In honor of Pope St. Pius X’s New Roman Calendar feast day, I am re-blogging this article I wrote for The Josias.
Jack Quirk, a personal friend and the founder of the online magazine Christian Democracy, has issued his first salvo against the “classically liberal” Acton Institute. In an article entitled “It’s Time to Take Acton,” Quirk takes umbrage with a recent article by Acton research fellow Dylan Pahman’s misguided critique of Pope Francis’s recent speech in Bolivia. (As some might recall, I had more than a few critical words to offer against Pahman’s article as well.) From the conclusion of Quirk’s critique:
One aspect of Mr. Pahman’s article represents a positive development. His attack on Pope Francis should make it clear that there is little affinity between Catholic Social Teaching and the positions of the Acton Institute. Due to the presence of a Catholic priest at the helm of the organization, some have been confused on that point. There should be no confusion now.
Quirk could have also noted that two other Acton leaders, Samuel Gregg and Michael Miller, are both confessing Catholics, neither of whom appear all that concerned with aligning their liberal ways with the Catholic Church’s social magisterium. Pahman, on the other hand, is an Eastern Orthodox convert. Superficially, that provides him with more magisterial leeway to infuse his free-market ideological leanings with ostensibly Orthodox social thought. Perhaps soon one or more of Quirk’s Eastern brethren will take up the task of demonstrating Acton’s incompatibility with their tradition as well.
There is a queer fascination with apoliticism running amuck among certain contingents of Christians (mostly Catholic) who believe, for rather unsettled reasons, that they can somehow rise above politics—either the shabby form available to us here in the West or its more substantive manifestations in both human history and thought. This is cheap escapism at its worst for there is no such thing as an apolitical faith any more than there can be an apolitical society. What really drives this temptation to “rise above” appears to be little more than a desire of making an unmerited distinction of superiority between the enlightened apolitical and the lowly masses left squabbling over who gets what, when, and how much. Strange it is that Catholics should come to find this choice in any way coherent with their faith, particularly given the strong political thrust to papal teachings on the right order of society since liberalism violently exploded onto the scene in the 18th Century.
Many moons ago I made mention of a new edition of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary which I had the good fortune to looking over before publication. Now it has been made available for purchase by the good folks at Angelus Press. This new re-typeset edition of the Little Office features dual Latin/English text and, unlike the other new edition of the office published by Baronius Press, features accent marks for the Latin text. As an added bonus, the Angelus Press edition also includes the entire Office for the Dead, which can easily prayed either in conjunction with the Little Office or as a distinct devotion.
It is possible, perhaps even likely, that the next generation of Christians living in America—Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant alike—will die as either martyrs or apostates. If that is true, more will surely flee the Lord than flock to Him in their terrible hour of need. This is as it has been before, only today the attraction to depart from the easy yoke of Christ is practically a nonmatter for those who have come to believe that not only is hell inconsistent with a loving God, but that adherence to anything more than material interests is tantamount to madness. Of course, those Christians steeped in what I will broadly call “liberal mindset” are rather unconcerned about this, believing as they do that in the end libertas religionis will save us all. Even otherwise conservative Catholics who really ought to know better still think pitching some court battles and public-relations endeavors can spare them—and the Church—from any trying times. And if the trying times should come, then what? A separate, but not wholly indistinct, band of conservatives have nothing more to offer than, “Run!”
Web-logging about complex phenomena is always a fraught enterprise, particularly when no single blog post can hope to capture the density of religious and political life in Europe during the last century. Yesterday’s entry, “Comments on the Cross and the Sword in Ukraine,” may have left some readers with the (false) impression that the intersection of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) with national political life amounted to little more than the subservience of the UGCC to bald nationalistic interests. Nothing, I would argue, could be further from the truth. For while it is true that some segments of the UGCC became too involved in the affairs of Ukrainian nationalism at the expense of its God-ordained vocation, the sticky truth of the matter is that the UGCC, since the 18th Century at least, found itself placed in a complicated role of both forging a political living space for the faithful it served and putting itself in the service of saving souls.
