"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).

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Irenaeus and Paul

In nearly a decade since this blog got going, books about Irenaeus have been regularly featured, reflecting an ongoing interest in him, which interest will be further fed by a forthcoming collection, Irenaeus and Paul, eds. Todd D. Still and David E. Wilhite (T&T Clark, 2019? 2020?), 240pp.

I have seen no less than three release dates for this, some indicating May 2019, others December, and still others February 2020. In any event, we can see from the publisher that the book, whenever it appears, will be

Building on the work of Tertullian and Paul and The Apostolic Fathers and Paul this volume continues a series of specially commissioned studies by leading voices in New Testament/early Christianity and patristics studies to consider how Paul was read, interpreted and received by the Church Fathers.
In this volume the use of Paul's writings is examined within the writings of Irenaeus of Lyon. Issues of influence, reception, theology and history are examined to show how Paul's work influenced the developing theology of the early Church. The literary style of Paul's output is also examined. The contributors to the volume represent leading lights in the study of Irenaeus, as well as respected names from the field of New Testament studies.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Catholic Blurbers

Given their role in the on-going sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, I rather expect that most bishops, if they still perform a nightly examen after Compline, count it as a good day if they have managed to stay out of the headlines. Bishops are not generally known for sticking their mitred heads above parapets even in the most placid of circumstances. But today more than ever they say and do as little as possible to clean up the mess they have both created and presided over, giving clear evidence that whatever courage they might once have had has deserted almost the entire lot of them.

One noble and admirable exception to that is Bishop John Michael Botean, the only Romanian Catholic bishop on this continent. His courage was hugely on display in 2003 when he openly and fiercely opposed the Iraq War in a way that no other Christian leader on this continent did. His opposition was of course based on clear Catholic teaching, and has only been vindicated in view of the disasters which befell that country, and the wider region, in the last sixteen years, not least the virtual disappearance of one of the oldest indigenous Christian populations in the world.

I first met him at the Orientale Lumen conference in 2011, and shortly afterwards at a lecture I was invited to give in his cathedral in Canton, OH. In 2015 he came to the conference on the life and work of Dorothy Day that Lance Richey and I, with many others, put on at the University of Saint Francis. We edited and published the proceedings as Dorothy Day and the Church: Past, Present, and Future.

As I was wondering if any bishops would read, let alone endorse, my Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power (Angelico Press, 2019), his name immediately leapt to the top of the list of possible candidates. Even amidst his very heavy schedule and many burdens, he made time to read my book and then write an extremely gracious blurb about it:

“Not since reading John L. McKenzie’s Authority in the Church have I found myself so moved to challenge the quotidian assumptions regarding episcopal authority that have so easily worked their way into my own ministry. The sexual abuse crisis in the Church today is in many ways the result of the religiously-endorsed exercise of dominative power. The present work cannot be overlooked without the risk of perpetuating the same dynamic. We need not agree with every one of DeVille’s analyses or prescriptions—and I do not—to find in this book a roadmap toward recovery. His vision is at once forward-thinking and eminently traditional. Without a doubt this is a book that can raise quite a stir. And I hope it will. It deserves serious, prayerful reading.” —MOST REV. JOHN MICHAEL BOTEAN, Romanian Catholic Bishop of Canton, OH

The other person I sent the book to is the Archpriest Lawrence Cross of Melbourne, whom I have been working with on the question of married priests (he is himself a widower), and also on the advancement of the Russian Catholic Church throughout the world after a period of absolutely shameful neglect by Rome.

He has told me how valuable he found the vision I attempted to sketch out in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy, so I felt reasonably confident that he would be interested in Everything Hidden Shall be Revealed, as indeed he was when he sent us the following blurb:

“Searing and fearless, Adam DeVille humanizes the meaning of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and calls for a radical reconfiguration of the exercise of power. The demythologizing of clerics is beyond urgent, as is the rejection of church-distorting papal idolatry—both requiring retrieval of the best models of the Christian East, where the conciliar nature of the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions has long recognized that authoritarian clerical oversight is a threat to the fundamental nature of the Church. Professor DeVille’s vision will frighten many a hierarch, because only a Church in which bishops, clergy, and laity share authority (in equal-but-different relationships) can rescue Catholicism from cultural and spiritual shipwreck.” —RT. REV. ARCHPRIEST LAWRENCE CROSS, St. Kilda East, Melbourne, Australia.

Cross and Botean are of course Eastern Catholics, so I wanted to make sure that Latin Catholics also gave me their views on what I wrote. Here, naturally, the challenges I posed were going to be a bigger hurdle than for those of us in the East to imagine. And that is, fairly enough, represented in the blurbs received from Russell Shaw, whose Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion in the Catholic Church I read with great profit when it first emerged in 2008. I remember clearly thinking that year that Shaw's book was very courageous. I did not expect a sometime officer of the American episcopal conference to be that outspoken, but he was. So I thought perhaps he might be interested in my book, and he was, saying of it:
In Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed, Adam DeVille has written a book with something for everybody to hate and something to incline everybody (or almost everybody) to nod and say, ‘Yes, that’s exactly right.’ Either way, readers with open minds and generous hearts will find this a provocative, helpful contribution to the badly needed debate about reform in the Church at a moment when reform is so urgently needed.” —RUSSELL SHAW, former Secretary for Public Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference; author of Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion inthe Catholic Church
Another Latin Catholic, writing in a similar fashion about my book, is Christopher Ruddy of the Catholic University of America. He has written an important and useful book on Jean-Marie Roger Tillard, whom I have long found very profitable and insightful, and drew on in both my books for important ecclesiological insights. Ruddy's comment in some ways echoes Shaw's:

“Intelligent and provocative, this book is written out of a deep love for the Church. One needn’t agree with DeVille on every point to profit from his perceptive analysis of the present ecclesial situation and from his proposals for reform.” —CHRISTOPHER J. RUDDY, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Catholic University of America and author of The Local Church: Tillard and the Future of Catholic Ecclesiology and Tested in Every Way: The Catholic Priesthood in Today's Church.

