Voices from Russia

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A Challenge for American Catholic Bishops after Pope Francisco Derided Church Emphasis on Sexual Morality… All the Rightwing Spin Doctors Came Out in Force

00 Jesus at the Republican Convention. 22.09.13

Timothy Dolan would’ve sided with the Republicans, NOT Jesus, had this actually occurred… do reflect on that…


In recent years, many American bishops drew a harder line with parishioners on what one could consider truly Roman Catholic, adopting a more aggressive style of correction, and telling abortion rights supporters to stay away from the sacrament of Communion. Liberal-minded Catholics derided the approach as tone-deaf. Church leaders said that they had no choice given what was happening around them… growing secularism, increasing acceptance of gay marriage, and a broader culture that they considered more and more hostile to Christianity. They felt that they were following the lead of the pontiffs who elevated them.

However, in blunt terms, in an interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, the new pope, Francisco Bergoglio, called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage, and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away. Now, the American bishops face a challenge to rethink a strategy many considered essential for preserving the faith. John Green, a religion specialist at the University of Akron‘s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said, “I don’t see how the pope’s remarks can be interpreted in any other way than arguing that the church’s rhetoric on the so-called culture war issues needs to be toned down. I think his language calls for less stridency on these issues”.

The leadership of the American church is composed of men appointed by Popes John Paul II or Benedict XVI, who made a priority of defending doctrinal orthodoxy. Over the last decade or so, the bishops worked to reassert their moral authority, in public life and over the less-obedient within their flock. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) warned Catholics that voting for abortion-rights supporters could endanger their souls. Church leaders in Minnesota, Maine, and elsewhere took prominent roles in opposing legal recognition for same-sex marriage in their states. Bishops censured some theologians and prompted a Vatican-directed takeover of the largest association for American nuns by bringing complaints to Rome that the sisters strayed from church teaching and paid too little attention to abortion.

Terrence Tilley, a theologian at Fordham University, said that Francisco wasn’t silencing discussion of abortion or gay marriage, but indicating that those issues should be less central, for the sake of evangelisation. However, he noted that bishops have independence to decide how they should handle local political issues, saying, “Although Francis is sending a clear signal that he’s not a culture warrior, that doesn’t mean the bishops will follow in lockstep“. Few of the American bishops who’ve commented so far on Francisco’s interview indicated that they planned to change.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore MD, head of the USCCB Religious Liberty Committee, said in a phone interview, “Issues do arise and we can’t always control the timing. However, every time I make a statement about one of these things I’ll certainly take another look at it and ask, ‘Does this really lead people back to the heart of the Gospel?’ That’s what he’s asking us to do. I think that’s a fair question”. Lori said that he expected no changes in the bishops’ push for broader religious exemptions from the contraception coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act. Dozens of Catholic charities and dioceses, along with evangelical colleges and others, are suing the Obama administration over the regulation. The bishops say the provision violates the religious freedom of faith-based nonprofits and for-profit employers.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco CA, head of the USCCB Defence-Of-Marriage Committee, said in a brief statement, “We must address key issues and if key issues are in the minds of those who are talking with us we will address them”. Christine Mugridge, a spokesman for Cordileone, said, “In San Francisco, these issues are very relevant to daily life for the people of this archdiocese. As long as the people of the archdiocese have particular talking points that are pressing upon them, the archbishop will respond to those talking points”.

Francisco, the first Jesuit elected pope, said in the interview, “We can’t insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods”. He said that the church should instead act like a “field hospital after battle, to heal wounds and to warm the hearts” of people so they’d feel welcome in the church. The day after the article appeared, Francisco denounced abortion as a symptom of a “throw-away culture”, in an address to Catholic gynaecologists. He encouraged physicians to refuse to perform abortions. However, in the interview last month, conducted in Rome by the editor of the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, Francisco said, “it isn’t necessary to talk about these issues all the time”. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York NY, president of the USCCB, said that he thought the pope was telling everyone… inside and outside the church… to focus less on polarising debates on sex and morals. Dolan said on CBS This Morning, “I don’t know if it’s just the church that seems obsessed with those issues. It seems to be culture and society. What I think he’s saying is, ‘Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way’. If we keep kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive”.

