Monthly Archives: November 2008

“Le Rigorisme chrétien” by Jean-Louis Quantin [from The Catholic Historical Review]

The Catholic Historical Review

Volume 88, Number 1, January 2002

E-ISSN: 1534-0708 Print ISSN: 0008-8080

DOI: 10.1353/cat.2002.0027

Brian Van Hove,

Le Rigorisme chrétien (review) in
The Catholic Historical Review – Volume 88, Number 1 (January 2002), pp. 171-172

The Catholic University of America Press

Brief Notices

Le Rigorisme chrétien, by Jean-Louis Quantin. [Histoire du Christianisme.] (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2001. Pp. 161. 95F, paperback.)

This short book or rather extended essay by a younger-generation scholar fills a need which has been long felt. Terminology seems never used with precision, and there has always been much confusion about the polemics in the decades after the Council of Trent in regard to laxism and rigorism in Catholic moral theology. Quantin traces the history quickly, giving fine references which cannot be verified exactly since they generally do not include the page numbers in the sources. Even so, rigorism is not easily pinned down. Like the ever-slippery “Jansenism”, it may in pastoral practice refer more to broader tendencies from various quarters. Still the word in itself was “born” in 1670 in the Spanish Netherlands. The University of Louvain and the clergy formed by its influence [bishops were selected from the Faculty of Theology] often recommended a delayed absolution for penitents. This delay was intended to produce the fruits of contrition and conversion before absolution could be given. Those who opposed this practice labeled their adversaries “rigorists”. Later, the French equivalent would sometimes be called by the name of “petits collets”. Besides this penitential current, there was the question in theology of probabilism and probabiliorism, opposed by those perceived as “rigorist”. On the other hand, Quantin tells us that the term “laxist” appeared rather late, and then not in France but in 18th century Italy (p. 18). In the previous century only the terminology of relâchement was known. A most useful point to be retrieved from this gem of a study is that the classic conception of “rigorist”, in theory as well as in practice, belonged clearly to the Ancien Régime. Even when the old moral books were recycled after the French Revolution, times had changed and the old severity fairly soon gave way, due to a lack of deep doctrinal roots, to the dominant moral authority of Alphonse-Marie de Liguori. Thus using the term “rigorist” in a loose way deprives it of any specific meaning whatsoever. In his conclusion the author stresses that the real problem, both for Catholics and Protestants in the centuries after the Reformation and Trent, was how to integrate the totally regenerated Christian with the partially regenerated and faltering. Rigorism as a tendency in Christianity tried to impose on the weak a collective remedy which would make them as strong as the elite and thus the whole of the church would be completely converted. The failure of rigorism, in any age, lies in its inability to bring this about.

Father Brian W. Van Hove, S.J., is the rector of the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, and is also a spiritual director at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.





“Blood Drenched Altars: The Mexican Affair, 1934-1936” [from Faith and Reason]

Blood-Drenched Altars

Baltimore’s Archbishop Michael Joseph Curley,

Oklahoma’s Bishop Francis Clement Kelley

and the Mexican Affair: 1934-1936

Brian Van Hove, S.J.

Today we are accustomed to believe that the Catholic Church in Mexico is on
relatively good terms with the government, especially after 1992 when the Holy See
concluded diplomatic relations which at long last permitted the Holy Roman Catholic
Apostolic Church to register and assume legal existence. On May 24, 1993, the murder
of the cardinal-archbishop of Guadalajara, Juan Jesús Posadas, was not generally
suspicioned to have been instigated by the government, as might have been the case
sixty years ago. Without opposition Pope John Paul II personally visited Mexico as
recently as last August before going to Denver for World Youth Day. It would have
been unthinkable during the reign of “Papa Ratti,” Pope Pius XI.

Thus the persecution which the Church in Mexico endured, especially during the
first forty years of this century, might well be reviewed in order to see how the change
between then and now has taken place.

Two of the most intense years of suffering for the Church were between 1934
and 1936 when Archbishop Michael Joseph Curley of Baltimore, Maryland spoke out in
defense of the repressed. Since 1921 when he succeeded James Cardinal Gibbons, Irish-
born “Iron Mike” Curley never kept his thoughts secret. They were printed in the
official diocesan newspaper, still in existence today, by his alter ego, Mr. Vincent de
Paul Fitzpatrick, managing editor of <The Baltimore Catholic Review> (BCR). In that
period, moreover, the Baltimore archdiocese included the District of Columbia.

The capital city itself, Washington, became a separate archdiocese in 1939, equal
to Baltimore. Only after Curley died in 1947 did the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.,
along with five counties in southern Maryland, receive its first resident archbishop.
Curley was the archbishop of two archdioceses, in other words. This meant that the
<Review> surely would not escape notice by the political establishment in Washington.
And if anybody was “anti-establishment,” it was Curley. Unlike Cardinal Mundelein,
an ardent Roosevelt supporter, Curley had no use for either mainstream America or for
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s <New Deal>. He dismissed liberalism in every form.

Furthermore, more than any other of Baltimore’s archbishops, Curley’s private
and official papers were preserved.1 In addition to the original issues of the <Review>
itself, collected in the library of the Catholic University of America, this documentation
is now found in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (AAB), and they have
been consulted specifically for this essay. One entire uncatalogued carton is marked
“Mexico (Unclassified).” Unfortunately, Catholic University of America Professor
Christopher J. Kauffman informs us that the archives on Mexico maintained by the
American bishops remain closed for the present.

Curley’s friend, Bishop Francis Clement Kelley, second bishop of Oklahoma City
and Tulsa, Oklahoma, would be perhaps the only other American bishop to work with
him in an energetic and forceful manner on this issue. After John Lancaster Spalding
who died in 1916, Kelley was surely the most intellectually sophisticated bishop since
the nation’s very first was ordained in England in 1790. At one point he nearly became
rector of the Catholic University, and he was the author of seventeen books. No one of
less reputation than the anti-Roosevelt secularist and “Sage of Baltimore,” H. L.
Mencken, was an admirer of his writing style. Although Oklahoma was remote _ very
remote, with a sparse (under 3%) Catholic population _ Kelley and Curley maintained a
lively correspondence and worked tirelessly together on the Mexican question.