Finally, returning Eastward, special mention goes to Michael Martin, who played several invaluable roles behind the scenes in getting the book into print. I have previously interviewed him on here about his work in sophiology, The Submerged Reality. About my book he was very generous in saying:

“In this timely, courageous, and, certainly, controversial book, theologian Adam DeVille examines the current (and seemingly perpetual) crisis in the Church and the culture and assumptions that allowed it to take root and flourish. Deploying exceptional knowledge of Church history and awareness of ecclesial structures both inside and outside the Catholic Church, DeVille deconstructs the ruling idols of the Catholic imaginary and cuts to the core of the rampant pathologies haunting the ecclesial psyche. Along the way he exposes the all too often warped and anachronistic practices that have contributed to Catholicism’s current predicament. Turning to Freud, DeVille follows the import of Christ’s directive to ‘call no man father’ (Matt. 23:9), then offers alternative structures that would steady the bark of the Church, broaching even the possibility not only of a married priesthood, but of married bishops. In Everything Hidden ShallBe Revealed, Adam DeVille summons the necessary courage to face this fateful moment with brutal honesty, but not without hope.” —MICHAEL MARTIN, author of Transfiguration: Notes Toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Giving Thanks for the Life and Work of Alexander Schmemann

My friend Bill Mills, who is no stranger when it comes to writing about Alexander Schmemann, and whose moving, funny, unsparing, and invaluable memoir you should by now have sent to all the clergy and seminarians you know, alerts me to the imminent publication of another book devoted to the great Orthodox liturgical theologian's vision: We Give Our Thanks Unto Thee: Essays in Memory of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, ed. Porter C. Taylor with a foreword by Serge Schmemann (Wipf and Stock, 2019), 274pp.

I'm hoping to arrange an interview with the author. In the meantime, here is the publisher's blurb about the book, which contains essays from, inter alia, Paul Meyendorff, Bill Mills, and others across the spectrum:
Fr. Alexander Schmemann continues to influence liturgical and sacramental theologies some thirty-five years after his death. Despite the wide acceptance within Protestant circles of his timeless classic, For the Life of the World, there has been relatively little written about him from an ecumenical context. This volume of collected essays seeks to explore his theological legacy and further his work. With essays from leading scholars such as David Fagerberg, Bruce Morrill, Joyce Zimmerman, and more, this volume is meant for both teachers and students of liturgical and sacramental theology. In an effort to introduce Schmemann to a wider audience and to celebrate his work through meaningful engagement and dialogue, contributors come from a wide variety of ecclesiastical backgrounds: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Free Church, and more.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Unitary Russian State

Forthcoming next year is a study of early-modern Russian history that sounds to be invaluable in understanding Russian neo-imperial aspirations even today: Forging a Unitary State: Russia’s Management of the Eurasian Space, 1650–1850 by John P. LeDonne (University of Toronto Press, © 2020), 736pp.

About this book we are told the following:
Covering two centuries of Russian history, Forging a Unitary State is a comprehensive account of the creation of what is commonly known as the "Russian Empire," from Poland to Siberia. In this book, John P. LeDonne demonstrates that the so-called empire was, for the most part, a unitary state, defined by an obsessive emphasis on centralization and uniformity. The standardization of local administration, the judicial system, tax regime, and commercial policy were carried out slowly but systematically over eight generations, in the hope of integrating people on the periphery into the Russian political and social hierarchy.
The ultimate goal of Russian policy was to create a "Fortress Empire" consisting of a huge Russian unitary state flanked by a few peripheral territories, such as Finland, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. Additional peripheral states, such as Sweden, Turkey, and Persia, would guarantee the security of this "Fortress Empire," and the management of Eurasian territory. LeDonne’s provocative argument is supported by a careful comparative study of Russian expansion along its western, southern, and eastern borders, drawing on vital but under-studied administrative evidence. Forging a Unitary State is an essential resource for those interested in the long history of Russian expansionism

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Notes on the London Review of Books 41

The venerable London Review of Books recently tempted me to subscribe with one of those sharply discounted promos that as a half-Scot I am constitutionally incapable of resisting. So now every two weeks a lovely treat arrives chez moi full of fascinating reviews, essays, and short notices. (I am just old enough to have grown up on the eve of the digital revolution, and therefore still prefer newspapers and reviews like this in print, but the print subscription gives me access to their on-line archives, too, which is a bonus.)

Part of the reason for having this blog in the first place was to share word of new books in one area--Eastern Christianity--so if, from time to time, I post some ad hoc, unsystematic notes on what I've been reading in the newest LRB it is for the same reason--viz., so that you, too, may benefit from what I've been reading of recent reviews of books across a wide array of subjects. Sometimes these reviews are so comprehensive and skillfully done that I think "Right. I don't need to read anything more." But other times, of course, one is tempted to order the book and read the whole thing oneself.

