"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).

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Wanted: A Theology of Disobedience

I was gratified to read this week of a French priest flatly insisting that people stop calling him 'father.' That accords with what I argued in Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power. 

I was told by friends/critics who read my book in draft that my calling for an abolition of the practice of automatically conferring the title "father" to clerics would be the hardest bit to swallow in an already challenging book. But here is one priest in France saying the same thing, and in the book I drew on another (Carlos Dominguez-Morano, about whom see below) who also laid out very solid psychological reasons (to say nothing of theology) for abolishing the title "father."

Morano is also extremely critical of notions, and especially practices, of "obedience." On this score, too, he has led me to change my mind. I now regard both notions--of "spiritual paternity" and "obedience as a virtue"--with far more skepticism than I once did.

Indeed, more than twenty years ago now when I was en route to becoming a Catholic, I discovered a facetious phrase in the writings of the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who spoke about certain converts who “exult in the freedom to submit to authority with wild abandon.” I gladly saw myself as such, and went on to publish several articles extolling ecclesial obedience in the thought of the Jesuits Henri de Lubac and Walter Burghardt as well as John Henry Newman.

I cannot bring myself to read those now. Indeed, part of me wants to find old copies and burn them so that no child, no seminarian, no human being will ever think that he or she must submit to a clerical predator because obedience is a virtue—because he demands obedience “under pain of sin” or “in the name of God” or to receive some favor. These stories have led me increasingly to think that demands for obedience in any organization must always be regarded with suspicion—including, now, the Church.

Indeed, let me put it as strongly as possible: the Church should be held up to more suspicion than any other organization whenever it demands obedience in any matter beyond the strictly doctrinal as set down in, say, the universal catechism. I say this because the Church, unlike so-called secular organizations, is singularly vulnerable to abuses of obedience for two reasons: first, it often demands obedience in the name of God; and second, because it thus covers itself with a theological patina, it can more easily cower and frighten people (“disobeying me is disobeying God!”) who are conveniently bereft of any of the safeguards deliberately built into other organizations to prevent abuses of authority. (We have no “whistleblower” lines anonymously to call; we have no HR department to convene a hearing over sexual harassment.) In other words, in demanding obedience the Church has often, inexcusably, forgotten her own central doctrine of original sin which, as St. Augustine famously showed us, very often manifests itself via libido dominandi.

Augustine, of course, discusses that phrase in the City of God in reference to the Roman Empire and other non-Christian forces rampaging about the world. (John Rist's discussion of Augustine on this point is worth your time.) But the problem is that the Church has often uncritically and unconsciously adopted the language, practices, and structures of the empire and other polities since then. As I tell my students, structures we so commonly use today—e.g.,  “diocese” or “metropolitan” or “pontiff”—are all directly borrowed from the empire. So too our now universal practice of ordaining men in a cursus honorum, requiring them to process through a series of “lesser” offices en route to the greater, mirrors exactly how one advanced through the ranks of the Roman army. At one point the Church would ordain a man directly, not sequentially, to the priesthood or episcopate. But by adopting the Roman cursus we changed our practices of ordination (which I treat here).

We might be tempted to think these are harmless remnants of our Roman past, and perhaps they are. But far less harmless is the borrowing of the habits of hierarchical coercion and enforced obedience accompanied by serious (and sometimes lethal) threats one finds enacted by armies and empires, by modern nation-states—and by the Church. While the Church has not convened a court martial and then carried out a sentence of death on those who go astray, she has not been averse to handing such “offenders” over to the secular government, which shares no such scruples about, e.g., executing homosexuals on the Church’s behalf (as a recently published, and seemingly laudatory translation of a bull of Pope Pius V makes clear).

What we require today, more than ever, is a theology of disobedience that will begin to help the Church disentangle her life from that of imperial interlopers and begin to undo some of the damage causes by a perversion of obedience. This is a conclusion I came to after reading Carlos Dominguez-Morano, Belief After Freud: Religious Faith Through the Crucible of Psychoanalysis (trans. F.J. Montero [Routledge, 2018]). I finished it in a few days last August, but have hardly been able to write about it fully since then. It is a tour de force and deserves a very wide audience. (Its Spanish original is now in its fifth edition, and we can and should encourage such a popular dissemination among anglophone audiences.)

Part of my reticence in speaking about it comes from how many and how powerful are its challenges in some crucial areas not just of practice but of faith. My own thinking about Freud and the analytic traditions following from him--especially in Britain with, e.g., Winnicott, Bion, Klein, Coltart, Bollas, Fairbairn, Guntrip, Phillips and others--has generally inclined towards more "therapeutic" uses, whether in an individual-clinical setting, or in questions like, e.g., the healing of memories. I have not, in other words, thought Freud through in the context of, e.g., the father-son relationship between Jesus and His Father as expressed in the gospels. But Morano does this and more in ways that I have found nobody else comes close to doing. (To the extent that Catholic scholars have engaged Freudian and analytic thought seriously, it is the Jesuits who have done more than most, with Morano writing several books in Spanish over the last two decades on Christianity and psychoanalysis; and, in the anglophone world, the late Jesuit W.W. Meissner being similarly prolific.)

I must confess that when I received Morano's book in the mail in late August I was peeved and put out: for I was then on sabbatical and part of my plan was to write, if not finish, a book I have tentatively called “Theology After Freud,” a book I have been thinking about intermittently for nearly twenty-five years now since studying psychology in Canada, undergoing a classical psychoanalysis there, and ever after trying to integrate analytic thought into my work in ecclesiology, ecumenism, and the healing of memories, especially between Catholic and Orthodox Christians (the subject of my first book). But I quickly came, sincerely and modestly, to thank God that Carlos Dominguez-Morano wrote this book for it is far better and braver than anything I would have attempted.

