July-August 2006

False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion.  By Lee Penn. Sophia Perennis (P.O. Box 611, Hillsdale NY 12529; sophiaperennis.com). 490 pages. $27.95.

Subtle is the serpent who whispered into the first woman's ear, selling her on the benefits of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was no need for a hard sell. After all, who wouldn't want to be like God? Eve couldn't resist, and her husband bought in. We know the rest of the story. This is the attraction of the New Age movement at its core.

The United Religions Initiative (URI) is what some call "the most ambitious organization in today's interfaith movement." It was founded by William Swing, the Episcopal Bishop of California. Lee Penn, a Catholic investigative reporter, chronicles the beliefs, history, supporters, and potential future aspirations of the organization and the encompassing movement.

The movement and the URI are being promoted by New Age/ New World Order liberals and fellow travelers, many of whom have position, money, and influence. The URI Charter states that the organization's purpose is "to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation" and to "end religiously motivated violence."

The URI denies that it wants to synthesize the world's religions or start a new world religion, yet founder Swing's book, The Coming United Religions, says, "The time comes, though, when common language and a common purpose for all religions and spiritual movements must be discerned and agreed upon. Merely respecting and understanding other religions is not enough."

Some of the world's biggest names are behind this movement, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Turner, and George Soros. Funding for the URI and URI-related initiatives has come from wealthy individuals and foundations. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $1 million in 2003 to the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance, a URI-affiliated organization.

One of the more objectionable aspects of the URI is its desire to reduce great religions such as Judaism to the same standing as, say, Wicca. In fact, it can be argued that pseudo-religions are given higher standing than Christianity, the clearest expression of truth on earth. Thus, the URI's goal is to emasculate Christianity.

Penn astutely points out that Bishop Swing and others allied with the URI hypocritically "condemn Christian proselytization, yet evangelize with zeal on behalf of the URI."

As Archbishop of San Francisco, William Levada co-operated closely (de facto) with the URI. The Vatican is presently noncommittal regarding the URI. But Penn points out that "Before Vatican II, Catholic teaching on the interfaith movement was clear and strict: stay away."

Penn uncovers unpalatable aspects of the one-world movement that aren't typically shown to the public. For instance, some leaders of the movement have historically demonstrated their love of tyrants and mass murderers such as Hitler. Some worshiped atomic bombs. Alice Bailey, a now-deceased New Age leader, even proposed dropping one on the pope!

Gordon Davidson and Corrine McLaughlin, both members of the Council of Advisors of Pathways to Peace, a URI affiliate, wrote a book titled Spiritual Politics, which featured a glowing Foreword by the Dalai Lama. In the book, the authors write that "there is a role for the right use of destruction when it is used against rigid and crystallized forms of thought…." (Such as Christianity? Just wondering.)

One recurring theme present in nearly all the one-world proponents is a lack of belief in cultural freedom. Robert Muller, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and public supporter of the URI, would ban alcohol, smoking, and even sodas worldwide. He believes that liberty as we understand it is obsolete, and recommends "armed prophets" to enforce the rules. Muller also says that "all those who hold contrary beliefs" to those favored in the "next phase of evolution" will "disappear." Nice.

Penn believes, as do I, that much of the rise in popularity of the New Age movement is due to the void left by Christianity.

The family is also under attack by New Age change agents, as many of them are fully aware that the family is the primary building block of society.

Neale Donald Walsh, author of the Conversations with God series, says as his alter-ego (God): "Thou Art God" and "There is no such thing as right and wrong."

Penn offers a warning not to dismiss the activities and beliefs of the URI and their globalist, New Age allies as "too bizarre to take seriously." They are indeed bizarre, but they are legion, many with money, power, and influence in abundance. We dismiss them at our peril.

Penn presents the great threat to our way of life from these dark forces of the Left. Later, he postulates that as dangerous as they are, a storm is also possible from the Right. He offers the following admonition: "Evil does not necessarily come from our identified enemies; it can arise amongst our friends and allies -- and most perilously, from ourselves. Examination of conscience is essential to spiritual survival." Penn's willingness to look honestly into the current state of his own religion, Catholicism, is admirable. He compares a statement from Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver ("What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines") to one made by the Inner Party inquisitor in George Orwell's 1984 ("Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth").

The "action" section of the book is where I had trouble with some of the author's points. Of course I wouldn't argue with his exhortation: "Prayer and repentance are the only way that we will see beyond the confines of the ‘box,' to perceive what is really occurring." But Penn is skeptical whether social and political action can work any longer.

On the whole, Lee Penn did a fantastic job of illuminating a critical subject. The one-world movement is a spiritual and physical threat of the first order. I urge everyone to read False Dawn.

- Patrick Rooney



The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis.  By Alan Jacobs. HarperSanFrancisco. 342 pages. $25.95.

