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A review of Catholic affairs

The family: “a school for forgiveness” Retrouvaille Ireland Rev. Gavan Jennings

Hitler’s Catholics Francis Philips

Number 498· April 2016 €3 · £2.50 · $4

How Does a Catholic Climb a Tree? Christiany Witness Toda Rev. Patrick Gorevan

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Number 498 · April 2016

by Rev. Gavan Jennings


In Passing: Modernity laid bare: ‘The history of a man’s soul’ (Part I)



by Michael Kirke

“In the valley of darkness” by Rev. Eugene O’Neill

The family: “a school for forgiveness” by Rev. Gavan Jennings

One couple’s story of a marriage crisis by Retrouvaille Ireland

Justice Antonin Scalia on Family Life by Ashley McGuire

Hitler’s Catholics by Francis Phillips

How Does a Catholic Climb a Tree? 
 Christian Witness Today

9 12 18 23 27 34

by Rev. Patrick Gorevan

Film review: Macbeth Editor: Assistant editors: Subscription manager: Secretary: Design:

by Laura Cotta Ramosino Rev. Gavan Jennings Michael Kirke, Pat Hanratty, Brenda McGann Liam Ó hAlmhain Dick Kearns Víctor Díaz


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Editorial T

his month Position Papers focuses in a particular way on the connection between mercy (this being the Year of 
 Mercy) and marriage. In his recent Good Friday homily in St Peter’s Basilica, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap., the preacher of the Papal Household, addressed this very theme, pointing out that marriage and the family, “the most precious and fragile thing in the world at this time” can be saved by mercy (and perhaps by nothing other than mercy). Love, at least where human beings are concerned, always requires this dimension of mercy. Only where there is a loving relationship exempt from weakness and sin – like in the love between God and the Blessed Virgin – could there be a love without the need of mercy. For the rest of mankind love must always be followed by mercy; a relationship always starts with love (a couple don’t marry moved by mercy but by love) but can only survive with the addition of mercy. In the words of Fr Cantalamessa: “Mercy adds agape to eros, it adds the love that gives of oneself and has compassion to the love of need and desire. God ‘takes pity’ on human beings (see Ps. 102:13). Shouldn’t a husband and wife, then, take pity on each other? And those of us who live in community, shouldn’t we take pity on one another instead of judging one another?” The mutual forgiveness of spouses for their defects and failings echoes Christ’s supreme act of forgiveness during his crucifixion: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) and so paves the way towards re-establishing unity and harmony.



In fact we could even say that there is something particularly beautiful about a relationship which is marked by forgiveness; it attains a certain new charm, as there is in God’s relationship with the world, and each one of us, following sin. Sin becomes that felix culpa or “happy fault” in the words of the beautiful Exultet chanted at the beginning of the Easter Vigil ceremony; a happy fault because it won for us such a Redeemer. Likewise, the inevitable failings and shortcomings within marriage can become either wounds which damage and even destroy a marriage, or when the spouses respond to them with a merciful love, they can become those “happy faults”. This way the omnipotence of love is once again revealed, for love (and love alone), in the words of St Paul’s Hymn to Charity: “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).


In Passing: Modernity laid bare: ‘The history of a man’s soul’ (Part I) by Michael Kirke


ave we been duped by modernity? Was the rise of Christianity in its first age an easier project than its restoration or rejuvenation in the modern age may be? In an age when technical and scientific knowledge has such a capacity to bamboozle humanity with the idea of irreversible progress, can the light of faith ever again penetrate this darkness?

published in 2013, this novel by Evegeny Vodolazkin, has now been translated into English. Its first edition has been sold out and a new printing - my local bookshop tells me - will not be available in Europe until May. Laurus has already been translated into more than twenty languages worldwide. It became a literary sensation when published in Russia and won its two major literary awards in that year. This, Vodolazkin’s second novel (though his debut in English), captures religious fervour in fifteenth-century Russia, tracking the life of a healer and “holy fool”, it is described by some as a postmodern synthesis of

Yes, it can. And how it might do so, how it will do so, is the preoccupation and theme of a Russian historian and novelist whose book, Laurus, is taking the literary world by storm. Already a best-seller in its country of origin where it was


Bildungsroman, travelogue, hagiography and love story.

Rod Dreher says of this novel that it makes you want to enter into contemplative prayer after reading from its pages. “It induces an awareness of the radical enchantment of the world, and of the grandeur of the soul’s journey through this life toward God. It is so strange and mystical and … well, to call a novel ‘holy’ is too much, but Laurus conjures on every page an awareness of holiness that is without precedence in my experience as a reader.”

Set in the late Middle Ages, its protagonist, Arseny, born in 1440, was raised near the Kirillov Monastery, about three hundred miles north of Moscow. He becomes a renowned medicine man, faith healer, and prophet who “pelted demons with stones and conversed with angels.” He makes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He takes on new names, depending on how he will next serve God. The people venerate his humble spirituality. In Laurus, its New Yorker reviewer tells us, Vodolazkin aims directly at the heart of the Russian religious experience. He may, but he does much more than that.

He fears that by saying that, he will make the novel sound pious and devotional. It is not. “This is an earthy novel, filled with the sounds, smells, violence, superstition, and fanaticism of the Middle Ages. The achievement of Vodolazkin, who is a medieval historian by vocation, is to make this faraway world come vividly to life, and to saturate it with mystical Orthodox Christianity, such that even the leaves of the trees are enchanted.”

It is truly astounding that just a few decades after Russia’s emergence from the bitter wilderness of Soviet atheism, a voice and a spirit like this can speak to us with such authority, spiritual sensibility and wisdom. It surely shows us that mankind, even caught in the grip of atheistic modernity, is redeemable.

So taken was Dreher by this novel when he read it, that he contacted the 51 year-old author


by telephone at his home in St. Petersburg in early November, and spent nearly two hours in conversation.

normally that I have no political views. As a Christian, I deal with each event separately, and I try to judge it from a Christian point of view, of right and wrong.

