Friday, July 22, 2011

An interview with author, Dr. Adam DeVille

Dr. Adam DeVille is a professor at the University of St. Francis, an editor of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, the author of "Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy," and most recently a speaker at this year's Orientale Lumen Conference. He was kind enough to answer a few questions on his many efforts for this blog.

1. Would you speak a little on LOGOS? What sort of material is covered in the journal and how did you get involved as an editor?

Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies began publishing in 1950. After a low period in the late 1980s, it was revived in 1993 and revised again in 2005. It is the oldest scholarly journal publishing in Eastern Christianity in North America. It is published twice a year in two double volumes.

I began as a lowly copy editor in 2002, was made associate editor in 2005, and took over as full editor in 2008.

The journal tries to hold three things in tension: first, to be open to scholarship from both Catholic and Orthodox sources. Second, to be scholarly and academic, but also open to and supportive of pastoral renewal of our churches. To that end, it publishes not only leading peer-reviewed scholarship in the form of articles, but it also publishes shorter essays, notes, lectures, and book reviews that should be accessible and intelligible to the generally educated layperson or parish priest. Third, while being based in North America, the journal also has ties to the churches of Ukraine. We therefore publish articles in Ukrainian—as well as English and French.

2. This year Notre Dame Press published your book "Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy." What was the impetus behind the writing of your book? Were there any surprises along the way while you did research for it?

The book began as my doctoral dissertation at the Sheptytsky Institute at Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. But I hasten to add that it was of course edited after that, and is free of “dissertationese” which sometimes plagues some books! In fact, I’ve been told by several people that it reads like a fast-paced historical novel in some respects.

The impetus for writing came from two long-standing interests of mine: the problem of authority in general; and the problem of Christian division. I have been involved in various ecumenical organizations for over twenty years now, and the search for East-West unity remains hugely important to me.

Surprises: Yes, quite a few, particularly concerning ecclesial structures. The book demolishes, I think, what I came to regard as one of the received myths of ecclesial governance whereby, the stereotypes allege, governance in the West is always papal, monarchical, and centralized; and governance in the East is always patriarchal, decentralized, and synodal. If you know what you are talking about, you know that’s just a lot of rubbish on both sides. There is a long-standing history of synodal governance in the Western Church—real synodal governance, with legislative authority, and not the pretend synods they have now in Rome—until at least the end of the eleventh century; and there are many examples in the East of patriarchs having powers that the popes of Rome, even in their most acutely ultramontane moments, would never of dreamed of having, let alone exercising. Two examples illustrate this: Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073-1085), one of the most revolutionary popes in history, did not dare press his far-reaching and dramatic reforms without the advice and support of his synod. Patriarch Alexy I (r. 1945-1970) of Moscow was granted incredible powers (what the Orthodox theologian John Erickson has called “neo-papalist’’ powers), making him a “super-patriarch” in many ways under the 1945 statutes governing the Russian Church. If one knows 11th-century history and the Investiture Crisis, one can understand Gregory VII; and if one knows 20th-century history, one will understand why Alexy was granted those powers.

3. Only a few days ago you spoke at the 15th annual Orientale Lumen Conference in Washington, DC. How was that experience? Also, you mentioned in your talk that the Q&A period is often the most enjoyable part of the conference experience. Were there any post-talk discussions that you found enlightening or that stood out?

Orientale Lumen was fantastic. Lots of wonderful people there, including the speakers. It was a delight to finally be able to meet people like Archimandrite Robert Taft and Met. Kallistos Ware. I have, of course, read both of them for years now, but it was a high honor to be on a panel with them and engage in dialogue with them. But even more than those two eminences, I enjoyed meeting Msgr. Michael Magee, with whom a vigorous and very helpful critical discussion ensued over parts of my book. And then there was Sr. Vassa Larin, a nun of ROCOR now teaching in Vienna. Forgive the cliché, but she was a complete breath of fresh air and I found both her talk and our other conversations very edifying.

4. What prompted you to start your "Eastern Christian Books" blog?

Practicality. There has been a massive explosion of publications in Eastern Christian studies in the last decade, and the blog is an attempt at keeping track of them. My desk has towering piles of new books on it which I, as editor of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, am constantly receiving from publishers for review. The blog began, in part, as a means to help me keep track of them and keep track also of all the e-mails and catalogues I receive telling me of yet more books forthcoming. I was gratified to be told last week at Orientale Lumen by several people how helpful they find the blog in making these books more widely known. Some of these books, of course, come from very small and obscure publishers so I’m happy to ferret them out, as it were, and let people know about them.

5. Having looked at the past of Orthodox-Catholic relations, do you think history can give us any guide to how things might proceed from here? Do the joint efforts to fight secularization, to protect the traditional family, and protecting life from conception to a natural death bode well for Church relations?

I certainly hope so. In this regard I am heartened by the example of Met. Hilarion Alfeyev of the Russian Church to encourage Orthodox and Catholics to join together in battle on just these sorts of issues. If the past is anything to go by, I think that some time “in the trenches” as it were will bring us closer together in deeper solidarity from which full communion will continue to grow.

