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February 11, 2009



I think part of the problem revolves around understanding what the Church is and its role in the world.

It seems to me that the Incarnation of Christ is not sufficiently appreciated. After all, if Christ really was incarnate as a human being in all things except sin, it means that He needed to take a bath once in a while.

The same thinking needs to be done regarding the Church. It needs to be more incarnate, not less.

Notions of priesthood which remove, ( in a real sense dis-incarnate the priest- which is what celibacy does if misunderstood), the priest from the rest of humanity aren't very helpful.

The purpose of the monastic, contemplative life, for instance, is not dis-incarnation but a deeper incarnation than the one generally experienced by most us.

I think the participants at Vatican II understood this in an inchoate way. Unfortunately, it's far easier to go backwards into a safe dualism, ( priests/nuns/bishops are "holy", laypeople aren't), than to go forward into the notion of the People of God as the incarnate Church getting their hands and feet dirty.

Being in the world but not of it doesn't or shouldn't prevent one from getting dirty.

Bernard Brandt

As regards His Holiness' critique of progress in the world, and more particularly, his apparent distrust of earthly kingdoms which aspire to the status of "Kingdom of Heaven", at least two poets seem to be in agreement with him:

"We know very well we are not unlucky, but evil.
That the dream of a Perfect State, or No State at all
To which we fly for refuge, is part of our punishment"

--W.H. Auden, "For The Time Being

"Put not your trust in princes,
nor in any son of Man,
in whom there is no help.
When his breath ends, he returns to the earth.
On that day he dies."

-Psalm 146

I suppose in this context that it would be perhaps an Obamanation to say that change does not equal progress.

That said, while I agree with you that a critique of Modern Christianity is certainly overdue, I also look forward to a critique of liberation theologies, most of which had linked themselves to the One Ring of Marxism, and which also foundered with the failures of Russian and Chinese Communisms.

Spirit of Vatican II

Mr Brandt, attacking earthly kingdoms that aspire to be the kingdom of heaven is rather trite. If the Pope would name one such kingdom, his remarks would have more point. Perhaps the Vatican itself is such a kingdom? Or does he mean the USA or the EU?

You say most liberation theologies "linked themselves" to Marxism. I wonder if you could quote one respected liberation theologian who has not been critical of the aspects of Marxism of which the Church disapproves? The kind of Marxism that foundered with the Soviet Union has never been favored by liberation theologians. But the resources of Marx for thinking about a better world, which American economists have always pooh-poohed, are perhaps now on the brink of being rediscovered. No less a figure than Cardinal Martini, a man of immense traditional piety and learning, holds that the Church should be protecting and promoting what was good and true in Marxism.

Jimmy Mac

BB: in your attempt to be oh-so-vogue with the use of cutsey-wootsey "Obamanation" you are simply gauche.


Would this dialogue require the same sort of inflated language found in the 'Spe Salvi' encyclical? Just for once I'd like to see a member of the hierarchy talk about a subject in a straightforward way. Rightly or wrongly, the encyclical quote strikes me as pompous, especially in light of recent Vatican actions. Pope Benedict's sense of self-importance comes through and would itself be an interesting subject for dialogue. I think many Catholics are not listening to an authority that has made so many wrong decisions. The convoluted language and the absolutist attitude have turned many of the faithful away - away that is from having any desire to be taught by the Pontiff. Is this pope ready to take his vestments off and have a friendly discussion over some pasta and wine at a local trattoria? We will probably have to wait.


The only Pope that you could have a discussion with in a trattoria would be John XXIII.
I'm surprised that he hasn't been brought up for canonization but I suppose that he'd be uncomfortable with it.

Spirit of Vatican II

evagrius, John XXIII has been beatified; he is now Blessed John XXIII.

Bernard Brandt

Dear Fr. O'Leary (Father, Bless!):

Thank you for your critique of my poor entry. It is always a pleasure to have you respond to my comments.

I am not sure that "trite" is the correct adjective to use in the context of an activity indulged in by the Psalmist, the Prophets, our Lord, and satiric poets through the ages. Perhaps "prophetic" would be a better choice. In any event, I hope that I may be forgiven if, in this one instance, I follow their counsel and example, rather than yours.

As for your question, I believe that Fr. Clodovis Boff, brother of Leonardo Boff, has recently expressed some criticism of the Marxist underpinnings of much of Catholic Liberation Theology.

Although I am no longer au courant with Liberation Theology, back in my protestant days in the '70s I had taken much interest in the subject, having read a number of works of the brothers Boff, Gutierrez, Gautier, etc., and having traveled to South America, in part to view the LT scene in Colombia. I think that I can speak as a credible witness of the unselfconsciously Marxist language used by most liberation theologians of the time. I would not be surprised if some have since changed their tone, especially after the then Cardinal Ratzinger's comments back in the late 70s.

I would agree with you that there is more to LT than just Marxism. The good work of Jim Wallis and his magazine Sojourners would be but one example.

I would also agree with you that Marx deserves a second look, and I am now undertaking a private reading of economists, from Smith and Ricardo up to the present. I suspect that a part of the problem with Marxism has been a tendency to get caught up in the rhetoric at the expense of the dialectic. Perhaps this is one area of theory which could be assisted by the application of Buddhist "helpful means".

