Profile for PW, sort of > Reviews

Browse

PW, sort of's Profile

Customer Reviews: 9
Top Reviewer Ranking: 29,225,878
Helpful Votes: 202




Community Features
Review Discussion Boards
Top Reviewers

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
PW, sort of RSS Feed

Show:  
Page: 1
pixel
Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy
Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy
by John Julius Norwich
Edition: Hardcover
136 used & new from $0.01

21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Norwich's depiction of Pius XII is not borne by WWII reporting of "The New York Times", October 19, 2011
Due to space restrictions I limit myself in this customer comment to merely one aspect of John Julius Norwich's "Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy," realizing that such a focus often elicits negative responses for its lack of comprehensiveness. Yet such concentration is necessary to adequately substantiate my points.

I first learned of Norwich's "Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy" when I encountered Bill Keller's gleeful review featured on the cover of "The New York Times Book Review" (7 July 2011 online; 10 July 2011 in the print edition). Keller was the Executive Editor of "The New York Times" from July 2003 until September 2011 and has described himself not as a lapsed Catholic but as a "beyond lapsed" Catholic. In his review, Keller wrote that Norwich provided "a disheartening chapter on Pius XI and Pius XII, whose fear of Communism (along with the church's long streak of anti-Semitism) made them compliant enablers of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco. Pius XI, in Norwich's view, redeemed himself by his belated but unflinching hostility to the Fascists and Nazis." Keller continues: "But [Norwich's] indictment of Pius XII -- who resisted every entreaty to speak out against mass murder, even as the trucks were transporting the Jews of Rome to Auschwitz -- is compact, evenhanded and devastating."

YET THE REPORTING and analysis of as little as a single wartime source - ironically "The New York Times" - shows that Pius XII condemned the Nazi atrocities against Jews and others and moved significantly to mitigate them while also opposing the threat of Communism. This wartime reporting provides evidence readily available in many libraries (and perhaps online) to overturn Norwich's indictment of Pius XII (and Keller's affirmation of it). But more recent vintages of "The New York Times" have often soured to vinegar against the Catholic Church, prompting the Catholic League to hold up a mirror to "The Times" - an advertisement defending Pius XII (10 April 2001, "The New York Times") with some of the wartime reporting harvested from "The Times" itself, disinfecting Norwich in sunlight (and Keller in the vinegar of his own making). Here are excerpts from that ad which the Catholic League drew from "The Times:"

* "If the Pope in his Christmas message had intended to condemn Hitler's system, he could not have done it more effectively than by describing the `moral order' which must govern human society." (editorial, December 25, 1940)

* "The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas." (editorial, December 25, 1941)

* Catholic Church leaders "are virtually the only Germans still speaking up against the Nazi regime." (news article, June 8, 1942)

* "This Christmas more than ever he [Pius XII] is a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent." (editorial, December 25, 1942)

* Vatican Radio is quoted saying, "He who makes a distinction between Jews and other men is unfaithful to God and is in conflict with God's commands." (news article, June 27, 1943)

* Commenting on the 1,200 German priests interned at Dachau, the Times says, "The arrests are linked with strong anti-Nazi and anti-war movements in the predominantly Roman Catholic section of Germany." (news article, August 13, 1943)

* Remarking on the German bishops' pastoral letter condemning Hitler (which ended by thanking Pius for his leadership), the Times says, "The letter abounds in sly but fearless thrusts at the false god and Nazi tenets." (news article, September 6, 1943)

* When a Soviet house organ tries to tag the Vatican pro-Nazi, the Times goes ballistic: "Of all the incendiary literary bombs manufactured in Moscow...and thrown with such lighthearted recklessness into the unity of Allied nations, none is likely to do greater damage than Izvestia's unjust and intemperate attack upon the Vatican as `pro-Fascist.'" (editorial, February 4, 1944)

* After Rome was liberated, the chief Rabbi of Rome, Israele Anton Zolli, formally expressed the gratitude of Roman Jews "for all the moral and material aid the Vatican gave them during the Nazi occupation." (news article, July 27, 1944)

* When the war ended, the Times ran many stories detailing the praise that Jewish leaders bestowed on Pius. Included was the one which recorded a gift of $20,000 to the Vatican by the World Jewish Congress "in recognition of the work of the Holy See in rescuing Jews from Fascist and Nazi persecution." (news article, October 11, 1945)

