Volume > Issue > Letters to the Editor: December 2018

Letters to the Editor: December 2018

A Sign of Desperation

If you were to compare the state of the Catholic Church in 1960 to that of today, would you reward the person who was most responsible for the transformation that brought us to this lamentable point in time? Who in his right mind would celebrate, let alone canonize, the figure who brought this terrible misfortune upon the Church? Thus, I read with dismay your interview with Karl A. Schultz regarding the canonization of Pope Paul VI (Oct.). Its surreal-like quality is made manifest by the reality that Holy Mother Church is currently being torn limb from limb — largely on account of the legacy of this Pope — yet the questions and answers deal blithely with his heroic virtues. Not only is his canonization a great scandal, Paul VI will be remembered in the future, after the present madness has passed, as perhaps the worst pope in history — Honorius I included. His memory will be blotted out in shame by the future loyal sons and daughters of the Church.

Mr. Schultz has obviously spent much time in the weeds of Paul VI’s life. It is time he came out and surveyed the wreckage of this pontificate. The litany of misfortune is too long to catalogue, but laicized priests, abandoned vocations, and the ruin of women religious; shuttered seminaries, bankrupt dioceses, and moral lapses among the episcopate; the cataclysmic collapse of the sacramental life in virtually every diocese in the world; a diabolical pederasty crisis that was undertaken, hidden, and perpetuated largely by miscreants Paul himself elevated to the formerly august office of bishop; the open teaching of heresy and the greatest apostasy in the history of Holy Mother Church — these facts define the current state of the Church.

It is beyond farce for Pope Paul VI to be canonized — it is an outrage! More importantly, it is a sign of desperation. Vatican II’s project of “modernizing” the Church is not merely taking on water; it is drowning under its own foul weight. The misguided hope that the canonization of one of its chief architects will canonize, so to speak, the “spirit of Vatican II” is absurd. It won’t work. The worst generation of the 1960s and 1970s is dying, and there are no young priests who wish to continue their work of devastation. Their time of control and desolation is at an end, and the canonization of Pope Paul VI won’t change it.

Christopher Gawley

Danbury, Connecticut

It is important to remember that Pope Paul VI was just an ordinary man, a mere human being, who was elected to the papacy during a difficult period in the Church. He did not shrink from its tasks or responsibilities. He did not come in with an agenda. Like any of us would, he put forth his best effort to work for the good of the Church. He did what he thought was right. This cannot be said of all popes.

Just because Paul VI did not measure up to the standards of others, which are often colored by personal bias, does not mean he did not measure up to the standards of God, which, in the end, is all that matters. What we may desire to see accomplished and what God desires are two different things entirely.

“I sought for a man among them who should…stand in the breach” (Ezek. 22:30) is a most fitting epitaph for Pope St. Paul VI, even when considering all his perceived shortcomings.

Alphonse Bankard III

Baltimore, Maryland

Your interview with Karl A. Schultz is disingenuous in how it deals with the rumors of Paul VI’s homosexuality. You tossed up a softball, asking Schultz about the claims of Roger Peyrefitte. Indeed, Peyrefitte’s accusations are open to question, given his background. Why didn’t you ask Schultz about Franco Bellegrandi’s accusations against Paul VI? Is it because Bellegrandi’s reputation is quite solid and his claims, therefore, more credible?

Bellegrandi was chamberlain to popes from the end of Pius XII’s reign into that of Paul VI. A professor of modern history at Innsbruck University in Austria, he served for a time as a correspondent for L’Osservatore Romano. His sterling reputation and background add credence to his book NikitaRoncalli: Counterlife of a Pope (1994), which was strongly endorsed by Silvio Cardinal Oddi. In it Bellegrandi reports on the widespread belief in Rome and Italy that Paul VI was a homosexual. For years, as archbishop of Milan, he had a “special friendship” with a prominent actor who made no secret of the relationship. After he became Pope, this relationship continued and, according to Bellegrandi, this actor had free access to the Vatican apartments.

