Ephemera XVIII: I Will Not Divide You

He Will Not Divide Us (HWNDU), the unity-art project spearheaded in part by the habitually underwhelming actor Shia LaBeuof, is paying some of the best comedic dividends of 2017. Launched on January 20, HWNDU is a live stream camera positioned outside of the Museum of Moving Image in New York; visitors are encouraged to chant, “He will not divide us!” repeatedly for the next four years in response to Donald Trump’s Presidency. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for Internet trolls over at 4chan and other online forums to begin popping up on the feed, spouting everything from white-supremacist rhetoric to calls to retake Constantinople from the Turks. LaBeuof even managed to get himself arrested for assaulting a man live on camera that he believed was a Trump supporter. For an insomniac such as myself, the feed has been a beloved source of entertainment over the past few days, particularly after 1am EST when the trolls really start to come out. Granted, I would not call their behavior edifying, but the entire project — which is childish, vain, and, ironically enough, divisive to the core — was just asking for something like this to happen. And though HWNDU supporters are calling the trolls “neo-Nazis” despite the fact many of them appear to be either Asian or Hispanic, it stands to reason that most just see this as a splendid opportunity for 15 minutes of Internet fame. In this day and age, what more can anyone ask for?

For those who care, I have not given up on my “A Year of 100 Books” project; I just haven’t had time to post updates lately. After my bout with Eire’s Reformations, I am giving myself the grace to take my foot off the pedal for a bit. The problem now confronting me is what to read. Several times now I have found myself staring at my bookshelves (and mountains of books stacked up around my shelves) wondering what I ought to tackle next. Part of me wants to avoid thematic reading, but that’s hard to avoid. There isn’t a single book to be read which doesn’t call to mind a half-dozen more that I should get around to. I had thought of scribbling down 25-30 titles, placing them into a hat, and pulling from there. Knowing my luck, however, every tome I selected would be lengthy and, really, it would take me weeks to settle on a list of candidates. Better to just look-and-grab for now.

“Are you ever going to do anything in aviation law again?” An acquaintance asked me this question the other week. I quickly replied, “No . . . well . . . maybe?” It has been over two  years since Cambridge University Press published my book, The Principles and Practice of International Aviation Law, and I have had little desire to pen another word about it outside of a few random blog posts and a contribution to The National Interest. Whenever I take a glance at aviation legal scholarship, I find myself feeling much like I did when I started writing my book: underwhelmed. Though certain aviation-law aficionados took umbrage with my claim that the aviation law field is woefully under-theorized and most aviation scholarship remains unimpressive, no one has actively tried to overturn either thesis. They would prefer to leave the nasty truth alone rathe than confront it head on. After all, there are careers at stake, and if those outside of the narrow circle of aviation-law scholars knew the truth about the banality of the field, they may opt to either overtake it or perhaps even bury it. So it goes. Despite my initial protestations to the contrary, there is a part of me that feels I will go to the grave believing that aviation law, as a particular subject of study, is as absurd as the “law of the horse” that Judge Frank Easterbrook mocked so many years ago.

Part of me feels like I should say something about the ongoing Knights of Malta/Pope Francis debacle. I will limit myself to this observation. The alleged usurpation of the largely symbolic Military Order of Malta’s sovereignty by the Pope pales in comparison to the usurpation of authority the sui iuris Eastern Catholic churches have endured at the hands of the Pope and other Roman authorities for centuries. Thankfully, after more than a century of calls for the Eastern churches to effectively be themselves by governing themselves from top to bottom, things have started to change, though there is still a great deal of work to do. Latin Catholics who are concerned about the Pope meddling in the affairs of his own particular church should be doubly, even triply, critical when the Pope wandering into the jurisdictional space of other churches. It rarely causes anything but trouble. Maybe when some Eastern patriarch or another starts issuing highly ambiguous exhortations that appear to give his clerics license to commune those living in objective mortal sin, it will be necessary — following an appeal — for the successor to St. Peter to step in lest scandal and schism break loose throughout the Mystical Body of Christ. Let us pray such a day never comes.

