Thursday, April 28, 2011

Playing God

Maybe the power of teaching middle schoolers is getting to my head. But a somewhat touching (albeit deliberate self-contrived story) from today:

I was handing back the graded rubrics for a project where the kids were teaching the rest of the class about, of all things, various World Religions. And one group of boys really failed bad. However, I knew that this was mainly the result of two of the boys in the group, G and A, not the third, J. He's not stellar either, but at least he was trying.

Well, when I handed back the grades, G, who is really quite a smart kid and a charismatic personality (he just won't apply himself; perhaps he thinks he can get by on charm), came up afterward and talked to me. He was basically advocating for J, saying that he knows they got such a low presentation grade because of himself and A goofing off the whole time, that it wasn't J's fault, that J was really trying, and so G was asking if I could please give J the grade he would have gotten if the other two hadn't ruined it for him, even if I would take those points from G's own grade and "transfer" them over to J's.

G was being completely sincere this time. I thought, "how noble!" I did, in fact, end up giving J the higher grade (without taking the points from G). He went from a cumulative grade of an F to a D, which may not be great, but it's an important distinction of course.

But I also decided, based on G's willingness to take responsibility for how he had brought down another and to offer self-sacrifice for his sake, that I would round all my students' grades up to the next highest point. I had been obsessively putting in even long decimals (like 87.0625) based on how the math worked out with my rubrics, but I decided based on how G had gallantly stepped up to the plate for his friend to round everyone's grades up to the next point (so even 87.0625 would become 88) for the whole rest of the year! How merciful of me (lol).

For most kids, this of course made no difference to speak of, it's a very minor thing. But it actually had an effect on several kids' cumulative grades who were on a cusp. Several B+ kids went up to A- etc. Not much, but it's something. And several F's did end up going up to D- just based on this tiny adjustment. So G's noble act ended up reverberating throughout my whole grade-book, and ended up affecting kids who weren't even involved with him or his group, kids in totally different classes even who desperately needed that little grace before progress reports get sent home Tuesday. It's like a small Easter miracle.

G himself is still failing, but I thought his gallantry deserved recognition somehow, and the whole scenario really brings home for me the difference between grades and character or moral worth. However much they might tend to overlap still at this age, it reminded me that a "good" kid does not necessarily get good grades. Yes, I'd argue that the ability to buckle-down and delay-gratification is a huge part of virtue, but only when the task at hand requiring that is worthy.

Blind submission to authority and a zeal to "please" teachers is not in itself a virtue. Even though we adults know education is (supposed to be) for children's own good and that learning helps people in the long-run, I remember how often, when I was a kid, it felt like a prison or work-house, like an arbitrary regime ruling our lives and running us through the motions of random "assignments." Yet I ("good" little boy that I was) definitely internalized "obedience" to this system, to The Institution, as equivalent to moral worth (and was a real miserable prick as an adolescent because of it, I think).

Sadly, many of the teachers here speak as if this is true in the lounge, seemingly caring so much about kids breaking petty and pointless rules and judging the children as people for simply not being motivated to complete their busy-work. Another reminder that institutionalization is bad for everyone's souls, both the inmates and the guards.

Monday, April 25, 2011

J, E, P, and D

It's no secret that I harbor a contempt for contemporary academia and think that "research" in the humanities is just mental masturbation that can never really "prove" anything except the obsolescence of its own fads.

I'm no fundamentalist when it comes to the Bible. I believe in inerrancy understood in the Catholic sense, of course, but certainly I do not believe in any oversimplistic literalism, nor would I in principle be opposed to evidenced untraditional ideas about human authorship or mode of transmission as long as it is all recognized as God's word at the end of the day.

Nevertheless, I've always found the whole historical-critical thing so distasteful. It's what got us that horrid New American Bible, after all, the footnotes to which are so areligious you'd think you were reading some commentary on the manuscript of some dull imperial inventory or the Domesday Book, rather than on the Bible (except the Domesday Book almost certainly would contain more inspiring religious content than the NAB...)

I've also found the whole "Documentary Hypothesis" four-sources theory for the Pentateuch rather suspicious. Not that it would put the Scriptures in question if it were true or anything. Just that it seems so absurd to me that modern academics think they can determine something like that just by internal comparative linguistic analysis 3500 years later! To me, it seems ridiculous to assert that such arguments, even if interesting or mildly sensible, could ever be conclusive in any sense of the word.

Well, I found this great article, by a Jew actually, which deconstructs the whole theory quite well, I think:
I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally. Usually this oscillation between faith and skepticism serves me well, with faith giving reason its moral bearings, and reason keeping faith, well, reasonable.

It’s a nice balancing act — except when the question of who wrote the Bible comes up. My Jewish faith tells me that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch. Reason tells me to be open to the idea that somebody else had a hand in it.

And there are definitely a few glitches in the text that back up those suspicions - notably the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, which describe Moses’ own death.

But try as I might, I just can’t believe that the Five Books of Moses were written by J, E, P and D – the four main authors whose oral traditions, biblical scholars say, were cobbled together to make the Torah. (The letters stand for the Jahwist, the Elohist, the Priestly source and the Deuteronomist. Those, we may assume, were not their real names.)

Call me an academic infidel.

I know, it’s been generations now that Bible study scholars at universities around the world have accepted as true that:

(a) the Pentateuch was composed over many centuries through these four oral traditions, which were later written down;

(b) these main texts were woven together by an editor or series of editors living around the 6th century B.C.E.; and

(c) these different traditions are detectable by scholars today, to the point where you can justify entire conferences and an arena’s worth of endowed chairs to figure out not only the source document of every scrap of biblical text, but also the gender, political inclinations, subversive intentions, height, weight and personal traumas encumbering every one of its authors.

The first two are plausible, I suppose. But the third has always struck me as pure fantasy, the point where idle speculation gives way to heavily funded hubris. Of course, if I’m right about the third, the first two lose their authority as well.

Why don’t I buy it?

It’s not just because of how stark, uninspiring and vaguely European those four letters look in a byline. Nor is it the fact that in more than a century’s worth of digging up the Middle East by archaeologists, not a single trace of any of these postulated “source texts” has ever turned up. And it’s certainly not because the scholars’ approach contradicts my faith — after all, it was the willful suspension of faith that led me to consider it in the first place.

No, faith and skepticism dwell together in my confused bosom like pudding and pie.

Rather, my rebellion against these scholars comes from experience. Specifically, my experience as an editor.


It all started a few years back when, as the senior editor of a Jerusalem-based journal of public thought, I ran into trouble on a 10,000-word, brilliantly researched essay about Israeli social policy composed by the sweetest man on earth who, unfortunately wasn’t a stellar writer.

I spent a few weeks rewriting, moving things around, adding and cutting and sweating. Finally I passed it up the chain to Dan, my editor-in-chief.

