Volume > Issue > Letters to the Editor: December 2022

Letters to the Editor: December 2022

The Marx Family Resemblance

I was delighted to read Jason M. Morgan’s kind references to Chronicles and his agreement with my view that “Fox News is not conservative. It is, in fact, much less conservative than Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, leaders of the Frankfurt School” (“When the Secular Saints Go Marxing In,” Cultural Counterpoint, Oct.). This is the case if we consider the channel’s enthusiastic acceptance of same-sex marriage and its celebration of transgendered Republicans. Morgan is also correct that, despite his book sales as a Republican talking head, Mark Levin, author of American Marxism, is “no scholar of Marxism. That much is clear from his book.”

Where Morgan and I differ is in my insistence that the present woke Left bears little resemblance to Marxism in theory or practice. This is also the position of Alexander Riley, who is a frequent contributor to Chronicles. One does not demonstrate that the woke Left is a subgenus of Marxism simply by noting that both movements are working to subvert “an existing society.” Both Nazism and anarchism pursued revolutionary goals, but neither, in my considered opinion, can be subsumed under Marxism. Having a revolutionary purpose or seeking to reduce institutions to ashes does not prove one is a Marxist, as opposed to some other kind of agitator. Real Marxists aim at socioeconomic transformation, not the destruction of gender roles or the glorification of homosexual behavior. Communist regimes have been among the most brutal in suppressing “alternative lifestyles” — and for good reason. They view homosexuals, crossdressers, and other representatives of our progressive culture as degenerate bourgeois, who are corrupting the socialist moral order.

What Morgan might have observed is that Marxism and Wokeism both reflect a distinctly leftist worldview. Each seeks to change fundamentally inherited social relations and works toward a world order that would suppress all traditional hierarchies and “reactionary” particularities. I would never deny that there is a family resemblance among movements of the Left, but that hardly proves they all are derived from Marxism or should be treated as such.

Morgan is right that I criticize relentlessly media “conservatives” who try to attach Marxist labels to their political adversaries. I do this out of moral as well as intellectual conviction. Talking about a perpetual Marxist danger distracts from the unique danger to human civilization represented by the woke Left. Instead of engaging the real enemy, we go after an antiquated one that is no longer endangering us. Pace Levin, wokesters are neither latter-day Progressives nor the reincarnation of Communist Party members of the 1930s. They represent, if we bother to notice, a more modern and far more serious threat to all our vital social institutions.

Paul Gottfried

Editor, Chronicles

Bloomington, Minnesota

Jason M. Morgan’s account of my review of Mark Levin’s book is uncharitable. He characterizes my review as “disingenuous,” which is synonymous with dishonest, deceitful, and mendacious. Somehow, it would seem, he believes he’s seen into my heart and discerned that I am dissimulating about something. But what? Is it that, despite my posturing to the contrary, I agree with Levin and Morgan that Marxism can mean whatever anyone would like it to mean? On that point, at least, I can assure you there is no disingenuousness. I really do find that a fatuous and indefensible claim.

The content of Morgan’s column shows that he is as poorly informed about Marxism, Wokeism, and their crucial differences as is Levin. It also shows that he couldn’t have read my review carefully. The review describes the central difference between Marxism and Wokeism, and it explains why it matters, and yet Morgan says not a word about that.

It is true that both Marxism and Wokeism are revolutionary belief systems that look to overturn a given social order, or at least some parts of it. But Islamism and fascism also fit that definition. Indeed, so does early Christianity. Does Morgan think they are, in principle, indistinguishable from Marxism, too? Things can be similar in many of their aspects and yet different in important ways. This is not a particularly “fastidious” point to make.

Marxism centers on a socioeconomic class analysis of inequality. All other forms of inequality are dependent on the only real form of inequality in Marxism, which has to do with social-class position with respect to the means of production. Some classes control those means; some do not. This determines everything in Marxism.

Try to find this kind of class-centric analysis in the chief texts of Wokeism, in its messaging from its elite partisans, or in the slogans of its street troops. When class is considered by the Woke, it is just one more element of identity to be mixed in with all the others. The Woke faithful see class as no more important than race, sex, gender, or sexuality, and many of them are explicit that it is less important, for various unconvincing reasons.

The Woke elite reject Marxist analysis, as I wrote in my review, because the last thing that elite wants is sustained critique of their economic domination of the rest of the society. Wokeism, which elevates the current crop of identity-politics categories above class, allows them to pose as radicals and yet maintain their power, advocating nothing that harms their material position of dominance. The Woke elite are happy to repeat the mindless inanities of gender dysphoria and the endless charges of white supremacy, so long as this does not disturb the continued sales of their products and the concomitant growth of their political and cultural power.

Marxism was egregiously wrong in many ways, and its historical record is obscene. But the one thing it got right is what continues to draw some to it today. This same feature of Marxism is something that could be usefully consulted by many on the Right, especially those with no economic perspective to speak of beyond the simplistic “free markets solve all problems” libertarianism of the mainstream GOP. What Marxism got right is this: Social classes exist; some of the time, they have some common interests that conflict with the interests of other classes; and class inequality can, if allowed to grow too extreme, become a major social problem. Conservatives once widely recognized at least the last point. They also understood that an economic elite too widely separated from the rest of society would inevitably exert a corrosive force on traditional institutions and systems of belief. This is certainly happening in the United States right now.

Of course, the Marxian “solution” to the problem — communist revolution — is to be rejected. But too many on the Right think this move then rules out of bounds any criticism of economic inequality. Levin and other high-profile figures on the media Right use their line on “cultural Marxism” to insinuate just this. But any astute student of human societies knows that inequality is one of the central variables of concern in any society. Utopian perspectives that would claim we can and should eliminate it entirely, such as Marxism, are doomed to failure. But this is not to say that every degree of inequality is healthy and acceptable. Some forms of inequality are unavoidable; some are functional and productive. But when there are people (of all races, sexes, genders, sexualities, and so on) who have become so wealthy that they can effectively own the political system in a self-proclaimed democracy and move the entire culture with significant precision in the directions they desire, this is a problem.

Marxism recognizes this problem, and for that reason it has never gotten much purchase among the American corporate elite. Wokeism is typically so engrossed in denying human biology, asserting the human ability to change sex at will and fretting about ignorant and ideologically poisonous narratives of race relations in American history (neither of which were distractions that concerned many Marxists), that it frequently overlooks this problem. It, therefore, presents dangers as an elite-promoted ideology that Marxism never could in this country.

Failing to recognize these differences consigns one to an inability to understand the nature of the fight the American Right faces. What Morgan calls “fastidious” is, in fact, essential to a proper comprehension of what is to be done to defeat the Woke, non-Marxist revolution confronting us. I share his concern about the damage done to Christianity in this country by the unrelenting fire of Wokeism. But blithely hoping for religious revival is not a strategy. Defeating Wokeism will require accurately understanding it and building imperfect and cautious alliances with others — some of whom may find compelling a view of social class reasonably defined as Marxist — for the fight.

Alexander Riley

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

JASON M. MORGAN REPLIES:

I understand that Alexander Riley does not like that I found his perspective on Mark Levin’s understanding (such as it is) of Marxism “disingenuous.” I hope he will forgive me that I still do not know how else to explain — because ignorance is completely out of the question — the failure to make the one distinction, among all the other important ones Prof. Riley makes, between Marxism in books and Marxism in the streets. For that is where the value of Levin’s book lies. It is a deeply flawed work, and I don’t recommend it, but it does get “Marxism” (in scare quotes) right. That is the meat. Not between Marxism and Wokeism, pace Riley, but between “Marxism” and non-revolutionaries.

Now, it is true, as Riley points out in his review of American Marxism, that Levin is no scholar of Marxism as a set of theories. And the distinctions Riley makes in his letter are precise and most welcome.

But what Levin is saying in American Marxism is that “Marxism” as a style of political warfare is ascendant in America, gaining ground daily. Not the Marxism of Theses on Feuerbach, or of chalk-dusted theorists like French philosopher Jacques Bidet (who once tripped over my backpack as he walked to the podium to give a talk on some of the finer points of Das Kapital). Not even the Marxism of Rosa Luxemburg or Leon Trotsky. Levin does, to his credit, make a go of explicating textbook Marxism and connecting it to the riots in American cities. He lays it on thick and yet still comes up short. This is because what he is talking about, and what I am talking about, is not textbook Marxism. It is Molotov-cocktail “Marxism.” Of course, these things are not intellectually congruous. In the end, however, I see both as products of the same satanic rebellion against God.

