Pope: the Christian idea of the person a model for a cohesive society

Ed. It is indisputable that some of the best thinking on man and society is coming from the Roman Catholic Church. The Russian Orthodox Church is making important headway in this area as well. Unless there is thinking not making it into English, it appears the Church of Greece doesn’t address the secularism of culture with any great deliberation. Here Pope Benedict draws from the Orthodox tradition — a move we have seen before in his Regensburg Address (brilliant in my estimation) — to speak to modern society. An unintended irony is emerging: the Roman Catholic Pontiff recognizes the hidden wealth of the Orthodox moral tradition and draws from it, while Orthodox leaders (Russia seems to be the exception) drift toward sanctifying the religious veneer of secularist movements.

Pope Benedict affirms the sanctity of the individual in this piece, posting the individual in relation to the “polis” — the people, or the city and community. He implicitly warns against subsuming the individual to the city (Marxism and other ideologies that deny the individual thus resulting in the destruction of the person and community on the one hand, and the elevation of the individual at the expense of the community [hyper-individualism] by which the individual forfeits himself).

Asia News 09/26/2007

Retracing the life and works of St John Chrysostom, Benedict XVI recalls how the father of the Church proposed a utopia of the ideal society to the early Church, substituting the ideal of the Greek polis with that of Christianity.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Christian idea of the primacy of the person, which makes all men equal and which has as a direct consequence solidarity, as the foundation of the “city”, instead of the concept of the primacy of the “polis”, in which the individual is subordinate to society. One of the fundaments of the Churches social doctrine was reaffirmed today by Benedict XVI, who retraced the thoughts of St John Chrysostom, theologian and “father of the Church”.

Last week the pope had already spoke of the first part of the life and works of the great thinker, who was bishop of Constantinople in the IV century; today before a crowd of 20 thousand in his general audience he dwelt on the years of the saint’s life when he was the leader of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire when he was twice exiled. His relics were transferred to Rome and now lie in the canonical chapel of St Peter’s, and in 2004, the pope reflected “a large part of them” were donated to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Retracing the works of St John Chrysostom, Benedict XVI underlined that his meditation of the works carried out by God in the six days of creation led him to affirm that Genesis shows us the beauty of creation reveals the face of God to us, there is the “transparency of God” and therefore “our wonder at the beauty of creation should lead us to give glory to the Creato”. A second step follows on from this in which it is highlighted that the Creator is also a “Tender Father”: “we are weak, in lifting our gaze our eyes are weak and so God becomes a tender Father and sends mankind the Word, the Sacred Scripture”. The third step is that God not only transmits the Word, but “in the end He Himself comes down to us”, he becomes the Word Incarnate until death, he really does become “God with us”, our brother. The fourth and last step is that through which the “the vital and dynamic principal “, the Holy Spirit, God is within us, “he enters our very existence and transforms our hearts”.

In his works, the model of the early Church becomes a model for society, it is a “utopia of the ideal city, giving it a Christian face and soul”. Chrysostom’s, “truly one of the great fathers of the Church”, affirms that it is not sufficient to give alms, or occasionally come to peoples aid, but that a new model is needed in which “the old idea of the Greek polis is substituted by a city inspired by Christian life. His project corrects the traditional Greek vision of the city in which large swathes of the population are denied the rights of citizenship, while in the Christian cities the person is given primacy and as a result the city is built from the individual up, while in the polis the person was subordinate to the city”. And when the bishop added “our city is another, our home is in the heavens”, he makes us all equal, brothers and sisters and obliges us to full solidarity towards humanity”.


  1. George Michalopulos :


    I couldn’t agree with you more. One slight exception: the late Archbishop of Athens, Christodoulos, wrote some very important sermons on globalization and one Islamification. The one on Islam was quite bold if you ask me (considering the fact that if you criticize the “religion of peace” you’ll most likely get killed). I’ll see if I can dredge them up. Unfortunately, he has gone to glory and the Church of Greece at present is mired in horrible scandals.

