Comments Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer
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I fear that any attempt to realign the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord with the winter solstice would require stark and disruptive revisions to the ordo. We would have to move the Feast of the Holy Innocents slain by Herod, lest it absurdly fall after the Apodosis of the Nativity. The Feast of the Circumcision would have to be moved (so as to remain on the eighth day from the Nativity), requiring a rewriting of the rubrics for the Feast of St. Basil the Great, with which the Feast of the Circumcision now coincides. The Feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple would likewise have to be moved so as to remain on the 40th day from the Nativity. The Feasts of the Conception and Nativity of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John would have to be moved to as to remain six months from the corresponding feasts of our Lord. A decision would have to be made about Theophany: Would we lengthen the fast-free and prostration-free period following the Nativity, or would we move Theophany and the Synaxis of the Forerunner to preserve what the West calls the “Twelve Days of Christmas”? Is the astronomy important enough to merit all this disruption? Surely a reasonable and charitable approach to the sensitive topic of the calendar–an approach in keeping with Metropolitan Jonah’s inspiring and praiseworthy actions vis-a-vis Mayfield–would be to say that the astronomy is not unimportant, but it is not as important as the peace and coherence of our prayers and the peace in which we are commanded to love each other.
Please forgive me if I have misunderstood or offended you.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On June 7, 2012 @ 1:14 pm
I believe that you are correct in saying that the calendar poses no theological problem. The new calendar does pose some non-transient doxological problems, however. The hymns for the Feast of the Holy Great Martyr and Trophy Bearer George are so inescapably Paschal in character that the Antiochian Archdiocese now transfers the feast to Bright Monday whenever Pascha falls after April 23 (N.S.). The rubrics for the Feast of the 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste explicity call for a Presanctified Liturgy on the eve of the feast if March 9 falls on a Tuesday through Saturday. The new calendar compels us to disregard these rubrics in years when Lent begins after March 9 (which cannot happen on the old calendar). The new calendar also compels us to abandon forever the special liturgical observances pertaining to Kyriopascha. Apropos of Alexander’s remark below, the Fast of the Holy Apostles will be entirely obliterated next year, because the Sunday of All Saints falls on June 30. I don’t write any of this as an apologist for the old calendar, but rather to point out that changing the Menaion observance without changing the Paschalion observance has introduced some real discord and disorder into how the Tradition instructs us to pray. (I’m not advocating a change to the Paschalion, either. The ultimate solution is above my pay grade.)
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On June 6, 2012 @ 12:32 pm
C.S. Lewis once wrote that “courage is not merely one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. Pilate was merciful, until it became risky.” A person who acts rightly despite fear of negative consequences is displaying courage, even if the fear is misplaced. A person who acts wrongly without or despite fear of Divine justice is displaying foolhardiness (cf Psalm 14:1), not courage.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On May 9, 2012 @ 11:22 am
Thank you for informing me of Bishop Anthony’s e-mail policy. I hadn’t heard about it and am grateful for your observation. I share your concern about impediments to communication. Do you know whether His Grace gave any reason for the policy? Is he worried about being hacked? Is he worried about his e-mails to others being inappropriately forwarded? (That happened aplenty during 2009.) Of course, anyone with a scanner can turn snail mail into e-mail, so such a strategy is likely to be of limited utility. Maybe he just doesn’t want his smartphone disturbing his prayers. Any further light that you can shed would be sincerely appreciated.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On April 29, 2012 @ 2:59 pm