ONE MAY WONDER WHY Norwich offers no words about the Catholic clergy and other Catholics killed in the Nazi death camps. Has it not occurred to him that if Pius' denunciations might have spared Jews, the same denunciations might have spared many Catholics? Pius XII's alleged silence is often attributed to his alleged anti-Semitism, and Norwich goes even further writing of Pius' "innate anti-Semitism" (p. 447 in the 2011 hardbound edition); was Pope Pius XII also anti-Catholic (innately or otherwise)? To be lucid, if anti-Semitism was why Pope Pius XII failed to sufficiently protest atrocities against Jews, was anti-Catholicism why he failed to sufficiently protest atrocities against Catholics? Rather, a much more fitting explanation is that Pius was neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Catholic but likely learned that overt actions to combat Nazi crimes were met with reprisals and were counterproductive: the Nazi reaction to conspicuous protests by Catholic clergy in defense of Jews in the Netherlands, for example, included arresting and killing Jewish converts to Catholicism.

ONE MAY ALSO WONDER, given such experience with reprisals, if Pius XII had been more vocal and acted more overtly, whether Norwich would now be condemning him as - and my words are suggested by media critic James Bowman's review of "Amen" (26 January 2003) - "Pope Preening Popinjay" or a whited sepulcher more concerned with his reputation than in rescuing victims or an "innate" dunce for not recognizing the stupidity of his "help."

With Norwich as his judge, I believe that Pius XII would be damned if he hadn't and damned if he had.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2012 5:08 PM PDT


Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
by Frank Schaeffer
Edition: Hardcover
78 used & new from $0.03

30 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tie-dye? Fine. Bell bottoms? OK. But...., October 1, 2011
I don't know or mind if Frank Schaeffer, the author of "Sex, Mom, & God," wears tie-dyed clothes or bell bottoms, but some of the ideas he promotes in this book have on an enormous scale since the late 1960s been tried and not so much found wanting as they have been tried and found catastrophic.

SCHAEFFER WRITES (p. 51) of an "off-the-wall sexual license" "ushered in by the 'free love' prophets-for-profit like Hugh Hefner" in the 1950s and 1960s as an "insane counterreaction." OK so far. But at the speed of light Schaeffer opines improbably, connecting this sexual license to a "bizarre mirror image of our prudish North American version of the antiwoman biblical extreme:" dysfunctional "[w]ait-until-marriage and women-are-unclean beliefs."

RATHER, SCHAEFFER fails to convince (me anyway) that Levitical or any other biblical writings instilled a disparaging view of women or a prudish view of sex in many 20th or 21st century North Americans. In blaming attitudes that discouraged sex outside of heterosexual marriage, he attacks an example of what G.K. Chesterton called the "democracy of the dead" - the traditional opinion of the vast majority of our civilized ancestors, now dead, who viewed, in this example, non-marital sex as regressive and homosexuality, at best, as a passing phase (the ancient Greeks, e.g.) or, more typically, as an abomination. And if only the Bible were the cause of the "[w]ait-until-marriage" belief, how did that belief, and probably the practice, prevail for centuries in lands such as the non-Muslim parts of China where Christians, Jews and Muslims have only been small minorities?

By the way, although I do not believe that Schaeffer reported it, in the USA, unmarried women procure more than 80% of abortions; of the remaining less than 20% of abortions (those procured by married women), a significant percentage (and I imagine the data are difficult to obtain) may be procured by women impregnated by men to whom they are not married: abortion in the USA is overwhelmingly a consequence of sex between people unmarried to each other.

SCHAEFFER WRITES: (p. 115) "I said that I thought that there would be fewer abortions if women had access to the better health care and the other social services that Obama was proposing during his campaign."

RATHER, SCHAEFFER (A) joins those fobbing off as "health care" poisonous drugs designed to induce a diseased state - prolonged infertility - in women and sometimes men or devices which monkey-wrench the human reproductive works; and (B) fails to recognize that these drugs and devices have been tried for decades by hundreds of millions of women and sometimes men and the results have been exactly opposite of what their proponents have prognosticated: rates of unwanted pregnancy, abortion and other forms of child abuse, divorce, and sexually related diseases have soared astonishingly (and, again, though it is tough to measure, I suspect adultery).

SCHAEFFER WRITES: (p. 209) "If the Republicans had wanted to prevent abortions, they would have funded a thorough and mandatory sex education initiative from the earliest grades in all schools and combined it with the distribution of free contraceptives in all high schools, public and private (religious schools included)...."