Volume 41, dated 21 March 2019, is a goldmine of things, including an essay by Madawi Al-Rasheed on the perpetual lies, corruption, despotism, and tyranny of Saudi Arabia, a regime of whose horrors no conscious person should require convincing--unless, that is, you are a part of, e.g., the US government under any and every president and party.

Michael Kulikowski, an historian at Penn State, has a long and fascinating discussion of The Codex of Justinian, trans. Fred. H. Blume and ed. Bruce W. Frier, 3 vols. (Cambridge UP, 2016), 2963pp.

The size, and cost, of this enormous collection would likely limit it to academic libraries, or private libraries of exceptional means, but the influence of the Codex is still considerable even today.

Kulikowski, however, is--as I have been seeing for a decade now among academic historians, especially of antique or medieval Christianity, when they stumble into trying to understand, much less describe, anything theological--utterly unreliable and embarrassingly so when he attempts to sum up the theological debates of the fifth century by saying that "the central controversy was Christological: did father and son [sic] have two different natures in one indivisible divine person, or was their nature single and indivisible." All such questions are quickly dismissed as "hair-splitting" and "baroque episcopal politics...[and] contorted sectarian tractates," which tells us everything we need to know of the ignorance and snobbery of Kulikowski and nothing of the debates themselves. (To be fair, in a letter to the editor in the next issue, Kulikowski, tail firmly between his legs, corrects the error with enough overcompensating bluster as to suggest he's desperately trying to show he really does understand basic theology, or at least convince himself that he does.)

Michael Wood lavishly studs his review of The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht, trans. and ed. by Tom Kuhn and David Constantine (Norton, 2018, 1286pp.) with many excerpts of those poems, to great effect. I have only read a bit of Brecht, but this collection really does make me want to read more.

I think the most interesting review in this issue is Rosemary Hill's. She discusses Desmond Fitz-Gibbon, Marketable Values: Inventing the Property Market in Modern Britain (University of Chicago Press, 2018), 240pp.

I find all such recent works in a range of areas fascinating because I am increasingly convinced of two things: first, our images of, and from, "history" are as much a product of current politics and unconscious desires as anything; and second because a book like this merely illustrates something that others more interesting and intelligent than I--Zizek, Todd McGowan, Terry Eagleton, inter alia--have been arguing for some time: the basic practices and beliefs of so-called free-market capitalism are recondite mysteries and simulacra more properly classified as "religion" requiring a level of faith that makes believing in the hypostatic union easy.

When you think of how highly regulated, and litigated, questions of "property" are today, and all the complexities and intricacies of stock markets, bonds, debts, and the international market in the same, it will astonish you to read Fitz-Gibbon's book about the slap-dash way in which so much of this developed in the United Kingdom, and so recently, too: he notes that in some parts of England there was no agreed upon land registry until as late as 1991.

Michele Pridmore-Brown's review of Edith Sheffer, Asperger's Children: the Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna (Norton, 2018), 316pp. is, not surprisingly, very sobering reading when she describes the horrifying practices of this period.

I have fond memories of my time in that Habsburg capital in 2016, not least my pilgrimage to our father among the saints, Sigmund of Vienna's house at Bergasse 19. But I knew, of course, of the dark shadows hanging over Vienna after the Anschluss, whose effects Freud and his immediately family only barely managed to escape--those harrowing days are well covered in any number of books, including all his biographers; and, in a particular way, the study of Mark Edmundson and the book by Freud's last physician Max Schur.

But I was only vaguely aware of the sinister "medical" and "scientific" experiments going on in Austria in the antebellum period (from 1934 onward). Sheffer's book, according to Pridmore-Brown's review, relays all kinds of horrifying details about the career of Hans Asperger and others around him, who often condemned children to their deaths--while also managing to help some of them. His sounds like a truly complex life.

Beyond the political horrors of the period, the review and book both raise good questions about the politics of "science" which we must always keep before us. Those who claim, as I regularly hear from students and others, that they "don't believe in God because I believe in 'science.'" utter fatuous nonsense, of course, but it seems that they--and too many of us--fail to realize that "science" is not infrequently gratuitously invested with un-challengeable deified authority to dispatch people because of perceived "defects," whether mental or physical. That should make our blood run cold as we realize that too often "science" is just an idol whose politics of devotion requires the destruction of thousands of children for what Asperger and others called "Gemüt poverty"--soul poverty.

In this light, and to conclude, let me note that news is emerging of Jean Vanier's move into palliative care at the end of his long and extraordinary life caring for precisely those kinds of "defective" kids and adults dispatched by Nazi doctors with that banal and ruthless efficiency so well documented by Lifton, Arendt, and others.

Vanier's life stands as an eloquent rebuke to all this, which is surely part of the reason for him being given the Templeton Prize in 2015, as noted here.

I first heard Vanier on CBC radio in the 1990s when his Massey Lectures were broadcast. You can listen to some of that here, but the Ideas website has many links to many broadcasts with him over the years, all of them worth your time. And of course his many books may be found here, including a new one I noted here just last month.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Timothy Snyder on Eastern Europe, Fascism, and Tyranny

Timothy Snyder's several books have attracted the interest and plaudits of not a few Eastern Christians, especially in Ukraine. This interest seems to have begun with his Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and also with his The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999. 

