A Merry Christmas To Those Who Guard Us While We Sleep

Friday, December 25, AD 2009

Hattip to Big Hollywood.  A film clip from Battleground (1949), a rousing tribute to the heroic stand of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne at Christmas 1944, which helped turn the tide of the Battle of the Bulge.  We should always be mindful of the men and women in our military who are far from their families today, celebrating Christmas often in dangerous situations.  May God bless them and keep them, and may we always remember the sacrifices they make for us.

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A Proclamation

Friday, December 25, AD 2009

The twenty-fifth day of December.

In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;

the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;

the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;

the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;

the one thousand and thirty-second year from David’s being anointed king;

in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;

the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;

the whole world being at peace,

in the sixth age of the world,

Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.

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One Response to A Proclamation

  • This was read at Midnight Mass.

    Being a man of history this really makes my skin turn into chicken skin. To think that the entire scope of history came to pass for this very moment, the birth of the Child Jesus.

    So profound was His birth that He split Time in half!

The Catholicism Project

Friday, December 11, AD 2009

Word On Fire Catholic Minstries is currently working on The Catholicism Project and is in the final stages of being completed.  It is a groundbreaking documentary series presenting the true story of Christianity and the Catholic faith, which comes in an especially timely moment in human history.

The following is a short trailer professionally done with Father Robert Barron showing snippets from footage that is being targeted for release by Christmas 2010 A.D.

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One Response to The Catholicism Project

  • Simply awesome! Father Barron appeared on EWTN’s “Life on the Rock” last night and discussed his ministry and this series. It’s apparently 10 hours (48 min./each, plus commercials) that will be released on DVD for certain, although they are trying to sell it to either network or PBS affiliates as a possible mini-series.

    Fr. Barron via Word on Fire is doing excellent work and could very well be the kind of joyful and charismatic priest that can break through modern secular mindsets and reach people where they are. Could we hope for another Bishop Sheen for the 21st century? Perhaps… and in any case, his work is very worthy of Catholic support!

Why I Don't Believe in a Young Earth

Monday, November 23, AD 2009

Some time ago, someone asked me:

Suppose–just for the sake of argument–you were convinced that an honest reading of the Tradition of the Church required you to believe that the initial chapters of Genesis were historical. Would you be able to do it, or do you think that Darwinism is so irrefutable that you would have to abandon or radically redetermine your faith?

I think this is the question that worries a lot of Catholics without a strong scientific background as they watch the evolution/creationist/ID debate on Catholic blogs. Here are these otherwise solid Christians taking common cause with the likes of the Richard Dawkins against their brother Christians. What gives? Are these folks really Christian? Do they care more about science than about faith? Do they only accept Catholicism so long as it agrees with science?

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24 Responses to Why I Don't Believe in a Young Earth

  • IMO it’s quite easy for Catholics to reconcile science and the Bible. My trust and understanding of the Bible relies entirely on the Church. My faith in the Bible comes from Christ and His Church. I accept Genesis as sacred scripture because it’s part of the deposit of Scripture that served God Incarnate, but mostly because the Church Christ established and gave authority to said this is Scripture. If we’re going to accept the Church’s authority on that, it’s equally as important to understand it as the Church understands it.

  • I studed geology and ended up a young-Earther myself. The geologcal evidence for a young earth was too great to ignore. But this hasn’t threatened or altared my Faith. I don’t see science and religion as opposed to each other or as each other’s bed fellows because science is a ***tool*** that is used to understand Creation. It’s one of **many** tools that we use to understand Creation and the meaning of life etc. People keep elevating science far above what it is meant to be and that’s when the trouble starts.

  • Ooops, hit submit to fast. I was going to end with:

    It’s like trying to elevate the tech pub (Science) to the same level of importance and greatness as the actual helicopter (Creation)… (I was a helicopter mechanic in the Navy.)

  • St. Augustine wrestled with this same question when he was a Manichean. The Manicheans taught all sorts of doctrines that are quite familiar in New Age thought today and could easily be revived as a whole, and astrology was a big one. Despite what people mistakenly think today, back then astronomers had pretty good methods of observing and recording the heavens. St. Augustine was no dummy, and he noticed that astrology did not account for either how people’s lives worked out or how the heavenly bodies actually behaved. For a while he hoped that when he finally got to talk to the really smart Manicheans, they would be able to explain why this was so. But when he discovered that they couldn’t, he had to give up the Manicheans because he saw quite rightly that one simply could not be expected to believe what was obviously not true.

    It has always been a great comfort to me that one of the smartest men who ever lived stood up for that obvious principle long, long ago, and became one of the greatest Catholics of all time. He would not expect anyone to remain a Catholic if it required people to believe things about the physical world that are obviously not true. I think that he knew a lot more about how to read and understand the Bible than I do and he did not consider Genesis to be a treatise in natural history. People who do simply do not understand how to read the Bible. They are doing the best they can to reconcile faith and reason, and because they can’t do so with their mistaken way of reading the Bible but they intuitively realize that faith must inform reason, they choose to disregard what reason would otherwise show. The solution is of course to get a better handle on Scripture and reason.

  • Your post kind of put God in a small box.

    After all, isn’t anything possible with God?

  • In all truth it doesn’t matter if the earth is 10,000 years old or 4.5 billion. What difference does it make if the universe is 1.5 million years old or 15 billion? God stated, “I AM WHO AM”. He is now! Not yesterday and not tomorrow. RIGHT NOW! So we can conclude that time is a construct for our benefit and if called to Judgment right now do you think Christ is going to ask you how old you think the earth is?

    Our faith in Christ does not require a scientific understanding. Most Christians throughour history were ignorant and illiterate. Clearly salvation does no hinge on knowledge of the world or the universe. Know Christ – that’s it.

    Now He also made us curious and I beleive this to be true even before the Fall. It is what we are curious about that needs to be corrected, not the curiousity itself. He also gave us dominion over Creation, which we know includes all we can see no matter how many billions of light years afar it is.

    I find it difficult to square the evidence (I am not a scientist) with a 10,000 year old earth. That doesn’t mean we won’t find evidence to the contrary and either way it will not change the most pivotal point in all of histroy, Our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross.

    I don’t think God would deceive us into thinking the universe is 15 billion years old as some kind of trick. I also don’t think it matters to Him if it is 1.5 million years old or 150 trillion. He is very patient – we are not.

    I alos think that in order for our temporal reality to unfold and be reasonably perceptible by our limited minds it has to be 15 bil years old because our Sun and our location in the Milky Way would not be logically possible in a shorter period of time. Creation itself is a miracle; however, it unfolds in a natural and rational manner for us to understand which is totlaly necessary for us to even notice miracles.

    If God placed us right here in this vast universe suddenly, without context we would have to accept that as a miracle and miracles would then be facts and not mysteries. If miracles are not mysteries then they are not special and if not special then the Incarnation is nothing more spectacular than a lepton.

    Where’s the adventure in that?

  • Tito,

    To say that the earth is 6,000 years old is to make God a liar. Not a good idea.

  • BA,

    I wasn’t saying or agreeing with the young earth theory, more with some of the scientific propositions that were offered.

    God is capable of creating the speed of light at approximately 186,282 miles per second, instantaneously.

  • Good post, Darwin. If you get a chance, check out the blog of David Heddle. He’s a physicist–and a Reformed Christian who takes the same tack. One of his themes is that if the Earth is indeed 10K years old, God is attempting to deceive us through His act of Creation. Which, lest we forget, is a form of revelation itself.

    I think the distinction between the miraculous and the idea the universe is 10000 years old is this:

    (1) the first inverts/suspends/makes an exception for the natural law/order, (2) the second suggests there is no such thing as natural law or a natural order. Or certainly no way to discern the latter.

  • Good post, Darwin. If you get a chance, check out the blog of David Heddle. He’s a physicist–and a Reformed Christian who takes the same tack. One of his themes is that if the Earth is indeed 10K years old, God is attempting to deceive us through His act of Creation. Which, lest we forget, is a form of revelation in and of itself.

    I think the distinction between the miraculous and the idea the universe is 10000 years old is this:

    (1) the first inverts/suspends/makes an exception for the natural law/order, (2) the second suggests there is no such thing as natural law or a natural order. Or certainly no way to discern the latter.

  • Sorry about the double post!

  • Dale,

    No problem.

    I need to read most things twice in order to ingest the information, reminds me of my college days.

  • Tito,

    It is possible that God created the world five minutes ago, complete with fake memories of the past and fake evidence indicating that the world was much older. He could do that, but the question is why He would do so, and whether believing this is consistent with what we know about His nature.

    Similarly, God could have created the world 6,000 years ago, but planted evidence to make it look like the world was much older. He could do that, but it’s hard to see why He would do that, nor is it clear that His doing so would be consistent with what we know about His nature.

  • Tito,

    Perhaps this will help clarify a bit: I certainly don’t mean to say that God _could not have_ created the world ten thousand years ago. God, in his infinite power, could create the world in any way that he chose. Though of course, God being eternal, I think there’s merit to the Augustinian idea that God exists in a single, eternal present. And so from a God’s-eye view, this moment is one with the incarnation, and is one with Adam and Eve’s fall, and is one with both the instant of creation and the end of the world. The stretch of billions of years which to us looks like the long and gradual development of the universe is in God’s mind an instant of ever-flowering creation — and it’s only our view, trapped within the temporal timeline of creation, that makes it look like “God sat around for a few billion years before single celled life even developed”, as some complain.

    So my point is not that God could not have created the world another way than he did, or indeed tha we are definitely right in our current understanding of the physical history of the world (in that I’m sure there are a lot of things we don’t know or are wrong about) but rather that I have a lot of trouble with the idea of that all the indications that the world is ancient (from seeing objects millions of light years away, to geological strata, to continental drift, to radioactive decay, to the apparent history of the other planets, to fossils, to DNA, etc.) are misleading or explained by processes totally different from what we see acting in the world today (and in some cases, incompatible with the physical laws on the universe as we currently observe them.)

