"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Martyrdom of Alexander Men

From the pen of Michel Evdokimov, theologian-son of a theologian-father Paul Evdokimov, comes a new book: Father Alexander Men: Martyr of Atheism (Gracewing, 2011), 104pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Father Alexander Men (1935-1990), a priest assassinated after the fall of communism, is a highly regarded figure in Russian Orthodoxy. He was brought up during the War and marked by the Stalinist era. Following the completion of his theological studies in Moscow, he was appointed to various parishes around the capital, in particular Alabino and Novaïa Dérévnia. But his personality and influence soon brought him into conflict with the authorities and he was persistently hounded by the police and subjected to interrogations and searches of his home. Father Men was not an agitator but the embodiment of an ideal of spiritual resistance to communism effected through prayer, the liturgical and sacramental life, and the valuing of the human person

Jenn Spock on Russian History

The wonderful Jennifer Spock, who has done so much to give life to the Association for the Study of Eastern Christian History and Culture (ASEC), whose last two conferences at Ohio State I have very happily attended, is a specialist in Russian monasticism and history. She co-authors a chapter "Historical Writing in Russia and Ukraine" in a new book: Jose Rabasa et al., The Oxford History of Historical Writing: Volume 3: 1400-1800 (Oxford UP, 2012), 704pp.
About this book the publisher tells us:
Volume III of The Oxford History of Historical Writing contains essays by leading scholars on the writing of history globally during the early modern era, from 1400 to 1800. The volume proceeds in geographic order from east to west, beginning in Asia and ending in the Americas. It aims at once to provide a selective but authoritative survey of the field and, where opportunity allows, to provoke cross-cultural comparisons. This is the third of five volumes in a series that explores representations of the past from the beginning of writing to the present day, and from all over the world.
Spock, meanwhile, was one of the editors for a Festschrift recently published:  Religion and Identity in Russia and the Soviet Union: A Festschrift for Paul Bushkovitch (Slavica Publications, 2011), 276pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Paul Bushkovitch's scholarship on the political, religious, and cultural history of Russia has enriched the field for over 35 years. This volume celebrates Bushkovitch's contributions by bringing together a series of essays by his students. Focusing on the themes of religion and identity, they investigate an array of topics that reflects Bushkovitch's own scholarly range, among them Russian Orthodoxy's energetic adaptation to Russia s changing domestic and international conditions; Russian self-perceptions and interaction with foreigners; and foreigners' views of Russians. Collectively, these contributions cover a wide chronological span that bridges the gap between early modernists and modernists in the fields of Russian and Soviet history.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Commentary on Romans

Eerdmans continues to publish their series "The Church's Bible" under the general editorship of the well-known historian and patrologist Robert Louis Wilken. The most recent volume is edited and translated by J. Patout Burns: Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators (Eerdmans, 2012), 456pp. About this book the publisher tells us:

The Church's Bible series serves to bring the rich classical tradition of biblical interpretation to life. Compiled, translated, and edited by leading scholars, these volumes draw extensively from early and medieval commentators, illuminating Holy Scripture as it was understood during the first millennium of Christian history. Designed for clergy, Bible teachers, men and women in religious communities, and all serious students of Scripture, The Church's Bible will lead contemporary readers into the inexhaustible spiritual and theological world of the early church and hence of the Bible itself.

This Church's Bible volume brings together select lengthy excerpts from early Christian writings on Romans, Paul's most comprehensive statement of Christian teaching. J. Patout Burns Jr. has judiciously chosen extended passages from such church fathers as Origen, Rufinus, Pelagius, Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, Augustine, and Theodoret, enabling readers today to benefit from the church's rich treasure trove of commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans. Covering the first five hundred years of Christian history, this volume incorporates new translations made from the best texts currently available.

Both Burns's pastoral sensitivity and his extensive study of patristics shine through his selection of ancient passages, which run the full gamut of perspectives on Romans. Each passage is relevant and applicable to our current understanding and living of the Christian life, not just historically valuable. This volume -- and the entire Church's Bible series -- will be welcomed by preachers, teachers, students, and general readers alike.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Art and Architecture of Byzantine Cyprus

Forthcoming this fall from the press of the prestigious Byzantine research centre of Dumbarton Oaks is a new book about art and architecture in one of the most famous churches on the isle of Cyprus: Annemarie Weyl Carr and Andréas Nicolaïdès, eds., Asinou across Time: Studies in the Architecture and Murals of the Panagia Phorbiotissa, Cyprus (Dumbarton Oaks Studies, October 2012), 416pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
The church of Asinou is among the most famous in Cyprus. Built around 1100, the edifice, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is decorated with accretions of images, from the famous fresco cycle executed shortly after initial construction to those made in the early seventeenth century. During this period the church served the adjacent monastery of the Mother of God ton Phorbion (“of the vetches”), and was subject to Byzantine, Lusignan (1191–1474), Venetian (1474–1570), and Ottoman rule. This monograph is the first on one of Cyprus’s major diachronically painted churches. Written by an international team of renowned scholars, the book sets the accumulating phases of Asinou’s art and architecture in the context of the changing fortunes of the valley, of Cyprus, and of the eastern Mediterranean. Chapters include the first continuous history of the church and its immediate setting; a thorough analysis of its architecture; editions, translations, and commentary on the poetic inscriptions; art-historical studies of the post-1105/6 images in the narthex and nave; a detailed comparative analysis of the physical and chemical properties of the frescoes; and a diachronic table of paleographical forms. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coptic Culture: Past, Present, Future

As the Copts in Egypt continue to undergo one of the most horrific periods in their long and blood-stained history, academic interest in them continues to grow, aided in part by recent academic conferences in Canada and Great Britain. One such conference has recently published its proceedings thus: Mariam Ayad, ed., Coptic Culture: Past, Present and Future (Coptic Orthodox Church Centre, 2012), 300pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In May 2008, the Coptic Orthodox Centre in Stevenage, UK organized a conference on Coptic Culture: Past, Present, and Future. The conference aimed to highlight the contributions and achievements of one of the most obscure periods of Egyptian history: the Coptic Period. The importance of this period lies in its valuable contributions to some of the most formative theological debates of Christianity. Strictly defined as a Late Antique culture, spanning only the third to the seventh centuries AD, the heritage of the Coptic Period still survives today in the artistic expression, liturgical services, and heritage of millions of Egyptian Christians who live in Egypt and abroad. This period's lasting contributions, however, remain underappreciated, and many of its aspects remain unclear, or unknown to the general public. For the first time, the conference at the Coptic Centre brought together specialists working on all aspects of Coptic Culture, from its earliest phases to the present day. One of the aims of the conference was to highlight new research on Coptic art, writings, and archaeology. By bringing together specialists, academics, and Coptic clergy, the conference fostered an active discussion of what defined Coptic identity in centuries past, and what it means to be Coptic in contemporary culture, both in Egypt and abroad. It is important that we draw on, understand, and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of this period as we look to our past to inform our present and define our future. The conference drew scholars from Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the USA. Their papers were organized along 5 general thematic blocks that dealt with (1) The Egyptian roots of Coptic culture; (2) How do we know what we know: Archaeological Sites and Museum Collections; (3) Aspects of Early and Medieval Coptic Culture: Case Studies; (4) Current Trends in Coptic Studies; and (5) Coptic Culture Today and where it's heading. This volume contains their contributions.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Secular-Democratic Turkey?

When it comes to polity in the Islamic world, Turkey is very often held up as one of the rare examples of the only example of something approximating a democracy. But it is not a democracy like those of, e.g., North America. Rights of religious minorities, especially Christians, remain at something less than ideal. This remains a question of acute importance for Greek Christians, especially those few who, under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, continue to try to live in and around Constantinople. A recent book attempts to look at all these questions: Ahmet T. Kuru and Alfred Stepan, eds., Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey (Columbia U Press, 2012), 224pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
While Turkey has grown as a world power, promoting the image of a progressive and stable nation, several choices in policy have strained its relationship with the East and the West. Providing historical, social, and religious context for this behavior, the essays in Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey examine issues relevant to Turkish debates and global concerns, from the state's position on religion to its involvement with the European Union.
Written by experts in a range of disciplines, the chapters explore the toleration of diversity during the Ottoman Empire's classical period; the erosion of ethno-religious heterogeneity in modern, pre-democratic times; Kemalism and its role in modernization and nation building; the changing political strategies of the military; and the effect of possible EU membership on domestic reforms. The essays also offer a cross-Continental comparison of "multiple secularisms," as well as political parties, considering especially Turkey's Justice and Development Party in relation to Europe's Christian Democratic parties. Contributors tackle critical research questions, such as the legacy of the Ottoman Empire's ethno-religious plurality and the way in which Turkey's assertive secularism can be softened to allow greater space for religious actors. They address the military's "guardian" role in Turkey's secularism, the implications of recent constitutional amendments for democratization, and the consequences and benefits of Islamic activism's presence within a democratic system. No other collection confronts Turkey's contemporary evolution so vividly and thoroughly or offers such expert analysis of its crucial social and political systems.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Vatican II and Ecumenical Advances

In October of this year many Christians will start commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. We have already seen a number of books, and can expect still others. Two of note just released with chapters by Orthodox theologians or bearing on Orthodox theology are: James Heft, ed. with John O'Malley, After Vatican II: Trajectories and Hermeneutics (Eerdmans, 2012),208pp. About this book the publisher tells us:

Since the closing of Vatican II (1962-1965) nearly fifty years ago, several multi-volume studies have detailed how the bishops at the council debated successive drafts and finally approved the sixteen documents published as the proceedings of the council. However, the meaning of those documents, their proper interpretations, and the ongoing developments they set in motion have been hotly debated.
In a word, Vatican II continues to be very much a topic of discussion and debate in the Roman Catholic Church and beyond. The council was an extraordinarily complex reality. It is no wonder, therefore, that opinions vary, sometimes sharply, as to its significance. This volume explores these major flashpoints.
All the chapters look interesting, but one especially, from the Eastern Christian specialist at Notre Dame, Robin Darling Young: "A Soldier of the Great War: Henri de Lubac and the Patristic Sources for a Postmodern Theology."

The second book  is edited by John Radano with a foreword by Walter Cardinal Kasper, Celebrating a Century of Ecumenism: Exploring the Achievements of International Dialogue (Eerdmans, 2012), 356pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Modern ecumenism traces its roots back to the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh. Celebrating a Century of Ecumenism brings readers up to date on one hundred years of global dialogue between many different church traditions, including Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Orthodox, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Oriental Orthodox, and more. Eighteen essays by authors representing a wide spectrum of denominational interests outline the achievements of this movement toward unity.

The first part of the book focuses on multilateral dialogue that involved a variety of churches attempting to delineate common ground, with considerable progress reported. The second part describes bilateral discussions between two churches or groups of churches. Celebrating a Century of Ecumenism is one small marker along the way to the unity that many Christians desire, and the report it provides will encourage those involved in ecumenical discussions.
Among the many contributors of note, one finds the Orthodox theologian and professor at St. Vladimir's Seminary Peter Bouteneff and the Eastern Christian specialist and Paulist priest Ronald G. Roberson, author of the invaluable (and regularly updated) The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey, now in its seventh or eighth edition at least. Others in this volumes include such well-known figures as Jeffrey Gros, Margaret O'Gara, Mary Tanner, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Susan K. Wood.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Post-Soviet Russian Church (August 2012)

Many new books continue to pour forth examining Church-state relations in Russia, which are not now and never have been as simple as many Western polemicists have often asserted. Forthcoming this August is another such book: Katja Richters, The Post-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church: Politics, Culture and Greater Russia (Routledge, 2012),  224pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In recent years, the Russian Orthodox Church has become a more prominent part of post-Soviet Russia. A number of assumptions exist regarding the Church’s relationship with the Russian state: that the Church has always been dominated by Russia’s secular elites; that the clerics have not sufficiently fought this domination and occasionally failed to act in the Church’s best interest; and that the Church was turned into a Soviet institution during the twentieth century. This book challenges these assumptions. It demonstrates that church-state relations in post-communist Russia can be seen in a much more differentiated way, and that the church is not subservient, very much having its own agenda, yet at the same time sharing the state’s, and Russian society’s, Russian nationalist vision.
The book analyses the Russian Orthodox Church’s political culture, focusing on the Putin and Medvedev eras from 2000. It examines the upper echelons of the Moscow Patriarchate in relation to the governing elite and to Russian public opinion, explores the role of the church in the formation of state religious policy, and the church’s role within the Russian military, and discusses how the Moscow Patriarchate is asserting itself in former Russian republics outside Russia, especially in Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus. It concludes by re-emphasising that, although the church often mirrors the Kremlin’s political preferences, it most definitely acts independently.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rublev's Trinity

Rublev's Trinity is of course the most well known icon in the world. And it has been nicely studied in a book published a few years ago, and just recently released electronically for those who have an Amazon Kindle: Gabriel Bunge, The Rublev Trinity, trans. Andrew Louth (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2012).

About this book the publisher tells us:
Many art historians and scholars have described the sublime icon of the Holy Trinity by St Andrei Rublev, but nothing equals this detailed and comprehensive theological explanation by Benedectine monk Gabriel Bunge. In this inspired and utterly sober work, Fr Gabriel aims to make the icon's timeless message accessible to the contemporary praying believer.
The author understands precisely that Russian iconographic art, much more than the Romanesque and Gothic sacred art of the West, represents a theological confession of faith. Icon painters were conscious of this responsibility, and the monk-painters who learned their Orthodox faith through the prayer of the Hours and the Divine Liturgy, through the familiar texts of the hymns and the Gospel readings, reflected the revelation of God in their art. Fr Gabriel, completely attuned to this method of inspiration, upholds the palladium - the sign and meaning of Holy Russia - in this work, and reverently expounds upon the awesome utterance by Pavel Florensky: "There exists the icon of the Trinity by St Andrei Rublev; therefore, God exists."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Welcome Rehabilitation of Jean Daniélou

Sandro Magister, who is always worth reading, has recently written of the "rehabilitation" as it were of Jean Daniélou nearly forty years after his death. (Say what you want about the Jesuits, but they know how to keep a secret. Has anyone yet discovered what it was that led to the downfall of the Jesuit bishop and obnoxious chauvinist Michel d'Herbigny, whose meteoric rise under Popes Pius XI and XII was matched by an almost equally rapid crash and burn? Even after reading Leon Tretjakewitsch's fascinating study--sadly hard to come by today--many years ago, Bishop Michel d'Herbigny SJ and Russia: A Pre-Ecumenical Approach to Christian Unity, I find that the mystery remains a closely guarded secret, which is itself a source for speculation not just about d'Herbigny but also about his Jesuit superiors and papal sponsors.Who has the most to hide?) I am heartened to see Daniélou being brought back in from the cold as it were. It seems that his alleged offense, now shown to be false, was used to bundle him off after he incautiously expressed politically incorrect (but manifestly obvious and demonstrably verifiable) truths about the heterodox drift of religious orders in the aftermath of Vatican II, his own Jesuit order being arguably the worst offender.

His books were part of that ressourcement movement that did so much not only to renew the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the twentieth century, but also to bring them closer. He was a prolific author, but is best known for his work on the Greek Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa especially and also Origen. I greatly enjoyed his typological work in From Shadows to Reality: Studies in the Biblical Typology of the Fathers as well as From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa's Mystical Writings.

Daniélou also wrote much else besides, including, as mentioned, works on Origen as well as liturgical works: Bible and the LiturgyThe Angels and Their Mission: According to the Fathers of the Church, and Prayer: The Mission of the Church.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dumitru Staniloae on the Love of the Trinity

As I have noted before, we are seeing a resurgence of interest in Trinitarian theology. Along comes another new book from a man widely regarded as the most important Romanian theologian of the twentieth century, and one of the most influential Orthodox thinkers of our time: Dumitru Staniloae, The Holy Trinity: In the Beginning There Was Love (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2012), 106pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The dogma of the Holy Trinity has always been at the center of Orthodox theology, which is why it was an endless subject of reflection for Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, may he rest in peace. The special place that the Trinity occupies in his teaching on the Church makes Fr. Staniloae the theologian par excellence of the Holy Trinity in the contemporary world. In fact, his entire corpus is a mammoth effort to place the unspeakable mystery of the Holy Trinity at the center of all recent Christian life and thought. As with St. Maximus the Confessor, whose work he has translated and commentated on in Romanian, this dogma does not represent an isolated theme for Fr. Staniloae. His exegeses of the Trinity glimmer throughout every chapter of his dogmatic theology. While identifying both a united absolute essence and distinct absolute hypostases at the heart of the Holy Trinity, in the most Orthodox spirit Fr. Staniloae always aimed to bring the living, dynamic personalism of Orthodox Christian theology into the light. Speaking as no one else in contemporary theology has about the infinite value of the person, about its unfathomable depths, and seeing "the undying face of God" in man, Fr. Staniloae can also speak about the perfect love whose only source is the Holy Trinity. - His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist of Romania (+2007)

From Hellenism to Islam

Robert Hoyland, to whom I have recently drawn attention, is one of four editors of a new collection, published in hardback in 2009 and released in paperback only in January of this year, from Cambridge University Press: From Hellenism to Islam: Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East (CUP, 2012, 512pp.).

About this book, the publisher says:
The eight hundred years between the first Roman conquests and the conquest of Islam saw a rich, constantly shifting blend of languages and writing systems, legal structures, religious practices and beliefs in the Near East. While the different ethnic groups and cultural forms often clashed with each other, adaptation was as much a characteristic of the region as conflict. This volume, emphasizing the inscriptions in many languages from the Near East, brings together mutually informative studies by scholars in diverse fields. Together, they reveal how the different languages, peoples and cultures interacted, competed with, tried to ignore or were influenced by each other, and how their relationships evolved over time. It will be of great value to those interested in Greek and Roman history, Jewish history and Near Eastern studies.
If you click through to Amazon you can access the detailed table of contents.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Change? What Change? We're Orthodox

It is an amusing conceit among some Eastern Christians to maintain that theirs is an unchanged and unchanging tradition stretching back to the Fathers if not to the Apostles themselves. Anybody who has the slightest serious acquaintance with real history instead of "confessional propaganda" (Taft) knows what a romantic farrago of nonsense this is. Though some like to sneer at the West for all its "innovations," in some matters it was--at least until the fall of the empire in the West--far more stable, far more conservative, far less prone to change than almost anybody else in Christendom. In witness of this, consider but one of a myriad of examples plucked more or less at random: the rebuke of Pope Gregory I to Patriarch John the Faster of Constantinople over the latter's innovatory claim to the title "ecumenical" patriarch. Almost all of the major problems in the first millennium were "innovations," if not outright heterodoxies, originating in the East--Arianism, monophysitism, monothelitism, iconoclasm, etc.

How different things are today. Today the Christian East today is marked, in many places, by a deep conservatism and a resistance to change--indeed, an often ferocious fear of it, as recent reactions in both the Russian and Greek Churches to the proposal to use liturgically modern Russian and modern Greek respectively in place of Old Church Slavonic and old liturgical Greek. For some in North America especially, Orthodoxy is regarded as the one Christian tradition that has not changed and will not change on such controverted issues as the ordination of women or same-sex relationships. As a result, it has been perceived as a refuge for Christians fleeing more liberal traditions. 