More recently he's taken to warning of the rise of "fascism" and tyranny, as in his 2018 book,The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, and in the book published a year before that, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

This latter turn has seemed to me more problematic, as it always is when people take to trying to diagnose the present and predict the future based on their reading of the past. This review, it seems to me, gives a fair overview of the things of value in Snyder, and the things that need to be questioned.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Ratzinger's Guilty Conscience

I thought I'd wait until the immediate rush of commentary on Ratzinger's latest letter had passed in order to see how those comments have shaped up. There has, of course, been the predictable fawning over his letter from the usual crowd, who find in it confirmation of all their devoutly held ideological nostrums about sex and the 60s. I have said over the years that for some liberal Catholics, including many in my native Canada, it's always 1968; but what I didn't realize until now is that Ratzinger the supposed "conservative" and "traditionalist" is himself un soixante-huitard of the most intransigent sort.

"1968" is clearly for him what Vamik Volkan calls a "chosen trauma" conveniently invoked to justify all sorts of things--bad liturgy, bad moral theology, bad priests abusing kids--but nary a word about bad bishops or popes who were themselves abusers or participated in a cover-up, and who bear sole responsibility for advancing to the episcopate the men now resigned in disgrace, deposed from office, or jailed. Ratzinger's silence in this regard is deafening.

But there has also been some interesting commentary "across the aisle" as it were--or, perhaps better, commentary which is not playing to type in some of the things it both criticizes and praises. One of the most interesting things I have noted in the Church in the past year or so is the turning upside down of a lot of the politics. Thus we find Ratzinger's letter being criticized by people often labelled "conservative" and those often considered "liberal" are seen criticizing him in different ways--while both sides end up agreeing with each other in certain limited and unexpected ways. In witness of this, see Carl Olson's editorial on Ratzinger's letter, and Massimo Faggioli's column in Commonweal. But do not fail to consider Justin Tse's fascinatingly original essay which surfaces many of Ratzinger's caricatures while also considering the problems raised by being too much in thrall to von Balthasar's aesthetics.

Apart from Christopher Altieri's column in the Catholic Herald, every word of which deserves careful re-reading, virtually nobody looked at the problems of power and structures in Ratzinger's letter, which fairly drips with sneering condescension at those issues, an astonishingly adolescent reversal from a nonagenarian who, more than almost any other major Catholic leader of the 20th century, had written more extensively and more intelligently on such reforms, and done so going back at least to 1970. For him, at this very late hour, to pour scorn on the very concept of structural and political reform in the Church today can only be taken an an attempt to buffer his conscience from the slings and arrows of his super-ego, which is plainly rebuking him for his failures in this regard, leading to the acute expressions of guilt we find in the text.

But before I criticize him, let me note and underscore that what follows is written by someone who, until this week, ceded nothing to anybody in his respect for the writings of Joseph Ratzinger. I have been reading them since at least 1997, the year I was received into the Catholic Church when my sponsor gave me a copy of Ratzinger's Church, Ecumenism, and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology as a gift to commemorate my reception. After that I quickly devoured other Ratzinger books: The Feast of Faith, Called to Communion, Principles of Catholic Theology, Milestonesand The Spirit of the LiturgyThis latter, along with Feast of Faith, are two books I have assigned to students for more than a decade in courses on liturgy.

If you read my first book, Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy, you will see there my giving him credit for being a real pioneer in certain ecclesiological trajectories. I defended him publicly over the years from people--including those in Catholic theology faculties--who were content to slander him without ever having read a single book by him. (My book has one of my favourite pictures of him on the front cover.)

That picture conveys something of the very high hopes I had for his papacy. But my exuberance was misplaced for in the end his papacy did only two things of significance: the enormous good of Summorum Pontificum, liberating the liturgy for local communities to decide; and resigning his office, which as I said at the time and have ever after repeated was a wholly welcome burst of iconoclasm of the best sort: a smashing of the false image of the pope as some demiurge, some super-bishop, some sempiternal "father of princes and kings, the ruler of the world" (as the old coronation formula put it). Au contraire: if every other bishop in the world is expected to resign at 75 there is no theologically coherent reason for the bishop of Rome to be held to a different standard. Within all the absurd mewling in reaction to his resignation one found not a word of theology but only the emotional meltdown of an infantilized people.

The only way I can understand this letter is to see it as an attempted justification of his inaction from 2005 to 2013. He failed, as pope, to do many of the things he said should be done, above all in reforming the structures of the Church. For someone who had--starting at least as far back as 1971, and repeatedly in many places--written about the need for such reforms, the fact that he did nothing must be weighed against him. The closest he came to any action was in 2006 when he monkeyed about with the title "patriarch of the West" but then failed to follow up, leading to wholly unnecessary panic on the Orthodox side which I spent no little energy trying to tamp down in a number of articles and lectures--and again addressed in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy.

So he knew and plainly knows the need for structural reforms, and clearly has a guilty conscience in this regard. There is no other explanation for this new text's fatuous question, "Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed." It is impossible to see this as anything other than a counsel of despair of the most cravenly self-justifying sort. Nobody is calling for the creation of another Church, and the desire to reform the one true Church given by Christ is not an "experiment," nor has it "failed": it has not yet been tried, but it must be, precisely to make her pure for Him who is her bridegroom.

