GARRY WILLS'S ASSAULT ON CHRISTIAN FAITH
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The Eucharist & Politics
D.Q. McInerny On Science Sans Context
Maria Hsia Chang
Finding the Christ in His Apostles
If we don’t defend life and family, who will?
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Longevity & Faithfulness
Letters to the Editor
The News You May Have Missed
New Oxford Notes
Maria Hsia Chang
Finding the Christ in His Apostles
On Science sans Context
Paul J. Utterback
The Devil in Our Midst
On “Politicizing” the Eucharist
Lawrence B. Porter
Review of Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition by Garry Wills
The NEW OXFORD REVIEW (USPS 017-920; ISSN 0149-4244) is published monthly except for combined January-February and July-August issues by New Oxford Review Inc. Editorial, Business, and Subscription Office: 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706. Phone: 510-526-5374. FAX: 510-526-3492. Subscriptions are $24 for one year ($19 for students, the unemployed, or retired persons); $43 for two years; $59 for three years. Non-U.S. subscriptions add $12 per year. Payment must accompany order and be drawn in U.S. Dollars. Single copy price: $4.25. Periodicals postage paid at Berkeley CA 94704. Opinions expressed in the NEW OXFORD REVIEW are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Board of Directors of New Oxford Review Inc. or the persons listed on this masthead. All letters, parts of letters, or notes pertaining to this magazine or its contents are considered to be offered for possible publication unless marked “Not for publication.” Unsolicited manuscripts should be sent to: Pieter Vree, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706-2260. They must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope with sufficient postage or they will not be returned. The NEW OXFORD REVIEW assumes no liability for return of unsolicited manuscripts or material. Those who have material of whatever kind accepted for publication must recognize that it is always an editor’s prerogative to edit and shorten said material. Book catalogues and review copies of books should be sent to Barbara E. Rose, 3822 Drakewood Dr., Cincinnati OH 45209. Advertising inquiries should be sent to Pieter Vree, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706. This magazine occasionally rents its mailing list to other organizations for direct mail purposes. If you want your name excluded, please write us. The NEW OXFORD REVIEW is indexed in Guide to Social Science and Religion in Periodical Literature. Published under the patronage of St. Vincent Pallotti. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to NEW OXFORD REVIEW, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706. © Copyright 2013 by New Oxford Review Inc. DECEMBER 2013
Volume LXXX Number 10 December 2013 PUBLISHER EDITOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR ASST. MANAGING EDITOR BOOK REVIEW EDITOR EDITOR EMERITUS WEB EDITOR ASSISTANT WEB EDITOR COPY EDITORS
New Oxford Review Inc. Pieter Vree Michael S. Rose Elena M. Vree Rosario Vree Barbara E. Rose Dale Vree Michael S. Rose Marjory Bates Stephen J. Kovacs Roberta Maguire Beverly Morgan Nan Rohan Steven Silva CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Tom Bethell L. Brent Bozell = Judie Brown Anne Barbeau Gardiner James G. Hanink Mitchell Kalpakgian Karl Keating Christopher Lasch = John Lukacs A. James McAdams William D. Miller = Arthur C. Sippo William J. Tighe Sheldon Vanauken = Alice von Hildebrand 3
editorial Longevity & Faithfulness Seeking longevity in a transitory world seems at times a fool’s errand. The NOR has been in continuous print since February 1977 and, during these thirty-six years (the next issue will mark our thirtyseventh anniversary), we’ve seen a good many colleagues and competitors come and go — some bursting onto the scene with grand ambition and deep funding, only to fall with a resounding thud; others seeking merely to present humble alternatives to the “big boys,” arriving quietly and disappearing in the same manner. We mention this not to gloat about being one of the remaining magazines in this fickle market, but because the precariousness of our existence has been ever-present in the back of our minds — we could easily have been, and could easily become, one of the casualties. Of late that thought has been creeping to the fore. Our existence is more precarious today than at any point in the past two decades. To use a cliché: As soon as we plug up one hole, another one opens up. The hole most recently plugged was that, to our relief, we have reached our fundraising goal of $197,000, set in October 2012. We are exceedingly grateful to those of you who came to our aid, not only with monetary assistance but with prayer. But we’ve had no time to celebrate: Right after our readers’ achievement was announced at our annual board meeting this fall, the other hole presented itself: In the past fiscal year we suffered a nine percent drop in overall readership. While not a hair-raising figure, it is part of a seemingly ineluctable trend that we’ve been able to buck only once in the past decade. So we’ve had to allocate some of the funds raised during this drive toward advertising, both in print and through direct mail. In the new year we will begin our project of making the NOR available 4
on tablet and e-book platforms, one of the primary purposes for raising these funds. (The other was to offset the inevitable losses we incurred in 2011 and 2012.) Now we find ourselves in a peculiar situation: We’ve raised money through the generosity of our readers, but at the same time we can’t seem to keep from losing readers. And in this, we’re not alone. Across the aisle, the National Catholic Reporter has entered into a similar conundrum, though on a much larger scale. The flagship publication of progressive Catholicism was recently awarded a $2.3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to “give greater voice to countless Catholic sisters around the globe” — which is in step with what NCR has already been doing, especially since the Vatican launched its apostolic visitation of women’s religious orders in 2009. Conrad Hilton was, of course, the founder of the Hilton Hotel chain (and he was indirectly responsible for unleashing debauched celebrity Paris Hilton on the world; she’s his great-granddaughter). NCR’s editors announced (Sept. 13) that they will use the Hilton windfall, which will be doled out over a three-year period, “to build a network of editors and reporters not only to write about women religious, but to help them develop their own communication skills by working with them as columnists who report their own missions and challenges.” This will primarily entail “creating a website dedicated to the sisters’ stories and voices and will include some of its content on NCR’s other media platforms.” Imagine, a cool $2.3 mil! We don’t dare to even dream of such a magnificent sum; we’re pleased as punch to have raised 8.5 percent of that amount in little over a year. As we never tire of reminding our readers, the NOR isn’t on any foundation’s list of bounty recipients; we rely solely on our readers for sustenance and hence are only accountable to them. Foundation money never comes free of strings: NCR Publisher Thomas Fox wrote (Oct. 11) that “the grant will require some internal company changes as we work to build our coverage networks. Specifically, by year’s end I hope to relinquish my responsibilities as company president/CEO.” Fox also warned that the grant isn’t a panacea for all of NCR’s problems. “Like virtually every
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other media organization,” he writes, “we are in a transition from print to electronic journalism.” The NCR “print product,” as he calls it (funny, we never thought of the NOR in those terms), “has been our bread and butter for nearly five decades. But the future is clearly electronic.” How clear is it? NCR’s 2013 Statement of Ownership, Management & Circulation, a form the U.S. Postal Service requires every publication to file and print annually, which appeared in the same issue as Fox’s editorial, shows that its paid print circulation, which held steady for the past few years at around 40,000, has dropped to the 34,000 range — roughly a 15 percent decline. Meanwhile, Fox mentions that the traffic at NCR’s website has “dramatically increased in the past three years.” It’s not difficult to read between the lines. But even this seemingly positive news about the growth of NCR’s online operation isn’t without complications: “We face the same problem other media outlets face: funding the enterprise,” Fox admits. “Very few news outlets have found successful business models to pay for these amazing technological innovations.” Which raises the question: Once the three years of receiving the Hilton grant are up, then what? Luckily for NCR, its donor base is incredibly robust. Every September it prints its annual listing of the “Friends of NCR” — the equivalent of the NOR Associates list published in every March NOR — and this year’s edition far exceeded last year’s in both the number of donors and the amount of money raised. For example, four more parties donated $10,000 and above to NCR this year than last; six more parties donated $1,000-$4,999; and nineteen more parties donated $500-$999. Some interesting names appear among the high rollers. In the top category of donors one finds the Sisters of Providence-WA, the Sisters of Saint Anne-Internationally, and the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For those interested in numerology, perhaps something could be made of the fact that thirteen other orders of sisters are accounted for in the other three categories. Other noteworthy donors include Raymond Hunthausen, the retired archbishop of Seattle, and the Rev. Peter C. Phan — both of whom have had run-ins with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Progressive Catholic donors really do put their money where their mouths are — they’re exceedingly generous in sustaining NCR as the DECEMBER 2013
mouthpiece for progressive Catholicism. In short, it appears that the money being funneled into NCR is considerable and ongoing. They’re fairly rolling in dough! Yet all the money in the world can’t stop the hemorrhaging of readers. Adapt or die is the mantra thrown at print publishers these days. We’ve heard that cry — and its more specific spin-off, go digital or die — ad nauseam. But without a model to make it a financial success, that mantra is more a “both/and” than an “either/or” proposition, especially when people have come to expect online content to be free of charge. Adapting to a non-paid site without a deep funding source is a sure path to suicide. We understood this back in 2005 when we launched our website, www. newoxfordreview.org, which is a pay site. Secular news outlets like The New York Times are only now getting around to figuring this out. Still, only in good years does the NOR’s website manage to break even (when the money we put into it is equal to the money we get out of it); in normal years, our website runs at a deficit. The adapt or die idea isn’t as simple as it seems. Back on our side of the aisle, the news is even worse for the old standard-bearer The Wanderer, the “conservative” counterpart to NCR. Over the past few years its paid circulation held fairly constant in the 15,000 range; this past year its paid circulation, as reported in its own Statement of Ownership, dipped to under 11,000 — an alarming 27 percent drop. That figure is even more troubling when one considers that in its heyday in the confusing daze of the 1970s, The Wanderer boasted a circulation of over 45,000. (For the record, our Statement of Ownership can be found on page 44 of this issue.)
Thinking Long-Term To remember the NEW OXFORD REVIEW in your will is to show a serious commitment to strengthening what the NOR stands for. The following language is suggested for making a bequest: “I give to New Oxford Review Inc., a California not-for-profit corporation whose address is 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706-2260, the sum of $ , to be used for the benefit of the NEW OXFORD REVIEW.”
While we’d like nothing more than to point to NCR’s circulation struggles as a sure sign of the exhaustion of the progressive Catholic paradigm, that would merely be an exercise in wishful thinking. The lesson here is that a publication’s theological inclinations have little to no bearing on its overall health. Liberal, conservative, progressive, traditional, ecumenist, orthodox — in every instance contraction is the order of the day. We wonder whether we are witnessing the death throes of independent Catholic journalism. (And don’t try to tell us that bloggers present a reasonable, reliable alternative: Any kook versed in WordPress can start his own blog, spout off, and generate a following of like-minded kooks. There is simply no journalistic standard applied or expected, even in the Catholic blogosphere.) What, then, will we be left with? A recent Religion News Service dispatch (Oct. 17), which reports on a similar phenomenon that has been plaguing the publishing efforts of our separated brethren, is instructive: “The closing of several Protestant denominational newspapers, magazines and other news services has played a part in eroding the standards of professional religious journalism.” The worry is that the remaining publications, in order to stay financially viable — merely to continue to exist! — will be reduced to “playing public relations roles for their denominations.” Jay Voorhees, executive editor of The United Methodist Reporter, which ceased its print publication and went online entirely this May, said that print models are no longer financially viable. “The reality is that it’s very, very difficult to find a funding model that will allow for independent journalism that is not simply regurgitating what is coming out in press releases from denominational agencies.” Regardless of what one thinks of the tone or theological perspective of either NCR or The Wanderer, we can all agree that neither one exists to regurgitate the party line, to make the Catholic Church “look good.” (Other national Catholic publications in essence already do this, acting as cheerleaders for the Church. We don’t believe that to be the raison d’être of the independent Catholic press. Where churchmen, even high churchmen, are out of line, it is the duty of the independent Catholic press to say so — and to say so without fear.) Both NCR and The Wanderer hold the hierarchy’s feet to the fire, as it were — for very distinct reasons, of course. 6
That, in itself, is enough to validate their continued existence. (As for the argument that NCR promotes dissension from Church teachings, it could also be argued that the dissent already exists on the part of at least 34,000 American Catholics, and that NCR merely gives voice to their inward thoughts.) A religious landscape shorn of independent journalism is bleak indeed. Just try to imagine the Catholic Church circa 2002, as the clerical sex scandals exploded nationwide, without independent journalists willing to wade through the filth and the muck in order to shine the light of day in the Church’s dark corners. NCR, for its part, did tremendous work in this regard. When the next scandal erupts — as it inevitably will; the Church has always been in scandal — who will be there to sound the alarm, to rouse the faithful from their slumber, to call the princes of the Church to account, and to get results? If the NOR is to stand a chance of bucking this seemingly inescapable trend toward print oblivion, it can only happen, as usual, with our readers’ support and cooperation. (For obvious reasons, the institutional Church is largely suspicious of independent Catholic journals. Nobody enjoys having his feet held to the fire.) We urge you to consider giving gift subscriptions to anyone and everyone who might benefit from the witness we provide: colleagues, neighbors, pastors, bishops, children, grandchildren, complete strangers even! We offer a discount when two or more subscriptions are started or renewed at this time of the year. (See the “Christmas Gift Rates” notice on p. 37 of this issue for ordering details.) We also offer discounts on bulk subscriptions of five copies or more. Phone us at 510-526-5374, ext. 0, to inquire about receiving multiple copies of the NOR. If your intent is to leave a stack in the vestibule of your parish church, be sure to secure your pastor’s permission first. Nobody knows what the future holds for print apostolates (or print “products” like NCR), but we know who holds the future. Trusting in His divine providence and unending mercy, we realize that, ultimately, even for what Hilaire Belloc called “apostolates of the pen,” what matters is not to find success but to remain faithful. This we will ever strive to do. Longevity might be an unreachable goal, but keeping the faith is a moral imperative, the one by which we will all be judged. n
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“radical feminism.” Carol Naill Arlington, Virginia
A Ludicrous Double Standard A Chilling Contrast My husband and I were privileged to hear Msgr. Cormac Burke present his article “Why I Am a Feminist” (Oct.) as an address in Washington, D.C., this March at an event co-sponsored by the Ethics & Public Policy Center and The Witherspoon Institute, where my husband serves as a board member. Msgr. Burke’s address was received with hearty applause, and followed by the EPPC president thanking him “for telling us the truth!” A lot of people can see that
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something is very wrong with our culture today. Msgr. Burke sets the stage with a charming look at Ireland’s culture, not terribly long ago, through a young lad’s view of femininity. Against this backdrop, the contrast of today’s culture, in which many women want to be neither a virgin nor a mother, is chilling. Radical feminism’s effect on women, writes Msgr. Burke, is such that they “no longer prize two fundamental features of femininity that are precisely those most capable of inspiring admiration and reverence in men: virginity and motherhood. And the consequences have been disastrous for both men and women.” The challenge? Women must, Msgr. Burke insists, “realize what they have rejected and act to reclaim it,” each one taking up her noble role of humanizing the world. Pope John Paul II puts it this way in his apostolic letter “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” (1988): “God entrusts the human being to her in a special way…precisely by reason of [her] femininity…. A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting.” This further explains why Msgr. Burke declares himself a “feminist,” venerating authentic femininity, which the world needs desperately, rather than its de-humanizing counterpoint,
As a writer who monitors the relations between the sexes today, I was very interested in the reasons why Msgr. Cormac Burke considers himself a feminist. In arguing for greater feminine identity in unmarried young women and the respect from men that naturally follows, Msgr. Burke invokes virginity as integral to true femininity. He notes how “so many women today are lowering their proclaimed selfworth to that of a prostitute.” This is because “girls today give themselves so easily…. They cheapen themselves in the eyes of boys and men,” while virginity is “the integrity that the marital self-gift logically calls for in the woman….” Though the monsignor claims that virginity “should be equally so” between both sexes upon marriage, it’s truly the female who “makes herself respected” by never being unchaste. This presents a ludicrous double standard: Is it really incumbent upon only the young woman to remain pure in order to have enough “integrity” to marry? To suggest that one past “slip up” (or even an annulment) renders her beneath the marital vocation is to flatly deny the reality of forgiveness and redemption. But Msgr. Burke emphasizes that a virgin maiden will be rewarded
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with veneration, placed “on a pedestal,” and worshiped as in the Victorian era — that is, by otherwise potentially philandering young men. But given the glorification of promiscuity in the West today, how likely is that to happen? Forgiving the past still leaves room for some prudential judgments. For example, a gal who insists on keeping her former boyfriends in her life (as many modern young women do) usually presents an obstacle to commitment. The degree of her past “circulation,” if any, is likewise a valid consideration. Msgr. Burke’s article offers a significant contrast worth noting: Many of today’s proponents of modesty focus on controlling male sexuality, rather than on a woman’s virginity. Men are usually blamed for the sexual revolution, perhaps more so than radical feminists. Today’s younger women are thought of as being “used” and “taken advantage of” by males in this female-objectifying culture — one geared toward satisfying men’s desires. Meanwhile, oxytocin-driven damsels engaging in misbegotten episodes of intimacy do so in an innocent search for commitment. While this newer narrative does appeal to chastity, it does so on the radical feminists’ terms: Befallen males should not control or stereotype women’s sexuality, because women are victims. Likewise, the sense of male heroism has been rearranged to cater to, rather than castigate, “fallen women.” This represents a departure away from Hermia and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Thomas Hardy’s Tess DECEMBER 2013
of the d’Urbervilles — both tales emblematic of unmarried women’s oppression. It is no wonder the Church today has so much difficulty promoting premarital chastity. For some, the average young woman is a “prostitute,” while for others she’s an angelic victim even more worthy of a pedestal. As Pope Francis has said, the Church “needs a deeper theology of women.” Jeffrey R. Jackson Warwick, Rhode Island
The Relentlessness of Tested Love Alice von Hildebrand’s article “Unity & Procreation” (Sept.) reminded me of the Song of Songs, in which the lover expresses the endurance of real love: “Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; for stern as death is love…” (8:6). Alice von Hildebrand’s love for her late husband, Dietrich, is a love story that never ends because Love is eternal. Dietrich von Hildebrand is so close to Alice that she cannot refrain from sharing her beloved’s gift with others. The progeny of their union is of a spiritual nature planned from the beginning. When lust is misunderstood as love, its fruit is like the Garden of Eden’s transitory pleasure that followed an act of disobedience. Love rooted in the natural law produces harmony and joy, whereas lust seeks pleasure for personal satisfaction without reflection on the responsibility of a permanent commitment to the other person. Marriage is the bond of real love, the seal upon
the heart. Even death does not sever the ties of real love. As Alice von Hildebrand makes clear, Jacob’s love for Rachel, like Tobiah’s love for Sarah, would not be deterred by anything — not by years of waiting or even by death. Such is the nature of true and tested love. It is simply relentless! Obedience and love proceed from a properly ordered heart. Many people do not seem to know the natural law. Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand are witnesses to the effectiveness of the natural law. We need simplicity and truthfulness in bringing the beauty of God’s love to the minds and hearts of all we meet. Thank you, Alice, for sharing the fruits of your love! Sr. Mary Paula Beierschmitt, I.H.M., Founder American Academy of Sacred Arts Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Seven Years or Seven Days? I have enjoyed Alice von Hildebrand’s many contributions, especially those on marriage and the nature of human love. I am hesitant to mention a possible error in her most recent article “Unity & Procreation.” She seems to imply that Jacob had to work 14 years before marrying Rachel: “Jacob and Laban made a second deal: Jacob would work for another seven years, and then Rachel would be his…. Once again, seven years were nothing compared to the bliss he would experience on the day she truly became his beloved wife.” Other biblical commentar9
ies, however, support the view that Jacob was allowed to marry Rachel a week after marrying Leah — instead of seven years later — with the provision that he work for seven years after their wedding to repay Laban. Genesis 29:27-30 begins with Laban saying, “Complete the week of this one [Leah], and we will give you the other [Rachel] also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob agreed, and completed her week. “Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to [be his] wife…. So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.” This is, of course, merely a minor quibble. I wish to emphasize my many thanks to Dr. von Hildebrand for providing thought-provoking writing on the beauty of love. Eliana Murphy Estes Park, Colorado
Readers Recommend Their Top Tens In response to the editor’s invitation (letters, Oct.), here is a list of ten favorite books that I would recommend to young readers. I have read each one more than once; some, many times. These books have enriched my life in so many ways. 1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 2. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope 3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 4. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray 10
5. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 6. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1976 by William Manchester and Paul Reid 7. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh 8. God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom” by William F. Buckley Jr. 9. Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser 10. Katherine by Anya Seton Gloria Smith Feasterville, Pennsylvania Thank you for the invitation to probe my 84-year-old mind by recalling some favorite books. It was a challenging but exciting assignment. I had trouble limiting myself to ten! Thank you also for the nudge to re-read some of them. 1. 1776: America and Britain at War by David McCullough 2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 3. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo 4. The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849 by Cecil Woodham Smith 5. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli 6. No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin 7. The Shadow of His Wings by Gereon Goldmann 8. They Call Me the Bacon Priest by Werenfried van Straaten 9. Washing-
ton: The Indispensable Man by James Thomas Flexner 10. Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux Barbara M. Bersaw Great Barrington, Massachusetts Knowing that the literary world is anxiously awaiting my list of “top ten favorite books,” I submit the following: 1. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton 2. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis 3. Confessions by St. Augustine 4. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott 5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens 6. Apologia pro Vita Sua by John Henry Newman 7. Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton 8. Industrial Dynamics by Jay Wright Forrester 9. Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen 10. The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor Deacon Gregory Sampson Carroll, Iowa 1. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis 2. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton 3. The Christian Mind: How
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Should a Christian Think? by Harry Blamires 4. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis 5. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis 6. Jesus Rediscovered by Malcolm Muggeridge 7. The Desolate City: Revolution in the Catholic Church by Anne Roche Muggeridge 8. The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church by Malachi Martin 9. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton 10. Lift Up Your Heart: A Guide to Spiritual Peace by Fulton J. Sheen Robert McNally Floral Park, New York 1. Confessions by St. Augustine 2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 3. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 4. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset 5. Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos 6. Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux 7. Hamlet by William Shakespeare 8. Bleak House by Charles Dickens 9. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James 10. Conversation with Christ: The Teaching of St. Theresa of Avila about Personal Prayer by Peter Thomas Rohrbach Inez Storck Westerville, Ohio DECEMBER 2013
THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR CHIMES IN: I would like to offer two separate lists: top ten works of imaginative literature and a top ten list of nonfiction works, taking into consideration a predominantly Catholic audience. I’d like to emphasize that these are not necessarily all my personal favorites (I did not include, for example, Agatha Christie’s The Big Four or Francis Fukuyama’s Our Posthuman Future); rather, they are what I consider the “best” works of universal appeal: Works of imaginative literature: 1. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri 2. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer 3. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene 4. Hamlet by William Shakespeare 5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville 6. Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe 7. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne 8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 9. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis 10. Dracula by Bram Stoker Works of nonfiction: 1. Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila 2. Introduction to the Devout Life by Francis de Sales 3. Confessions by Augustine of Hippo 4. The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis 5. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
6. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman 7. God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley Jr. 8. Witness by Whittaker Chambers 9. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods 10. Edmund Campion: A Life by Evelyn Waugh
The Twigs of Pride Robert Benson has shown, in his fine article “Memory, Regret & God’s Merciful Forgetting” (Oct.), how, by way of Dante’s Purgatorio and Paradiso, we come to experience “true Christian hope, a hope founded on the honest recognition of our unworthiness and our complete dependency on God.” This is, he adds, “the via negativa, the penitential way to the New Jerusalem recommended so eloquently by Chaucer’s Parson as ‘a ful noble wey and a ful covenable’ (Canterbury Tales).” “The Parson’s Tale,” one of the longest of the Canterbury Tales, has as a subject the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust. This tale is important for those who are interested in building a body of words for thinking about these sins and the remedies for these sins. In the opening of the topic of pride, Chaucer introduces words that he calls “the nombre of the twigges, and of the harmes that cometh of Pride”: disobedience, avaunting, swelling of heart, insolence, elation, impatience, strife, contumacy, presumption, 11
irreverence, pertinacity, vainglory, and “many another twig that I kan nat declare.” The parson then defines each word. Examples of these types of pride abound in the tale, and often amuse. Some of them are in fact within the heart of man, and others are without. Those without are as the gay, leafy sign at a tavern, a sign of the wine in a cellar. For example, superfluity of clothing or inordinate scantiness may be a sign of pride in “the hinder part of hir buttocks… that foule partie shewe they to the peple proudely.” The words superfluity and scantiness suggest avaunt, to boast, a twig of pride. The remedy against pride is, of course, humility or meekness. By these virtues, “a man hath veray knowledge of himself, and
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holdeth of himself no dainty, nor no pride, as in regard of his deserts, considering ever his frailty.” Dr. Benson writes that souls who have such knowledge “do know themselves and precisely understand this capacity to participate with all the redeemed in the beatific vision.” To “shewe to the peple proudely” is to avaunt oneself. We laugh at others when they boast. We learn from the parson to laugh at ourselves when we avaunt ourselves. The via negativa, the penitential way to the New Jerusalem, is a merry journey. Ward Allen Lexington, Kentucky
Waiting for a Renaissance Chene Richard Heady, in his article “Is America Unfit for Spiritual Self-Government?” (Oct.), is on the mark when diagnosing the “ontological anorexia” of the American Church, which has failed to maintain a structure of tradition while interacting with modern culture. The hard-working foreign seminarians whom I see every day are a testament to God’s providence over the anemic American Church. Sadly, however, foreign seminarians are often formed into anemic priests by the dumbing down of American seminary curricula. Parishes and the priesthood in the U.S. will continue to be intellectually marginalized and spiritually truncated until we begin to form pastoral intellectuals and intellectual pastors. Another Catholic renaissance is sorely needed, but will only come when the grass roots
— laymen and future priests — return to rigorous thought and an appreciation of the adventure of ideas. The Gospel is not one idea among others; it is the hub of a wheel, the spokes of which are the other disciplines of the mind. Even if our great universities no longer reflect this structure, it remains the structure of the authentically Catholic soul. There is really no hope for the seminaries or the priests they produce if Christ is not at the center of a lively and robust Christian intellectual life. Our foreign-born men in the seminaries now (and at the altars later) are reminding us of this truth. Charles James St. Patrick’s Seminary Menlo Park, California Kudos to Prof. Heady for his excellent article on what “foreign” clergy have to offer the American ecclesiastical scene. I too have found most of them to be much more orthodox and forthright in their preaching, liturgical praxis, and confessional advice. As a result, not a few dioceses now insist that these men go through a “re-education” process before being assigned, lest they “alienate” their American parishioners. Talk about arrogance and imperialism! I was especially attracted to the article because way back in January 1987 I penned a piece for the National Catholic Register titled “The Priests We Deserve” (included in my 2009 anthology on the priesthood, Be to Me a Father and a Priest). My point was that the abundance, or lack, of new priests is a divine judgment
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on a community. If Catholic couples, for instance, are practicing artificial contraception, refusing to use Catholic schools for their children, and adopting an assimilationist mentality vis-à-vis the general culture, how can we expect priestly or religious vocations to surface in such environments? Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas Editor, The Catholic Response Pine Beach, New Jersey For the past ten-plus years, my diocese has hosted priests from Africa, from both religious orders and an African diocese. I do not know why they are here; we do not have a priest shortage (all parishes are staffed by priests) and we have more than an adequate number of seminarians. Perhaps there are financial reasons involved; our parishes are generous in funding projects in Africa. Or perhaps there are safety issues, like superiors and bishops trying to protect their priests from martyrdom in places where Christian populations are persecuted. Or perhaps, as Chene Richard Heady suggests, they come to reform “spiritually empty” American Catholics by presenting us with a morally and spiritually superior brand of Catholicism. But they don’t come without creating a few problems. I will mention just a few from my own experiences. 1. The treatment of women. I have learned not to speak about liturgy, finances, parish activities, etc. with those like our visiting priest who see women as subservient. Basically, this priest thinks women should silently perform “women’s work,” like household DECEMBER 2013
tasks, nursing the old, and teaching the very young. To do otherwise puts a woman at risk of being labeled “arrogant” or as someone who “doesn’t know her place.” When I asked our pastor about this hostility toward women, he counseled patience with “cultural differences” since the visiting priest came from an area where polygamy was common (and even practiced in his own family) and was therefore raised to view women as inferior. 2. Clericalism. There is little interest in serving the needs of modern American families. Daily Masses last an hour due to long homilies and the visiting priest’s habit of praying his favorite devotions during, rather than after, Mass, so working people can no longer attend Mass. Perhaps this is a rejection of capitalism or the Protestant work ethic. 3. Anti-ecumenism. We hear simplistic homilies about the errors of Protestantism that could have been given in the 16th century. There is no acknowledgment of our common Christian beliefs or the good done by our separated brethren. This is hurtful to converts and others with nonCatholic Christian friends and relatives. Surprisingly, our Nigerian priest has directed harsher words at the Protestants in his native country than at the radical Muslims who are killing Catholic and Protestant Christians there. Perhaps the missionaries to our shores will develop a certain empathy for our cultural mores, as the European missionaries once did for those whom they served. (Name Withheld)
Undoing the Soviet Smear Job Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ronald J. Rychlak, in their article “The Role of Dezinformatsiya in the Framing of Pius XII” (Oct.), point out that “the Kremlin’s ‘framing’ of Pope Pius XII changed his reputation from that of a highly praised hero of the war against Nazi Germany into a Nazi sympathizer.” Ironically, Adolf Hitler himself had refuted this allegation when he declared, “Pius XII? This is the only human being who has always contradicted me and who has never obeyed me” (quoted in The Silent Pope? by Hans Jansen). We learn about the Soviet campaign against the Pope through Gen. Pacepa, the highest ranking member of the KGB in Romania to defect to the West. “In my other life,” he said, “when I was at the center of Moscow’s foreign-intelligence wars, I myself was caught up in a deliberate Kremlin effort to smear the Vatican, by portraying Pope Pius XII as a coldhearted Nazi sympathizer” (quoted in “Moscow’s Assault on the Vatican,” National Review, Jan. 25, 2007). The smear took the form of a play entitled The Deputy: A Christian Tragedy, which implied that Pius XII did not do much to help the Jews during World War II. Although the play, which came out in the early 1960s, turned out to be a flop in Berlin, London, New York, and Paris, it ultimately achieved its objective. Thenceforth, there was a strong division among historians about the Pope’s legacy. Contrary to the praise he had received at the end of the war from the Jewish 13
people for his help during the war, leading Jewish voices like Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial and research institute, began to portray Pius XII unfavorably. Though the Soviet Union has long since disappeared, its agents under Stalin’s successors have created a myth about the Pope that has even temporarily sidetracked his canonization, so that two of his successors will be recognized as saints before him. Not until recent times, after the Holy See published 11 volumes of documents from its vast archives, have there been signs of change. Even Yad Vashem has begun to portray Pius XII in a more favorable light. Rychlak and Pacepa have honored Pope Pius XII in their pursuit of the truth by expressing what really happened in the past. And, to both of them, all who seek to know the truth of the past must be grateful that the misinterpretation of Pius’s role during the war is disappearing.
er form, every day when those in the media parrot the talking points that some party or candidate foists upon them. What the KGB did for decades was to spread disinformation — many times successfully — in an effort to destroy whomever and whatever was seen as an enemy of the Soviet communist party. We’ve seen the products of this program so often and in so many circumstances that we tend to forget what they are. The KGB turned Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat into a hero and Israel into a “racist” state. Its disinformation program in the Islamic world laid the groundwork for much of the hatred of the U.S. we see today. People need to read not just Gen. Pacepa and Prof. Rychlak’s article but their book as well. It is one of the more profound summaries of how history was shaped in the past century.
Fr. Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J. College of the Holy Cross Worcester, Massachusetts
E.H. Chapin once said, “Glorify a lie, legalize a lie, arm and equip a lie, consecrate a lie with solemn forms and awful penalties, and after all it is nothing but a lie. It rots a land and corrupts a people like any other lie, and by and by the white light of God’s truth shines clear through it, and shows it to be a lie.” There is a long history of using disinformation to destroy God’s people: from Haman laying charges of sedition against the Hebrews and securing a decree for their wholesale destruction from King Ahasuerus (486-464 B.C.) to Emperor Nero (A.D. 5468), who formulated the lie that
Pacepa and Rychlak’s article is important because it explains one aspect of the most destructive and despicable disinformation program in history. It is indeed a disinformation campaign, properly so called, and not a propaganda campaign because propaganda is what some despot says to mislead the public. But when someone else publishes it — or republishes it for him — that’s disinformation because the use of a secondary source legitimizes what is said. We see it, in its mild14
Jed Babbin Leesburg, Virginia
Christians set fire to Rome to deflect his own culpability for the six-day, seven-night fire that destroyed almost three-quarters of the city. In both of these particular cases, we are the benefactors of written eyewitness testimony to their tactical deceptions intent on perpetrating mind-blowing destruction on believers and therefore on God Himself. Now we have expert eyewitness testimony to the horrendously evil disinformation tactics formulated in our time that originated from a belief system — atheistic communism — dedicated to the transformation of evil into good and good into evil. Pacepa and Rychlak meticulously expose the complex system of interconnected elements designed to trap an unsuspecting audience of freedom-loving people of faith. Their article is only a foretaste of the entire picture presented in their book Disinformation, in which they open the archives of not only historical evidence to destroy the Church, the West, and the legacy of righteous men and their deeds, but also give the reader the priceless gift — from a former architect of these deceptions — of eyewitness testimony to the strategies of disinformation. Just as priceless as the eyewitness account of Mordecai of an impending Jewish holocaust in ancient Persia, as well as the eyewitness account from Tacitus to Nero’s appalling persecution of Christians, we have in our possession the priceless eyewitness account, supported by various archived documents, of the insidious tactics of deception. The light of truth not only destroys the work of darkness but is also
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meant to teach us that the arrogant of this world are not nearly as powerful as they think they are, and that when they oppose God’s people, they only succeed in bringing about their own destruction. If the dezinformatsiya machinery is still alive and well, as Pacepa states, and its aim is to “manipulate religion, change traditions, and rewrite history,” then our aim — as believers in the truth — is to listen to the brave voices like Pacepa, who risked his life to expose the evil tactics employed by the forces of the ungodly. Scripture tells us that we are not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). We cannot even begin to overcome evil unless we are aware of what that evil actually is. In the matter of the wholesale deception leveled at us (the West and believers), we can arm ourselves with the knowledge of truth, and stand against the deceit that wages war against our freedom as well as our souls. Those weapons of truth are ours for the taking, bequeathed to us from those who paid a high price of sacrifice to enable us to overcome evil. I wholeheartedly thank Lt. Gen. Pacepa and Prof. Rychlak for writing Disinformation, indeed a laborious but necessary work written by courageous men who are passionate about the truth. Darnelle Mason Highland, California
Print to Own Your magazine is the epitome of sound doctrine, clear DECEMBER 2013
thinking, and delightful prose proclaiming the glories and faults of the Catholic Church. As an ebook user as well as a reader of print publications, I applaud your efforts to expand the NOR into e-formats, hopefully to include back issues. May God protect and bless your staff, contributors, and readers. Tom Moore N. Tonawanoa, New Jersey I have to admit that I prefer print media — there is nothing like holding the reading material in one’s hands, paging through an article, skipping around, etc. The day my NOR arrives in the mail, I cannot wait to retreat to my reading chair to start and then to continue later, until I read most of the issue. It would be too easy to finish in one sitting! However, as the owner of both Nook and Kindle e-readers, I
can appreciate the ease and convenience of having the NOR in digital format. Irene Sorokolit San Francisco, California I do value the printed word — printed on paper, that is — and I am glad that you intend to continue with the paper magazine. The printed NOR is quite attractive: The simple but elegant front cover with its bold color “bandolier” and the rough paper feel of the magazine have always appealed to me. When I buy, read, and archive the NOR, I “own” it. Electronic material is only rented. And when the ultimate electromagnetic pulse finally does manage a direct hit on the earth, I’ll have my yellowed NORs in the bunker with me! Gerald B. Coleman Denton, Texas
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the news you may have missed The Name that Is Above Every Name The Vatican has had to withdraw more than 6,000 papal medals after it was discovered that Jesus had been misspelled (Telegraph, Oct. 10). The medals, which had been specially made by the Italian State Mint to commemorate the beginning of the Bergoglio papacy, depicted Pope Francis and a phrase in Latin that profoundly affected him as a teenager in the 1950s, inspiring him to become a priest. The phrase should have read, Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, Sequere me, but Jesus was rendered as Lesus. The medals — 200 in gold, 3,000 in silver, and 3,000 in bronze — were hastily recalled after being put on sale at the Vatican Publishing House in St. Peter’s Square. But four were sold before they were withdrawn, and experts predict that their value will skyrocket because of their rarity.
Ecumenical Dialogue through Cricket The Vatican officially challenged the Church of England to a cricket match during the launch of the St. Peter’s Cricket Club (Reuters, Oct. 22). “We hope to have ecumenical dialogue through cricket and play a Church of England side by September,” said Fr. Theodore Mascarenhas, an Indian official at the Vatican’s Council for Culture, who once played as an off-spin bowler. The idea for a Catholic cricket club was the brainchild of John McCarthy, Australia’s ambassador to the Vatican. He enlisted the support of various diplomats and prelates from what he called “other cricket countries” — including Britain, South Africa, and Paki16
stan — and found “anonymous sponsors from the cricketing world.”
The Gospel According to Britney A new musical that depicts the story of Jesus Christ using only Britney Spears songs is in the works (DigitalSpy.com, Oct. 31). SPEARS the Musical: The Gospel According to Britney will use several of the pop singer’s hits, including “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” “…Baby One More Time,” and “Stronger,” to describe the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. No lyrics have been changed and no words are spoken, technically making the show an opera. “These are Britney’s lyrics. These are Jesus Christ’s images,” creator Pat Blute explained. “The Britney Spears you see is not Britney Spears. Remember that. The Jesus Christ you read is not Jesus Christ. These are manifestations…. It’s a falsehood that…all ‘deaths’ receive a resurrection. I hope this project will show you otherwise through the power of listening and the power of forgiveness.” Funding website kickstarter.com lauded it as “the greatest story ever told, to the greatest music ever written.”
SpongeBob GraveSite A Cincinnati cemetery told the family of an Ohio soldier whose gravesite bears a pair of SpongeBob SquarePants statues that the monuments were “inappropriate” and would be removed (UPI, Oct. 21). Deborah Walker, mother of Army Sgt. Kimberly Walker, said the family installed a pair of six-foot tall, 7,000-pound SpongeBob monuments at the
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family’s six-grave plot at Spring Grove Cemetery as a tribute to the slain solider who loved the cartoon character.
New Tribal Rituals Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear, two gay men from Oklahoma, were planning a trip to Iowa to get married. But they changed their minds when the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes allowed them to pick up a marriage license in the tribes’ courthouse, in circumvention of an Oklahoma state law that bars same-sex unions. “This is the third same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes,” Lisa Liebl, the tribes’ public relations officer, told Al Jazeera America (Oct. 22). According to their legal code, the candidates should be married on sovereign land and one should be a member of one of the tribes, but a marriage license should not specify a couple’s gender. The code reflects the respect enshrined in some Native American communities toward homosexuals, who are often believed to be endowed with special spiritual gifts. “I proposed to Darren several years ago, and we were planning an elaborate wedding,” said Pickel. “Now, we decided the time was right.” Fittingly, the two men planned their wedding ceremony for Halloween.
Where Sex Doesn’t Sell Malaysia’s Ministry of Communications and Multimedia banned a concert by U.S. pop singer Ke$ha the day before she was scheduled to perform, after deciding it would hurt cultural and religious sensitivities in the Muslim-majority nation (Huffington Post, Oct. 25). The ministry’s statement did not elaborate on its decision, but Ke$ha, whose hits include “Tik Tok” and “Die Young,” sings songs that make explicit references to sex and liquor. Ke$ha and her team had previously agreed to modify their planned show, including making changes to her song lyrics and wardrobe, to comply with the government’s general guidelines for performers. But it was a no go. Concert organizer Livescape said it lost more than 1.1 million ringgit (approx. $350,000) because of the ban, and it urged the Malaysian government to “engage in a producDECEMBER 2013
tive dialogue” with concert promoters to prevent similar incidents.
A Child’s Best Interest? California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that authorizes a court to recognize more than two parents if endorsing fewer would be “detrimental” to the child. State Senator Mark Leno, who represents San Francisco and is the author of the measure, stressed that it would apply only to families with more than two people who meet the state’s definition of a parent, and does not apply to stepparents, grandparents, girlfriends, or caretakers. “The bill in its essence merely allows for greater judicial discretion,” Leno told the Sacramento Bee (Oct. 4). “It’s really about the child and in the best interest of the child.” Leno’s measure grew out of an appellate court case involving a biological mother, her same-sex partner, and a man who had an affair with the mother while she was temporarily separated from her female lover. Four other states and the District of Columbia have also recognized more than two parents.
No Room in the “Hall of Honor” The Jackson City School District in Ohio has settled a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation by agreeing to keep a portrait of Jesus Christ off school property and pay a $95,000 fine. Initially, the district was opposed to removing the portrait, which was part of a “Hall of Honor” display meant to commemorate famous historical figures. “The picture is legal because it has historical significance,” explained Jackson Superintendent Phil Howard. “I’m certainly not going to run down there and take the picture down because some group from Madison, Wisconsin, who knows nothing about the culture of our community or why the picture is even there, wants me to take it down.” But once the district found itself in court, sued by the ACLU and FFRF, the portrait was removed and a final settlement reached. “Our attorneys felt like this was the best case scenario for the district because the legal fees were mounting by the day,” said Howard (Christian Post, Oct. 7). 17
Grace Under Pressure In their second assault of the year on AndréJoseph Léonard, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, a group of topless women, thought to be paid “protesters” of the extreme-left group Femen, disrupted a lecture at St. Michael’s College in Brussels, storming the stage and throwing a pie in the archbishop’s face. In April, the group broke in on a lecture the archbish-
op was giving during a public debate on blasphemy laws. As the topless women doused him with water and screamed pro-homosexual slogans, Archbishop Léonard sat praying silently, after which he kissed the image of the Virgin Mary on one of the water bottles that was used in the attack. In the October assault, the archbishop reportedly “stole the show,” eliciting more than a few smiles when he calmly tasted the pie (LifeSiteNews.com, Oct. 24). n
new oxford notes Pope Francis & the Primacy of Conscience Perhaps you’ve noticed: Francis has a very different way of speaking to the world than any pope in history. Employing a sincerity and simplicity that has endeared him to the world and delighted the media, the Holy Father has chosen to use off-thecuff remarks, interviews, and unscripted homilies to reproach large segments of the Catholic Church and to reveal his ideology and worldview. So far in the first nine months of the Bergoglio papacy, the world has gleaned from Pope Francis that the Church should no longer “obsess” over hot-button social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage; that it’s not a Pope’s role to “judge” homosexual priests; that the “Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us…. Even the atheists. Everyone!” (homily, May 22); that “restorationist groups” are guilty of “triumphalism,” including a “triumphalistic liturgy”; and that he disdains popular piety that includes reciting memorized prayers “like a parrot.” These controversial comments have provoked a multitude of objections, clarifications, repudiations, and attempts to explain away the Pope’s “sincere” and “simple” unscripted comments. In his blockbuster interview (Oct. 2) with 18
Eugenio Scalfari, the 89-year-old atheist publisher of Italy’s La Repubblica, Pope Francis explained a “mystical moment” he had at the conclave between the time of his election and the time he accepted, giving the impression that God spoke to him, validating his pontifical trajectory. Scalfari has Bergoglio explaining that this mystical experience occurred when he left the Sistine Chapel to pray. But Cardinal Dolan, among other cardinals who were at the March 2013 conclave, pointed out in the press that Cardinal Bergoglio never left the Sistine Chapel during the time between his nomination and acceptance. Scalfari’s account — or Bergoglio’s — they say, is inaccurate. The Vatican press office then stepped in to explain that Scalfari hadn’t taken notes in the interview and didn’t record it either. Rather than providing a transcript of the interview, which is standard operating procedure in the world of journalism, Scalfari simply reconstructed his interview with the Pope from memory. But if we can’t trust what we see the press reporting in long, engaging interviews, the obvious question for the Holy Father might be: Why make public interviews and other off-the-cuff remarks a hallmark of one’s papacy? It comes off as somewhat reckless to pursue this avenue as a conduit of teaching and communication. (By the way, the Scalfari interview is still included among
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and often reinforces their own belief system. He is papal discourses at the Vatican website, essentially tickling their ears, saying what they’ve long wanted confirming its basic “trustworthiness.”) a pope to say. Yet a careful look at what the Holy FaSure, one can argue that Pope Francis’s interther does have to say, and how he says it, is difficult views have no doctrinal or magisterial value; but to digest, not merely because of its characteristic the fact is — speaking in the most practical terms ambiguity but sometimes in spite of it. — with Francis, the world hears primarily what Take, for example, the Pope’s most egregious comes down through the mainstream media. That remark in his interview with Scalfari. In contrast appears to be the way Pope Francis wants it. The to the traditional Catholic understanding of conScalfari interview, along with his September interscience as iterated in the Catechism of the Catholic view with Fr. Antonio Spadaro, published in sixteen Church (nos. 1776-1802), Pope Francis promotes Jesuit journals around the world, can be considered a subjective definition of conscience in which the the first “encyclicals” of Pope Francis, promulgated individual is the sole arbiter of what is good and through the media (instead of through traditional ecclesial channels), published as they were the world over. In fact, “I’m afraid that Pope Francis has failed to consider the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano reproduced the Scalfari incarefully enough the likely consequences of letting terview in its entirety, putting it loose with his thoughts in a world that will applaud on par with other papal discourses. being provided with such help in subverting the truth Further, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told the press it is his job to guard as inviolable and proclaim with that “if Francis felt his thought fidelity. For a long time he has been thinking these had been ‘gravely misrepresented,’ things. Now he can say them to the whole world — he would have said so.” Well, he and he is self-indulgent enough to take advantage hasn’t said so. As we argued in this space last of the opportunity with as little care as he might unmonth (“The Poor Misunderstood burden himself with friends after a good dinner and Pope?” Nov.), making off-the-cuff plenty of wine.” remarks, shooting from the hip, — moral theologian and spouting off whatever comes Germain Grisez, to mind isn’t the best approach to Inside the Vatican evil: “Each one of the teaching office of the papacy. Nevertheless, it us has his own vicertainly seems to be popular. And Pope Francis is sion of good and evil and must choose to follow the getting very little push back for using the media to good and to fight the evil as he understands them.” his own ends. Assuming the Pope has been quoted or paraphrased But the fact remains: Public interviews, even if accurately by Scalfari (and we have been given no approved or promoted by the Pope, are not magistereason to doubt this particular line), Francis shows rial acts. Perhaps this is Francis’s way of encouraglittle understanding of Catholic theology or its uning or inspiring “dialogue” (one of the truly insipid derpinning moral philosophy. He makes no menwords of our day) on what he has to say. The faithful tion of a “well-formed conscience” (as emphasized are free to agree or disagree with the Pope. But, one by Bl. John Paul II) or conscience as “the capacity of might ask, if the Pope’s words have no authority, man to recognize the truth” (as Pope Benedict XVI what obliges us to take them seriously? What comsaid) or the idea of conscience as “the journey of pels the faithful to listen to what Francis has to say man toward truth” (as Bl. John Henry Newman exany more than what the Duchess of Cambridge or pressed it). What Francis articulates in his interview Oprah Winfrey may have to say? is a primary tenet of moral relativism. It’s difficult Obviously people are listening — and a great to say this without sounding shrill: This is embarmultitude love what they are hearing, if only berassing — especially considering that Scalfari, a cause what Pope Francis has to say seems novel DECEMBER 2013
self-described atheist, does handstands for the Pope, saying that he “perfectly shares” Francis’s version of the primacy of conscience. It is interesting to note that, a month after the Scalfari interview appeared, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the Pope’s appointee to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), contradicted Francis’s conception of conscience in a communiqué regarding the question of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, citing Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II’s encyclical on moral theology. “It is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to present themselves for holy communion,” Müller wrote in L’Osservatore Romano (Oct. 23). This argument, based on a problematical concept of “conscience,” was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994. Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave unconfessed sin would always be an impediment. At the same time they have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth. In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them “not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it” (Veritatis Splendor, 64). That’s a far cry from Pope Francis’s expressed understanding of conscience. Archbishop Müller’s statement is authoritative, clear, straightforward, and to the point; it reflects an understanding of the Church’s authentic teaching as laid out in the Catechism and supported by a magisterial document. Why, one wonders, is Pope Francis’s approach so different? The concept of conscience — and the defined Catholic definition of the concept — is of the deepest importance to understanding the problem of moral relativism in our day. If we are to run with Pope Francis’s understanding of conscience as everyman’s right-and-wrong as he defines it in his own mind, we could use “following our conscience” to justify supporting divorce and remarriage, artificial contraception, same-sex marriage, and even abortion — exactly those issues Pope Francis told 20
the Church not to “obsess” over. But the same could be said for many social-justice issues. If Wall Street executives and big-business owners “follow their conscience” in order to maximize profits or act in their own self-interests at the expense of the greater good, what possible objection could Pope Francis offer to them based on his own understanding of conscience? John Paul II, throughout his papacy, recognized the need for a proper understanding of conscience. As moral philosopher Richard A. Spinello of Boston College explained in an article in Homiletic & Pastoral Review (Aug. 2009): [Pope John Paul II] was concerned with those who sought to undermine the orthodox doctrine of conscience with more subjectivist notions. Not only has this doctrine been distorted by some revisionist theologians, who diminish the moral law’s decisive role in human development, it has also been corrupted in modern culture. In recent centuries the notion of authenticity has displaced the traditional conception of conscience. The person is supposedly guided by an “inner voice” to make authentic moral choices that are consistent with his or her particular value system. Conscience is also equated with a Freudian superego, which makes us aware of superficial and conventional social standards. The pre-cursor of this idea was Nietzsche, who reduced conscience to the sublimation of instinct. Judging by his own comments, Pope Francis appears to be one of those who has “subjectivist notions” of conscience. He appears to be under the sway of “revisionist theologians” who “diminish the moral law’s decisive role in human development.” In short, Pope Francis has succinctly articulated the point of view that Pope John Paul II warned against. In pursuit of sincerity and simplicity, Pope Francis has created ambiguity and confusion on conscience as well as on a whole string of issues. Despite any subsequent clarifications and corrections from the Vatican, this ambiguity remains in the public record the Pope himself is creating. And confusion remains in the minds and hearts of the faithful. Pope Francis could easily avoid all this by having someone knowledgeable about Catholic moral theology look over his “sincere” and “simple”
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comments before they are blurted out to the world. Bergoglio is no longer the archbishop of Buenos Aires; he’s the Supreme Pontiff, the Church’s authoritative teacher and Vicar of Christ. He should confine his public pronouncements to the service of the Petrine office as the principle of unity in the Church, instead of endearing himself to the world at the expense of the Church. Ambiguity and confusion are best left to the moral relativists.
