The Prophetic Voice that Cannot be Stilled: Orthodox Speakers at Acton University – 2013 [Audio]

acton-logo-150x150As usual, the Acton Institute is to be commended for their outstanding work. Frs. Jensen, Butler, and Jacobse give me hope that even though our bishops continue to drop the ball, we have resolute priests who actually love this country and are willing to lend their prophetic voice so that the Christian foundations can be restored.


Acton University is a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology, and sound economics. At this year’s event, the following Orthodox speakers were featured.

Three Orthodox speakers presented lectures: Fr. Gregory Jensen, Fr. Michael Butler and Fr. Johannes Jacobse.

Audio courtesy of Ancient Faith Radio.

Audio is available for purchase at the Acton Institute.

Listen here:

East Meets West: Consumerism and Asceticism


Fr. Gregory Jensen


Asceticism is concerned with the “inner transformation of the human person, in his being progressively conformed to Christ.” Understood in this way, asceticism has a foundational role to play in any Christian response to the practical and anthropological challenges of consumerism.

Orthodoxy and Natural Law


Fr. Michael Butler


Eastern Orthodoxy is traditionally viewed as ambivalent about natural law. This lecture considers how natural law thinking might work in distinctly Orthodox ways of thinking about the relationship between faith and reason and its implications of the social order.

Orthodoxy, Church, and State


Fr. Michael Butler


For centuries, the relationship between Orthodox churches and the state with majority-Orthodox countries has been close. This lecture explains the historical and theological background to this relationship, and how it has changed in the modern world.

Why Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Matters

Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse



Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the courageous Russian writer, contributed indispensably to bringing down the Soviet Union. Conventional Western opinion sees his story, too, as ending then. But the conflict of good against evil and truth against lies runs throughout the moral universe, not just the Soviet scene. Moreover, half of his writings are not yet in English. This is the unknown Solzhenitsyn.


  1. Christopher William McAvoy says

    Don’t shoot the messenger. It is well known by some that:

    “Randy Engel, who lives near Pittsburgh, asked the Vatican to investigate how a onetime gay activist (and ex-satanist who performed one of the first socalled “gay marriages”) (Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute) can be ordained a Catholic priest and then maneuver from religious life to at least two dioceses to become the founder of an institute devoted to the advancement of free-market economic theories explicitly condemned by various popes. ”


    “It is far from clear how Fr. Sirico and other Catholic libertarians can justify their attempt to reconcile Catholic tradition with classical liberalism. Do they really believe that the Church’s social teaching and traditon can change so easily as to make obsolete centuries of the papal magisterium? Are they really unaware that such notable Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century who turned their attention to economics, as G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Christopher Dawson and many others, were critics of capitalism? I cannot answer these questions. But what we can know is that the Acton Institute’s promotion of liberalism is not something that can be embraced by an orthodox Catholic. Sirico, like Acton and Döllinger, is not a safe guide but rather a dissenter from the fullness of the Faith, a blind guide who will only lead his followers into a pit. Please God, it will not be into the bottomless pit.”

    Therefore, it behooves us Orthodox to not have anything to do with such an institute which is directly against our faith. We must not be neither left wing or right wing, but independent of all snares of the devil and ways of the world.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Mr McAvoy, I am a fan of Messrs Belloc and Chesterton and am intrigued by their critique of capitalism. I have no essential quarrel with Distributism either. However such an economic scheme can only work in a Christian-influenced society. I’m afraid that this applies to Pope Leo’s XIII concept of the Living Wage as well.

      Quite simply, the only two options available to us at present are free-market capitalism or state-ordered redistribution. State-ordered redistribution is neither equitable nor fair. Moreover, it’s not “not capitalism.” It’s crony capitalism, often enforced by Mao’s dictum that “power comes out of the barrel of a gun.”

      • lexcaritas says

        Christopher, thank you for the information you provided regarding Fr. Robert (Sirico). I hadn’t been aware of it previously. I may admire him now more than I did before.

        Frankly, however, I am not sure why you feel justified in publishing a statement by one Randy Engel apparently intended to detract from Fr. Robert’s character. We have no idea who Mr. Engel is, or why his request for an investigation should bear any particular weight. His consternation (and yours?) at “how a onetime gay activist (and ex-satanist who performed one of the first so-called “gay marriages”) can be ordained a Catholic priest”, is almost self-refuting. Note that it admits that the priest in question to be “a ONETIME gay activist” (not now) and an “EX-satanist” (no longer) who “performED” (38 years ago) several so-called gay “marriages” in the 1972 and 1975.

        Let me ask you and Mr. Engel how a young man complicit in the lynching of Protomartyr Stephen, and who thereafter went about devastating the churches of Judea and lower Syria with warrants to arrest and imprison Christians, found himself chosen and ordained as Apostle to the Gentiles? How have others guilty of heinous crimes been converted and admitted to ordained services as deacons, priests and bishops over the centuries?
        Here from the National Catholic Register is what Fr. Robert said of his past in 2010:

        “I formally left the Roman Catholic Church when I was 13 years old, in the middle of the 1960s. About decade later, when I was still outside the Church, I underwent a process of conversion, initially political, which then led to a religious conversion. I have spoken about this numerous times in various settings. The concomitant development of my thoughts and spiritual life led to the abandonment of the left-wing ideas I held in that period and to my formal return to the Church. From that time some 35 years ago to the present I have faithfully believed in and practiced that faith.”

        Your republishing of Mr. Engel’s insinuation that Fr. Robert dis something sly to “maneuver from religious life . . . to become the founder of an institute devoted to the advancement of free-market economic theories explicitly condemned by various popes” is really not very fair. We don’t know that he “maneuvered” at all, nor is it true that the free market theories he espouses have been “explicitly condemned” by various popes. I suspect that Fr. Robert is also fond of Chesterton and Belloc and doubt that he is any more a fan of capitalism than they were. Capitalism is not synonymous with free enterprise, and I suspect that like Chesterton and Belloc, Sirico would be critical of capitalism as well as socialism because all three stood and stand for freedom and responsibility.

        Finally, your statement that “[t]herefore, it behooves us Orthodox to not have anything to do with such an institute which is directly against our faith” seems a bit of a non sequitur.

        I do agree that we ought to do our best to avoid “all snares of the devil and ways of the world.” Forgive me if I fail to see how the motto of: “connecting good intentions with sound economics,” and the vision of “free market economics within a Judea-Christian moral framework” violate that admonition.


        • George Michalopulos says

          Lex, I too esteem Fr Sirico now. How singularly he stands out when compared to many Orthodox priests (and not a few bishops) who have traveled the other way?

    • John Couretas says

      This is “well known” Mr, McAvoy? You cite a person who pretends to be an “investigative journalist” but this is the same person who never bothered to check her account with Fr. Robert Sirico or give him the basic professional courtesy of allowing him to respond to her “findings.” Not once, ever. No interview, no phone call to the Acton office, nothing. With journalistic skills like that, Randy Engel would be fired after her first day as the lowliest general assignment beat reporter on the most obscure weekly free paper in America.