"Hey Dan," I said. "Could you take a look at this? I added a whole paragraph in the conclusion. Tell me what you think."

A few days later I got it back, marked up in red ballpoint. On the last page, in the conclusion, he had written the words “This is the paragraph you added,” and drawn a huge red arrow.

But the arrow, alas, was pointing at the wrong paragraph.

You see, it turns out that it’s not very easy to reverse-engineer an editing job. To take an edited text and figure out, in retrospect, what changes it went through — it’s about a million times harder than those tenured, tortured Bible scholars will tell you.

Language is fluid and flexible, the product of the vagaries of the human soul. When an editor has free rein, he can make anything sound like he’d written it himself, or like the author’s own voice, or something else entirely. It all depends on his aims, his training, his talent and the quality of his coffee that morning. A good editor is a ventriloquist of the written word.

That’s when I started to suspect that what Bible scholars claim they’re doing — telling you what the “original” Bible looked like — might be, in fact, impossible to do.

Think about it. My case was one in which the author, editor and reader are all known entities (in fact, they all know each other personally); the reading takes place in the exact same cultural and social context as the writing and editing; and the reader is himself a really smart guy, Ivy-league Ph.D. and all, who had spent a decade training the editor to be a certain kind of editor, with specific tools unique to the specific publication’s aims.

Not only that, but he was even told what kind of edit to look for, in which section. And still he couldn’t identify the change.

Now compare that with what Bible scholars do when they talk about J, E, P, and D. Not only do the readers not know the writers and editors personally, or even their identities or when or where they lived. The readers live thousands of years later and know nothing about the editors’ goals, whims, tastes, passions or fears — they don’t even know for sure that the whole thing really went through an editorial process at all.

(If anything, the same textual redundancies, narrative glitches, awkward word choices and so forth that the scholars claim are the telltale signs of an editing process are, in my experience, very often the opposite: the surest indicator that an author needs an editor, desperately. If the text was edited, it was done very poorly.)

As with any field of research that tries to reconstruct the distant past, biblical scholars get things wrong on a daily basis.

And that's OK: Getting things wrong is part of the nature of reconstruction. Whether you’re talking about the origins of galaxies, dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, medieval history or World War II, the conclusions of all historical research come with a big disclaimer: This is the best we’ve got so far. Stay tuned; we may revise our beliefs in a couple of years.

With biblical scholars, however, you often feel like they’re flying just a little blinder than everyone else. At what point does a scholar’s “best guess” become so foggy as to be meaningless?

The Five Books of Moses take place somewhere in the second millennium B.C.E., centuries before our earliest archeological corroborations for the biblical tales appearing in the Book of Joshua and onward. We have no other Hebrew writings of the time to compare it with. So all that scholars really have to go on is the text itself — a wild ride on a rickety, ancient, circular-reasoning roller-coaster with little external data to anchor our knowledge of anything.

This would be fine, of course, if there weren’t so much riding on it.

With other fields, we usually don’t have our own dinosaur in the fight. But with the Bible, it’s not just the scholars duking it out with the clergy. There’s all the rest of us trying to figure out what to do with this stupendously important book — either because it anchors our faith, or because it contains enduring wisdom and the foundations of our cultural identity.

Where does that leave us? Some people, sensing their most cherished beliefs are under siege, will retreat to the pillars of faith — whether that faith is religious or academic. Either it was Moses, or it was J, E, P, and D. End of discussion.

As for the rest of us, it may raise questions about whether we really ought to care that much about authorship at all, or instead just go with Mark Twain’s approach. “If the Ten Commandments were not written by Moses,” he once quipped, “then they were written by another fellow of the same name.”

Using our reason means sometimes admitting there are things we just don’t know, and maybe never will.

Maybe that’s all right. After all, isn’t it enough to know that the book is really important, that it has inspired love and hate and introspection and war for thousands of years, that it is full of interesting stories and wisdom, poetry and song, contradiction and fancy and an unparalleled belief in the importance of human endeavor - in the possibility of a better world - despite the enduring and tragic weaknesses that every biblical hero carries on his or her back? That it is an indelible part of who we are?

Isn’t that enough to make you just read the thing and hope for the best, forever grateful to Moses, or that other fellow by the same name?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What We Definitely Don't Stand For

My warning before you post a comment on the blog threatens to hold up crazy posts as examples of "what we don't stand for." I've done this at least once before. But today there were three posts, by apparently the same poster, that are ridiculously crazy. I had to delete one, though I'll quote it here. One wonders if the person in question was being serious, except the thought given to the final response indicates that they are (or else an incredibly good parodist who knows the ins-and-outs of current Catholic issues).

First, on a rather old post of mine, I found this horrible comment waiting for me when I came home this evening. This is the one I had to delete:

FUCK THE ORTHODOX!! GO TO FCKIN HELL!!!
LONG LIVE THE POPE!
I make no lie. I pray the Orthodox, and Prods die.
Wow. Someone didn't take their meds today. And on Easter of all things. It's a real shame this sort of hatred exists in the world.

Next, on my post about the ridiculous over-reaction and calls for censorship regarding that new pope movie, I found in response to my rhetorical question, "Just what sort of theocratic regime do these people want to live under?" this comment:

What sort of theocratic regime do I want to live under?
A world where the Pope is ABSOLUTE MONARCH!!! Please please please...(And I'm not even joking)
Uh-huh, good luck with that.

Finally, the more thoughtful response, which I found on my post about the Holy Week liturgies I attended (in which I critiqued the Reform of the Reform as just lipstick on a pig):


Why reform of the reform? Because no matter what the NO is here to stay. The EF will never gain acceptance among the great majority of Catholics (unfortunately) and a papal command will just be ignored.
Therefore our best hope for reaching out and converting the masses of so-called Catholics will be in celebrating the Novus Ordo - but in the Benedictine manner.
The EF mass will not save the Church (unless you see the Church as comprised of a few million - me, I want a Church that is strong, powerful - in worldly terms - and numerically vast which allows her to establish her triumphant rule over the whole world and crush the forces of secularism and liberal Christianity). The EF has too much baggage to do that unfortunately. But the reform of the reform could. It's our last great hope.
(Plus, I could never bear to hear the SSPX going...SEE WE WERE RIGHT TO OPPOSE THE POPE...after all...I'm an ultramontanist true and true... :P)
I responded to this in the comments and will repeat my reply here because I think it's worth repeating in case anyone else come across such arguments:

You may be right that the great majority of Catholics wouldn't accept the EF (as it currently stands)...but it's not the text itself that they particularly care about. The elements they object to are the very elements that groups like that try to put into the OF (Latin, old-timey music, baroque aesthetics, ad orientem, etc).
The people don't care one way or the other about the textual differences between OF and EF, the new calendar, the 3-year lectionary, etc. What they care about (and "would never accept") are the very elements the Reform of the Reform tries to force onto the Novus Ordo. Hence why I call it "worst of both worlds."
A vernacular Old Rite with more Gothic aesthetics (and more "sing-songy" settings of the music)...would, on the other hand, I think be the "best of both worlds."
It's interesting that their stated motives include both the notion that "the N.O. is here to stay" (but combined with a naïve belief that people would accept it mixed with the very elements that alienate them in the Old Rite!) and the sort of "helping the Church save face"/authority-fetish dynamics (in this case, relative to the SSPX) that I theorized about in my post. It's also hilariously fascinating that such an unabashed nut-job with dreams of ultramontanist theocracy thinks the Old Rite has "too much baggage" to be accepted by the modern world. You will note, whoever this was, it wasn't even a trad. It was some sort of papalatrous neocon type. Yuck.