Lest we miss the point, he later elaborates by using the standard tactic of people who inhabit a crypto-monophysite ecclesiological imaginary rather than a real Church. Thus he vaguely waves his hand fearfully in the direction of some supposedly sinister thing called "politics" by immediately trying to claim that calls for reform conceal some kind of "political" agenda:
Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their conception of the church of tomorrow almost exclusively in political terms.
Perhaps there are bishops who do this (can he name any of them, or cite their writings?). But serious proposals for reconceiving and reconfiguring the Church are not drawn from, say, German polities or American federalism, or the Westminster model of cabinet governance. (Even if they were, there's nothing wrong with such provenance necessarily. The Church has long despoiled the Egyptians in many ways. Does he not remember Dvornik's documenting how the very language and structures we still use--e.g., diocese, prefect, metropolia, province--are taken from the political structures of the Roman Empire?)

Rather, serious proposals for reform are drawn, as I do in Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power from within the Church's tradition fully conceived and broadly understood. They are first and last theological proposals drawn from within, not "secular" or "political" solutions imposed from without. It's time to let go of this bogus binary.

Ratzinger's letter continues: "the crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope."

This is another tedious bogeyman. Nobody who is serious, least of all me, regards the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the "pillar and bulwark of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15), as unacceptable. And nobody is proposing to replace it with a "self-made Church"--whatever that is. This is silliness on stilts.

But it cannot be denied by anybody that the present structures in the Church are plainly and fully unacceptable for they have aided and abetted the present crisis, and are retarding any serious reforms. Such unjustified and unjustifiable structures must be taken up by us, using our hands and minds and brains and gifts, all given by God, to find new forms, new structures, to prevent such abuses--which are always and everywhere abuses of power and sex simultaneously--from ever occurring again. Absent such structural reforms, all the appeals in the world from Ratzinger for better liturgy, for overcoming "atheism," and for "spiritual" reform in the Church will be grossly incomplete and inadequate at best.

Is this "self-made"? As opposed to what? Given his once-brilliant intellect, surely he cannot fondly imagine, like the "Nestorians" in Waugh's uproarious Black Mischief, that the Church, untouched by human hands and fully formed in every respect by God alone, just fell down from heaven during one Good Friday luncheon some years back? Given his ecclesiological self-awareness, he knows the role of humans shaping and re-shaping the structures of the Church--dioceses, conclaves, episcopal elections, parish councils, etc. He himself called for human beings to do more of that re-shaping in his writings going back to at least 1970.

If being "self-made" is bad, why would he call, e.g., for removing many responsibilities out of Rome and back to the regions in the decentralization he advocated in, e.g., God and the World? If "self-made" reforms are bad, then surely Summorum Pontificum should be retracted for it was his very self that made such reforms possible, along with others--e.g., the Anglican ordinariates. Should we retract those arrangements and pitch out former Anglicans?

Surely these and other reforms proffered by him must be reprobated (by the logic of ecclesiological crypto-monophysites) as "self-made"--or is that only a problem when performed by anyone other than a pope?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

How to Be a Sinner

It's that time of year: the semester is winding down. And so last week I asked my students, as we reached the end of Peter Bouteneff's new book How to Be a Sinner, their overall thoughts on the book and whether they would recommend it to others.

I'm happy to report that not only would they do so, but several of my students reported how helpful it had been to them in sorting out sometimes difficult psycho-spiritual issues--especially those wrestling with neurotic guilt they have mistaken for the voice of "God" or of "conscience." Some students also reported to me that they had been quoting parts of it in e-mails to friends, or aloud to room-mates, so compelling did they find the book.

If the recommendations of undergraduates leave you a bit unmoved, then let me echo and confirm the recommendation of this book. It is a very careful and judicious approach to often fraught issues which it handles with sensitivity and insight. As a psychoanalyst manqué, I especially appreciated how helpful Bouteneff is in arguing for clear discernment of the several voices that often masquerade as God, but which in fact are just the tedious eructations of that tyrannical bore known as our super-ego. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Siberian Orthodoxy

The University of Toronto Press sent me their catalogue for books being published late this summer and autumn, and there are several in it of interest, including this forthcoming study: Colonizing Russia’s Promised Land: Orthodoxy and Community on the Siberian Steppe
by Aileen E. Friesen (University of Toronto Press, © 2019), 256pp.

About this book we are told the following by the publisher:
The movement of millions of settlers to Siberia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries marked one of the most ambitious undertakings pursued by the tsarist state. Colonizing Russia’s Promised Land examines how Russian Orthodoxy acted as a basic building block for constructing Russian settler communities in current-day southern Siberia and northern Kazakhstan. Russian state officials aspired to lay claim to land that was politically under their authority, but remained culturally unfamiliar. By exploring the formation and evolution of Omsk diocese – a settlement mission – Colonizing Russia’s Promised Land reveals how the migration of settlers expanded the role of Orthodoxy as a cultural force in transforming Russia’s imperial periphery by "russifying" the land and marginalizing the Indigenous Kazakh population.
In the first study exploring the role of Orthodoxy in settler colonialism, Aileen Friesen shows how settlers, clergymen, and state officials viewed the recreation of Orthodox parish life as practised in European Russia as fundamental to the establishment of settler communities, and to the success of colonization. Friesen uniquely gives peasant settlers a voice in this discussion, as they expressed their religious aspirations and fears to priests and tsarist officials. Despite this agreement, tensions existed not only among settlers, but also within the Orthodox Church as these groups struggled to define what constituted the Russian Orthodox faith and culture.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Orthodox Blurbers

It was really in the summer of 2001, which I spent teaching in Ukraine, that I realized, I suppose, the theme of all my subsequent academic work--which I then decided to begin the following year by enrolling in the doctoral program at the Sheptytsky Institute, which was then in Ottawa. That theme--dare I call it a vocation?--was the promise and problem of papal authority in the eyes of the Orthodox East.