That is nowhere more in evidence than his reflections on obedience. This book landed in my lap in this summer of endless revelations about sexual abuse, which is always also an abuse of power. And as we are hearing these tales, what is the default response of too many hierarchs to those wondering what can be done? Why, pray and fast, of course! But such seemingly pious exhortations can mask, this acutely perceptive psychoanalyst says, a sinister agenda: “religious power structures have never been indifferent to prayer and have so frequently manipulated it to their advantage…. Prayer finds in power a perfect ally and associate to help pursue certain goals, not always clear in their evangelical motivations.” Those goals, I would suggest, usually include the unspoken domination and enforced silence of the people instructed to pray, for such praying, it is confidently assumed, will be not to ask God to “scatter the proud in the imagination of their hearts” and to “put down the mighty from their [episcopal] thrones” (Luke 1:51-52). One must, therefore, question the motives of those exhorting us to prayer and expecting of us obedience to these and other exhortations and orders:
on these occasions when the subject finds himself in conflict and in disagreement with certain approaches from authority, it is frightening to hear that old ‘pray on it’ advice. Frightening because we are left doubting whether what is really wanted is that the matter is taken up with the God of Jesus of Nazareth or with the god of that figure in the unconscious, the superego.
Dominguez-Morano goes on to argue elsewhere in the book that one of the key lessons of the earthly life of Jesus vis-à-vis his parents, especially revealed in the incident where they find him teaching in the temple at the age of twelve, is that he shows us how to overcome the problem of earthly fathers and their claims to power over us: “Any type of paternal projection on other social figures must be overcome. Nobody on earth can claim paternal authority. Nobody can exert paternal power or protection functions in the Christian community.”

If we refuse such power and paternal functions, we do so, Dominguez-Morano reminds us, because Christ says “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:14-15). Those who are called to be friends with God must learn to conceive him anew, moving past paternal projections onto priests, bishops, and popes, and all the problems inherent in those. Thus Dominguez-Morano can say that “the Christian should not nostalgically search and long for the father. The father figure dwelling in the psyche of the person must be buried.” Once the paternal image and authority is buried, Dominguez-Morano counsels, it must not be resurrected by us in the secret and perverse ways we so often do. For in the
Christian community, it has to be stated…, the place of the father should remain empty. Father, teacher, or director are not Christian words insofar as they are used to describe a type of interpersonal relationship inside the community. Only God can take that place. 
What does such a radical counsel do to relationships between seminarians and their rector? between priests and their bishop? between students and their professors such as I? How could a Jesuit—famously vowed not just to obedience, as all monastics are, but to special obedience directly to the “holy father” and pope (papa=father!) of Rome—of all people get away with recommending such a radical re-ordering of terminology and relationships within the Church? What would the Church look like—and in particular the Society of Jesus—and how would both operate if we attempted to put this into practice?

Here, precisely as both a good Jesuit and perhaps even more a good psychoanalyst (recall that Freud explicitly expected analysts to exercise what he called “abstinence,” refusing to give directions to patients on how to live their lives), Dominguez-Morano does not say, leaving it up to us to invoke here a perhaps even more famous charism of Ignatius’s society: discernment. In this season of never-ending crisis, we need more than ever to discern how relationships in seminaries and dioceses, in parishes and schools, and religious orders and across the entire Church, can be re-ordered to prevent the abuses that have so often been perpetuated in the name of obedience. As we discern these new structures, relationships, and lines of authority, we must, Dominguez-Morano rightly says, cease patterning ourselves on empires and any other “authoritarian system” in which “domination…fear, and feelings of guilt quite alien to Jesus of Nazareth’s message and to what his message should inspire” are rampant.

At the same time, however, Morano is quite right in saying (even if this needs more development) that he is not calling for an overthrow of the entire idea of obedience in the Church, for to do so can easily give rise to what he calls narcissistic tyranny. Without some order, including obedience to legitimate needs of the community, you can easily have individual egos run amok, creating anarchy and chaos, destroying the very possibility of a "common good" and a communal life, and thereby serving nobody well. Thus he is calling for a much more communal practice of obedience so that it is no longer just a superior and inferior in silence and secrecy making certain decisions without wide consultation and open and forthright discussion in freedom.

The need for such a reconfiguration today is, or should be, obvious to all. My own book Everything Hidden Shall be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power attempts to give several practices of communal discernment and decision-making involving the entire people of God who, once the decision has been made, then submit to it and obey it not because some hierarch feels entitled to demand they do so, but because, by the grace and light of the Holy Spirit, the mind of the entire Church has been moved to commit and obey the Spirit's leadership.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Now and at the Hour of our Death

Before and since giving a lecture at Baylor in 2015 on eschatology and funerary customs, I have kept an eye on changing Christian ideas about and pastoral enactments of the same. It's very clear that much has changed even within the last three decades. But those customs and ideas have changed across the entire span of Christian history, and a book just released this month sheds light on a major change in late antique Christian practice: Moment of Reckoning: Imagined Death and Its Consequences in Late Ancient Christianity by Ellen Muehlberger (Oxford UP, 2019), 264pp.

About this book we are told:
Late antiquity saw a proliferation of Christian texts dwelling on the emotions and physical sensations of dying, not as a heroic martyr in a public square or a judge's court, but as an individual, at home in a bed or in a private room. In sermons, letters, and ascetic traditions, late ancient Christians imagined the last minutes of life and the events that followed death in elaborate detail. The majority of these imagined scenarios linked the quality of the experience to the moral state of the person who died. Death was no longer the "happy ending," in Judith Perkins's words, it had been to Christians of the first three centuries, an escape from the difficult and painful world. Instead, death was most often imagined as a terrifying, desperate experience. This book is the first to trace how, in late ancient Christianity, death came to be thought of as a moment of reckoning: a physical ordeal whose pain is followed by an immediate judgment of one's actions by angels and demons and, after that, fitting punishment.
Because late ancient Christian culture valued the use of the imagination as a religious tool and because Christian teachers encouraged Christians to revisit the prospect of their deaths often, this novel description of death was more than an abstract idea. Rather, its appearance ushered in a new ethical sensibility among Christians, in which one's death was to be imagined frequently and anticipated in detail. This was, at first glance, meant as a tool for individuals: preachers counted on the fact that becoming aware of a judgment arriving at the end of one's life tends to sharpen one's scruples. But, as this book argues, the change in Christian sensibility toward death did not just affect individuals. Once established, it shifted the ethics of Christianity as a tradition.
This is because death repeatedly and frequently imagined as the moment of reckoning created a fund of images and ideas about what constituted a human being and how variances in human morality should be treated. This had significant effects on the Christian assumption of power in late antiquity, especially in the case of the capacity to authorize violence against others. The thinking about death traced here thus contributed to the seemingly paradoxical situation in which Christians proclaimed their identity with a crucified person, yet were willing to use force against their ideological opponents.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

To Love the Church in Such an Hour as This

Elsewhere you can read some brief thoughts of mine on how it is both possible and necessary to still love the Church and all in it even in this dark hour of unrelenting news of abuse and cover-up.

