Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sui Juris Churches XXIV: The Latin Church

(on sui juris churches in general)

Liturgical Family: Latin

Primary Liturgical Language: Latin

Juridical Status: Patriarchal

Approximate Population (to Nearest 100 Million): 1.2 billion

Brief History: The Latin Church is one of the largest religious institutions, if not the largest, in the history of the world. It is often noted that it is many times larger than all of the Eastern Catholic churches put together, but this is still somewhat misleading. If all Eastern churches of Apostolic provenance were put together -- if, in addition to the Eastern Catholic churches, all of the Eastern Orthodox, and all of the Oriental Orthodox, and all of the Assyrian Church of the East were to enter the Catholic Communion -- the Latin Church would still be more than four times larger than all of the Eastern churches put together. It is immense, truly and unquestionably global, and it has all the advantages, and all the disadvantages, of immensity.

The proper name for the church is the Latin Church. Colloquially it is often called the Roman Catholic Church or (much more rarely) the Western Catholic Church. But 'Western Catholic' has never caught on, and 'Roman Catholic' in all official documents of the Holy See itself always refers to the entire Catholic communion, never to the Latin Church alone. And 'Latin Church' fits: it is the Latin Church, no further clarification required.

The Christian community in Rome arose very, very early; the earliest mentions of it that we know of, in the New Testament itself, already indicate that it was reasonably well established. The Roman Empire was a realm in which movement was relatively easy, and obviously there was a lot of constant circulation into and out of Rome, the foremost city in the Empire. Thus Roman Christianity was beginning to be established even before the arrival of the Apostolic evangelists. The two that became most closely associated with Rome, of course, were St. Paul and St. Peter. The book of Acts, in fact, ends with Paul in Rome, and the book of I Peter 5:13 represents Peter as being in 'Babylon', which was often a codeword for Rome in the early Christian community.

Having such an early-rooted Christian community and being the heart of the beast, it was inevitable that it would be especially hard-hit in the occasional Imperial persecutions of Christianity arose. Early and widespread legends represents both St. Paul and St. Peter as having been martyred in Rome. This is quite significant for the role of Rome in the later history of the Church, because the association with so many holy martyrs, and especially with St. Peter and St. Paul, meant that Rome had an immense amount of pull that has never abated; other Christian communities have always naturally tended to be drawn into its influence, to the extent that there was active communication between Rome and these other communities. In the early days this was especially true of Western Europe and North Africa. That Rome is the last resting place of both Peter and Paul has also always been the overarching principle governing how the bishop of Rome has been seen in the Latin Church: as the Successor of St. Peter, keeper of the keys and foundational rock of the Church, and as carrying on the task of St. Paul in carrying the message of the gospel to the nations.

Rome was not the only great see to exert a significant 'gravitational attraction' on other sees. Alexandria and Antioch, and a little later Constantinople, also did so. But the Eastern Roman Empire was more crowded in the West, and thus the East saw an intense tug-of-war of influence between the major Eastern sees, with other sees in a constant shift from being dominated by one to being dominated by another. And Rome was not directly involved in most of it; it was out of the way, and active routes of communication between West and East, while still existent, were becoming less reliable. The always important trade routes between Rome and Egypt, however, remained relatively good. Thus began to coalesce the Rome-Alexandria alliance, which was part of the reason for Alexandria's immense importance in the early patristic period. Most of Rome's knowledge of events in the East came through Alexandria, and Alexandria to at least limited extent operated not only in its own right but also as Rome's agent in the East, giving it more than influence to counterbalance the other Sees. This alliance would reach its high point with St. Cyril of Alexandria's victory at the Council of Ephesus, but it had already started breaking apart by that point, as Rome had become increasingly wary of what it saw as Alexandria's over-reach. The alliance would be broken entirely in and after the Council of Chalcedon.

