Tuesday, February 25, 2003

In the Fall 2002 issue of Latin Mass, there appeared a review (of sorts) of the new abridged edition of Vladimir Soloviev’s Russia and the Universal Church (tellingly renamed The Russian Church and the Papacy, reprinted by Scott Hahn’s Catholic Answers group). The review was written by H.W. Crocker III, author most recently of Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church.

From what I’ve seen of the Soloviev (that’s Соловьëв, ‘So-lo-VYOFF’) book, I wasn’t impressed — a flaky philosopher disillusioned with his native Russian Orthodoxy borrowed bad 19th-century Catholic propaganda (not bad because it was Catholic — it was just bad!) to produce what was basically hackwork. Knowledgeable, sound conservative Catholics today wouldn’t use his anti-Orthodox screed. That Hahn does so doesn’t speak well of Catholic Answers.

Crocker writes:

“As Newman might have said, but didn’t, ‘To be deep in history is to realize that the Eastern Orthodox are crazy.’ They are now, they were then, and they always have been.”

Thanks, brother Christian. The irony is men like Crocker get slammed by fellow Catholics the exact same way for pretty much the same reasons he is slamming the Orthodox.

“Wherever you find Eastern Orthodox, there you will find people who live not by the words of Jesus – ‘forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against,’ words admirably embodied by Pope John Paull II – but by the grudge and the ‘narcissism of small differences,’ to use Freud’s apposite phase (sic). In their surly defensiveness, hatred, and envy of the West, the Eastern Orthodox are the Islamicists of the Christian world. The West offers the the hand of friendship, the East responds with intemperance, abuse, and fear.”

To be fair to the East, it doesn’t want the sickness of the West — everything from atheism, secular humanism and the New World Order to guitar Masses in iconoclastic churches. My guess is Crocker has no time for Byzantine Catholics either, unless they’ve been latinized beyond recognition.

“For readers who are dyspeptic, antiquarian, nationalist, cranky, bearded fanatics, it [Solovyev’s book] might even offer inspiration to join the Eastern Orthodox. But if you, like me, yearn for the Sack of Byzantium to become a feast day of the Church, and feel wistful when you muse on that one brief moment when there was a French-speaking Catholic Crusader kingdom there, this book will be a pleasure and confirmation.”

Hmmm... Crocker is saying theft, sacrilege, rape and murder should be commemorated in a church feast day?! (Somewhere I read Pope Innocent III condemned the conduct of the Fourth Crusade.)

Getting back to the main point, it seems to me Crocker is sawing the branch on which he sits. When I hear (and I have had similar things said to my face, and by supposed conservative Catholics like him) or read such things, I wonder if another 19th-century Russian called Vladimir, V. Khomiakov (whom I’ve read at some length), was right that the Catholic Church is only one side of the same coin as Protestantism (liberalism, secularism). (Easy there, Catholics — I’m being rhetorical.) Crocker sounds just like Call to Action types making fun of him. ‘Get rid of all that glittery, smoky old-fashioned stuff (and those stupid, outdated dogmas) and get with the program!’ Is his position only the right wing of the same hideous creature that CTA represents? For all Crocker’s (and the self-satisfied types at Catholic Answers) conservative posturing, are he (they) and Hans Kьng really on the same team? Enquiring minds want to know.

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