    I certainly don’t think our current understanding of the universe is perfect, but I do think that as rational creatures we’re called to use our reason as best we can — and so I don’t think it would be in keeping with our calling as rational creatures made in the image of God to refuse to use our powers of reason and our senses to understand creation as best we can (and accept the conclusions of that study) just as it Augusine’s day it was his calling to understand the world through the best philosophical and scientific insights of his day, and Aquinas in his.

  • Darwin,

    Thanks for that articulate response.

    I don’t have much to offer to this intriguing debate which I have been enjoying reading (and learning a lot).

    But where I stand is that I do believe we are descended from Adam and Eve. Hence why I find it difficult to digest that we are descended from monkeys if we are made in His image. Not rhetorically or symbolically, but literally. We are made in His image.

    Not there isn’t anything wrong with eating bananas and hanging out on tree limbs, but we are special and are God’s most special creation.

    That’s my lens that I use.

    Sometimes a simple understanding can lead to the Truth.

  • Coffee Catholic writes Monday, November 23, 2009
    “I studied geology and ended up a young-Earther myself. The geological evidence for a young earth was too great to ignore”.

    In a nutshell. It is a question of scientific evidence. The Bible has nothing to do with the matter except for the non-scientific question of creation.

    Let geologists present the facts and we can go from there. The meaning of “day” and the order of creation do not affect the geological facts.

  • Darwin’s point was the same point as Pope Benedict in his Regensburg lecture — God has given us reason, which, though limited, is not to be dismissed for something sub-rational. God’s qualities, as revealed through revelation, indicate a God who does not contradict himself; reason of course is used to determine this — but if we say “don’t limit God,” then I guess we can all end up in the nominalist-voluntarist dream of God who is not limited, even by his own self-limitations.

  • Henry beat me to it… I thought of Regensburg as well.

    Tito, we are made in the image of God because we have an intellect, free will, and are made for relationship; God could’ve taken a pre-existing creature an infused these things (parts of a rational soul) at any time.

  • Interesting post, Darwin – and also interesting commenting.

    Chris, your point concerning the fact that the “image of God” is a good one. Are we to understand that being made in the “image of God” is describing a picture of a human? It seems clear to me that the human form as an image cannot be what is referenced in what we read in the Bible. What of people who are born with missing limbs or other deformities? To the outside observer, some of these people may not even appear human, yet we would not say that they lack the “image of God” we describe. Moreover, our bodies can be changed virtually at will by accident or design, yet I would argue that the image God placed in us is left unchanged, for God Himself is the only one with that power.

    For these reasons I have always equated our creation in the “image of God” to be the fact that we are given a soul that is indeed in the image of God.

  • No more they do.

    I guess I’m a bit confused as to what you mean by that in this context, though.

    As a Catholic who thinks that evolution is basically correct in regards to the history of life on Earth, I would say that at some point in history (when I would not presume to say) God infused our ancestors with immortal and rational souls, making them truly “human” in the sense that we mean the term (something which I would say is not reliant on a biological form, but rather on our nature). Not until that infusion of souls into what were, before that, bipedal and rather clever primates, did we become truly persons, truly made in the image of God, etc.

    At whatever point that divine spark entered humanity, we were permanently and irreparably set apart from the rest of the animal world, because we were no longer strictly animal, but rather both animal and rational, both animal and divine.

  • Darwin,

    Thanks for the explanation.

    I’m going to hang out in my neighbors tree house and eat some banana’s now.

  • “Gorillas don’t have souls.”

    Where in the world do you get this kind of nonsense from? By the fact that they are animals, they have souls — indeed they have a specific kind of soul which transcends the souls of plants (according to classical definitions). Catholic teaching has always said this.

  • Animals do not have rational souls. They have a vegetative and a sensitive soul that perish when they do. A good summary of Catholic teaching on this subject is linked below.


Long Remembered

Thursday, November 19, AD 2009

The new American history blog Almost Chosen People reminds us that today is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Addess, delivered on Nov. 19th, 1863. The Gettysburg Address stands unique, to my knowledge, in the American branch of the English-speaking world as the only speech by a political leader which is widely memorized and quoted in its entirety long after the fact. There are some isolated famous sections of speeches by FDR, JFK and Martin Luther King which are widely remembered, but unless anyone else can think of anything I’m completely forgetting, the Gettysburg Address is uniquely treated as a piece of rhetoric which is remembered and memorized in its entirity. (I still recall it nearly word for word, having memorized it in fifth grade.) Indeed, the only other similarly treated piece of oratory I can think of is the (fictional) Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

From our international readers, I’m curious: What pieces of oratory are similarly remembered in the British-English world, or in other non-English-speaking countries?

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4 Responses to Long Remembered

  • I’m not a foreign reader but I can’t imagine there’s not a lot of Churchill’s orations remembered.

  • I was wondering about that. Certainly, there are bunch of Churchill quotes I can recall, but most of them are only a phrase or a sentence. I’m wondering if there are any whole speeches that are memorized routinely the way the Gettysburg Address is.

  • Lincoln has the advantage that this speech is short and, therefore, more easily memorizable. Senator Edwin Everett was actually the featured speaker that day and he spoke for several hours.

  • It’s true that the Gettysburg Address has the advantage of being short; but it also, as Everett himself said, captured the cental point of the occasion, and of the war itself, much better than Everett’s 2-3 hour speech.
    The Civil War was a defining event in American history – almost a second founding of the nation – at least, that seems to be how we’ve seen it – so the Gettysburg Address is sort of up there with the Declaration of Independence (first two paragraphs) as an idealistic, but grounded, manifesto of what the United States was all about. That quality of summing up what we believe we’re all about – or supposed to be all about – makes it memorable, as much as the mastery of languange, or even the brevity.

The Banal Evils of the Police State

Tuesday, November 10, AD 2009

With the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, many who lived under the communist regime of East Germany have taken the opportunity to go to the state archives and view the files which the Stasi secret police kept on them. Stasi files were not kept only on spies and political dissenters, but on ordinary people whose “offenses” were almost shockingly mundane, and whose betrayers were often friends or family:

A West German pudding. That was all it took. Once the Stasi found out about it, a family breadwinner was fired from his army job and an East German household was plunged into destitution.

Even worse, the family later found out that they had been turned in by a close friend. “She was watering the plants and went through the cupboards to find a Dr. Oetker dessert,” Vera Iburg, who has worked with files kept by the East German secret police for the last 20 years, told SPIEGEL ONLINE, referring to the snoop. “What was she doing? She had no business there!”

It’s an interesting example of the corrupting power of temptation that the availability of the means to easily hurt those around you by reporting others to the police motivated many to inform merely for the satisfaction of it:

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7 Responses to The Banal Evils of the Police State

  • What is interesting to ponder is, how much of a “soft” police state will Americans tolerate? It’s not likely that America will have the likes of the Stasi any time soon, except in the minds of those who hyperventilate about socialism at the drop of a hat. But signs of a soft informant culture are already here. As an example, there was a PSA ad campaign running on the bus stops here in L.A. about water conservation. It featured “mug shots” of various ordinary people, with something accusatory above their faces, like “Driveway-watering Dan.” Apparently, no one thought this was the least bit disturbing. Maybe they should run something similar about people who eat trans fats.

    I don’t even want to think what will happen when gay marriage becomes the law of the land (and you know it will).

  • The structures of sin are the sins of individuals.

  • We already live in a police state. 40% of the population is on the take and will keep voting for ‘freebies’ from the largesse of the political class.

    Everyday we fall farther and farther into sin and will be willing to do anything to keep our material comforts. Sell our mothers or ‘gently let them go’ for the good of the country. Kill our sexual punishments, er, ah, babies, no, I meant fetus or is that zygot. Turn in our boss becuase he doesn’t pay enough or has some of those gold coins.

    I think there is a movie out that offers you millions of dollars at the push of a button and the button kills someone somewhere in the world. Sadly, I think there are many Americans that wouldn’t hesitate to push the button.

    The only thing that can check a police state is a moral and vigilant people who distrust their government.

  • I think the movie “The Lives of Others” which is about the East German police state, should be shown in high schools and colleges. But that would entail revealing how Communism degrades the human soul – and unfortunately, too many of the products of our schools of education still think Communism is a good idea that just needs to be executed properly.

    As an American of Eastern European descent I was estatic when the Wall came down. Now I fear the lands of my ancestors might once again be swallowed by the Russian bear.

  • Donna,

    You are assumign they won’t be swallowed by the American Eagle first. We are getting to the point where Russian Bears, American Eagles and Chinese Dragons are no different from each other. Ain’t globalism grand?

  • American Knight,

    I can certainly sympathize with feeling that the US government has become too big and too intrusive, but a police state it most certainly is not, and I’m not clear that anything is gained by exaggerating our problems out of proportion in that direction.

  • DC,

    Tha apparatus for a police state has already been put in place. Those Germans not hunted by the Gestapo may not have been bothered but they were still living in a police state.

    The greater concern is not so much the apparatus but the mentality of the people. Many so-called Americans have no problem of conscience turning on those who propose to cut the ‘freebies’.

    The current abortion issue re: the assault on health care is giving rise to anti-Catholic sentiment and there are many who want us silenced becuause we make them uncomfortable. It wouldn’t be the first time a nation that showed so much promise, had material prosperity, realtive peace suddenly takes a left turn and starts attacking Catholics. Perhaps this time it will be happier and nicer and maybe even more effective becuase Catholics will bend and blend and may not even know they are being persecuted.

    I am not trying to paint a gloomy picture and I am hopeful that we will defeat these measures and that seperated Christians will return to Rome through this; howerver, we cannot ignore the reality that the apparatus for a police state is in place and that a large minority of Americans will welcome it.

Movie About Saint Josemaria Escriva

Sunday, November 1, AD 2009

There Be Dragons

A new movie about Saint Josemaria Escriva’s early years placed during the Spanish Civil War has been produced and will be released in 2010 A.D. titled, There Be Dragons.

Saint Josemaria Escriva was born in 1902 A.D. in Barbastro, Spain.  Later at the age of 26 in Madrid Saint Josemaria started the apostolate that would eventually be called the Work of God, or simply Opus Dei, in pre-Civil War Spain in October of 1928 A.D.  Opus Dei would experience delays in progress with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 A.D.  This is the period that the setting of the movie is placed in.

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4 Responses to Movie About Saint Josemaria Escriva

  • Josemaria Escriva

    self proclaimed saint, by an opus dei pope.

    he is the guy responsible for the murder of pope Jean Paul I.

    i cant even believe this is on a religious website..
    tho im not surprised, catholic religion was infiltrated by opus dei or he same pagan opus dai.. do research ppl dont watch this.

  • Alik,

    You’re not familiar with the Church God established on earth.

    Once it is bound on earth, it is bound in Heaven.

  • are you a priest? im wondering if your associated with church in a way that i am not. i believe in Allah.

    i researched : Once it is bound on earth, it is bound in Heaven.

    i do not understand how that is relevant. are you referring to the church?

    The concept of “binding and loosing” is taught in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In this verse, Jesus is speaking directly to the Apostle Peter, and indirectly to the other apostles. Jesus’ words meant that Peter would have the right to enter the kingdom himself, would have general authority therein symbolized by the possession of the keys, and preaching the gospel would be the means of opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers and shutting it against unbelievers. The book of Acts shows us this process at work. By his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40), Peter opened the door of the kingdom for the first time. The expressions “bind” and “loose” were common to Jewish legal phraseology meaning to declare forbidden or to declare allowed.

    i was wondering if you could explain more about church that God established.

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Third World

Wednesday, September 23, AD 2009

Thought experiment:

Imagine that in 1880, Europe and the Americas had been brought into contact with another continent on which civilization had already advanced to the point at which we are now in 2009.

Let’s call this new continent Futureland, and place it in the middle of the Pacific where the Polynesian Islands are. They speak a non-Indo-European language. They’re highly secular, but have in their background an essentially animistic religion ala Shinto. The Futurelanders are friendly and open, eager to sell Americans and Europeans high tech products and to build factories in Europe and America. They also happily sell the “old world” modern farming equipment, superior strains of crops, and advise them on more efficient farming practices — resulting in a rapid increase of agricultural output which requires far fewer farmers than contemporary 1880s practices. They’re also quite willing to allow Europeans and Americans to travel to Futureland to attend university, and indeed settle there.

What happens to “old world” language, culture, political institutions, religion and economy? Would such a situation be at all desireable for Americans and Europeans, and if so in what sense?

Would such an encounter be significantly different if it were between Futureland and an “old world” circa 1800 or circa 1650? Or 1950?

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40 Responses to Third World

  • My initial thought is that it’s probably always profoundly disruptive (in a bad way) for a culture to come into contact with another which is quantum leaps ahead in terms of technology. I would imagine that even the Europe and America of 1950, if they had suddenly come into constant cultural and economic contact with a continent at 2009 levels of technology, would have quickly succumbed to a lot of the economic, political and cultural disfunctions that we associate with the third world. And the farther back you go (thus the greater the technological disconnect) the greater the disruption.

    That said, I don’t really know that there’s a way of avoiding that. Certainly, I can’t imagine anyone supporting some sort of “prime directive” in which more advanced cultures don’t allow themselves to come into contact with less advanced ones. Not only would this not work (there would be huge incentives to break the rule) but it hardly seems moral to refuse to chare information about things ranging from vaccines to agricultural techniques that would prevent famine. And yet, it appears to be massively destructive to a culture to find that someone else has done everything first.

  • DarwinCatholic:

    What stretches credibility is the fact that the highly-technologically advanced civilization which you conceived herein happens ironically to embrace not only religion but, even more remarkably, a very primitive one at that (i.e., an animistic religion).

    You’ll need to deal first with what I believe to be a discrepancy prior to any further development as to what might occur then as concerning this advanced society.

  • Sounds kinda/sorta reminiscent of Eric Flint’s “1632” series, with the difference that modern Americans (children of the West) are offering somewhat similar disruptions and benefits to war-battered 17th Century Germans. The clash is much, much less, and the interaction much more beneficial overall.

    In your scenario, I think a crucial element is population–how many Futurelanders are there? If the numbers are significantly smaller than those of Europe and North America,, then I think things may work out better. If not, then it’s going to be rather uglier, regardless of the benevolence of the FLers–it will present much more of a threat to the less advanced.

    Also, don’t discount the possibility of the Europeans/Americans providing a reverse influence on FLers. The currents run both ways, as could be seen by the late 19th century with the burgeoning western interest in “the Orient.”

  • Imagine that in 1880, Europe and the Americas had been brought into contact with another continent on which civilization had already advanced to the point at which we are now in 2009. Let’s call this new continent Futureland…

    What happens to “old world” language, culture, political institutions, religion and economy? Would such a situation be at all desireable for Americans and Europeans, and if so in what sense?

    Would such an encounter be significantly different if it were between Futureland and an “old world” circa 1800 or circa 1650? Or 1950?

    Curious, you weren’t by any chance making some compelling argument for the Prime Directive now, were you?

  • Sounds kinda/sorta reminiscent of Eric Flint’s “1632” series, with the difference that modern Americans (children of the West) are offering somewhat similar disruptions and benefits to war-battered 17th Century Germans.

    Actually, one can take, for example, Japan and the Meiji era and the “Black Ships” and the subsequent negative repercussions (as concerning their traditional society) that came along with the positive ones that propelled their relatively primitive society to become a comparatively more advanced one.

  • e.,

    What stretches credibility is the fact that the highly-technologically advanced civilization which you conceived herein happens ironically to embrace not only religion but, even more remarkably, a very primitive one at that (i.e., an animistic religion).

    Yeah, I’ll admit that’s an odder element. What I was trying to think of was that their religious background was something very different from Christianity and the monotheistic faiths generally. I landed on an animistic one basically because one of the things that’s always struck me as interesting, as someone with an affection for Japanese culture, is the way in which bits of Shinto hold on even in modern Japanese society, which is arguably one of the most technological in the world.

    But it does leave aside the argument, which I think has merit, that the monotheistic faiths and understanding of faith/reason compatibility is one of the things that resulted in Western civilization advancing more than other cultures.

  • This puts me in mind of a similar thought experiment Mencius Moldbug posed a while back:

    [W]hat would become of 1908 America, if said continent magically popped up in the mid-Atlantic in 2008, and had to modernize and compete in the global economy[?] I am very confident that Old America would be the world’s leading industrial power within the decade, and I suspect it would attract a lot of immigration from New America….

    [W]ithout computers, cell phones or even motor vehicles, 19th-century America could rebuild destroyed cities instantly – at least, instantly by today’s standards. Imagine what this vanished society, which if we could see it with our own eyes would strike us as no less foreign than any country in the world today, could accomplish if it got its hands on 21st-century gadgets – without any of the intervening social and political progress.

  • Meetings between civilizations at different levels of technology are endlessly fascinating and they don’t always go the way one would expect. The Philistines for example clearly had a technological and economic advantage over the twelve tribes of Israel and yet Philistia ultimately lost the struggle. If the technologically less advanced society can withstand the initial rush of the technologically advanced civilization, time is not always on the side of the more technologically advanced.

  • Obviously this experiment is flawed in that we can never know what would have happened or what may happen. Nevertheless, it is very interesting.

    The point that strikes me and I am sure there are many, is that we are addressing the technological superiority of Futureland. Of course, we can discuss how and why ad infinitum. What if Henry VIII had not destroyed the Catholic monasteries? Would the industrial revolution have occurred before America was populated by Europeans? Would a more religious people have handled technology better?

    The key here, at least to the aspect I noticed at first, is the question of the primacy of technological development or religious revelation?

    More advanced technology does not necessarily mean a better ‘quality of life’ it just means better means. What we, or in this case the Futurelander’s do with the technology is a matter of philosophy and application not development. I say philosophy and not religion because here we are addressing the underlying view of the culture, which may or may not be religious. Someone brought up the Star Trek Prime Directive which would be the practical application of that culture’s philosophy (clearly a secular fascist/militaristic/socialist/arrogant one).

    As neo-Shintoists or animists I would be quite fearful of what these Futurelander’s would do with superior technology. I fear conquest, domination, eradication, assimilation or a horrible combination. Their ethos would likely be utilitarian and they would perceive us as ‘lower’ and in need of their brand of ‘quality of life’. I know that we are guilty of that to some extent with our Third World; however, that is the result of human weakness and not our philosophy. At least not the primary philosophy based on the Revelation of Jesus Christ and the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Covenant.

    Keep in mind that Queen Isabel charged Columbus with bringing the Word of God to the indigenous people and decreed laws forbidding slavery and subjugation. It failed because we are fallen but the overriding attitude was make their lives better by preaching the Gospel first and applying utilitarian technology as a fruit of that and not as the primary purpose.

    I fear that Futurelander’s wouldn’t be so kind and respectful because they wouldn’t have any knowledge of the inherent human dignity that God gives to all of his creatures. They would view us as sub-par, much like Nazis thought of Jews or Klansmen think of Catholics. The results cannot be good. I also doubt they would adopt the utopian Prime Directive of observing us like you would ants in an ant-farm unless it is to learn the best way to assimilate us like the Borg.

    Either way a solid argument can be made that it is our Christian faith and the vestiges of it in our culture that we are so aggressively trying to kill that not only dispose us to want to help everyone we encounter (no matter how we screw it up) but also facilitates our technological advancement. What we do with it remains to be seen and although we have used it to improve conditions in the Third World we have also ravaged the Third World, intended or not.

    The amazing thing is they love us for our technology and hate us for our values. You’d think those are the values of Christendom that we inherited but I think they hate our neo-liberal, secular progressivist values. When Christian missionaries go visit the Third World, especially Catholics numerous souls are converted to Christ because He draws all men to Him. America still draws more men; however, it is drawing them for economic opportunity or because they are economic parasites and not because of our quality of life given us by Christ. We need to fix that.

  • I am very confident that Old America would be the world’s leading industrial power within the decade, and I suspect it would attract a lot of immigration from New America…

    Blackadder has just morphed into John Edwards with all his talk concerning Two Americas.

    If the technologically less advanced society can withstand the initial rush of the technologically advanced civilization, time is not always on the side of the more technologically advanced.

    Again: Japan.

  • Someone brought up the Star Trek Prime Directive which would be the practical application of that culture’s philosophy (clearly a secular fascist/militaristic/socialist/arrogant one).

    Actually, although I myself am not quite the fan, I believe you have a failed comprehension of what exactly is the reason for the Prime Directive and what it actually consists.

    In fact, quite ironically, it was because of the principle that mankind shouldn’t arrogantly impose inter alia their own belief system on peoples of more primitive cultures and, indeed, allow these to develop naturally on their own without their deliberate interference which could ultimately result in ominous negative repercussions for that particular people.

  • Blackadder,

    Interesting point about rebuilding efforts in that past. I remember being struck when I read the history of the Hoover Dam of the astonishing (by modern standards) speed with which it was done.

  • To let my inner geekness out I submit the following statement. Is this a violation of the prime directive?

  • e. I see what you mean; however, I know that is the intended reason but like all things Star Trek you have to read between the lines because Star Trek is a utopian secular progressive’s dream.

    What about the damage to the society because you did not introduce yourself? For example in the 4th movie installment the Enterprise crew is in 20th century San Francisco and Bones gives a kidney dialysis patient a pill and she’s cured. Would it have been ethical to withhold that?

    A more practical example: DDT kills mosquitoes; however, it may also cause damage to human beings. Africa suffers from malaria and we stopped using DDT for ‘environmental’ reasons decades ago and millions of African children have died of malaria because we saved the environment and the lives of the few that may have been killed by the side effects of the DDT. Is that ethical?

    Should we withhold preaching the Gospel because those that haven’t heard the Good News may have some cultural issues with the Word? Was it arrogant of Cortez to destroy the statue of the Humming Bird Wizard and replace it with a Madonna and Crucifix?

    I think the Prime Directive is a cowardly approach. It is condescending and arrogant and self-loathing. The assumption that all culture is morally equivalent is false. It is equally false to assume the stronger culture is better in a Neitzschian view. We must subdue the earth by unleashing our cooperative creativity – this is only valid when we creatively cooperate with the Creator.

  • What if the society that is more technologically advanced also has a large population in there Country that is still living at same level of the americas and europe? As in the “haves” are the ones with the technology and the “have nots” are not able to buy or use or whatever the advanced technology that there country actually produces.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    Note that the Empire State building was built in one year and seven or so weeks. Ground Zero has been vacant (other than the post 911 solemn clean up) for eight years.

    Amazing how the less moral a culture is the less their technology is used well. We can kill more babies in a single day than Ghengis Khan could have ever imagined!

    Things don’t look good for Futureland.

  • Rick that would denote a socialistic system in which arbitrary power determines who has and who doesn’t.

    In a free market system everyone can have access to the technology eventually.

    How much was a DVD player ten years ago? Who had them? How much are they now? Who doesn’t have one that wants one? H. D. Ford was able to reduce the price of the automobile from $3,000 to $300, a price his employees could afford.

    The socialistic system can only develop existing technology and only for a short while without a free market system to copy and acquire capital from or the incentive of war.

  • Ground zero may be empty not for lack of technology, but more for lack of will. No one is really sure what to do with it, or how anything that is done will be viewed. Also, it may be a question of economics.

  • The problem with Ground Zero is that the Gub’ment is in charge. WTC 7 was also destroyed on 9/11. The new building was operational in 2006. That’s not quite 1908 levels (the red tape of regulation applies to private enterprise these days too), but I think it indicates where the problems lies.

    Also, the Prime Directive is for sissies.

  • I think the Prime Directive is a cowardly approach. It is condescending and arrogant and self-loathing. The assumption that all culture is morally equivalent is false.

    Again, I think you have a flawed understanding of the purpose of such a directive.

    Although not really an ST fan myself, this is perhaps one of the underlying reasons I took particular interest in ST because of such things as the Prime Directive, principally due to the kind of philosophical exercise it inspires.

    Think of it: if an advanced civilization were to surrender advanced technology to a very primitive people; do you really believe doing so would not actually harm them?

    For instance, that primitive people would not have learned how to develop technology on their own (thereby, making them heavily dependent on the advanced culture for continued supply & maintenance of such advanced technology; disregarding the need for self-sufficiency), would not learn by themselves how not only to develop such technology but even technology that was distintively theirs, would not learn all the lessons necessary that only comes with that people personally undergoing their own periods of technological advancement & development (thereby, forfeiting the much needed wisdom that only comes with that process of natural development of technology), etc.

  • I’ve only read the last few comments and this is hilarious. I don’t even want to read the other comments just so I can keep this in my head all day and laugh!

    Also, the Prime Directive is for sissies.

  • Uhhhh… sorry to disappoint, but that is something that Blackadder yet again borrowed; it’s actually found on many t-shirts, in fact.

  • I don’t care, BA made me laugh!

    When I laugh I smile!

    So apology accepted son.

  • Blackadder’s delivery is what made it hilarious. (No surprise; he is, after all, Blackadder)

    Of course, the deciding factor, in this particular case, could very well be the inane simplicity of that little mind which it had consequently amused. *smile*

    The Prime Directive Rules… literally.

  • e.,

    I think I may not be posting clearly. I am far from a professional or experienced Internet poster. I can barely turn my computer on and no one will help me becuase of some directive 🙂

    I understand exactly what you think the Prime Directive is. I think the stated premise is false. The Prime Directive is a flawed, cowardly and immoral directive.

    As another poster put it so eloquently — it is for sissies.

    Technology is not art. It is not some kind of cultural expression. Technology is born of understanding the laws of the universe as made by the Supreme Lawmaker, to the extent he allows. The application of that understanding is manifested in technology.

    Prometheus didn’t steal fire from the gods. Man discovered fire in nature and learned how to use it as technology. Fire was not invented by a certain culture. Fire belongs to all men. If a man who knows how to use fire to cook food comes across another tribe of men who don’t cook their food and die from all manner of disease, does he have an obligation to share his discovery of fire with them? Does he have a right to withhold his discovery? Will the other tribe burn him to death with the new power he gives them? We can keep going.

    In any event it is immoral to view other humans (or in the ST world sentient beings) as a sociological experiment to observe from a cowardly distance for your own amusement or out of a hubristic sense of superiority. Rather it is incumbent on us to share the benefits we have been given and try hard to not share the decadence we have inherited. Foremost it is incumbent upon the West to baptize all nations in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    If Rodenberry was a Christian and not a secularist, then Star Trek may actually be cool. Rather, it stinks of a Brave New World that is antiseptic, vapid, Godless, pointless and banal. Sadly, it may be the shape of things to come if we sit back and wonder about what went wrong with our culture and seek solace in some other non-Christian culture. Instead we should be charging forth with what we know is right and begging Mercy for what we know is wrong in our own.

    The only Prime Directive is to know, love and serve the immoveable Prime Mover.

  • Technology is not art. It is not some kind of cultural expression. Technology is born of understanding the laws of the universe…

    That’s just it —

    Such a primitive race would not have any such understanding of the very gravity of such advanced technology, the wisdom required to use it wisely; the knowledge required to handle, let alone, maintain/develop it; etc.

    Now, again, that required knowledge and wisdom are usually gained only by a primitive race developing such technology on their own.

    Consider these development periods as required growth periods that must be endured by that primitive race in order to gain such knowledge and wisdom necessary for not only effectively developing and even using that sort of technology wisely but also advancing that people as a whole morally, too.

    Think of the act as being the equivalent of giving some toddler a highly technologically advanced apparatus in order to satisfy an immediate basic necessity, but without the knowledge & wisdom necessary, may potentially result in remarkably devastating consequences.

    As far as Rodenberry being/not being a Christian; although, as I’ve earlier remarked, I’m not an avid fan of the series (so, I hope somebody who is can correct me on this), wasn’t there an episode where Jesus was actually alluded to wherein Uhura (or however you spell her name) made mention of Him at the end of an episode?

  • I don’t know about all the ST episodes. I am sure some sci-fi freak on here can tell us. However even the devil knows Scripture so just a mention of Christ doesn’t make it a correct message, that is why we have Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Mageserial Teaching.

    Nevertheless, just becuase they don’t have the social understanding to use the fire of the gods doesn’t mean we get to be gods deciding if they should benefit from the technological discoveries and inventions or not. What we need to do is help them learn how to use it responsibly and why we should share our culture before we share our technology. By culture I mean our ancient culture and not the new secular crap.

    Also what makes you think that just because a society discovers a new technology that means they would know how to use it becuase it happened organicaly? We invented the nuclear bomb and then dropped it on the two largest Christian cities in Japan. Sin is sin is sin and we cannot get away from it on our own. Withholding technology from the more ‘primative’ doesn’t free them from sin and may just allow more of them to fall into the abyss.

    That is Prime Irresponsibility.

  • We invented the nuclear bomb and then dropped it on the two largest Christian cities in Japan.


    Because of our having developed that technology (knowledge) and our experience with it, we have learned (wisdom) of the horrors of its misuse that we, in the future (hopefully), would dare not repeat such horrible incidents again in our history.

    (Although, keep in mind, within the context of the ST science-fiction (again, open to correction), the human race had achieved the kind of society wherein wars between human peoples themselves were no longer waged, most likely due to the collective experiences (whereby they gained the knowledge + wisdom necessary that ultimately made this possible in the first place) that they endured as a race.)

  • You assume that we can only transfer technology and not cultural values or lessons from experience. I think history would disagree with you.

    As for the Star Trek utopian, they don’t have war in their world becuase it is science FICTION! It is fabricated on the premise that WE are the MASTERS of our destiny and we can achieve peace by sheer will and power.

    We will NEVER have true peace in this lifetime, becuase of WILL and POWER.

    Only the LORD can bring Peace and he won’t be restrained by no stinkin’ Prime Directive.

  • What we need to do is help them learn how to use it responsibly and why we should share our culture before we share our technology.

    Seriously, are we talking about a roughly advanced race here or a primitive one?

    In the case of a primitive race, how can such a people learn how to use technology if they do not possess the knowledge (e.g., an understanding of quantum physics or advanced molecular biology, etc.) required for it?

  • I think we have taken the Futureland hypothetical situation into outer space too far. Sorry for getting off on a tangent. I was trying to keep my Star Trek references limited to only the Prime Directive as brought up by someone else. I meant to discuss the intent of the Prime Directive in reference to DC’s Futureland scenario. In that regard we aren’t talking about phaser toting Kirk, Spock, Bones and crewman #5 beaming down to a planet of troglodytes, well except the hottie that Kirk makes out with.

    I was trying to apply the Prime Directive to similar people that have disparate technology. Like the USA compared to say, Belgium.

    Australian aborginines wear sneakers and have iPods. Nomadic Arabs use satelite phones. Primative African villages have access to modern medicine and water purification from missionaries and Doctors without Borders.

    So I think in the more realistic (at least more so than Star Trek) scenario of Futureland and 18th century Western culture the Prime Directive is for sissies. Furthermore, the key concern, as per my original point, is their animism combined with technological superiority as compared to our Christian faith with technological inferiority.

    I’ll keep Christ you can have the Vulcans.

  • I meant to discuss the intent of the Prime Directive in reference to Futureland scenario.

    I don’t think anybody here was actually arguing for the Prime Directive being applied to Futureland.

    Moreover, I don’t think the purpose of DarwinCatholic’s entry here was to contradict the Christian faith or challenge the spreading of the Gospel, as somebody here seems to have mistakened.

    Although, I would’ve love to have witnessed Blackadder becoming unnerved once again by remarks concerning a much beloved British Empire, which could’ve easily been the subject of DarwinCatholic’s own Futureland!

  • My last comment was tongue in cheek, e., I wasn’t trying to disparage. I also didn’t think anyone was trying to disparage the Christian faith. I am confident that was one aspect, the one I discussed, that was actually central to the discussion on account of the people of Futureland being animist.

    There are many aspects to this interesting question that we can discuss. I think the most relevant to the US at this time is the fact that we import our errors (even though they may only be promoted by a small cabal) rather than our successes. Successes born of the vestiges of Christian philosophy that we inherited from Christendom. The same values preserved by the Church.

    I am reminded of the splendor of the moral, relatively considering they were pagan, Roman Republic that was the springboard for the Roman Empire, which collapsed under the wieght of its immorality and diminishing warrior capacity borne of it. The fights between the Optimates and the Populares are a foreshadow of the Republicans and Democrats today.

    From the ashes of Rome rose Christendom, warts and all, and the conduit was and is the Church.

    We still hold on to more Christian values than most would care to admit, yet that is not the face we show the world. Assuming we are the Futurelanders, we are foisting our errors on the world while we let our true successes falter. This cannot last and if we shirk our inheritence, we will go the way of Rome and the less ‘advanced’ cultures will overtake us or we will become slaves for a small oligarchy becuase we are so weak.

    Of course, I could also be completely off base and have no idea what DC expected when he posted this interesting scenario.

  • I’m not entirely convinced of DarwinCatholic’s argument though.

    Although, I admit, his theory here seems quite interesting:

    But it does leave aside the argument, which I think has merit, that the monotheistic faiths and understanding of faith/reason compatibility is one of the things that resulted in Western civilization advancing more than other cultures.

    If one were to survey history itself, many of the advances that collectively contributed to the overall advance of Western Civilization itself were largely due to those that happened to eminate from once great civilizations, which were themselves non-monotheistic.

    Firstly, DarwinCatholic needs to provide evidence for his claim, however interesting it may very well be for the Christian personally.

    Yet, I’d suspect that a compelling argument can be made similarly wherein Western society was only able to make such great strides only when it dare challenged the existence of “God” and not actually because it was generally monotheistic.

  • Besides, Muslims are monotheistic.

    And while they once possessed great medical technology back in the middle ages, look at where their countries are now.

  • e.,

    You call for DC to provide evidence and maybe that is a good idea. Then you make some assertions and provide no evidence yourself.

    What are these great strides of the West that eminated from poly-theistic cultures and the times that the West challenged the existence of God?

  • Also, the Prime Directive is for sissies.

    Dang skippy!

    wasn’t there an episode where Jesus was actually alluded to wherein Uhura (or however you spell her name) made mention of Him at the end of an episode?

    They’d been assuming that folks were “Sun” worshipers, and they were “Son” worshipers. The roman gladiator ep.

    You assume that we can only transfer technology and not cultural values or lessons from experience. I think history would disagree with you.

    For real people, I agree with you; for the Star Trek people, well… they’re not so very bright, y’know? One of their Smart Guys chose *Nazi Germany* as a good template when he broke the Prime Directive….
    I don’t think they’ve got the gumption to effectively transfer culture, since they can’t even manage to say “boo” (or stop following a treaty) when the Romulans break treaties left, right and center.

    They also decided that Data, despite all evidence, was not a person in a moral or legal sense, and are letting the Cardassian empire rebuild without any attempt to tilt them towards, say, a Republic instead of a military dictator-bureaucracy. About the only group that tries to spread their “faith” is the Ferangi– oh, and Ambassador Spock is trying to convert the Romulans to logic….

    Why, yes, I am a geek who knows a bit about Star Trek…..

  • Woah! You lost me somewhere around the leap from ST to DS9 🙂

    Funny, they have these rules that they honorably stick by no matter what the consequences are. The problem is the rules are man made and flawed. Kind of like the leader of a powerful nation bending over backwards to appease and apologize to nations that want his dead. All the while he attacks his own people. I wonder if something like that would ever happen here. . .Hmm. . . ?

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  • Let’s just say I’m praying for a Sisko… or even a Spock….

History and the End of Schism

Wednesday, September 16, AD 2009

Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill

Rumors and rumors of rumors of an imminent end to over a thousand years of the Great Schism between Catholics and Orthodox have exploded over these past few days.  If these rumors are correct then not since the Ecumenical Council of Ferrara-Florence have these great Church’s been so close to unity.

In A.D. 1054 Catholic prelate Humbert and Orthodox prelate Michael Cærularius excommunicated each other.  This marks the beginning of the Great Schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Church’s.

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18 Responses to History and the End of Schism

  • Good post, balancing the hope with realism. One slight correction: Mount Athos contains a solid bloc of hardcore anti-Catholics, perhaps (probably?) even the majority of the monks there. But there are those loyal to the Ecumenical Patriarch who are there, too.

  • This has already been all over the blogosphere in Orthodox circles as well as Catholic – Archbishop Pezzi is clearly expressing naive optimism here. Archbishop Hilarion is indeed visiting Rome, but Pezzi made his announcement before Hilarion even set foot in the eternal city. The other question is what did Pezzi actually say in Italian; perhaps it is a mistranslation.

  • Alan,

    I read Irenaeus posting and my impression was it was all over the Orthodox blogosphere, not necessarily the Catholic blogosphere. Just wanting to be exact.

    I agree that Archbishop Pezzi was overly optimistic, but my thinking is that he’s basing it on previous dialogue with the Orthodox, not a prediction of the Hilarion-Kasper talks.


    I only threw in the “Mount Athos crowd” to represent the many Orthodox that are against any form of ecumenism Patriarch-and-Pope-be-damned.

  • “Just wanting to be exact since you want to make a pointless point.”

    The blog to which I linked is a Catholic/Orthodox blog.
    The story was also on NLM just yesterday. The “pointless point” judgment seems kind of harsh – not sure where that is coming from?? Maybe it didn’t come across in my comment, but my point was that most seem to be taking this with a grain of salt, and rightfully so.

  • Alan,

    I edited that out before you were able to reread it.

    No harm done.

    Posting isn’t the same as talking in person.

    I don’t read the NLM as much as I used to in the past, so I missed that one.

  • Teófilo over at Vivificat also has a good post on the subject from Monday with some interesting points.

  • LOL…

    I didn’t want to bash Archbishop Pezzi, so I tried to be diplomatic concerning his enthusiasm, but I do agree with Teofilo’s assessment on the archbishops exuberance!

  • Thank you for the link to Vivificat!

    With all due respect to Archbishop Pezzi, the expectations he has ignited need to be dowsed with a cold, wet showert of realism.

    In Christ,

  • Assuming this somehow goes through, would that mean RCs could fulfill Mass obligations by going to an Orthodox parish (will they still be called RC and Orthodox)? What would the post-schism Church look like?

  • c matt,

    I believe you already can fulfill your obligation to go to Mass in an Orthodox parish ONLY IF it is impossible to fulfill that obligation in a Roman Catholic Church (or those in communion–Byzantine, Ukrainian Catholic… ect.) Though, you can not partake in Communion.

  • Daniel,
    I believe you already can fulfill your obligation to go to Mass in an Orthodox parish ONLY IF it is impossible to fulfill that obligation in a Roman Catholic Church (or those in communion–Byzantine, Ukrainian Catholic… ect.)

    That’s correct and would change if they were in full communion, you’d be free to assist for any reason and even switch rituals formally (with permission) as is the case with th Uniates now.

    Though, you can not partake in Communion.

    the Catholic Church permits you to receive as long as you defer to the celebrant. As I understand it Orthodox are quite restrictive and will not allow it unless perhaps prior arrangements are made.

  • Matt is more or less right here. The Catholic Church is more permissive than the Orthodox (any Orthodox is welcome to take our communion, but told to follow the rules of their jurisdiction), and we are told, in various circumstances (not all) that we can take Orthodox communion (though most Orthodox will not give it to Catholics, some will). Then there are some, like the Armenian Orthodox and Catholic, who freely share communion.

  • I like the fact that we are able to partake in some sacraments with the Orthodox under certain conditions.

    Though the Orthodox in America are more receptive to this, do you see this attitude changing for the better in traditional Orthodox lands?

    I am aware of the amount of distrust that many Greeks and Russians share towards Catholics, is this changing as well?

    Just questions because of all of the ecumenical efforts we’ve done since Vatican II, it is the Orthodox that I see real progress in reuniting with more than any other ecclesiastical group (the Orthodox being the only other real Church).

  • Mr. Edwards and friends,

    In your article/commentary you said the following, which needs correction:

    “Outside of malefactors such as the Mount Athos crowd and the Orthodox resentment of the sacking of Constantinople, anything is possible.”

    Webster’s dictionary defines malefactor as:

    “one who does ill toward another”.

    It is unfortunate that such ignorance or malice exists among those roman catholics who respect the Orthodox Church and desire to be united to it. For, the Holy Mountain of Athos is THE ark of true Christian Spiritual Life in the Church, a bastion of true Christian spiritual practice and defender of the Truth of Revelation for over 1000 years. Her life and Saints are the heart of the Orthodox Church in the 2nd millenium. To say that the holy fathers of Athos are intent on doing ill to others or even to the desire for true unity in Christ is an affront to all who love Truth and to all Orthodox Christians. They have been and are today lights to every sincere practitioner of Christian love and without them and their agreement no true union can take place.

    Your ignorance is one of the many obstacles standing in the way of real progress toward unity in Christ. I hope that you will correct your error and take time to learn more about the Garden of the All-Holy Mother of God (as Athos is known).


    Panagiotis Dimitriadis

  • Panagiotis Dimitriadis,

    It is unfortunate that such ignorance or malice exists among those roman catholics who respect the Orthodox Church and desire to be united to it

    We desire the return of ALL Christians to the One Holy Catholic Church. We pray that the Orthodox chuches return in their integrity as particular churches.

    Your pride is one of the many obstacles standing in the way of real progress toward unity in Christ.

  • Panagiotis Dimitriadis,

    I noticed you referred to Catholic with the small “c”, but the Orthodox with the large “O”.

    You need to remove the speck in your own eye before commenting.

    By the way, the ARK is the Virgin Mary carrying Jesus to birth and I referred to the Mount Athos crowd, ie, those like yourself that hold ill-will towards Catholicism in general and unity in particular.

  • Regarding the Unity of The Holy Spirit and the Filioque: If we believe in the UNITY of God, The Father, The Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is, seen and unseen AND one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of The Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, ONE IN BEING with The Father…THEN, in order to be a Trinity, The Holy Spirit, The Love Between The Father And The Son, must proceed from The Father AND The Son, to begin with.

Poland And Russia Battle Over WWII History

Tuesday, September 1, AD 2009

Today is the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II as Germany bombarded Westerplatte with canon fire.  Katyn massacre posterEventually Germany made peace with their neighbors by recognizing the role they played in the devastation of Europe.  Since then Europe has experienced only one conflict[1] since the end of World War II.

But Russia remains another matter.

Russia continues to be belligerent in their interpretation of the war.  Denying much culpability in their conflict with Poland and even insinuating of Polish-German designs on the Soviet Union.

In the days leading up to anniversary, Russian media has aired a string of accusations against Poland, claiming that Warsaw intended to collaborate with Hitler in an invasion of the Soviet Union, and that Jozef Beck, Poland’s foreign minister in 1939, was a German agent. Moscow broadcasters have also claimed that there was a “German hand” in the 1940 Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish PoWs, an atrocity generally held to have been the exclusive work of Stalin’s secret police.

In fairness, the de facto ruler of Russia, Vladimir Putin, did offer a conciliatory tone relating to Russia’s aggression towards Poland:

“Our duty is to remove the burden of distrust and prejudice left from the past in Polish-Russian relations,” wrote Mr Putin, who went on to describe the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as “immoral”, and also thanked Poland “from the bottom of my heart” for the 600,000 Poles who fought on the Eastern Front under Red Army command.

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12 Responses to Poland And Russia Battle Over WWII History

  • Great post, Tito–and an important reminder of the world-spanning nightmare that began on this day.

    I grit my teeth to say this, given that Putin is nothing short of a murderous thug, but his statement is an excellent one. Given where Russia is now, his opinion counts for more than the increasingly rabid pro-state media’s. Or Dmitri Medvedev’s.

  • I agree, Mr. Medvedev is nothing more than a symbolic leader.

    I don’t see Russia apologizing for anything in the near future. If the current Oil drop in prices hasn’t shaken Russia, then nothing will.

    Russia needs to admit their role in World War II of being more than a ‘benevolent liberator’.

  • I grit my teeth to say this, given that Putin is nothing short of a murderous thug…

    As if the ex-KGB, who himself was responsible for many heinous crimes, could actually be considered anything less than.

  • It’s nitpicking, but I think the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, to cite but one instance, would count as another European conflict post-1945.

  • This is the kind of “nitpicking” I actually appreciate.

    Well done.

  • Putin might also call immoral the fact that the Red Army stood by and did nothing after the Polish Home Army rose in revolt in Warsaw in 1944 while the Soviets were at the very gates of Warsaw. For 63 days the Soviets did nothing to aid the uprising. They allowed the use of Soviet air bases by the Western Allies dropping supplies to the Poles only near the end of the rising after the Soviets knew it was nearing defeat. As ever, Stalin was only too happy to have Hitler kill Poles for him.

  • Don:

    You can hardly blame the Soviets for being the Soviets. A successful Polish Home Army would have been a potential contender for power in post war Poland.

    As Professor Norman Davies points out in his history of the Warsaw Rising much of the blame for the rising failure can be laid at the feet of the British and the US governments which encouraged the Poles to revolt and promised assistance when they had no way to provide such assistance and knew such resistance would be futile but would aid them by tying up German troops.


    The Poles – as before the war – were fools to depend on the assurances of countries that had no means by which to provide assistance.

  • Bloody murderers Awakaman can always be blamed for being bloody murderers. I have read Davies’ book and as usual he mixes insight and rubbish. It was the Polish government in exile in England that was pushing for the revolt. The Americans and Brits could care less since holding down troops in Poland, which never amounted to more than a few low grade Wehrmacht divisions diverted from the Eastern front, was of little consequence to the Western allies. They wanted more recruits for the Polish forces fighting in the West and operations in Poland were a very low priority for the Brits and the Americans.

    As for the Poles being fools, they fought gallantly throughout WW2 against foes seeking to exterminate them. They engaged in no action against Hitler or Stalin in 1939, but they were a marked nation. Against all the odds they have outlived as a people both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. I regard them not as fools but as rather one of the more heroic nations that fought in WW2.

  • BA,

    Not at all, it isn’t nitpicking.

    I’m a history aficionado and so I’m surprised that I forgot about the Hungarian Revolution of ’56.

    Good catch!

  • As Professor Norman Davies points out in his history of the Warsaw Rising much of the blame for the rising failure can be laid at the feet of the British and the US governments

    And professors can always be blamed for being professors.

    “What is the function of intellectuals, but to tell us that things are not as ordinary people perceive them?” – Fr. Neuhaus.

  • usa stood by and watched more than 20 million russians getting killed. When the Sovietuning was standing before poland they “interveined”.
    Usa the great liberator….

    Who else when not russia?

  • What complete rubbish. The US provided extensive lend lease aid to the Soviets throughout the war, which included hundreds of thousands of vehicle and extensive food aid to feed the Red Army. The British and the Americans tied down one-third of the Wehrmacht in the West throughout the war, and the bomber fleets of the British and the Americans devastated Germany and forced the Luftwaffe to redeploy from the Russian front many of their fighter squadrons in order to defend Germany from the Allied bombers.

Coming to America

Friday, August 14, AD 2009

The US is a nation of immigrants, and as such, many of us grew up with stories of how our ancestors came here. In what I hope can be a friendly, Friday-afternoon atmosphere, the purpose of this thread is to allow people to tell stories about how and when their ancestors came to the US.

I can trace back three stories, some sketchier than others:

Irish Story
famine My paternal grandmother’s family all Irish stock from County Cork, who’d left during the Great Famine in the 1840s and settled in Iowa. Several men out of the next generation served the Union in the Civil War, and two generations after that, twin brothers Clare and Clarence, both priests, served as chaplains for US soldiers in the Great War. One of their sisters served as a nurse in the war as well.

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20 Responses to Coming to America

  • I actually don’t know much about my family history back before a couple of generations. We were Irish settlers in Oklahoma but we were protestants, which was unusual. My great-gandfather was a professional gambler, and almost got killed a couple of times on account of a card game gone bad.

  • I was wondering – do you know why your Irish ancestors went to Iowa? I have Irish ancestors who went to Ohio and then settled in southeast Iowa (where I live). I am curious as to why they went to Iowa. Thanks!

  • Syrian and Irish/Welsh here!

  • I was wondering – do you know why your Irish ancestors went to Iowa?

    No idea, I’m afraid. Though I gather that the town they lived in was pretty heavily Irish Catholic, so it may just have been looking for a familiar culture.

  • Hehe, the shortest one I have is my dad’s mom’s family.

    Great-Grandfather Ivie’s family got kicked off the land they’d been working as far back as records go because sheep were worth more, so they scraped up a few hundred dollars and he and his oldest brother, plus a friend named John, came to the USA– through San Fran, I believe. (Had to have $100 in your hand to walk through the gate for immigration.)

    They worked hard, got enough money to bring the rest of the family over and buy a lot of sheep. (although apparently they did walk down the fence and pass the money back through a few times to get everyone through. ;^p)

    Ivie married a very socially conscious lady, ended up owning a large chunk of Modoc county CA, and funded an “Indian School” while raising three lovely girls, all of whom went to college. (My grandma did so at 16– and MAN did that piss off my feminist history professor when I brought it up.) When Ivie died, he gave the majority of his land to the state, because he thought it was very important that EVERYONE have some ownership of land, and that was the only way he knew. (If you’ve been to the Smithsonian and seen the meteor that’s about hip-tall and is out for folks to touch, from Modoc County, that’s from one of the areas he donated– one of his sheep watchers found it)

    The friend John also got rich, then sold his share of the sheep business to the family and went back to Scotland– he wanted to own a pub. That would’ve been about the turn of the century, since it was before my grandma’s sisters were born.

    About 1990, a guy in a suit comes and knocks on my Grandma’s door and introduces himself– it’s John from Scotland, who had heard his dad’s stories all his life, had (of course) managed his money well, and wanted to meet the closest thing his dad had to family. ^.^ Awesome dude, too.

  • On my father’s side, we’re all from dear old Ireland, Charlestown, County Mayo. My great grandfather left in black 47, a year after the town was started. When I was visiting Charlestown two years ago, the church had a cornerstone from the previous church embedded in the wall, one that my great grandfather would have seen before he left.
    He went to Indianapolis and became a vegetable farmer, later buying a boarding house in town. My grandfather came to Oregon, living about two blocks from the business I bought back in the ’80s. He started working as a grocery clerk and then became a bookkeeper for a lumber company. Eventually, he rose to president of the company. My father and his brother both became lawyers. Their sister married well, but died of cancer in the ’50s.
    I actually know more of my mother’s family, where I can trace ancestry back to the 1600’s. While most of her family is also Irish, she had a Dutch great grandmother and an Alsatian great-great grandmother, who met her Irish great-great grandfather while they were both on the boat coming to America. They settled in Latrobe PA and raised an enormous family Irish Catholic family, which also produced a similar sized family in the next generation. My great grandfather came to Portland to run the Union Pacific Railroad in the northwest, in the days when the Union Pacific was fighting the Northern Pacific for control of transportation in the west. We’ve been here ever since. It’s a bit unusual, though, that both my mother’s family and my father’s were Irish Catholic Republicans, an unusual combination, especially in the days of the Great Depression. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a State Senator and he would never say the words “Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

  • The furthest relative I can trace is on my father’s side: John Crouch Sr. His son Jesse built a cabin which stood on family property in east Tennessee until about 1990, when it was restored. I can remember visiting my great-grandfather on the property, where, in his retirement, he grew tobacco. The property remains in the family to this day. Between Jesse and myself, there were a number of Baptist preachers. I wonder what they would say to my Catholicism . . . .

  • I’m fairly certain my mother’s side has been Maronite Catholic for as long as there have been Maronite Catholics in Lebanon. My great-grandparents came here in the 1910s.

    On my father’s side, I know there was an officer in the Civil War who fought for the Union, even though he was from Texas. I’ve always been proud of that fact 🙂

    I always found it fascinating that there is a historical possibility my Anglo and Lebanese ancestors could have met through the Crusades.

  • Joe:

    On my father’s side, I know there was an officer in the Civil War who fought for the Union, even though he was from Texas. I’ve always been proud of that fact.”

    And well you should! 😉

    More seriously, there’s a great book about the large number of southern whites (as opposed to the obviously huge number of freed slaves and freedmen) who fought for the Union, “Lincoln’s Loyalists.”


    The surprising fact: Every seceding state except South Carolina raised at least one regiment that fought for the Union, Tennessee raising the most. In fact, one entire Tennessee cavalry regiment–to a man–went over to the Union during one of the early skirmishes in the war.

    I imagine that was rather disconcerting for the Confederate commander.

  • Oh, and on topic: My father’s side: hardscrabble English from Kent and south Welsh stock. Before Grandma Price passed, one of her sisters said they had second cousins still living in the vicinity of Canterbury. Not that they’d loan me money, so that’s that.

    Mom’s side has the same English/Welsh mix, along with Dane/Scot on her father’s side and Bavarian on her mother’s. The furthest anyone’s traced back is also on my mom’s side, to 17th Century Bavaria, a Protestant named Johann Garr eager to emigrate. It’s through Mom’s side we also claim descent from Daniel Boone through one of his daughters, though that’s a little murkier and might be Kentucky braggadocio.

    My kids have even more diversity, catching Irishness, and more direct Scottish and German (Alsatian) links.

    How we got “here” is always fascinating to ponder. Reminds me of the old Norman Rockwell “family tree” picture.

  • “The US is a nation of immigrants…”

    And of natives, though we treat them badly.

  • I don’t have much information on my mother’s side of the family — Vanderbilt, Dutch-Reformed, but no relation to the distinguished family. Both of my grandparents were Protestant missionaries: the Vanderbilts to Japan; the Blossers to China, then Japan when expelled by the Communists. (Grandma Vanderbilt’s father, Cornelius Kuipers, also served as a pastor to the Zuni Indians).
    My father took time to trace back the Blosser family line. Swiss-German Mennonites who can boast a number of ministers and at least 3 “bishops”. A compilation of our history was made here. We can trace our family back to Peter Blosser (Blaser, Bläser, Blasser — “a Mennonite family name found in Switzerland as early as 1710”); immigrated to America in 1739.

    Peter’s son, Peter Jr., was married at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He moved to Virginia in 1776 and had a difficult time making a living, on account of having to hide, avoiding service in the military due to his religious convictions.

    We are descendants of his son, Jonas Blosser (1791-?). It was reported that Jonas “once got a laceration over a foot-long in his thigh and sat down and sewed it up himself”, and that a son, Abraham, was something of a speed demon in his horse-draw buggy, taking off at a furious gallop after church.

    Our particular line settled in Harrison, VA, then Concord, Tennessee and finally in Iowa in 1906. Many of them were farmers — one died gored by a bull; another drowned in a pond. Miracle that we’re still here. =)

    My grandfather’s maternal grandmother, Catherine (“Kate”) Shank 1855-1932 (A7), was born extremely prematurely and was so small that “a half dollar was large enough to hide her face,” “a kernel of corn would cover her hand,” she would have fit “in a quart cup and covered with a hand,” she “was fed with a medicine dropper, and was carried about on a pillow wrapped in a blanket until she was six months old,” and was kept warm “in the kitchen by the oven”; “but in spite of her smallness at birth she lived to have fifteen children”, and outlived her first husband by 28 years.

    My father was the first Catholic of the Blosser family that I know of — followed by myself and two of my brothers.

  • Interesting bit of Civil War (or preferred Southern equivalent) history, Joe and Dale.

    Though I can’t cite all the facts of the matter, I’m told my paternal grandfather’s family had a genu-wine Confederate deserter who was hanged for his dereliction.

    He was a small farmer who decided his field and family needed tending more than the looming disaster that was the Noble Cause.

    D neglected to mention it above, but it is rumored that he had an ancestor who actually was hanged for horse thieving! (I’ll keep him anyway.)

  • On my father’s side the family has been here since before the Revolution, except for the Cherokees who have been here since humans first came to this country. My mother’s side is pure Irish with her grandfather emigrating to Canada in the nineteenth century steerage class. He was a tough old bird who regarded both kneelers and pews as Protestant innovations. As a very old man he would take my mom to Mass and stand throughout the Mass in the back of the Church except when he was kneeling on the stone floor.

  • Gabriel Austin-

    My Indian ancestors were immigrants, too.

    Earlier waves, but still immigrants.

    There’s a great deal of interesting research out there about the various waves of immigration that passed through, usually detectable by folks being killed by weapons different from what they had. -.- Sometimes humans suck.

  • In the early 1900s my paternal grandfather emigrated from Syria as a teenager, alone, to an upstate NY community fairly well-stocked with Christian Syrians and Lebanese. About all I know of his pre-American life was that he had a white horse. Here, he worked as a sandblaster and janitor. My paternal grandmother was also Syrian, adopted, family unknown. Her work ethic, respect for education, and adoring zeal ensured that all four daughters (!) and of course my dad went to college. They all worked to pay for each other’s tuition. I have a photograph of my dad as a boy, surrounded by sharecroppers with huge bottles of beer.
    On my mother’s side, there is a combination of a whiff of French (Canadian & Catholic), some German (Lutheran), some Isle of Man, and two big helpings of Scots. One member of the family put together a thorough genealogy, now lost, tracing us back to William the Conqueror through the Argyll Campbells. Still have the paperwork for the discharge from the Union Army of a Campbell forebear, but beyond that, no clue as to how early we entered into American history.
    Curious tales from the maternal side of the family include a young female relative pushed off a bridge in the dead of night by the mob because she “knew too much” (the murderers left the Boston terrier she was walking tied to the railing, unharmed), and another female relative who went west during a Gold Rush and shot a mountain lion who tried to attack her while she was hanging out laundry.
    Like Joe Hargraves, I wonder sometimes if my ancestors crossed paths during the Crusades. My father is certain his family has been Christian since St. Paul arrived to convert them.

  • Three of my four grandparents came from Mexico during the early twentieth century. My fourth (maternal grandmother) was from San Antonio. Her family there from the days when Texas belonged to Spain. She used to say, “Yo no soy Mexicana, yo soy Texana.”

  • Suz,

    It might be. I was reading just the other day that 1-2% of Lebanese Christians have Western European genes, speculated to have been passed down by Crusaders.

    Moreover, my great-grandfather (from Lebanon) and great-uncle had light brown hair. As far as I know my family lived in the mountains of Lebanon since the days of the Phonecians. I could have some of that Crusader blood.

    And there’s even a possibility that this Crusader ancestor was also an ancestor on my father’s side, a common point in two family trees a world apart.

  • DarwinCatholic: Thank you.

The Scarlet and The Black

Thursday, August 13, AD 2009

Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty

Here, at 8:39, in my opinion, is one of the more profound observations on film about the Catholic Church and History.  The evil that men do make many a blood stained page of History, but the Church survives throughout History as Caesars, Emperors, Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Commissars, Fuhrers, Caudillos, Duces, General Secretaries, would be fake messiahs, etc, pass away.

The Scarlet and the Black (1983) is one of the better films dealing with the Catholic Church.  Gregory Peck is brilliant as Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, who during World War 2, hid 4000 escaped Allied POWs and Jews from the Nazi occupiers of Rome.  Christopher Plummer gives the performance of his career as Obersturmbanfuhrer (Colonel) Herbert Kappler, the head of the Gestapo in Rome.  John Gielgud gives a stunningly good performance as Pius XII.  At one point when he confronts a Nazi delegation he merely stares at them with steely disdain until they get the hint and leave.  I imagine the actual Pius XII used a similar look of disdain when, on March 11, 1940, his response to a complaint by the Nazi  Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop that the Church was siding with the Allies, was to read to Von Ribbentrop a long list of atrocities committed by the Nazis in Poland, which had been compiled by the Church.  This is a superb film that should be seen by every Catholic.

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7 Responses to The Scarlet and The Black

  • Didn’t know about this one. I’ll have to check it out. thanks for the heads up.

  • I was introduced to this film when I was in Rome in the late 1990s by a dynamic young priest working in the Roman Curia.

    He’s since been elevated to the dignity of the episcopate, and I continue to watch this film about once a year.

    I’ve never been able to discover what happened to Kappler’s wife and children, but the post-script in the movie implies they never visited him while he was imprisoned.

  • One of my favorites!

  • This post reminded me of ne of the finest tributes to the Church’s endurance while secular powers vanish into the dust. It was written as part of the rumination of an atheist character in “The Sunrise Lands”, a sci-fi book about the death of electricity, gunpowder and the internal combustion engine. Alas, it’s not at my fingertips, but I’ll post it later. It even included a mocking swipe at Stalin’s “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

  • One of the best films out there concerning the Church.

    Very heartwarming.

  • Here it is:

    Stalin had meant mockery when he asked how many divisions the Pope had, but in the end his bewildered successors had found it didn’t matter; and men-at-arms and castles could come into the same category. At seventh and last men were ruled from within their heads by ideas as much as by clubs from without, and a careful ruler kept it in mind.

    The Church had outlasted any number of systems that looked stronger than iron at the time, and had ridden out many storms that claimed to be the wave of the future; she was wise with years, and infinitely patient, and bided her time.

Clio and the Catholic Church

Tuesday, August 11, AD 2009

Clio Muse of History

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a deep love for History.  I am glad that many Catholic bloggers share my passion.  Pat McNamara has a fine blog, named, fittingly enough, McNamara’s Blog, here, dealing with Church history.  I have found his posts to be insightful, concise and gracefully written, and he is definitely worth a visit.  I love this quote from one of my favorite writers, that old Whig Thomas Babington Macaulay, that graces the side of his blog:  (I am giving the full quote):

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Book Review: Valkyrie

Friday, August 7, AD 2009

Valkyrie, The Story of the Plot to Kill Hitler, by its Last Member is a fascinating book, though not primarily for reading about the Valkyrie plot itself. Other books have been written specifically about the plot, and I would imagine that from some of them you could find far more details about the plot itself. This book, a narrative of Philipp von Boeselager’s wartime experiences as he told them to Florence Fehrenbach (herself the granddaughter of another of the Valkyrie conspirators) a year before his von Boeselager’s death in 2008, is in many ways too close and personal a story to give the reader the most detailed possible understanding of the plot as a whole. So long as the reader understands this, Valkyrie is a fascinating window on the experiences of an honorable young man caught up in the Third Reich.

The son of an old Catholic family of minor nobility with a tradition of military service, Philipp credits his resistance to Nazi ideology in part to his school headmaster, Fr. Rodewyck, who had served as a German officer in the Great War before going into the Jesuits, and whom von Boeselager credits with having taught his young charges a German patriotism which was rooted in Christianity.

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2 Responses to Book Review: Valkyrie

Reading Michael Burleigh

Tuesday, July 28, AD 2009

Despite a semester overseas in England and mandatory schooling in the subject, it is to my great regret that I neglected to pay much attention to European history in college. What I did study a decade ago I’ve barely retained — something I’ve been compensating for in years since, by way of a 45 minute subway commute that provides just enough time to get a few chapters in.

The British historian Michael Burleigh is one whose work I’ve discovered recently and have benefited greatly from reading. Earlier this year I finished Earthly Powers (“The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War”) and am now working through the sequel: Sacred Causes (“The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror”). Both volumes are fascinating studies of European history, through the prism of church-state relations and the myriad attempts of each to assume the role of the other.

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6 Responses to Reading Michael Burleigh

  • Christopher, Burleigh is one of my favorites of the current crop of historians. His recent book Blood and Rage on terrorism is must reading. Here is a link to a review by Andrew Stuttaford.


    Here is a link to his blog.


    Burleigh is immune to the problem that afflicts most historians today, a tone deafness when it comes to religion. Burleigh understands that much of politics since 1914 really cannot be understood unless we realize that a fair amount of it, especially in the totalitarian states, was a search for substitute religions.

  • Burleigh is generally excellent. But I have one quibble with him – he seems to have a blind spot where the Irish are concerned. In “Sacred Causes,” he is not just very hard on the IRA (they are entirely fair game in my book), but on the Irish people and culture as a whole. I do not have a drop of Irish blood and I thought he was being unfair. Paul Johnson, who wrote a short history of Ireland, is much more evenhanded.

  • Thanks you for sharing your thoughts on this. I too enjoy Burleigh’s work, also enjoying his frequent contributions to Standpoint (http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/michael-burleigh). Also, for any who enjoy the Hoover Institution’s presentations (many of which are available to download, for instance, through iTunes), Burleigh somewhat recently gave a great speech there, definitely worth checking out.

  • I too found his take on Ireland a little odd. His chapters on Spain and Ireland in this century certainly seem to contradict the assertions of some that a focus on moral issues is particularly Protestant or Calvinist, since ultra-Catholic governments also engaged in such practices. I found both Earthly Powers and Sacred Causes very interesting, and I wish they could have been longer – there was nothing on secularization in Scandinavia, which I thought would have made for an interesting comparison with Britain.

  • Sounds interesting. I’ll have to look at these.

  • Pingback: Modern Historians on Pope Benedict » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

Ending the Revolution

Saturday, July 4, AD 2009

The 4th of July is the primary patriotic holiday of our country, and yet the event it commemorates (the publication of the Declaration of Independence) was just the first step on our road to nationhood. Although the Second Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Articles of Confederation were not adopted until November of 1777 and were not ratified until March of 1781 — the year that the Revolutionary War was finally won, with the surrender of General Cornwallis in Yorktown. Yet the Articles turned out to be a fairly unworkable practical form of government, and Shay’s Rebellion of 1786-1787 demonstrated that to many of the new country’s citizens, armed revolt was still a standard form of political expression.

The ratification of the US Constitution in March of 1789 represented a significant step, creating a stronger central government with more clearly defined powers, and a model for federal constitutions to this day. Yet, whether the words on paper could be translated into a lasting and stable government remained yet to be seen.

To my mind, one of the major milestones was reached in 1794, when President Washington put down the Whiskey Rebellion.

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Simply Filthy

Monday, June 29, AD 2009

With all the discussion of whether British behavior in the Colonies justified the Revolutionary War, I can’t help being reminded of an exchange in one of my favorite books, 84, Charing Cross Road:

August 15, 1959


i write to say i have got work.

i won it. i won a $5,000 Grant-in-Aid off CBS, it’s supposed to support me for a year while I write American History dramatizations. I am starting with a script about New York under seven years of British Occupation and i MARVEL at how i rise above it to address you in friendly and forgiving fashion, your behavior over here from 1776 to 1783 was simply FILTHY.

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2 Responses to Simply Filthy

  • The movie version of “84 Charing Cross Road” with Anne Bancroft as the writer and Anthony Hopkins as the bookseller is one of my all-time favorite movies.

    If the same story were written today, I suppose Hopkins’ character would have to be selling books on eBay or Amazon and he and Bancroft would be e-mailing, blogging, Skype-ing or Tweeting each other… which just wouldn’t be the same at all.

  • I discovered this book by accident years ago and love it! I always cry at the end. I’m going to have to go back and reread it again. Thanks for reminding me about it.