Morita and George Takei, then children). Opposed: J. Edgar Hoover, proud that his FBI could stop any spies and sabotage without it and because he was enough of an old-school gentleman to have a sense of decency about these things. Yet our elite venerates Roosevelt.
  • Ten little-known facts about the movie Christine. Scott Baio was considered to play Arnie Cunningham and Brooke Shields was considered for Leigh Cabot. No. Scott Baio wasn't badass enough and you needed relative unknowns as the leads, because the car is the star. But Kevin Bacon would have worked. The movie's arguably a black comedy played straight, not really scary (taken seriously, it's Carrie for men) and poking fun at nostalgia and at men and their cars, but Christine's every put-upon kid's best friend, the Santa Muerte of cars, besides being sexy. By the way, my car's AM radio, from the factory in July 1957, only picks up a news station and an evangelical one (she's Protestant?). It doesn't start blasting pop hits when she runs over my enemies. That's annoying; I paid for that option.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Facebook ecumenism's ups and downs

Fr. David Straw and I are like fraternal twins: the same age, growing up in conservative pockets of the Episcopal Church so we were mugged by the same changes at the same time. In large part we share a culture, praying in the same English when I use English for worship and hearing the same hymns. Anglicanism at least since Jewel has claimed to be both Catholic and Reformed, so in our respective conversions we went in opposite directions, he Reformed (Reformed Episcopal, that is), I Catholic. (Reformed Christianity isn't schismatic Catholicism like Orthodoxy; it's a 1500s creation that claimed to restore primitive Christianity.) We share the Bible and the creeds, and Fr. Straw is of the modern Reformed Episcopal kind that accepts our externals (so crucifixes and chasubles are OK, and he goes by Father!) but still not our theology other than what I named. Reformed Episcopal vs. regular Anglican/Episcopal: the episcopate is nice to have but not essential; the Reformed Episcopal denomination was founded as a reaction against the then-new Anglo-Catholicism. So my criticisms of cultural Protestants (our American host culture) sometimes inadvertently push us one post or comment away from restarting the "Reformation" battle. (Political correctness/"the Cathedral"/the media-academia-government complex/SWPL, the Anglo-American ruling elite, is English Protestantism gone bad; Christian ethics no longer with Christian faith.) We have common cause in America's current culture war (people like us vs. the Sixties essentially) but 450 years ago in the mother country our sides were literally killing each other, in combat and at the stake and gallows, as Christians on both sides believed in that for the common good (and we didn't do it nearly as much as accused of, according to Eamon Duffy; torching the city of Exeter likely would have saved the church in England but the end doesn't justify the means). Infallible church or not? Holy Communion as Christ's sacrifice literally made present giving grace, the elements changed completely, or none of those things? Whose reading of the Church Fathers is right? No hard feelings personally, brother, but those are bigger than either of us.

I let a Catholic, someone who theologically agrees with me on everything and was otherwise very helpful to me, walk off my Facebook page because he was rude every time I mentioned not only the Anglicans — "Fakedty-fake!" — but the Anglo-Catholic alumni like me, in the church. Essentially, "you're not really Catholic, you're snobs," etc. Keep at it; the old folks at the National Catholic Reporter thank you.

A couple of years ago I was kicked off the Byzantine Christian pages (not Orthodox; they're supposed to be generally Byzantine) for defying the "Orthodox in communion with Rome" and their ecumenical Orthodox friends, or as I call them, the National Catholic Reporter but with a cool liturgy. Dumping half our doctrine to walk into schism is not an option, it's not OK for Catholics to switch if they feel like it, and the Greek Rite Catholics' self-latinizations have the right to be, alongside the unlatinized form of the rite.

Ecumenism's only achievement is we're no longer trying to kill each other.

Why Anglo-Catholicism isn't convincing: Archbishop Peter Robinson explains

Archbishop Peter Robinson wrote:
Anglo-Catholicism and I had a long flirtation when I was in my twenties, but I never found it completely convincing. I can see High Church Protestant (either Anglican or Lutheran) or Roman Catholic as positions with integrity, but not so much Anglo-Catholicism.
So why didn't Anglo-Catholicism convince you, so that you agree with me and Bill Tighe that it's really Reformed? Historical facts? Anything else?
The line of argument Newman took in Tract XC is all too reminiscent of Samuel Clarke's line of argument for Arian subscription to the Articles of Religion back in the early 1700s in that it indulges in a lot of special pleading and logic-chopping. It got well and truly whomped by Daniel Waterland's defence of Nicene orthodoxy, which was a standard theological work for the rest of the 18th century, and into the 19th. Newman's great error is that he tries to assert that the AoR are not talking about Trent, which is patently a falsehood, and if it is you can logic-chop your way around it, which is unconvincing to say the least, when you consider that except for Christopher Davenport's efforts back in the 17th century, Newman's take on the articles appears like a certain king of Salem in 1841. Newman is fairly convincing on the first reading, but not on the third.

Liberalism is invalid for the same reason as Newmanism, which leaves two possible ways of reading the AoR. The first is in the context of the Reformation, which is generally what Evangelical Anglicans do. However, the old-school Evangelicals relied heavily on folks like Payne-Smith, Wace, and Boultbee, who knew their way around the Fathers of the first five or six centuries.

The other way of looking at the AoR is that of the old High Churchmen, who went to the Father of the first five centuries, and then read them in the light of the AoR. The primary interest of the OHCs was the ante-Nicene Fathers and the Four Latin Doctors. Martin Routh spent about thirty years working on a monumental edition of some of the minor Fathers of the second and third century, and this is typical of the more archaeological approach of the Old High Churchmanship.

I think you do have to be a little careful with the word 'Reformed' when talking about Anglicanism, as the harsher forms of Calvinism — especially Dortian orthodoxy — did not have a long-term effect on Anglican theology. The middle way between Lutheranism and Calvinism, with the episcopal form of government, would be on the money.
Thanks, but "Reformed" doesn't necessarily mean "Calvinist." So it's accurate to say Anglicanism is at heart Reformed.

A movement that set out to assert Anglicanism's true-church claim vs. the Catholic Church eventually imitated the Catholic Church.

That Newman converted early on seems to say he came to agree with you.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Fisking an Orthodox parish page about us


