Volume > Issue > Letters to the Editor: June 2024

Letters to the Editor: June 2024

An Illegitimate Termination

It was pleasing to see that great Australian, Fr. Paul Stenhouse, honored in Edwin Dyga’s review of Wanda Skowronska’s biography (April). Fr. Stenhouse should have been much better known in the United States than he was. Let us hope that Dyga’s review will introduce his life’s work to American Catholics in general.

For me and many others, Fr. Stenhouse’s greatest single achievement was in his editorship of Annals. Between the 1980s and 2019, Annals was easily the best of Australia’s generalist magazines; in its later years, it was usually Australia’s sole adequate one.

Fr. Stenhouse’s publishing role necessitated a versatility and diligence that I despair of conveying to Americans. I repeatedly told him that if Annals had been based in the United States, it probably would have employed a full-time staff of at least a dozen. He ran Annals on the proverbial “smell of an oily rag.” Nevertheless, he conjured up — Heaven knows how — adequate funds for remunerating his authors (myself among them), printers, and designers. To the extent that any serious periodical can pay its way, Annals did.

This makes especially disgraceful the process by which various mischief-makers arranged for Annals to be shut down (thereby helping to pauperize all who looked to Annals for income: we were mere collateral damage). Those mischief-makers’ chief objection to the magazine had nothing to do with finances or Internet-induced difficulties and everything to do with culture.

The thoroughgoing defenses of Catholic teaching and high European civilization, found month after month in Annals, offered to Fr. Stenhouse’s compatriots what Barry Goldwater called “a choice, not an echo.” No wonder the journal’s very existence inconvenienced those responsible for implementing the Australian Church’s pet projects, above all, the moronic blathering about “synodality” by which our episcopate seeks to disguise (probably even, at times, to disguise from itself) its anti-white, globo-homo agenda.

I have heard it alleged that the dying Fr. Stenhouse gave his reluctant assent to the termination of Annals. If true, it speaks volumes to the culprits’ ethical level that they somehow thought it justifiable to browbeat a holy and brilliant priest on his deathbed by confronting him with a fait accompli.

In truth, an intellectually significant magazine transcends any single editor, even an editorial genius such as Fr. Stenhouse. If closing Annals when Fr. Stenhouse died was legitimate, it would have been likewise legitimate to close The New Yorker when Harold Ross died, to close Quadrant when James McAuley died, and to close National Review when William F. Buckley Jr. died. Who outside a conga line of imbeciles would have dared advocate such terminations?

Others must seek to determine how those who killed off Annals can mend their befouled consciences. All I can do is mourn the loss of both an admirable periodical and its even more admirable editor.

R.J. Stove

Brighton, Victoria

Australia

A Boon to Brooding Cynics

It is an utter embarrassment for the humanities that the ideologically driven dilettantes who have invaded it have enjoyed so much success in politicizing poetry, the criticism of poetry, and, especially, the study of poetry. Out of ressentiment for those highest things that poetry furnishes a reader — the transcendentals — these ideologues tirelessly endeavor to reduce the purpose of poetry to that which is banal, temporal, ugly, and worldly.

As a graduate student who opposes the sociopolitical stranglehold the academic politburo has on the discipline I love so dearly, dissenting against my peers or instructors often feels akin to a Sisyphean task. The promises of diversity of opinion and freedom of thought have been discounted wholesale in modern academe. They are now little more than buzzwords used to pad departmental mission statements. Restoring the integrity of the humanities depends on the healthy skepticism of those who would dissent against the current establishment. Unfortunately, too many dissenters feel helpless against the odds, instead becoming brooding cynics. In doing so, they lose the passion that once ignited their love for their discipline. I hope I do not sound cynical, but in my present studies I have been starving for instruction informed by those highest things.

Suffice it to say, the conversation between Cicero Bruce and Caitlin Smith Gilson (“What Is the Purpose of Poetry?” April) is as intellectually nourishing as it is reaffirming for the starving student of literature. As both scholars make clear, we will not find the purpose of poetry downstream from culture or politics; it transcends them both. Poetry is not, as Smith Gilson puts it, “a manual to improve ourselves or our society,” and this is precisely the problem with poetry studies in its present state because the instruction of poetry has become a vehicle for the instructor’s political or cultural agenda. Poetry’s purpose is not, and will never be, wholly political. We should never resign verse to a dogmatic belief that it can create a more equitable world. Neither should we read a poem as merely a product of its time and thereby take issue with a poet for ignoring our fashionable contemporary sensibilities. When we misread poetry through the lens of modern politics, we are guilty of a kind of literary egocentrism that attempts to reduce the permanent and transcendent to the transient and worldly.

