Month: January 2006

Pope Benedict XVI – ‘Deus Caritas Est’ – Reactions & Commentary

“Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us. In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.”

Deus Caritas Est is essentially the meditation of Pope Benedict XVI on love — love as it is (sometimes erroneously) considered to be by the world and love as expressed in all its richness in the biblical tradition, in the love of God for Israel and as it is exemplified in the Eucharistic sacrifice of our Savior.

The second part of the encyclical is an explication of how love is to be embodied in our daily life as Christians, — in our love of (and service to) our neighbor, and what that entails in light of our faith.

Question: Why did he choose love as his theme? — The Holy Father answered this question in an address he gave on January 23, 2006, to participants in a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” on the theme “But the Greatest of These Is Love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Zenit News Agency provides the translation:

Today the word “love” is so tarnished, so spoiled and so abused, that one is almost afraid to pronounce it with one’s lips. And yet it is a primordial word, expression of the primordial reality; we cannot simply abandon it, we must take it up again, purify it and give back to it its original splendor so that it might illuminate our life and lead it on the right path. This awareness led me to choose love as the theme of my first encyclical.

I wished to express to our time and to our existence something of what Dante audaciously recapitulated in his vision. He speaks of his “sight” that “was enriched” when looking at it, changing him interiorly [The textual quotation in English is: “But through the sight, that fortified itself in me by looking, one appearance only to me was ever changing as I changed” (cf. “Paradise,” XXXIII, verses 112-114)]. It is precisely this: that faith might become a vision-comprehension that transforms us.

I wished to underline the centrality of faith in God, in that God who has assumed a human face and a human heart. Faith is not a theory that one can take up or lay aside. It is something very concrete: It is the criterion that decides our lifestyle. In an age in which hostility and greed have become superpowers, an age in which we witness the abuse of religion to the point of culminating in hatred, neutral rationality on its own is unable to protect us. We are in need of the living God who has loved us unto death.

There is simply no excuse for not reading the encyclical in full. I quickly realized (reading it over a Saturday afternoon) that it’s one of those texts where, if I went after it with a highlighter, I’d quickly run out of ink. =) So if you haven’t read it already, I strongly recommend taking the time to do so — and especially before you read this roundup and any “commentary” or reaction from bloggers, journalists and pundits.

General Observations

Tom of Disputations refers to Vatican documents as having a particularly high Ginger Factor: most of it will make no sense at all to the journalists reporting on it.

Unfortunately, papal encyclicals are no exception to this rule. Give them something as elementary as the Christian view of love, and not suprisingly, there are always some who will completely botch it.

  • Fr. Richard Neuhaus reviews Deus Caritas Est (“The style is that of the Ratzinger whom we have known over the years: precise, almost crisp, and relentlessly Christocentric”) and notes with humor the predictable response of a journalist:

    In intellectual rankings at universities, journalism is just a notch above education, which is, unfortunately, at the bottom. . . .

    What prompts me to mention this today is that I’m just off the phone with a reporter from the same national paper. He’s doing a story on Pope Benedict’s new encyclical. In the course of discussing the pontificate, I referred to the pope as the bishop of Rome. “That raises an interesting point,” he said. “Is it unusual that this pope is also the bishop of Rome?” He obviously thought he was on to a new angle. Once again, I tried to be gentle. Toward the end of our talk, he said with manifest sincerity, “My job is not only to get the story right but to explain what it means.” Ah yes, he is just the fellow to explain what this pontificate and the encyclical really mean. It is poignant.

  • The Encyclical “Shuns Strictures of Orthodoxy”? – Alejandro Bermudez’ Catholic Outsider responds to Ian Fisher’s ridiculous reading of the encyclical in The New York Times Jan. 26, 2006, noting that it “did not mention abortion, homosexuality, contraception or divorce, issues that often divide Catholics”; to which the Outsider adds:

    Fisher list stops too short. He forgot to mention that the encyclical did not mention other highly divisive issues among Catholics: cars, restaurants, yoga and who should win the Superbowl, a very, very divisive question now that the Broncos are out of the picture (snif!)

    Ah! The Pope did not mention dish washing machines either. You can’t imagine how divisive this issue can be among Catholic households.

    Carl Olson fisks Ian Fisher’s article as well, wondering Did I read the same encyclical as The New York Times? (Insight Scoop January 26, 2006).

  • Passionate prose is a real revelationTimes [UK] columnist Ruth Gledhill finds her preconceptions of the Panzerkardinal abruptly shattered:

    I STARTED reading Deus Caritas Est expecting to be disappointed, chastised and generally laid low. An encyclical on love from a right-wing pope could only contain more damning condemnations of our materialistic, westernised society, more evocations of the “intrinsic evil” of contraception, married priests, homosexuality. It would surely continue the Church’s grand tradition of contempt for the erotic, a tradition that ensures a guilty hangover in any Roman Catholic who dares to indulge in lovemaking for any reason other than the primary one of reproduction. How wonderful it is to be proven wrong.

    To which Insight Scoop‘s Mark Brumhill comments: “It is always good to see bigotry and prejudice destroyed–or at least diminished. More helpful still would be for commentator Gledhill to get biblical and pause (selah) to consider how it is that her expectations could have been so far off the mark (hamartia) to begin with and whether, perhaps, it isn’t really Benedict XVI’s fault that they were.” One would hope.

  • The Pope’s Labor of Love, by Alexander Smoltczyk (Der Spiegel January 25, 2006) starts off on a good note:

    Benedict XVI has decided to follow directly in the steps of his predecessor. Until just before his death, John Paul II had been working on an encyclical about Christian love. Benedict XVI’s treatise, addressed to “men and women religious and all the lay faithful,” completes that project and begins with a reference to love as “one of the most frequently used and misused of words.”

    but can’t resist the opportunity to take a condescending tone:

    . . . the pope quickly turns it down a notch to make it clear he’s only talking about one type of erotic love — that between a man and his wife in the marriage bed. “From the standpoint of creation,” the pope writes, “eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfil its deepest purpose.” A God, a husband and his wife. It may not quite represent the most up-to-date ideas of gender research — much less the scenes in some seminaries — but it does have the advantage of dogmatic precision.

  • The Tablet hails the encyclical as “the true face of Catholicism”:

    Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical confirms him as a man of humour, warmth, humility and compassion, eager to share the love that God “lavishes” on humanity and display it as the answer to the world’s deepest needs. On his election last spring, the former Cardinal Ratzinger was widely assumed to have as his papal agenda the hammering of heretics and a war on secularist relativism, subjects with which he was associated as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instead he has produced a profound, lucid, poignant and at times witty discussion of the relationship between sexual love and the love of God, the fruit no doubt of a lifetime’s meditation. This is a document that presents the most attractive face of the Catholic faith and could be put without hesitation into the hands of any inquirer.

    Funny how the author sees a radical disjuncture between the “kindler, gentler” Ratzinger and the “hammerer of heretics”.

  • Whispers in the Loggia reports that Deus Caritas Est is “Ratzinger-Written, Kung-Approved”, at least insofar as Kung perceives that the encyclical “isn’t a manifesto of cultural pessimism or of restrictive sexual morality towards love, but to the contrary takes on central themes under the profile of theology and anthropology.”

    Meanwhile, Reuters reports that

    “The Catholic Church’s leading dissident theologian praised Pope Benedict for his encyclical on love on Wednesday and asked for a second one showing the same kindness concerning birth control, divorce and other Christians.

    The Swiss theologian then urged the German-born Pontiff, the Vatican’s stern doctrinal watchdog for 23 years before his election last April, to be kinder to his Catholic critics and to Protestants offended by frank statements he has made about them.

    “Joseph Ratzinger would be a great Pope if he drew courageous consequences for Church structures and legal decisions from his correct and important words about love,” Kueng wrote in a statement, using the Pope’s real name.

    Alongside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Inquisition office that Ratzinger used to head, the Pope needed “Congregation of Love” to vet Vatican documents and ensure they are truly Christian in outlook, he suggested.

    Via Curt Jester, who retorts:

    “Congregation of Love” is right up there with Dennis Kucinich wanting of a “Department of Peace”. Though I would argue that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is already a congregation of love. If you love someone you tell them when they are doing something that endangers your eternal life or can lead others astray. What Kueng is really suggesting is a Congregation of Indifference where you can just do whatever you want and being its prefect would be the world’s easiest job.

  • The Surprising Message Behind ‘God Is Love’, January 25, 2005. Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia) reviews the encyclical for Beliefnet.com. Overall a good plug, although I’d take issue with this:

    While conservative Catholics will agree that the concept of human love, eros “reduced to pure ‘sex,’ has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity,” the absence of the divisive doctrinal questions of sexuality, contraception, and abortion from the document might further add to the suspicion, already aired in some quarters, that their man has “gone soft.” It is not what they would have expected–or, perhaps, wished. . . .

