Letters to the Editor: October 2018
A Heretical Authority?
Rita Ferrone’s reliance on Philoxenus of Mabbug to attack Robert Cardinal Sarah is doubly telling (“Off with His Head!” New Oxford Note, Jul.-Aug.). First, Philoxenus was a Monophysite — that is, a Christological heretic. Second, the citation of his Ferrone offers in support of Communion in the hand is problematic. Philoxenus speaks of Christ as “incarnate in the bread.” That line reflects the doctrine of “impanation,” which is a Eucharistic heresy. Impanation is in direct contradiction to transubstantiation, which holds that the entire substance of the bread is converted into the entire substance of Christ’s Body. Impanation is even less acceptable than Luther’s consubstantiation.
So, to bolster a liturgical aberration, Ferrone offers as an authority a Christological heretic who is also a Eucharistic heretic.
The defense rests!
Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas
Editor, The Catholic Response
Pine Beach, New Jersey
When new converts enter the Church at the Easter Vigil, they promise to accept all that the Church teaches as “divinely revealed.” We can agree, I hope, that the method by which the laity receives the Eucharist is not “divinely revealed.” Rather, it is a discipline that can change over time, and in this time and place the discipline allows for reception on the tongue while kneeling or in the hand while standing (or some variation of both). Catholics may choose which method to use, but they must accept that Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist is divinely revealed.
It is fine for lay Catholics to publicly express their opinions over which method is favorable, as Rita Ferrone did in Commonweal and you did in your New Oxford Note. But the governance of the Church is entirely in the hands of the ordained, not the laity. So when an ecclesial authority such as Robert Cardinal Sarah publicly expresses his belief that receiving on the tongue while kneeling is preferable without clearly labeling his words as his personal opinion, it sows division in the Body of Christ.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, a third-century Father of the Church, taught that we are to receive the Eucharist standing while making our “left hand a throne for the right” to hold the King and, having “hollowed the palm” and received the Eucharist, to say “Amen.” This describes a modern reverent reception. So why did St. Thomas Aquinas, 1,000 years later, opine that receiving on the tongue while kneeling was the only way? Perhaps because in the Middle Ages clericalism was developing, and the belief was that the hands of priests were holy and the hands of the laity profane. How can we reconcile this today with lay people bringing Communion to the sick in hospitals and nursing homes who can’t physically attend Mass?
If we can’t have civility in the political arena, perhaps we can deal graciously with our fellow Catholics by rejoicing in our shared faith and tolerantly accepting differences that do not relate to essentials.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
A Refreshing “Apology”
Frederick W. Marks’s article “Which Church Is the Real ‘Bible Church’?” (June) provides a handy “go-to” resource for Catholics who wish to defend the scriptural warrant for Catholic beliefs and practices. Although the links to scriptural passages must be briefly stated because of the format, Marks skillfully avoids proof-texting by providing allusions to context, differing interpretations, and supporting evidence from Catholic Tradition. Thus, his list of biblical connections may be used as a springboard from which the reader can delve more deeply into the subject matter.
In this day and age, when many Catholics feel pressured into apologizing for their faith, it is refreshing to read an enthusiastic apology for it!
Maura Hearden Fehlner
Keene Valley, New York
Out of Islam
In her review of Daniel J. Janosik’s book John of Damascus: First Apologist to the Muslims (June), Anne Barbeau Gardiner says that St. John described Islam as the “forerunner of the Antichrist.” May all Christians be so wise and perceptive, for out of Islam will be born the Antichrist.
A Vengeful God?
I am not persuaded that, as David D. Jividen argues, the solution to understanding what the Scriptures mean is to rely on allegorical or spiritual meanings (“If God Is Love, Why Does He Command the Annihilation of Entire Peoples?” June). The nations Israel faced were put under the “ban” or “involuntary dedication/separation to destruction” after God had waited for their evil and wickedness to “reach its full measure” (Gen. 15:16). In the Canaanites’ case, God waited for well over four generations before He expelled them from the land of Palestine (Gen. 15:19-21). The vengeance of God that fell on such nations was not the kind of vengeance Aristotle taught, one that tries to “get even,” but one in which God’s emotions were so stirred that He moved against the sin and wickedness that offended His holiness.
Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
As a complement and, admittedly, something of a corrective to David D. Jividen’s learned meditations, NOR readers will want to consult the work of renowned Catholic scholar René Girard (1923-2015). His Violence and the Sacred (English translation, 1977) is but the first in a series of magisterial studies that trace the violence of the human story — including in the Old Testament — to its actual source.