Instead, as Smith Gilson rightfully sees it, the relationship between poetry and its readers should be a way of understanding ourselves sub specie aeternitatis. I share Smith Gilson’s pity for the “enforcers” of theories like the New Historicism. By reducing poetry to the historical, they will never relish the sacred experience of reading a poem “in light of eternity.”

The poet is not a mouthpiece but a seer — a seer who translates, for our benefit, the abstract precepts of philosophy and the ethereal wisdom of religion into images that can point us toward Truth, Unity, Beauty, and the Good. Smith Gilson’s verse, with its imagery of incarnation and the intersection of flesh, spirit, virtue, and sin, translates for us the sublime wisdom of the Church and demonstrates that she is such a seer.

I would be remiss not to comment on Bruce’s skills as an interviewer. The dynamic between Bruce and Smith Gilson is one of mutual respect and intellectual synergy that enriches the entire conversation. His thoughtfully framed questions allow Smith Gilson the space to articulate each topic via her extensive background in Catholic theology and philosophy. Bruce also avoids the commonplace blunder of the interviewer who tries to take the spotlight, as his responses to Smith Gilson complement her answers while guiding the discussion to places many scholars fear to tread.

I was delighted by Bruce’s invocation of Allen Tate’s argument against the misuse of verse. It reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s argument about what makes good verse permanent and bad verse temporary: “Bad verse may have a transient vogue when the poet is reflecting a popular attitude of the moment; but real poetry survives not only a change of popular opinion but the complete extinction of interest in the issues with which the poet was passionately concerned” (“The Social Function of Poetry”).

Bruce and Smith Gilson’s exchange has everything for the intellectually starved student: etymology, poetry sub specie aeternitatis, intertextuality, Tate, Flannery O’Connor, W.H. Auden, poetic form, and the artistic creation process. I wish these topics, instead of the alleged political function or duty of literature, were discussed in the classroom. I am grateful to Smith Gilson and Bruce for taking to task the current academic establishment while countering its failings by discussing those permanent things worthy of study. Voices such as theirs give me hope and reaffirm why I must continue my studies.

Jacob Dills

Dalton, Georgia

In Cicero Bruce’s conversation with Caitlin Smith Gilson is distilled the essence of what poetry is and does, an essence the latter articulates perfectly: “to entice, delight, and instruct — without coercion.”

Smith Gilson, a scholar of philosophy, understands and speaks of her craft philosophically. Her meditations on poetry as “incarnating” convey precisely the relationship of poetry to Logos, a proliferating incarnation of the Word incarnate. Bruce’s questions consciously guide the conversation, plumbing the depths of Smith Gilson’s understanding of poetry as an art while elucidating her own unique connection to it.

Smith Gilson is operating, metaphysically, a sphere or so above my understanding at times, but in this conversation, poetry becomes palpable. I do not write poetry, but I study it, or rather, I breathe it, eat it, and meditate upon it. It is through poetry, through the written word, that we encounter God. As Smith Gilson asserts, this Word never coerces but rather gently provokes and lovingly invites — a characterization with which John Milton would have wholeheartedly agreed. Harmonizing with Smith Gilson is no doubt that “Heav’nly Muse” which Milton implored to “Sing,” and indeed her words, as do Milton’s, bring order from chaos.

I thank Bruce for bringing that Muse, working in Smith Gilson, into the open.

Maggie Miller

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

CICERO BRUCE REPLIES:

I would be ungracious were I not to express my gratitude for the affirming remarks of Maggie Miller and Jacob Dills. In them there is hope, I am gladdened to say, for the future of literary studies, particularly study of the essential art of literature, namely, poetry — not mere poetry, but poetry created in what Dills refers to as the “light of eternity.” Echoing in their comments is a discourse decidedly antithetical to the anemic values of secularity or the moral vacuities of popular humanitarianism.

Take this declaration from Miller: “It is through poetry, through the written word, that we encounter God.” Sentiments of this kind are neither popular nor politically expedient in an age when dissertation directors at the “best” universities instruct their apprentices to put the word truth between inverted commas, lest the nascent academic transgress the law of “moral relativity” or appear to have beliefs that cannot be examined under a microscope or validated by a survey. Yet these words testify to the stand she and Dills are taking against the heresies of modernity.