2016 – 10 Most Popular Posts

With 2016 drawing to a close, I thought I would put together a list of the 10 most popular posts on Opus Publicum this year based on WordPress’s accounting. Although Opus Publicum is far away from ever being a “major web-log,” several posts managed to caught far more eyes than I anticipated. Overall, however, 2016 was a “down” year with respect to traffic, likely due to the fact that other endeavors occupied a large chunk of the year. Befoe proceeding with the list, I should note that the most popular post was not an original piece by yours truly, but rather an unofficial translation of Patriarch Sviatoslav’s comments on the “Joint Declaration” signed by Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba earlier this year.

  1. Patriarch Sviatoslav on the Joint Declaration
  2. More Francis Effects
  3. Francis Effects
  4. Heaven Forbid
  5. A Few Comments on “Life in the Orthodox Church”
  6. Council No More?
  7. Shea, Zmirak, and Catholic Politics
  8. Review: Christ’s Descent into Hell
  9. Another Traddie Sin
  10. Some Thoughts on the Recent Tridentine Mass Dustup


Theologizing as an Eastern Catholic

My previous post, “Some Brief Words on the ‘Orthodox in Communion with Rome’ Phenomenon,” along with a recent unedifying discussion with certain extremists from that camp, prompted me to revisit Fr. Andriy Chirovsky’s provocative 2014 talk, “Theologizing as an Eastern Catholic After Orientalium Ecclesiarum,” which was delivered at a conference marking the 50th anniversary of that document.

I don’t want to attempt summarizing the talk; I doubt I would do it full justice. However, let me say that Chirovsky represents a balanced understanding of what it means to be an Orthodox in communion with Rome, even if he does not use that particular expression here. That is to say, he understands that it is both necessary and proper to be both fully Orthodox, and fully Catholic while recognizing the historic difficulty of this position from the time of the Union of Brest onward. Moreover, Fr. Andriy puts on the table the reality that unlike the Orthodox, Eastern Catholics cannot simply dismiss Roman doctrines (or the formulation of those doctrines) as wrongheaded but must instead endeavor to understand them in a complementary fashion that remains true to the Christian East’s theological patrimony.

Some will, of course, harbor reasonable disagreements with some of Chirovsky’s observations, though even he admits that the talk is an exploration rather than a final declaration. He embraces, without apology, the need for Eastern Catholics, specifically Ukrainian Greek Catholics, to confront Roman teachings with an authentically Byzantine understanding, even at the risk of conflict with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Andriy asserts this not in the interest of stirring up needless controversy or rejecting settled dogma, but as part of the Ukrainian Church’s larger witness to the importance of unity with Rome without falling prey to a subservient mentality.

Against Thanksgiving

From last year.

Opus Publicum


Some people won’t like this, but I find no reason to celebrate Thanksgiving. Yes, yes, I know, according to Dale Ahlquist over at Catholic World Report, today is allegedly a “Catholic holiday” because the Patuxet Indian Squanto, who converted to Catholicism after being sold as a slave in Spain, arranged a harvest feast with the Plymouth invaders. From there Thanksgiving was born (or so they say). I imagine more than a few Catholics stormed the Bastille, too, but I see no reason why any should celebrate its commemoration. (I do think Catholics should celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, but I’ll save that matter for another time.) Thanksgiving has also become a day when Catholics (and other Christians) celebrate America’s “proud legacy” of religious freedom despite the fact that no such legacy actually exists. It took Catholics centuries to find pockets of toleration in America and once they thought they found…

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15 Ways to be a More Effective Pro-Life Advocate

The latest from The Josias. All is not theory.

The Josias

by Various

The state-sanctioned murder of millions of infants over the past half century is a moral outrage difficult to fathom; worse still, it is an outrage which continues, and which must be stopped.  Because advocating for violence against the perpetrators or against the state perpetuating these crimes would only magnify the problem, we do not advocate such violence. Nonetheless, we encourage everyone who recognizes the gravity of the social evil being perpetrated in our communities to take action against abortion and all the social evils which contribute to it.  The Catholic political movement in opposition to these enormities is stronger now than ever.  We offer the following suggestions as ways each of us individually can advance the pro-life apostolate—not merely by focusing on abortion, but by working to build up the kind of community in which abortion is once again unthinkable.

Be Involved in your Local Community:

Support your Local…

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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 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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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?