The revolution which brought the National or “Institutional” Revolutionary
Party (PRI) to power in the United States of Mexico occurred in stages. But the
Constitution which would regulate the relations between church and state was
finalized in 1917. It is hard to say what “revolution” really meant in the long run _ it
certainly didn’t mean democracy for Mexico _ but it was a type of social upheaval
accompanied by ideological rhetoric which rejected the order of the past. One might
allude to the Constitution of 1857, or the revolutionary events of 1910 and thereafter.
But the Constitution of 1917 is the most fitting point of departure for us presently since
the authorities claimed it as the legal basis for the renewed attacks on the Catholic
Church after some intermittent periods of relative calm.2

A book by the British Catholic writer Evelyn Waugh nicely captured the spirit of
the times with the title: <Mexico: Robbery Under Law.> The Jesuit editor of <America>,
Wilfrid Parsons, aptly entitled his 1936 book on the subject <Mexican Martyrdom>.

In 1926 there was a rebellion of Mexican Catholics against the regime which had
been kept in power by military means and the will of the ruling National
Revolutionary Party. The Party, an amalgam of Masons, Socialists, Communists, and
greedy opportunists, had interpreted the anti-clerical laws arbitrarily and severely.
This led to the killing of priests and the confiscation of churches, schools, religious
houses of all kinds, and other properties. The Catholics who fought against the
government were called “Cristeros,” and today Jean Meyer, a French historian, is
researching this phenomenon from his base in Mexico City. The Cristeros had few
means of their own, and only got their weapons after overcoming the enemy and
taking theirs. They represented the overwhelmingly Catholic majority of the country’s
population, but they only took to arms out of desperation. At one time the Cristeros
were said to have thirty thousand men loyal to their cause. The record shows they were
never defeated.

An exiled Mexican Catholic lawyer, Octavio Elizonde, wrote in a letter dated
January 21, 1935, that he had completed a Memorandum for Curley which was a
detailed report concerning the events since 1929. He also asked for an interview that
week. Subsequently, in a letter to Mr. Vincent Fitzpatrick, Curley confirmed that the
twelve-page text “is about the best thing I have seen on the recent situation since 1929.
The analysis it gives of the so-called peace made in that year is exceptionally fine.”3

Elizonde states that between 1926 and 1929 an armed struggle was carried on in
behalf of the Catholic cause by the rebels known as Cristeros. This army was poised to
deliver the final blow when the Mexican hierarchy, at the wish of the Holy See,
requested them to disarm and to accept the offer of the Mexican government under
President Plutarco Calles to establish a <modus vivendi> in regard to the religious
question. Out of duty and obedience the Cristeros laid down their arms and thereupon,
in the words of the <BCR>:

The first things (sic) Calles did after peace had been made was to shoot down 500
Cristero leaders. The six years of the entente Cordiale between Calles and the Church
have been the six bloodiest years in the history of Mexico.4

Actually, Elizonde puts the figure at 400, but perhaps the exact number will never be
known. Calles was responsible for the killing. Plutarco Elías Calles, President of Mexico
from 1924 to 1928, was depicted in the <BCR> the way Nicolai Ceausescu was in the
popular press of 1989. When Calles left office in 1928 he controlled the government
from behind the scenes, and he dominated the life of the country until 1934 when his
rival Lázaro Cárdenas won out. How did Calles control the whole country for so long?
Very simple _ by owning the army. Cárdenas prevented him from making a final
comeback in 1936. No one has ever been able to explain adequately Calles’ extreme and
irrational hatred for the Church. Perhaps it was a combination of greed and Jacobin
ideology. In any case, Cárdenas also hated the Church, but his fanaticism was more
pragmatic and times had changed by the mid-30s.

The <BCR> described the 1929 revenge upon the Catholic “freedom fighters”
more fully by setting the figure at 500 leaders and 5,000 ordinary men who were shot,
often in their homes in front of their families. Their property was then seized, leaving
the survivors destitute. Elizonde clearly says that the obedience of the Mexican
Catholics to the request of the Holy See was a disaster for the Church, and ended only
in betrayal. The American Jesuit Wilfrid Parsons, on the other hand, claims Archbishop
Pascual Díaz, SJ, of Mexico City, disagreed with those of Elizonde’s persuasion, and
thought the decision to seek a military solution was mistaken in the first place.5
Furthermore, Father John Burke’s biographer, John B. Sheerin, adds:

Almost the entire Mexican hierarchy gathered in Mexico City on November 26th (1926)
at the home of Bishop Pascual Díaz, the Jesuit who acted as secretary of the episcopal
committee but was suspected of being a pliant ecclesiastical opportunist. The hierarchy
met with lay leaders to discuss the Liga’s plans for revolution. Díaz told the lay leaders
that the bishops had examined the plans but could not give their approval to use of
arms. Priests could serve the rebel forces but could not join the fighting. Although in
sympathy with the rebels and unwilling to condemn their armed rebellion, the bishops
did not sanction armed revolt. As the prelates had not actually forbidden the Liga to
join the Cristeros in their fight, the Liga leaders felt that Díaz had given his quasi-
blessing to the rebellion and they set to work organizing the rebellion more eagerly.
Díaz had given his quasi-blessing to the rebellion and they set to work organizing the
rebellion more eagerly. Díaz himself was arrested for allegedly directing Cristero
military activities but was exiled rather than jailed. Deported, he journeyed to New
York. At the administrative committee meeting on April 26, 1927, Burke informed the
committee that Díaz had made clear to him that the Mexican hierarchy did not want the
NCWC to countenance in any way the promotion of armed resistance in Mexico.6

Undoubtedly the <BCR> was merely reflecting the Elizonde Memorandum. In that
document, he had said:

And notwithstanding the fact that an immense majority of all the Catholics of action
who had been struggling for a long time and with all lawful means against the tyrants
of the Mexican people, felt a deep rooted doubt as to the success of an agreement
arrived at under such circumstances and on such bases, we accepted, sincerely, and in
all discipline, through our love for the Church and respect for His Holiness Pope Pius
XI, the situation created by the so-called agreements and made ourselves ready to
struggle within the terms of the “modus vivendi” to reconquer our lost liberties; not
without a feeling, on the part of the great mass of the people, of profound
discouragement and frustration upon the abrupt ending thus brought to the heroic and
bloody movement of defense carried on during the years 1926 to 1929 (<AAB,
Memorandum>, p. 2).7

Curley advised his editor to correct the English, given above in the original, since it was
done by a Mexican whose stylistic skills in American English were limited.

