Month: May 2004

Happy Birthday to G.K. Chesterton!

Gerard reminds us that 129 years ago today the great English writer and theologian Gilbert Kieth Chesterton was born!

  • “Who is this guy and why haven’t I heard of him?” — Dale Ahlquist of the American Chesterton Society gives a brief introduction.
  • Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong’s extensive compilation of links on The “Colossal Genius”
  • Chesterton’s Works on the Web, a comprehensive list of e-texts.
  • For those discovering Chesterton for the first time, an excellent biography and introduction to the many facets of his thought is Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton, by Joseph Pearce (Ignatius Press, 2001).
  • Of the many books Chesterton wrote, there are two that I think should be read in one’s lifetime: the first is Orthodoxy, a collection of essays accounting for Chesterton’s turn from agnosticism to traditional Christianity, is a classic philosophical defense of the faith.

    The second is St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, of which the great Thomist scholar Ettienne Gilson said: “I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement…. Chesterton was one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed; he was deep because he was right; and he could not help being right; but he could not either help being modest and charitable, so he left it to those who could understand him to know that he was right, and deep.” A good introduction, even for those who are intimidated by the writings of the great Saint himself.

An Anglican’s Conversion to the Catholic Faith

Canon Edward Norman, ecclesial historian and chancellor of York Minster, has converted to the Catholic faith, declaring in the online newspaper telegraph.co.uk: “There is a big hole at the centre of Anglicanism – its authority. I don’t think it’s a Church; it’s more of a religious society,” and “”Catholicism is what I have always believed, though I did not have the wit to realise it . . . You might call it a shaft of light before the sun sets.”

In 2001 Canon Norman wrote An Anglican Catechism, which the Church Times praised as “coupling innovative sexual views with traditionalist church teaching, and which Richard McBrien described as “A very Protestant view of the Christian faith” in his review for The Tablet. This year he published Anglican Difficulties: A New Syllabus of Errors, which the telegraph described as “one of the most ferocious assaults ever launched on the Church of England,” marking, in the space of 4 years, a radical development in his thought.

Apparently Canon Norman has been wrestling with the question of authority and an infallible teaching office for some time now. The Anglican blog Pontifications picks up the rest of the story, posting some choice excerpts from his 1998 lecture “Authority in the Anglican Communion”. Well worth reading.

Oklahoma Catholic Worker: Bush, Kerry equally "Anti-Life"

The following tirade was posted to a ‘Catholic Worker Blog’:

Both Bush and Kerry are equally anti-life. The Bush administration opposition to abortion is feeble and entirely politicized. They have not made any kind of a serious move to protect unborn children, Bush no more understands the humanity of the unborn human person than Kerry does, that is obvious in the way he addresses — and prioritizes — the subject. Nothing happens until just an election year. Always too little, too late, and yet we hear no end to the praise of these feeble gesturess, the praise is so loud it drowns out the screams of all those children who are still being aborted. This orgy of self-congratulation among Catholic Republicans distracts us from the weakness of the Republican position — and political performance — vis a vis abortion. George Bush and the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have not managed to save the life of even one unborn child in four years. The best thing I can think of to say about that is “pathetic”.

There are no pro-life votes on the American ballot this year, only a choice between two evil, wealthy, and powerful politicians who will murder, burn, and destroy their way through their term. Clinton murdered and burned and destroyed his way through his term. Bush the first, Reagan, and Carter did the same in the 1970s and 1980s. Kerry will do the same as will George Bush. Many innocent people will die for their grandiose schemes.

If the Catholic Worker hopes to persuade others of the worthiness of its cause, they would do best to refrain from such hyperbole and outright defamation. President Bush record on life issues is by no means perfect, but at the same time it would be unthinkable to place him on par with Senator Kerry, who activately campaigns on behalf of NARAL and other pro-abortion lobbyists.

Thankfully, the author of the Catholics for Bush blog has referred me to a list of President’s Bush’s pro-life exploits compiled by Father Peter West, of the Catholic organization Priests for Life, who describes his compilation as follows:

Below is a list of President Bush’s pro-life efforts and accomplishments in regard to protecting children in the womb and promoting the sanctity of life. I include some accomplishments in other areas but mostly focus on his pro-life record. This list is by no means comprehensive. When considering other issues much more could be added to the list of positive things that Bush has done since he has been in office.

I started to compile this list shortly after the President was reinaugurated after hearing from many, who consider themselves pro-life, that Bush was not really pro-life. I disagreed and began compiling this list. I had no idea when I started that it would be so long.

Some may ask if President Bush is so pro-life why hasn’t abortion ended. President Bush has not had an opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. Also, in practically every effort to protect the unborn President Bush has been opposed mostly by pro-abortion Democrats.

Is President Bush perfect? No. Do I agree with him on everything? No. But I look at his overall record and consider the alternative. Senator Kerry is a pro-abortion extremist. He has pledged to only appoint pro-abortion judges to the Supreme Court who will uphold Roe vs. Wade.

I plan to vote for President Bush for re-election and I hope you will do the same.

President Bush’s Pro-Life Record as of May 18, 2004

In light of Fr. West’s list of pro-life advances under the Bush administration, to place our President on par with Kerry, to describe him as “anti-life”, to say he is utterly lacking in respect for the humanity of the unborn, is in my opinion tantamount to deliberate slander.

What would the Catholic Workers of Oklohoma suggest that Catholics do in this election? — Refrain from voting and relenquish ourselves to having Senator Kerry in the White House, who is dead-set on promoting abortion and repealing every single advance the pro-life movement has made under the Bush administration?

The author of the Catholic Worker blog has been made aware of Fr. West’s list and implicit challenge to his position. We’ll see whether a retraction is forthcoming.

H.W. Crocker’s Triumph

Smirk all you want, but I’m finally getting around to reading H.W. Crocker’s Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church and just thought I’d jot down some initial impressions.

The title couldn’t be more appropriate, because this is a raucous, triumphalistic and unapologetic history of the Catholic Church, which First Things notes will be “welcomed by readers who are weary of being told that defeatism is a virtue.”

Where so many contemporary accounts of Catholicism seem overtly preoccupied with apologizing (for the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.), Crocker seems almost wistful when he writes of religous warfare and slaughtered heretics, praising the warrior-kings of the Middle Ages as “[by the Church’s standards] bloodstained fornicators . . . but their hearts were in the right place.”

Crocker is apparently a Catholic convert from Anglicanism — which, I think, is noticeable in his zealous and perhaps overly-vindictive manner of writing. Where the Holy Father and others since Vatican II advocate friendly relations with the Orthodox Church, such that we may “breathe with the other lung” (oft-quoted metaphor of Yves Congar), Crocker’s preference would be to dig in his heels and return to an ecumenical Cold War, peppering his text with such endearing references to the East as: “the tradition of Greek openness to heretical ideas,” Eastern Bishops “bowing to imperial demands like reeds beaten by the wind”; the Eastern Church “a cauldron of bubbling sectarians,” possessing “febrile, hate-filled, fissiparous tendendies” which, in Crocker’s opinion, justified “the whip-hand of the emperor to keep them in line.” 1

Having reached the chapter where he turns his attention from the Renaissence to the Reformation, beginning with “the disgruntled monk” Martin Luther (whom he goes on to describe as “a turbulent, semi-barbarian from beyond the Danube” and “a violent rhetorician, pounding his cudgels wherever they would make the most resounding racket”), I wasn’t at all suprised to see that Crocker’s contempt is equally distributed among Orthodox and Protestants.

I understand the appeal of Crocker’s style of writing. I also understand how, given the theological confusion, moral corruption and bloodletting that came as a result of the Protestant reformation (or, more appropriately, revolution) one might be disposed to such vehement criticism. At the same time, there are points in the book where I believe his spirited defense of the Church crosses the line into condescension, dripping sarcasm and barely veiled animosity toward our brothers and sisters in the faith who, while they may not be in full communion with Rome, are no less sincere in their faith in Christ.

John Hannity of Fox News in proclaims Triumph as “the most essential Catholic book since the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” I can’t say I share the enthusiasm of Mr. Hannity and other reviewers, I do regard Triumph as a readible and engrossing history of the Catholic Church; a good introduction, best supplemented by further investigation.

Additional Reviews:

  • Robert Spencer, reviewing for Catholic Exchange, loved it, proclaiming “critics will be hard-pressed to find any inaccuracy in his portrayal of the events.”
  • Amy Welborn offers a typically measured response. =)
  • Georg Sim Johnston, reviewing for Crisis, says:
    Catholics need to know their own story but balk at opening those multi-volume Church histories by Daniel Rops or Philip Hughes. H.W. Crocker III has written a book that solves the problem. I am still scratching my head over how he did it, but in Triumph he has told 2,000 years of Catholic history in fewer than 500 highly readable pages. The book has all the virtues of a good novel while packing an enormous amount of information. Not since Paul Johnson’s Modern Times has edification been this pleasurable—and I ought to add that this book is superior to Johnson’s own History of Christianity!
  • Two Centuries & Counting, H. W. Crocker III’s Q&A w/ Kathryn Jean Lopez. National Review March 29, 2002.

1. It would certainly be interesting to see Crocker sit down for a friendly chat with, say, Cardinal Kasper or Fr. Aidan Nichols (here making the case for regarding the Orthodox as our “privileged or primary ecumenical partner”).

H.W. Crocker’s “Triumph” — or Triumphalism?

Smirk all you want, but I’m finally getting around to reading H.W. Crocker’s Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church and just thought I’d jot down some initial impressions.

The title couldn’t be more appropriate, because this is a raucous, triumphalistic and unapologetic history of the Catholic Church, which First Things notes will be “welcomed by readers who are weary of being told that defeatism is a virtue.”

Where so many contemporary accounts of Catholicism seem overtly preoccupied with apologizing (for the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.), Crocker seems almost wistful when he writes of religous warfare and slaughtered heretics, praising the warrior-kings of the Middle Ages as “[by the Church’s standards] bloodstained fornicators . . . but their hearts were in the right place.”

Crocker is apparently a Catholic convert from Anglicanism — which, I think, is noticeable in his zealous and perhaps overly-vindictive manner of writing. Where the Holy Father and others since Vatican II advocate friendly relations with the Orthodox Church, such that we may “breathe with the other lung” (oft-quoted metaphor of Yves Congar), Crocker’s preference would be to dig in his heels and return to an ecumenical Cold War, peppering his text with such endearing references to the East as: “the tradition of Greek openness to heretical ideas,” Eastern Bishops “bowing to imperial demands like reeds beaten by the wind”; the Eastern Church “a cauldron of bubbling sectarians,” possessing “febrile, hate-filled, fissiparous tendendies” which, in Crocker’s opinion, justified “the whip-hand of the emperor to keep them in line.” 1

Having reached the chapter where he turns his attention from the Renaissence to the Reformation, beginning with “the disgruntled monk” Martin Luther (whom he goes on to describe as “a turbulent, semi-barbarian from beyond the Danube” and “a violent rhetorician, pounding his cudgels wherever they would make the most resounding racket”), I wasn’t at all suprised to see that Crocker’s contempt is equally distributed among Orthodox and Protestants.

I understand the appeal of Crocker’s style of writing. I also understand how, given the theological confusion, moral corruption and bloodletting that came as a result of the Protestant reformation (or, more appropriately, revolution) one might be disposed to such vehement criticism. At the same time, there are points in the book where I believe his spirited defense of the Church crosses the line into condescension, dripping sarcasm and barely veiled animosity toward our brothers and sisters in the faith who, while they may not be in full communion with Rome, are no less sincere in their faith in Christ.

John Hannity of Fox News in proclaims Triumph as “the most essential Catholic book since the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” I can’t say I share the enthusiasm of Mr. Hannity and other reviewers, I do regard Triumph as a readible and engrossing history of the Catholic Church; a good introduction, best supplemented by further investigation.

Additional Reviews:

  • Robert Spencer, reviewing for Catholic Exchange, loved it, proclaiming “critics will be hard-pressed to find any inaccuracy in his portrayal of the events.”
  • Amy Welborn offers a typically measured response. =)
  • Georg Sim Johnston, reviewing for Crisis, says:
    Catholics need to know their own story but balk at opening those multi-volume Church histories by Daniel Rops or Philip Hughes. H.W. Crocker III has written a book that solves the problem. I am still scratching my head over how he did it, but in Triumph he has told 2,000 years of Catholic history in fewer than 500 highly readable pages. The book has all the virtues of a good novel while packing an enormous amount of information. Not since Paul Johnson’s Modern Times has edification been this pleasurable—and I ought to add that this book is superior to Johnson’s own History of Christianity!
  • Two Centuries & Counting, H. W. Crocker III’s Q&A w/ Kathryn Jean Lopez. National Review March 29, 2002.

1. It would certainly be interesting to see Crocker sit down for a friendly chat with, say, Cardinal Kasper or Fr. Aidan Nichols (here making the case for regarding the Orthodox as our “privileged or primary ecumenical partner”).