    Oh, I’d say that Pope Benedict XVI has been making his views on the “divisive doctrinal questions” of contraception, abortion and sexuality explicitly known for some time. I certainly don’t need (nor would I expect) him to mention it with every given opportunity.

    The “progressive” interpretations of the Deus Caritas Est (for example, by Andrew Sullivan and Hans Kung) try to pit Benedict’s teaching on love in opposition to the Church’s prohibitions against sexual immorality. I would suggest, rather, that in choosing love as the topic of his first encyclical, Benedict is offering a necessary reminder to us that the moral teaching of the Church is best understood in its proper context, as issuing from the love of God and His vision for humanity. (Further reference, John Paul II’s theology of the body).

  • On a better note, from Zenit News Agency — interviews with Legionary of Christ Father Thomas D. Williams, a dean at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum university; Sister Maria Gloria Riva, a contemplative religious of the Perpetual Adorers of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and film director Liliana Cavani.
  • And from Ignatius Insight, commentary by Fr. James V. Schall:

    Walking along the corridor of our department just hours after Deus Caritas Est was issued, I ran into a young man I did not know. He asked me if I had seen the new document. I was impressed that he ever heard of it. I had not seen it, though I knew about it. He told me its title. He added that he had hoped for something more “relevant,” like bio-ethics.

    I replied that I thought charity was a pretty good topic since it is central to the Church’s teaching about who God is and what our lives are about. And it has not a little to do even with such a perplexing topic as bio-ethics, such as addressing the foundations of bio-ethics. One of the reason some bio-ethicists get things wrong when they do is, I suspect, because they do not understand the primacy–even the physical primacy–of charity, in its full theological and philosophical meaning, even as applies to the fact that we, as individual persons have both minds and bodies to be what we are.

    and Fr. Joseph Fessio:

    those who have read his works, are familiar with his life, or have had the privilege of knowing him, the encyclical is no surprise. He has a penetrating intellect which always goes to the heart of the matter. He has a sense of the poetry of life and of revelation, which gives his writing clarity, depth and beauty. And he is someone who listens both to the living and those whose thoughts come to us through their books and works of art. Then from all that he’s seen and heard, he’s able to synthesize and organize and present an idea or position in a coherent way that always illuminates.

    I see this as a foundational encyclical. And I hope he has a long enough papacy to build on this strong foundation. He has taken the very heart of Christian revelation as a starting point, the central truth of the Christian faith: God is love.

Part I: “The reconciliation of Eros & Agape

  • Clairity provides a good summary of “the marriage of eros and agape, with mention of the influence of Luigi Guissani. More reflections from Ancient & Future Catholic Musings.
  • Neil at Catholic Sensibility also contributes with some related strands of thought by Antonio Socci and the Dutch Protestant minister W.A. Visser ‘t Hooft.
  • Liberal Catholic JCecil (In Today’s News) addresses Pope Benedict’s views on “ecstacy,” or “the ecstatic experience”:

    I suppose if you’ve never experienced the intoxicating beauty of deep prayer or sacramental married love or the ecstatic joy of the birth of a child, or the ecstatic joy of knowing you really helped another human person in a way that will effect the course of their life, and so forth, the first line might sound puzzlingly prohibitive in an otherwise joyous letter.

    All I hear the Holy Father saying is that if you want ecstasy, there are far better ways to achieve it than with temple prostitutes or drugs and such.

  • In “Unity in Difference”, Daniel (Cosmos, Liturgy, Sex) responds to a commentator at Amy Welborn‘s who “sees this Encyclical as an olive branch to “gays” because B16 does not explicitly limit eros to heterosexuality and limit “gays” to agape. This sad thinking, besides being delusional, completely misunderstands the faith and the Trinitarian foundation of love.” Daniel responds:

    Self-gift can only be rooted in Trinitarian love. The Father’s total gift of Himself to the Son and the Son’s reciprocation are fruitful. This mutual Love is a Person . . . the Holy Spirit. Being the Source of everything that exists, this total self-giving establishes the framework for creation and so it is the interpretive key for understanding creation and most especially the human person who is created in the image of this Self-giving God.

    This framework shows that love must be true to the order of creation. This is where those who mistakenly believe that B16 is somehow now saying that same-sex genital relations are suddenly not a disorder, completely miss the Trinitarian nature of creation. The Encyclical says that “…man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete’” (DCE 11). Here B16 follows JPTG’s theology of the body in which the latter shows that man is made, male and female, in the Trinitarian image. Husband and wife are a unity in difference, made complementarily for one another. The structure of heterosexual anatomy demonstrates their complementarity and their having been ordered to the one-flesh union which is the only genital union that has the capacity to be fruitful in a life-giving way.

    B16 uses the phrase unity and difference also to describe the hylomorphic union of body and soul. Because the soul is the substantial form of the body, the body expresses something in the soul. This includes sex differences. Sex differences are ontological and created for the unity in difference of love, manifested in its dimensions of eros and agape.

    (Readers of The Pertinacious Papist will recognize the commentator in question as being one Fr. O’Leary, aka. “The Spirit of Vatican II”).

  • Fr. O’Leary is not alone in his illusions — Andrew Sullivan, now blogging for Time magazine, writes: “I also, obviously, share Benedict’s wonder at conjugal love. I see no conflict between the love of two homosexual men or women for each other and the mystery of heterosexual love.” And of his delighted remark that the encyclical “is not as extreme or as repressive as Benedict’s well-earned reputation”, Amy Welborn counters:

    The “well-earned” reputation for repression is getting so old. Sing that to the institutions of higher learning in the Jesuit tradition that have flourished, repression-free, for the past thirty years. Better yet, read some of this pope’s theology. As I mentioned, anyone familiar with Ratzinger will find no surprises in Benedict.

  • John Heard (aka. Dreadnought), on the other hand, asks What if anything, does the Pope call same sex attracted men to via this Encyclical?, and arrives at an answer:

    What of gay men? The Pope speaks eloquently of the love that animates heterosexual unions via the proper balancing of eros and agape (love that ‘goes up’ and the love that ‘comes down’) but he leaves a small section, surely enough, to describe the understanding of philia or brotherly love much respected by the ancients.

    Philia describes a love no less significant than that which expresses ‘the relationship between Jesus and His disciples’. It is this love, somewhat removed from the central animating focus of the Encyclical, that same sex attracted men must desire, pursue and celebrate. Twisted eros, described by the Pope as previously subsisting in ‘sacred prostitutes’ and other degraded forms of sexuality in the Pagan world, too often stalks the edges of the ‘gay community’ today.

    (Probably not the kind of answer O’Leary and Sullivan were looking for, but hey).

  • Oswald Sobrino praises the encyclical for “going on the offensive”):

    The Pope, as those before him, is seeking to capture all things for Christ precisely because all things were made through Christ and find their fulfillment in Christ. So the eros that is so central to us as human beings, the eros that is so distorted, falsified, and misused, the eros that has the potential for so much flourishing and for so much self-destruction certainly can never be left out of the Christian equation. The Pope, so to speak, parachutes the Gospel into territory that has been ceded for far too long to pagans, secular or otherwise. Eros was made by God through Christ to unite with agape.

    As someone with a graduate degree in economics, let me offer some mathematical analogies. If we take eros (the intense mutual attraction of male and female) and add agape (the selfless love focused on the good of the other) we then get true Christian philia (the love of friendship). If agape is left out of the equation, then eros is left adrift like an orphan with no constructive horizon. And what we get is disaster: jealousies, conflict, and eventually mutual hatred. It happens all the time.

    Another analogy: if we take philia (the love of friendship) and add agape, we end up with a transformed friendship, a Christian philia that ennobles both. Without agape, friendship can easily become simply a conspiracy in mutual self-destruction or manipulation. Again, it happens all the time.

Part II – on the meaning and obligation of Christian charity

In the second part of his encyclical, Deis Caritas Est Benedict discusses the meaning of charity in the mission of the Church. The ministry of charity is placed alongside the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of the sacraments as expressions of God’s love: “For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.” This obligation encompasses both our fellow Christians — those within our ecclesial family — and the world at large:

The Church is God’s family in the world. In this family . Yet at the same time caritas- agape extends beyond the frontiers of the Church. The parable of the Good Samaritan remains as a standard which imposes universal love towards the needy whom we encounter “by chance” (cf. Lk 10:31), whoever they may be. Without in any way detracting from this commandment of universal love, the Church also has a specific responsibility: within the ecclesial family no member should suffer through being in need. The teaching of the Letter to the Galatians is emphatic: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).

