Benedict’s Creative Minority

Ok, I’m back. Had some stuff I had to catch up on but that’s done! Some great essays coming down the pike. Note the mention of Met. Hilarion in this piece. Also note the reference to Toynbee (a great historian) and his thesis that civilizations die from suicide, not external assault, and then read Malcolm Muggeridge’s essay “The Great Liberal Death Wish.” I told you this would be good.

By Samuel Gregg, Source: Acton Institute

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict

In the wake of Benedict XVI’s recent trip to Britain, we have witnessed—yet again—most journalists’ inability to read this pontificate accurately. Whether it was Queen Elizabeth’s gracious welcoming address, Prime Minister David Cameron’s sensible reflections, or the tens of thousands of happy faces of all ages and colors who came to see Benedict in Scotland and England (utterly dwarfing the rather strange collection of angry Kafkaesque protestors), all these facts quickly disproved the usual suspects’ predictions of low-turnouts and massive anti-pope demonstrations.

Indeed, off-stage voices from Britain’s increasingly not-so-cultured elites—such as the celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins and others whom the English historian Michael Burleigh recently described as “sundry chasers of limelight” and products of a “self-satisfied provincialism”—were relegated to the sidelines. As David Cameron said, Benedict “challenged the whole country to sit up and think.”

Of course the success of Benedict’s visit doesn’t mean Britain is about to return to its Christian roots. In fact, it’s tempting to say present-day Britain represents one possible—and rather depressing—European future.

In an article welcoming Benedict’s visit to Britain, the UK’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs observed, “Whether or not you accept the phrase ‘broken society,’ not all is well in contemporary Britain.” The facts cited by Sach were sobering. In 2008, 45 percent of British children were born outside marriage; 3.9 million children are living in poverty; 20 percent of deaths among young people aged from 15 to 24 are suicides; in 2009, 29.4 million antidepressants were dispensed, up 334 percent from 1985.

Such is the fruit of a deeply-secularized, über-utilitarian culture that tolerates Christians until they start questioning the coherence of societies which can’t speak of truth and error, good and evil, save in the feeble jargon of whatever passes for political correctness at a given moment.

But what few commentators have grasped is that Benedict has long foreseen that, for at least another generation, this may well be the reality confronting those European Catholics and other Christians who won’t bend the knee to political correctness or militant secularism. Accordingly, he’s preparing Catholicism for its future in Europe as what Benedict calls a “creative minority.”

The phrase, which Benedict has used for several years, comes from another English historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975). Toynbee’s thesis was that civilizations primarily collapsed because of internal decline rather than external assault. “Civilizations,” Toynbee wrote, “die from suicide, not by murder.”

The “creative minorities,” Toynbee held, are those who proactively respond to a civilizational crisis, and whose response allows that civilization to grow. One example was the Catholic Church’s reaction to the Roman Empire’s collapse in the West in the 5th century A.D. The Church responded by preserving the wisdom and law of Athens, Rome and Jerusalem, while integrating the invading German tribes into a universal religious community. Western civilization was thus saved and enriched.

This is Benedict’s vision of the Catholic Church’s role in contemporary Europe. In fact, it’s probably the only viable strategy. One alternative would be for the Church to ghettoize itself. But while the monastic life has always been a vocation for some Christians, retreat from the world has never been most Christians’ calling, not least because they are called to live in and evangelize the world.

Yet another option, of course, is “liberal Catholicism.” The problem is that liberal Catholicism (which is theologically indistinguishable from liberal Protestantism) has more-or-less collapsed (like liberal Protestantism) throughout the world. For proof, just visit the Netherlands, Belgium, or any of those increasingly-rare Catholic dioceses whose bishop regards the 1960s and 1970s as the highpoint of Western civilization.

Even the Economist (which strangely veers between perceptive insight and embarrassing ignorance when it comes to religious commentary) recently observed that “liberal Catholics” are disappearing. Long ago, the now-beatified John Henry Newman underscored liberal Christianity’s essential incoherence. Liberal Catholicism’s future is that of all forms of liberal Christianity: remorseless decline, an inability to replicate themselves, and their gradual reduction to being cuddly ancillaries of fashionable lefty causes or passive deliverers of state-funded welfare programs.

By contrast, Benedict’s creative minority strategy recognizes, first, that to be an active Catholic in Europe is now, as Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris writes in his Une mission de liberté (2010), a choice rather than a matter of social conformity. This means practicing European Catholics in the future will be active believers because they have chosen and want to live the Church’s teaching. Such people aren’t likely to back off when it comes to debating controversial public questions.

Second, the creative minority approach isn’t just for Catholics. It attracts non-Catholics equally convinced Europe has modern problems that, as Rabbi Sachs comments, “cannot be solved by government spending.”

A prominent example is Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, Chairman of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow’s Department for External Church Relations. A deeply cultured man, who’s completely un-intimidated by either liberal Christians or militant secularists, Hilarion has conspicuously cultivated the Catholic Church in Europe because he believes that, especially under Benedict, it is committed to “defending the traditional values of Christianity,” restoring “a Christian soul to Europe,” and is “engaged in common defence of Christian values against secularism and relativism.” Likewise, prominent European non-believers such as the philosophers Jürgen Habermas and Marcello Pera have affirmed Europe’s essentially Christian pedigree and publically agreed with Benedict that abandoning these roots is Europe’s path to cultural suicide.