The <BCR> of August 23, 1935 printed the following figures for its American
readers. Between 1926 and 1934 at least 40 priests were killed. Miguel Augustín Pro, SJ,
had been summarily shot on November 23, 1927. Pro was later to be beatified in 1988.
There were 2,500 priests in hiding, many of them in the Federal District, the State of San
Luis Potosí (where the local governor received priests and nuns, despite federal laws)
or in exile. The Apostolic Delegate and Archbishop of Morelia, himself a Mexican, and
five additional bishops had been exiled. Twelve bishops were impeded from their
dioceses, and four were arrested but later released. In 1934 there were 334 priests
licensed to practice their ministry by the government for fifteen million people,
whereas in 1926 there were 3,000 serving the people.8

As early as the year of rebellion itself, 1926, the U.S. Catholic hierarchy issued a
Bishops’ Pastoral on the Mexican Situation: <A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic
Episcopate of the United States on the Religious Situation in Mexico.> It claimed not to
be an appeal for political intervention of any kind or for action of any sort.9

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 contains various articles regulating church
property, church schools, and the quotas of priests or other clergy which would be
allowed and duly licensed. It did not specify any one religion to be restricted, but made
the laws applicable to all religions. In Mexico, the number of Protestants or Jews or
those of other religions was quite small at the time. Therefore it was no secret that the
Catholic Church was the true target for this federal legislation. Between 90% and 95%
of the population was Catholic, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was one of
the most popular in the world.

In 1935 the <BCR> mentioned that a law in one of the Mexican states forbade the
registration, to obtain a license for practice of the ministry, of priests who were
celibate.10 This is one example of the restrictions, but it typifies the anti-Catholic nature
of some of the legal provisions even when the Catholic Church was never mentioned by
name. We are all familiar with the cowardly Whiskey Priest who lived in concubinage
and dereliction as portrayed in Graham Greene’s <The Power and the Glory.>

A small sign of hope in 1935 was the annulment by President Lázaro Cárdenas
of the decree censoring foreign religious mail coming into Mexico _ which had to that
point included, of course, the <BCR>.11

In that same year, Archbishop Curley had considered setting up a Bureau for
Mexican Affairs in Baltimore. On January 4, 1935, he wrote to the exiled Apostolic
Delegate to Mexico, Archbishop Leopoldo Ruiz y Flores. The Delegate since 1932 had
been living across the border in San Antonio, Texas:

It is very largely a matter of money, and just how we are going to get the money I do
not see for the moment. Other Dioceses may not be as interested in Mexican affairs as is
this, and it is a difficult thing at this time, on account of financial conditions, to get
them interested.12

Curley is referring, of course, to the total collapse of the economy which created the
dire conditions of The Great Depression. The lack of funds for special projects such as
aid to the Church in Mexico was obviously acute. Even the state of the <BCR> as it has
survived up to the present moment suggests they were using the least expensive paper
available. There is still some reason to believe other bishops besides Kelley were
sympathetic, although unable, to help.

On April 2, 1935, Kelley wrote to Curley:

It was mighty kind of you to send one hundred dollars. I can do a lot with that. In fact I
have enough now to cover the whole Senate and part of the House. I have written to
John Burke asking him if he will take care of the distribution in Washington.13

The matter being discussed by this letter is the financing and distributing of copies of
<Blood-Drenched Altars> for the members of Congress who were deliberating over the
Borah Resolution whose point was to condemn religious persecution in Mexico. The
book had been published under Bishop Kelley’s name, and hastily researched for him
by Eber Cole Byam:

This volume of more than 500 pages, which made no pretense at being a detached
treatise, defies an adequate summary. Its mass of facts, contentions, and scholarly
references were bound together by a single proposition, supported by two cosmic
themes running through the book. Kelley’s objective was to present to a pluralistic
America the idea that religious oppression was beyond narrow sectarian interest. The
persecution in Mexico was a tragedy that should concern all men and women, whether
or not they were sympathetic to or affiliated with the Catholic church.14

It has endured the test of time, was praised in 1950 after Kelley’s death by Frank
Tannenbaum, sympathetic historian of the revolution, and was even recently
republished. To prove it was taken seriously, we have evidence that it was reviewed by
the Mexican government’s Department of Publicity of the Ministry of Foreign
Relations.15 The name given was deliberate:

Kelley’s choice of title, <Blood-Drenched Altars>, referred to the savage pre-Christian
rites of human sacrifice which greeted the conquistadors and padres. Yet in this
primitive environment these pioneers had built cathedrals, universities, hospitals,
schools, libraries _ relics of a noble civilization which preceded in antiquity and rivaled
in splendor the institutions that evolved in North America. The revolution in Mexico,
Kelley went on, had thus targeted its attack on the two pillars of this way of life, first
driving Spain back to Europe and, a century later, threatening to crush the church.16

Bishop Francis Clement Kelley would certainly not have followed the fashion, so
common lately, of denouncing Columbus for bringing Spanish civilization to the New
World. The human sacrifice represented by the Aztec “blood-drenched altars” was, to
him, even comparable to the slaughter of the Catholics at the hands of the Mexican
government between 1926 and 1936, except the altars were Catholic, not Aztec.