Pope Francis: Delight of the World Jorge Mario Bergoglio is fast becoming one of the most popular persons on the planet, a global celebrity of the greatest appeal. In the eyes of a diverse many he can do no wrong. Hans Küng, Leonardo Boff, Roger Cardinal Mahoney, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, and Jane Fonda have all spoken glowingly of him. The National Catholic Reporter, the flagship publication of liberal Catholicism in the U.S., regularly features “Francis: the Comic Strip” and maintains a blog called “The Francis Chronicles,” designed, it appears, to coo over the Pope’s every movement and hang on to his every word. According to the Daily Beast, “People all around the world seem to be falling in love with Pope Francis and there’s really no question why. He’s challenging traditional orthodoxies and drawing new crowds. From taking selfies to dedicating sand sculptures, the Pope’s fan base could rival Biebs’.” The Huffington Post, no friend of the Church, has hailed the “punking of the papacy” by Francis while denouncing Benedict XVI as a particularly sad example of the outmoded papal model Francis is leaving behind. Well, they all might be on to something: What Pope Francis’s is saying won’t rock the boat of contemporary culture. Guesswork is no longer necessary to discern the vision of Pope Francis. In recent months, the Holy Father has defined his priorities and reiterated his vision for the Church of the near future. He’s made it clear that he’s not merely distancing himself from his predecessors; in many cases, he has indicated that he’s actively pursuing a reversal of stance with respect to Benedict XVI and John Paul DECEMBER 2013
II (see the previous New Oxford Note, “Pope Francis & the Primacy of Conscience”). This might best be exemplified by his comment to journalist Eugenio Scalfari that he has the “humility and ambition” to complete the unfinished work of Vatican II. The Pope’s implication is that his predecessors did not. (N.B. To stand up and declare that one has “humility” is the opposite of being humble.) The agenda of Pope Francis could be aptly expressed as reforming the “reform of the reform.” Lest anyone forget, the “reform of the reform” set forth by John Paul II and Benedict XVI sought to curb the innovations that were falsely undertaken in the name of the Council. Consider all the experimentation in pastoral style, in the liturgy, and in Catholic catechesis and formation; the emphasis on ecumenism, dialogue, and the seamless garment; the destruction of traditional churches and the attack on popular piety and practices — all supposedly mandated by Vatican II. The Pope’s suggestion that we haven’t yet endured enough of this sort of experimentation, that we have not yet grown into the mature, modern-minded Catholics supposedly envisioned by the Council, is for some a bitter pill to swallow. Where, one might ask, has Bergoglio been during these post-conciliar decades? Could it be that he’s been trapped in a Jesuit bubble, co-mingling with like-minded ideologues who put subjective post-conciliar extremism ahead of the good of the Church? In the words of Italian theologian Pietro De Marco, “Pope Francis shows himself to be the typical religious of the Society of Jesus in its recent phase, converted by the Council in the years of formation, especially by what I call the ‘external Council,’ the Vatican II of militant expectations” (La Repubblica, Oct. 7). It is perhaps this “Vatican II of militant expectations” that guides the Holy Father’s belief that, after half a century, the Council is yet to be “realized.” In fact, given the subjective nature of this kind of interpretation, the unfinished work will only be “completed” or “realized” when Pope Francis says so, and by his measure that’s not going to be anytime soon. Given that it is a vague process with a vague terminus, he could always say we need to do a little more. Clearly, Pope Francis has a vision, but that vision aggressively discards the wisdom of hindsight earned only after decades of ecclesial 21
introspection. Bergoglio is still stuck in the Church of the 1970s, when clerics and other Church leaders could propose almost any innovation and justify it by an appeal to the “spirit of Vatican II,” what De Marco calls this “external Council,” the “Vatican II of militant expectations.” Might Bergoglio still be grappling with and rejecting the Church of his youth, reacting in opposition to the Church of Pope Pius XII? Significantly, this past June, Francis mocked a spiritual bouquet of 3,525 rosaries offered on his behalf as being an expression of the “Pelagian current” that he believes is dominant among “restorationist groups.” This “thing of counting…,” he said, makes “one feel as if one goes back 60 years! Before the Council. One feels in 1940…. And these groups return to practices and to disciplines that I lived through.” How ungracious! Can you imagine Benedict XVI making such a statement? How about John Paul II or Paul VI? Even Bergoglio’s papal hero, Pope John XXIII, had too much class to say anything so demeaning to the faithful. Where’s the “humility”? Part of Francis’s agenda in his program to complete the unfinished work of the Council is to focus even more on ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. The Holy Father has already established himself as a pontiff with kind and merciful words for those of other faiths (or of no faith) and harsh words for certain Catholic Mass-goers, many of whom he characterizes as either strident Pharisees or in spiritual diapers, who need “doctrinal or disciplinary ‘safety.’” This is nothing new, and his criticism extends even to Pope Benedict. In 2006, for example, Bergoglio publicly denounced Ratzinger’s lecture at the University of Regensburg. In the course of the address, which called for freedom of conscience in religious matters, Pope Benedict quoted from an obscure medieval text that claimed that Mohammed was “evil and inhuman.” (N.B. Pope Benedict did not himself declare that Mohammed was “evil and inhuman,” nor did he use the quotation to suggest this.) Bergoglio, in a knee-jerk reaction to negative media publicity and rioting by Muslim fanatics, told Newsweek Argentina that Benedict’s comments did not reflect his own opinions: “These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years.” Pope Francis is bent on dialoguing with the 22
non-Catholic world and calling it a kind of ecumenism inspired by the Council. The Holy Father has made it known that he loves and respects atheists. He wants to “meet” them where they are. No, he does not seek to convert them because, as he says, “proselytism is solemn nonsense.” The Pope wants to make friends with them, wants to encourage them on their own path. “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us,” he declared in a March 22 homily, “with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!… ‘But I don’t believe, Father. I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.” Coupled with his penchant for poor theological explication and rhetorical ambiguity, statements like this, which have distinct Pelagian overtones, risk sending the wrong message. For example, a commentator in a video put out by Huffington Post observed, “[Pope Francis] says even atheists will be saved by doing good and sticks by it, even after the Vatican gives him hell.” And how about this comment to CNN (May 23) from Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association: “I gather from this statement that his view of the world’s religious and philosophical diversity is expanding. While humanists have been saying for years that one can be good without a god, hearing this from the leader of the Catholic Church is quite heartening.” Does the Pope want the world to believe that the Church blesses atheism as long as it is tempered by some kind of vaguely intuited do-gooder morality? This isn’t a rhetorical question. The answer, Bergoglio’s answer, is dangerously unclear. In Pope Francis’s desire to reform the Church, to open her windows to the world and listen to the atheists and Muslims, to the moral relativists and popular culture, he shares the vision of Jesuit cardinal Carlo Martini, to whom Bergoglio has often been compared, even before he was elected Pope. Archbishop of Milan from 1979 to 2002, Martini was regarded as the most outspoken critic of the Wojtyla and Ratzinger papacies, and long the leading papabili put forth by the most liberal wing of the Church. In an interview that appeared several weeks after his death in August 2012, Martini said the Catholic Church is “200 years behind the times” and fails to meet the needs of the people. It was Martini who first proposed the idea of a “synodal Church”
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(popularly known as the “horizontal Church”) in is in the original], he was echoing Cardinal Martini’s which the pope no longer functions as monarch or words from his 2007 book-length interview Nightsupreme pontiff but as a figurehead who facilitates time Conversations in Jerusalem: “You cannot Church governance by a select group of bishops. If make God Catholic. God is beyond the limits and this style of Church governance sounds familiar, definitions that we establish.” Here we see that that’s because it is. It’s called the Anglican ComMartini was educated in the same school of ambigumunion. Cardinal Martini envisioned the pope ous theological rhetoric as Bergoglio. Any honest becoming a Catholic version of the archbishop of truth-seeker might ask: What does he mean? Is he Canterbury. suggesting that, since God is not Catholic, it matters It is important to note that Martini’s vision little if we are? Of course the true meaning of the of a horizontal Church was not inspired by some “Catholic God” comments needs deeper explication. altruistic desire to reform the papacy so that it isn’t Both Bergoglio and Martini arguably make an imsubsumed by a Vatican court of “pope handlers,” as portant point about the nature of God, even if it will expressed by Francis. Martini’s vision, his plea, his be lost on, say, 98 percent of their audience. Their dream for reform, was predicated on his personal belief that the “[It is an] illusory notion that the man of our own age Church run by a monarchical pope is “200 years behind” on issues like can only be reached with the message of Christ in a the family, the young, and the role completely new way.” of women. Neither Jesuit believes — Dietrich von Hildebrand that the Catholic Church can be effective as a countercultural institution. But, one wonders, without the Church to intentions authoritatively and wisely interpret contemporary however still remain unclear. Is Pope Francis not issues in terms of their moral implications, who savvy enough to know that media outlets like Huffbesides a strong pope will articulate these concerns? ington Post are going to interpret a statement like The archbishop of Canterbury? Pat Robertson? Muthis as promoting a creed of “universal salvation”? hammad al-Jawad? Hans Küng? Or is it the case that he just doesn’t care? According to Marco Garzonio, the leading MarJust as Cardinal Martini was popular in public tini scholar and promoter, Pope Francis sees himself opinion outside the Church and with those who as the torchbearer for the reformist views of Cardinal are typically hostile to the Church, so too is Pope Martini. On the first anniversary of Martini’s death, Francis. Martini’s popularity has never waned; the Pope Francis expressed his gratitude and esteem for so-called media honeymoon began in 1979 and is the late Jesuit cardinal, calling Martini a “prophetic” still ongoing even a year after his death. The progresfigure, a “man of discernment and peace,” and even sive Cardinal Martini, so intent of “dialoguing” with “a father for the whole Church.” He also recalled modern civilization, was beloved by secular media, how even Jesuits in Argentina would use his texts by liberal celebrities, and especially by those who during their spiritual retreats. Garzonio notes that never had any intention of siding with the Church Francis has approvingly cited Martini in at least two on any controversial social issue, much less convertother cases. “This is already a good endorsement, ing to the faith. It’s become apparent that Francis for the cardinal who passed away a little more than too will enjoy this same kind of media honeymoona year ago, to find himself in a gallery that goes from without-end. Vaticanologist Sandro Magister of Francis of Assisi to St. Augustine” (Corriere della L’Espresso put it this way: “There is nothing in this Serra, Oct. 15). program of the pontificate that could turn out to be Not only has Pope Francis cited Martini, he unacceptable to the dominant public opinion.” seems to be invoking him at times. When the Holy In the judgment of atheist newsman Scalfari, Father reportedly told Scalfari, “I believe in God. Not both Bergoglio and Martini emphasize “a God who in a Catholic God, there does not exist a Catholic does not judge, but forgives. There is no damnation, God, there exists God” [Ed. note: awful punctuation there is no hell.” What could be more appealing? n DECEMBER 2013
THE CULMINATION OF THE QUEST
Maria Hsia Chang Finding the Christ in His Apostles “Men are mirrors, or ‘carriers’ of Christ to other men. Usually it is those who know Him who bring Him to others.” — C.S. Lewis
ome years ago, I took a graduate-level course on “Modern Christology” at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, one of nine schools that make up the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. I came to the course not only as a person of faith but as a scholar who is trained in and had taught epistemology (the nature and domains of truth) and the philosophy of science (principles and methodology of scientific inquiry). “Ology” comes from the Greek word logos, which means the “study of” something. Simply put, Christology is the systematic study of Jesus Christ. Modern Christology is a product of the Enlightenment and is distinguished from the pre-modern variety in its purpose and intent. Instead of studying Christ as the object of religious devotion or faith by, say, exploring the Trinity (that three Persons are in one God) or the hypostatic union (that Jesus has two natures, both divine and human), modern Christology means to study Jesus as a figure in history. In other words, modern Christology seeks to know “the historical Jesus,” which means Jesus the man,
Maria Hsia Chang, Professor Emerita of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno, writes from Berkeley, California. 24
instead of Jesus the Christ. More than that, asserts Dominican priest and theologian Edward Krasevac, historical reconstructions of Jesus have regularly been put forward as challenges to faith. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, for his part, said in a 1996 speech that “the identification of only one historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, with…the living God, is now relegated as a relapse into myth. Jesus is consciously relativized as one religious leader among others.” The result, as Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx once observed, is that traditional Christology “has fallen apart in our time” to ruinous effect. To wit, a 2002 survey found that one-third of the clergy in the Church of England doubted or disbelieved in the physical resurrection of Christ — the principle tenet of the Christian faith. The study of any figure in history can only be as good as the historical evidence allows. To begin, the quest for the historical Jesus immediately faces the problem of historical sources. Those sources are of two main varieties: historians of the time and the three Synoptic Gospels. The information that follows on the historians and the Gospels is taken from Lutheran theologian and pastor Mark Allan Powell’s Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee (first edition, 1998; second edition, 2013). Historians of the Time The three most important Roman historians of the first-century period are Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus. All three make mention of Jesus, but only
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Josephus has much to say about Him. In general, the Romans were much more interested in Christianity than in Christ Himself. Josephus, a Roman Jew, was born in A.D. 37, just after the death of Jesus. He mentions Jesus twice. The first mention is in describing the illegal execution of James, the leader of the Christian church at Jerusalem, whom Josephus identifies as “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.” Powell finds it noteworthy that Josephus, a Jewish writer who was not a Christian, would refer to Jesus with the term “Christ,” which means messiah or savior. Josephus’s second mention of Jesus is more detailed: At this time there appeared Jesus a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among Jews and among many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians (named after him) has not died out. Tacitus (A.D. 56-117), a Roman senator, records that Jesus was “executed in Tiberius’s reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate.” Tacitus wrote this in the context of introducing the Christians, who were followers of the executed man, but Tacitus gives no indication that he knew anything about the beliefs of these Christians (whom he describes as “notoriously depraved”), much less about the life or teaching of Jesus Himself. Suetonius, writing in around A.D. 120, reports that the Emperor Claudius expelled Jews from Rome because of trouble arising over “Chrestus.” Most scholars think “Chrestus” is a mangled spelling of the Latin for “Christ.” But Suetonius displays no knowledge of or interest in the man Jesus who lived in Palestine. Other Roman historians were even more vague about Jesus. Pliny the Younger, in a letter to the Emperor Trajan around A.D. 111-113, writes that the Christians “chant verses to Christ as to a god,” but he does not otherwise mention Jesus. For his part, Lucian of Samosata (A.D. 115-200) mentions neither Jesus nor Christ, but instead writes a mockDECEMBER 2013
ing satire about Christians, who are said to worship a “crucified sophist” from Palestine and who live “under his laws,” because he “introduced this new cult into the world.” Jewish writings of the time were even worse as historical sources than the Roman histories. Jesus is not mentioned by name in any of the ancient Jewish writings, such as the Talmud, the Tosefta, the targums, and the midrashim. The one text that is most often accepted as referring to Jesus is from the Babylonian Talmud, but there is no way of knowing how early or how reliable the reference may be. Here’s the reference, for what it’s worth: On the eve of Passover, they hanged Yeshu [Jesus?] and the herald went before him 40 days saying “[Yeshu] is going forth to be stoned, since he practiced sorcery and cheated and led his people astray. Let everyone knowing anything in his defense come and plead for him.” But they found nothing in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover. Later, this same Babylonian Talmud text also says, “Yeshu had five disciples: Mattai, Maqai, Metser, Buni, and Todah.” The Canonical Gospels The first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are called the Synoptic Gospels because they have many parallel passages (synoptic means parallel) — passages that are very similar if not identical in wording. This suggests that one of the three served as the prototype of the others. St. Augustine believed that the Gospel of Matthew was written first and that the other two copied material from