      Have you bothered to read Fr. Robert’s statement to Michael Sean Winters about this period in Fr. Robert’s life, now some 30+ years ago? Winters thought he had a “scoop.” Please go here and read it:

      I’ll thank you not to advise Orthodox Christians that they shouldn’t “have anything to do with such an institute which is directly against our faith.” You are either willfully ignorant about the work of the Acton Institute or intentionally trying to mislead people about that work.

      And while you’re also speaking for “orthodox Catholics” you are also undoubtedly unaware that almost one-half of last week’s nearly 900 attendees at Acton University were Catholics. I can’t speak for them, but I would be very careful about lumping them in with “dissenters” on matters of Roman Catholic doctrine.

      Did you even listen to the Orthodox lectures posted here? Have you listened to any of the other lectures offered last week by Catholics and Protestants? Start here, please:

    • nit picker says

      Dear Mr. McAvoy,

      I am glad to see that someone else besides myself and Dr. Stankovich also keeps late night vigils.

      2:56 a.m. ? Goodness!!

      Besides being a night owl, you are also a talented musician. Kudos!

      I admit though, I am a little embarassed for you. I mean an intellectual property rights lawyer from North Carolina (look at the page with his bio) doesn’t know to quote a source? Do you imagine that writing “it is well known by some that” removes all liability and responsibility from you? Then ofc there is your non-sequitor reasoning.

      Let’s see I recall seeing similar sloppy writing style and reasoning by another (is it possible – even the same?) inexperienced lawyer somewhere before – where, where – oh yeah! Page 12 items 4 and 5 of this report! So, did you work with one or all of the members of this committee and any of their associates or no?

      Was the STINKBOMB also your baby?

      • nit picker says

        Mr. McAvoy,

        BTW, you wrote “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Interesting choice of words.

        A messenger is sent by some one else. Their task to relay information put into their mouths or their hands by the person that sent them and if instructed by the person that sent them, to wait for a response. Another term used to refer to a messenger is “mouth piece”. A term that came to be applied as slang to lawyers – which you are – incidentally.

        Since you are the one who brought it up, would you mind telling us who sent you and why?

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          I’m a lawyer, too.

          Why do some posters engage in this sort of mean-spiritedness and personal deprecation? It seems endemic to religion-related blogs and message boards; surely a big irony of some kind.

          It’s even more puzzling than annoying….

          • nit picker says

            Mr. Mortiss,

            My posts are not against lawyers or even against the person of Mr. McAvoy.

            My post is a protest against a particular technique being used either directly by Mr. McAvoy or by others through the agent of Mr. McAvoy to distract, sow divison, cast aspersion, create confusion and otherwise divide the body of Christ.

            It is not only an insult to the Church, but unbecoming professionally. Mr. McAvoy may not realize it (but I believe that you and others lawyers do) that a lawyer is required at all times in his public and private life to live according to the highest ethical standards. Not following the law and violating ethical standards may be grounds to get him removed from the bar.

            Spreading misinformation about someone’s history on a public forum is not a game, and ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law, especially for a lawyer. Please take a look at the responses of lexcaritas and of Mr. Couretas above.

            • Aren’t followers of Christ also “required at all times in his public and private life to live according to the highest ethical standards[.]”? Just wonderin’…

              • yes and . . ??

                “so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. “.

              • nit picker says


                Here I am! You have something to say? Say it and I’ll address it – if it indeed appears worth the time. Don’t try posturing with me. I might not hit a woman in real life, but I will run you over with a MAC truck of words. *VROOM* *VROOM*

                Ya’ feelin’ lucky – punk?

  2. BOO HOO BABS says

    Well our favorite purveyor of rewriting history. Ms Varava on Voices from Russia has hit a home run with his latest apology for the Lenin/Stalin years.

    One of the Cabinet said to me:

    Did you notice that His Holiness spoke of “thousands” being killed during the Revolution, Civil War, and the Repressions… not “millions n’ millions n’ millions” as the woollier Whites always bloviate about? Robert Conquest, the academic whore paid by the Ukrainian Nationalists to “prove” the “millions n’ millions n’ millions” dezinformatsiya was outed as basing his “research” on Nazi (surprise!) propaganda… he had to greatly reduce his “statistics”.

    Indeed. One must reduce many of the figures bandied in the West by an order of magnitude. That is, you must chop off a zero from the figures. Mind you, it’s still serious… it’s still horrid. However, it’s not quite as nasty as the righties would have you believe. After all, they DO have an incentive to lie to you. Besides that, the communists DID learn from their errors. In the Nasty Nineties, the commies stood up for the canonical Church, and they defended it with their bodies. Today, most commies are believers, and many believers are commies. In short, there’s much overlap. Are there still atheistic commies? Sure. Are there still militantly atheistic commies? Sure… but they’re no longer in ruling positions.

    There’s another reason why the Westerners and their White/Zapadnik running dogs inflate the number of Soviet victims. They want to prove equivalence between Nazis and commies. That just isn’t so… the Nazis killed more people than the commies did… in a far shorter timeframe. The NKVD killings at Butovo pale into insignificance compared to the record of the Fascist Einsatzgruppen. There was no communist equivalent of Hadamar… reflect on that. People such as Potapov and Artemonov are trying to hide the collusion of certain White factions with the Nazis. Ponder this… those families who willingly served the Nazis, now, serve the West, with equal ardour. It does put a new light on Potapov’s rant about Stalin, doesn’t it? After all, Nazi Germany invaded the USSR… not the other way ‘round.

    Keep a handle on our true history… it’ll keep you from stepping in the juicy fresh cowpats in that there field.

    May I suggest that Babs and his Lenin/Stalin cadre read the book, The Whisperers. It is one of the best, if not the best book about ordinary citizens of the USSR who were caught up in the paranoia of Joseph Stalin.

    Any attempt to sugar coat the Great Terror and its aftermath is a shallow attempt to rewrite the real history of the USSR.

    Babs, you are a lame apologist for a demonic period in the history of Russia. Best you deal with it honestly.

    • Ladder of Divine Ascent says

      Ms Varava on Voices from Russia has hit a home run with his latest apology for the Lenin/Stalin years.

      I’m sure Obama and the Democratic party are thankful to her for all her wise support as well (After all, if you can’t trust those who fund and enable the legalized murder of millions of babies to run your country and its foreign relations, who can you trust?). And who can argue with the results we’re seeing of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and the religion of peace working together, spreading peace, and democracy, and all that stuff? (Like the Babylon the Harlot, the Scarlet Covered Beast, trying to bring peace with your piece [gun, an artillery piece, US slang He was carrying a piece when he was arrested.] to the Middle East.)

      U.S. backed Syrian rebels beheaded a Syrian Orthodox bishop with another man, likely the bishop’s assistant though not yet identified. Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, the brother of Patriarch John, was killed by Islamic fundamentalists who cheered that they killed infidels.Metropolitan Paul Yazigi and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim were kidnapped by Chechen militants in April.A news report is here, the video at the end of story shows the beheading.

      • nit picker says

        Concerning the identity of the individuals beheaded in the video:

        I found this article on under the subheading of the Antiochean Patriarchate:

        For those who don’t read Greek, I have provided a rough English translation here:

        Neither One of the Two Abducted Bishops was Beheaded

        Emilios Polygeni

        In recent days a (rough) video has been going around online, which shows a rasoforos being decapitated by Islamic insurgents.

        Listening carefully to the video it is possible to distinguish words «altemarine» which means Bishop or Bishops and «Alepi» meaning Aleppo.

        According to information obtained by this video has nothing to do with the two abducted Metropolitans.

        The Church News Agency is in contact with officials, who were informed of this sad event.

        In the video Islamist rebels killed and decapitated a syro – jakovite priest and two assistants, since earlier the monastery where they were living ( they were Franciscans) was burned and looted.

        Also information obtained by said Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that the two abducted Metropolitans are alive and continue efforts for their release.

        Finally, the same sources say that the Russian Foreign Ministry said that everyday there are efforts for the release of Bishops. did not publish the hard video for obvious reasons.

    • VOR’s most disturbing report to date: Metropolitan Tikhon drives a Cadillac. It shouldn’t bother me. But it does. Tremendously.

      • Philippa says

        Now it’s a Cadillac. It used to be a Lexus SUV. Is that a step up or a step down?

        • Made in America? 😉

          • He just visited our parish this weekend. His vehicle is an inherited Mercury Mountaineer. Get it right before you slander someone.

            • Emma, tell that to Barbara-Marie Drezhlo, the author of that statement. I stand by my comment that Barbara’s VOR most disturbing report to date was that the OCA’s primate drives a Cadillac.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Nate, your point is well-taken. However I would urge caution when reading Stan the eX-Man. When he’s not certifiably insane (like equating Leninism with Christianity which is an opinion) and he engages in journalism (which is supposed to be factual), he has been known to get more than a few things wrong.

                Of course I have as well. However when called out I correct the record. I also allow open debate (which allows me to correct the record if need be). He just pontificates from his cultural slag heap, the high point of which was The Deer Hunter.

            • Emma, tell that to Barbara-Marie Drezhlo, the author of that statement.

              • Nate, it wasn’t really clear in your first comment what bothered you. That VOR reported that Metropolitan Tikhon drives a Cadillac and that was untrue OR that Metropolitan Tikhon drives a Cadillac.

                I’m sorry for misreading your comment though!

            • I believe the Mercury Mountaineer is a church-owned car, not a personal car. If that’s the case, Tikhon “inherited” the use of the car in the same way he “inherited” the position of Primate.

              The Mercury Mountaineer model is an upscale version of the Ford Explorer, which may explain why this one was mistaken for a Cadillac. Someone who doesn’t know cars very well could have assumed it was an Escalade.

              • The Mercury Mountaineer model is an upscale version of the Ford Explorer, which may explain why this one was mistaken for a Cadillac. Someone who doesn’t know cars very well could have assumed it was an Escalade.

                I’m sorry, but I really don’t buy that. I am a homemaker with three little ones who likes to knit and knows absolutely nothing about cars. I do know how to read and the make and model of the vehicle are clearly marked on the car. The intention of the report that Metropolitan Tikhon drove an Cadillac was meant to make him seem like a lover of luxury and a waster of money. Anyone who has even met the man knows that is not true.

                • Emma, I don’t know one automaker from another, and it is entirely possible to me that someone saw this big, black, nice-looking SUV from a distance (unable to read “Mercury”) and mistook it for a Cadillac.

                  It is also entirely possible that Stan the Man is lying through his teeth, but that doesn’t mean Nate here had the same intention.

      • M. Stankovich says

        Hmm. Vladyka Basil (Radzianko) drove a Cadillac. One of those bad boys with the fins. On more than one occasion, Vladyka entered my Honda before I could warn him… and knocked the klobouk off his head. He said, “These cars were made for small Japanese Orthodox bishops.” The Cadillac was a case where I can guarantee you that the car did not make the man. The car was a gift. Nate B, perhaps you have a right to examine Vladyka Tikhon’s personal belongings as well? Maybe a watch or ring to disturb you? Expensive book in his library? Real leather shoes? Silk drawers? Where would you draw the line? ChristineFevronia asked Syossett, “Where are your balls?” I believe I’ve found them.

  3. David Yentzen says

    Mr McAvoy,
    It is well known by many that Roman Catholicism contains no historically consistent dogma when it comes to putting forth a specific “type” of economics. It is both an appeal to the masses( though a special type) and a straw man argument that you open with. Yes, I know many folks use logical fallacies all the time to convince those unable of clear thinking into the sheep pen. In your first paragraph you imply that simply because someone( a la Fr. Robert Sirico) led in his past an immoral or ethically questionable life that this somehow disallows him from turning his evil ways, seeking salvation, and sharing it with others. First, and indeed, if we all are not able to do this then what exactly is the point of all this Christian business of salvation. Secondly, if past immorality was the sole factor in determining fitness for Christian duty then we would for sure be leaving out a great deal of folks( St. Moses the Black, Blessed Augustine, St Mary of Egypt, and let us not for get the great Christian persecutor Saul – aka, St. Paul, and list could go on, on,on). And at the end, well there you go again with a logical fallacy – appealing to the authority of “various” popes without citing any references. And, besides as an Orthodox Christian I already disregard almost all of the “various” popes being they have fallen away from Orthodoxy. I find the reading of your first paragraph full of logical fallacies, veiled insults, and rather disingenuous given the whole point of the spiritual life is to fall, and get up, and to fall and get up, and to….well you get the message.

    It is not far from clear that Catholic libertarians are able to “reconcile” Catholic tradition with libertarianism. Quite the contrary, I think, in light of demicide( murder by one’s own government – see: ) you and your statist friends have a lot of moral and ethical explaining to do. At least you cite three persons( thank goodness) that you believe were critical of “capitalism”. But are they not actually and more correctly critical of “crony-capitalism”? Or rather as capitalism is as long as we have the state. Against your three, may I list some Catholics who have made significant contributions to the understanding of both libertarianism ( or at least classical liberalism) and free-market economics: Tom Woods, Jeffrey Tucker, Lew Rockwell, Joseph Salerno, Fr. James Shadowsky, Ryan W McMaken, Ralph Raico, Stephan Kinsella.
    Distributism is not about free markets, it is not about non-aggression, it is not about eliminating the crony capitalism of the statism with peace, love, and goodwill. Distributism is a worked over secular version of the Social Justice Theory. It seeks to substitute, no – sneak in through the back-door at night- the murderous power of the state for “community decided fairness”. For a fair treatment and analysis of Distributism see: – by Tom Woods, also see: – also by Woods.

    And lastly when you say “…it behooves us Orthodox to not have anything to do with such an institute which is directly against our faith.”, then who are you? Are you Orthodox – if you are then why do you “appear” to endorse by association a decidedly Roman Catholic influenced socio-economic view( Distributism)? Do you now speak for all of “us” Orthodox? Are you not aware of the noticeable and growing number of Orthodox libertarians/classical liberals? Take whichever one or both if you want – your dystopic statism or your community socialism – aka Distributism and twist your thinking until it is unclear and so fogged up that up is down and murder by one is murder but murder of many by many is good foreign/domestic policy. Just keep it to yourself and don’t assume to speak for “us”. As for me I shall render unto Ceaser what is his……and walk away from him toward non-aggression and private society.

