Wednesday, 10/22/14

  1. More on the Synod and …
  2. Still More on the Synod
  3. Elma Mae Wombat and the Zither Kings
  4. More pressing things on their mind
  5. Consumers of Bandaids and Genders
  6. One ipse dixit on Prayer Books


First, I’ve updated my last blog, on the Roman Catholic Synod, a couple of times. I’m pleased that I was on the right track about the implications between Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity (aka Latin versus Greek Christianity, or Western versus Eastern) – and that others have added to my understanding.

Biggest thing added to my understanding: divorce and remarriage are a hill Rome could die on because (unlike how strict or welcoming to be about homosexuality) there is a supposedly infallible Conciliar pronouncement on the impossibility – not the wickedness, but impossibility – of dissolving a sacramental marriage.

Now I really must stop borrowing trouble by trying to figure out how Rome can get out of the box the Council of Trent and Vatican I have put it in.


Second, there’s some interesting Comments on Rod Dreher’s blog, where I learned of John Zmirak’s crie de coeur about the implications of Rome changing it’s position on divorce and remarriage.

These are selected excepts, quoted in their entirety unless an ellipsis signals otherwise:


I find it amusing how easily he claims that “on marriage, the Orthodox are wrong.” I certainly respect the Catholics’ right to disagree with us here, but the Orthodox position on marriage is based directly on the writings of St. Basil the Great, whom the Catholics themselves regard as a “Doctor Ecclesiae.”

To set the record straight, we Orthodox don’t just accept divorce and remarriage. Following St. Basil’s prescriptions, we recognize marriages sometimes fail because of human sinfulness. Thus, we allow a second (and even a third) marriage, but the service for these is entirely penitential (and does not involve the crowning found in the standard wedding service). St. Basil even prescribes several years of penitence (i.e. abstinence from communion) for those who marry a second or third time. In at least one sense we Orthodox hold an even higher standard than the Catholics: the penitential marriage service applies whether the previous marriage has been dissolved through divorce or death (presumably because death itself is the product of human sinfulness).


Francis is between a rock and a hard place. By letter of law all that Zmirak said is true….BUT the faithful have had enough of this divorce policy.

My suggestion would be to keep the doctrine but speed up, and I mean really speed up, the annulment process for those who seek it.


Wink-wink-nudge-nudge annulments are Rome’s pastoral approach to permitting a second marriage after a divorce. The Orthodox permit the same when there is pastoral need, but they don’t pretend that the first marriage never existed.

tmatt (Terry Mattingly):

There was talk of a penance period for Catholics who would seek to remarry. Did ANYONE see press coverage of the details of that? The role of Confession in the process, etc.?

Chris 1:

In truth when it comes to marriage the Orthodox teaching and the Roman Catholic understandings are quite similar.

What is different, and where Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians really differ, is in their understanding of sin and repentance and what to do about it.

Roman Catholics define two forms of sin, mortal and venial, and anything that falls outside of those is not sin from which one can or should repent.

Orthodox Christians see sin as one thing: Whatever separates us from God, “…voluntary or involuntary, of word or deed, of knowledge and of ignorance…”

With sin understood differently, repentance is understood differently, and thus the problem of divorce/remarriage is treated very differently.

For Roman Catholics the only solution is to declare the marriage never really happened, if they can make that case, and thus they annul the marriage and then are free to marry.

For Orthodox Christians the only solution is to repent, and to move forward in repentance.

I offer this homily by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh that our pastor gave yesterday. It is not about marriage, per se, but about sin and repentance…


Years ago I mentioned to an Evangelical friend over coffee at church that my then-fiance and I were going that evening to to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra play Mozart. “Was he a Christian?” the fellow asked. I said yes, and didn’t bother to explore the limits of that answer, and he nodded, satisfied. “Good,” he said. If I had said no, he would have thought I was wasting my time. The non-Christian Mozart would not be worth listening to, while overtly Christian Elma Mae Wombat and the Zither Kings would.

(David Mills)

I have a very close acquaintance who I’m convinced would be categorized as “Autism spectrum” (f/k/a Asperger Syndrome) were he young today. To a very substantial extent, this describes him. It’s not that his tastes are lowbrow, but that his worldview is utterly provincial. He obsesses over proving that his hero Abraham Lincoln “was a Christian,” for instance. And I do think Evangelicalism feeds that.

But there’s hyperbole here as well.

This past weekend, I sang a concert that included excerpts from Haydn’s Creation, Brahms’ German Requiem and Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and I first sang all of those 50+ years ago at an Evangelical high school. I don’t recall us slowing down to ask whether the composers were Christians, let alone Evangelicals.

Go figure. For now, I hold the two truths in unreconciled tension.


With Islamist terrorist groups like Boko Haram recently murdering 2500 Catholics in one Nigerian diocese alone, and with Christian children being crucified or cut in half by ISIS, you might think that the world’s bishops would have more pressing things on their mind than the compatibility of same-sex unions with Church teaching. You would, of course, be wrong.

(Robert J. Delahunty, H/T Rod Dreher) The more I think about this, the madder I get. The whole world watches our movies and TV, plays our songs, and now debates our groin obsessions while the world falls apart.

And we pretty much take it for granted that our groin obsessions are supremely important until a blogger with a shred left from the sense God gave us all points out that they ain’t.


Thoughts after noting that it’s “impossible to walk into a chain drugstore and buy a box of bandaids without having to choose among three shelves’ worth of options”:

If I were a good consumer, I would be less annoyed. I would revel in the proliferation of consumer choices, experience it as a kind of freedom, a liberation from sameness and monotony. And I would feel this way not just about products in the drugstore but about the variety of possibilities on offer in the marketplace of personal transformation and spirituality. So many ways I can choose to be me!

But what if I find my choices about identity to be as meaningless as the ones in the drugstore? The meaningless of the many choices imposed on us is the great secret of consumerism, the secret lying in plain sight that we are not supposed to notice if we are good consumers. The point applies to our choices about gender identity—especially the choices our children will have to make as they grow up, unlike us, having no choice but to choose in this particular marketplace. They are supposed to feel protective of their freedom to choose, to be outraged at any effort by state or church to curtail it. They are supposed to feel like good consumers.

A key task of the church in the next generation will be to provide a lived alternative to feeling like a good consumer in this regard ….

(Phillip Cary, Gender as a Consumer Choice)


In time of crisis especially, it’s a blessing to have a prayer book so I can pray as I ought and not as I extemporize. “Heartfelt” without more feels like sheer self-indulgence.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
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