A book set for release later this summer proposes to look at the question of change in the Greek Church: Trine Stauning Willert and Lina Molokotos-Liederman, eds., Innovation in the Christian Orthodox Tradition?: The Question of Change in Greek Orthodox Thought and Practice (Ashgate, August 2012), 256pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us:
The relationship between tradition and innovation in Orthodox Christianity has often been problematic, filled with tensions and contradictions starting from the Byzantine era and running through the 19th and 20th centuries. For a long period of time scholars have typically assumed Greek Orthodoxy to be a static religious tradition with little room for renewal or change. Although this public perception continues, the immutability of the Greek Orthodox tradition has been questioned by several scholars over the past few years. This book continues this line of reasoning, but brings it into the centre of contemporary discussion. Presenting case studies from different periods of history up to the present day, the authors trace different aspects in the development of innovation and renewal in Orthodox Christianity in the Greek-speaking world and among the Diaspora.
Part I Conceptual Overview:
  • How can we speak of innovation in the Greek Orthodox tradition? Towards a typology of innovation in religion (Trine Stauning Willert and Lina Molokotos-Liederman);
  • Orthodox Christianity, change, innovation: contradictions in terms? (Vasilios Makrides).
        Part II: Encounters with other Christian Denominations:  
  • Double-identity churches on the Greek islands under the Venetians: Orthodox and Catholics sharing churches (15th to 18th centuries) (Eftichia Arvaniti);
  • Religious innovation or political strategy? The rapprochements of the Archbishop of Syros, Alexandros Lykourgos (1827–1875), towards the Anglican Church (Elisabeth Kontogiorgi).
Part III Adaptations to Modernity:
  • Emancipation through celibacy? The Sisterhoods of the Zoë Movement and their role in the development of 'Christian feminism' in Greece 1938–1960 (Spyridoula Athanasopoulou-Kypriou);
  • The new sound of the spiritual modern: the revival of Greek Orthodox chant (Tore Tvarnø Lind).
Part IV Reform and Power Struggle in Religious Governance;
  • Holy Canons or general regulations: the ecumenical Patriarchate vis-à-vis the challenge of secularization in the 19th century (Dimitrios Stamatopoulos);
  • A innovative local Orthodox model of governance? The shrine of Evangelistria on the island of Tinos (Katerina Seraïdari).
Part V Change in Contemporary Socio-Political Contexts:
  • A new agenda for religion in Greece? Theologians challenging the ethno-religious understanding of Orthodoxy and Greekness (Trine Stauning Willert);
  • From mobilization to a controlled compromise: the shift of ecclesiastical strategy under Archbishop Hieronymus, (Konstaninos Papastathis).
Part VI Beyond National Borders: the Greek Orthodox Diaspora:
  • Innovation within Greek Orthodox theology in Australia: Archbishop Stylianos and the mystique of indigenous Australian spirituality (Vassilios Adrahtas);
  • Continuities and change in Greek American Orthodoxy (Effie Fokas and Dena Fokas Moses).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pastoral Leadership Today

What does it take to lead a parish today? That is not as easy a question to answer as it may seem. With many Eastern Christian parishes--both Catholic and Orthodox--facing a rather grim future today, this is a question that becomes more acute with each passing year. Yale University's Christopher Beeley suggests we look to the past for answers to guide our present and our future: Leading God's People: Wisdom from the Early Church for Today (Eerdmans, 2012), 160pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Using the wisdom of the past to address the challenges of the present, Christopher Beeley'sLeading God's People presents key principles of church leadership as they were taught by great pastortheologians of the early church, including Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, and Gregory the Great.
Written by an acclaimed patristics scholar with firsthand parish experience, this book presents the key principles of church leadership as they were taught by some of the great pastor-theologians of the early church.
Over the centuries, countless leaders from all church traditions — Eastern and Western, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox — have turned to the classic works on pastoral ministry for inspiration and guidance. Here Christopher A. Beeley draws on the wise teachings of early Christian leaders as he offers warmhearted pastoral advice to fellow ministers and candidates for ministry. Topics covered include the nature of Christian service, pastoral authority, spirituality for leaders, pastoral care and healing, Scripture and theology as resources for ministry, and the transformative power of word and sacrament.
The dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary, John Behr, says that this
is a wonderful book, based upon Christopher Beeley's deep love and knowledge of the great fathers of the church, East and West, as well as the practice of ministry within the church. . . . Provides solid guidance to all who are interested in the practice of Christian leadership, both lay and ordained.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Light Shineth in Darkness; and the Darkness Comprehended It Not

Continuing their wholly welcome endeavors on "the Russian front," Eerdmans has another book by Bulgakov set for release later this year: Unfading Light, trans. T.A. Smith (Eerdmans, October 2012), 544pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
With its scholarly discussions of myth, German idealist philosophy, negative theology, and mysticism, shot through with reflections on personal religious experiences, Unfading Light documents what a life in Orthodoxy came to mean for Sergius Bulgakov on the tumultuous eve of the 1917 October Revolution. Written in the final decade of the Russian Silver Age, the book is a typical product of that era of experimentation in all fields of culture and life. Bulgakov referred to the book as miscellanies, a patchwork of chapters articulating in symphonic form the ideas and personal experiences that he and his entire generation struggled to comprehend. Readers may be reminded of St. Augustine's Confessions and City of God as they follow Bulgakov through the challenges and opportunities presented to Orthodoxy by modernity.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Lamps Are Going Out All Over Europe and We Shall Not See Them Lit Again

We are fast coming on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War--about which the British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey is said to have uttered the quotation in the header above. It was that event which, arguably more than any other, so shaped our world down to the present day. The collapse of three major and longstanding empires--the Russian, Ottoman, and Hapsburg, and one parvenu, the German--would have major consequences for Eastern Christians, especially Russians and Armenians, and we have a new book examining two of those empires: Michael A. Reynolds, Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires 1908-1918 (Oxford U Press, 2011), 324pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us:
The break-up of the Ottoman empire and the disintegration of the Russian empire were watershed events in modern history. The unravelling of these empires was both cause and consequence of World War I and resulted in the deaths of millions. It irrevocably changed the landscape of the Middle East and Eurasia and reverberates to this day in conflicts throughout the Caucasus and Middle East. Shattering Empires draws on extensive research in the Ottoman and Russian archives to tell the story of the rivalry and collapse of two great empires. Overturning accounts that portray their clash as one of conflicting nationalisms, this pioneering study argues that geopolitical competition and the emergence of a new global interstate order provide the key to understanding the course of history in the Ottoman-Russian borderlands in the twentieth century. It will appeal to those interested in Middle Eastern, Russian, and Eurasian history, international relations, ethnic conflict, and World War I.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bishop Budka Biography Announced

The priest-historian Athanasius McVay, whom I interviewed here for his book on the Holodomor in Ukraine, will soon publish a scholarly biography of Bishop Nykyta Budka, the first Eastern Catholic bishop appointed to Canada 100 years ago this year. Details are here. We will have this reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, to which you may subscribe here. I also hope to interview the author later in the year.

Modern Russian Culture

Cambridge University Press continues its publication of helpful and affordable Companions on various topics, some of which I have previously noted. One of the most recent, released at the end of May, is Nicholas Rzhevsky, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Modern Russian Culture (Cambridge UP, 2012, 446pp.)

