Donald R. McClarey
My bride and I enjoyed going to a used book sale last Thursday that we have been attending for about the last fifteen years. We spent $38.00. As usual Don the spendthrift purchased most of the books:
1. My bride purchased A Guide Through Narnia by Martha G. Sammons (1979) (Essays on C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” – but it was with the travel books, so I was expecting more of a Narnian gazetteer for travelers), The Bride Wore Pearls by Liz Carlyle (2012) (Historical romance novel set in the Victorian era; our Anglo-Indian heroine’s costume in the cover art is late Regency, though, and she hops into bed with our quasi-Masonic hero about half a dozen chapters in; not worth finishing), Lose 200 Lbs. This Weekend by Don Aslett (2000) (Another of his “de-clutter your life” books) and Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide (1999) (The most recent they had there — presumably the collectors are hanging onto anything more recent; what I really needed was a print version of info I’d already found online about the collectible figurines I’m selling on eBay, plus tips on how to pack them for shipping).
I purchased all the rest:
2. The Battle: A History of the Battle of Waterloo by Alessandro Barbero (2003)-I like the fact that the author begins his book with quotes from Wellington indicating what folly it was to attempt to write the history of this battle.
3. Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown (2015)-Speculation on the origin of nine medieval chess pieces.
4. The Arms of Krupp (1968-paperback 1970)-William Manchester’s history of the German family of weapons manufacturers.
5. The French and Indian War by Walter R. Borneman (2006)-The French and Indian War has been attracting more attention recently by scholars, which is a good thing. The various French wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth century had an enormous impact on the colonies that would become the United States. Our first steps toward a unified nation were taken as a result of these conflicts, and many of the men who led our forces in the American Revolution learned the trade of war in the greatest and last of these struggles.
6. The Achievement of Samuel Johnson by W. Jackson Bate (1955)-A look at the writing and thought of one of my favorite literary curmudgeons.
7. Bomber Offensive by Noble Frankland (1970)-One of the myriad Ballantine buck books on World War II that I gobbled up as a teenager.
8. Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally (2003)-One of the brief Penguin Lives where established authors write a short life of some famous individual. The authors usually have no special expertise as a biographer of the subject they are writing about. As one might expect, this experiment has produced mixed results.
9. Leadership in War by Sir John Smyth (1974)-A look at British generals in World War II by a Brigadier General and holder of the Victoria Cross. (The Brit equivalent to the Medal of Honor.)
10. Patton: A Study in Command by H. Essame (1974)-A well written look at Patton by a British Major General who commanded a brigade in World War II.
11. Aristotle For Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy by Mortimer Adler (1978)-I have long been a fan of the work of the late Mortimer Adler. A leader of the revival of interest in Saint Thomas Aquinas in the twenties, he founded the Great Books Program. He spent his life explaining to moderns in the West their intellectual heritage. A non-observant Jew, he long was attracted to Catholicism. Baptized as an Episcopalian in 1984, the faith of his wife, he was baptized into the Faith in 1999, two years before his death. Continue reading
The charge of the Scots Greys scene from the movie Waterloo (1970), one of the greatest of war flicks. Rod Steiger as Napoleon and Christopher Plummer as Wellington gave bravura performances. My favorite section of the film: Continue reading
I am beginning to think that the easiest way to understand this Pontificate is to imagine a screenplay about a papacy written by George Orwell that is also a black comedy. With furor among Catholics around the globe over the Pope’s remark that the great majority of sacramental marriages are invalid the Vatican has attempted to send the comment down the Memory Hole:
Editor’s note: This article was updated June 17 to include a clarification by the Vatican: Pope Francis approved a revision to the official transcript to say that “a portion” of sacramental marriages are null, instead of “the great majority.”
So everything now is hunky, dory!
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
Pope Francis said Thursday that the majority of the words that come “spilling” out of his mouth are invalid because most of the time he doesn’t understand that what he says is permanent.
“We live in a culture of the provisional,” the Pontiff said, responding to a question about the “crisis of his pontificate.”
Francis said he often doesn’t comprehend the importance of what he’s saying when speaking off-the-cuff, which he said is “indissoluble.”
“Sadly in today’s pontificate, I don’t understand that what I say will have ramifications for not only my pontificate, but of the many pontificates to come,” he said. “I say something random, and people do not know what it means. And because people listen to me with the philosophy that I am the Pope, they believe I have fully contemplated and formulated what I am saying, which is, in many cases, not the case. This then makes what I say null.”
Francis went on to say that when Catholics have to spend most of their working lives defending what he says, and having to write blog posts or responses to comments on a combox asking if the “pope really said such and such,” clearly there is something invalid in many of the “weird, weird, weird” things that somehow manage to find their way from his brain to his mouth. Continue reading
A very brave man has died:
The last surviving Catholic priest imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp has died at the age of 102, more than 70 years after surviving a Nazi death march.
The Rev. Hermann Scheipers died on June 2 in Ochtrup, Germany, the Catholic website Aleteia said.
He spent more than four years at Dachau after being arrested in 1940, reportedly for supporting Polish forced laborers. “Here, you are defenseless, without dignity or rights,” Scheipers recalled being told on arriving at the Nazi camp.
Go here to read the rest.
2,579 Catholic priests, seminarians and brothers were thrown by the Nazis during World War II into Dachau. 1,780 of these were from Poland. Of these, some 868 priests perished, 300 in medical “experiments” or by torture in the showers of the camp.
The remaining priests, seminarians and brothers came from 38 nations. Besides the Poles the largest groups were 447 German and Austrian priests, 156 French priests and 46 Belgian priests.
Something for the weekend. You’re A Grand Old Flag sung by James Cagney in the film biopic of George M. Cohan Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). Cohan wrote the song in 1906 after an encounter with a Union veteran of Gettysburg who was carrying a torn American battle flag. The old soldier smiled at Cohan and said the flag was “A grand old rag!”
I cannot have a post that mentions the film Yankee Doodle Dandy without showing the scene of Cagney as Cohan tap dancing down the White House steps. Cagney did the scene completely impromptu. Continue reading
Hattip to commenter Greg Mockeridge for directing me to the above video. Revealing the lack of knowledge about fire arms that has ever been the hallmark of gun grabbers, the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle has been in their cross hairs since the Orlando shootings. Initially it was claimed that the AR-15 was used by Omar Mateen during his murderous rampage. Nope, he used a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a pistol.
Before that was revealed, Gersch Kuntzman of the New York Daily News ran this unintentionally hilarious post about his experience firing an AR-15:
The recoil bruised my shoulder, which can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary form of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.Even in semi-automatic mode, it is very simple to squeeze off two dozen rounds before you even know what has happened. If illegally modified to fully automatic mode, it doesn’t take any imagination to see dozens of bodies falling in front of your barrel.All it takes is the will to do it.Forty nine people can be gone in 60 seconds.
As a fellow member of the patriarchy, I worry about Mr. Kuntzman’s masculinity and self-image. I have, on numerous occasions, introduced females, including little girls no older than 10 and no more than 70 pounds, to the awe-inspiring power of the AR-15. Granted, they had to fire from a supported position, lacking the strength to support the 7-pound rifle for long otherwise, but after firing many rounds, their universal reaction was one of delight–they found the little rifle’s accuracy and ease of use pleasing–and not a bruise among them. The same is true of adult women, many no more than 110 pounds sopping wet.
Well this explains a lot:
Pope Francis said Thursday that the great majority of sacramental marriages today are not valid, because couples do not enter into them with a proper understanding of permanence and commitment.
“We live in a culture of the provisional,” the Pope said in impromptu remarks June 16. After addressing the Diocese of Rome’s pastoral congress, he held a question-and-answer session.
A layman asked about the “crisis of marriage” and how Catholics can help educate youth in love, help them learn about sacramental marriage, and help them overcome “their resistance, delusions and fears.”
The Pope answered from his own experience. Continue reading
- I assume it says something deplorable about me that I laughed heartily when I saw the above image on a passing car on my way to a bankruptcy hearing on Tuesday.
- Yesterday in a parish book discussion, the Deacon leading the group asked us what quality we would most like to be remembered for. It was a question I had never asked myself, but without any thought on my part my automatic answer was “Justice”. The answer was obvious enough I guess for someone in my profession, but I was surprised by the intensity and conviction with which I said it. I usually choose my words with care but this simply burst forth from some place deep inside me.