This is the point where I veer far off the path beaten by intellectuals who have studied Marx, including, very likely, Riley. I have read Marx profitably as a critic of his contemporaries. I have also read Marx profitably (no pun intended) as a critic of capitalism, although I don’t cotton to Marx’s metaphysics of materialism. I have read, under the tutelage of honest-to-goodness Marxists, dry-as-dust Marxist theory by French intellectuals whose books ought to carry a warning against reading while operating heavy machinery. Even the German Marxists are more entertaining! I have also read the Chinese Marxists, and there is no end to the Japanese Marxists and the squabbles here among the different factions. Saitō Kōhei, Karatani Kōjin — one cannot escape reading their work even today.

But I don’t see Marx, or his progeny, as having offered helpful and workable insights into, say, inequality, as Riley mentions. This is because I read Marxism as originally demonic. Marx hated God first. Marxism followed from this premise. Not just Marx’s Marxism — which, to be fair, is mild on many pages, boring even — but the “Marxism” of Antifa, the “Marxism” of Nancy Pelosi, the “Marxism” of neocons like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, and the “Marxism” of cereal companies trying to turn little kids into gays and lesbians.

Levin doesn’t include the latter two groups under his “Marxism” rubric, of course, because Levin is a doctrinaire Republican and a blind capitalist and so has his own hocus pocus to perform. To that end, Levin tries to bring in Tom Paine and other American legends to prop up the failing American myth — a myth Levin gets paid handsomely to peddle. Moreover, Levin doesn’t go nearly far enough in understanding Marxism as a spiritual disease.

But Levin gets it half right when he sees the general chaos in America, the spiritual and moral decay in our country, as “American Marxism.” It is just that: the Devil’s own game, with five-dollar-word justifications for the violence provided by your average college professor (Riley and myself excepted) versed in textbook “Marxism.”

Marxism and Wokeism are different in the faculty lounge. I have heard the whole of it, I believe, from testy gender-studies professors and graduate students, on one side, and outnumbered Marxist professors and graduate students, on the other. But the Marxist and the Woke both unleash hell on American cities, and they do it together. It’s a distinction without a difference when the punks are on the warpath. Black Lives Matter, the queens of Woke, were trained by Eric Mann, a Marxist domestic terrorist, funded by major corporations and Silicon Valley “libertarians,” and lauded by the establishment media. (On that note, Riley might enjoy the work of Michael Rectenwald, who does not share Riley’s views about the distinction between the Marxists and “the American corporate elite.”) I fail to see the street-level value in the analysis of textbook Marxism.

And, no, I don’t think that humoring Marxists and talking class with them is going to help. Because in the end — again, this is where Riley and I sharply disagree — class is a smokescreen for revolution, for bloody, violent terrorism. What do the Marxists in Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and North and Latin America have in common? Not class dynamics. Not false consciousness. Not the labor theory of value. It is hate. Marxists are wholly unconcerned with inequality. That’s simply a pretext for hate, for burning societies to the ground. The Woke will be on the front lines with the Marxists any time revolution is in the air. Smuggling revolution in through “economic inequality” bromides in the attempt to defuse the question at the source is, on that reading, no help at all.

Not that I do not have bromides of my own. “Blithely hoping for religious revival is not a strategy,” Riley insists. I don’t think my hope blithe, but fair enough. He says instead that “defeating Wokeism will require accurately understanding it and building imperfect and cautious alliances with others — some of whom may find compelling a view of social class reasonably defined as Marxist — for the fight.” Ah, but here, no. Emphatically no. No alliances with one devil to fight another. Levin made just that mistake in apotheosizing Paine and Ayn Rand. That is the line of argument complementary to my view of Marxism as demonic.

I respect and understand our differences, but I hope Riley will not agree only on the surface level that “Marxism can mean whatever anyone would like it to mean,” will not agree only to preserve the assessment of fatuousness as it stands. For I believe that in our exchange we have met somewhat closer to the middle. Let us swap queens, then, fatuousness for disingenuousness. I appreciate the distinctions Riley makes on the philosophical side. For my part, I state that Levin, in failing to make those distinctions, by that very measure manages to understand “Marxism” much better, as it looks in the flames engulfing a Portland courthouse and the blood of a murdered policeman, than any scholar of textbook Marxism ever could.

Paul Gottfried, whose books I have read and from whom I have learned much, honors me, as does Riley, by replying to my column. I have understood for a long time from Prof. Gottfried’s work, and from my subscription to Chronicles, that he and I differ in our understanding of Marxism, its taxonomy, its genealogy, and its effects. Again, I come back to the roots, as I see them, of Marxism, Wokeism, and other Enlightenment denominations in Lucifer’s rebellion against God. This sweeping view does not, however, exempt me from understanding the distinctions Gottfried and Riley rightly raise. I believe I have endeavored to understand Marxism inside its own lines, on its own terms. But it does allow me, I think, to see Levin’s side, too, namely, that “Marxism” is a perfectly comprehensible handle for describing what is going on in the United States. It’s not at all philosophically accurate, but “Marxism” is no longer just a term to describe a crusty old philosophy. It’s also a useful way to describe the hooligans — from street punks to “gender-affirming” public-school teachers — who are trying to tear our country apart.

Add to that list, of course, the crossdressers and sodomy celebrators on Fox News. To return to Gottfried’s commentary on the television star who rails against the Frankfurt School, it is true that the Fox fellow is clueless when it comes to “cultural Marxism,” and true that Theodor Adorno was more culturally conservative than the Fox fellow ever was. But, at the same time, I do know what he means when he rails against “Marxism.” I know what Levin means, too. It’s a question of theory versus practice, of “vulgar Marxism” versus the Manabendra N. Roy reading circle. Marxists propose, “Marxists” dispose. (And Fox News monetizes the revolution.)

These are the distinctions I was trying to make. Not as important, perhaps, as the distinctions Riley and Gottfried note and explain, but useful for seeing what “Marxism” means in social-demolition mode and for understanding, ultimately, whence comes the devilish creed.

Fr. McTeigue, Fact-Checked

Fr. Robert McTeigue is right: Like the Roman Empire, America is collapsing from within (“Christians at the End of the Pax Americana,” Sept.). Even the most depraved Romans would probably wince at America’s surreal decadence. In a replay of the last days of Rome, America’s best citizens, her Christians, are treated as the worst ones while a demented elite, drunk on its sham virtue, drives the country into the ground.

George Neumayr

Alexandria, Virginia

Fr. McTeigue’s screed is typical boilerplate of the right-wing, MAGA, Greatest-Catholics-of-All-Time. Come to think of it, it’s hard to tell it apart from the leftist, Marxist, anti-capitalist propaganda that our students are getting in those indoctrination centers called “higher education” that McTeigue denounces. Is Father a MAGA truther or a Marxist libtard? Well, I need to fact-check and debunk some of his loony disinformation and hate speech.

And there’s plenty to debunk, with his talk of “Ponzi and pyramid schemes” (anti-Semitism, anyone?) and “notorious Bourbon Street” (racist much? do Black Lives Matter to you, Father White Privilege?). Enough, in fact, to land this anti-Francis, rad-trad, Marxist-leftist, right-wing extremist Jesuit in Facebook and Twitter jail.

  •  Fr. McTeigue writes, “The only thing America ‘makes’ a lot of these days is debt. It seems her most significant export is the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. That privileged position is made possible in significant part by the American military.”

Fact-check: This is straight out of the Marx-Chomsky playbook. How dare McTeigue imply that our heroic American military, the greatest force for good on this planet, is just a mercenary engine of financial enslavement! Shall we defund the military that secured your freedom to sit in your ivory tower and type on your expensive MacBook, Father? Why should we allow him to disparage the brave soldiers who are now fighting and dying for our freedom in Ukraine against Putin, the new Hitler? Why is the NOR publishing pro-Russia propaganda? The next thing McTeigue will tell us is that “international bankers” funded both sides of the World Wars. Oh wait, he already kind of said that (see below).

  •  Fr. McTeigue writes, “What was once the proper function of private and religious charity has become an insidious scheme of cultivating a dependent class willing to trade votes in exchange for donations from the public purse.”

Fact-check: What is the majority skin color of that dependent class, Father?

Private religious charity? We all know what it was like to live in those days, when the Church and the free market were in charge: widespread illiteracy, women forced to have many babies, husbands ruling over their wives and children as dictators, no freedom of belief, no science, and no sex-change operations. The secular state has saved us from the rule of popes and patriarchy, given us the freedom to love whom we want, and it has liberated the gender-oppressed who may now make use of the technological and scientific progress only it has secured to substitute one set of genitals for another. Do you want to go back to the Dark Ages, Father?

Trade votes for donations? McTeigue mistakes the New America under Biden, who is returning us to our democracy, for the MAGA cult of domestic terrorists who infiltrated our sacred precincts on January 6, a day that will live in infamy, a cult that was decisively voted out by the vast majority of science-loving Americans.

  •  Fr. McTeigue writes, “Certain corporations and financial institutions work together to supply the war efforts of the opposing combatants of the selfsame war. For example, during World War I (a.k.a., ‘the war to end all wars’), profiteers grew rich selling simultaneously to the British Crown and the German Kaiser. Same again during World War II, selling to both the Allied and Axis powers. As I write this, those rushing arms to invaded Ukraine had only recently sold arms to invader Russia.”

Fact-Check: Sheesh. Where to begin? How dare he imply that World War II was anything but America’s self-sacrificial victory over the evil forces of fascism and Nazism, ideologies stemming from European Christendom’s legacy of religious intolerance and anti-Semitism, which American progressives finally put out of its misery? As for Ukraine: I have no words. Oh yes, Zelenskyy is a Jewish man. Is that it, Father?

  • Fr. McTeigue writes, “For nearly everyone, there will be a startling and humiliating awakening. Individuals, families, communities, and institutions will discover that they do not know how to feed, shelter, educate, or defend themselves.”

Fact-Check: This is the only truth in the whole article.

As we await the Great Reset that COVID, climate change, Joe Biden, and Pope Francis are helping to bring about, and the New World Order it will usher in, let us close our ears to these last remaining purveyors of hate and disinformation like Fr. McTeigue, until they die off or are permanently deplatformed.

In the meantime, don’t forget to get your boosters!

 

[Ed. Note: The foregoing is, of course, satire.]

Thaddeus Kozinski

Woodacre, California

FR. ROBERT MCTEIGUE REPLIES:

It’s a treat to receive a reply from George Neumayr, whose work I’ve long followed and respected. He’s been a frequent guest on my radio program, The Catholic Current, and has documented the doings of, as he puts it, the “demented elite, drunk on its sham virtue.” I agree that the parallels between the late-stage Roman Empire and the late-stage American empire are clear. Some folks want to take the conversation a step further and argue whether our times are worse than “fill in the blank” — worse than the American Civil War, the Arian crisis, etc. I don’t know whether such comparisons are useful; they certainly can be distracting.

Here’s a significant, undeniable, and, I think, sadly overlooked difference between our times and the last days of the Roman Empire. The Christian rank and file and the Christian hierarchy of the late Roman Empire were not desperate to be liked by, approved by, or beneficiaries of the Roman elites. There seems to be a passion these days for reconciliation between Christ and Caesar, up to and including subservience to Caesar that the early Christians would not have understood or accepted.

Thaddeus Kozinski’s ability to maintain his tongue firmly planted in cheek exceeds my own. I was tempted to reply to him in kind: “Yes, Dr. Kozinski, I see now the error of my ways! I confess shamefacedly to my counter-revolutionary thoughts during this Struggle Session, afforded to me by the Great Leader and the Party,” but I just couldn’t maintain the posture.

I will say this much: In recent years, I have re-evaluated much of what was taken for granted as “informed opinion” about the history of the 20th and 21st centuries. I was raised to have a healthy skepticism and do my own research. Even so, the disillusionment and disappointment I have experienced while looking at received historical narratives with fresh eyes have been painful and disorienting, even as the process has been illuminating and liberating. More than ever, I embrace the admonition to “put not your trust in princes” (Ps. 146:3); likewise, I am more than ever convinced that individuals and communities of all sizes must accept the authority of Christ the King, who reigns even now, and who is coming to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

Repugnant to Reason

When professional philosophers and theologians spin out grandiloquent visions for the totally real, amateurs like me are well advised to keep their mouths shut. But when one finds in such magnificent structures ideas that are repugnant to reason, it becomes necessary to protest.

In Thomas Storck’s integralist vision of a Catholic political order comes the statement, “It can be legitimate to restrict the public exercise of non-Catholic religions” (“What Is Integralism?” Sept.). This is totally unacceptable. Storck goes on to show that such ideas can lead to moral catastrophe. We can see it in such examples as modern Iran and the current changes in India. Such a polity gives Caesar too much power. For Caesar to know the distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is beyond his “pay grade.”

Frank R. Haig, S.J.

Merion Station, Pennsylvania

THOMAS STORCK REPLIES:

Fr. Frank Haig objects to my statement that “it can be legitimate to restrict the public exercise of non-Catholic religions.” His ground for saying this appears to be that “for Caesar to know the distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is beyond his ‘pay grade.’” Yet it was Pope Leo XIII who asserted the opposite, namely, that “the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion…not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion” (Immortale Dei, no. 6). Fr. Haig’s objection is not to what I wrote, but to the traditional social teaching of the Church, a teaching that, as I argued in my article, was not overturned or changed by the Second Vatican Council.

However, there is a certain sense in which Fr. Haig is correct when he says that “for Caesar to know the distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is beyond his ‘pay grade.’” For it is not the state, as such, that recognizes and acknowledges the true religion but those who administer the state. If it is possible for an individual Catholic to know and accept the true religion, how is this not the case when such an individual joins with other Catholics in founding or administering a state? How irrational it would be were such a Catholic to say, “Yes, I know the Catholic religion is true, and so do my colleagues and so does the great majority of the population, but we’ll ignore that and administer the state as if we didn’t know what the true religion was.”

That, in my opinion, would be repugnant to reason.

America: Not the Center of the Universe

Pieter Vree asks, “Is America Under Divine Interdict?” (New Oxford Notebook, Oct.). As an impartial observer in Canada, I find it amusing that Americans see themselves as the center of the universe. Countries come and go, as do civilizations. Countries do not get to Heaven but are adjuncts to salvation. Perhaps that is why God allows presidents as well as dictators, and, of course, types like our dear tyrannical prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

We are at the end of a revolutionary epoch that began 500 years ago with the demise of Christendom. The Western world has rejected Christ in its government and institutional life. Why? Because that’s what the people want. They voted for it, after all!

If America is on a decline, blame the silly voters who are sawing off the branches to which they cling. We in Canada are no better. Didn’t Our Lord warn us about Antichrists? People bereft of faith run to the first person offering salvation. We are those people; we are the problem — even though we are Catholics!

Gerry Glover

Peterborough, Ontario

Canada

PIETER VREE REPLIES:

Gerry Glover nicely summarizes the main point of my column, saying, “I find it amusing that Americans see themselves as the center of the universe.” Yes, we Americans see ourselves that way, and no, we are not. But more than amusing, this national characteristic of ours has been tragic for those who happened to be in the way of what we considered our “manifest destiny.”

The effort of the people I cited to, for example, elevate Abraham Lincoln to quasi-messianic status, portray the U.S. founding documents as a “sacred” canon, and postulate that God has “a heavenly plan” for America is, as I wrote, “but a blatant attempt to resurrect the discredited doctrine of American exceptionalism, a triumphalist claim that God bestowed a divine mandate on the United States to dominate the globe.”

Whence came this peculiarly American conceit? And why weren’t early Canadians similarly enthralled by their national “project”? Perhaps they’re simply a humbler people.

As for their boisterous neighbors to the south, the old saying applies: the bigger they come, the harder they fall. The fall of the American empire, which many take to be a foregone conclusion at this point in history, will surely be devastating, with a ripple effect that courses across the globe, permanently altering political landscapes. It remains to be seen if Canada’s downfall will be commensurate with ours.

Oops, did I just expose my own conceit by bragging about whose fall will be the greater? That must be the American in me talking!

The Lakota: Still Searching for God

I commend Clement Anthony Mulloy for his article “An Apologia for Fr. Pierre-Jean De Smet” (Sept.). I encountered the beautiful influence of Fr. De Smet’s missionary work with indigenous peoples while I was at SS Peter and Paul Church in Mankato, Minnesota. The parish history book has an amazing entry in the baptismal records highlighting Fr. De Smet and the reverence the indigenous showed to him.

In 1862 a failed uprising by a Lakota tribe against American settlers led to 38 Lakota being sentenced to execution in Mankato. The parish baptismal records show that the night before the execution, the condemned Lakota were allowed to have a spiritual leader of their choice attend to them, either an indigenous Protestant minister or Fr. De Smet, a Catholic Frenchman. Thirty chose Fr. De Smet, who baptized them, and two chose the Protestant minister. The baptized went to their deaths singing and praising the Lord.

Interestingly, I was present nearly 150 years later when a group of Lakota rode hundreds of miles on horseback from South Dakota to Mankato in late December, seeking spiritual healing on the anniversary of the executions. Many Lakota are now Catholic, but the leaders of this event, highlighted in the 2010 documentary film Dakota 38, seemed still to be searching for God in some way. I was wearing my cassock, a black robe, the habit of my religious order, and an old Jesuit was present also. I’ve often wondered if the Lakota noticed a “black robe” was present again, praying for them.

Joseph LoJacono, I.V.E.

Toronto, Ontario

Canada

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