  4. I’m listening to Father Johannes’s talk on Solzhenitsyn.. Comments –

    1. For how to pronounce the writer’s name, see
    2. There was a considerable popular literature on Soviet history and times prior to the publication of the Gulag Archipelago. Here’s the one that led to people buying the three volumes of the Gulag: Note that this was published by the Soviets.
    3. Fr Johannes would also benefit from learning the pronunciation of the country Ukraine: Lot’s of Ukies in American, Canada, and, dare I say it, the Ukraine. Some folks out there find it incredibly painful to hear speakers who don’t take the time or trouble to learn ho0w to pronounce, even vaguely, what they’re talking about. In this regard, it might benefit the good father to read about the
    4. American Orthodox helped participate in the Samizdat where a lot of Solzhenitsyn works were republished.. See which has a discussion on Solzhenitsyn and this publishing genre. We here in America used to get news of the underground Church through Samizdat publications and several universities as well as many churches participated in helping the Samizdat.
    5. Consider the novel and film
    6. Fr. Johannes might benefit from reading
    7. Levy and post modernism, especially socialist realism (none of these deserve capitalization) are irrelevant to any discussion of this author. So is Ronald Reagan.

    Think I’ll stop numbering. Although Solzhenitsyn was one powerful voice against communism, there were others just as active and brave, so the thesis that he brought down the Soviet Union with a 3 volume historic compilation that Fr. Johannes can’t pronounce, see

    Also see, in terms of Solzhenitsyn own attitude towards communism

    Lastly, it’s true that not all of Solzhenitsyn is translated. By % translated, a greater travesty, my opinion, is the lack of translation of Saint Nectarios of Aegina because in terms of value to Orthodoxy, we need St. Nektarios in English to help our Church. I won’t go into Solzhenitsyn anti-Semitic works but you might wish to read this interview

    If anyone is interested, there is a world class discussion group on Solzhenitsyn run by one of his translators and a fellow devout Orthodox Christian, long time Russian literature professor at Vassar, Alexis Klimoff here You can read the group without joining.

    OK, the talk goes on for 40.35 minutes so far and now I have to tolerate how Samizdat is pronounced. Is the Acton Institute full of such ignoramuses that’s it’s just not necessary to prepare one’s talk? ( OK, trying to get courage to stomach this to get to whatever this Fr has to say) OK, I’m getting around to looking Fr. Johannes up. He was born in Holland and makes a deal of that. He’s a convert. When? OMG, he’s made Solzhenitsyn one of his regular topics according to,

    OK, to help him out, pronunciation guide in American English –
    Sole (as in the fish)
    zhe (can’t think of an English word, just listen to the second syllable of any Slavonic recording of the Cherubimic Hymn)
    neat (as in tidy)
    sin (as in what I’m doing right now in letting the good father know how bad his lack of desire to pronouce might be)

    Put em all together, whaddaya got?

    • Gulag in American English:

      Goo (as in the sticky stuff)

      la (as in what follows do re mi fa so …)

      G (hard G, good without the ood)

      Gulag is short for Glavnoye Upravleniye ispravitelno-trudovyh Lagerey or Head Administration of Corrective Labor Camps.

      Movie, with English subtitles:

      part 1:

      part 2:

      part 3:

      Middle School teaching unit on the Gulag, for you home schoolers out there:

      • William Harrington says

        Every language finds or creates its own pronunciation of other language’s words. There is nothing new or unusual about that. Deal with it and move on.

    • Chris Banescu says

      That’s all you’ve got, a lesson on pronunciation and a lot of finger wagging? No real substance as far as the eye can see.

      Far from being a reasoned and substantive criticism of Fr. Hans’ comments, your condescending rant is an implicit admission that his observations and conclusions are spot on.

      Instead of insulting Fr. Hans you’ve actually paid him a great compliment.

      • The dear Rev Johannes is to be commended for bringing the subject matter to the folks at the Acton Institute. But, it’s like the emperor’s clothes. No one mentions the lack of them until a child, someone who bears him no ill and approaches him with no guile speaks. I’ve never met him and have enjoyed some of his postings here on this Monomakhos blog. I wish him all the success possible, and yet his pronunciation of an incredible lot of terms was incredibly embarrassing, even painful, to listen to and that pain is extended through a very very long talk. I hope that the next time he gives a talk on the subject, he has been able to find a local Russian or Ukrainian to help him prior to the event.

        The subjects, Solzhenitsyn and his work, the Gulag Archipelago, are dear ones to me and others.

        Please enjoy the English subtitled documentary in three parts that I posted. The narrative is memories of survivors of the Gulag. If you home school or otherwise teach, enjoy the lessons partly paid by our tax dollars to educate Americans on the topic that I also posted.

        Father Johannes regularly teaches a course on the topic of this video which I found by going to the website of this Acton Institute think tank of which he is a part. Time spent learning pronunciation of his subject matter could only be to his benefit.

    • George Michalopulos says


      Your criticisms of Fr Hans’ diction is small-minded. You completely miss the forest for the trees. Jacobse hit the nail right on the head: Solzhenitsyn will be remembered as one of the few towering intellects and giants of the 20th century. No doubt others contributed in their own small way to the demise of Satanic Bolshevism but it was Solzhenitsyn who directly inspired Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Karol Cardinal Woytila. Bernard Henri-Levi may be peripheral (but not inconsequential) to this discussion but in no wise is Reagan. It was he who as Commander-in-Chief pushed the Soviet Union off the cliff without firing a shot. No small task that.

      As for the baseless accusation that Solzhenitsyn published “anti-Semitic works,” if you mean 200 Years Together, this accusation was refuted by Dmitri Simes (a Russian Jew) as well as other sober-minded Jewish intellectuals (as opposed to screech owls who worship at the altar of perpetual victimology). That this historical work has yet to be published in English is a stain on our fine publishing houses.

      Yes, I’d love for the entire corpus of St Nektarios to be published in English. One wonders why the GOA or Holy Cross has not seen to it. Is it because of inertia, lack of resources, or the possibility that the great saint’s views on a variety of issues are incompatible with the current times?

  5. John Couretas says

    Crude and contemptible remarks about Fr. Hans, a good and faithful priest and one of the best observers of American culture that the Orthodox have today. Of course all of this is delivered anonymously. How … gutless. What condescension … And these witless pointers on how to pronounce Ukrainian words.

    The point of Fr. Hans’ lecture was Solzhenitsyn’s essays and the writer’s critique of Western culture. This mish-mash of wiki links doesn’t get us anywhere near that.

    I’ve had the great good fortune, and privilege, to get to know Ed Ericson and Dan Mahoney, two of the world’s leading Solzhenitsyn scholars. They actually knew and worked with the great man and his family. Ericson and Mahoney are also good friends of the Acton Institute. I shudder to think what these brilliant men and first-rate scholars would think of the remarks leveled here against Fr. Hans.

