On April 29, 1865, President Johnson in his second Presidential Proclamation postpones the national day of mourning that he proclaimed in his first Proclamation:
By the President of the United States of America
Whereas by my proclamation of the 25th instant Thursday, the 25th day of next month, was recommended as a day for special humiliation and prayer in consequence of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States; but
Whereas my attention has since been called to the fact that the day aforesaid is sacred to large numbers of Christians as one of rejoicing for the ascension of the Savior:
Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby suggest that the religious services recommended as aforesaid should be postponed until Thursday, the 1st day of June next.
In testimony 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 29th day of April, A. D. 1865, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-ninth.
By the President:
Acting Secretary of State. Continue reading
Hmmm. An old friend of Pope Benedict goes public with criticism of Pope Francis:
In a recent lengthy interview with the German Catholic journal Herder Korrespondenz in an issue especially dedicated to the theme of Pope Francis, the renowned and arguably most prominent Catholic philosopher in Germany, Professor Robert Spaemann, a long-time friend of Pope Benedict, has gone public with a strong criticism of Pope Francis that is being discussed nation-wide.
At the beginning of this interview-discussion that included also another German Catholic philosopher, Professor Hans Joas, Spaemann in a calm and differentiated way first acknowledged Pope Francis’ strengths and especially what he calls his “traditional piety”: “He speaks like a Latin-American bishop who is fully rooted in the piety of his people.” Spaemann continues:
“On the other side, in my view, his cult of spontaneity is not helping. In the Vatican, some people are already sighing: ‘Today, he has already again another different idea from yesterday.’ One does not fully get rid of the impression of chaos. And it is irritating how he prepares the Synod. It is the intention that two parties meet at the synod which the Pope wants to lead into a dialogue whereby he himself plays the role of a moderator. In the same time, however, he takes sides already in advance by favoring the position of Cardinal Walter Kasper, he has excluded the John Paul II Institute for Studies on the Family from the pre-Synod consultations and tries with the help of explicit pressure to influence those consultations.”
Spaemann then also criticized Pope Francis for dismissing personnel who have been close to Pope Benedict XVI: “Pope Francis always stresses his close bond with Pope Benedict. In certain ways that certainly also exists. But I wonder why he throws so many people out of the Vatican who had been called in by Benedict.”
The 87-year old Spaemann who had taught at important universities such as the University of Heidelberg and the University of Munich, also criticized Pope Francis for his way of electing new cardinals:
“Take the recent elections of new cardinals. There have now entered into the government of the whole Church completely unknown bishops who at times only have 15,000 Catholics in their dioceses. Bishops with larger dioceses, however, were passed by, even though one must have seen in them a certain extraordinary quality when they were chosen to be archbishops. Why are they then not called to the top? I ask myself, what will be the result in the end – next to a fleeting symbolic gesture? The upcoming Synod will especially have to show what the Holy Father intends.” Continue reading
Judging from his melodramatic “Sic, Semper Tyrannis!” at Ford’s Theater after murdering Lincoln, Booth perceived his role of assassin as being his greatest role, a chance to play in real life a doomed Romantic hero, an avenger of a wronged people. The last twelve days of his life, as he eluded capture must have been disappointing for him, as the newspapers he read, including those who had been highly critical of Lincoln, universally condemned his action. Perhaps he perceived that instead of being a hero, he was fated to be cast as a minor villain, remembered solely due to his slaying of a great hero. Booth wrote in his diary, “With every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why; For doing what Brutus was honored for … And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat.” Continue reading
Oh, this is rich, John P. Angelos, executive veep of the Baltimore Orioles, stands up for the rioters:
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
John P. Angelos is a poor little rich boy. He made his money the old fashioned way: he got it gratis from his Daddy, uber ambulance chaser Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He is a liberal Democrat and has worked glove in fist with the Democrat powers that be in Baltimore, who have controlled the city since World War II, with one, count them, one Republican mayor from 1963 to 1967 to prove the exception to the rule. He is a big time donor to Planned Parenthood that wages a never ending war against urban black unborn babies. If there is a leftist cause in America that Angelos has not paid lip service to, it must be very, very obscure. In short, Angelos is a member in good standing of the liberal Democrat establishment that runs things in Baltimore and Maryland. Let us examine his statement:
Translation: you can ignore the part of my statement that was my window dressing prelude.