Matthew, but the great majority of scholars now believe that the Gospel of Mark was the earliest of these three books and that Matthew and Luke took much of their material from Mark. To complicate matters further, most scholars today also believe that Matthew and Luke had copies of another earlier Christian document, one that has since been lost to us, called simply Q. From the empiricist historian’s point of view, the canonical Gospels are problematic as chronicles of Jesus. The problems, as they see it, are mainly two: timing and authorship. To begin with, there is the matter of when the four Gospels were written. They were not contemporary accounts of Jesus but instead were written many years after His death. The Gospel of Mark, which is generally regarded as the most historically reliable of the four Gospels in terms of an overall description of Jesus’ life and ministry, is usually thought to have been written sometime around A.D. 70, either just before or just after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman armies. Most scholars think that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were completed around A.D. 85. As for the Gospel of John, it is almost universally regarded as the last of the New Testament witnesses to Jesus. Most scholars believe that it was composed in stages. Historians are unsure of the date and origin of most of the material in John, and so do not rely on it as strongly as they do on Mark or the mysterious Q. Bringing home this matter of timing is the fact that the Letters of St. Paul, who did not know the earthly Jesus but claimed to have seen the risen Christ, were written some twenty to thirty years before the Gospels! Considering that the four Gospels were not contemporaneous accounts of Jesus’ life, this next piece of information about their authorship should come as less of a rude surprise. Church tradition which holds that the first Gospel was written by Matthew, the Apostle and tax collector, is almost universally rejected by modern scholars, as are the traditions that the second Gospel was written by John Mark (or simply Mark) and the third by Luke the physician. In any case, neither John Mark nor Luke the physician had met Jesus. As for the Gospel of John, its authorship — like the other three — is also anonymous. The book claims that some of the things it records are based 26
on the testimony of a mysterious figure called “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and that this disciple is the one “who is testifying to these things and has written them.” Who was this person? Was he John the son of Zebedee, the fisherman who became a disciple of Jesus, as Church tradition maintains? Scholars cannot say with any certainty. So much for historical sources. At the end of the course on Modern Christology, I came to the following conclusions: A few historians of the time make references to Jesus but, other than confirming that there was a person named Jesus (or “Yeshu”) who had inspired followers who then called themselves Christians, the information these historians give is extremely sketchy. There are reasons to doubt that the Gospels were contemporaneous accounts of Jesus, or that they were written by His Apostles. But we do have historical accounts of the Apostles. So it is to them that the quest for the historical Jesus must go. And there — in the Apostles’ behaviors, lives, and deaths — the empiricist in me found the most compelling testimony of not just the historical Jesus, but Jesus the Christ. This is what we know: All the Apostles, except the youngest named John, abandoned Jesus after He was taken away from the Garden of Gethsemane by Roman soldiers. The Apostle Simon Peter — on whom Jesus founded, and to whom he entrusted, His Church — thrice denied that he even knew Jesus. The Apostles were understandably frightened by Jesus’ crucifixion, which was the Roman empire’s cruelest form of execution, reserved for the worst criminals. They were so frightened that they went into hiding. On the third day after Jesus died, His body disappeared from the tomb. After that, the Apostles became completely transformed: from cowering to fearless men, from illiterate fishermen to bold preachers of good tidings (the gospel) to crowds of strangers — and in different languages! — from having abandoned their Master and Teacher to die alone on the cross to becoming martyrs for the faith. Such a total transformation can only be accounted for and explained by something extraor-
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dinary that happened in that brief interim between the crucifixion of Jesus and the disappearance of His body. What happened had to be something even more extraordinary than the miracles the Apostles had witnessed in the three years of Jesus’ public ministry. Those miracles included: the multiplication of a few fishes and loaves to feed thousands; the healing of the blind, the lame, and the sick; the casting out of demons from the possessed; walking on water; calming a stormy sea; re-attaching the severed ear of a Roman soldier in Gethsemane; raising Lazarus from the dead. That super-extraordinary event was the Resurrection. Only the risen Christ could have caused so quick and complete a transformation of sane, rational men into men they were not. Only by
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encountering the risen Christ — by speaking, walking, and eating with Him, and, in the case of doubting Thomas, by touching His wounds — could the Apostles have changed overnight from frightened little rabbits into courageous, outspoken men whom no one could silence and who went to a martyr’s death, willingly and joyfully, for their risen Lord. And so, in the end, the quest for the historical Jesus remains ever elusive. But the quest for the Christ Jesus is in the personal testimonies of the lives of His Apostles. For God insists that we must find Him and believe in Him not via empiricism but through a leap of faith. To quote Mark Allan Powell, “For me…the Jesus of this story has come to mean more than knowing history. Over the years, it has come to mean recognizing the story to be grounded in the witness of the Spirit, in the testimonies of saints and martyrs, and in my own life experience…. I think of the story…not as the place where I look for Jesus but as the place where he finds me.” n
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A NEW RELIGION, A NEW PRIESTHOOD
D.Q. McInerny On Science sans Context
he first thing that has to be said about scientism is that it is not science; it is, in fact, the very antithesis of science. What we might call the classical understanding of science (the word comes from the Latin scientia, which means “knowledge”), adopted by Scholastic philosophy, holds that a science is an organized body of knowledge, based on first principles, whose chief task is to seek the causes of things. Besides nicely covering what we commonly think of as science today, such as physics and chemistry, this classical understanding also includes disciplines such as philosophy and theology. What, then, is scientism, which we have identified as the antithesis of science? The phenomenon of scientism had its inception in the nineteenth century, a century in which modern science came fully into its own. This was especially the case with physics — so much so that, toward the end of the century, there were some physicists who declared, rather prematurely, that all the major discoveries in their field had been made. Given the remarkable progress the sciences had achieved since the seventeenth century, made
D.Q. McInerny is a professor of philosophy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. He holds B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees, all in philosophy, from the National University of Ireland, University College Cork. Among his latest published books are Natural Theology (2005), Epistemology (2007), and An Introduction to Foundational Logic (2012). 28
dramatically evident to the general public by the plethora of technological wonders which were the practical outcome of that progress, science came to be held in the highest esteem. This led some people to get a bit carried away by it all, to the point where they began to attribute to science a status and a wide-ranging prowess that were beyond its capacities to justify. The scientific method was hailed as the method, and science itself was seen to provide the only certain and reliable path to truth, not simply within the realm of science but beyond. Thus was born the phenomenon we call scientism, whose essential character can be summed up by describing it as an attitude that fosters and promotes a seriously exaggerated — and hence distorted — estimation of the nature and the scope of science. Disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and biology are, of course, legitimate sciences according to our classical definition of the term. But scientism contributed to a narrowing of the application of the term so that people were gradually trained to understand it as properly referring only to the empirical sciences. Accompanying this move was a marked tendency to exclude disciplines such as philosophy and theology from the sacrosanct realm of science. These disciplines, which had traditionally been considered sciences, were relegated to the outer darkness, and their claim to genuine scientific status regarded as illegitimate. In its most extreme form, scientism came to look upon science as something very much like a religion; it was the new religion of clear-eyed rationality, which would eventually supplant the outworn traditional religions, especially Christianity. And if science was the new religion, scientists
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represented the new priesthood. Science was to be seen as a fitting substitute for traditional religion because it reflected the heartening fact that the human race had at long last reached full maturity and was poised to put away completely the irrationality and the superstition that were the marks of the “juvenile” stages of its development. It was science, and science alone, that would lead the human race into a golden future — a future rich with promises, all of which, in due season, would find happy fulfillment. The twentieth century, which not a few historians have labeled the bloodiest in the whole of human history, proved to be a sobering experience for those inclined to put all their eggs in the basket of science. So then, have we outgrown scientism? To be sure, there are many scientists today who take a healthily balanced view of their profession, acknowledging the undeniable importance of science while at the same time displaying no hesitancy in calling attention to its limitations. That said, we would be mistaken to think that scientism is a relic of history. It is, in fact, still very much with us and, according to physicist Dr. Anthony Rizzi, it is manifesting itself more vigorously today than it ever has in times past — a point he tellingly brings home by referring to the phenomenon we now have to deal with as “scientism on steroids.”1
mong the various ways in which scientism has shown its colors is in the form of a certain type of book that has been coming off the presses on a fairly regular basis for a number of years now. Books of this type, intended for a general audience, are written by scientists (often enough by physicists) and have as their principal purpose to explain one particular aspect or another of modern science, or perhaps to provide a general overview of what is happening in the field. This purpose is usually fulfilled to very good effect, and these books are invariably quite interesting and often informative. But if that is the principal purpose of these books, they have a subordinate purpose as well, and that 1. See Anthony Rizzi’s two-part NOR series, “Recovering by Grounding Modern Physics.” Part I: “How a Neglect of Physics Has Turned Christianity into a Myth for Modern Man” (Apr. 2013), Part II: “The Redemption of Man Requires the Redemption of Science” (May 2013). DECEMBER 2013
is to disseminate, either subtly here and there or quite openly and even at times heavy-handedly, the ideas and attitudes that have been associated with the point of view of scientism. To illustrate this point, let us consider three such books, all of recent vintage, each of which attained bestseller status: The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins of Oxford University; The Grand Design (2010) by Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University, written in collaboration with Cal Tech physicist Leonard Mlodinow; and A Universe from Nothing (2012) by theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss of Arizona State University. When, in books like The Blind Watchmaker (1986), Dawkins chooses to spend a goodly amount of space writing about the verified specifics of his proper field of biology (usually based on his own research), reading him can be a distinctly pleasurable experience, and an educational one as well. But when he moves into the realms of philosophy and metaphysics, not to mention theology (which he does without a moment’s hesitation, and there pronounces authoritatively on a variety of subjects), he is as much out of his element as I would be were I to have the temerity to hold forth dogmatically, and in print, on details having to do with the field of biology. What prompts him to make these bold incursions into the field of philosophy has to do with his earnest dedication to the task of spreading the gospel of scientism. As a devotee of that gospel, he would naturally have no compunction against waxing philosophical for, as scientism sees things, philosophy is not a real science that requires any special knowledge or expertise but is something anybody can “do,” ad libitum, and without the least bit of strain. The results of this attitude, which are everywhere on display in the type of book we are considering, are not particularly happy. The God Delusion was obviously intended,
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unlike Dawkins’s other books, to be first and foremost an extended argument on behalf of atheism; this is accompanied by a running diatribe against theism. But the book is liberally laced with ideas and attitudes that reflect the point of view of scientism, dominant among which being the notion that science represents the epitome of rationality, whereas religion, for its sad part, must be recognized as the very quintessence of irrationality. He frankly admits that he is seeking converts to his worldview, and expresses the hope that by book’s end the waverers, the doubtful, and the perplexed will be sufficiently convinced by what they have read so as to be prepared to stand up, having now been washed clean in the waters of pure rationality, and gladly declare their complete and unqualified faith in faithlessness. Yet, when one takes Dawkins’s arguments on behalf of atheism as a whole, and assesses them fairly and squarely according to the cold criteria of logic, they can be said to have precisely the opposite effect from the one intended.2 Granted, it does not necessarily follow that because a convincing case is not made for atheism, theism is thereby proven to be true; nonetheless, it does have the effect of leaving theism quite unscathed. Where Dawkins’s scientism comes through at a consistently high decibel level in all of his books is in the attitude — indeed it has the flavor of being a quasi-religious belief — that takes science to be, first, unalterably opposed to religion and, second, the infallible oracle of universal truth. On the very first page of The Grand Design we are unceremoniously informed by Hawking and Mlodinow that “philosophy is dead.” And why might that be? It is because “philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.” Given the source of this remarkable declaration, it would not be untoward to count it as not a little embarrassing for those who made it. Surely these learned gentlemen are aware, if only
2. Lest readers think that I am being carelessly dismissive of the quality of the arguments to be found in The God Delusion, I invite them to consult the following works, all of which are responses to Dawkins’s book: A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins by Thomas Crean, O.P.; The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicut McGrath; The Devil’s Delusion by David Berlinski; and The Last Superstition by Edward Feser. 30
by way of rumor, that one of the most vibrant and productive disciplines within philosophy today is the philosophy of science. The people who pursue this discipline not only manage quite well to keep up with modern developments in science, particularly physics, but do so impressively. Indeed, not a few of the scholars working in the philosophy of science have a knowledge of modern science that is more comprehensive and of greater depth than that of many practicing physicists, chemists, or biologists — most of whom, given the realities of present-day research, are locked into specialties that are quite narrow in scope and so demanding of their time and energies that they can scarcely keep up with what is happening, on a larger scale, within their own disciplines. But there are many more equally remarkable assertions to be found in The Grand Design, such as, “Though realism may be a tempting viewpoint… what we know about modern physics makes it a difficult one to defend.” One would have thought, perhaps naïvely, that a physicist, of all people, might find something to recommend in philosophical realism. But we are told that realism should be regarded as a temptation which, when succumbed to, would presumably lead a hapless soul to take the benighted position that there is actually an objective world out there, a world chock full of real things. On the same page the authors inform us that “in some cases individual objects don’t have an independent existence.” If that is indeed the case, then one might wonder to what “individual objects” refers. If a so-called individual object does not have an independent existence, in what sense can it be regarded as an object, or a thing, or, as the Scholastic philosopher would say, a substance? The only alternative to independent existence is dependent existence, in which case the referent would not be a substantial entity at all but an accident or a property of a substance. Toward the end of the book we read, “We [presumably alluding to physicists] create history by our observation, rather than history creating us.” Consider that statement along with this later passage: “These mental concepts are the only reality we can know. There is no model-independent test of reality. It follows that a well-constructed model creates a reality of its own.” Here we have clearly expressed the decided penchant for philosophical idealism that affects the thinking of a good many practicing