Finally, I must thank you for your article on Phenomenology and Eschatology. It is a capable compendium of the philosophical and theological work on those two subjects, and has gotten me to the point where I have started to read Husserl and Heidegger.

Jimmy Mac:

To quote a line from the motion picture, True Lies, "What makes you think that the slack I cut him in any way translates to you?"

Unlike the esteemed Father O'Leary, it seems that the only thing that I have learned from you is how sarcasm can pretend to be critique.

I am afraid also that you have misread my use of the "O" word. It was neither an attempt to be "oh-so-vogue" or "cutsey-wootsey". It was a swipe both at the current administration and those who have adulation for it. In that I think that I was successful, and so, while my choice of words may have been "crass", "gauche" it was not.

And may I suggest less use of pejoratives such as "cutsey-wootsey" and "gauche"? From my reading of Scripture, such behavior is apt to result in "extreme prejudice" from our Lord. Matthew 5:22.

Dear Evagrius:

I think that your observations on incarnation and the contemplative life are spot-on. Do please continue.


Sorry. Goes to show how little the beatification of John XIII was noticed.

He's still only blessed, not "quite" a saint.

That means he's in the company of such interesting people as Brother Andre of Montreal.

I'm beginning to reread "Freedom and Authority" by Paul Verghese, ( known also as Mar Gregorios), of the Syrian Orthodox Church. This little book, written in 1974, is extremely relevant today, given the "crisis of authority" in all the Churches, ( some think there isn't one in "their" Church but they have limited vision). Too bad it hasn't been reprinted.


A statement from Mar Gregorios;



Bernard Brandt

Dear evagrius:

Thank you for introducing to me the writings of the late Mar Gregorios, and in particular, the above website and webpage.

I am greatly in your debt.


Mr Brandt,

You're welcome. The Syrian Orthodox Church, particularly in India, has had a number of very interesting theologians. I just wish that their voice could be heard above the din of disputation besieging the Church in the West.


About this:

"Benedict certainly knows better than the neoconservatives who derived from Hegel the message that the end of history had already arrived, in the form of the New American Century...

- how is saying that "the end of history ha[s] already arrived, in the form of the New American Century..." anything short of blasphemy and apostasy ?

According to the NT, the Apostolic Faith was that "the end of history had already arrived" in Jesus Christ; not in some piffling country that didn't even exist a few centuries ago. The USA will seem mighty only to those who forget that God is greater than all.

Such a belief implies that America is a new Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and abominations of the earth. Neocons, if they really think what they alleged to think, are dethroning Christ & setting up the idol America in His place. Some people idolise the Church in the same way: God the Institution is in practice preferred to God the Son. This is ever so slightly different from the worship of the Divine City in antiquity. Modern making a god of the Church or nation is no different from any other idolatry.

Abp. Lefebvre was absolutely spot-on about one thing: the importance of acknowleedging Christ the King in all relations of life, as the older feast of His Kingship does. If He is (& it is part of the Gospel that He is), idolatry of nation or church will have no resting-place.

Christ is Lord & King - not Caesar, not the Pope, not America, not any of these or other such idols, but Christ alone.


@evagrius February 21, 2009 at 05:31 AM:

## At least John XXIII's cause is further advanced than that of Venerable Cesare Baronio (Cong.Orat.) (1538-1607), who has been stuck at Venerable since 1745.


@evagrius | February 12, 2009 at 12:11 AM:

"The purpose of the monastic, contemplative life, for instance, is not dis-incarnation but a deeper incarnation than the one generally experienced by most us."

## There is a serious weakness at the very root of monasticism, which was brilliantly diagnosed by K.E. Kirk in his book "The Vision of God" (pubd.1931). Vatican II approaches it indirectly, without getting to the root of the matter. Kirk calls it the Double Standard.

It is this: if the Vision of God is for all Christians irrespective of their state of life, & since it is granted that it is; the distinction between life "in the world" & monastic life becomes problematic. This Double Standard of life may be valid (though still problematic), or it may be invalid. An invalid statement of the DS is the distinction that has it that the monastic life is in fact superior *per se* to life in the world; a valid statement of the distinction does not exalt monasticism in that way.

Either way, the distinction remains problematic, for if the Vision of God is admitted to be for all Christians irrespective of their state of life, the point of monasticism ceases to be apparent. To say that the monk leaves the world because of its entanglements, and that therefore monasticism is a more heroic way of life, won't quite do; because the Christian in the world lives amid these entanglements - which strongly suggests that (if we must think in such terms) his way of life demands the greater heroism. This would be an example of the DS as invalid.

The problem with monasticism is this whole purpose of "a deeper incarnation than the one generally experienced by most us" - that's all very well for the monk; but it leaves most of the Church as second-class citizens in the Church, as having to make do with inferior knowledge of God purely because of our state in the world. Which in turn implies some version of an invalid form of the Double Standard. It would mean that we, who live in the world, have to survive on iron rations, unlike our monastic brethren who are withdrawn from the responsibilities of life in the world; it would mean they are being feasted on the the delights of the Vision of God, whereas we must be content with the crumbs.

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