About this book the publisher tells us:
Russia's size, the diversity of its peoples and its unique geographical position straddling East and West have created a culture that is both inward and outward looking. Its history reflects the tension between very different approaches to what culture can and should be, and this tension shapes the vibrancy of its arts today. The highly successful first edition of Rzhevsky's Companion has been updated to include post-Soviet trends and new developments in the twenty-first century. It brings together leading authorities writing on Russian cultural identity, its Western and Asian connections, popular culture and the unique Russian contributions to the arts. Each of the eleven chapters has been revised or entirely rewritten to take account of current cultural conditions and the further reading brought up to date. The book reveals, for students, academic researchers and all those interested in Russia, the dilemmas, strengths and complexities of the Russian cultural experience.
Chapter 3, authored by the editor and co-authored by Dmitry Likhachev, is devoted to Russian Orthodoxy. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Status of the Greek New Testament

The Septuagint remains--so far as one can make such generalizations--the authoritative version of the Scriptures for most if not all of the Christian East. A recent edited collection looks at the status of the Greek New Testament: Klaus Wachtel and Michael Holmes, eds., The Textual History of the Greek New Testament: Changing Views in Contemporary Research (Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 236pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This collection of essays by respected scholars represents the state of the art of textual criticism as applied to the New Testament. Addressing core topics such as the causes and forms of variation, contamination and coherence, and the goals and the canons of textual criticism, it presents a first-class overview of traditional and innovative methodologies as they are applied to reconstructing the initial wording of the New Testament writings.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Christian Spirituality: A Quiz

Which is the more tiresome and fatuous phrase:
(a) I'm not really religious, but I am spiritual
(b) I'm spiritual, but I'm not into organized religion
(c) Jesus: Yes! Church: No
(d) All of the above.

The correct answer, of course, is (d), and the penalty for failing the exam is a mandatory reading of a new book by Kyriacos Markides that may help us turn back the flood of narcissistic nonsense spewed today in the name of "spirituality": Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christian Spirituality (Image Books, 2012), 336pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us
In Inner River, Kyriacos Markides—scholar, researcher, author, and pilgrim—takes us on a thrilling quest into the heart of Christian spirituality and mankind’s desire for a transcendent experience of God. From Maine’s rugged shores to a Cypriot monastery to Greece’s remote Mt. Athos and, ultimately, to an Egyptian desert, Markides encounters a diverse cast of characters that allows him to explore the worlds of the natural and the supernatural, of religion and spirit, and of the seen and the unseen. Inner River will appeal to a wide range of readers, from Christians seeking insights into their religion and its various expressions to scholars interested in learning more about the mystical way of life and wisdom that have been preserved in the heart of Orthodox spirituality. Perhaps most important, however, is the bridge it offers contemporary readers to a Christian life that is balanced between the worldly and the spiritual.
Markides is the author of several other similar works, including the highly regarded book The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality as well as Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Romantic Nationalism

It is, as I have noted before, something of a commonplace that ethno-nationalism plays a rather large, and often deleterious, role in Eastern Christianity. Along comes a new book that looks at modern expressions of such nationalism in Eastern Europe: Serhiy Bilenky, Romantic Nationalism in Eastern Europe: Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian Political Imaginations (Stanford University Press, 2012), 408pp.
This book, the publisher tells us,
explores the political imagination of Eastern Europe in the 1830s and 1840s, when Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian intellectuals came to identify themselves as belonging to communities known as nations or nationalities. Bilenky approaches this topic from a transnational perspective, revealing the ways in which modern Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian nationalities were formed and refashioned through the challenges they presented to one another, both as neighboring communities and as minorities within a given community. Further, all three nations defined themselves as a result of their interactions with the Russian and Austrian empires. Fueled by the Romantic search for national roots, they developed a number of separate yet often overlapping and inclusive senses of national identity, thereby producing myriad versions of Russianness, Polishness, and Ukrainianness.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Joseph de Maistre Then and Now

I have been spending many happy weeks this spring immersed in the fascinating thought of Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) (as well as some of his contemporaries, especially Louis de Bonald and Felicité de Lamenais). I came across Maistre in the early part of the last decade thanks to Richard Lebrun, whose grandson, Brian Butcher, was in the doctoral program with me at the Sheptytsky Institute at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. Lebrun, the doyen of anglophone scholars of Maistre, hearing of my work on the papacy, sent me a number of essays on Maistre. I did not have time to dive into him then with any seriousness, so I set him aside knowing that he was a substantial and influential figure to whom I would return at some point.

What makes Maistre so fascinating is not only how misunderstood he has been, not only how "outrageous" some of his ideas may appear to some people today (which always attaches a frisson to someone), but how often he is cited as a major influence on the First Vatican Council and the development of modern conceptions and practices of the papacy in its exercise of universal jurisdiction and infallibility. Maistre's notion of "sovereignty" is said to be hugely influential here. One figure who has been arguing for the centrality of Maistre in the modern papacy is the German Jesuit historian Hermann Pottmeyer in such books as Towards a Papacy in Communion: Perspectives from Vatican Councils I & II. Others have made similar arguments on the Orthodox side: the Russian Orthodox Nicholas Lossky has suggested that the aftermath of the French Revolution shapes modern Orthodox nation-states and their churches' desire for "autocephaly." And the Greek political scientist Paschalis Kitromilides has also argued for the influence of post-revolutionary French thought on modern Orthodox ecclesiology in Greece and southeastern Europe

What makes all of these lines of influence even more fascinating is that Maistre spent fourteen years in Russia at the imperial court in St. Petersburg where he was ambassador of the King of Piedmont-Sardinia (whose subject Maistre was: he was never a French citizen though he wrote in beautiful, elegant French and was a noted stylist). Maistre was also, for a time, close to and influential upon Tsar Alexander I and the tsar's minister of education and "national enlightenment" Sergei Uvarov, and Maistre one of the most celebrated figures in the stylish salons of St. Petersburg, then one of the great cosmopolitan cities of Europe and in some ways a place of refuge for many fleeing revolutions in France and elsewhere. 

It seems clear now, thanks to modern scholarship, that many of the ideas and perceptions of Maistre are demonstrably false, and that he was a much richer, and perhaps ironically more modern, thinker than some have thought--himself a revolutionary in some ways though he despised the French Revolution and all its pomps and works. One of the newest works to continue the project of examining Maistre in depth and context comes in an edited collection by Richard Lebrun and Carolina Armenteros, Joseph de Maistre and his European Readers (Brill, 2011, 308pp.). I asked the editors for an interview about this book, and their other works on Maistre, and here are their thoughts.