Responding to the argument of Marxism (and certain proponents of “liberation theology”) — that “works of charity are in effect a way for the rich to shirk their obligation to work for justice and a means of soothing their consciences, while preserving their own status and robbing the poor of their rights”; that the poor do not need charity but rather justice, and a just social order in which all will share the world’s goods — Pope Benedict responds:

There is admittedly some truth to this argument, but also much that is mistaken. It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods. This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching on the State and by the Church’s social doctrine.

This goal, however, cannot be found through Marxism (“revolution and the subsequent collectivization of the means of production”) — “such an illusion has vanished today.” Rather, “the Church’s social doctrine has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church,” as encompassed in the social encyclicals of Benedict’s predecessors and which “has now found a comprehensive presentation in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.”

The responsibility for the just ordering of society properly belongs to the realm of politics, “the sphere of the autonomous use of reason.” At the same time, insofar as the origin and goal of politics is justice, it is naturally concerned with ethics — and it is likewise here that the Church can exercise its influence through the formation of conscience by appeal to natural law:

This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.

The Church’s social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church’s responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church’s immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically.

The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.

While the Church must not usurp the proper role and end of the State, Benedict also reminds us of the inherent limitations of the State in the satisfaction of man’s fundamenal needs:

Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable.[20] The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.

  • As Kishore Jayabalan of The Acton Institute puts it: “This is the Catholic case for limited government par excellence. Justice and politics are necessary and good objectives to pursue, but they are not what human life is ultimately about. Divine love transcends politics. This is the language of a political philosophy that points beyond itself to theology, and it’s perfectly fitting as Benedict’s first encyclical. (“Pope Benedict on Limited Government” Acton Institute Powerblog January 25, 2006).
  • Gregory Popcak (Heart, Mind & Strength) praises Benedict’s recognition of the difference between social work and social justice.
  • Michael Liccione (Sacramentum Vitate) comments:

    That will probably be the most controversial aspect of the encyclical among those who care what popes think. It has something to please everybody and something to offend everybody. The Church must not control or replace the State, but neither can she “remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.” Her social teaching plays a valid political role with its “rational arguments” yet, at the same time, she “purifies reason” with insights made possible only by faith. And whatever the political situation, her vast charitable works will always witness to Christ in civil society. They can never be replaced by just “structures” of the kind that government can create and regulate.

  • Amy Welborn agrees:

    To me, the most interesting point of this section was what will doubtlessly be referenced as Benedict’s Augustinian pessimism – he says outright that those who carry out the Church’s charitable activity “must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world…” (33), and should be wary of at trying to do “what God’s governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolve every problem.” (36) It gives those of us reared in the “we’re helping build the Kingdom” mentality something to think about, that’s certain.

    It’s pretty bracing and clarifying, and I’m placing bets that this will be the most contentious part of the document. Benedict say, additionally, that professional competence is fine, but is not the standard by which charity operates – person-to-person compassionate love is. He says quite directly that the “growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work” is a problem.

    What does this mean? Does this mean don’t try to change things? To just hand out water and be done with it? Far from it. . . .

    It is persons that are at the center here. From the very beginning of the document, as Benedict explains what faith is, in very CL [Communion and Liberation] kind of lingo, I believe:

    We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

    And it ends with a person – you and me as part of the Body of Christ, having encountered the total love of God in Jesus, being graced over and over again as we meet him in Eucharist, being joined every more intimately to our brothers and sisters through that same Eucharist, and not only able, but moved by the Spirit to live in that reality in which eros and agape merge, nourish each other, and it becomes simply who we are, because we are in Christ.

Updates!

First, I’d like to extend a welcome to readers of Mark Shea, Amy Welborn, Get Religion, First Things and “The Daily Dish” (Andrew Sullivan), and thank the authors for their graciously linking to this post. Here are some additional posts and commentary for your consideration:

  • Oh, to be a “Catholic Scholar”, exclaims Amy Welborn, responding to the latest piece of journalistic coverage (An unexpected letter of love, by Michael Valpy Minneopolis Star Tribune January 27, 2005):

    Few Catholic scholars contacted this week had read the encyclical or planned to do so. Two professed amusement at the notion that the pope had written about love. And what puzzled some scholars is why Benedict had chosen the subject.

    Amy responds:

    to address an issue that’s popped up down below. I’m not suggesting that a papal encyclical should immediately be at the center of every Catholic’s – even Catholic scholar’s – consciousness and concern. I actually spent some time musing – although I never blogged on it – about why I was interested and why I should care.

    But you know, this is the first papal encyclical since 2003, it’s the first from this new Pope, who also happens to be a renowned theologian, who has been an object of controversy in the past and whose papacy so far has confounded some. So yeah, it’s of interest, it’s not very long at all, and any “Catholic scholar” who’s on the newsroom rolodex (and once you get on, you learn to expect calls for reactions regularly), you’d think might have something to say besides, “Sniff.” If that is, indeed, an accurate metaphor for what they said.

    Michael Valpy, take note.

  • Greg Sisk (Mirror of Justice) concludes that Deus Caritas Est is A Continuity With, Not a Departure From, the Witness of John Paul II:

    In emphasizing the proper role of the Church in the awakening and formation of conscience, while insisting that the Church must not enter into the “political battle” that remains instead the separate vocation of the laity, Pope Benedict XVI’s words have been portrayed by some as a departure from the public witness of his predecessor. After all, John Paul II addressed civil authorities regularly with boldness and spoke with prophetic directness on issues of human rights, pointedly including the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

    I submit that these observers both have misread Benedict XVI as foreshadowing something of a withdrawal by the Church on direct engagement with civil regimes on basic matters of human rights (including sanctity of life issues) and have misunderstood the non-political nature of John Paul II in his forthrightly religious witness in the public square. In other words, I see Benedict XVI’s first encyclical as steadily in continuity with John Paul II in the understanding of the appropriate role of the Catholic Church when it encounters the temporal civil order. . . .

    Read the rest here; discussion (as usual) by Amy Welborn’s Commentariat here.

  • Pope B16 & CL – David Jones (Nouvelle Theologie) provides the background on Pope Benedict’s relationship with Fr. Giussani and Communion & Liberation.
  • A Commentary on “Deus Caritas Est” by Pastor John Wright. Jan. 29, 2006:

    It might surprise some to find a theologian and pastor in the Church of the Nazarene not only caring, yet positively endorsing, the writings of the contemporary bishop of Rome. I am convinced, however, that the commitment to holiness of heart and life in the tradition of the Church of the Nazarene must drive us to conversation and shared life with those within the Roman Catholic church, even or especially the bishop of Rome. We must because our Lord prayed that we be sancified in truth so that we might be one as the Father and the Son are One. Secondly, the message of holiness finds its most consistent teaching and embodiment in the Christian tradition within the teachings of the Catholic Church and the bodies of the saints. Thus I offer this series of essays, as I can get to them, in hope that the fragmented body of Christ may some day be healed so that the world may know the God who is Love.

    (See also Part II of Pastor Wright’s Commentary).

  • “What is this thing called love?” January 31, 2006. (You can also find Maggie at the Institute for Marriage & Public Policy’s MarriageDebate.com).
  • “Benedict Genius Est” – Panel discussion on “The Religion Report,” headed by Stephen Crittenden religion correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The show features “Leading Catholic moral theologian Charles E Curran” — did he say “leading?” — journalist Rocco Palmo of “Whispers in the Loggia,” and the Jack de Groot- the National Campaign Director of Caritas Australia. A review of the Crittenden interview here by yours truly.
  • “For the Love of God”, by Lorenzo Albacete. New York Times Feb. 3, 2006.
  • The Controversy of Love and Love and the Will of God, two excellent reflections on the encyclical by Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea.
  • The Discipline Love Requires, by Al Kimel (Pontifications). Feb. 3rd, 2006:

    “I have not yet read Pope Benedict’s new encylical; but when one finds Hans Küng, Charles Curran, Luke Timothy Johnson, Joseph O’Leary, and Andrew Sullivan applauding the document, one gets a bit nervous . . .”

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Reflections on Steven Spielberg’s Munich

Note: I saw Munich the movie last (Tuesday) night, and had been working on the following post over the course of this week, reflecting on the film and the various issues it raised. Of course the leading story this week is the release of Pope Benedict’s long-awaited and timely encyclical Deus Caritas Est, which will likely be the subject of my next post, either this weekend or early next week. Pax. — Christopher

At 5:00 AM, September 5th, 1972, a seminal event in the development of modern terrorism took place. Eight Palestinian terrorists invaded the site of the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. They killed and took hostage eleven Israeli athletes competing in the Games, demanding the release of over 200 imprisoned Arabs and 2 German terrorists. Over the next few tension-filled days, all the hostages and some of the terrorists were killed, and the remaining terrorists escaped, mostly due to incompetence and perfidy of the German government. The Olympic Committee made a controversial decision to continue the Games, and has never held any memorial for the slain athletes. Eventually almost all of the remaining terrorists were hunted down and killed by Israeli agents, directed by then Prime Minister Golda Meir.