    What’s so pathetic is that most all Orthodox churches are either silent or have conformed themselves to the world (again the MP and ROCOR being the exception). I’ve seen some good things along these lines in the OCA with +Jonah’s election but we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Yes, we have a lot of catching up to do. Some of this ties into Fr. Gregory’s comment

    But I think we can add to this what David Bentley Hart identifies as that most strange (and in my view unwholesome) Orthodox cottage industry: the anti-Western Christian mentality common among many of us.

    …that cuts us off from many of the cultural precepts of the West that Orthodoxy can inform and quite possibly restore (as Pope Benedict appears to be doing). If you can find the link to Abp. Christodoulos’ statements, please post it here.

  3. Pope Benedict is a treasure for Orthodox Christians. He is a pope of the first millenium and views his papal office as one of teaching. His short audiences on the Fathers of the Church have been profound and his commitment to Tradition and making it accessible to people of all walks of life is a blessing.

    One thing I really like is how Pope Benedict takes questions sometimes (when was the last time you saw an Orthodox Patriarch take questions) His answers to these questions are often profound points of insight into Christianity.

    The West has given Orthodoxy a great gift in Pope Benedict. And Fr. Johannes is correct in observing the cottage industry of ant-Western sentiment among Orthodox Christians has to come to an end.

  4. The EP’s baptism of secular green and social solidarity movements is troubling. Of greater danger to us Americans, though–especially those of us more likely to be running in “conservative” circles–is the baptism of free market ideology, specifically its hyper-individualistic and obligation-denying philosophical underpinnings.

  5. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Paleocon, with a moniker like yours I would think you would tend towards the libertarian view of economics. In any case, cite some examples of you would of the “baptism of free market ideology, specifically its hyper-individualistic and obligation-denying philosophical underpinnings.” I can’t think of any credible thinker making this case.

  6. Huh? Paleocons abhor libertarian ideology. We at times share policy positions but recognize their philosophical presuppositions as un-Christian.

    In any case, I can’t think of any credible Orthodox thinker explicitly making the case, either; like I said, it’s a danger. I also can’t think of any credible Orthodox thinkers explicitly making the case for the Church’s adoption of more “lefty” secular ideologies. In both cases, though, the influence is there and there is an implicit baptism of such movements, whether it’s the EP’s relationship with the environmental movement, Banescu’s thumbs-up to Atlas Shrugged, or the influence the Acton Institute is gaining in conservative O circles. And in this land where Friedman is far more formative in the conservative movement than Burke, it is this area that demands vigilance and self-examination.

  7. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Then it would be beneficial if, instead of coming up with undifferentiated moralistic proclamations, you engage some of the ideas directly or at the very least provide some clearer distinctions that give readers at least an inkling of clarity. Not much to hang a hat on here.

  8. George Michalopulos :

    De Hans, re #2, I wholeheartedly agree. I cringe at the triumphalistic, reflexive, anti-Westernism of all too many Orthodox. When the West is right, it’s right. Ditto the East. There is neither Greek nor Jew in the Church that means that truth can’t be disregarded simply because it comes from the pope.

  9. Chris Banescu :

    Fr. Hans and George,

    You both expressed a key flaw in the outright hatred and rejection of anything Western in many Orthodox circles. This is not a well thought out attitude that lessens the strength of the Orthodox missionary stance and its “salt of the earth” witness it must represent in the world.

    Fr. Alexander Schmemann said it best:

    … the same must be said, it seems to me, about the Orthodox mission in the West, and more particularly, about the mission of Orthodox theology. This mission is impossible without some degree of love for the West and for the many authentically Christian values of its culture. Yet we often confuse the Universal Truth of the Church with a naive “superiority complex,” with arrogance and self-righteousness, with a childish certitude that everyone ought to share our own enthusiasm for the splendors of Byzantium, for our “ancient and colorful rites,” and the forms of our church architecture.