The Colloquium on Violence and Religion, an international association of scholars (www.ViolenceandReligion.com), admirably explores the pertinence of Girard’s life and labors.
David A. Bovenizer
DAVID D. JIVIDEN REPLIES:
I thank Walter C. Kaiser Jr. for his valuable comments and especially for his book The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? Indeed, Old Testament scholars owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Kaiser, who makes a compelling case for the historical accuracy of the Old Testament narratives, including the herem passages.
Nevertheless, I dispute his statement that I argued that one must “rely on allegorical or spiritual meanings” alone to understand these passages. I noted instead that we must not interpret everything literally. The faithful benefit from the full meaning of Holy Scripture when they are mindful of the content and unity of the whole Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church, and the analogy of faith, as noted by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Catholic apologist Mark Shea underscores this point in his book Making Senses out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did. In discussing the relationship of the New Testament with the Old, Shea writes, “Scripture not only may but must be understood as having more than one sense or meaning” (emphasis in originab~
I suspect that Dr. Kaiser would agree with this at some level; regarding these difficult herem passages, his fine work noted above states: “Their particularities illustrate in a concrete way what could also be true for us in our day and times. Had the messages been confined to abstract and theoretical axioms, the common folk would never have been able to share in their meaning. But by putting the narratives into concrete, personal and practical terms, it thereby becomes easier for later readers to apply the same truths for themselves.”
I admit I am not very familiar with Girard’s studies on violence. Nonetheless, it is my understanding that he was interested in the way in which the problem of religion and violence is constructed from an academic perspective, and he proposed that “violence is the heart and the secret soul of the sacred.” While I might not grasp the full spiritual meaning of his academic constructs, the truth seems otherwise, that since Cain killed Abel, violence is the heart and secret soul of original sin.
In your New Oxford Note “A Crisis of the Four Last Things” (Jul.-Aug.), you write that “there is certainly no shortage of hypotheses for the causes of the demise of the Church,” and you list several, including French writer Jean-Claude Larchet’s that the Second Vatican Council was the “primary catalyst of it all.”
Even though Vatican II was a catastrophe, let’s posit another hypothesis: Had the Council never been held and the Church contented herself with gradual measures of reform and reconstruction since 1962, would the decline in communicants still have occurred? History evidences that it likely would have.
The decline in personal morality among clerics, religious, and laity would have followed the larger patterns we have seen since 1945 (and earlier). Hedonistic materialism in the West and dialectic materialism in the East would have overcome countless people. Secularization is destroying all “world religions” without exception. It is only a matter of time until Islam falls before burgeoning secularism.
I point to the conclusions of another French scholar, Jacques Ellul, who, more than anyone else in the 20th century, saw techne overwhelming the world. Would Christianity too be a casualty, according to Ellul? No. Its numbers would be reduced, but Christianity would eventually prevail among the technocrats. This was his firm hope, and it must be ours.
San Diego, California
Our Nation’s Open Wounds
Both of my great-grandfathers fought in the Civil War in two of the bloodiest battles in Arkansas. Both were farmers who owned no slaves.
Stanley T. Grip Jr. makes a convincing argument that while recognizing the “evil of slavery and the error of secession,” the “majority of Southern officers and men accepted the legal existence of slavery and did not reject white racial superiority.” Yet their “primary motivation was not in support of either” but rather in defense of their homeland (“Who Really Won the Civil War?” June).
Fortunately, the North prevailed. But the continued existence of segregation and Jim Crow laws after the war was a horrendous evil, as is the darkness of prejudice that still exists throughout the land. “Every man has his Jew,” wrote playwright Arthur Miller, “and Jews have their Jews.”
Abraham Lincoln was surely correct when, unlike Jefferson Davis and Andrew Johnson, he called for “malice toward none and charity toward all,” binding up the nation’s wounds. The need for healing and reconciliation remains.
Michael E. Pugh
Santa Barbara, California
Thank you for publishing Stanley T. Grip Jr.’s article. I hope it encourages deeper thought by the anti-Southern iconoclasts. If, as they believe, slavery invalidates the valor and sacrifices of all Confederate soldiers, then abortion invalidates the valor and sacrifices of all U.S. military service members since Roe v. Wade. If we assume that all Confederate soldiers were fighting only to preserve slavery, then we must assume that anyone serving in the military today is doing so only to defend “abortion rights.”