RATHER, SCHAEFFER seems unaware that, even according to the Guttmacher Institute (named after Alan Guttmacher, a president of Planned Parenthood and a vice-president of the American Eugenics Society), the majority of women who procure abortions in the USA were using a "contraceptive" drug or device when they conceived the child they aborted and that an even higher percentage were experienced "contraceptive" users but many abandoned these drugs or devices, often because of their side effects. (One should note that many so called "contraceptives," besides failing to prevent conception, may also cause a very early abortion.) Data from several consecutive decades are in: widespread use of artificial birth control has been correlated with an increase in procured abortions. (I believe the correlation is causal and refer the reader to the transcript of Janet Smith's "Contraception: Why Not?" for a good initiation on why this is so). Yet Schaeffer and so many others overly devoted to reductionism keep insisting that the use of artificial contraceptives will prevent abortion. And it is not hard to imagine one of Schaeffer's putative sex educators intoning about "safe abortion" even though procured direct abortion (A) may be a risk factor for breast cancer; (B) is a risk factor for cerebral palsy in babies conceived later; (C) is a risk factor for infertility; and (D) is deliberately fatal to the fetus targeted by the abortion, for a few examples. I'm sure that Schaeffer's sex educators would be as punctilious regarding informed consent with respect to these consequences as President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and "The New York Times" have been whenever they deploy the curiosity "safe abortion," aren't you?

WHILE SCHAEFFER decries the arguments or approaches of several authors (many of his acquaintance) including Elizabeth (G.E.M.) Anscombe, Robert P. George, Peter Kreeft, Thomas Howard, and Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, readers may wish to consider some of their works which I recommend:

* Elizabeth Anscombe: "Contraception and Chastity;"
* Robert P. George & Christopher Tollefsen: "Embryo: A Defense of Human Life;" and
* Fr. Richard John Neuhaus: "First Things" - Fr. Neuhaus, who passed in 2009, was the Editor-in-Chief and a major contributor to each issue; some of "First Things" is available online without a subscription.

(By the way, Schaeffer (p. 112) wrongly introduces George as "anti-stem-cell-research" whereas George only opposes embryonic stem cell research; Schaeffer repeats the same error (p. 255) in connection with Roman Catholic bishops; perhaps in a forthcoming book Schaeffer will expose those opposed to inhumane Nazi experiments or the Tuskegee syphilis experiment as enemies of science, too.)

Anyone interested, further, in differences between artificial contraception and natural family planning may wish to consider Janet Smith's "Contraception: Why Not?" and "Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader" (edited by Janet Smith and which includes Anscombe's essay "Contraception and Chastity").


The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice
The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice
by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Paperback
78 used & new from $0.79

44 of 144 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Here's an excerpt from William A. Donohue's 1996 review "Hating Mother Teresa.", August 10, 2008
Here's [an] example of how Hitchens proceeds. He begins one chapter quoting Mother Teresa on why her congregation has taken a special vow to work for the poor. "This vow," she exclaimed, "means that we cannot work for the rich; neither can we accept money for the work we do. Ours has to be a free service, and to the poor." A few pages later, after citing numerous cash awards that her order has received, Hitchens writes "if she is claiming that the order does not solicit money from the rich and powerful, or accept it from them, this is easily shown to be false."

Hitchens isn't being sloppy here, just dishonest. He knows full well that there is a world of difference between soliciting money from the rich and working for them. Furthermore, he knows full well that Mother Teresa never even implied that she wouldn't accept money from the rich. And precisely whom should she--or anyone else--accept money from, if not the rich? Would it make Hitchens feel better if the middle class were tapped and the rich got off scot free? Would it make any sense to take from the poor and then give it back to them? Who's left?

Hitchens smells politics whenever Mother Teresa supports moral causes he objects to. For example, in 1988, while in London tending to the homeless, Mother Teresa was asked to meet with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She did. She also met a pro-life legislator. So? For Hitchens, this shows the political side of Mother Teresa. Forget for a moment that Mother Teresa is perhaps the most noted pro-life advocate alive, and that abortion is first and foremost a moral issue. And does anyone doubt that had she met with a politician interested in socialized medicine, Hitchens would be citing her humanity, not her politics?

Mother Teresa has tended to the sick and poor all over the world. She doesn't pick and choose which countries to go to on the basis of internal politics, and this explains why she has visited both right-wing repressive nations like Haiti and left-wing repressive nations like Albania. Hitchens can't stomach this and indicts Mother Teresa for servicing dictatorships. Now if his logic is to be followed here, then most Peace Corps workers and Red Cross personnel are guilty of courting despots. This may make sense to those who write for the Nation, but no one else can be expected to believe it.