  10. Andrew (#3), I completely agree. Pope Benedict has been a real gift to the faith. His intellectual range and depth are extraordinary, as is the subtly and precision of his thought. That, by itself, would distinguish him, but his judgment in intellectual and moral issues has been equally as impressive. Yet what strikes me most when I read his writing is that, beneath the “western” language and concepts, the structure of his thought appears to be fundamentally Orthodox. Whether it is his pastoral concerns, his background in and affection for the Fathers, the touches of Pope John Paul II’s personalist perspective, his view of the Eucharist as the foundation of the Church, or something else, he has given a profound and distinctly “western” voice to some very Orthodox views. While recognizing the many difficult issues that separate us, I have come to believe that Orthodox Church could not have reasonably hoped for a better Pope.

  11. George Michalopulos :

    Agreed. I knew we were dealing with a transcendent figure in Benedict XVI when he gave his Regensburg Address in 2006. My only complaint was that he succumbed to the need for an apology from the Hagarenes. You don’t apologize for speaking the truth.

  12. Chris (#9) – exactly. Moreover, while I cherish the priceless treasure of the Orthodox faith, I recognize that I do so as a distinctly “western” – in fact, American – Christian. When I first read the Syriac Fathers, I was surprised by how unexpectedly different the expressions and emblems were. Yet consider how much these Fathers have enriched the faith. In the same way, I am convinced that once America begins to produce indigenous saints, they will also bless the Church – but with a uniquely American accent.

    While there is only one goal – Christ, Who is all, in all – such that there is neither Jew nor Greek, yet we are not dissolved into some ocean of divinity, but remain ever the particular, unrepeatable people that we are. In many ways, culture is simply a specific social expression of God’s good creation. Thus, while one’s culture must not to be confused with THE gift of God – Christ and His Church – it is also still true that it is an important part of to our formation and for that reason a gift.

    I happen to believe that America is a unique gift that has largely been an impressive force for good in history. This is not to deny or diminish her many sins or (desperate) need for transformation. Nor is it to confuse the City Set on A Hill with the City of God. Yet, regardless of one’s opinion about America, it would be act of ingratitude to wish away this gift. It would be little different than the individual who wishes he were someone other than who God made him to be. If we are not careful, this wholesale depreciation of where we stand – of our western legacy – can leave us not only unable to transform it, but unable to encounter God Who abides only in Truth and Reality. (As Metropolitan Anthony Bloom might say, we must be truly present to reality in order to encounter the Presence of God.)

    Our cultural legacy is part of the All and Everything that we are called to offer up. Just as there are Syriac saints, Greek saints, Russian saints, etc., we are called to be American saints . . . that Christ might be all and in all.

  13. Let me add to this conversation a personal note.

    I was educated in Roman Catholic schools from prep school through my doctorate. For many years I fought the tug to Orthodoxy not only because of my affection for the Catholic Church but a real concern for my own academic career which I knew would come to a quick end if I became Orthodox.

    All that to one side, however, a major concern I had about becoming Orthodox was the overt hostility and contempt I encountered among Orthodox Christian laity and clergy for all things Western Christian. This has been for me a great hardship since the whole of my formal education has been Roman Catholic. While I tried to put that education aside, and even flirted with the anti-Westernism I saw around me, I have come to the conclusion that I was just being stupid–and worse then stupid, I was being grossly ungrateful to the gifts God gave me and (in so doing)not only committing a great injustice to those Catholics who nurtured my faith and intellectual development and who in a positive fashion contributed to my being both an Orthodox Christian and now a priest.

    More than that, however, I have come to realize that the knee jerk anti-Westernism that has infected the Orthodox Church is undermining our mission not only in America but throughout the world. Yes, we can build parishes with our anti-Westernism but let’s be honest here, when we do this all we are doing is appealing to the disgruntled.

    Part of the ugliness of American history is the deep roots of the know-nothings those advocates of a strident anti-Catholic, anti-intellectualism that rose to prominence in the 19th century. While I thank God daily for the gift of my Orthodox faith and the priesthood, I must confess without the education and formation I received as a Roman Catholic, I can imagine being either Orthodox and the priesthood.

    Brethern, we sell ourselves short and dishonor God by our anti-Westernism. And let us also acknowledge that the scandals that the Church in America faces are the fruit of our our anti-Western, anti-intellectualism. When, exactly, did it become among us a source of shame to be well educated and humane in our approach to others?

