Ephemera IV

I know I sound like a broken record, but every time I come across a “1954 v. 1962” liturgical books squabble among traditional Latin Catholics, I want to cry (with laughter). Nobody in their right mind has ever claimed that the “1962 books” are superior to those which were normative in 1954 or earlier; they have merely defended them from the accusation that they are “corrupt” or “harmful” or “theologically dangerous,” etc. What amuses me is how certain “pro-1954” folk speak of the great integrity of the Byzantine Rite to help bolster their claim that the abbreviations instituted first by Pope Pius XII and then by John XXIII are abominations in the eyes of the Lord. Step into any Orthodox or Greek Catholic parish in the world and all you will find are services which have been abbreviated (sometimes rather clumsily and arbitrarily). Even monastic usage contains cuts here n’ there to offices such as Matins or the All-Night Vigil. Now, none of this is to say that there aren’t elements of the “1962 books” which should be reconsidered and revised. Some of the abbreviations instituted make little sense, and the “new” Holy Week Rite is atrocious compared with the original. All things in due course.

Have you watched the video Anointed, produced by the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (F.SS.R.) in honor of one of the congregation’s founders, Fr. Anthony Mary, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood? If not, you should. For those unaware, the F.SS.R. (sometimes referred to as the Transalpine Redemptorists) is a traditional order of priests living a semi-monastic life on the isle of Papa Stronsay in northern Scotland. As their name indicates, they are spiritually descended from the Redemptorist tradition established by St. Alphonus Liguori in the 18th Century and carried forth by such great saints of the Church as Gerhard Majella, John Neumann, Clement Hofbauer, and Bishop Nicholas Charnetsky. Whether you are of Western or Eastern persuasion, the video is well worth spending some time with.

I don’t often go to the movies, but several weeks ago my brother and I went to see Hell or High Water, the heist film which is generating overwhelmingly positive reviews. Some, however, have criticized the movie for glorifying robbery and making bankers out to be a cadre of predators seeking to rob honest, hard-working people of their property and livelihood. The latter charge doesn’t really strike me as too far from the mark, and besides the movie sets this form of legalized theft against the backdrop of the even greater acts of theft which secured the West for America’s white citizenry well more than a century ago. While it may be cliché to speak of a film containing “shades of grey,” this one certainly does. If there is a true hero to be found amidst the desperation and panic that drives Hell or High Water, it is Jeff Bridges’s Texas Ranger, and even by the end he is tempted by lawlessness as a means to do right in an unforgiving, morally indifferent world.

Dylan Pahman, the Acton Institute’s resident Orthodox apologist for free-market capitalism, is back preaching that old-time liberal religion in his most recent article for Public Orthodoxy, “Orthodox Theology and Economic Reality.” Like many of Pahman’s pieces, this one is shot through with a number of strange assertions, the most startling being his claim that the Orthodox “lack any serious engagement with the insights of modern economic science.” Whatever does Pahman mean by “economic science”? A brief perusal through Acton’s archives—and Pahman’s own writings—reveals that “economic science” actually means the heterodox claims of the so-called “Austrian School,” a marginalized economic ideology that eschews empiricism and falsifiability. Nowhere does Pahman make mention that the Russian Orthodox Church has spoken forcefully on economic matters—including condemning global capitalism—as recently as a few months ago. It’s a shame that the real failure evident in Pahman’s writings is his unwillingness to engage honestly and openly with his own ecclesiastic tradition.

5 comments

  1. Actually, Pahman didn’t intend his article to be partisan. He’d be satisfied if Orthodox hierarchs consulted economics specialists from any school of thought.

    Also, he’s not claiming a lack of engagement with economic assertions, only a lack of engagement with economic science. Simply put, Orthodox hierarchs don’t understand basic principles that you would learn in MacroEcon 101. It’s not their job to know and if they want to take a position that relies on a knowledge of economic science, they ought to do what JP2 did when writing Centesimus Annus and consult with economics specialists.

    Otherwise, you inevitably end up with the usual “eat the rich” narrative that was popularized by liberation theology.

    1. Andrew,

      “Actually, Pahman didn’t intend his article to be partisan. He’d be satisfied if Orthodox hierarchs consulted economics specialists from any school of thought.”

      That is neither clear from the article nor congruent with what Pahman has had to say in the past. Also, given his institutional affiliation, I find it almost impossible to believe that Pahman would endorse Orthodox hierarchs consulting Keynesians and Marxists.

      “Also, he’s not claiming a lack of engagement with economic assertions, only a lack of engagement with economic science.”

      There is no such thing as “economic science,” at least not in the hard sense. Also, why should hierarchs whose duty is to expound on faith and morals on the basis of revelation spend time dabbling in the contestable arena of economic ideology?

      “Simply put, Orthodox hierarchs don’t understand basic principles that you would learn in MacroEcon 101.”

      Perhaps that’s a good thing since those principles are not universally agreed upon within the discipline itself. One can receive overwhelmingly different instruction on the “principles” of macro-economics depending on who is teaching the course. You are acting as if economics is akin to the natural sciences, like physics. It is most certainly not.

      “t’s not their job to know and if they want to take a position that relies on a knowledge of economic science, they ought to do what JP2 did when writing Centesimus Annus and consult with economics specialists.”

      John Paul II, and his predecessor popes, left it open to economists and other specialists to put in place the means to the ends pronounced. However, the ends, which include such elements as a just wage, are very much within the Church’s field of competence. Any economic prescription which runs contrary to the teachings of the Faith are to be rejected out of hand as evil.

      “Otherwise, you inevitably end up with the usual “eat the rich” narrative that was popularized by liberation theology.”

      No, you don’t.

      1. Sorry, I forgot to mention that I conversed with Dylan about his article and that’s basically word-for-word what he said.

        And I’ll grant you that much of economics is in fact politics in disguise (much like physics, actually!), but there are certain terms and relationships (supply and demand?), as well as evidence-based theories (the Laffer curve), that are useful when talking about macroeconomic prescriptions. You don’t have to accept them to understand how they work.

        It’s a bit like psychology. I grant that much of what passes for “studies” these days is more accurately propaganda. That being said, if you are going to pontificate on the subject, it’s helpful to know the parts of the human brain, statistical analysis of certain behaviors, and a wide swath of competing theories on the subject.

        Your point about an “economic prescription which runs contrary to the teachings of the Faith” tells me that you and I may be talking past each other. I’m not talking about “economic prescriptions,” which are indeed part of the field of ethics; rather, I’m talking about “economic descriptions” which are theories intended to explain factual data. It would be very useful for hierarchs who choose to speak on the subject of economics to learn basic descriptive models so that their ethical prescriptions can be better-informed. That, I think, is Mr. Pahman’s point, and that is why he would be OK with economists from either side informing our hierarchs.

        I’ve noticed that many of your posts seem inordinately combative toward the Acton Institute. While that seems to me a perfectly acceptable bias to have, it might be useful in this case to self-examine whether you’re judging Mr. Pahman unfairly on the basis of his institutional affiliation. I don’t mean that as any kind of ad hominem toward your arguments, just a friendly observation and suggestion. I really enjoy your blog, by the way.

        1. I will reply more in a bit. Please encourage Dylan to publicly state that he would not be averse to Orthodox hierarchs consulting Marxist and Keynesian economists. I would like to have that on the record.

Comments are closed.