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.