Back to the Future

This is a marvelous column from Crisis Magazine advocating a return to the liturgical calendar of the past, which anyone who is familiar with it surely appreciates as it resonates with the deep mystery and sacredness of the Church through time as the new calendar does not.

An excerpt.

With Ascension and Pentecost looming, and with their passage an end to the Paschal season, it’s time to reconsider and abolish Ordinary Time.

As dramatically drastic as this may sound, it would not be a move without precedent. For centuries, for most of Church history in fact, there was no Ordinary Time on the Catholic liturgical calendar. Rather, we celebrated what were referred to as the weeks after Epiphany and Pentecost, the two major solemnities that closed out the Christmas and Easter seasons. “Ordinary Time” as we call it has only existed since the establishment of the new liturgical calendar in 1970.

It is true that we are told that “ordinary” does not here mean what it usually means in English—commonplace, standard, no special or distinctive features—but, rather, it refers to the counting of the weeks, as in “ordinal” numbers that define something’s position in a series, such as “first,” “second,” or “third.” In the official Latin, this time is simply referred to as tempus per annum, or “time through the year.” This being said, there really is no difference. These days are ordinary, tied by name to neither of the great liturgical seasons.

Some Catholics also reflect that there is value in mentally separating these seasons from the great feasts. As one writer puts it, “If the faithful are to mature in the spiritual life and increase in faith, they must descend the great mountain peaks of Easter and Christmas in order to ‘pasture’ in the vast verdant meadows of tempus per annum, or Ordinary Time.” This is, in fact, a strong metaphor that also argues the opposite. We pasture in meadows to gain strength for the climb up the next peak, where we will be closer to heaven. We note these great mountain peaks because they are each of singular importance, marking the Incarnation of Our Lord on the one hand and his revelation to the world at Epiphany, and his Resurrection on the other, an event completed with the revelation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

What’s worse, the significance and historical importance of the two great feasts of Epiphany and Pentecost have been downplayed by the Church since the Council. When it comes to Pentecost, traditionally on a Sunday, there was once an octave celebration not unlike that for Easter. In fact, the octave after Pentecost was once called the “grandest octave, perhaps in the whole year,” by Blessed John Henry Newman, and an Oratorian priest has explained its importance thusly: “The character of Pentecost as a consummation and fulfillment of the Paschal Mystery suggests that it is fitting to celebrate it with an octave similar in character and rank to that of Easter.”

This went out the window when the calendar was changed. One apocryphal story about Pope Paul VI is that he wept on the Monday after Pentecost in 1970, when his sacristan laid out green vestments for him for Mass, and he realized what he had done.

Someone recently noted the great damage done by the U.S. bishops in moving Epiphany from January 6 to the Sunday between January 2 and January 8, citing four reasons to oppose this move, especially the problem of Christian unity. We need to celebrate major events together, as the universal church. In many parts of the world, the great solemnity of Epiphany even rises to the level of a holy day of obligation. At any rate, when Christmas itself has become so thoroughly secularized by modern society, we need to remember that the Twelve Days of Christmas—the days leading up to Epiphany—are more than just a catchy song.

A related change to that of Epiphany was the removal of the Solemnity of the Ascension from Thursday to the following Sunday—but only for certain dioceses. In the United States, only the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha and Philadelphia, which cover 10 states, mostly in the Northeast, have not transferred the Ascension to the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The rest of the country celebrates it on Sunday.

Policing Matters

An important column in City Journal about just how important policing is, to all communities.

An excerpt.

Whatever FBI director James Comey’s alleged failings in regard to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server and Russian election interference, his precipitous sacking is a loss for America’s police officers and public order.

The man whom President Donald Trump now calls a “showboater” and “grandstander” gave candidate Trump the most powerful message of his campaign: policing matters. Months before Trump decried the media’s “false narrative” about policing, Comey had warned that the “chill wind” blowing through American law enforcement was resulting in a rising homicide toll among black people. Comey was virtually the only official within the Obama administration to acknowledge publicly the disastrous impact that the Black Lives Matter movement was having on public safety; Obama contemptuously rebuked him for doing so.

Comey delivered one of the most eloquent defenses of proactive policing ever penned in a speech at the University of Chicago law school in October 2015. The speech punctured the lies about the criminal-justice system being spread by the criminology profession, activists, and the media. Comey described working as a prosecutor in Richmond, Virginia, during the height of the 1990s drug wars. Drug violence affected black neighborhoods exclusively, Comey observed; white people could simply drive around the problem. But for blacks living under the thrall of open-air dealing, “violence was everywhere,” Comey said. A resident of such a neighborhood would have responded with a “tired laugh” to the Left’s favorite conceit of the “nonviolent drug dealer,” Comey noted.

Back in the 1990s, activists were already criticizing police officers and prosecutors for locking up black men instead of whites. Comey refused to take the racial bait. Law enforcement targeted neighborhoods where people were dying, he said; race had nothing to do with it.