In each generation, it is easy to see the sins of your fathers, and difficult to see your own.
Vincent A. Droddy
Kudos to Stanley T. Grip Jr. for writing, and the NOR for publishing, his article on the Civil War. Several observations: First, it is appropriate to remember the significant contribution of Northern states (including New England) to the evil of slavery. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney outlines this history, chapter and verse, in the Dred Scott decision. The point is not that the case was correctly decided, but rather that a certain circumspection would seem to be indicated on all sides.
Second, with respect to secession, it is manifestly false that the concept of secession is necessarily connected to slavery. It was — again — the New England states that first broached this issue during the War of 1812. Their concerns were totally unrelated to slavery. Nor are the current animadversions on the part of certain Californians on this same issue seemingly connected to the “peculiar institution.” In sum, the issue is broader than the Civil War, although that was the most famous and dramatic iteration.
Grip notes that Jefferson Davis was arrested for treason. He also implies that the invocation of the 10th Amendment by Southern “Fire-Eaters” was misplaced. These two data are connected. Arguably, the reason Davis was never prosecuted was because of Albert Taylor Bledsoe’s 1866 book Is Davis a Traitor? Bledsoe undertook to demonstrate that it was the understanding of both the framers of the Constitution and subsequent political figures that the Constitution does embrace a right of secession. The book is not an easy read; nonetheless, for those interested in the subject, it is a valuable contribution to this ongoing debate.
Finally, and unfortunately, Grip notes in passing, “No doubt, we can argue civilly over the prudence and merit of Federal Action and the Southern response in 1861.” Grip’s implication that a case can be made for Lincoln’s actions is morally bankrupt. The invasion of the South by the Army of the Potomac was a straightforward, flagrant, and unambiguous violation of Catholic “just war” doctrine. The NOR, to its credit, denounced George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. If the Iraq War was immoral, on what possible basis can one justify the armed invasion of a peaceful neighbor? Whatever else he was, Jefferson Davis was no Saddam Hussein, and the South had no reason to forcefully invade the North. Granted, it eventually did do so, but purely for defensive purposes.
The irony of it all is that the two bases for justifying Lincoln’s fascism — preserving the Union and abolishing slavery — are, upon examination, found to be unfounded. First, the end does not justify the means. Granted that slavery was immoral (which it was) and that secession was immoral (debatable), the deaths of 600,000 or more Americans is utterly disproportionate to the end achieved — all the more so when one realizes that the end game would have been the same. Slavery was a dying institution. The Russian czar had freed the serfs in the same year. The winds of change were sweeping across the globe; they would eventually have reached Richmond.
Second, the South, had it succeeded in seceding, would have drifted back into the Union, albeit gradually. How so? Because the Confederacy was not a viable endeavor, quite aside from slavery. Indeed, even in the very crucible of the Civil War, there were stirrings of a “secondary” secession from the Confederacy. What would have been the situation when an armistice was finally signed? Secession, as Martin Luther discovered, has an unfortunate dynamic characteristic. Granted, slavery would have continued for longer than it did. But the horrific price in casualties alone would have been obviated had Lincoln and the North pursued their original strategy of “allowing the erring sisters to depart in peace.”
J. Fred Hart Jr.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Unfortunately for me, I’m one of the all-too-many American citizens who don’t have, in Stanley T. Grip Jr.’s words, a “proper conception of historical sense,” and have only a budding “appreciation of the [founding] fathers’ bequest: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.” I say this not in a defensive mode (for I do not wish to quarrebpbut as one who wishes to know a great deal more. My comments and questions below are not meant to be hostile but are an attempt to ferret out more of the truth. My kudos to Mr. Grip for making me think!
It seems to me that Grip posits three reasons for the secession of the Southern states: to keep slavery legal, maintain states’ rights, and defend the homeland. To take these in reverse order: I don’t recall ever being taught that Col. Robert E. Lee resigned his commission, let alone that he did so in order not to fight against his home state. This is an intriguing angle, and I’m glad Grip brought it to my attention.
Grip writes, “It is important not to discount the motivating notion of states’ rights…. specifically delineated in the 10th Amendment.” How can he then write that the 10th Amendment “might have been misinterpreted or misapplied” in the matter of secession and slavery?