Lastly, creative minorities have the power to resonate across time. It’s no coincidence that during his English journey Benedict delivered a major address in Westminster Hall, the site of Sir Thomas More’s show-trial in 1535.

When Thomas More stood almost alone against Henry VIII’s brutal demolition of the Church’s liberty in England, many dismissed his resistance as a forlorn gesture. More, however, turned out to be a one-man creative minority. Five hundred years later, More is regarded by many Catholics and non-Catholics alike as a model for politicians. By contrast, no-one remembers those English bishops who, with the heroic exception of Bishop John Fisher, bowed down before the tyrant-king.

And perhaps that’s the ultimate significance of Benedict’s creative minority. Unlike Western Europe’s self-absorbed chattering classes, Benedict doesn’t think in terms of 24-hour news-cycles. He couldn’t care less about self-publicity or headlines. His creative minority option is about the long-view.

The long-view always wins. That’s something celebrities will never understand.

Dr. Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, The Modern Papacy, and Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy.


  1. The pope doesn’t care much about the safety of children either.

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I think he does. I’ve been watching the Catholic Church’s handling of their molestation cases and was not convinced that they had comes to terms with it until Pope Benedict finally said the guilt was the Church’s alone and there would be no more defensiveness, only contrition. Before that there was lot of blaming the media, comparing Catholic levels of abuse to other communions and professions (the rates are about the same, btw) and so forth.

    This wasn’t good enough of course, but it was the way they were dealing with it until Pope Benedict made his statement. So far, all his public actions confirm the shift. My sense always has been that when a sift of this kind occurred, the full import of the crimes had finally hit home. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said a few years before his death that the abuse cases indicated there was “rot deep inside the Church.” It seems to me that Pope Benedict’s approach shows he is serious in rooting it out.

    • After a ‘parish festival church tour’ a Catholic visiting pulled me aside and said that as far as he could tell if the Catholic church had married clergy and made decisions regionally without overseas control they would have avoided nearly all of their present problems and would be the same as our church.

      I didn’t have the heart to tell him where our church had ‘ordained young never married’ protecting like minded clergy, mostly not parish clergy, we had the same problems they did. Graf, Karambis, etc.

      We could have many great bishops but do not as their wives neglected to die before retirement. Dratted women, messing it up for everyone again. Why can’t they just die in childbirth like years ago so we wouldn’t have this problem of having to change church rules anyhow. So unfair, so unreasonable. Can’t they see what’s important in this world?

      • George Michalopulos :

        Harry, when the enormity of the pedophile scandal hit, I was ready to criticize the RCs until word came out of our own abuses, especially in the GOA. I was spared from eating humble pie.

        Unfortunately, we Orthodox have the worst of both worlds: yes, we have married clergy and local autonomy (at least in the OCA) but you’re right, two of the “big three” (and all of the other jurisdictions) operate under the dysfunctional paradigm you describe.

        We should be very wary about “uniting” the various jurisdictions under ANY foreign patriarchate. Things are going to be tough setting up an inter-jurisdictional Holy Synod in America with transparency and accountability, but it will NEVER happen if the scenario of Lambrianides sees the light of day.

        • How worldly a thing it is that the plan of the sacrificial church’s leadership is to consolidate essential functional control in the person of the ‘sacrificial’ leader offering the plan.

          After the homage he did to Fidel Castro I suppose ‘shock’ is no longer apt. We were warned.

          The thing is I’m still in the GOA. I feel like I’m also in the OCA and AOA and even the ROCA where I count some friends. Seems odd somehow to put it in words like that, but that’s really how I feel about it.

          At the same time, if I wanted to be in a church with a strong leader calling all the shots an ocean away I would already be in the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t need a pope in Turkey with a kaffee-clatch ‘episcopal assembly’ fasod here since there’s already one that is more about ‘ordained young never married onotologically different’ clergy.

          Sometimes I think happy-student stuff already happened when the EP was studying to get a graduate degree at Rome’s college and we are all being ‘terraformed’ into something that can be ‘absorbed by fiat on high’ against our will into a glorious all ordained young never married brotherhood of leaders commanding a glorious vast array of high clergy sinacure and few local people.

          Has that smell anyhow.

          • Harry, I wonder if anyone else is tired of hearing the phrase “ordained young never married”? I am. Your use of this phrase seems anti-monastic and also fails to do justice to much of what is best in our tradition.

            When I put your statement about the “ordained young never married” ontology next to what St. Seraphim of Sarov says about virginity, I am struck by the dissonance: “We have special feelings unlike widows… in many ways they are different from us (virgins). A virgin is delighted only by the Sweetest Jesus, contemplates Him in His sufferings and being completely free, she serves the Lord in spirit. But a widow has many memories of the world. ‘How good was my late husband! What a kind of person he was!’ they say.” (An Extraordinary Peace, 34)

            The sacrifice of virginity for Christ, or the sacrifice of monasticism is incomprehensible for many of us, and especially for those of us who grow up in this comfort and pleasure-loving American culture. But how can we expect the Church to remain faithful to Christ if she loses her ascetical models – both hierarchs and monks? If we lose the witness of monasticism, our Orthodoxy will lose its savor and we will have nothing to offer the world. The world itself has figured out how to please itself in the absence of God and on that plane we have nothing to offer. We must teach people how to lose their lives in this world in order to gain them in the life to come – which is something that all true monastics model for us.