During the 2004 presidential election, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis MO launched what was dubbed “Wafer Watch” when he said that he’d deny Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a Catholic who supported abortion rights. Other bishops followed suit or suggested that abortion-rights supporters refrain from the sacrament. Benedict later appointed Burke head of the Vatican high court and elevated him to cardinal. By 2007, the bishops revised their moral guide for Catholic voters to put a special emphasis on the evil of abortion, so the issue wouldn’t be lost amid other concerns such as poverty or education. The document, called “Faithful Citizenship”, warned voters that supporting abortion rights could endanger their souls. In the 2012 campaign season, it was much more common to hear bishops warning Catholics that voting for a particular candidate would amount to “formal cooperation in grave evil”. Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria IL compared the policies of US President Barack Obama to those of Hitler and Stalin. At Mass on the Sunday before the presidential election, Jenky instructed his priests to read a letter saying politicians who support abortion rights reject Jesus.

Theologically-conservative Christians disagree over how much, if anything, needs to change in response to Francisco’s comments. Mark Brumley, chief executive of Ignatius Press, a theologically-conservative publishing house that Pope Benedict XVI chose as his English-language publisher, was among those who said, “I don’t see a major shift”. Just last week, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence RI said in an interview with his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed” that Francisco hadn’t spoken out about abortion. On Friday, in a statement responding to the pope’s remarks, Tobin said that he admired Francisco’s leadership, noting, “Being a Catholic doesn’t mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both. We’re grateful to Pope Francis for reminding us of that vision”.

21 September 2013

Rachel Zoll

Associated Press      

As quoted in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis MN)


Editor’s Note:

The pope’s remarks stunned the righties… they’re deer caught in the headlights. Of course, they claim that nothing’s changed. However, do note what Dolan (a known suck-up to the woollier factions of the GOP) said:

What I think he’s saying is, “Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way”. If we keep kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive.

In short, Dolan found out that the Vatican doesn’t appreciate his smarmy schmoozing with the Republicans. After all, the GOP supports constant warfare, a rapacious Free Market, lawless libertarianism, Wild West gun laws, and out-of-control consumerism and individualism (that is, godless Neoliberalism in all of its sickening glory), all of which are EVIL according to encyclicals issued at Rome since the 60s (even Wojtyła and Ratzinger condemned the evil found in American me-first crapitalism). Note well that Dolan “got the message”. He’s going to pull in his horns, as are the other bishops. Mind you, Francisco’s not going to make them lose public face, but they’re going to have to watch themselves from now on. By the way, contraception and state-provided single-payer healthcare aren’t an issue. To put it bluntly, Catholic bishops in other countries haven’t put up the brouhaha that the American bishops have (part of it is a hangover from Irish-American Jansenism)… most of the Catholic Church lives in countries where contraception’s covered by national health insurance, and the RCs haven’t fallen into the sea.

Let’s be clear what the Catholic bishops were trying to do. They were attempting to use the police power of the state to enforce their policies, which ain’t kosher, no way, no how. The Catholic Church as a business and the Catholic Church as a religious body are two very separate things. Catholic hospitals employ thousands of people, many of whom aren’t Catholics. The Catholic Church can’t forbid them access to contraception… perhaps, a Catholic hospital could get an exemption in dispensing such, but only if there’s an alternative location easily accessible to dispense contraceptives to those who want them. That is, it isn’t an “assault on religious liberty”… indeed, the Catholic bishops’ position is the assault on religious liberty, as they claim that they can forbid all of their employees, both Catholic and non-Catholic, from having access to legal contraceptive materials. This was an open attempt on the part of the Catholic Church to use the state (through their greasy Republican pals) to enforce Catholic doctrine on non-Catholics. That’s a serious no-no… and Francisco saw it, and nipped it.

Never forget that the moral theology of Orthodoxy and Catholicism isn’t identical. Indeed, the areas where it differs the most are marriage and contraception. We allow divorce, the Catholics don’t, which means that the largest number of converts that we receive from the papists are those eaten up by the Catholic marriage mill. As for contraception, we allow it… full stop. We don’t agree with the papists on that at all. In general, oikonomia informs Orthodoxy… we’re simply not crusaders… either in the moral or literal sense of the word.

Francisco Bergoglio isn’t a clueless and drooling American culture warrior… he’s a Latin American who dealt with rightwing dictatorship first-hand. I do daresay that the righties amongst the American Catholics better wise up to that. Hats off to Pope Francisco… he knows how to discombobulate the right. I think that I’m not alone in thinking that…



Thursday, 19 September 2013

Pope Francisco Bluntly Questions Catholic Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion

00 Pope Francisco Bergoglio. 19.09.13


Pope Francisco Bergoglio, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic Church was “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, and that he chose not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics. In remarkably blunt language, Francisco sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all”, not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy, and a limited agenda of moral teachings. He told Fr Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal whose content is usually in line with the Vatican, “It’s not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church aren’t all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry can’t be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance; otherwise, even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel”.