Would Grip say that the Southern states shared the same fear of “an overly powerful Federal government” that the Founding Fathers had? If so, why does Grip zero in on the issue of slavery as the primary reason for secession? He writes, “It requires no great power of discernment to condemn the Confederacy’s tragic and vain attempt to secede from the Union in order to perpetuate the heinous institution of racist chattel slavery.” Rather strong words, carrying a huge emotional weight, wouldn’t you say? His following statement about not condemning those who fought for the South for reasons of states’ rights and/or defense of their homeland seems to indicate that these people were in the minority. A clarification of what percentage of Southerners fought for which reason would be welcome.
My biggest question, though, has to do with the 10th Amendment. The word slavery appears nowhere in the Constitution, a document that delegates no powers to the United States regarding slavery and prohibits nothing to the states regarding slavery. Whether to accept or forbid slavery was up to each state, was it not? If this decision was left to the states, why was the war fought? It was surely not fought to “free the slaves” (I do remember having this drummed into my head). Lincoln’s famous — or perhaps not-so-famous — Emancipation Proclamation freed only the slaves in “rebel” territory; it did not free all the slaves in the U.S.
My final question for Grip is this: If he truly believes, while forming the answer “in the present tense,” that “whenever the Federal government promulgates policy that should instead be considered in our state capitals, the bad guys win,” does he also believe that “the bad guys” in the war were President Lincoln, the Northern states, and the Union Army? I’m curious! (Please form your answer in the past tense.)
It was admirable of Stanley T. Grip Jr. to maintain a civil approach. However, starting with his characterization of the letters in the December 2017 NOR as “civil dialogue on a sensitive subject,” he is immediately in trouble. Name-calling is never civil behavior. It seems that Grip wants to lead the reader through a logical discussion to certain conclusions. But he does so using faulty logic, selective quotations, and special pleading. To address all these issues would take far too much space, so I will address only some of them.
Grip begins by stating that “the defeat of slavery was the paramount premise of the war,” and “none of the correspondents in the NOR’s December letters section appears to disagree with that contention.” But Rev. Fr. Ted Bradley asked in his letter, “Why would the NOR base an entire column on the often-propagated myth that the War Between the States was all about slavery?” Fr. Bradley is not only aware of this contention but he rejects it. Grip’s first step is a misstep.
Grip writes that “the [NOR] editor’s conclusion [in an Oct. 2017 New Oxford Note] that the peaceable removal of [Confederate] monuments is appropriate and justifiable…. rests on a premise subject to prudential debate — specifically, that the maintenance of slavery was the primary motivation of the officers and men of the Confederate Army.” Yet Pieter Vree doesn’t say that at all. He says the statues represent, particularly to black Americans, years of oppression and racism. But Grip seems particularly interested in exonerating Confederate officers and men, so he glosses over those whose actions, from the Missouri Compromise to secession, led to the war. If he is truly interested in identifying the good guys and bad guys, he might want to look at some of those people. Instead, he provides us with a very long and largely superfluous discussion of those veterans and the 10th Amendment. But historians have already amply established that the vast majority of Confederate soldiers (estimates range from 70-90 percent) were not slaveholders, did not have an investment in preserving slavery, and were fighting to defend what they saw as an invasion of their homeland. (I’m not sure we can say the same thing about the officers, including such virulent racists as Nathan Bedford Forrest.)
Grip then moves onto slippery ground in talking about “the implied notion of regional, state, and local loyalty in the face of Federal action.” It is slippery because many who focus on the Battle of Fort Sumter seem to forget that armies from the seceding states had been taking over Federal establishments, often using force, long before this, so the issue is not just Federal action, though that is the way Southerners have seen the issue.
In his discussion of loyalty to state vs. loyalty to country, Grip asserts that “historical perspective compels us to concede pride of place to…Colonel Robert E. Lee.” Why does historical perspective compel this? Why not fellow Virginian Winfield Scott, who, after all, was the highest-ranking Union general? Or why not others?
Grip presents the well-known myth of Lee torn between two loyalties. But the letter Lee wrote to Lord Acton, which Grip quotes, was penned after the war, when Lee had revised some of his earlier views. Compare this letter of Lee’s from January 23, 1861, quoted in Alan T. Nolan’s book Lee Considered (2000): “As an American citizen, I take great pride in my country, her prosperity and institutions, and would defend any State if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than the dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it were intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will.” Nolan’s book casts doubt on the Lee myth.