AD: Tell us about your backgrounds

Richard: born 1 October 1931, on a farm near Milton, ND, grew up on another farm near Langdon, ND. Early education was mostly in the parochial school in Langdon with the Presentation Sisters. I received a B.A. in 1953 from St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. The second semester of my third year was spent in Vienna as a participant in the Institute of European Studies – this also involved extensive travel in Italy, North Africa, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, and England. It was this experience that ignited my interest in European history. Following graduation from St. John’s, there followed three years of active duty in the U.S. Navy (an alternative to two years in the infantry during the Korean War). While in the Navy, I married in 1954. We subsequently had six children, and now have a multitude of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Following the Navy, thanks to the G.I. Bill and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, I entered graduate school at the University of Minnesota in September 1956, earned an M.A. by the spring of 1957, and then a Ph.D. (in history) in 1963. 

I was very interested on French history, but by the time I came to undertake a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Minnesota, we had small children, so the prospects of doing archival research in France were small; in these circumstances, my faculty advisor suggested a topic in intellectual history where I could rely on printed sources, and also suggested that very little had been done in English on Joseph de Maistre, someone he felt was of considerable importance. 

In September 1960, I accepted a teaching position at the University of Ottawa, where I taught until 1966, when I was invited to accept at teaching position at the University of Manitoba, where I taught until my retirement in 1998.

Carolina: Of Spanish, French, and Dominican parents, I was born on 13 October 1974 in Geneva, Switzerland. I grew up in Spain until I was twelve, when my family emigrated to the United States, the Mojave Desert of Southern California to be exact. I did my undergraduate work at Stanford, where I double-majored in history and biology and where I completed a Master’s in modern history before moving to Cambridge to do a second Master’s in ancient history.

After my second Master’s, I decided to stay at Cambridge for a Ph.D. in political thought and intellectual history, a subject for which Cambridge is world-renowned. During the first few months of my doctoral research, I discovered Maistre’s Considerations on France (1797) in the library. I thought then that they would be useful as no more than a passing reference for my Ph.D. project, which at the time was on a subject completely unrelated to Maistre. Within ten minutes of opening the Considerations, though, I knew that I would change my dissertation subject, and that I would henceforth work on either Maistre’s philosophy of history, or – if that had been done – some other aspect of Maistre’s thought. That was twelve years ago, and I have been reading and writing on Maistre ever since.

AD: What led you both to work on this book?

RichardJoseph de Maistre and his European Readers is the third of three volumes of essays first presented at Reappraisals/Reconsidérations, the Fifth International Colloquium on Joseph de Maistre, held at Jesus College, Cambridge on 4 and 5 December 2008. This colloquium was organized by Carolina Armenteros, who subsequently asked me to work with her on editing and publishing the proceedings of this colloquium. I had first met Carolina at the fourth international colloquium on Maistre, which met in Chambéry in 2001; I was later invited to serve as the external examiner on her Cambridge Ph.D. dissertation in history in June 2004. From the time we first met, we explored our mutual interest in Maistre together through email; I also wrote many letters of reference for her for various fellowships and teaching positions.

Carolina: At Richard’s suggestion, I made the theme of the conference – Reappraisals – broad enough to accommodate a wide variety of interests. When the sessions were over, it became clear that Maistre’s posterity had been one of the major topics. It therefore made sense to gather the relevant papers into a themed volume, which we rounded off by commissioning some extra chapters.

Reappraisals yielded two additional collections of essays, which Richard and I also co-edited: Joseph De Maistre and the Legacy of Enlightenment (Oxford, 2011) and The New enfant du siècle: Joseph de Maistre as a Writer (St Andrews, 2010).

AD: Your book, Joseph de Maistre and his European Readerspublished in 2011, focuses on a man who died nearly 200 years ago. How is he still relevant today?

Richard: There are many figures in intellectual history, from Aristotle on, who, because of the brilliance of their thought and their influence on European culture and civilization, remain of perennial interest. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, from the generation before Joseph de Maistre, continues to be the subject of new and important studies, despite the huge bibliography on him. Evidence of Maistre’s continuing relevance may be found in the fact that new editions of his works and new studies of his thought and influence continue to appear in French and other languages. The subjects that he explored, including the nature of politics, the nature of language, the role of religion in society and politics, theodicy, and similar topics, continue to be of importance in our contemporary world. Fundamentally, his thought still provokes serious reflections on problems and issues that are still with us. Our 2011 volume focuses on Maistre’s European readers, but omits Spain and Portugal; there remains to be explored his influence in the Hispanic worlds of both Europe and Latin America, as well as his influence in the Muslim world and in Asia. We know that our website on Maistre has attracted interest from scholars in both Japan and China.

Carolina: As a Catholic political thinker who witnessed the de-Christianization campaigns of the French Revolution, Maistre was particularly interested in the relationship between religion and politics, and between tradition and modernity. I think these are subjects that make him especially relevant today, when traditional immigrant populations are growing in Europe and North America and when Judaeo-Christian traditions are reasserting themselves as legitimate sources of public reason. The repercussions of these trends abound in modern democracies: they range from Obamacare’s implications for religious freedom of conscience, to Switzerland’s ban on minarets, to France and Belgium’s controversial policies on the wearing of the burqa and niqab, to the dialogue between Christian churches and various Western governments over abortion, euthanasia, and world poverty. Our inheritance from the radical Enlightenment has led us to view these issues as confrontations between backwardness and progress, and it has encouraged us to see religion and tradition as mentalities to be discarded. Yet Maistre offers us alternative and much more stimulating ways of approaching the problem.

AD: Maistre has often been portrayed as perhaps the arch-reactionary, the figure resisting the revolutionary tide of 18th- and 19th-century Europe. What does this portrait (caricature?) miss of him and his thinking?

Richard: The caricature of Joseph de Maistre as the arch-reactionary is largely the product of politics in nineteenth-century France, and the long struggle in that country (a struggle that spread elsewhere in Europe and to England and the U.S. as well) between those who saw themselves as loyal to the ideals of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and those who came to see the Revolution as a tragedy for France and for Christianity. In the circumstances of that period, Maistre became a symbol of the fundamental cleavage between those who admired the Revolution and those who approved it. (See my Throne and Altar: the Political and Religious Thought of Joseph de Maistre, pp. 1-3.) It is only in the past few decades that it has become possible to read Maistre anew with fresh eyes and from a broader perspective.

Carolina: The idea that Maistre was an arch-reactionary suggests that he was committed to the past. There is some truth in this: he thought, overall, that the French people had been better off under the Old Regime than they were during the French Revolution. This opinion, however, should not obscure the fact that Maistre was open to social and political changes that he saw as initiated by Providence, executed by human wisdom, and tending irresistibly toward the good. Even revolutionary calamities were productive within his scheme, because they contributed to purging society of the evils that prevented it from perfecting itself. Not only that, but despite providential intervention, humans were in charge of their own destiny, and as time went on they took increasing responsibility for producing their own social and political environments. This way of thinking is incompatible with reaction. But it dovetails very well with what I believe Maistre to have really been – a revolutionary conservative.

