SQUINTING AT HISTORY
The Rhetoric of Stigmatization
First among the ideological denigrators--a group which includes both James Carroll and, again, John Cornwell-is Garry Wills in several studies beginning with Bare Ruined Choirs and culminating in Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit--on which I will focus. "Focus" is the precise term, because unlike my treatment of the "professional scholars" above, I will concentrate in this chapter not so much on factual errors, but on Wills' self-imposed blinders which lead to a historically distorted vision of Catholicism. In short, I am examining a scholarly methodology which blurs perceptions, and results in what common parlance (as well as the dictionary definition) would call a "cockeyed" view of things.(30) Such factual errors as the following can in some cases be dismissed as the result of ignorance or sloppiness: confusing Mary Stuart with Mary Tudor, Luigi Sturzo with John Bosco, Paul VI with John Paul II, Lord Acton with Richard Simpson, Archbishop Pecci with Bishop Gerbet, Cardinal Hohenlohe with Bishop Strossmayer (like Bishop Dupanloup here designated "Cardinal"), the Franco-Austrian with the Franco-Prussian War, the date of the Lateran Treaty with the date of Mussolini's dictatorial ascendancy; other such errors include the designation of Husserl as the father of "phenomenalism," of Scheler as a "dissolute Catholic," of the revolutions of 1848 as "socialist," and on and on. In chapter five I will show why too hasty a dismissal of these kinds of straightforward mistakes is, itself, a mistake.
But for the purposes of present discussion these factual errors may be regarded as less grievous, if only because they relate to past events and personalities. But there are lessons to be drawn from the context of those errors, lessons on how Catholics of the past coped with the conflict between the demands of the institutional church and the conscience of the individual believer. That context will be analyzed in chapter five which--though taking as point of departure Wills' assemblage of perennial complaints and revolutionary proposals--will constitute the bridge between these first two, intentionally negative, chapters on the methodology of mendacity, and the concluding, strongly affirmative, chapters on the genuinely reformative goal of "not the metamorphosis of traditional data but the deepening of them" (Maurice Blondel to Baron von Hügel).
But in this chapter we are still in the phase of clearing the ground by shedding the light of historical discernment on issues which relate to the scholarly methodology and intellectual credibility of Wills and others. One reviewer, Tad Szulc in The Washington Post, spoke of Wills' "impressive erudition and historical and theological analysis" in terms which suggested that these alleged qualities were such established truisms as not to be subject to examination. Since I am concerned precisely with scholarship or "erudition," I will have to attend to Wills' reliance on second-hand sources, such as Anti-Judaism in Christian Theology, The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, Hitler's Pope, Lead Us Not into Temptation, "The Saint and the Holocaust" (The New Yorker), and other reportage to which he often gives carte blanche in order to provide a presumably factual foundation for his narrative, or not infrequently to merely spice it up. One can at least be grateful he has not discovered the masonic lodge revealed in Via col Vento in Vaticano--Gone with the Wind in the Vatican-- another recent catalogue of papal sin (probably "now a major motion picture coming soon to a cineplex near you": The Loggia on the Loggia) Nor, thankfully, has Wills exposed any conspiracies on the part of the Knights Templars--the sure sign, according to Umberto Eco, of an ideological fanatic.
Most of the studies I name above are cited by Wills in his four chapters on antisemitism grouped together under the heading, "Historical Dishonesties." But since such vulgarisations, however haute, do not provide the intellectual patina he needs to academically legitimate his argument, he is often compelled to fall back either on redundant displays of learning or on elaborate token gestures of having consulted the most recherché of sources. For reasons of brevity in validating that criticism, I will draw initially on those same four chapters to illustrate Wills' own "historical dishonesties" which take the form of obfuscations and dissimulations that run throughout his book, and which ultimately belie his seemingly scholarly perspective. That perspective is so blurred in its approach and so fudging in its exposition that it is reminiscent of the comic creation of the British humorist, J. B. Morton, "Dr. Strabismus"--a latter-day Rube Goldberg--whose fabrications included false teeth for swordfish, a screw for screwing screws into other screws, and similar such devisals. Professor Wills is not as entertaining as Dr. Strabismus but he is certainly as inventive and farfetched.
In his treatment of the specific charge of deicide brought against the Jews, and relying uncritically on Charlotte Klein's well-intentioned but biased Anti-Judaism in Christian Theology to prove that "antisemitism is a modern sin, not just an ancient one," Wills indicts the most influential Catholic theologian of this century. "One of the leading liberal theologians at Vatican II, Karl Rahner, could publish in the very year of the Council's statement [Nostra Aetate] these words about the Jews: 'We could almost say that a supernatural demonism is exercising its power in the hatred of this people against the true kingdom of God'." The term "demonization" has become a commonplace in the ductile language of recent political commentators; but to hear it invoked in its literal sense by a revered theologian, a German at that, and with regard above all to the Jewish people is an affront not merely to ecumenism or inter-religious dialogue, but to humanity itself--so surely the quotation is as shocking as Wills insidiously suggests.
But is it? This isolated sentence is taken from Klein who, however, does make clear that anti-Judaism is not to be identified with "the sin of antisemitism" (a distinction with a difference), though as I shall note briefly she is also guilty of her own distortions. But it is absolutely unquestionable from the context of the quotation in Klein--though not in Wills--that "this people" is metonymy for "Sanhedrin"--thrice repeated: "The Sanhedrin had already condemned Him to death..."; "The mentality of the Sanhedrin..."; finally, the paragraph immediately preceding the quotation begins: "The Sanhedrin's death sentence on Jesus..." Regardless of the fact that "Sanhedrin" may not be in this instance the precisely accurate ascription, it is to be noted that what is omitted by Klein and therefore also by sedulous Wills is the sentence which follows immediately: "But even here Israel remains the people of God--a people so closely bound to God that its very existence is a divinely willed sign of salvation."
Klein also tendentiously excises the concluding phrases of Rahner's observation relating to Jesus' avowal that he is the Son of God: "In fact, they [again, that pronoun's only antecedent is not "the people," but "the Sanhedrin"] misuse it as a pretext to secure the death penalty.... Jesus is condemned in the name of good order, national pride, the good of the country, truth, belief in Yahweh." In Klein the quotation ends with a period, not an ellipsis after the word "Yahweh." Indeed, her whole paragraph ends there. But in Rahner the sentence continues without break, as in this italicized passage: "... truth, belief in Yahweh, theology and philosophy, beauty and symmetry--really in the name of everything on the face of the earth." This global catalogue makes abundantly, even ironically clear that as opposed to fundamentalist notions of the universality of Jewish complicity and guilt, the condemnation of Jesus rather than being ethnically or juridically specific is the consequence of every fallen human enterprise and every fallen human being "on the face of the earth."
To further impugn Father Rahner as not just an antisemite, but as one who persisted in his "modern sin" even "in the very year of the Council's statement," Wills has to ignore Rahner's own detailed explanation of the provenance of this book from which he and Klein are quoting, a book which I published first in this country and then in England under the simple title Spiritual Exercises. Though Wills, again following Klein, puts "Meditations" in the title--a word which, after having arbitrarily inserted, she then criticizes for entailing some kind of sinister exculpatory strategy: "As a book of meditations and not straightforward theology, this work exercises a more subtle influence and disarms criticism of its assertions." Actually, the first word in the German title which neither Klein nor Wills uses, brings out more clearly the book's provisional nature: Betrachtungen: "considerations" or "observations."