- Throughout my life I have been bemused by how often the phenomenon of synchronicity has occurred as I make my way through this vale of tears. Go here to read about it. The latest example took place today. This morning I posted “The Manchester Affair” that detailed the battle between the Kennedy clan and William Manchester over his book about the Kennedy assassination, The Death of a President. I just got back from a very large used book sale in Naperville. My bride and I go to it each year. The history section had about 1,000 volumes. As I eagerly approached the history books, the first volume I saw, and which I picked up to purchase, was William Manchester’s The Death of a President.
More than a half century after his death General Douglas MacArthur continues to fascinate, as Francis P. Sempa demonstrates in a post at Real Clear Defense:
In 2015, the prolific and popular military historian Winston Groom (better known as the author of Forrest Gump) lauded MacArthur (along with Marshall and Patton) in The Generals as an exceptionally good soldier and great captain, who was as brave as a lion, bold as a bull, and audacious and inventive in “marshaling huge victorious armies.” MacArthur, Groom writes, served his country with distinction, and his memory “enriche[s] the national trust.”
James Duffy’s War at the End of the World, which appeared earlier this year, provides a detailed history of MacArthur’s New Guinea campaign, which has long been unfairly overshadowed by the Navy-Marine island battles in the Central Pacific.
Walter Borneman’s MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific has just been published. Borneman, like other MacArthur biographers, notes the general’s character flaws, but emphasizes MacArthur’s sense of mission, strategic brilliance, and “guiding principles of duty, honor, and country.”
Most anticipated, however, is Arthur Herman’s new biography, just released this month, entitled Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior. At 960 pages, it rivals the most comprehensive one-volume treatments of MacArthur to date: William Manchester’s American Caesar and Geoffrey Perret’s Old Soldier’s Never Die.
Later this fall, H.W. Brands’ The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War is scheduled to be released and, hopefully, will provide a fairer treatment of the Truman-MacArthur controversy than the conventional history that treats Truman as saint and MacArthur as sinner. The truth, as usual, is more complex. Continue reading
(This post was originally published in 2010. Since the Democrats are making renewed attempts in the wake of the Orlando shootings to amend the Bill of Rights, I thought I would publish it again.)
Justice Stephen Breyer of the US Supreme Court has never been a fan of the Second Amendment. On Fox News on Sunday he made an historical claim that I would like to analyze in this post.
Madison “was worried about opponents who would think Congress would call up state militias and nationalize them. ‘That can’t happen,’ said Madison,” said Breyer, adding that historians characterize Madison’s priority as, “I’ve got to get this document ratified.”
I assume that the Justice is referring to Federalist 46 written by James Madison, and which may be read here. (I apologize in advance to our resident blog expert on the Federalist papers Paul Zummo. Paul, if you see any mistakes on my part in the following, please let me have it!)
The Justice is correct that many in the states were concerned that the proposed new federal government would have too much power, and Federalist 46 was written to help allay those concerns.
The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition.
Madison realized that this was a sensitive point. The American Revolution had only ended five years before, and the attempt by Great Britain to rule through military force was a raw memory for all of his readers. Madison tackles this fear head on by comparing the military force of a standing federal army to the militias of the states:
Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it.
So far so good for Justice Breyer. However, he misses completely the import of other things that Madison says in Federalist 46.
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Continue reading
Steve Weatherbe has an intriguing post at Life Site News comparing military incompetence to episcopal incompetence:
Every alternative presents itself as an opportunity for failure. After all, the authoritarian already has reached the top. There isn’t as much upside to defeating the enemy as there is downside to defeat. So the authoritarian—incompetent—general may do nothing at all or he may do too little. He may do a little bit of everything so that no one could criticise him for failing to do anything. He sends some troops north to oppose the enemy but keeps most at home. He doesn’t warn the civilian population to build bomb shelters because he doesn’t want to admit there may soon be air attacks. He wants to be popular. He does not want to win so much as to avoid being criticised. The general who is not motivated by the desire to win is less likely to do so than the general who is.
This makes me think of many bishops. They rose through the ranks when Christians and Catholics were still popular, respected and even powerful. They took their leadership positions in large, military-like hierarchical organizations with the responsibility to preserve these organizations, not risk them—in other words, in peacetime.
For these men, there is no upside, no chance of a decisive victory over evil, secularism or social change—only the downside of unpopularity, criticism and conflict with society’s trendsetters and thought leaders, and quite possibly with civil authorities, quite possibly lawsuits and nasty headlines. If they are in Europe, they enjoy huge salaries on the government’s tab.
These smooth, plump men did not sign on for combat, did not sign on for marches, for vigils, for interrogations in courtrooms or for jail terms. As priests they were instantly deferred to and respected by their own flocks. As bishops they get even more of that from their faithful, plus real palaces. But they now find themselves targets for attacks from society at large. They are tasked with feeding their sheep at the same time as defending Christianity’s politically incorrect teachings on homosexuality, abortion and transgenderism, and Catholicism’s particular teachings on a male-only priesthood, divorce and in vitro fertilization.
We should not be surprised that many balk at the second assignment. Aiming for maximum popularity, in the U.S. some adopt positions identical with the Democratic Party, winning for themselves a few years of media approval but guaranteeing the long-term irrelevance of their once-powerful institutions.
An army or a navy that refuses to leave its base is one that is ultimately ineffective. The generals, admirals – or bishops – who are responsible for such inaction are by definition incompetent. For bishops who desire popularity with the people they should be opposing, this approaches treason.
I have a friend who, when I challenged him on abortion, replied smugly, “I am pro-life and pro-choice.” But all he really meant was, “I wish people on both sides of this issue to like me as much as I like myself.” So for many of our bishops. Continue reading
Among my recent book purchases is a tome by John Corry, then a New York Times reporter, entitled The Manchester Affair and published in 1967. The book details the battle by Robert F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy against the late William Manchester, historian and biographer. Prior to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Manchester had published a laudatory look at Kennedy, A Portrait of A President. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, both Robert F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy were looking for an author to give an “official” Kennedy view of the death of JFK. Manchester, who was the third author the offer was made to, jumped at the chance.
The book became something of a chase after the White Whale by Manchester who read the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission several times before it was published, interviewed well over a thousand people, including both Jackie Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy twice, and suffered a collapse from exhaustion. He finished writing the book, The Death of a President, in 1966 during an eight week stay at a hospital in Portland, Connecticut.
The Kennedys were dismayed by the volume: Robert F. Kennedy by the hostile attitude in the book towards President Johnson and Jackie by too much blood and gore in the depiction of the assassination, and by Manchester revealing too much of her private thoughts, which she had confided in him, during the day of the assassination and the days following. (Robert Kennedy hated LBJ, a sentiment returned with interest by LBJ. However, he understood that a book that would appear to be a hired Kennedy “hit” against LBJ would do him no good if he decided to run against him in 1968.)
Manchester, who viewed his work with the love of a parent for a child, was willing to make some revisions, but not nearly enough to placate the Kennedys. The Kennedys foolishly filed suit to enjoin the publication on the grounds that Manchester had violated the terms of his original agreement with the Kennedys, (he hadn’t), thus greatly enhancing the interest of the public in the book. The suit was settled by Manchester in January 1967 agreeing to cut some 1600 words and seven pages from the 654 page book. Manchester described the cuts at the time as “harmless” and the settlement was a face saving device for the Kennedys retreating from a legal fight they could not win. The book was a massive best seller, selling over a million copies, and Look magazine paying the then unheard of price of $650,000.00 for serialization rights. Manchester went on to write such acclaimed works as his biography of Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar, still the best of the many books on MacArthur in my opinion, his two volume look at Winston Churchill up to 1940, subsequently completed after Manchester’s death by another author, and his haunting memoir of his service as a Marine in World War II, Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War. Continue reading
Some Democrats in Congress disrupted a moment of silence in the House yesterday for the victims in Orlando murdered by jihadist Omar Mateer. Why did they do this? Oh it was a bit of agit/prop as part of their latest campaign to attack the Second Amendment. Mark Shea, who is now in full leftist mode, thought this was wonderful. Go here to read his post and the comments. Here is a post by Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts on this latest in our continuing descent into a barely disguised cold civil war:
Only accepting the proposals of Liberal Democrats can bring lasting peace. Jesus, bless His heart, had some awfully fine moments, but let’s get real. If you want to make peace, you accept the true gospel of Liberalism and its efficacious proposals. Wasting everyone’s time with prayer is just wasting everyone’s time. It’s nice to see leading Catholic voices jump on board and remind us that our religion is often the source of bigotry and our prayers nothing but dodges unless we conform to the real Truth of, well, Liberal Democratic narratives and proposals.