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scientists today, especially if they are theoretical physicists or cosmologists. (Philosophical idealism, to describe it in terms of its methodological approach to reality, is that philosophical point of view which begins with ideas in the mind rather than with things in the world.) And then our two scientists take on the role of would-be metaphysicians and solemnly, if not convincingly, assure us that, in trying to construe the meaning of the universe, there is no need to appeal to a Creator God. As Pierre-Simon Laplace once explained to Napoleon, there is no need for such a hypothesis. And then, in referring to arguments that conclude to the existence of God, specifically in terms of His being the First Cause of all that is, they pose a question they evidently take to be the ultimate clincher: If God is the Creator of all things, who, they want to know, created God? Such a question, which has all the qualities of a real breath-taker, is one whose incoherence is of the 33rd degree, and could only be asked by someone who, whatever might be his pretensions to the contrary, is quite innocent of metaphysics. It would seem to be one of the standard questions in the atheist catechism, and it shows up with wearying regularity in their writings. I first ran into it in George H. Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God (1974). It is a favorite of Dawkins, and now we see it faithfully trotted out by Hawking and Mlodinow. Why is such a question incoherent? A first cause is, by definition, a cause that has no cause, and it is precisely for that reason that it is called first. It has no antecedents. Of course, there is only one First Cause, and that is God. To ask for the cause of a first cause would be roughly comparable to asking, with respect to number theory and the series of natural integers, What comes before “one”? The answer is that nothing — i.e., zero — comes before one, for one, the unit, is the principle of all numbers; it is where all numbers begin. To ask what comes before the beginning would be to display a fundamental miscomprehension of the matter at hand. When physicist Lawrence M. Krauss sticks to the subject of physics, as is the case when Dawkins sticks to the subject of biology, he is most interesting to read, not the least reason for which is the fact that he, like Dawkins, is a very fine writer — a talent that is always worthy of special recognition. A Universe from Nothing is an especially good ex32
ample of the kind of book under discussion, in that, while it is primarily a book on science — specifically cosmology — it has a strong subtheme that clearly reflects the mindset of scientism. What we have here, then, is a book on science that incorporates within its covers a markedly non-scientific agenda. There is nothing at all hidden about that agenda, by the way, for Krauss brings it right out into the open and leaves it there. He tells us that he wants “to show how modern science, in various guises, can address and is addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing.” Immediately we find ourselves firmly domiciled within the realm of metaphysics. What Krauss has in mind to demonstrate for us is the fact that it is science, and science alone, that can be trusted to provide reliable answers to all of the big questions, including those pertaining to the origin of the universe. We saw that, according to the classical understanding of what constitutes a science, the central and always pressing question it seeks to answer is why? But to Krauss, such a question is not one with which the scientist should concern himself, and that is because what lurks menacingly behind that seemingly innocent question is the idea of purpose, and we should know that in the physical universe, to the intense contemplation of which the theoretical physicists devotes full time, there is “nothing that points to purpose or design.” Thus spake the cosmologist, with dogmatic finality. The physical universe, which Aristotle saw as replete with things that acted “always or for the most part” with patterned consistency — which is to say, invariably directed toward specified ends (in other words, purposefully), thereby making prediction possible — is somehow to be regarded, according to Krauss, as something which is not what it blatantly seems to be. This is reminiscent of Dawkins’s oft-repeated claim that, though things may everywhere seem to be purposeful, they really aren’t, which is like saying that the culmination of any physical act, without which it would be impossible to identify it as an act, is not really a culmination after all. We are invited to leave common sense behind and ignore the deliverances of our senses. Speaking of Dawkins, it should be noted that he wrote the Afterword to Krauss’s book, wherein the world’s premier evangelist for atheism gives his blessing, as it were, to a work whose own strong anti-religious, anti-theistic tone is not to
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our midst scientists of the likes of Rizzi. He is as well be mistaken. The book’s peculiar character in this positioned as anyone to respond authoritatively to respect is made clear as soon as the reader opens it the distortions of scientism. Rizzi is himself a scienand is greeted with five pages of puffs, some of which tist, a physicist of the first rank, and his effectiveness laud the work for being “a scientist’s hymn — a as a determined foe of scientism is explained in great song of secular appreciation,” and for being “the part by the practical, down-to-earth approaches he triumph of physics over metaphysics, reason and takes to the problem. He received his Bachelor of enquiry over obfuscation and myth.” Science degree in physics from MIT and then went Krauss really goes out of his way to stress the on to earn his Ph.D. in that subject from Princeton. anti-theistic theme of his book, at one point explainHe is currently the director of the Institute for Ading to us, following what he doubtless believes to be vanced Physics (IAP) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, of an impeccable line of reasoning, that “if there were which he is also the founder. He is, needless say, as no potential for creation, then God couldn’t have aware as anyone of the problems posed by scientism, created anything.” A statement such as that does but he sees scientism itself as symptomatic of a not represent a triumph over metaphysics but just the opposite; metaphysics always wins, hands down, when people “There can be no contradiction between revealed who are ignorant of its principles truth and science, but only between revealed truth make metaphysical pronounceand certain philosophical speculations, interpretaments. And then — are you ready? — here it comes again: “Neverthetions, deductions, or presuppositions that somehow less,” Krauss writes, “the declarabecome illegitimately associated with certain sciention of a First Cause leaves open tific discoveries.” the question, ‘Who created the — Dietrich von Hildebrand creator?’” The question remains open only to him for whom metadeeper and physics remains a closed book. How very neatly the more pervasive malaise — a malaise that finds excosmologist curbs the power of the Omnipotent and pression in the general philosophical disorientation sets boundaries for the Infinite. On the very last page that affects the whole of contemporary society. The of his book, and in its very last sentence, Krauss undeleterious effects of this philosophical disorientaambiguously states his non-scientific position: “But tion are pervasive and therefore impact the field what I can claim definitely is that I wouldn’t want of education, specifically science education, about to live in a universe with a God — that makes me which Rizzi is chiefly concerned. an anti-theist, as my friend Christopher Hitchens.” Rizzi is committed to developing programs which will ensure that physics be taught in the hese three books are like many others that right way, but this very specific goal is part of a have been published in recent years, and larger, more all-embracing agenda to which IAP is clearly bear out Anthony Rizzi’s contendedicated to implementing. The express purpose tion that scientism is alive and well and flexing its for which IAP was founded is “to advance modern muscles rather ostentatiously. What we have to science in a balanced fashion that does not leave deal with then is a situation in which we are being behind the correct philosophical foundations, nor insistently presented, by its advocates, with a steady the proper moral and spiritual components.” IAP’s diet of scientism, which is to say that we are being presented with a view of the nature and purpose of aims, then, are decidedly holistic in character. Its science that is severely distorted. Are we to consider focus is on science — specifically physics — but ourselves more or less helpless in light of this situaRizzi is guided by the notion that if science, and tion? Not at all. We have very good reasons for being physics in particular, are to be learned as they ought optimistic about the possibility that the false view to be learned, they must be successfully integrated of science that is offered to us by scientism can be into a larger, comprehensive educational program, effectively countered, and that is because we have in one that takes into account, in Fr. Celestine Bittle’s
phrase, “the whole man.” To take into account the whole man is to be thoroughly imbued with the conviction that a human being is a person, and to be a person is to have an eternal destiny. Modern science possesses a very important inherent strength, which consists in the fact that it is, in contrast to what is found in so many non-scientific disciplines today — one of the few remaining areas of human inquiry which, in the main at least, is still dedicated to the bedrock proposition that there is an objective order of things. I say “in the main,” for even in the realm of science Rizzi finds especially worrisome the insinuation into scientific thinking, particularly as pertaining to physics, of what he calls the poison of subjectivism, which has its roots in philosophical idealism. We thus witness the spectacle in which some physicists, motivated by what they take to be the correct interpretation of the findings of quantum mechanics, calmly claim that if a physical object is not being observed, then we are justified in concluding that it is not really there.3 The problems that beset modern science are not purely scientific; what has to be recognized is the “moral, spiritual and philosophical poverty” that is to be found in the science departments of so many colleges and universities where, IAP notes, “the life of the soul and its directedness toward God are ignored and even despised,” the result being “a narrowness of thought and personality that is creating an increasingly toxic atmosphere for human minds and hearts.” It is the determined purpose of IAP, in response to this state of affairs, to contribute toward the development of “an educational atmosphere that is fully human, incorporating the appropriate philosophical, moral and spiritual components.” Rizzi has already made significant progress toward realizing the aims of his Institute, specifically by his publications which, thoroughly informed by the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, provide a sound philosophical foundation for a properly balanced study of the sciences, physics in particular. 3. That this bizarre perspective is a manifestation of philosophical idealism is shown by the fact that it faithfully mirrors the point of view taken by the arch-idealist philosopher George Berkeley (1685-1753), one of whose guiding principles was esse est percipi, “to be is to be perceived,” or, not to be seen is not to be. 34
This is something that could only have been accomplished by someone of Rizzi’s background, for he is entirely conversant with the philosophy that is everywhere reflected in his scientific writings. A case in point would be his book The Science Before Science: A Guide to Thinking in the 21st Century (2004). What is the science before science? In the broadest terms, it could be said to be what Pope Leo XIII referred to as the perennial philosophy — that is, the sum total of all that is perennially true and has been taught from time immemorial. More narrowly, it is Thomistic philosophy, with all its rich metaphysical dimensions; more narrowly still, it is the philosophy of nature (physics understood in its comprehensive sense) as it has been developed within the Thomistic tradition. Thomism is a thoroughly realist philosophy; it is based on common sense and, although it soars above that base in its many and diverse philosophic elaborations, it never loses touch with common sense, which means that it continues to foster an open and trusting stance toward our everyday world — the world “out there” — which is the measure of the human mind. As a realist philosophy, Thomism has no inclination to follow the errant ways of idealism which, spurning common sense, deliberately harbors a distrust of the senses, which invariably leads to an enervating skepticism. To distrust sense knowledge is to deprecate irrationally the one and only source of intellectual knowledge. There is no gainsaying the truth of the Thomistic epistemological principle that tells us there is not an idea in the mind, however vaporously abstract it might be, whose origins are not ultimately traceable to our homey quotidian encounters with the extra-mental world, rooted in sensation. The Thomist philosopher, realist as he is, sees nothing but a blueprint for intellectual disaster in the notion that philosophy should begin with doubt. This recalls Étienne Gilson’s pointed observation, made with René Descartes’s methodology very much in mind, that he who begins with doubt is doomed to end with doubt. To insist on taking a shortcut through quicksand is the sure way never to reach one’s destination. Descartes himself serves as the perfect object lesson here. Though he was unquestionably sincere in his intention to construct a philosophical system that would triumph over doubt, and thus spell defeat for skepticism, his
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levels, between essence and existence. These and fatal decision to attempt to cure poison with poison other elementary philosophical truths represent the proved to be, not surprisingly, sternly counterpronecessary starting points for all sound reasoning, to ductive. whatever subject it may be applied. The Science Before Science contains within its The basic principles laid out in The Science covers an entire course in the basics of Thomistic Before Science are given direct and very effective philosophy, presented in a way calculated to achieve application in Physics for Realists (2008), Rizzi’s the book’s guiding purpose: to provide an adequate beautifully designed and composed textbook that grounding for the proper study of science. In deferrepresents a happy marriage between modern physence to the fact that science is such a dominant ics and the philosophy of nature. In this respect, it presence in contemporary society, Rizzi begins with is altogether unique. The book’s Preface informs science and then introduces, in a measured, systemus that the text will “cover Newtonian mechanics atic way, an array of key philosophical principles. from a point of view that keeps contact with one’s The ultimate aim of the book, he tells us, is wisdom, pre-scientific experience. This is what we mean by which of course is the aim of philosophy itself. The particular manner in which advancement toward that aim is “It might be going too far to say that the modern achieved is the focused, repeated emphasis given to objective reality. scientific movement was tainted from its birth: but A healthy physics is founded on a I think it would be true to say that it was born in an healthy philosophy, and a healthy unhealthy neighborhood and at an inauspicious hour. philosophy is a realist philosophy. Its triumphs may have been too rapid and purchased One of the motivating impetuses behind Rizzi’s whole approach at too high a price: reconsideration, and something is his steady conviction that the like repentance, may be required.” “most formidable enemy of sci— C.S. Lewis ence today is subjectivism.” The overall program for the Physics for Realists. It brings proper study of science that Rizzi is putting together out and emphasizes that physics is about the world is intended to ensure that those young people who around us.” Later we are told that the book “is for embark upon the serious study of science, and espepeople who want to be firmly grounded in the world cially those who desire to make a career of science, of things around them,” that it is a book “where should first be thoroughly grounded in general philorealism is opposed to philosophical idealism…the sophical principles that will allow them to underidea that our minds know only themselves, not stand science as it is meant to be understood — that things,” and that it is a book whose starting point is is, as a discipline set within larger cultural, moral, common sense. and theological contexts. As to specifics, one must in Physics, because it relies so heavily on the the first instance develop a co-natural familiarity with language of mathematics, where physical things those foundational principles that govern all human are typically reduced to mathematical points, can reasoning, such as the principle of non-contradiction perhaps all too easily slip into an idealist mode of and the principle of sufficient reason. One must thinking and forget that what physics is all about know the distinctions between, and the practical apis the real — not simply the abstract quantificaplications of, the material, formal, efficient, and final tion of things, but things themselves. One has thus causes. This is true especially for the last, which St. to be careful that the tool, mathematics, not take Thomas pointedly identified as “the cause of causes,” command of the user, to the point where his focus by which he meant to call attention to the fact that it becomes blurred. But the danger of becoming too is the final cause that lends intelligibility to the three enamored of our ideas, be they mathematical or other causes. Then there are the critically imporotherwise, so that we lose sight of the concrete tant distinctions between substance and accident, realities to which those ideas refer, is not a problem between act and potency, and, at the most basic of DECEMBER 2013
that is limited to the physicist; it can happen to all of us, not excluding the philosopher. Again one recalls an apt observation once made by Gilson that “a philosopher talks about things, while a professor of philosophy talks about philosophy.”