That love, however, as I try to make clear in the piece, cannot allow for perpetrators to be let off the hook, nor for the conditions under which abuse and cover-up happened to go on. Love, in other words, demands serious reforms. Real love requires major change such as I propose in Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power. Love without such changes is no love at all.

I reference a rather simple and accessible, but still powerful, book that I read twenty years ago but have gone back to with my ecclesiology students: Loving the Church by Christoph Schönborn. It seems today more than ever the challenge is indeed to love the Church when she seems so loveless and unworthy. But love will redeem this situation and all of us, and it will not be redeemed without love.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Sometimes a Kiss is More Than a Kiss

Far and away my favourite example of popes and kisses has to be Pope Paul VI who, in December 1975 fell to his knees to greet the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan Meliton, who came to tell him that Orthodoxy was organizing itself to launch an official dialogue with the Catholic Church. Overjoyed by this news, Paul VI fell to his knees and astonished everyone by kissing Meliton's feet. It had a powerful effect on those in the Sistine Chapel with the two churchmen, but on many others in Orthodoxy as well.

This story has been in (limited) circulation for a while, but was written up in a very short little book I enjoyed reading when it first came out, Rome & Constantinople: Pope Paul VI & Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon by Athanasios Papas, trans. George Dion Dragas (Orthodox Research Institute, 2006), 60pp. (There are some photos of the incident here.)

Fast forward to this week's utterly silly furor over the pope's hand being kissed. The question nobody is asking is of course psychological. Outside a liturgical exchange of the kiss of peace, what motivates people to want to do this? And what motivates people to rush to judge Pope Francis over this when the evidence from the event in question seems less than straightforward and admits of several plausible interpretations? For many Catholics, of course, this is just one more piece of evidence of how wicked a man he is for defying such a "sacred tradition."

But why should this be a tradition in the first place? And how "traditional" is it, anyway? Would it be more traditional if he had people kiss his feet, as used to be prescribed by protocol until only a few decades ago? Would he be thought more traditional if he brought back the papal slippers with a cross on them to receive the kisses of the people prostrate before him on his throne? Would that reassure people, and give them an extra frisson at being able to indulge in not one but two kisses, and not of his hand or ring, but of his feet while they are on their knees?

The need to do this is what should give us pause. Already, of course, his most vocal detractors are insisting that people always and only do this to show reverence to Christ, and if he doesn't like it or prevents them from doing it, then he must be like Ayn Rand (as one person put it on Twitter) denying the divinity of Christ. Kissing the ring, then, is a sign of impeccable Christology or something called "orthodoxy."

Some people--perhaps--may see themselves doing it solely for that reason, but I wager they are a vanishingly small minority, and even they are not doing it for that reason alone. One of the things we ought by now to have learned from Freud is that our motives are rarely if ever that unequivocal--even as we remain largely unaware of our motives, which are revealed by our actions. (See his 1914 essay  "Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through" for more on this.)

To his credit, the erstwhile Catholic Rod Dreher has helpfully drawn our attention to these mixed motives in reflecting on the earlier crisis of sex abuse that engulfed Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston in 2002 and how Dreher used the act of ring kissing as tendentiously as today's critics of Francis are doing:
This is nobody’s fault but my own. Part of that involved hero-worshipping Pope John Paul II, and despite having a healthy awareness of the sins and failings of various bishops, exaggerating the virtues of bishops my side deemed “orthodox.” Bernard Cardinal Law was just such a bishop. I count it as one of the most shameful acts of my life the moment when I rushed across a courtyard in Jerusalem to kneel and kiss Cardinal Law’s ring.
I don’t count it as a sin to kiss a cardinal’s ring; what was wrong was my motivation for doing so: I felt so much pride in showing myself to be an orthodox Catholic paying due homage to an orthodox archbishop in that public way.
It was, in other words, and as we say today, virtue signalling. But why?

Again the question before us is psychological. Leaving aside the claims to be demonstrating piety or respect for an "office," why do Christians, all children of the same Father, feel the need to elevate some of their number and prostrate before them? This is a question taken up to powerful effect by another Spanish Jesuit, Carlos Dominguez-Morano in his recent and hugely important book Belief After Freud.

I draw on Dominguez-Morano in my new book Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Powerwhere I was forced to spend time on such psychological questions as are engendered by the personality cult around the pope, and discuss in detail three very revealing instances--from a group of laics, from a prominent priest, and from an entire episcopal conference (that of England and Wales)--of this need to prostrate themselves before the pope and engage in self-abasement while figuratively kissing his ring (if not other more posterior parts). Whether you kiss the ring or not, and whether he likes it or not, are all entirely beside the vastly more interesting and important question: why this is a felt need in the first place?

Monday, March 25, 2019

Can Christians Escape Capitalism? Do They Want To?

D. Stephen Long's discussion of Devin Singh's new book Divine Currency: The Theological Power of Money in the West (Stanford UP, 2018), 296pp. is found in the 15 February 2019 issue of Marginalia. He notes early in his review that "There seems to be no challenge to the distorting effects of capitalism available to theologians. There is only the flow of power through a theopolitical-economy, and we theologians cannot do much more than unmask it." That is very much my own frustration as well, as I noted, e.g., here in discussing the very insightful books of Todd McGowan. (Long's argument also bears close resemblance to MacIntyre's point, now nearly forty years old and coming in his discussion of Yeats' poetry as political philosophy, that there is no longer left to us any coherent political imagination outside the modern nation-state--or outside capitalism.)

It is not for want of trying to criticize capitalism, however, at least among theologians of the last three decades or so. Long begins by noting that Singh's is a critique advanced in part by some before him, most notably John Milbank and William Cavanaugh, as well as Daniel Bell, and before them all Dorothy Day's companion Peter Maurin.

