Contra Beeler’s Gross Inaccuracies

I have never met nor had much communication with John Beeler (“The Young Fogey”). Sometimes I would glance at his web-log, A Conservative Blog for Peace, or peruse the comments he would make here on Opus Publicum, but that’s about it. So imagine my surprise when I noticed a trickle of traffic coming my way from a post which attempts to both make fun of me and criticize views I simply do not hold. Although I have endeavored to ignore the public commentary on Beeler’s moral and psychological shortcomings, I find it difficult to ignore his intellectual ones in this instance. For those uninterested in cross-blog arguments, feel free to ignore the rest of this post. However, aside from setting Beeler straight, I hope that it will clarify some of my views—views which I admit have been subject to revision, correction, and realignment over the years thanks to thoughtful and intelligent criticism from friends and strangers alike.

First, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is not “my jurisdiction” in the sense which Beeler implies. That is to say, I have no compunction about attending services elsewhere and I have never endorsed what one might call the “accidents of ROCOR history,” including the tendency of some of its hierarchs, priests, and monastics to take a misguided, albeit understandable, anti-Western attitude. At the same time I have never endorsed the “accidents of Greek Orthodox history” or the “accidents of Ukrainian Catholic history” and so on and so forth. To even suppose that when one becomes a Christian, be it Catholic or Orthodox, one is forever tethered to the opinions and notions that have floated in and out of time, some of which have no business being held by any self-respecting Christian, is simply ludicrous. In charity I want to think that Beeler doesn’t actually subscribe to such a simplistic formula even if it means I have to accept he’s dabbling in it for the purpose of making a childish potshot.

Second, to state boldly that I am “preach[ing] indifferentism” because of this statement is risible: “Owen White once stated many moons ago that for Catholicism and Orthodoxy to (re)unite, one side would have to cease being what it is. My suspicion is that both sides will have to, and all for the greater glory of God.”

While I will admit that the line is not as precise or qualified as it ought to have been, there is no way whatsoever that it rises to the level of “indifferentism.” Indifferentism would be me stating that the break in communion between East and West doesn’t matter; that pursuit of reconciliation and reunion is pointless; and that Catholics should just be Catholics and Orthodox just be Orthodox and let life go on. How such a ridiculous notion could be imputed to me in an entry which was focused on the necessity for reunion boggles the mind. As for each side ceasing being what they are, that is an empirical prediction, not a pronouncement that some “higher third church” will emerge out of reconciliation.

Third, Beeler believes that there is a tension, nay, contradiction in my thinking because apparently I have gone from indifferentism (which I never held) to the ecclesiology of “Orthodox in Communion with Rome.” False. In my last post on this topic, “A Comment on Unia,” I laid out a few of the “options” that have been suggested for how Catholics and Orthodox can reconcile. The most radical of these options—the one proposed by Fr. Robert Taft—does not strike me as feasible (a point I made in the original post) even if it would have the potential for speeding along the process. The closest I came to articulating my own view of the matter was with the following words:

Returning to the question of “Uniatism,” it does seem that if Catholics and Orthodox are ever going to find unity, it will have to be a unity built from the bottom up. Academic conferences, official visits, and high-level dialogues are all well and good, but until Catholics and Orthodox can come to a ground-level (and sympathetic!) understanding of one another, then all of the top-tier talk will amount to little more than self-important claptrap.

Whether Beeler likes it or not, “Uniatism” is not the policy position of the Roman Catholic Church and so when he speaks of me calling for union “not on [Roman Catholic] terms” he is actually dissenting from the Church to which he claims to belong. Now, none of that is to say that the positions articulated in the so-called Balamand Declaration are all right and proper. They can be modified and perhaps they should be modified in order to take into account the practical difficulty of the Catholic Church negotiating with the entire Orthodox world at once. I am not a wide-eyed idealist. Unity will be incremental if it is to come at all, and a more thoroughgoing analysis of how the extant Eastern Catholic churches (e.g., Melkites. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, etc.) may contribute to the reunification process is sorely needed at this juncture in history.