Thank you for your kind words. You show me more grace than I deserve. If such a blog would be helpful, it should be launched and administered by someone who has more time and more expertise. I really know only what I had to learn to keep my own nose clean. More fundamentally, however, it seems to me a great failure and even a betrayal of our ecclesiology that such a blog should be necessary. Most parishes have at least one attorney and one accountant among their members. If the body were functioning properly, those members would attend to these needs internally and be respected for their specialized knowledge by clergy and other laity alike. I do think that a seminary course in nonprofit corporation law and tax compliance might be a good idea. In the really long run, apropos of today’s Epistle reading, perhaps we could resuscitate the permanent (paid) diaconate with its own seminary curriculum that would essentially be a master’s degree in parochial administration. Under such an arrangement, it would become normative for a parish to be assigned a permanent paid deacon before being assigned a second permanent priest. These ideas are, of course, far afield from the topic of this thread. Again, I thank you for your supportive comments.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On April 29, 2012 @ 2:51 pm
I sympathize with your frustration. You come from a healthy Antiochian parish. In such parishes within the Diocese of Toledo, by all accounts, Bishop Mark was at his best, and his best was very good. I too am a member of the Antiochian Diocese of Toledo, so I can’t speak to what happened in Dallas. I can try to explain why what happened in Dallas didn’t surprise me. I should probably add that I bear no ill will toward Bishop Mark and never have. I agreed with him on the ecclesiological question that consumed the Archdiocese for more than a year. I welcomed his attempt to impose parochial financial controls and was distressed when Metropolitan Philip overruled him. In spite of all that, I never trusted him. Permit me two anecdotes about him and one that happened to me before Bishop Mark’s consecration that made me wary of his leadership style. None of these had anything to do with his removal. Neither I nor my parish is important enough to cause that much trouble.
I began to worry that Bishop Mark would get in political trouble the first time I heard him preach. That sermon could fairly be summarized as, “Results don’t matter; only faithfulness does.” An ample case could be made along these lines, of course, but he seemed to go out of his way to insult people for working to keep their churches afloat–complete with disparaging references to Arabic dishes. Even if he was right, it probably wasn’t the first thing he ought to have said to people who had kept their church open with the help of fundraisers for six decades. The stories from Dallas reminded me of this episode. The Protestants have a wise saying about parishioners’ opinions of pastors: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
A few years later, Bishop Mark, who did not know me well at all and without any prompting whatsoever from me, struck up a conversation about senior priests in the diocese who did not know how to serve the hierarchical liturgy properly. (I am not a priest.) Again, it doesn’t matter to me whether he was right. I learned a long time ago that anyone who will tell me something that I don’t need to know about other people will tell other people things that they don’t need to know about me. In the secular world, I would have regarded this as a ploy: appearing to take me into his confidence so that I would take him into mine and divulge any information that might be useful to him. Having been obliged to keep some important secrets in my life, I wasn’t nibbling. The controversy over the e-mails in Dallas reminded me of this episode. Again, I bear him no ill will, but I don’t think he can be trusted to keep a confidence.
In one of your earlier posts, you mentioned the parish council workshops. You have attended one and I haven’t, so perhaps I have the wrong idea about them. If so, I welcome your correction. As you have described his presentation, Fr. Atty was half-right: Parish councils are a creature of American nonprofit corporation law without root or warrant in the tradition of Orthodox governance. Depending on the state, however, the law doesn’t just establish councils as figureheads. It vests them with real responsibilities for which the members can be held personally accountable in court. I still have an encyclical from Bishop Mark explicitly repudiating the idea that parish councils are “boards of trustees.” In my state, at least, the legislature disagrees with him. The statute imposes upon trustees a fiduciary duty to the corporation (not to the clergy or to the hierarchy) to administer the affairs of the corporation with “reasonable prudence.” Note: reason and prudence, not faith, not obedience. The promotional material for the Parish Council workshops seemed to recognize no distinction between prudential disagreement and spiritual disobedience. Without such a distinction, a parish council member who sincerely believes that his priest is advocating a course of action or inaction that fails to meet the test of reasonable prudence has only two choices: resign from the council or break the law by acquiescing in an unreasonable or imprudent act.