Curley’s chosen investigator and historian of the Mexican persecution was
Georgetown University’s Father Michael Kenny, SJ, who surely agreed with Curley
when the following translation of a smuggled Mexican document appeared in the
<BCR>, July 3, 1936:

As many, if not most, of the evils we now endure have been caused directly or
indirectly by United States influence, and there is undoubtedly a debt of restitution, an
obligation to repair the resultant evils of oppression and suppression of liberties that a
tyrant minority inflicts, and can only inflict by the favor of our all-powerful North
American neighbor. We submit that the neighborhood of our countries and the evils
that we are suffering, materially as well as morally, largely through United States
influence, imposes on the honest people of the United States the duty of aiding us in
averting impending disaster.17

Curley was forever frustrated that he and the Church could not affect the Roosevelt
Administration to do more for the sufferings of Mexican Catholics, even in such a
simple thing as the recall of an ambassador who was perceived as inimical to this
cause, or at best, a bungler in the effort to help. That frustration was spoken of by
Bishop Francis Clement Kelley in a letter to Curley:

I do not understand the President. I had heard that he made a promise. Surely he had
enough visits from ecclesiastical dignitaries to understand the situation. I am afraid that
some of those who went to see him, by avoiding the subject of Mexico, gave him the
idea that we are divided about it.18

If Kelley didn’t understand the president, we may assume Cardinal Mundelein did.
Historian David J. O’Brien says:

Mundelein soon became the President’s closest friend in the hierarchy. In 1935, when
Catholics were incensed by Roosevelt’s Mexican policy, the Cardinal heaped praise on
him in ceremonies at Notre Dame.19

The incident over the recall of the American ambassador deserves special note. It
was the result of the clash between the suppression of Catholic education in Mexico,
even after the <modus vivendi> of 1929, and the introduction of “Socialist” education in
its place.

Promises made in 1929 were never honored by the government of Mexico.
Perhaps this is because the arrangement rested on a “gentlemen’s agreement” no more
solid than oral assurances between President Emilio Portes Gil (described by the
<BCR> as a <callista>)20 and the American Ambassador Dwight Whitney Morrow. The
<BCR> never considered any of them gentlemen, either. In the “modus vivendi” the
Catholics were supposed to be respected. They were to be allowed to use every
democratic means to effect a constitutional change: the “vote, written and spoken
propaganda, appeals before judicial authorities, petitions to Congress, etc.”21 Elizonde
maintains that the Church was lied to, and the American ambassador had economic
interests and the American business community to please above all else. The struggle
which finished the alleged truce was the educational issue when the government strove
to impose a complete monopoly and install a “socialistic” program.

Elizonde in the Memorandum is shocked and at a loss when he says there is no
explanation for the absence of any protocols on the question of education in the 1929

Bishop Kelley had written in <Blood-Drenched Altars>:

The new Constitution prohibited any minister of religion from teaching in a school,
public or private. Article 3 prohibited religious corporations or ministers of any
religious creed from establishing or directing primary schools. Article 130 went further
and ordered the confiscation of any school erected for the purpose of teaching religion.
It provided likewise that in all primary-school matters the curriculum, teachers, etc., be
under the direction of the Federal government. Not only were clergymen forbidden to
teach, but they were even forbidden to maintain any institution of scientific research.
Nevertheless Article 3 begins with the words “Instruction is free.”22

It was the school issue which strained the consciences of Mexican Catholics
when the “atheistic brainwashing” of the revolutionary curriculum was applied to their
children. This schooling had been invested with the content of an alien ideology,
contrary to the faith of Mexican Catholics. The January 24, 1936 edition of the <BCR>
stated that the Mexican Hierarchy in a formal pastoral letter had condemned the
socialistic education curriculum explicitly. Parents were not permitted to send their
children to these state schools under pain of mortal sin, and no Catholic was permitted
to teach in them. They had to give up their jobs if this was necessary. No Catholic was
permitted to be a socialist under any condition. Socialism here, according to the <BCR>,
was just communism using the name “socialism.”23

On one occasion President Lázaro Cárdenas, who had succeeded Calles, tried to
defend socialist education. Sacrilegiously speaking from the Catholic church pulpit in
Ciudad González, he is reported to have said:

It is untrue that Socialistic education may lead to the dissolution of the home; and it is
also untrue that it perverts children and separates them from their parents. Socialist
education prepares the child so that, when he becomes a man, he may comply with his
obligations of solidarity in a spirit of fraternity for his class companions.24

He went on to challenge the <men> to support the revolutionary process, and basically
said religion should be left to <women>. They, the women, if they had these religious
sentiments could believe in Catholic things if they wished, and the revolutionary
government would promise not to infringe upon their rights. This is somewhat
contradictory because part of the National Revolutionary Party’s rhetoric was in favor
of a version of the class-struggle theory which included women as a special part of the
proletariat. He insulted the local priest and said he must be careful to obey the laws set
by the government.25 One can only imagine how Curley took such an attack on the
priesthood and on simple Mexican peons. He was thinking, no doubt, that the federal
president’s words in Ciudad González were aimed at the eight archdioceses, twenty-
two dioceses, and one vicariate apostolic of all Mexico. And it was no secret that the
revolutionary school system was inculcating atheism. Its program of “sex-education”
was crude and laughable in today’s terms. And it was certainly offensive to Mexican
standards of decency. One might also add that the whole persecution was crude
because it only served to enrage the vast multitudes of the population.

If Elizonde repudiated the role of American Ambassador Morrow in the “modus
vivendi” of 1929, Curley did the same for Ambassador Josephus Daniels who
represented the American Government in these years of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first
term. Daniels, precisely at the time of the educational conflict mentioned above, gave a
short talk in the American embassy in Mexico City, July, 1934, which praised the
Mexican government’s efforts in the educational field.

Daniels quoted President Calles favorably, and the key line was: “We must enter
and take possession of the mind of childhood, the mind of youth.”26 The <BCR>
headline read “Josephus Daniels Offends 330,000,000 Catholics.”27 Curley was furious,
as were many others, even though Daniels maintained his words were innocent and
had been taken out of context by the Catholic press in the United States and by Mexican
Catholics themselves. It does seem that the <BCR> was making this into an artificial
“cause célèbre.”

An exiled Mexican priest writing in the <BCR> quoted Governor Arnulfo Pérez
of the State of Tabasco who approved of the following song in the school curriculum:

God did not create mankind; the latter created God.
There is no God except in petrified hearts and books.
The priests are like bartenders who exploit mankind.28

We might look at the comparison with Baltimore. At this same time Curley’s
archdiocesan newspaper carried numerous articles on the situation of Catholic
education in Baltimore. New schools were opening and old ones were praised for their
efforts. Girls and boys were photographed at wholesome social and athletic functions,
and there was much interest in youth generally. Curley’s friend Bishop Kelley was
chairman of the Bishops’ Committee of the Boy Scouts of America.29

Mr. Vincent de Paul Fitzpatrick in 1929 had written the <Life of Archbishop
Curley: Champion of Catholic Education.> The contrast with the situation in Mexico
was sharp.

Ambassador Josephus Daniels, a Protestant, was a native of Raleigh, North
Carolina. On April 29, 1935, he paid a visit lasting an hour with the Catholic Bishop of
Raleigh, William J. Hafey. Hafey immediately wrote to Curley. A number of points
were considered, but it was Hafey’s judgment that Daniels was worried and that he,
Hafey, had done his part to encourage him to resign “and ultimately he might also
decide that Raleigh, little town that it is, might be preferable to Mexico City.”30 But the
urgency of Hafey’s letter was due to Daniels. The ambassador was asking him to serve
as an intermediary in requesting an appointment with Curley within ten days. Curley
loaned the letter to a Jesuit friend and wrote “Please return” at the top. He also wrote in
the upper right-hand corner: “I feel I should not see Mr. Daniels.”31

The <BCR,> a weekly, had an inflammatory tenor and tone in referring to
Daniels that would surely be unacceptable by today’s standards of journalism. It was so
harsh and severe as to make the expression “flayed alive” seem the only one of
sufficient strength to describe what they were doing to poor Ambassador Daniels. The
paper often used the device of “open questions” rhetorically and sarcastically directed
to Mr. Daniels. Hafey in his letter also adds his visit with Daniels was concluded thus:
“He departed with a copy of the <Baltimore Catholic Review> under his arm and is
probably now thinking up the answers to the questions contained therein.”32

Thomas W. Spalding summarizes all of this:

After a brief respite, the persecution in Mexico was resumed. In 1934 Curley was
roused to action again when the ambassador to Mexico, Josephus Daniels, injudiciously
praised the remark of a Mexican leader to the effect that it was the aim of his
government “to take possession of the mind of children.” Curley had the <Catholic
Review> address a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt calling for Daniel’s
resignation. <The Review> asked the president to read its “exposé of the bestial,
pederastic and sodomistic campaign of socialistic education which has gone on in
alliance with the other methods of warfare against God, Religion and Common
Decency in Mexico.”33

Daniels never did resign, though he issued a bland statement defending the idea
of religious freedom. Roosevelt issued a similar statement. Eventually the Borah
Resolution fizzled. None of this pleased Curley or the Knights of Columbus whose
Supreme Knight, Martin H. Carmody, had warmly praised Curley on many occasions,
especially after the thundering speech the archbishop had made in Washington, March
25, 1935. More than the bishops, the Knights took a strong stand on the Mexican
persecution and the need for the United States to do something to help.

The year 1936 saw a good many changes. Father John J. Burke, CSP, secretary of
the NCWC, died October 29. Father Wilfrid Parsons, SJ was replaced as editor-in-chief
of <America.> Archbishop Pascual Díaz y Barreto, SJ, thirty-sixth Archbishop of
Mexico City and a full-blooded Indian, and Archbishop Francisco Orozco y Jiménez of
Guadalajara who at one time had dressed as a peon and hid out in the mountains, both
died that year. Mexican Catholics swarmed to their funerals in unprecedented
numbers. The idealistic President Lázaro Cárdenas _ who seems really to have believed
in the socialist-revolutionary rhetoric of the Party _ began to soften on <the
interpretation and implementation> of the anti-religious sections of the Constitution of
1917. A relaxation was gradually introduced, though sometimes it was two steps
forward and then one backward.

Since there always had been a two-tiered mechanism of enforcement, one federal
and the other exercised by the governors of the states, Cárdenas could sometimes hide
behind an explanation of interference on the part of local authorities against his
intentions in the matter of church closings and the like. This approach worked
especially well when the federal administration had to explain things to the foreign
press. Cárdenas may have been more sensitive to foreign opinions than we are aware

Persecution continued in Mexico, but also relaxation in many areas began to be
reported more and more. The <BCR> reflected these developments, although it usually
urged caution in welcoming good news as true. We must not forget that Curley, and
thus his newspaper, was the destination of <samizdat> documentation and it also had a
correspondent stationed in Mexico City. Even so, priests returned, were given licenses,
and churches re-opened. It was uneven and contradictory. Mexico is not a country
which always handles its affairs in an entirely tidy manner, although the Mexican
propaganda machine did seem to have an effect on quieting the fears of the secular
press in the United States. There had been international embarrassment in the anti-
religious campaigns, and the Cárdenas government was anxious for it to be explained
away. President Cárdenas also may have wished to prevent Roosevelt from being
further embarrassed by enraged American Catholics such as Curley and Kelley.
Diplomats of the period might have worked quietly for a level of understanding that
was not known even to Curley who had so many special sources of information. The
pages of the <BCR>, by 1935-1936, tended to focus on Germany and Spain more than
on Mexico. Especially the atrocities of the Reds in Spain attracted the attention of the
Catholic world, and Curley was naturally annoyed at the <Baltimore Sun> for siding in
with the Loyalists who were murdering so many priests. Curley always like a good
fight, we are not with difficulty able to conclude.

