Comments Posted By Matthew
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Issue one. Benedict’s resignation is an unmitigated DISASTER for the Catholic Church. It desacralizes and trivializes the office of the bishop. Not that Rome has any reason to pay attention to Syosset, but it could have learned a lesson or two from the recent experience of the OCA. When hierarchs resign – for whatever reason-, or are forced to resign, the inevitable consequence is that the politics that properly takes place behind the veil enters the public view. Factions are emboldened. (“It’s MY church!”; “No, it’s MY church!”; witness the destructive, inane, and shrill discussion on this blog and other websites). Preachers of heresy are unashamed (“There is no ‘litmus test’…”!). Church governance becomes a matter of propaganda. If hierarchical resignation is tolerated, or encouraged, or (God forbid) “theologized” as a real good for the Church, it leads to Mob Rule.
Issue two. Benedict’s rather limited encouragement of pre-Vatican II Catholic ritual has not eradicated the secular mindset from the Catholic Church. Neither has Orthodox conservatism with respect to the liturgy prevented the secular mindset from entering the Orthodox church.
» Posted By Matthew On March 4, 2013 @ 7:35 am
When did the church start having strategic plans? And why does the church need a strategic plan?
» Posted By Matthew On March 4, 2013 @ 12:07 pm
The defendants in such a legal action would almost certainly want to depose the authors of the report and the witnesses identified in the report for their defense. Maybe, then, the specifics about these “personal moral failings” could be made public!
» Posted By Matthew On November 16, 2012 @ 6:42 am
Not that the fact lessen’s the bishop’s culpability in any way, but she was *not* a catechumen at the time the messages were exchanged. In one message she asks if he will commune her.
» Posted By Matthew On November 5, 2012 @ 6:46 am
Karen, Carl, Basil – You are most welcome.
On the point Carl noted from my post — “the need for the renewal of Orthodox thought and tradition in the modern world” as the key area of agreement among the Paris theologians: On this see the work of Kristina Stoeckl, Community After Totalitarianism; you can read part of it online.
Stoeckl argues that while both were concerned for the Church to meet the challenges of secular Western modernity, Florovsky and Lossky maintained the only faithful and fruitful way to do this was to recover the Church’s dogmatic, philosophical, patristic, liturgical and ascetic foundations, whereas Bulgakov saw inward church renewal more as a fruit resulting from the church’s engagement with Western modernity. (Thus also, for instance, Schelling comes in to resolve the unresolved “problems” Bulgakov thinks inherent in patristic tradition regarding the relaton between God and the world and the ground or possiblity of the incarnation). This is an oversimplification to be sure, but it catches a good deal of truth too.
Obviously, these debates are still with us, and even lurk behind the issues reported and debated on this blog. As Florovsky put it, “Theology must begin not with the world but with the Word.” There are always some among us who want to look first at the culture around them and its problems, and demand that the the Word of God and the Church answer those problems within the terms in which they have been put — rather than radically reframing the questions, as divine grace is wont to do. It is the temptation to conflate and confuse, sometimes on principle, the Holy Ghost with the Zeitgeist — the Spirit of God with the spirit of the age, its corporate subjectivity (a la Hegel).
In response to what Basil wrote, however, regarding “creativity”: note that it was not Bulgakov, after all, but Fr Florovsky (of blessed memory) who coined the phrase “theology of repetition,” as a peril to to be avoided. “Creativity” is indeed a key positive emphasis throughout Florovsky’s work, grounded in the conviction that for Christian faith, history is a sphere in which momentous and lasting new things may be accomplished, and also the understanding that every act of human knowledge (theologizing too) is a temporally contingent and fresh act of “interpretation” — which, however, for the Christian must be grounded in repentant obedience to the truth of revelation. Indeed, the tour de force final chapter his magum opus, Ways of Russian Theology , apart from a closing Latin quotation from St Cyprian about the blood of the martyrs, ends with an affirmation that Orthodoxy is not only a tradition, but a “creative act.” Much earlier, in the early 20′s, speaking of culture, he wrote that only by creative free acts can persons maintain the living tradition and patrimony.
His contention, however, would be that such genuine Christian cultural and intellectual creativity — such as we see in the Cappadocian Fathers, for instance — should never be equated with, and does not at all require, the adolescent game of “idiosyncratic innovation,” as you put it. His image for the height of human freedom was the faith-filled obedient “yes” of the Virgin Theotokos, which was no mere submission.The high criterion for theology Florovsky discerned and set forth was that of a creativity exercised in utmost humble obedience (but also discrimination) before the past masters of the tradition, the Holy Fathers, and in utter continuity with them; but again, a creative obedient voice — not just repeating formulas, but reasoning them through, relating the patrimony of the dogmas and patristic theology to present problems. We may call it the creativity of the mature.
An exacting ideal. But if there is anything to be learned from Fr Florovsky here — a lesson he attributed to his hero, St Philaret, and summed up in Philaret’s own motto, “theology reasons” — it is this: an unthinking conservatism is no answer to modernist obsession with innovation; on the contrary, the one is a function of the other, as the first fails to overcome the second. (We may note how old men who have ceased to think do have a way of encouraging rebellious youth in their lust for cheap novelty).