But had Wills--as any serious scholar making so rash a charge must perforce do--even casually examined the book itself, he would have found spelt out almost abecedarianly in the Foreword that this work was composed by seminarians from Rahner's retreat reflections for which "there never was a written text"; which were then circulated in a mimeographed version which was "neither controlled nor edited by the author" who "had nothing to do with the redaction"; and lastly, which dated from his years "in Pullach near Munich," i.e., twenty years before "the Council's statement." Perhaps this explains the clearly disingenuous if not craftily ambivalent, "Rahner could publish in the very year..."--rather than what one might expect, the plain and unvarnished: "Rahner wrote," or "Rahner maintained...." It is difficult to explain Wills' ignoring such a tessellation unless, consumed by the zeal of his papaphobist crusade, he now perchance subscribes to the tenets of that obscure anabaptist sect--in fact known as the Abecedarians--which preached salvation through the rejection of reading.
Finally, and explicitly with regard to the term "deicide," four years before the conciliar decree, Rahner lamented the "indescribable wrong" of Christian persecution of Jews "for the pseudo-theological reason that they were 'deicides'." This is from the 1965 fifth edition of the Rahner-Vorgrimler Theological Dictionary where the authors' Preface notes "with some satisfaction that nothing whatever needs to be changed because of the Council." Wills may be excused for not knowing this widely read work--though such nescience, again doesn't exactly suggest scholarly scrupulousness but rather a practice of picking and choosing among whatever statements, whether accurately contextualized or not, he imagines will bolster his argument. However, he cannot be excused for not even looking at the book, Spiritual Exercises, from which he professes to be quoting in order to condemn tout court a justly esteemed priest and theologian.
A similarly fudging equivocation is even more blatant in my next illustration, also derived by Wills entirely from Charlotte Klein, but here rigged to appear as the result of his own scholarship. We now have to do not with a distinguished theologian but an equally renowned
biblical scholar. Immediately following the chronologically warped quotation from Rahner, Wills with a frisson of the bombast of his earlier Bare Ruined Choirs clamorously bursts out: "More astonishingly [one can almost overhear, zut alors!--remembering, however, that "un oeil qui dit zut" says simply, "to squint"], the priest who edited the Revue Biblique (Pierre Benoit) brought out this accusation three years after the Council's decree: 'The religious authority of the Jewish people took on itself the actual responsibility for the crucifixion. Israel closed itself off from the light that was offered it, from the expansion of view demanded of it.... That refusal has continued down through the ages, to this very day.... Every Jew suffers from the ruin undergone by his people when it refused Him at the decisive moment of its history'." But this quotation, all of which appears with correct attribution though slightly different wording in Klein, is now cited by Wills as though representing his own original research from "Pierre Benoit, O.P., Exégèse et theologie, Vol. 3 (Editions du Cerf, 1968), p. 420." However, had this been the fruit of his own research, he could not have overlooked the fact that though the book was indeed published in 1968, "three years ["astonishingly"] after the Council's decree," the essay in question begins with a footnote giving the year of publication as before Nostra Aetate: l964.
Now I am not here disturbed so much by the perverse implications of these mutilated quotations, though "historical honesties" demand that one should note that Benoit--as Klein acknowledges but Wills does not--makes this statement in the light of "l'histoire du salut" and that he then adds, "...the Christian must remember that every sinner in his own way is responsible for the death of Christ." What is of primary concern now is neither Wills' decontextualizations nor his more odious scholarly defalcations, but his pervasive and "deceitful" tactic of fudging. Either there is no original research and all is derived from Klein (but why then not credit her with an "op. cit." or an "ibid."?), or Wills, following her lead and consulting the French work, saw the date of the original article and rather than state the obvious, "Pierre Benoit wrote," or "affirmed," or "declared," instead to cover his tracks, asserts as ambivalently and as "dishonestly" as he did with Rahner, "Pierre Benoit brought out this accusation...," etc.. So much for this aspect of Garry Wills' confectionary scholarship--in the context of which I would personally recommend as prophylaxis against fudging, Margret Rey's Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory.
But why this effort to contaminate with the virus of antisemitism two of the noblest spirits in the history of contemporary scholarship, and in the case of Father Rahner, the most creative and respected Catholic theologian of at least the last four centuries? It is, as I have said from the beginning, the anti-papal blinders and the hubristic overreaching that result in trying to prove a case by any and every means at hand; in short, by what is called in our journalistic and litigious era "prosecutorial abuse."
Another illustration of such fudging, now in the realm of what has come to be called "fuzzy math," is the treatment of the penultimate conciliar vote on Nostra Aetate. Deriving his data entirely from Msgr. John Oesterreicher's commentary on the decree, Wills observes accurately that those who voted that the Jews should be blamed for the death of Christ numbered 188, while those who in effect voted that the Jews should be rejected or accursed by God numbered 245. Then once again he goes into full fustian flight: "But it is astounding [an emotion experienced by this author also in the case of Pere Benoit] that even the weakened form of the statement, unaccompanied by any recognition of past persecution or any expression of sorrow and repentance, could still be rejected by hundreds of Catholic bishops." Only by a calculated miscalculation would 188 suggest "hundreds," certainly not out of a total of 2072.
As to the 245 figure, Wills deceptively ignores what Oesterreicher clearly brings out, that this relatively large number was the result of extensive lobbying for a negative vote by those who wanted an even stronger "form of the statement," one which would explicitly underline the evil of the accusation of "deicide." Nor does Wills mention anywhere the pressure from bishops in the Arab world, including the four Patriarchs of the Near East who were fearful of anything that might appear to their flocks, much less to their governments, as an accommodation with the Israelis. "But it is astounding" that he doesn't provide the figures for the final tally on the day of the proclamation of Nostra Aetate: 2312 votes in favor; 88 against. Where then are "the hundreds of Catholic bishops" who rejected "the statement"?(31)
Now, a brief excursus on the "methodology"of embezzling references that has already been encountered regarding Père Benoit. Several pages before his discussion of the balloting, Msgr. Oesterreicher in a footnote quotes an article by Charles Journet on the non-traditionary character of the term "deicide." Journet, for much of his career a professor of theology at Fribourg and later a Cardinal, had cited Augustine on the crucifixion as being not "deicidal," but "homicidal," and supplied the reference: "Enarrat. In Ps., 61, 5: PL, XXXVI. 791." Wills paraphrases the quotation and without acknowledging Journet or Oesterreicher--again, not even the gesture of an "op. cit."--proffers as the result, presumably, of his own discovery of the text in Migne, the plain citation: "Augustine, Explaining the Psalms 61. 5 (PL 36. 791)." Q.E.D.
Another example of fudging the numbers occurs in Wills' treatment of the Vatican document, vigorously endorsed by John Paul II, "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah."
Wills writes regarding the notion that Jews are "responsible for killing Christ": "That view is still powerful, despite the assurance in We Remember that the church has denied its legitimacy. The ADL study [Quinley and Glock, Anti-Semitism in America] found even after that official denial, that 11 percent of Catholics still agreed with this statement: 'The reason Jews have so much trouble is because God is punishing them for rejecting Jesus'." But the book, Anti-Semitism in America, was published in 1979, not "after that official denial" but two decades before, as even Wills should have known, since his endnote indicates the date of the Quinley and Glock book. However, what he doesn't even hint at is that the treatment in Quinley and Glock was simply a summary of Glock and Stark, Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism, which had been published in the Spring of 1966, and summarized by both authors--as well as by Oscar Cohen, director of the Anti-Defamation League--in an issue of Continuum the following Autumn. Had Wills deigned to look at any of these first-hand treatments, he could not but have noticed that the actual research was done in 1963: two years before Nostra Aetate and thirty-five years before "We Remember."