Since the Mexican Church had been dispossessed of so much property and
resources, there was not much they could do to repay the kindness of the American
bishops. What arrived _ and it was the express wish of Archbishop Pascual Díaz before
his death _ was an illuminated, parchment spiritual bouquet from Mexican Catholics
who had prayed for the Americans. The subheading in the <BCR> of January 15, 1937
read “Prelates Send on their Behalf Spiritual Bouquet to American Hierarchy.”34
Besides a scrapper, Curley was deep down ever the sentimental Irishman, and we may
assume he appreciated the spiritual bouquet more than silver or gold.

To this day the problem with the National Revolutionary Party in Mexico has
never been fully resolved. The old Constitution of 1917 is still valid, though it is
enforced in a mild way and parts may soon be changed. Bribes were always more
forceful than principles in neutralizing its worst elements anyway. Mexican Catholic
shrines bring in tourist dollars, and who would wish to spoil such a good thing as that?
The Party has never completely given up its monopoly on power or its rhetoric or its
control of the army. But their situation is eroding. Recent state elections have given
some posts to the opposition, however, and the PRI’s tactics of fraud are less and less
acceptable in a world more conscious of human rights.

The Church never fully recovered either from the savagery of “El Turco” (Calles)
or from the renewed persecution in the first years of the Roosevelt Administration. The
swift advance of the U.S.-based Fundamentalists and Protestant sects in later decades
showed how much Catholicism had been weakened, especially with the destruction of
Catholic schools. A dechristianization had occurred gradually through the long years of ideological contest and suffering. But following the relaxation of 1936 and thereafter came Cárdenas’s chosen successor in 1940, President Manuel Avila Camacho. He was president until
1946 and was described as “a believing Roman Catholic.”35

With the outbreak of World War II, little attention was possible for anyone in the
United States to give to the problems of Mexico. After tensions eased in 1940, Curley
and Kelley must have felt they had done their best for God. Kelley died in Oklahoma
City on February 1, 1948 and Curley died in Baltimore on May 16, 1947.


1 In 1929 Fitzpatrick wrote the only partial biography we have of Curley. It was
entitled <Life of Archbishop Curley: Champion of Catholic Education.> Father Michael
J. Roach of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD is preparing the full
biography of Curley, but it has not yet appeared. Therefore no complete account of
Curley’s Mexican “crusade” exists outside some remarks by Thomas W. Spalding in his
ecclesiastical history of the archdiocese, <The Premier See: A History of the
Archdiocese of Baltimore>, 1789-1989 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,

2 From the point of view of ecclesiastical history, a summary of the early phases of the
revolution and the oppression which resulted are found in the chapter “Mexico’s
`Guardian Angel’,” in James P. Gaffey, <Francis Clement Kelley and the American
Catholic Dream>, vol. II (Bensenville, IL: The Heritage Foundation, 1980), pp. 3-57.

3 Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (hereafter AAB), Mexico (Unclassified),
Elizonde to Curley (Memorandum) (copy) and letter (copy), January 21, 1935; also
Curley to Fitzpatrick (copy), February 6, 1935.

4 <The Baltimore Catholic Review> (hereafter BCR), April 19, 1935, p. 1, col. 1 ff.

5 See Wilfrid Parsons, SJ, <Mexican Martyrdom> (New York: The Macmillan
Company, 1936), p. 100.

6 John B. Sheerin, <Never Look Back: The Career and Concerns of John J. Burke> (New
York: The Paulist Press, 1975), pp. 114-115.

7 AAB, Curley to Fitzpatrick (copy), February 6, 1935.

8 <BCR>, August 23, 1935, p. 3, col. 1.

9 AAB, ibid., <Bishops’ Pastoral on the Mexican Situation: 1926 Pastoral Letter of the
Catholic Episcopate of the United States on the Religious Situation in Mexico.> Official
edition published by the Committee of the American Episcopate, NCWC. See Part II,

10 <BCR>, April 9, 1935, p. 2, col. 2.

11 Ibid., July 5, 1935, p. 1, col. 6.

12 AAB, ibid., Curley to Ruiz y Flores (copy), January 4, 1935, p. 1. Ruiz y Flores was
deported in October 1932 by order of the Mexican congress. His successor, Archbishop
Girolamo Prigione, Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, is the one who registered the Church
with the government after the accords of 1992.

13 AAB, ibid., Kelley to Curley (copy), April 2, 1935, p. 1. John Burke, CSP was the first
General Secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, established in 1919, just
after the First World War. He held that post until his death in 1936. The NCWC was the
predecessor to the current NCCB/USCC, established after the Second Vatican Council.
The establishment of the NCWC as the consolidated voice of Catholicism in the land is
given in “The National Bishops’ Conference: An Analysis of Its Origins,” in Elizabeth
McKeown, <Modern Catholicism,> 1900-1965, ed. Edward R. Kantowicz (New York:
Garland Publishing Co., 1988), pp. 38-56.

14 Gaffey, ibid., p. 87.

15 <BCR,> September 13, p. 6, col. 1, editorial. The Mexican government was sending
propaganda into the United States free of charge. The headline read: “Will Mr. Farley
Tell Why?” He was Roosevelt’s Postmaster General. Among other points made are the
following: “The Mexican government is now, in its propaganda sheets, reviewing books
on Mexico, including Bishop Francis C. Kelley’s <Blood-Drenched Altars>. It is also
advertising books on Mexico for sale.”

16 Gaffey, ibid., Vol. I, p. 88.

17 <BCR>, July 3, 1936, p. 1, col. 4, and p. 6, col. 1.

18 AAB, ibid., Kelley to Curley (copy), April 2, 1935, p. 1.

19 David J. O’Brien, <American Catholics and Social Reform: The New Deal Years>
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 55.