In a healthy parish, the concerns that I raise above might remain theoretical abstractions. Unhealthy parishes are another matter. The nastiest fight that I ever had with a priest was over sales-tax compliance. I was the parish treasurer at the time, and I insisted upon compliance–not because I was especially virtuous, but because I could have lost my professional license and my livelihood if I had been found to have been willfully complicit in noncompliance. I prevailed, but I had to resort to bare-knuckled tactics to do it. Part of the reason that the priest was so intransigient was that he attended clergy gatherings where other priests told him that they didn’t comply and that I was being unreasonable in insisting on compliance. (I’m not proud of it, but I did feel more than a twinge of schadenfreude when Troy got busted for sales-tax evasion.) So again, Fr. Atty was half-right: the priest is not the parish council’s employee, but he isn’t their boss, either. That priest did not have a right to order me to sign an inaccurate tax return, and my resistance was not spiritual disobedience.
Had my fight taken place a year or so later, it would have been subject to Bishop Mark’s ill-advised reconciliation policy, which he attempted to reimpose in Dallas. In a nutshell, that policy forbade any communication of a complaint from a layperson to the bishop about a priest. All complaints were to be referred to the dean. I understand why he did this in Toledo. The congregationalism in certain quarters of that diocese was profoundly malignant. Nonetheless, anyone with management experience or training will recognize this as an ultimately self-defeating attempt by a policymaker to insulate himself from problems and controversies at the lower levels of his organization. This sort of policy has three predictable effects:
1) It disenfranchises rank-and-file people who have legitimate complaints but respect good order. They are smart enough to know that complaints are kicked downstairs to be buried, not vetted. After my experience of the previous year, I would not have served on a parish council under Bishop Mark’s policy under any circumstances.
2) It incentivizes rank-and-file people who don’t respect good order to go over the policymaker’s head. This, of course, is exactly what the Detroit-area clergy did to Bishop Mark.
3) It makes the policymaker vulnerable to being blindsided by events. In the long run, Bishop Mark’s reconciliation policy amounted to taking the battery out of his smoke detector. It’s probably not surprising that the economic collapse in the Midwest coincided with an uptick in parish embezzlement cases. StephenD, Mr. Michalopulos, and others have rightly praised Bishop Mark for his attempt to impose parochial financial controls, and I agree, but that decree (and its implicit rediscovery that the laity’s fiduciary authority and responsibility with respect to money are important after all) came only after those embezzlement cases had exploded–in some cases onto the pages of secular newspapers. One was in his own cathedral. Had Bishop Mark known his people better–including their personal financial straits–and deigned to listen before there was a crisis to laypeople who know about desigining proper financial controls, might the number and severity of these embezzlements have been reduced? I never had the privilege of meeting Archbishop Dimitri of Thrice Blessed Memory, but from the descriptions of him that I read here, I find it hard to imagine that someone could steal six figures from his cathedral without his detecting something amiss–not because he was a financial genius, but because he knew his flock well enough to know who was hurting and who might be tempted to stray. Bishop Mark was that sort of shepherd to healthy parishes like yours in the Diocese of Toledo, but not to at least some of the unhealthy ones. And it’s the sick who need a Physician.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On April 28, 2012 @ 8:59 pm
I have seen Eastern-rite Catholics and non-Chalcedonians (Egyptians and Ethiopians) receive communion in Antiochian churches, but no other heterodox. I share the view expressed by others on this forum that the canons need to be enforced. I don’t think the problem is getting any worse than it’s been for awhile, however.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On May 1, 2012 @ 9:45 am
Your chronology isn’t quite correct. Bishop Mark issued his directive on parochial financial controls in November of 2009–roughly nine months after the Holy Synod of Antioch issued its first decree stating that the diocesan bishops were auxiliaries and roughly eight months after the Detroit-area clergy issued their “captivity letter.” It is true that Bishop Mark supported those calling for an external audit of the Archdiocese at the Palm Desert convention in July of 2009, but even that took place well after the branch on which he was perched had begun to be sawed off. In other words, Bishop Mark was in trouble long before he started talking about audits, at least publicly. His position on financial controls undoubtedly hastened his demise, however, so perhaps this is a minor point. I agree entirely with you about Troy, which I regard as the most disturbing part of the entire saga.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On April 26, 2012 @ 5:04 pm