A First!

It appears that a visitor from the State of Brunei, Abode of Peace stopped by the blog today. Visits to various pages from the sultanate continued for over an hour. Neat!

Don't You Get Me Wrong

I only wanna know!!

video

Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Week Liturgies

Wherein I whine about my liturgical fantasies not being perfectly met. Here's what I've done/plan to do this week in Chicagoland; I may update this post throughout the Triduum with more thoughts on the liturgies as I experience them.

Palm Sunday I attended Solemn High Mass at the Institute of Christ the King with a friend. I have heard that the Institute uses pre-1955 versions for some of Holy Week, but (as discussed in the comments here at New Liturgical Movement in the context of a Palm Sunday celebration in France) there really seemed to be a mix of pre- and post-'55 elements. So, for example, the last part of the Gospel was sung after the Passion even though this was not present in post-'55. But, somewhat disappointingly, the blessing of palms was the much abridged post-'55 version, the Passion started with the Agony in the Garden rather than the Last Supper, etc.

Holy Thursday evening I attended the Institute shrine again for their Solemn High Mass. The service was beautiful and their Altar of Repose was all decked out even with flabella and stuff. A lot of things did capture my notice liturgically. For example, they did not do the mandatum/washing of feet after the homily. Apparently there's an option to do that separately, and traditionally it seems that it was always separate pre-'55. I guess not having it saved time, though I think integrating it into the Mass of the Last Supper makes sense.

That ritual is one that I have mixed feelings about how it's done in the West anyway. The bishop, say, washing the feet of his twelve canons in the Cathedral makes a lot of sense. Washing the feet of twelve (or, apparently, thirteen pre-'55) laymen is a bit more problematic for me just based on the question of which laymen get chosen? There is no "logical" college of 12 in a parish to fill this role, at least not how parishes are currently structured. Maybe if someday there were many part-time priests in a parish, twelve would be designated a sort of "chapter" of "parish canons" either permanently, or on some rotating basis, or just honorarily for Holy Week, etc. Also, based on arguments I've seen that the feet washing was actually part of the ordination of the Apostles at the Last Supper somehow, using the laity is somewhat problematic, though washing the feet of the poor is certainly a humbling of the priest that many need in opposition to clericalism.

Also, I have mixed feelings about parts of the ceremonies during Holy Week like that which basically just consist of singing antiphons in a row, and either omitting some or repeating some until the time needed is filled up. Something seems a little extra-liturgical about that to me, especially when the number of antiphons seems arbitrary (for example, in the feet washing, post-'55 at least, there are eight antiphons for twelve washings. Pre-'55 there are nine for thirteen.) In a similar vein, there is also something inelegant, to me, about just repeating verses of the Pange Lingua over and and over again just to fill time, but then not even singing the whole hymn again. So for example, the procession at the shrine was just long enough to need one extra verse, so just the "nobis natus, nobis datus" was randomly thrown in once more before the concluding "tantum ergo" verses. Recycling verses (but not even all the verses) like this seems untidy to me. If they need more time for a longer procession, I'd supply other hymns or antiphons to come first. I don't like chopping up the verses of hymns as if they are interchangeable.

The deacon sang "Ita missa est" at the end instead of "Benedicamus domino" and the priest did read the Last Gospel, which is not how it was done post-'55, so apparently this was pre-'55. To me, though, again in this case the change seems like a logical one given the procession that follows.

Strangely, there was some priest in attendance, vested in a Novus Ordo style alb and stole...who nevertheless just sat in the pews instead of in choir in the sanctuary. I'm hoping I didn't see him stick his hand out at the consecration to "concelebrate" misguidedly. But I may have. I also wondered why he, not doing anything else (not even helping distribute communion), didn't finish up the confessions that had to be cut short before Mass (as the confessor was also taking the role of subdeacon) as then some people had to wait until after Mass to confess and couldn't commune. It would have been nice for him to volunteer to finish them up as Mass started.

Also, during the stripping of the altars, I noticed that the verses that Baronius has in their hand-missal there did not match what the choir was singing. I didn't listen closely enough during the "bare bones" Compline sung afterward to see if those matched. When I got home, I found out that the Baronius missal, at least at this spot, had the "Pius XII" translation of psalm 21. Ugh. I don't know if this has been corrected in their new printing of it.

The weather was just perfect for Good Friday; all dreary and drizzly. I went to the Stations of the Cross at noon at my home parish. I'm less picky about tradition when it comes to non-liturgical devotions like that, and my parish actually uses a very thorough (albeit post-Vatican II) text for the stations; the whole thing takes like 45-minutes. The only problem is that the deacon who leads it, every year, reads "prostate" at several parts instead of "prostrate"...

I was planning to attend the Good Friday liturgy at the Institute shrine again, but the traffic was so bad on the way there that I knew I wasn't going to make it in time and decided to divert to St. John Cantius instead (it's significantly closer coming from the north). It reminded me why I really don't like it at Cantius and started going to Christ the King instead in the first place. It was, frustratingly, the Novus Ordo. Oh, it was all dressed-up in chant and (mostly) Latin and all that. But still, the new rite.

I never will understand why any group bothers with the "Reform of the Reform" anymore. At least since Summorum Pontificum, anyone is free to just do the old liturgy, so I don't know why some places still insist on putting lipstick on a pig and trying to do a smells-and-bells Latin Novus Ordo. It's the worst of both worlds, really. Is it because they want to help the Church "save face" by showing that the new liturgy itself is not at fault and "can be" done worthily? Is it because they have an authority fetish and want to use the "official" ordinary form of the liturgy that the Pope uses? Is it because they are trying to be political or "diplomatic" and don't want to seem "too trad"?? Does anyone really care? To me, having Latin makes sense for a text/body of texts written substantially at a time when Latin was actually spoken still, if not as the vernacular, then at least as the lingua franca and among the educated/clerical class. But using Latin for something newly-composed in 1970...I think is absurd.