As chamberlain and a member of the Vatican Noble Guard, Bellegrandi personally witnessed things. Among them was the sudden appointment of “homosexuals to positions of prestige and responsibility close to the papacy.” This growth of the homosexual presence in the Vatican during Paul VI’s reign was indirectly validated by Pepe Rodrigues, who was quoted in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo as saying, “In this century we had a great homosexual Pope and many homosexual bishops…. They practiced their homosexual option and their superiors did not rend their garments” (March 19, 1995). Also in 1995 German reporter Edwin Thomas told MicroMega magazine that during a two-week period when he was in Rome, he’d take early evening walks around St. Peter’s Basilica. During his walks, 64 churchmen made “homosexual propositions” to him. They were ecclesiastics of all kinds — from “seminarians to the secretary of a nuncio.” There is much more corroborating evidence out there for anyone willing to do the research.

As to Mr. Schultz’s noting that Joseph Cardinal Bernardin and Bishop David Zubik have denied similar allegations — really? As with many in the hierarchy, these two men have no credibility. The late Cardinal Bernardin was a homosexual and presumably part of the Lavender Mafia that has come to dominate the Church. He chose to have the Windy City Gay Chorus perform at his funeral — one last rejection of Church teaching on homosexuality. As to Bishop Zubik, he’s one of the large number of bishops to deny, unbelievably, having had any knowledge of Theodore Cardinal McCarrick’s decades-long sexual affairs with young men. And Zubik has been strongly critical of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, giving absolutely no credence to his claims. Frankly, it’s odd that Schultz uses these two men as character witnesses for Pope Paul VI.

Rumors about Paul VI’s homosexuality aren’t the main reason for opposition to his canonization. It’s what he did and did not do in terms of Church governance and discipline that many find wanting. This makes his quick canonization suspect. It raises the larger issue of the whole canonization process and what it’s become: more a political or popularity event than a religious one. In light of the ongoing abuse scandals, the whole process is starting to be doubted by some Catholics.

This is not the time for business as usual, rapid canonizations, or the ongoing denials and cover-ups of a massive homosexual presence in the Vatican, the hierarchy, and the clergy.

Douglas Randolph

San Francisco, California

Ed. Note: Bellegrandi’s book was never published in English, but it can be found online. From Mr. Randolph’s description, it sounds like Bellegrandi’s accusations are essentially identical to Peyrefitte’s.

KARL A. SCHULTZ REPLIES:

To Christopher Gawley

Each of Pope St. Paul VI’s successors has praised his pontificate and character, and each has affirmed Vatican II. We all know that many post-conciliar abuses occurred, but a lot of good occurred as well. Some folks simply reject Vatican II and, implicitly, the authority of the Church. Mistakes and abuses continue to occur in the Church due to her humanity. Are we going to make St. Paul VI a scapegoat for all this?

Pope Benedict XVI referred to Paul VI’s efforts in implementing Vatican II as “almost superhuman.” Pope Francis referred to Evangelii Nuntiandi, Paul VI’s final apostolic exhortation, as “the greatest pastoral document in the history of the Church” and approved his canonization. I try to be as Catholic as the pope, but not more so.

To Alphonse Bankard III

Mr. Bankard got to the essence of objective evaluations of a pope or bishop. Is he sincere, sufficiently qualified and competent, and doing his best to carry out his mission? If so, we ought to support him rather than over-analyze or scorn him. A commission and responsibility always look easier from a distance. St. Paul VI preached and tried to emulate the Word, kept the Church together, and preserved the sacred deposit of faith. He deserves our prayers and our gratitude.

To Douglas Randolph

In the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, great care is extended to avoid false accusations and indictments and wrong verdicts. The Jews didn’t build jails, and they gave the benefit of the doubt to the accused. Is it the Spirit, the Advocate, who inspires unsubstantiated accusations against a long-dead Pope, or the Devil, literally the Accuser and Slanderer? I wouldn’t dignify salacious, agenda- or ideologically driven comments about St. Paul VI or any pope, bishop, or fellow Christian with a response.

