(Another Screwtape tribute)
Author’s disclaimer: Like CS Lewis, I will not tell you how Treaclegloch’s columns came into my possession. Like Screwtape and other devils, it must always be remembered that Treaclegloch is a self-serving liar and prone to the particular brand of wishful thinking found in Hell. For those readers not familiar with The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast, whenever a devil refers to “the Enemy” he is referring to God and when he refers to “our Father below” he is referring to Lucifer. These and other similar inversions of usage and values should be remembered when interpreting any devilish missive.
The Infernal Herald is pleased to announce the resumption of a popular though recently interrupted feature, namely the Useful Idiots review column. Under the by-line of our newest staff writer, Treaclegloch, Useful Idiots will once again critique, recommend, or (as needed) condemn the writings, philosophies, and dramatic presentations of the human world. What Useful Idiots will not undertake is any diagnosis of the spiritual condition of any living human composers no matter how pleasing their works may be to our Father Below. The violation of this policy directly intrudes upon the work and progress of said humans’ assigned tempters and those tempters advisors—and the presumption by this feature’s previous columnist (in the particular case of “Daniel Brown”) has resulted in Slobglose earning a long and instructive rest in the Rehabilitative House of Correction.
Reviewed: Oakes, Kaya; Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church; Counterpoint; Berkeley; 2012
This reviewer initially wanted to dismiss Oakes’ confessional screed as a too-little, too-late paean for feminist reconstruction of Catholicism. There is very little in this book that has not been done before and done better. Again and again the author rejects the Magesterium in matters of faith and morals supposedly in favor of private judgment and superior interpretation, but in actuality, she swallows uncritically all the defining doctrines of feminist and gender “studies”. Essentially she trades the authority of the Church the Enemy founded in favor of the authority of a few contemporary and increasingly passé academics and heretics. From our viewpoint, this is essentially useless--unless it can lead other mortals into conscious error and separation from the Enemy.
Mostly this book seems, to use a human phrase, “to be preaching to the choir” of the already radicalized. Devout and aware believers are likely to spot the densely-packed errors that proliferate on nearly every page. Ad ignorantums, ad hominems, straw-man attacks—almost any logical and rhetorical fallacy that has been defined, Oakes commits. Perhaps this is only to be expected from someone who was born (1971) when the purely mythological über-liberal “spirit of Vatican 2” was just hitting its stride, when Catholic education (mostly) abandoned anything like a defined catechism or logical reasoning in favor of the fickle god of “social relevance”. Those were glory days for our workers; when we winnowed out thousands of the most educated teaching brothers and sisters into the “self fulfillment” of the secular world and away from bright minds who might actually want to know the whys and hows of the faith. What Catholic religion teachers remained were often the “no-chance-outside” bullies and incompetents—or else steeped in the heady wine of psychological fads and religious relativism. Other tempters efforts were rewarded handsomely by the liturgical fidget of insipid and mawkish performances that when combined with the lack of real Catholic teaching, succeeded in driving millions out of the pews and away from those deadly-dangerous Sacraments.
Make no mistake; the lure of the Enemy instituted Sacraments will call to any human who has not murdered by cynicism and sarcasm the sense of the numinous. Oakes explicitly admits to being drawn back into formal communion with the Church by this very thing. Fortunately, Oakes does not dwell upon this; for if she had spent as much thought about the reality of the Sacraments as she did in attacking the Magesterium’s rejection of priestesses she might have realized she could not coherently accept the supporting authority in one case while denying it in another. As it is, she blames much of her return to the Church on contemporary pseudo-science (e.g. “belief genes”). The rest of the book follows this justification, for just as Oakes accepts the Sacraments non-rationally she likewise rejects the clear, ancient, and very consistent teachings of the Church.
Oakes chosen field of creative writing combined with a disposition “rebellious and hypercritical” (back cover blurb but supported throughout the text) apparently does not lend to fact checking let understanding the positions of those she disagrees with. Her references to attending various Catholic schools do show how well our workers savaged the teaching of critical thinking and research in these institutions—an old school Jesuit or Dominican would have emptied several red-ink pens marking up Oakes’s essays. The rightness of her positions is unquestioned in Oakes’ mind; all the textual evidence of this book indicates an automatic rejection of anything or one who might deny her already accepted opinions.
Oakes book is decidedly lightweight fare; it hardly does our side any favors for her to sow such shallow dissent when example after example can easily be refuted; either spouting false clichés (e.g. claiming both John Paul II and Benedict XVI betrayed Vatican II when they were both two of its most progressive précis—a fact well known and repeated by the seccevacantists) or citing outdated “research” (e.g. slanted polls from the 1970s claiming the majority of Catholics supported priestess ordination) or just the near constant non sequitor of citing the “majority of Catholics” supposed opinions or actual behavior in contrast to the Enemy’s teaching on things like divorce, re-marriage, convenient forms of murder (e.g. abortion and euthanasia), and so many dissidents’ obvious obsession with wanting approval for sexual sins. As if the majority result of a poll had any bearing in regards to obedience to the Enemy!
Some good news can be gleaned in that Oakes apparently was not effectively instructed in just what is the Catholic deposit of faith: that troublesome combination of both apostolic scripture and apostolic tradition. Perhaps this absence of teaching is more of a continuing regional issue (Berkeley) or perhaps it can be hoped this is a common failing of RCIA classes throughout the Church Militant. If the later is the case our workers in the field are to be commended for keeping this so-critical knowledge from the majority of nascent Catholics. We certainly succeeded in this effort in the seminaries for almost four decades! Truly, when one’s enemy declines to use one of its most powerful weapons that the Enemy equipped her with, our battle is half won then and there! Our efforts are so much more difficult when a Catholic simply has the general knowledge that any particular Church teaching on faith or morals will have an ancient and consistent lineage going all the way back to the Enemy’s disciples and in turn their chosen successors all the way down to the current day. Said Catholic does not even need to know the specific details of which Early Church Father refuted what attack of ours—he is armored against our finest weapons of obfuscation and deception by simply knowing that history exists.
Again and again Oakes makes the assumption that some Magesterium teaching she and other dissidents object to was the imposition of the patriarchal misogynist homophobic chauvinist hierarchy that imposed itself over the initially egalitarian and tolerant Church. This utterly anti-historical construction is highly useful to us, though it is limited in the amount of damage we can ultimately inflict upon the Enemy’s Bride. Indeed, Oakes seems to be among the decreasing fewer true-believer converts to the cause of feminist dissidence and rebellion within the Church. Her entire book has a voice desperate triumphalism which is becoming increasingly more hesitant among her grey-haired predecessors.
It is actually quite difficult to say what sort of patient a tempter could profitably influence in reading this book. A human who is already investigating the Church might be intrigued by some of Oakes more outrageous claims, but a tempter will then have the difficult task of steering his patient away from works which decisively disprove Oakes entire thesis. Example; Oakes declares that Pius XII sat on the sidelines while the Nazi genocide against European Jewry was in progress. Never mind the KGB’s agitprop bureau created this lie in the 1950s and “useful idiots” in the West picked up on it and expanded it into several books. Also never mind (as Oakes apparently has done) that several books defended Pius quite decisively, including one by a rabbi of impeccable academic and religious credentials. All that is needed to cast doubt in a seeker’s mind about Oakes’ credibility as a scholar or a critic (let alone “amateur theologian”) is to stumble across one wartime picture of several Jewesses and their babies inside the pontiff’s private apartment in Castle Gandolfo which had been converted into a secret nursery to hide and protect them. No wonder the Reich’s fuehrer called Pius “that damned Jewish Pope!”
To conclude, a tempter should aim this book at only the most gullible. Radical “Catholic” feminism is steadily losing its effectiveness and our tempters are already seeking more tenable tactics. The movement had its day and now only holds prominence in certain strongholds—such as the notorious parish Oakes calls “home”. However, in the meantime we can use it to sow division and confusion, the separate the weak-minded from their shepherd. As Steichen called our game just over 20 years ago:
…important is the influence with which they continue to be endowed by Catholic media and Catholic bishops, who thus prolong the existence of a pathological movement, ultimately doomed but capable of wreaking enormous havoc during its death convulsions. Most bishops ignore even the grossest revolutionary deviations... It would be an error of optimism to suppose... a diminished feminist presence in the North American Church. While they fume and rage about a supposed persecution by the Vatican, Catholic feminists are not resigned to defeat. Instead, they have become increasingly bitter and aggressive toward the hierarchy.
D. Steichen, Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991
Reviewed: Dogma (feature length motion picture); 1999; written and directed by Kevin Smith; includes Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Bud Cort, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, Jason Lee, George Carlin, Janeane Garofalo, Alanis Morissette, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes; View Askew Productions;
“Why Treaclegloch” you may well ask, “are you reviewing a movie that was released 13 years ago in human time?” The answer is simple; outrageously false propaganda if it is crafted well enough and aimed at the right audience has no expiration date. Witness the ever popular Protocols of the Elders of Zion; numerous times it’s been utterly exposed as a 19th century plagiaristic creation of the Tsarist Okrana but it keeps being disseminated and quoted “as fact” by anti-Semites in every generation since then. Cater to the humans’ fears and resentments and even the turgid Protocols will be palatable to their stunted perceptions and reasoning.
How much easier the job of misleading the humans is when the poison is coated with the sweetness of humor. It is simply amazing how much cruelty, depravity, and lies a human will swallow if a tempter can convince his patient “that’s funny!” Even so, it seems-- no, it is obvious writer and director Kevin Smith knew he had his work cut out for him in getting audiences to put their discerning minds into solitary confinement while the rest of their mental facilities “had fun”. The opening credits begin with an actual injunction to do this very thing!
"Disclaimer: 1) a renunciation of any claim to or connection with; 2) a disavowal; 3) a statement made to save one's own ass.
Though it'll go without saying ten minutes or so into these proceedings, View Askew would like to state that this film is- from start to finish- a work of comedic fantasy, not to be taken seriously. To insist that any of what follows is incendiary or inflammatory is to miss our intention and pass undue judgment; and passing judgment is reserved for God and God alone (this goes for you film critics too... just kidding)…”
Smith demands a double standard; HE can pass judgment and ridicule and mock the Enemy’s Church and its teachings as being ridiculous and irrational and sexist, but anyone else who points out the film’s bigotry, shallowness, and deliberate inaccuracies (e.g. “lies”) is being “thin-skinned”, “literal-minded”, and above all, “humorless”. Still, there is more than a whiff of desperation in Smith’s “disclaimer”. Likely he realized just how hypocritical he was going to be and decided to deflect some understandable backlash by using the “it’s just a work of “fiction/fantasy/comedy/art” defense used to perfection by the likes of Oliver Stone and Dan Brown.