Your heartfelt and eloquent questions deserve a better answer than anyone may be able to give, because the apparent answer is political rather than theological or canonical. The condolence letter on the Archdiocesan website refers to Pope Shenouda as both “Thrice-Blessed” and “Pope of Alexandria, and Patriarch of the Seat of St. Mark.” These are such obvious insults to Patriarch Theodoros (to whom the latter two titles canonically belong) and, by extension, to Patriarch Bartholomew, that the slights cannot have been unintentional. Note as well that the condolence letter praises at greater length than any other action Pope Shenouda’s opposition to Egypt’s recognition of Israel. According honor to Pope Shenouda as though he were Orthodox served a jurisdictional political interest. I don’t think there’s any more to it than that.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On March 29, 2012 @ 5:11 pm
Your heartfelt and eloquent question deserves a better answer than anyone can give, because the apparent answer is beneath the question. The condolence letter on the Archdiocesan website refers to Pope Shenouda as both “Thrice Blessed” and “Pope of Alexandria, and Patriarch of the Seat of St. Mark.” These are such obvious insults to Patriarch Theodoros and, by extension, Patriarch Bartholomew, that they cannot have been unintentional. According honor to Pope Shenouda as though he were Orthodox served an ongoing jurisdictional political interest. Sadly, I think there’s no more to it than that.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On March 29, 2012 @ 4:33 pm
Your heartfelt and eloquent question deserves a better answer than anyone can give, because the apparent answer is beneath the question. The genuinely embarrassing condolence letter on the Archdiocesan website, available at , refers to Pope Shenouda as both “Thrice Blessed” and “Pope of Alexandria, and Patriarch of the Seat of St. Mark.” These are such obvious insults to Patriarch Theodoros and, by extension, Patriarch Bartholomew, that they cannot have been unintentional. According honor to Pope Shenouda as though he were Orthodox served an ongoing jurisdictional political interest. Sadly, I think there’s no more to it than that.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On March 29, 2012 @ 4:28 pm
Your eloquent and heartfelt question deserves a better answer than anyone can give, because the apparent answer is beneath your question. The condolence letter on the Archdiocesan website, available at , refers to Pope Shenouda as both “Thrice-Blessed” and “Pope of Alexandria, and Patriarch of the Seat of St. Mark.” These are such obvious insults to Patriarch Theodoros and, by extension, Patriarch Bartholomew, that they cannot have been unintentional. Serving a Trisagion for your parents would not advance anyone’s jockeying for greatness in the Kingdom. Sadly, I think it’s that simple–and that demoralizing.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On March 29, 2012 @ 4:06 pm
The civil-criminal distinction would seem to be a problematic basis on which to found our application of St. Paul’s admonition, for a couple of reasons:
1) The statutes governing quite a number of torts permit plaintiffs to sue for punitive (i.e. non-compensatory) damages. The purported public-policy rationale for such damages is general and specific deterrence. In at least some instances, therefore, the results of civil litigation include a prospective, as well as a retrospective aspect, for the protection of the broader public–the very justification that Fr. Dn. Mitchell offers for filing a criminal complaint against another Christian. I assume that no one would argue that a Christian may sue another Christian for punitive but not for compensatory damages, if such a suit were possible.
2) Most people don’t call the cops out of a dispassionate interest in the future protection of the commonwealth. They call because they want Caesar’s sword to fall upon the perpetrator of a past wrong that they have suffered or witnessed. The inclusion of “victim impact statements” in the sentencing phase of criminal trials constitutes a rather prominent retributive aspect of that process. The purpose of criminal sanctions is thus not exclusively the incapacitation of the criminal vis-a-vis future bad acts, but also to exact some sort of compensation, albeit for the commonwealth. The colloquial expression about ex-cons having “paid their debt to society” illustrates the prevalence of this sentiment.