Viganò, the Vatican Whistleblower

Regarding “At Last, a Reckoning?” by Pieter Vree (Oct.): Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy has been reported by two outside secular sources: the Boston Globe (2002) and the Pennsylvania grand jury report (2018). In contrast, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s testimony, which reports the same, is a clerical source from a highly placed insider. I would ascribe whistleblower status to him. Viganò is not unlike Jeffrey Wigand, the Brown & Williamson biochemist who in 1996 revealed that tobacco companies hid the fact that they knew their products cause cancer and heart disease.

If Viganò’s allegations are substantially true, then sides will be taken. In the eyes of homosexually active and gay-friendly clergy, his testimony is an exploding powder keg. They have a lot to lose and will fight fiercely and dirty to preserve their culture and agenda.

If Viganò’s allegations are false, I would expect Pope Francis to provide a reasoned, intelligent rebuttal. Otherwise, how is he protecting us, the faithful, from potential lies?

So far, Francis has made no denial of the allegations. His response has even been characterized as a “non-denial”! Pope Francis has a duty to combat lies with the truth, but he’s done nothing. His lack of courage and leadership have disappointed me.

Steve Frost

San Diego, California

Ed. Note: The Viganò saga hasn’t ended! Read about the most recent developments in this issue.

From an Open Letter to Pope Francis

As a practicing Catholic, I would like to ask Your Holiness (1) to explain properly your behavior regarding very ugly cases, such as that of ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, among others, or (2) if not, to resign right away.

Our Lord said to St. Peter, “Confirm your brothers” in the faith, not “Confuse your brothers” in their little faith.

Julio A. Gonzalez

Madrid

Spain

Bad Reasons for Good Behavior

Casey Chalk’s use of the “prosperity gospel” as an introduction to Humanae Vitae is highly appropriate (“Humanae Vitae: A Manual for Better Sex?” Oct.). While the prosperity gospel is patently false, its main prediction comes true often enough to make it sound plausible. Simply put, a dissipative life dissipates. If a person “gets religion” and stops spending half his income on alcohol, drugs, or other wasteful pursuits, his effective income has just doubled and, of course, he will prosper financially. It is not guaranteed, though, and it is not a good reason to believe in the prosperity gospel.

So too with Humanae Vitae. While the things that natural family planning brings to a marriage will often bring greater physical pleasure to the spouses who practice it, this too is not guaranteed. It also is not a proper reason to follow the teachings of that great encyclical.

I would expect, though, that the deeper relationship between the spouses who obey Humanae Vitae over those who use contraception would always tend to enrich their marriage. And obedience to Church teachings is always good.

John F. Fay

Freeport, Florida

In God We Do Not Trust

In his article “Why American Politics Marginalizes Catholic Voters” (Oct.), Kenneth Colston writes, “Millennialism (pre or post), or a literal interpretation of the chaining of Satan and the reign of Christ on earth with the saints for a happy thousand years (Rev. 20-21), is not Catholic.” Are we to presume, then, that the Apostles, who believed fervently in an imminent Parousia, were not Catholic?

Amillennialists adhere to the fanciful notion that the Second Ecumenical Council (A.D. 381) condemned as chiliasm the premillennialism that God has ordained in Scripture. Original sources — the documents of the Council — reveal nothing of the sort. When He whose Kingdom shall have no end returns, He will judge all, including any who put aside Scripture in favor of the Augsburg Confession of 1530 or the opinions of St. Augustine, Pope St. Dionysius, and others.

The concise, peaceful platform of the American Solidarity Party, which Colston quotes, should appeal to many more voters than the 7,000 he mentions. But our country is a wicked plutocracy with a thin democratic veneer that spends more on war than all other countries combined. In the past two decades, the U.S. has attacked several countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. We are the world’s most belligerent nation. Americans respect the military more than just about any other institution. Not in God do we trust. In these last days, while a few of us await Christ’s Kingdom, the U.S., in “the fourth part of the earth” (Rev 6:8), puts its trust in the four horsemen.