In his account of that conversation the first surprise comes in their first exchange about the geo-political problems which seem to be preoccupying the people of their respective countries just now. Dreher, an American, asked the Russian, “Do you believe that problems of the modern world can be solved by political means?” the answer was polite but clear – almost to the point of not being polite:

“I have a theory – well, theory sounds too serious, but I have an idea. Each phenomenon has different dimensions or, better, levels, and the political level is not the highest one. I am certain that the reasons of social events lie in the human soul. It is a concrete soul, where grows aggression, and this aggression echoes with the aggression in other souls.”

“I don’t do politics. If a journalist asks me for my political views, I answer

Vodolazkin has what we would probably call, borrowing from

Evegeny Vodolazkin


his own terminology, a personalist view of history.

for change. Except for what he describes as “the gathering of the Holy Spirit”, culture is for him the second most important work that we can do. He cites one of his teachers, the historian and scholar, Dmitri Sergeyevich Likhachov, who wrote that the main thing that justifies the existence of a nation is its culture.

“I suppose nobody believes that Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s death in Sarajevo is the reason for the First World War. Everything was ready for the explosion; the assassination was the spark. Or, consider the Russian Revolution, in 1917. Normally, history books tell us that it was a very difficult situation in Russia – there was hunger, starvation, and so forth. But we had much more difficult situations than that [before] in Russia, and did not have a revolution.

Laurus is an exploration of the human condition in our own time but looked at with the wisdom of the people of another time. In truth, It reveals the deep humanism of the Middle Ages. For Vodolazkin this age was much more humanistic than modernity.

“The reason of these events is the united energy of individuals.... We have to work with individual human beings, and their souls. My position is one of Christian personalism. The main thing we can do to fight this evil is to pray... To do something politically is not so effective. Politics is a result of the situation we have in our souls.”

“The massacres we have seen in the twentieth century, no one in the Middle Ages could have imagined. Despite what you might have heard, a human life was estimated very highly in the Middle Ages. When they say that humanism appeared only in modernity, it is not true.” He explains how it was a special kind of humanism. The humanism of modernity sees the

For him, after the Providence of God, culture is the real catalyst


human being as the measure of all things, but medieval people were convinced that this measure was given by God. It’s an essential difference. Echoing his great compatriot Alexander Solzynitsyn’s critique of the Renaissance, and the subsequent moves to put man at the centre of the universe in the Enlightenment, he says that in modernity the human being is at the top of the hierarchy. In the Middle Ages, at the top of the hierarchy was God. “In our postChristian society, God very often is not present in our life at all.”

history of a man’s soul’.” The book’s subtitle is, intriguingly, “a non-historical novel”. He is quick to dissociate himself from historical fiction. It is ultimately “a book about absence,” he said, “a book about modernity”. “There are two ways to write about modernity: the first is by writing about the things we have; the second, by writing about those things we no longer have.” Part II of this article will appear next month.

In a seminar in London last Autumn Vodolazkin described Laurus in this way: “To quote Lermontov," he said, “it is ‘the

 AUTHOR Michael Kirke is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to Position Papers, and a widely read blogger at Garvan Hill ( His views can be responded to at


“In the valley of darkness” by Rev. Eugene O’Neill


he Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want; fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose; near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit.”

That valley can be illness, or the death of a loved one or the approach of one’s own death. It can be depression. I have a relative who lost two children to still birth in the 1960s: that loss has never left her. And when my grandmother died aged 100, I found a photo of a child in her prayer book – a child I had never seen before. “That’s your aunt” said my father. So great was the pain of her death that her name was never uttered again.

Not many of us know how to be a shepherd but most of us know what it is to walk in a valley of darkness. The landscape of that valley – its depth, its contours – will be as varied as our lives, but walk through it each of us will, at least once. You who are there know what I mean already; and, if you don’t, prepare yourself: it will happen. 

But the valley is not just about those ultimate experiences. I once asked a psychotherapist what was the most common symptom he witnessed. “Put aside the classic mental


illnesses, which are rare enough, he told me, and the thing most people tell him is that they feel disappointed. Disappointed at themselves, their faults, their careers, the way their children turned out, the way life turned out. That’s first. Then, a sense of having failed. Broken marriages often create this.” And he went on to say that people are saying these things to him in therapy, earlier and earlier in their lives. I wonder what it is for you? Ask yourself: what is my experience of darkness? Where within me do I feel personally, its dark, misty, frightening presence? “If I should walk in the valley of darkness …” Nearly all of us could take out the “if”. There are no “ifs”: it’s a fact of life. Perhaps that is why this psalm – The Lord is my Shepherd – is by far the most loved and quoted of all 150 psalms. Maybe that is why it’s just about the most popular and frequently quoted part of the Bible: because it tells

the truth of how we feel – some of the time. Now if you look around our society, you won’t find a whole heap of compassion – real compassion – for these feelings. You won’t find much sympathy with any form of failure. All the benchmarks are about success, and any failure is pounced on. It’s easy for that type of mentality to influence religion. What I mean is, to think that religion is really only for the successful, those whose lives are together, who are walking upright along a straight road. And to bat-squeak that if you are not together, or sinless, or standard or normal, you have no place here. Indeed, some faiths have emerged that cater specifically for the successful Christian. Catholicism has never been one of them: we have always been the religion of the sinner, the wounded, the fallen, and the refuge of those who feel themselves to be “in the valley of darkness”. If you are one of them, the Catholic faith is your home. Because only God can


know or judge the secrets of men’s hearts.

Perhaps that is why this psalm is chosen to be read or sung at almost every funeral I have ever celebrated. As a reminder, that whatever trajectory life has carried that human since they were a baby, whatever the twists and turns that life has delivered, the merciful Good Shepherd remains true. And all will end well because all will end in him.

There is a message of hope here for us. Because this psalm tells us about what God is really like – and those to whom he is drawn: not to those whose lives are together, but to those whose lives are complex and complicated but who know their need of him. Aren’t we inclined, sometimes, to think of God as a terrible judge? Wanting to catch us out and march us to the guillotine? He is not. He is the shepherd, guiding, comforting and nudging us, but never losing faith in us however weak we may feel our faith in him.

