Fleming Rutledge is a preacher and teacher known throughout the mainline Protestant denominations of the US, Canada and parts of the UK. She is the author of seven books and has received a grant from the Louisville Foundation to complete a book about the meaning of the Crucifixion.
One of the first women to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, she served for fourteen years on the clergy staff at Grace Church on Lower Broadway at Tenth Street, New York City.
Fleming and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2009 and have two daughters and two grandchildren. She is a native of Franklin, Virginia.
What is generous orthodoxy? A statement of purpose
The word ortho-doxy (Greek for "right doctrine") has both positive and negative connotations. In a culture that prizes what is iconoclastic and transgressive, orthodoxy has come to sound constricted and unimaginative at best, oppressive and tyrannical at worst.
The position taken on this website is that we cannot do without orthodoxy, for everything else must be tested against it, but that orthodox (traditional, classical) Christian faith should by definition always be generous as our God is generous; lavish in his creation, binding himself in an unconditional covenant, revealing himself in the calling of a people, self-sacrificing in the death of his Son, prodigal in the gifts of the Spirit, justifying the ungodly and indeed, offending the "righteous" by the indiscriminate nature of his favor. True Christian orthodoxy therefore cannot be narrow, pinched, or defensive but always spacious, adventurous and unafraid.
Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013
To all those faithful friends and readers who prayed and inquired: 16 days on the beautiful, wonderful Outer Cape (Cod) did the trick. By the grace of God my 18-year struggle is almost done. The Crucifixion (which awaits a subtitle) is essentially finished. Months of revision await, and much work on 1500+ footnotes, but the heavy lifting is over. I am so thankful.
A second film about the Nazi occupation of Rome
Friday, May 17, 2013After seeing The Scarlet and the Black, a made-for-television movie telling the astonishing true story of a heroic Roman Catholic priest in the Vatican during the Nazi occupation of Rome (see previous post), I went back to my Criterion Collection and viewed Rome, Open City (Roma, Città Aperta) for the second time. A famous masterpiece by Roberto Rossellini, this one was the first major film to make its mark in the now-distinguished tradition of Italian neorealism (The Bicycle Thieves, by Vittorio de Sica, is the most honored of the genre). Open City introduced Anna Magnani to the world, in an electrifying performance and a deeply shocking and unforgettable climactic scene. The film is a fictional treatment of the terrors of the occupation, the courage of the underground resistance, and the struggles of ordinary people to maintain some sort of decency.
Most notable from the point of view of this blog post, Open City is profoundly Christian (despite Rossellini's repeated insistence that he didn't believe anything). Again there is a heroic priest, Don Pietro, and there are two striking images which refer very clearly to Michelangelo's Pietà and to the crucifixion itself. Don Pietro prays in the words of Jesus that his tormentors be forgiven. Most notable of all is the scene where Don Pietro is told by a craven fellow priest, obviously a collaborator, to have courage. Don Pietro says calmly but with a touch of irony, "It is easy to die a good death. What is difficult is to live a good life."
A true Christian soldier, insufficiently recognized
Thursday, May 16, 2013Have you ever heard of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, the "Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican"? Despite my lifelong interest in everything concerned with resistance to Hitler and other tyrannies, I knew absolutely nothing about this remarkable Irishman, a Roman Catholic priest who, from his post as senior official of the Roman Curia in the Vatican during World War II, presided over the protection and rescue of some 6,500 Allied prisoners of war and Jews. This was during the period of Pope Pius XII's strict neutrality, which is still being hotly debated as the contested procedure for his canonization continues.
A made-for-television movie, The Scarlet and the Black (not to be confused with Stendahl's The Red and the Black/ Le Rouge et le Noir) was made in 1983, and I have only now caught up with it, at the recommendation of a discerning friend (like virtually everything else in the world, it's available on Amazon). It's stunning, a story that everyone should know. In spite of clunky dialogue, cartoonish Nazis, stereotypical blond German wives and children, formulaic scenes, Christopher Plummer in his villainous mode yet again, and a miscast Gregory Peck (with an absurd pseudo-Irish accent), the film succeeds very well and holds the viewer's attention throughout. A half hour on the Internet seems to confirm that the true story of Msgr. Flaherty was even more remarkable than the movie, which follows the facts fairly closely in its overall plot. The ending is breathtaking, and should be of greatest interest to anyone interested in Christian ethical dilemmas. The various online biographies of Flaherty reinforce the accuracy of the story of his relationship with the Gestapo commander, Herbert Kappler (the Plummer character). The final scenes offer a view of Christian forgiveness that, while somewhat formulaic on the surface, actually goes quite deep and redeems the ending from sentimentality. Plummer's acting here at the end becomes impressive in its subtlety.
Sir John Gielgud does not look at all like the ascetic Pius XII, but turns in a canny performance. It is difficult to make a final determination about this Pope's behaviour during the Nazi era. Just as portrayed in The Scarlet and the Black, Pius XII believed that the physical preservation of the Vatican's art collection was crucial to the survival of the church. But was it? For the most part, it is only the elite who are able to commission art and collect paintings and sculpture. What does this say about the church's commitment to those who suffer most in war--not the connoisseurs who lose their handsome possessions, but those on the bottom rungs who have no resources and no contacts? The entire question of Pius XII is vexed, and bears some resemblance to the question of the present pope's silence during the Dirty War in Argentina, a matter likely to be debated for decades. (See my previous post on this subject.)
The details of Hugh O'Flaherty's life are readily available on the Internet. He is honored in the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, was granted the CBE and the Congressional Medal of Honor. Yet few have ever heard of him. In these days when the Catholic clergy are suffering from suspicion and disdain no matter what they have done or not done, there should be more efforts to publicize great servants of the Lord like Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty.
I highly recommend this film. It would be an excellent choice for church groups and youth groups.
Latest Tips From the Times
Glenda Jackson assails Margaret Thatcher's "spiritual" legacy
Sunday, April 14, 2013Wow...check out the performance of the famous actress Glenda Jackson--now a Labour member of Parliament--as she describes what Margaret Thatcher did to undermine "the spiritual foundations of our country." Whatever you may have thought about Mrs. Thatcher, this is well worth your consideration!
Glenda Jackson on Thatcherism: