I was recently alerted that Mark Lilla has a “new book” coming out, The Shipwrecked Mind. Like his early publication, The Reckless Mind, this volume is comprised of essays and review pieces Lilla published previously in The New York Review of Books and The New Republic. The gentleman who first brought this collection to my attention claimed that Lilla was not an “original thinker.” What I took that to mean is that Lilla’s writing is either derivative or repetitive (maybe both). I am not sure that is true. While we can safely assume that Lilla will not be shifting any paradigms, I think it’s important not to sell the man short. He has, after all, brought a lot of needful attention to European intellectual developments over the past two decades and was the first—to my recollection—to expand the definition of what a “Straussian” is beyond a silly synonym for “neoconservative.” Now, mind you, I disagree with Lilla about a great many things, but he’s not some middle-minded hack. In other words, he doesn’t write for Patheos.
There has been talk around the social media watercooler of a traditionalist Catholic of some repute (though, I must confess, I never heard of him) joining up with the Antiochian Orthodox Church. That’s nothing new, is it? Every year X number of Catholics (and many more Protestants) join Orthodoxy, either through the Antiochians or one of the many other jurisdictions operating in the United States today. What’s surprising about this move is that the individual in question appears to have taken a fairly hardline stance, denying the validity of all Catholic sacraments and professing that “Papists” are destined for hell. To the best of my knowledge this is not, and has never been, the position of the Patriarch of Antioch. If anything, the Antiochians are considered rather “liberal” when it comes to recognizing Catholic sacraments as valid. Moreover, the Antiochian Orthodox and Melkite Greek Catholic communions have a long history of cooperation, including communicatio in sacris. So, whatever this fellow happens to think Orthodoxy “is” vis-à-vis Catholicism, it’s rather distinct from the perspective of his chosen Patriarchate. So it goes. It’s entirely possible the lad has just come down with a nasty case of convertitis; give him a few years and he’ll cool his pies.
Following up a (little) bit on yesterday’s post on the alt-right, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time learning about the meme “Pepe the Frog” and how Nazified variants of this cartoon frog have become associated with the alt-right movement. (Various depictions of Pepe as Donald Trump can also be found online.) It seems that certain participants in the grotesque online forum 4chan (where the Pepe meme first originated) are endeavoring to “take back” Pepe from everyday online folk by making him politically and socially toxic. How this Internet swerve got bound up with the alt-right movement is a bit of a mystery to me, though as I noted yesterday, it’s become commonplace for the alt-right’s critics to associate it with Nazism and white supremacy. For whatever reason I want to believe that is not all the alt-right movement really is, though several individuals I trust are convinced that either there is no authentic “movement,” only a bunch of people flocking around offensive images and slogans for various reasons, or that the alt-right can basically be boiled down to one thing: antisemitism. Maybe it would be best if the alt-right faded out of existence altogether, but I really don’t see that happening.
I was hoping at some point to offer up a review of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s (UGCC) freshly translated catechism, Christ Our Pascha, but I am not sure when I will have the time. It is, in my humble estimation, a far superior text to the standard Catechism of the Catholic Church, though I have no illusions that it will ever be as widely promoted or read. (I do hope, in time, that the entire text will be made available online.) The UGCC faithful in the United States and Canada, like the Catholic faithful writ large, are badly under-catechized. Why this is the case is a complex question. However, in addition to the having to weather the deleterious effects of secularism, Greek Catholics in the West have struggled to hold on to their flocks in the face of what I will non-polemically call “Latin competition.” Let’s face it. The Novus Ordo Missae is much shorter than the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Most English-language Catholic educational tools are written from a Latin perspective and Latin Catholicism is just far more “available” than Greek Catholicism in this part of the world. Although Christ Our Pascha will not singlehandedly overcome all of the challenges facing Greek Catholicism in the West, its availability is a an important step toward preserving the Eastern heritage of the Catholic Faith in the United States and Canada while also enlightening non-Eastern Catholics on the rich theological, spiritual, and liturgical patrimony of the Christian East.
Finally, consider this post a “test run” of something I am going to try to do at least once a week, namely collecting together commentary on various topics which probably don’t warrant their own post (or I simply don’t have time to write about at any length). If you prefer linearity in your blog reading, then my apologies. (And for the one or two of you wondering, yes I have shamelessly lifted this idea from the old Ochlophobist web-log.)