To All Who Have Written Me

Dear All,

I want to apologize for the time it has taken me to respond to e-mails and other messages over the past month or so. Between work and personal matters there simply has not been sufficient time to keep up. Please know that I will do my very best to catch up on my correspondence over the next week and that any silence on my part was not intended as an insult. Thank you.

The Difficult Path to Unity

Despite some hopes last week that the three Assyrian churches may be on the path to unity following an open letter from Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael offering to resign his patriarchal title, it seems there is still a long way to go. Byzantine Texas has posted the Assyrian Church of the East’s detailed, firm, but charitable response. Anyone with any interest in East/West relations or, more accurately, Catholic/Oriental (or Catholic/Orthodox) relations should pay It a careful read.

I make mention of it here not to ignite pointless bickering but because I believe the letter does a splendid job articulating the real barriers that lie in the way of full ecclesial communion between the See of Rome and the separated Eastern churches. Too often these discussions (at least online) devolve into nitpicking over trivial matters with no deep-rooted doctrinal significance. Far too many Orthodox, and not a few traditional Catholics, relish this. Why? What is to be gained? No, the truth should never be compromised — a point the Assyrian Church repeats several times in the aforementioned letter. However, the pursuit of truth could stand to come packaged with a lot more humility from all sides.

I sincerely hope and pray for the day when the Assyrian churches will find unity just as I hope and pray for the day when Catholics and Orthodox lay down their arms, repent of past sins, and restore full ecclesiastical communion. With God, all things are possible.

Too Many Options

After months of painstaking research and serious scholarly inquiry, I have uncovered a comprehensive list of all of the available “Options” that we Christians of 21st Century liberal America can exercise during these most unsettling times. You’re welcome.

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The Benedict Option Clarified?

A large project of sorts has been keeping me away from web-logging, but I did want to call attention to Rod Dreher’s latest American Conservative entry, “Critics of the Benedict Option.” Why? Because despite my deep misgivings about the “options” fad (see, e.g., here, here, here and here), I want to believe that the so-called Benedict Option (or any other “option”) can be something more than a marketing ploy. This is not to say that I believe Dreher is acting in bad faith, only that the realities of publishing often demand tag lines, catch phrases, clever wordplays, and so forth. Moreover, there is a more fundamental question to consider that Dreher still seems to struggle with, namely, “What is the Benedict Option?” He rejects narrowing it down to a formula, a move that is incredibly unhelpful. Granted, perhaps the Benedict Option could or would manifest itself in different ways in different concrete circumstances, but surely it needs at least some minimal unifying elements, yes? I pray that we don’t have to simply “wait for the book” to discover what they are.

An Opening Remark on Integralism and Symphonia

Yesterday on Twitter someone raised the question whether I now reject integralism in favor of symphonia. The reason behind this query is simple: I now dwell somewhere East of Rome. Superficially speaking (though hopefully not too superficially), I do not see integralism and symphonia as contradictory terms, at least not if this pithy definition of the latter holds: “A distinction is drawn between the imperial authority and the priesthood, the former being concerned with human affairs and the latter with things divine; the two are regarded as closely interdependent, but, at least in theory, neither is subordinated to the other” (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, pg. 771). A slightly longer definition of integralism, one which I supplied in an article for The Josias, runs as follows:

Contrary to popular belief, Catholic integralism—or what I shall refer to simply as “integralism” for the duration of this essay—is not first and foremost a political program. For the integral understanding of Christianity begins first with the supernatural society established by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, namely the Corpus Mysticum, the Holy Catholic Church, which transcends the temporal sphere and has for its end the salvation of souls. By carrying out its mission in the world, the Catholic Church possesses indirect power over the temporal sphere which is exercised for the good of souls. This indirect power in no way sullies the Church’s divine mission nor dilutes it by way of overextension since the civil authority retains at all times direct power over temporal matters.

Are there slight differences in emphasis? Perhaps. And has their respective concrete historical manifestations yielded distinct practical results–both good and ill? Absolutely. At this juncture in history it seems to be more imperative to look at their commonalities than fall into carping over trivial distinctions.

Integralism Visits First Things?

Today, over at First Things (FT), Brandon McGinley’s article “Liberal Limits—And Our Opportunity” represents another in a growing line of (mostly) Catholic commentary expressing exhaustion with liberalism. Now that same-sex marriage is perfectly legal and fresh attention is now being paid to stripping religious institutions of their tax-exempt status if they fail to fall in line, it is now a tad more respectable to suggest that the promise of liberalism was never more than a lie. Concepts like pluralism, relativism, and tolerance made for easy consumption when people—including many devoutly religious persons—believed their absence could only mean insularity, persecution, and hatred; now it’s starting to become clear that all three will be dealt out freely against any man, woman, or child who dares to speak ill of the Supreme Court’s attempt to do the impossible, namely redefine the meaning of marriage. Liberalism, according to McGinley, is giving way to a more destructive post-liberalism, but in the midst of this post-liberal chaos McGinley sees an opportunity. Here are his words:

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In and Of

More than a few people I know have been less than thrilled with Bishop Blase Cupich’s official statement on the forced legalization of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court of the United States. Perhaps he should have kept quiet. As the head of the fourth largest Catholic diocese in the U.S., his words carry a great deal of weight — much more than they deserve. They also carry the capacity to confuse the faithful. Still, to the bishop’s credit, his words are honest. There’s no good reason to doubt that he believes what he writes. Depressing though that may be for some, it’s not nearly as depressing as those who intentionally obfuscate their message, seeming to remain orthodox all the while holding tight to the Zeitgeist. Unimpressive academics-turned-bloggers, bloggers who think they are academics, and other charlatans of good cheer have begun circling around this ostensibly singular “cultural moment” in the hopes of generating some cheap hits. Let us be in the world and of it. That way our lives can continue as most people do: As if Christ never came at all.