Long does not mention--but I often have--the role that Alasdair MacIntyre plays in influencing Milbank, Cavanaugh, and many others. MacIntyre clearly had Day in mind when he argued that
Capitalism is bad for those who succeed by its standards as well as for those who fail by them, something that many preachers and theologians have failed to recognize. And those Christians who have recognized it have often enough been at odds with ecclesiastical as well as political and economic authorities.
From here, Singh's book gets a good deal more complicated, and, according to Long's review, rather less than convincing. it seems the rage today--and among Christians, or at least concerning Christian topics this is especially true--to engage in these grand efforts at intellectual genealogy, as though that proves, much less solves, anything. I suspect my inner Freudian is impatient with these efforts because remembering is only one part of the triad--where is the repeating leading to working through? I suspect even more strongly my impatience is (Jordan Peterson call your office!) a result of being totally in agreement with Marx's eleventh thesis on Feuerbach: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it."

In any event, about Singh's book the publisher tells us this:
This book shows how early economic ideas structured Christian thought and society, giving crucial insight into why money holds such power in the West. Examining the religious and theological sources of money's power, it shows how early Christian thinkers borrowed ancient notions of money and economic exchange from the Roman Empire as a basis for their new theological arguments. Monetary metaphors and images, including the minting of coins and debt slavery, provided frameworks for theologians to explain what happens in salvation. God became an economic administrator, for instance, and Christ functioned as a currency to purchase humanity's freedom. Such ideas, in turn, provided models for pastors and Christian emperors as they oversaw both resources and people, which led to new economic conceptions of state administration of populations and conferred a godly aura on the use of money. Divine Currency argues that this longstanding association of money with divine activity has contributed over the centuries to money's ever increasing significance, justifying various forms of politics that manage citizens along the way. Devin Singh's account sheds unexpected light on why we live in a world where nothing seems immune from the price mechanism.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Bill Mills on the Lights and Shadows of Parish Ministry

I have previously interviewed my friend, the Orthodox priest William Mills about his various books; you can read those interviews here, herehere, and here.

Now he has a new book out, Losing My Religion: A Memoir of Faith and Finding (Wipf and Stock, 2019), 170pp., and it is a corker. Forgive the hackneyed expressions, but they are true: You will laugh; you will cry; you will wonder that, except for grace, nobody would put up with the stuff parish clergy do and persist, but persist he has. This is a book that belongs on the reading lists of every seminary in the country for it shows plainly in an unvarnished light the sorts of things one will encounter. It is also a book that clergy, especially married Eastern clergy, should read and will enjoy if and when they do for doubtless they can relate to its many struggles.

As is my practice, I sent Bill some questions about the book, and here are his answers.

AD: Tell us about your background.

WCM: I attended Millersville University in Millersville, PA. After college I attended Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary where I received two degrees, a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology and then eventually received my Ph.D. in pastoral theology from the Union Institute and University in Ohio where I focused my studies on the intersection of both liturgical studies and pastoral ministry, eventually writing my dissertation on Alexander Schmemann’s thoughts on pastoral theology.

AD: You've written a number of other books--more traditionally theological and academic type books--that we have discussed on here over the years. But this one is quite different--much more personal and autobiographical in nature. Your subtitle calls it a "memoir of faith and finding." Tell us, first, how you use the concept of "memoir" in this book. Isn't a memoir something old people write before they die?!

I never set out to write a memoir. One day my therapist asked if I was planning on writing a book about my experiences. I responded, “No way.” First, I was in too much pain to write my story, too many emotions and feelings were bubbling up to the surface. Secondly, in reality, I’m a nobody:  I’m not Billy Graham or Martin Luther King Jr., I’m just boring guy who has a small parish in North Carolina: who in the heck wants to read about me?

After my therapist suggested the book idea I began keeping a journal. The floodgates opened and from the journal came a few chapters, and the few chapters turned into more chapters which eventually became a book. It was a long and painful nine-year process.

A memoir is a slice of life, it’s not an autobiography. A memoirist creates his or her narrative within a specific context. It’s certainly not, “everything but the kitchen sink” type of project, which some poorly written memoirs turn into, usually due to a lack of editing.

AD: Your book has already attracted a good bit of attention from very prominent Christians across the spectrum. Why do you think you seem to have struck such a nerve among Christians of all traditions?

I’m thrilled that my story has garnered such attention from such a rich and wide spectrum: Episcopal, Reformed, Methodist, and Orthodox. I think because my story is universal it rings true to a wide range of people. I also think that many clergy memoirs focus only on the good parts, on how wonderful parish ministry was: the baptisms, weddings, building campaigns, and the numerical growth.

While writing my book I read numerous clergy memoirs. I was hard pressed to find a radically truthful and human story about being a minister, so I decided that I need to write one! In many ways I wrote my story as a way to show new clergy the various pitfalls and people to keep an eye out for. I wrote it to a younger me, a book that I wish that I had when I was a new pastor.

AD: Your preface mentions a number of stereotypes or assumptions people have about what you do as a priest, but you note that much of your time is spent quite simply and regularly drinking coffee and listening to people. Was this a big surprise to you when you began parish ministry? 

At first, I thought my job--besides leading the services of course--was to convert everyone whom I met, to make sure there was money coming into the collection plate each week, and that I had to always talk about God and the Church. In othe words, my job description consisted of what I call the four B’s: butts, bucks, buildings, and budgets. The more butts in the pew the more bucks in the collection plate so that you can build your new building and have a great big fat budget. But when reading the gospels we see that Jesus’ wasn’t interested in the 4 B’s which should tell us something. Along the way the Church got it wrong and we are suffering today because of it.

Over time I realized that when I met with parishioners they did all the talking and I did all of the listening. I also realized that most folks just wanted to share their pains, problems, sufferings, joys, hopes, fears, and stories with me. They just wanted someone to listen and affirm their stories. Occasionally I would say a few words and then leave. After time, I realized that I had to be myself. Too often clergy, like doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals overly identify with their role, and in the end they loose their true identity--hence the title, Losing My Religion.

AD: While in seminary, and thinking about and preparing for ordained ministry, what were your expectations about parish life? Do you think in general people in seminaries have realistic visions and ideas about what parish life really entails?