Munich Remembered, by Judith @ Kesher Talk.

The authoritative documentary of the Munich Massacre is One Day in September.

The new Steven Spielberg film Munich, loosely based on George Jonas’ book Vengeance, purports to be “the story of what happens next,” following the 1972 Munich Massacre. Many critics and pundits (predominantly those on the left) have praised it as a stirring commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its “cycle of violence”, as well as a cinematic protest against the Bush administration’s “war on terrorism.”

Munich: Praise

Discussing The Morality of ‘Munich’ Alternet Dec. 24, 2005), Jordan Elgrably heralds Munich as “the work of a mature filmmaker–one who does not appear beholden to popular American Jewish opinion that Israel is always the underdog,” with a timely moral lesson for today’s conflict:

The military occupation of Palestinian territories is in its 38th year; the settlement movement continues apace; and all the international peace initiatives have failed. The one dependable reality of the conflict — Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli targeted assassinations — is utterly bankrupt. Nothing remains but for the Palestinians to seek justice with a nonviolent revolution for peace, in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, and for the Israeli people to follow new leaders who can devise political rather than military solutions.

Andrew Gumbel applauds Munich’s implicit criticism of President Bush: (The Independent January 5, 2006):

The material not only takes a sideswipe at Israel and its long-standing policy of doing whatever it takes to guarantee its own survival. The parallels with George Bush’s America are also unmistakable, at a time when the moral standing of the United States around the world has been severely undermined by reports of torture, targeted killings and war justified by intelligence that was either incorrect or deliberately skewed to suit a pre-determined political agenda. To ensure that the point is not missed, the film concludes with a shot of the lower Manhattan skyline including the now-fallen twin towers of the World Trade Center.

David DiCerto of the USCCB’s (Conference of Catholic Bishops) Office for Film & Broadcasting praises Munich as “a clear statement by the filmmaker that violence comes at a cost of one’s soul,” a continuation of “a cinematic conversation about the value of human life begun with Schindler’s List. The message of that film was that ‘whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.’ The grim counterpoint here suggests that in taking lives the light of our humanity is collectively dimmed.”

And JB (aka Dawnwatchman explicates Munich‘s gospel of nonviolence:

Munich speaks extensively about home, brotherhood, morals, and achieving peace on earth. However, these themes are secondary to the point Spielberg is trying to make through a powerful meditation. The dogma of an eye for an eye does not work. Here is where the irony comes into play, for the solution is most likely beyond what Spielberg intended. For we know that only the New Law is capable of justifying a man in the sight of God. Therefore, the problems and conflicts in the Middle East can’t be arbitrated using a precept of the Old Law. The New Law alone is sufficient. What this means is something which neither side is willing to accept. Israelis and Palestinians need to learn to live together. To break bread together, so to speak. It’s either that or somebody has to relocate to another part of the world, either of this life or the next. In better words, the Old Law must pass away:

“You have heard that it hath been said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other.” – Matt., 5:38-39

Munich: Criticism

On the other hand, other critics have charged that the very zealousness with which Spielberg condemns the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led him to entertain the notion of “moral equivalence” — namely, that there is, with a view to the consequences, no ultimate difference between the Palestinian terrorist and the Israeli soldier.

Captain’s Quaters, for instance, gave a disappointing review of the film:

On its most facile level, Munich is a gripping film. Had it been based on complete fiction — if Spielberg had had the sense to manufacture a hypothetical instead of hijacking history and twisting it — then it might have even had a valid point to make. Spielberg has lost nothing as a film director in a technical sense, . . . The cinematography, music, mood, and all of the technical efforts put into the film are first rate, without a doubt.

And every last bit of it gets wasted by a silly sense of moral equivalency that comes from a fundamental misrepresentation of the threat Israel faces, and in the strongly suggested allegorical sense, the threat that faces the US and the West now.

The problem with Munich, says the author, is that “by equating the two sides, Spielberg and the world gave the perpetrators of terrorism the same moral standing as its victims, especially when the victims sought to ensure that their enemies could not live long enough to plan more such attacks.”

Cliff Kincaid and Roger Aronoff of Accuracy in the Media describe the film in terms of a Hollywood Surrender to Terrorists:

It is apparent that the movie is not only supposed to be historical but meant to send a message to Israel, the U.S. and the Bush Administration. The film’s website even says that “the film takes audiences into a hidden moment in history that resonates with many of the same emotions in our lives today.” Spielberg intends to convince us that responding to terrorism with military force is hopeless. . . .

The real problem with the film is the moral equivalence, as Spielberg talks about “intransigence” and complains about “response to a response,” as if Israel is at fault for trying to defend itself. What he seems to forget is that Israel is fighting for its very existence against an Arab/Muslim bloc of nations that still preaches hatred and destruction of Jews and Israelis.

Roger Ebert, who gave the film a big thumbs up, says about Spielberg’s approach: “By not taking sides, he has taken both sides.” But how can that be morally correct or defensible?

FrontPageMag also hosted a (sometimes heated) Symposium on Munich, inviting several authors and commentators — pro and con — to discuss the meaning of the film. Carl Horowitz points out that Munich mastermind Mohammed Daoud has voiced his disagreement with the film’s depiction of his team, charging: “We did not target Israeli civilians. Some of the athletes had taken part in wars and killed many Palestinians. Whether a pianist or an athlete, any Israeli is a soldier.” According to Horowitz, Doud’s “factually-challenged rant performs a useful function. For it indicates that Spielberg would have had to have gone a lot further to appease his Arab critics – that is, to make a film that truly was morally equivalent.”

Arnold Steinberg disagrees:

This movie is an assault on the war on terrorism. That’s why the movie ends with the twin towers in the background. It’s supposed to bring you full circle, on the cycle of violence b.s. which is the corollary of moral equivalence, alongside the Arabist belief that the U.S. provoked 9-11.

This movie clearly implies the Israeli response to Munich escalated, if not unleashed, a new generation of terrorism that culminated in 9-11. Kushner cleverly projected plausible even-handedness, but on the points that mattered, he gutted Israel. Remember, the Palestinian wins the homeland debate by default. I talk mainly about Kushner, because he used Spielberg, who has much more clout. . . . Munich was dishonest, overwhelmingly so, factually. Moreover, the mission, to the extent it existed, was not revenge, but to disrupt the terrorist hierarchy, which it did. And to quote Daoud attacking Spielberg? Bottom line — this movie depicts the straight Arabist line — this is a real estate conflict and ignores the reality that key Arab constituencies, from religious zealous to secular extremists, hate Jews and want them dead.

In Spielberg’s Moral Confusion (NRO, Jan. 6, 2006), Monica Charen criticizes Spielberg’s inattention to history and the impact it will likely have on its audience, some of whom weren’t even alive in 1972 (like myself, I admit) and probably won’t bother investigating the actual facts of the incident:

Munich is a well-crafted movie, but it is a deeply and disturbingly dishonest one. Many moviegoers were not even born in 1972, and many who were alive will scarcely remember the details. Do moviemakers owe nothing to them? Do they owe nothing to the truth? This is not Oliver Stone’s JFK, but for that reason its effect may be more insidious. The film looks like history but it is a morality play of the artist’s imagination. Spielberg uses real historical figures like Golda Meir as props, putting words in their mouths that they not only did not say, but would never have said. During the opening credits, the audience is informed that the film is “inspired by real events.” That could mean anything — but movie audiences probably will not parse the words with lawyerly care. They will read it in the context of a film that offers generous servings of verisimilitude. There are clips of sportscaster Jim McKay reporting from the Munich Olympics in 1972, as well as the voice of Peter Jennings narrating the harrowing events. Some of the details of the kidnapping and murder of the eleven Israeli athletes are well-researched. But as CC Colton warned, “Falsehood is never so successful as when she baits her hook with truth.”

Credible Witness? — Rinker Buck, George Jonas and Yuval Aviv

To compound the problem, Monica Charen notes that the very book Tony Kushner allegedly based his script on — George Jonas’ Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team — is itself highly questionable:

Jonas based his tale on the word of one Israeli who claimed to have headed a clandestine assassination squad for the Mossad. But Jonas was the second, not the first author to whom this particular Israeli had peddled this tale of “Avner,” the Israeli hit man. The first, according to Time, was a writer named Rinker Buck who was offered an advance from Simon and Schuster. But the deal fizzled when Buck traveled to Europe to check his informant’s information and found that “he was changing his story daily.” Buck said he could not write the book in good conscience. Jonas apparently could. And while the book has been debunked for 20 years, Spielberg saw fit to build a movie upon it.