The result of the slow collapse of the Empire in the West and of the fading of regular communications between East and West would inevitably isolate the Latin Church from the Eastern sees, which were engaged in a constant struggle with each other, and also to expand the extent to which the See of Rome had to step in to serve the civilizational function that had once belonged to the once Imperial city. The See of Rome thus became entangled with the complicated politics that developed in the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms in the West, whether that of Charlemagne or Otto of Saxony. Contact with the East also was not always easy, because the West and the East had diverged in a number of customs, which led each to look with some suspicion on the orthodoxy of the other. In addition, the Eastern and Western sees were fighting very different theological battles; one of the things that would later become a major contention between East and West, the addition of the Filioque to the Creed, initially arose out of the struggle of Iberian sees with a mutant variety of Arianism that was not found in the East.

The occasion for the actual cracking of relations between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox sees, and thus the Latin Church and its Eastern counterparts, was when Rome stepped in to adjudicate a canonical dispute in the See of Constantinople in the late ninth century. The Patriarch, Ignatios, was deposed by the Emperor because of his extensive criticisms of Imperial politics, and the Emperor, Michael III, had a layman, Photios, ordained and put in his stead. The supporters of Ignatios appealed to Rome, and Pope Nicholas I agreed that Ignatios had been deposed uncanonically and recognized him as the rightful Patriarch. Photios would later respond by excommunicating the Pope. Michael III, however, was assassinated by Basil the Macedonian, who took the throne and wanted to strengthen ties with the West, so he banished Photios and reinstated Ignatios, and what Catholics call the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 869 condemned Photios. Basil had nothing personally against Photios, however, and eventually recalled him; Photios and Ignatios reconciled, and at the death of the latter, Photios became Patriarch. Photios then called another council, what many Eastern Orthodox call the Fourth Council of Constantinople, and a somewhat half-hearted attempt was made by both sides to heal a number of the disputes that had arisen over the previous decades and years. It did not succeed very well. Photios was recognized as the Patriarch, but we can see the cracks very clearly. It's notable that while both Catholic and Orthodox calendars recognize Ignatios as a saint, only Orthodox calendars recognize Photios and only Catholic calendars recognize Nicholas as saints.

But cracks are not breaks, and the tearing of the Orthodox Catholic Church was slow. Everybody knows the mutual excommunication of Cerularius and Humbert in 1054, but this seems more of a symptom of worsening conditions than a significant cause of anything. It seems to me that if you want to locate a definite break, it makes more sense to put it at some point between 1182, when Latin Christians in Constantinople were massacred, touching off a series of mutual retaliations, and the Sack of Constantinople in 1204, when the Fourth Crusade was basically highjacked by the Venetians (who had suffered the worst in the Latin Massacre) and used to conquer Constantinople itself. Pope Innocent III strongly condemned the action, but as it was a fait accompli, the question was what to do in its wake. One of the things that the clergy accompanying the Crusade did was appoint a Latin Patriarch of Constantinople. Such Latin Patriarchates were recognized by the Fourth Lateran Council. (Latin Patriarchates were eventually set up for all of the Eastern sees; the only one that currently still exists is the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.)

But the Crusades did not only see the tearing of relations between the Greeks and the Latins, with much bad blood; they also led to the establishing of permanent relations with the Maronites and temporary relations with the Armenians of Lesser Cilicia, and the interaction of Latin Christians with some of the other Christian groups around the Holy Land both enriched the doctrine and devotion of the Latin Church and would later set up possibilities of reunion that might not otherwise have existed.

The Latin Empire of Constantinople lasted only until 1261, at which point Michael VIII Palaiologos managed to recapture Constantinople. Now things were in a very bad state between the sees of Rome and Constantinople. But the Byzantine Empire was also collapsing. It had been slowly declining, off and on, for centuries by this time, but the Sack of Constantinople had thrown things completely off-kilter. The Byzantine Empire needed Western help more than ever before; and the religious divide between East and West was now worse than ever before. Thus began the Imperial policy of courting reunion with the West while not pressing for it too hard at home. The Second Council of Lyons was convoked in 1272, which served as a sort of council of nations: while it was an ecclesiastical council, there were representatives of the major political groups of the day, including ambassadors from the Byzantine Empire, the Ilkhanate, England, France, and parts of Spain, Germany, and Italy. Much of its business was concerned with secular Christendom: conquest of the Holy Land, protection of pilgrimage routes, the recognition of the Holy Roman Emperor, an official declaration of peace among Christian nations. In addition, the Latins and Greeks at the council came to an agreement about the major doctrinal issues separating them. It was ambitious. It failed. Emperor Michael did officially promulgate the reunion, but this purely official recognition only lasted for the few years he had left to live, and was in fact strongly resisted in the East.

The fourteenth century was a period of crisis for the Latin Church. In 1304, following the death of Pope Benedict XI, the College of Cardinals deadlocked between the Italians and the French. After nearly a year of negotiations, the College chose someone who was not one of the cardinals: Raymond Bertrand de Got, the Archbishop of Bourdeaux. He was French, but he had solid Italian ties, and not being a member of either of the two parties of cardinals, he was almost certainly seen as a compromise candidate. As compromise candidates sometimes are, he was a massive disaster. Ascending to the papal throne as Clement V, he refused to go to Rome -- even for his coronation -- and immediately showed himself to be an active partisan in favor of French power. In 1309, he moved the Papal Curia to Avignon, France, nominally for reasons of security. The Avignon Papacy, often referred to as the Babylonian Captivity, would last until it was ended by Gregory XI's return to Rome in 1377. The move to Avignon put the papacy squarely under French control; it also led to a massive expansion of power on the part of the papal curia, as the papacy itself began to imitate the intensive centralization and revenue-focused organization that had come to be associated with France, the first of the major nations to begin forging the modern nation-state. Most of the corruptions and abuses associated with the Renaissance papacy and that were specifically targeted by later Protestant reformers can be argued to have their root in the Avignon Papacy.

The return of Gregory XI to Rome was not, alas, a return to normality. When Gregory XI died shortly after the return, Urban VI was elected. He was an Italian, and probably only elected due to a failure of the French cardinals to unite behind a common candidate. Urban VI was a gung-ho reformer, a vehement critic of all of the faults of the papal curia, and like most such reformers turned out to be a domineering leader who demanded that everyone fall in line and that there be no dissent. Since cardinals always have the solidarity of a herd of cats, and like cats tend to resist going in any direction that they can't be fooled into thinking it was already their idea to go, this inevitably created an immense amount of resentment and dissent. The French Cardinals revolted, forming a list of grievances and declaring in council that his election was invalid and the see of Rome unoccupied; the sedevacantist cardinals elected another to be pope, Clement VII, who returned to Avignon. And thus the Western Schism began, splitting the Latin Church and sowing confusion everywhere. It would last until 1417, and by the end of it there would be three claimants for the papacy, at Avignon, Rome, and Pisa.

Faced with such a situation, an idea caught fire: if the papacy itself is in doubt, who could be higher than the Pope, if not a general council? Thus the battle between conciliarists and papalists began, and the conciliarists from the beginning had the upper hand. After all, what else could solve the problem except a general council? When they attempted to do so at Pisa, the result was just the Pisan line of popes; but, again, what else was there? And a big boost came to conciliarism when a general council did indeed solve the problem. One of the Pisan popes, John XXIII, called a council at Constance, and the Roman pope, Gregory XII, decided to recognize it as an authoritative council. The Council of Constance's (1414-1418) solution was to have all three claimants to the papacy resign -- they did not have to concede that their claim was illegitimate, they just had to agree to give it up for the good of the church -- and elect one pope from scratch, while confirming as cardinals all the cardinals that had been created by each of the claimants. Both the Pisan and the Roman popes accepted the agreement, and the Council (eventually -- it deliberately delayed to prevent a new pope from interfering with its work) elected Martin V as pope. The Avignon pope refused to resign -- but immediately began to lose influence even among previously strong supporters because of it. Constance did not just deal with the problem, however; it furthered a number of pet projects of conciliarists, designed to establish clearly the superiority of general councils over the pope.