20 <BCR>, April 19, 1935, p. 1, col. 1 ff.

21 AAB, Elizonde to Curley (Memorandum) (copy), p. 1.

22 Francis Clement Kelley, <Blood-Drenched Altars> (Milwaukee: The Bruce
Publishing Company, 1935), p. 261.

23 <BCR>, January 24, 1936, p. 3, col. 1.

24 Ibid., April 9, 1936, p. 1, col. 7.

25 Ibid., cols. 6-7.

26 Ibid., September 14, 1934, p. 6.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid., September 21, 1934, p. 1, col. 1, and p. 6, col. 6.

29 AAB, K-244, Kelley to Curley (copy), November 10, 1934. Letterhead.

30 Ibid., Hafey to Curley (copy), April 29, 1935.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

33 Spalding, ibid., p. 350.

34 <BCR>, January 15, 1937, p. 9, col. 1.

35 Christopher J. Kauffman, <Faith and Fraternalism: The History of the Knights of
Columbus>, 1882-1982 (New York: Harper and Row, 1982), p. 314.

Father Brian W. Van Hove, S.J., is the rector of the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, and is also a spiritual director for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

This article was taken from the Summer 1994 issue of “Faith & Reason”.

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Dr. America: The Lives of Thomas A. Dooley, 1927-1961

Dr. America: The Lives of Thomas A. Dooley, 1927-1961
By James T. Fisher
A volume in the series “Culture, Politics, and the Cold War”
Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1997
Hardcover, Pp. 304ISBN 1-55849-067-1LC 96-48652
Paperback , New Ed ed. (1998), Pp. 336ISBN 1-55849-154-6
Hardcover $35.00; Paperback $24.95 
Review-essay by Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Alma, Michigan 
Three common myths need to be demolished for American Roman Catholics if we are to become less dominated by pop-culture and historically inaccurate superficiality.
The first is the saccharine myth of “Good Pope John”. The historical Roncalli is different from the Roncalli who was hijacked by the media to remake the Catholic Church in its own image and likeness. John was actually so traditional that he even restored some things that Pius XII had removed from the lengthy papal coronation ceremony. The Latin text of the Synod of Rome of 1960 is enough to illustrate that he was no liberal-progressive in any sense which we understand those labels. His personal Journal of a Soul (Image; New Ed ed., 1999) shows us a devotional man, not an ideological reformer. The apostolic constitution Veterum sapientiae (February 1962) regarding the promotion and use of Latin, signed on the high altar of St. Peter’s, was forgotten before the ink dried. John’s priority for Vatican II was the revision of canon law. Recent documentation brought to light this accurate view of the historical Roncalli. A book by Marco Roncalli was published in Italian by Mondadori in 2006, entitled Giovanni XXIII ― Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Una vita nella storia (John XXIII ― Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli: A Life in History). Look for the real Roncalli there, not in the myth-perpetuating biography by Peter and Margaret Hebblethwaite (Doubleday, 1987; revised by Margaret for Continuum International, 2000). If it is true that Good Pope John desired a new Pentecost, he certainly would have rejected the horrific Apocalypse which came instead.
The second is the myth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the first “Catholic” president. This myth is easy to dismantle. A massive biography by Michael O’Brien, John F. Kennedy: a biography (New York: Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin’s Press, 2005) makes it even easier. Kennedy’s personal heritage may have been that of a cultural Catholic, but he was not much of a believing Christian. As a sitting president, this unfaithful husband impregnated a woman, Judith Campbell Exner, and through associates procured an abortion for her at Chicago’s Grant Hospital in January 1963. Judith describes it in My Story (Grove Press, 1977). Kennedy’s sexual appetite has been described as “voracious”. His collaboration with the Mafia and with Sam Giancana in particular, probably cost him his life. Antoinette Giancana and her co-authors produced JFK and Sam (Cumberland House Publishing, 2005) to tell that story. Dirty politics and payoffs were Kennedy’s trade. The Camelot icon of the Kennedy generation may now be pulled down in a way similar to those statues of Saddam which we saw despoiled in Baghdad not long ago.
The third myth was exposed ten years ago by James T. Fisher whose Dr. America: The Lives of Thomas A. Dooley, 1927-1961 needs close attention. Although criticism started while Dooley was still alive (p. 230, 254-256) and J. Edgar Hoover avoided being seen in public with Dooley (p. 241), the author tells us that Dooley’s public unfrocking appeared in a 1965 issue of the leftist magazine Ramparts. The Fisher contribution adds and synthesizes much more from both archival and later published material.
Dr. Tom Dooley was a useful pawn for the CIA, especially to gain the support of Catholics in America, and his alleged philanthropy was compromised by his homosexual promiscuity. Fisher says: “…he was in fact an extraordinarily active gay man who was considered one of the great underground sex symbols of his era―a figure well-known in sophisticated gay circles as far-flung as Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and the capitals of Southeast Asia.” (p. 83)
Like Kennedy of our second myth, he was “a good Catholic” too, from the point of view that when he died young of cancer, he was fortified on his deathbed by the sacraments of Mother Church. Protestants sometimes call this “cheap grace”. Had he lived longer, perceptions might have been less mythologized.
Thanks in part to the Kingston Trio, this 1950s idol―a “medical Elvis for Catholics”― did not catapult his notoriety all by himself. He had a lot of help entering the imagination of American Catholicism―and he certainly enjoyed it once he was there. He was a marionette of the CIA and especially of Edward G. Lansdale, the local operative in Vietnam. Fisher refers to “Tom Dooley’s stunning metamorphosis from potential sex criminal to secular saint.” (p. 96). The metamorphosis was possible only because of Dooley’s availability for political ends.
Both John F. Kennedy and his father Joseph P. were members in the 1950s of what first was called “The Indochina Lobby” and then later was known as The Vietnam Lobby. Other members included Cardinal Francis Spellman, Edward G. Lansdale [who was the model for Colonel Hillendale in the 1958 best-seller The Ugly American, while Dooley was the model for John X. Finian (p. 178)], and Dr. Tom Dooley. (p. 97; 169.) Among other agenda items, the lobby protected Ngo Dinh Diem and promoted active American involvement to support the Republic of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
After an internal military investigation, Dooley was about to be cashiered from the United States Navy for his compulsive homosexual behavior. Aware of the sting operation against him, he instead resigned from the navy saying this was necessary so he could return to Indochina, especially Laos, as a sort of secular medical missionary. He added that one day he might return to the uniform, obviously an unlikely possibility from the viewpoint of the navy. (p. 237-238) The official date of his discharge from the navy was March 28, 1956. (p. 90)
In reality, Dooley was “hired” as a publicity agent for a project sponsored by the CIA and its ally the IRC, the International Rescue Committee. Dooley was chosen because of his potential appeal to the Catholic constituency in America. “His work was strictly show business” and “Laos saved him from personal as well as professional tragedy.” (p. 182) Unfortunately for Dooley, the American ambassador and nearly every American in Laos “knew the circumstances of Dooley’s ouster from the navy, and also shared the latest gossip of Dooley’s antics in Saigon, Bangkok, and Hong Kong, which reportedly included brushes with the law over his fairly conspicuous homosexual carousings.” (p. 188) High-ranking Eisenhower administration officials regarded Thomas A. Dooley with “disdain, cynicism, disgust, and even contempt….” (p. 187)
Dooley succeeded Senator Joseph McCarthy as the Catholic anticommunist folk hero. He claimed on the one hand that he did not agree with McCarthy’s politics, but then referred to meetings with McCarthy during which the senator warned him that he, Dooley, might expect some day to be smeared by sinister communist designs. That is how Dooley provided a ready- made cover story when his homosexual activity was about to become public knowledge (p. 140-141; 162). The communists were out to get him.
Dr. Tom Dooley had a definite “philosophy of mission” for Laos. (p. 171) He did not want to be seen as a missionary, but rather as a postcolonial and postdenominational humanitarian. That being said, he tried to hitch his work to that of Dr. Albert Schweitzer who “really” was a missionary in the older nineteenth century sense. Although Schweitzer was an unorthodox and skeptical Liberal Protestant who had won the Nobel Peace Prize (he denied the Resurrection of Christ, for example), Dooley invented various ways to bask in Schweitzer’s reflected glory. The author of Dr. America makes an effort to separate fact from fiction on this point, but he admits Dooley’s wild imagination expressed in the archival documents is enigmatic. There is no proof Dooley ever met Schweitzer. (p. 152) A female admirer of Dooley said he was “a mixture of ‘The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit’ and Mother Cabrini.” (p. 182)
Dooley wrote three books in his Laos period. Even though they were masterminded by his editors and publishers, they served as excellent propaganda pieces for his career. (p. 74)
First serialized in The Reader’s Digest in 1955-1956, Deliver us From Evil was about the transfer of refugees, mostly Catholics, from Haiphong in the north to South Vietnam. Then there was The Edge of Tomorrow in 1958. This was the cover story for his shift to a civilian vocation. (p. 92) The third and most successful book was The Night They Burned the Mountain (1960). Published in the year before Dooley’s death, this book showed the excellence of his work in Laos, especially the founding of MEDICO in February 1958, and compared it more favorably to any form of “foreign aid”. A fourth book, The Night of the Same Day, was never completed. Fisher says the surviving fragments “reveal much about Dooley’s method of composition as well as his turn toward a more explicit homoerotic mysticism.” (p. 243)
Dr. America is part of a series on “culture, politics, and the Cold War”. Fisher proposes that Dr. Dooley was a transitional figure between Senator McCarthy and President Kennedy. McCarthy appealed to the negative, ghetto-style Catholic, whereas Dooley was a positive symbol leading Catholics into the mainstream and even appealing to the mainstream itself. By the end of Dooley’s career, it was possible to elect a “Catholic” president in America.
Published as “Common Myths About Three Catholics” in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, vol. 108, no. 2 (November 2007): 56-59. Review-essay.