  • For background on Rinker Buck’s conscientious refusal to peddle Avner’s story, see “Believing What You Read”, by Thomas Griffith Time June 25, 1984).
  • More on Jonas’ book from Bret Stevens (Munich: What’s wrong with Steven Spielberg’s new movie Wall Street Journal Jan. 1, 2006): “Yuval Aviv, who claimed to be the model for Avner . . . was, according to Israeli sources, never in the Mossad and had no experience in intelligence beyond working as a screener for El Al, the Israeli airline.”
  • For background on Yuval Aviv himself, see Spielberg could be on the wrong track, by Yosi Mellman Ha’aretz Jan. 8, 2006:

    The problem arose five years later, in 1989, when a third party claimed in a lawsuit that private investigator Yuval Aviv, an Israeli, was Canadian journalist George Jonas’ source. In the lawsuit, Jonas identified Aviv as a key figure in the book and argued that Aviv had dishonored an agreement and prevented him from receiving royalties due to him from the profits of the film.

    After this identification, the international press began to publish articles about Aviv. Investigative reports about him revealed that he represented himself as a Mossad agent even though he had never worked in the Mossad and certainly had not participated in operations to kill those involved in the athletes’ murder. Aviv, as he emerged from these investigative reports, had a special fondness for conspiracy theories, and it turned out that he was willing to hire out his services to anyone who was willing to pay, even to both sides of the same dispute.

Vengeance author George Jonas himself makes his case for telling “Avner’s” story (and the eventual Hollywood cinematization/bastardization) in “the Spielberg massacre” (Macleans Jan. 7, 2006). Jonas stands by his man (“though he was not without a capacity for invention . . . “Avner” described a string of operations of which he had first-hand knowledge”) and disavows any relationship with Aviv (“The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz floats the canard that my source was revealed to be one “Yuval Aviv” in the late 1980s when I sued him in a contract dispute in New York. The fact is, I’ve never sued anyone in my life, in New York or anyplace else”).

At the same time, Jonas notes with clear disapproval Kushner’s involvement with the Munich screenplay:

The confirmation that production will definitely be put over until 2005, pending a new script to be written by Tony Kushner, comes only in September. It doesn’t come from Mendel. It comes from “Avner” who appears to be very much in the loop — and thoroughly besotted. A spook in the grip of celebrity worship is a sight to behold.

“Avner” writes that with the new script Spielberg is planning “in some aspects to stay parallel with the book. But of course he [takes] the book where only Steven can take it.” Considering Kushner’s stance on Israel, it isn’t hard to imagine where that will be. In addition to his magnum opus, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Spielberg’s new screenwriter is co-author (with Alisa Solomon) of a 2003 book, Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The title forecasts a film that will be a “progressive” Jewish-American response to the Munich massacre. No wonder there’s a reluctance to let me see the script.

and expresses his disappointment with the finished project by the ‘King of Hollywood’ himself:

Spielberg’s “Munich” follows the letter of my book closely enough. The spirit is almost the opposite. Vengeance holds there is a difference between terrorism and counterterrorism; “Munich” suggests there isn’t. The book has no trouble telling an act of war from a war crime; the film finds it difficult. Spielberg’s movie worries about the moral trap of resisting terror; my book worries about the moral trap of not resisting it.

Disputing Jonas’ account of the operation is Time magazine Israeli correspondent Aaron Klein’s newly-published Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel’s Deadly Response:

A main disagreement between the two books is whether the Mossad’s assassinations of the Black September leaders that followed the 1972 Olympic attacks was an emotional reaction against the attackers, as “Vengeance” and “Munich” both assert, or whether, as Klein argues, it was also a strategic response to break up a terrorist network.

“Striking Back” was actually in the works at Random House several years ago, before Spielberg revealed he was working on the film, and wasn’t set to come out until next year. Random House rushed publication when it learned of the film’s release.

(“Rival Tome Snipes at Munich Variety Award Central, Dec. 12, 2005).

Setting the Record Straight

The Jewish blog KesherTalk provides a good roundup of pundit reactions, reviews and blogger commentary on Munich.

Likewise, they do the world a favor by drawing our attention to the historical account of Munich — the massacre, with a series of reflections on the senseless slaughter of the Israeli athletes:

Parting Thoughts

As one who appreciates Steven Spielberg’s previous films (Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan especially) and his undeniable prowess in moviemaking, I’d certainly like to believe him when he repudiates “blind pacifism,” proclaims his fidelity to Israel and defends the making of the film as an exercise in Talmudic questioning (A telephone call with Spielberg, by Roger Ebert. Dec. 25, 2005).

At the same time, having seen the movie myself, I’ve come to some judgements of my own about the film:

“Humanizing” Terrorism and drawing “Moral Equivalence”

Yes, a certain degree of “humanizing” of the terrorists does occur in the film — the selected targets are shown in a positive light: a poet reading his translation of ‘Arabian Nights’ in Italian to a sidewalk audience; a good father with his loving wife and adoring daughter; a good-natured gentleman who offers a cigarette and sleeping pills to Avner before he goes off to bed (and to his death). In reminding us of their humanity, their crimes are practically hidden, their complicity in the deaths of innocents obscured by the veneer of gentleness and charm.

Yet, even in a stairwell encounter between Avner and a Palestinian named Ali, in which the latter is given the opportunity to present his grievances against Israel, I did not feel that Spielberg was putting forth “moral equivalence” in the sense that the direct actions of the terrorists and those of the Israeli strike team were of a piece. Whereas the Palestinians are shown mercilessly slaughtering the Olympic athletes, Avner and his men take scrupulous care not to harm innocent civilians, nearly-aborting one mission where the target’s daughter was endangered. Some critics berated Avner’s questioning and moral deliberation as a sign of weakness; I’m inclined to agree with Sonny Bunch (Munich Syndrom Weekly Standard Jan. 6, 2006):

. . . Compare this to the Palestinian terrorists who have no problem with turning AK-47s on hogtied hostages. And then there is the deeper question of humanity: Avner understand the justness of his mission, but still struggles with the taking of life. The terrorists show no such qualms.

And yet, I must say there was a great deal in the movie that could — and did — lead audiences to conclude a “moral equivalence” with respect to ends: in suggesting that the Israeli’s counter-terrorism tactics were themselves a propogator of more terror, and that resorting to armed force for whatever reason inevitably perpetuates a “cycle of violence.”

James Bowman, resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, lists “a few of the conventional ideas served up by [Spielberg and Kushner]” (Munich: A Review The American Spectator Dec. 30, 2005):

* Revenge is an uncivilized, savage act that lowers the revenger to the level of his victim. As a result, there is always a certain moral equivalence between killer and victim.

* Engaging in revenge perpetuates a cycle of violence.

* Those who are caught up in this cycle and who kill in cold blood often suffer terrible agonies of conscience: nightmares, paranoia, substance abuse, and other manifestations of what we have learned to call post-traumatic stress disorder.

* From governments of all kinds, corruption, violence, and lack of human compassion is to be expected.

* Therefore, one should put loyalty to one’s family and friends ahead of loyalty to one’s country.

Despite Spielberg’s intentions, it seems to me that Munich renders itself easily exploitable by those who are anti-Israel, anti-Bush and anti-war, resisting the very idea that armed force can be used in a morally legitimate manner, in service to the good.

In his reflections on the film — Art Needs Moral Vision (VictorHansen.com Dec. 27, 2005) — Bruce Thornton describes the phrase “cycle of violence” as indicative of a modern moral pathology: the inclination to see force “not in moral terms — that is, as the instrument of a righteous or unrighteous choice and aim — but as a reflexive reaction to grievances and wounds to self-esteem.” According to Thorton, it is a pathology that has been soundly exploited by Arab terrorists in the defense of their cause:

Jews traumatized by anti-Semitism and the Holocaust drove from their homes Arabs who, in turn traumatized by their suffering and the thwarting of their “nationalist aspirations,” turn to violence, which provokes a response from the Israelis, which creates more suffering, which provokes more violence, and on and on. All we need to do is break the cycle — which usually means getting Israel to stop reacting to Palestinian violence — create a Palestinian state, and the lion will lie down with the lamb.

Thorton himself sees this as the underlying viewpoint of Spielberg’s Munich:

In Munich . . . force is viewed with the suspicion typical of the quasi-pacifist liberal. Using force against murderers is futile, the movie keeps telling us, for each dead terrorist is replaced by another one, each killing of a terrorist inspires another act of terrorist retribution. I wonder what would have happened if the same attitude had been taken regarding Nazis or kamikaze pilots. Thank goodness our fathers and grandfathers had more sense. They knew that evil men have to be destroyed, and you stick with the job until the evil men give up or are no more. They knew that evil men choose their evil to advance some aim, and will try to kill you no matter what you do, and are more likely to take heart from a failure to resist than to reconsider their evil aims or to abandon violence. They knew that the sorts of reservations Munich indulges are not signs of a sophisticated sensibility but rather the evasions borne of moral uncertainty, Hamlet-like doubts whose purpose is to avoid action and moral responsibility.

The moral evasions at the heart of Munich evoke another Munich, the Munich of Neville Chamberlain and appeasement, that moment in 1938 when moral exhaustion confronted evil and blinked, unleashing a force of destruction that cost 50 million dead and that was stopped not by understanding of context or empathy with the enemy’s humanity but by righteous force wielded by men who weren’t afraid to call evil by its proper name.

* * *

Munich and the Greater Question of ‘Justified Use of Armed Force

I am presently reading The War to Oust Saddam Hussein: The Context, The Debate, The War and the Future (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), by James Turner Johnson, a notable scholar of military ethics and the just war tradition. Professor Johnson is severely critical of Bishop Wilton Gregory’s stance during the Iraq war (and the subsequent position of the USCCB), because its argument against the war began with the prejudice that, in the words of Bishop Gregory, “a moral presumption against the use of armed force.” According to Johnson, such reasoning is at a marked variance with the classical just war tradition:

Just war thinking in its classic form is based on something quite different — a conception of life in political community oriented to a just and peaceful order, in which the use of armed force is a necessary tool to be used by responsibile political authority to protect that just and peaceful order in a world in which serious threats are not only possible but actual. In the presumption against war model, force itself is the moral problem, and peace is defined as the absence of the use of such force. In the just war model rightly understood, injustice and the threat of injustice are the fundamental moral problems, for in the absence of justice, the political community is not rightly ordered, and there is no real peace either in that community or in its relation to other political communities. Force here is not evil in itself; it takes its moral character from who uses it, from the reasons that are used to justify it, and from the intention with which it is used. These are, of course, the classic just war requirements of sovereign authority, just cause, and right intention, and they correspond directly to right order, justice, and peace, the goods at which political community should aim as defined in the Augustinian conception of politics within which just war tradition is soundly rooted. To be sure, force is evil when it is employed to attack the justice and peace of a political order oriented toward these goods, but it is precisely to defend against such evil that the use of force may be good. Just war tradition had to do with defining the possible good use of force, not finding exceptional cases when it is possible to use something inherently evil (force) for the purposes of good.

This post is long enough, so in the interest of time I will refer the reader to James Turner Johnson’s excellent essay Just War, As It Was and Is (First Things 149 (January 2005): 14-24); George Weigel also touches upon this briefly in Force of law, law of force
(The Catholic Difference April 30, 2003), and at length in his study Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace Oxford UP, 1987.

I can’t help but notice some affinities between those who praise Munich as a cinematic protest against violence (the use of force per se) and those who advocate “a moral presumption against the use of armed force” as the starting point for deliberation in matters of war. I think that a film like Munich might compel Catholics and Christians to evaluate where they stand with respect to this issue:

Is the only response to terrorism the eschewing of violence, the adoption of absolute pacifism?

Is there such a thing as a justifiable and legitimate use of armed force?

Is the ‘just war tradition’ as it has been developed in Catholic tradition rendered absolete, the opinion put forth by a few voices within the Vatican Curia?

With respect to the last question, I am well aware that then-Cardinal Ratzinger, in a May 2, 2003 interview with Zenit, expressed the opinion that “given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.'” Some have (incorrectly, I think) imbued this specific line with the full weight of magisterial authority, while others — like James Turner Johnson — have questioned its implications, as well as its reasoning.

* * *

Likewise, the question is also raised: in responding to terrorism, what is the appropriate, reasonable and morally justifiable course of action?

Are “targeted assassinations” in the prevention of terrorism acceptable? The Logic of Israel’s Targeted Killing, by Gal Luft (Middle East Quarterly Volume X, No. 1, Winter 2003) describes the procedure:

Israelis dislike the term “assassination policy.” They would rather use another term—”extrajudicial punishment,” “selective targeting,” or “long-range hot pursuit”—to describe the pillar of their counterterrorism doctrine. But semantics do not change the fact that since the 1970s, dozens of terrorists have been assassinated by Israel’s security forces, and in the two years of the Aqsa intifada, there have been at least eighty additional cases of Israel gunning down or blowing up Palestinian militants involved in the planning and execution of terror attacks.

The legality of Israel’s policy is presently being debated in Israeli courts. In a July 2001 State Dept. briefing, the Bush Administration stated that “Israel needs to understand that targeted killings of Palestinians don’t end the violence, but are only inflaming an already volatile situation and making it much harder to restore calm.” Yet, in a Fox News interview August 2, 2001, Vice President Cheney has also suggested that

“If you’ve got an organization that has plotted or is plotting some kind of suicide bomber attack, for example, and they have evidence of who it is and where they’re located, I think there’s some justification in their trying to protect themselves by preempting.”

The formal position of the U.S. Government is conveyed in Executive Order 12333, signed by President Ronald Reagan, directing that “no person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” According to the Washington Post, “the original version was signed in 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford in the wake of public disclosure in 1975 that the CIA, with White House support, had attempted assassinations in the 1950s and 1960s of Cuban President Fidel Castro and leaders in the Congo and the Dominican Republic” (Source: Walter Pincus, Washington Post 1998).

However, one can’t help but note the “selective targeting” of Al Qaeda members in counter-terrorist operations (the most recent being a Pakistani air-strike which killed two senior members of Al Qaeda and the son-in-law of its No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri (New York Times Jan. 19, 2006). How does this differ from the present strategy of Israel?

At this time, Israel is faced with the threat of Iran, a nation that has barely concealed its active seeking nuclear arms, and whose president has stated that Israel should be “wiped off the map,” and “God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism.”

Aquinas and Academic Bias

A reader inquires:

I’m currently studying for a masters in counseling and am taking a course on Psychological testing. The text is Psychological Testing and Assessment – An Introduction to Tests and Measurements (McGraw-Hill, 6th Edition) by Ronald J. Cohen & Mark E. Swerdlik. The inside cover contains “a decidedly noncomprehensive historical overview of events in the field as they stand out in the minds of the authors”

The bias of the authors against religion is apparent – “200 AD, science takes a backseat to faith and superstition” and 313 AD “Christianity is established as the state religion of the Roman Empire and “medical practice” (prayers, potions and magic) is in the hands of the clergy.”

And then to the reason I’m writing – 1265 “Thomas Aquinas argues that the notion of a human capacity to think and reason should be replaced with the notion of an immortal soul.”

Now … I have not read much Aquinas, but am certain in the little I’ve done that this is an inaccurate summary of his work, to say the least.However, I do not have the background (or the time) to be able to refute this statement. Even so, I feel a duty to write the authors and correct the error.

So my plea to you – can you direct me to some specific works of Thomas Aquinas that would refute this statement? Any direction would be helpful. If you can summarize a position and give some references, that would be fantastic. As someone who apparently understands and appreciates his work, you may be interested in helping correct this error. If so, I’d be grateful for any help you could provide.

There’s academic bias against Christianity, but this really takes the cake. Off the top of my head I don’t think I could point to a single passage, but somebody else aquainted with the Summa might. The statement is completely off-base to the point of being comical, given Aquinas’ confidence in human reasoning (for instance reason as an aid to faith in knowing the existence of God).

Responses from our readers?

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Remembering Martin Luther King Jr., by Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus. Personal memories of the civil rights leader interspersed with a critical review of an autobiography of Dr. King by Marshall Frady. First Things 26. Oct. 2002.
  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University.
  • There is no understanding Dr. King without recognizing the deep Christian faith which fueled his campaign for civil rights. Those interested will certainly appreciate Strength To Love, a fine collection of his best sermons.
  • On Jacques Maritain – from the papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • From an interview with Alveda King, neice of Dr. King (Illinois Leader January 15, 2004):

    “I can remember the days when Jesse Jackson was pro-life, and he went across the country calling abortion genocide. I don’t understand how he took that turn or why. I personally believe that any leader, especially African-American leaders — and I can say this because I’m African-American — should be compelled to remember the days of slavery and to remember their responsibility toward the children we call the unborn. They are real people too, and they actually have civil rights.”

    Check out her pro-life website (thanks Fr. Sistare).

    Speaking of which, a family member of Albertus Minimus needs your prayers.

Impressions of "Radical Orthodoxy"

Pontifications — echoing Pastor John Wright — asks: “Is Radical Orthodoxy radical and orthodox?”:

No doubt the radical orthodox theologians are doing important work that needs to be done. It is crucial that the nihilism of post-modernity be confronted and exposed. But the world cannot be saved by a philosophy, not even a philosophy of incarnation. It cannot even be saved by a brilliant theology. It can only be saved by Jesus Christ. He, and he alone, is our gospel.

Six years ago Russell Reno published his concerns about the radical orthodoxy movement (The Radical Orthodoxy Project First Things 100. February 2000). His principal concern—its love of theory. How tempting it is, as we survey the chaos of theology and the inability of the Church to effectively proclaim the gospel to the world, to turn to theory to cure our ills. We will save the Church and the world by our brilliant speculations. As Reno writes: “Against the weakness of the gospel—in churches that seem not to hear and in a culture increasingly blind—we are tempted by theory. We imagine that by sheer theological genius and intellectual virtuosity we can reconstruct an all-embracing Christian culture, we can uncover and make present the glue that holds everything together.”

But this is not the way forward, says Reno. We must resist the lure of abstraction. The Church will only be renewed as we re-immerse ourselves in the concrete particularities that is the Church, for it is there that Christ is to be found.

Some of my friends are rather enthusiastic endorsers of this movement. And while The Chronicle of Higher Education hails it as “”biggest development in theology since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door,” I honestly haven’t taken much time to dip into it. In fact, I confess that I have difficulty even summoning the urge to investigate it for a number of reasons:

First, it seems that many works in ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ presuppose a graduate degree in philosophy on the part of the reader. As Charles W. Allen explains in “Postmodern Critical Augustinianism for Dummies” (Encounter Summer 2003 — his own attempt at clarifying RO):

. . . [Radical Orthodoxists] aren’t making many efforts to communicate beyond academic circles. To read them at all, you have to be at least somewhat familiar, first, with “classic” writers like Plato, Plotinus, Augustine of Hippo, Gregory of Nyssa, Thomas Aquinas, and their favorite whipping boy, John Duns Scotus. Then, as if that weren’t enough, you have to stay current with post-structuralists like Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Giles Deleuze, Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Lacan, Michel de Certeau, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and other recent French theorists. (Non-Gallic thinkers, it seems, are cited only when necessary, and I gather that most German-speakers -Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger – have to be dead.)

Also, your vocabulary must include a liberal sprinkling of terms like “nihilism,” “semiosis,” “jouissance,” “libidinal logic,” “mathesis” “aporia,” “fecund,” “convenientia,” “asyndeton,” and so on.11 Terms like these shouldn’t be all that objectionable. Some have been around for a good while, and sometimes nothing else will substitute. But when you can hardly get through a single paragraph without running across at least three or four of them, you may begin to lose patience. It’s enough to make terms like “perichoresis” or “hypostatic union” sound downright homespun.

I majored in philosophy and theology in college, and despite my indulgement in your typical Bacchanalian festivities, managed to retain a good amount of knowledge in the basics. That said, at that time I had precious little interest in the French post-structuralists (fashionable as they were) and when I find a new theological movement that (from what I hear) demands a familiarity with such — well, I find it a little intimidating.

Likewise, as the Pontificator says, “whether the radical orthodox folk are worth engagement probably depends on how much time one has on one’s hands and what one intends to do with the reading.” Besides the usual distractions (such as blogging), there seems to me far worthier voices in the Catholic tradition to spend my free time with.

Finally, among the turning points in my own path to Rome was my taking into account the vast riches of Christianity and the figures I had studied up to that point: the early Church Fathers, St. Augustine, St. Anselm, Duns Scotus, St. Thomas Aquinas. It struck me as rather curious, and moreover, something of a scandal, to study these pivotal figures in Christian thought at a Lutheran college — the bulk of them, of course, Catholic — to claim an appreciation for what they had to offer, and all the while (I came to recognize) distancing myself from the very Church to which they belonged.

Perhaps I am a bit naive in thinking thus, and I certainly mean no disprespect to all those who are representative of the ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ movement — professors and scholars who are undoubtedly far more learned than I. However, I admit that as a convert, one of the first impressions I had upon hearing about this bold new project, as with any other contemporary intellectual movement in the Protestant tradition, was the sense of “having one’s cake and eating it to.”

What I mean is the fact that, from what I understand, a good number of participants in “Radical Orthodoxy” draw from the riches of St. Augustine and the Ressourcement theologians (Ratzinger, von Balthasar, De Lubac, et al.), and yet do so as Protestants. As The Pertinacious Papist remarked when I had inquired his personal impression of “Radical Orthodoxy”:

“I’ve only heard rumblings, and I don’t give it much more expectation than the latest of many attempts to render Christianity fashionably cool by Protestants who want to remain orthodox. All this “re-packaging” !!! Why not just CATHOLICISM?”

Well, why not?

In “Timid, Theological Radicals” The Japery October 18, 2005), Fr. Jape’s own assessment of RO (“a really Catholic critique of modernity that falls short of recognizing the need to be Catholic,” he mentions that Russel Reno came to just such a turning point, an account of which is given in Out Of The Ruins (First Things 150 February 2005):

On a Saturday in mid-September of last year, the feast day of St. Robert Bellarmine, I was received into the Catholic Church. I pledged to believe and profess all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God. The priest anointed me with the oil of confirmation. I exchanged the sign of peace with gathered friends and, after long months of preparation, I received the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Two years after the publication of In the Ruins of the Church, “a kind of manifesto against such a move from Canterbury to Rome,” Reno went a step further:

“I will obey my faithless abbot,” I insisted to myself. “Why?” I asked. “Because my theory requires it,” I replied. “But then to what am I loyal — to my theory, or to what God is telling me in the strange instrument of an increasingly apostate church?” By spring of 2004 the answer was clear. I was loyal only to my theory. The words of St. Augustine haunted me: “What am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction?”

We can discuss post-modernism — or, in this case, “Postmodern Critical Augustinianism” — to our heart’s content, but it seems to me that any Protestant scholar with a genuine interest in “remaining orthodox” in this day and age will ultimately be obliged at some point to consider the claims of the Catholic Church. For it seems to me, no genuine appeal to “orthodoxy” can be made unless it is from within the very Church founded by Christ himself. (Consider for a moment the witness of just a few contemporary converts in the 20th century, many of whom having arrived at this very conclusion: Fr. Neuhaus, Fr. George Rutler, Scott Hahn, James Akin, Jay Budziszewski, Peter Kreeft, Avery Dulles, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, Thomas Howard, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Alisdair MacIntyre . . . et al.).

* * *

Responding to the Pontificator’s post, Patrick X. Gardner shares a similar concern:

All in all, I think that RO asks important questions, whether or not they are wholly original questions, and whether or not their answers hit the nail on the coffin. Where they cozy up to ressourcement theology, I tend to read with my head nodding. But I find a paradox in the fact that much of the RO “theory” attempts to give the church a huge muscle over secular and godless thought, while it’s esoteric jargon limits it to the academic elite and stops it from having any strengthening effect on the living church. Truly, an avid army of seminarians is needed to devote time translating RO back into english to start with! But overall, my greatest problem with RO: its ecclesial ambiguity. Where is its home? I tend to think a huge problem with its ineffectiveness is that it is not grounded in any determinate body of Christ. How then ultimately affect a “movement” of Christ’s members in a substantial and spiritually rich way? Also, a little more direct engagement with Scripture wouldn’t hurt:)

and, likewise, Michael Liccione:

. . . It could be argued that such is the same in spirit as what Aquinas attempted with Aristotelianism in the thirteenth century. And it can be quite a useful exercise for religious professionals. But aside from some defects noted by others, I have one major beef with both [“Radical Orthodoxy” and “The Emerging Church”] movements: they evade what I consider the most important theological question of our time.

That question is: what is the Church? The question actually breaks down into three: Does any single, visible, historically continuous communion of local churches constitute “the” Church universal? If not, why not and what are the consequences we must live with? If so, which is it and why?

I believe those questions are the most important of our time because the issue on which they center—namely, the one raised by the first—recapitulates the ancient debates about the person and natures of Christ. As St. Augustine noted in a statement I’d appreciate somebody’s quoting and referencing again, the whole Christ is not just the Jesus who walked the earth, died, rose, and now abides in glory. The whole Christ is Jesus AND the Church, his Bride, whose union with her Groom constitutes his Mystical Body. In some sense, therefore, the Church is divine as well as human. Yet to emphasize the divinity of the Church at the expense of her humanity is to fall into triumphalism, exclusivism, and even fanaticism, even as emphasizing her humanity at the expense of her divinity is to fall into cynicism, false universalism, and secularism. This is a balance we have to strike correctly, just as the great ecumenical councils of the first millennium did about the person and natures of the Son of God himself.

* * *

In the interest of fairness, Eric Lee reminds us that “it depends on who you read,” and that the criticisms offered by Pastor John Wright were “from within” the tradition, having himself taught a class on the subject. Lee also provides a very helpful rundown of some contributors to the RO series: James K. A. Smith, William Cavanaugh, Conor Cunningham, Tracy Rowland, and Daniel M. Bell.