Grip then moves to the story of Wesley Norris, the escaped slave. Lee had him whipped, along with others, and then ordered brine poured on his wounds. To defend Lee, Grip quotes from Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s “conclusions” in Reading the Man (2007) concerning Lee’s attitude toward slavery. But this is deceptive, as Grip quotes from a part of Pryor’s book that has nothing to do with this incident. It would have been more accurate to quote Pryor’s conclusion in the chapter about the Norris episode. She writes, “Lee was unsuccessful as a master largely because he neglected to see the situation in human terms. He embraced the legal and economic aspects of the master-slave system without grasping its complex underlying relationships. He never recognized the slaves’ fundamental desire to change their condition; instead he tried to superimpose his sense of ‘duty’ upon them. Moreover, by breaking up families and proposing to ship them far away from their community, he both denied the slaves’ humanity and stepped beyond the genteel code of paternalism that even proslavery men professed…. His failure to communicate on human terms and to see beyond self-interest caused him to mishandle a delicate situation. Lee never lost his legal rights over the slaves, but he did lose his moral authority. And that was because he continued to treat the African-Americans at Arlington as property, when they thought of themselves as free men.” Of course, this weakens Grip’s pleading. Anyone who sees human beings as property is apt to inflict especially cruel treatment upon them. It is fair to say that Grip completely missed Vree’s points about this episode.
Grip attempts to answer the question of who won the Civil War with poorly conceived arguments. Historian William C. Davis, a Southerner and biographer of Jefferson Davis, writes in The Cause Lost (1996), “Most of the more important surviving Civil War myths are those created by the Confederates and fostered and nurtured by their lineal and spiritual descendants as a means of exonerating the South from responsibility in bringing on the conflict and helping Southerners then and later cope with defeat. All peoples part with their myths reluctantly, and historians are at some risk when they try to dismantle those of the Confederacy. To attack Confederate myths is somehow seen as an attack on the South itself. This is untrue, or at least it is not the intent of most of those who examine legends versus reality. Nevertheless, it can produce some extreme reactions.”
As Thomas L. Connelly explains in The Marble Man (1977), his compelling cultural history about how Lee attained the stature that he did, the North, which Grip correctly points out was just as racist as the South, accepted the Southern myths about Lee. Later historians have pointed out that not only did the North accept the Lee myths, it accepted the entire “Lost Cause” myth. This complex series of myths was cited by many of the correspondents in the NOR’s December 2017 and March 2018 letters sections, but as history, not as the myths they are.
So, who won the Civil War? Militarily, the North won. But culturally and spiritually, we all lost. Our country could not settle its race issues without going to war, and even then they weren’t settled. Instead, an entire series of myths was accepted in order to make us feel noble about ourselves, and those myths led to disgraceful laws regarding black Americans, as well as reprehensible behavior and repugnant attitudes, many of which are still with us. Until we can see all people with the respect due all of God’s creation, then I’m afraid the Confederate monuments will have to come down. Granted, there has been some extreme and irrational behavior, also cited by Vree, around the whole issue of racism. When the heated emotions cool, and we can truly respect and love all people, we may be able to look at the issue again with clear eyes. I pray this will happen soon.
Fr. Thomas Shaw
STANLEY T. GRIP JR. REPLIES:
My thanks to Michael E. Pugh and Vincent A. Droddy for their kind words — in particular, to Mr. Pugh for his Arthur Miller citation and his timely reminder of Lincoln’s words, and to Mr. Droddy for his perceptive connection to Roe v. Wade.
Thanks likewise to J. Fred Hart Jr. for his kudos. With reference to secession, I appreciate his reminder of the precedent of New England states during the War of 1812. However, I did not say that the notion of secession began with the Southern states in the pre-Civil War years; I simply pointed out the importance of the 1861 secession crisis in the causal link between the Civil War and slavery.
As to Mr. Hart’s characterization of the implications of my statement, I disagree with the contention that any argument on behalf of Lincoln’s actions in 1861 is morally bankrupt. Such a categorical judgment fails to ascribe to radical pro-slavery secessionists the responsibility they must bear for their role in precipitating Lincoln’s decision. As to the role of just-war theory as a judgment criteria, we should keep in mind that the men responsible for pulling the lanyards of the guns and mortars facing Fort Sumter in the early morning hours of April 11 are every bit as culpable for their actions — if not more so — than Lincoln.
But Hart goes on to propose in specific terms a significant question that is worthy of consideration: What if the Army of the Potomac had not crossed the Potomac, and slavery had been left to wither on the vine?