            I understand your cynicism at the state of our hierarchy. I do not think that this sacrifice is evident in many of their actions. But this does not mean that our cynicism should spread beyond particular hierarchs to the state and mode of the hierarchy itself and to the legitimate sacrifice that it entails. Again, I am afraid that if we got rid of our either never or not married bishops we would be in danger of sacrificing our models in the ascetic and sacrificial life. To sacrifice those who would teach us to sacrifice is hardly a sacrifice pleasing to God.

          • George Michalopulos :

            T. Nathanael: I applaud your insights and agree with them in the main. If I may come to Harry’s defense, I believe the problem (as I see it) is not the ascetic struggle of chastity, but at base a real misogyny among some of these “ordained young/never married” ecclesiastical careerists. I’m talking about more than hypocrisy, that is careerists who are not really chaste (which is bad enough), but who have a real disdain for women and married life in general.

            Allow me to expand on this: you and I probably know married priests who have been abused by their bishops in various ways. Some were suspended unjustly, others transferred at whim, etc. In essence, all priests within such dioceses are hostages to the caprices of the bishop and certain powerful laymen, but more so the married clerics, for obvious reasons.

            When we see what results –a high divorce rate in certain jurisdictions–then these self-same bishops fall back on their default position of “see, I told you so! married men aren’t cut out for the priesthood in the first place,” or “priests’ wives aren’t all that spiritual,” etc. What they’ve really done is create obstacles to justify their misogynistic prejudices.

            Mind you, this is an unfortunate consequence of the loss of true monasticism in America, among other things. In my admittedly limited experience, true monastics (e.g. +Jonah, +Melchisedek) have actually lived in “family” situations which is what monasteries are after a fashion. Like biological fathers, they understand the weaknesses of their (spiritual) children and would never think of putting obstacles in their way (“which one of you would give stones to his child when he asks for bread?”). This type of experience is crucial for the cultivation of a true hierarchy.

            I guess the question to be asked is: what is a true bishop? In my estimation, the major reason for a monastically-formed celibate episcopate is to form men who are true spiritual fathers, men who have the backs of their parish priests, who are after all his spiritual children. His job is to protect, nurture, and comfort his priests. Period. Just like my own father did for me when I was young (and still does with his wise counsel). This means that he should visit them regularly, find out what their problems are, counsel them, confess them, and offer retreats for them and their wives. He needs to make sure that they are well-compensated and that their wives are up to the task of sharing in their husbands’ ministry. At the very least, he should NEVER use them as pawns in the tug-of-war between himself and powerful laymen.

          • George – beautifully expressed! I wholeheartedly endorse your critique of the general state of things. We desperately need true spiritual fathers – true monastics – in positions of leadership. And our priests (and their families!) desperately need proper support if we are to cultivate truly effective shepherds who can build up the Body of Christ. The spiritual combat at all levels is a challenge enough without adding ineffective or downright subversive oversight.
            If I may, I really do think this is worthy of its own post.
            Very, very, very well said!

          • T: What exactly is the nature of the sacrifice you mention when the man involved never sacrificed marriage to a woman as he either dislikes women in general or prefers men to them to begin with?

            Then we have the ‘two person monasteries’ which appear to be little more than common-law gay marriages. They never grow to three people even as years pass, three being a crowd in certain circumstances as it were.

            Or the odd category of ‘fat ordained young never married’ so-called monastic in high authority over married clergy who’ve held their families together for decades and led harmonious parishes.

            Or the even odder category of ‘wealthy ordained young never married who ‘sacrificially’ pays himself a higher salary than ‘his’ priests who have families to support get.

            I have nothing but enormous respect for the monks that Vanity Fair reporter called ‘narrow’ in his article– that is to say the ‘real’ ones. Likewise any who manage to support themselves via permitted work in the manner permitted and outlined in great detail in the canons and scriptures, especially noting how the term ‘mercenary’ could never be applied to them.

            The ones that are bringing us all low generally are willing to torture language and assemble bits of meaning as necessary to give themselves permission to do whatever protects and enhances their security and power over against the health of the institution they are supposed to oversee. While many of them have tremendous educations they do not choose to notice blindingly evident truths that due to advances in women’s healthcare in particular and general healthcare there are nearly zero widower monastic clergy while for all time up to about 100 years or so ago there were many, many many.

            The idea that someone would be a bishop _in retirement_ for longer than most people 100 years ago lived their entire lives never gets the consideration required.

            God does have a big sense of dry humor, due to advances in life and health the rules that made sense when widower clergy abounded and most women over 25 were raising their dead sister’s kids those whose security needs are great leave unchanged today to bring us to where we are now. The ‘railroad tracks’ they allow their mind’s thoughts to travel just have a limbic aversion to dealing with this one thing we need more than auto-XXX in order to survive.

          • George: Thanks. Well written and spot-on accurate.

      • AMEN HARRY!