As a work of “fiction/fantasy/comedy/art” the film is a mess. It is a good thing Smith’s established audience, either in theatrical release or post-release recordings, is well-noted for further debilitating their already corrupt intelligence by means of self-medication. A sober human is quite likely to find Dogma’s pretensions to comedic-criticism not only exceedingly trite and not very funny, but also incoherent.
The prime example of Dogma’s internal inconsistency is it concedes the objective truth that the Enemy did grant the Catholic Church, through the office of Peter, the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals when the Church said she was speaking on such matters definitely and decisively. Then in blatant contradiction to this clearly stated point, all through the film Smith “reveals” to the lead character where the Catholic Church is wrong on its definite and decisive declarations of faith and morals. Dogma explicitly attacks the perpetual virginity of the Enemy’s human mother, the masculine persona of all three persons of the Trinity, and in claiming a “13th Apostle” was edited out of New Testament (for absurdly anachronistic reasons!), attacks the Church as a reliable transmitter of Scripture. Implicitly, Dogma also goes after the one-time-only Incarnation (the Enemy is shown being vulnerable to physical attack because he again assumes a body to play Skee-Ball) and the doctrine of the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ (the “13th Apostle” recalls Jesus as just another charismatic wisdom-teacher).
The great contradictions of Dogma seem to reflect the contradictory attitudes writer-director Smith holds against the Catholic Church. Smith, raised a Catholic in our smokescreen-era of utterly-fictional über-liberal “spirit of Vatican 2” clearly resents the Church for remaining utterly opposed to murder for convenience (abortion and euthanasia) but he also clearly despises shallow, publicity-hungry bishops, as well as bland Masses performed by decidedly “un-fatherly” priests. For us tempters, it is a true delight to hear humans droning in boredom through the Nicene Creed because these contemporary “believers” never once were made aware of the blood of martyrs, which testified, to every tenant of that prayer.
Dogma, as to be expected in its pandering to the “spirit of the age”, hits all the expected notes. Anti-abortion protestors are portrayed as imbeciles, Catholic hierarchy in the case of Cardinal Glick (Carlin) as hustling salesmen, and Catholic religious in the case of one nun in full habit, gullible to the most superficial and smarmy atheist “apologetics”. It’s the old method that still works so well; portray those you disagree with as ugly stereotypes and those you agree with as rational, reasonable, and above all, attractive. It worked well for Goebbels and equally so for Smith. Of course, Smith has his “disclaimer” ready to abandon responsibility, which is something Herr Goebbels had the minimum honesty not to do.
Regarding the “spirit of the age”, it is also obvious Smith was much enchanted with neo-Gnostic apologist Elaine Pagels (Smith praises her in the end credits!). Pagels’ words come out as revealed doctrine from the mouthpieces of Rufus the 13th apostle (Rock) and Serendipity the Muse (Hayek). That’s another valuable propaganda tactic Smith uses with gusto; your side must always use spokesmen who at least sound reasonable and truthful—and in Dogma’s case, show a lot of skin which is apparently some fact verification by human standards. Of course, the “truth” the Catholic Church expresses in Dogma is not only “sexist” it also threatens all of existence—though the latter, only by so ad ignorantum misstating the doctrine of plenary indulgence that even Martin Luther would be disgusted by Smith’s deliberate misrepresentation.
For junior devils who are unfamiliar with the doctrine, plenary indulgences are the Church’s allowance for “substitute penances” for sins already confessed and repented for under the Enemy’s sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, if the sin is NOT confessed and NOT repented for, then the sin is NOT absolved no matter how many indulgences the sinner partakes of—or as in the case of the abuses in the late Middle Ages which Luther quite rightly objected to, purchased.
Smith’s plot device which drives the entirety of Dogma is two “fallen angels” Bartelby (Affleck) and Loki (Damon) will have their disobedience forgiven if they ONLY step through the doors of a certain Church (for which plenary indulgence has been granted by Glick and “approved by the Vatican”), and since that forgiveness will contradict the Enemy’s declaration of eternal banishment from Heaven then all of existence will wink out because of the contradiction. Never mind angelic disobedience to the Enemy earns a spirit a firm place in our Father’s house and not eternally exile to Wisconsin! Bartelby and Loki only seek entry into Heaven by a “loophole” without a trace of contrition (showing again their fitness for our Father’s house) a loophole that is solely of Smith’s imagining. No repentance (impossible for a spirit!), no confession, so any indulgence is null and void—which is something these characters would know right from the start.
