Thursday, May 07, 2009

James the Thickhead's Comments and the Psychology of Jurisdictionalism

James the Thickhead's Comments and the Psychology of Jurisdictionalism

My post on the psychological roots of jurisdictionalism seems to have struck a cord with people. Let me say upfront, I most think of my blog as a way to think out loud about the psychological and pastoral issues that interest me. For this reason, my posts are more often then not “though experiments” that I'm offering to people for their comments and criticism.

Doing scholarship this way is important if we want our reflection on the life of the Church to be a work of the Church and not merely—as some of you have rightly pointed out about my recent posts—the theoretical reflections of one individual.

In their recent comments, both James the Thickheaded and Robert have helped me clarify my own thinking on the psychological structure of jurisdictionalism. Today, I will respond to James and tomorrow to Robert.

James is right I think when he says:

I am puzzled by the analysis of the problem as psychological primarily rather than sociological. Surely the two are related, but this seems a failure - as a friend is wont to put it - to learn to play nicely in the sandbox. Is that psychological or social? I think the latter... though it may stem from other internal causes. Is it insecurity? Sure. But it may be more consistent with studies of behavior problems due to economic status rather than theology. I'm aware of quite a few of the former studies... but not so many on the latter.

Let all thinkers, I have my own biases, personal and methodological. And my bias tend toward emphasizing the psychological rather than the sociological.

While I wouldn't discount the economic factors, it seems to me that jurisdictionalism is too broad a reality in the Church to be simply a matter of economic or social setting. It interests me, for example, that jurisdictionalism is not simply an Orthodox problem. We see it as well in the Catholic Church with not only overlapping Eastern Catholic dioceses (e.g., Melkites, Ruthenians, Ukrainian and Romanian Catholics all using the Byzantine rite in the same geographical territory) but also the overlapping of Latin and Eastern Catholic Diocese (e.g., in the Middle East and Eastern Europe). And there is now the variety of continuing Anglican communities in the North America that are outposts of dioceses that are overseas and in communion with one another.

Again, while I wouldn't discount theology, it seems to me that jurisdictionalism is an increasing equal opportunity temptation for communities with different ecclesiological models and sacramental theologies.

Granted, individuals and communities can have a variety of motives for how they organize themselves. And I would grant as well that often these different motivations are not only contradictory when looked at between traditions, there is often inconsistencies, contradictions and outright failure even within a given community. That said, consistency is not necessarily a virtue and inconsistency, by the same token, is not necessarily a vice.

But it does seem to me interesting that Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican communities ALL seem to have embraced some form of jurisdictionalism. I'm not sure what to make of this except to make not of it and to wonder if we might want to at least consider if we share a common shortcoming.

As always, your comments, questions and criticism are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory