Recently, HB Metropolitan +Jonah gave a major address at the Acton Institute. It was very well received. Like many speeches, the actual delivery differed from the prepared text. Good orators excel when they speak ex temporare and when +Jonah speaks on something that he feels deeply about, he is most definately a good speaker.
One attendee however, Fr Basil Biberdorf, took exception (here and here) with the variance between the actual speech and the prepared text. I really don’t know why that is. Looking at his website, a case could be made that he has a major axe to grind although I don’t know what it is.
In any case, Fr Basil doesn’t strike me as a theological liberal but the fact remains that by maintaining his antagonistic tone, he unwittingly furthers the agenda of the modernists who wish to make the OCA a pro-homosexualist church, an Eastern-Rite ECUSA so to speak. Politics certainly makes for strange bedfellows.
What follows is a rebuttal of his Fr. Biberdorf’s critique. It is written by John Couretas, who works at the Acton Institute and heard the speech.
By John Couretas
In light of the comments made here by Helga and George about Metropolitan Jonah’s talk at Acton University in Grand Rapids, Mich. (June 14-17), I’d like to offer some clarification. I wouldn’t have thought this necessary but Fr. Basil Biberdorf’s coy investigation into possible “deception” surrounding the publication of the text of the speech has made it an issue.
I am the communications director for the Acton Institute. On June 26, Fr. Basil emailed me and asked if the audio of Metropolitan Jonah’s talk would be made available. I told him that I was planning to publish the text of the speech and video highlights which could be shared easily. In my naiveté, I thought this a better option than publishing an hour-long audio file. Fr. Basil, who attended AU, the next day asked if he could get the “unreleased” recording because “folks would benefit from hearing the audio, as the text doesn’t really communicate it as well.”
I responded on June 30 this way: “ … no plans to produce the audio (and the Met’s talk isn’t the only one). I am hopeful of doing video highlights — once the logjam breaks.” It’s just not a good idea to circulate raw, unproduced audio (or video for that matter).
Apparently my words suspicioned a conspiracy, as evidenced by his blog posts here and here. Fr. Basil wrote that he was “not trying to make the proverbial mountain from a molehill” and then issued five detailed questions — in fine prosecutorial style.
Most of these questions are ridiculous, so I won’t bore Monomakhos readers with a point by point response. Suffice it to say that I posted the text of Metropolitan Jonah’s talk on the Acton blog here and referred to it as a text of his speech. Is it a shock that his actual delivered remarks deviated – in small ways or big ways – from his text? I covered innumerable speeches as a journalist and this was more often the case than not.
Fr. Basil claims that the metropolitan’s speech “barely touches on many of the practical interests of the Acton Institute, its faculty, and the attendees, pro or con. I don’t think the Talk of Record did either, but it was closer.” That’s just absurd. The title of the talk was “Asceticism and the Consumer Society.” It was perfect for the Acton audience.
For the record, there were 75 lectures delivered at AU 2011. We recorded maybe 50 of them. Fifteen have been put online for purchase, including Fr. Michael Butler’s excellent talk on Orthodoxy and Environmentalism. We’ve put one of the four evening plenaries on the digital store, Fr. Robert Sirico’s opening June 14 talk on Christian anthropology. I hope to add more lectures, but right now there are no plans to post the audio, text or transcript for the June 15 plenary featuring business leaders talking about entrepreneurship and business as vocation, or Fr. Robert’s wrap up talk on June 17. Fr. Basil can make whatever he wants of that. The fact of the matter is that we don’t have unlimited capacity to produce conference media, given the other things going on at Acton.
Fr. Basil asks, coyly: “Do I think there’s deception going on? I don’t know … it would be helpful to have what was really said, not the sweetened, condensed version.”
Why would we want to “sweeten” His Beatitude’s talk at Acton University? When he finished, more than 600 people from 70 countries rose as one – business people, Protestant pastors, Catholic priests and nuns, missionaries, students, seminarians – and gave him an extended ovation. How much “sweeter” can it get?
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the full talk and Q&A on the audio link below (you’ll hear some static on the first seven minutes or so, then it clears up):