After having referred to that later statement only, Wills' concluding non sequitur might generously be described as brazenly disjunctive: "History is not altered by a single decree, especially one that comes out of the blue, as Vatican II's did." But this whole discussion had nothing to do with Vatican II; it had been exclusively focused on "We Remember." (32) Nor could anyone fairly assert that John Paul's many efforts at reconciliation, culminating in "We Remember," came--to employ Wills' sprightly imagery--"out of the blue." All of this makes abundantly clear that for Wills, even if the lying papacy should perchance appear to do what he vociferously professes to favor, then it would do so either too begrudgingly, or too inadequately, or too tardily to satisfy whatever arbitrary or newly designed criteria he can manufacture--and if even by his flexible or fluctuating standards he couldn't make a case for such putative deceptions, cunctations, defections, then garbled language or calumnious asseverations or filched scholarship or (as we shall see) deliberate mistranslations, will have to do. Lastly, for this catch-as-catch-can redactor of l'Improvvisatore Romano, there is always chronology (or just plain addition and subtraction) that can be juggled.
One final, and at this stage, predictable omission relating to "deicide." Relying now on The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI, a work of exemplary scholarship occasionally in the service of a fragile thesis, Wills refers to "the words of the Pope himself [Pius XI], calling Jews the ones who killed Christ" in the "decree suppressing the Friends of Israel." But these words are nowhere to be found in that decree of the Holy Office, though their gist is evident from an article on the decree in Nouvelle Revue théologique which is summarized in The Hidden Encyclical. The article does refer to "Israel's participation in Christ's death" but, though hardly a model of irenicism, it also affirms that "no one wants to make 'deicide' a sort of 'original sin' borne by every Jew today." And the authors of The Hidden Encyclical make their own the words of the NRT article: "Nonetheless, in 1928 the Holy Office had indeed expressed 'one of the most explicit condemnations of anti-Semitism that Rome has pronounced up to this time'." Also, neither to be overlooked nor immoderately exaggerated, is the condemnation two years before of the antisemitic and inchoately fascist Action Française.(33) All this gives the lie to admittedly overdue acts of repentance and reconciliation coming "out of the blue" six or seven decades after Pius XI.
Il faut, dans l'Eglise, des prophètes, said Cardinal Congar. There are those who have viewed Papal Sin as such a prophetic work, particularly with its insistent refrain of attacking "dishonesty." Three main section titles are: "Historical Dishonesties," "Doctrinal Dishonesties," and "The Honesty Issue." Under the last title, one of the subheads is "The Age of Truth," meaning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But should not there be a section devoted to "intellectual honesty" a virtue becoming to all of us heirs of so blessed an era, and more particularly to heirs of that Saint lauded in this book, Augustine, who wrote a public retraction of his earlier errors. Wills writes of past Christian attitudes "toward Jews": "The attempt to whitewash [them] is so dishonest in its use of historical evidence that a man condemns himself in his own eyes if he tries to claim that he agrees with it." (I suppose, short of Tom Sawyer, the attempt to whitewash anything is dishonest.) But does the mantle of prophet justify the "dishonest use of historical evidence" apparent in the discussion earlier, and will a devoté of Augustine living in this "age of truth" retract his errors?
Lastly, I would merely point to the many differences in tone and interpretation in Wills' Introduction to The Hidden Encyclical and in his treatment of the same matters in Papal Sin. The latter is both more shrill and more skewed than the former. Perhaps the advocates of what biblical students would call Gattunggeschichte, genre criticism, are on to something. If the clothes make the man, the genre here dictates the style and the rhetoric. In the end, the decision to write a philippic rather than an unembellished exposition determines one's place in what is beginning to look more and more like the papal demolition derby. Currently in the pole position is Constantine's Sword, brandished and burnished by James Carroll, an author whose cutting edge is so severely blunted by self-indulgent effusions that it puts one in mind--to compare small things to great--of Cardinal Vaughan's remark on Newman's Apologia: "The egotism may be disgusting but it is venial."
In fact, there is now in the literary marketplace a jumble of carping tractates, mélanges, potpourris, hybrid memoirs and low-brow histories, all on "coming-of-age-and-discovering-the-truth-about-Catholicism"--with the feminine wing being represented by Mary Gordon whom both Wills and Carroll cite reverentially. A new classification may have to be invented, undreamt of by Librarians of Congress or Dewey Decimalists: possibly a catalogue entry under the rubric, L'Education Ressentimentale. In fact, there already exists a designation for most of these authors in our more up-to-date libraries, "creative nonfiction," a category undreamt of by Bennet Cerf in the days of what now must be termed "the pre-postmodern Modern Library." (Some more au courant public libraries, to the possible consternation of the ACLU, even have for the ease of their patrons a classification termed, "Christian Mysteries"--but not violative of separation of church and state; not proselytizing books related to the sacramental theology of Dom Odo Casel-just the "Private Investigator" genre for evangelicals.)
Give or take a few years, most of this current crop of carpers was born in the late 1930's or mid 40's, and reached adulthood before the culmination of the conciliar reforms in 1965; while at the height of the Vietnam war half a decade later they would have been voting in national elections for ten years or so. Yet, curiously, few of them at those climactic moments made any extensive public criticism of either the Council's Declaration on Non-Christian Religions (specifically, the section on antisemitism) or on the war. Carroll's conversion to the anti-war cause--among clerics led by the Berrigans-was tardy, and trammeled in his own self-publicized familial entanglements. Wills had attacked the Berrigans and other signers of the Declaration of Conscience opposing the war for "fomenting rebellion"--only in the late seventies to very quietly recant in a collection, aptly titled Confessions of a Conservative. As for Nostra Aetate and all it represents, Carroll took nearly thirty years to unravel what he saw as its implications. Thus it is understandable that the vehemence of their language now would raise questions as to whether such loose and all-embracing condemnations as they are airing represent simply the zeal of the true convert, or whether perhaps they manifest an effort to enlist universally recognized misfortunes in a personal cause--many have suggested resentment at Humanae Vitae and anger at the centralism of John Paul II.
Wills' motive, insofar as it can be discerned from habitually hyperbolic and derisive language, would seem at first glance to be some kind of tabloid exposition of every type of ecclesiastical (and human) disorder to be adjudicated in the forum of a public fixated on the scandalous and the shocking. But if, by an act of considerable intellectual ascecis, one abstracts from the exaggerated rhetoric and imagery, one can discern in his book the lineaments of a program which in essence might be called "pastoral." Apart from issues relating to church governance and to antisemitism, the bulk of Papal Sin is centered on those ethical issues which for the most part confront the whole of Western society. Those issues mainly relate to individual morality: contraception, celibacy, homosexuality, women's subordination (and in many religious bodies, its symbolic residuum, ordination), marriage, divorce, pederasty, abortion.(34) As I also noted, there is little in these areas that is uniquely Roman Catholic, or even uniquely religious; they touch on the worlds of commerce, of politics, of the media, etc., as well as of mosque, synagogue, and church. Of course, such issues resonate in the social arena, but only as a consequence of their impact on increasing numbers of individuals. Stripped of the inflammatory language, a good part of Wills' agenda is simply to bring Catholic teaching more in line with Catholic practice, and Catholic practice more in line with the mainstream consensus of American society. In short, to bring "official" teaching about personal morality in line with what might now be called "moral commonsense," and what in the past was called "natural law"--a matter to which we shall return in the last chapter.
As to Carroll--ecdysiast of Freud's family romance in the setting of lace-curtain, Studs-Lonigan Catholicism-his goal appears to be some kind of general council which will, first, embrace all those good things like theological syncretism, pluralism ("of belief and worship"), "the holiness of democracy," feminism, "regional differences" ("that give rise to religious denominations"); and, second, renounce all those bad things like "binary thinking" (35) (as well as trinitarian), Nicaean Christianity, supersessionism, medieval absolutism, "the universalizing pseudoscience of the Enlightenment," the "clerical caste," and lastly every vestige of hatred for Jews and Judaism. (All these wonderful desiderata are bracketed--paradoxically, thoughtlessly?--by quotations from that super-supersessionist, and proponent of the "holiness" of monarchy, T. S. Eliot.) To which one may aver, at least of the last item in this conciliar agenda: so far so good.
But is it far and good enough? I will take up that question shortly. But first, it must be said that, without in any way minimizing the frightful acts committed by Christians and the Christian church against the Jewish people, nevertheless to envisage those acts--as does Carroll--as the ultimate defining point of synagogue and church is to drastically devalue the faith of both, and to ignore their eternal mission of universal conciliation. Unless one subscribes to a postmodernist relativism(36) to make the sinfulness--however devastating--of the past two millennia the ineradicable axis mundi of Judaism vis-a-vis Christianity is simply to dismiss the future of humankind. It is to take a relatively thin slice of time, and make it an irrevocable template. Now, for a change, current jargon may have a place, since what is here being endorsed by Carroll is precisely a microdimensional "Eurocentric" view of entities that are global, indeed are no less than planetary, in their import. That skimpy perspective finds its stylistic replication in his inability to envision any phenomenon, social, cultural, religious outside the constricted ambit of its impingement on matters related almost exclusively to him and his. This explains the appalling grotesqueries one discerns, and ultimately the chilling embarrassment one experiences at the ravenous ingestion of all external experience merely for the nourishment of his own ego. (37) For the Psalmist to the Lord, "The zeal of thy house has consumed me," Carroll would substitute, "The zeal of my house has consumed me." This is certainly not to see reality as used to be said, sub specie aeternitatis; but sub specie sui ipsius. Our age of memoir has begotten an American Catholic "M. Teste."
So, does Carroll's advocacy of a general council on his terms go far enough, and is it good enough? I am reminded of an earlier plea to Pius XII for a council by Father Max Metzger captured by the Gestapo, described by the initially pro-Nazi nuncio Msgr. Orsenigo ( whose indifference to the plight of the Jews in August, 1942 sets off the action in Hochhuth's Der Stellvertreter) as being guilty of "una eccessiva imprudenza," and finally executed with two other priests and a Protestant minister. A council of peace as the heroic Metzger saw it would address professedly "religious" questions, particularly those relating to Christian unity. But it
would address them in the context of "the very experience of war and its miseries [which] has awakened in many hearts the desire to exert every effort to salvage the human race and to revitalize the debilitated Christianity which has been powerless to influence world affairs. Not until war has plunged all nations into the depths of anguish will the whole world look forward to the great promise of deliverance." Thus reunion of the churches would be a symbolic prelude to a total peace among all nations, rather than the phenomenon of total war that this martyr glimpsed faintly from his prison cell--a phenomenon more clearly understood now in a world of nuclear deterrents, and in the wake of Vietnam and Desert Storm than it was in 1943 in Berlin. But on this issue of the very survival of the planet, it cannot be denied that these much maligned pontiffs have been the most unambiguous of all world leaders. (38)
The arbitrary selectivity of Wills' adversarial approach is again emphasized by the unexpected deference he shows to a personal acquaintance, the psychoanalytically oriented literary critic, René Girard "with whom I [G.Wills] used to go to Mass when we both taught at Johns Hopkins." Wills reads Girard in the light of the work of the theologian Raymond Schwager, whose Must There Be Scapegoats? I published when I was editor at Harper San Francisco. One notes that to the question in Schwager's title- must there be scapegoats?--Wills' answer would have to be in the affirmative. His entire book witnesses, if not to his convictions--always friable--then to his current emotional mood or prosecutorial strategy, that the pre-eminent and permanent Catholic scapegoats are those vile bodies, the Curia, the Roman dicasteries, and the papacy itself. But Wills latches on to Girard's notion of religious origins in order that he may doughtily criticize what is in fact generally criticized by a majority of contemporary theologians: the obsolete and literalistic notion that--as Wills condenses it--God the Father is someone "whose aggressions need to be bought off. Jesus is not an item of barter in the exchange system set up by sacrifice." The reference is to the soteriological theory of that ardent defender of the papacy, St. Anselm (also one of James Carroll's host of villains), whose deceptive doctrine of cleansing in the blood of the lamb makes him here the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing, now to be driven from the fold by René Girard; all in confirmation of a metathetic Virgilian tag-Capella lupum sequitur: "the goat follows the wolf." (Or it is not inconceivable that, on his own terms, Girard's foundational notion of mimetic desire engendering lethal antagonisms may be the result of his own rancorous competition with another therapeutic rival: thus lycanthropy engenders Lacanthropy. And the resolution of the two, obviating analysis interminable, will be based on reconceptualizing "burnt offerings" and on recognizing infantile individuation as "eidetic reflection." In short, smoke and mirrors.)
Wills' quotation earlier from Girard is touted as his "most radical assertion." Though if our author would bother--in the midst of the beguiling exercise of dispensing gratuitous indictments for antisemitism--to take such matters with requisite scholarly seriousness, he would find throughout Karl Rahner's writings a far more radical, while also far more traditional and less fanciful, understanding of redemption in its broadest sense than anything in René Girard. As a first step, Wills might want to check out, again, in the Rahner-Vorgrimler Theological Dictionary (as well as in the encyclopedic Sacramentum Mundi) the carefully and precisely written definitions under such entries as "Death," "Theories of Satisfaction," "Salvation," "Cross," "Sacrifice"; and, lastly, the little tract under the entry, "Protology," with its suggested links to related subjects. This latter will be particularly relevant to Girard's "mimetic" response to a couple of other "radical assertions": that marvel of confabulation, Moses and Monotheism by Dr. Freud, and the still long-awaited, Key to All Mythologies by Mr. Casaubon.
As a second step, Wills might examine the implications of another vulpine deluder, Duns Scotus, who taught that the election of angels, of Adam and Eve, and a fortiori, of Mary was dependent on the merits of Christ but not on the suffering of Calvary. (To appropriate Yeats, "I take this cadence from a man named" Charles Journet, the innominable source of Wills' purloined Augustine passage.) Moreover, Scotus made the keystone of his theology the assumption that even without an Original Sin, Incarnation would have occurred for the glorification of God and of creation. The Anselmian doctrine ought not to be read as though Calvary represented Adam's surrogate, Jesus, satisfying the Father's demand for punishment. The crucifixion was certainly not something willed by God. It was the freely chosen act of evil men. The suffering, death, burial, and "descent into hell" of the Creed represented Christ's total humanness, and his solidarity with all of humanity throughout all of history; that is throughout what is called "the common era" and the period before. At the conclusion of this entire critique, Scotus will be central to the discussion of Wills' treatment of Mary, and more specifically of the proclamation by Pius IX--another perennial villain--of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. It might be added, cautiously, that for a Lincoln scholar like Wills to deprecate in order to execrate "sacrificial death" is to ignore the import, in the first instance real and in the second instance symbolic, of the theologically accurate, "Jesus Christ died for the world," and--mutatis mutandi--the politically accurate, "Abraham Lincoln died for the Union"-though not for the freedom of slaves.
But with regard to the specific topic under consideration, the capriciousness of Wills' accusatory capers (all cognates of the omnipresent Girardian "scapegoat"), it must be pointed out that in Rahner the Hebrew Bible is viewed with reverence as a font of true revelation and not with the supersessionism of Girard who treats it merely as a disposable prologue to the New Testament. He thus displays an antijudaism that would certainly have been included in Charlotte Klein's compendium, were it not for Girard's undisguised ignorance of or indifference to Christian theology whether past or present--blinders that seem also to have afflicted his admirers. Of the theological and biblical scholars, Rahner and Benoit, Wills insouciantly tells the reader that their writings prove they are guilty of "the sin of antisemitism." Of the theorist of mythopoeia, Girard (who is repeatedly compared to...? not Adler, not Frazer, not Freud, but St. Augustine), Wills tells us that "passage after passage in the gospel takes on new intensity when looked at through the lens [he] has provided." But for others less spectacularly endowed, this provision may not let them see even as "through a glass darkly--but only strabismically. The result, as all of the above critique evinces, is a blurred vision of history and a fudging mode of its narration.
We now turn from soteriology to mariology, and to the broader theme of flawed scholarship regarding the papacy. In his chapter titled "Marian Politics" on "the use of Mary for papal purposes" by various lying pontiffs, and the conferring on her of titles like "the Immaculate Conception" so "that she may preside over papal structures of deceit," Wills describes touring various Florentine galleries in pursuit of "semideified" (his term; elsewhere she becomes "the idol-goddess") depictions of the Virgin by such painters as Botticelli, Orcagna, and Sogliani. Among the artists who go unvisited on this censorious jaunt are Vincenzo Frediani, recognized by modern scholars as "Il Maestro dell'Immacolata Concezione" and, more significantly in this context of Wills' fuzzy digests of history, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, whose "Madonna in Glory" is also unmentioned. The omission of the latter artist is a shame since Wills has genuine visionary affinities with this particular painter who was known to his contemporaries as Guercino, "the Squinter."
But what specific "structures of deceit" does Mary support? As always, they are manifold. First, the proclamation of dogmas relating to her are manifestations of Roman hegemonic discourse--as current jargon would have it--on the part of two of the three pontiffs who are Wills' prime exemplars of "papal sin." "The only two formal exercises of papal infallibility in modern times have been definitions of Marian dogmas" by Pius IX and Pius XII.(39) The second is brought out in the opening sentence of the chapter: "One support of the celibate system has not been considered yet [in the chapters on the pope's eunuchs, clerical pedophiles, and gay priests]--the Virgin Mary"; this leads into a discussion of "mother dominance" which leads to (third), "The Virgin is repeatedly used to prevent the ordination of women" and thus in general to subordinate them to men--a topic on which Mary Gordon is then cited: "In my day [echoing another female subordinate, Elinor Roosevelt], Mary was a stick to beat smart girls with.... For women like me, it was necessary to reject that image of Mary in order to hold onto the fragile hope of intellectual achievement, independence of identity, sexual fulfillment." Though not exactly a model of all-encompassing democratic feminism, anyone would immediately embrace this goal, along with the two others implicit in Wills' indictment.
Apart from the fact that every doctrine or devotion Wills can mock, thereby becomes part of a hierarchical conspiracy, the real issue, again, is whether Wills' analysis is accurate enough and rigorous enough to sustain his conclusions. As always with Wills, the reader is in danger of ignoring faulty argumentation simply to support noble goals--all in fulfillment of that dictum of Lord Acton cited as epigraph to the previous chapter: "It became a rule of policy to praise the spirit when you could not defend the deed." Four-fifths of "Marian Politics" is given over to another derivative disquisition only obliquely, at best, related to those three commendable causes. The question remains whether diversion by a whole school of red herring--that is, in this instance by a treatment of the titles "Immaculate Conception" and "Mediatrix of Grace"--is the way to sink the bark of Peter (which, in another sense, is worse than its bite) and so end patriarchy, pederasty, etc.. Are not such marian doctrines too slight a vessel to bear so heavy a burden of causality, even if they were presented accurately--which they are not? (40)
Before getting to that presentation, I want to examine briefly--though in this context of the Immaculate Conception--the Willsian strategy I mentioned earlier, but did not analyze because it was unrelated to the issue of antisemitism: that is the deliberate mistranslation of texts. Speaking of the "maximalist principle of Marian dignities," Wills says of the position of Duns Scotus, the doctor marianus: "What was possible with her was plausible; and if it was plausible it was performed. Potuit, decuit, fecit." This conventional dictum here is derived from Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition; the warped translation is Wills' own. (What it doesn't serve Wills' purpose to appropriate from Pelikan is his observation that "the doctrine had become the generally accepted one in Western Christendom," centuries before Pius IX.) Regardless of the fact that Scotus was employing a text going back to the amanuensis/biographer of St. Anselm--that latter Doctor of the Church being, as we have seen, the bête noir out of the blue who fabricated what was traditionally misconceived as a kind of pawnshop soteriology--and regardless of the fact that Wills' wording of the text serves his own agenda, what is astounding (Wills' recurrent temper) is this professor of classics' decidedly unclassical translation.
The axiom, now in the word order Scotus would have preferred, was Decuit, potuit, [ergo] fecit; loosely but accurately, "It was fitting" [that the mother of the Savior be pre-emptively sinless]; [God] "was able to bring that about"; "therefore it was done." To translate decuit ("seemly," "proper," "fitting" ) as "plausible" makes a mockery out of the Scotist doctrine--which of course is what Wills intends. And it makes a joke, as every snickering schoolboy would attest, of the legendary last words of the emperor Vespasian: "Decet imperatorem stantem mori." With his dying breath Vespasian is made to proclaim in Wills' skewed translatorese: "It is plausible that the emperor die standing." Or one might take Horace's "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," familiar after World War I from Wilfrid Owen's poem treating it as "the old lie," and after World War II from Britten's setting of Owen in the "War Requiem." The traditional translation of dulce et decorum which preserves the alliteration is "sweet and seemly": compare that with "sweet and plausible." (I will not labor the point of the Italian wordplay on "translator" as "traitor.") Lastly, how about considering, "a plausible respect for the opinions of mankind."
Now, to the two final "Marian" fudgings, relating to Pius IX and to John Paul II--both connected by the same methodology of textual truncation and mutilation. Before providing his interpretation of the definition of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX, Wills observes that the vainglorious and power-hungry Pope "was awed by the fealty he was paying to Mary; and by the power he was using to do it. Mary was being exalted. But so was the papacy."(41) After omitting the proem to the definition, Wills continues immediately with his version of the text: "To the honor of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, and to the grace and dignity of the Virgin Mother of God, to the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the advance of the Christian religion, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority [Wills' italics], we declare, pronounce, and define...." Directly following that text, Wills quotes Owen Chadwick: "No previous Pope in eighteen centuries had made a definition of doctrine quite like this."
But neither had Pius IX. What preceded Wills' excerpt, what indeed he has skipped, puts the paragraph preparing for the actual definition in a broader personal and theological setting. The original version doesn't contain Wills' tendentiously inserted and clearly redundant repetition ("by our own authority")--the arbitrary phrase Wills italicizes in order to underline more emphatically Pius's allegedly omniverous egocentricity. Lastly, the original text has a climactic pause before the definition itself to emphasize both its solemnity and its dependence on "the Church," "the power of the Holy Spirit," and other invocatory formulae. By contrast, Wills has the passage flow directly into the text of the definition so that the emphasis ends up being on the Pope's "authority" to declare, pronounce, and define. The complete paragraph follows:
Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege..." etc.
The real life situation, the Sitz im Leben (which our biblist and translator calls "Sitz am Leben")
must be recognized if we are to put this text in its genuine nineteenth-century framework. (42) A twentieth-century framework might substitute "in the first instance of her full human being" for "in the first instance of her conception."
And that latter substitution would not even be necessary had it not been for the misuse of the Immaculate Conception in opposition to abortion--an opposition which few would not support, but with clearly differing arguments, applications, and motives. Before briefly considering the arguments and applications, the motives must also be closely examined. This is particularly true and particularly important now that abortion is no longer just a personal matter between mother and medical practitioner; or no longer just a social-religious issue between two antagonist groups; or no longer even just a political issue based to a greater or lesser degree on partisan, regional, and even cultural influences. For some Roman Catholics led by vociferous clerics of a fundamentalist orientation (who in an earlier era invoked "mortal" sin for a host of trivial offenses and spoke of "the culture of contraception"), it has become what can only be called an ecclesiological issue.
Opposition to abortion is now the external sphragis, the seal stamping one as truly Catholic; but not in the sense of a singular practice denoting affiliation, as periodic abstinence from meat once was--as much a public trait of Catholics ("mackerel snappers") as "Kosher" was of Jews. Then because such opposition is based on a communal taboo, it assumes a kind of sacramental power that functions entirely apart from its origins in maternal and fetal relations. And by the same totemic symbolism, it takes on a sacred character binding together the chosen which--again parodying the sacrament--liberates them from the law and its constraints.(43) Only such an explanation clarifies the obsessive equation of the Holocaust with abortion, and the clerical denunciations of the latter in the most unexpected, indeed most incongruous situations--for one common example, the feast of the nativity of Jesus. There is in ascending order a collective righteousness, a sacral purism, a Catholic tribalism abroad in the church, and it predictably can lead only to further exclusivism climaxing in doomsday fanaticism.
Keats began "The Fall of Hyperion" with the words: "Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave / A paradise for a sect." If there is anything predictable about this tinsel triumphalism it is that, unless checked, it will reduce the Church Catholic to the status of a fundamentalist cult, with an inevitable reduction of influence in the real world, and a greater and greater incapacity to read clearly the signs of the times. This is going to prove neither distinctive nor attractive, particularly to the next generation for whom the already withered ties of ethnicity will mean less and less in terms of religious commitment. That great admirer of Newman, Muriel Spark, is alleged to have said that if you're going to join a religion, you might as well join the real one. That realness is becoming less evident to those looking over the barricades being erected by the new purists who, as Newman himself said, "move in a groove, and will not tolerate anyone who does not move in the same."
So much for motives. As to arguments and applications, it is not necessarily to embrace some three-stage development of the "soul"--vegetative, sensitive, rational--to point out that a fertilized egg is not a human person. But even the three-stage notion clearly implies some temporal gap before the infusion of the fully human soul into the developing fetus, as does also the acknowledgment of bodily conception (conceptio seminis carnis in the old language) by Mary's parents. "Joachim" and "Anne" generated her naturally; she is Jewish in her flesh and blood. Her actual human soul and hence her unique "Maryness" were simultaneously created and sanctified (conceived immaculately) when infused into the potential human being in her mother's womb.(44) This was the relatively unambiguous tradition--apart from ancillary pious or legal opinings-of theologians even after Pius IX, and of canonists up to the new Code of 19l7. For this to be abandoned now under the influence of a congeries of indirectly related issues--all under the blanket, "sacredness of life"--is to abandon a basic hermeneutical principle, "interpretation is in the tradition," for a loosely invoked and vaguely defined slogan. (45) It is also to contradict the larger theological principle, which Newman defined in Anglican Difficulties, when writing of the Holy Spirit's guardianship of the church: "He lodged the security of His truth in the very fact of its Catholicity." If there is one thing that can be said of various interpretations of the "Culture of Death," it is that they utterly lack Catholicity, whether in the tradition of the past, or in the body of the faithful of the present.
This is all lost on James Carroll who also, as we have seen, finds in Mary Gordon a kind of co-redemptress--presumably of his autobiographical enormities. Carroll true to his vision of universal reality seen exclusively in the light of Jewish-Christian "relations" has a more byzantine interpretation than Wills: Marian dogmas are simply another Catholic anti-Jewish plot. Explaining his theology to assorted religious and a-religious readers, he maintains that, "In the nineteenth century, Jesus was commonly [no references supplied] believed to be free of the taint of Jewish blood first because the Virgin Birth protected him from Joseph's Jewishness. [Such freedom from that "taint" may--from the equally byzantine perspective of Arab-Israeli politics--also "providentially" explain why the Virgin Birth was sanctioned by the Qur'an.] Then the doctrine of Immaculate Conception, which declared that Mary was conceived without sin, inoculated him against the Jewish blood of his maternal grandparents." (46)
"Astonishing," as Wills would say--and who would not ?--of this "in-ocular" prophylaxis. ("In-ocular," not surprisingly, also carries the meaning of "squinting.") Was not Mary a Jew, born of Jewish parents--Anne and Joachim according to the apocryphal gospel of James--and with Jewish blood. Surely it is not the lesson of Carroll's seminar mentors that it was the "blood" of the Holy Ghost flowing through Mary's veins, or that Anne was also a virgin mother, and her mother as well, and so on, back into the shadows of pre-history? As to the somewhat ambiguously named dogma of the Virgin Birth, in the light of salvation history it is intended to signify a new aeon, while mysteriously reconciling the Davidic lineage of Joseph "of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ," with that other text from Matthew about Mary being "found with child of the Holy Spirit." But in any case, Virgin Birth says nothing about "Jewish blood," and everything about the role of women in child conceiving and bearing--which Carroll (professed and professional feminist) with neo-Aristotelian punctilio wondrously, if not neatly, finesses.
Lastly, and also related to the "use of Mary for papal purposes," is Wills' baffling exegesis of the encyclical of John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, which represents the pope's effort to "claim that Mary is the mediatrix of all graces." Elsewhere the pope is "eager to foist his view of the mediatrix" on the scriptural texts relating to the miracle at Cana. (In Wills' thesaurus of papaphobia John Paul II "foists his view," whereas Pius IX "flexes his authority.") The following text about the miracle at Cana is the only passage from this very lengthy encyclical that Wills cites:
There is thus a mediation. Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs, and sufferings. She puts herself 'in the middle'--that is to say, she acts as a mediatrix, not as an outsider but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact she 'has the right' to do so Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary "intercedes" for mankind. [Last clause omitted by Wills.]
Wills' argument is that here in section 21 of the encyclical, the pope is sanctioning the usurpation of divine agency by Mary, and so diminishing the role of the Son and Holy Spirit in the economy of redemption. But before he introduces Augustine's view of the miracle at Cana, Wills simply bypasses the meaning of the repeated term "intercession," and precedes the quotation above with the observation: "She can actually bend the will of the Father, who has set the hour of her son." (One might note the Pio Nono-Mary parallel: to "bend" is to "flex.") This would presumably be the ultimate usurpation of trinitarian power by a mere creature. But "intercession" is not a word that implies "bending the will." St. Paul wrote to Timothy: "I desire therefore that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all."
And before I introduce Wills' introducing of Augustine, I will re-introduce John Paul's detailed observations in the next numbered section, 22, which explicate the quotation above--not in his own words but in the words of scripture and of an ecumenical council; in this instance, of Vatican II.
It is important to note how the Council illustrates Mary's maternal role as it relates to the mediation of Christ. Thus we read: "Mary's maternal function towards mankind in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ but rather shows its efficacy," because "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" [Paul to Timothy, again].
This maternal role of Mary flows, according to God's good pleasure [no bending the will here],
"from the superabundance of the merits of Christ; it is founded on his mediation, absolutely depends on it and draws all its efficacy from it."
The text could have represented, and certainly did reflect, the viewpoint at the Council of Cardinal Congar who rightly criticized--in a citation Wills supplies--the use of exaggerated devotional language by a marian enthusiast, St. Bernardine, in an encyclical of Leo XIII.
As to the introduction of Augustine's views, other than riding a hobby, it adds nothing to the substantive issues involved--though it does begin with an interesting statement, presumably translated by Wills: "Because she was not the mother of his divinity [it would be helpful to know just how exact this translation is], and the miracle she was asking for had to be worked through his divinity, he answered her in this way: 'What claim have you on me?'...." I leave to historians and theologians the determination of what this does to the doctrine of an earlier council on Mary as Theotokos, as well as to the wonderful theological adaptation of metaphor, also sanctioned down through the centuries, in the teaching of what is known as communicatio idiomatum--which even Luther embraced, and which has been central to the "suffering God," or "crucified God" theologies of Bonhoeffer and Moltmann. (47)
My final illustration of "bending texts to the will," and as hapless as Wills' (48) earlier overlooking of Guercino, is his selection of the oft-cited last lines of Hopkins' "God's Grandeur" to round out his animadversions on "Marian Politics": "...the Holy Ghost over the bent / World broods with warm breast...." Again, the process is one of picking and choosing whatever can be commandeered into the service of the overarching thesis of papal duplicitousness; in this case the alleged substitution of the Virgin for Sophia as the feminine face of deity. (Apparently dependent on the degree to which he wants to enhance his feminist credentials, Wills himself oscillates between the Holy Spirit as an "It" and a "She.") How this substitution occurred under the aegis of papal sin and deceit is not explained--nor can it be, since scholars like Quentin Quesnel have shown that it was the intensity of popular devotion before the first millennium that assimilated the Eastern Church's "St. Sophia" to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Cf., "The Search for Sophia," Continuum, II, 3, 1993).
But also expediently ignored in this treatment of Mary and the teaching on her Immaculate Conception is a much more relevant Hopkins poem which speaks to and from the devotional tradition, his sonnet on Duns Scotus:
Of realty the rarest-veined unraveller; a not
Rivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece;
Who fired France for Mary without spot.
"But where are the Christians? They are unable to
bring their influence to bear on world events by carrying
out the eternal principles of our Lord because--they are
30. In an earlier version of one of the chapters of this book (U.S. Catholic Historian, Summer, 2000), I wrote: "Garry Wills has over the last twenty-five years or so proved himself to be the Edmund Wilson of American Studies." I cited eight titles by Wilson that illustrated his cosmopolitan interests, and a comparable number by Wills relating to American history. It was a sincere tribute, though it noted another parallel: that between such acerbic and crotchety polemics by Wilson as The Cold War and the Income Tax and Fruits of the MLA, and by Wills as Bare Ruined Choirs and Politics and Catholic Freedom. The clear inference was that these "eccentric" works seemed to touch some raw nerve, and that in the case of Wills this might at least partially explain the multitude of dissimulations, not to say errors and distortions, that scar Papal Sin. It will be helpful to see whether his book on Venice--announced as this present book is going to press--also a cosmopolitan and broad-gauge study, well beyond the relatively parochial ambit of his American interests, will also be an idiosyncratic entry in his broader oeuvre.
31. James Carroll is less deceptive but, typically, more dramaturgical: "Indiscretions, intrigues, near-eastern misunderstandings and fears [Edward Said's "orientalism"?], especially of a political nature, all became entangled. In addition to this, there was what could be called 'Christian obstinacy,' a certain inability to understand, found among some Christians at the Council. They were mentally unprepared for the topic." Both the numerical distortion and the descriptive spin are intended to illustrate the endemic antisemitism of Catholics even into the early l960's--though as I shall point out it would be another thirty years before Carroll and Wills would treat the issue in any detail.
32. "That view is still powerful, despite the assurance in We Remember that the church has denied its legitimacy."
33. It is worth noting here that was also the occasion for Maritain's writing Primauté du spirituel (E.T., The Things that Are Not Caesar's) in which he makes the observation concerning members of the organization that "nothing is so unreasonable [for those] called upon to obey, as to go and ransack history for a collection of precedents of mistakes made by authority"--or for "non-precedents," as with more recent ransackers. Apart from its present-day relevance, there is little doubt that Maritain had in mind among others Georges Bernanos who, though he had broken with Charles Maurras, was vehement in his attacks on the Holy See for inserting itself in French "political" affairs. A royalist in politics (and a Port Royalist in spirituality) and thus a Gallicanist in religion, Bernanos was like Léon Bloy passionately anti-clerical-as few can fail to note in de Torcy, the central figure in The Diary of a Country Priest. The year of the condemnation of the Action Française was also the year of Bernanos' Sous le Soleil de Satan, a title which mockingly echoes what is for many the Commedia of the twentieth century, Claudel's Le Soulier de satin-that latter in its baroque exuberance being the antithesis of Bernanos' intensely Augustinian severities.
34. Both ideologues of the right and the left see these issues not as common points of disagreement and conflict in all advanced nations, and derived from a host of causes, but simply as the result of a conspiracy. On the right, McInerny writes of "hot items on the secular liberal agenda--contraception (and sexual liberation, in general), the supposed plight of women, and clerical celibacy.... The subversive role of the theological caste was essential in misleading priests and subsequently the faithful.... The treachery of dissenting theologians is behind the confusion that has come over the faithful in matters sexual." One begins to wonder if this is a debate between Hindu sects when Carroll writes of the "sacerdotal caste" as a medieval remnant, and Wills titles an entire chapter, "the priestly caste." (In the latter two instances, one knows that the juggernaut of Rome is shortly to put in another appearance.) Treatments whether from the left of the right lead into discussions of celibacy, of bishops out of touch with their diocesans, shortage of vocations, gay priests, divorce and remarriage, pederasty, ordination of women, etc..
35. There is even an index entry for "binary thinking": right between Bible and Birkenau.
36. The recent book, Denying History (2000), by Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, analyzes the influence of such relativism on those German historians who maintain that the extermination of the Jews was an ad hoc improvisation. The resulting disagreement led to what is known as the Historikerstreit which these two authors treat in the broader context of Holocaust deniers and their academic supporters. (I shall look at the "conflict of historians" more closely in the next chapter.) Interestingly, in the present context Shermer and Grobman, along with most historians, would endorse a notion of "objectivity" akin to that of Bishop Butler as revised by Cardinal Newman: "an assemblage of concurring and converging probabilities" sufficient for belief. Newman goes on to say in a sentence the first clause of which may be applied to Pius XII, and the second unquestionably to the Holocaust: "...it might be quite as much a matter of duty in given cases and to given persons to have about a fact an opinion of a definite strength and consistency, as in the case of greater or of more numerous probabilities it was a duty to have a certitude."
37. A hermeneutic of compassion allows only the briefest citations: "Note that Josephus's report of activities in the time of Jesus involves a time lag roughly equivalent to that between the Easter Rising of 1916 and my first visit to Ireland in 1969" (p. 635). There is the elaborate correlation of Cardinal Spellman and St. Ambrose with Carroll's mother and St. Monica--all leading ineluctably to the equation of Carroll with St. Augustine: "sons who follow their mothers into piety" (p. 209). Concerning "the Vatican's" connection of "the image of Pius XII as a saint" with its efforts to fabricate Catholic opposition to Nazism, Carroll writes: "As a boy, I saw how this worked. In a letter to the bishops of Bavaria, in August 1945, Pius XII praised 'those millions of Catholics' who had resisted Nazism..." (p. 531). Earlier (p. 27) he informs the reader: "I was born in 1943, the year before the jurist Raphael Lemkin coined the word 'genocide'." So this diapered infant, eclipsing Jesus in the Temple, saw through the ruses of priestcraft at age two.
38. For Pius XII there is the analysis of his immense corpus of writings in René Coste, Le Problème du droite de guerre dans la pensée de Pie XII (1962); for John XXIII, there is the encyclical Pacem in terris (much derided by the mandarins of The National Review); for his successor, the unprecedented address validating the mission of the United Nations, and denouncing weapons of mass destruction; and for his successor there have been so many such denunciations as to be literally uncountable.
39. This ignores the theological truism that every canonization "in modern times" is marked by the charism of infallibility when exercised by any pontiff, including the "patron" of saint-making, John Paul II.
40. One brief instance of Wills' scattershot approach. Waxing learned, he writes that "a kind of competitive chivalry, as in courtly love, made men [women apparently had no such devotion--news to Hildegard, and several Mechtilds and Gertrudes] pay escalating compliments. She was not only the highest of humans, according to Peter Damian, she was greater than the angels--taking her even further out of reach as a model for other women"[like Mary Gordon]. Yet how explain that St. Peter Damian, this marian maximalist (and like the equally criticized Anselm, a Doctor of the Church) attacked in The Gomorrah Book precisely the kind of clerical vices Wills enumerates above and, moreover, on theological grounds opposed the "escalation" from "Queen of the Angels" (in the words of the litany of Loreto) to "Immaculate Conception"? Wills can't explain it because Jaroslav Pelikan, the scholar from whom Wills here derives his data, doesn't tell him. Such "courtly love" effusions are part of the prodigal eloquence of the marian tradition, as in, Ad Matrem Virginum: "O rose in your spring; O branch in your flower; O fleece in your dew; O ark in your law; O throne in your king; O moon in your light; O star in your rays; O mother in your child," and so on for several verses. This type of ardent enthusiasm is not only misunderstood by Wills, who ought to know better, but is exploited for post-whateverist ends (one is tempted to invoke,"Mother of Good Counsel, ora pro nobis") by authors like Julia Saville in A Queer Chivalry: The Homoerotic Asceticism of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Charlottesville, 2000). Hopkins is the author of Ad Matrem Virginum, another member of the "sacerdotal caste" corrupted by medieval practices. For a somewhat different reading of Hopkins, cf. Justus George Lawler, Hopkins Re-constructed: Art, Poetry; and the Tradition (New York, 1998).
41. Wills' conspiracy theory that marian devotion masks papal sin and deceit is simply annihilated by a passage near the end of the Apologia treating of the Immaculate Conception. "So far from the definition in 1854 being a tyrannical infliction on the Catholic world, it was received every where on its promulgation with the greatest enthusiasm. It was in consequence of the unanimous petition, presented from all parts of the Church to the Holy See, in behalf of an ex cathedra declaration that the doctrine was Apostolic, that it was declared so to be. I never heard of one Catholic having difficulties in receiving the doctrine, whose faith on other grounds was not already suspicious." This passage leads into Newman's treatment of what is now called free speech in the church--much of which Wills cites, though without indicating that his citations relate to Pius's definition of the Immaculate Conception. Acton who--in a not atypical overstatement--viewed Newman as "ultramontane and fanatic" would subscribe to the notion that Immaculate Conception was a tactic to prepare the way for Infallibility sixteen years later. If so, Pio Nono was almost supernaturally prescient. Newman, understandably embittered in the aftermath of Vatican I, recollected old rumors about such a tactic, but there is not even the faintest suggestion in the Apologia of giving them credence in 1864 some ten years after the marian definition.
42. The language though florid is utterly traditional. Thus Paul III's Sublimis Dei of 1537 on the rights of indigenous peoples in the New World: "We who though unworthy exercise on earth the power of our Lord, and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to Our charge....define and declare by these Our letters.... Similarly, Gregory XVI's In Supremo Apostolatus of 1839 on the abolition of the slave trade: "Placed at the summit of the Apostolic power and, though lacking in merits, holding the place of Jesus Christ the Son of God... We have judged that it belonged to Our Pastoral solicitude to exert Ourselves...."
43. Thus the mere word "abortion" itself--ironically like the seventeenth-century coinage "hocus pocus, allegedly derived from the words of consecration at mass--conjures up a necromantic power to which even our most sophisticated technology is subject. On many computers the code "ab" originally was defined as meaning "abort"--to end a process; it is now defined as meaning "abandon." Perhaps, even in what popular culture views as the most recondite knowledge, "rocket science," the once not uncommon exclamation, "abort mission," has become "abandon project." Thus is avoided double trouble among linguistic exorcists. "Abandon" replaces "abort," while "project" replaces "mission"--the latter switch, lest that wizard word evoke emission.
44. The time of such infusion is a matter for possibly future scientific determination. But what is to be determined by common sense is the defectiveness of arguments that imply the absolute sacredness of embryonic life or that oppose such things as blastocyte research or even therapeutic cloning because it might lead to everything from "euthanasia" to experiments on mentally or physically impaired human beings. The "slippery slope" argument here, like the "camel's nose" argument in church-state issues, like the "domino" theory in geopolitics--all lead to disastrous conclusions. It is not even ethically debatable that when a purely speculative, indeed imaginary, hypothetical collides with a verifiably real and certain good, the latter takes precedent. If governmental advocates of "faith based" social programs (certainly a "thin edge of the wedge"--to cite another argumentative cliché) affirm they can prevent those abuses that would violate the Separation Clause, why can't they prevent abuses in embryonic research that might lead to, e.g., experiments on human beings? It is more than disconcerting to read under the letterhead of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that "Modern debates on abortion and euthanasia are a symptom and leading edge [our fourth talismanic maxim] of something more profound and insidious," i.e., "the Culture of Death."
Moreover, though the tradition of forbidding baptism of the fetus is well known; another and perhaps more significant tradition--since it relates to holy orders--seems to be less well known. For over seven hundred years from Innocent III to Benedict XV, that is from roughly the thirteenth to the second decade of the twentieth century, penitential practice was based on the tradition of what was varyingly called the "ensoulment," "animation," "quickening" of the fetus as subsequent to embryonic life. A candidate for the priesthood who concurred in--not instigated or performed--an abortion could still be ordained if his involvement took place before "ensoulment," the latter defined by some canonists as one hundred and sixteen days after bodily conception (again, conceptio seminis carnis), by others forty days for a male and sixty for a female--already so slow-witted she could never be ordained anyway. This was law and practice until 1917, and even a possible interpretation until the revision of canon law under John Paul II.
45. There was an alternative tradition--adopted mainly by civil law--based on primitive science, on customs of clan or tribe (abortion among the Visigoths led to death for the mother) which gave way to atrocious sanctions, as in sixteenth century Spain (the guilty woman was buried alive); on superstitions about childbirth (requiring ritual "purification") and midwifery (often equated with witchcraft). In short, a tradition founded on male fears of woman in general and of her control of life in particular. This tradition was mainly reinforced up to the nineteenth century not by the clergy, but by the other two "learned professions," medicine and law. Subsequently, the clergy moved in to the vanguard, resulting in a causal connection between back woods preachers and back alley abortionists.
46. The word "commonly" is the waffling term in this paragraph. Does it mean "widely,"
"generally," among Catholics whether educated or uneducated. Presumably it includes the educated ones and, therefore, the theologians since this is a complex and even subtle argument. Why therefore in a book freighted with lengthy footnotes is there no reference to who were these people who "commonly" believed all this? If "commonly" means among "the common people" there is the similar problem of where they derived these widespread notions from. Until further clarification from a source which is not anti-marian is provided, it is reasonable to assume this is another authorial fabrication; in short, a hoax.
47. Conversely the Lutheran doctrine of "imputation" is founded on the rhetorical trope, simile. (Cf. Justus George Lawler, Celestial Pantomime: Poetic Structures of Transcendence, 2nd ed., 1994, pp. 92-99.)
48. As a marian maximalist, and admirer of Maximus the Confessor, I am here being rigidly anti-monothelitist regarding both the will and the Wills.