Yet “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).

Thomas More Zavist

Houston, Texas

Kenneth Colston uses Michael Doran’s public lecture “The Theology of Foreign Policy” as a starting point to examine the interplay between theology and politics in the U.S. He ends by giving us a glimpse of the American Solidarity Party (ASP), a little-known political organization that advocates Catholic-friendly principles.

While reading Colston’s article, I couldn’t help thinking that, while we are in a deeply divided secular state, where everything seems “political,” we are, at the same time, in a kind of “post-political” Church.

Here’s what I mean: At his blog at the website of The American Conservative, Rod Dreher recently posted a letter from a reader who described a so-called Listening Session conducted by Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego. Not only was there no “listening” at this session, which appears to have been a mere PR stunt, but McElroy’s goon squad forcibly ejected a lay Catholic who tried to ask the bishop about the Vatican’s complicity in the sex-abuse scandal. Reportedly, this man is a moral theologian who had to be taken to the hospital for x-rays following the physical force the bishop’s thugs inflicted on him as they removed him from the meeting.

Here’s where we transcend politics: No one at the meeting did anything. The sheep sat there sheepishly, or so it was reported. If, after 2002, after more than one grand jury report, after the exposure of McCarrick, after Viganò’s letters, after decades of liturgical abuse, after the infiltration of the Church by a Lavender Mafia that is willing even to change Church doctrine in order to advance its agendas — if, after all this, Catholics sit quietly while one of their own is physically assaulted by agents of a bishop while asking a question that needs to be answered, then we are, in fact, post-political. We have given up. We believe the lie that’s been the only message from the pulpit for 50 years: “Jesus was nice, so you be nice too.” We believe that a glib and superficial “peace” (like the kind shared at Mass) is what Jesus died to bring us, and that getting worked up about anything is a sin. We believe that nothing is worth fighting for.

Politics has ended, at least in the Catholic Church.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it…. Every man who has ever been young at all has felt, if only for a moment, this ultimate and poetic paradox. He knows that loving the world is the same thing as fighting the world.” But we Catholics are post-political. We will no longer fight — for the world, for our Church, for our children, or for anything.

Kevin O’Brien, President

Theater of the Word Incorporated

St. Louis, Missouri

KENNETH COLSTON REPLIES:

Writers love exact readers, and so I thank Thomas More Zavist and Kevin O’Brien for their intelligent and well-written comments.

Perhaps Mr. Zavist objects to my definition of millennialism as “a literal interpretation of the chaining of Satan and the reign of Christ on earth with the saints for a happy thousand years” (Rev. 20: 1-3) and would prefer that I use the term millenarianism or chiliasm instead. (I have found the terms used interchangeably, and I’m not sure how he would distinguish them.) While the Catechism does not speak of millennialism, it clearly favors (passing over particulars) a figurative reading of that passage and characterizes the Parousia as a “messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history” (no. 676; my emphasis). My point was that Catholic politics, therefore, is not moved by specific “millennial” (or “millenarian”) interpretations of the end times, as American politics sometimes is, which leads too often to the militaristic urgency Mr. Zavist and I both decry.

At the same time, I hope Mr. O’Brien doesn’t think my limitation of Catholic force to “just defense” means surrender to the evil and coarseness in the world and indifference to the plight of truth and its battered champions and lazy deserters.

Lost in Plato’s Cave

Will Hoyt’s article “The Shape of Society’s Lies” (Sept.) is not an easy read, but its main point is compelling. He proposes that our modern view of reality is shaped by “lies,” and a recovery of interest in Plato might show us a way to see the world of truth that exists behind the lies. The modern enthusiasm for democratic equality, for example, and exuberance for technological advancement are “lies” that obfuscate the higher truths of the infinite worth of the individual and the propriety of humility before nature in scientific research. In other words, the lies have disassociated us from a more permanently real and less materially contaminated worldview, which, if I read Hoyt correctly, he finds in the eternal verities of Christian teaching (along with its Greco-Judean influences).