    Monomakhos reader may be interested in this:

    Book Discussion on The Solzhenitsyn Reader
    C-SPAN, Nov 3, 2006

    A reception was held to launch a new book, The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005, published by Intercollegiate Studies Institute Books.This collection contains in one volume a representative selection of Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s works. More than one-quarter of the material had never before appeared in English.The author’s sons Ignat and Stephan Solzhenitsyn prepared many of the new translations themselves. Edward Ericson and Daniel Mahoney edited the book. They talked about Solzhenitsyn’s work and his influence in the world over the past fifty years. They also talked about Solzhenitsyn’s writings from the book, arguing that Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s work is largely misrepresented in the United States, and discussed what Russia is like today. They also responded to audience members’ questions.

    This may also be of interest:

    Religion & Liberty: An Interview with Solzhenitsyn scholar Edward E. Ericson Jr.

    • Thank you for the book promotion video. Both professors can pronounced the basic terms. Please listen at the 21 minute point for what Professor Ericson has to say. It is wonderful to hear Ignat and Stefan Solzhenitsyn on the video, especially the recitation of one of their father’s poems.

      Here is another poem, which was recited at his funeral

      When, oh when did I scatter so madly
      All the goodness, the God-given grains?
      Was my youth not spent with those who gladly
      Sang to You in the glow of Your shrines?

      Bookish wisdom, though, sparkled and beckoned,
      And it rushed through my arrogant mind,
      The world’s mysteries seemed within reckon,
      My life’s lot like warm wax in the hand.

      My blood seethed, and it spilled and it trickled,
      Gleamed ahead with a multihued trace,
      Without clamor there quietly crumbled
      In my breast the great building of faith.

      Then I passed betwixt being and dying,
      I fell off and now cling to the edge,
      And I gaze back with gratitude, trembling,
      On the meaningless life I have led.

      Not my reason, nor will, nor desire
      Blazed the twists and the turns of its road,
      It was purpose-from-High’s steady fire
      Not made plain to me till afterward.

      Now regaining the measure that’s true,
      Having drawn with it water of being,
      Oh great God! I believe now anew!
      Though denied, You were always with me…

      [“Akathistos”, As translated by Ignat Solzhenitsyn in The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings 1947-2005. Edward E. Ericson and Daniel J. Mahoney, ed. (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2006), 211952]

      Since your link features two of Aleksandr Isayevich’s sons, you might be interested in hearing from their older brother, born 1970, Ermolay.

      Among the three brothers, he could arguably be considered the most entrepreneurial

  6. I enjoyed the talk on Solzhenitsyn, but the speaker made the statement to the effect that materialism is imposed by the state. While this is an appealing idea, especially if people are looking for a repeat of the USSR (thus the current paranoia and fear of Obama’s so called socialism), it is a misunderstanding that causes real blindness to the fact that materialism comes from the grass roots too. Therefore when one juxtaposses free market capitalism to socialism as somehow inherently more moral is a joke or, I will be so bold as to use the speakers words, a lie.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Dan, while our sinfulness certainly poisons any economic system, capitalism and socialism are not equivalent. Socialism is a zero sum postulate that is antithetical to human freedom. Capitalism that has not become fascist like ours has (the market is NOT free) is not a zero sum game and allows for the exercise and development human freedom and creativity in ways that are not even thinkable in any other economic system. The problem with distributionism is that it too is a zero sum game.

      Many people are not comfortable with either freedom or the concept that THEY can create a heir own wealth through ethical cooperation with others without taking anything from anybody else. In fact they will increase the supply for everybody else with more to give away.

      I know of no other economics that allow for that, and in fact require it. Those who want to control and rrestrict the market beyond simple fairness and openness do so out of greed, lust of power and fear of other people’s freedom.

      You are ingaging in a drastic reductionism that in and of itself makes your position false.

      • At it’s core Capitalism is nothing but an economic theory and separate from the Gospel. You can find aspects which are compatible, just like Socialism, but it will never lead to salvation. I could make similar arguments that Socialism looks after one’s neighbor as opposed to Capitalism which is founded on greed. Essentially you are implying that I am arguing a sort of Nihilism and that is not the case.

        Furthermore there is this repeated talk of freedom. Do you really know what your are saying? Freedom also means the freedom to not choose God. The freedom to oppress. Freedom, as a political concept, is good to a point but then it becomes a free for all. Fr. Seraphim Rose, and the Church Fathers before him, talked about the middle way. It’s not the middle way as a political ideology but rather not being caught up with worldly philosphies that counterfeit the Gospel. You are also quantifying your statement by basically admitting Capitalism in this society is essentially broken. That should be the first clue that it’s a human construct and not according to the Gospel.

        Solzennitsen makes a very good point that the root of the evil in the USSR is materialism. He also states the West shares this sickness. The Capitalist West because in reality Capitalism, as an Ideology, has Materialsim at it’s core.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Freedom does indeed mean the freedom to not choose God which is exactly the freedom God gives us. At least He has always given that freedom me as He continued to show me His way.

          Interesting that on another blog when I raised some questions about capitalism I was accused of similar excesses in the opposite direction.

          You are reading my remarks through your own bias and making accusations that I support ideas I do not.

          Of course, economics is outside the gospel; of course economics does not bring salvation but that is true of all forms of economics. Greed, lust of power and selfishness poison all economies. No form of economics will cure that spiritual problem by force or any other way. It seems you would like it if greed was punished. That is not economics, it is a moral and spiritual proscription.

          Who does socialism help, really help not just theoretically help and how does it deliver that help?

          Do you know the principles of socialism, fascism and communism?

          My support of capitalism is highly qualified and if you read what I wrote with more of an open mind, you’d understand that. At the bottom of most anti-capitslism is neither knowledge of economics or any clear alternative, just sentimentality and envy.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Dan, all forms of economics are out of the purview of the Gospel. So is particle physics, road construction, and animal husbandry. Greed is a part of all human conditions, not just the free market. Greed was rampant in the Soviet bloc. In free market economies greed is channeled for the greater good. The closest any society comes to a “win-win-win” is in a free market society.

          As for materialism being the “core” of the free market, I would not disagree with you. However I would say that there is another ideology that is even more materialistic, and that is modern secularism which is based on Darwinism.

        • John Couretas says

          Capitalism, or the free market, or the market economy, is not a “theory.” It’s better understood as a culture. And it’s the culture that has made this country great and has drawn millions of immigrants from all over the world, Orthodox included. Our economic freedoms are intertwined with our political liberties and are not separable. They work together in the culture. Now you may object to that culture, and apparently many Orthodox Christians now find all of this economic freedom distasteful, but you can’t dismiss it as a “theory.”

          Socialism is not a theory either. We have concrete experience with it, and not just in the epic failures of totalitarian Russia and Eastern Europe. Look at the implosion of “social democracy” or the EU’s social model today. Youth unemployment in some countries, including Greece, is topping 50 percent or 60 percent. This just in: “Eurostat figures released this morning show that eurozone unemployment rose by 67,000 to hit a record-high 19.2 million (12.1%) in May 2013.”

          Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.

          Read Novak.

          Michael Novak on “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism”


          • George Michalopulos says

            John, you’re right: people forget that the “market” exists in all societies, whether it be Devil’s Island (read Papillon), North Korea, or Switzerland. It’s whether it’s “free” or not. Because of the strictures placed on people by the Medieval Church, as well as the normal cultural mores of many of the various European nations from the ancient Greeks to the Teutonic tribes that Rome had to contend with (i.e. a healthy dose of self-regulation, individualism, and rough equality), cultures based on the rule of law arose. The rule of law made it possible for markets to flourish –relatively speaking. (There were always famines and droughts.)

