Integralism in Three Sentences

Pater Edmund Waldstein with a pithy definition of integralism for The Josias.

The Josias

Catholic Integralism is a tradition of thought that rejects the liberal separation of politics from concern with the end of human life, holding that political rule must order man to his final goal. Since, however, man has both a temporal and an eternal end, integralism holds that there are two powers that rule him: a temporal power and a spiritual power. And since man’s temporal end is subordinated to his eternal end the temporal power must be subordinated to the spiritual power.

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Ephemera IX

Last Wednesday, much to my shock and chagrin, a rather unremarkable meme tweeted by yours truly concerning the farce that is “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” was picked up by none other than right-wing darling Ann Coulter. In less than 24 hours, my tweet had been re-tweeted nearly 1,000 times. Then the zaniness set in. As much as I appreciate new Twitter followers and web-log readers, I should stress in no uncertain terms that I do not identify with the alt-right, nor do I support Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency. As I tried to make clear on Twitter, I am an integralist — nothing more, nothing less. That doesn’t mean there aren’t certain positions that I hold that are alt-right-ish. For instance, I support thorough background checks for immigrants and refugees arriving from the Middle East and believe that Middle-Eastern Christians should be prioritized; I am skeptical of free-trade accords and surrendering of economic sovereignty; and I harbor a very low opinion of international institutions and law (at least as conventionally understood). However, as I have repeatedly made clear on Opus Publicum, I reject the ethnic and racialist elements of the alt-right and I stand by the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church that I am under no obligation to vote in the upcoming election. Admittedly, that does place me at odds with many conservatives, including some conservative and traditional Catholics who feel that it is their duty to stop Hillary Clinton’s White House run at all costs. So be it, so be it.

On my way to church this morning I heard a brief, but positive, story on Michigan Radio (National Public Radio affiliate) about the Institute of Christ the King’s (ICKSP) arrival today in Detroit at the St. Joseph Oratory. The report probably wasn’t as clear as it ought to have been, though I appreciate the story stressing the ICKSP’s work in restoring old churches while bringing the traditional Mass to the faithful. As some readers may recall, I paid many a visit to the Institute’s Shrine in Chicago when I lived there. Tragically, last October, the Shrine was engulfed by flames and the restoration work already put into the historic structure was lost. By the Grace of God, the ICKSP received the green-light to press ahead with bringing the Shrine back to life. While it will take years before the church building is fully restored, you can help in the Institute’s good work by donating to their efforts here. I can say without reservation that my experiences with the Institute’s clergy was uniformly positive. Moreover, their willingness to reintroduce certain aspects of the pre-1962 liturgy is to be applauded.

Speaking of liturgy, there is an Antiochian Orthodox mission not terribly far from my abode — St. Willibrord — which does a rather remarkable job combining Antiochian liturgical norms with a Russian musical aesthetic. This strikes me as wise. To most Western years, Byzantine and Arab chant can be a little off-putting, and if it’s not done well, it’s absolutely wretched. Additionally, there are far more online and published resources for Russian liturgical music available in English than for any other Eastern chant system around. Years ago I suggested that, in time, a common liturgical aesthetic would eventually took root in the United States, though that was back during my “optimistic days” when I thought American Orthodoxy was less than a decade away from ecclesiastical unity. This is not to say that I think American Orthodoxy needs to flock to one chant system alone. There are many beautiful Byzantine (or Byzantine-inspired) settings that should be retained, not to mention a number of other lesser-appreciated systems, such as Carpatho-Rusyn chant, that many Orthodox rarely get to hear. Maybe the hope I had was that one day a man could walk into an Orthodox parish and know before it starts how many litanies he will pray. Is that too much to ask?

Since I am already “out East,” I’ll close this out there. I am starting to make my way again through the two-volume memoirs of Metropolitan Evlogy, My Life’s Journey. I want to see if, on a second reading, my initial judgment holds up, namely that these memories are indispensable reading for all Orthodox Christians (particularly would-be converts). For those unaware, Evlogy lived and served the Russian Orthodox Church during the waning years of “Holy Russia” and was instrumental for leading the Orthodox diaspora in Western Europe after the Soviet Revolution. It seems there was no ecclesiastical event (or upheaval) from that period that Evlogy was not front-and-center for. Even non-Orthodox, particularly Greek Catholics, may be interested in Evlogy’s interaction with Greek and Latin Catholics during that period. Needless to say, while Evlogy recounts the efforts of many holy priests and monastics to keep the flame of Orthodoxy alive, his first-hand account of “Holy Russia” is less-than-edifying at times. A clerical caste system, political interference, mixed levels of education, disaffected youth (particularly the sons of clergy), and a most of other social and political problems conspired to consign Orthodoxy to being little more than a cultural artifact in late-Imperial Russia. Just like today, the 19th/early 20th Century was no “golden age” for Russian Orthodoxy, and the sooner more Orthodox understand this, the healthier their communion will be.