AD: Maistre spent fourteen years in Russia. Is there evidence of Russian culture generally--and Russian Orthodoxy in particular--shaping his thought, particularly his religious or theological thought?

Richard: It’s clear that Maistre was fascinated by his observations of Russian politics, culture, and religion. However, it must be recalled that he never learned the language, and lived only in the rarefied “French language” milieu of the court and diplomatic circles in the Russian capital. My impression is that his interactions with Russian culture only deepened and intensified his fundamental beliefs, strengthening his adherence to positions that he had reached long before his sojourn in Russia.

Carolina: I agree with Richard that the core of Maistre’s thought was already formed before he arrived in Russia. In fact, living in Saint Petersburg seems to have strengthened his identity as a Latin Catholic. I would add only that intellectual debates at the Russian court were the major stimuli that drove him to compose his mature works. Thus the Platonic illuminism that was in vogue among the Saint Petersburg aristocracy in 1809 inspired Maistre to read Origen and to write his esoteric works, the St Petersburg Dialogues and the 

Clarification Regarding Sacrifices (the first treatise on the sociology of violence), which were published in 1821. Mikhail Speransky’s initiatives to establish a national system of education also led Maistre to write his Examination of the Philosophy of Bacon (published 1836), along with various pedagogical memoirs for the Russian government. As for Du Pape (1819), his magnum opus and the text that founded political ultramontanism, it was shaped by his participation in Russian religious debates and in particular by his desire to save the Orthodox Church from subservience to the state.

AD: In turn, is there evidence of his having shaped Russian culture and Russian Orthodoxy?

Richard: On Maistre’s influence in Russia, the essay by Vera Miltchyna, published first in French as “Oeuvres de Joseph de Maistre en Russie: Aperçu de la réception,” in the Revue des études maistriennes, No. 13 (2001), and in English translation as “Joseph de Maistre’s Works in Russia: A Look at their Reception,” in the volume I edited entitled Joseph De Maistre's Life, Thought, and Influence: Selected Studies (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001), remains a good starting place. But Carolina’s essay “Preparing the Russian Revolution: Maistre and Uvarov on the History of Knowledge,” in our 2011 Brill volume, goes far beyond the influence of Maistre’s published works to explore his direct influence on Sergei Uvarov, a figure who was very important in nineteenth-century Russian state policy.

Carolina: Maistre may have influenced Russian Orthodoxy by antithesis: I have always thought that Aleksandr Sturdza’s Considerations on the Doctrine and Spirit of the Orthodox Church (1816) were a response to Maistre’s ecclesiology. I discuss this in Chapter 3 of my book, The French Idea of History: Joseph De Maistre and His Heirs, 1794-1854 (Cornell, 2011). Yet Maistre exercised an influence on Russian educational policy that was far more important. He helped Razumovsky, Alexander I’s minister of education, to elaborate a curriculum for the imperial lycée at Tsarskoye Selo – a curriculum that was later adopted throughout the country. He also exercised a formative influence on Uvarov that, thanks to Uvarov’s long career as an educational policy maker, had an impact on Russian education until the end of the reign of Nicholas II. In our Brill volume I argue that, although they were designed to prevent Revolution, the educational policies that Uvarov implemented and derived from Maistre actually helped, quite ironically, to prepare the Russian Revolution.

AD: Isaiah Berlin perhaps infamously held Maistre to be a precursor of fascism, which seems rather de trop to me. What would you say in answer to Berlin

Richard: It seems to me that Cyprian Blamires’ essay, “Berlin, Maistre, and Fascism” in our 2011 Brill volume provides a devastating and convincing response to Berlin’s misguided efforts to portray Maistre as a precursor to fascism.

Carolina: Certainly. Blamires wrote his doctoral thesis on Maistre under Berlin’s supervision and understands both thinkers deeply. I would add too that the rest of our volume in itself constitutes further proof of Blamires’ thesis, since most of the Maistrian interpreters it discusses were thinkers on the left. This tendency to engage the left is a general facet of Maistre’s posterity: among his hundreds of interpreters across the centuries, I can think of only two who had strong fascist sympathies: Carl Schmitt and Charles Maurras.

AD: Maistre was extensively involved with Freemasonry, and at one point seems to have thought that the Freemasons would be instrumental in uniting a divided Christianity. And yet many Catholics today regard Freemasonry with horror, seeing membership in it as totally incompatible with membership in the Catholic Church. How did Maistre negotiate these difficult waters?

Richard: On Maistre’s relationship to Freemasonry, see my Joseph de Maistre: An Intellectual Militant, where my treatment of this issue is based on the excellent studies by Jean Rebotton and Jean-Louis Darcel. Fundamentally, eighteenth-century Freemasonry, and in particular the strand of Masonry with which Maistre was involved, was not particularly anti-Christian or anti-Catholic. In France, many priests and bishops were involved. It was only in the clerical versus anti-clerical wars in nineteenth-century France that Freemasonry became resolutely anti-clerical. For more detailed studies of Maistre and Masonry, see the Revue des études maistriennes, No. 5-6 (1980) which includes a number of important studies on “Illuminisme et Franc-Maçonnerie,” which were presented at a colloquium held in Chambéry in May 1979.

Carolina: Maistre’s youthful social life seems to have revolved mainly around Freemasonry. He was very enthusiastic about it. In the eighteenth century, as Richard notes, Freemasonry, although formally forbidden by the Church, was not as feared and despised in Catholic circles as it would be in the nineteenth century. The message of Pope Clement XII’s In Iminenti (1738) hadn’t sunk in so to speak. The young Maistre even believed Freemasonry and Catholicism to be compatible, to the point that he proposed, in his Memoir to the Duke of Brunswick (1782), that Catholics and Protestants should use Freemasonic institutions as forums of ecumenical reconciliation.

The French Revolution changed all that. When it came, Freemasons acquired a European-wide reputation for subversion as conspiracy theories flourished speculating on the role they had supposedly played during the Revolution. It was at this point that Maistre began to be accused of having developed revolutionary sympathies among the Freemasons. He defended himself against the charge, and abandoned his Masonic activities with regret. Years later, when he was in Russia, he would console himself for this loss by befriending Freemasons (the Swedish Baron de Stedingk) and cultivating esotericism.

AD: Maistre's Du Pape seems to have had, at least initially, a rather cool reception in Catholic circles--especially in Rome itself. And yet contemporary scholars of our time (e.g., the Jesuit Hermann Pottmeyer) have said he is the figure influencing Catholic ecclesiology from Vatican I onward. How would you assess his influence on Catholic theology? How (if at all) has that influence changed in different ages from his own to ours?