Likewise, see this compilation of posts on Radical Orthodoxy by David Jones; Dixon Kinser’s introductory blog-post: Thoughts on Something Called Radical Orthodoxy, and a nearly exhaustive bibliography of resources related to Radical Orthodoxy (both pro- and con) maintained by Jerry Stutzman, Calvin Theological Seminary (.pdf format).

* * *

No doubt my personal lack of enthusiasm about this theological project will come as a disappointment to some of my friends, and perhaps it would behoove me to look into this further before dismissing it altogether. So, I will make this concession to my readers who favor the movement: recommend ONE book in the RO series that you would particularly like me to read this year, tell me why it impressed you, and I’ll make a good effort to do so. (Note: Tracy Rowland’s Culture & Thomist Tradition after Vatican II need not count, as it is already on my reading list).

Peace in Christ.

Update

Reading Thomas Aquinas – Recommended Aids & Introductions

Struggling with St. Thomas Aquinas @ Pontifications: “For the past month I have been reading St Thomas Aquinas. If the Summa was written for beginners, then I am not even close to being a beginner! . . .” the author mentions several books recommended to him by Fr. Augustin DiNoia: Timothy McDermott’s Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation and Fritz Bauerschmidt’s Holy Teaching: Introducing the ‘Summa Theologiae’ of St. Thomas Aquinas, the latter author providing some clarification of terminology.

The author proclaims in exasperation: “If the Summa was written for beginners, then I am not even close to being a beginner! I feel like a fool, dolt, and nincompoop!” — to which I think most of us can say, join the club. =)

The post ends with a request for any other helpful books or resources. There are many recommendations from the readers, among them:

There seems to be little consensus among them — some pushing Joseph Peiper, others Garrigou-Lagrange. My very first introduction to The Doctor was by Peter Kreeft’s A Summa of the Summa, by way of my dad, featuring a broad selection of his philosophical work along with Kreeft’s commentary.

See the original post for more discussion — and if you have any personal recommendations of your own, do let me know. =)

P.S. Some good comments already, thanks guys — and one reader has already noted The Dumb Ox, of which Etienne Gilson remarked: “I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas.”

P.S. A reader has a question concerning Aquinas and academic bias.

Here and There . . .

An irregular roundup of blogs, articles and commentary.

  • Unveiling Opus Dei: An Interview with John L. Allen Godspy’s John Romanowsky interviews John Allen Jr., on his new book Opus Dei : An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church (Doubleday, Nov. 2005 — read an excerpt here: “In many ways, the myth of Opus Dei is much more revealing about where things stand in contemporary Catholicism than the reality of Opus Dei.” Yeah, tell that to the Murderous Opus Dei Albino Monk. But seriously, says John:

    The “talk” of Opus Dei is the sanctification of work, the rendering holy of the ordinary circumstances of everyday life, no matter what occupation you’re in. It’s not merely to try to perform at the highest levels of secular excellence. And it’s not just for your own personal holiness. It’s the idea of rendering holy the broader world, transforming secular reality from within. For the most part, I found them very conscious of trying to do just that.”

    During the course of the interview, John Allen directs his attention to other issues — his “journalistic objectivity” in the midst of Catholic debates (“The truth is that the closer I get to a subject, the more difficult for me to draw definitive conclusions about it”); his changing perception of Cardinal Ratzinger (“In person, he’s infinitely gracious, kind, surprisingly open and collegiate and very humble. We’ve seen this in how he’s conducted himself as pope. He’s engaged in this almost systematic deconstruction of the cult of personality around the papacy”), and the state of the Catholic Church today:

    . . . I think we’re still far too divided. Perhaps the more sociologically accurate thing to say is that we’ve got multiple, co-existing “catholicisms”. When you look around at the Catholic scene, you see that you’ve got your traditionalist-liturgical Catholics, your social justice Catholics, your charismatic Catholics, your neo-conservative, intellectual Catholics, your Church reform Catholics, and others. They all speak their own language, go to their own meetings, read their own publications, think their own thoughts. If they ever pop their head up above the walls to look at somebody in another circle, it’s often not with a genuine interest in the thought of the other. It’s with what you might call a “hermeneutic of suspicion”. “I’m not really sure where this person is coming from and I’m not really sure if we’re on the same team.”

    It’s tragic that American Catholics spent the first part of the 20th century crawling out of the ghetto imposed on us by a hostile Protestant majority, but that now we’ve constructed our own ghettos. They’re defined not by denominational boundaries, but by ideological ones. This isn’t just distasteful on an aesthetic level, but ecclesiologically it’s deeply unsatisfactory. We’re supposed to be a community of communities — that’s what communio ecclesiology is, to which John Paul II and Benedict XVI have been so valiantly trying to call us.

    Further responses from Amy Welborn and companyand, in a suprising move — a follow-up letter from John Allen Jr. to Welborn’s readers.

  • Rocco Palmo (Whispers In The Loggia) nominates as 2005 [International] Churchman of the Year Monsignor Luigi Giussani, Founder, Communione e Liberazione.
  • Ignatius Insight asks IP authors & editors Dale Ahlquist, Mark Brumley, Fr. Joseph Fessio, Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft, Sandra Miesel, Michael O’Brien, Carl Olson, and Joseph Pearce what were best books they read in 2005. Some of the titles are on my reading list for 2006: The Cube & The Cathedral by George Weigel (Brumley: “Weigel ‘nails it’. Europe’s problem and the solution to it are there”); Literary Giants, Literary Catholics by Joseph Pearce — I browsed through this at my dad’s house over Christmas break and added it to my wish-list. Of course, not one but two of those surveyed recommended Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, about which Brumley says: “If you don’t read Orthodoxy once a year it is like denying yourself food and drink.”
  • Speaking of reading lists, MamaT at Summamamas reads a lot. =) See her ‘book roundup for 2005.’
  • “Love Decides Everything” – Stephen Bogner (Catholicism, Holiness & Spirituality) shares a quote and a spiritual reflection by Pedro Arrupe, SJ.
  • “Great Moments in Liberal Tolerance”, by Peter Sean Bradley (Lex Communis). Commenting on a recent outburst of insanity from The Huffington Post, “in which “runs an out of context quote from Pope’s Christmas message and the leftist brownshirt goonsquad, ‘Tolerance and Diversity Division’, jumps in with both feet, wildly swinging their truncheons.”
  • Heresy 101 – “I got thinking about christological heresies and came across an apologetics web page that has a summary of the principal heresies that have afflicted the Church,” says Mark Gordon (Suicide of the West). “Heresy is the corruption of dogma. It retains elements of truth that are twisted, often in good faith, to fit a certain intellectual framework. Apostacy, by contrast, is the outright rejection of dogmatic truth. Review these heresies and see if you have fallen into any of them in a practical, everyday sort of manner. I know I have.”
  • Dale Alqhuist of the American Chesterton Society instructs Fr. Neuhaus on the origins of the famous Chesterton (non)quote: “When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.
  • Dei Genetrix – Fred K. at Cahiers Peguy has some reflections on the “Dei Genetrix,” an image of Virgin & Child Alfredo Bikondoa, which appears on the Vatican 2005 Christmas Card.
  • The Consolation of Philosophy?, by Scott Carson (An Examined Life), responding to an interview with the literary critic Harold Bloom and his latest book, Jesus & Yahweh.
  • Treasures from the Secret Archives of the Vatican, including Leo X’s excommunication of Martin Luther, Henry VIII’s appeal for annulment and Honorius III’s approval of the Franciscan rule. (Thanks to the Shrine of the Holy Whapping).
  • John Heard (aka. Dreadnought) debates Fr. Bob on SSA Catholics.
  • The Pertinacious Papist on The virtue of Waugh’s “snobbery” – an introduction to the author of Brideshead Revisited, about whom I know very little but hope to acquaint myself.
  • Fr. Bryce Sibley is PODCASTING – “Reflections on Christianity and Culture” from the former blogger A Saintly Salmagundi. Yay! (Thanks to Threshing Grain for the tip).
  • When Children are Not Welcome in the Church, by Fr. Jape. (The Japery / The New Pantagruel) – “I doubt Jerry Falwell and James Dobson will notice this, but the most insidious and depressing secularization of Christmas and Christmas music has nothing to do with the censorship of explicitly Christian symbols and songs . . .”
  • “Christ Loves His Mother”, a reflection from Teófilo (Vivificat) on a scene from Passion of the Christ.
  • The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick, a special report from Catholic Answers on the background of the author of such well-known anti-Catholic fundamentalist tracts as Are Roman Catholics Christian?, The Death Cookie, and Why Is Mary Crying?.

  • Mark Steyn’s Greatest Hits: (January-June 2005) | July – December 2005. Selected quotations by columnist Mark Steyn, courtesy of Marc Schulman at American Future.