No one has better refuted the “mass incarceration” idea popularized by Michelle Alexander’s factitious book, The New Jim Crow. There was nothing “mass” about incarceration: “Each drug dealer, each mugger, each killer, and each felon with a gun had his own lawyer, his own case, his own time before judge and jury, his own sentencing, and, in many cases, an appeal or other post-sentencing review,” Comey observed. If these individualized cases resulted in large numbers of black men being sent to jail, that was because “there were a very large number of young men of color involved in criminal activity in America’s cities.” In other words, America doesn’t have an incarceration problem, it has a crime problem.

When FBI SWAT teams and their law-enforcement partners arrested 70 black drug traffickers in northwest Arkansas in August 2015, they were “met by applause, hugs, and offers of food from the good people of that besieged community’’—all black themselves, Comey said. He might have added that no Black Lives Matter activists had bothered to help rid the community of its predators.

The press ignored the speech’s unflinching honesty about the vast racial disparities in criminal offending and victimization and its account of how policing and incarceration had revitalized neighborhoods. But the media did rouse themselves to notice Comey’s observations about rising street crime in black areas. The last two decades’ progress against crime was at risk, Comey observed, because officers were reluctant to get out of their cars and do the proactive work that prevents drive-by shootings. They were answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that deters bad guys with guns, he said. Such discretionary police work was precisely what the Left incessantly criticized as racial oppression. Comey recounted a conversation with officers in a big-city precinct who described being surrounded and taunted the moment that they got out of their cars. Because of officers’ growing hesitation about engaging with potential suspects, cities across the country were seeing an explosion in senseless violence, Comey posited.

Comey’s Chicago speech was a direct rejection of the Obama administration’s line that the criminal-justice system is racist. Acknowledgment of rising crime rates challenged Obama’s warm embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement. Nothing other than proactive policing had changed in criminogenic environments that could explain the increase in crime—economic conditions, demographics, and poverty rates were all stable. And so within days of Comey’s speech, Obama himself went to Chicago and issued a scathing put-down. Obama accused Comey of “cherry-pick[ing] data” and using “anecdotal evidence to . . . feed political agendas.” Even though violent crime was rising in American cities both large and small, Obama dismissed the homicide numbers as an insignificant aberration. The press echoed Obama’s contempt. The New York Times called his speech “incendiary” and said that it “plays into the right-wing view that holding the police to constitutional standards endangers the public.”  There was “no data suggesting” that depolicing was contributing to an increase in crime, the Times said.

Fatima, World Shaking

This superb article from Catholic World Report reminds us of the importance of the appearance at Fatima by the Holy Queen Mother one hundred years ago this month.

An excerpt.

This past week, we celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to a group of shepherd children near the Portuguese town of Fatima. The series of Fatima appearances—lasting from May until October of 1917—is one of the most extraordinary in the history of the Church. It has also beguiled political and cultural commentators outside the ambit of the Church, and it is this wider implication that I would like to explore.

This particular visitation of Mary took place at the height of the First World War, which signaled the end of Enlightenment confidence in the perfectibility of the human being, and in the year of the Bolshevik Revolution, which would exert, for most of the twentieth-century, a massively deleterious influence. To the simple children, who barely understood what she was saying, Our Lady announced that the Great War would soon end, and she also called for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. Furthermore, she urged the children to pray for the conversion of Russia, which was a mysterious exhortation, given that, at the time of this communication, the Communist revolution in that country had not yet taken place.

And the confirmation of the veracity of the Fatima appearances is one of the most stunning and widely-attested miracles in the history of Christianity. In the afternoon of October 13, 1917, approximately 70,000 people had gathered at the apparition site in order to witness what the Lady had promised would be a marvelous sign. Among this throng were many secularists and skeptics who had come only to scoff. But before the eyes of seventy-thousand people, the sun commenced to “dance,” turning and dashing from place to place in the sky and finally appearing to plummet toward the earth. Some of the most astounding accounts of this incident were composed by journalists of an agnostic or atheist persuasion.

So what does the message of Our Lady of Fatima, considered in the widest sense, imply? It implies that the God of the Bible is a living God, by which I mean, a God who involves himself as an actor in human history. From the seventeenth century on, in the West at any rate, a casual Deism has held sway in the minds of many who profess faith in God. By this I mean the belief that God is a distant power, who established the laws of nature and set things in motion, but who remains aloof from the ordinary affairs of the world. But this view is repugnant to the Biblical conception of God. According to the Scriptures, God indeed created the universe and established its laws, but he also exercises a personal and providential care for all that he has made. Jesus expressed this idea both precisely and poetically: “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your heavenly Father knowing it.” Throughout the historical books of the Old Testament, we find events unfolding according to recognizable dynamics economic, political, and psychological, but through it all, under it all, God is also acting, mysteriously accomplishing his will.