In exemplary Catholic fashion, Mother Teresa comes to the poor not out of sentimentality, but out of love. No matter how impoverished and debased the poor are, they are still God's children, all of whom possess human dignity. This is not something Hitchens can accept. An unrelenting secularist, he cannot comprehend how Mother Teresa can console the terminally ill by saying, "You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you."

Hitchens is so far gone that he cannot make sense of Christ's admonition that "The poor will always be with you." Not surprisingly, Hitchens says "I remember as a child finding this famous crack rather unsatisfactory. Either one eschews luxury and serves the poor or one does not." But he just doesn't get it: Mother Teresa eschews luxury and serves the poor, yet not for a moment does she believe that she is conquering poverty in the meantime. Only someone hopelessly wedded to a materialist vision of the world would think otherwise.

Hitchens also objects to Mother Teresa's asceticism (if she lived the Life of Riley he would condemn her for that). He charges that her operation in Bengal is "a haphazard and cranky institution which would expose itself to litigation and protest were it run by any branch of the medical profession." Hitchens would prefer that the Bengalis force Mother Teresa to follow regulations established by the Department of Health and Human Services before attending to her work. It does not matter to him that Mother Teresa and her loyal sisters have managed to do what his saintly bureaucrats have never done--namely to comfort the ill and indigent.

It is jealously, not ideology, that propels Hitchens to criticize Mother Teresa for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. He wonders "what she had ever done, or even claimed to do, for the cause of peace." (His accent.) This is a strange comment coming as it does from one of those "If You Want Peace, Work For Justice" types. And it apparently never occurred to Hitchens that it is precisely Mother Teresa's humility that disallows her to grandstand before the world trumpeting her own work. A true crusader for the underclass, Mother Teresa is not in the habit of claiming to do anything. She is too busy practicing what others are content to preach.

If receiving the Nobel Peace Prize angered Hitchens, it is safe to say he suffered from apoplexy when he read Mother Teresa's acceptance speech. In it, she took the occasion to say that "Today, abortion is the worst evil, and the greatest enemy of peace." Hitchens labels her speech a "diatribe" that is riddled with "fallacies and distortions," none of which he identifies, preferring instead to say that there "is not much necessity for identifying" them. Not, it should be added, if your goal is a smear campaign.

It is ironic that after hurling one unsubstantiated charge after another that Hitchens ends his little book by saying, "It is past time she [Mother Teresa] was subjected to the rational critique that she has evaded so arrogantly and for so long." It would be more accurate to say that it is one more source of her greatness that Mother Teresa never evades anything, including irrational tracts written by vindictive authors. The arrogance is all his, because in the end, Hitchens hasn't even laid a glove on her.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2013 5:01 PM PST


Middlesex: A Novel
Middlesex: A Novel
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Edition: Paperback
912 used & new from $0.01

1 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A note for Jeffrey and a comment from St. Ignatius of Antioch, December 9, 2006
This review is from: Middlesex: A Novel (Paperback)
Jeffrey Eugenides confessed to me on 4 June 1995. Neither sacramental nor private, the confession took place not in a coffin turned on its side but on the pages of "The New York Times," and concerned itself with that travelling mad priest of stage antics, Ian Anderson and Anderson's "incomparable" (Eugenides' word) band Jethro Tull ("Hand Me My Air Guitar. I'm Still a Jethro Tull Freak"). Tull is my favorite band and the photo accompanying the article, as I remember, showed Anderson in an iconic pose, perched on one leg playing flute in his unorthodox self-taught style, one hand on the flute while the other, raised in a flourish like a puppeteer's above the flute, drew out the airy music. (A note for Jeffrey, who mentioned in the article that at age sixteen he and his two best friends smoked an enormous joint at the Pontiac Silverdome while Tull was pounding out "Locomotive Breath:" I saw Tull at the Universal Amphiteater, Universal City, California, in November 1984 in what was to have been the first of three performances there that month. After a few songs, Anderson asked "What's that smell?" as he approached the front of the stage. He then confronted about three teenage boys or young men in or near the front row with his ragged voice - it was the last stop on that tour of North America - with words approximately these: "Put out your BLOOD-Y MAR-Y-JUANA. I hate the smell of that stuff and it's not helping my voice any, which, if you haven't noticed, is bad enough. If you don't, I'll walk off this stage and you'll have ALL these people (Anderson made a sweeping gesture around the audience with the flute) mad at you. You wouldn't want that now, would you?" The show went on, but I believe the next two shows were cancelled. Anderson is quite against the use of illegal drugs and must have been at least partly disappointed by the pundit from the band's very early days who called him a "crazed flamingo on speed" doubtless because of Anderson's whirling like a dervish, manic gestures and noises, and one-legged poses.)

Early in 2006, a co-worker who teased me about the women I date, pulled me aside and told me I had to read "Middlesex." Had I not been primed by Eugenides' 1995 article on Tull, I probably would have resisted more and ultimately fended off the book. But I accepted it. Immediately skimming the book, I opened to page 184 of the paperback edition and found these words: "Asian chicks are the last stop. If a guy's in the closet, he goes for an Asian because their bodies are more like boys'." I, a washboard-stomached man's man who, while believing that beautiful women hail from many parts of the globe, have, and for no small part this is due to my novice knowledge of Mandarin, dated many lovely Chinese women, was chagrined. "Ha!" I glared at my friend. "That's where you got those crazy comments about my dating Chinese women." She laughed. (I think that east Asian women, by the way, are often quite feminine, for what it's worth. I also understand that Eugenides may be married to a woman of Japanese descent.) And so I began to read "Middlesex."

Having read the book, it is not false humility but deference to reality to report that I consider myself poorly qualified to critique a novel. While I love fiction, I consume much more non-fiction, and I am confident that some of the complexity of such a long novel eludes me. But I will challenge Eugenides on one small but to me important point, one made over the space of just a few lines, on page 221 (again, of the paperback edition) where Eugenides has these words of the narrator Calliope/Cal: "...I was baptized into the Orthodox faith; a faith that existed long before Protestantism had anything to protest and before Catholicism called itself catholic; a faith that stretched back to the beginnings of Christianity, when it was Greek and not Latin, and which, without an Aquinas to reify it, had remained shrouded in the smoke of tradition and mystery whence it began." Catholicism traces its origin directly to Christ himself. I wish to establish here that Catholicism called itself catholic from the early decades of the faith. To do so, I appeal to St. Ignatius of Antioch, venerated by Catholics and Orthodox as a martyr and canonized in both faiths as a saint. St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch (St. Peter was the first). Ignatius' martyrdom (by beasts in an arena) occurred circa A.D. 110. He wrote in his "Letter to the Smyrneans" that "[w]herever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church" (from William A. Jurgens "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Volume One, 1970, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, page 25). Fr. Jurgens remarks in a footnote that this is the earliest use of the term "Catholic Church." Note that this occurred quite early in the second century. And to the Catholics and Orthodox who accept that the Church should breathe with both lungs, Calliope/Cal's narrating words that at its beginning Christianity was Greek and not Latin seem very tendentious. Yes, the dominance of Greek influence over Latin influence yielded to Latin dominance as the legacy of the golden age of Greek civilization faded and as Christianity spread, but Catholics and Orthodox alike understand that, for example, Sts. Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom in Rome, and other examples of Latin influence on the nascent Church could be presented.

3.5-4 stars, I suppose.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2007 5:46 PM PST


A Church That Can and Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching (ND Erasmus Institute Books)
A Church That Can and Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching (ND Erasmus Institute Books)
by John Thomas Noonan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.70
47 used & new from $6.52

48 of 65 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing. Here are excerpts from Avery Cardinal Dulles' review in "First Things" Oct 2005, January 8, 2006
Here are excerpts from Avery Cardinal Dulles' review in "First Things" (Oct 2005).

_________________

The overarching thesis seems to be that in all these areas social change makes it possible for Christians to overcome the blindness that had previously afflicted their moral vision. The doctrinal change, in Noonan's estimation, is in many cases an about-face, repudiating the erroneous past teaching of the magisterium itself.

More than half of the book deals with slavery...Jesus, though he repeatedly denounced sin as a kind of moral slavery, said not a word against slavery as a social institution. Nor did the writers of the New Testament. Peter and Paul exhort slaves to be obedient to their masters. Paul urges Philemon to treat his converted slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ. While discreetly suggesting that he manumit Onesimus, he does not say that Philemon is morally obliged to free Onesimus....

...[T]he popes were far from silent. As soon as the enslavement of native populations by European colonists started, they began to protest, although Noonan gives only a few isolated examples. Eugene IV in 1435 condemned the enslavement of the peoples of the newly colonized Canary Islands and, under pain of excommunication, ordered all such slaves to be immediately set free. Pius II and Sixtus IV emphatically repeated these prohibitions. In a bull addressed to all the faithful of the Christian world Paul III in 1537 condemned the enslavement of Indians in North and South America. Gregory XIV in 1591 ordered the freeing of all the Filipino slaves held by Spaniards. Urban VIII in 1639 issued a bull applying the principles of Paul III to Portuguese colonies in South America and requiring the liberation of all Indian slaves.