These words have been on my mind as of late. They should be on yours as well.
Anton Shekhovtsov’s chapter, “By Cross and Sword: ‘Clerical Fascism’ in Interwar Western Ukraine,” published in the illuminating, albeit imperfect, volume Clerical Fascism in Interwar Europe (Routledge 2008), adds needed depth to understanding the role of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) in building the Ukrainian state, or at least an iteration of the Ukrainian state which did not survive the Second World War. The term “clerical fascism,” as Shekhovstov notes at the outset, is problematic, though he manages to settle on the following working definition: “[A]n authoritarian socio-political current, which emerges within clergy holding nationalist views, legitimizing and supporting fascisticised politics as a means of creating a state, in which religion’s authority, once forfeit, is expected to be revived, bringing order and earthly salvation to the nation.” Whether this definition—which Shekhovstov refers to as a “heuristic construction”—properly encompasses the full range of Greek Catholic clerical involvement in early 20th C. Ukrainian political life is questionable. Even more questionable is whether it can be meaningfully applied to other religious and national contexts, though that query can be dealt with at another time. Even if Shekhovstov’s definition holds for some aspect of 1920s/30s Ukrainian national realities, it is not immediately clear what should be thought of such realities today.
I am not normally inclined to write about pop culture, particularly TV shows, but I will admit openly that I am, and remain, a fan of True Detective — both seasons. The flak taken by Season 2, which just wrapped up on Sunday, is understandable. Season 1 was arresting because of where it chose to go. The fact that creator Nic Pizzolatto managed to create one of the best television characters ever in Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle didn’t hurt either. There was no way the sophomore run stood a critical chance, which may have been for the best. For instead of trying to recreate the natural hell on earth that is a certain conceptualization of the South (one Cormac McCarthy has made a career out of tapping into), Pizzolatto opted to drop his audience into a more obvious world of desolation, debauchery, and deceit: the wastes that surround the unduly romanticized urban nightmare that has always been Los Angeles. And then he went one step further. Instead of populating it with ritzy, clever, and sexy celebrities, he chose instead to fill it — and thus this season — with a band of losers — losers who may have had glimpses of glory if they had made a few dozen right turns in their respective lives, but losers nonetheless. They entered the world beaten, and their chances of ever making it through whole were almost impossible. In fact, death proved for 3/4ths of them the only avenue to completeness.
It is not uncommon, either in person or via social media, for me to be asked how I went from Point A to B to C and so forth with respect to what I’ll call half-jokingly my “religious alignment.” Over the years I picked up quite a few dodgy answers, all of which are meant to indicate that I don’t feel like talking about it. I still don’t. Conversion stories are typically (though not always) a bore and the only one which people should spend any time meditating upon happened almost 2,000 years ago on a road to Damascus. The whole idea of conversion at this point in history strikes me as a bit silly, especially when it involves people going from, say, Catholicism to Orthodoxy (or vice versa) or, at the intra-ecclesial level, from “Novus Ordo Catholicism” to “Traditional Catholicism” or “New Calendar Orthodoxy” to “Old Calendar Orthodoxy,” etc. Never before have Christians had so many “options” (there’s that word again), and any “option” that is exercised typically comes from movements of the soul that have little, if anything, to do with “discovering the true Church” or “the truest part of the truest Church.” That’s not a new observation. Owen White—if I recall correctly—made it many moons ago and formulated it in terms far more powerful than any I have to offer. Not every movement of the soul is good, mind you. Some of mine certainly have not been. A lack of resolve coupled with a very personal—and highly subjective if not selfish—desire to live beyond the horizon of inter-ecclesial barking has driven more than a few of my choices over the years. A choice for Catholicism, in my estimation, should not be a choice against Orthodoxy, though anyone who has read my blogs and occasional articles over the years knows full well that I haven’t exactly lived that belief out day to day. Frankly, I struggle to live out my belief in the Credo (with or without filioque) day to day, which makes me the absolutely worst candidate to start-in about some epic ecclesiastical odyssey shot through with contradictions and missteps.