For remediation, Hoyt goes to Plato’s cave, where he finds “shadowgraphs.” Plato’s construction (simplified somewhat) presents confined cave-dwellers who see on the walls only the shadows of figures cast by a fire. The figures represent a world more real and therefore truer than the world of the shadows. Since there is a relationship between the shadows and the things they image, inference from the shadow to the figure is possible — that is, from a lower order of reality to a higher one. The question arises, however, how one can be certain that the terminus of the inference is, in fact, the real truth behind the shadow.

Plato’s solution, of which Hoyt does not really take notice, is a certain kind of education. He drags a cave-dweller from the shadowy world to the sunny outside world. The passage is painful, and the cave-dweller is resistant. But once he acclimates to the sunlight, he sees the world as it really is in its full illumination. He is then charged to descend again to darkness and, from his new illumination, teach the cave-dwellers what their shadows really represent. The metaphor applies not only to the ontology of substances but to that of moral ideas. Indeed, one purpose of Plato’s construction was to describe the upward path of the philosopher-king to knowledge of true justice, which he would then implement, upon his descent, in the dark world of mundane politics.

Plato’s construct, absent the illuminated teacher, is the architectonic analogy powering Hoyt’s argument. His core suggestion is that the lies that shape our modern worldview are like Plato’s shadowgraphs. Compelling, indeed, but it raises some questions.

Do the viewpoints Hoyt identifies as shadowgraphs actually conform to the Platonic model? Plato’s shadows are less real but nonetheless rational distortions of their more real objects, which come to light after analysis of the distortion. Or, more abstractly, they represent lower-order truths, which are the basis for inference to related higher-order truths. Some of Hoyt’s examples do not readily appear to conform to this model. He takes pity, for example, to be a “completely simple” shadowgraph for compassion. If pity were “diametrically opposed” to compassion, as Hoyt says, it would not conform to the Platonic model, as shadows imply similarity, not opposition. More critical, however, is the difficulty in seeing how pity is a sort of lie masking a higher truth embodied in the notion of compassion. Even under Hoyt’s definitions — pity as a form of sympathetic condescension, and compassion as a form of sympathetic empathy — the one neither contradicts nor distorts the notion of the other. The two ideas seem simply to be different notions in the same order of reality, each with an independent and separate meaning.

Hoyt asserts that the “richest [of] shadowgraphs” are the ones that “involve antithetical logic” and, therefore, have “enormous signifying power.” He says that “the Cartesian distinction between res cogitans and res extensa” (relation 1) is a “modern-day shadowgraph…for the Judeo-Christian distinction between ‘spirit’ and ‘letter’” (relation 2). The antithesis that interests him must be between the terms of relation 1 or relation 2 or both, and not between the relations themselves because a shadowgraph under the Platonic analogy bears, again, a distorted similarity, not a distorted opposition to its more real object. Yet in the Platonic model, the shadow is not itself a relation (neither is its object) but is the term of a relation between itself and its object. Therefore, one may object that if the relation between res cogitans and res extensa implicates that between “spirit” and “letter,” it does so simply through the logic of analogy and not via inference from a shadowgraph.

We may also thus raise the question: If the signifying power of the antithesis between res cogitans and res extensa is enormous because it implicates, as the Platonic model requires, the higher-order relation between “spirit” and “letter,” how does it do so?

