Sunday before Nativity 2022

Antiquity envy

By Lingard’s day, the Church of England held the smug and self-affirming view that the old Anglo-Saxon Church—that is to say, Christianity in the British Isles prior to 1066—was in fact, proto-Protestant; concluding that Anglicanism was nothing more than English Christianity as it had always been before all those pesky Papists showed up and ruined things. From the actual historical record, to accomplish this, you must turn your head just right and squint at one isolated primary source, and then use 17th-century Protestant speculations as your guide for its interpretation. Lingard lays waste to such pretensions, but is always a slightly bemused gentleman in doing so.

Terry Cowan

Thus does Terry introduce the theme of what I’ll call “antiquity envy” in various 200-year-old sects. He even (blush!) gives me a shout-out as his favorite aggregator. What’s not to like?

Accommodating brute facts

In May 2021, a time when public gatherings in England were strictly limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, the British tabloids were caught off guard by a stealth celebrity wedding in London. Westminster Cathedral—the “mother church” of Roman Catholics in England and Wales—was abruptly closed on a Saturday afternoon. Soon the groom and bride arrived: Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds, a Catholic and a former Conservative Party press officer with whom he had fathered a child the previous year. A priest duly presided over the marriage, despite the fact that the Catholic Church opposes divorce and sex outside marriage, and that Johnson had been married twice before and had taken up with Symonds before securing a divorce. It was an inadvertently vivid display of the Church’s efforts to accommodate its teachings to worldly circumstances.

Paul Elie, The Reinvention of the Catholic Church – The Atlantic (emphasis added)

I assume that accommodating Orthodoxy to worldly circumstances (which isn’t exactly changing its teachings, but may eventuate in that) is what Archbishop Elpidophoros of America was thinking at the ”First Greek Orthodox Baptism for Child of Gay Couple in Greece”

It is a fearful thing to be responsible for a multitude of human souls, as are priests and, a fortiori, Bishops, Archbishops and Patriarchs.

Deny baptism to the children “of” the gay couple and you’re mean or homophobic. Grant it and, among other problems, it is seen as “a sign of great progress in the Greek Orthodox Church in terms of acceptance of the LGBT community,” a not entirely salutary development. Do the wedding and you’re countenancing adultery and divorce; deny it and you’re promoting bastardy.

The only way I know of squaring the circle is that you consider stepping beyond the letter of the law only if you have reason to think that doing so will conduce to the salvation of one or more parties to the irregular circumstance, which in all the cases I can imagine will mean that there’s already some repentance for the circumstances they’ve created.

But then I’m not a Priest or a Bishop, am I?

Humble in theory, arrogant in fact

Over the last two centuries, an egalitarian culture has given rise to a diverse array of powerful religious leaders, whose humble origins and common touch seem strangely at odds with the authoritarian mantle that people allow them to assume.

Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity

I cannot help but think of a law school classmate’s description of leaving the Protestantism of southern Indiana for the Roman Catholic Church: he gave up untutored and pompadoured tyrants who denied any authority beyond expounding the Bible in exchange for priests who claimed to be God’s authoritative presence but who let him live his own life.

We’re all liberals now

The late conservative philosopher Roger Scruton once referred to conservatism as ‘a hesitation within liberalism’ rather than an alternative to it, and Deneen too believes that while left and right might want to liberate different things, they are both onboard with the overall project:

What is bemoaned by the the right is not due to the left but to the consequences of its own deepest commitments, especially to liberal economics. And what is bemoaned by the left is not due to the right but to the consequences of its own deepest commitments, especially to the dissolution of social norms, particularly those regarding sexual behaviour and identity. The ‘wedding’ between global corporations and this sexual agenda is one of the most revealing yet widely ignored manifestations of this deeper synergy.

Paul Kingsnorth, In This Free World

[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

To believe that wealth is the only significant measure of the worth of an individual, a family, or a community is to reject the teaching of nearly every religion and wisdom tradition that ever was.

Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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