How come the theme from Cops is a reggae song? An…

How come the theme from Cops is a reggae song? And is it any coincidence that the words are, “Bad boys … whatcha gonna do when they come for you”? How many, something like one-third of African-American men are behind bars now…?

Will there soon be a ‘Final Solution to the Palest…

Will there soon be a ‘Final Solution to the Palestinian Question’?Read all about it.

Laurels to those journalists (and copy editors?) w…

Laurels to those journalists (and copy editors?) who have, in the last couple years, started ‘reminding’ readers of who Mister or Ms. So-and-So is that they mention near the top of the article, and then much later also. There’s nothing like starting to read a piece on page 5, continued on page 25, or one of those long Web journalism pieces, about people who aren’t household names…and then referring to them on different pages simply by last name, forcing us to scour the small print all the way back to figure out, “Oh, ‘Smith’ is the neighboring township’s dog catcher!” Thanks from all of us!

Israel Supporting Hamas?—Read all about it.

Israel Supporting Hamas?Read all about it.

You know, Episcopal (i.e., Bishop-led) Churches Ar…

You know, Episcopal (i.e., Bishop-led) Churches Are Monarchies! Realizing this clarifies alot for this USA-born and bred (small-R) republican. Elective, Collaborative Monarchies, except for most of Catholicism, which, structurally, politically speaking, is a Feudal Empire of a society, its bishoprics handed out to papal favorites like fiefs…and taken away when the pope ‘is not amused.’

To generalize, a Diocese chooses its Bishop, Bishops ultimately choose their Metropolitan or Primate or Presiding Bishop, important Bishops/Metropolitans elect Patriarchs. And a Diocese is like a little Monarchy under its Bishop (or as Orthodoxy prefers, around him); a Church Province (in whatever form) is a permanent Federative Monarchy around its Metropolitan or Primate; a Patriarchate, a cluster of Provinces, is a permanent federation of federations around its Monarch, the Patriarch. A Diocese does nothing without its Bishop, and s/he nothing without them (ideally!); the Bishops of a Province do nothing outside of their own Dioceses without their Metropolitan or Primate, nor s/he without them; the other leaders of a Patriarchal Church do nothing without their Patriarch, nor he without them.

In case it needs to be stated, I don’t mean “monarch” in the international, diplomatic, sovereign sense (except in the case of the Pope of Rome!), but by analogy. “High Churches”–Dioceses, Provinces, Patriarchates or Communions–are Monarchical societies. Maybe that’s why James I of Britain said, “No Bishop, No King!” And remember his foes, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists, didn’t just want to “republicanize” England’s Church, but its State as well–as they did under Cromwell…sort of.

Some Bishoprics have been monarchically led since before the martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch shortly after AD 100. Before much longer they all were, ‘boards’ of priests or collective bishops everywhere giving way to the institution of the “Mono-Episcopate.” But it’s all in how it’s done, whether the Bishop is a petty dictator, or loving, collaborative, in-touch, pastoral, and facilitating in his (or her) approach. And maybe, too, whether the Bishop can be deposed!

Understanding these things can go a long way in explaining the quasi-mythic position of a Bishop, Primate, or Patriarch in the hearts of his Church…whether they really, really love him, OR really, supernaturally hate him. It’s said that nobody loves a synod (or a committee, or a board); I think it’s also true that nobody loves a Moderator, Stated Clerk, or President! A Monarch is sacramental (Greeley), reminds his or her people of their shared nature as a people, their heritage, their nationhood (or churchhood); a Monarch thus bears or embodies “majesty,” like a President, Prime Minister, Stated Clerk, or Moderator never can. Though in the Orthodox understanding this is no excuse for Bishops to go about like worldly Princes, the two jobs being always ideally separate. In fact, St. Symeon the New Theologian wrote a thousand years ago that in the beginning, it was required that Bishops be “glorified” (or “deified” as it is commonly rendered in English), that is, that they be saints basically, in complete harmony with God’s Will, mystically as it were, and humble, virtuous, ethical, even to not wanting the job. This is part of the reason Orthodox Bishops still are monks. (NB: In effect, an Orthodox Christian Diocese is a “monastic diocese,” not unlike those of the pre-Invasion Irish [i.e., Celtic] Church!)

Anyway, this “Monarchy” also explains the high opinion Bishops tend to have of themselves and episcopal institutions and ceremonies, for good or for ill. Knowing so might help one approach a Bishop more productively, at least….

Ransoming captives used to be considered a Christi…

Ransoming captives used to be considered a Christian virtue, a work of mercy. Now it’s just “caving in to kidnappers,” even “encouraging slavery” or “fraud” (e.g., in today’s Sudan). I think in the Middle Ages the practice was less concerned with controlling other people’s behavior–pirates, kidnappers, terrorists, slavers–than with doing good for the ostensible (Christian) victim. Maybe even witnessing Christian charity to their captors. But the Puritan economics of today was summed up in their slogan “Almsgiving is no charity” 400 years ago. That’s where “bootstraps” came from, and other manifestations of the War Against the Poor. We used to care more about our own virtue than about others’ (alleged) vice.