In 1994, Dr. R. Albert Mohler began dismantling the more liberal elements of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. One of the things he did was eliminate the School of Social Work. That school was, in fairness, a hotbed of theological and cultural liberalism. It was nothing to find pro-choice, pro-gay rights, feminist, liberal theological views among the students and faculty of that school. In a move that was controversial, since rumor had it that Dr. Mohler had promised he would do no such thing, he went ahead and closed the school.
When he made the announcement, all hell broke loose. Figuratively speaking that is. And the protests erupted. Over the next weeks and months, it got ugly. That’s when I said that everything I ever wanted to know about politics I learned in seminary. At one point, the protesters trying to save the Social Work School arranged a prayer-in. Lining the halls, they sat and prayed together.
At chapel services that week, Dr. Mohler lashed out. He condemned the use of prayer for leverage in the debate. The students and several faculty fired back, expressing outrage that Dr. Mohler would in any way demean the use of prayer. After all, a rich history of martyrs, mystics and spiritual leaders did nothing but pray for endless hours and days, if not longer. Many who died for the faith died with prayers to the Almighty on their lips. How could anyone impugn prayer? How could any believer do anything but at least affirm the wonder and efficacy of prayer? At the time, I gave the points to the protesters. Prayer is not something to be mocked. It is not our place to read the hearts of those praying, even if it is for ends with which we disagree.
Fast forward to now. The number one issue that the Left sees as plausible for the dismantling of the Bill of Rights has become the end all issue. And over the last year or so, those who appeal to God through prayer, or pray for victims, during such massacres are increasingly mocked and derided by progressives and radical Leftists.
So, we’re back to the age old question. Whenever I see proponents of liberal values condemn what they once advocated, or advocate what they once condemned, I wonder who is right and when. If prayer is this sacred thing that should never be gainsaid, then are those who are smacking down or belittling the prayers of people today wrong? Or do I owe Dr. R. Albert Mohler an apology?
Yesterday President Obama went on a tirade about criticism for his unwillingness to use the term “radical Islam”. Striking his usual petty snotty brat pose whenever he responds to virtually any criticism, Obama wondered what good it does to use the term “radical Islam”. It recognizes reality, you churlish dolt, something that your administration has manifestly attempted to ignore throughout your term in office in regard to the Jihadist threat. Obama’s strategy, if one can dignify an abdication of responsibility with that term, has been to hope that Islamic terrorism would simply go away. As in so many areas, the administration’s policies came down to wishful thinking surrounded by lies. That is why the Obama administration described Major Nidal Hassan’s murderous jihad rampage on Novemeber 5, 2009 as “workplace violence”. Go here to read about it. That is why the Obama administration in 2012 attempted to blame the Benghazi attack on an anti-Islamic film, and left our men in Benghazi without military support, then lied about it to the families of the two heroes who were slain as a result. The attack spoiled the Obama re-election theme that the War on Terror had been won and was a thing of the past.
A prime duty of any President is to defend the American people from all enemies foreign and domestic, and in regard to that duty, Obama has been, at best, missing in action. Colonel Austin Bay at Strategy Page puts it well:
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the June 12 early-morning terror attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Terrorist Omar Mateen murdered at least 49 people and wounded 53. He held hostages for three hours, until a police SWAT team killed him.
Mainstream media have focused on Orlando’s proximity to Disneyland. A war is on, you idiots. Look toward nearby Tampa and MacDill Air Force Base, U.S. Central Command headquarters. U.S. CENTCOM is currently supporting anti-ISIS coalition forces in Iraq that are engaged in combat operations against the Islamic State. Welcome to Battlefield America.
The Orlando attack adds to the deadly list of Islamist militant terror attacks committed since 2009 on targets in U.S. territory. 2009 was the year President Barack Obama dispensed with the Global War on Terror and began describing U.S. counter-terror operations as an Overseas Contingency Operation. He was strategically stupid, but that was the political narrative he simply had to sell. Remember Bush Lied, People Died?