One of the requirements imposed by Constance was that ecumenical councils should be held at regular intervals. The Council of Siena (originally Pavia) was initially called to be such, but faced a significant number of problems getting up and running properly. It did, however, establish that the next council should be at Basel; and Martin V did indeed summon a council to Basel in 1431, although he died before it actually opened. His successor, Eugenius IV, had his legate open the council, but as the council immediately began making demands on the papacy, he quickly issued a bull dissolving it, with another council to open at Bologna a year and a half later. The bishops at Basel refused, reiterating the claims of Constance, and demanded that the Pope appear in person to answer for his impudence. Eugene was facing a number of problems at the time, including an invasion of the Papal States, and so could not easily afford to be involved in a power struggle with the bishops. A compromise was worked out by pressure from the Holy Roman Emperor; Eugene withdrew his bull and, reserving the rights of the Holy See, recognized the council as ecumenical, but refused to include within that the anti-papal provisions that had previously been resolved. Shortly afterward, Eugene had to flee Rome and was exiled for some years in Florence. In 1438, Eugene, now in a slightly stronger position, attempted to dissolve the council at Basel again, moving it to Ferrara. Due to European politics (the council at Basel was widely thought to be very pro-French), the bishops of the council split, with some staying at Basel and claiming to be the real ecumenical council, and some accepting the change. Those who stayed at Basel issued a decree deposing Eugene as a heretic and electing an antipope.

And it's at this point that the Eastern sees enter the picture. None of the Eastern sees had any interest in furthering the doctrine of papal supremacy; but, ironically, they were one of the factors that tipped the power away from the conciliarists to the papalists. For the Eastern sees, reunion of East and West meant one thing: the reunion of the See of Rome with its Eastern counterparts. They had no particular interest in this whole issue with the Council of Basel; the leader of the Church in the West was, in their eyes, very obviously the bishop of Rome, and, not having had any part at all in the affairs of Basel, they had no reason to regard it as having any kind of ecumenical authority. Thus when negotiations between the East and the West at Ferrara, and continued at Florence, the entire weight of the Eastern churches was placed on the papalist side of the scale. Thus it was that the Florence was a victory for Rome. Yes, the unions with the major Eastern sees began to fall apart as soon as the delegates returned home. Yes, the unions with the Armenians and the Copts were entirely on paper and with delegates who had no authority to speak for their churches. But the pope had broken the momentum of conciliarism.

It did not die; and even after it was officially condemned at the Fifth Lateran Council, and struggles for variant forms of it, like Gallicanism, continued to plague the West for the next several hundred years. It woulds in the course of these struggles that a significant number of the unions with Eastern churches would come about, and a great deal of the Latin Church's interaction with the East, and many papal impositions on the Eastern churches who united with Rome, can be explained by this ongoing struggle of authority. The next several centuries would begin to see a massive expansion of the Latin Church, due to Portuguese discoveries of trade routes to east Asia and Spanish discoveries in the New World. It would also see the rise of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation -- another authority-struggle contributing to Latin interaction with the East. This is all quite visible in the work of one of the popes who did the most work with establishing and consolidating the reunions of various Eastern churches with Rome, Benedict XIV; much of the time when he actively affirms specific rites distinctive to the East, one can see that these rites express principles that were inconsistent with common Protestant claims, and thus served as independent witnesses in that particular struggle.

(But this is not the only cause working, by any means. Not all latinization was imposed by Rome. Some of it was voluntary, as can be seen in the fact that Eastern churches not in communion with Rome also went through a process of latinization, in part because of the near-ubiquity of the Latin Church by this time, and in part because Latin customs were sometimes easier and often simpler.)