From the respected Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick's parish in Pennsylvania. Let's take apart their apologetics on the parish tract-rack level, not a bad effort for these things but Fr. Andrew would do no less.
For a Roman Catholic walking into an Orthodox church, there will be many elements that are familiar — services led by an ordained priesthood, sacramental worship, ancient tradition, Christian art, etc.
Got to love the "canon" of St. Vincent of Lérins, "always, everywhere, and by all," which we ancient churches share with our Anglo-Catholic brethren, who often articulate this family feeling as their branch theory. Even limited to the church's first few councils, a Catholic liturgy, and lots of immemorial custom, you essentially get the church.
But Orthodoxy also has much that is unfamiliar — a mostly married priesthood, communing infants, no papacy, and so forth. It is also likely that an Orthodox church will be a riot of color in comparison with the simpler statuary of Rome’s churches.
All of these EXCEPT the papacy are ONLY cultural differences, and, thanks to Eastern Catholics, centuries-old communities largely converted from the Orthodox, we have those things too!
But beyond these initial impressions, there is actually much that continues to separate Rome from Orthodoxy. One of the most common mistakes is an assumption that surface similarities mean that there really isn’t any major difference between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
Your defined doctrine is only our first few councils and your liturgy is entirely Catholic. Proceed.
What is necessary for unity between Rome and the Orthodox Churches? From the Orthodox point of view, Roman Catholics would be expected to return to the Orthodox faith that the Church of Rome professed during the period before it broke from Orthodoxy in roughly the 11th century (the Great Schism).
Dump our defined doctrine after the 11th century. Well, you DO have your Western Rite experiment, with St. Augustine's, Denver, for example; as we have Eastern expressions, you do have a fair copy of Western Catholicism, and in my cultural form, so what's the harm, for unity's sake? I'll turn that around. Our defined doctrine ONLY defends the ancient faith, which I sum up here. We don't need to, shouldn't, and anyway can't drop our defined doctrine. If we did, either the Protestants were right all along that there really is no church, certainly not an infallible one (so Jesus at the end of Matthew was a liar or the disciples made that up, since he didn't rise from the dead: the Jews are right?) or God mysteriously went mute after the 11th century because the Pope happened not to live in your empire anymore. Catholics spread that faith literally all over the world, including creating Catholic cultures in Latin America, not being bound to one culture or set of cultures; Eastern Orthodoxy remained parked in Eastern Europe really, chained to rulers, states, and ethnic groups. Church, sect; sect, church.
From Orthodoxy’s point of view, it is Rome who has left the tradition of the Apostles and introduced new teachings, such as Papal Infallibility, Purgatory and the Immaculate Conception, not to mention unilaterally altering the Nicene Creed to add the word Filioque (“and the Son”) to the phrase concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit, a term that was not in the original version of the Creed agreed upon by Rome with the eastern churches.
"The Pope is a Frank, no longer in our empire. So he's not really in the church anymore." There is only one church and it has a chief bishop who shares in its infallibility under certain conditions, God's mercy and justice call for an intermediate state, without which prayer for the dead (which the Orthodox enthusiastically do) would be nonsense or even the blasphemy Protestants claim it is, Mary is all-holy, redeemed by her son, transcending time, and we don't believe in a Quaternity of two Holy Spirits, "through the Son" not being impossible to understand well enough.
How is Orthodox worship different from Roman Catholic worship? Even prior to the 1960s, the Eastern Christian liturgical tradition was different from the Western Christian tradition represented by Rome. Even then, it was far more complex and multi-vectored (i.e., multiple things going on at the same time)...
Right, a cultural difference that we include. And my parish's pre-1960s Sung Mass has three activities going on at once, the actual Mass with the priest at the altar, the people's prayers, which may or may not be in sync with the prayers at the altar, and the music, likewise, over it all. No different really from a Russian congregation quietly standing as the service proceeds with or without them, in a haze of incense like grace. We cense too.
...a difference which has become more pronounced since the major liturgical changes beginning in the 1960s and continuing since then for Roman Catholics.
We Roman Riters flubbed, but this is culture, not doctrine. Our teachings remain.
Orthodoxy has not made any similar alteration to its mode of worship.
Nor, for the most part historically, have we. The 1960s were the huge exception.
While Orthodox worship has changed somewhat over the centuries, the changes have been extremely gradual and comparatively minor. Orthodox worship has never been modernized and continues much as it has for centuries.
Exactly how the Roman Rite historically has operated, and what my Sunday worship is still like: the Divine Liturgy without an iconostasis and with the second oldest Eucharistic prayer still in use.
Regarding the language of worship, Orthodoxy never had a single liturgical language like Rome did with Latin prior to the 1960s. The language of worship has generally been the local language. In the case of some parishes in America with many immigrants, it is possible that one will hear a language in addition to English used in worship as part of the ministry to those immigrants.
Cultural, not doctrinal, Eastern churches do have archaic liturgical languages (medieval Greek and Slavonic, for example; modern Greek and Russian not being allowed in your rules), and if by "Rome" you mean the Catholic Church, false. We have had all the Eastern liturgical languages for centuries and in some cases now their vernacular (such as Ukrainian and English) like you.
The Rosary dates from the 1400s, well after the split between Rome and the Orthodox Church, so the use of the Rosary is unknown in Orthodoxy. In Orthodoxy there is, however, the similar practice of praying the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”) with a knotted prayer rope (or sometimes with beads). Other brief prayers may also be associated with the use of the prayer rope, though there is not any corresponding system of imaginative systems of meditations as there sometimes is in Roman Catholicism.
The Rosary might be a little older but it is post-schism medieval Western. There are different schools of spirituality and even theological opinion, not doctrine, in the church; we're a big tent, not a Byzantine straitjacket. That also answers the shallow argument against purgatory, in addition to what I've written above. These meditations obviously aren't heresy, and in any event you don't have to use them. A modern myth about the Orthodox is that the Jesus Prayer and prayer ropes are a staple of their spirituality, among the laity, for instance. It's really an esoteric monastic practice (the rope being part of the monk's or nun's habit like the Rosary is for many Western vowed religious), truly different from the Rosary that way. Their lay spirituality is more about going to the services and keeping the fasts.
There is just sin, and although some are more serious than others, Orthodox do not make the distinction between mortal and venial sins that Roman Catholics do. All sin is believed to be serious in Orthodoxy.
Some do, from us. As long as mortal sin is absolved in the sacrament of confession, which they do, no problem. But the trouble with this "Orthodox" spirituality is it feeds the neurosis of scrupulosity. The distinction is comforting; God forgives venial sin outside of confession.
Orthodox Christians believe in the Real Presence and accept it as a mystery. Western theology tends to approach theological matters via the use of reason; this is a legacy of Augustinianism and the medieval Scholastics, who applied the techniques of Greek philosophy to the investigation of theological matters. Orthodoxy believes that certain matters are beyond the use of reason, so it is presumptuous for us as limited human beings to think that we can use our reason to understand that which is beyond us. As a consequence, we Orthodox are comfortable with accepting mysteries like the Real Presence as what they are—mysteries, without feeling obliged to explain them.
See above on different schools of spirituality and not just opinion but theological method. That's fine. The Christian East has never defined doctrine on this nor has it formally denied ours. It has always passively accepted that the Mass is Christ's one sacrifice made present, actually giving the grace it signifies, the elements completely changed into him. Entirely Catholic. The objection is a lame culturally based one.
In former centuries, Roman Catholic fasting and other asceticism was in most respects quite similar to Orthodoxy—nearly half the days of the year were fasting days! This kind of practice really is part of Roman Catholic tradition, as well, but it has largely been almost completely abandoned in our own day. It is now rare to find a Roman Catholic who goes without meat on Fridays in Lent, something that was normal even just a few decades ago.
A cultural difference, the church can and does change such disciplinary rules, and the Orthodox do the same with "economy," where the nearly impossible fasting rules are not under pain of sin (them priding themselves on not being legalistic like those Romans). Their canon law is an outdated, contradictory jumble so they're winging it. And the rule in the Roman Rite still includes Friday abstinence in Lent.
What is the Orthodox view of Original Sin? ...not all Roman Catholic theology (especially official dogma) has tended to this strong contrast toward favoring the “guilt” model, and Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are sometimes understood as not being far from each other in this regard.
Admitting it's not a doctrinal difference rather than the Pelagianism some of their apologists do in order to deny they're really Catholic. Good.