Those who read my dissertation, which was finished in 2008 and published in 2011 as Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy, will know how much time I spent looking at structures of authority in the East and deriving therefrom important lessons for the Western Church, reforms to which I then proposed in light of Orthodox concerns about the modern papacy (which I date largely from Pius IX).

Those who pick up my new book, Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power, will see a similar approach, albeit much more focused at the local and regional levels rather than the universal level which occupied most of my first book. To the extent the pope features here, it is not the structures of his office that I focus on, but the pathological personality cult surrounding him which I challenge sharply. (For some further thoughts on this, see here.)

In both books, there is an especial focus on the Armenian Apostolic Church, a singular body from which Catholics have a very great deal to learn. But other Orthodox Churches--the OCA, the Greek, and the Antiochian among them--also feature in the book. It is, then, very gratifying that senior and internationally respected and prominent Orthodox scholars have said such kind things about the new book. (For somewhat of an overview of the book's approach and rationale, see here; for some thoughts on Anglican 'blurbers' see here.)

Given the focus on the Armenian Church, I was very glad when Vigen Guroian, whom I have been reading and learning from for twenty years now, agreed to read the book and write a blurb for it, saying:
Adam DeVille begins his book with the jolting pronouncement that ‘everything hidden must be revealed’ regarding the present sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. But this is only the first step. Writing with exceptional passion, he turns next, in an unexpected (but welcome) way, to a serious consideration of Orthodox ecclesiology and existing Orthodox ecclesiastical arrangements in order to identify a path that might allow Roman Catholics to move past ‘the current papal-centric structure’ and toward a Church in which authority and decision-making power is more jointly shared by laity, clergy, and bishops. Orthodox may benefit from DeVille’s studied perspective on their own churches, which well illustrates how renewal and reform might be accomplished for them as well.” —VIGEN GUROIAN, Armenian Orthodox theologian, author of The Orthodox Reality: Culture, Theology, and Ethics in the Modern World.
The Orthodox Reality is his newest book. But I used one of his very early works--Incarnate Love --in a course on Eastern Christian ethics I designed more than a decade ago now.

More recently, in a course on biomedical ethics and the pastoral care of the dying, I especially appreciated being able to use his very insightful Life's Living toward Dying: A Theological and Medical-Ethical Study.

Guroian has also written some interesting books on gardening, which I praised in a long essay published elsewhere more than a decade ago. I did not expect to like the books as I have long been an avowed indoorsman, but Guroian forced me to reconsider this.

Apart from the Spanish Jesuit psychoanalyst Carlos Dominguez-Morano (discussed here, though I will be returning to him again in coming days), there is one other interlocutor to whom my book is most heavily indebted, a book edited by Michael Plekon, who says this of Everything Hidden:
In this provocative and serious book, Adam DeVille presents radical ways of transforming the Church through a return to synodal and conciliar structures rooted in the traditions of the ancient Church. If there is to be death and resurrection for the Church, a Paschal renewal, then this must be the return of the Church to what it is: the assembly, not just in principle but in practice, of the whole people of God. His is a strong, courageous challenge to an embattled and damaged Church. —THE V. REV. MICHAEL PLEKON, Professor Emeritus, City University of New York.
I have interviewed Plekon many times on here over the past decade. For the most recent such interview, go here and follow the links back to the others.

He has written many wonderful books, but the one I am most indebted to in Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed is the translation Plekon edited of Nicholas Afanasiev's Church of the Holy Spirit. That book is singular and rare in its clarity and boldness of vision, and its refusal to reduce the "laics" to a non-category of "lay" people, that is, people who lack something like ordination or professional standing. It was from Afanasiev (and both Armenian and Anglican experience) that I developed the argument of the necessity for the Catholic church to regard, in her counsels of governance, the laics, clerics, and hierarchs as three equal orders.

Finally I come to what Cyril Hovorun had to say about the book. His was perhaps the most overly generous blurb for the book, making me the most neurotic (but not ungrateful!):
Adam DeVille continues the line of great Catholic theologians who have asked uncomfortable questions and provided unconventional solutions to ecclesiological issues. DeVille takes the baton from the hands Congar, Rahner, Murray, and Küng, in serving the Church with both aggiornamento and ressourcement. But the true source of his inspiration is Eastern Christianity, in its Greek Catholic, Byzantine, and Oriental Orthodox forms, which provide serious challenges to the modern ways of exercising primacy and synodality in the Roman Catholic Church. Without this book, any serious ecumenical discussion between Westerners and Easterners on the church-dividing issues would be incomplete.” —ARCHIMANDRITE CYRIL HOVORUN, director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA.
I interviewed Hovorun here about his Scaffolds of the Church, an invaluable book that belongs on the reading list of every course in ecclesiology--Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant. I drew on it very much as I was writing Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed. Indeed, parts of Hovorun's book gave me a shot in the arm to argue things more clearly and forcefully than I was once inclined to do. His is a very brave and important book. I also commend to you his newest, Political Orthodoxies, as well as his earlier book Meta-Ecclesiology

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Justin Tse: Importunate Widow to Unjust Judges of Jung

Just over a year ago I made plain my main reasons for disliking and distrusting Jung, and arguing why I thought Christians who regarded him as a more sympathetic dialogue partner relative to Freud were mistaken. I retract none of what I said there, but I do want to note an important qualification and new insight since then, and it's all due to Justin Tse importuning me for some time--but never more graciously and insightfully so than here--to think again on Jung.