About the Imyaslavie movement — you’re right, Basil; Bulgakov wrote a book inspired by it, The Philosophy of the Name. There is a lot being written on this now, esp. in Russian. It is a complex matter, it seems to me. While it’s true that Florensky and Bulgakov did appeal in this direction for their own (sophiological) purposes, I don’t see the matter perhaps as quite so clear-cut as you seem to, not least of all because the theology employed in the condemnations of the name-worshippers was certainly less than exact in the Orthodoxy of its expression also (even anti-Palamite, if unintentionally so) . But here I confess my knowledge is quite limited.
I hope something makes sense here. Thanks for the interesting and enjoyable exchange.
» Posted By Matthew On October 16, 2012 @ 10:33 pm
Without taking sides here, may I ask: When you all say “Paris School,” whom or what do you have in mind?
Bulgakov? his theology was indeed condemned for concerns similar to those Basil notes re: the “Paris school.” It’s true he did indeed judge and appropriate the tradition by turns according to the criteria of his own sophiological theologoumena (eg see the intro chapter to his book, Lamb of God). However, his own colleagues at St-Serge, while rejecting the condemnations of his thought by ROCOR and Moscow (even Florovsky rejected them as inaccurate, and a political attempt to discredit St-Serge), also thought he needed to clarify certain questionable points, and he was specifically asked not to teach his sophiology after the theological commission was convened regarding his theology in ’35 (he ignored this request, which would have been nearly impossible anyway, as sophiology structured his entire dogmatic system). Yet Bulgakov’s sophiology hardly outlived his death in any even ostensibly Orthodox circles, even at St-Serge (with a couple exceptions — Evdokimov and K. Andronikoff), and it was certainly never promoted St Vladimir’s Seminary (Schmemann described as being almost another religion — see the comments in his journals), nor is it promoted there now by any of the professors presently teaching.
Berdyaev? Here Basil’s criticisms apply thoroughly. But Berdyaev never pretended to be an Orthodox theologian, nor did he teach at St Serge. And it would be a grave mistake to suggest that his thought was ever promoted at SVS — apart maybe from Schmemann’s publication of an essay of his in his volume of Russian religious philosophy.
Zenkovsky? he was a sophiologist of sorts too, and might fit some aspects of Basil’s criticisms, but who actually reads him besides Russian scholars interested in emigre intellectual culture? Apart from one overview of Russian philosophy, none of his works are translated. He has certainly never been a significant influence at SVS.
Florovsky? crucial aspects of his work certainly fit perfectly Carl’s description of the “Paris School”: “to purify Russian Orthodoxy from the corruption by Roman Catholicism that had entered therein. The route was to point to the Scriptures and Early Fathers, not to their own novel ideas.” However, Florovsky was strongly disliked –and “frozen out of the institute” — by his colleagues at St-Serge (the major exception being Bulgakov, who remained a close friend) after his signature on the “minority report” of the theological commission regarding Bulgakov’s theology, which while recommending no ecclesiastical sanction, did reserve strong criticisms for certain errors in Bulgakov’s dogmatics. Cyprian Kern disliked Florovsky so much he tried to stop him from attending faculty meetings after WWII. Florovsky’s works were ignored for decades at St-Serge (though they have certainly corrected that by now, and presently celebrate him). And his own letters from the 70′s express extreme skepticism of the theological scene in “Paris,” and criticism of the work of Nikolai Afanasiev and Paul Evdokimov. Florovsky can hardly be called representative of any “Paris School.” By temperament and principle, he refused to be a member of any “school” or party. In fact, apart from his high opinion of Meyendorff, expressed in private letters, there were few Russian emigre theologians of whom Florovsky was /not/ critical: in a letter to Basil Krivocheine, he even called Lossky, whom he admired but whose thought he criticized as insufficiently Christocentric and insufficiently ecumenical, a “sophiologist topsy-turvy (!).” While Florovsky rejected modernism of every kind and strictly adhered to patristic Tradition, he too accepted (and appealed to the Fathers for) the distinction between “Tradition” and mere “custom,” and he was quite adamant that only a theological renewal could bring about the needed ecclesial renewal — “custom and canons cannot.” And though he served under ROCOR while in Yugoslavia during WWII, he was highly critical of ROCOR in private, whose Metropolitan, Antony Khrapovitsky, he regarded as “theologically modernist” (though politically rightwing), even while Antony praised him as the most Orthodox of modern Russian theologians.
Lossky? He wrote specifically on the problem of “Tradition and Traditions.” He was an open and vociferous public opponent of Bulgakov’s sophiology. He has enjoyed a wide acceptance in diverse circles. He was certainly against erecting academic speculations above Church Tradition. But being a devoted member and supporter of the Moscow Patriarchate, he never taught at St-Serge (which belonged to the Russian Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), and was really a member of no “school.” And his “heirs” include very “conservative” thinkers (J.-C. Larchet) as well as others who could be extremely “liberal” at points (O. Clement).