Regarding the Immaculate Conception, we have to believe that Mary has always been all-holy; the difference is of theological method, not doctrine. Catholics don't have to use St. Augustine's method.
...while both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe in the Virgin Mary’s great holiness (perhaps even to the point of sinlessness), for Roman Catholics, this holiness is the result of the Immaculate Conception; that is, she could not have sinned.
Eve was created without sin. Mary had the same choice.
Roman Catholics believe that Mary, because she was born without the stain of Original Sin (see the previous question on the Immaculate Conception), did not have to die; as a consequence, she is the only human being to be assumed directly to heaven without passing through death.
The schismatics denying the Assumption are especially comical, because it is an Eastern story! Their version is far more flowery, with the apostles being whisked from their locations to Mary's bedside. Anyway, the church says no such thing. When Pius XII declared this longstanding belief a doctrine, he purposely left Mary's death an open question out of deference to the Christian East. We don't have to believe she died, but we can.
It was at the First Lateran Council in 1123 (after the Great Schism) that celibacy became mandatory for Roman Catholic priests. Before this, a local council in Elvira, Spain, in 316 declared that celibacy was mandatory for clergy, and the practice began to spread in the West over the following centuries under the encouragement of various popes.
Disciplinary rule and culture, not doctrine. Eastern Catholic priests in their homelands, and now again in America, may marry before ordination, just like theirs. We have ex-Anglican priests following the same rule.
Roman Catholic doctrine holds that a child must be old enough intellectually to understand the mystery of Christ according to “his capacity.” He should be able to discern the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary bread. Western doctrine places a premium on the role of reason in understanding God and in forming a relationship with Him. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, believes that God in His Essence is unknowable, and dwells in “divine darkness.” No one will ever apprehend the mysteries of God, the Incarnation, or the Eucharist through reason. Why, then, withhold the grace of the sacrament from those whose understanding is after all only a little less than an adult’s? As a consequence, Orthodox do not believe in holding back children (or those who who are developmentally challenged and may be permanently incapable of reason) from receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.
Disciplinary rule and culture, not doctrine. The Eastern Catholics confirm and commune babies too.
For Rome, the declaration of a saint is a more-or-less top-down process; by recognition of miracles by the hierarchy, analysis of the prospective saint’s life under the direction of the hierarchy; and the juridical approach involving a “Devil’s Advocate.” For Orthodoxy, a saint is recognized as such by more of a bottom-up process: the community recognizes the saint’s holiness, which is then investigated, acknowledged and proclaimed by the hierarchy.
I'm going to surprise you. I don't see this as a problem to us. Not doctrine. If they come back to the church, they should have far more autonomy than the Eastern Catholics now have, including on this.
Why does the Orthodox Church use leavened bread and the Roman Catholic Church use unleavened bread (wafers)?
Disciplinary rule and culture, not doctrine.

Photo: Benedict the Great and Msgr. Bartholomew; actually Msgr. John in Damascus is Fr. Andrew's patriarch. Orthodox bishops are real bishops but don't have titles by right; those come from the Pope.

Francis vs. Trump, gay priests, the truth about Anglicanism, and liturgical English

There was a recent news story that Pope Francis blurted out something like Trump is un-Christian and that building a border wall with Mexico would be, I think on his recent trip there. I understand the Holy See did damage control, explaining that of course the Pope doesn't have the authority to tell Catholics who to vote for. I knew that. His job is only to defend doctrine as part of preaching the gospel. He can no more tell me who to vote for than I can write checks for my workplace. Also, Holy Father, illegal immigration is theft from a country's citizens. Yes, share, but with one's fellow citizens. Committing mass suicide is not part of our faith. A number of people have posted pictures of the impressive wall around most of the Vatican, which some say a previous Pope built to keep out Mohammedan raiders. Argentina has no illegal-immigration or shooting, raping Mohammedan "refugee" problems. Hypocrite. Because the Catholic faith is not about devotion to the person and whims of the Pope, I can say that. Francis is a jerk but his reign is a cakewalk compared to John Paul II's because he hasn't undone the achievements of Benedict XVI, most important the reformed English Novus Ordo and second the lifting of all bans on my Mass. Under John Paul II people like me were told to throw that away and become charismatics. Also: so you read his various remarks, it adds up to what the secular world dictates to us so they love him, and it's contradictory. So Catholics can use contraception for some things, "who am I to judge?" and yet the Pope can order me who to vote for, living down to Protestants' worst fears. No.

Steve Loftus speaks for me:
My brothers and sisters in Christ: Do not abandon your faith. Do not abandon our Holy Mother, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Do not flirt with sedevacantism, or the Orthodox, who are schismatic. Abandon these monsters in clerical clothing but do not abandon our Mother. Fight, friends. We were born for this!
This is ugly but Francis asked for it:
Rather than bitching about Trump and walls along the border, the Pope should work on a way to keep priests from molesting alter [sic] boys.
It's anti-Catholic crap but a lot of priests are losers and/or gay. I don't think MOST priests are gay; that's statistically impossible as gays are only 3% maximum of the population. But my guess is the percentage is slightly higher among Roman Rite priests (and in America, among all Catholic priests). Perfect place to hide and party behind closed doors, men and only men, respected in the community and nobody asks why you never got married. Some jobs are like that: the military and the sea (including guys on oil rigs), for example. You'll always have a gay element there. So you had these lonely gay priests and then the Sixties telling them to let it all hang out; a perfect storm as these men hit on teenagers. Some hit on me when I was in my 20s. The church says it's a sin but of course our Protestant hosts blame the church. Teachers do the underage thing more but guess what? Teaching is a liberal profession so they get away with it.
Catholic friend: Lots of other professions have losers galore. I have met too many of them to let some nasty-assed bigot get away with crap such as this. Oh and it is not statistically impossible for the majority of Catholic priests to be gay. Not saying it is so, mind you. 3% max may be true; then again may be not. I have yet to see good science on the %s.
In order for most priests to be gay, most Catholic men would have to be. If most American priests were, there wouldn't have been nearly enough priests for the parishes in Cardinal Spellman's church. Also, to give credit where it's due, there are holy, orthodox gay priests who try to be chaste. A modern example is the Anglo-Catholic alumnus (Anglo-Catholic priests often are gay) Fr. John Jay Hughes, now a retired priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He's upfront about being bisexual and has never used it to attack the teachings of the church.
Archbishop Peter Robinson: I seem to recall some years ago the comment that in the CofE about 5% of the clergy were gay, which is about double the national average. However, the most prominent case of molestation we had in the 1980s was a heterosexual priest who had a liking for 14-16-year-old girls. Most of the gay clergy kept it beneath the radar and stayed in dioceses where they would be ignored, e.g. Southwark. I am the zero-tolerence type, so I am not going to argue that the bishops should not have their bells rung for ignoring credible reports of abuse. The woolly part is getting reports passed up to Bishop level. I am lucky in that I don't have a Curia, so things come straight to me. If a report reaches me, it is acted upon.
Some years ago, I was blowing the froth of a couple with an RC priest I knew in the Archdiocese of Southwark, and his candid estimate was 5% to 10%. The two of us reckoned there were, percentage-wise, fewer gay priests in the RC Archdiocese than in the Anglican Diocese.
So my hunch was right. A minority of priests, Catholic and Anglican, but about double or even triple the population's proportion.
You get about the same demographic amongst men in other "caring professions." The problems only start when you have too many of them in a certain area. There were a couple of deaneries in the London area archdeacons used to sigh over.
Like how a minority of nurses are men but that minority is very gay. I know a straight one. The Episcopal priesthood seems to be becoming the domain of middle-aged women and gay men.
That depends where you are. Dioceses like Pennsylvania (the six counties around Philly) have always attracted a disproportionate number of gays and über-libs. Washington AC-DC and Los Angeles have the same tendency. AZ or KS will be very different.
I'll bet those London deaneries were spike's spikes, making a big show of wanting to be Catholic. Like St. Silas, Kentish Town, still C of E and now having gay weddings.
Around King's Cross was pretty noticeable, also Dulwich and a couple of others. Elsewhere, especially places like Clapham were the Evangelicals dominated — nary a one.
A lot of my early formation was in Missouri, which explains my conservatism and non-Novus-ness. It was a time warp, in but not of the '70s. Moving to New Jersey I felt like Episcopalianism sucker-punched me.
I grew in the Diocese of Lincoln, which was mainly High but not Anglo-Catholic, and generally used the 1662/28 for everything except Communion were the early Alternative Services were the rule. The clergy were mainly married men with 2 to 5 kids. Most of Ripon, and all of Sodor and Man were also conservative, so very liberal Southwark was a shock.
West Missouri was by no stretch Anglo-Catholic but I got the benefit of classic Anglicanism high-churchified American style since the '30s as you explain, plus essentially the cultural '50s. Then I lived in Spong's Diocese of Newark: Modernism, and the priests in chasubles, crossing themselves, and going by Father turned out to not really be A-Cs. Saw a sound A-C parish, pre-Vatican II, as the old rector had left it, but it too turned in a few years (the gay incumbent tried to put the moves on me).
Actually, the old BBC vicar view of the Church of England held fairly true when I was a kid — Churchmanship was an urban thing, a bit like the way RCs have religious order parishes, conservative parishes, and liberal parishes in urban areas. Lincoln leaned a bit catholic, so chasubles and parish communion was the order of the day. Sodor and Man was low-leaning, so choir habit and Matins except for the one parish in Douglas. I think 1970-1990 was a period where all churchmanships in the Church of England tended to pull towards the middle.
Sure, Novus Ordo-fication and ecumenism, which created the 1979 U.S. Book of Common Prayer. My origins are choir habit and Morning Prayer with the occasional chasuble at the eastward-facing 8 o'clock or the alternating 10 o'clock Communion (U.S. 1928 Prayer Book). Fr. Wetherell's All Saints, Orange, NJ, was a pre-Vatican II Italian-looking church stuffed into a little late-1800s Protestant Episcopal building, altars, statues, votive candles, confessionals, you name it; my Russians-in-Hagia Sophia experience.