This way of reading history was bequeathed from the Biblical authors to the great tradition, and thus we find theological masters from Augustine to Robert Bellarmine to John Henry Newman interpreting world affairs through the prism of God’s providence. Augustine’s City of God, written in the wake of the sack of Rome, is particularly instructive in this regard. The great saint certainly understood the political, military, and cultural dynamics that contributed to the disaster, but he was especially sensitive to the sacred dimension of the event. The fall of Rome was ingredient, he argued across more than a thousand pages, in a divine providential plan that stretches from beginning to end of history. Kings, emperors, generals, soldiers, and writers made their moves, but underneath them all, God was making his moves and accomplishing his purpose….

In our own time, no one played the Augustinian role of theological interpreter of history more effectively than St. John Paul II. Having personally experienced the tyranny of two of the worst and most abusive dictatorships in human history, Karol Wojtyla could nevertheless, upon assuming the papal office, tell the world “to be not afraid.” If we were reading things through purely economic or political lenses, such a recommendation would appear foolish at best, delusional at worst. But because John Paul read things theologically, he knew that mercy and love finally triumph, and he understood that any proposal for human flourishing that did not include God would necessarily fall victim to its own internal contradictions. This latter conviction sustained his non-violent but massively effective assault upon Communism from 1979 to 1989.

And his theological reading of history enabled him to grasp that Our Lady of Fatima’s summons to pray for the conversion of Russia was far from a pious fantasy, that in point of fact, it provides the interpretive key for understanding perhaps the pivotal event in the history of the late twentieth century.

 

Gang Member Turns Life Around

A great story from the New York Daily News. We wish him well, he’s off to a great start.

An excerpt.

Richard Gamarra’s long trip from inmate to the Ivy League ends next week with a master’s degree — in redemption.

The former Latin King gangbanger, after seven years behind bars for assault and weapon convictions, graduates May 17 from Columbia University’s renowned Mailman School of Public Health.

He never imagined swapping a prison jumpsuit for the university’s iconic blue cap and gown — but his dreams are coming true.

“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” said a beaming Gamarra as he walked around the prestigious Morningside Heights campus last week. “This is historic for me. It’s very humbling. I won’t believe it until I have that diploma in my hands.”

The 28-year-old Gamarra, after earning his master’s in public health, paused for a minute to admire the bronze “Alma Mater” sculpture outside Low Memorial Library.

Beating the odds for admission and completing the grueling work was a long shot from the start. But graduate-to-be Gamarra said he intends to use his degree to steer others away from the missteps that landed him in the clutches of the state prison system.

“I don’t want my past to define me,” he said. “I want to undo that stigma of being in prison. I know there are a lot of other Richards out there.”

Gamarra reflected on the difficulties of growing up in Flushing, Queens, as the youngest of five Colombian immigrant children.

Majority of Catholics OK with Women Priests

As we support women as priests, this is a very encouraging story from Washington Times.

An excerpt.

Survey data from the Barna Group, a research firm that specializes in polling Americans on issues of religious concern, finds that eight out of 10 Catholics are “comfortable” with the notion of having a woman priest.

That’s just one finding from “What Americans Think About Women in Power,” a Barna publication released last week.

Protestants overall were slightly less approving of women as pastors, with 71 percent saying there comfortable with the idea. And with only 39 percent of them saying they are comfortable with women preachers, evangelicals were the Christian demographic least favorable to women clergy.

The Vatican officially teaches that the priesthood is reserved exclusively for men and has defrocked clerics who have participated in ceremonies to order women to the priesthood. Rome often defends the male-only priesthood by pointing to Jesus as the model of the priesthood and observing that Jesus’s apostles were all men.

“The son of God became flesh, but became flesh not as sexless humanity but as a male,” Fr. Wojciech Giertych, who served as a papal theologian under Pope Benedict XVI, told the National Catholic Reporter in February 2013.

Sad Story of the Paper of Record

The story comes from Crisis Magazine and points out what most of us already know about the New York Times—I am a Sunday New York Times subscriber—about the paper’s nefarious historical record.

An excerpt.

On February 17, 2017, President Donald Trump created a firestorm of controversy when he tweeted that the news media (The New York Times, CNN, NBC, and many more) is not his enemy, but is the enemy of the American people. In scrutinizing the Times, in relation to the culture war and major issues within the public square, the indictment, though I have many differences with the president, rings true for me, because, the vast majority of the time, I find myself on one side of an issue and they’re on the other.

And, more than that, there is an overall historical pattern going back several decades at “the newspaper of record” of morally egregious behavior in either looking the other way or turning the volume way down when addressing unspeakable crimes against humanity, both during and after the day of slaughter. This despicable irresponsibility shreds the public’s trust and makes one wonder why even progressives don’t cancel their subscriptions to the Gray Lady.

Sugar-Coating the Legacy of Castro On November 26, 2016, the day after the death of brutal dictator Fidel Castro, the Times endeavored to give what could be described as an even-handed, morally complex, nuanced account of the legacy of the one called Cuba’s “Maximo Lider:” “His legacy in Cuba and elsewhere has been a mixed record of social progress and abject poverty, of racial equality and political persecution, of medical advances and a degree of misery comparable to the conditions that existed in Cuba when he entered Havana as a victorious guerrilla commander in 1959.”