Richard: Actually, the influence of Maistre’s Du Pape precedes Vatican I. Numerous editions of Maistre’s works, including Du Pape, were published in France during the Second Empire. Beginning with Lamennais in the 1820s, and then with Louis Veuillot in the 1850s and the 1860s, Maistre’s Ultramontane ideas were widely publicized in France well before 1870. He was probably important in weaning much of the French episcopacy from Gallicanism and converting them to Ultramontanism. In addition to the influence of his ecclesiological ideas, his aggressive defense of Catholicism generally seems to have heartened many nineteenth-century conservative Catholics, not only in France, but elsewhere. It’s significant, for example, that his little essay defending the Spanish Inquisition was translated into English three times in the nineteenth-century (1838, 1843, and 1851). See my “Joseph de Maistre et l’apologie de l’Inquisition espagnole,” in Joseph de Maistre (ed. by Phillippe Barthelet; Les Dossiers H; L’Âge d’Homme, 2005).

Carolina: I would add to that the influence that Maistre had on the proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility in 1870. Since the 1790s, Maistre had followed Jean Bodin in ascribing absoluteness to temporal sovereignty. By the 1810s, in Book 1 of Du Pape, he observed that because temporal sovereignty is by nature absolute, and because the Church possessed both temporal and spiritual sovereignty, papal sovereignty was doubly absolute and could be termed infallible. I believe this statement to be at the origin of the dogma of papal infallibility. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries Maistre does not seem to have been as great an inspiration to Catholic theology as he was in the nineteenth.

AD: Maistre seems clearly to have been an enemy of Gallicanism at least insofar as that was a movement for the "independence" of the French church from papal control. On a related matter, did he have much to say about Eastern Orthodox notions of "autocephaly" whereby each national church is held to be free from any external authority outside the nation-state?

Richard: Book Four of Du Pape, which is entirely devoted to “The Pope in his relations with the Chuches called schismatical,” argues strongly that both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church, have been and are fatally weakened by the way they have been subjected to the state. And, of course, much of the argument against Gallicanism as developed in De l’Église gallicane, blames the weaknesses of the pre-revolutionary French Church on the Gallicanism of the French crown and the parlements.

Carolina: Yes, I’m afraid Maistre was no fan of the autocephalous churches. Any and all ideas of ecclesiastical independence from Rome were anathema to him!

AD: Your book's title speaks of Maistre's "European readers." Do you know of any evidence that Maistre's theories about sovereignty influenced not just Western European readers but also those in the emerging independent nation-states such as Greece, Romania, or Bulgaria?

Carolina: This is an exciting question, which beckons to new research. Unfortunately, I am not at all aware of Maistre’s reception in any of these countries. But I can say that although he wrote on Maistre in French, and lived most of his life in France, one of Maistre’s most famous interpreters, Emil Cioran, was Romanian.

AD: The German Catholic Carl Schmitt famously said in the 1920s and 1930s, "Sovereign is he who decides the exception." What would Maistre have said in response to such a statement? Tell us, in other words, a bit about his theory of sovereignty, and whether you think his theory has influenced Catholic ideas about the "sovereign Pontiff."

Richard: As for a dialogue between Maistre and Schmitt, see the essay by Graeme Garrard, “Joseph de Maistre and Carl Schmitt” in my Joseph De Maistre's Life, Thought, and Influence: Selected Studies mentioned above. In Du Pape, of course, Maistre based a good part of his argument for papal authority over the Church on his theory of sovereignty. See especially, Book Two of this work, which deals with “The Pope in his relations with temporal sovereignties.”

Carolina: I’ve answered a bit of this question above. Here I would say as well that Maistre would have agreed with Schmitt’s idea of sovereignty by exception (which is not surprising, since Maistre influenced Schmitt). Maistre had a very pessimistic idea of sovereignty. In On the Sovereignty of the People (1794-6), he defined it as “an absolute power that can do evil with impunity.” Like Schmitt, he believed that it always originated in an act of violence. However this was only his view of temporal sovereignty. In The French Idea of History, I have argued that for him ecclesiastical sovereignty distinguishes itself from temporal varieties precisely by its peaceful birth and rational capacity to govern non-violently. All temporal governments in his view follow over time the trajectory of a parabola: they rise with violence, and they decline when what he calls human ‘force’ is spent. But the Church is unique among all other governments in that it was born inconspicuously, and that rather than rise and fall, it has never ceased to grow steadily and in a straight line.

AD: At least as I read him--and I've not read everything--Maistre seems to have had what I would characterize as a deeply Augustinian pessimism about the human condition in general, and about the condition of sovereigns and monarchs in particular, viewing them all as (potentially) deeply corrupt. Is that a fair and accurate reading? 

Carolina: Maistre’s pessimism has been greatly emphasized, and with good reason. However I don’t think that he believed monarchs and sovereigns to be more corrupt than other people. And I also believe that Pelagianism plays a much greater role in his thought than does Augustinian pessimism. After all, this was an avowed enemy of modern Augustinians, a man with a nearly unbounded faith in the power of human beings to craft their own destiny, a Catholic who bordered on heterodoxy by maintaining that sometimes, the human will can annul God’s.

AD: Some have argued today that we live in a "globalized" world where national sovereignty has become significantly downgraded. What do you think Maistre would say in response to such ideas? 

Carolina: I think he would be very open to them. Maistre was a Europeanist, in fact a universalist, by virtue of his Christian faith. He believed that someday, the Church would extend over the whole earth, embracing and mingling with all cultures. In Europe, the political result would be a European confraternity similar to the Amphictyons of ancient Greece. Beyond Europe, a global order would model itself on the European Christian community. Maistre never addressed directly what would happen to nations in the future, but his later thought suggests that he would not have regretted their demise, at least not greatly. In the end, religious identity took undisputed precedence over political or national identity for him.

AD: Was Maistre in the end a hopeless romantic? In other words, his theory about the papacy--if I understand it correctly--was that it was supposed to function as something of a bulwark against the potential for tyranny in other sovereigns. But the "Sovereign Pontiff" is a sinful man like other leaders. Did Maistre expect too much of the popes? 

Richard: I think Maistre was fully aware that popes are as human as the rest of us. His argument was not so much about expecting the pope to be especially virtuous as about trying to identify a structural bulwark against tyranny. For various reasons he had no faith in the “Concert of Europe” that Tsar Alexander was promoting after the downfall of Napoleon, but I think he would have been sympathetic to the fundamental ideas about the League of Nations and the United Nations. We are, of course, still wrestling with the problem of what the world should do about lawless and tyrannical regimes, be they in Rwanda, Libya, or Syria.

Carolina: I agree. Maistre did not expect exceptional virtue from the popes. In fact, he defended monarchy precisely because it was the regime that required the least virtue, because even mediocre men could make it work. In this sense at least, he was no romantic, but an eighteenth-century rationalist and especially an heir of Montesquieu. 
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