6. Recently the Orthodox "Chambésy" process for regularizing the so-called diaspora hit an unexpected snag when the Canadian bishops requested a separate assembly for Canada. Having lived in Canada, is there a distinction to be made between Orthodoxy/Eastern Catholicism in the US and in Canada?

No. None whatsoever (apart, of course, from size, which is irrelevant and of no consequence). The idea is completely risible, though that will not, has not, stopped the Canadians from making it, to their everlasting shame. I’ve spent twenty years going to ecumenical gatherings on five of the world’s seven continents, and at every one I was placed in the agonizing position of listening to the endless sanctimonious whining of my fellow Canadians about how they are different from Americans. Such nationalist carping was, of course, vacuous but nonetheless always conducted in a “de haut en bas” fashion, a sure sign of the bottomless insecurity of Canadians. When pressed to provide examples of this, I remember clearly in Canberra, Australia in 1991 some of my compatriots coming up with (no joke) maple syrup as a symbol of “Canadian identity.” What? There are no trees in Vermont? Give me a break.

7. Having studied synodality in both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, where do you fall on the comments made during the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops last year that pastoral care for Eastern Catholics should extend beyond current borders and that dioceses outside the traditional territories should be subject to their patriarchs and not the Pope of Rome?

I am entirely in favour of both eminently sensible suggestions. The idea (as the late Ukrainian Orthodox Archbishop Vsevelod of blessed memory used to say) that all patriarchates in the world have geographical limits, but the patriarchate of Rome has none, is absurd. It is wholly without justification—historical, theological, or practical—for Rome to claim the entire world as its “territory” while everyone else is somehow limited to these quaint “homelands” (which Robert Taft, at Orientale Lumen last week, likened to “Indian reservations” in the US), many of which, thanks to modern emigration, have very few of their faithful in them today anyway.

But—as Met. Kallistos Ware said last week at Orientale Lumen—the questions of geography, of “canonical territory” bedevil us all and, I think, can only be solved in common.

The one thing Rome seems incapable of realizing is that failing to grant these rights of governance to the Eastern Churches wherever they are found is precisely the kind of HUGE stumbling block to the Orthodox, of which they take very careful notice. Again, as Abp. Vsevelod used to say, restricting Eastern Catholics in these ways says to the Orthodox that Rome not only fails to respect the autonomy of the Eastern Churches but is not interested in doing so. The Orthodox will never submit to this kind of treatment and rightly so.

8. You recently interviewed Fr. Michael Plekon on your website. Can you speak a little bit on how the interview came about and what was discussed?

Sure. I began a series of interviews just a few weeks ago with the retired OCA Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist), who actually ordained Fr. Michael Plekon to the priesthood. These interviews were a bit of a brainwave out of the blue, as it were--though I'm sure the idea was influenced subconsciously by Fr. Bill Mills, a friend and OCA priest who has been wonderful in helping me, as a first-time (book) author myself, figure out that any promotion of books really boils down to what you do yourself. So I began the interviews as a way to help Eastern Christian authors say more about their books and thus, I hope, promote and sell them.

I have been corresponding with Fr. Michael for more than five years, and he has become an absolutely invaluable reviewer for and contributor to LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. Last summer I had the happy opportunity of finally meeting him, first in Ottawa at the Sheptytsky Institute's Study Days, where he was a keynote speaker; and then a few weeks later when we met for lunch in Connecticut.

As I said in the interview, all anglophones interested in Orthodoxy owe Fr. Michael a great debt for his on-going work with the University of Notre Dame Press to make francophone Orthodoxy accessible via English translation. The works of, inter alia, Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, Antoine Arjakovsky, and Nicholas Afanasiev are now reaching English audiences thanks to Plekon's editorial work with UND Press. But Plekon has written many other fascinating books that he discusses in the interview, including a "trilogy"on holiness in our time. This trilogy is especially valuable, I would suggest, in counteracting the mindset of some Eastern Christians who seem to want to inflict a neo-Cypriannic ecclesiology of the most sectarian sort on Orthodoxy today, treating, for example, Catholics as in need of "'rebaptism," "'re-chrismation," "re-ordination" and sacrilegious nonsense like that totally at odds with even very recent Orthodox theology and practice. Plekon shows that holiness, precisely if it is an authentic fruit of the Holy Spirit, is not limited to institutional boundaries. Now Plekon is not a relativist, and in an essay published last year in a collection edited by Peter Berger (*Between Relativism and Fundamentalism*, Eerdmans, 2010), he shows how it is possible to be both committed to the fullness of truth of Orthodoxy and yet graciously open to others. That is a marvelous balance.

9. What will be in the next LOGOS publication and where can people go to get a copy? Is there a digital subscription or any plans for one? And on your book, I expect it's available on Amazon, but is a Kindle/Nook version also available?

The contents of the current issue of Logos, at the printer right now, are detailed here.

As for a digital publication, I have been pushing for this for years....It remains a very great desideratum of mine. I am hopeful that within the next year we should see progress on this score.

UND Press does not yet think in those terms from what I can see. I would like it to be electronically available, but it is not.

10. Thanks for your time. I hope your efforts continue to be fruitful and look forward to reading your book in the near future.

Thank you very much. Do let me know your thoughts on the book.

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