"Prayer Book Catholicism":
My home parish was PBC. In the 1920s they had 8am Communion; 10:30am Morning Prayer; 12noon Sung Communion; 6:30pm Evensong on Sundays; 10am MP and 5pm Evening Prayer on weekdays and 8am Communion on Wednesdays and Holydays. Sunday morning MP gradually lost ground to the Sung Communion so that the two merged in the late 1930s, and then the MP element disappeared at the end of the 1960s. It outed itself as "catholic" because Saturday after EP was the appointed time for Confessions, and the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in an aumbry in the side chapel.

Anglo-Catholicism and I had a long flirtation when I was in my twenties, but I never found it completely convincing. I can see High Church Protestant (either Anglican or Lutheran) or Roman Catholic as positions with integrity, but not so much Anglo-Catholicism.
I think I understand but I'm interested in your explanation why you don't think A-Cism works. I'm now convinced Anglicanism is Reformed theology in the early and medieval church's wrapper, its structure; it's not Catholicism minus the Pope, let alone Anglo-Papalism. But I credit A-Cism for preserving pre-Vatican II Catholicism for me, and in a beautiful English I still use.
Essentially correct, but I would be a bit cautious about saying Reformed, more like Phillippist, or the Protestant understanding of Jerome and Augustine. Anglicanism historically is to the right of the Reformed and the left of Lutheranism. I tend to be a "Prayer Book Churchman" so I don't have a fit about the BCPs liturgical tradition or the Articles of Religion's theology. Historically a via media between Lutheranism and Calvinism. The Tractarians and Anglo-Catholics tried to move the via media to the right, and let the Liberals back in through the back door.
What's interesting is although Anglicanism and Lutheranism seem like high-church twins, Lutheranism was little to do with Anglicanism. Lutheranism ended up accidentally quasi-Catholic because Luther wasn't consistent, he was willing to bait and switch keeping Catholic trappings, and the Philippists tried to reach an understanding with the church. William Tighe places the Anglicans in the Reformed camp (as did Michael Davies) but not Calvinist, so yes, to the right of Calvin but to the left of the Lutherans.
Lutheranism is basically a product of 1520 to 1545, and Anglicanism of 1545 to 1575, mainly 1559–1571. They did not really have to make terms with one another until German George came over in 1715. The first major contacts were the Anglo-Prussian Bishopric, and the CofE/CofSwe agreement of 1911.
Catholic friend: Tractarians move to the right of Calvinism . . . then this means toward Lutheranism or what Lutheranism originally was? I thought that the Tractarians (and Anglo-Catholics) tried to move the C of E toward more Catholic position without being Catholic or reconciling with Rome, with the exception of some of them (e.g., Manning, and Newman)?
Except the old high churchmen and the Tractarians insisted on the episcopate, claiming that continuity with Catholicism; the Lutherans don't.
Archbishop: The Tractarians tried to modify the via media from being between Luther and Calvin to being between Rome and Protestantism, so they wanted to end up to the right of Luther. Newman and Manning did not have High Church backgrounds which may have been a factor in their 'verting, as they did not get the old High Church appeal to the Bible understood in the light of the Creeds and the Early Fathers. Both seem to move from the Infallible Bible to the Infallible Church (and in Manning's case to a fairly unsophisticated Ultramontanism).
The infallible church is what I'd bet my life on. I thought the old high churchmen saw themselves as the via media between Rome and Geneva, having the best of both and thus at least implicitly the true church, both Catholic and Reformed.
I think it is probably fairer to say Catholic in organisation, and mildly Reformed in doctrine.
That's exactly what I meant.
OK. The Old High Churchmen and the Tractarians did not see the Church in different terms, but they did fit the pieces together differently. The OHCs were a product of the Augustan Age, sober, rationalistic, dutiful and even a bit dull; the Tractarians were products of Romanticism and often attracted by the things the OHCs were most cautious about — sisterhoods, celibacy, a more "in-your-face" sacramentalism. Folks like Henry of Exeter (1777–1869), Horatio Powys (1799–1877) and George Denison (1802–1887) had a foot in both camps, and very often irritated everyone by being that way.

The old Evangelicals differed from the Old High Churchmen mainly by being a bit more Calvinistic in terms of Predestination, and by not being so reserved. The theological battles do not really start until after 1837 with the result that the Evangelicals become more Protestant — in the negative sense.
Right, Archbishop, yet I know that the early A-Cs weren't ritualists; that was the generation after them, both those pushing a claim AGAINST Rome (fellows like Grafton in the USA) and those furtively trying to "reconcile with honor" with it as F.G. Lee was doing, exactly what the Protestant Anglicans were afraid the A-Cs were doing.
The Tractarians did push the envelope very slightly on ceremonial, but not enough to produce a really strong reaction except in the Oxford hothouse. In the main, the original idea was to promote the Caroline tradition, rather than innovate beyond it.
Back to liturgical English:
Catholic friend: . . . a beautifully rendered "liturgical" English that might have made the Novus Ordo Missae quite tolerable without all the extra hijinks thrown in. Come to think of it, the motivation towards showmanship and hijinks would seem to me to be unlikely when the celebrant/presider speaks in liturgical English.
The achievement of Benedict XVI. It's orthodox and has the same cadence as the old BCP.
The current Roman Missal English translation: accurate, acceptable, but not beautifully rendered liturgical English. Not at all like the Coverdale Psalter or translation of the Roman Canon.
The new English Roman Missal doesn't have the heft of our culture behind it, no sentimental value (I have a theory on that), but it does have the old Prayer Book's cadence; it's a true liturgical English, a vast improvement that's also more orthodox. I don't think Catholics care about liturgical English. The only English they're attached to are the prayers of the Rosary. Because our people know the liturgy isn't really in English, as that's their history. Also, I use Coverdale but, like Cranmer, whom I don't use, he was a rank heretic.
Archbishop: On the odd occasions I end up at a Roman Mass I can now get through without major problems as the Credo, etc., are close enough to the BCP for me to be able to bluff my way through.
As you know, the few times a year I'm at an English Mass I just use the old BCP Gloria and Creed, genuflecting at "And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary."