The slowly increasing significance of the Eastern churches in the life of the Latin Church, and the complications caused by its struggles over authority, can be seen in the case of the First Vatican Council. The Melkite Patriarch, Gregory II Youssef, was one of the major voices opposing the definition of papal infallibility, arguing that actual definition would interfere with relations with the Eastern Orthodox, and that the terms in which some of the Council fathers wanted to define it failed to take into account the good example of Florence in explicitly recognizing that traditional rights and privileges of all the patriarchal sees. After the Council, it was very important for Pius IX to get the explicit affirmation of all of the Eastern patriarchs; the Armenians, Melkites, and Chaldeans were particularly reluctant. When Patriarch Gregory signed, he did so explicitly with the qualification from Florence; and Patriarch Joseph IV Audo of the Chaldeans was the last Eastern patriarch to sign it, and did so only with great reluctance. But they all did, and it had become important for Rome that they do so. And the importance of the Eastern churches to the Latin Church have continued to expand; they were particularly cultivated by Leo XIII, with whom Rome's relations with Eastern churches began to loosen considerably, and this tendency was amplified by the Second Vatican Council.

Notable Monuments: The preeminent church of the Latin Church is the Papal Archbasilica of St. John in the Lateran, which is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome and thus the immediate church of the pope; there are, in addition, several other well known papal major archbasilicas in Rome: the most famous is St. Peter's in the Vatican, but there are also St. Paul's Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major.

Notable Saints: Agnes (January 21); Thomas Aquinas (January 28); Peter and Paul (June 29); Protomartyrs of Rome (June 30); Augustine (August 28); Gregory I (September 3); Leo I (November 10).

Notable Religious Institutes: Benedictines; the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans); the Order of Preachers (Dominicans); the Society of Jesus (Jesuits); among many others.

Extent of Official Jurisdiction: Barring a few small areas of the world, like Eritrea, that are entirely under the authority of Eastern Catholic bishops, global.

Online Sources and Resources:

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Five Greatest Women Philosophers

Aeon Ideas asks, who are the five greatest women philosophers?

Nigel Warburton lists (deliberately restricting himself to the twentieth century):

(1) Simone de Beauvoir
(2) Hannah Arendt
(3) Judith Jarvis Thomson
(4) Patricia Churchland
(5) Martha Nussbaum

Amusingly, he refuses Anscombe a position entirely on the basis of her views of sex, and includes Thomson entirely on the basis of an argument for abortion.

Gene Glotzer lists:

(1) Simone de Beauvoir
(2) Elizabeth Anscombe
(3) Philippa Foot
(4) Martha Nussbaum
(5) Hannah Arendt

Avinash Jha lists (explicitly warning that the list is not so much a list of greatest as simply candidates for it based on personal experience):

(1) Simone Weil
(2) Hannah Arendt
(3) Luce Irigaray
(4) Susanne Langer
(5) Adriana Cavarero

As they all note, it's not a trivial question; there are lots of women philosophers, and it's difficult in their case to use direct influence as a proxy measure for estimating whether you are doing more than just indicating personal preferences, simply because the extent and nature of their influence has often depended on the culture of the day.

These questions are less interesting for who gets on the list than for who gets considered as a candidate and why. Assuming a standard of philosophical greatness in which we must have direct reasoning from the philosopher at first hand (thus eliminating very famous women philosophers like Hypatia, whose reasoning we can only guess at given a few anecdotes and the philosophical movements of the day, and a few fairly influential women philosophers like St. Macrina the Younger, whose reasoning we have but only second-hand), confining myself to those who are dead (since it is at least prima facie reasonable to hold that we need some distance in order to appreciate philosophers properly, and thus eliminating reasonable candidates like Onora O'Neill and Martha Nussbaum) and just using a purely subjective assessment of how seriously the philosopher should be taken today, this would be my first rough attempt (in no particular order):