The article goes on to say that the romance and heroism surrounding the revolutionary leader has not faded with many political leaders around the world (e.g., Justin Trudeau; not to mention many college sophomores and the Hollywood elite) despite his “spotty performance.”

This “mixed record” based on a “spotty performance” will certainly come as news to the thousands who perished in Cuba as a result of firing squads. In fact, Time reported in 1961 that the year was being designated as the Year of the Firing Squad in Cuba: “The year 1961 was supposed to be ‘The Year of Education’ in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Last week the slogan was enlarged. It is now also ‘The Year of the Firing Squad.’ The announcement was made by Cuba’s Agrarian Reform Chief Antonio Núñez Jiménez in a speech to a crowd of gun-toting militiamen. Added the Reformer: ‘We will erect the most formidable execution wall in the history of humanity.’”

The victims of the “Tugboat 13 de Marzo Massacre,” will also find the Times’ assessment of Castro’s legacy quite generous. At three in the morning, on July 13, 1994, about seventy men, women, and children, were on the tugboat “13 de Marzo” (13th of March) about seven miles northeast of Havana harbor. They were making an effort to defect from Cuba when Cuban coast guard vessels began to ram them repeatedly. The tugboat split, took on water, and sank. While the boat was sinking, those on the Cuban coast guard vessels began spraying the passengers on the tugboat with firefighting hoses and then refused to provide assistance to the distressed passengers when they were struggling in the water. Forty-one people drowned. Castro denied the Cuban government played a role in the incident.

Scores of other atrocities could be cited. In contrast to the Gray Lady, Senator Marco Rubio’s statement the day after the depraved autocrat’s death is spot-on:

Fidel Castro seized power promising to bring freedom and prosperity to Cuba, but his communist regime turned it into an impoverished island prison. Over six decades, millions of Cubans were forced to flee their own country, and those accused of opposing the regime were routinely jailed and even killed.

Sadly, Fidel Castro’s death does not mean freedom for the Cuban people or justice for the democratic activists, religious leaders, and political opponents he and his brother have jailed and persecuted. The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not. And one thing is clear, history will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people.

The Times’ perverted moral calculus of Castro’s “mixed record” based on a “spotty performance” is like saying a husband and father who was a serial adulterer and beat his wife to death had a “mixed record” as a family man because he kept his philandering private, rarely hit his kids, and regularly attended their sporting events.

It also should not be forgotten that the Times’ correspondent in Cuba, Herbert Matthews, in February 1957, helped breathe new life into a moribund revolution and turned Castro into a likable revolutionary to those outside of Cuba. In January 1958 Che Guevara said, “When the world had given us up for dead, the interview with Matthews put the lie to our disappearance.”

With Fulgencio Batista still in power, Matthews conducted a secret interview with Castro that, contrary to Batista’s reports, disclosed that Castro was still alive and so was his revolution. Castro fooled Matthews into thinking that he had a large army behind him with the vast majority of Cubans being sympathetic to his cause.

This gave the revolutionary forces throughout Cuba a second wind and presented a false picture of Castro to those outside of Cuba. Matthews became one of the revolution’s earliest “useful idiots” in writing of Castro: “[His] program is vague and couched in generalities, but it amounts to a new deal for Cuba, radical, democratic, and therefore anti-Communist. The real core of its strength is that it is fighting against the military dictatorship of President Batista.”

This interview and Matthews’ subsequent articles significantly affected U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba. In asserting that Castro was not a Communist, but, in fact, decidedly anti-Communist, and would hold free elections and restore the Cuban constitution, Matthews influenced Washington in ceasing their shipment of arms to Batista.

Even after Castro admitted in 1960 that Communist ideals were significantly shaping Cuba’s public policy, Matthews continued to deny the revolution was driven by communism. He was later discredited by academics and blamed by political leaders for the rise of Fidel Castro. How he was not aware of the many atrocities going on in the early days of the regime strains credulity.

Kermit Who? The Times moral obtuseness after the day of slaughter continues concerning the case of abortion doctor and mass murderer, Kermit Gosnell. On February 2, 2017, it was disclosed that Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, should have been #4 on the Times bestseller list (hardcover, non-fiction) but was snubbed despite selling out on Amazon in three days. McElhinney opined: “This is shocking that the cover-up of the Gosnell story is continuing even after the mainstream media were so criticized for failing to cover the trial. It’s clear that this is a blatant fake list in a fake news newspaper.”

Failing to cover the trial is right. The Gray Lady only had one story about the trial on its first day and it was buried on A-17. Compare this coverage with the Times running the Abu Ghraib story for 32 consecutive days on the front page and 34 out of 37. The newspaper of record is known to look the other way when it comes to covering the abortion industry and probably didn’t want to be embarrassed by stories of infant beheadings, babies’ feet being kept in jars as trophies, and the main storyline of babies being butchered that were already delivered and were older than the state’s 24-week limit for abortions (infanticide).