ith the general downward drift of contemporary culture, it is perhaps altogether too easy to submit to the notion that all signs point to a yet steeper and more prolonged descent, and that there is nothing that suggests anything like an ascending cultural curve. Such a notion, potent though it sometimes can be, must
be challenged, for it is a particularly dangerous one which, when submitted to, has the capacity of engendering a debilitating despondency. The reality is that there are very promising countercultural movements afoot, and prominent among them is that represented by the work engaged in by Dr. Anthony Rizzi and the Institute for Advanced Physics. In that organization we have a dynamic, inspirited response to the bland and bloodless secularism which, for the moment at least, has managed to gain the ascendency, and which has cast a dispiriting spell over a lethargic, distracted society. But spells can be dispelled, and it is the truth that does it. n
A LESSON FROM THE GLOBAL SOUTH
Paul J. Utterback The Devil in Our Midst
alawi is a small country in sub-Saharan Africa about the size of Indiana but heartily populated by nearly fifteen million souls, the majority of whom live on approximately a dollar a day. The Catholic Church in Malawi is a fascinating and, at times, disconcerting mixture of Christianity and native custom. Some see it as a strength of Catholicism that it permits enculturation to a certain degree, which, it is argued, enhances her ability to speak to people in their concrete experience. Others
Paul J. Utterback recently returned from Malawi, where he served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching English and history at St. Pio Catholic Secondary School, a Capuchin institution that strives to operate preferentially for the poor. A “revert” to Catholicism after turbulent college years, he aspires to the religious life. 36
see it as a dilution of the faith, rendering the Church incapable of denouncing some rather peculiar — and at times troubling — cultural practices clung to in the name of tribal heritage. Serving as a Peace Corps volunteer at a Catholic school in Malawi, I’ve had to overcome my tendency to see Westernization — meant in a Catholic sense, a sort of Europeanization in terms of behavior, temperament, liturgy, culture, etc. — as the panacea for any and all ills, and to accept that this place offers the Church universal a perspective that could do much to wash away the malaise that has settled over much of Catholicism in the West. For lack of a better term, living in Malawi has supernaturalized my worldview. It has helped me to reassess the realities on the ground in southeast Africa and stirred me out of my torpor with regard to the battle the Church militant wages daily against forces that, whether we in the West want to acknowledge it or not, beset us on every side. One area in particular in which the scales have fallen from my
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eyes is that of witchcraft, which at one time I held to be merely a superstition — a silly one at that — and a nonsensical stumbling block to harmonious community and interethnic relations. Witchcraft as Superstition? In his 2012 book The Future Church, John L. Allen Jr. analyzes ten trends that he predicts will shape the Church in the years to come. Trend number one is the rise of a world Church wherein the concerns of the global south do not match those of the global north. Allen discusses several currently peripheral issues that may come to bear with great force on the Church if she becomes truly global in her pastoral approach. One such issue is that pagan mainstay, witchcraft. “While Northerners may see magic and witchcraft in largely benign terms as a form of New Age spirituality,” writes Allen, “across the South the working assumption is that magic and witchcraft are real but demonic, so the proper response is spiritual combat.” Combat is indeed the proper response: People in Africa are terrified of witchcraft because the consequences for merely being suspected of practicing black magic can be devastating. As Allen writes: In Nigeria, an elderly woman was beheaded in 2007 after she was accused of placing a member of another tribe under a curse. In turn, her murder triggered a spate of interethnic killing that left eighty dead…. In 2007, a gang of villagers in Kenya beat an eighty-one-year-old man to death, suspecting him of having murdered his three grandsons through witchcraft. As a Westerner (or a Northerner, as Allen has it), my unstudied reaction to the first example was that it was an excuse to engage in ethnic fighting; magic was simply the pretense. In the latter example, magic was the rationalization of tragedy. Allen continues by noting that in Nairobi, Kenya, at a three-day symposium held at the Catholic University of East Africa, “experts warned that witchcraft was ‘destroying’ the Catholic Church in Africa, in part because skeptical, Western-educated clergy are not responding adequately to people’s spiritual needs.” I was one of those people: a Western-educated man who consigned magic to his childhood books, who had carefully filed witch DECEMBER 2013
doctors away as benign and powerless eccentrics and not as men and women who can wield great power in a village, even destroying it through their various machinations. A quick search query of the term witchcraft at the Nyasa Times website, a popular online newspaper in Malawi, returns stories that absolutely confound the Western imagination. Here is a brief sampling of a few of the headlines: “Megadinho saga: Bullets to sue Wanderers over witchcraft claims” (this would be like the Green Bay Packers suing the Chicago Bears for casting spells against their players) “Malawi mortuary supervisor Mphimbi held over cutting private parts for trade” (the genitals and appendages of albinos are used in various concoctions of witch doctors) “Malawi lawmakers persuaded to review punishment of men who sleep with women magically” “Malawian man torches mother to death over witchcraft suspicion” “Court in Malawi saves alleged Witch from village eviction” These stories come from the first of several
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pages of returns. Many of the returns seem ludicrous, but even on a purely human level witchcraft has power. Until recently, I thought that this was the only power it had — the power to make people hysterical and make them do or justify doing ridiculous things. To relate a personal story: About a year ago I was living in a Malawian village where an elderly man was severely beaten because his neighbor had accused him of witchcraft. The evidence offered by the neighbor for said sorcery was that Bobo Mtonga had “obviously” cursed his field because it was doing so poorly in relation to Mr. Mtonga’s. Obvious to any impartial observer, however, was that there were far fewer weeds in Mr. Mtonga’s garden than in his neighbor’s, thus indicating that he took a great deal more care of it, with predictably favorable consequences. The whole business of magic, I gathered from this incident, was a great deal of malarkey, with disparaging accusations tossed about willy-nilly, their impetus in jealousy and nothing more. Recalling the Council of Paderborn (A.D. 785), which dealt with the Christianization of the AngloSaxons and, among other things, sought to temper witch-hunt mania by making the accusation of witchcraft itself a punishable offense, I wagged my finger like a schoolmarm at Christians in Malawi who placed a heavy emphasis on witchcraft to the exclusion of the many other evil practices on which they could have focused their energies. For example, while witchcraft can get you killed in a village, fornication, drunkenness, and general debauchery are the stuff of giggles and winking nods among polygamous Malawian men. I would point out that the Bible condemns these things more frequently and, in most cases, more vehemently. Furthermore, in a society with a fourteen percent HIV rate, I also thought that these issues were much more urgent to address — not the way the world deals with them, with condoms and other bits of petrol tossed onto the raging flame of human concupiscence, but the way the Church deals with them, by inspiring sinners to sanctity. Witchcraft as Reality with Concomitant Lessons My naïveté was brought home to me one evening while I and the Capuchin friars with whom I lived and worked sat in the common room after vespers. We were discussing why so many of the faithful 38
were indulging in a very common African tendency — namely, acting like Catholics on one Sunday, Pentecostals on another, and going to charismatic prayer and healing services occasionally during the week. For my part, I can’t stand such things: howling and shouting and writhing about, screaming to high heaven, getting all emotionally worked up — to what end? And yet our students would sneak off the school grounds to indulge in these things. Why? “It’s because there is evil here,” said Cosmas, one of our workers. He uttered this matter-of-factly, as if he were telling us that the night was cloudy and it might rain. “There is a strong presence of evil spirits in Lusangazi. There are so many people practicing witchcraft, and people don’t feel like you do enough to protect and heal them. So they turn to people who do.” “What do you mean?” asked one of the priests, himself a Malawian. “For those needing strength against evil, we have the sacraments.” “Plus,” I interjected, “for those who feel they have been victims of possession, there are exorcisms, and for those who fear the force of witchcraft, there’s the sacrament of the sick.” “No, no!” Cosmas retorted, shaking his head. “We need real power.” Putting aside the notion that the sacraments are not powerful, Cosmas’s emphatic but calm and rational statement caught me and my intellectual snobbery off guard. What finally sank in after two years of dismissing this “superstition” was that it was indeed real. Again, Allen: “In the South, the spiritual realm is tangible, palpable, and constantly nearby — in some ways, more real than the physical world. Illness is as likely to be attributed to evil spirits as to physical causes, and thisworldly misfortune is seen in light of personal sin instead of bad luck.” This is not to say that I have come to believe that someone can get cancer because he tells lies with impunity, but I have come more readily to understand what Anglican theologian John Mbiti meant when he wrote that, for Africans, as indeed it should be for all of us, “this is a religious universe…. The invisible presses hard upon the visible: one speaks to the other.” We should not, of course, chuck science out of the window — all knowledge is, after all, God’s knowledge — but we should similarly not rush to embrace a reductive materialism.
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I’ve asked myself many times over: Why did I doubt the veracity of demonic interference manifesting itself in witchcraft? Scripture deals with it at length: It is mentioned over ninety times from Exodus to Revelation. It is, for example, one of the works of the flesh, according to St. Paul: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy…. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21; italics added). These are tough words, and Africans seem much more willing to heed them to the letter than we are in the West, who take our cues on sorcery from Harry Potter. Allen is essentially correct when he remarks that, “in the North, even believing Christians are sometimes reluctant to talk too openly about the spiritual world. Claims of miraculous healings…or of demonic possession are sometimes greeted with skepticism, likely to be taken as indications of mental imbalance or emotional immaturity.” This aptly described me — until I dropped my posturing and decided to see the world through an African spiritual lens. I admit that in Malawi I rushed home after darkness fell, despite the fact that I was much safer there than I ever was living in cities in the U.S. I give credence to Cosmas’s claim that evil is particularly concentrated in Lusangazi, borne out as it was by the fact that I had to struggle so much harder to avoid sin and subdue concupiscence at this mission than I did in my previous village. “Is it me seeking to excuse myself, Father; am I just imaging that it is more difficult here?” I asked the mission’s guardian one evening at supper, concerned about a sin I thought I had conquered long ago. “No, there is a presence here,” he replied. “Here in Lusangazi there is evil. I feel it, and I know it to be true.” I too now know it to be true. We ignore the devil at our own peril, and we Westerners especially need to awaken from our slumber. We seem to have forgotten that the Church is divided into three parts: the Church triumphant (the members of the Church in Heaven), the Church suffering (the members of the Church in Purgatory), and the Church militant (the members of the Church in the world). Those of us in the latter category are engaged in spiritual warfare, whether DECEMBER 2013
we want to admit it or not. As St. Paul teaches, “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power. Against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Eph. 6:12). I am grateful to His Holiness, Pope Francis, who, in the early days of his papacy, made frequent reference to evil and Satan, because we have forgotten them. Satan is present when we calumniate, when we destroy, when we break the command-
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ments, when we act in hate and not in love, and yes, when we dabble in black magic. We in the West have fallen for his trick of convincing us that he doesn’t exist, and we do so at our own peril. By ignoring the influence of the devil, we allow the Church to languish. In a call to action in 2000 at the Faith of our Fathers Conference, Rod Pead, editor of the British publication Christian Order, stirringly stated: If the Church is not militant, she cannot thrive and flourish: Her sword of unity becomes blunt and useless. And if we have thus far not been sufficiently militant — if that sword has lost its edge — it is surely because so few in the orthodox camp have taken Pope Leo XIII at his
guest column On “Politicizing” the Eucharist One feels sorry for the bishops and pastors of the Catholic Church today. It’s not easy to be a shepherd in the twenty-first century. In a short span of about sixty years, the JudeoChristian heritage has suffered what is perhaps the greatest and most rapid moral deterioration in its history. Tragically, many of the people — including Catholics — who should be standing firm against this collapse have chosen to embrace it. The evidence is as close as today’s headlines and news reports. Huge swaths of Catholics who once scowled at divorce and remarriage argue today that, yes, maybe it’s time for same-sex marriage. 40
word when he said that Catholics were “born for combat”: by which he meant that a Catholic enters a spiritual war zone when he leaves his mother’s womb, that his baptism enlists him into the ranks of the Church militant and that the war is there to be fought daily, for his own soul and for the life of the Church, until he departs this world in a box! We must strive to be worthy of this battle; we must fight alongside our brothers and sisters in the global south and not pooh-pooh their fervor with contemptuous smugness. We should not question why people encounter God with shouts and trembling; rather, we should ask why our own faith is so cold. n
Likewise, poll numbers reveal that many Catholic women who once cherished the role of mothers now find it difficult to condemn abortion. The disintegration has happened not just in the major issues of morality but in the realm of common kindness and decency: Where once hats were tipped to priests and nuns, today half-naked activists can interrupt a prayer service to dump water on an archbishop — as happened this April in Belgium — and all most people can do is shrug it off as the “new normal.” The particularly thorny problem for Catholic pastors is that many who have rejected the Church’s teachings on morals, particularly in the area of family life and human sexuality, remain cultural Catholics. In other words, it’s still politically advantageous for Catholics, especially politicians and other public figures, to present themselves to the public as part of the general Catholic subgroup because it remains a powerful voting bloc. So they march up to Holy Communion in order to get fellow Catholics to support their personal ambitions, even though they are determined to advance policies that offend God and harm the Church, such as their support for abortion, homosexual unions, and infringements on the freedom to publicly practice one’s faith. Obviously, this is a serious matter for the Church. Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states, “Those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
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Attention must be paid here to manifest and not to be admitted. The word manifest shows that the Church is not pretending to read anyone’s heart. Rather, the Church determines objectively, based on a person’s public actions, whether or not he has acted in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church and Sacred Scripture. The phrase not to be admitted (ne admitantur in Latin) is clearly in the passive voice. This means that the decision not to admit someone to Holy Communion is not that of the person himself. Rather, the one who makes this decision is the pastor or the administrator of Holy Communion. To refuse anyone Holy Communion is certainly a loathsome thought. I can’t blame any pastor for searching for a valid reason to squirm out from under the obligation to follow canon 915. But the question must be asked: Is there ever a good reason for a pastor to give the Body and Blood of Christ to a “manifest” sinner who presents himself for Holy Communion? This problem was recently brought to the doorstep of the Irish hierarchy. They found themselves in a terrible predicament this May when Enda Kenny, the Catholic prime minister of Ireland, introduced legislation that would allow the abortion of children in some instances. Should the prime minister be refused Holy Communion? Sean Cardinal Brady, the head of the Irish Bishop’s Conference, didn’t think so. He reassured Catholic politicians that there would probably be no consequences for them if they were to support the bill that would introduce abortion into Irish social life. Why? Because, Cardinal Brady said, among the bishops “there would be a great reluctance to politicize the Eucharist.” The phrase politicize the Eucharist is a troubling one. It has become more and more common to see this idea offered in defense of giving Holy Communion to Catholics who support morally indefensible policies such as abortion. Now Cardinal Brady has added his voice to the chorus. But this trend doesn’t end with Prime Minister Kenny. When the issue has arisen with pro-abortion Catholic politicians in the U.S., the same defense has been offered by members of the American hierarchy. DECEMBER 2013
On the face of it, a desire not to politicize the Eucharist sounds reasonable, even prudent. Nobody wants to see the Eucharist “politicized.” I would agree that politicizing the Eucharist is a valid concern for the Catholic hierarchy — but for the opposite reason. To continue to give Holy Communion to a politician who is well known for sponsoring proabortion and same-sex marriage legislation is how the Eucharist truly becomes politicized. Why? Clearly, the politician is using Holy Communion because it is a politically astute thing to do: It lends legitimacy to his policies by giving the appearance that the Church has no problem with them. In short, it’s a clever way to garner a greater share of the Catholic vote. But for a “manifest” sinner to approach the Communion table is a violation of the moral and canonical laws of the Catholic Church. So, if a pastor chooses to give Holy Communion to that prominent Catholic person who chooses to support sinful public policies, that pastor is complicit in the politician’s campaign to “politicize” the Eucharist. It is precisely at the point when the pastor refuses to go along with the politician and instead denies him Holy Communion that the pastor takes the matter out of politics. That’s when he makes the reception of Holy Communion a moral and canonical matter rather than a political one. To ignore any canon at will is imprudent and a morally grave issue. Laymen who do it are often referred to as “cafeteria Catholics.” The Church hierarchy should know they are not immune from that charge, nor should they excuse themselves. Regis Scanlon Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap., has for the past 25 years been spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity in Denver. The director of the Catholic Prison Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver from 1999 to 2010, he is currently in the process of developing the Julia Greeley Home (juliagreeleyshelter.net), a shelter for homeless, unaccompanied women in the metro Denver area. 41
books in review Lawrence B. Porter Garry Wills’s Assault on Christian Faith Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition. By Garry Wills. Viking. 302 pages. $27.95. Garry Wills is not a professional theologian; he is a journalist. He has published more than forty books over the past fifty years on such diverse topics as the poems of Roman satirist Martial, Richard Nixon’s presidency, Verdi’s operas, the career of Hollywood actor John Wayne, the papacy, American nuclear power, the history of Venice, and now the Epistle to the Hebrews. When Wills writes about rhetorical style, as he did in his Pulitzer Prizewinning analysis of Lincoln’s
The Rev. Lawrence B. Porter is Professor of Systematic Theology in the Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, and author of The Assault on Priesthood: A Biblical and Theological Rejoinder (Wipf & Stock, 2012). 42