Well, Obama lied and Americans continue to die. At least the president didn’t call this slaughter “work place violence” or some other feckless politically correct euphemism. Though he called Orlando “an act of terror and an act of hate” he still can’t bring himself to name Islamist militant terrorism as the source, much less the cause of the attack. Instead, he insisted we have “no definitive assessment on the motivation” for Orlando’s massacre.
ISIS media arm AMAQ disagreed: “The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando…which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter.” On June 13, an ISIS radio outlet called Mateen “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.” ISIS regards Mateen’s nightclub slaughter as an act of war — war as waged by the Islamic State. Remember, Islamic State thugs rape Yazidi women, execute Iraqi soldiers, behead Libyan Christians and burn Jordanian pilots alive.
Moreover, Mateen confirmed he fought for ISIS. Before attacking, he called Orlando’s 911 services and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader, Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He also mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers.
It takes narrow, politically blinded minds to believe Mateen perpetrated the Orlando slaughter because he’s suffered micro-aggressions dealt by Islamophobes or the U.S. Constitution gives American citizens the right to bear arms.
Mateen waged war on America. The Caliph was his commander. He was a traitor — use that word. An Orlando nightclub — down the road from CENTCOM headquarters — was his battleground. His premeditated massacre was another Islamist militant terrorist operation against America conducted with the same war aims as the 2013 Boston terror bombing. Continue reading
Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa goes over a few of the mistakes and gaffes of the Pope:
ROME, 13 June, 2016 – “As Benedict XVI said, the tolerance must be zero”: thus Pope Francis in his interview with “La Croix” of last May 16, concerning the sexual abuse of minors.
But if one searches through all the writings and discourses of pope Joseph Ratzinger, the formula “zero tolerance” is simply not to be found. Nor is any equivalent formula.
And yet it returns in the annals of the Vatican like a mantra, most recently a few days ago, on June 4, on the occasion of the issuing of the motu proprio for the removal of bishops guilty of “negligence” in dealing with cases of abuse.
But while Francis has repeatedly made it his own, for example in the press conference on the flight back from the Holy Land, to attribute it also – as he has done – to Benedict XVI does not correspond to the truth.
And it is the latest of not a few inaccuracies that are scattered throughout the public speaking of the current pope.
The next-to-last inaccuracy is from April 24, during Pope Francis’s improvised visit to Villa Borghese. in the center of Rome, with members of Focolare holding an environmental demonstration.
The pope said, in his improvised remarks:
“Someone once told me – I don’t know if it’s true, if someone wants they can check, I haven’t checked – that the word ‘conflict’ in Chinese is made of two symbols: a symbol that means ‘risk’ and another that means ‘opportunity’. Conflict, it’s true, is a risk but it is also an opportunity.”
In reality, this showy and imaginary translation of the Chinese word “weiji” is an oratorical device invented in the West. It was launched for the first time by John Kennedy in a speech in Indianapolis in 1959, and since then has been reused many times by him and other American political leaders, from Nixon to Al Gore to Condoleezza Rice, becoming recurrent even in the popular press in English and other languages.
A third inaccuracy is in the press conference of this past April 16, on the return flight from the island of Lesbos.
In responding to the barrage of questions on “Amoris Laetitia,” Francis pointed to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn as the right interpreter of the document. And in singing his praises – “he is a great theologian” and “he knows Church doctrine well” – he added: “He was secretary of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.” Which is not true, because on this congregation Schönborn was and is only a member.
Moreover, in that same press conference, Francis replied with an improbable “I do not remember that footnote” to a question on the crucial footnote 351 of “Amoris Laetitia,” the one that envisions “the help of the sacraments” for the divorced and remarried.
Francis responded with another unlikely “I do not remember that document well” to the question of whether “there is still value” in the 2003 doctrinal note of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith that forbade Catholic politicians from legalizing unions between persons of the same sex.
This during the press conference on the flight back from Mexico, on February 17, 2016, just when a law of this kind was on the verge of being approved in Italy.
During the same press conference on the flight from Mexico to Rome, another misstep, this time with Paul VI paying the price.
Pope Francis said:
“Paul VI – the great! – in a difficult situation, in Africa, allowed the nuns to use contraception for cases of violence.”