The Holocaust: Sulzberger’s Jewish Identity Problem The Times buried the story of a much bigger slaughter, the Holocaust, during the Second World War. This is persuasively chronicled by Laurel Leff, assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University, in her book, Buried By The Times. Stories about how the Nazis treated European Jews were consistently placed on the back pages “by the soap and shoe polish ads.” Stories about the discrimination, deportation, and destruction of the Jews did make the front page just 26 times, but, in only 6 of those stories were Jews identified as the primary victims. Often generic terms were used to describe the Jews such as “400,000 persons were deported to their deaths at Treblinka.” (Emphasis mine.)

Leff places the lion’s share of the blame at the feet of the Times publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, who saw Judaism as a religion but believed that the Jews were no more a race nor a people than Presbyterians or Methodists. In a memo to his staff in December 1942, he wrote “I have been trying to instruct the people around here on the subject of the word ‘Jews’, i.e., that they are neither a race nor a people, etc.” In following this belief, he didn’t want to appear to be championing a Jewish cause and this sentiment undoubtedly trickled down to his staff and how they covered the atrocities that were being perpetrated on European Jews.

Catholic Theology

This is an excellent interview from Catholic World Report with a great Catholic scholar about her new book of that name.

An excerpt.

Theologian, professor, and author Tracey Rowland holds two doctorates in theology, one from the Divinity School of Cambridge University (the civil PhD) and one from the John Paul II Institute at the Pontifical Lateran University (the pontifical STD) in addition to degrees in law and philosophy. After studies at the University of Queensland, she lectured in Soviet and Central European Politics at Monash University while completing a Masters degree in contemporary Central European political theory. From 1994-1996 she was a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Law at Griffith University with a focus on jurisprudence and Constitutional and Administrative Law. In 1996 she won a Commonwealth Scholarship to Cambridge University to work on her doctorate. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Notre Dame (Australia), she was the Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne for sixteen years. In 2014 she was appointed to the International Theological Commission and she is currently a member of the ITC’s sub-commission on religious freedom.

Her books include Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (London: Routledge, 2003), Ratzinger’s Faith (Oxford University Press, 2008), Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Bloomsbury, 2010), the recently published Catholic Theology (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), and the forthcoming The Culture of the Incarnation: Essays in Catholic Theology (Ohio: Emmaus Academic, 2017). She recently corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about her book Catholic Theology, the various (and often competing) schools of Catholic theology today, the crisis since Vatican II, and why theology is so important.

CWR: There are many different ways to approach writing a book titled Catholic Theology. What criteria did you use? Did the publisher have a specific expectation?

Tracey Rowland: I imagined that I was giving a young theology student a guide through the Catholic academic “zoo”, explaining the natures of the different intellectual species commonly found in Catholic academies today. I also wanted to summarise the two International Theological Commission documents on the methodology of Catholic theology because they represent the latest statements about this topic by the most senior body of Catholic theologians. At the end I included appendices that list all the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the papal encyclicals of the modern era, the names and descriptions of all the Christological heresies and all the Doctors of the Church because I thought it would be useful for students to have access to these reference points in one location.

The publisher wanted an introductory text but beyond that I was free to tackle the subject as I thought best. Archbishop Fisher, who launched the book in Sydney, described me as a geneticist in the world of Catholic ideas. I think that it is a good description of what I attempted with this book. I tried to unravel the intellectual DNA of the various clusters of theological species.

CWR: The book unfolds like a roadmap, a guide to the past several decades of theological controversies, explorations, reflections, and debates. Do you think that is an apt description? Did you see a pressing need for such a work?

Tracey Rowland: The roadmap metaphor combines well with the zoology metaphor. It’s like a roadmap through a safari park where the animals are all different species of Catholic theologians.

One of my favourite television programmes is the BBC’s “Great British Rail Journeys” hosted by Michael Portillo. Portillo travels on stretches of rail track and gives the viewer a cultural history tour along the way. My book is a bit like this. One cannot teach theology well by merely presenting students with a series of dogmatic statements and helping them to understand how the statements can be built into a system. They need to know the history behind the dogmas and there needs to be room left for the mystery which always exceeds any system. They also need to know something about the personal life histories of the theologians they are studying including who were their mentors, heroes and villains.

Before the Second Vatican Council the intellectual presentation of the faith was so systematic many experienced this formation as a kind of intellectual straight-jacket. After the Council there was a back-lash response to this. Now theology students are often quite ignorant about the way that one false idea in one area of theology can have disastrous repercussions across the entire theological field. It is therefore important to get the foundations right and that demands at the very least a thorough knowledge of scriptural hermeneutics and dogmatic history among other things.

CWR: The first of the five chapters focuses on “fundamental issues and building blocks”. Do you find, in teaching theology, that this sort of focus is given short shrift? What are some of the issues and building blocks that you think are particularly important today? Why?