 AUTHOR Rev. Eugene O’Neill is parish priest of Killyleagh, and of Crossgar, Co.Down and is a regular contributor to A Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Ulster.


The family: “a school for forgiveness” by Rev. Gavan Jennings


ecently Pope Francis dubbed the family “a school for forgiveness”; if that is the case, then the special Year of Mercy which we are now living in the Church should be particularly relevant for families. Perhaps we don’t often associate mercy with life in the home and so here we are going to look at five key ideas from Pope Francis on the importance of forgiveness in the family setting.

true love story’ which portrays God as a jilted lover and Israel as his straying spouse. But the important thing for us is that God does not give up on his unfaithful wife: again and again he forgives her and tries to woo her back. This is the way Pope Francis puts it:

I. God’s plan for family as a place of forgiveness You might not have realised it, but much of the Old Testament is a story of romance; throughout scripture we find, in the words of Pope Francis, ‘a


Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of Hosea (cf. Hos 1-2) – show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people (Pope Francis, Message for Lent, 2016).

Another love story is to be found in the pages of the Gospel. This time Jesus is the bridegroom, and the Church is his bride. Again in the words of Pope Francis: As the Son of God, he is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast…. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride (Pope Francis, Message for Lent, 2016).

Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Church of which she is a perfect image or icon. Both the Church and Mary have mercy at their core: “in their wombs” we might say. In Hebrew there is a connection between the word for “womb” and the word for “mercy” as Pope Francis explains: The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related – even on the etymological level – to the maternal womb (rahamim) and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness (hesed) shown within marriage and family relationships (Pope Francis, Message for Lent, 2016).

So in the portrayal of the marriage between God and Israel, or Christ and the Church, the element of forgiveness is not absent, as if God is teaching us that there can be no marriage where there is no forgiveness.

II. Family love is stable love Finally, there is one more expression of the close connection between family and mercy in Sacred Scripture, and this time it is to be found in the

The foundation for the family as “a school for forgiveness” is the fact that the love lived out in a family is unconditional love; as a


result it is always ready to forgive. This contrasts dramatically with the predominant way of relating that we see in the consumer society around us. In a consumer society relationships are governed by self-seeking, not self-giving, and so they are judged according to their usefulness for me. Where a consumer good – and this may be human person, and even a spouse – is no longer useful for me it is disposed of. This makes for a society founded on merciless acquisition and disposal. The love found in marriage and family relationships are profoundly deeper. In the words of Pope Francis: Dear engaged couples, you are preparing to grow together, to build this home, to live together forever. You do not want to found it on the sand of sentiments, which come and go, but on the rock of true love, the love that comes from God. The family is born from this plan of love, it wants to grow just as a home is built, as a place of

affection, of help, of hope, of support. As the love of God is stable and forever, so too should we want the love on which a family is based to be stable and forever. Please, we mustn’t let ourselves be overcome by the “culture of the provisory”! Today this culture invades us all, this culture of the temporary. This is not right! (Pope Francis, ADDRESS of THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO COUPLES PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE, St. Peter’s Square, Friday, February 14, 2014). III. Don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry” On a very practical note, Pope Francis encourages married couples to seek forgiveness from their spouses whenever necessary, otherwise there will be no peace in the family:


One cannot live without seeking forgiveness, or at least, one cannot live at peace, especially in the family. We wrong one another every day. We must take into account these

mistakes, due to our frailty and our selfishness. However, what we are asked to do is to promptly heal the wounds that we cause, to immediately reweave the bonds that break within the family (Pope Francis, GENERAL AUDIENCE, Wednesday, 4 November 2015).

“Excuse me if I was late”, “If this week I was very silent”, “If I spoke too much without ever listening”; “Excuse me if I forgot”; “I’m sorry I was angry and I took it out on you”…. We can say many “I’m sorry”s every day. In this way, too, a Christian family grows. We all know that the perfect family does not exist, nor a perfect husband or wife … we won’t even speak about a perfect mother-in-law (Pope Francis, ADDRESS of THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO COUPLES PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE, St. Peter’s Square, Friday, February 14, 2014).

The Pope points out the fact we all make mistakes, and perhaps we do so everyday of our lives. As a result we must be ready to apologise. In his words: In general each of us is ready to accuse the other and to justify ourselves. This began with our father Adam, when God asks him: “Adam, have you eaten of the fruit?”. “Me? No! It was her, she gave it to me!”. Accusing the other to avoid saying “I’m sorry”, “Forgive me”. It’s an old story! It is an instinct that stands at the origin of so many disasters. Let us learn to acknowledge our mistakes and to ask for forgiveness. “Forgive me if today I raised my voice”; “I’m sorry if I passed without greeting you”;

IV. Never let the sun go down without making peace Pope Francis encourages couples to never let a day end without having made up for an argument they may have had. He acknowledges that there will be arguments and disputes but advises that a married couple should make up as soon as possible, ideally that very day, otherwise a freeze will set in and affect their relationship:


Jesus, who knows us well, teaches us a secret: don’t let a day end without asking forgiveness, without peace returning to our home, to our family. It is normal for husband and wife to quarrel, but there is always something, we had quarreled…. Perhaps you were mad, perhaps plates flew, but please remember this: never let the sun go down without making peace! Never, never, never! This is a secret, a secret for maintaining love and making peace. Pretty words are not necessary…. Sometimes just a simple gesture and … peace is made. Never let a day end … for if you let the day end without making peace, the next day what is inside of you


is cold and hardened and it is even more difficult to make peace. Remember: never let the sun go down without making peace! If we learn to say sorry and ask one another for forgiveness, the marriage will last and move forward. When elderly couples, celebrating fifty years together, come to audiences or Mass here at Santa Marta I ask them: “Who supported whom?” This is beautiful! Everyone looks at each other, they look at me and say: “Both!” And this is beautiful! This is a beautiful witness! (Pope Francis, ADDRESS of THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO COUPLES PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE, St. Peter’s

Square, Friday, February 14, 2014).

between brothers and sisters ... between daughters – and mothers-in-law! If we learn to apologize promptly and to give each other mutual forgiveness, the wounds heal, the marriage grows stronger, and the family becomes an increasingly stronger home, which withstands the shocks of our smaller or greater misdeeds. This is why there is no need for a long speech, as a caress is enough: one caress and everything is over and one can start afresh. But do not end the day at war! (Pope Francis, GENERAL AUDIENCE, Wednesday, 4 November 2015).