Friday, February 19, 2016

Proposed Russo-Sino-Anglo-American alliance

A fellow, who is fiercely monarchist and thus agrees with me that the Loyalists in the American Revolution were right, writes:
I've been arguing for long moons that we desperately need a Russo-Sino-Anglo-American alliance, something approximating the glorious Quintuple Alliance of two centuries ago.

Our target would be, of course, our common foe, the Mohammedans. Such an alliance is only logical. The sabre-rattling of childishly clueless American politicians, seeking to needlessly antagonise Russia over trivialities (nobody cares about the bloody Ukraine!), must be ignored. No need to pick a fight with the Russians or Chinese (as that could only end with fatal finality) when we can instead have great fun and a whale of a time, kicking the shite out of the towelheads, and it would all be over in a few days! This would cement our friendship between the world's great powers, and we could simply steal all the oil we like from the Mohammedans (they don't need it, bloody savages!) and divide it three ways.

I'm seriously thinking of contacting Trump about this, as only he, amongst our otherwise moronic candidates (save Carson, of course) understands Putin and the importance of not isolating the Russians and Chinese. We could destroy every last man and boy in the ISIS with three brigades of American marines (though it would be
de rigueur, simply good manners, to let said Russians and Chinese tag along, too). Then, with said subhuman scum deservedly eradicated and dispatched to Hell, we could create a safe zone in Syria, as Trump has suggested, and there dump all those awful towelheads currently invading Europe. No one in his right mind thinks those bloody raping, robbing, reprobate Orcs are at all assimilable in Europe, and only liberal retards think they should stay.

Here's a Swiftian modest proposal: repatriate the Mohammedans, now cluttering up Europe, to Syria and to those nice camps in Saudi Arabia — and
LET ALL THE LIBS GO WITH 'EM! Why not, since they love 'em so much? Then, in Saudi Arabia, they'll all be decapitated for their liberalism. No more liberals! PROBLEM SOLVED!
I'd deport the schismatics and their converts who trash-talk their gracious, Christian host culture too. Not the ones who don't. Some of these folks are exiles whose lives we literally saved from the Communists after World War II. Preach lies about Catholics? Wear a Soviet flag home, Monsignor. Have a nice trip. From the converts it's the same self-loathing nonsense disguised as Christian humility as the secular liberals; the same exoticism. Like John Walker Lindh joining the Taliban. By the way, ISIS hates al-Qaeda and the Taliban for not being Muslim enough.

Anyway, before the Swiftian part: centuries ago that alliance would have been anti-Catholic, pitting us against Bavaria, Austria, Spain, and probably the Papal States. The Protestant Anglosphere, schismatic Russia, and non-Christian China. So no thanks then. Now? Maybe. Hooray for Putin, the new Constantine of the Orthodox. Not sure how China fits in. Not really Communist anymore since that obviously doesn't work but still horrible. ("Slave labor make China economy strong!") A threat to us? I think of them like Nixon did of Russia, which is why, a master statesman, he made a deal with China: they'll never be our friends but they're too important to be our enemies. Is an alliance with a country SO different from Christian ones possible or desirable? We are fine making a deal with them like we should have with imperial Japan (who weren't nice but weren't our problem).

The liberals including our rulers/elite (for whom there are no more countries) are using the "refugees" as a weapon, in fact hired muscle, to oppress their own citizens, the liberals engaged in a culture war against their conservative white brethren. They think their multiculturalism and hospitality will be a "get out of being raped, etc." card. They're not.

Also, let's not get played. Violent reprisal, in their homeland, is exactly what ISIS wants. Don't invade; don't invite.

Likewise I'm not taking the bait from the establishment about the Ukraine (smart try at playing on my Catholic faith; I've known Ukrainian Catholic exiles) to pit me against Russia. Smart Catholics see the big picture. We want to bring back the new Constantine and all his brethren at the same time (then leave their rite alone; I'd give them more autonomy than the Eastern Catholics now have), not tear them down. (Though small here, when they show up here and try to tear us down, it makes me angry. I'm only human.) The establishment is angry because they're not Communist anymore.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fr. Michael LaRue

A Requiem Mass or Holy Eucharist for the departed of Autry House and students, faculty, alumni, and staff of Rice University will be celebrated by Fr. Michael LaRue as his first public Eucharist after returning to the active ministry as a priest of the Episcopal Church on Wednesday, March 9, 2016...
Somebody I've been acquainted with more than 20 years (time flies, more so as you age). When I was a library assistant at St. Charles Seminary (one of the best jobs I've had, except the pay; by the way, our seminary is in my parish!), one day a very young priest in a black suit with a white collar going all around his neck, an SSC cross lapel pin, a mid-Atlantic (slight English) accent, and a winning smile despite a certain cultural reserve impressively asked me for some item written in French, unlike the English pronouncing the title with what sounded like a good French accent. Knew his background right away: an orthodox Anglo-Catholic; yes, Episcopal from Texas. (A co-worker, incidentally a non-Catholic: "With that accent and that collar, I knew he was an Anglican.") Our paths occasionally crossed after that as I dropped out of the church and he dropped in, deeply, for a long time. Of course I don't agree with him now but people like him keep me honest, on my toes. With an Oxbridge-like intellect (still too smart for dumb liberalism Catholic or Anglican) and over a decade in the church under his belt, the man knows our arguments, our playbook, arguably better than I do. Like another good Anglican apologist, this one born a Catholic, Fr. Jonathan Mitchican. Mitchican, the late Catholic Michael Davies, and born Anglican Archbishop Peter Robinson have explained the faith of my birth to me such that I now understand it (and have no desire or intention to return). Anyway, as I like to say, the alterna-Catholicisms from the Orthodox to the Polish National Catholics to the Episcopal Church's Society of Catholic Priests (an SSC copy but with women priests and gay marriage) to churchmen such as Fr. Chadwick and Fr. LaRue fascinate me because they all have something worthwhile to say, sometimes a reproach to us for our human failings. I wish him nothing but good. Me, recently to him, which he approved of: "Any new or changed doctrine I hear, I tune out. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Neighborhood strife and peace: Another priest's obituary and a century-long story

Archpriest John J. Udics, 67, fell asleep in the Lord as a result of complications from surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital here on Wednesday afternoon, February 3, 2016.
Podkarpatskiji Rusyny! Ostavte hlubokyj son!
[Subcarpathian Ruthenians! Awake from your deep sleep!]

— Patriotic song by a Catholic priest
South Philadelphia, 1912. The Ruthenian parishioners of Holy Ghost Greek Catholic Church, then on Passyunk Avenue, the city's first Eastern church, were restless. Unfair treatment by Irish-American bishops, resulting in an unenforced ban on their tradition of married priests (ordaining the married), had caused a schism in their community as Fr. Alexis Toth in Minneapolis departed for their people's cousins, the Russian Orthodox, very small in America but funded by the tsar to convert the "Uniates" to their proper church, that of the empire, of course. Understandable: the proud Ruthenian people had done nothing wrong, according to the church's teachings. They only wanted things to remain as they had been back home in eastern Slovakia for centuries. These newcomers to America worked at hard jobs such as Philadelphia's refineries (gazonja in their language) near the church. They were tough, not suffering slights lightly.

A Ukrainian faction with a priest, St. Michael's Brotherhood, split from the parish six years earlier to form an uncanonical parish, and then split among themselves in 1909, one claque keeping the name and going under the Russians, the other remaining in the church to become Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. Ruthenians, a people but never a nation, and their nearly identical cousins the nationalistic Ukrainians really didn't get along then, so much so the church gave them separate American dioceses in 1924; before that their history in America was the same.