These two understand what the vast majority of their fellow graduate students do not: that, in the words of Ukrainian-French philosopher Rachel Bespaloff, “There is and will continue to be a certain way of telling the truth, proclaiming the just, of seeking God and honoring man, that was first taught us and is taught us afresh every day by the Bible and by Homer.” Miller and Dills are keenly aware that the way to truth is through the wisdom of Logos that “never coerces,” as the former observes, “but rather gently provokes and lovingly invites.” As did Bespaloff, they acknowledge Logos as the primary force, transcendent and immanent, through which the vatic poet communicates with the people, giving them back the truth of the ethical experience on which poetic representation is based.

The test of enduring literary merit of the kind inhering in Smith Gilson’s poetry begins and ends with abiding questions like these: Does the given work look from the standpoint of eternity at material things and transitory wants? Does it function as a medium for apprehending unchanging truths? Does it plumb the depths of being “with an intelligence,” as Glen C. Arbery put it, “that increases in power the more it explores the most unbearable dimensions of joy and suffering”? On one level or another, truly great literature does all these things, and for this reason it matters. This truth Miller and Dills are disposed to restore undauntingly. In the current milieu of higher education, they are, for better or worse, reactionaries.

But often the reactionary impulse is vital to the preservation of that which is intellectually and spiritually needful. Allen Tate, whose presence figures prominently in my conversation with Smith Gilson, believed one could animate Western culture only by reacting violently to the enervating forces within it. “Reaction is the most radical of programs,” he wrote; “it aims at cutting away the overgrowth and getting back to the roots.” Tate reminds us that reaction, while decisively radical, is anything but progressive in form, for a progressive radicalism only rearranges the foliage. His reactionary tendencies emerged from what he called a “healthy skepticism,” a skepticism “which, like formaldehyde, is a great preservative of all sorts of things — of a sense of how things really were and of resistance against things as they are.” Miller and Dills possess both these senses; they realize that to be without one is surely to be without the other.

Miller’s and Dills’s literary perspicacity evokes Thomas Carlyle’s observation: “The eye sees in [every object] what the eye brings means of seeing.” Though Carlyle was speaking here of historical events, the adage applies no less certainly to the study of literature. Miller and Dills, to come to the point, bring to Smith Gilson’s verse and the philosophical imagination that informs it what the typical graduate student has not: a truly religious frame of reference that is requisite for understanding what Edmund Burke referred to as “the superadded ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the heart owns, and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defects of our naked shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation.”

So much more could be said about the moral sophistication inhering in these remarkable letters to this bold journal’s editor. To be sure, such insight as one finds in these letters is worthy of poet Smith Gilson’s extraordinary work. In the end, however, Miller and Dills speak for themselves — in and through all that they have graciously, eloquently written. They speak with certainty, lucidity, and authority. Theirs is the voice not of quiet desperation but of calm conviction. Their purpose is true and consistent, and that purpose is, in the words of Andrew Nelson Lytle, “to remind us of that Western knowledge of ourselves which is our identity.” This knowledge flows from the sacred source of all created things, the source to which Miller and Dills would have their fellow students return to be intellectually resuscitated, lest said students float like so many dead things in the chaotic sea of nothingness.

CAITLIN SMITH GILSON REPLIES:

To Jacob Dills

Thank you for your thoughtful response, which understands and then captures the present shadows that have replaced the humanities with their own emaciated forms. We are in the heartrending dying down of poetry, losing the beauty of the poem, which, as Harold Bloom knew, takes us in and possesses us. Poetry exists above ideologies, agendas, and forced narratives: “We speak to an otherness in ourselves, or to what may be best and oldest in ourselves. We read to find ourselves, more fully and more strange than otherwise we could hope.” Understanding both the loss and the truth of the poetic, as you have, is a numinous experience. By understanding we are in the midst of Being, seizing the historical and spiritual elan vital. Understanding unveils the sacred; it is a setting apart of meaning and truth from the flux, from the tide of opinions. Yes, to recover the poetic requires we join Sisyphus, but the ascent itself, let us hope, will fill our hearts: “La lutte elle-même vers les sommets suffit à remplir un cœur d’homme; il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”

To Maggie Miller

I am so grateful for your letter! It better expresses my sentiments and deep appreciation for the interviewer and the process. Cicero’s framing of the questions is the wisdom of the spoudaios, knowing with such magnanimous clarity and serious play what to ask and how to ask it to bring out the very best in my thinking, while also teaching and guiding me. Our dialogue as structured immersed me in the passion of the letters, recovering why great books and ideas are great. The domus meus of the mind and soul is refreshed through sensation, beauty, nuance, and friendship. Our dialogue was intellectual friendship, and its only admission price is love for the true and the timeless.

