Sister Vassa Larin is not a Catholic apologist. Sister Vassa is not even Catholic. Sister is a nun with the traditionalist Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)–a group that prior to its recent reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate was often compared to the SSPX within the Catholic world. Sister also boasts a doctorate in Eastern theology, which makes her a Russian Orthodox theologian as well.
Sister Vassa is the closest Eastern Orthodox equivalent to EWTN-founder Mother Angelica. With a zeal for Christ and a genius for media, she proudly wears her habit as an orthodox (and Orthodox) nun. She is popular among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics alike, and she is quite friendly toward her Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters–especially for a Russian Orthodox traditionalist.
Sister Vassa can now add another title to her already impressive list. That of competent and common sense apologist for Pope Francis.
In the latest Saturday Morning Live, broadcast Great and Holy Saturday, Sister Vassa defends Pope Francis over recent comments attributed to him in the media by Scalfari over hell. Reports that have caused many so-called conservative Catholic apologists and commentators within the English-speaking world to turn against Pope Francis and accuse him of spreading confusion and error. Sister Vassa’s apologetic for the Holy Father begins around 13:20 into the broadcast:
Sister Vassa’s commentary and apologia for Pope Francis is one that demonstrates a clear grasp of the issue. As noted by my friend Rosemarie Scott after viewing Sister Vassa’s apologia on my facebook wall:
If only [Pope Francis’s] Catholic critics could have such grace and charity toward him. She’s right, it is not healthy for Christians to not give him the benefit of the doubt, especially when the doubt is this substantial: an alleged paraphrase of something he supposedly said in a private discussion which flatly contradicts multiple clear statements he made publicly in the past, coming from an atheist who has misrepresented his words before.
I agree. Both with Sister Vassa and with my friend Rosemarie. But then again Rosemarie and I come from a different era of Catholic apologetics. Like Pepperidge Farms, we remember when popular Catholic apologists in the English-speaking world defended the reigning Roman Pontiff and his magisterial teachings.
It seems that over the past six months the task of defending Pope Francis in the United States now falls to Eastern Orthodox moral philosophers and theologians. First David Bentley Hart and Aristotle Papanikolaou defended Pope Francis from Ed Feser and other American Catholic apologists who equate capital punishment with the Mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Now Sister Vassa has exposed Catholic critics like Phil Lawler who accuse Pope Francis of undermining Catholic teaching on hell. If Mother Angelica were alive and broadcasting today, being too politically liberal and papolatrist for many of today’s Catholic media in the English-speaking world (including possibly EWTN which she founded), I am sure Mother would enjoy coffee with Sister Vassa.
Pete Vere is a canonist, author, and catechist. His books include Surprised by Canon Law (volumes 1 & 2), More Catholic Than The Pope, and Annulments: 100 Questions and Answers. Pete and wife Sonya are blessed with seven children. In his spare time Pete enjoys camping with his family, riding his Indian Scout motorcycle, and refereeing professional wrestling.