I discuss my seminary formation in a chapter called “Nirvana.” And for me seminary was Nirvana. You need to keep in mind that I had visited Saint Vladimir’s numerous times when I was young: Education Days in October, the annual High School Christmas retreats that were held during Winter Break, and other events that they hosted. My mother bought books published by Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press and she always donated money to the annual Saint Vladimir’s Foundation. Entering Saint Vladimir’s was akin to entering Harvard or Oxford University. In my opinion it was the crème de la crème.

I had a stellar academic education. I had very good professors and read a lot of important books and wrote research papers. However, many of the professors were not ordained and others had left parish ministry a long time ago and were out of touch with the realities, choices, and challenges, of parish life. We also lacked the practical preparation that I would eventually encounter in community life: managing and working with people, leadership skills, and financial and practical skills akin to leading and organizing a community.

I also realized that this problem wasn’t just for those of us in the Orthodox Church, but in every denomination. Over the years I met many pastors who have complained of the same problem. Seminaries often do a great job with the academics, but do poorly when it comes to pastoral and spiritual formation. Do seminaries have spiritual directors or pastoral counselors on staff as resources for seminary students? Do they expect seminarians to attend chapel services regularly? Do the faculty talk about the importance of self-knowledge, reflection, personal prayer, and sabbath? I fully realize that seminaries cannot do everything, but they can make some inroads in areas that are currently lacking. My hope is that my memoir would bring about a constructive conversation about these important topics.

I also hope that pastors in congregations seriously take my advice for maintaining self-care. Self-care is not selfish. It is essential if one wants to be a pastor for ten, twenty, or thirty years.

AD: You note a crisis point in your parish when, in a "public power play" a large number of people left. How did you survive that?

I owe everything to George and Gordon Jacobs and Tom O’Neal at the Davidson Clergy Center. They found me broken and beaten, lost, and discouraged, and put me back on the road to health and healing. The Clergy Center was a miracle just down the road from my house.

I also have to commend lay leaders in the parish for rising to the occasion. After the “exodus” as I call it, several key people rose to the occasion and took care of the community tasks that were left vacant from directing the choir, to organizing coffee hour, to cleaning the Church. We were very fortunate to have caring and compassionate people in our parish family.

AD: I've been reading the Catholic theologian James Allison lately, and he says (with reference to sex abuse in the Catholic Church, but I think the point admits of much wider application) that one of the last places you can find honest talk about our struggles is in the Church. You, commendably, seem to break that pattern with this book, opening up honestly about various struggles. Was that hard to do? Why don't we have more of that?

There are a few reasons for this I think. Firstly, people come to Church in their Sunday best:  suits, ties, dresses, hats, makeup and jewelry. Yet underneath all of that, behind the makeup and hair and dresses and ties are people, just people like you and me who have doubts, fears, stresses, strains, trials, and tribulations. They have broken families and failed dreams. But our ego, our pride, keeps us from really opening up. We want to put on the best face for our neighbors, while inside we are hurting. Now, not everyone is suffering all the time and not everyone suffers the same, but we all have problems. One of my hopes is that my story will give people the signal that is okay to open up and be vunerable in Church, it’s okay to share one's pains and problems, it’s okay to say that I’m hurting or that life isn’t always going well.

I recently was talking with a friend of mine who is a Jungian analyst who was reflecting on how someone can attend Mass or Liturgy on Sunday morning and be in the same room with a lot of people and barely talk to them, let alone make eye contact, or really share their struggles. And yet, this same person, on Wednesday night can go to an AA meeting in a dingy church basement and bear his or her soul as total strangers embrace them, cheer them on, console them, and confide in them! The Church community on Sunday needs to become like this community meeting in its basement on Wednesday nights! That is, the Church needs to become what it is supposed to be: a place for everyone to work out his or her salvation--and not just smile and say everything is fine when it really isn’t. The Church needs to be much more honest with itself and with the world around us.

AD: Your chapter "My First Date" is just marvelous--all the struggles of finding a first parish appointment, and many of the horrifying things you see along the say (a slop bucket!), but by the end you've been completely turned around, and turn the reader around, to show that your critical eye overlooked the one truly crucial thing: a loving community of normal people. You say it took you "a long while" to recognize this. When did you finally come to see that community in those terms? Was there a specific incident that led you to a transformed vision of them? 

A lot of people told me that that particular chapter is funny and also hard to believe, but as they say truth is funnier than fiction. Looking back it is hard to believe that they wanted me to live in a glorified shed!

I cannot say exactly when I realized this, but it came over time. There really wasn’t a specific incident, just small little epiphanies over the months and years serving the community.

AD: Your chapter "Into the Depths" was just agonizing to read, but I think very necessary to show people who the Church has no shortage of nasty characters often trying to manipulate people over money and issues of control. These are "clergy killers" and "alligators" as you call them in a later chapter: why do you think every parish seems to have a few? Is there something unique to the dynamics of parish life that brings out such people and such behavior? 

Power, power, power. It’s always about power. Over the years I have heard many similar stories. Stories of parishioners stalking their pastor at the grocery store, intentionally saying nasty things about the pastor in front of the pastor’s children, or trying, like Walter did, to remove me from the parish. Since the publication of my memoir I have heard from pastors who have shared with me some of their tragic stories as well.

Some of this has to do with the social dynamics of a community. A healthy community, one which has mutual respect and openness towards one another, which invites people to be vulnerable and open with one another, and who respect their pastor, wouldn’t tolerate a Walter or Linda. The community would treat them like a virus or bacteria and either ask them to leave or not give them free reign.

Alligators or clergy killers survive when there is dis-organization or dysfunction in the community, and where there is weak leadership. Strong leaders, smart leaders, healthy leaders, will quickly pick up on the various signs and signals that the alligators and clergy killers give off and respond accordingly. By the way, alligators and clergy killers also exist in the business world too, but often a large company has levels of authority and a system of checks and balances which often--when working well--will prevent someone like Walter or Linda from causing too much harm.

My problem was that I was too young, too inexperienced, too conflict avoidant, and was overwhelmed by the situation. I was drowning before I could even ask for help.

AD: The effects of these alligators--whom you dub Walter and Linda--were really deep, and you needed the help of others to work through some of the pain and suffering. In doing so, you seem to be in a minority among clergy, who generally try to tough it out. What led you to realize you couldn't just tough it out on your own, and that there was no shame and no problem in seeking the help of others? 