Tracey Rowland: Yes, the fundamentals are often not given the attention they deserve. The relationships between faith and reason and between nature and grace are foundational for so many fields of theology, so too is the understanding of revelation, of the principles for interpreting the scriptures and dogmatic statements, the magisterial teaching about Christology and the Trinity found in the decrees of the Early Church Councils, the principles to be applied for analysing whether some idea is consistent with previous teaching and more recently the relationship between history and ontology and between logos and ethos. The reason that we have so many different species of academic animals in the Catholic academies today is precisely because of differences over these foundational building blocks. What I hoped to achieve in the first chapter was to offer students advice on where they can go to find the most recent material on these foundational subjects.

CWR: Is it accurate to say that the past fifty or so years have featured a running battle between two differing approaches to “doing theology”—featuring conflicting hermeneutics about the Council, the Church, and modernity—with each of the approaches having two branches?

Tracey Rowland: As a generalisation I believe this is true. There are definitely two branches of theologians who start from different approaches to principles in fundamental theology, different hermeneutical frameworks for interpreting the Conciliar documents and different judgments about the cultural phenomenon we call modernity. They have different understandings of the relationship between revelation and history, nature and grace, faith and reason and different approaches to scriptural hermeneutics. These base-line differences lead to different attitudes to ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, spirituality, moral theology, sacramental theology, just about everything! The branches have their ‘trunk’ in the debates of the Second Vatican Council and the split in the trunk occurs almost the second the Council is over.

By the early 1970s the academic theologians who attended the Council had divided into two quite definite camps, known in academic short-hand by the names of their flagship journals: Concilium and Communio. I agree with Philip Trower that these two groups have been engaged in a ‘theological star-wars’ over the heads of the faithful. The fall-out from the stellar battles lands in parishes but Catholics who have not studied theology are unable to identify the origins of the bits of “space-junk” they encounter. By writing about the intellectual DNA of the two groups it was my hope that readers would be helped to identify the intellectual pedigree of the ideas with which they are presented in homilies, lectures, retreat addresses, etc.

Today, of course, in the midst of so much turmoil, there are scholars who want to return to the pre-Conciliar era when Thomism was regarded as the most authoritative form of Catholic theology. The Thomists could be said to represent a third branch and within this branch there are several significant sub-sections. The most significant division is between those who accept the criticisms of pre-Conciliar Thomism and are seeking to offer a Thomism free of the encrustations of the pre-Conciliar period and those who describe themselves as “Thomists of the Strict Observance” who want to warm up the pre-Conciliar brew without adding any new ingredients or removing some of the more unpalatable ones. This second type is often found in Traditionalist circles where people want to reboot the entire system to 1960 while the first type is usually found in Catholic academies where the mission of the institution is to offer students a theological education consistent with magisterial teaching.

Many boutique academies, funded by lay Catholics, have mushroomed in the past two decades because of the belief that the older prestigious Catholic universities have allowed themselves to become thoroughly secularised. Usually this occurs because they become dependent upon government funding and end up promoting curricula which are even more politically correct than the non-Catholic academies.

Fatima, One Hundred Years Ago Today

Today is the day, one hundred years ago, the Holy Queen Mother appeared at Fatima, and this article from the Catholic Herald is excellent in commemoration and inspiration to pray the rosary as she asked, the fifteen decade rosary.

An excerpt.

Sunday, May 13, 1917 would prove to be an auspicious day, both for the Catholic Church and for the whole tumultuous course of the 20th century. In the Sistine Chapel, Pope Benedict XV consecrated Eugenio Pacelli as archbishop, prior to sending him off to be nuncio to Bavaria. Thus one pope, an indefatigable voice for peace throughout a war then engulfing the world, sent off another on his path – as the future Pope Pius XII – to play a pivotal role in the next.

As unlikely as it sounds, 1,100 miles away on a dusty Portuguese hillside, something of perhaps greater import was taking place. Three primary-school age children – siblings Francisco (aged nine) and Jacinta (seven) and their cousin Lucia (ten) – were tending their families’ sheep. Startled by a sudden burst of light, they looked up expecting to see a thunderstorm coming. Instead, before them, as Lucia would later recount in her memoirs, was “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun”.

So began a remarkable series of apparitions at Fatima, an out-of-the-way village 80 or so miles north of Lisbon. Or rather, so they continued: this Lady in White was not the first visitor “from heaven” (as she told them) to have appeared “while shepherds watched”. The year before, for example, a figure calling himself “the Angel of Peace” had spoken to the children several times.

This latest visitation, however, marked a new and significant phase. As the Lady informed them: “I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the 13th day, at this same hour. Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want.”

A great deal happened in those six months, very little of which may be recounted here. Each 13th day, however, the Lady returned as promised. Alongside her repeated appeals for penance, prayer and fasting, she entrusted the children with three revelations. Together, these made up the so-called Secret of Fatima. It is here where traditional Catholic piety and the “private revelations” of mystics enter the global stage of geopolitics.

On July 13, “Our Lady of the Rosary” (as she identified herself) entrusted the children with the first two parts of the secret. The first, and most important, we will deal with later. In the second, however, she warned them that unless the world repented, and sharpish, then not only would the current war continue, but it would soon be followed by a second and much worse one. This would be heralded by a “Great Sign” in the sky (in retrospect, often identified as the great Aurora Borealis of January 1938). To prevent this, Our Lady asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, and the First Saturdays Devotion be begun in reparation.