In closing, let me state that it is depressing that this kind of behind-the-back slandering is the means Beeler has chosen in attempting to criticize me (or positions he imagines I hold). My combox is always open and Beeler has never been hesitant about making his views known on here before. Because he polices his combox in a manner I do not, I do not have the confidence that I can articulate fully my views on his blog without running into censorship. If anyone wants to actually know what I think, ask. And if I have failed to be clear on something or have fallen into unintentional ambiguities, make it known to me. That would be the charitable thing to do. Hopefully Catholics and Orthodox can agree on that much.


  1. There are some internet Catholics who seem to take it personally when someone they don’t know from Adam doxes. It comes across as sour grapes and, pardon my French, butthurtedness, even possibly envy. I’m particularly puzzled by the paroxysms that Rod Dreher gives them. So what if he plugs a fundraiser for his quasi house chaplain, who is having a genuine family health crisis. What business is it of theirs to complain? I wish I had a house chaplain sometimes.

    I’m somewhat envious of the Orthodox and their reputation for breaking off communion with each other at the drop of a hat. I wish my Archbishop could explain why he remains in communion with the Archbishop in Louisiana who apologized for one of his priests withholding communion from an openly and notoriously gay non-practicing Catholic. What good is having a locus of communion in Rome, when sacrilege like that is permitted?

    1. I cannot speak for everyone but what irritates me about Dreher is not so much his going into schism or whatever silly project he’s flogging, but his constant focus and bashing on the Catholic Church re the abuse scandals. If he didn’t constantly do that, I think most people wouldn’t care.

      1. Are you saying that people are only caring about the sex abuse scandal because they are hearing about it? Or that people are only caring about Dreher because he’s making something of the clerical sex abuse scandal? I haven’t read Dreher, but if he is making something of the clerical sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, I can’t see how that’s a thing not to care about.

        It seems to me that the clerical sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is indeed something to be made something of. The major part of the scandal is in fact not the abuse itself but the double standard, the hypocrisy revealed by the systemic concealment of it by the authorities.

        Don’t mistake me: the abuse is the crime; the concealment is the scandal. The former damages people; the latter destroys the authority of the Catholic Church.

        Well, I say, it’s about time a more humble approach was taken by leaders. There seems no doubt that the good reputation of the leaders themselves and the continuing authority of the doctrines they were representing mattered more than people. All men are equal but some – Church leaders – are more equal than others.

        At the root of the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church – I don’t talk about other institutions – was the notion that it was divinely established, infallible, authoritative and that any criticism of it or its doctrines was heresy or sin or both. That notion was at risk so long as it might be revealed that it could not live up to such levels of perfection. Subtleties such as distinguishing between impeccability and infallibility, between the perfect Church and the imperfect Churchmen, are to no avail in rescuing cogency or integrity here: people will not, in the end, be mocked, taken for granted or sold a pup.

        If Church leaders had said throughout history, that we have an ideal and we all fall short…..if they had said there is and will be one law for all……if they had said that morality and psychology was complex and it wasn’t easy to discern right from wrong except in the depths of one’s conscience……

        But no…..they said, rather, that this is how it is: obey your clergy, who know best; they are ordained and special. They condemned millions of layfolk to worry and guilt for their sexual feelings and thoughts and actions under pain of priestly absolution. It was death to miss Mass; death to eat meat on Friday; death to masturbate as equally as it was death to murder.

        Kieran Tapsell, in his book “Potiphar’s Wife” has clearly shown how it was that the problem of clerical sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church was thought such a problem that from 1922 it was considered no longer suitable for open and transparent processes and the punishment by the state, but made a secret sin, to be concealed and handled internally, with minimal damage to the “reputation” and moral authority of the Church.

        What folly! By that very decision, the Church lost whatever moral authority it had.