He is right to do so both as a matter of intellectual justice, as it were, as also for "propaedeutic" purposes: I am looking forward to reading the forthcoming (August of this year) Dynamis of Healing: Patristic Theology and the Psyche by Pia Sophia Chaudhari (Fordham UP, 2019). To read that book aright requires, it seems to me, that I be more careful in my assessments about Jung, which I am glad to do. About this book the publisher tells us this:
This book explores how traces of the energies and dynamics of Orthodox Christian theology and anthropology may be observed in the clinical work of depth psychology. Looking to theology to express its own religious truths and to psychology to see whether these truth claims show up in healing modalities, the author creatively engages both disciplines in order to highlight the possibilities for healing contained therein. Dynamis of Healing elucidates how theology and psychology are by no means fundamentally at odds with each other but rather can work together in a beautiful and powerful synergia to address both the deepest needs and deepest desires of the human person for healing and flourishing.
To be more careful about Jung, I picked up again (though with almost no recollection of the last time I read it) Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections.Vast sections of it remain as I said in my CWR piece: prolix, rambling, and very tedious.

There are, however, two insights I take away this time and had not done so before: first, and rather minor, is the longstanding anxiety (fetish? paranoia?) Jung had about Jesuits! This was amusing to read, and clearly if psychoanalysis did not exist it would be necessary to invent it to understand how such a fear gripped not a few of Jung's generation (and before him).

But the major insight I take away is one where I think Jung is absolutely correct: his judgment about Freud's theories of sex, and especially the way he held on to and defended that.

About Freud and his theory Jung writes this by way of introduction before zeroing in on his point: "I had observed in Freud the eruption of unconscious religious factors" (I would note here that Ana-Maria Rizzuto, whom I discussed in three parts, is the best person for in-depth study of this; Paul Vitz is also useful). This claim of Jung comes after he reports a discussion between the two of them, which seems simultaneously plausible and also a bit cringe-making: "I can still recall vividly how Freud said to me: 'My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. That is the most essential thing of all. You see we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark'."

At his best, as I argued at some length in my new Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and PowerFreud is the anti-dogmatist, the great and welcome iconoclast who helps us pry ourselves away from false images, idols, and ideologies. But, as Jung shows here (if this is a true record of their conversation), he can also be something of a doctrinaire figure--though not nearly on the level he is often portrayed as.

Of his theory of sex, then, Jung says that this was a replacement deity: "One thing was clear: Freud, who had always made much of his irreligiosity, had now constructed a dogma; or rather, in place of a jealous God whom he had lost, he had substituted another compelling image, that of sexuality. It was no less insistent, exacting, domineering, threatening, and morally ambivalent than the original one."

Jung elaborates his point, and here continues to make enormous sense to me, saying of Freud that while he wanted his theories about sex to be seen as strictly biological, there was nonetheless and unavoidably something theological at work in his arguments, and this was seen in "the emotionality with which he spoke of it that revealed the deeper elements reverberating within him. Basically he wanted to teach--or so at least it seemed to me--that, regarded from within, sexuality included spirituality" (my emphasis). Just so.

In the end, then, on this issue I think Jung has the upper hand for noticing these things, and for pressing home his point that "if Freud had given somewhat more consideration to the psychological truth that sexuality is numinous--both a god and a devil--he would not have remained bound within the confines of a biological concept."

To which let all the brethren say: Amen.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Imagining Religious Toleration

The question of tolerance, especially among so-called religious minorities, is one that gets regularly raised. Certain founding mythologies of the post-Reformation world are all bound up with fatuous claims about "wars of religion" requiring the supposed peace and tolerance of the nation-state to resolve (a notion William Cavanaugh handily dispensed with). Supposedly "religious" groups were not "tolerant" until the state was founded.

But when cameth this tolerance? Who conceived of it? What did it look like? These are questions taken up in a collection being published later this year: Imagining Religious Toleration: A Literary History of an Idea, 1600–1830, eds. Alison Conway and David Alvarez (University of Toronto Press, October 2019), 304pp.

About this collection the publisher tell us this:
Current debates regarding religious tolerations have come to a standstill. In investigating the eighteenth-century novel, Alison Conway, David Alvarez, and their contributors shed light on what literature can say about toleration, and how it can produce and manage feelings of tolerance and intolerance. Largely reserved for intellectual historians and political philosophers, discussions of religious toleration are relatively limited, with very few literary scholars exploring the subject.
Beginning with an overview of the historical debates surrounding the terms "toleration" and "tolerance," this book moves on to discuss the specific contribution that literature and literary modes have made to cultural history, studying the literary techniques philosophers, theologians, and political theorists used to frame the questions central to the idea and practice of religious toleration. By tracing the rhetoric employed by a wide range of authors, this book reveals the tropes and figures we associate with literary texts, delving into such topics as conversion as an instrument of power in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and the relationship between religious toleration and the rise of Enlightenment satire.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Has the Pope been reading my Book?