            The Founding Fathers of the US drew on their ancient patrimony as Anglo-Saxons whose freedom was abrogated to an extent by the feudalism imposed on them through the Norman Conquest. Even under feudalism, Europe was growing in importance to the older, Eastern empires.

            • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              Of course, it all depends on how we define the words, but capitalism is best defined as a system of indebtedness that enables the pooling of capital for investment purposes. By that definition, capitalism is morally neutral but, as with any power, also morally hazardous. Unfortunately, defenses of the system tend to ignore its moral hazards, just as defenses of beneficent government (i.e., “socialism”) tend to ignore the moral hazards of spending and investment decided politically and backed by force.

              For a critique of capitalism from an Orthodox Christian perspective, see these two articles on “Debt and Sovereignty” and “The Moral Hazards of Modern Banking.” See also the chapter on “Banking and the Modest Republic” in this book.

              • George Michalopulos says

                I too am concerned about indebtedness. Some debt I suppose is necessary (I don’t know anybody who can plop down $200K for a house) but with credit cards, car purchases, Ponzi schemes, unfunded mandates, and overall deficit spending, we’ve way overdone it. That’s why I fear a complete collapse.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            Capitalism or the free market system can also become oppressive if too much power in held by too few people. For capitalism to work, there must be competition and monopolies must be prevented, by law if necessary. In any economic system if one group has too much power, the system will not work for the people. We are swiftly moving to a system that is not really free market, but gives too much power to unions, big corporations and government bureaucrats. For example, we should not allow any bank or corporation to become “too big to fail,” but must insure competition. Once all power over the telephone system was held by one company. When I was a child you could not even own your own telephone, but had to rent it from AT&T. Because AT&T had a monopoly telephone service was expensive, especially long distance calls. Now after the break up of At&T and competition, the cost of telephone service has plunged. It is folly to believe that government bureaucrats will always work for the interest of the people. Instead, bureaucracy tends to work in its own interests and becomes as oppressive as any medieval robber baron. That is what is wrong with Obama’s ideology. He believes that the government should control our lives, because he is really an elitist serving elitists who believe that they know better than the common man what is best for them. If you do not believe me, just wait until Obama Care takes full power over our medical system. From its beginnings in the late 19th century Progressivism never advocated power for the people, but power for the self-proclaimed experts, who think that they know better than we do what is in our best interests. Witness the mayor of New York telling people what size soft drinks they can buy.

            • geo michalopulos says

              Fr, your critique is spot on re monopolies. I would expand it to oligopolies however, especially those that are unencumbered by anti-trust legislation. I’m talking about “non-profits” here. One of the most ingenious ways that the monopolists of old were able to continue shielding their wealth and influence government (to their benefit of course) was through the creation of Foundations and Endowments.

              It was Rockefeller money that created the National Council of Churches. Other elites helped erect racial grievance committees like La Raza and NAACP, Christian-hating groups like the ACLU, the ADL, and the SPLC, family-destroying groups like NOW and Planned Parenthood, and so on. Their influence has been not only malign but effective.

              • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                I think that a topic that will generate a lot of doctoral dissertations in the future will be how a small number of at most 5% of the population has been able to gain such power over our culture. I mean the gays. It was not that long ago when anyone advocating same sex marriage would have been considered a kook. Now, the movement for same sex marriages has swept the nation, including most of the old mainline Protestant denominations. This has been one of the swiftest and most radical cultural shifts in history.

  7. John Couretas says

    Distributism: Convivium, published by Cardus in Canada, has a very good critique by John Robson in the current issue. It’s behind a paywall, so you’ll have to buy the issue to read it. But here’s an excerpt.

    “Let Free Markets Distribute” by John Robson, Convivium
    G.K. Chesterton was right about almost everything, John Robson argues, except economics, which he got horribly, horribly wrong.


    Rather than analyzing economics, [distributism] simply posits the imaginary defects of laissez-faire as a premise, then vaguely recommends steering between this imagined Scylla of free markets and the very real Charybdis of socialism. Had he instead gotten after the fundamentals in this area, as he did with such remarkable clarity in so many others, Chesterton would have seen that free markets were the solution he was seeking, not the problem he was fighting.

    Chesterton shared the common view that capitalism tended to concentrate wealth and property in a few hands. He also apparently thought those hands were fairly grubby, but that wasn’t his big objection. He felt that by concentrating property in a few hands, capitalism took it out of most hands, making a good society impossible even if the rich were, individually, fine people.

    In 1925 he wrote, “It is all very well to repeat distractedly, ‘What are we coming to, with all this Bolshevism?’ It is equally relevant to add, ‘What are we coming to, even without Bolshevism?’ The obvious answer is – Monopoly. It is certainly not private enterprise.”

    Likewise in The Servile State, Chesterton’s close friend Hilaire Belloc contrasted the Middle Ages, where “the determinant mass of families were owners of capital and of land,” with “the dreadful moral anarchy… which goes by the name of Capitalism” in modern England, where “at least one-third is indigent… nineteen-twentieths are dispossessed of capital and of land, and… the whole industry and national life is controlled upon its economic side by a few chance directors of millions, a few masters of unsocial and irresponsible monopolies.”

    I defy him to name them. Or explain why, a hundred years on, there is still a lively competition in every market from computers to coffee and cars, and the populace is overweight rather than hungry. After all, the other pointed criticisms the Chesterbelloc made of modern trends from politics to family life have generally come true. Not this one.

    Also see:

    Beyond Distributism, the Acton monograph by Thomas E. Woods.

    A commentary by Woods based on the monograph:

    The arguments offered in defense of this system, while perhaps superficially plausible, turn out to be based on logical and economic fallacies, as well as on a serious misreading of European history. Distributists blame widespread indebtedness on the free market instead of on central banks (which are creations of government) that make credit artificially cheap and thus all the more tempting–an abuse whose effects the global financial system is now suffering. The medieval economy that distributism holds up as a model bears little resemblance to that which professional historians and economists have come to understand. Neither land ownership nor ownership of the means of production was widely dispersed under the feudal system. Even urban workers outside traditional feudal bonds often did not own the means of production. Peasants labored exhausting hours and barely made ends meet even with all members of their families working. The guild system, far from being a liberating force, was actually the source of true monopoly and exploitation.

    Advocates contend that distributism is a superior form of economic organization and is required by Catholic social teaching. Neither claim is true.

    • ChristineFevronia says

      Who is John Galt?


      • M. Stankovich says

        Brava, ChristineFevronia! Brava!

        • ChristineFevronia says

          Michael, a respectful curtsey to you! I hope you are well. I’ve been enjoying reading your posts and appreciate your perspective. Speaking of literary references, I took you up on your invitation to read your “Should We Fear the Werther Effect?” essay. It brought me back to the three days I spent in bed sobbing my heart out after turning the last page of “The Sorrows of Young Werther”. Nothing’s come close to having that near-Werther-effect on me, except perhaps Knut Hamsun’s “Pan”. But anyways, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your continued effort to engage in true, genuine intellectual discussion regarding the topics that affect our faith. I appreciated your essay and your conclusion. Shocks will come, but the Church will remain strong. This past year has taught me that.