His Grace introduced a further complication by invoking the example of sexual misconduct. In some cases, (e.g., if the alleged victim is a minor or if the alleged sexual misconduct was non-consensual), reporting to the civil authorities might well be mandatory. If a Christian “calling the cops” on another Christian in a mandatory-reporting case were to constitute a violation of St. Paul’s prohibition on Christians going to law before the unrighteous, the prohibition itself would be in tension with the Scriptural command to obey the civil authorities. Resolving that tension is way above my pay grade.
On the other hand, a “general rule” that Christians “should call the cops on each other for crimes against the commonwealth” strikes me as quite broad. Suppose that a parishioner who is not an officer or trustee of his parish corporation becomes aware that his parish is engaged in some form of tax evasion. (Failure to pay sales taxes on the proceeds from church fundraisers is not exactly unheard of. Neither is paying the “cleaning lady” or the “lawn guy” without a W-2 or even a 1099, especially in smaller parishes.) Asserting that this hypothetical parishioner is morally obliged to contact the IRS or the state revenue department strikes me as a recipe for a great deal of acrimony. More realistically, it is an obligation that would almost always be shirked anyway.
His Grace’s provocative question seems to require something more than the civil-criminal distinction.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On January 31, 2012 @ 12:33 pm
I doubt that Mr. Michalopulos wants us to rehash this history, but it’s worth remembering that Bishop BASIL and, arguably, Bishop ALEXANDER also objected to the dethronement of diocesan bishops, and they didn’t get transferred anywhere. They conducted their part in the controversy circumspectly, and they abode by its resolution.
I would never presume to disagree with Fr. Alexander of Blessed Memory, and I thank you for sharing his wise words. I agree that there must necessarily be controversies within the Church and that we must strive to resolve them according to Truth. On the other hand, there must be a process for the definitive resolution of controversies, and there must be effective punishments for people who wage controversies using weapons that do undue and long-lasting harm to the Church’s ability to fulfill its mission. The alternative is endless and destructive internecine wawrfare. We do well to remember what St. Paul said about the factious. The Antiochian controversy over the standing of diocesan/auxiliary bishops under self-rule was an important debate that we needed to have. It was resolved by the highest authority in the Church of Antioch after a debate of more than a year and a half. It’s over now, and we have a chance to get back to the work that Christ gave us to do. People who lost honorably are warmly welcome to participate fully in that work.
Your point about the difference in governance structures is entirely correct. If the Antiochian Archdiocese had the OCA’s governing structure, we would still be at each other’s throats. Thanks be to God, we aren’t. It’s not an accident that most of the world’s autocephalous Orthodox Churches have ended up with Patriarchal structures. Those arrangements don’t prevent or squelch controversies; they do provide a credible mechanism for resolving them in love and good order.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On January 4, 2012 @ 1:28 pm
Thank you for your kind remarks about my post. I admire Metropolitan JONAH immensely and agree entirely with you about the depth of his grace and personal courage. I am in awe of his humility.
It seems to me, however, that in circumstances such as these, there is a tension between the personal and the official. A bishop is given a staff because sometimes he needs to hit people with it (figuratively speaking) for the good of the flock–as Bishop MATTHIAS did when he removed Mr. Stokoe from the Metropolitan Council, to nearly universal applause on this forum.
He doesn’t always get full credit for it, but Metropolitan PHILIP really does view most issues from a practical pastoral standpoint, as evidenced by his frequent exhortations to priests and seminarians to shepherd their flocks and resist the temptation to retreat into theological abstractions. He views discord in the Church as an obstacle that may cause the little ones who believe to stumble, and he views it as his job to remove the obstacle. Sometimes he removes the obstacle in ways that appear to rely more than I would like on his understanding and less than I would like on the received wisdom of the Church. Such an approach is indeed fraught with temptation to self-will. I suspect that he would view his disregard of canonical precedent in such cases as akin to healing on the Sabbath. Reasonable people may disagree with that.