So...yeah. Came in and they were wearing red vestments and most women didn't have their head covered and I knew right then and was rather despondent. The Passion was chanted in four parts instead of three, but with a polyphonic choir doing the part of the crowd, so the congregation didn't even get to say "our" parts, which from what I can tell was the whole point of making that change in the Novus Ordo in the first place! I also find it rather absurd that they've created Renaissance-esque polyphonic settings for an option created in 1970. And then (chanted, in English) those awful new politically correct Good Friday prayers which refuse to ask for the Jews' conversion explicitly and which mention (sigh) "religious freedom" (not even that I oppose that so much, as it is just so contingent on contemporary culture and values and lingo. Such a buzz-phrase concept as "religious freedom" has no place in liturgy!) And then we had to stand like an hour for the veneration of the cross because that went at a very slow pace with only one cross.

I had been planning on
going down to St. John Cantius for their tenebrae in the morning Saturday, but this experience has changed my mind. It's apparently a "simplified" version anyway and they don't say whether it will be old rite, but after this I'm guessing it won't be. I would have liked to attend traditional tenebrae all three days, but I had work, and the Institute shrine did not have any tenebrae publicly listed, so I don't know whether such a thing could be found in the area anyway, which is rather sad.

But this was really the last straw for me with Cantius. I never really liked their liturgies. They do things like sing the Gradual over the Epistle (I'm not even sure how this isn't an abuse) at their Old Masses and rather than just chant, are always doing elaborate polyphonic (and even orchestral) settings of the Mass with all sorts of motets and such. This is done in a manner that always feel very disjointed with what's going on at the altar, like there is a "choir's mass" and a "priest's mass" and the latter just proceeds without any particular connection to the former, like it's mainly a concert for the choir to preform rather than a liturgy.

The Cantians are liturgical chameleons. They act all traditional, and do have the old Mass, but also have the New, and the New in Latin. And their Office is the Novus Ordo. On their website, the listing for today just said "Latin" without specifying which Form, and I think many people felt there was a sort of bait-and-switch in that regard as I noticed many people there with Old Rite hand-missals sort of gritting their teeth. It seems to me that the Cantians are more about ostentatious baroque aesthetics rather than actually traditional liturgy, which is what matters to me. I really care about the text and ceremonies much more than the trappings; give me a Low Mass in a garage over the most dressed-up Novus Ordo any day.

It certainly wasn't worth driving down there to see simply a more uppity aesthetic (and one I do not share) of the same basic liturgy I could have seen at my home parish, except with snootier music and having to stand for a much longer period. One feels almost held-hostage by long liturgies and long homilies sometimes, and I could tell at this liturgy many people were getting annoyed by how unapologetically slow they were going with things. If the rite requires that much time, fine, then I'm all for it. But making everyone stay longer than necessary, longer than we had planned (because we're not just going to walk out on church!) just because you want to give a really long homily or go really "reverently" slow with the pace (in this case, of the veneration of the cross especially)...is rather inconsiderate.

But I suppose I have to trust that what happened with the traffic and all was all for the best, that there was some reason for it. Anyway, I'm going to attend a "Burial of the Lord" service adapted from Byzantine practice that my home parish has started having each year. It's actually usually very nice. We'll get the Easter food blessed Saturday afternoon at my home parish, and
I'll probably go back to the Institute (so much commuting! I wish there were an Old Rite parish closer to me) for the Easter Vigil. Sunday morning I'll go to Mass at my home parish with my family and then we spend Easter day at my grandma's with my mom's side (the Catholic side) of the family.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Kind of Music!



And this video is in a series! Check out the others.
Now if we can only get a version of the Old Liturgy in a hieratic thees-and-thous vernacular translation set to gospel music...I'd be in heaven.

If Easter is Coming, It's Time to Get a Persecution Complex...

Fr. Z has been warning a lot these past few weeks that, "if Easter is near, it's the season to bash the Catholic Church." Of course, he and his ilk serve up stories whining about "anti-Catholic bigotry" all year round. So I think what this really means is that, around Easter, conservative Catholics start getting more uppity about it.

Now comes this ridiculous story about the new movie "Habemus Papam" which, from what I've heard, is a benign little film of "good clean fun." The premise, at least, doesn't seem intrinsically offensive just because it happens to involve hierarchs (who are often great subjects for parody...)

However, oversensitive identity-politics Catholics are, apparently, not so good-humored about these things:
A Vatican reporter for the Italian news agency AGI, Salvatore Izzo, called for a boycott of the box-office hit and Cannes Palme D'Or contender “Habemus Papam” [...] Writing in the Italian bishop’s newspaper Avvenire, he said, “You don't touch the Pope: he is the Christ's vicar, the rock upon which Jesus founded his Church.”
Is he effing serious?!? As far as I can tell, this film is neither explicitly attacking the individual mortal man who current holds the papacy (whom I've critiqued and poked fun at myself here several times, sometimes with a harshness I regret, even with my great affection for him). And it doesn't seem to critique the office of the papacy itself as a constitutional feature of the Church. It sounds like a comedy about a man who happens to be Pope. Why should that be off-limits in literature or film? It sounds like an awfully good plot-device to me.

Oh, but Fr. Z is gushing over a Telegraph article about how "offensive" this all is:

Traditionalists say that the film, by the acclaimed Italian director Nanni Moretti, is “an instrument of Satan” and is particularly offensive as it has been released in the approach to Easter.

Bruno Volpe, the Catholic lawyer, has launched suit for defamation against Moretti and the producers under the terms of the Lateran Pact, which extends the same protections to the prestige of the pope as to the Italian president. Mr Volpe said Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope), never mentioned the current Pope by name but it was nevertheless clear that it was a parody of Pope Benedict XVI and dishonoured the figure of the Pontiff in general. Salvatore Izzo, a Vatican expert, branded the work disrespectful and boring in an open letter to Avvenire, the Catholic bishops’ newspaper.

He said Catholics should boycott the film, which opened in Italy on Friday and will be in competition at Cannes.

Why should we support financially that which offends our religion?” he asked, admitting he had not seen the film.

Antonio Vacca, the bishop of Alghero, described Moretti as “an instrument of Satan for separating man from God”.

Gerardo Pierro, archbishop of Salerno, said the launch of a similar film in an Islamic country would have led to the burning of cinemas and attempts to kill the director for blasphemy. “I think many people take advantage of the traditional meekness of Catholics, which is often confused with foolishness or resignation,” Archbishop Pierro said.

Seriously terrifying. And just what did he mean with that comparison to cinemas being burnt and directors being killed in Islamic countries anyway? That this is justified or that Catholics should start doing that in our areas??? If not, then what was the point of pointing that out?

And launching a defamation suit under the terms of the Lateran Pact for dishonoring the figure of the Pontiff?? (To which Fr. Z said "Good for him!") Just what sort of theocratic regime do these people want to live under? That Catholics are expressing support for that sort of censorship in our modern world just scares the shit out of me. Whatever may have been justified or necessary in that regard in a Christian society, the idea of imposing that today is insane.