However, these simple facts about indulgences are something most humans, including most Catholics, do not know—hence the effectiveness of Dogma as propaganda because it relies on the disgusting creatures’ dependable ignorance. I cannot praise enough our field tempters‘ particular efforts in sabotaging Catholic catechesis for almost five decades as well as their more general successes in the destruction of history education. Many “cradle Catholics” are ripe fruit to be plucked by such superficial propaganda as Dogma—they are utterly unaware Smith is insulting their intelligence to further an agenda of fornication, sodomy, murder (abortion and euthanasia), and elitist “insider theology”—for after that’s what Gnosticism has always been. A tempter is always on firm ground if he appeals to a human’s desire of being among the “enlightened few” –and the deception for us is all that more delightful when the human’s snobbery to belong to the “in crowd” actually rests on their abysmal ignorance! It is always amusing to us devils that the enemies of the Catholic Church frequently accuse her of being “anti-body” and especially “anti-sex” when the demonstrable fact is the Church has always celebrated physical existence as “good” because the Enemy declared it so, and likewise the Church celebrates marital sex, when open to fertility, as being good for the same reason. It was always our-sponsored Gnosticism which attacked physical existence as evil, and procreation especially so. That tactic could lead humans to a variety of sins under the variety of mutually contradictory expressions of Gnosticism—everything from genital mutilation (re:”Marcion” or “Heaven’s Gate”) to sodomy, murder and treason (re: “Albigensian-Catharism”).
To conclude, a tempter should aim Dogma at the most susceptible patient; one who his ignorant in his or her faith and already involved with serious sin and seeking ANY justification to keep sinning, no matter how superficial and contradictory. Using the flippant condescending “humor” of Dogma, a tempter can insulate his patients against the Enemy’s most effective and subtle calls to Grace.
Reviewed: Wills, Gary; Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition; Viking; New York; 2013
There happens to exist a human created institution, a “community” (or “ecclesia” in the Greek) which tolerates little or no ideological deviation from its explicit or implicit foundational principles. This grouping of like-minded humans does not welcome new data that might call in to question its basis as the font of wisdom regarding the Enemy, the Enemy’s intentions and messages, and especially the Enemy’s disastrous Personal intrusion into human history. If any initiate presents compelling data and arguments, which contradicts the community ideology, then all the loyal members will attack the heretic and heresy with the most potent weapons in their current arsenal; namely ridicule and ostracism.
Gentledevil readers, please notice that I qualified this particular “ecclesia” as “Human-created”. In no way am I referring to the Enemy’s Ecclesia, the Catholic Church or even the proto-Church, the children of Israel. Indeed, if either of these two groupings (though the Enemy always considers them one) was purely of human invention, our agents in the field would smashed both of them into (at best) obscure historical references. It was only by the Enemy’s crass patronage and protection that His Ecclesia not only survived, but thrived—and this despite our promotion of gross incompetence and corruption in the Church at the highest levels, internal dissentions and revolts throughout her history, and frequent widespread moral turpitude among the priesthood. Indeed, one wag of a Cardinal once snorted to Napoleon’s public boast that he the emperor would destroy the Catholic Church—the Cardinal replied “who does this upstart Corsican think he is?—we have not managed to do that very thing to ourselves in almost 2000 years!”
No, fellow gentledevils, while the Catholic Church has always been herself “intolerant” of our-sponsored errors and confusion among her ranks, and even the times the Church in extremis has broken the Enemy’s restrictions in the refutation of heresy and heretics, she is not, nor ever can be entirely a human institution. Grievously sin her members have done, still do, and will continue to do, none of those sins negate the efficacy of the Enemy’s Sacraments His Church dispenses, none of those sins will every make His Church definitively proclaim error in contradiction to the Enemy’s word. Yes fellow gentledevils, this opposition is intolerable and infuriating and for the time being we must content ourselves to not just snatching individuals from the Church and keeping others away from her, but also as one human commentator observed “minimizing, marginalizing, and [most amusing to us] demonizing the Catholic Church.”
The heretic-intolerant institution I spoke of in the first paragraph is of course, secular New Testament scholarship. Since the early 19th century, this strain of academic “inquiry” established multiple secular doctrines, namely “Late Composition” of the Gospels, “Markan priority”, “Q”, “community composition, and “psuedographic authorship”. Never mind that these theories never progressed beyond the level of operating suppositions; for those determined to de-supernaturalize Jesus and the Gospels, they all proved invaluable to indoctrinate succeeding generations of scholars that the New Testament was inherently anti-historical. In the “quest for the historical Jesus” as they saw Him, modernist scholars actually abandoned historical methods of verification. Born almost entirely out of a radical Protestant (essentially Deist or Unitarian) background, it was no surprise that modernist New Testament scholarship rejected the writings of the Early Church Fathers regarding who wrote the New Testament and when they wrote them.
Quite understandably, Pius X in the mid 19th century declared these multiple errors just that and Pius’ disciplinary measure, the “Anti- Modernism Oath” leads us into the later part of the 20th century and to Gary Wills. While the Oath insulated Catholic theologians from much of the ruinous, faith-destroying rhetoric that is currently (in human time) savaging to extinction mainstream Protestantism (“Will the last Episcopalian out the door please turn off the lights!”) it also meant Catholic scholars were behind in benefiting from genuine progress in textual analysis and linguistics being conducted in non-Catholic institutions. However, certain Catholic scholars did study the Modernist literature and were influenced by it, even if they could not openly promote it. Even before the Oath was rescinded by Pius XII, many Catholic seminaries were quietly directing their impressionable students into Modernist studies and other innately opposed to Catholicism ideas—the case of “Carlin, George” being educated under the ideology of John Dewey is quite rewarding and entertaining in its long-lasting effects.