    • I think Benedict has been diligent in attempting to identify existing problem priests as well as enforcing better screening methods in preventing them from entering the priesthood at all. What I’m not sure he’s been as successful at is identifying the root causes for how the Church as a whole enabled this affair for so long.

      They can’t really completely prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again, at least not in this world as it is, and it would be unrealistic to expect that. At the same time, how and why does a group like the Legion of Christ successfully protect a man such as their founder who apparently abused some of his own biological children that he had by several different women?

      Are these men also abusers themselves? If not, why were they protecting him? Is it something about the policies on the confessional? Were they looking after their own positions of power? Is it the moral theology of the Church itself that needs to be examined? None of this has been explained, as far as I know. Until it is, I’m not confident that the Church is really attacking the larger problem (that is, the secrecy and enabling of the abuse).

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        From my reading of it several things converged. In no particular order they are: 1) a larger cultural attitude that treated the compulsion for sex with children as a curable disorder (prevalent especially in the 1970s and 1980s); 2) the opening up of the priesthood to homosexuals (pedophilia is a misnomer, most of the cases were pederasty); 3) the idea that exposure of the crimes would harm the credibility of the Church (insular thinking that in the end creates precisely what it tries to avoid; institutional arrogance really); 4) a departure from traditional morality in some of the seminaries.

        Of these, and the answer to your question I think, is that the arrogance of the leadership ties most of it together. You saw it was Cardinal Law’s stonewalling of civil authorities and the Boston Globe in the Diocese of Boston cases. At the time I saw that the Catholic Church was losing its moral credibility while they believed that by hiding the cases they were preserving it. The Boston Globe in that case was actually on the side of what was right and necessary, even if it was driven by the puerile self-importance that characterizes so much of their reporting.

    • Words don’t protect children. Actions protect children. Nothing that the pope has **said** so far has made the church any safer for young people. When he starts insisting that crimes be reported to the police, whether or not required by mandatory reporting, when all priests with credible allegations of abuse are removed from ministry, when the names of predators are listed by more dioceses than the four which currently do so, when the church stops using hardball legal tactics in sex abuse cases, and when bishops are held accountable for passing child abusers on to other unsuspecting parishes, then maybe it can be said that Benedict XVI cares about child abuse. Talk is cheap. Walking the talk requires a lot more.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        I don’t really know what the internal policies of Catholic Church are and I have no idea how they are enforced. In my neck of the woods however, they seem to treat any allegation with immediate suspension of the employee (they are not always priests), an immediate report to civil authorities, and cooperation with authorities in the investigation.

        You overall point is correct though and I agree with it. Actions have to follow the words.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Melanie, I understand what you’re saying but as far as I’m concerned, getting sidetracked into throwing stones at the Pope is counter-productive and hence a monumental waste of time. We as Orthodox simply have no standing in going after the RCs, both in principle (because we’re not RCs) but in praxis as well (because we’ve got own problems). Thus your justifiable anger would present us with a useless diversion, not only would we not have accomplished anything but American Orthodoxy will continue to stagnate because episcopal and clerical miscreants will have dodged yet another bullet.

        You would do well to turn your criticism inwardly to the Orthodox Church –and not just the OCA. The only hope to this problem as far as we Orthodox are concerned is for the laity in each jurisdiction to rise up en masse and demand accountability and transparency. This means at the very least the inclusion of qualified laymen on diocesan councils (and even the Holy “Eparchial” Synod), ombudsmen, psychiatric testing for episcopal candidates, auditors, etc.

        The present system (except for the OCA and it’s come late to the game) simply doesn’t allow for the colonial eparchies to change their MOs. Miscreants can be shipped back surreptiously to the Old Country. Nobody in the GOA (for example) knows where these newer “metropolitans” came from. And the present idiocy that Damascus has foisted on the AOCNA is nothing less than a canonical crime of the highest order (and will allow the present anomalies that exist in the Toledo diocese to proceed as before).

        BTW, I do agree with your prescriptions (e.g. turning over malefactors over to the police, etc.)

  3. In reply to George Michalopulos, I can only say, seriously??? Cappy Larson and I have been running a website for survivors of abuse in the Orthodox churches,, since June of 1999. Our site is certainly not limited to the OCA.

    However, in recent years we have also allied ourselves with SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). SNAP has been a source of personal support, as well as a resource for Orthodox victims.

    Consequently, I now lead a local SNAP support group for victims. I also sometimes act as a spokesperson for SNAP at local media events. As a result, I am more well versed in the current situation in the Catholic church than the average Orthodox American.

    But let’s get back to the beginning of this thread. Someone was praising the pope. Personally, I think the author just bought into Benedict’s media spin. I pointed that out on an Orthodox site because I think it’s important to recognize propaganda when you see it. Next time it might be coming out of the mouth of some Orthodox bishop, here or abroad.

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Media spin? Seems to me like the media castigates Pope Benedict for the sex abuse scandals every opportunity it gets. I’m drawing my opinion on two things: 1) that Pope Benedict has not blamed outside forces for the scandal; and 2) he has met with the victims (and apologized to them) and they report his effort is authentic and sincere.

    How does this translate into policy in the RC Church? I have no idea. I just don’t know. But that wasn’t my point. My point was that I did not believe the RC Church was dealing seriously with this issue, or at least seriously enough, until I saw the contrition and shouldering of personal responsibility that I believe we now see with Pope Benedict. The public side of the scandal has changed over the last two or three years.