Thus agitated, the parish lay elder, trustees, and congregation read the accounts in the Ruthenian-language press of the Russians winning converts in America. (This way of organizing a parish, like a Congregational or Baptist church, was a hedge against hostile Roman Rite bishops because of Fr. Alexis' experience with the bishop in Minneapolis. But in 1907, Slavic Greek Catholics in America had their own bishop.) "Not only are we not second-class in the church; our rite IS the church! So the Latins are frauds!" Narodnyj holos zovet vas... [Your people's voice is calling you...] For all I know, the priest could have been won over too; it happened. In any event, enough people were sold on the idea and Holy Ghost chose to cross over to the Russian Orthodox Church, which assigned priests there.

This story repeats in Slavic neighborhoods all over the Northeastern United States, in the old Rust Belt of coal mines and steel mills; the people in The Deer Hunter. It's what most American Russian Orthodox are, now in a church called the Orthodox Church in America. But something further happened here. I don't know what. Remorse? A fight with one of the Russian priests? A family feud? Another ethnic battle? Anyway, the people of Holy Ghost changed their minds and one year later returned to the Catholic Church.

Well, at least some of them. For some reason, maybe a little theological ("maybe the Pope is a con artist"), maybe ethnic ("no true Ruthenian will bow to an Irish bishop again"), maybe personal, a group of parishioners decided to remain under the Russians' omophor and decamped, building their own church at 28th and Snyder, just a few block west of what would become Holy Ghost's home at 24th and Wolf. The new church was named Assumption in English, the Falling Asleep of the Most Holy Mother of God in their languages (including the liturgical one, Slavonic).

And so the two communities remained, understandably with little to do with each other, through the Depression, the war, and the damage to the neighborhood as the projects went up and white flight, upward mobility, and simply aging and dying thinned both ranks. As recently as the 1980s, though, the two remained lively. Here, the Ruthenian language and even Slavonic eventually passed into history. Interestingly, unusual for Russian Orthodox parishes, the Ruthenians' unique prostopinije (plainchant) never completely went away at Assumption; it coexisted with Russian music.

By the way, Holy Ghost not only had a church hall but a full-fledged bar and nightclub in it, the Holy Ghost Club, which you didn't have to be a parishioner to join (there was a fee), with live entertainment (music, comedy, and more, like a mini-"Ed Sullivan Show"), in the '40s and '50s until television became big. Cozy Morley did his comedy act there.

Udics is a Hungarian name, as several Ruthenian families have thanks to intermarriage (Slovakia was part of Austria-Hungary before World War I). Fr. John was from Cleveland; a born Orthodox of this ex-Catholic background. His parish, St. Theodosius Cathedral (the church in The Deer Hunter), had Solemn First Communion for 7-year-olds, as the Byzantine Rite traditionally confirms (chrismates) and communes babies; Solemn First Communion really celebrates reaching the age of reason when children start going to Confession. Something the Greek Catholics do now, too, instead of First Communion, as the Holy See has always encouraged them to keep their old ways; the occasion being renamed First Confession on both sides. Anyway, as part of an interesting life, including serving as a priest in Japan for many years, Fr. John became the longtime pastor of Assumption as the neighborhood and parishes declined, which wasn't his fault.

In the church, the Second Vatican Council encouraged our reaching out to our "separated brethren." Nothing wrong with that. And as the generations became more removed from the schisms, in this corner of Philadelphia that became more and more possible. Maybe time as well as grace can heal all wounds.
Ble-e-ess the-e Lo-o-ord, o-o-o-o-o-o my soul...
South Philadelphia, 2008. Puffs of sweet incense smoke rise as Fr. John walks around inside Assumption, shaking the short-chained Byzantine thurible toward the icon-covered walls, jingling its bells, the way many services in the rite begin. It's Saturday night; Vespers. Traditionally, devout Byzantine Rite Christians would go to this and make their Confessions to prepare for Communion at Liturgy (Mass) the next morning. (People only went to Communion a few times a year, if that.) A handful of people come tonight, including a fine older Slavic couple from upstate coal country (they have nothing but good to say about their town's Roman Rite parish priest 50 years ago) and a convert or two. Up in the choir loft, at the massive stand the choirmaster uses on Sunday, the kliros, I sing verses from Psalm 103/104 to start the service, and singing it with me is... Fr. Ed Higgins, the pastor of Holy Ghost. (His mother's family is Ukrainian. Long story.) His parish hasn't had this in a long time so he's free this evening; why not double up at the church that has it? Likewise, the priests from Holy Ghost go to Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood meetings though not as official members. Everything is by the book, respecting both sides' teachings and rules. No intercommunion, no concelebration. The other side's priests don't vest when they are guests. After the service, we all go to the Penrose Diner for dinner, joined by the Italian-American priest from St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church in South Philly. Still estranged? Sure. But we are family in a way Protestants aren't, with our stories of wonder-working saints and relics, for example. We talk the same language.

A bit of ecumenical good news is stories like this aren't all that unusual now.

Of course I'm not proud of my years as a nominal Orthodox but of all the things I did then, I would do this again.

Monday, February 15, 2016

RIP Fr. Athanasy (Mastalski): A tortured but good soul I met along the way


Archimandrite Athanasy [Mastalski] of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery here fell asleep in the Lord on Friday, February 5, 2016. ...
Andrew Mastalski knew he wanted to be a priest when he was 4. So like lots of pious boys then, in American Catholicism's heyday in the 1950s right before Vatican II, for years every day there was the parish's Mass at which Andy learned to serve as an altar boy, in Latin, then after Catholic school in his room there was Andy's Mass, on a dresser turned into a decent folk copy of a baroque altar, statues and all. School was wonderful too; the black-and-white habited Sisters of St. Joseph teaching at St. Hugh's in Lower Northeast Philadelphia loved the devout Polish-Irish boy and he loved them. There was arguably a miracle in his life: he fell from an upper-story window at home, shattering an arm. His mother prayed at a popular shrine of St. Anne (for whom she was named) and the arm healed, against doctors' expectations. So unlike some Philly Catholic guys, Andy kept his love of God and the church as a teenager. His mother worked for the Pauline Fathers’ (from Poland, fleeing the Communists after World War II) shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown; Andy was once well known in Philly's "Polonia" (Polish community). So because of all that, again in a boom time to be an American Catholic, 100% Catholic and 100% American like Jesus is all God and all man, after graduating from Northeast Catholic High School Andy tried his vocation, first with the Franciscans, and then the Marine Corps of the church, the Jesuits. Off to Fordham University and a long formation as is the order's way, staying to become a member of the order, Mr. Andrew Mastalski, S.J.

Back in Philly, this boy enthusiastic about anything to do with God had met some Russian exiles from World War II (fleeing the Communists), getting to know their parish priest, Fr. Eugene Lyzlov, and their wonderful, mystical Byzantine Rite. That memory stayed with him, and interestingly the Jesuits at Fordham had among their specialized ministries one to try to convert the Orthodox by taking their rite and spirituality to heart. There were a few Russian Catholic parishes in big American cities manned by Jesuits. Fordham had a school/working model for this, its Russian Center, led at the time by an English eccentric, Fr. Fyodor Wilcock, who ended up in L.A. as pastor of St. Andrew's Russian Catholic Church. These Russian Catholics took to heart St. Pius X's directive creating that particular church: don't latinize; do exactly what the Orthodox do, "no more, no less, nothing other." At the Russian Center chapel Fr. Fyodor took down an icon of his own order's founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, not because he didn't love the church or the order but because it went against the rite, which controls what is done in church. Among Mr. Mastalski's roommates was the saintly Fr. Walter Ciszek, another Polish-American, free after 20 years in Soviet prisons, and as Fr. Athanasy told me years later, a secret bishop sent behind enemy lines to make sure the Catholic Church survived there. (I've read With God in Russia and have an autographed copy; a relic?) So Mr. Mastalski was on his way to a fine career as a Catholic priest.