Modernist New Testament studies also had the enticing lure of forbidden fruit as well as “inner circle” elitism-very much like Gnosticism in this regard. An initiate often felt he was part of a more knowing, much more sophisticated clique, above the lay believer who took the Creeds and Scripture at face value. Rather than traditional belief and morality, the modernist theologian was more “flexible” and “tolerant”. “Tolerance” extends only so far in Modernism. Criticize Modernist theology’s unsupported, self-referential suppositions and a genuinely honest scholar will find himself ignored (at best) or branded a reactionary fundamentalist and cast out from the fold of “serious New Testament Studies”. The examples of what happened to the truly original works of John A. T. Robinson, Claude Tresmountant, Stephen Neill, and Jean Carmignac are to us devils delightful, because it makes even orthodox and pious Catholic or Protestant theologians reluctant to openly question Modernism’s overall doctrine of “Late Composition of the New Testament by unknown non-participant authors”.
Unsurprisingly, given Ignatius of Loyola’s emphasis on higher education and the Order’s reputation of extreme adaptability, it was in the Jesuit schools and seminaries that Modernists tenants made their deepest inroads prior to the Vatican II council. Of course, the beckoning “freedom” of Modernist theology was often in direct opposition to the explicit teaching and practice of the pre-councilor Church, creating a “perfect storm” of faith questioning in certain students. Many seminarians dropped out and went into influential careers: among these number Martin Scorcesse, John Cornwall, John Ostrander, and of course, Gary Wills.
Gary Wills is dependable in writing a near-yearly book attacking the institution and teachings of the Catholic Church. An intimate of the Kennedys (“So many Kennedy Catholics, so few Catholic Kennedys”), Wills is actually taken seriously by many human journalists in his claim that he is still a “Catholic”—despite his undeniable public statements that make him theologically a Unitarian (at best).
Wills believes theological and social archconservatives betrayed Vatican II—their attack to roll back the “reforms” of the Council spearheaded by the Pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI—and the former Jesuit now Pope Francis gives Wills and his fellow apostates no reason to expect any resuscitation of the “spirit of Vatican II”.
Nor should there be any hope of this, because the “Spirit of Vatican II” as Wills and other archliberals mourn for never existed in the first place. The myth of “Vatican II being the triumph of liberal theology and sociology over the forces of reaction and conservatism” was created out of whole cloth by the reportage of a SINGLE ideologically driven informant (an aide to one of the bishops). The few journalists who actually read the Councilor documents often did so through this already inculcated bias; hence the popular expectation the Church would soon permit artificial contraception—an expectation that soon dashed against Paul VI’s reiteration of the Church’s ancient and consistent prohibition of such methods.
This perceived “betrayal of the spirit of Vatican II” and “The spirit of Vatican II allows us to…” was beautifully timed for our purposes. Our field agents certainly fanned the fires of resentment and rebellion within the Church. Mentioning most briefly: the allowance for the Mass in the vernacular quickly became the “liturgical fidget” often destroying reverence if not promoting outright alienation; the priesthood began losing members (often orthodox and heterosexual) in a torrent, leaving behind a significant “lavender mafia” (even Wills has used this term!) which culminated in the surge of abuse cases in the 1970s and 1980s; and of course a whole slew of bishops who were either cowardly or sympatico in allowing egregious heretics to preach from the pulpit.
However, despite all these and other things that seemed to be going our Father’s way, “the center held” as the Lutheran-pastor-become-Catholic Priest Richard John Neuhaus wrote in one of his last books. We all recall the howls of anguish that reverberated in our realm when John Paul II assumed the Papal throne and again when he survived the assassin’s bullet. Through the long 26 years of his reign and the eight years of Benedict XVI, Gary Wills went from being an angry young man and turned into an angry old man, increasingly strident, increasingly heretical, yet increasingly sloppy and inaccurate in his “scholarship”.
In Why Priests?, Wills spends some time talking about the priesthood images of the 1940s and 50s, the archaic vestments combined with what he considered arrogant authority. Arrogance, even spiritual pride among priests there surely was, but it was combined with a theological education that was largely coherent and comprehensive and almost entirely untainted by the poisons of subjectivism, modernism, and rebellion. Wills has clearly never gotten beyond his five-decades-old memories and resentments and his methodology seems rooted in that era. Wills left the Jesuits to change the Church from the outside; however, he seems incapable of understanding his tactics of obfuscation and ad ignorantum in a printed book are becoming far less viable when a critical reader can fact-check any controversial claim with the click of a button. The only type of reviewers who are likely to say Why Priests? is “meticulously researched” are the SAME reviewers who said the SAME thing about The Da Vinci Code!
Wills spends much time on the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews being the primary justification for the Catholic priesthood since the Letter’s emphasis is on Christ’s redemptive sacrifice as a High Priest. Wills argument is that the Epistle is (to the humans) of obscure authorship and this idea of sacrifice and continuing the Old Testament’s emphasis of redeeming sacrifice is found nowhere else in the New Testament. Wills (like Dan Brown) egregiously fails the “look at the evidence test”; clearly the theme of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice is found in Luke’s gospel and referred explicitly in the other gospels, several Pauline letters, as well as Revelation. Even a Fundamentalist Protestant who is no friend of the Catholic Church and the Catholic priesthood would find Wills position begging credulity.