  5. Yes, Benedict has had to change his public face because of the pressure brought to bear by survivors. But has he really done any meaningful “actions?” No, I don’t think so. Apologies are empty without anything else. It’s easy to **say** that you’re sorry. But meetings with handpicked “good” victims and meaningless changes to policies are not a real step forward. See, for example:

    • It’s not always easy to say sorry.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Melanie, please understand, I applaud your work. But let me address specifically your point about the Pope: even if what you say is correct, that +Benedict only apologized because he “had to,” then we are still left with the reality of the Patriarch of the West still apologizing for the actions of his priests. Has the EP apologized for the actions of Graf, Katinas, et al? This is an uncomfortable reality for we Orthodox.

      Using your criteria we’ve failed. That’s what I meant by not getting lost in the wilderness by taking on the RCs. All things being equal, our hierarchy would probably wish that we not go after the RCs but if they start feeling the heat, they’d LOVE for us to go after the RC’s as it would be another last-ditch effort to deflect attention away from them.

      Again, my point is that the only way to solve this is to have an accountable hierarchy, one subject to local election, local laws, and local conditions, not “eparchial synods” who have next-to-no real authority in America, which is nothing but a colonial cash-cow anyway.

      • George: Give them some time to say sorry. RC needed some 20-30 years to apologize. As Chris says “It’s not always easy to say sorry.” Don’t we have anyone else to praise when we want to criticize our bishops? Is the Vatican government our role model?

        • George Michalopulos :

          No, of course not. And that is why I’m fervently against all the phanariote cultishness that is enshrined in Canon 28 mythology. His Beatitude +Jonah was right, “if we wanted to be under a pope, we’d be under the real one.”

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          To the extent that the Vatican is true to the moral tradition, yes, they are an example. One area where they lead quite well is their refusal to accommodate a culture of death. Here they do better than some quarters of the Orthodox Church. See: A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Internally, Benedict is working to bar homosexuals from the priesthood. The child abuse crimes in the RCC can’t be separated from homosexuality given that almost all the victims were adolescent boys. See: Vatican Encourages Psychological Testing to Prevent Homosexual Priesthood.

      The report draws an important distinction:

      It is not enough to be sure that he [ed. prospective priest] is capable of abstaining from genital activity. It is also necessary to evaluate his sexual orientation, according to the indications published by this congregation,” says the document, according to CNS.


      Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women,” said the document. “One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

      The premise here is that homosexual orientation is not neutral, not merely the psychological opposite of heterosexual orientation but a kind of incomplete maturation (an “objective disorder” is how the Vatican documents classify homosexuality), that still affects ministry even if the priest is celibate. I agree with this.

      This strikes me as a significant change (a return to the traditional understanding and practice, actually). It won’t satisfy the criteria that SNAP laid out in the link you cited, but it is significant nonetheless.

      As for exactly how we should assess moral culpability, legal collusion, etc. to those who participated in the cover-up I just can’t say. I simply don’t know enough about that. Nevertheless, I think that SNAP, or POKROV or any other organization that keeps the fires of accountability burning is necessary. Institutional inertia is a dangerous thing and self-reform is very difficult.

      Having said that, it is also true that child abuse in the RCC (and the Orthodox Church presumably) is no higher than any other institution in the culture (including public schools). I don’t say this to justify or relativize the occurrences of abuse, only to point out that the weakness in Churches might be due to the accommodation of cultural pathologies.

      • Fr. Hans,

        Amid all the firm language we have the one-sentence ‘zinger’ that moots the whole. From the article:

        ‘Grocholewski confirmed that the psychological testing and evaluation is not to be mandatory, but available should a seminary rector deem it necessary to ensure a candidate’s eligibility’

        So, once again we see what is proffered loudly and thought to be something, when it gets down to cases is in fact a defacto nothing– such tests have been ‘available’ for many years. The will to both use them and act on the results is what was and I think remains lacking.

        I admit to a certain sympathy, trying to imagine how life must be in that situation is no easy thing and I expect feeling secure about the future and welcome in a group is highly desired while more often denied than to most.

        So, the world being what it is, the people who know will know which seminary director only applies the test to cases he knows will wash out for other reasons and others will get through on the same wink-and-a-nod that caused those who bothered the under age boys to get reassigned.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Good catch Harry. I missed that. Disappointing. I think you are right. Word will get out about which seminaries are “safe,” and which are not.

          • Strange isn’t it? There we have a church that we have seen can be so very clear and very firm on the things it likes (papal universal primacy), so therefore knows full well how to be clear. So they know, they know full out well this doing is not less than intentionally misleading puffery, meant to seem like the problem is being corrected in order to retain the loyalty of people. But we see they have no intention in reality of making the changes required to actually be who they would have people think they are when the people note the church rank and title.

            We need to add the married to the ranks of the clergy, and to the episcopacy, along with those actual monastics who don’t need to do as Bill Clinton did with the meaning of “is” to live as the rank they hold would have people believe.

            Only a little while ago in church history terms the clergy counted so many whose wives had died. Now they are gone and we retain the rules as if nothing changed. Women live longer than men! Widowers of working age are gone from the world. Wake up! Think again!