And may at last my weary age
Find out the peaceful
hermitage,
The hairy gown and
mossy cell,
Where I may sit and
rightly spell
Of every star that heaven
doth shew,
And every herb that sips
the dew,
Till old experience to attain
To something like
prophetic strain.

Suffer the SUVs

I greatly appreciated Eric Jackson’s flagging the cost of large vehicles as onerous and potentially a barrier and discouragement to larger families (“Let Those Drive Who Have Minivans to Drive,” guest column, April). He proposes some concrete solutions, and if he starts a program in support of those, I will contribute.

But in his discussion of growing families’ transitioning to minivans and even to giant vans, Jackson neglects to mention my dogged minority. There are those of us who cling firmly to the eight-passenger, extended-length SUV. We love our Chevy Suburbans and Ford Expedition Maxes. As we already eschew the aesthetic of the minivan, you should have extra pity on us should we face the necessary transition to the giant van that handles like a brick. (My family is maxed out in our SUV.)

J.C. Miller

Jenison, Michigan

ERIC JACKSON REPLIES:

My thanks to J.C. Miller for pointing out a lacuna in my piece. I ought to have mentioned the much-maligned SUV in passing, as my family of origin passed from the minivan to the 12-passenger van by way of a Chevy Suburban. Perhaps I assumed that the government had already banned SUVs. But I don’t think even California has gone that far just yet.

As for a program, it should be possible to make use of an existing Catholic crowdfunding site. However, thinking about it some more, I’d prefer something less market-directed, if possible. Perhaps the best solution would simply be a network of dads-in-the-know at a parish who help each other out. Admittedly, the financial aspect would be harder to address in such an informal fashion.

Unknown Tongues

As I read Christopher Beiting’s review of Philip E. Blosser and Charles A. Sullivan’s Speaking in Tongues: A Critical Historical Examination. Volume 1: The Modern Redefinition of Tongues, under the header “A Gift of the Spirit, Rarely Given” (April), I had the happy thought that the gift might not be all that rarely given.

Years ago, I assisted Sister Emmanuel, of Medjugorje fame, in overseeing the translation into English of her book The Hidden Child of Medjugorje. Chapter 14, “An Unknown Tongue,” describes her experience back in 1975, in the crypt of St. Sulpice Church in Paris, during a gathering of the Emmanuel Prayer Group. After general prayers and songs, she felt an inner compulsion to deliver a message, and so she did, singing in a tongue unknown to her — a message she did not understand. Another lady also delivered a message in a tongue unknown to her.

Afterwards, one of the attendees, who had been skeptical in advance of the whole event, came up to Sister to discuss what she had sung. He was Fr. Louis Leloir, a Benedictine priest and professor of Semitic languages at the University of Louvain in Belgium, and he was mystified when she claimed she had no idea what it meant. He told her, “You sang in perfect Syriac-Aramean, and with a perfect accent. There is a guttural sound that no European can pronounce, but you pronounced it perfectly. And on top of that, you avoided a very subtle grammatical error at the beginning of your sentence.” He told her that what she sang was a prayer of praise to the Mother of all the people of God — close to the Hail Mary but different.

An even greater shock to the priest had been the address the other woman gave. He said, “She had delivered in ancient Hebrew a very inspired vision of the priesthood in the eyes of God.” As Sister Emmanuel recounts in her book, “And it just happened that at that time, Fr. Leloir had to write an article about priesthood in a specialized magazine and he was struggling to find the missing pieces that would help him to complete the article. He had pleaded with the Holy Spirit to send him some help, because he was blocked by a question concerning the two types of priesthood, the Ministerial Sacerdotal and the Royal Priesthood of the Laity.”

Note that Sister Emmanuel’s account does not fit into either the St. Luke pattern or the St. Paul pattern of speaking in tongues, as Beiting describes in his review, in that the speech was in a real language, unintelligible to the speaker but intelligible to a particular listener.