The Pope points out that fixing broken fences heals wounds quickly, but also makes a marriage grow stronger. Furthermore it is not so hard to make up, a little gesture is often enough to put an end to an argument: If we wait too long, everything becomes more difficult. There is a simple secret to healing wounds and to avoiding recriminations. It is this: do not let the day end without apologizing, without making peace between husband and wife, between parents and children,

 AUTHOR Rev. Gavan Jennings is a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature and is the editor of Position Papers.


One couple’s story of a marriage crisis by Retrouvaille Ireland


fter seven years of marriage Mary and John experienced a crisis which threatened to destroy their marriage – the quintessential seven year itch. Here they describe how the crisis unfolded, and how they managed to save their marriage.

our soul mate for life but after seven years of marriage we were reaching crisis point. I felt disorientated, disillusioned, fearful, confused and sad. Could this be happening to us so soon in our married life? Where did we go from here?

Mary: After slowly getting to know each other as students in the same college, I found myself falling in love with John. We enjoyed the excitement of being together and falling in love and life was for exploring. We would talk for hours and had so much to share with each other, I felt valued and appreciated.

We had been growing apart little by little and I didn’t realise it until it was almost too late. I thought everything was fine. I focused a lot on my work and our marriage had become less of a priority. This wasn’t a decision I had made, it just went that way and I didn’t notice it.

We used to think we were made for each other, that we’d found

John had become very negative. I did love him and I was worried about him, but on a daily basis I


probably wasn’t showing that and I just wanted him to get on with it and stop bringing me his problems and expecting me to find the solutions. I didn’t know what to do and he didn’t know what to do either. So we did nothing and hoped that things would get better but they got worse.

and was spending more time on unimportant things. I was often inflexible and argumentative as I took out my frustration on Mary. I also started drinking more, to escape my deep unhappiness. Mary did not seem to understand me and I felt alone and unloved and I slowly edged into a depression.

John: When I first met Mary I knew that she was the woman that I had been waiting for. We enjoyed spending all our time together, watching the sun setting after all day picnics, followed by long candle lit dinners. The day I married Mary was the most wonderful day of my life. All the things that had been missing in my life were suddenly there. I thought we would soon have our own family and live happily ever after. We would always be best friends and definitely not repeat the mistakes that we saw our parents had made.

A female colleague seemed to take an interest in how I felt and this gave me some comfort. Being emotionally vulnerable this new friendship quickly became like a drug that I needed more and more of to feel better. We became closer and as I started pursuing this friendship further, we developed a relationship. After this point I could not think clearly anymore, and my life was getting out of control. It was not what I had intended. Our marriage was now in serious trouble and for a long time I was unwilling to take any responsibility for bringing us to this point.

Seven years later we still had no children and the plans I had for our life together were not working out. I became more irritable, felt a general lack of joy

Mary: When things got really bad in our marriage I realised that this new girl in work was not only a new friend but was


now posing a real threat to our marriage. I felt betrayed, hurt and angry. I wanted to scream out my pain but instead I kept it all inside. I felt like I had failed and was ashamed that my marriage was in this terrible state. I remember thinking, is married life over for me now? I didn’t want to give up though. I believed in marriage. It wasn’t disposable, it has a deep meaning. As we started to try to address the problems in our marriage it was a very rocky road with frequent arguments. I thought, this is too hard, I can’t do this anymore. Then I remembered the words ‘Take up your cross and follow me’, and this inspiration kept me going through the difficult times, but change was desperately needed. We both felt hurt about different things and this was a huge barrier that made it difficult to hear each other and listen to each other. John: Through the support of friends and family we kept on going during the cold war that

was fought between us. The major breakthrough came at a talk that we attended during the International Eucharistic Congress in 2012, by a marriage support group called Retrouvaille. I remember being impressed with how the men talked about their feelings. We decided to attend the programme and this helped me to understand and take responsibility for my own feelings and to not blame anyone else for them. I realised that it’s important to recognise my emotional needs and to deal with them within my marriage. This was a key factor in our marriage recovery. As we grew closer on the Retrouvaille weekend I could start to see past my own hurts and see all the hurt that I had caused Mary. How could she ever forgive me? I worked on being transparent with her, accepting her feelings and pain and showing my full commitment to her. On the last day of the weekend I was prompted to ask for forgiveness and I was relieved when Mary responded that she had already


forgiven me. All of a sudden we had so much life ahead of us again.

Learning about forgiveness together was an important step in the healing of our marriage. I wanted to forgive John but I had so many doubts and felt very vulnerable. I learned that forgiveness starts with a decision, despite our feelings, and it is a profound act of love. With the help of Retrouvaille, I felt a renewed sense of hope in our marriage, like a new dawn with brightness on the horizon and the possibilities that a new day brings.

In the busyness of life I never listened to what God wanted from me. I now realize that we need to embrace the differences that exist and find our own purpose rather than all trying to fit into the same measure. I did not notice the other couples much at the programme as it was a classroom setting and we didn’t need to share our problems with anyone else. The other couples helped us to see that we were not alone and that difficulties are normal in a marriage and that seeking help is not a failure. Mary: On the weekend, the distinctive technique of dialogue provided a breakthrough in our communication, as it taught me to communicate without attacking or blaming. We learned a step by step guide in non-confrontational communication so that we could understand and listen to each other and the underlying feelings.