        So, whoever Dreher is, if he reminds people of the vanity of humankind, including that of Churches and their leaders, by excoriating them for what has only been shown the light of day by – ironically – the secular State, he is standing in the shoes of a prophet, and is doing the Church a great service, to help it step down from its self-constructed pedestal without causing too much more collateral damage.

      2. Dreher was a reporter on the abuse beat and the Church continues to not get its act together. What do you expect? He’s also a professional writer. Of course he is going to flog his latest book and gin up interest in his new twee lay monasticism project.

        I find his comments section fascinating evidence of the epistemic closure of the SWPL mind. I suspect he picked up a lot of Andrew Sullivan’s blog traffic. I often wonder why those folks clog the comment strings so much when they agree with almost none of the Dreher’s views. Maybe the photos of what he is eating or drinking or where he is traveling serves as SWPL bait for fellow voluptuaries.

  2. I came back this way via the conservative blog for peace as I don’t read this blog anymore (after all if I wanted to waste my time and read the random “insights” of a whiny little bitch schismatic I could always turn to Dreher and Larison). In defense of the Fogey given the part he quoted on his blog at least, it certainly smacked of ecumenism to me. But who knows maybe I’m just another jealous LARPing butthurt fedora wearing interlocutor? After all is not as though some of the commentators on this very site forwarded some of the exact same arguments merely a few months ago.

    I can’t possibly see what the Church “needs” from Eastern Schismatics nor can I see either of them working to “save the West.” This silly idea that Eastern so-called “orthodoxy” is here to save the West seems to be nothing more than the product of an overactive imagination of the likes of a Matthew Heimbach or the blogger anti-Gnostic perhaps. Good company there. Myself? I look forward to the day when the Catholic Church is restored to the point where it unambiguously condemns Eastern errors instead of trying to incorporate them into the Church.

    Anyway, I just wanted to post this as an ecumenical gesture, in charity to my separated Eastern “brethren.”

    1. That’s pretty rude, and I’m not sure why you would say what you just did or what you hope to get out of it. We don’t know each other, so I can’t say I am hurt, but I really did think a lot better of you.

      1. Gabe, I believe there is a pattern here which you may be missing. “Ita” used to have a blog where it was never entirely clear (to me anyway) whether it was intended as serious or satire. The blogger seemed to relish digging up theological and political morsels which in any way presumed to prevent the individual from ever getting out from under the foot of evil. If in fact genuine, the blogger appeared to be the type who enjoys inflicting pain and seeing others in pain, in other words, a disciple of the Marquis de Sade. Just sick. His post here today, again if serious and not satire, would be entirely consistent.

        It is not difficult to see “Ita” moving in the same circles as a certain female poster with obvious emotional and/or mental problems with whom the Fogey has become close, and indeed both do frequent the Fogey’s blog, but no longer this one. And if we follow that disturbed female poster, we are led back curiously enough to that blog also mentioned in this thread which features a bunch of guys completely obsessed with that non-entity Rod Dreher; indeed Dreher is the blog’s very raison d’etre! What kind of a mind dedicates its life to waking up every morning and critiquing whatever the apparent demigod Rod Dreher writes that day??? Could this not be the very definition of hell???

        From Ita (again if serious and not satire) to that disturbed female to the guys at the dedicated anti-Dreher blog, we see unmistakable evidence of the demonic, with malice being the common product of their various obsessions. And these would appear to be Beeler’s playmates, at least since joining the RCC.

        I read Beeler for years, but finally quit after he joined the RCC because his whole personality changed and not for the good, but recently I began looking at his blog again out of pity. When Orthodox, he never made the equivalent ridiculous arguments and cheap shots about Roman Catholics. And he also appears to have lost any personal insight or creativity he had and now seems only capable of parroting Bill Tighe’s arguments…over and over and over again…but somehow never with Tighe’s effectiveness (and certainly Tighe has never been uniquely associated with such a malicious and demonic subsection of Roman Catholicism).