Well, when you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, when you don’t want to visit with friends or neighbors, when you can’t sleep at night, when you’re not eating, you know you have a problem. After a few months of this I knew that I needed help. A few days before finding the Davidson Clergy Center I was contemplating seeing a psychiatrist or checking myself into a hospital. I hit bottom. I mention this in one of the chapters, but I had typed up a resignation letter to my bishop which I never mailed. I’m sure, however, he wouldn’t have accepted the letter, but it felt good writing it.

AD: I laughed and laughed when you told the swimming instructor you hated her for making you get in the deep end. But then I cried at the end with the story of the cake. That seems to be the dynamic of the book--hilariously unexpected things, and deeply moving ones, too. It's a real triumph of grace, and I think clergy everywhere, and seminarians now, should all read it. Having finished it, are you at work on other writing projects just now? 

I’m always working on something. At the moment I have three writing projects going. When I get bored with one I turn to another. 

I’m finishing up a book called "Paul The Pastor: Metaphors for Ministry for the 21st Century Church," which takes a look at several metaphors that Paul uses in his letters: pastor as soldier, pastor as gardener, pastor as architect, among others.

Then I’m editing a collection of my sermons called "Bread for the Journey," which I delivered over the course of several years.

Finally, I just started work on a book focusing on Scriptural images for ministry, "Called to Lead, Called to Serve," which weaves Scriptural reflection with personal anecdotes, using some stories which never made it into the memoir but will make it into this book. A good writer is one who uses all their material in different places.

A few people asked me whether or not I was planning to write another memoir. I said no. But since then I had a few ideas, we’ll see. The memoir took a lot of emotional energy and I will need some more time and space to think more about it.

AD: Sum up your hopes for the book. 

I really hope, as John Breck says in his endorsement that, “every seminarian should read it.” However deep down I know that they won’t. Some may not feel comfortable with my radical honesty about parish ministry or the pastoral life, others may think that they know it all. That’s okay. Let them think that. Eventually some of the naysayers may come around, especially when they, like me, hit bottom.

My main hope for this book is that it creates a space where both pastors and people in general can speak about what it means to have a genuine faith in God, stripped bare of all of the idols that we carry around with us; idols of Church, idols of ministry, and even idols of spirituality. It’s so easy to cling to the externals: icons, prayer ropes or rosaries, church buildings, cassocks, crosses, and clerical attire, titles, and so forth. Jesus called Peter and the disciples into the deep waters of the Sea of Galilee, away from the safety and security of the land, to walk in faith. It’s much easier to stick with religion rather than with faith. In the end I opt for faith.

My other hope is that my story will show people in the pews that clergy are just like everyone else, fallen and fallible, hurting and hopeful all at the same time. We rise, fall, sin, ask forgiveness--just like everyone else. We’re human.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Idolizing Popes While Ignoring the Abuse of Nuns

It just so happened earlier this week that, ten minutes after reading Sylvia Poggioli's story on the NPR website about the clerical sexual abuse of nuns, I was being interviewed on the local NPR affiliate for nearly an hour about my book Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power. I'll post a link to the on-air piece and the longer interview on their website when it airs next week.

When I began the book last summer, these stories had not really begun to emerge--they really are that recent. If I were writing the book now, I'd include a chapter on nuns and abuse; but in fact what I do say in the book about power applies equally here as well. The book's arguments about the need for local structures of accountability, about abolishing episcopal-papal monopolies on power, and about dethroning false ideas of "obedience" all equally apply to religious/monastic communities as much as to parishes and dioceses. If bishops must now be held to local account, and if their near-absolute monopoly on power must be removed, so too must superiors-general of all the religious orders (I suggest starting with the Basilians) be stripped of their monopolies of power and their ability to manipulate and destroy people in the name of "obedience" and "God's will" and "avoiding scandal" and "the good of the Church" and all the other self-justifying lies these people tell.

The overlooked factor here is indeed power and the structures by which it is maintained. Some people have not mastered that lesson yet. As I noted here, I first wrote about this crisis more than twenty-five years ago, and these stories no longer surprise anybody. But, alas, these stories have now hardened into a narrative that certain Catholics cling to, excluding any and all epistemic humility by which they might realize that the crisis is not just one of  "clericalism" or "homosexuals in the priesthood." The insistence by which such simplistic and mono-causal narratives are still defended is depressing to behold.

So too is the apparent inability of certain Catholics to walk and chew gum at the same time. If some fetishize one "cause," other Catholics think there is only one "solution." These types obsessively focus on one aspect and insist we can talk about no other. Why can people not recognize that this crisis is about sex, about power, about clericalism, about the structures by which clerics maintain and abuse their power, about misogynistic violence towards women, and about abuse of boys and men by other men? As Christopher Altieri argued last summer, we need to get out of the ideological blind-spots to look at the whole crisis without sparing anyone's blushes. My book does not get caught up in such useless intra-Catholic battles, but says: what can we do, going forward, to build a stronger, more accountable Church?

In point of fact, as the title of the book makes clear, this is a crisis of sex and power--and whether the victims are young or old, male or female, school children or nuns, makes no difference at all: they are all victims and that is the first, and only, thing we need to know about them. Exploiting some victims while ignoring others to advance some pet theory about "lavender mafias" or to push for the ordination of women or some other cause is appalling. The only "cause" we should be consumed with is the one that works to get all the stories out, all the abusers named and removed from power, all the filth purified from the Church.

As we now are seeing in these new stories about the abuse of nuns, it is clear they do not fit into the hardened ideas, ideological stereotypes, and blindly held notions of the Vatican as one giant closet of gays and nothing else. Some people pop up tediously to quote some statistic or other about "80% of victims are male," which claim they brandish to slay any stories about, e.g., the abuse of women (a "distraction" as one man said in reference to the NPR story, apparently with a straight face but clearly not a conscience).

To counter this all-too-human propensity to falling into ideological if not idolatrous thinking, most of which happens outside our conscious awareness, I began the book, and spent the first chapter, drawing in particular on the Jesuit psychoanalyst Carlos Dominguez-Morano to help us bring to the surface the ideologies and idols that so often govern, bind, blind, and limit our thinking as Catholics through myriad distortions. His book Belief After Freud is invaluable in this respect and many others.

