Books

Ukrainian Catholic Catechism Now Available

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I know I am a bit tardy with the announcement, but the official English translation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s catechism, Christ Our Pascha, is finally available. The St. Josaphat Eparchy currently has the book on sale for $24.95 (which includes shipping) here. I received my copy in the mail yesterday and will post a more comprehensive review in due course. Although no catechism is perfect, an English-edition of this book is long overdue. I pray it has the intended effect of strengthening not just Ukrainian Greek Catholics, but all Catholics, in the Faith.

Review: Christ’s Descent into Hell

Some time ago, when I found it necessary to wrestle with the theological debate over natura pura (the “Ur-debate” in Catholic theology, as one social-media acquaintance put it), I advanced the point that contemporary Catholics had moved from the question, “Was Henri de Lubac right?” (about pure nature and an assortment of other things) to, “Lubac can’t be wrong.” I have seen on more than one occasion Catholics treat the suggestion that Lubac failed to properly understand St. Thomas Aquinas and his Scholastic interpreters as treasonous, even quasi-heretical. Why? Because, as the story goes, popes such as John Paul II and Benedict XVI thought well of Lubac and even cited him in both their formal papal statements and private theological works. A similar tactic has been employed to defend another “new theologian,” Hans Urs von Balthasar. When Alyssa (Lyra) Pitstick’s Light in Darkness (Eerdmans) hit the academic shelves in 2007, it set off a tidal-wave of hyperbolic criticism against Pitstick and anyone who dared agree with her that Balthasar’s theology of Christ’s Descent into hell was, well, defective. Perhaps no one led the charge against Pitstick with greater fury—and less charity—than the late Fr. Edward Oakes, though in the end neither he nor his intellectual cohorts managed to rehabilitate Balthasar’s twisted account of Christ’s infernal suffering. And so instead Pitstick’s critics threw John Paul II and Benedict XVI against her, and by doing so attempted to create the impression that Pitstick was little more than a retrograde, reactive theologian whose own thinking may be incongruent with the Catholic Faith.

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More From Lilla on France (and Manent)

A couple of weeks back I linked to a New York Review of Books article by Mark Lilla on France’s decline. He has now returned with a follow-up piece, “How the French Face Terror,” which is actually a review of four recent publications on the problem of Islam and terrorism in France. (For what it is worth, I also offered a few remarks on Lilla’s forthcoming book on political reaction here.) One of the books under review, Pierre Manent’s Situation de la France, comes under fire from Lilla for its apparent nostalgia and schadenfreude. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

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Review: Bringing Back the Saints

While I plan to devote several posts to aspects of Michael Petrowycz’s 2005 thesis, Bringing Back the Saints: The Contribution of the Roman Edition of the Ruthenian Liturgical Books to the Commemoration of Slavic Saints in the Ukrainian Catholic Church (available online for free from the University of Ottawa here), I did want to call attention to this important and fascinating work which serves a dual function as both a history of the (Slavic) Greek-Catholic reclamation of its authentic patrimony and a challenge to the Latin-dominated model of sainthood in the universal Church. As some are no doubt aware, recent decades have seen Greek Catholics of all stripes chipping away centuries-old layers of inorganic Latinizations and Roman-centric impositions in an effort to fulfill one of the central promises of the historic unia, namely the right to be both fully Eastern and fully Catholic. Part of that reclamation process has been to discard petty Western-based fears that drawing eastward in liturgy, spirituality, and theology meant a slide toward schism, though there is some distance to go. What Petrowycz’s thesis shows is that the origins of this project began well before the Second Vatican Council, when the Eastern Slavic churches, in concert with Roman authorities, sought to restore their traditions in full, including recognizing the heroic saints of the ancient Kyivan Church who, for largely political reasons, had been ejected from Greek-Catholic calendars beginning in the early 18th C.

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Pastor’s History of the Popes

Ludwig von Pastor’s 16-volume History of the Popes is a monumental scholarly achievement, and like so many monumental scholarly achievements, nobody reads it anymore. Part of the reason may be that so few Catholics are aware of Pastor’s work. It’s not something you are going to find browsing an Ignatius Press or TAN Books catalog. But thanks to advances in on-demand printing and the good efforts of my friend Eliot Milco (author of learned and intellectually quirky web-log The Paraphasic), Pastor’s magnum opus is becoming available once again.

Milco has posted some brief information on the project here and you can peruse the available volumes here. Anyone seriously interested in Catholic history cannot afford to ignore these books and the wealth of information they contain. Also, every volume purchased puts a bit of money in Milco’s pockets, which means he won’t have to go back to teaching at a heterodox Jesuit high school for a living.

Eastern Christianity – A Reading List

An acquaintance recently asked me for a list of five or six books that could serve as solid introductions to Eastern Christianity. Naturally, I sent him 25. In so doing, I told him that I had intentionally avoided suggesting any work that was needlessly polemical, theologically heavy, or spiritually dense. Because he is a Roman Catholic, I noted that some of the works listed might rub him the wrong way while also mentioning that it’s important to keep in mind that not every Eastern criticism of what we broadly call “Latin theology” and “Roman ecclesiology” is entirely off base or fueled by a lack of charity. Moreover, given that there are few “perfect books” written about much of anything, I stressed that I did not agree with every point in the books suggested, but felt it best for him to separate the wheat from the chaff himself.

The following list is ordered roughly in the manner I personally would proceed if I were to “start over” on my Eastern Christian reading. There is a heavy emphasis on history here which is entirely on purpose.

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Review: Stepan Bandera

Grzegorz Rossolinski’s Stepan Bandera: The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist: Fascism, Genocide, and Cult (Verlag 2014) is a straightforward book about an immensely complicated man with an exponentially more complicated legacy. In the aftermath of the Maidan in Ukraine, Bandera’s cult reemerged in such a profound way that for perhaps the first time ever, mainstream Western media, both in and outside of Europe, took notice. Fiercely nationalist at a time when that meant being rabidly anti-Polish and anti-Russian (or anti-communist), Bandera is an easy figure to rally around for Ukraine’s minority, albeit still formidable, far-right movements. Although Russian officials and media have been keen to label these groups “neo-Nazi,” the truth is that most of them trace their heritage back to Bandera and his Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) which, for better or worse, never saw the Nazis as much more than convenient bedfellows at a time when the Soviet Union appeared as the great Satan on the horizon.

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Review: Byzantine Liturgical Reform

Thomas Pott, Byzantine Liturgical Reform (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press 2010), 293pgs.

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