In the newly released Christus Vivit I spy at least two places where the message overlaps with my new book Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power. These two sections would suggest that certain messages seem slowly to be getting through to certain bishops, including the incumbent of Rome, about the multiple problems we group together as the sex abuse crisis. Consider, e.g., this:
42. For example, a Church that is overly fearful and tied to its structures can be invariably critical of efforts to defend the rights of women, and constantly point out the risks and the potential errors of those demands.  Instead, a living Church can react by being attentive to the legitimate claims of those women who seek greater justice and equality.  A living Church can look back on history and acknowledge a fair share of male authoritarianism, domination, various forms of enslavement, abuse and sexist violence (my emphasis).  
I talked here about the fact that people who fatuously wants to reduce this crisis to one solely caused by "the gays" have to deal with the newly emerging data on the abuse of women by clerics in the Church.

Even more clearly the exhortation echoes what I have been saying about the undeniably intertwined crises of sex and power both being abused concomitantly (my emphasis):
98. “Abuse exists in various forms: the abuse of power, the abuse of conscience, sexual and financial abuse.  Clearly, the ways of exercising authority that make all this possible have to be eradicated, and the irresponsibility and lack of transparency with which so many cases have been handled have to be challenged.  The desire to dominate, lack of dialogue and transparency, forms of double life, spiritual emptiness, as well as psychological weaknesses, are the terrain on which corruption thrives”.[53]  Clericalism is a constant temptation on the part of priests who see “the ministry they have received as a power to be exercised, rather than a free and generous service to be offered.  It makes us think that we belong to a group that has all the answers and no longer needs to listen or has anything to learn”.[54]  Doubtless, such clericalism can make consecrated persons lose respect for the sacred and inalienable worth of each person and of his or her freedom.
I address power directly and at length in the book, including the psychology underlying both the "desire to dominate" on the part of clerics, and the equally disturbing desire to be dominated, which one can find in not a few Catholics today, who, like their predecessors going back to the nineteenth century, are only too happy to have the men in black tell them what to do. Both are forms of psychopathology, and the sooner they are rooted out the better. 

Armenians and Turks in the Aftermath of Genocide

Every semester when we talk about the Armenian (and Assyrian and Greek) genocide of 1915, my students are first fascinated and then appalled by the politics of its historiography, especially since 2007 and the murder of Hrant Dink. A newly published paperback edition of a book that first appeared in 2015 helps us appreciate the never-ending nature of this complex controversy: Thomas de Waal, Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide (Oxford UP, 2018), 328pp.| 2 maps; 22 photographs.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
The destruction of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-16 was the greatest atrocity of World War I. Around one million Armenians were killed, and the survivors were scattered across the world. Although it is now a century old, the issue of what most of the world calls the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is still a live and divisive issue that mobilizes Armenians across the world, shapes the identity and politics of modern Turkey, and has consumed the attention of U.S. politicians for years.
In Great Catastrophe, the eminent scholar and reporter Thomas de Waal looks at the aftermath and politics of the Armenian Genocide and tells the story of recent efforts by courageous Armenians, Kurds, and Turks to come to terms with the disaster as Turkey enters a new post-Kemalist era. The story of what happened to the Armenians in 1915-16 is well-known. Here we are told the "history of the history" and the lesser-known story of what happened to Armenians, Kurds, and Turks in the century that followed. De Waal relates how different generations tackled the issue of the "Great Catastrophe" from the 1920s until the failure of the Protocols signed by independent Armenia and Turkey in 2010. Quarrels between diaspora Armenians supporting and opposing the Soviet Union broke into violence and culminated with the murder of an archbishop in 1933. The devising of the word "genocide," the growth of modern identity politics, and the 50th anniversary of the massacres re-energized a new generation of Armenians. In Turkey the issue was initially forgotten, only to return to the political agenda in the context of the Cold War and an outbreak of Armenian terrorism. More recently, Turkey has started to confront its taboos. In an astonishing revival of oral history, the descendants of tens of thousands of "Islamized Armenians," who have been in the shadows since 1915, have begun to reemerge and reclaim their identities.
Drawing on archival sources, reportage and moving personal stories, de Waal tells the full story of Armenian-Turkish relations since the Genocide in all its extraordinary twists and turns. He looks behind the propaganda to examine the realities of a terrible historical crime and the divisive "politics of genocide" it produced. The book throws light not only on our understanding of Armenian-Turkish relations but also of how mass atrocities and historical tragedies shape contemporary politics.

Monday, April 1, 2019

How Apostate Was Julian?

In the 21 Feb. 2019 issue of the London Review of Books, there is a long and fascinating review of H. C. Teitler's recent book, The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian the Apostate and the War against Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2017), 312pp.

What I find fascinating is how--according, that is, to the reviewer, Christopher Kelly, master of Corpus Christi College at Cambridge--Teitler's book demonstrates the extent to which the things said of Julian were largely invented after his brief twenty months on the imperial throne by a re-ascendant Christianity, whose propensity for triumphalist and tendentious constructions of history has in some ways remained undimmed from then until now. The uses and abuses of historical memory, about which I have written so often, are not inventions of the twentieth century, but seem to be built into the human condition. We all want to find patterns in the past, and if they need to be finessed a bit to become patterns in which our enemies turn out to be justly slayed losers, and our tribe glorious victors and moral heroes, then fiat iustitia. 

Julian was not held in great favor even by non-Christians, many of whom regarded him as something of a crank and loser. He seems to have had the common fetish among those of his class for esoterical and ascetical labors proving superior discipline of character over the obese peasants. So when it came time to traduce his reputation it was not a hard sell. As Kelly ends his review, "for a Christianity triumphant, the invention of 'Julian the Apostate' was a godsend."
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