The last point raises a second concern — namely, that Hoyt does not develop any hypothesis of judgment similar to Plato’s illuminated teacher to function as the criterion by which to judge the truth-value of the inference from a shadowgraph. How can Hoyt be certain of the higher truth of the deconstructed lie? Take, for example, another of his rich shadowgraphs also involving the power of antithetical logic. Hoyt says that “the modern division between manual labor and desk work” (relation A) is a “shadowgraph for the difference between dehumanized labor and contemplation” (relation B). Presumably, a Platonic-like analysis of relation A, the shadowgraph, would lead to relation B, the more real object. But without a Plato telling us so, what criterion of judgment confirms that relation B has a higher truth-value than relation A?

Perhaps such a criterion could be the authority of Christian doctrine, as one of Hoyt’s most provocative suggestions is that modern shadowgraph-lies are hiding higher-order Christian truths. He says, after all, that Plato “almost singlehandedly built the cathedral that…[the] architects of Christendom were destined to inhabit,” and that “shadowgraphs [indicate]…something real that, ever since the late 13th century [i.e., the period of high Christendom], has been steadily withdrawn from view.”

Hoyt’s final example, however, raises, in a particularly pointed way, some questions about how Christianity as the criterion would work. He says the “best way to discern the revelatory power of modern-day shadowgraphs” is to reflect on the difference between Ashcan School realism and Romanticism because it is a “highly evocative shadowgraph of the medieval divide between nominalism…and scholastic realism.” The former he associates with the school of William of Occam (1285-1347), the latter with that of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), who are both, more or less, authoritative teachers of Christian doctrine. The first problem is the difficulty in seeing how any Christian teaching would determine, in accord with the Platonic model, that the nominalism/realism divide is a higher-order reality inherent in the Ashcan/Romanticism shadowgraph. More pointedly, once inference reaches the putative higher reality, there one finds an antithetical relationship — nominalism vs. realism — about which Christian authorities disagree. This undermines the hypothesis that Christian doctrine is a homologue for Plato’s illuminated teacher.

In such cases, it is difficult to see how Hoyt’s shadowgraphs conform to their Platonic model. Hoyt omits the illuminated teacher who verifies that the objects of the shadows exist in a higher order of reality with higher truth-values than their shadows, and he provides no functional substitute. Therefore, it is not always manifest that his inferences from shadowgraphs in fact lead to such higher-order truths.

Hoyt notes that “Plato was convinced that most of what [passed] for education in his day…was worthless” because it did not “overcome ignorance” or provide a “glimpse [of the] truth,” as teachers and students alike were “lost in a cave.” The same can be said for education in our own day. To put the point as an image, there is a room in a university I know that some there call the cave. It has no windows but contains all the latest and greatest technological devices. Multiple times a day, you can walk by this room and see in the darkness teachers and students viewing images (shadows?) projected on the wall by modern technology’s latest marvels. To risk overstatement, the creation of such rooms and the race to equip every nook in the university with like and multiple other sorts of marvelous devices has become the standard by which success in education is measured.

We can only hope that Hoyt is right, and the productions of this technology are indeed shadowgraphs that some new Plato will interpret for his students.

Joseph A. Almeida

Steubenville, Ohio

WILL HOYT REPLIES:

Thanks very much to Joseph A. Almeida for his gracious and elegantly constructed critique of my article about Plato’s surprising relevance to our postmodern age.

To clear up some possible misunderstandings and, in general, confirm givens, let me say at the outset that, even as Almeida does on the whole read my article correctly, I most certainly did not mean to indicate that (A) “enthusiasm for democratic equality” or “exuberance for technological advancement” are lies obfuscating higher truths like the infinite worth of the human person, or that (B) “the eternal verities of Christian teaching” are permanently real because they are “less materially contaminated.”

On the first score (A), I simply doubted whether belief in the worth of the human person could be maintained or even survive without clear and deliberate acknowledgment of the rootedness of such belief in Judeo-Christian faith — hence the importance of keeping the rocky vistas characterizing that faith in view during our age of engineered reality, duplicitous genesis narratives, and accordant ignorance.