And he added that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil, and in certain cases, as in those that I mentioned of the blessed Paul VI, [that] was clear.”
Two days later, Fr. Federico Lombardi also pulled out the same story, in an interview with Vatican Radio conducted with the intention of straightening out what had gotten tangled in the statements of the pope presented in the media, which at the go-ahead for contraceptives had already chanted victory:
“The contraceptive or the condom, in cases of particular emergency and gravity, can also be a serious object of discernment of conscience. This is what the pope is saying. [. . .] The example that [Francis] gave of Paul VI and the authorization to use the pill for religious women who were at the gravest continual risk of violence on the part of rebels in the Congo, at the time of the tragedies of the war in the Congo, makes it clear that it was no normal situation in which this was taken into consideration.”
Now, that Paul VI explicitly gave this permission is not evident at all. No one has ever been able to cite a single word of his in this regard.
Yet this urban legend has been kept alive for decades, and sure enough even Francis and his spokesman have fallen for it.
How this incident truly came about has been reconstructed chapter and verse in this article from www.chiesa:
The sixth and most disastrous error: the one into which Francis fell in Asunción on July 11, 2015, in the discourse to representatives of civil society in Paraguay, with President Horacio Cartes and other authorities of the country in the front row.
There the pope improvised at a certain point, abandoning the written text:
“Before ending, I’d like to make reference to [one] thing. In doing this, as there are political authorities present here, including the President of the Republic, I wish to say this fraternally. Someone told me: ‘Look, Mr so-and-so was kidnapped by the Army, please do something to help!’. I do not know if this is true, or if it is not true, if it is right, or if it is not right, but one of the methods used by dictatorial ideologies of the last century, which I referred to earlier, was to separate the people, either by exile or imprisonment, or in the case of concentration camps, Nazis and Stalinists excluded them by death. For there to be a true culture of the people, a political culture, a culture of the common good, there must be quick and clear judicial proceedings. No other kind of strategy is required. Clear, concise judgments. That would help all of us. I do not know whether or not this exists here, and I say it with the greatest respect. I was told this as I came here, I was given this information here. I was asked to make a request about someone I do not know. I did not manage to grasp the surname of the person involved”.
The name that Francis had “not managed to grasp” was that of Edelio Murinigo, an official kidnapped more than a year before not by the regular army of Paraguay – as the pope had understood – but by a self-styled “Ejército del pueblo paraguayo,” a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group active in the country since 2008.
And yet, in spite of his stating and emphasizing his ignorance of the case, Francis had no qualms about using the few and confused facts he had grasped poorly a short time before to accuse that blameless president of Paraguay of nothing less than a crime compared with the worse misdeeds of the Nazis and Stalinists.
President Cartes deserves to be honored for the gentility with which he allowed the stunning public affront to fall into obscurity.
And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt–the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those enslaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days. It wasn’t a spread-eagle speech, but he made you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors.
Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster
A century of Flag Days:
My Fellow Countrymen:
Many circumstances have recently conspired to turn our thoughts to a critical examination of the conditions of our national life, of the influences which have seemed to threaten to divide us in interest and sympathy, of forces within and forces without that seemed likely to draw us away from the happy traditions of united purpose and action of which we have been so proud, It has therefore seemed to me fitting that I should call your attention to the approach of the anniversary of the day upon which the flag of the United States was adopted by the Congress as the emblem of the Union, and to suggest to you that it should this year and in the years to come be given special significance as a day of renewal and reminder, a day upon which we should direct our minds with a special desire of renewal to thoughts of the ideals and principles of which we have sought to make our great Government the embodiment.
I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as FLAG DAY with special patriotic exercises, at which means shall be taken to give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride in the history and our enthusiasm for the political programme of the nation, our determination to make it greater and purer with each generation, and our resolution to demonstrate to all the world its, vital union in sentiment and purpose, accepting only those as true compatriots who feel as we do the compulsion of this supreme allegiance. Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation, “one and inseparable” from which every thought that is not worthy of our fathers’ first vows in independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded and in which we shall stand with united hearts, for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself,-a nation signally distinguished among all the nations of mankind for its clear, individual conception alike of its duties and its privileges, its obligations and its rights.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixteen, and of the independence of the United States of America the one hundred and fortieth.
By the President: