Monday, January 07, 2013

Vietnam, left-libertarians, the church and freedom, and, on Russian Christmas, Orthodoxy

  • Taki on Dien Bien Phu. Communism was a threat vs. Vietnam wasn’t our fight (General MacArthur asked President Johnson to get out).
  • From LRC: Tom Woods on an argument between some feminist left-libertarians and other libertarians. The core libertarian value is nonaggression. Right. That means ‘don’t start fights’. The golden rule, not pacifism. A political big tent in which the socially liberal and the socially conservative such as Burkean ordered-liberty types such as Catholics can all get along. (One of Joshua’s points: if the early, clean-cut, Carl Oglesby SDS, the rednecks and the John Birch Society around 1964 had sat down and talked to each other, they might have all agreed not to get played by the state and the Sixties might have been averted, or as he says, Easy Rider’s a conservative movie.) The anti-bourgeois, anti-all authority (that dumb hippie slogan ‘Question authority’) strain in left-libertarianism is annoying as is the (as far as I know) Randian egotism and selfishness you find. (Apparently you can learn from Rand but don’t buy her ideology; she didn’t like libertarians anyway.) For example when it goes beyond protesting abuse of power by the police and military to being anti-police and anti-military. Back to left-libertarians: Too many “libertarians” confuse legality with morality and non-aggression with non-judgment, concluding that if it's wrong to ban a behavior or action through legislation, it’s also wrong to criticize it or hold any personal viewpoint against it. Sadly, these people completely miss the point of libertarianism and liberty in general and only perpetuate the widely held and highly erroneous stereotypes about the libertarian philosophy... Then, once libertarianism has been made to seem as freakish and anti-bourgeois as possible, these same people turn around and blame the rest of us for why the idea isn’t more popular.
  • Real free Catholicism. Fr C’s disillusioned with the official church. Understandably. Many churchmen, including many trads, are jerks. But as he also notes, just about every attempt to improve on it by starting your own version remains small and/or is short-lived, from the Old Catholics (tiny liberal European denomination in communion with the Episcopalians) to the vagante start-ups Peter Anson wrote about that still pop up. Do-it-yourself church as a principle/doctrine’s a dead end. Some ideas for answers. A hint is from Fr C’s old priest in France, from the real pre-conciliar church; the trad movement’s circumstances — small, understandably defensive, in many places in the military-like Counter-Reformation religious-order mold, which of course isn’t for everyone — make it ‘not what we were’. As I’ve said, the real traditional church was/is a big tent, ‘here comes everybody’, strict in principle as it should be but easygoing in practice. (I understand Orthodox in Greece and Russia are like that too.) We’re not a cult; the church couldn’t micromanage you even if it wanted to, and priests have better things to do. Regarding religious liberty, there’s long been a middle ground between ‘Bring back the King of France!’ and the heresy of indifferentism: pre-conciliar American Catholicism, the church meets the founding fathers and their old republic that stayed out of people’s way in religion. (In America we didn’t need the council; by at least the ’40s we were already accepted without compromising.) Mainliners (the Anglicans I was born into thanks to a marriage conversion a generation back) think I’m reactionary (no women’s ordination; non-homosexualist); some brother trads think I’m liberal/an Americanist. That’s OK. Vatican II was the wrong thing to do but John Courtney Murray was right, as is Fr C that the church flourishes most in freedom.
  • On Russian Christmas: Modestinus’ and the church’s points about Orthodoxy. In the spirit of Charles Coulombe’s fine article I linked to yesterday. As I say, a great thing about being Catholic is they don’t teach you to hate the other tradition. (Granted, many Catholics don’t know about the Orthodox, but educated Catholics never rant online about how the other side’s devotions are spiritual delusion for example.) Its defined doctrine and its practices are true: a form of Catholicism that became estranged, with a grassroots/folk aspect that Western Catholicism partly lost and should relearn, a good nuance to traditionalism. (Going to a Greek Catholic parish’s always one of my options but, knowing what the rite’s supposed to be like, I’d rather go to the Tridentine Mass done right than the Byzantine Liturgy done wrong.) So in that sense corporate reunion’s possible and desirable. That’s why, even with the true-church claim (which both sides have), Modestinus’s right not to tell a born Orthodox with strong family/ethnic ties and a good parish to dump it all and go to the Novus Ordo, my Mass or a weak, latinized Greek Catholic parish. That’s not relativistic. As I say, the church gives born Orthodox the benefit of the doubt. (Of course it accepts individual conversions — and the converts are automatically Greek Catholic — but quietly, and it doesn’t solicit them. Eye on the prize: bring them all in, intact.) That said, the ‘anti-’ spirit (spite Rome, no popery), of schism, that he rightly criticizes and I’ll add the widespread flakeout on contraception (changing to what ’50s mainliners taught and today’s evangelicals teach; I asked Fr Peter Gillquist in person about that and didn’t get a straight answer) refute their claim to be the true church. Trying to spite Rome seems commoner among the few largely ex-Protestant converts who just took that with them; though the nasty converts have obnoxious ethnocentric/imperial writings from the old country to prooftext, that chip on the shoulder is rarer among Greeks and Russians, who have nothing to prove. Their attitude towards Western Catholicism ranges from benign indifference — they’re just happy being Greek or Russian — to the obvious as with the visitors in Modestinus’ sermon anecdote: ‘That’s beautiful! It’s the same’ or ‘That’s so close.’ The schismatic attitude’s out there, historically and now, but I don’t think it’s that widespread. Benefit of the doubt.
  • On that note, the late Fr Serge (Keleher), with whom I once sat and talked about this, from 2001:
    It is entirely true to affirm “that Eastern Orthodoxy is not just a sum of liturgical peculiarities, it is an ancient and large tradition”. That ancient and large tradition is entirely Catholic; there is not and never has been any authentic element of that tradition which is unacceptable to the Catholic Church. Indeed, how could there be? This tradition is based upon the common sources of Scripture and Tradition recognized by East and West: the Holy Scriptures, the decisions of the Seven Councils and the Local Councils recognized by them, the writings of the Holy Fathers, the liturgical books, the monastic teaching and practice ... none of this is alien to Catholicism.