(1) Lady Mary Shepherd
(2) Edith Stein
(3) Elizabeth Anscombe
(4) Simone de Beauvoir
(5) Simone Weil

But Arendt and Foot are both very reasonable candidates from the original lists, even under the conditions I've suggested. There are women philosophers I would recommend highly, of course, who aren't on the list. I think both Mary Astell and Catherine Trotter Cockburn are seriously worth anyone's time, for instance, but I don't know if I could point to anything giving me reason to rank them comparatively that much better than many other excellent women philosophers.

False Zeal

There is a maxim upon which as a foundation stone the little society of Calvario rests.... It is the following: "we must so earnestly take heed to ourselves, as to value nothing except in reference to the salvation and perfection of our own souls," and regard all that concerns our neighbour merely as a means of pleasing God or sanctifying ourselves.

This maxim excludes that false zeal which renders people more anxious about their neighbour's salvation than their own, the offspring of secret pride, through which a man shrinks from considering his own shortcomings and presumes to think himself necessary to his neighbour, as though his own affairs were all settled and in good order. This mode of acting is also a sign of little faith in the Goodness and Providence of God, as though He did not watch over mankind with a Father's care, without need of our assistance.

Antonio Rosmini, Letters, Chiefly on Religious Subjects, pp. 605-606.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Summer Days for Me

by Christina Rossetti

Winter is cold-hearted
Spring is yea and nay,
Autumn is a weather-cock
Blown every way:
Summer days for me
When every leaf is on its tree;

When Robin's not a beggar,
And Jenny Wren's a bride,
And larks hang singing, singing, singing,
Over the wheat-fields wide,
And anchored lilies ride,
And the pendulum spider
Swings from side to side,

And blue-black beetles transact business,
And gnats fly in a host,
And furry caterpillars hasten
That no time be lost,
And moths grow fat and thrive,
And ladybirds arrive.

Before green apples blush,
Before green nuts embrown,
Why, one day in the country
Is worth a month in town;
Is worth a day and a year
Of the dusty, musty, lag-last fashion
That days drone elsewhere.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Thursday Vice: Irony

The Greek word eironeia originally meant something like a fake or fictional ignorance. Aristotle (NE IV.7 1127a-1127b) uses it to describe a vice of defect opposing both the virtue of truthfulness about oneself and the excessive vice of boastfulness (alazoneia). It is not as blameworthy a vice as boastfulness, since the self-deprecating will tend to come across as more civilized than the boastful, but deliberately telling falsehoods is in itself an ignoble thing. He also speaks briefly of it in the Rhetoric (II.2 1379b, 1382b), noting that we tend to get angry at the ironical when we are being serious, because we interpret it as a sign of contempt for us, and also that the ironical can be something to fear because you can never be sure how close they are to doing something harmful to you -- they hide their real attitudes. On the other side, though, he also emphasizes the apparently civilized character of eironeia, because the ironical man tends to jest at his own expense rather than the expense of others.

Theophrastus in his Characters describes eironeia as "affectation of the worse in word or deed". The picture he paints is of a very dishonest man, the sort who treats his enemies as if they were friends -- to their faces, at least -- and who will never commit to saying what he is actually doing, hiding under the excuse that he is only thinking about things.

Aquinas's account of the virtue of truthfulness is much more expansive than Aristotle's, which was primarily about oneself, but he stays closer to Aristotle in describing the vice of ironia (ST 2-2.113), as it comes out in Latin. It is in some way saying something lesser about oneself. The act of saying lesser things about oneself than are strictly true could be done salva veritate, as a way of appropriately concealing one's greater qualities in a context in which they would distract from what is important; but the vice of ironia concerns cases in which one falls away from the truth, as when you attribute to yourself a failing you don't actually think you have, or when you deny something great about yourself that you are confident you do have. Such falling away from the truth is a kind of mendacity and is intrinsically wrong. Aquinas argues that Aristotle's ranking of irony as less bad than boastfulness is a matter of the usual motives behind them: the boastful are more likely to have a base motive of grasping after money or honors than the ironical are. Nonetheless, it can, he insists, be the case that irony is worse than boastfulness if its motives are worse.