          Raising a glass of syrah to Ayn Rand and The Chancellor’s Friend,

      • Kentigern Siewers says

        Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

        Fyi (it may take a a moment to notice the bit of a connection here, but it proves I guess that you can find many things on Orthodox Wiki :-))

        Please pray for me a sinner,


        • M. Stankovich says

          Prof. Siewers,

          True to your word, it took a moment, but the reward was worth it. She could have been a touch more grateful. What could it have cost? But I had never heard of the “Fabian Socialists” (and the Wikipedians apparently never heard of Lossky), and it was an interesting discovery none the less. There are days when, obsessively clicking the hyperlinks, I panic that there is simply not enough time left to learn… Then I click one too many… Gratzi.

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          It is an interesting bit, indeed.

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          Ditto to Tim. R. Mortiss’ comment, Kentigern. Very (very!) interesting. (I’ve argued privately that the internal workings of each American jurisdiction resemble more of a soft socialism than anything else.)

          Also interesting was your comment “libertarian quietude” a bit upstream. I’ve been pushing that door open a bit and it appears a vast panorama may be hiding behind it.

          Soft socialism + American cultural ethos = Libertarian Quietude?

          An exception to this may be the GOA as it moves towards a hard socialism caused by its increasing centralization under Constantinople. This movement will demand no creative engagement with American culture although we will continue to see comment on the boutique issues of course (boutique issues impose no cultural penalties).

  8. M. Stankovich says

    I must agree with er… that Fr. Han’s impression of Solzhenitsyn role in the collapse of the Soviet Union borders on fable – matched with Ronald Regan and John Paul II – and is a serious disservice to the longsuffering Church of Russia and to the memory of the Holy New Martyrs. As er… notes, there were countless brave individuals internationally who aided and abetted samizdat activity by funding, transporting, publishing, disseminating, and influencing its success. You cannot overlook the YMCA in Paris; clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church in the US, for example, traveling on “official business” to the Soviet Union would secure diplomatic seals for their luggage, transporting information in and out of the the country without inspection; Orthodox church groups on “tours” frequently carried in religious materials for “personal use”; and VOA and Radio Free Europe continuously broadcast religious programming (in fact, Solzhenitsyn told the NY Times prior to his expulsion that the first person he wanted to meet in the West was “Fr. Alexander” from the VOA – not know it was Alexander Schmemann).

    In the weeks leading to Solzhenitsyn’s expulsion, the anxiety at SVS was palpable as a significant number of Russian émigrés from NYC came to attend services, apparently believing Fr. Alexander and several recent émigré students had more information than the press – which may have been true. It is ironic that Fr. Schmemann’s son was Moscow Bureau for the NY Times. There was, however, nothing to be shared with us. Later, as I recall on a Saturday, Fr. Alexander walked through the refectory accompanied by Solzhenitsyn as we ate lunch, and exited the back door. These were the days when students rose when the Dean entered a room, but I don’t recall anyone moving. There was an awkward silence and they were gone. And in my mind, such was his legacy.

    Solzhenitsyn went into an insular “compound” in New Hampshire, in twenty years in the US never learned to speak English, brought in a priest to serve him, and while initially an inspiration to the Republican Right (e.g. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ford, Regan), the more severe & radical his castigation of the West, the more isolated he became as his support dwindled. Apparently he envisioned his return to Russia as a “prophet,” but he quickly discovered he was unknown, and his “pitch” to President Putin to restore “Holy Russia” was unwanted. My last recollection of him was a video of him on Moscow Public Television – wild hair, wild beard, wild man – calling for the restoration of the Czar. And so it goes…

    He was a great thinker, a great writer, and great influence. He had his place and his role in history. But he did not bring down the Soviet Union.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Dr S, what you say is true, but like many of Solzhenitsyn’s critics you miss the bigger picture. John the Baptist lived his entire (probably very brief life) as an ascetic in the wilderness of Judea. Others no doubt did some heavy lifting regarding the corrupt Temple cult as well (i.e. the Essenes). Yet it was the Baptist who laid the groundwork (through his baptism of Jesus) for the destruction of the Temple cult.

      That Solzhenitsyn lived a reclusive lifestyle in New Hampshire is beside the point in my opinion. Moreover his critique of materialism stands as well. To my knowledge, I know of no Right-wing Christian who castigated him for this critique, at least not the Right-wingers who mattered (i.e. Reagan). On the contrary, I have spoken with many Protestants and Catholics of a conservative nature who agreed with his Harvard Address.

      I take yours’ and others criticisms regarding materialism to heart. I would caution however that before judging the free market as being the culprit, we would do well to remember we don’t really have a “free” market but labor instead under a crony capitalist system. One that rewards consumption and material excess. The mortgage deduction encourages the growth of McMansions, mandatory property taxation creates the “need” for schools which are then demolished in 20 years because young families have left the neighborhood, the marriage penalty drove wives into the workforce thereby making it necessary to purchase an ever-expansive wardrobe, spend money on lunches, buy more electronic games for children because they’re excellent baby-sitters, etc. Much of this is underwritten by a helot class of illegal aliens (our Happy Meals are cheap because of alien labor). The only winners are developers who constantly buy depressed property, develop it, then destroy it when the demographics change. (Hence one reason for Amnesty.) The losers of course are the native middle and working classes.

      • Bishop Sergios/David Black says

        George, re your post of July 1 2013 at 8:25 AM – The Solzhenitsyn family lived on a compound in Cavendish, Vermont – not in New Hampshire. Mrs Solzhenitsyn and the children attended church in Claremont, New Hampshire.

      • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

        Re Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address (“A World Split Apart”) to which you allude, George: I was present at that particular commencement in June 1978 to receive my master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. Bishop-elect Maximos Aghiourgoussis, then a professor at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in nearby Brookline, MA, and one of my esteemed mentors, was the distinguished guest of my wife and myself. We were treated to a truly memorable, prophetic speech, one of the three most meaningful public moments (not pertaining to Church or family) in my life. What the Boston Globe newspaper and other purported eyewitness accounts either overlooked or intentionally failed to report was the angry, almost rabid reaction of so many of the graduating students, alumni, and guests in Tercentenary Theatre (actually outdoors in Harvard Yard), who also stood on their folding chairs with shaking fists and shouted epithets at the honored guest speaker, when Solzhenitsyn criticized the U.S. and the West for a failure of nerve in prosecuting the Vietnam War to military victory. After that event, the American intelligentsia and other liberal elites had little use for the great Russian Orthodox writer and prophet.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Your words are a cold splash of water in our faces Fr, Thank you for highlighting this aspect of Solzhenitsyn. Though my isolationist tendencies have hardened as of late, there is no escaping the fact that from the aspect of the Long, Twilight Struggle that was the Cold War, our involvement in Vietnam was justified. (As a Southerner, I would have had NO problem at all with foreign powers coming to our aid in the War Between the States but that is a story for another day. Tsar Alexander II lest we forget came to Lincoln’s aid.)