I also returned to Paul Ricoeur, who, more than forty years ago now rightly argued that the Freudian project is useful in one key respect: showing us the human propensity for idolatry, and helping us to outwit that. (Adam Phillips has said that Freud was a “man whose project was the destruction of idolatry.")

And Catholics are especially stupid and blind if they think they/we are exempt from the dangers of idolatry--as Carl Olson rightly argued. The Catechism itself says that "Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc." (s.2113). For too long we have not merely revered but idolized clergy, the pope above all. That must end. The whole cult around him, the fawning, the interviews, the endless talking and writing by him and his courtiers: the whole weary roadshow must end.

Let us return to the days when the name of the pope, or any of his ideas, are about as well known as the name or ideas of the secretary-general of, say, the UN or the World Health Organization. We have to Google those people up to find the first thing about them--the pope should expect no more. He's not some oracle or idol, and we must get that through our thick skulls.

Christian Martyrs Under Islam

There is still much to be learned about early Muslim-Christian encounters in the first generations of Islam and its gradual conquest of the Middle East. In the wrong hands, this history can be portrayed tendentiously, as either relentless bloodshed and suffering or impeccable peace and amity. A book released last summer tries to recognize the complexity of decisions facing Christians living under Islam: Christian Martyrs under Islam: Religious Violence and the Making of the Muslim World by Christian C. Sahner (Princeton University Press, 2018), 360pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
How did the medieval Middle East transform from a majority-Christian world to a majority-Muslim world, and what role did violence play in this process? Christian Martyrs under Islam explains how Christians across the early Islamic caliphate slowly converted to the faith of the Arab conquerors and how small groups of individuals rejected this faith through dramatic acts of resistance, including apostasy and blasphemy.
Using previously untapped sources in a range of Middle Eastern languages, Christian Sahner introduces an unknown group of martyrs who were executed at the hands of Muslim officials between the seventh and ninth centuries CE. Found in places as diverse as Syria, Spain, Egypt, and Armenia, they include an alleged descendant of Muhammad who converted to Christianity, high-ranking Christian secretaries of the Muslim state who viciously insulted the Prophet, and the children of mixed marriages between Muslims and Christians. Sahner argues that Christians never experienced systematic persecution under the early caliphs, and indeed, they remained the largest portion of the population in the greater Middle East for centuries after the Arab conquest. Still, episodes of ferocious violence contributed to the spread of Islam within Christian societies, and memories of this bloodshed played a key role in shaping Christian identity in the new Islamic empire.
Christian Martyrs under Islam examines how violence against Christians ended the age of porous religious boundaries and laid the foundations for more antagonistic Muslim-Christian relations in the centuries to come.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Be Not Afraid! (II): Anglican Blurbers and Anglican Content

As I noted in the first installment, the prospects of major structural reform to the Church make a lot of people nervous, and that anxiety is very considerably deepened if some of the alternative structures come from non-Catholic sources, including especially the Anglican Communion. For the Catholic Church has often been not merely a conservative organization--loathe even to acknowledge, let alone tolerate, external change in the world (think how long it took to make its peace with, e.g., human rights), especially if those external changes (e.g., the French Revolution) might seem to demand internal changes in Catholic structures, practices, or beliefs, at which point the Church has historically been not just conservative but in fact reactionary if not revanchist.

And yet...and yet, the Church has changed, and with surprising alacrity when circumstances demanded it. Thus, very quickly, judiciously, wisely, rightly and very recently new structures have come into being to fulfill new needs. In my chapter "The Principles of Accommodation and Forgetting," in the two-volume collection John Chryssavgis edited, Primacy in the ChurchI discussed in detail several such examples in the Latin Church since the early 1980s down to 2010. In that period, the Church has not been conservative and stodgy, but flexible and nimble, creating at least three new structures--personal prelatures, military archdioceses, and the Anglican ordinariates, inter alia--because the needs of the Church required them. So the clear lesson we need to draw is that Church can change structures, and has done so in significant ways in order to serve the gospel and the salvation of the Christian people.

Surely those needs are vastly greater today. Surely, hemorrhaging massively from a crisis that (as the invaluable Christopher Altieri has reported) keeps on going, the need to change structures is even greater today than it was to accommodate small numbers of Anglicans in 2009, or even smaller numbers in Opus Dei in 1982. If the Church changed then in calmer days concerning fewer people in far less dire circumstances, the need to change when so much is under water and sinking fast is indescribably greater today. If, to put it bluntly, the rape of children as well as other men and women, and the utter destruction, including suicide, of their lives afterwards, does not justify major change, then all moral sense has been utterly degraded and the Church is hopelessly depraved.

Those two principles mentioned above--service to the gospel and the people--are the ones that must guide all discussions about change and reform in the Church, and they guided my writings of Everything Hidden Must Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power.

I have, in the first installment and elsewhere, recently discussed how much the book was indebted to Orthodox thought, stressing that Orthodoxy has preserved its liturgical and theological patrimony with far fewer scars than the Latin Church has in the past half-century and more. So the idea that structural changes will bring a liberalization of doctrine--a common fear among some--is not borne out by the fact that Orthodoxy's deep conservatism and traditionalism exists within, and not in spite of, much more localized and synodal structures.

Aha! says the suspicious interlocutor, but what about the Anglicans? You not only talk about their structures with approval, but you got one of their biggest names, their most learned and accomplished theologians in fifty years at least, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to blurb your book! (This was my publisher's doing, I would add. Let me publicly pay tribute to John Riess of Angelico Press, who has been absolutely superb to work with. I know editors at far larger and longer established presses who are not nearly half as devoted as detailed as he has been.) About my book, Williams very kindly wrote:
This book eloquently and cogently pleads for the Roman Catholic Church to be released from the captivity of an over-centralized, over-individualized model of authority, arguing that this model is at the heart of many other dysfunctionalities. While we should harbor no illusions about the problems alternative systems may face, Adam DeVille makes a strong case for seeing the existing paradigm as both quite recent in its development and as consolidating a damaging set of attitudes to clerical power. A sober, theologically informed, and very significant work. —RT. REV. ROWAN WILLIAMS, Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, former archbishop of Canterbury, and author of many books, including a lovely book on icons of Christ, and another on icons of his mother, and Dostoevsky and a book on Bulgakov.
But if one Anglican wasn't enough, a second also wrote kindly of the book:

“Adam DeVille’s proposal for cleansing and reform in the Catholic Church today is crystal-clear: the Church must stop being governed by a caste of clerical guardians and start governing itself. How might this happen? The way it has always happened: through the practice of conciliar government, or to speak Greek, synodal government. Councils are not a panacea against mortal ills, but they do excel over all the alternatives when it comes to the cardinal virtue of a system of government—namely, accountability. Conciliar government is shared government. DeVille wants to see it instituted on all levels: parish, diocese, national church, and global communion. In this learned, passionate, and ecumenically informed book, DeVille leaves his readers eager to get to work on his proposal today.” —PAUL VALLIERE, Professor Emeritus of Butler University, whose book Conciliarism I drew on in my own. His earlier work Modern Russian Theology is something of a landmark work, widely read and rightly so.