God save us from conservative Catholics!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Zones of Friendship

John Allen Jr. has some great thoughts on bridging the gaps and healing the divisions caused by identity-politics in the Church through genuine friendships:
Thoughts on Post-Tribal Catholicism
Tensions surrounding Catholic identity are very much in the air these days, and when they erupt they’re always a prescription for heartburn. People who regard themselves as authentically Catholic rarely enjoy being told they’re not, or that they’re only selectively so. Likewise, people who believe the faith they treasure is being misrepresented, or distorted, or eviscerated from within, typically get their Irish up.
A key question facing the church, therefore, is how to manage those tensions constructively. I offered some thoughts on that subject on Wednesday, at a conference in Chicago sponsored by DePaul’s Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology and titled “The Discourse of Catholicity.”
My bottom line was that Catholicism needs a grass-roots movement to rebuild zones of friendship in the church.
I’m not talking about formal programs of dialogue, and I certainly don’t mean debating societies. What the church needs instead are spaces in which relationships among Catholics of differing outlooks can develop naturally over time. The plain fact of the matter is that such spaces have been badly attenuated by the ideological fragmentation of both the church and the wider world.
To be clear, friendship won’t magically make hard choices go away. Catholicism has to stand for something, and somebody has to decide what that is. There will be times when certain versions of Catholic identity have to be ruled out of bounds, and there will also be times when certain defenders of orthodoxy have to be reminded that it’s not their job to determine who’s in and who’s out. (Recent events at the University of Dallas illustrate the latter point, where Bishop Kevin Farrell recorded a web video responding to concern about a new undergraduate degree in pastoral ministry. Critics objected that the program is soft on Catholic identity, to which Farrell replied: “Let me remind the Catholic people of this diocese that … I’m the one who has to stand before God and say whether this is truly Catholic. That is my responsibility, and I do not take it lightly.”)
My experience is that when such moments arise, they can lead to either creative tension or destructive division. Which way things break often hinges not just on the issues involved, but also the quality of the underlying relationships among the parties.
I prefaced the call for zones of friendship with three observations, outlined three challenges to implementing it, and closed with three examples which suggest there’s hope.
Observations
First, whether anyone likes it or not, pressure related to Catholic identity is here to stay. This is not only because a fragmented, post-modern world always makes identity contentious, but because one key trend in today’s church is precisely the rise of “evangelical Catholicism.” It’s premised on recovering a strong sense of Catholic identity (including traditional markers of Catholic thought, speech and practice, such as Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotion) and using that identity as a lever to transform culture – beginning with the culture of the church. This evangelical wave comes from the top down, in the sense that policy-makers are understandably concerned to defend Catholic identity vis-à-vis secularism. Yet it also comes from the bottom up, in the form of strong evangelical energy among younger priests, religious, theology students and lay activists.
Second, there’s ferment today not only over how to define Catholic identity, but also who gets to decide. In Western culture there’s a widespread suspiciousness of any claim to institutional authority, and in Catholicism, that instinct has been turbo-charged by the sexual abuse crisis. As a result, virtually any exercise of hierarchical authority today elicits resistance. Thoughtful bishops know that all too well, just as they know the bishops themselves bear some responsibility for bringing about this state of affairs. Yet given how fundamental apostolic succession is to the physiognomy of the church, many bishops believe they have a sacred duty not to allow their authority to unravel. As a result, there’s an almost Newtonian equal-and-opposite dynamic: the more authority is challenged in some quarters, the more some bishops feel compelled to assert and to defend it.
Third, those tensions are unfolding in the United States in the context of a church that’s already badly divided. The conventional term for that division is “polarization,” as if everyone’s clustered into left and right. In reality, the sociological landscape is more akin to “tribalization.” We have pro-life Catholics, peace-and-justice Catholics, liturgical traditionalist Catholics, neo-con Catholics, church reform Catholics, feminist Catholics, and on and on, with each tribe touting its own heroes, attending its own meetings, and reading its own journals and blogs. Such diversity is healthy in principle, but destructive in practice if these tribes come to see one another as the enemy, and in many cases that’s precisely the situation. Compounding the problem is that these tribes have spent so much time moving down separate paths that they often have completely different senses of what the issues facing the church actually are, so on those rare occasions when they do rub shoulders, they often lack a common set of points of reference to sustain a conversation.
Challenges
The following are highly generalized statements, and in each case one could easily spot any number of compelling counter-examples. Nonetheless, I think they’re broadly accurate at a descriptive level about where things stand.
First, building friendships that transcend ideological divisions in the United States today is an effort that has to swim against a powerful cultural tide. Journalist Bill Bishop has coined the term “the Big Sort” to refer to a decades-long trend among Americans to retreat into like-minded enclaves, both physical and virtual. More and more, Americans are choosing to live, work, socialize and even worship only with people who think like themselves. It’s a basic rule of sociology that homogenous communities radicalize while heterogeneous groups moderate, so this “Big Sort” goes a long way towards explaining the increasingly toxic character of our civic life. The problem is not merely that Americans disagree, but that we’re becoming strangers to one another.
Second, the normal pillars of Catholic life often no longer naturally bring Catholics of differing perspectives together. Many parishes, for instance, have become virtual gated communities. Walk into any diocese in America and find a Catholic in the know, and he or she can tell you in five minutes where the “Vatican II” parishes are, the neo-con parishes, the traditionalist parishes, and so on. The same point could be made about Catholic colleges and universities, Catholic media, and other institutions, all of which tend to have clear ideological alignments. Catholics aspire to be evangelizers of culture, but in many ways we have been thoroughly evangelized by culture. Smuggling the divisions and animosities of secular political life into the church is a classic case in point.
Third, Catholic creativity on this and many other matters is often stifled by an overly “purple” popular ecclesiology, which holds that the bishops are both the cause of, and the solution to, all our problems. Not only is that assumption disempowering, it’s not true. Church history teaches that great new impulses such as the mendicant orders, the teaching communities of the 19th century, or the new lay movements weren’t born because someone in power said, “Let it be so.” The same point applies to addressing today’s tensions around Catholic identity. The bishops aren’t the only reason we have those tensions, and they’re unlikely to ease as long as we sit around waiting for the bishops to fix them.
Signs of Hope
The following are three examples of what a “zone of friendship” in the church can look like. This is hardly an exhaustive list, and these may not even be the best instances. Nonetheless, they at least illustrate that it’s possible.
First, the Focolare movement, founded in wartime Italy by a lay woman named Chiara Lubich, is rooted in a profound spirituality of unity. Based on that foundation, Focolare has built lasting friendships over the years with other Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of good will. Their success is shaped not only by the group’s spirituality, but also its internal culture -- patient, open, always disposed to understand before passing judgment. Those qualities have been acquired largely through building friendships outside the church, but they also represent a powerful resource ad intra.
Second, the Salt and Light network in Canada is a rare media outlet that’s both unmistakably Catholic and yet open to varying expressions of that identity. It was born out of the experience of World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002, and is led by Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who not only has vision but also business moxie. The network has the support of the Canadian bishops, but it’s not an institutional initiative. In terms of programming, there’s a little something for everyone. For instance, Salt and Light produces high-quality features on Catholic saints and other luminaries, including heroes for both progressives and traditionalists, yet taking an approach which cuts deeper than ideological readings. The staff, too, reflects a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, so that the positive tone on-air reflects real friendships in-house.
Third, the “Catholic Voices” project in the United Kingdom was launched in the run-up to Benedict XVI’s visit last year, giving a cadre of young Catholics a crash course in both communications techniques and issues facing the church, and then offering them as interview subjects to media outlets from around the world. The co-founders were the spokesperson for Opus Dei in the U.K. and a former editor of The Tablet, so they come from different Catholic backgrounds. Yet they’re great friends, and that spirit permeated the project. In the end, Catholic Voices projected a rational, self-confident, attractive face for Catholicism while the pope was in town, disarming a lot of anti-papal and anti-Catholic prejudice. The idea was so successful that today a “Catholic Voices Academy” is in the works, and like-minded Catholics in other parts of the world are looking to franchise the brand.
The point is not merely that Focolare, Salt and Light and Catholic Voices are all places where Catholics of different experiences have formed friendships. It’s also that this cross-pollination produced a sort of “hybrid vigor,” allowing these outfits to accomplish aims that would likely exceed the resources of any one tribe acting on its own. Moreover, nobody in authority launched these projects, but nobody got in their way either.

Fundamentally, what these examples illustrate is that post-tribal Catholicism is more than a pipe dream. If you build it, they will come.
These are things I need to work on sometimes myself, because even trying to transcend ideology and identity politics like this...can ironically become an ideology! I, for example, think trads and neocons are insane, and that liberals have no business peddling their heresy and yet, with those ideas in mind, conversations, especially online, can quickly become toxic.

Christ told us that if His kingdom were of this world, His attendants would be fighting for Him. And I personally am certainly an impetuous one, like Peter, who is inclined by my love for Him to draw my sword and cut off ears (the organ of reception of verbal communication, you will notice) in His defense (only, at other times, to deny Him!) And yet His kingdom is not of this world, and that is not the way.

There's no way to stop this except constantly tempering our interactions and discourse with genuine empathy and putting friendship and relationship first. Cor ad cor loquitur, after all. Moderating self-righteous looniness and stamping out heresy (and ugly untraditional liturgy) can come only after that.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Catholics Terrify Me Sometimes (Often...)

So, the Catholic League is up in arms over this "offensive" display by Macy's in New York regarding the new series The Borgias (which happens to be on in the background as I write this...)


Is it just me, or is this totally nuts?? Heck, I'd think connoisseurs of clerical high fashion would be jizzing their pants over fancy copes and miters appearing in a mainstream department store window. I certainly don't see anything offensive about it.

Oh, but "the series was written by an atheist who hates the Catholic Church," and we all know that we should judge artistic works by the ideologies of their creators rather than on their own merits...

Once again with these "conservatives" (always an essentially political stance to take), the politics of identity seems to have replaced true religion.

Monday, April 11, 2011

They Need a Better Editor

I was just reading through the Catechism's section about chastity and noticed what appears to be a glaring sloppiness of definition when it comes to the paragraphs on "homosexuality." The Catechism's language on the matter is a disjointed mess. Specifically, for example:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.
This is incoherent, no? First, why make the category defined "homosexuality" as opposed to "homosexual acts" or something like that? As if the former is morally relevant. And what do they mean by "relations"? And why the switch then from "relations" to "attraction"?

According to their definition, does it not constitute "homosexuality" if the "relations" (assuming that's a euphemism for unchaste acts; though sins of lust need not involve another person: another sloppy choice!) are between two men or two women whose "exclusive or predominant sexual attraction" is not towards people of the same sex? If two heterosexual (or even bisexual) men engaged in it, would that not be "homosexuality"?? Furthermore, is it not homosexuality if someone has these exclusive or predominant attractions but doesn't engage in "relations"?? And does "between" imply that it must be mutual? What about someone with such an exclusive or predominant attraction lusting for someone who doesn't have that?

The Catechism's language is thus all over the place and inconsistent. They mixed two concepts ("relations" and "attractions") in the definition and it doesn't stick together. Even the shift in preposition from "between" (which implies mutuality) to "toward" (which implies a phenomenon in a single individual) shows the confusion here.

We all know the Church condemns homosexual acts of lust, but not merely "being" homosexual (albeit the social construct of "sexual orientation" is pretty easily deconstructed). And yet, in this paragraph, it seems like they preform a sleight-of-hand (I hope merely through carelessness) that arbitrarily switches from "relations" to "attractions" in a way that I'd tend to think might lead to homophobia through a confusion or conflation of the "attractions" with the "relations" and vice versa.

Heck,
depending on how "or between" works in the original Latin, we might even ask if a gay man having sex with a lesbian constitutes homosexual relations! After all, if you define homosexual relations not as "sex acts between two members of the same sex" (regardless of their "orientation") but specifically as "sex acts between two homosexuals" (as the Catechism's sloppy language essentially does)...this is not an invalid question!

It starts out defining the category being discussed as "relations [assumably sexual] between men or between women" and at that point, I'd think that would be enough: it means sex between two men or between two women. Okay, that's easy to understand and simple. But then, bizarrely, they go on to add this qualification "who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex" which confuses everything! So, is sex between two men a different moral category if those men are not homosexuals?! If you've already defined the objective act, I see no reason for this further qualification making assumptions about the type of person engaged in that act.

I find troubling the logic (so common in conservative circles nowadays) of homosexual acts being parsed as problematic because of "acting on disordered inclinations" as opposed to the inclinations being problematic only inasmuch as they tempt to unchaste acts. As the former outlook is a total reversal of priorities, and is clear homophobia; condemning a type of act (for everyone) as unchaste is certainly legitimate, but phrasing your condemnation in such a way as to imply that this type of act is primarily problematic because it expresses being a particular type of person (even implying that no one else ever engages in such acts, though that's clearly not true; just look at prisons, etc)...is to essentially condemn being that type of person (if not in so many words).

The implication becomes something like "homosexual sex acts are problematic because they're what gay people do," rather than homosexuality being seen as problematic inasmuch as (and only inasmuch as) it inclines to such acts in some of those people (acts whose condemnation, however, rests on something intrinsic to the act itself, not merely the type of person doing it.) This almost circular notion of homosexual acts as "the acts of homosexuals" leads to some bizarre places in the conservative homophobic logic (to the point that anything "coming from" or "motivated" by "homosexuality" is condemned by some internet conservatives as "acting on disorder," even if it's merely something as innocuous and in-itself-morally-neutral as wearing a purple shirt for that reason!)


Anyway, I think a more precise (or at least internally consistent) version would simply say something like,
"Homosexuality refers to sexual attractions towards members of the same-sex or to such relations between them," without trying to draw any line between the two things or define the on in terms of the other, even if usually we can assume the relations are the result of such attractions. This still is probably an oversimplification and could be deconstructed further (what, for example, is the nature of "attraction" in terms of the faculties of the soul? Is it even a theologically precise concept?) but at least it wouldn't be all over the place like the current one.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Patriarchates

The Ukrainian "Greek-Catholic" Church recently elected a new Major Archbishop, and rumors were swirling that he would ask the Pope for the title of "Patriarch" though this apparently didn't actually happen when they met.

I am ambivalent about this, frankly, I could go either way. However, it might help my readers to understand a bit about the "genealogical" classifications of the Eastern Catholic churches. I hope this outline that I found somewhere once is comprehensible (corresponding categories are in corresponding fonts):

RITES AND SUI JURIS CHURCHES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The West
---WESTERN RITES
  ------Roman Catholic Church-Papal
 ---------ROMAN ORIGIN
------------Roman Rite
----------------Novus Ordo (“Ordinary Form” since 1970)

 ----------------Old Rite (“Extraordinary Form”)
 ----------------Anglican Use (Allowed for converts from Anglicanism.) 
----------------Zaire Use 
----------------Religious Order Uses (most orders have largely adopted 
---------------the Novus Ordo, though the traditional uses are still 
---------------occasionally said.)
 ------------------Benedictine Use
 ------------------Carthusian Use
 ------------------Cistercian Use
 ------------------Capuchin Use
 ------------------Carmelite Use
 ------------------Dominican Use
 ------------------Franciscan Use
 ------------------Praemonstratensian Use
 ------------------Servite Use
 ------------Ancient Suppressed Latin Rites and Usages 
----------------English Usages
 ------------------Sarum Use 
------------------Durham Use 
------------------York Use 
------------------Lincoln Use 
------------------Bangor Use
 ------------------Hereford Use 
----------------Cologne Use (Use of Cologne, Germany) 
----------------Lyonese Rite (Rite of Lyons, France)
 ----------------Nidaros Use (Use of Norway)
 ----------------Uppsala Use (Use of Sweden) 
----------------Aquileian Rite (Rite of Aquileia, Italy) 
----------------The Beneventan Rite (Rite of Benevento, Italy)
 ----------------North African Rite
 ---------GALLICAN ORIGIN (possibly ultimately of Antiochian origin)
 ------------Ambrosian Rite (Rite of Milan, Italy)
 ------------Bragan Rite (Rite of Braga, Portugal) 
------------Mozarabic Rite (Rite of Toledo, Spain)
 ------------Ancient Supressed Rites and Usages 
----------------Hispano-Gallican Rites
 ----------------Celtic Rites
The East
---ANTIOCHIAN ORIGIN
------EAST SYRIAN RITE
---------CHALDEAN TRADITION
 ------------Chaldean Catholic Church-Minor Patriarchal
 ---------MALABARESE TRADITION
------------Syro-Malabar Catholic Church-Major Arch-Episcopal 
----------------Northern Usage
 ----------------Knanaite/“Southist” Usage
 ------WEST SYRIAN RITE
---------SYRIAC TRADITION
 ------------Syriac Catholic Church-Major Patriarchal
 ---------MALANKARESE TRADITION
 ------------Syro-Malankara Catholic Church-Major Arch-Episcopal 
------MARONITE RITE (of West Syrian Origin)
 ------------Maronite Catholic Church-Major Patriarchal
 ---ALEXANDRIAN ORIGIN
------ALEXANDRIAN RITE
  ---------COPTIC TRADITION
 ------------Coptic Catholic Church-Major Patriarchal
 ---------ABYSSINIAN GE’EZ TRADITION
 ------------Ethiopian Catholic Church-Metropolitan Arch-Episcopal 
---CONSTANTINOPOLITAN ORIGIN (possibly ultimately of Antiochian
 ---origin through Cappadocian influence) 
------ARMENIAN RITE (of Byzantine-Slavic Origin)
---------Armenian Catholic Church-Minor Patriarchal

 ------BYZANTINE RITE
---------BYZANTINE-GREEK TRADITION
------------Albanian Recension
---------------Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church-Episcopal

 ------------Greek Recension
 ---------------Greek Byzantine Catholic Church-Episcopal 
------------Italo-Greek Recension
 ---------------The Exarchic Abbey and Territorial Monastery of Santa
 ---------------Maria di Grottaferrata degli Italo-Grieco-Episcopal
 ------------Italo-Albanian Recension
 ---------------The Eparchy of Lungro degli Italo-Albanesi-Episcopal
 ---------------The Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi-Episcopal 
------------Melkite Recension
 ---------------Melkite Greek-Catholic Church-Major Patriarchal 
------------Romanian Recension
 ---------------Romanian Church United With Rome-Major Arch-Episcopal
 ------------Georgian Recension
  ---------------Byzantine Georgians-not a Church sui iuris
 ---------BYZANTINE-SLAVIC TRADITION
 ------------Belarussian Recension
 ---------------Belarussian Greek-Catholic Church-Without hierarchy
 ------------Bulgarian Recension
 ---------------Bulgarian Greek-Catholic Church-Episcopal 
------------Croatian Recension
 ---------------Croatian Byzantine Catholic Church-Episcopal 
---------------Byzantine Serbians-not a Church sui iuris 
---------------Byzantine Montenegrins-not a Church sui iuris 
------------Macedonian Recension 
 ---------------Macedonian Byzantine Catholic Church-Episcopal
 ------------Hungarian Recension
 ---------------Hungarian Greek-Catholic Church-Episcopal 
------------Russian Recension 
 ---------------Apostolic Exarchate of Moscow for the Russian 
---------------Byzantines-Without hierarchy (both Old and New usages) 
---------------Apostolic Exarchate of Harbin for Russian Byzantines
 ---------------and All Oriental Rite Catholics in China-Without
 ---------------hierarchy
 ------------Ruthenian Recension
 ---------------Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church in the
 ---------------Diaspora-Metropolitan Arch-Episcopal 
---------------The Eparchy of Mukacheve for the Byzantine Ruthenian
 ---------------Catholics in the Ukraine-Episcopal
---------------Apostolic Exarchate of the Czech Republic-Episcopal 
------------Slovakian Recension
 ---------------Slovak Byzantine Catholic
 ---------------Church-Metropolitan Arch-Episcopal
 ------------Ukrainian Recension
 ---------------Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church-Major Arch-Episcopal 
------------Slovenian Recension
 ---------------Byzantine Slovenians-not a Church sui iuris

As you can see, in the smaller Mixed-case Font in Bold are the separate sui juris churches or jurisdictions (as well as several groups that lack a jurisdictional framework, but which could conceivably evolve into sui juris churches someday). Certain jurisdictions are accidentally technically separate and sui juris (having no higher uniting authority below the Pope) but really may be considered as one church; if you count the three Italo-Byzantine jurisdictions, the three Ruthenian jurisdictions, and the two Russian jurisdictions as practically speaking only one church each like this, that is where you get the commonly cited number of there being 23 Catholic churches in communion with the Pope.