Fr Antonio conducted the interview in Italian during three meetings in August in the pope’s austere quarters in Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse; a team of translators rendered it into English. Francisco chose to live at the Domus Sanctae Marthae rather than in what he said were more-isolated quarters at the Apostolic Palace, home to many of his predecessors. On Thursday morning, 16 Jesuit journals around the world simultaneously released the interview; it included the pope’s lengthy reflections on his identity as a Jesuit. Fr James Martin, an editor-at-large of America, a Jesuit magazine in New York, said that Pope Francisco personally checked the transcript in Italian. America and La Civiltà Cattolica together had asked Francis to grant the interview, which America is publishing in magazine and e-book formats. Fr James said, “Some of the things in it really surprised me. He seems even more of a free-thinker than I thought… creative, experimental, willing to live on the margins, push boundaries back a little bit”.

Most probably, the new pope’s words shall have repercussions in a church whose bishops and priests in many countries, including the USA, often appear to make combating abortion, gay marriage, and contraception their top public policy priorities. He said that these teachings are “clear” to him as “a son of the church”, but one has to teach them in a larger context. “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives”. Instead of such focus, from the outset of his papacy in March, Francisco chose to use the global spotlight to concentrate on the Church’s mandate to serve the poor and marginalised. He’s washed the feet of juvenile prisoners, visited a centre for refugees, and hugged disabled pilgrims at his audiences. According to recent surveys, his pastoral presence and humble gestures made him wildly popular. However, there’s a low rumble of discontent from some Catholic advocacy groups, and even from some bishops, who’ve taken note of his silence on abortion and gay marriage. Earlier this month, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence RI told his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed in Pope Francisco” because he hadn’t spoken about abortion. The bishop was quoted as saying, “Many people have noticed that”.

The interview is the first time Francisco explained the reasoning behind both his actions and omissions. He also expanded on the comments he made about homosexuality in July, on an airplane returning to Rome from Rio de Janeiro, where he’d celebrated World Youth Day. Then, in a remark then that produced headlines worldwide, the new pope said, “Who am I to judge?” At the time, some questioned whether he was referring only to gays in the priesthood, but in this interview, he made it clear that he’d been speaking of gays and lesbians in general. He told Fr Antonio, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question, ‘Tell me… when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person”.

The interview also served to present the pope as a human being, who loves Mozart, Dostoevsky, and his grandmother, whose favourite film is Fellini’s La Strada. The 12,000-word interview ranged widely, and it might confirm what many Catholics already suspected… that the chameleon-like Francisco bears little likeness to those on the Church’s theological or political right wing. He said that some people assumed that he was an “ultraconservative” because of his reputation when he served as the superior of the Jesuit province in Argentina. He pointed out that he became superior at the “crazy” young age of 36, and that his leadership style was too authoritarian, saying, “However, I’ve never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems”. Now, Francisco said, he prefers a more consensual leadership style. He’s appointed an advisory group of eight cardinals, a step that he said the cardinals at the conclave recommended to him. They demanded reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, and Francisco added, “I want to see that this [group] has a real, not a ceremonial, advisory function”.

The pope said that he found it “amazing” to see complaints about “lack of orthodoxy” flowing into the Vatican offices in Rome from conservative Catholics around the world. They ask the Vatican to investigate or discipline their priests, bishops, or nuns. He said that such complaints “are better dealt with locally”, or, else, the Vatican offices risk becoming “institutions of censorship”. Asked what it meant for him to “think with the Church”, a phrase used by St Ignatius de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, Francisco said that it didn’t mean “thinking with the hierarchy of the Church”. He said that he thinks of the Church “as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God’s people”, he added, a notion popularised after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which Francisco praised for making the Gospel relevant to modern life, an approach he called “absolutely irreversible”.

Whilst he agreed with the decision of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger, to allow the broader use of the traditional Latin-language Tridentine Mass, he said that the more traditional Mass risked becoming an ideology and that he was worried about its “exploitation”. Those who sought a broad revival of the Tridentine Mass are amongst Francisco’s harshest critics, and those remarks aren’t likely to comfort them. In contrast to Benedict, who sometimes envisioned a smaller but purer church… a “faithful fragment”… Francisco envisions the church as a big tent, noting, “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We mustn’t reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity”.