You know what the Orthodox Church in the Western w…

You know what the Orthodox Church in the Western world needs to help bring it together, as well as promote its continuation and growth, and even generate income?: A PAROCHIAL SCHOOL SYSTEM!

In the 18-1900s they helped (Latin) Catholic immigrants and their children become assimilated Catholic Americans, and helped bring together the different Catholic ethnic groups who almost launched overlapping ethnic dioceses of their own instead(!). See the experience of St. Louis, Missouri.

Furthermore, they held together the Catholic communities, rallying them around a shared alternative to (Protestant-majority-controlled) public schools (or homeschooling)–their own religious schools–providing a concentration of what sociologists call “social capital” for building-up the Catholic community, even becoming a source of marriage partners, new clergy, and religious vocations. They taught “the FOUR R’s: Readin’, ‘Ritin’, ‘Rithmetic, and RELIGION,” and even helped Catholics climb America’s social strata: Guess who have been the best-educated, wealthiest, and most socially-concerned Gentiles in America for the last 100 years or more?: Irish Catholics, believe it or not, statistically speaking, inaccurate stereotypes aside!

This comes from the writings of sociologist Fr. Andrew Greeley (the novelist). He’s also discovered that Catholic parochial schools are a moneymaker!!! It seems their graduates give more to the Church as adults than do Catholic alums of public schools (with or without the Catholic public-schoolers’ parish-based weekly religious education [“CCD”])…which would seem logical.

Even Eastern Catholic parishes (i.e., “Uniates”) often have parochial schools, so it’s not something alien to an Eastern Christian mind at all.

Parochial schools differ from “private schools” in that they usually charge less tuition, are an integral part of parish liturgical and spiritual life and the local community, and are part of a diocese-wide school system, achieving certain economies of scale and sharing of resources. They’re also financially supported by all parishioners, not just the parents of current students. And they often employ volunteers from throughout the parish to help the paid staff. They really become a local church community project!

Undoubtedly the Catholic project was helped in a big way by the fact that it used to be staffed by nuns, who worked for very little and didn’t have ‘other mouths to feed.’ Orthodoxy doesn’t really have “active Religious” like Catholicism does. But what about our own volunteers or persons (voluntarily) temporarily working for low pay to serve the Church? even a corps of lay teachers! Catholic school teachers usually work for less pay than public school teachers because they believe in what they’re doing. (And because the Church can’t afford to pay them at par!)

As the St. Louis article suggests, it also helped that there was the perception that the nation’s Catholic bishops could more-or-less require their faithful to send their children to Catholic schools, canonically or at least ‘morally.’ Whether or not that was actually true for Catholics here in America(!), Orthodoxy doesn’t work that way. People would have to be persuaded to do this…an excellent opportunity for leadership by Orthodox clergy, bishops, and other leaders.

Expensive? Maybe. But Catholic schools are also helped by money from two other sources: philanthropy (foundations, corporations, etc.), and just regular folks who might not give to other church causes, but will give to a school…even non-Catholics! Which brings in one more point: Catholic schools are open to non-Catholics; sometimes they might convert, but they pay tuition at least, and help spread the word about the church and school as good for the whole community.

It might be charged that ‘sectarian’ schools don’t expose their students to the diversity of the U.S. population, different races, nationalities, faiths, etc. Perhaps not directly. But Catholics do come out of their schools more tolerant than Protestants, more open to sharing the block they live on with people different from themselves (Greeley)…which is the whole point of sensitization to diversity! I have reason to believe Orthodox parochial schools (elementary and high schools!) would do the same: best embody and engender the spirituality and love of Orthodox Christianity at its best.

Plus, nonpublic-school kids kick ass in test scores!!!

The Moral Equivalent of Incest—In the newspaper …

The Moral Equivalent of Incest—In the newspaper recently a shrink equated the molestation of minors by clergy with incest. And it makes sense: close relationship, reverence, violated trust and access and boundaries, manipulation, compulsion, secrecy, guilt, a destroyed psyche, sometimes STDs, pregnancy, abortion…. And a victim-activist said as long as the offender carries the title “Father,” he’ll be able to exploit it. This crisis in the Catholic Church is no time to knee-jerk either for women or married priests OR against gay-identified celibate priests and candidates, and if liberals or conservatives attempt to use it for ecclesio-political gain, like homophobes in the Vatican or Philadelphia’s homophobic Cardinal (for instance), God will hold them accountable.