In 1781 Benedict XIV renewed the call of previous popes to free the Indian slaves of South America. Thus it was no break with previous teaching when Gregory XVI in 1839 issued a general condemnation of the enslavement of Indians and Blacks. In particular, he condemned the importation of Negro slaves from Africa. Leo XIII followed along the path set by Gregory XVI.

...In A Church That Can and Cannot Change, Noonan gives only a few glimpses of this complex history. He correctly notes that the Catholic magisterium in past centuries never made an absolute condemnation of slavery as such. But he contends that John Paul II reversed the traditional teaching. In support he quotes a statement of John Paul II in 1992. Speaking at the infamous "House of Slaves" on the Island of Gorée in Senegal, from which innumerable slaves had been exported, he declared: "It is fitting to confess in all truth and humility this sin of man against man, this sin of man against God." Noonan adds: "What this confession did not remark was how recently the sin had been discovered." But if we look up the quotation, we will find that the pope is here speaking of the slave trade, which had repeatedly been condemned. Far from changing the doctrine, John Paul is explicitly reaffirming the position of Pope Pius II, whom he quotes as having declared in 1492 that the slave trade was an enormous crime, magnum scelus.

Noonan has one further argument for doctrinal change. In 1993, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II took, from Vatican II's pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, a long list of social evils: "homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide . . . mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as sub-human living conditions, arbitrary imprisonments, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons." Where Vatican II had called these practices "shameful" (probra), John Paul II calls them "intrinsically evil." In the same encyclical the pope teaches that intrinsically evil acts are prohibited always and everywhere, without any exception.

Did John Paul II, by including slavery in his list of social evils, effect the revolution in Catholic moral theology that Noonan attributes to him? It seems to me that if he had wanted to assert his position as definitive he would have had to say more clearly how he was defining slavery. He would have had to make it clear that he was rejecting the nuanced views of the biblical writers and Catholic theologians for so many past centuries. If any form of slavery could be justified under any conditions, slavery as such would not be, in the technical sense, intrinsically evil.

According to the logic of Noonan's argument, whatever holds for slavery would have to be said for deportations, subhuman living conditions, and degrading conditions of work. But could not degrading or subhuman conditions be inevitable, for example, after some great natural disaster in which mere survival is an achievement? Individual deportations of undesirable aliens occur continually as a matter of national policy today; mass deportations could perhaps be necessary for the sake of peace and security. If pressed, I suspect, the pope would have admitted the need for some qualifications, but he could not have specified these without a rather long excursus that would have been distracting in the framework of his encyclical. So far as I am aware, he never repeated his assertion that slavery is intrinsically evil. Neither the Catechism of the Catholic Church nor the recent Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church... speaks so absolutely.

For all these reasons Noonan's case for a reversal of doctrine is unconvincing. Jacques Maritain provided some helpful distinctions in his book The Rights of Man and Natural Law....[C]ertain attenuated forms of servitude, such as serfdom, are not opposed to natural law except in its secondary requirements or aspirations. These lesser forms of servitude...cannot be eliminated except by degrees....These concessions do not seem to me to be a reversal of the original teaching but rather a nuancing of it.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2013 12:01 PM PST


Life, Sex and Ideas: The Good Life without God
Life, Sex and Ideas: The Good Life without God
by A. C. Grayling
Edition: Hardcover
59 used & new from $0.24

18 of 106 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I prefer the words of another atheist, December 12, 2004
Grayling's disdain for those who disagree with him is apparent in this book, and he is unlikely to win many opponents to his reasoning, not only because of his tone but also because his reasoning is so often lopsided or false. Grayling cites (page 50 in the essay "Sex") as an "inevitable" consequence of what he alleges is Platonic dualism in Christianity (he wrongly alleges that Christians repudiate the body as bad) the "extremes represented by Origen castrating himself to escape his sexual longings." Grayling's characterization of castration as an extreme is welcome because accurate and helpfully reproachful, but he fails to disclose why he thinks the act "inevitable." Has Grayling confused Christians with those Hale-Bopp comet following castrati suicides? And can Grayling name another Christian self-castrato? (Eusebius' description in "Ecclesiastical History," Book II, 6,8,1-3 of Origen's "rash act" is consistent with but not beyond doubt self-castration.) Origen, by the way, is not a canonical saint in any major (or perhaps any) Christian group despite his profound legacy to Christian thought, his sanctity and his drawing many into the faith. His "rash act" has been nothing but an impediment to whatever chance he might have of attaining such sainthood.

Given my druthers between the thinking of A.C. Grayling and P.J. O'Rourke, both atheists, regarding sex, I would choose O'Rourke. In his "Give War A Chance" (1992), he remarked "the sexual revolution is over and the microbes won." I don't quite agree, but he is not too far off. While the AIDs epidemic is monstrous, other sexually transmitted diseases rage, and the rates of adultery, sterility, out-of-wedlock conceptions and births, procured abortions and divorce are vastly higher than before the 1960s (and most would agree that these have more than a little to do with the sexual revolution), the sexual revolution is not over. Partly to fend off further accusations of a spirit-body dualism in Christianity, I prefer the following aphorism because it includes not only material consequences but also emotional and spiritual ones: "the sexual revolution has not merely been tried and found wanting; it has been tried and found tragic." But Grayling dwells in some la-la land. He writes of "the availability of safe scientific means of controlling fertility." He doesn't specify the means, but seems unaware that, even according to Planned Parenthood, which carries out more abortions than any other body, the majority of women procuring abortions were using a contraceptive drug or device when they conceived. He complains (page 45) of "anti-sex" moralists crusading to restrict sex to marriage, yet also seems unaware that, in the USA, for example, more than 80% - approximately 960,000 of 1,200,000 per year in recent years - of procured abortions are to end pregnancies resulting from nonmarital intercourse. These grim statistics should alarm those considering - or those such as Grayling advocating - nonmarital intercourse which for centuries in disparate locations and cultures was viewed quite frequently if not as unconventional then at least as regressive.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 29, 2011 4:41 PM PDT


Evangelical Answers
Evangelical Answers
by Eric D. Svendsen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.09
48 used & new from $3.80

8 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Suffers from a hyper-contentious attitude, August 9, 2004
This review is from: Evangelical Answers (Paperback)
I find that Eric Svendsen's writings are having an effect on me that I presume can only be counter to that which Dr. Svendsen intends. Elsewhere I've read his ill-conceived critiques of John Paul II's theology of the body. Dr. Svendsen, while apparently capable of parsing biblical Greek, cannot repair to an English dictionary to learn the difference between ordinate sexual attraction and sexual lust - an inordinate sexual desire - and in his misunderstanding complains that the avowedly celibate pontiff is criticizing healthy marital relations. Where John Paul II posits a theology of the body, Dr. Svengali provides a horse's arse theology.

Don't expect much better from this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2009 5:26 PM PST


Condom Nation: Blind Faith, Bad Science
Condom Nation: Blind Faith, Bad Science
by Richard Panzer
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from $1.10

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An informative response to the culture of sexual promiscuity, October 5, 2002
Richard Panzer gives us in this small book an informative response to the culture of sexual promiscuity and sexual stupidity. "Condom Nation: Blind Faith, Bad Science" offers both anecdotal and statistical evidence that many programs to prevent or contain sexual disease transmission and teenage pregnancy are counterproductive and inferior to those promoting the decrepit notion that sex should be reserved for a man and a woman who are married to each other. Perhaps the greatest revelation to me was that many are confused about the meaning of sexual "abstinence," thinking it refers only to refraining from coitus. The book also supplies interesting tidbits about condoms and condom-related behavior.
My biggest complaints are not so big: charts using three-dimensional bars rather than two-dimensional bars are unfortunate (see Edward R. Tufte's "Visual Display of Quantitative Information" for why). And I didn't like the layout of the text. But I quibble.
As a further step, I invite those appreciating "Condom Nation: Blind Faith, Bad Science" to investigate the offerings of The GIFT Foundation or the works of Janet E. Smith regarding Catholic teaching on birth regulation.