Then Vatican II happened. The church's culture and the order in the form that Mr. Mastalski had pledged his life to? "They took it away from me." Was he happy? "Renewed," on fire for the Lord? It gave him a breakdown, clinical depression, which put him in a mental hospital, in the late 1960s, getting electroshocked, and he told me he wasn't the only "religious" in the ward. The council and its aftermath tore him apart.

He left the order, dropped out of college, and, inconceivable only a few years before, left the church. Another casualty, another lost soul, from the era, but at heart he still believed, and "liturgically I was always straight," keeping the Russian Byzantine Rite he had been so meticulously taught. He became a vagante priest, liturgically Russian but "freelance," ordained by minor legend Walter Propheta, and out among the hippies and other burnouts the nice Catholic boy from Northeast Philly tried his best to minister, but pretty soon he realized that was a dead end, which took him to... another dead end where he ended up.

Understandably he next went to Fr. Eugene's church, the little Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, basically an attempt to continue the tsarist church free from Soviet compromise, serving World War II exiles in America and a few other places. He was ordained again and became a monk. I didn't know him in his early ROCOR years but I understand he was understandably mad at the church so he bought into this sect's born-again anti-Catholicism, a mix of old Russian chauvinism (comes with the territory in Orthodoxy) and more recent occult junk these folks took in, as they did fanatical Greeks and Arabs, anti-Catholic, reacting to the Sixties. ROCOR wasn't originally fanatical, just Russian. That's what Fr. Eugene's Philadelphia parish, Our Lady, Joy of All Who Sorrow, was like, and that's where, after serving New Jersey parishes (and teaching in Catholic schools in those areas), living in the Holy Land, and even working in Haiti to try to steal Catholics (he was still mad at the church), Fr. Athanasy stayed for about 15 years as pastor, which is how we met.

My church home was shot out from under me too and I tried to buy into Orthodoxy but my heart wasn't in it. Too proud to give the church another try and besides, locally they'd become Modernist. Fr. Athanasy understood. And by then he'd long mellowed, re-adopting much from his early years. He had Latin Catholic sacramentals in his home (a home he shared with many cats and a dog). I started praying the rosary again as he did. He was almost a Doppelgänger of this fellow. A formation and a fount of knowledge almost like Msgr. Murray, from about the same period. I reconnected with the church, in spirit, at St. Clement's (then Anglo-Papalists: would-be Catholics), with his blessing. So for about 15 years I was in suspended animation, living in a crypto-Catholic bubble with him. He tried to take care of me spiritually, and in a way protected me from the real Orthodox, but down side of course was that my connection with him delayed my return to the church; human respect, a sin. And he was still mad at the church so he'd go back and forth on my suggestion to go back. It wasn't fair to the Orthodox of course; they have the right to enforce their teachings. I was a hypocrite. But God is patient.

Like the English ritualist slum priests of yore, one of Fr. Athanasy's characteristics was charity in the form of generosity, giving money and other support to local bums, for example. They knew they would get a handout from "Fr. Andrew." Eventually that well-meant liberality soured his Russian parishioners on him so one day in late 2011 he suddenly quit and left town. Meanwhile, Joseph Ratzinger had become Pope Benedict XVI, freed the Tridentine Mass, and, huge, reformed the Novus Ordo in English as of the first Sunday in Advent 2011. Three weeks later I went to Christmas Mass and have been back in the Catholic Church ever since. Life is funny: Fr. A made that possible for me and held it back at the same time. He knew Orthodoxy isn't true.

I last saw Fr. A when he happened to be in my neighborhood. A car pulled up to a business and out he went, in civilian clothes. He didn't recognize me at first, then hugged me. "You look like a million bucks!" Told him where I go to church and all he said was, sincerely, "Are you happy?"

St. Tikhon's Seminary and Monastery is part of the Orthodox Church in America, despite its name actually not the Orthodox' biggest jurisdiction here as most American Orthodox are Greek. But it is their canonical church, which doesn't mean anything to us for now but anyway, because they were the first Orthodox here. About 100,000 people, Ruthenians descended from ex-Catholics 100 years ago who think they're Russian; it is the Russian church's official American spinoff. The only reason Fr. A was there was he thought he had nowhere else to go; he told me so. All his schismatic churchmanship over the years ("Russian shenanigans" as he put it) left him with nothing. He didn't even have Social Security. And he wasn't well; I'm surprised he made it to 69. Diabetes, gout, and prostate cancer. The last thing he said to me was he wanted out. "I want to come home" to Philadelphia to die, and maybe he meant coming home to the church too, but that feeling was always strong but ambivalent. The thing was, it being a monastery where he didn't have a phone, and he was one of the old school who didn't use the Internet, it was impossible for me to stay in contact with him. As recently as last week, coincidentally when he died, I was thinking of a way to bring him here to fulfill his wish and God's will.

You don't want to wait too long to try to set things right. "It's later than you think."

The miracle icon of St. Anne? ¿Quién sabe?

My 1953 copy of the Little Office, my office, is from him.

The tragedy in all this is that this good soul from before the council (a living link) died outside the church. I dare say the people in the church who pushed him out, the Modernists, the iconoclasts, have much more to answer to God for. Literally, God knows what is happening to him; all we can do is commend him to God's infinite mercy.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My political preferences in pictures

Arguably contradictory with none of it de fide (it's just opinion, not required Catholic belief).


First: Catholic monarchy, big or small, pursuing peace when possible. Photo example: Charles, the last emperor of Austria-Hungary, only we win this time. The world would have been better off if Germany and her allies won World War I. A monarch is a father to his people, which few if any politicians are.


Second: Gosh-darned nice old Protestant America, with a truly republican (by which I don't necessarily mean the GOP) government and conservative values and norms flourishing but much personal freedom; mind-your-own-business domestic and foreign policy. Not at all militaristic but it can get tough fast to actually defend Americans. Photo example: Ron Paul, for whom I am proud to have voted in the 2008 and 2012 Pennsylvania Republican primaries and for whom I stood out in the rain twice to see in person giving a speech.


Third: El Caudillo. Libertarianism is nice but some countries don't have that tradition (and never will, and that's fine) and need and want a strong hand. Photo examples: Francisco Franco, like the emperor a Catholic gentleman (defender of Christendom), who wanted a Catholic king to succeed him on his death, and Vladimir Putin, KGB badass turned new Constantine of the Christian East. Putin literally saved his people's lives after Boris Yeltsin's gangster rule of Russia in the '90s right after Communism fell, plus the Russians aren't democratic. He has a lot of power, but he's in power because the people want him to be.


Fourth: Second-rate caudillo. Iffy with an establishment liberal track record, without the principles including the faith of a Franco but saying things right now that need saying but no one else dares to. A tough talker who can back it up. A proven track record of business success and personally impressive with a succession of beautiful wives (a confident man who can get and keep such) and lovely children. (This is a political election, not a cause for canonization.) Photo example: Donald Trump, our only realistic shot at this point to "make America great again," bringing back a semblance of the America Ron Paul is from.

In praise of cultural Catholicism

As I like to say, a selling point of Catholicism is we contain many cultures; we're not tied down to one. We are first a shared faith. But the church has shaped those many cultures so there is "cultural Catholicism," the Christian community incarnated and inculturated, adapted to a certain place and time, yet recognizably the same faith. It overlaps with Bad Catholics: lapsed Catholics and those of us who just can't stop sinning but know we are (and things such as Lent are here to remind us). Not the same as heretics, people who are trying to change the faith, or schismatics, people who essentially share our faith but leave or remain outside the church.

There's American Catholicism, Roman Rite and Irish-based with Italian, Spanish, and Slavic infusions. A historical accident is that because of numbers and who got here first, American Catholicism isn't Byzantine and never will be, but I wouldn't mind if it were. Beats the Novus Ordo. My first traditional Mass was Ukrainian.