Ephemera VIII

Adam DeVille, over at his Eastern Christian Books blog, posted an interview last month with Will Cohen, author of The Concept of “Sister Churches” in Catholic-Orthodox Relations Since Vatican II. Although I have not yet had a chance to read Cohen’s book, my suspicion is that the title alone will lead to some knee-jerk reactions from both sides of the ecclesiastical divide. So it goes. As for the interview itself, I am intrigued by Cohen’s observation “that the East-West schism wasn’t so much something that happened as something that was and still is in process of happening[.]” I think that’s accurate, at least to the extent that we know by now that the rupture in Christendom wasn’t a “big bang” moment in 1054 A.D. and that East/West relations were, at points, cordial up until after the Council of Florence. By the close of the 18th Century, however, it seems that one can say that the schism became more severe, what with the rise of hyper-nationalism in Greece and the imperial ambitions of Russia. Somewhat ironically, only when Orthodoxy was driven West due in large part to the Soviet Revolution and its aftermath did a truly separationaist mindset fully set-in, one which has bequeathed us a strange legacy of historical revisionism, conspiracy theorizing, and incoherent ecclesiologies. Despite all of this, Cohen thinks there is hope for the future — and I certainly hope he’s right.

Speaking of DeVille, be sure to check out his latest piece on primacy and synodality over at Catholic World Report. In reflecting on the recent Catholic/Orthodox joint statement on the topic, DeVille suggests that one of the impediments to East/West reconciliation is not so much doctrinal as it is canonical. Specifically, DeVille looks to the 1917 and 1983 codes of canon law (along with the 1990 Eastern code) to track how papal authority is framed in the light of the two Vatican councils and what might be done about it in order to bring Church governance closer to a first-millennium model. To be clear, DeVille does not ignore the dogmatic statements concerning primacy contained in Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus; he simply rejects the idea that this document serves as an insurmountable wall between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Of course, changing some canons probably won’t get all of the work done. Given that we live now in the era of the “celebrity pope” where papalotry runs wild, it will take some time to ween Catholics — including many conservative Catholics — that the papacy is akin to the U.S. presidency, where meaningful limits on the exercise of power are more illusory than real and “the executive” can and should micromanage the government. That is not the historic role of the pope in the Universal Church, and it shouldn’t be his role today.

It’s taken a little bit, but The Josias is starting to come back to life, especially in the wake of the Tradinista nonsense. Now that Elliot Milco has channeled Matt Hardy and finally deleted the Tradinistas, hopefully more work will be put into The Josias‘s work of trying to “articulate an authentically Catholic political stance from which to approach the present order of society.” If you have not yet visited the site and perused the archives, please do. There you will find a treasure chest of fresh commentaries, original translations, and reflections on topics such as the common good, Catholic Action, integralism, the American Founding, and history. It is a wonderful resource and one that I encourage all thoughtful and faithful Catholics to consider contributing to.

Finally, the Major League Baseball postseason is now well underway and I couldn’t be more disappointed with the results thus far. After my Detroit Tigers failed to secure a Wild Card spot, I have been forced to watch two lackluster and tilted American League Division Series while also recoiling in horror over the possibility that this year might actually be the Chicago Cubs’ year (Heaven forbid). At this point I don’t see how the Cubs won’t be in the World Series at the end of October. As for the American League, while I believe the Toronto Blue Jays have a stronger ball club overall than injury-plagued Cleveland, I won’t sell short Terry Francona’s ability to lead the Indians to victory. And so I am going to go with Cleveland over Toronto in six and then do my best to believe that they can eventually overcome the Chicago juggernaut.

A Close Reading of the “Tradinista Manifesto”

Elliot Milco’s devastating critique of the Tradinista Manifesto for The Josias.

The Josias

by Elliot Milco

Recently a group of anonymous individuals posted a document to the internet entitled “A Tradinista! manifesto.”  The document intends to outline a broad political programme for the foundation of a new variety of Catholic socialism.  Much more interesting things could be said, and will be said, at The Josias about this “Tradinista!” group, but for the present I would like to offer a close reading of their manifesto, simply so this document does not go unacknowledged here.