His "chief task," Alan Jacobs says in his new biography of C.S. Lewis, "is to write the life of a mind, the story of an imagination. The seed of this book is a question: what sort of person wrote the Chronicles of Narnia? Who was this man who made -- and, in a sense, himself dwelled in -- Narnia?" Jacobs does this in a thoughtful way, and in a clear style that rises to eloquence in the final chapters.

And his main conclusion, what he calls the "keynote" of his book, profoundly illuminates one's perception of Lewis: "Lewis's mind was above all characterized by a willingness to be enchanted…." Lewis's life was not, though, a paradise of tweed, laughter (Lewis said he delighted in male laughter), and the dreaming spires of Oxford, for, as Jacobs adds, in March 1949, when Lewis first read from what was to become The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Roger Lancelyn Green, "his life was very miserable." He had become exhausted because of his extraordinary pile of correspondence he felt obligated to answer, and because he took care of his increasingly ill adopted mother and, most likely, a former lover, Mrs. Janie Moore. In addition, his brother Warnie, who helped tremendously with the correspondence, also regularly collapsed or disappeared a few times a year because of his chronic alcoholism. This, then, was the setting for the composition of the work that became the Chronicles of Narnia.

From this beginning, Jacobs chronicles the ups and downs of Lewis's life as well as the books he was reading and, eventually, writing. As each part of Lewis's life is examined -- the books, the friends, the events -- Jacobs connects them to the world of Narnia to show their influence on the Narnia books.

As a writer, Lewis was an "exposer of ideological forces and their titanic influence over us." But, Jacobs continues, Lewis "rarely gets credit for this from contemporary intellectuals because it is their most treasured beliefs that more often than not, he is exposing."

Jacob's main contention is that Lewis's writing of the Narnia books was not a rebound from his break-up with apologetics after his defeat in debate by Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, but rather "a form of self-testing, a means of discovering what ‘speech' indeed lay at the center of his soul." Said Lewis: "Let the pictures tell you their own moral. For the moral inherent in them will rise from whatever spiritual roots you have succeeded in striking during the whole course of your life."

But Jacobs attacks Lewis on the woman question: "What has emerged since Lewis's death is a large body of orthodox Christians [Protestants], many of whom revere C.S. Lewis and wish to promote traditional Christianity as vigorously as he did, who see no difficulty with the ordination of women." But traditional Christianity never included the ordination of women. Moreover, Lewis had argued that women's ordination would lead to a "different religion," and it could be said that present-day Anglicanism is indeed a different religion from that of Lewis's day.

Overall, however, this is one of the most intelligent and readable books about Lewis on the market today.

- Franklin Freeman



Benedict XVI: The Man Who Was Ratzinger.  By Michael S. Rose. Spence. 192 pages. $22.95.

Cardinal Ratzinger worked as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which included conflict with a good many who dissent from historic doctrines. This book shows how due process, deliberation in fact-finding, and tolerance -- not to say long-suffering -- were shown by the former Prefect in dealing with challenges to the Faith he was charged to preserve. Rose details relations with activists, educators, theologians, and even Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. A great deal of evidence shows that those who came under Ratzinger's investigation were given many opportunities to explain how their work could be construed as faithful to Catholicism.

Two decades elapsed during the Nugent-Gramick Affair, which began in 1984 when James Cardinal Hickey, of Washington, D.C., informed Robert Nugent and Jeannine Gramick that they could no longer pursue their activities in his Archdiocese. The Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life also informed them that they were not to undertake any ministries without faithfully presenting the Church's teaching on homosexual acts. The supporters of Nugent and Gramick -- and the media -- vilified Ratzinger and John Paul II as homophobic reactionaries during the period Nugent and Gramick were given to justify their positions. Both refused to amend their teachings. The Vatican continued to receive complaints about them from U.S. bishops. In 1988 the Vatican formed a commission, headed by Adam Cardinal Maida of Detroit, to evaluate their statements in light of Church doctrines. Nugent and Gramick published the record of their work and their intentions in a widely disseminated book in 1992, which, not surprisingly, gave Cardinal Maida's commission further reason to criticize them. After inviting Nugent and Gramick to respond, the commission in 1995 forwarded its findings to the Vatican. There the problem was seen as doctrinal, and forwarded to Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Nugent accepted the rulings. Gramick did not and remained a vocal critic of Church teaching.

Archbishop Hunthausen of Seattle was a controversial figure for 11 years before Ratzinger, in 1986, directed him to delegate his decision-making authority to the Vatican-appointed Auxiliary Bishop Donald Wuerl. Rose outlines the key issues for us. The appointment had not been announced publicly, and Hunthausen was not disciplined or censured. The Archbishop himself created a media brouhaha, and public opinion tended toward the view that the source of the problem was Ratzinger's (and the Pope's) obstinate refusal to become, well, Episcopalians. The Vatican eventually restored Hunthausen's full authority, which he exercised until his early retirement in 1991.

- Michael Dodaro





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