  6. Harry:

    There we have a church that we have seen can be so very clear and very firm on the things it likes (papal universal primacy), so therefore knows full well how to be clear.

    They were indeed very firm when they imposed clerical celibacy. There was resistance to compulsory clerical celibacy in 11th century. Even accusations that the celibacy party is being sodomites. On The Present Crisis in Roman Catholicism

    Deeming the innovation of clerical celibacy as damnable, he used a new argument against it – that since baptism cleanses from sin, to call priests’ sons unclean insults the sacrament of baptism.

    He also openly accused the celibacy party of being sodomites. As in the older generation as we have seen above, he was not the only writer of the new generation to see in the whole celibacy issue a plot of homosexuals against heterosexuals. Notably, Serlo asked the very relevant question of why the celibacy party were so liberal about homosexuality. A poem of that period, though not by Serlo reads: ‘No dumb animal is drawn to this evil … you are driven by a lust which all of nature abhors’

    • Eliot: I’m actually more sympathetic than I suspect most might think toward those who have feelings for their sex that was intended for the other. I feel analogous to the father character Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ when that character said while praying to God ‘It’s no sin to be poor, but it’s no great honor either’. The idea of restricting the priesthood to those who have never known fatherhood/parenthood wasn’t intended by the Roman Catholic celibacy party either– remember, remember, remember before 1900 give or take 20 years there were so many, many, many men who became celibate clergy after their wives died. Men who lived past their twenties outnumbered women 2 to 3 to 1. And as many lived less than 5-6 years as more. What sense did remarriage make? They would almost certainly father children they’d never live to see reach 10 years old. So a pious man being celibate as a widower priest as well was a very good idea for everyone.

      Now only 100 years ago or so the rules the gays don’t change favor only never married as high clergy in our church or all clergy in the RCC. I’m sure many of them can’t believe ‘their good luck’. They get to wear dresses and nobody complains, they don’t have to marry a woman they don’t love anyhow, they dont’ have to father children, they get to sing and perform and have everyone respect them without really having to know them well first, and everyone makes excuses for their mistakes. Amazing! Security! Safety! Permission! So long as they are discreet… And with the laws protecting them now not even so discreet anymore.

      Will these men let the reason for all this survive by having their minds and their humanity triumph over their accidents of birth as they age? Or will there be turmoil and dwindlement and convulsion unnecessary and all laid at their door? Do they have what it takes to actually care, do their accidents of birth/youth limit their ability for what amounts to institutional empathy and responsibility? So far seems like catastrophe is on the agenda. Respected ’empty nester’ clergy and men who’ve proven they can sustain a marriage and family for decades must be admitted to the episcopacy and clergy respectively. Right soon! Not too late but getting close, real close.

  7. Geo Michalopulos :

    I can’t disagree with anything said above. Again, I applaud Pokrov for their fine work. Fr Hans is right: though they are extra-clerical, they fill a very necessary void that the present hierarchy chooses not to fill (for reasons we can only surmise).

    There’s a big point that’s missing: as I’ve said before, the laity share a lion’s share of the blame for this situation on so many levels. First, because they think “celibate” priests are cheaper; second, because the really rich laymen prefer compromised men in the hierarchy whom they can manipulate; and third, because a known (or suspected) homosexual in the priesthood “excuses” sinfulness on the part of the laity.

    I’m sure there are other reasons, but unless and until the laity start demanding more –and this means of themselves–then it’ll just be the same old same old.

  8. George, I’ve not really appreciated before now the ‘where the tire meets the street’ issues you’ve raised. I remember these scenes in mobster movies where in ‘movie’ adapation of actual history they want baptisms and church services for their family members, then they go off and do horrific things. It always was a puzzle for me, why would a mobster want such a church association. Then above you write about a psychological dynamic that a justified belief in ongoing intentional non-celibacy (with men) in high places makes ongoing intentional misdoing by the person holding that belief also somehow ‘ok’. I’m sure if I thought about it for a long time I could probably state the common theme but no doubt others have already refined it to a fare-the-well. Anyone know where it can be read?

  9. Geo Michalopulos :

    Harry, one of the great things about this blog is the give-and-take. I can’t tell you how educated I’ve become about a whole lot of things thanks to the AOI. One of the things I think is that most of us commentators are middle-aged and over and we got a lot of experience under our belt. Also, working in the real world provides perspectives that academics can’t possibly have. Hence, that is why Lambrianides couldn’t understand how his screed was denounced as vociferously as it was. A parish assignment gives a priest a dose of tact, so does being the abbott of a real monastery. Likewise Bishop +Savvas was blindsided by the criticism he received when he praised Soros. That’s what happens when you live in a Blue-State ghetto or the Boston-NY-DC echo chamber where everybody says the same things.

    But getting back to your point, marriage is crucial to rounding out a human being. Go to and read an excellent piece there about marriage supposedly going out of style. It seems that in this recession, the hardest hit are the singletons. Why? Because they don’t have the experience in accommodation, tact, compromise, and resourcefulness that married people do. From a green eyeshade point of view, you would think that greedy capitalists would rather have single people with no attachments toiling for them but its precisely the opposite that’s the case.

