The Blood is the Life, Part VII (A Modest Proposal)
by Bernard Brandt
Well, gentle readers, it is now time to wrap up this little series of essays on the crisis of the Roman Catholic Church. As I have remarked in Parts I-V, I have diagnosed that that crisis is a direct result of the failure of Roman Catholic bishops to exercise their unique charism as teachers, and to teach candidates to the diaconate, the presbyterate, and the episcopate a humanistic, scientific, philosophical and theological education in accordance with the Vatican II document, Optatam Totius.
And the cure to that same crisis (as I mentioned in Part VI) is for those bishops to get up off of their dead, er, cathedras, to teach themselves that above-mentioned tuition, and to begin the task of a remedial education for their clergy and their people.
Of course, knowing what we do of most RC bishops these days, the probabilities of that are obese. In short: fat chance. And for much the same reason, the chances of modern academic seminaries accomplishing that task are equally as fat.
In an ideal world, my modest proposal would be this.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate would decide to reopen its Theological School of Halki as an online school, transcribing and recording all of its library resources and its lectures and making them available online. The Patriarchate of Rome would follow suit, and would make available the resources of the Vatican Library and the several seminaries in the Vatican. Lectures would be primarily in Greek and in Latin, but elaborate internet resources would be made available to teach those languages, as well as the languages of Scripture (i.e., Hebrew and Aramaic) as well as the other languages of Holy Tradition (e.g., Syriac and Coptic). Both Patriarchates would commission the Khan Academy and similar groups to provide YouTube lectures and structure for the teaching of an underlying scientific and humanistic education. All of these resources would be made available to anyone with access to the Internet.
And, of course, the probabilities of that happening are roughly equal to a snowball’s of retaining its icy structural integrity in Hades.
So, I would like to offer this slightly More Modest Proposal
It would start with a number of scholars working, either independently or together, in providing texts (like those of textkit), collections of treatises (like Migne’s Patrilogia Latine et Graece) or Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) in providing YouTube lectures in Liturgical Theology and Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. As you can see, this part of the proposal is already in play, and the tendency is growing.
My proposal would be for other scholars to begin to put the pieces together, to organize their studies for the purpose of gaining, not a narrow specialization, but a broad and deep erudition, and to make the results of those studies available online for the benefit of others. It is my hope, as seen in any number of weblogs, such as this, this, this and this, that that process is also in play, and is growing.
My proposal would be complete when a group of these scholars decided to organize this whole mess, and to develop what that renegade thinker, Mencius Moldbug, has called the Antiversity: an alternative to that corrupt cathedra pestilentiarum, that chair of pestilences, which is the modern university system. While there may be still some colleges (those of Oxford and Cambridge come immediately to mind) which have not succumbed to rule by administration, and to the service of political correctitude, I fear that they are at present beleaguered exceptions to the general rule.
And, an Orthodox and Catholic laity who was educated on that basis might actually be able to produce the educated clergy which could fulfill the requirements of the Vatican II document, Optatam Totius.
This would, of course, require a great deal of time, effort, and thought. But it would certainly beat the ignorant, tawdry, and foolish mess which we are currently in. For as we can see, that so-called system, and that mess, is in the process of a messy, violent, and ugly death. And it threatens to take the rest of us with it.
For we need an educational system which actually teaches us the knowledge, the skills, and the understanding which we in turn need, in order to live in these changing days. We need a philosophy which involves the love and the pursuit of wisdom. And we need a theology which is informed by Scripture, by Tradition, and by the living teaching authority of the Church, and which finds its fulfillment in true worship.
For this last understanding, I am indebted to His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah, and to his earlier life as Mr. James Paffhausen. Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to learn from him when he was teaching a course in Liturgical Theology at Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles. And much later, I have been fortunate enough to audit his online course in Orthodox Dogmatic Theology.
From that latter course, I have been able to take away the following insights: that Orthodox theology is a mystical theology; that fundamental to that theology is a deep understanding of Holy Scripture, which can only begin through its memorization; that the true interpretation of that Scripture can only come from the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, which finds its expression and fulfillment in the consensus of the Church Fathers; and the dogmatic theology of the Orthodox Church is expressed in that Scripture, that Tradition, and that teaching authority, which in turn finds its expression in the Councils and the Synods of that Church.
And from these insights, I have come to the following conclusions: that if there is to be any dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics, it must begin from our common patrimony of Scripture, Tradition, and the teaching authority of those two Churches, which finds agreement in the Seven Ecumenical Councils. I am sorry to have to say that most Catholics are woefully ignorant of that common patrimony. It is time that we disabuse ourselves of that ignorance. I now pledge myself to that task.