So you, DeVille, got two Anglicans to endorse your book. Aren't Anglicans the ones who--unlike the Orthodox--have both localized synodal structures and gay priests, lesbian bishops, and innovations and heterodox deviations beyond numbering?! Surely you cannot want them to be a source of anything, a model of any kind of structures that the Catholic Church might want to contemplate?

These are not arguments, of course, but sneers; they are not reasoned claims but smugness and snobbery. And smugness, as Flannery O'Connor once famously said, is the Catholic sin. Since it is Lent, let us set it aside and repent of it.

But let us also make some necessary distinctions between the disciplinary nature of structures and the doctrinal nature of magisterial teaching. For Catholics the former can change while the latter cannot, and the relationship between the two is by no means unidirectional or simplistic--change one and the other changes with it. Nonsense!

Here we also need--as I do in the book--to tackle those questions head-on, noting that as someone who spent the first 25 years of his life as an extremely active Anglican who participated as a voting member in many local, diocesan, and national synods, I know the problems (doctrinal disorder among them) within that communion, but those are not problems likely to be replicated in any significant way within the Catholic Church for reasons I discuss in the book. I also note that Catholics must "be prone to an acute form of sanctimonious blindness to assume that there is no such disarray within Catholicism."

Even with our own internal disarray on doctrine and much else, Catholicism, however, as even the earliest ARCIC documents conceded, has one matchless gift that the Anglican Communion lacks: a formal and binding teaching authority that has, e.g., given us a universal catechism (which I bought and devoured in 1992 when it was first published, a full five years before I became Catholic).

My proposals, borrowed from Anglicanism and Orthodoxy, are modified to take account of certain weaknesses of both, and to fit them more felicitously within Catholic structures. Thus what I propose in the book are modified versions whereby what is best in provincial and regional structures is maintained while also accounting for a significant trans-national role exercised by the bishop of Rome as the universal “sentinel” whose job “consists precisely in ‘keeping watch’ (episkopein)” over “all the particular Churches” in which “the una, sancta, catholica et apostolica Ecclesia is made present” as Pope John Paul II put it so compellingly in Ut Unum Sint, on which I wrote my first book. So, to put it succinctly, in no way do I propose that the pope become the rather impotent titular figure who holds either the see of Canterbury or Constantinople. But neither do I allow the pope of Rome to maintain his totally unjustified and unjustifiable monopoly on power, a situation made all the worse by the disgusting fawning personality cult which has surrounded him for nearly 200 years, the utter abolition and destruction of which cannot come soon enough.

In both books, then, I have followed faithfully the idea of an "ecumenical gift exchange," a notion that was reiterated and given concrete expression as recently as last August when, in the latest ARCIC document (“Walking Together on the Way: Learning to Be the Church—Local, Regional, Universal"), Catholics are asked “to look humbly at what is not working effectively within one’s own tradition, and...to ask whether this might be helped by receptive learning from the understanding, structures, practices, and judgements of the other.” This is a notion given detailed consideration by the late Margaret O'Gara in her 1998 book, as well as an extremely valuable and very learned collection edited by Paul Murray, Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning: Exploring a Way for Contemporary Ecumenism.

Monday, March 18, 2019

First Review of Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed:

The Byzantine Catholic deacon Daniel Gordon Dozier is first out of the gate to read and review my new book, Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power. Here is what he wrote on Facebook:
To me, UGCC Subdeacon Adam is one of the most significant contemporary voices in ecclesiology since he is both conversant in ancient Church structures and their history in East and West, as well as compelling in the case he makes for their proper reappropriation into Catholic ecclesial life which has suffered no shortage of folly as a consequence of Catholicism’s later development of an intrusive and utterly novel papo-centrism in practice. This novelty has caused the normal organs of ecclesial accountability to atrophy, as was seen in Nov 2018 with Pope Francis’ entirely unnecessary and unwarranted interference with the USCCB vote on measures to deal with abuse and episcopal accountability.
This folly is also in part to blame globally for much of the turmoil currently underway in response to the clerical abuses of sex and power.
Adam argues in a manner both orthodox and traditional for the Church to return to its proper sense of Synodality at the parochial, diocesan, national, and universal levels, while respecting and upholding a proper sense of Primacy at each level. In doing so, not only would every particular Church potentially enhance the vibrancy of its common life and mission, it would also ensure proper accountability for its clergy and lay leadership.
I CANNOT recommend this book enough.

Arabic Christian Texts in Translation

The other day I received a welcome announcement from the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University telling us of the publication of the first volume in a new series that Fordham UP is putting out, "Christian Arabic Texts in Translation."

The inaugural text in this important series is Revelation 1-3 in Christian Arabic Commentary: John's First Vision and the Letters to the Seven Churches by Būlus al-Būshī and Ibn Kātib Qayṣar and edited by Stephen J. Davis, T.C. Schmidt and Shawqi Talia (Fordham UP, 2019), 192pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:

The first publication in a new series―Christian Arabic Texts in Translation, edited by Stephen Davis―this book presents English-language excerpts from thirteenth-century commentaries on the Apocalypse of John by two Egyptian authors, Būlus al-Būshī and Ibn Kātib Qas.ar. Accompanied by scholarly introductions and critical annotations, this edition will provide a valuable entry-point to important but understudied theological work taking place at the at the meeting-points of the medieval Christian and Muslim worlds.
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