    In Christ,


  14. Fr. Gregory:

    Thank you for your wonderful words. They ring especially true to me. It was years of Catholic education and most esepecially the writings of Pope John Paul II that saved the faith of this cradle Orthodox Christian.

    I am Orthodox today because of the witness and writings of a Polish Pope -especially his theology of the body. The work of Pope Benedict has been a blessing as well. Indeed-the clarity of thinking of the current Pope knows no equal.

    I feel very sad for the many Orthodox Christians especially our leaders who cannot realize what a wonderful gift both JP2 and B16 have been to the Orthodox world.

    And lets not forget by the way…. it was a Roman Catholic Pope from Poland who was central to the liberation of millions of Orthodox Christians from the yoke of communism.

  15. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, ditto for me. Fr Gregory, I know from whereof you speak. I was educated in public schools all my life, but I could not possibly consign my own sons to this abyss, at least from jr high on up. (Things just weren’t that bad 40 years ago.) I thank God for the Catholic Church and its determination to build parochial schools where some semblance of morality still exists. If it were not for them, I simply don’t know how I could have educated my sons.

    I heartily concur that the reflexive anti-Westernism of all too many Orthodox obscurantists is self-defeating and possibly detrimental to the salvation of those who espouse it.

  16. Robert Fortuin :

    What is happening? My comments are not showing up. Disapproved?

  17. Chris Banescu :

    George, I second your experiences. The cesspool (moral and educational) called the “public school”, especially in California, has made it impossible for us to select it for our daughter. Luckily the evangelical Christian private school in our area has done such a good job of living their faith in the real world that their hard work is helping us and hundreds of other families in our area. If it wasn’t for these Protestant and Western Christians we would have to home-school only, which we did for pre-school, but we can no longer pull off.

  18. Michael Bauman :

    The truth is the truth no matter where it is found. To say with rancor that there is no salvation in western Christianity is wrong. I admire the dedication of the the last two Popes to confront the de-humanization of the world.

    However, even if an Orthodox hierarch said the same thing, it would be buried in some obscure place and not reach the public that the words of the Pope do, perhaps not even the Orthodox faithful would hear them.

    The Pope is still the pope who in one of his early addresses said that the path to unity is simple, just submit to his authority and all will be well. He still espouses doctrines that the Church has condemned. He still heads an organization who’s pastoral sympathy for its memebers is,in my experience, the lowest of any Christian tradition. So pardon me if I don’t join in the lovefest.

  19. Michael Bauman :

    I think it is also fair to say that the theology of the Catholic and Protestant expressions of Christianity have contibuted to the current anthropological crisis in which we find ourselves as a civilization. Certainly the Pope has a unique opportunity to help correct the problem and PJPII Theology of the Body could be seen in that light.

    I question whether the priests in the parishes are transmitting the message to the faithful however. Does anybody know?

    The centuries of persectuion and governement control that have distorted and muted the voice of the Church should now give us greater impetus to be bold in our own approach.

  20. George Michalopulos :

    Chris, we should learn from the Left and fight the cultural battle with language. Instead of “public schools” (which is neutral and innocuous), we should call them “government schools.” That’s a far more loaded (and negative) term.

  21. Chris Banescu :

    George, as a survivor of the communist holocaust I understand the spiritual and cultural battle we’re faced with. I’ve been challenging and exposing the leftist lies and corrupt ideology and ideas for years at http://www.orthodoxnet.com. 🙂 Yes, “government schools” is a much better description. I also like Mark Levin’s label of “statists” for those who claim “liberal” ideas and are in fact radical leftists who despise individual liberty and the ideals of personal responsibility and freedom.

  22. I am delighted by the gratitude and appreciation expressed for the works of both Pope John Paul II and especially Pope Benedict XVI above. Michael is absolutely right that the truth is the truth and we should honor those who serve it well. I continue to hope that we will also produce hierarchs who bring their transfigured gifts and a baptized intellect to the service of the faith. Such people are always Fathers and Mothers to the Church. (I believe we see something of this in Metropolitan John Zizioulas and Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev.)