    What am I trying to say? Maybe this: that in a parish situation we are all trying to work out our salvation. The priest no less than the parishioner. Therefore, it’s a terrible idea to put a single man (especially if he’s heterosexual) in a situation where he pastors a congregation. Instead, we should encourage married men for this office and that means paying them a decent salary unbegrudgingly. If we want them to lead us in prayer then we’ve got to make it happen for them. And not with food festivals but with tithing, actual tithing.

  10. George, once the ‘ordained young never married’ church leadership organize their financial affairs at least to the standards of the respected charitable organizations of the country they will move the financial aspect of the church into the stewardship zone making extensive giving as we see elsewhere also appropos there.

    In today’s world our taxes (mostly involuntary) provide a great deal of what tithes were collected to do back when the civil authority either couldn’t care less or didn’t do much for the taxed people, beyond military activity which often was predatory and aimed to repress the locals as to defend them.

    Now by virtue only of being born a child gets fed and housed and even protected from incapable parents. Unheard of for the civil authority to do that for most of the church’s history. Even the mom gets support. Mentally ill and handicapped don’t have to work and are maintained and not simply left to die. ‘Social Security’ by the civil authority? Providing at government expense late life support for more years than most lived their entire lives back when the church canon was accepted? The choirs of the saints no doubt stand awed by the improvement over against life as they knew it.

    My central theme is that the rules of the church were crafted to meet and sometimes oppose and impact the nature of the civil authority of the day, the lifespan and demographics of the day. Much of that has changed a very great deal in the last 100 years and most all of it for the better and then some.

    Can anyone show anywhere that in the crafting of the various canons and whatnot to do with tithing there was the slightest whif of a hint of a memory of a dream of such provision as we see today by the civil authority for the people? 90% of the spirit of what tithing was for is accomplished by the payment of taxes today and its use through the votes of the people directing the civil authority toward ‘social services’.

    Quite a reasonable case could be made that through taxation each of us gives well in excess of a tithe for the purposes tithing was created — except financial support of the parish.

    So I’m all for giving tithes to accomplish the purposes set forth for tithes in the church Traditions– in the modern context with the government doing much of that through taxation and what with the she-nan-i-gans we see in church finance — it isn’t clear giving the tithed portion entirely to the local parish, seeing as how much of it is diverted unaccountably, accomplishes the spirit of what tithing was set up for.

  11. George Michalopulos :

    Harry, one of the reasons I believe firmly in tithing has to do with the scenario you described above. I don’t think that we should tithe to the Church alone but that the Church itself should be responsible for 95% of the charity that the State undertakes. By this I mean becoming the actual Dept of Health, Education, and Welfare (now called Health and Human Services).

    Think about it: the hospital was the creation of the Medieval Church. All of the first universities were founded by the Church even here in the US). Welfare was provided by soup kitchens, orphanages, the parish dole, etc.

    The US Constitution actually enshrines this separation. It has no provisions for caring for the individual or clssses of people. Just for providing those things that government is expected to provide for –defense, courts, etc. How much of the Federal budget is devoted to these eleemosynary functions? Things have gotten so out of hand that we are in danger of collapsing our society.

    I know this sounds simplistic, to expect the various churches to step into the breach and reclaim that which is rightfully theirs, but look at all the churches that still do these things. That’s why I get so depressed when i think about the Orthodox Church in the US today. We do almost none of these things. Instead we have bishops who dun the Philoptochos to give money so they can build retreat centers to please their vanity, or Old World patriarchs who siphon off money to maintain their existence in some third-world hell-hole.

  12. George, I suppose it depends on the vantage point. Mostly Christians of various forms people those government agencies, the churches of various kinds urge support for them, and the accounting is more open than any of our church leadership on a good day. Correcting in a meaningful way some manner of scandal, waste fraud or abuse is at most one election away or sooner if administrative figures intervene.

    Seriously with the opacity we have in high church finance exploitation of crisis to generate internal paychecks, look at the OCA’s 9-11 releif effort that only got to the victims after it was exposed by laity that the OCA wasn’t on the ‘thank you’ list as it never donated the money it collected.

    It is the nature of our high leadership that they conflate ‘personal piggy bank’ and ‘church’ and ‘me’. If they identify a need different than the one explained when asking for money they do not see a problem using the money given with one expectation for whatever their new purpose might be. Very well-off people have changed trusts and wills as a result of how they see donations used while alive– and the misdoing church leadership doesn’t know a thing about how much they’ve lost.

    Case in point, look at the Antiochians shambolic ‘three card monty’ ‘bishop today, errand boy tomorrow’ Lost-In-Translation-Shazaam-Presto festival.

    You’ve written of the GOA’s issues already.

    Still I wonder about the question upstream: why do mobsters seek church sacramental services while having every intention of continuing to do crimes? Why do those who feel their intentional ongoing misdoing is excused because of their somewhat justified belief about similar in higher church office want nevertheless to continue in the church?

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Harry, of course what you say is true. That’s why I believe in (no particular order):

      1. locality (that means we elect real bishops)
      2. transparency (we see the books)
      3. accountability.