Yet another example given in Sister Emmanuel’s book, in chapter 15, is about a man and his wife, both Pentecostals, who were about to attend, at Sister’s urging, a Catholic retreat at the Châteauneuf-de-Galaure House in Drôme, France. En route, they happened to pick up a middle-aged hitchhiker, whom they persuaded to accompany them to the retreat. Before the first day of the retreat began, the couple openly blessed and praised God — and then the husband began to speak in a tongue not known to him. When he had finished, they were amazed to learn that the hitchhiker had understood perfectly what had been spoken, in the Polish dialect of his native village. What he heard were the words of Jesus, speaking of his former life, forgiving his sins, and calling him back to the priesthood, which he had abandoned years earlier.

Hurd Baruch

Tucson, Arizona

In Speaking in Tongues: A Critical Historical Examination. Volume 1: The Modern Redefinition of Tongues, authors Philip E. Blosser and Charles A. Sullivan state, “We can say with certainty that the understanding and practice of ‘speaking in tongues’ found in the Pentecostal-Charismatic tradition is based on a nineteenth-century theory of glossolalia and a twentieth-century redefinition of ‘tongues’ that are complete historical novelties…. The contemporary practice and understanding of ‘tongues’ as a gift of personal prayer and praise, regardless of how spiritually uplifting they may be, are a historical novelty without precedent before the nineteenth century in Church history.”

This is simply not true.

In The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Ávila writes, “Our Lord sometimes causes in the soul a certain jubilation and a strange and mysterious kind of prayer. If He bestows this grace on you, praise Him fervently for it; I describe it so that you may know that it is something real. I believe that the faculties of the soul are closely united to God but that He leaves them at liberty to rejoice in their happiness together with the senses, although they do not know what they are enjoying nor how they do so. This may sound nonsense [another translation uses the word gibberish] but it really happens.”

St. Augustine also wrote about jubilation, or jubilatio, and songs of joy in the early Church in his commentary on Psalm 33. It can be found in the Office of Readings for Wednesday, November 22, 2023: “Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song…. See how he himself provides you with a way of singing. Do not search for words, as if you could find a lyric that would give God pleasure…. But how is this done? You must first understand that words cannot express the things that are sung by the heart. Take the case of people singing while harvesting in the fields or in the vineyards or when any other strenuous work is in progress. Although they begin by giving expression to their happiness in sung words, yet shortly there is a change. As if so happy that words can no longer express what they feel, they discard the restricting syllables. They burst out into a simple sound of joy, of jubilation. Such a cry of joy is a sound signifying that the heart is bringing to birth what it cannot utter in words. Now, who is more worthy of such a cry of jubilation than God himself, whom all words fail to describe? If words will not serve, and yet you must not remain silent, what else can you do but cry out for joy? Your heart must rejoice beyond words, soaring into an immensity of gladness, unrestrained by syllabic bonds.”

Mary Healy, Blosser’s colleague at Sacred Heart Seminary, in her book Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World (2015), writes that “the gift of tongues seems to have been common in the patristic era, although it went by another name: jubilation. The Fathers did not refer to jubilation as ‘speaking in tongues’ (glossolalia) probably because they thought of ‘tongues’ in the sense of the Pentecost experience of Acts 2, where the tongues were heard as actual human languages rather than non-conceptual speech as in 1 Cor. 14:2.”

Frank Gibbons

Seekonk, Massachusetts

CHRISTOPHER BEITING REPLIES:

I thank Hurd Baruch and Frank Gibbons for their responses to my review. I would like to clarify a couple of matters.

First, Philip E. Blosser wrote to me privately about my review of his and Charles A. Sullivan’s book and, while expressing appreciation for it, wanted to clarify a misconception of mine. He noted that, although his parents were exposed briefly to Pentecostal missionaries while in Japan, Blosser himself has never been a Pentecostal or a member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Rather, he has had long and fruitful associations with Catholic charismatics as colleagues, pupils, and friends, but he sees himself as a sympathetic observer. So, my apologies to Dr. Blosser and NOR readers for mischaracterizing his affiliations.

Second, I must point out that I am not unlike Blosser regarding the Catholic charismatic movement. My parents were involved in it back in the 1970s, and I have had many friends and colleagues who are or have been involved in it as well, but I would not characterize myself as a member. Rather, I am just a Catholic layman who is trying to love and understand the Holy Spirit. As such, I have no great authority on the practice of speaking in tongues and am only reporting on the work of others who have more authority and experience than I.