The Retrouvaille weekend was the start of a life transforming experience for me and our marriage. The honest testimonies of the presenting couples were so powerful, and the transforming experience that it had on us, and all that we learnt that weekend has helped us to seek unity as our goal in marriage. I know that we got help from God during this time to get through it and reach another level in our marriage. While still pursuing our options to have children there are so many ways we can still give our love, to family, friends, nieces and nephews, some of whom are


hurting due to brokenness in their own families and to other couples by helping Retrouvaille. Over forty hours of guided workshops and presentations, based on an internationally recognized programme are given to the participants. It is spread over approximately eight weeks and starts with a residential weekend. The programme gave us the tools to rebuild a happy marriage, and John is, thank God, once again my best friend. My advice now to any couple is, if you need help, don’t hesitate to get it. Conclusion Retrouvaille Ireland celebrate twenty years of helping marriages this year, coinciding

with the Year of Mercy. The programme teaches essential tools which helps couples to rebuild their marriage and covers areas such as effective communication and listening, understanding ourselves and our spouse, family of origin influences and forgiveness and conflict resolution. The presenting couples have all experienced pain and disillusionment in their own marriages and are in a unique position to understand the pain that the couples are experiencing at this point in their lives. For further information and dates of upcoming programmes see


Justice Antonin Scalia on Family Life by Ashley McGuire


n his remarks upon the shocking and unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama paid tribute to his many professional accomplishments, but he ended his statement with a comment on Scalia’s personal life. He remarked on Scalia’s “loving family,” which he called “a beautiful symbol of a life well lived.” And he thanked them “for sharing Justice Scalia with our country.” Indeed, there was much sharing to be done, as Scalia was the father to nine children and grandfather to thirty-six. Revered on the right, and respected on the left, Justice Scalia was considered by many

on all sides of political issues to be one of the greatest legal minds of his day, possibly in American history. Most of the coverage of his life has focused on that or on the brewing political storm that will inevitably surround the process for eventually replacing him. But amid all that, we should not lose sight of what Justice Scalia had to teach us about the family. Here are seven lessons we can draw from his full and vibrant family life: 1. Family is an accomplishment in its own right. It was actually Justice Scalia’s wife, Maureen, who responded to the question in a CBS 60 Minutes interview,


“Why so many children?” by joking that she and her husband are “both overachievers.” Her joke contained an important point: raising a family is noble work, and children are a magnificent accomplishment. Mrs. Scalia’s answer was brilliant; she matched him by placing the work of childrearing on par with sitting on the highest court in America.

Couples like the Scalias help today’s couples to re-think the meaning of work in their lives by reminding us that a couple’s most intimate and important work is to build a family.

No doubt, she and Justice Scalia would agree with what Leon Kass put so magnificently in a 2012 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, when he said: We human beings are at work not only when we are occupationally working. We are also deeply at work in the activities of love and friendship, and especially when we are actively engaged in family life, the domain of private life in which Americans find the most meaning.

2. You don’t need to be overinvolved. Despite having nine children, Justice Scalia said he “didn’t go to the soccer games and the piano recitals and things.” He said, “You know my parents never did it for me. And I didn’t take it personally. ‘Oh Daddy, come to my softball game.’ No, I mean, it’s my softball game. He had his work. I got my softball game.” He turned out just fine, as did his own children, who count among them multiple lawyers, a poet, a priest, and a lieutenant colonel in the Army. Helicopter parents, take note. 3. Children are not an impediment to success. Admittedly, the pull between professional aspirations and raising a family looks different for men and women, but these days, the notion that kids are a drag on career is a line doled out without any gender


discrimination. In fact the opposite has been found for men: having children correlates with higher earnings for men if they share a household, and one study found that men with children are the most soughtafter job applicants.

was that ‘so-and-so [was] wishywashy.’” To which she replied, “This is absolutely true. He will say, ‘You would have been bored.’ I say, ‘Oh, that’s right!’ I would have been bored.”

4. It matters who you marry. The findings that a man’s career is often boosted by having children requires an important caveat: it also depends on that man’s wife. It’s important to marry someone who views the marriage as a partnership, both the professional and the personal aspects of it, and Justice Scalia clearly chose a woman who was his match. They met while he was a Harvard Law School student, and she was a student at Radcliffe, which was the women’s arm of Harvard at the time. Their shared faith, intellect, and commitment to certain issues in the American political and legal realm gave them a strong foundation for a long and happy marriage. Of his wife, Justice Scalia once joked that, “[Maureen] says she could have married so-and-so…. And of course the reason she didn’t

5. Have a sense of humor. It’s impossible to imagine a boring moment with Justice Scalia, who will be forever remembered for his wit and humor. His sense of humor did not stop with his family. He famously joked, “In a big family the first child is kind of like the first pancake. If it’s not perfect, that’s OK. There are a lot more coming along.” An ability to laugh seems a prerequisite for having a large family, or a family of any size, which is bound to run into road bumps along the way. 6. Faith matters. Justice Scalia and his wife shared a commitment to their Roman Catholic faith. He ardently defended the important role that religion plays in public life, but he was also clearly committed to nurturing it in his private life. His faith shaped his family culture, about which he once said, “We had our own culture.


The first thing you’ve got to teach your kids is what my parents used to tell me all the time: ‘You’re not everybody else. We have our own standards and they aren’t the standards of the world in all respects, and the sooner you learn that the better.’” Faith offers a family cohesion around which to build that culture; it clearly did for the Scalias. 7. We are not bound by our own childhoods. Little attention is given to the fact that Justice Scalia was an only child. He grew up with no siblings or cousins. And yet he leaves behind a very large family. He a reminder of the human freedom we have in forming families of

our own, and he and his wife are an example of great generosity with that freedom. The life of Justice Antonin Scalia leaves an enormous mark on so many aspects of American public life. The noble family life he lived ought to be included in the list of qualities that make him a man worth emulating. His family is indeed a symbol of a life well-lived, one we can all aspire to. This article first appeared on and is reprinted here with kind permission.


Ashley E. McGuire is a Contributing Editor at the Institute for Family Studies, a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association, 
 editor-in-chief of AltCatholicah, and the Richard John Neuhaus Fellow at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, among others, and she has appeared on CNN, FOX News, PBS, CBS, and the BBC.