A catena of quotations too good not to share.
It's understandable why orthodox Catholics deride "cultural Catholicism" but they really shouldn't. In a lot of cases, there's more there than they think.
R. Scott Appleby would praise cultural Catholicism as an example of traditionalism or small-o orthodoxy as opposed to fundamentalism, which is a reaction to Modernism that is itself tainted with modernity, an adaptable (which is not per se bad), modern distortion of the faith trying too to emphasize certain truths so it obscures others. As I like to say, my pre-conciliar Catholicism is a big tent, something that included everybody from mafiosi to Mother Cabrini (Catholic cultures: extreme holiness and extreme evil juxtaposed, spiritual combat's front line, whilst Protestants favor a certain mediocrity, the lukewarmness Jesus condemned), not a micromanaging cult of people who think they're perfect, as critics of Catholic traditionalism accuse us of thinking of ourselves. And in the Christian context, of course the Bible isn't self-interpreting (ever try to read all that sex and violence in the Old Testament?) and nowhere in scriptura does it say sola. Kallistos (Ware) is right that scripture is actually part of big-T Tradition, holy tradition as the Orthodox call it.
Cultural Catholicism is better than no Catholicism.

"Novus Ordoism is not Catholicism." Do you mean the sacraments are invalid or do you mean that Novus Ordoism isn't the same spirit that built Christendom? These are two distinct assertions.
Indeed. It isn't the same spirit that built Christendom. It's a mistake, not heresy. I have no conscience problem with the new Mass in English as reformed by Pope Benedict XVI so I'm not leaving the church. But the old Mass is better. We should have a vernacular option for it; I like the unity of Latin too. Reasons I like Benedict the Great's Mass better than ICEL: the orthodoxy is clearer and it has the same cadence, though not the same idiom, as the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer, my first rite and the symbol, more so than a usable text because it's Protestant, of American Anglo-Catholics' resistance to the Sixties. Like the old Mass it's idiot-proof: in my travels I've fulfilled my Sunday obligation at liberal parishes and, just like before Vatican II, they have to say it right or else. So it's Catholic in spite of them.
"Catholicism is like being alive. Either you are or you are not." We all know tons of Catholics who rarely darken the doorway of a church... And yet they implicitly believe in the power of the sacraments. Without a second thought, the Church is in their life when their basic lack of willingness to live the traditional Catholic lifestyle means she just as well could have been left to the wayside. Call it mere habit if you like, but it's a good habit to have, no?
A naysayer:
Cultural Catholicism is the only compelling aspect of it, realistically. Do you mean to say some people are in the Catholic boat for the... umm... theology? Haha.
The theology? Absolutely! Born Catholics often don't choose their religion, sticking with the one they've been assigned. A few people become Catholic just for marriage's sake but we get real conversions too, from Augustine to Newman to Leonid Feodorov to Dorothy Day to Richard John Neuhaus. We have been handed a theology worth converting to. God the Prime Mover, Jesus the God-man, our holy mother the church giving grace until he comes back, the hope of heaven, the mercy of purgatory, and the justice of hell. Your line is the same as mine about Mormonism. Their theology is indefensible; they don't get intellectual conversions. All of their conversions in the United States are cultural. People are impressed by nice Mormons looking out for each other and, a good thing, want the cultural '50s back. The Mormons keep their people so tied into the Mormon community and so busy that they don't have time to think about the theology. We've been given so much more.
Who says cultural Catholics have no faith? You learn from a religion by more than just books on theology and reciting creeds; it's a life experience.
Vatican II damaged our Catholic culture and in so doing almost killed the church in our country. We didn't need that council to preach to us about "community"; we HAD it and we blew it.
I think it shouldn't be derided, but we shouldn't be complacent with it. "Cultural Catholicism" has kept a lot of souls in the Church. It has a lot more staying power than treating the faith as a set of intellectual principles like most conservative Catholics do.

The most important part is that as we are called to renewal; we are called to far more than a simply cultural way of living the faith.

But I would far more take the cultural expressions of the faith above the overemphasis on the intellect.
Keep the faith, kids.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Uniates' right to be: More on the Pope's and the Patriarch of Moscow's meeting


Nelson Chase, a Ruthenian Catholic, writes:
The big news in the Catholic and Orthodox Church is the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
At least my opinion: I don't believe there is such a thing as the Orthodox Church, spiritually speaking. These are dioceses (local churches) and even particular churches (such as the Russian), sharing a (wonderful traditional) rite and the first few centuries of our doctrine, so there is a small-t Orthodox tradition, but they don't form a whole with any spiritual authority we recognize, even though they retain bishops, the Mass, and the other sacraments. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the local Greek Orthodox metropolis are sisters. The Latin Church and the Russian Orthodox Church are sisters. The Catholic Church by nature has no sisters. Easy to misunderstand, as most Catholics are in the Latin Church.
Sadly, this historic event has brought to light some old prejudices towards Uniates.
Long the reason recent Russian patriarchs gave for not meeting the Pope, understandable given their mirror true-church claim to ours. To them it's as if a Methodist minister put on a chasuble and claimed to have Mass for Mexican immigrants to America, trying to convert them. But it also was an excuse for Soviet atrocities against Uniates, of which the Russian Orthodox Church was a beneficiary. The Russians hate the Ukrainian Catholic Church because 1) they can't own it like they can the Russian Orthodox Church and 2) they believe their Ukrainian close cousins should be in their empire and church and are outraged they are not.
...laud the ideal of Christian unity (much to the displeasure I imagine of certain sectors of Orthodoxy).
Same fear of a sellout some of us have, but not really a problem; the thing is each side of course hopes for the submission of the other. Our doctrine allows nothing less. I'm upfront about that.
...call for the sanctity of life and marriage. It also addresses a new (and frightening) development that of manipulation of human reproduction.
Standard Catholic stuff, good to see, setting this statement apart from the usual bland ecumenicism.

You bring up a point I overlooked, which is significant: the patriarch is perhaps begrudgingly acknowledging the Ukrainian Catholic Church's right to be left in peace, which one may, seeing religious liberty as a relative good. Maybe the Russians are just being diplomatic, recognizing the independent Ukraine (Ukrainian Catholics being a minority there, concentrated in the western part of the country, and very patriotically Ukrainian).

What does "disloyal means" mean? That it's disloyal to become Catholic? That would be unacceptable. While we want to bring these estranged particular churches back all together, of course we accept individual conversions, passively and quietly.

"Ecclesial communities"? Sounds like a mistake. Normally in Vaticanese that refers to Protestant churches, that is, non-churches. Both our own particular churches and dioceses and the Orthodox ones are "churches."

Here I should bring up the dishonorable reason people such as Byz Anti-Cath Dot Org would cheer for this acknowledgment that the Ukrainian Catholic Church has the right to be. They don't really believe in Catholicism. They have the fantasy that Orthodoxy is right but the Uniates are already Orthodox; they want Catholicism to "acknowledge that" by dumping its post-schism definitions of doctrine (of course we can't do that and don't want to) and to walk into Orthodoxy with its clergy already recognized by the Orthodox. They want to just start intercommuning. Religious liberty makes a good cover for this agenda, as does their credal and liturgical conservatism getting conservative Catholics' trust. (Not to be confused with supporting unlatinized forms of Byzantine Catholicism, which is good; also, the latinized forms have the right to exist.)

The Russians aren't returning to the church any time soon but if they're not trying to kill or imprison us, at least that's a start.

By the way, I don't think Msgr. Kirill agreed to meet the Pope because he thought he needed clout in his particular church's power struggle with the Patriarch of Constantinople. Being geopolitically important, in a large empire with nukes, is enough clout.