Since ironia opposes truthfulness, which is a potential part of justice and thus a kind of justice-in-a-broad-sense, its wrongness constitutes a form of injustice -- against oneself, one assumes, although perhaps also indirectly against any kind of good, since it involves depreciating and obscuring good for one's own ends.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Class of Men Loathed for Their Vices

Yesterday was the Feast of the Protomartyrs of Rome, so here's a description of them from a non-Christian source, Tacitus (Annals 15.44):

But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians.

Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race.

And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts' skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his Gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his Circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. Hence, in spite of a guilt which had earned the most exemplary punishment, there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man.

A major fire, lasting for six days, had devastated the city of Rome; toward the end of the conflagration, a second fire broke out suddenly and unexpectedly. (This is the same fire that led to the story that 'Nero fiddled while Rome burned'.) And the rumor went around, and would not be squelched, that the Emperor Nero had actually started the second fire himself to make sure that the parts of the city he wanted to rebuild would have to be rebuilt. And even the Romans, who had no reason to be sympathetic with the Christians in general, had difficulty seeing the large-scale executions as anything other than an attempted scapegoating and distraction.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Analects, Books XVI-XVIII

Book XVI

Book XVI gives us longer, more complicated analects; it has also occasionally been noticed by commentators that some of it explicitly, and perhaps much of it implicitly, concerns the corruption of the family of Ji, as represented by the unreasonable and unjustified attack of Chi on the independent state of Zhuanyu. Confucius refuses to accept the excuse of Ran You that it is being done against his advice and insists that the action is a sign of internal weakness and bad advice (16.1). The next two analects seem to carry this theme forward.

We also get the lists of three, which seem to exist as a pedagogical tool for organizing important points. There are three kinds of beneficial friendship and three kinds of harmful friendship (16.4), three kinds of beneficial pleasure and three kinds of harmful pleasure (16.5), three mistakes made in attending on the noble (16.6), three things the noble guard against (16.7), three things the noble hold in awe (16.8), nine things to which the noble attend (16.10). We also get a ranking of knowers (16.9) and an interesting anecdote about Confucius's relationship with his son Boyu (16.13).


Book XVII, which seems to have a special concern with oppositions between appearance and reality, seems also to have clear links to the prior one. We begin again with the politics of the Ji family, since Yang Huo (17.1) was someone who usurped power from them and Gongshan Furao (17.4) was involved in a rebellion against them. We also get lists: the five practices relevant to ren (17.5), six hidden consequences (17.7), three weaknesses of antiquity and modernity (17.14), and hatreds (17.22). We also get a saying concerned with Confucius's relationship with is son (17.8).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book is the picture it gives of Master Kong, since we find him involved in some startling things. He is willing to work with a usurper (17.1), and to help rebels despite his shocked students arguing that it is against his principles (17.4; 17.6). He also gives a student advice to do as he deems best but then criticizes him when he leaves (17.19) and seems to be actively rude to another (17.20).


This book, unlike most of the others, has a very definite and very obvious theme: that of leaving. At 18.1, Master Kong praises those who fled the bad reign of Zhou. Liu Xia Hui, on the other hand, refuses to leave even when dismissed (18.2). When Duke Jing of Qi refuses to employ Master Kong, he leaves (18.3) and likewise leaves at the bad behavior of one of the family of Ji (18.4). Confucius hears the Madman of Chu singing a song about virtue and rushes out to find him, only to discover that the Madman has already left (18.5). Master Kong is criticized for not becoming a recluse (18.6) and a recluse is criticized for not participating in society (18.7). The end of the book is somewhat cryptic, but they carry forward the theme: 18.8 seems to look at motivations for retiring from the world, 18.9 seems to list examples of people who left for other places, 18.10 is about why the noble might not leave, and 18.11 seems to be a list of people who did not leave but stayed and participated.