      None of this will ever happen in the colonial eparchies. It didn’t even happen in the OCA as you point out. At least for awhile. I personally think that there’s more accountability in religious/charitable organizations than there are in governmental agencies or NGOs like the United Way. Consider: you can’t opt out of paying your taxes because monies are being directed to Planned Parenthood. But you can opt out of paying your tithes to your church if you don’t agree with its policies. This is one reason that churches tend to be more on the up-and-up here in America than in Europe where they are state-supported. Where malfeasance occurs, then you see the drying up of giving.

      As for the governmental agencies out there, those provocateurs that dressed up as a pimp and prostitute proved that there’s major malfeasance going on in ACORN. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

      Where am I going with this? I guess if people find out that Church A is juggling the books regarding its contribution to Charity B, then the people of Church A can impeach those responsible or vote with their feet and join Church C which likewise gives to Charity B. And btw, I don’t mean just churches being involved in social welfare. For those not religiously inclined, there are fraternities such as the Shriners, and other philanthropic organizations.

      • George, exactly right. You’ve captured why I’ve joined my local Rotary International club. They take care of money very carefully and I know just how many polio vaccines I’ve bought, just how many latrines I’ve helped build in villiages, just how many drinking water wells I’ve helped to dig in India. To this day all I know about the money taken from our parish over the years and sent out is that I’ve had to pay for each and every ‘diocesan’ and up event I’ve ever been to, and there are exactly ZERO new faces at the parish because of anything those outside the parish did with the money.

        Over so many years those who have expressed the views you have stated have simply whined to those who are responsible for the results and the only thing that’s happened is more gray hair and less people and less money. How long is whining to the misdoers for changes leading to a good outcome not totally nuts. Been tried, failed, now what?

        • George Michalopulos :

          Harry, it’s not just that there will be an increase in cheerful giving, this type of charity is good for those who receive it. Because they have to work for it, they too are accountable. Compare the type of poverty pre-Welfare with that post-Welfare. It was simply impossible to live improvidently if you were poor. It was simply next-to-impossible to find the type of immorality that is common in most American inner cities today.

          This even applies to the “religious” who sponge off the state. I always wondered how these renegade Mormon cultists could have 5+ wives and 20+ children while living in the desert in Arizona. It’s because the first wife is the legal one but all the other ones are simply the brood-mares of illegitimate children (albeit “married” in the eyes of the cult in question. So they all receive AFDC, WIC, Medicaid, the full gamut of what we entitle “Welfare.” This same phenomenon is going on in Western Europe where Muslim immigrants are allowed to legally bring in their second and third wives and all of them live on the dole. This is also happening in Israel where the ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews refuse to work but study Talmud all day and then go to the beach (and also have 6 or more children). I’m sure that there are other examples we can think of. None of this behavior could be possible without the state providing a safety cushion which will mitigate the effects of the bad choices and/or immorality in question. (BTW, being in the health profession, I saw how AIDS added exponentially to the cost of medical care in the US during the 1980s.)

          Bottom line: Paul was right in Thessalonians, those who will not work should not eat. Parish relief in the 19th century was always contingent upon work or making good-faith efforts to find work. The only exception was for widows and orphans who could not work. Marvin Olasky wrote an excellent book about this called The Tragedy of American Compassion. The best types of welfare are those which expect something out of the recipient.

          • George, I’m all for what you’ve written except as you note in the case of the actually disabled.

            When there are enough poor people in a democracy we risk political exploitation of idle to enlarge an unsustainable idle class until general catastrophe teaches the lesson.

            We must get better at learning where a helping hand ends and enabling the poverty cycle begins. I think providing loosly restricted charitable cash and cash equivalents enables the poverty cycle. As I’ve gained working insight into extremely low-income trailer park life I think one ‘policy shift’ would accomplish much improvement:

            Careful thinking to provide the basics of sustaining life but NO cash or cash equivalents, shifting only to time limited cash and cash equivalents to those who sustain earnest job seeking and vocational education with childcare and transportation.

            Food, not foodstamps.

            Daycare, not money for daycare.

            Bus passes, not money for bus passes.

            Limited energy for heat/rent, not money to pay the rent / heat.

            Cash you earn gets you what you want. The charity of others gets you what you need.

  13. George Michalopulos :

    By “disabled” I assume you mean crippled and handicapped people? Of course, absolutely right. It’s not that the State can’t have a role (at least of providing charity of the last resort) but that its become the Church in a very debilitating way. And that’s the shame, the State can’t by its very nature be the Church because its a different entity altogether. QED, and that’s why the Church can’t become the State. It shouldn’t have armies, police forces, road building crews, currency, etc. Otherwise, what you end up with is Islam, where there is no distinction between mosque and state or religion and spirituality. Hence you end up with the absolute corruption of theocracies like Iran.

  14. George, yes I understand “disabled” to mean “medically incapable”, leaving it up to occupational doctors to determine whether a person is capable of working. Handicapped, crippled, in pain, severely diseased, whatnot.

    I’m still interested to learn why it is those who have no intention of avoiding ongoing misdoing nevertheless seek church sacraments or relationships with high church officials. I understand why church people would reach out to them, just can’t puzzle why they, knowing they are going to continue to be mobsters, knowing they intend to continue to bother the boys, and so on, nevertheless want to have church relations. Maybe they hope for a miraculous ‘way out’? Best guess I have.

Care to Comment?