19 September 2013

Laurie Goodstein

New York Times


Editor’s Note:

Pope Francisco ain’t teaching anything new… it’s the “Same Old Thing”. There’s been a tempest on the right since the 60s… it’s about time that we started to push back. The Church has always been the Big Tent Fulla Sinful Ginfuls… we’re not sectarians, after all, who fancy themselves the Little Flock of the Justified and Saved. Look, everyone knows “who’s who” and “what’s what”… homosexuality was NEVER was one of the hot buttons amongst Orthodox or Catholics. We knew that some people were that way, and if they were cool about it, so were we. Everybody knows who the gay blades are. One of the Cabinet told me how they get irritated every time one of the konvertsy brings up the fact that Mark Stokoe’s gay. Big deal! Everybody knows it; Mark’s made no secret of it. As one of my older informants put it, “It’s why he wasn’t ordained. Mark’s never hid the fact that he’s homosexual”. Bishop Job had no problem with it… Fr Ted Bobosh has no problem with it… his fellow parishioners have no problem with it… give it a rest, willya?

By the way, both HH and Pope Francisco are singing from the same score on this one. As HH said, “We respect all human choices, including those of sexual orientation. We reserve the right to call a sin a sin, though”. Both HH and Pope Francisco are telling the hardheads to go jump in the lake, jump in it now, and don’t shilly-shally about doing it. It looks like sanity reigns at the top, but can we bring it down to the grassroots, too? Maybe, just maybe, if the leadership makes it clear that it won’t tolerate witch hunts, maybe, we can muzzle the Angliochians and those like them. Now, that’s worth lifting a glass to… as a Cabinet member told me about this interview:

Our right-wingers are probably choking.

Yes sir, that’s precisely what we’re hearing… God, that’s music to my ears (and to many others, too)…


Friday, 30 August 2013

30 August 2013. Stop the Presses! Vassa Larina’s Started a New YouTube Lecture Series! Hear, Hear!

01 read all about it


I got the following from the Cabinet:

V. L. has started a YouTube lecture series (click here). Expect much more of her cutting mockery of her parents, her home parish, and the Russian Orthodox tradition more generally, now straight to your computer screen!

I quite agree. Another Cabineteer sent me this:

Don’t link Mother Vassa with Fr George! He’s quite upset with her dalliance with Bob Taft and of some of her public utterances. He’s an Old School ROCOR priest, in the best sense of the term.

I quite agree with that, too. The Larins are part of the First Families apparat, but that doesn’t mean that they’re corrupt or evil. Once we have a united Church here in the American and Canadian diasporas many of the First Family sorts will have leading positions in it. You’re stupid to think otherwise. As for me, I agree with Deng Xiaoping:

It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.

Some of the First Family sorts (such as John Jillions, Eric Tosi, Victor Potapov, and Leonid Ksihkovsky) are incompetents and/or corrupt to the bone. Others are “operators” but competent (such as Alexander Lebedeff), whilst still others simply have the “right pedigree” (Alexander Golitzin, many of the Lukianovtsy, George Larin, and Alexander Garklavs). There’s a deep longing for unity amongst Russian Orthodox in the American diaspora. That’s the impression that I received from my conversations at St T’s and Jackson. Let’s not ruin it by stupid vendettas that’ll do nothing but advance personal agendas and halt unity. Keep it focused; keep it businesslike; keep it issues-oriented; we’ll get there (and faster than you’d think, too)



Wednesday, 28 August 2013

28 August 2013. A Slip of the Lip from Our Favourite Jesuit



The real attitude of the Jesuits to the Orthodox Church, in particular, came out back in 2005, in a statement by Archimandrite (sic) Robert Taft, the prestigious and highly-placed Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute:

The motivation for the actions of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church (sic) comes from a rootless idiosyncrasy; the Orthodox are unable to perceive reality, for they don’t understand the lessons of history. Don’t think that the Patriarch and Synod have as firm a control over the bishops of their Church to the same extent as the Pope of Rome does. The Patriarch of Moscow isn’t equivalent to the Pope of Rome.

There one has it… an unambiguous and unashamed ultramontane statement of papal supremacy. We don’t accept that now… and we never shall. It makes one wonder about Vassa Larina and her obsequious bumsucking of this foul sort, doesn’t it? Why does Hilarion Kapral allow such? After all, it wouldn’t have happened before 2000, would it? I think that in this instance we should go “back to the future”. It’s as always when dealing with official representatives of the papacy… “The Franks speak out of both sides of their mouths”. A Greek said that to me some thirty years ago… it hasn’t changed one iota.

I have NO animus against any Catholic (or against the Catholic Church, for that matter). My belief is simple, “Send us no more letters on doctrine; send us letters of friendship only”. I think that most Orthodox and Catholics would agree with that. The neighbours ARE so nice…



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