Consider the situation in the Antiochian Diocese of Toledo. It had been living with some level of discord at least since Bishop DEMETRI’s suspension, if not before. That’s eight and a half years ago. Once it became clear that Bishop MARK was causing or at least permitting synodal deliberations and even privileged legal opinions to be leaked to OCA News, Metropolitan PHILIP had two choices: He could appeal to the Holy Synod of Antioch for a resolution, or he could resign himself to a permanently dysfunctional Eparchial Synod whose members could never trust each other. The latter option promised serious and ever-increasing damage to the work of the Church, as energy got diverted from prayer, evangelism, and charitable work to plots and turf battles. If I were a member of the OCA, the aspect of the current turmoil that I would find most distressing is that there seems to be no prospect of it ending. In the case of the Antiochian Diocese of Toledo, the consecration of Bishop ANTHONY (Michaels) offers hope that the discord can finally end. That’s worth a lot in the fulfillment of the Church’s mission.
In just the past few days, Metropolitan PHILIP has appointed a new Vicar General, a new Protosyngellos, and a new chairman of the Department of Missions and Evangelism, and moved the administration of that department back to headquarters under the supervision of Bishop NICHOLAS. I’m not smart enough or well-connected enough to know the reasons for these moves. I pray that they are all for good. I am grateful, however, that no one is going to spin sinister conspiracy theories about them or start a distracting campaign to undermine them.
I don’t want to leave the impression that I agree with Metropolitan PHILIP about everything. I wish we had more clarity about the “few million dollars.” I wish that he had supported Bishop MARK’s attempt to improve parochial financial controls. The Metropolitan’s handling of Troy bothers me a lot. The fact that Fr. Antypas is still the chaplain of the Order of St. Ignatius seems particularly incongruous. Although I don’t know Fr. Antypas well and he may well have many admirable characteristics, creating an atmosphere of financial integrity within his parish would not seem to be one of them.
Those reservations notwithstanding, however, imagine Metropolitan JONAH with Metropolitan PHILIP’s institutional prerogatives and institutional respect. Would there be more or less harmony in the Church? Would more or fewer people be evangelized? Would more or fewer people be scandalized? Would the OCA have more or less influence on the wider culture? Would more or less money get wasted? Would the normative level of piety throughout the OCA be higher or lower?
Finally, allow me to agree entirely with you that Metropolitan JONAH will not and should not “seize control by force over the OCA.” From this outsider’s perspective, however, it would be a good thing if right-minded clergy and laity were to give it to him.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On January 4, 2012 @ 10:31 am
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While no one can know for certain what will happen after Metropolitan PHILIP reposes, it’s worthy of note that Patriarch IGNATIUS elevated Bishop JOSEPH of Los Angeles to the dignity of Archbishop about ten days ago. It’s worth remembering that Bishop JOSEPH restored peace and order to his diocese after a conflict that some portrayed as convert vs. Arab more than a decade ago. He would seem to be well prepared to hold the Archdiocese together.
It’s probably also worth noting that Metropolitan PHILIP has been proven spectacularly right about almost every major issue that has disturbed American Orthodoxy in the past few years. He was right about the pernicious and poisonous effects of OCA News. He was right about Bishop MARK’s untrustworthiness, particularly with respect to keeping confidences. He was right to be skeptical of the Episcopal Assemblies, wherein he was the OCA’s most forceful advocate. Most sadly, he appears to have been right, at least for the present, about the need for a strong Metropolitan in governing an Orthodox jurisdiction on this continent. While I was inspired by Metropolitan JONAH’s vision of a decentralized model in which Church life is grounded in a real spiritual relationship between the people and their diocesan bishop, subsequent events seem to have revealed that vision to be better suited to a generation more after God’s heart. Metropolitan JONAH’s enemies have shown themselves to be in need of being ruled more firmly, not in need of even more autonomy, which they would surely abuse. No one would ever have forced Metropolitan PHILIP into an unnecessary psychiatric evaluation. I can scarcely imagine what Bishop ANTOUN might have said to anyone who proposed it.
» Posted By Prospective Nomad No Longer On December 20, 2011 @ 3:18 pm