    Consider, for example, iconography: no one would deny that iconography is an essential element in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Neither can anyone deny that throughout the iconoclast persecution, Rome stood firm in support of the Orthodox iconodules in Constantinople, nor can anyone deny that Saint Theodore the Studite, to give only one example, insisted that the East, Emperor and all, had no right to take such a decision without reference to the Bishop of Rome. At the Seventh Council, it was clear that Rome had maintained Orthodoxy and stood with the Martyrs and Confessors.

    If one wants a lighter example, consider Russian liturgical music. I yield to no one in my enjoyment of Russian choral liturgical music. But who does not know that some of the most widely used Russian Orthodox composers learned their expertise in Italy? One of Bortniansky’s best-loved pieces was actually written for the singing of the
    Pange Lingua Gloriosi. Consider the liturgical texts: it is not at all difficult to find texts in the liturgical books published by the Russian Orthodox Church which witness most eloquently to the Roman Primacy.

    Nobody can “copyright” the Christian tradition, just as nobody can claim “exclusive rights” to the Saints.
    [The church: born Orthodox saints from after the split get the benefit of the doubt. Private veneration is fine, and a few Greek Catholics — Melkites and the small, largely born Western, Russian Catholic Church — publicly venerate them.] It is one thing to abuse someone else’s tradition; that is bound to give offense — as, for example, when the League of Militant Atheists staged blasphemous parodies of the divine services, or, on a different level, when well-meaning people in Italy who do not understand the authentic tradition of iconography circulate an outrageous pseudo-icon which, to the eyes of anybody who does understand the tradition of iconography, appears to indicate that the perpetrators must think that Saint Joseph was the natural father of the Child Jesus [the people who produced this disgraceful image almost certainly do not hold to such a heresy, but their ignorance does not altogether excuse them]. But who would possibly claim that Catholics should not be “allowed” to venerate the icons of the Theotokos Odigitria, known to the West as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the Vladimir Theotokos, which has become very well known in recent decades? Who would forbid Catholics to venerate the Icon of the Old Testament Trinity depicted by Saint Andrew Rubliov?
    Христос рождается.


  1. "Communism was a threat vs. Vietnam wasn't our fight (General MacArthur asked President Johnson to get out)."

    As in China and Cuba, incompetent US government meddling in Vietnam probably helped the Communists nearly as much as it hurt them. South Vietnam was basically a lost cause from the moment Kennedy signed off on Cable 243. Diem was unpopular, nepotistic, and authoritarian in the extreme, but so were all of his successors. Diem, however, seems to have had a sense of Communism as a real existential threat to the country as a whole, while the rest seem to have viewed it merely as an impediment to their attempts to feather their own nests. North Vietnam's leadership were both surprised and elated that the US had allowed him to be overthrown. On top of that, the presence of huge numbers of American military personnel in South Vietnam probably destabilized the country even more than anything the Communists could have done. I can't remember the exact statistics I read once, but by the end of the war, what was formerly a predominately rural, rice-exporting country had become a rice-importing country where most of the population lived in close proximity to U.S. military bases.

  2. What's wrong with wanting to "Bring Back the King of France"? I do--and I'm an Episcopalian, not a "rad trad" Catholic (though I have friends who might meet the latter description). And it saddens me that while I dimly recall that your blog used to be sympathetic to royalism, even to the Romanovs, it's been awhile since much of that nature appeared here. For me, no republic can EVER adequately replace a monarchy, the most beautiful and natural form of government, ever, and I suppose my vigorous disagreement with Leo XIII and Pius XI on this point is one reason I'm not Roman Catholic. But I wish you'd acknowledge more often that being a Monarchist does NOT mean that I want to burn heretics at the stake or whatever it is that you think opponents of Americanism (which I despise--I'm a proud Tory and wear black on the Fourth of July) envision. I just find presidential republicanism grossly inferior to monarchy and desperately yearn for the world's tragically abolished monarchies to be restored, no matter how "unrealistic" that appears presently in most cases. Long live the King of France (whether Louis XX or Henri VII), the Empress of Russia, the Habsburg Emperor and all other legitimate monarchs!

    Also, regarding the liturgy and your favorite catchphrase, to an extent I think it IS about Latin since all the best Catholic music was written in Latin. I am proud of the fact that my Episcopal choir sings more Latin than can be heard in most Novus Ordo RC churches, and no one seems to have a problem with it. If most NO RCs don't want the entire mass immediately in Latin, that's perhaps understandable, but if they're opposed to Palestrina, Victoria, Tallis, Byrd, Hassler, Mozart, Bruckner, etc., they're simply wrong and need to be educated and I have no sympathy with that. Smash the guitars and burn the Marty Haugen now!

    All that said I still enjoy checking your blog occasionally. Just had to get those two things off my chest.


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