Hitler’s Catholics by Francis Phillips


here is a well-known story about the novelist Evelyn Waugh. He was once very rude and his hostess remonstrated: “How can you behave so badly – and you a Catholic!” Waugh replied: “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.” We remember this riposte both because it is redolent of Waugh’s mordant humour and because it reminds us that, without grace, we would all “hardly be a human being”. But it is the shocked reaction to Waugh’s behaviour that interests me. His hostess had assumed a higher standard of

behaviour on the part of Catholics than for others. This should be a chastening reminder. We boast of the holiness of the great saints of the Church, at the same time reminding those outside it that we are the historical Church founded by Christ himself. We should not be surprised when outsiders are scandalised when we lapse from grace. Like Waugh’s friend, they know, because we have told them so, that we have supernatural aids to help us do battle against the common vices of humanity. Thus when we fall their dismay is all the greater. Seen in this light, the active complicity of men from a


Catholic background in senior positions of authority during the Third Reich is particularly shameful, forcing one to ask the question: is there any truth to the allegations, often put forward by the Church’s critics, that Catholics were particularly vulnerable to fascist dictators such as Hitler because of their respect for hierarchy and authority, the Church’s emphasis on obedience, the horror felt towards atheistic communism and so on? Although it should be emphasised that notorious public personalities, men such as Himmler, Goebbels, Heydrich, Frank, Streicher and Höss – as well as Hitler himself – had all long lapsed from the practice of their faith, one must reluctantly concede it is likely that, having rejected a powerful religious system such as Catholicism, they were particularly vulnerable to filling the void by embracing an alternative and false “faith”, equally demanding and potent. In examining these men this seems to be a common thread.

It is an old canard, regularly trotted out, that “Hitler was a Catholic”, as if his crimes can somehow be laid at the feet of the Church. Yet by the time Hitler entered adult life he had long rejected the religion of his childhood. The head of this idler and fantasist, who lived in Viennese doss-houses and struggled to sell his postcard sketches, was filled with a toxic mixture of extreme German nationalism, resentment against the bourgeoisie, in particular the academicians who hadn’t recognised his “artistic genius”, and growing hatred of Jews. Hitler’s loathing of the Church is well documented. During negotiations preceding the Concordat of 1933 between the Holy See and Germany, he arrested 92 priests and closed down nine Catholic publications. He knew the Church’s teachings stood in implacable opposition to the Nazi ideology. David G Dalin, author of The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, records that Pius XII regarded the Nazis as “diabolical” and commented that “[Hitler] is capable of trampling


on corpses”. So much for Hitler’s relationship with the Church. But what of the henchmen who enthusiastically endorsed his poisonous creed? Heinrich Himmler, minister of the interior and head of the SS, is one of the most notorious. From a comfortable, Catholic, middleclass family in Munich, where his father was headmaster of the Wittelsbach Gymnasium (grammar school) and his uncle a Jesuit priest, Himmler imbibed the virtues of discipline and conscientiousness that were to help him organise the SS into a ruthlessly efficient organisation. In The Himmler Brothers by Katrin Himmler, his great-niece, we learn that he

joined the Nazi Party early, as did his two brothers and his parents, who were dazzled by the reflected power and status of their middle son. Like Hitler, Himmler admired the Church’s administrative organisation and the structure of his crack troops was influenced by it. There were special ranks and uniforms, insignia and regalia, pseudo-religious rites and rituals and the demand for obedience: a perverted reflection of features of the Church. As with Hitler, Himmler had discarded Catholicism as a young man, replacing it with a cranky mixture of homeopathy, spiritualism and the occult. In 1924 he was exulting that Pope Pius XII


Hitler’s speeches were “magnificent examples of the German and Aryan spirit”. Joseph Goebbels, minister of public enlightenment and propaganda, provides a more interesting case history than the colourless Himmler. His brilliant use of propaganda, whether in posters, films, newspapers, photography, radio and cinema, pays malign tribute to the Church’s own skilful use of word and image to spread her teachings. The 1934 Nuremberg rally, which was carefully stagemanaged and choreographed and which became the subject of Leni Riefenstahl’s film, Triumph of the Will, bears witness to Goebbels’s understanding of the potency of the Catholic liturgy he had been familiar with since his childhood. Goebbels’s parents were faithful, workingclass Catholics who found their son’s highly self-centred and erratic behaviour difficult to understand. According to Hugh TrevorRoper, who edited Final Entries 1945, Goebbels’s last diaries, his life was emotionally empty until

he discovered Hitler. “Thereafter he lived on Hitler … Left to himself his only ideal was destruction … hymns of hate against the bourgeoisie the Bolsheviks, the Jews.” It is salutary to note the pseudoreligious language Goebbels used when describing meeting Hitler for the first time: “resurrection”, “sacrifice” and “faith” suggest that, having lost the faith of his childhood, he found a new and perverted alternative in his hero-worship of Hitler. Reinhard Heydrich was one of the chief architects of the Holocaust. (He chaired the Wannsee Conference in 1942, which formalised plans for the “Final Solution”.) Heydrich came from a highly cultured and musical family and was baptised a Catholic at the behest of his devout mother. Hitler, no doubt approvingly, called him “the man with the iron heart”. Similarly, Hermann Göring, minister of aviation, had a Catholic mother to whom he was close. Yet, echoing the kind of language used by Goebbels, he was to proclaim that “God gave a


saviour to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith that [Hitler] was sent to us by God to save Germany.” Other formerly Catholic members of the Nazi high command include Arthur SeyssInquart, in charge of the Netherlands between 1940 and 1945 and responsible for the deportation of Jews in that country; he was condemned to death at Nuremberg. More notorious still is Hans Frank, the “butcher of Poland”, where all six of the Nazi specialised death camps were situated. A clever boy from an unhappy home, he abandoned his faith as an adult, falling under Hitler’s spell in 1919. In his memoirs, written in prison, he blamed Hitler for his own misdeeds, writing: “Hitler was the devil. He seduced us all that way.” Of all the men condemned at Nuremberg Frank alone showed some remorse for his crimes. Under the influence of a US prison chaplain he was reconciled to the Church before he was hanged.

Other ex-Catholic Nazis include Klaus Barbie, known as the “butcher of Lyon”, and Amon Göth, the “butcher of Płaszów”, whose crimes are depicted in the film Schindler’s List. Julius Streicher, from a large, closeknit Bavarian Catholic family, easily shrugged off his faith in adult life. Condemned at Nuremberg, he had been the publisher of the rabidly antiSemitic newspaper Der Stürmer, which constantly incited extermination of the Jews. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, also sentenced to death, had been the police chief of the Waffen-SS, serving under Himmler. Having discarded Catholicism, he described himself, curiously, as Gottgläubig, ie believing in God, but outside a particular religious affiliation. Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, the most infamous of all the concentration camps, related in prison that his Catholic upbringing had been harsh. “I had to do penance over the slightest misdeed,” he recalled. The militaristic discipline of his father instilled in him the central role of “duty”


in life. He was tried in Warsaw. Four days before his execution he acknowledged that “I have sinned gravely against humanity… May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done.” Like Frank, he was reconciled to the Church. This is a roll call of degradation. If these men had not come across the malign, magnetic personality of Hitler they would most likely have led undistinguished, relatively blameless lives. Nonetheless, I conjecture that their Catholic faith would have been essentially moribund; the moral and spiritual bankruptcy they displayed did not come about overnight. Other factors, wellknown to historians of the period, should be mentioned in this context: the First World War, which had led to the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of the Right in Germany; the economic instability of the Weimar Republic, during which the middle classes saw their savings wiped out; and fear of the rise of atheistic communism.

It must also be said that there were certain anti-Semitic elements in the German Catholic Church. The Great War brought cynicism and disillusionment in its wake. The old certainties had been destroyed and there was a yearning after strange gods. In his book Sacred Causes, historian Michael Burleigh quotes a Franciscan friar, Erhard Schlund, who in 1924 commented that in Germany there were many people “who preferred Wotan to Christ”. Hitler’s love for Wagnerian operatic mythology is well attested. The quotations from his principal henchmen indicate that, having rejected their Catholic heritage, they still yearned for a saviour. They fell, as the Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote, for “the spirit of the Antichrist”. Victor Klemperer, who wrote a study of the Nazi debasement of language in his book The Language of the Third Reich, concluded that the party deliberately set out to be an alternative religious cult, with its spectacles “a mixture of religious and theatrical ceremony”. Yet


none of this fully explains the spectacular fall from grace of these men in Hitler’s entourage. They deliberately chose to do evil. Behind this choice one might reflect on flawed personality types, in the case of Goebbels; merely conventional, outward piety, as with Himmler; or an unhappy childhood, as with Hans Frank. However, as the writer AN Wilson has observed, many boys throughout history have been beaten by their fathers – yet they don’t grow up to become a Hitler. Ultimately it remains a mystery of ill will, freely chosen. In contrast to the scandal of their shameful behaviour, it should be noted that some Germans chose to act differently. In his memoir of childhood, Not Me, the historian Joachim Fest reflected on his father, Johannes, a gymnasium headmaster who refused to join


the Nazi Party when it came to power in 1933, with the consequence that the family suffered considerable hardship. Selecting the four qualities that contributed to his father’s strength of personality, Fest described them as loyalty to the ideals of the Weimar Republic; the traits of duty and honour imbibed from his Prussian background; membership of the cultured German middle classes; and a strong Catholic faith. This last is the key. After all, Heydrich was a fine violinist; Himmler and Höss sincerely believed in doing their duty; Goebbels was literary. But having discarded their faith they had no longer had a moral or spiritual compass. Without this everything else became merely a civilised veneer. This article is reprinted with the kind permission of the Catholic Herald.

Francis Phillips is a book reviewer and blogger for the Catholic Herald.


How Does a Catholic Climb a Tree? 
 Christian Witness Today by Rev. Patrick Gorevan


esus’ last words to his apostles were: “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:18) The apostles took this to heart, and when electing Matthias and later spreading the word, the key point was “of these things we are witnesses” (Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15, etc). A witness is a person who sees something happen and is able to describe it to other people, but it is a bit more specific to Christianity: everyone who is able to give an account of their faith, even those who were not eyewitnesses of the Resurrection or officially constituted priests, etc. are regarded as witnesses to

Christ. The word martyr means “witness” but it was not only the martyrs who performed this task. Christianity began to spread on the basis of witness, testimony and the evidence of people’s lives. “Going therefore teach all nations” was never spoken to Abraham or Moses; Christianity seems to be the only monotheistic religion, the only major world religion in fact, to go and make disciples by giving witness to the faith. Rodney Stark’s sociological analysis of the implanting of Christianity in The Rise of Christianity (1996), stressed how their care of the sick, their horror of infanticide, the message of redemption, their


social cohesion and mutual care attracted disciples at all levels of society. Stark regarded this as a more plausible explanation of the spread of the faith than the stock political one (Constantine making it the official religion of the Empire). Pope Benedict dedicated his first encyclical to charity – God is Love – and pointed out that even the apostate Fourth Century emperor Julian attempted to copy the hierarchical structure of Christianity, the “Galileans” as he dismissively called them, for it was an efficient way of caring for all, even the weakest.

that you are a Catholic even by the way you climb a tree! VATICAN II AND OUR FRAGMENTED LIVES

The Second Vatican Council took this up as well, describing the Christian vocation as, of its nature, a vocation to apostolate and witness, by word and life (Decree, Apostolate of Lay People). Every member of the Body of Christ is active, and it isn’t a matter of preaching or having an official role. One’s whole life, even when one isn’t trying to say anything, can bear testimony. Michael Novak offers a telling quotation from Romano Guardini, who influenced four Popes so far, to the effect that anybody should be able to tell

But we find it hard to go public with our Christianity in the midst of today’s world and even Guardini claimed that “the conscious unity of existence has been to a large extent lost even by believing Christians. The believer no longer stands with his faith amid the concrete, actual world, and he no longer rediscovers that world in his faith.” This gap is one of the problems identified by the Second Vatican Council: “One of the gravest errors of our times is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives.” Or in the words of St Josemaría Escrivá in his famous homily entitled Passionately Loving the World: And so, for many Catholics, churches become the setting par excellence of the Christian life. And being a Christian means going to church, taking part in sacred ceremonies, being taken up with ecclesiastical matters, in


a kind of segregated world, which is considered to be the antechamber of heaven, while the ordinary world follows its own separate path. The doctrine of Christianity and the life of grace would, in this case brush past the turbulent march of human history, without ever really meeting it.