“but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore “
Oh, that is rich! Baltimore, above almost all other cities in the country except for Washington, has benefitted from government largesse over that same period. The growth of the federal bureaucracy in Washington has brought endless jobs into the areas that surround Baltimore. What has hurt Baltimore has been a completely corrupt government, former Mayor Sheila Dixon we are looking at you, and the legacy of the Baltimore riots of 1968 that accelerated white flight from Baltimore to its suburbs.
“to third-world dictatorships”
Angelos helped negotiate a two game series in 1999 between the Orioles and the Cuban National Team in Havana. Today, one-quarter of Oriole players are foreign, most of them from Third World nations.
“plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation”
True, the Obama administration, loyally supported by Angelos, has been an economic disaster for most Americans.
“and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections”
If Angelos were truly concerned about civil rights in Maryland, he and his Daddy have more than enough pull with the Maryland Democrat Party to make a difference in Maryland.
“of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.”
Having rioters run wild is not the way to convince people that the police have too much authority. Perhaps an experiment could be conducted and have the police reduce their presence today around Oriole Park? Continue reading
A republic, if you can keep it.
Bravo to Professor Stephen Bainbridge:
To elites in his circles, Kingsfield continued, “at best religion is something consenting adult should do behind closed doors. They don’t really understand that there’s a link between Sister Helen Prejean’s faith and the workd she does on the death penalty. There’s a lot of looking down on flyover country, one middle America.
“The sad thing,” he said, “is that the old ways of aspiring to truth, seeing all knowledge as part of learning about the nature of reality, they don’t hold. It’s all about power. They’ve got cultural power, and think they should use it for good, but their idea of good is not anchored in anything. They’ve got a lot of power in courts and in politics and in education. Their job is to challenge people to think critically, but thinking critically means thinking like them. They really do think that they know so much more than anybody did before, and there is no point in listening to anybody else, because they have all the answers, and believe that they are good.”
“If I said something that was construed as attacking a gay student, I could have my life made miserable with a year or two of litigation — and if I didn’t have tenure, there could be a chance that my career would be ruined,” he said. “Even if you have tenure, a few people who make allegations of someone being hateful can make a tenured professor’s life miserable.”
Polycarp wasn’t threatened with people making his life miserable. He was threatened with being burnt at the stake. And he refused to deny Christ. And he went to his death thanking God for allowing him to be counted among the Church’s martyrs.
I am a sinner who is far from perfect. But I refuse to be a closeted sinner. So I am going to continue teaching and writing about Catholic Social Thought. And I’m going to go on having a picture of St Thomas More in my office. And I’m going to go on having many books on religion in my office. And I’m going to go on wearing my ashes to class on Ash Wednesday. And I’m going to go on pushing back when people infringe on freedom of speech and religion, especially on campuses.
And if my colleagues don’t like that, all I can say is “Come and Have a Go If You Think You’re Hard Enough.” After all, if I may be forgiven quoting the great reformer, “Here I stand; I can do no other.” Continue reading
After the massive bloodletting of the Civil War, one would have hoped that Death would have taken at least a brief holiday in the US. Such was not the case. On April 27th 1865, the SS Sultana, a Mississipi paddlewheeler steamer, constructed in 1863 for the cotton trade, was serving as a transport. Its cargo was appoximately 2500 Union soldiers, many of them former POWS, some of them survivors of Andersonville. The Union soldiers boarded at Vicksburg. The Sultana while in port at Vicksburg had a patch put on its steam boiler. The repair was clearly inadequate, a new boiler being needed. Continue reading
Two quotations from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at the beginning of Act III:
“Now there are some things we all know, but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars… everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
“Over there are some Civil War veterans. Iron flags on their graves…New Hampshire boys… had a notion that the Union ought to be kept together, though they’d never seen more than fifty miles of it themselves. All they knew was the name, friends – the United States of America. The United States of America. And they went and died about it.”
The first quote reminds me of this passage from CS Lewis:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
How different our view of humanity if we view us as being merely intelligent animals or as immortal spirits sheathed in flesh.
The second quote is indicative of the old fashioned patriot that Wilder was, as demonstrated by his serving in the Army in World War I and in the Army Air Corps in World War II. Civil War veterans in his day were as far in time from him as World War II veterans are from us. Both groups of veterans, and the memory of them, serve as anchors for patriotism and heroism for the generations that came after them.