The text is included below in its entirety (in pink), with interlinear commentary (in black).  I have aimed to read the document as it stands, rather than inferring positions or philosophies into it based on my familiarity with several of the anonymous authors (at least one of whom has contributed to The Josias in the past).  The commentary is therefore very narrow and particular.  It may…

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Some Words on Encountering an Evangelical Literary Panel

Yesterday evening, as I am sometimes wont to do, I parked myself at the café of Baker Book House’s expansive facility in Grand Rapids. The store, which is still fairly new, is geared primarily toward Protestants of the Evangelical variety, though it also boasts a fairly sizable Catholic section and an extremely modest Eastern Orthodox one. The two store’s two gems are its collection of remainder/lightly damaged titles from primarily Christian academic publishers (e.g., Baker Academic, Eerdmans, and even Ave Maria Press) and an extensive used book section (though most of the volumes are Protestant). The café is typically quiet in the evening, but not always. For instance, a month or two ago, I made the mistake of sitting there while “Movie Night” was going on. The film in question, God’s Not Dead 2, won’t be winning any academy awards next year, but so it goes. Another mistake was made last night when, after 30 minutes of peace and quiet, I noticed a flood of people (mostly women) enter the store and start sitting around the small stage area across from the café. Much to my chagrin, a panel of four Christian authors were speaking about their work; offering up some readings; and answering questions about the writing and publishing process. As someone who has almost no interest in penning fiction, let alone Evangelical fiction, I wanted to flee—but I couldn’t. For almost immediately I found myself transfixed by the well-meaning but ludicrous spectacle of listening to people who sound like they’ve never read a real book in their life tell others how to write.

Ok, perhaps that’s a bit harsh. One of the speakers, whose literary work revolves around an arsonist setting fire to her house and then purchasing a pug, was a former champion of the Moth Radio Hour’s “Story Slam” competition. She clearly knew how to string some words together and deliver them for comedic effect; she just wasn’t very funny. I say that because I find it grotesque that someone would take an obvious tragedy which greatly impacted their family and leverage it for laughs. As for the pug gimmick? Pure kitsch. When this individual began reading her work, I was equal parts mesmerized and horrified; how could anyone laugh at this? And it wasn’t just the arson; it was the fact she led off her story about acquiring the pug as if she was about to engage in a tawdry affair behind her husband’s back, and latter capped it all off with an anal-sex joke. Is that the Evangelical version of “blue humor”? I really don’t know, nor do I care to find out.

Two of the other speakers, both women, were a little easier to take. One had acquired her PhD at Princeton some time ago and spent her time writing and offering spiritual counseling. One thing that jumped out to me during her discussion is how often Evangelicals only openly confess to “positive sins,” that is, those which are typically considered virtues by contemporary secular society. For instance, this author made mention of her sins of “perfectionism” and “focusing too hard on her work,” as if neither aren’t already part of the Protestant work ethic. I also got the sense from her talk that the only times Evangelicals recognize sin is if they “feel convicted in their hearts” (or something like that). In other words, sin is defined as a subjective feeling rather than an objective abrogation of God’s Law. Strange. As for the third female speaker, she had recently penned a book of prayers that aligned with the alphabet; I must admit I had mostly checked out by the time she spoke.

The real highlight of the night was actually the panel’s first speaker, a middle-aged gentleman who writes a series of action novels revolving around a Christian cage fighter and former Philosophy major at Yale who, after beating bad guys to a pulp, tells them to go read The Bible. (No, I am not making this up.) To make matters worse, he also writes and self-publishes (of course) a miniseries about a vigilante nun entitled . . . wait for it . . . Force of Habit. (Were I a braver man, I should have reached into my pocket, removed my Rosary, and began loudly reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries.) During the course of his presentation and the Q&A session, this gentleman revealed that he had formerly been a lawyer (I knew it); that he had come to writing late in life and was often told he could never do it (obviously); and that anyone can learn to write (wrong).

And then the panel was over, and there was much rejoicing in Heaven.