On the second score (B), I simply assumed that, ever since the Incarnation, the very conception of what is “permanently real” has (for Christians) been fundamentally and irreversibly altered from Plato’s original conception — so much so that, for whatever reason, we can no longer think of enfleshment as anything other than enshrinement.

That said, I will try to address Almeida’s two more carefully stated challenges.

Almeida asks first whether the shadowgraphs I cite actually conform to the Platonic model — that is to say, whether they can be fairly depicted as “less real but nonetheless rational distortions of their more real objects.” He adds that in order to completely conform to the Platonic model, shadowgraphs must also “imply similarity, not opposition.” Might I suggest that the shadowgraphs I cited pass this test while at the same time providing evidence of resistance to, and even hostility toward, the reality toward which they point? Once again, we have learned a thing or two since Plato’s time, and one of the things we’ve learned is that there is a deep-seated aversion in the world to both Christ-light and the Hebraic culture that produced it. In any case, I do concede that depicting pity as “diametrically opposed” to compassion is a stretch. Hopefully, readers can file that goof as a testament to how beholden I am to what I would call a conversion matrix, no pun intended. (Discerning the difference between pity and compassion can be like turning 180 degrees toward Emmanuel, God-with-us, He who carries our pain.)

As for Almeida’s doubt whether the difference between res cogitans and res extensa can legitimately function as an especially significant shadowgraph for the more properly Christian conception of spirit and letter, I would ask how it couldn’t, seeing as how the shadowgraph is a less real version of the “higher reality” known as “the Word made flesh.”

Almeida’s second criticism is that I provide no substitute for Plato’s philosopher-king, the actor who, in Plato’s estimation, can always and everywhere be relied on to judge correctly and thereby confirm the truth-value of an inference from a shadowgraph. I must say that history has removed that option by demonstrating, conclusively, that individuals should not outsource responsibility for their welfare to philosopher-kings who claim to act impartially in the name of the common good. Almeida, I feel sure, knows this and was bothered instead by the fact that I overlooked an apparent need to name a practical substitute — hence his question about whether I ascribed the philosopher-king’s role to the Church. I guess in a certain sense I do, if we mean by “Church” the Roman Catholic one that has best honored apostolic succession. But in an important sense, that fact begs the question. How, then, can any person or institution be certain that, to use Almeida’s language, “the terminus of the inference is, in fact, the real truth behind the shadow”? My answer would be that there is no longer any possibility for strictly rational validations of the higher truth toward which shadowgraphs point. The best we can hope for, when it comes to certifying glimpses of apparent sunlight, is a stamp of approval administered by a mind that weds reason to faith, and vice versa.

Almeida concludes his critique by charging that the AshCan/Romanticism shadowgraph fails because “Christian authorities disagree” about whether there is “an antithetical relationship between nominalism and realism.” I would simply point out that disagreement on this issue may be a function of the scandalous aspect of the Incarnation rather than the absence of any radically important difference between nominalism and realism. When did Pope St. John Paul II incorporate paragraph 22 of Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes into Veritatis Splendor — 1993? It has taken nearly 2,000 years to adequately grasp the importance of the Incarnation and position it as a key organizing principle that can help current-day philosophers and theologians evade the epistemological traps to which enlightenment thinkers fell prey. Hence it stands to reason that we might have to wait a little longer before deciding, once and for all, whether that particular shadowgraph is as revelatory as I believe it to be.

You May Also Enjoy

"The Church's Best Kept Secret"

Review of An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching

Briefly: May 2005

Three Approaches to Abortion: A Thoughtful and Compassionate Guide to Today's Most Controversial Issue... Angel in the Waters... Life with Mother Teresa: My Thirty-Year Friendship with the Mother of the Poor... The Catechism of the Council of Trent

Briefly: March 2003

Reviews of A Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden... Anti-Abortionist at Large: How to Argue Intelligently About Abortion and Live to Tell About It by Raymond Dennehy... Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England by John Henry Newman... The Dead Sea Conspiracy: Teilhard de Chardin and the New American Church by James K. Fitzpatrick