    The comments about the public, er, government school system strike particularly deeply for me. My wife has been working very, very hard for many years to establish an Orthodox School. While it has been fairly successful, it is a constant struggle. I am heartbroken by how few Orthodox parents seem to “get it.” (Of course, I’m not sure how many parents will ever “get it” if they don’t hear anything about important it is from the pulpit.) Having grown up Catholic and spent many years among (very zealous) Protestants, this was a “given” for us. Given the clearly eschatological nature of the monastic witness, I am continually surprised how few Orthodox seem to understand that the faith is essential to a full and proper education, that the public schools are unequipped to resist moral relativism (and often promote it), that “the world” is not and will never be a friend of the faith, that social privileges are worthless compared to the knowledge of Christ (Phil. 3), and that – in the end – what matters most is who your child becomes because that will last for eternity.

  23. Chris Banescu :

    Amen Chrys! You summarized it quite eloquently. This paragraph especially bears repeating since it encompasses much wisdom and insight:

    Given the clearly eschatological nature of the monastic witness, I am continually surprised how few Orthodox seem to understand that the faith is essential to a full and proper education, that the public schools are unequipped to resist moral relativism (and often promote it), that “the world” is not and will never be a friend of the faith, that social privileges are worthless compared to the knowledge of Christ (Phil. 3), and that – in the end – what matters most is who your child becomes because that will last for eternity.

  24. cynthia curran :

    The Byzantines never developed private religous schools like the Catholics did in western europe during the middle ages. In fact, the so-called university of Constantople was state ran and dealt with medicene and law and rhetoric. The state unitl the great plague of 542 subsidized teacher salaries and doctor salaries. This doesn’t mean that wealthy citizens didn’t have private tutors for their children or Doctors they paid thru their own money. The welfare state of the Byzantines resembles George Bush’s faith based program. You had both govenment money from the emperors and money from average citizens to the very wealthly that contributed to it hospices, old men homes, boys homes, or convents and monasteries that raised expose children. There was even a convent for prostitues who left their old life behind. And not all the great churches were built by the emperors. There was a church built by Antica Juliana, a very wealthy contempoary of the emperor Justinian that was the largest church before he had Hagia Sophia rebuilt. Anyway, the Byzantines had a mixed system and their descendants who admire them a lot aren’t as convince sometimes of private involvement in education, or medicine or the welfare state. As for sometimes, being anti-west, I think that as George stated before, it has to do with siding with the Democratic Party since FDR help their grandparents in the new world. However, FDR was an old Democratic and wasn’t Anti-American or Anti-West as much as the current party is.

  25. Michael Bauman :

    Quite a few years ago, the Orthodox community where I live investigated the possibility of starting an Orthodox school. Three things sank the project: 1) It was run by folks who are professional educators and were using the prevailing government/private school model; 2) With ten people in the room you had at least 12 ideas of what an Orthodox school would look like (some insisted that it should not have anything overtly Orthodox as that would be offensive to non-Orthodox); 3) many of the parents were afraid that their children would become less competitive in the world for the professional positions they had in mind for them.

    My late wife and I had one son. We homeschooled him K-12 despite the lack of other Orthodox homeschoolers and the overt hostility of the head of the Antiochian education committee (a +Philip crony) at the time to such a project. Being a committed government schooler himself, he thought parents were incompetent to teach their children even in matters of the faith. He actually said that to me.

    We have to have a better, more cohesive understanding of Chrisitan anthropology that includes a renewed focus on salvation. I don’t think we’d do half the things we do individually and corporately if we really believed our salvation was at stake. We need to remember the fate of the lukewarm.

  26. Michael, well put. It is VERY disappointing to hear that you received that kind of response from the head of the education committee. In my more antagonistic moments, I want to ask such folks why they bother going to Church. After all, if it’s not important enough to guide the cultivation of our children, it must not be all that important. (Just curious, did this person realize that he was putting a millstone around his neck when he condemned the children in his Church to such an impoverished education?)