          Your words are a rebuke to Dr Kiriopoulos, the representative from the NCC that spoke at the latest Acton/SVS symposium. He carped several times on the “rightness” of the NCC’s position regarding their opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam. I wonder if he or anybody from the NCC met any of the tens of thousands of boat people? Perhaps a meeting or two would cause him to shed some of his Leftist triumphalism.

        • John Couretas says

          Thanks so much for sharing this story, Father. What amazing good fortune to have been present for this memorable speech, one we should all re-read regularly. And what an appalling spectacle from the spoiled brats in the peanut gallery …

          A World Split Apart — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978

    • John Couretas says

      M. Stankovich:

      Of course the fall of Soviet communism was accomplished by many people, many who will never be known to us. We’re talking here about the War of Ideas that engaged with Soviet totalitarianism and helped bring it down. Who was important?

      In your eagerness to go after the “Republican Right,” you mangle the history.

      At Kissinger’s urging, Jerry Ford refused to meet with Solzhenitsyn. They feared the Kremlin’s reaction. Only two senators at the time had the courage to “officially” meet with the great man, Jesse Helms and Joe Biden. Reagan met Solzhenitsyn informally and then wrote a column lambasting Ford and Kissinger for their cowardice.

      “Had Ford told the Soviets where to get off and met with the famed author, Reagan might not have run for president in 1976. Had Reagan not run and lost then, he never would have run in 1980.” (Rendezvous with Destiny, Craig Shirley, ISI Books 2009).

      Also see “Summer of Appeasement: When Ford Snubbed Solzhenitsyn” by Paul Kengor on the American Spectator. Kengor points out that at the Helsinki Conference in 1975:

      … there lending support to this historical farce was America’s president, Gerald Ford, signing the document alongside Western dupes like Helmut Schmidt of West Germany and Pierre Trudeau of Canada, as attendees like the hideous Erich Honecker of East Germany and Romania’s insane Nicolai Ceausescu — among other Eastern bloc tyrants — licked their chops at the stunning display of naïveté. The pitiful scene reminded of Whittaker Chambers’ observation that communists looked upon Western elites with “sneering contempt,” cynically amazed at their willingness to fall prey to their own victimization.

      Helsinki was the perfect byproduct, the wretched bastard child, of détente, perpetuated by the accommodationist Republican triumvirate of Nixon-Ford-Kissinger. This was not “rollback” or undermining of the Soviet empire, as Ronald Reagan would later pursue. It was not “We win, they lose,” as Reagan ultimately dedicated himself and his country. No, this was pure accommodation, in its most quixotic, pathetic form.

      Kengor adds: “Yes, when it came to appeasing the Soviets, Gerald Ford, Republican, was to the left of the New York Times and Jimmy Carter.” Article link:

      I side with Ericson and Mahoney on this one: “By discrediting Soviet communism at home and abroad, this single book played an undeniable – perhaps a decisive – role in ending the Soviet Union and thus the Cold War,” they write in the Reader. They also describe Solzhenitsyn as “the most eloquent scourge of ideology in the twentieth century.”

      more here:

      George Kennan described The Gulag Archipelago as “the greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be leveled in modern times.” Link:

      In Shirley’s book, Mart Laar, the former Estonian prime minister, says this of Solzhenitsyn: “Without this man, I would be somewhere in Siberia in chains.”

      Finally, here’s what Solzhenitsyn had to say at the passing of Ronald Reagan on June 5, 2004 (quoted in Shirley):

      In July 1975, I concluded my remarks in the Reception Room of the U.S. Senate with these words: “Very soon, all too soon, your government will need not just extraordinary men — but men with greatness. Find them in your souls. Find them in your hearts. Find them within the breadth and depth of your homeland.” Five years later, I was overjoyed when just such a man came into the White House. May the soft earth be a cushion in his present rest.

      • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

        Re: Finally, here’s what Solzhenitsyn had to say at the passing of Ronald Reagan on June 5, 2004 (quoted in Shirley):

        In July 1975, I concluded my remarks in the Reception Room of the U.S. Senate with these words: “Very soon, all too soon, your government will need not just extraordinary men — but men with greatness. Find them in your souls. Find them in your hearts. Find them within the breadth and depth of your homeland.” Five years later, I was overjoyed when just such a man came into the White House. May the soft earth be a cushion in his present rest.

        Thank you, John, for providing that quote: a marvelous tribute from a great Russian writer and religious prophet to a great U.S. president.

      • M. Stankovich says

        Mr. Couretas,

        You would please be so kind as to not saddle me with “going after the Republican Right.” My comment was merely a point of reference as to how radically ridiculous a parody Solzhenitsyn had become in his self-imposed isolation.

        You are quoting Western scholars, while I was listening to the Russian émigré community who could not imagine what had happened to him. He was their hope for Russia, only to voluntarily exile himself away to Cavendish, Vermont (thank you!) to rail against American music, TV, and art? They would say, “Who asked his opinion and why does he imagine Americans care what he thinks? They were instrumental in his safe passage to the West and this is how he thanks them?” I do not know if you knew Alexander Schmemann or read his journals, but even his patience & understanding was worn.

        Secondly, I am very surprised that Fr. Hans makes no mention of Leon Aron’s book, Roads to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991, which he reviewed on Acton and his own site – and I might add, you & I both commented, Mr. Couretas. My comment was to emphasize the power of Voice of America, forever in my mind a decidedly more significant, more influential, and more edifying vehicle of inspiration, hope, and change than Solzhenitsyn ever could be in the Soviet Union: Vladyka Basil (Rodzianko) and Fr. Alexander (Schmemann) were “household names” among the Orthodox, and Leon Aron apparently broadcast for many years as well. The sight of Vladyka Basil returning to Moscow with the Holy Fire was described by the Russian press as an event of “pre-revolutionary proportion.” If Solzhenitsyn role was so definitive in precipitating the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, the notoriously long Russian faltered: he returned as a virtual unknown.

        I say again, history shows the greatness of his thought and influence, and he played an essential role. His writings were instrumental in the process. But to say Solzhenitsyn is responsible or even instrumental for the collapse of the Soviet Union is unfounded

        • John Couretas says

          Thank you, M. Stankovich. You and I are poles apart on this one. i could not disagree more.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Dr S, thank you for fleshing out some of the history. I have to agree with you, that if I were part of the Russian émigré community I would be put out by Solzhenitsyn’s reclusivity and writings after his arrival in America. I understand the human points. These are valid concerns but I still think they miss the vital point, and that is that Solzhenitsyn was probably the greatest prophetic voice of the 20th century. We could critique some of the activities of the Old Testament prophets as well as Church Fathers. At the end of the day it is their witness which came shining through.

          I’m especially glad that you highlight the role of Bishop Basil Rodziakno. I’m sure that his role was just as vital and profound in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn has his partisans in the secular world who have told his story, would that the OCA would in like manner champion Rodzianko’s cause. Alas, that is not in the offing, is it? Perhaps you could expand on it. My forum is yours for the asking in this regard.

  9. Bill Congdon says

    Just a point of fact: The Solzhenitsyns settled in Cavendish, Vermont.