Mentioning Fundamentalists, Wills does seem to adopt one of their favorite attacks, conflating the doctrine of the Real Presence of the Eucharist with the latter clarifying dogma of Transubstantiation. Wills seems to think that no reader will already know these teachings are intimately related but are still distinct—in other words one can utterly believe in the Real Presence of the Second Person of the Trinity in the consecrated Host: All of the Enemy’s Body, Blood, Human Soul, and Full Divinity—and not believe in the later-defined dogma of Transubstantiation. Christian groups which separated from union with the Bishop of Rome (Nestorians in 431, Copts in 481, Orthodox in 1054) BEFORE the doctrine of Transubstantiation was formally pronounced STILL utterly believe and teach in the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist ONLY when the words of consecration are proclaimed by a Priest of valid apostolic succession.
Wills and his fan-cadre will repeat endlessly the canard “the New Testament never mentions the existence of priests in the Church”-but once again, Wills commits dissembling rhetoric. As a former seminarian, a JESUIT seminarian, Wills knows very well that the official name of the ordination to the Catholic priesthood is “the ordinard of the presbyter”. “Presbyter” (koine greek for “elder”) IS found in the New Testament multiple times—and quite explicitly in the Epistle of James where the Presbyters are the agents by which the sick are anointed and their sins are forgiven. Wills mentions this and, like Luther, dismisses its validity because it does not suit his agenda.
Wills plays fast and loose with the Early Church Fathers. He mentions and quotes a few as marginal voices supporting the Real Presence, but never EVER mentions how all of the quite large number of them WITHOUT EXCEPTION (whenever the subject came up) supported the Real Presence under the aegis of a bishop (episkipos) or the bishop’s direct agent, a presbyter. Repeatedly, in the Fathers as well as documents like the Didache (another brief mention by Wills) the Eucharist is mentioned as sacrifice offered only by bishops and presbyters who say the words of consecration found in the Synoptics and Paul. While called “presbyter” this early in the Church’s history, it is clear they (and the bishops) ARE priests because they all enact priestly service; e.g. they offer ACTUAL sacrifice.
Really my fellow gentledevils, Wills die-hard readers are unlikely to check out his easily contradicted assertions. They will be convinced by the sheer number of footnotes and never see how they are repeatedly cited out of context. A field agent’s job will be to convince his patient that Wills is knowledgeable and his arguments sound and NEVER let the human stumble across anything that would show Wills for the hack writer he actually is. Keep humans from discovering that abominable internet site, “Catholic Answers”. Most especially, keep them well away frim William Jurgens’ _Faith of the Early Fathers: Volume I_.
Aside from more footnotes and select bibliography, aside from the gravitas of resentful decades and social connections, Gary Wills is little or no better than Kaya Oakes (see Article I). He preaches only to the “already converted” and the ignorant and is proclaimed as brave when he is in full accord with the spirit of this age.
Reviewed: Green, Toby; Inquisition: The Reign of Fear; Thomas Dunne Books, St Martin’s Press; New York; 2009
Our tempters in the field must regard as one of their greatest successes the English sector—Our Infernal Father’s campaign has been spectacular in achieving two goals. The first goal is of course the de facto destruction of the state-sponsored Anglican Church by internal dissention (driven by heresy and acquiescence to secularism). The second (and far more important) goal is to continue the English people’s hatred against the Enemy’s only visibly Apostolic Church.
It is remarkable just how pervasive this antagonism against the Catholic Church is. From the opposing extremes of Paisley or Dawkins, more often than not any Englishman can be counted on to, at the very least, distrust those visibly united to the Bishop of Rome. While he was speaking of his own country’s experience, the American historian Arthur Schlesinger (Jr.) once stated anti-Catholicism was more deeply rooted than anti-black racism—and of course those deep roots began back in the mother country. Education and worldliness have little to do with these visceral reactions. The scientist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke is one of my favorite examples. This particular human had advanced degrees, was very well read, and largely secular in his theology, though with strong doses of Eastern Pantheism. He was friends with Jesuit scientists, though condescending regarding their religious beliefs. Regardless, Clarke’s education and friendships was no match against centuries of propaganda. In one of his last novels, 3001, Clarke imagines some mid-21st century Pope will break open the Vatican archives to reveal the secret genocidal history of the Church “which made Hitler and Pol Pot seem like amateurs”. Granted, this near baseless wish-fantasy is a casual toss-off, but it shows just how an otherwise intelligent Englishman will stop thinking when it comes to this subject.
I am sure my gentle-devil readers are quite aware of the Clive Lewis case. Our best agents in the English sector just barely avoided the utterly unmitigated disaster of the apologist’s on-Earth conversion to Rome. That particular Anglo-Irishman wreaked untold havoc while alive, and he is still guiding innumerable souls into the Enemy’s camp. If he had lived just ten years longer, the disintegration of the Anglican Church (and the rest of mainstream Protestantism) would have almost certainly strained Lewis’ loyalty to open break, as it did Newman and Chesterton before him, and Muggerridge, Shoemaker, and MacLuan after him. If we devils are thankful for anything in this situation, it is for Lewis’ early childhood in Ulster combined with an anti-Catholic bigot for a nanny. Despite Lewis’ belief in the Real Presence, Purgatory, Apostolic Tradition and other “Catholic” doctrines, his acculturated “insulation” against earthly reconciliation with Rome remained to the end—though admittedly it was very thin at that point. Indeed, field reports suggest post-mortem intercessions by Lewis have resulted in the full-conversions of many of his friends, not the least being Sheldon Van Auken (A Severe Mercy).
This finally brings us to Toby Green, who combines typical English anti-Catholicism with crank-scholarship like that of fellow subject Gavin Menzies. While The Sunday Telegraph calls him “…a sensitive and disciplined historian…” there is little or no evidence of that calling. The back flyleaf of Inquistion lists no professional positions or degrees, just a short list of novels and a mention of being a tourist.
Like Wills (Why Priests?) and Cornwell (Hitler’s Pope), Green pads his volume with a long list of citations and bibliographic references. Most telling is what is missing, rather than what is included. For instance, Green seems unaware of Edward Peters’ Inquisition (1997), perhaps because Peters’ thesis presents a disconcerting challenge to much of Green’s source material. Per Peters, because the great majority of pre 1800 publications regarding the Spanish Inquisition was actually generated by an informal English campaign of agitation-propaganda, then researchers who ignore this context will be merely regurgitating the “Black Legend”.
As it is, Green depends on smearing academics who have accurately documented the actual numbers of investigations, trials, and executions conducted by the Spanish Inquisition over its three-some centuries of existence. Green says these “White Legend” promoters are primarily pro-Franco apologists—which quite laughably puts Henry Kamen, a secular Jew employed by the Spanish Historical Institute well after the dictator’s demise in this category. Kamen’s 1997 revision of his prior book (listed in Green’s bibliography) was the result of over 20 years of Kamen’s diligence sifting through the actual Inquisition’s records, which are reasonably complete, clear, and detailed as court documents tend to be. While Kamen shows the Spanish Holy Office was an instrument of proto-racist bigotry and repression, he also shows the investigations and trials were concentrated in the first 20 years of its existence and became increasingly sporadic afterwards. By Kamen’s best estimates, the total number of executions never exceeded four-thousand souls over three centuries time—which means the state of Texas, by no later than 2050, will have judicially executed more humans (than the Inquisition) since executions were re-legalized in 1977.
Instead, Green relies upon the laughably over-inflated estimates of persecutions and executions of a former Inquisitor, Juan-Antonio Llorente, who at the close of the 18th century fled embezzlement charges by crossing the border into France and returned some years later, accompanying Napoleon’s armies as a collaborator. Llorente (the inspiration for the character Lorenzo Casamares in 2006’s _Goya’s Ghosts_) declared Inquisition victims (by direct execution not including those who died in prison or under torture) numbered in the tens of thousands. Green categorically states current historians support Llorente’s claim of 70,000+ Inquisition executions prior to 1800, but Green provides NO citations of this scholarly “consensus” against Professor Kamen’s findings. Really, the “scholarly agreement” is of Green’s unsupported word, as it has to be. Llorente himself, when pressed for proof in his own lifetime, said he HAD the evidence in a single volume he took with him to France (Dr. Kamen had to work through dozens of large volumes!) but that single volume was (conveniently) lost or stolen. Really gentledevil readers, does this not remind one of the academic fraud cases of Carlos Castaneda and Michael A. Bellesiles? It is no wonder that the 19th Century historian Henry Lea (rather anti-Catholic himself) found Llorente’s numbers had no credibility.
Of course, regardless of what are the actual numbers of those questioned, interrogated, tortured, imprisoned, and executed, it is the field agent’s mission to use either fact or fiction to keep their clients well away from the Enemy. A tempter should use profitably use ANY case of persecution or violence done by ANY Catholic during ANY time of history to plant the seeds of aversion to the Enemy’s Church. Just the word “Inquisition” (or “Crusade”) will often bring up a plethora of mistaken “knowledge” and associations.
The wonderful fact about humans is they are so adept at pointing out and magnifying the failings of other groups they already disagree with while ignoring the equal or even greater sins of the associations they happen to belong to (The Enemy’s adage about seeing the other’s speck and ignoring one’s own log comes to mind). Case in mind, a British (Anglo-South Asian) film director brings forth two films about the first Queen Elizabeth where she is seen as the defender of religious toleration against the plots and machinations of black-clad Spanish Catholics. Never mind it was Elizabeth Tudor’s Act of Uniformity which extinguished even the pretense of “toleration” for loyal Catholics. In both films, expatriate English priests are shown as traitorous and murderous infiltrators who are quite understandably tortured by Lord Walsingham (Jeffrey Rush) in confessing their plots. Of course, these fictional priests are both Jesuits, which plays into the traditional English stereotypes about the “black robes” (“Remember, remember the fifth of November…”). A tempter in the English sector is well advised to keep a patient away from any text that shows the “treason” ACTUAL priests were drawn and quartered for was in providing English Catholics access to the Enemy’s Sacraments. Indeed, the number of English Catholic Martyrs through the Tudor’s reigns (Henry, Edward, and Elizabeth) and limited to the Isles alone well exceeds the total number of Spanish victims spread over three centuries and a world-wide Empire. Even the typical English method of strangulation (hanging) was far more agonizingly prolonged than the typical “Auto-da-fe” method of a neck-breaking garroting and THEN followed by a corpse-burning.
Green concentrates on individual Inquisition cases to give the impression of unrelenting tyranny and persecution. However entertaining we devils find this subject, it still does not change the facts that most persons questioned by the Holy Office were either released with no formal charges ever being leveled (it WAS an inquest tribunal, hence the very word “Inquisition”) or were outright acquitted. Most suspects were never tortured . While a field investigator’s report of a Converso (or Converso-descendent) refusing to eat pork-flesh could bring the suspect in for questioning, they were always informed of the potential charges against them (unlike the depiction in Goya’s Ghosts) . Suspects could answer and refute any charges or less-formal concerns, and by stating the names of ANYONE who might offer hostile testimony against them, the Holy Office had to discount all-testimony by such potentially biased witnesses. Indeed, many actual secret Jews and Muslims had to be released by the Inquisition because they knew of this protection and became very good at recounting all the names of friends, acquaintances, neighbors, business associates, etc…
Also unlike Goya’s Ghosts, torture could not be used to “fish” for confessions—a tribunal first had to catch a suspect in a lie and in this the Spanish Inquisition was in line with every other court system in Europe, including England. Even when a tribunal found a suspect “guilty”, torture was not used in the majority of these cases to reach a verdict. While Green concedes the majority of verdicts resulted in less than capital punishment, he spends a great deal of text showing how harsh imprisonment and the stigma of verdict were (This is at the same time the English courts were hanging 10 year boys caught poaching rabbits from some lord’s land). Green sub-titles his book Reign of Fear but is utterly uninterested in seeing that England under the Tudors was far more of a proto-police state, what with secret Star Chamber Courts and multiple spy and informant networks (including Walsingham’s). Of course Green does not mention that the ordinary Spaniard, noble or common, saw the Holy Office as comparatively far more honest, stringent in procedure, and far more lenient than the secular courts. When Napoleon’s troops “liberated” Madrid and announced the abolishment of the Inquisition, they were astounded to see Spaniards rioting against the declaration.
Green gives scant attention to the context of why the Inquisition was created by the Spanish Crown, which is a good thing from our viewpoint since we want to continue the popular perception that the tribunals were solely the result of irrational hatred and fear. Among much of the Western intelligentsia, there continues the myth than Iberia under the Moors was a paradise of religious and social tolerance and the victory of the 800-year Reconquista was a historical disaster. Green’s book is invaluable in continuing this myth, because it makes no mention that the “tolerance and near equality” of Jews and Christians in relationship to their Muslim rulers was only limited to small elites among the “dhimmini” and even that was only during a 20-year period in the 12th century due to a Moorish ruler distrusting his co-religionists. For all the rest of the time, Jews and Christians (especially peasants and urban poor) were subject repressive laws, taxation, and frequent humiliation and physical attacks. The Ladino songs mourning the loss of “golden Andalusia” were almost entirely from perspective of formerly rich families largely insulated from the Muslim oppression experienced by the rest of their countrymen.
The Spanish Crown’s 1492 “convert or leave” declaration against the Jews and Muslims of Granada was preceded by decades of Christian hostility and violence against Spanish Muslims and Jews in the already re-conquered states. Muslims were persecuted because they were the seen as the former oppressors and Jews because (having more members in professional trades) they were seen as more-explicit collaborators. Of course, the religious differences weighed large in a culture increasing obsessed with the “cult of limpieza”. This proto-racist mentality saw “blood” irreversibly tainted by any Jewish or Muslim ancestry, with conversion to Catholicism by one’s self or ancestors being little protection against Christian mob violence. King Ferdinand ordered the Spanish Bishops to form an Inquisition to stop the mass riots and lynchings, to make the investigation of suspected Conversos a matter of state control, though educated Churchmen would conduct the investigations because they alone had the theological training to determine who actually was a sincere Catholic. It was under this rational that the initial Spanish Holy Office received approval from the Pope because it was in accord with the Church’s consistent teaching that it always the individual’s faith and practice that mattered in who was or was not a Catholic and not the accidents of ancestry. Understanding this, it is no surprise that Thomas de Torquemada with Jewish grandparents was able to become Madrid’s Inquisitor General.
Embarrassingly shallow Inquisition: The Reign of Fear should be for Green with his re-hashed, unsupported, and even refuted claims; this book is still a valuable resource for tempters to aim at vulnerable patients. Chief among these targets should be any human who has the pretense of intellectual status and not the actual ability. Green’s inflated citations and bibliography will seem impressive to someone already infected with Neo-Donatism, be he or she Protestant, Jewish, or even a non-believer. As one human wag has noted, “the only real difference between a fundamentalist believer and fundamentalist atheist is their starting propositions.” When the primary “starting proposition” for either is an acculturated hatred of the Enemy’s Church, Green’s Inquisition will fall on very fertile ground.