That said, it seems to me that two steps could help prevent new offenders: (1) Bring Catholic priests out of their ivory tower, their clerical caste system, which encourages the “thin black line” [sic] that protects abusers. (Re-)Democratization, accountability, (re-)connectedness to the laity. (2) Admitting women priests into said caste would also help change the clerical atmosphere within the caste, as well as simply bring new and additional pairs of eyes into rectory hallways, sacristies, episcopal parlors, etc.

I don’t know what to do about religious-order priests and brothers in their quasi-monastic comunities. But the Orthodox Church, for instance, doesn’t even have “active Religious;” their monks and nuns stay mostly in the monastery, praying, etc. Though arguably Catholicism’s active orders are largely responsible for its spread since the Middle Ages…as well as for the apotheosis of the Papacy of Rome; so I don’t know if they want to part with such an institution at this time.

But just for the record, celibacy doesn’t cause molestation–most molesters are married. Neither does homosexuality cause molestation–most molesters identify as straight. And molestation is apparently no more common among Catholic clergy than Protestant or Orthodox or Jewish, etc. But watch out for Catholic conservatives who seek to differentiate between molesting pre-adolescent minors and adolescent minors: their agenda is homophobia, not justice or clinical accuracy.

What about ‘one strike and you’re out’? If molesting is an incurable psychopathology, and the title and role of Father is their weapon, what do you do: turn them lose on the street as ex-cons? forcibly lock them in a cloister for life? Pedophiles Anonymous? a scarlet P branded on their foreheads for the rest of their lives? I don’t know.

Anglicans Look "East"—It seems when the Church o…

Anglicans Look “East”—It seems when the Church of England wants to add a more religious atmosphere to one of its facilities, sometimes it turns to the Orthodox Church for inspiration. If you were looking closely on TV during the Queen Mother’s Funeral at Westminster Abbey, when the camera was tracking people entering the church, you saw a pair of Orthodox icons hung from two pillars in the nave: Jesus Christ, and Madonna With Infant. What’s more, they placed Mary on the right and Jesus on the left, just like they do in all Orthodox churches. I’m informed these icons were installed in 1994 and were written by the hand of Sergei Federov from Russia. The Abbey’s Official Guide points out that they stand as “a reminder of the Abbey’s primary role as a place of Christian worship,” i.e., not just as a museum, a statuary, or a historical attraction. Normally they sit above Gulf-War-era votive candle stands.

The Mary Icon can be seen on this page of the Abbey’s virtual tour, towards the bottom of the nearest visible pillar on the left. The Jesus icon is directly across the aisle, just to the right of the edge of this photo.

Just like the icons on an Orthodox iconostasis, these particular ones are not situated for venerating, i.e., kissing. For the eye and heart, but not the lips!

"Canonical" Orthodox Churches???—Still on the ou…

“Canonical” Orthodox Churches???—Still on the outside here… But it seems to me that there’s some problem discussing what are “legitimate” Orthodox Churches, and what aren’t. I propose looking at it a different way, but one that may be in fact more “canonical”: Christ’s Orthodox Church is One, and its unity is most manifest and made real when its bishops convene liturgically with their president, IN COUNCIL. This can be local Bishops with their Metropolitan, regional Church leaders with their Patriarch, or everybody with the first-among-equals, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This is because the Church worldwide is One Episcopate, one college of bishops. If a “congregation” doesn’t have a bishop in that college, it isn’t part of the One Body of Christ’s Orthodox Church, as far as we know.

Since that One Episcopate hasn’t convened worldwide in a few centuries, recognition has tended to come via the twelve-to-fifteen Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, which are considered self-governing units of the One Episcopate. Not everybody even agrees on how many there are!, but there’s still no serious question that the Czechs, OCA, and Poles are part of the One Episcopate, by virtue of their past peaceful relationships with Russia and/or Constantinople (I guess??). In any case, this is where “canonicity” gets talked about as a church “being under” another Church, i.e., its jurisdiction, or some bishop’s “omophorion.” Or in Catholic lingo, “in full communion with.”

But the One Episcopate has gotten short shrift in the history of Orthodoxy in the last two centuries, with the “new” AOCs in the Balkans, and perhaps even more recently with the breakup of the USSR, and of course the testy relations among the ethnic “jurisdictions” in Western Europe, North America, etc. It might be good to get back to consideration of Orthodoxy’s Unity, while preserving local Autonomy/self-governance. It might even open the door to conflicted groups that might be seen to be Orthodox after all, despite local church politics, such as the Macedonians, the Catholic-Orthodox Church of France, and the Russian Church Abroad, or maybe others. It seems to me that with the spread of Orthodox ideas and practices beyond the Orthodox Communion and the proliferation of potentially-Orthodox churches, the One Episcopate is morally obligated to “extend the right hand of fellowship” (i.e., koinonia, communion) to all true Orthodox it finds in the world, just like Paul and the Jerusalem Church did 1950 years ago. It could sure use ’em, especially in the West!