So, the basic division that can be made, of course, is West/East. The entire West constitutes one sui juris church, one patriarchate under the Pope, although the West has "ceremonial" patriarchs of Jerusalem, Venice, Lisbon, the East Indies (at Goa), and the West Indies (though this last has been vacant for decades). There were formerly "ceremonial" Latin Rite Eastern patriarchs (of Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria) as ornaments of the papal court (it was actually these, and not the actual Eastern versions, who were assigned the corresponding "Patriarchal" Basilicas at Rome) from the era of the Fourth Crusade, but these were incredibly offensive historically, and were thankfully abolished. A few others ceremonial Western patriarchates have existed in history (like Carthage, Grado, Aquileia), but they are long defunct.


The Eastern churches can further be divided under the headers of the traditional four other patriarchal sees in addition to Rome: Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, (and, it might be argued, Jerusalem; but that's controversial). The next division after this in classifying the Eastern Catholic churches would be into the Rites or ritual families proper. While the West is one jurisdiction with several rites and usages, in the East it's the other way around: there can be several sui juris churches within one rite.

There are six (or, arguably, seven) Eastern Rites as generally classified. From Antioch are the West Syriac who have their patriarch at Antioch itself, East Syriac who have their patriarch at Babylon, and Maronite who are also at Antioch, though I've always thought it might "make sense" (though these things never do perfectly) to associate the Maronites with Jerusalem (which is the only one of the "Big Five" lacking its own Rite) rather than having so many churches centered at Antioch. From Alexandria is the Coptic Rite with the patriarch at Alexandria itself. And from Constantinople are the Armenian with patriarch at Cilicia, and the Byzantines whose current ranking church is the Melkite at, yet again, Antioch.


Within many of these Rites, especially under Constantinople, there can be more than one sui juris church. However, you will note that only the ranking sui juris church in each Rite has, in the current Catholic system, the designation of "patriarch." The others are of various other ranks of hierarchal precedence (without hierarchy, episcopal, metropolitan arch-episcopal, or major arch-episcopal) based mainly on size; though I've often thought it might be appropriate to "level" all the non-patriarchal churches under a title like "arch-primate." However, the model seems to be based on something like the Holy Roman Empire where, based on importance, certain principalities under the Empire were Kingdoms, others were Archduchies, others were simply Duchies, others were Counties, etc, even if they were not suzerain to any higher levels other than the emperor.

Again, in the current Catholic "logic" of Eastern Patriarchs,
only the ranking sui juris church in each Rite has the designation of "patriarch." For example, the only current Byzantine Catholic church of patriarchal rank is the Melkite at Antioch. It is the precedential church within that Rite and thus has the patriarchal dignity. However, there is an unspoken implication in this logic that, were Constantinople (of the Orthodox) to reunite, then it would clearly be the ranking church among the Byzantines (instead of the reduplication of Antioch).

In the current system there are six Western Patriarchs (the Pope included) and six Eastern. This creates a symbolically appropriate "apostolic" college of Twelve total (seven "real" and five ceremonial), though West Indies is virtually defunct. It will also be noted that patriarchs located at one of the "Big Five" cities have the designation "major" (including the ceremonial Latin patriarch of Jerusalem), but the others, both "real" (namely, Babylon and Cilicia) and purely ceremonial, are considered "minor."

Now, when it comes to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, there is a good argument that the "Byzantine-Slav" and "Byzantine-Greek" traditions should be recognized as two separate Rites in some sense. And thus that the ranking church among the Byzantine-Slavs (which would indeed be the Ukrainians it seems) should be given the title of Minor Patriarch (of Kiev assumably). So I wouldn't be in theory opposed; the symbolic number of twelve patriarchs could even be maintained easily by getting rid of the West Indies title once and for all officially (or, more complicatedly, transferring the Maronites to Jerusalem and then getting rid of the Latin patriarch there).

However, one must consider how ecumenically sensitive this is. Because, if we were to ever re-unite with the Orthodox, the Russians (only a tiny church among the Catholics) would clearly be the ranking church among the Byzantine-Slavs, Moscow would obviously be the "patriarchal" church of the Byzantine-Slavic Rite in that sense. Do we really want to complicate things with even another patriarchal title?

Of course, the patriarchal dignity has taken on canonical implications beyond just being the ranking church in a Rite. And, of course, why couldn't the East have non-ranking patriarchates too, in the sense of major archbishops given the title, insignia, rank, and some or all of those prerogatives yet without necessarily being the ranking sui juris church within a given Rite (like the ceremonial Western patriarchs)?


In fact, this situation already exists among the Orthodox. The Orthodox Patriarchates largely line up with the Catholic, though there are overlapping claims because of the Oriental Orthodox, etc. But in Orthodoxy, there are also some churches which are not the precedential seat of unique Rites (Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, etc) that have been granted the title "Patriarch" because of autocephaly, though in reality they are more like just the Major Archbishop of a sui juris church in Eastern Catholic terms (again: among Catholics, the title "patriarch" in the East has thus far been reserved for the precedential church in a given ritual family, not merely for the highest form of autonomous jurisdiction).

Really, these Patriarchs are more like my "Arch-Primates" (or the term "Catholicos" also might be helpful) inasmuch as they are not the ranking church in a Rite. But that wouldn't have to be an "issue" in the case of reunion; they could certainly keep Patriarchal title. I mean, I sort of doubt, for example, that the Melkites' patriarchal status would be revoked even if Constantinople were to return as the ranking church among the Byzantine-Greeks. Sometimes the elegant "logic" of theoretical and symbolic ideals must be sacrificed to realpolitik and diplomacy. It's not worth offending anyone just for the sake of limiting the number of patriarchs to twelve or to maintain the abstract artificial principle of the title signifying only the ranking church of a given Eastern Rite.


So, basically, I think a patriarchate for the Ukrainians wouldn't be terrible. It would make sense if the Byzantine-Slavs are considered a separate "Rite" and, even though Moscow would be the ranking church in the case of reunion, that's no reason the title and prerogatives of "Patriarch" couldn't be conceded to the Ukrainians anyway (as they are to the Romanians and Bulgarians and Serbians among the Orthodox, even though those aren't the ranking churches in any separate Rite, as well as to ceremonial patriarchs in the West). But the question really boils down to whether it would offend Moscow, currently, too much to be worth doing. I'd rather think it would and that the Pope is thus wise not to rock the boat at this point.