The Screwtape Letters
One of my favorite actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood is Claude Rains. Throughout his career he brought vibrant intelligence and a world weary cynicism to his roles. From his screen personae, it might be assumed that Rains was an English aristocrat educated at elite English “public” schools. Actually he was London Cockney, and had a very pronounced Cockney accent and a speech impediment as he was growing up. He served gallantly in World War I in the British Army in the London Scottish Regiment, rising from private to captain, and being blinded in one eye as a result of a gas attack.
He quickly achieved post war success in England as an actor. He began acting in American films and became an American citizen in 1939. His first big hit was the title role in The Invisible Man in 1933. He went on to achieve stardom with unforgettable roles, such as Prince John in Robin Hood (1938), Senator Joseph Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and, doubtless the role he is most known for, Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942):
In 1946 Rains appeared in probably the most unusual role in his career as Satan in Angel On My Shoulder. The plot involves Satan’s attempt to use a deceased gangster, Eddie Kagle, played by Paul Muni, to discredit a living judge the gangster resembles. The film is filled with bon mots by Rains, including him asking “What in my domain is that?” in reference to a ruckus caused by Eddie Kagle after he arrives in Hell. The film has a rather profound sequence where Satan, or “Nick” as he is referred to in the film, expresses his exasperation with God for taking such concern over mortals. He cannot understand why he loves them. I suspect that is the case with the real Devil, and that the love of God is a complete mystery to him. As CS Lewis noted in his The Screwtape Letters: Continue reading
Did you mark how naturally – as if he’d been born for it – the earthborn vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to itself! “Yes. Of course. It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottle-neck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?
As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it! – that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not “Who are you?” but “So it was you all the time”. All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last recovered. Recognition made him free of their company almost before the limbs of his corpse became quiet. Only you were left outside.
He saw not only Them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man. You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralysing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of Heaven. But it’s all nonsense. Pains he may still have to encounter, but they embrace those pains. They would not barter them for any earthly pleasure.
CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.
H. Richard Niebuhr in 1937 commenting on the Social Gospel. Continue reading
Well, I must say this will probably disconcert some of the erstwhile newfound friends of Pope Francis among the secular media and reassure orthodox Catholics:
Referencing the day’s gospel reading, in which Jesus has just healed a possessed man and is accused of casting out demons by the power of the devil, the Pope noted that often in history there have been those who wish to “diminish the power of the Lord” by offering different explanations for his works, urging that his is a temptation which has “reached our present day.”
“It is true,” he affirmed, “that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter. No!”
Observing that the Lord has given many criteria in order to “discern” the presence of evil in our lives, the Pope stressed that “we should not be naïve,” and that one of the criteria which has been given is “not to follow the victory of Jesus” just “halfway.”
“Either you are with me, says the Lord, or you are against me” he said, noting that Jesus came to conquer the devil and “to give us the freedom” from “the enslavement the devil has over us,” which he cautioned, is not “exaggerating.”
This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world – a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.
CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Paul has mentioned here the wonderful post by Pat Archbold in which he longs for John Wayne, a death bed Catholic convert, Catholicism as opposed to what he calls the Woody Allen Catholicism adopted by too many Catholics in the past half century:
Oh how I long for a religion with enough boldness to loudly, proudly, and incessantly proclaim uncomfortable truths, even to its own supposed adherents, until they all understand what it means to be Catholic.
How I long for a religion with that quiet and gentle resoluteness. A religion that can acknowledge the mistakes of its members while loudly proclaiming the Church One, Holy, Apostolic, and Infallible.
I agree. The Catholicism that Pat longs for is the Catholicism that has existed throughout almost all the history of the Church. Some reminders:
1. John Sobieski- After defeating the Turks at Vienna in 1683 he sent the green flag of Islam to the Pope with this message: “Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit”! (We came, we saw, God conquered!)
2. The Martyrs of Otranto-Twelve years before Christopher Columbus discovered a New World, 800 men and boys of Otranto laid down their lives for Christ. The city of Otranto, at the heel of the boot of Italy, was seized by the Turks under Gedik Ahmed Pasha, grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire. Archbishop Stefano Argercolo de Pendinellis was murdered in his cathedral by the Turks and the garrison commander was sawn in half. Following a massacre of most of the population the Turks offered some 800 men and boys the choice between conversion to Islam or death. Led by an elderly tailor, Antonio Pezzulla, the men and boys chose death rather than apostacy, and were beheaded on the hill of Minvera outside the town on August 14, 1480, their families forced by the Turks to help in the executions.
The witness of the martyrs of Otranto was truly remarkable. Not priests or soldiers, they were just plain, ordinary folk. They had every earthly reason to attempt to save their lives, but with supernatural courage they went to their deaths for a love that passes understanding. The old tailor spoke for them all when he addressed them after the Turks had given them their grim choice:
My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our country, to save our lives, and for our lords; now it is time that we fight to save our souls for our Lord, so that having died on the cross for us, it is good that we should die for him, standing firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we shall win eternal life and the glory of martyrs.
The martyrs in response cried out that they were willing to die a thousand times for Christ.
3. Archbishop John Hughes-After the anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia in 1844 he called on the mayor of New York, an anti-Catholic bigot, and informed him that if a single Catholic church were touched in New York, New York would be a second Moscow. (The reference was to the burning of Moscow in 1812 during Napoleon’s occupation of the city.) Not a Catholic church was touched. On another occasion when a threat was made to burn Saint Patrick’s cathedral the Archbishop had it guarded within hours by 4,000 armed Catholics. No wonder his enemies and friends nicknamed him “Dagger John”!
4. Father Joe Lacy-On June 6, 1944 at 7:30 AM, LCA 1377 landed the Rangers on Omaha Dog Green Beach, the first landing craft to land on that section of Omaha Beach. Father Lacy was the last man out just before an artillery shell hit the fantail. Everything was chaos with the beach being swept by German artillery and small arms fire. Wounded men were everywhere, both on the beach and in the water feebly trying to get to the beach. Father Lacy did not hesistate. With no thought for his own safety he waded into the water to pull men out of the ocean and onto the beach. He began treating the wounded on the beach and administering the Last Rites to those beyond human assistance. On a day when courage was not in short supply men took notice of this small fat priest who was doing his best under fire to save as many lives as he could. While his battalion led the way off Omaha Beach, Father Lacy continued to tend their wounded and the wounded of other units. For his actions that day Father Lacy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor, after the Medal of Honor, in the United States Army.
5. Don John of Austria and his Men-Before the battle of Lepanto Don John of Austria went about the ships of his fleet and said this to his crews: ‘My children, we are here to conquer or die. In death or in victory, you will win immortality.’ The chaplains of the fleet preached sermons on the theme: “No Heaven For Cowards”. Many of the men were clutching rosaries just before the battle. Admiral Andrea Doria went into the fight with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe aboard his ship. Back in Europe countless Catholics were praying rosaries at the request of Saint Pope Pius V for the success of the Christian fleet.
At the hour of the battle, and this fact is very well attested, the Pope was talking to some cardinals in Rome. He abruptly ceased the conversation, opened a window and looked heavenward. He then turned to the cardinals and said: “It is not now a time to talk any more upon business; but to give thanks to God for the victory he has granted to the arms of the Christians.” So that Catholics would never forget Lepanto and the intercession of Mary, he instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory. To aid in this remembrance G. K. Chesterton in 1911 wrote his epic poem Lepanto:
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
God of life and death, You have taken a beloved one from me. My heart is very heavy. I recall that Your Son, Jesus Christ, became man in all things except sin and that He groaned in sorrow at the death of His friend, Lazarus. I unite my grief with Yours dear Jesus, as You stood at the tomb of Lazarus.
O Virgin Mother, you know what it was like losing your husband Joseph, and then your child. dying suspended between earth and heaven, with a sword piercing your sweet soul. To you do I come in sorrow, begging strength from your intercession, from you who fully understand what it is like to lose one so dear and close.
Share with me, dear Mother of God, the courage, the strong faith that you had in the future resurrection. Even after Jesus came back to life and ascended into heaven, you knew you were to be left alone for many years before your own assumption into heaven. You comforted the Apostles as their Queen and Mother during those years. Grant comfort to me now as I sorrow in pain at the loss by the separation that has come as a result of the sin of our first parents and my own sins. Wipe away my tears with the merciful love of your Immaculate Heart as you unite me with my loved one through the grace of the Sacred Heart of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. Continue reading
When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart that you did”.
Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis
Christ died for me. The death of Christ on Calvary has immense theological significance: the salvation of all mankind, the redemption from sin and the opening of the gates of Heaven. I understand all of that on an intellectual level. However, on Good Friday the fact that the Creator of All died for me, one of His creations, always hits me like an emotional freight train. All of my life I have been fascinated by courage, especially sacrificial courage where men die to protect others. We are such a flawed species, but capable of the heights of nobility when love and courage combine. Then we put aside the great fear of death, and truly understand why we are here: to love. Continue reading
Go here for the full version of the above video. This was originally broadcast on December 24, 1968 on the CBS show Sixty Minutes. An artifact demonstrating how greatly our culture has changed for the worse in four decades. I believe that Harry Reasoner who narrates the video was not a Christian, but the power of the image and reality of Christ shines through the video nonetheless. Continue reading
I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What that real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven—a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.
Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.
CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
My family and I had a great time on our vacation. Gen Con was grand as it always is, and, as the picture at the top of the post indicates, I made a new friend! (I am the one who is not green.)
During vacations I attempt to studiously ignore the news, forget about the Law, and focus in on my family and fun. I find that a bit difficult to do, as I always take a great deal of interest in the noteworthy events of the day, and my legal practice tends to be fairly consuming of my time during non-vacation periods. Fortunately my family I also find fascinating, and after a day or two I am in full vacation mode and everything but my family fades into the distance for a time.
Alas, vacations always end. When I go back to my office on Monday, I know that I will have many messages to return, and a full schedule of appointments and court appearances to deal with. Back home with the internet, I will spend at least an hour each day getting up to speed with current events, and writing my blog posts, and my life proceeds in its familiar non-vacation manner.
It would be easy for me to think that the vacation was a temporary illusion and the way I normally spend my life the reality, but this is incorrect. God gives us this life as an entirety and it is not for us to divide it. Our different activities each year and each day are merely facets of the time on this planet we have as a free-will gift from our Creator. What we do with the time, good and bad, is up to us, but no portion is less our reality than any other portion. It is our task to enfuse everything we do with love of God and love of our neighbor.
As my wife and I are expecting in November, we’ve started to consider where we’re going to baptize the baby. Most churches that we’ve seen want you to be a parishioner before they baptize you. This has brought up the question of what parish we really belong to. We’ve found that that’s not an easy question.
Over the weekend, Tito had a post that inquired about the existence of good parishes in Las Vegas for his family. Some of the things he looks for are an orthodox priest faithful to the Magisterium, a beautiful Church, and a liturgy that aspires to beauty and lacks some of the folksy elements of post-Vatican II as well as the more scandalous aspects of the “spirit of Vatican II” like liturgical dancers.
None of those desires are unreasonable. In fact, those things are the rights of the faithful.
The cowards at Comedy Central who censored South Park after receiving death threats from Jihadists, as I detailed here and here, now show their “courage” by announcing a new show mocking Christ. My friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia gives us the details:
“Fresh off of heavily editing a depiction of Mohammad in “South Park” following threats from practitioners of the “Religion of Peace”, the “edgy” comedy network, Comedy Central, shows its artistic “courage” in announcing a new series blaspheming Jesus Christ:
Comedy Central might censor every image of the Prophet Muhammad on “South Park,” yet the network is developing a whole animated series around Jesus Christ.
Hattip to Patterico’s Pontifications. Worse Than Murder, Inc, aka Planned Parenthood, has written a guide entitled Healthy, Happy and Hot. It is subtitled a Young Persons Guide to Their Rights, Sexuality and Living With HIV.
This pamphlet is truly based upon irony in that if there is one organization more dedicated to promoting sexual promiscuity other than Worse Than Murder, Inc, I am unaware of it. From passing out contraceptives to kids without parental consent, to promoting the idea that sex is the be all and end all of life, to killing the inevitable offspring that result from sexual activity between men and women, Planned Parenthood has done everything possible to promote a cultural atmosphere in which sexually transmitted diseases can run rampant.
So a teenager who has followed the advice of Worse Than Murder Inc and has HIV now is supposed to look to them for guidance? I honestly sometimes think that Satan has a deep streak of the dark comedian about him.
Well, what sort of advice does Planned Parenthood dispense to their victims who have a fatal illness? On page one the pamphlet stresses that people with HIV have a right to express and enjoy their sexuality. But of course! For Worse Than Murder, Inc, life boils down to: “I fornicate therefore I am.”
In regard to disclosing the fact that a person has HIV to someone they are having sex with, the pamphlet states:
Some countries have laws that say people
living with HIV must tell their sexual
partner(s) about their status before having
sex, even if they use condoms or only
engage in sexual activity with a low risk
of giving HIV to someone else. These laws
violate the rights of people living with HIV
by forcing them to disclose or face the
possibility of criminal charges.
What about the well-being of those people who might be infected by you or have been infected by you? Page 3 indicates that those people really have to take second place behind number one:
You know best if and when it is safe
for you to disclose your status.
There are many reasons that people
do not share their HIV status. They
may not want people to know they
are living with HIV because of
stigma and discrimination within
their community. They may worry
that people will find out something
else they have kept secret, like they
are using injecting drugs, having
sex outside of a marriage or having
sex with people of the same gender.
People in long-term relationships
who find out they are living with HIV
sometimes fear that their partner
will react violently or end the
Sharing your HIV status is called
disclosure. Your decision about whether to
disclose may change with different people
and situations. You have the right to
decide if, when, and how to disclose your