Thus the book has to do with a standing problem: if your advice is not heeded, what is the proper course of action? Should you stay and keep trying, or should you leave? And the book's response seems to be that finding a solution to that is very complicated, and requires carefully considering a number of different issues.

to be continued

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Poem Re-Draft

This one is an adaptation of an old ballad.


Christ was looking to the heavens,
looking with a sigh and frown,
looking for the time of day;
'Judas, make my way,' he said,
'buy a room in Zion-town.'
Judas said, 'A stately dwelling
I will buy us for the feast,
Money rings within the wallet,
bells of silver, thirty piece.'
Judas searched then high and low,
Judas searched then broad and deep.
Nowhere did he find a dwelling,
nowhere was a room for having,
nowhere would his money buy it,
coins of silver, thirty piece.
Tired from his ceaseless searching,
ceased he then to nap a while,
deeply on the lawn he slumbered.
When he woke soon past the noon-hour,
nowhere could he find the purse,
nowhere could he find the money,
treasured silver, thirty piece.
Judas wept and beat his breast,
Crying, 'What can now be done?'
Judas wept for thought of failure,
wept (for what would others say?),
fearing to return to Jesus
without dwelling, without wallet,
without silver, thirty piece.

But a young man near was shouting,
'Have you heard? The priests have posted
prize for word to help them capture
Joshua the Nazorean,
trouble-making, rabble-raising:
prize of silver, thirty piece!
Straightway Satan spoke to Judas,
'Never has the Lord been caught,
Grasping hands he has eluded.
Can they capture one who conquers
blindness, sickness, lameness, death
walks on water, loaves and fishes
multiplies like subtle thoughts,
water turns to wedding wine?
Crowds he passes through unharmed!
If he from the temple height
were to fall, the Lord's own angels,
soaring down, would surely save him!
If he were in starving hunger,
stones he'd surely change to bread!
If he wanted all the kingdoms,
bright and splendid, of the world,
kings would fall before his power!'
So, like Christ had faced before him,
Judas faced the cunning tempter,
tempting with the touch of truth.
Judas to the scribes and priests
made a promise to betray,
promised to deliver Jesus.

Judas came again to Jesus,
saying he had found no place,
nowhere taking merely silver.
Christ then looked up to the heavens,
looking with a sigh and frown.
John he called, and also Peter,
gave to them a mission new:
'Silver cannot buy a dwelling,
time is short, too soon too late.
Go now quickly to the city.
When you enter in the gate
you will find a water-bearer;
let him guide you to his home.
Ask the master of the house
"Where is found the special room?
He who asks has pressing need."'

Judas followed, worries lightened
thinking how he was so clever,
how the priests he had outsmarted,
how he trusted in his Master,
thinking he would get the money,
shining silver, thirty piece.

A Person and A Story

The only two things that can satisfy the soul are a person and a story; and even a story must be about a person. There are indeed very voluptuous appetites and enjoyments in mere abstractions like mathematics, logic, or chess. But these mere pleasures of the mind are like mere pleasures of the body. That is, they are mere pleasures, though they may be gigantic pleasures; they can never by a mere increase of themselves amount to happiness. A man just about to be hanged may enjoy his breakfast; especially if it be his favourite breakfast; and in the same way he may enjoy an argument with the chaplain about heresy, especially if it is his favourite heresy. But whether he can enjoy either of them does not depend on either of them; it depends upon his spiritual attitude towards a subsequent event. And that event is really interesting to the soul; because it is the end of a story and (as some hold) the end of a person.

G. K. Chesterton, "The Priest of Spring", A Miscellany of Men.