Gettysburg address, he is at his strongest. Also, he is a passable historian: His biography of St. Augustine is a decent work. But when it comes to writing theology or analyzing the history of Christian doctrine, he shows himself to be a rank amateur, totally out of his element. The thesis of his new book Why Priests? is that the early Christian movement was thoroughly egalitarian. Indeed, Wills asserts, “The egalitarian spirit of the early communities came from Jesus himself.” Also, from the beginning, the Lord’s Supper Service was “simply a celebration of the people’s oneness” and, Wills maintains, this “meaning for the ‘body of Christ’ would persist as late as the fourth and fifth centuries, in Augustine’s denial of the real presence of Jesus in the elements of the meal.” Wills indicts three principal villains for having later distorted both the identity of Jesus and the meaning of the Lord’s Supper Service, thus contributing to the creation of “priestly imperialism.” The first
villain is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (traditionally said to be St. Paul), who chose to present Jesus as a priest “in the line of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6:20), identifying Jesus with an Old Testament figure and Canaanite priest (Gen. 14:18). The second villain is St. Anselm of Canterbury (10331109) with his understanding of Christ’s death as atonement for the sins of mankind. The third villain is St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) with his “theory” of transubstantiation. Against these three figures and their ideas, Wills champions what he regards as the “more traditional” sacramental theology of St. Augustine (354430), and that of a modern theologian, the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), to whose memory Wills dedicates this book. The flaws in Wills’s argument are numerous. Consider his claim that the earliest Christian communities were thoroughly egalitarian. Certainly there is an equal dignity in baptism, but that does not mean that there is no hierarchical authority in the Church. Matthew
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16:19 presents Jesus as conferring awesome authority upon Peter and, by extension, to the Apostles, to “bind and loose” consciences. The earliest work of the Christian movement, St. Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Thessalonica, written some twenty years earlier than Matthew’s Gospel, makes clear that hierarchical authority was prominent in Christian communities from the beginning: “I urge you to respect those who are over you in the Lord and admonish you” (1 Thess. 5:12). Wills’s indictment of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews for having created and propagated the myth of Jesus as a priest completely ignores the work of many recent Gospel scholars who argue that Jesus’ words and deeds indicate not the abolishment of all cult but the establishment of a new cult replacing the old Temple cult (Mk. 14:58; Jn. 2:19). Moreover, evidence suggests that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, far from being a gratuitous theological innovator, was simply elaborating upon Jesus’ own teaching: All three Synoptic Gospels (Mt. 22:42-44; Mk. 12:3537; Lk. 20:41-44) make clear that Jesus knew well the Melchizedek psalm (Ps. 110), used it in scribal debate, and even referred to it in His response to the high priest (Mt. 26:64; Mk. 14:62; Lk. 22:69). Its description of the longpromised Messiah is not that of a prophet but a priest-king “like Melchizedek.” Poor exegesis is not Wills’s only fault. There is also his highly questionable, dubious use of nonbiblical, historical, and theological sources. He invokes Augustine of Hippo often but selectively and DECEMBER 2013
quite arbitrarily. Augustine frequently refers to the assembly of the Christian faithful as “the Body of Christ”; nevertheless, there are several passages in Augustine’s writings where he uses the language of sacramental realism when referring to the Lord’s Supper. In his commentary on Psalm 33 Augustine says, “We approach Him to receive His body and blood…. We are enlightened by eating and drinking the Crucified.” Out of deep respect for our Jewish brethren, one hesitates to quote the following example of Augustine’s sacramental realism, but we cannot pass it up on account of its boldness. In Sermon LXXVI Augustine says of the Jews who converted to Christian faith early in the Church’s history: “They came to the Lord’s table, and in faith, drank that Blood, which in their fury they had shed.” Wills ignores other passages wherein Augustine endorses not only Jesus’ priesthood but also the sacrificial character of the Lord’s Supper and the priestly character of certain Christian clergy. In The City of God Augustine summarizes the work of Jesus as the action “where the priesthood and kingdom are changed by one who is a priest, and at the same time a king, now and forever, Christ Jesus.” Then in Letter 98 he writes, “Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? And yet, is he not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations?” In On Christian Doctrine Augustine endorses the thesis of the Epistle to the Hebrews when he says, “We see the
sacrament of the Lord’s Supper prefigured in the case of Melchizedek the priest.” Finally, in his other letters, Augustine often addresses other prelates by invoking their priestly character. In Letter 74 Augustine begins with the words, “To my lord Prasidius, most blessed, my brother and partner in the priestly office.” Letter 245 begins, “To Possidius, my most beloved lord, and venerable brother, and partner in the sacerdotal office.” To see how arbitrary Wills can be with his modern sources, let us look at his use of the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac. Wills likes de Lubac because he considers him a modern-day Augustinian. Indeed, de Lubac was a major figure in the twentieth-century theological movement called the Nouvelle Theologie, “the new theology,” which self-consciously departed from the reigning NeoThomism of its day by basing itself more on the early Church Fathers than on the great medieval scholastics. Nevertheless, de Lubac was thoroughly orthodox in his theology and respected Aquinas. Let’s compare Wills’s assertion, “I do not believe in popes and priests and sacraments,” with the following passage from de Lubac’s Meditations sur l’Eglise, quoted here in its English translation as The Splendour of the Church (1956): “The very bread of the word of God, which is broken and distributed without pause by those who are its witnesses and ministers, is not enough on its own, to vitalize the soul; we have to drink from the wellspring of the sacraments, which has been handed into the keeping of the sanctifying Church…. The hier43
archy’s ‘most priestly action’ and the supreme exercise of its power lies in consecrating Christ’s body and thus perpetuating the work of Redemption — in offering the ‘sacrifice of praise’ which is the only one pleasing to God.” Wills’s bowdlerization of his sources brings to mind Alexander Pope’s line, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” No doubt Wills is an industrious researcher (quoting Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and many modern exegetes), and
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he writes with an easy, genial style. But in Why Priests? he is cavalier in the use of his sources to the point of abuse, even betrayal. He marshals them in support of his personal religious prejudices — more precisely, his own very idiosyncratic reinterpretation of Catholicism. His research is slanted and extremely misleading, bent toward undermining Christian faith in general. The classical doctrine of the priesthood, which was developed in the first thousand years of Christian history, is a complex one that tries to do justice to three components, or complementary elements. First is the doctrine of the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ, who, in accepting death on a cross (He could have eluded arrest and execution), saw it as a submission to the will of God and the necessary act to open a new religious era. The second component is what is called the common priesthood of all the baptized, who, in imitation of Christ, make of their lives a spiritual sacrifice to God. The third element has been called the ministerial priesthood of bishops and presbyters, who, in presiding over the Lord’s Supper Service sacramentally, re-present the unique sacrifice of Christ, making it a living presence to believers today. Each of these three elements has a biblical basis. The doctrine of the unique priesthood of Christ is based on the major thesis of the Letter to the Hebrews that Jesus is “a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (6:20), who has “offered sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God” (10:12). The common priesthood of all the baptized
is based upon the teaching in the First Letter of Peter, which urges Christians to “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God” (2:5). The traditional doctrine of Christian priesthood is based on the words of Jesus as quoted in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, wherein He not only employs cultic language to describe His self-sacrifice, saying over the cup of blessing that this is the “new covenant in my blood,” but also goes on to say, “Do this in memory of me.” No doubt the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers protested the idea that, when bishops and presbyters preside at a Lord’s Supper Service, they indeed act in priestly character by sacramentally representing that once and for all, unique sacrifice of Christ. But the Protestant reformers did not deny that Christ was a priest or that baptism imparts a priestly character to all of Christ’s disciples. Witness Martin Luther, who, in The Freedom of a Christian, says that Christ “offers himself as a sacrifice and does all things a priest should do,” and who cites Hebrews 6-7, noting how it “describes him under the type of Melchizedek.” One mustn’t underestimate the importance of the Christian claim that Christ was a priest and that all His disciples, by the lives they lead, imitate His self-sacrifice. This doctrine positions the Christian faith in a pointed and challenging relationship to the Old Testament doctrine of animal sacrifice and the many world religions that have practiced animal and even human sacrifice, and constitutes a challenge to the all-
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too-common moral principle of utilitarian sacrifice. Not only did Caiaphas say, “It is better that one man die for the sake of the people” (Jn. 11:50), but such logic drives moral expediencies to this day. Modern, secular man’s oft-made decision to sacrifice everything but himself has taken innovative and historic form in civil laws that provide for abortion and euthanasia, among other perversities. Wills’s worst transgression is weakening the moral character of Jesus. Wills insists that Jesus was in no sense a priest but instead “a radical Jewish prophet.” Wills con-
Killing Jesus: A History. By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Henry Holt & Co. 304 pages. $28. Killing Jesus, written by Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly and historian and screenwriter Martin Dugard, received the kind of months-long media build-up that makes for high expectations. Their book for the most part offers a compelling and vigorous portrait of Jesus as a charismatic character who sought to reform the Judaism of His day and who just might be the Son of God. O’Reilly and Dugard, both Catholics, attempt impartiality but paint the life of Jesus with a decidedly Catholic brush, setting that life in stark relief against the political 46
cludes his book with a reductionist, hardly Christian, creedal assertion: “There is one God and Jesus is one of his prophets.” (We’ll put aside that this is a variation of the Islamic Shahada.) The Gospels witness to the fact that Jesus was given many titles during and after His lifetime: Rabbi, physician, Teacher, prophet, Messiah, King, Son of God, Lord, and priest. Each of these titles conveys a truth, but titles such as Son of God, Lord, and priest make clear the truly unique character and the fullest meaning of Christ’s life and death. Both His sonship and His priest-
hood are singular and unique. For Christians, Jesus is more than just another of God’s prophets. Garry Wills’s latest foray into theology is teeming with flaws. Why Priests? might seem by its title to be a very precise attack on one aspect of institutional Catholicism, what Wills calls its “priestly imperialism.” But his total, uncompromising rejection of the concept of the priesthood, even as applied to Jesus of Nazareth, should alarm and concern all Christians, not just those within the institutional structure of the Catholic Church. n
tapestry of the Roman-dominated world. Perhaps due to the deplorable state of education in the U.S., the authors spend nearly 100 pages describing the careers of Julius Caesar and the Emperors Augustus and Tiberius and their associates, so readers can appreciate the circumstances that led to the death of the Roman republic and the rise of the Roman empire — a superstate supported by taxes collected from lands conquered and held in thrall by highly disciplined legionaries. Intervals of ten pages hardly pass without reference to Rome’s heavy taxation, and such devoted attention comes across as a ham-fisted, tendentious attempt to draw a parallel between the Rome of the Caesars and the United States of Obama. It might not be unfair, but the incessant nagging about taxes becomes annoying. It also obscures the fact that inhabitants of heavily taxed and ruthlessly governed Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee enjoyed
prosperity unseen since the days of Solomon. The Pax Romana ended the incessant intertribal and internecine warfare in Israel that had often laid waste to farmland and livestock, curtailed commerce, and prevented the Hebrew state from enduring as a political power in the Middle East. This is the kind of historical conclusion the authors seldom get around to making. O’Reilly and Dugard add interest by lingering on the emperors’ titillating sexual deviancies, without mentioning that their informant, Suetonius, was a Roman chronicler well known for using gossip and innuendo to spice up his history. Pointing out the authors’ omissions could be seen as mere quibbling, but there are so many errors, questionable conclusions, and fanciful notions presented as fact that it’s hard to accept this book as “a history.” A more appropriate title would have been Killing Jesus: A Commentary, reflecting O’Reilly’s stock-intrade. The work wants for better
New Oxford Review
New Novels from Ignatius Press Voyage to Alpha Centauri Michael D. Oâ€™Brien
et eighty years in the future, this novel by the best-selling author Michael Oâ€™Brien is about an expedition sent from the planet Earth to Alpha Centauri, the star closest to our solar system. The Kosmos, a great ship that the central character Neil de Hoyos describes as a â€œflying cityâ€?, is immense in size and capable of more than half light-speed. Hoyos is a Nobel Prize winning physicist who has played a major role in designing the ship. Hoyos has signed on as a passenger because he desires to escape the seemingly benign totalitarian government that controls everything on his home planet. He is a skeptical and quirky misanthropic humanist with old tragedies, loves, and hatreds that are secreted in his memory. The surprises that await him on the voyage-and its destination-will shatter all of his assumptions and point him to a true new horizon. Science fiction and fantasy literature are genres that have become dominant forces in contemporary worldwide culture. Our fascination with the near-angelic powers of new technology, its benefits and dangers, its potential for obsession and catastrophe, raises vital questions that this work explores about human nature and the cosmos, about manâ€™s image of himself and where he is going-and why he seeks to go there. â€œMichael Oâ€™Brien is a superior spiritual story teller worthy to join the ranks of C.S. Lewis, Flannery Oâ€™Connor, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh.â€? Peter Kreeft, Boston College VAC-H . . . Sewn Hardcover, Illustrated, 700 pp, $29.95
Ceremony of Innocence Dorothy Cummings McLean
iots. Terrorist attacks. Neo-Nazi violence. In modern-day Germany, journalist Catriona McClelland has seen it all while covering the contemporary European scene for a Catholic news organization. Keeping herself above the political fray in her professional life, she has also managed to keep herself from personal entanglements-still hurt from the wounds of a broken relationship. Things come to a head when her boyfriend Dennis, frustrated with a lack of commitment, leaves her for Suzy Davis, an idealistic young Canadian who is involved with a left-wing protest movement. But when Suzy is murdered... who is complicit and who is innocent? Ripped from the headlines, Ceremony of Innocence is a very contemporary novel of Europe on the edge of social breakdown. Train stations are bombed and migrants targeted for violence as journalists and other tastemakers watch from their positions of privilege. Dorothy Cummings McLeanâ€™s realistic narrative does not describe the feats of heroes. Rather, it unnervingly lays bare the way religious faith and moral reasoning can be easily manipulated and compromised. â€œI highly recommend this enjoyable, interesting and well-written novel that gives rare insight into present-day Germany.â€? Piers Paul Read, Author, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
COI-H . . . Sewn Hardcover, 189 pp., $19.95
Everywhere in Chains James Casper
his highly thought-provoking, sometimes amusing and always life-affirming novel illustrates one familyâ€™s experiences with Americaâ€™s criminal justice system. As Penelope searches for the truth about her father, she rattles the skeletons in her familyâ€™s closet and shakes up the complacency of her community, which has tried to sweep the past under the rug. With both perception and compassion, the author creates a colorful cast of characters while challenging the wisdom of imprisoning the mentally ill. On the cusp of adulthood, Penelope begins to understand that she has grown-up in a web of silence. The denial in her family and small Minnesota hometown is so thick that she does not know how to cut through it, that is, until she begins a seemingly innocuous pen-pal correspondence with someone in another town. Little by little, Penelope unravels the secrets meant to protect her from the truth. She proves herself to be stronger and wiser than anyone could have predicted and leads the way to healing. Through the lives and interactions of the major characters, this story explores the sprawling psychological geography of Americaâ€™s criminal justice system and its profound effect on everyone it touches, even its most ardent proponents. While dealing with a serious, challenging subject, this book is also filled with warmth and likeable characters. The odyssey of Penelope concludes on a faith-affirming note with a parade of surprising revelations. EVCH-H . . . Sewn Hardcover, 350 pp, $22.95
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research and an editor who actually cared about an accurate narrative. One suspects that Henry Holt & Co. had little regard for its audience: a case of contempt for the reader. A reference to “St. Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican City” is a typical blunder. The church, of course, is St. Peter’s Basilica; the pope’s cathedral church is St. John Lateran. Another footnote states with conviction that Christmas replaced the “orgiastic pagan holiday known as Saturnalia.” This is a modern assumption. More likely December 25 was chosen — after a flirtation with January 6 — because of a venerable tradition that the Annunciation took place on March 25, nine months earlier. O’Reilly and Dugard seem to quote Scripture from memory — after not having read it for years. We’re told that Herod Antipas placed “an old military mantle on the prisoner’s shoulders. It was purple, the color of kings.” But Luke 23:11 (NAB) says An-
tipas clothed Jesus “in resplendent garb”; the NIV favored by the authors calls it a “gorgeous” robe. Luke uses a Greek adjective meaning bright or shining. “Purple” is simply wrong. Antipas ridiculed Jesus’ pretension to majesty by arraying him in one of his regal cloaks before returning Him to Pilate. It was later that morning, when Pilate’s soldiers were crowning Him with thorns, that a purple military mantle was mockingly draped over the shoulders of the scourged Jesus (Mt. 27:28; Mk. 15:17; Jn. 19:2). This mistake is embarrassingly careless and easily corrected by reading the Gospels. In the end, the authors never make clear who’s responsible for killing Jesus. It might be Annas and Caiaphas, who were anxious about losing a fortune from their share of the Temple commerce. Pilate’s role is left murkier: He was seemingly sympathetic to Jesus but was caught up in a political tangle, terrified that Tiberius might recall him on a charge of
malfeasance after other, earlier charges. One final, gross omission: In 1955 famed Catholic reporter Jim Bishop published his bestselling book The Day Lincoln Was Shot. He followed that up two years later with another blockbuster, The Day Christ Died, and in 1968 with The Day Kennedy Died. O’Reilly and Dugard couldn’t have put out their three titles, Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, and now Killing Jesus, without knowing this. It’s irksome that they have not been gracious enough to acknowledge Jim Bishop for paving the way. Discerning readers will better appreciate reliable histories of the life and death of Jesus such as Life of Christ by Abbot Giuseppe Ricciotti and Jesus Christ: His Life, His Teaching, and His Work by Ferdinand Prat, S.J. Sean Wright
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