We are creatures of eternity but live in time and what we do in time echoes not only in eternity but for those who come after us. Continue reading
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
In an unprecedented move, more than 100 prominent San Francisco based Roman Catholics signed a petition and ran a full-page ad Friday calling on God to remove Jesus from the Trinity for fostering “an atmosphere of division and intolerance.”
The plea follows months of dissent within the archdiocese over Jesus’ emphasis on traditional, conservative doctrine, including asking all Catholics to accept that both sex outside of marriage as well as homosexual relations are “gravely evil.”
“The crux of our worry is that the faithful are going to become very disenchanted and stop going to church because they don’t like the message that Jesus sent when he preached the kingdom of God some 2,000 years ago,” Nibbi said.
According to a source familiar with the drafting of the open letter to God, the frustrated Catholics first considered running the ad weeks ago. They held off while they appealed to saints, including John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene, to address their concerns. When nothing came of that, they went public.
Incidentally, don’t expect Jesus to start soft-pedaling his opposition to same-sex marriage. He’s encouraging Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco to join him at a large march in Washington D.C. in favor of “traditional” marriage on April 25. Continue reading
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Something for the weekend, The Last Post. One hundred years ago the Gallipoli campaign began. Australian, New Zealand, British and French troops would slug it out for over eight months in ferocious fighting over the Dardanelles, the pathway to Constantinople and perhaps an early end to the Great War. Although unsuccessful, the raw courage, tenacity and resourcefulness of the Australian and New Zealand troops were sources of pride for their young nations and they are remembered each April 25 on Anzac Day.
It is remembered by me each year as a salute to the courage and self sacrifice it honors.
At the beginning of the war the New Zealand and Australian citizen armies, illustrating the robust humor of both nations, engaged in self-mockery best illustrated by this poem:
We are the ANZAC Army
We cannot shoot, we don’t salute
What bloody good are we ?
And when we get to Ber – Lin
The Kaiser, he will say
Hoch, Hoch, Mein Gott !
What a bloody odd lot
to get six bob a day.
The Anzac troops referred to themselves as “six bob a day tourists”. By the end of World War I no one was laughing at the Anzacs. At the end of the War a quarter of the military age male population of New Zealand had been killed or wounded and Australia paid a similarly high price. Widely regarded as among the elite shock troops of the Allies, they had fought with distinction throughout the war, and added to their reputation during World War II. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the German Desert Fox, rated the New Zealanders as the finest troops he ever saw. Continue reading
Bravo to David French at National Review Online who states eloquently my position:
How bad will the upcoming Papal encyclical on the environment be? Maybe this bad:
As the world celebrates Earth Day on Wednesday, Pope Francis is planning to use one of the highest forms of papal expression — an encyclical — to promote climate action to save the planet as a moral and religious imperative.
In recent weeks, Vatican officials have outlined what the document will say and are choreographing its release — perhaps as early as June — for maximum global impact beyond the Roman Catholic Church’s 1.2 billion members.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who chairs a panel dealing with environmental issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the encyclical has “gone to the translators, so it’s at the end of its birthing process.”
First on the promotional agenda is an April 28 Vatican conference where United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon will be a keynote speaker. The goal is to advance the morality argument that is a theme of the encyclical.
Then on successive days beginning Sept. 23, the pope will visit the White House, address a joint session of Congress — the first pontiff to do so — and address the U.N. General Assembly at the beginning of a summit on sustainable development.
The Ghanian cardinal, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and who helped draft the encyclical, said all events lead to Paris in December, when nations will gather to debate how to slow or reduce global warming. He described the core message of the encyclical as “human ecology,” arguing that global economic inequality — a theme Francis has frequently raised — is inextricably linked to climate change. Continue reading
Larry Lynch was born, the first of 12 kids in his family, in the City Line neighborhood of Brooklyn on October 17, 1906. He grew up on some pretty tough streets while also serving as an altar boy at Saint Sylvester’s. He came to greatly admire the Redemptorists, an order of missionary priests founded by Saint Alphonsus Liguori in 1732. In America the order had distinguished itself by its work in some of the roughest slums in the country and thus it was small wonder that a tough street kid would be attracted to them. Larry Lynch was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Order in 1932.
His initial assignment was as a missionary priest in Brazil, in the parishes of Miranda and Aquidauana in the State of Mato Grosso, quite a change from Brooklyn! In 1937 he served at Old Saint Mary’s in Buffalo, New York with mission assignments to Orangeburg, North Carolina and Ephrata, Pa.
Prior to Pearl Harbor, in September 1941, Father Lynch enlisted in the Army as a chaplain. He served at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, Fort Polk, Lousiana, and in the Mojave Desert in California with the 31rst regiment of the 7th Armored Division. In December 1943 he was sent overseas to New Caledonia in the Southwest Pacific.
Assigned initially to the 42nd Quarter Master Battalion in Noumea, Captain Lynch quickly began making himself unforgettable. The commander of the outfit was Lieutenant Colonel Julius Klein, a remarkable man in his own right who had served as an American spy in Germany during World War I. Klein, to his astonishment, found himself agreeing that he and all the staff officers in the battalion would be at Christmas Mass that evening, although he wondered what a Jew like him would be doing at a Catholic Mass! Father Lynch had that type of effect on people, his enthusiasm tended to overwhelm all opposition. He decided that the chapel was too small for the Mass and it was held in the base amphitheater. The amphitheater filled to capacity, the Christmas carols at the Mass were led by a soldier named Goldstein, a great tenor, who Father Lynch had met on the troop transport. Father Lynch explained the priest’s vestments prior to beginning for the benefit of the non-Catholics present:
“Father Stearns of the Navy will celebrate the Mass. Before he begins, there’s a lot even Catholics should know and I’ll bet a nickel there are some right here who couldn’t explain why a priest wears all those vestments, for example. Well, it’s time we all knew why and it won’t hurt you non-Catholics to know either.”
“Father Stearns will begin to put on his vestments, and while he does, well talk about them a little. First, as to the why. Every one of them is a symbol, a symbol of service to God.”
He picked up the amice and held it high. “This, for example. It’s just a piece of linen, and it is called an amice: A-M-I-C-E. Jesus was blindfolded, and the amice represents that blindfold. Okay, Father.”
He extended the amice to Father Stearns who put it on.
“Herod placed a garment on Jesus to make a fool of Him. You remember that. This white robe white to signify purity is an alb: A-L-B, and the alb is symbolic of that garment. Incidentally there are six colors used by the church and each one of them is significant: white for purity and joy, red for blood and fire, green is the symbol of hope, violet for penance. . . .”
The Mass had a huge impact on everyone present, and Colonel Klein announced that he was glad he came. Continue reading
I was going to wait to post another Various & Sundry until after the Mets lost another game, but I wouldn’t have to hold out on you until June.
– Example Number I lost count of how we are raising a nation of coddled brats.
On Thursday, the State of Israel is celebrating her 67th birthday. Naturally, pro-Israel college students nationwide have organized celebratory gatherings – ranging from guest speakers to culturally (read: food) oriented events.
On Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus, the planned celebration was not without controversy and dissent.
On April 20th, the student group Palestine@MIT issued an “open letter” decrying an Israel Independence Day celebration scheduled to take place during SpringFest. Palestine@MIT went as far as to claim that the event makes them feel “unsafe.”
– In completely unrelated news, a wide majority of Americans say they would not permit their elementary school-age children walk to school by themselves. There are some issues with the poll: elementary school-age could mean anything between 5 and 14 years-old, plus who knows how many families live miles away from school. That being the case, it’s more proof that large swathes of the public think of pre-teens as little faberge eggs that cannot be let out of adult sight for more than a second.
– Pro-abortion zealots in Colorado won’t even criminalize the act of ripping out and killing an unborn child against the mother’s wishes.
But abortion extremists — the real abortion extremists — insist that cutting a pregnant woman’s baby out of her and killing it, even against her wishes, should not be a crime in and of itself. You could charge this guy with assault for cutting the woman — but the deliberate cutting out of her unborn child would support no further charges, because it’s simply not a life. It’s not even property that could be vandalized.
– Seven Things Everyone Should Know about Pregnant Ladies. I particularly liked number four.
Another ridiculous media trope. In movies, laboring women are regularly getting raced to the hospital by mailmen or pizza boys who happen to be on hand. Nervous fathers experiment with different routes to the hospital because that extra 45 seconds will probably spell the difference between life and death.
How often have you seen this happen in real life, where a pregnant woman is rushed out of a restaurant or mall because the baby is coming right this second? Probably never. There’s a reason for that. In most cases, labor takes pretty much forever. My deliveries take so long I could just walk the six miles to the hospital, except by the time I got there it’d already be full of people who had heart attacks because they saw a laboring woman strolling along the interstate.
The movie Knocked Up was one of the few that actually got labor right, oddly enough.
Number five is also good.
A surprising number of people seem to think that pregnant women are automatic wards of the public. Nope.
That means you don’t need to give me the evil eye when I step into the coffee shop. (You don’t even know what I’m ordering. And also, it’s not your business.) There’s no reason to be scandalized if you see me in the checkout line of Total Wine. I might be going to dinner party, or getting something special for my husband’s birthday. Or maybe I am buying something for myself, which is completely fine, because guess what? I won’t be pregnant forever, or even (if it’s visible now) for very much longer. If the store is having a sale on the Lus’ favorite Shiraz, why shouldn’t I pick up a case?
We used to have British neighbors. One year they hosted a new year’s eve party. The woman was pregnant – late second/early third trimester – and she was happily drinking a beer. Most other countries do not put absolutist restrictions on alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Obviously they don’t encourage women to get drunk, but the occasional glass of wine or beer is fine. Of course not in lawsuit happy America.
– Some interesting photos of what the White House looks like completely gutted.
– Yeah, this has bad idea written all over it: Doctor Who could be coming to the big screen. It might not happen for eight years, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the series until its demise.
– And just because: Whittaker Chamber’s awesome takedown of the rancid Atlas Shrugged. There’s so much to love about this essay, but I’ll highlight this paragraph:
The overlap is not as incongruous as it looks. Atlas Shrugged can be called a novel only by devaluing the term. It is a massive tract for the times. Its story merely serves Miss Rand to get the customers inside the tent, and as a soapbox for delivering her Message. The Message is the thing. It is, in sum, a forthright philosophic materialism. Upperclassmen might incline to sniff and say that the author has, with vast effort, contrived a simple materialist system, one, intellectually, at about the stage of the oxcart, though without mastering the principle of the wheel. Like any consistent materialism, this one begins by rejecting God, religion, original sin, etc., etc. (This book’s aggressive atheism and rather unbuttoned “higher morality,” which chiefly outrage some readers, are, in fact, secondary ripples, and result inevitably from its underpinning premises.) Thus, Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made the center of a godless world.
Okay, one more
Something of this implication is fixed in the book’s dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber–go!” The same inflexibly self-righteous stance results, too (in the total absence of any saving humor), in odd extravagances of inflection and gesture-that Dollar Sign, for example. At first, we try to tell ourselves that these are just lapses, that this mind has, somehow, mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the difference between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive. Soon we suspect something worse. We suspect that this mind finds, precisely in extravagance, some exalting merit; feels a surging release of power and passion precisely in smashing up the house. A tornado might feel this way, or Carrie Nation.
George Weigel takes on the BBC’s paean to anti-Catholicism and bad history:
Wolf Hall, the BBC adaptation of Hillary Mantel’s novel about early Tudor England, began airing on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater” Easter Sunday night. It’s brilliant television. It’s also a serious distortion of history. And it proves, yet again, that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable bigotry in elite circles in the Anglosphere.
The distortions and bias are not surprising, considering the source. Hillary Mantel is a very talented, very bitter ex-Catholic who’s said that the Church today is “not an institution for respectable people” (so much for the English hierarchy’s decades-long wheedling for social acceptance). As she freely concedes, Mantel’s aim in her novel was to take down the Thomas More of A Man for All Seasons—the Thomas More the Catholic Church canonized—and her instrument for doing so is More’s rival in the court of Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell.
Hillary Mantel does not lack for chutzpah, for Cromwell has long been considered a loathsome character and More a man of singular nobility. In the novel Wolf Hall, however, the More of Robert Bolt’s play is transformed into a heresy-hunting, scrupulous prig, while Cromwell is the sensible, pragmatic man of affairs who gets things done, even if a few heads get cracked (or detached) in the process. All of which is rubbish, as historians with no Catholic interests at stake have made clear. Thus the president of the U.K.’s National Secular Society, historian David Starkey, finds “not a scrap of evidence” for Mantel’s retelling of the More-Cromwell tale; Mantel’s plot, he claimed, was “total fiction.” And as Gregory Wolfe pointed out in a fine essay on Wolf Hall in the Washington Post, historian Simon Schama has written that the documentary evidence he examined “shouted to high heaven that Thomas Cromwell was, in fact, a detestably self-serving, bullying monster who perfected state terror in England, cooked the evidence, and extracted confessions by torture.” Continue reading