The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
by Philip Jenkins
Edition: Hardcover
127 used & new from $0.01

28 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative even if predictions don't occur, May 19, 2002
"The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity" is a set of prognostications all of which, Professor Jenkins is cautious to remark several times in this book, may not occur. Yet as he comments at the beginning of Chapter Ten ("Seeing Christianity Again for the First Time"), there is value even today in this: "[c]onsidering possible futures is so valuable because it can tell us so much about the realities of the present day" (p. 218).
Probably the most recurrent themes in this book are (1) that at Christianity is growing (at least nominally) most rapidly in Latin America, Africa and Asia; and (2) that the newer Christian communities tend to be more morally conservative than their counterparts in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Professor Jenkins informs us that for many centuries more Christians lived in Asia than in Europe or Africa (see pp. 22-25, for example) and reminds us a few times that Christianity is not (at least in geographic origin) a western religion (p. 215, for one example). He expects an overall growth of Christians and a particular boom in Pentecostals, whom he defines (p. 63) as a central division of Protestantism but whom rely more on "direct spiritual revelations that supplement or even replace biblical authority." He expects further that both Christianity and Islam will grow both by birth and conversion and that by 2050 (again at least nominally), Christians will likely still outnumber Muslims (pp. 5-6). He also discusses inter-religious relations, particularly between Christianity and Islam, in Chapter Eight ("The Next Crusade").
Sometimes I find that Professor Jenkins could be more careful with his geographic designations. He reports that Christianity is "literally 'going south'" (p. 3) but then identifies rapid growth in many countries of the northern hemisphere such as Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Note that nearly all Asian countries are in the northern hemisphere and that the equator almost perfectly bisects mainland Africa, which stretches from about 38 degrees north to about 35 degrees south. And somewhere - I cannot find it right now - I believe he considers Mexico apart from North America. Perhaps he means southward more than into the southern hemisphere (which has much less land than the northern hemisphere).
Professor Jenkins is mostly careful about his predictions yet informative. The only glaring blooper I found is on page 118. There he writes: "There is now talk that the Virgin [Mary] might be proclaimed a mediator and co-Savior figure, comparable to Jesus himself, even a fourth member of the Trinity."
Whew! Several paragraphs are appropriate here to repair and clarify that. The Catholic Church has always been quite clear that the Virgin Mary is a creature. As such, the Catholic Church will never declare the Virgin Mary a fourth member of the Trinity, which is uncreated. And while future decades may bring a new dogmatic promulgation of Mary as Mediatrix or Coredemtrix, these are very old doctrines. St. Paul, for example, described how all Christians play a role in the Redemption. He writes, "After all, we do share in God's work..." (1 Co 3:9) and "I accommodated myself to people in all kinds of different situations, so that by all possible means I might bring some to salvation" (1 Co 9:22). St. Paul is a fellow worker with God and a dispenser of his grace, and other Christians, too, are God's fellow workers. Why focus on Mary, then? Mary cooperated with her Savior more than anyone and uniquely in her role as his mother and on Calvary during his redemptive sacrifice whereas St. Paul worked and we work after that event. Many, many of the Fathers attest to Mary as a Mediatress and co-operator in the Redemption. I'll cite only a few specimens:
St. Irenaeus of Lyons c.190-200 writes of Mary in "Proof of the Apostolic Preaching" (interesting word "Apostolic," especially from one so close to the Apostles): "Adam had to be recapitulated in Christ, so that death might be swallowed up in immortality, and Eve [had to be recapitulated] in Mary, so that the Virgin, having become another virgin's advocate, might destroy and abolish one virgin's disobedience by the obedience of another virgin" ("Proof of the Apostolic Preaching" 33, "Sources Chrétiennes" 62 (Paris, 1941-), pp. 83-86, in Luigi Gambero, "Mary and the Fathers of the Church, The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought," 1999, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 54, brackets in Gambero).
Tertullian, who died outside the Church but who is a reliable witness, writes between 208 and 212 that "Eve believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. The fault that Eve introduced by believing, Mary, by believing, erased" ("The Flesh of Christ," 17, 4-5, in "Patrologiae cursus completus" 2, 827-828, Series Latina (Paris: Migne, 1841-1864), in Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought," 1999, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 67).
In 401, St. Augustine of Hippo writes: "-but plainly she is [in spirit] Mother of us who are His members, because by love she has cooperated so that the faithful, who are the members of that Head, might be born in the Church. In body, indeed, she is the Mother of that very Head (Holy Virginity, 6, 6, in William A. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers" (vol. 3), 1979, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, p. 71, brackets in Jurgens).
Telling word "cooperated."
These are but a few of many citations attesting to very early Christian belief in Mary's unique role in the Redemption, a role she fulfilled not only in conceiving and baring Jesus, but also during his ministry, especially at Cana and Calvary, and after. Whether these old doctrines will soon become new dogmas, I won't predict. Sorry I went on so long about that, but I feel it was fitting to resolve a blunder.
On the whole I found "The Next Christendom" informative and, unlike many books declaring to foretell history, cautious and not sensationalistic.


Page: 1