Significantly, she promised (or threatened): “If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

For those who take their Marian apparitions seriously, this is a clear-cut case of a prophecy come true. For Our Lady’s requests were not notably heeded, and Russia did indeed spread its influence throughout the world, causing wars, persecutions and martyrdoms on a vast scale, and the annihilation of nations. And the Holy Father – or rather Holy Fathers, since it happened several times, just to be sure – consecrated Russia to her Immaculate Heart (albeit somewhat subtly, as they were prudently mindful of political and ecumenical sensitivities; Lucia herself confirmed that the deed had indeed been done). Furthermore, a post-communist Russian religious revival – if not one unalloyed by other factors – has taken place. And, fragile though it now seems, one can indeed speak in general terms of a period of (relative) peace.

The third and most famous part of the Secret was given on October 13, the last of the six monthly appearances. This was, of course, the occasion on which the sun was said – and by many thousands of people, a good number of whom had come to mock and “wag their heads” – to dance in the sky. Unlike the others, the Third Part was delivered not in words but visually: the Holy Father moving prayerfully through a corpse-strewn, ruined city; set upon by assassins, he is martyred, along with clergy, religious and lay faithful.

This metaphor-laden “dream sequence” ought not, as Cardinal Ratzinger explained upon the Third Part’s publication in 2000, be taken in a too literal a sense. Rather, like similar apocalyptic visions in Scripture, it is primarily symbolic: “The history of an entire century can be seen represented in this image.” Furthermore, he said, “the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed… Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.”

Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and the Death of Communism

A wonderful interview with a great writer from Catholic World Report, and I already ordered the book, and suggest you do also.

An excerpt from the interview.

Dr. Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College (Pennsylvania) and the author of several best-selling books, including Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century; God and Ronald Reagan; God and George W. Bush; God and Hillary Clinton; The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and Takedown: From Communists to Progressives.

Dr. Kengor is widely recognized for his scholarly work about the American presidency, the Cold War, and the history of communism. His most recent book is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century (ISI Books, 2017), which chronicles in great detail the largely untold story of the friendship of Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, and how they worked together to fight the great evil of the twentieth century: Soviet communism.

Dr. Kengor recently corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about his new book.

CWR:The title and subtitle don’t indicate it, but your book is many ways about a Marian apparition. In fact, it begins with an important event that took place 100 years ago. What was it? And why is it so central to your account of Pope John Paul II and President Reagan and their fight against Communism?

Dr. Paul Kengor: Mary is central. In fact, to that end, I have a confession to make. This began as a book about Ronald Reagan and John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev. When it was about those three men, with Mary central to the story, my personal-secret working title for the book was “Three Men and a Lady.” I eventually removed Gorbachev as the third man, though he’s still very much a major player. But the Lady, however, always remained—a hovering presence. And yes, she’s the Blessed Mother—or, even more pointedly, she’s Our Lady of Fatima.

I start the book with a dramatic opening: May 13, 1981. It was on that date that Pope John Paul II was shot. Of course, it was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima, dating back to the first Marian apparition in Fatima on May 13, 1917. John Paul II immediately was struck by the irony of those two dates. “Two thirteenths of May!” he said. He would come to see a direct connection, especially once he requested to see and then read the Third Secret of Fatima on July 18, 1981 when recovering in Gemelli Clinic from the shooting. As Father Dziwisz would later put it, “When he was finished [reading the Third Secret], all his remaining doubts were gone.” In Sister Lúcia’s vision, “he recognized his own destiny.” He became convinced that his life had been spared thanks to the intervention of Our Lady.

So, I start the story with May 13, 1981, and thus inevitably must next go back in time to May 13, 1917. The latter is my prologue and the former is chapter one of a 38-chapter book.

Mary’s presence in this story will not surprise Catholics and John Paul II aficionados, but it will surprise non-Catholics and Ronald Reagan aficionados. And all readers, Catholics and non-Catholics, will be a little shocked at the Reagan interest in not only Mary generally but Fatima specifically. I was certainly fascinated by it, and it’s something that I completely missed in Reagan’s faith story when I wrote God and Ronald Reagan in 2004, which was a year before I came into the Catholic Church.

CWR: You’ve studied and written about Communism for your entire career. How would you summarize the effect of Marxism and Communism on the 20th century?

Dr. Kengor: One word: Deadly. Over 100 million dead victims in the 20th century alone. Actually, the true numbers are closer to 140 million. That’s more than double the combined death tolls of World War I and II. And the total dead are a tiny number compared to the countless more who suffered persecutions and even tortures without death. Some were bloodied and others weren’t. Some, like Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary, ended up (in the description of Fulton Sheen) as “dry martyrs.” And some, like Pope Pius XII, had their character assassinated rather than their body, with Moscow smearing Pius with the hideous, slanderous label “Hitler’s Pope.” I spend about a hundred pages in the book chronicling those “persecutions and errors.” They form part two of the book. It’s quite sickening to revisit all of that pain, but it must be done in order to grasp the evil that John Paul II and Reagan passionately knew had to be defeated.