    I know what you mean about professional educators as well. My wife is a tenured professor of education who encounters this attitude all too often. There is broad recognition that government schools are failing, but the inability to recognize the importance of tradition on the formation of the child leaves them with little to look at other than techniques. (That despite the overwhelming evidence that family culture plays a game-changing role in the process.) As converts, we wanted to make sure that the school was/is permeated, guided and defined by the faith. As you note, if this is the Truth, as we claim to believe, there is no other choice. We were particularly concerned to make sure that the process supported the content. Too often folks (especially converts like me) tend to treat faith like a concept. Yet the beauty and riches of the Orthodox ascetical tradition, evident in its ability to consistently produce saints, turns this on its head. The process must reflect and be conformed to the claims of the content. A concrete example: if we recognize the eternal verity of the faith, then our only posture can be humility. Love, discipline, humility, participation – all are vital in the formation process. If we “have” the Truth but are conformed to it in the work-a-day world, it only condemns us.

    I particularly agree with your comments about the lukewarm. All “systems” are really designed to serve the peak of the bell curve. Those on the high performing second or third standard deviation will often succeed no matter what the system is. (They may not succeed as much, but they will succeed.) Those on the low performing second or third standard deviation will probably struggle no matter how amenable the system is. Those in the middle – the great vast majority of us – are very much affected by the system. We OWE it to “them” as act act of obedient stewardship to do what we can for their edification and blessing. We simply don’t have the right to bury our “talents.”

  27. Please forgive me. The comment should read:
    If we “have” the Truth but are NOT conformed to it in the work-a-day world, it only condemns us.

  28. cynthia curran :

    Well, I can’t belive that Phillip is oppose to private schools. I know of someone that has read a book on politics authored by leftest Jim Wallis that is not oppose to an Orthodox school and even allows the Lutherans to use some of the facilities at his to have their high school.

  29. cynthia curran :

    I mean his church.

  30. Michael Bauman :

    Cynthia, whether Met. Philip is at all concerned with the how children are educated or not, I do not know. I only know what his long-time friend who was then head of the Archdiocesan Education Committee told me: “Parents are not competent to educate their own children, only professional educators (like him) are competent to do so”

    He made a special call to me at my home in Wichita, Ks from his home in NY on a Saturday morning just to let me know how unacceptable my education of my own son was.

  31. Michael,

    Thinking about the comment you quote above (# 30), when I visit children in the hospital I encourage their parents to be zealous advocates for their children. I remind them, “Your child’s doctor is expert in ALL children, you are an expert in YOUR child.” The idea that parents are not competent to educate their children flies in the face both of natural law and the theology of the Church.

    God entrusts children to parents and it is parents who are called and established by God as the primary educators of their children. In fulfilling their vocation as educators of their own children parents choice to form educational cooperatives that allow them to work together with other parents. They may as well seek out the assistance of other adults who, whether parents themselves or not, are able to make up for any deficiencies that parents or group of parents may have in offering instruction to their children. BUT regardless of the circumstances, parents are the primary educators of children and this responsibility cannot and must not be surrendered to another adult except in the most extreme of circumstances.

    Forgive me going on like this, but having served as an interim priest for four parishes where there had been “problems” of one sort or another, I have come to see that too often clergy do not see ourselves as serving the laity in fulfilling their own vocations. This vocation has too facets.

    One, there is the general call–rooted in baptism–to sanctify the world. By virtue of our baptism we are called to conform not only our lives but the world of business, culture, education, etc., to the Gospel of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Second, and as I mentioned above, we are called to discern the specific obligations we have within the concrete circumstance of our daily lives. By no stretch of the imagination can this obligation exclude the education of the children God has entrusted in His mercy to parents.

    In any case, my call as a priest is based on my first call given in baptism. It is only to the degree that I am faithful to my obligation to sanctify the world that I am able to fulfill the call confirmed in ordination. What is that call? To help the laity–corporately and individually–to discern and fulfill their own vocation in both its general and specific details.

    Having done this in each parish I’ve been asked to get back on its feet I can attest from my own experience (to say nothing of the testimony of Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church), if I focus on what is essential–helping the laity entrusted to my care to discover & fulfill their own vocations–then the parish will be healthy not only theologically and spiritually, but also psychological and socially. And a healthy community will grow and foster new vocations to marriage, ordination, monastic life as well as attract new Orthodox Christians and “reverts” to the faith as well.