But faith is not meant to be carefully hoarded away and kept for Sundays, or relegated to private life. It is geared to operate within and engage with the secular world for “a faith”, St John Paul II said, “that does not affect a person's way of life and culture is a faith not fully embraced, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived.”

This fragmenting is a very contemporary phenomenon, affecting not just Catholics. Max Weber said that each of us experiences in his own flesh “personal experiences of discontinuity” which cause one to change one’s costume several times a day. It is often the case that various persons co-exist in a single subject, without it being easy to identify oneself with any single one of them. Are we members of a family, professionals, citizens, believers, or simply clowns? All and none of these. As Catholics, how can we draw all these facets of our lives into one coherent witness?

St Josemaría Escrivá, University of Navarre on October 8, 1967


An answer has been taking shape in Catholic life, a development of the Council’s doctrine, echoing Guardini’s phrase: “the unity of Christian existence”. This new feature is expressed as “unity of life”, originally associated with the preaching of St Josemaría, at the beginning of Opus Dei, in the 1930s, and used also by St John Paul II: “The unity of life of the lay faithful is of the greatest importance: indeed they must be sanctified in everyday working and social life. Therefore, to respond to their vocation, the lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfill his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ.” In recent years, since the 1987 Synod on lay people, calls for “unity of life” have become common in magisterial and more unofficial spiritual exhortation. Cardinal Martini spoke of “unity of life in a fragmented world”, and many recently formed


associations, blogs and initiatives also refer to the ideal of unity of life. Again in the words of St Josemaría: “Christians must not resign ourselves to leading a double life: our lives must be a strong and simple unity into which all our actions converge.… We are ‘citizens of heaven’, and at the same time fully fledged citizens of this earth.”

human, he is like us in “all things” except sin. This means that no human reality lies outside the scope of the redemption, no human person either. This is the still point in the turning world, the point at which all our varied activities can come together in one. From here, we can forge our varied activities into a unity, and reflect the new creation in Christ.

A STILL POINT IN A TURNING WORLD So how do you stand firm in the world as a Christian, loving the world, your neighbour as yourself and God above all? This is made possible for a Christian at the Incarnation, for Christ assumes and redeems everything that is


Rev. Patrick Gorevan is a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature. He lectures in philosophy in St Patrick’s College Maynooth and is academic tutor at Maryvale Institute. He has written on the early phenomenological movement, virtue ethics and the role of emotion in moral action.


Directed by Justin Kurzel Screenplay adapted from Shakespeare’s tragedy by Jacob Kostoff, Todd Luiso, Michael Lesslie Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, David Thewlis, Jack Reynor

Film review: Macbeth

France/UK 2015

by Laura Cotta Ramosino


acbeth, Lord of Glamis, driven by the dark prophecy of some witches and encouraged by his wife, murders his king, Duncan, and becomes King of Scotland. For the ambitious spouses it will be the beginning of a descent into madness, in an impossible struggle against fate…

addition to the ferocity and madness expected from these characters, the two of them give the protagonists sudden flashes of tenderness exploring the emptiness that gives birth to the ruinous ambition of the couple.

Competing in last year’s Cannes Film Festival, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s “cursed” tragedy (already subject of numerous celebrated adaptations including the ones from Kurosawa, Welles and Polanski) uses the unique interpretations of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the role of the protagonist and his wife. In

Within this exploration of the birth of ambition and the desire to transcend human limits, lies the most original and interesting feature of the production. It is in many ways very historical (Macbeth’s world is a deep and primitive Middle Ages, combining relics of ancient Christianity and pagan customs, made of desolate landscapes and manor houses that are little more than huts) but still allows


itself some significant departures from the original.

at times depriving them of autonomy and interest.

Fassbender's Macbeth is a man marked by the violence of war, a veteran haunted by the ghosts of the dead; the most notorious one, Banquo, is but the tip of the iceberg of a wider malaise. He is tormented by the absence of a descendant, and by a future that stubbornly refuses to reveal itself except in riddles, rendering its determination even more essential.

And so King Duncan, victim of Macbeth, is left half sketched, like his heir Malcolm, a man without either guilt or qualities, and Macduff, the man of destiny who fulfills the ancient prophecy of bringing Birnham Wood to Dunsinane.

His lady is a woman both ruthless as a knife and fragile in her desperate desire for and simultaneous rejection of motherhood. Her plunge into madness is caused, even more than by the vision of the defunct Duncan, by the horrific death of Lady Macduff and her children (which by poetic license takes place before her eyes at the stake). These are the most interesting elements of a story which gets lost here and there in a smug repetition of its most poetic motifs; these proceed through references by other characters,

Macbeth is a tragedy of ambition, frustrated and yet accomplished; it is also about the questioning fate and free will, what it means to be human and for Macbeth to aspire to the throne, in his unquenchable thirst for power. Kurzel’s film shows admirable craftmanship; it is poetic and suggestive, with great peaks of intensity but a sometimes exhausting pace. It leaves the viewer dissatisfied, though with a strong sense of pity for the protagonists and their terrible mistakes. There are some problematic elements, namely some scenes of unsettling violence. This review first appeared on


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Position Papers - April 2016  

A review of Catholic affairs

Position Papers - April 2016  

A review of Catholic affairs