All of those crimes and “errors” were, of course, predicted by a Lady from Fatima. And all of them signaled how and why the Soviet empire truly was what Ronald Reagan described it as: an Evil Empire.

Anthony Esolen to Thomas More

Very good news from the National Catholic Register for one of the Church’s most important scholars whose works are must haves for your library.

An excerpt.

MERRIMACK, N.H. — Anthony Esolen, the prolific Catholic scholar and author known for his distinctly Catholic worldview and translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has accepted a teaching position at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, severing his ties with Providence College, where he held a tenured professorship and waged a long battle for its Catholic identity.

The move marks the end of an increasingly tempestuous showdown between Esolen and Providence over the Dominican-run institution’s direction and the beginning of a new chapter for the Catholic scholar. Esolen will begin teaching courses at the New Hampshire Catholic liberal arts college starting with the fall semester. He will also begin work on Thomas More’s new Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture.

William Fahey, president of Thomas More, told the Register that both Esolen and the college have a long-established relationship. Esolen spoke recently at Thomas More’s President’s Council Dinner, addressed students at commencement, and gave a keynote address at the annual Catholic Literature Conference in Concord, New Hampshire, co-hosted by Thomas More.

Fahey said he also has had a long personal relationship with Esolen and admires his “educational vision, his love of the Church, his engagement in the political and cultural arena.”

“And like Thomas More, he has made tremendous sacrifices and suffered for holding to his convictions,” the college president added.

Esolen’s hiring by Thomas More, Fahey said, demonstrates both the college’s commitment to “excellence in teaching” and that “a small Catholic ‘Great Books’ college can continue to attract world-class faculty.”

Esolen’s additional work on the Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture, Fahey added, highlights the college’s mission “to wed virtue and scholarship, contemplation with cultural engagement.”

“We are following the lead of our spiritual patron, St. Thomas More,” he said. “We can engage the world, hold firmly to our faith, and retire for learned and merry conversations among friends.”

The Perils of Providence

For more than a year, Esolen had been engaged in an acrimonious and rather public debate about the true nature of diversity at Providence College, which became known as “the Esolen Affair.” Esolen had vocally criticized “diversity” being used by students and some faculty on campus to push a political agenda rooted in current events, as opposed to his support for a “cultural diversity” that also treasures the best of Western civilization.

But the public battle came to a head after Providence’s administration publicly distanced itself from Esolen, who had written an essay for Crisis Magazine entitled, “My College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult” (a title that Esolen said he did not write).

The administration’s public repudiation of Esolen followed upon a protest march by Providence students and a faculty petition that alleged Esolen’s articles contained “racist, xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic and religiously chauvinist statements.”

Esolen told the Register that the turning point for him came after Providence’s president, Dominican Father Brian Shanley, allegedly refused to meet with a small group of Catholic professors intent on resolving the conflict and persuaded the Dominican provincial not to meet with them either.

Esolen explained that he could have lived with a “somewhat Catholic school that was really committed to the humanities” or “an unreservedly Catholic school where the humanities needed shoring up.” However, he concluded Providence offered neither of these options: The campus had become “highly politicized,” and the administrative decisions, to him, appeared “basically secular in their inspiration and their aim.”

“That is not to say that Providence College is lost,” he said. “There are still many excellent people there, Catholics and others who are friendly to the faith, even when they do not share it, and friendly to the humanities. But saving the school is no longer my battle.”

The public clash between Esolen’s “strong Catholic convictions” and the direction that Providence was going prompted Thomas More’s president and several trustees to meet with Esolen at a fundraising event and discuss the possibility of him leaving his tenured position to join Thomas More College.

“It was rather remarkable,” Fahey said. “After about an hour of conversation, we were all wondering why it had taken so long to come to the conclusion that Esolen’s scholarship, understanding of an integrated Catholic education, and love of traditional Catholic culture were a magnificent fit with the mission of Thomas More College.”

‘Good Cheer’ at Thomas More

In contrast to the exhaustion and isolation he experienced at Providence College, Esolen said a recent visit to Thomas More left him “full of good cheer and energy.”

“For somebody who isn’t getting younger, those can take you a long way,” he said. “They can add many years to your life as a teacher, whereas discouragement and disappointment lead to exhaustion.”

Having a community “filled with the faith,” Esolen said, strengthens his own faith. He finds it a “considerable advantage” that Thomas More has daily Mass offered outside of the class schedule, followed by lunch, “when you have a chance of sitting with anybody and everybody.”

He felt drawn to Thomas More College because the students are meant to be “surrounded by beauty and sanity,” where young men and women falling in love and getting married is celebrated — not the “rat poison of the sexual revolution, the ‘Lonely Revolution.’” He admires how the education focuses on the “whole human being, not disembodied chunks of him,” making it the kind of environment that can produce “leaders in thought, art, public affairs and the Church.”