    BUT, none of this can happen when, as the comment you quote implies, we fail to acknowledge and serve each other as we discern and pursue our personal vocation. I’ve said it before, for all that our liturgical and ascetical life is theologically sound, as long as our Church life continues to be bureaucratic and not vocational, we will fail. The second though we place fidelity to our personal vocations at the center of parish and diocesan life, in that moment we will experience the transformation of our parishes, our dioceses, our jurisdictions and (most importantly) our families and our personal lives.

    Great thread folks–y’all are an inspiration to me.

    In Christ,


  32. Michael Bauman :

    Fr. Gregory, what a wonderful post. You ought to expand that approach into a book. With your pastoral experience I’m sure you have a lot of material. It would benefit the Church.

    The phone call did not change our resolve to do what we felt was best for our child. The phone call did have a chilling effect on our ability to integrate what we were doing into the parish. It was my first inkling that dealing with Engelwood was not pleasant unless you agreed with the already established agenda and the ‘Friends of Philip’ ruled–believe me there was an implied threat in the tone of the conversation as well as the specifics.

    The director was less offended by our homeschooling than by the suggestion that the Church ought to produce materials specifically for parents to use in their homes to help educate their children in the faith, rather than focusing on the centralized Sunday school programs.

    One of the fundamental ideas that attracted me to the Church in the first place was the clear understanding of the human person in community each affirming and supporting the quest for holiness in the other. Being told by a ‘person in authority’ that only centralized, expert authority was any good, shocked me. In the fifteen years since that phone call, you are the first person to whom I have talked that really gets it. Thank you.

  33. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Greg,

    you have put into a few paragraphs what has been inchoate in me for a long time, but was not able to express as eloquently as you have. I’ve always felt that education is the province of the Church as are all “welfare” aspects of the gov’t. The Founding Fathers beleived that the federal gov’t should have only few ennumerated powers. The rest were to be left to the people and their “small platoons” (in Burke’s phrase).

    I would go one step further and call such elitist attitudes, the “tyranny of the experts.” This goes to the heart of republican governance: only a person who is upright, pious, and strives to be moral can serve as a “citizen.” Republicanism creates a form of government that enables such citizens to serve the polis as a militia, jurors, electors, and magistrates if called upon to do so.

    It is incumbent upon Christian parents to recall civic virtue and homeschooling or being the primary educator of one’s child is the necessary first step.

  34. George Michalopulos :

    P.s., I agree with Michael, you should expand this into a book.

  35. dear Michael & George,

    Thank you both for your kind words. As for a book, well, I will have to see what the future holds. Personally, and contrary to how it may appear, I prefer public speaking to writing. 🙂

    In Christ,


  36. Chris Banescu :

    Fr. Gregory,

    Echoing everyone else’s perspectives on your eloquent and wisdom-filled posts… Why not start with some articles on various topics and have them posted? I’m sure http://www.OrthodoxyToday.org and http://www.OrthodoxNet.com would be more than happy to share them with our large audiences. Already, just from the exchanges here, I see enough material for a good piece. Just a thought….

    PS – I share your preference for speaking. Writing is a developed discipline that requires many hours of really hard work.

  37. Father, I must agree with the above. If you prefer to speak, that would work fine. I am sure there are plenty of folks (myself included) who would be willing to work through a voice-to-text copy, edit it, and – where needed – ask for amplification. 🙂
    As for the difference between the bureaucratic and the vocational, I think you have touched on a critical difference. Bureaucracies are self-referential and, at best, concerned with efficiency (usually defined as that which supports their own reason for being). A vocation, however, is God-given, “built into” the person, to be discerned. It requires prayerfulness, attention and a deep openness to and respect for the unique work that God may wish to do in and through the individual. Indeed, attending to one’s own – or to another’s – calling requires a “radical” openness to the God Who calls. This is a fundamentally different approach to life. Along these lines, one could see the Sadducees as eminently “bureaucratic,” the pharisees as the rule-keepers/referees, and Christ as essentially “vocational” in His focus and mission – calling each to follow God’s unique will no matter the cost or consequence.

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