        In short, there are any number of good people in Roman Catholicism, but Beeler appears to be hanging out with the wrong crowd. When you hang out where demons frequent, a little inevitably rubs off on you (or perhaps birds of a feather…). His constant silly and malicious attacks on Orthodoxy necessarily point to a deep-seated insecurity he must have with his own truth claims regarding the RCC, so it may be that he can only continue as an RC by hanging out with that wrong crowd. If this is the case, then for his own good he ought to step back from the blogging for a while and sort out where he needs to go and what he needs to do with his life.

    2. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…

  3. A few comments. First of all, I read Dreher’s blog on a regular basis. I have seen little of late that even mentions the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, and he regularly posts positive things about the Roman Catholic church and Catholic culture. Secondly, Beeler used the medical emergency of a priest’s wife to take a shot at Dreher, which is cheap and low. He also has no idea how much money Dreher may have contributed to that cause, and should really, because of that, shut up. Third, the priest in question runs a ROCOR mission. He’s not Dreher’s “house chaplain,” and it’s buying into Beeler’s venom to use that term. Fourth, as someone said on another blog once, Beeler himself has had a highly peripatetic ecclesial life. How many times has he changed churches? I give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he really is a committed Catholic. However, it wasn’t so very many years ago that he was Orthodox, and apparently really committed to that too, no matter what he says in hindsight. So, it seems to me that using his blog to comment on whatever ecclesial struggles Owen or Gabriel have is a bit rich. His criticisms of Orthodoxy may very well come out of his own experiences, but sometimes he says things and I think, “Was this man ever in the same church I’m in”? He attributes motivations and ideas to Orthodox that may really be there in some people, but not in any I’ve met in over 12 years in the Church-and I’ve been in the company of some seriously conservative Orthodox. Finally, whatever one thinks of Rod Dreher, the personal invective against him on some blogs borders on the deranged. The Contra Pauli blog has some guy who apparently can talk of little else. It makes Rod’s supposed obsession with the sex scandal look mild.

    1. Oh, and an afterthought, Beeler’s commentary on what women want, and how women are, sounds frequently like he’s talking about an alien species he’s never met. What he doesn’t know about women (similar to saying Orthodoxy has no theology) would fill volumes.

      1. Beeler (and many of the “neo” “reactionary” Right) are infected with manosphere thinking. Not talking from a high horse here; it really does take one to know one. Therefore the nonsensical lingo like AF/BB (alpha f(ornicates)/beta bux), hypergamy, s### tests etc.

        I’m still pulling the weeds of manospherianism out of my mind, but I already knew that trying to impress someone who by all account is shallow is a waste of effort.

  4. I used to read Mr. B’s weblog regularly, and still occasionally do, but it is becoming more and more painful to do so. I find the lack of charity which he displays to those who have chosen Orthodoxy over Roman Catholicism to be both disturbing and unpleasant, all the more so since he himself for a time had done the same.

    I must say, however, that his continued use of the moniker of ‘the young fogey’ has gotten terribly old, both literally and figuratively. I hope, for his sake, that he favors unflattering pictures of himself in his weblog, but in those pictures, he looks older than I do, and I’m 62.

    While I would be happy to tell him all this to his face, either privately or through his comment section, he seems quite apt to delete comments with which he disagrees, even in the slightest.

    All and all, it is very much a pity: he used to host a rather good weblog.

  5. “I must say, however, that his continued use of the moniker of ‘the young fogey’ has gotten terribly old, both literally and figuratively. I hope, for his sake, that he favors unflattering pictures of himself in his weblog, but in those pictures, he looks older than I do, and I’m 62.”

    You’re right. Not only has his personality changed, but he suddenly looks a lot older. In fact, I keep thinking that he ought to begin captioning his own picture with: “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

    Now I wonder if there might be a health issue behind all these sudden changes? Because none of this makes any sense, and his attempted explanations for same make even less sense. All consistent with the same problem.

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