More on the Asceticism Talk

In reference to the previous post, a couple of commenters and correspondents (here and elsewhere) have inquired whether I think something is deceptive going on, or to suggest this is in the realm of “departure from prepared remarks.” Before saying anything further, I’ll emphasize that I’m not trying to make the proverbial mountain from a molehill. I’m mainly curious as these particular circumstances.

I’ll summarize the points that drive my curiosity thusly:

  1. The talk as actually given departs significantly from the distributed text. The actual talk is twice as long as the Talk of Record (by word count). The Talk of Record is more organized, if not terribly focused or practical, while the actual talk meanders around some nice images (e.g., shimmering creation, compartmentalized life), some current events (e.g., gay marriage), and concludes with self-offering and unconditional love.
  2. The actual talk overlaps with the Talk of Record by only one-third or so. It’s a lot more than an excursus. Schmemann didn’t make it into the live version, but quotations from Schmemann form a huge part of the Talk of Record.
  3. I do not understand why at least one actual attendee, not to mention Acton’s own site, speak of the Talk of Record as if it were what was actually delivered, with no qualifiers like, “His Beatitude enriched his prepared remarks with some extemporaneous but poignant insights.” The Talk of Record has been mentioned in numerous fora, but no one (that I’ve seen) has highlighted the differences between it and the actual talk.
  4. The actual address barely touches on many of the practical interests of the Acton Institute, its faculty, and the attendees, pro or con. I don’t think the Talk of Record did either, but it was closer.
  5. Acton has chosen not to release the audio, even though it’s a keynote, where nearly all of the conference attendees were present (following dinner). In other words, it was a speech in prime time, given by a person listed on the marquee.
Do I think there’s deception going on? I don’t know. I published the actual text, first and foremost, because the Talk of Record was being used to defend or attack various points at issue with regard to His Beatitude. In that event, it would be helpful to have what was really said, not the sweetened, condensed version. [UPDATE 7/15: What I hope is my last response on this is here.]

2 comments on this post.
  1. Matushka Jan Koczak:

    Fr. Basil, I’m puzzled by this. A reader on another site said that “Apparently, Fr. Basil is unfamiliar with extemporaneous public speaking and the concept of “going off on a tangent.” If our Metropolitan Jonah had prepared remarks, as evidenced by what was posted by Acton and other (Orthodox Christian) blogs, that is not extemporaneous speech. From the Merriam Webster dictionary definition of extemporaneous: a (1) : composed, performed, or uttered on the spur of the moment : impromptu (2) : carefully prepared but delivered without notes or text.

    I think it would have been appropriate and a better stance for Acton and all re-posters of His Beatitude’s remarks to note that here they are posting his prepared, written remarks, but his actual speech varied, and post a transcript of the actual remarks, as you have done.

    It’s strange. I do not want to speculate as to the reason this happened.

    Thanks for enlightening us.

  2. Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell:

    I work as a speechwriter, but not for His Beatitude. My life would be hell if I had to produce transcripts of every talk my speakers give. We routinely post and distribute prepared remarks that always differ in some way from actual remarks, some more, some less. We don’t usually label them as prepared remarks unless the difference is great. Sometimes we don’t post or distribute prepared remarks if the actual remarks are mostly extemporaneous. Maybe that should have been done in the Acton case, but it’s hardly a crime that it wasn’t. Why do you suspect deception? Who would he have been trying to deceive? And what did he deceive them about?