In failing to credit herself with a sense of history, Miriam Dapra does herself a disservice: Her questions are thoughtful and perceptive. In response to her first set of queries, I come back to the truth of 1861: Slavery caused the secession crisis, and the secession crisis caused the Civil War. That supposition is a premise my article takes objectively for granted, as it does the chain of events that ultimately led from secession to the commencement of fighting. And it is in the commencement of fighting — in particular, the Federal Army marching into the Southern states — that the answer to Dapra’s initial questions can be found. In my view, those who took up arms (or caused others to do so) on behalf of slavery are deserving of opprobrium; but I cannot make the same judgment of those who primarily chose to take up arms in response to Federal invasion. As to her request for a tabulation of Confederate motivations, my conclusions are based on my recollection of wartime correspondence in books long since returned to the collegiate library from which I borrowed them; but I am confident that my recollections are correct. For Dapra and others similarly inclined, I recommend the work of Princeton’s James McPherson; particularly, What They Fought For (1994) and For Cause and Comrades (1997).
My response to Dapra’s “biggest question” — why the war was fought — is straightforward: In response to the Confederacy’s attack on Fort Sumter, Lincoln called forth “the militia of the several states of the Union” to suppress the “combinations” in the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas who opposed and obstructed the laws of the United States, and to “re-possess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union.” It is, therefore, both accurate and cursory to observe that the war was fought for three reasons: first, because the actions of the original seceding states prompted Lincoln to issue the Proclamation; second, because the Northern states chose to comply with the Proclamation; and third, because the combined Confederate States of America chose to resist it. But the heart of the matter — particularly regarding the question of Confederate statuary that prompted the discussion — is this: In 1861 the individual choice to fight was made for a range of reasons. For the men of the North, the preservation of the Union was the defined goal. But it would be specious to deny that the abolition of slavery did not play an important role for many. For the men of the South, the repulse of Federal invasion was the ultimo ratio to arms. But it would be equally specious to overlook the many who chose to fight for the maintenance of racist slavery.
In response to Dapra’s final question, I fear I must disappoint her. The intent of my article was to convey a subjective choice to move beyond the childhood prism of looking for “good guys and bad guys” — and to consider the distinction between actions and actors, sins and sinners. That consideration reveals in the complex tragedy of our Civil War men who chose badly for good reasons, and men who chose well for bad reasons: I’m content to share my thoughts on that circumstance, and to leave the definitive final judgment of the good guys and bad guys to their Creator.
Fr. Thomas Shaw is mistaken to impute to my commendation of the civil exchanges between Pieter Vree and the NOR’s correspondents any endorsement or criticism of the contents therein; he is likewise mistaken to interpret the objective of my article as an exoneration of all Confederate officers and men. In this vein, he’s quite correct in pointing out that the attack on Fort Sumter was preceded by other Confederate seizures of Federal property; however, none of these preceding actions remotely resemble, from any reasonable standpoint, the moral and physical imperative of the Federal Army moving into the Southern states.
As the text of my article makes clear, my choice of Robert E. Lee as a focus of army officers who resolved their struggle with divided loyalties by choosing the Confederacy was a function of Vree’s prior reference, and because of Lee’s subsequent position in American, Civil War, and military history. Using General Scott as an example would, of course, be senseless: Scott remained with the Union.
The weight of historical evidence about the difficulty Lee experienced in making his choice is clear; Fr. Shaw is mistaken in characterizing Lee’s divided loyalties as “mythological.” As to his quotation of Col. Lee’s 1861 letter, I’m at a loss to find any discrepancy between the feelings Lee expressed therein and those he expressed in his 1866 missive that I cited, except insofar as Fr. Shaw misunderstands Lee’s reference to “his willingness to sacrifice anything but honor” — an unambiguous connection to Lee’s perceived obligation to defend Virginia, on which he elaborated in his April 1861 conversation with Francis Blair, which I likewise cited.
As to the Norris case, I’m perfectly content to let Pryor’s words — and mine — speak for themselves; I stand by them both.
Fr. Shaw appears determined to accuse me of obfuscating the tragic legacy of slavery and perpetuating the myth of the “Lost Cause.” No such intent was meant or written by me, and the connections he makes are a matter of his own mistaken interpretations. He closes with an appeal for prayer — an appeal in our troubled times with which I heartily agree. But perhaps such prayers might prove more efficacious if we offer them before we resort to statuary iconoclasm, rather than after.
Ed. Note: The debate doesn’t end here! For another perspective — a Southerner’s perspective — see Jake Neu’s article “The Weight of Anchises” on page 26 in this issue.
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