Ephemera VII

The Byzantine Texas web-log is not always known for its edifying discussions, but sometimes they can turn interesting. Take, for instance, the ongoing back-and-forth between “Jake” and “Peregrinus” (and others) concerning Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk’s recent remarks that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is “a fully Orthodox Church with Orthodox theology, liturgics, spirituality, and canonical Tradition, which strives to live this Orthodoxy in the spirit of first-Millennium Christianity — that is, communion with Rome.” After all of the theological, ecclesiastical, and metaphysical dust settles, it seems to me that the real issue here is who has a “right” to use the term “Orthodox”? By conservative Orthodox lights, the Greek Catholics are misappropriating the term, even though the use of “Orthodox” as an exclusively confessional designation is of rather recent vintage. To the best of my knowledge, no Catholic kicks up much dust that Eastern Orthodox liturgical and theological texts still use the word “Catholic.” It is fairly plain to see that when Patriarch Sviatoslav and other members of the UGCC refer to themselves as “Orthodox,” they do so because they see themselves as the authentic continuation of Byzantine-Slavic Christianity which emerged in Kyivan-Rus’ at the close of the first millennium. Of course the Eastern Orthodox don’t accept this, but why should that matter? The UGCC, as a sui iurius patriarchal church in communion with Rome, needn’t seek the approval of the Orthodox when defining itself or carrying forth the Gospel in lands still reeling from the devastating aftereffects of atheistic communism.

The ongoing young-Catholic fascination with Marxism reminds me of the larger young-Christian fascination with the works of Giorgio Agamben a few years back. Without bothering to pay much attention to what Agamben was up to, Christians of various stripes were citing him left and right simply because he happened to write about Christian themes, including St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. None of this is to say that people shouldn’t read Agamben, though it seems to me that there are diminishing returns in doing so. Had 9/11 never happened and Carl Schmitt never became vogue, Agamben’s notoriety and influence in Anglophone circles would probably have remained modest. As for the self-professed “Catholic socialists” who embrace Marx, I have to wonder how many of them have read Marx or later Marxist thinkers and what insights do they believe this ideology has for Catholicism today? It’s easy to lift a handful of Marxist terminology from one’s Philosophy 101 notes; it’s exceedingly more difficult to apply those concepts in an intellectually rigorous manner. Then again, maybe the Marxist rhetoric in play among the “Catholic socialists” right now is just that: rhetoric. But wouldn’t that mean this whole “Catholic socialism” thing is little more than posturing? In other words, could it really be that primarily white, Ivy League priv-kids are co-opting something they really don’t understand in order to feel self-important? That’s never happened before, has it?

A friend of mine sometimes asks me about points concerning Byzantine liturgy, either among the Orthodox or the Greek Catholics. I feel like my answer is always, “It depends.” Despite the myth of uniformity that some Orthodox like to promote, the on-the-ground reality is that most Orthodox parishes, depending on jurisdiction, are hardly uniform. In fact, it’s not even that surprising to see parishes within the same jurisdiction or diocese (e.g., Orthodox Church of America’s (OCA) Diocese of the Midwest) do things slightly different based on the particular parish’s history, the priest’s training and temperament, and the desires of the faithful. I have been to OCA services conducted in the exact same manner as a UGCC service and OCA services which are quite consciously trying to ape the high Synodal practice found in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Most local variants are pretty harmless and unnoticeable to untrained eyes, though some aren’t. Greek Catholics in America have struggled mightily for decades to correct a whole host of liturgical abuses that crept in both before and after the Second Vatican Council. Still, for reasons I don’t fully understand, there remains a desperate, and ultimately silly, pursuit of “purity” among far too many Eastern Christians (Catholic or Orthodox), as if there was ever a time in ecclesiastical history where the liturgy was codified and practiced perfectly.

In closing, let me just note that this phenomenon is not exclusive to the East. Most readers know by now my general position on the “liturgical wars” that rage among Latin Catholics concerning changes made to the Missale Romanum and Breviarium Romanum from the mid-1950s until the early 60s. To me, that seems so secondary compared to the prevalence of what Pope Benedict XVI called a “low-Mass mentality.” I could be wrong, but it seems to me that a majority (or at least roughly half) of all Sunday Tridentine Masses are low, i.e. they are not sung. Accompanying this unfortunate development is the near-total eradication of the Divine Office from Latin parish life. Although this process began long before Vatican II, it is regrettable that the fight to maintain liturgical orthodoxy within the Latin Rite has not been accompanied by an equally vigorous fight to restore this rite to its full splendor. Some will likely argue — with justification — that the deplorable state of the Roman Church in the 1970s and 80s made it extremely difficult for Catholics to find the Tridentine Mass at all; prudence dictated that matters of liturgical solemnity should be put on hold. Well, while things are far, far from optimal in the Roman Church today, there now exists numerous resources for priests and laity alike to begin celebrating the traditional Roman Rite as it was meant to be. So what’s stopping them?