Regarding Baruch’s and Gibbons’s letters, both raise matters that Blosser and Sullivan deal with more comprehensively in Volume 2 of Speaking in Tongues, which I am reading now and hope to review. The examples Baruch provides are fascinating, particularly in light of the theological position held by the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas and Francisco Suárez (whom Blosser and Sullivan mention in Volume 2) that speaking in tongues is a gift given not to the hearer but to the speaker (i.e., the speaker is enabled to converse in a language unknown to him, rather than speaking in his native language and the hearer understanding it as his own), although it is interesting that theologians generally also concluded that the speaker would understand what he was saying.

As to the question of how common or uncommon speaking in tongues was, theologians also usually pointed out that, in order to be a miracle, something had to be, by definition, out of the ordinary (as St. Augustine put it, if things like speaking in tongues “were ordinary, they would not be extraordinary”). Nor would they happen all the time, even to those with the gift — after all, even during His ministry on Earth, though Jesus certainly did heal the sick and raise the dead, it’s not like He healed every single sick person or raised every single dead person He came across!

To Gibbons’s point, Volume 2 has an entire chapter covering Augustine’s (and St. John Chrysostom’s) thoughts on the subject. As with so much of Augustine’s work, his conclusions are nuanced and complicated and do not lend themselves to easy summary in a short space — interested readers are urged to check out Volume 2 for themselves.

An Ideologue Grinds Her Axe

Inez Fitzgerald Storck’s review of Paul VI: The Divided Pope by Yves Chiron (March) is well written and interesting but lacking in facts and perspective. In fairness, the topic is both complicated and subjective, and thus it is understandable that her review ends up being mostly informed but ideologically plagued.

The review’s primary weakness is its use of the terms divided and hesitant. Would Storck prefer a pope who was neither of these, who shot from the hip and then let others pick up the pieces? Just because Paul VI finessed a subject does not mean he was inherently flawed in his approach.

Ideologues love black-and-white dichotomies because they enable them to avoid the challenge of both objective truth and subjectivities. Someone acting deliberately in making an important decision is not necessarily hesitant. Prudent might be the better description. Someone who sees various sides of an issue and tries to balance them and maintain unity is not necessarily divided or waffling.

A pope’s two main responsibilities are to preserve the sacred deposit of faith and maintain unity. Sometimes that requires complex actions that might not always be comprehensible to those who analyze things either superficially or ideologically. For example, Storck is critical of Paul’s handling of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s rebellion. The Pope gave Lefebvre multiple opportunities to modify his position, but the archbishop refused. Calling Paul’s treatment of Lefebvre and his suggested leniency toward the Dutch bishops “a betrayal of his office and of his own faith” is amateurish. Ideologues like to simplify things beyond the point of reason.

Unfortunately, Storck’s review does this in spots, even while offering a reasonable overview of high points of Paul’s papacy. Overall, it is an honest and competent but agenda-tarnished effort. Still, Storck deserves credit for not grinding her axe too much.

Karl A. Schultz

Daytona Beach, Florida

INEZ FITZGERALD STORCK REPLIES:

Even though Karl A. Schultz acknowledges that the case of Paul VI is “both complicated and subjective,” he seems to think that anyone who disagrees with him is necessarily an ideologue. I will respond only to the three statements in which he addresses a specific point.

According to Schultz, my review’s primary weakness is its characterization of Paul as “divided” and “hesitant” (a state that frequently accompanies being divided). Yet it is Chiron who titles his book The Divided Pope. Chiron’s treatment of his subject is, in my opinion, balanced and fair, covering both Paul’s strengths and weaknesses, and demonstrating that the Pope at times experienced a conflict between his intellect and emotions.

Schultz also criticizes my treatment of two episodes in Paul’s pontificate: his handling of the disobedient Archbishop Lefebvre and the dissenting Dutch bishops. Schultz mentions that the Pope gave Lefebvre “multiple opportunities to modify his position.” Just the same, even Hans Küng thought Paul was overly harsh. With regard to the Dutch Catechism, Paul’s efforts to correct its numerous errors in several areas of doctrine met with strong resistance from the Dutch hierarchy, and he capitulated to their demands; this was indeed a betrayal of his office.

In dealing with such a complex subject, is it not possible for people to disagree without labeling opponents as ideologues?

©2024 New Oxford Review. All Rights Reserved.

 

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