Karsavin, Afanasiev, Kern, Sophrony, Meyendorff, Schmemann . . . I could go on. My point is only this: I have been studying 20th century Russian theology closely for a decade now, and what I have learned has really made me wonder about the usefulness of this phrase: “the Paris School.” I am tempted to say: there was no such school. What there was was a “scene,” a ferment of thought, which was in fact marked by serious intellectual clashes and debates.
At most, all we can say is that there you had a group of talented Russian emigre thinkers who agreed on the need for the renewal of Orthodox thought and tradition in the modern world, and the need for serious efforts of Christian intellectual and cultural “creativity” (a concept prized equally by Bulgakov, Berdyaev and Florovsky, despite sharp disagreements between them on its foundation and path) towards that end. Beyond this, the disagreements and differences were very significant. The intellectual and ecclesiastical map of this particular patch of church history is very /complex/. So also (though less dramatically so, certainly!) is that of St Vladimir’s Seminary, which has gone through many phrases in his history, and which, while hosting a definite spectrum or vista of perspectives, with certain characteristic agreements and limitations, really cannot be called monolithic as regards the viewpoints of its professors. Perhaps, then, it would be helpful to be more exact on your terms and be clear of whom you speak.
» Posted By Matthew On October 16, 2012 @ 1:44 am
Agree. No more money to the OCA until a full and independent investigation.
» Posted By Matthew On July 23, 2012 @ 6:02 pm
» Posted By Matthew On July 23, 2012 @ 12:22 pm
Agree re: the absolute necessity of such an investigation. The issue though is whether it would be allowed by the synod and/or Syosset. Clearly it would not.
» Posted By Matthew On July 17, 2012 @ 11:59 am
Bravo, Sub-Deacon David.
» Posted By Matthew On July 12, 2012 @ 2:38 pm
We are at the point where the institutions of the OCA must collapse.
Yes indeed George. And the sooner, the better, so we can all get on with the mission of the Church in this country.
» Posted By Matthew On July 12, 2012 @ 12:00 pm
The installation of +Jonah as Bishop of Dallas would be a nice start.
No. Anything less than complete restoration as Metropolitan of the OCA is a compromise and an acceptance of Syosset business-as-usual. If they will not restore him, we need to state very clearly what the consequences are: the money dries up and we leave.
Dear laity of the OCA, it is time to stand up for ourselves.
» Posted By Matthew On July 11, 2012 @ 6:37 pm
Andrew, bingo. Starve them financially. It’s the only way. The sooner the better. If not, well, as you say, it’s 10, 20, 30 more years of the same.
» Posted By Matthew On July 8, 2012 @ 10:29 pm
Orthodox Charades, Anyone?
If I looked at the overall health of the jurisdictions and made a decision based on that, I’d despair.
True, and this is part of the reason why I believe something much larger is afoot. The tectonic plates of Orthodoxy in the US are shifting…
» Posted By Matthew On July 12, 2012 @ 1:26 pm
This is not a sad day but a call to arms. All Orthodox Jursidictions in America better pay attention to what happened and better do it as soon as possible.
» Posted By Matthew On July 12, 2012 @ 1:02 pm
» Posted By Matthew On July 4, 2012 @ 10:36 am
I stand by Fr. Justin’s words as well, and second everything James P. says here. My family and I also experienced it – right in the middle of it – along with our fellow parishioners at SSOC.
What would prompt Vladyka Dmitri to say “It’s as if he has no soul”? Alright. Here’s my list, folks:
1) His attitude of entitlement. From the moment he walked into the cathedral, +Mark’s attitude was “I am the new bishop here. You don’t like it? Go fly a kite, suckas!”
2) His treatment of Fr. John Anderson during Holy Week last year.
And for my family and I, the most egregious offense of the entire affair:
3) His rat-fink stealing of Fr. Joseph Fester’s emails, sending them on to Mark Stokoe, and destroying his career and his place as a priest in the OCA.
I take no pleasure in publicly exposing the sins of anyone, much less a bishop. But +Mark is not fit to lead any diocese, much less the DoS, and people must know. He does not demonstrate the moral qualifications of a bishop. He does not demonstrate the leadership qualifications of a bishop, as a man who is capable of leading others in the spiritual life. He does not demonstrate the marks of spiritual maturity, as a man who has experienced the healing presence of God in his own life.
+Mark was not run out of Dallas. He ran himself out of Dallas.
Your Beatitude, Your Grace, members of the Holy Synod, you are on notice: allowing +Mark to become the bishop of the DoS does not solve your personnel problem. If you were to take this action (rest assured, I count any inaction on your part as a distinct, deliberate action) it would create a whole new and much larger problem in addition to your personnel problem. Deep down, I think you all know this to be the case. So if not for our sake, then at least yours – do the right thing and put this to rest. We’ll find a bishop. It might just take some time.
I said it first when things started going south at the cathedral and I’ll shout it again from the rooftops: better no bishop than the wrong bishop.
» Posted By Matthew On April 27, 2012 @ 8:53 pm
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“I’d rather be bishopless than have a bad bishop.”
» Posted By Matthew On April 26, 2012 @ 9:53 pm