Rabbi Eric Silver on Pius XII’s wartime efforts to rescue Jews

Connecticut rabbi: No one ‘did more to rescue Jews than Pius’
In comments that appear in the latest edition of Connecticut’s weekly Jewish newspaper, Rabbi Eric Silver of Temple Beth David in Cheshire, CT defended Pope Pius XII’s wartime actions. Following a recent Pave the Way Foundation symposium in Rome, Rabbi Silver said, ‘We studied the documents in the Vatican’s archives and had eye-witness interviews, and what we learned was truly world-shaking. There is nobody who did more to rescue Jews than Pius.’ Silver added that Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann ‘in his diary records that his efforts are being frustrated by the pope; he just can’t prove it.’

“The Bread We Offer: Reflections on the significance of the bread we use for Mass”, by Father Brian Van Hove, SJ [from the Online Edition of the Adoremus Bulletin, 2004]

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*re-posted with the kind permission of the Adoremus Bulletin, Online Edition

Online Edition – Vol. X, No. 6: September 2004

The Bread We Offer
Reflections on the significance of the bread we use for Mass
by Father Brian Van Hove, SJ

Many Catholics have asked about the Church’s requirements for the bread intended for use at Mass. Some prefer home-baked bread as a better sign of “real food” and communal sharing, while others think that traditional hosts best convey the unique meaning of the Bread of Life. Another aspect to consider is the bread as sacramental or “ritual food”.

The Church has definite laws governing the “matter” or composition of bread used for Mass. The Code of Canon Law is explicit on this, and the recent instruction on the Liturgy, Redemptionis Sacramentum,1 reaffirms it. Following is the relevant passage from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM, or Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani)2:

GIRM 320 – The bread for celebrating the Eucharist must be made only from wheat, must be recently baked, and, according to the ancient tradition of the Latin Church, must be unleavened.

GIRM 321 – The meaning of the sign demands that the material for the Eucharistic celebration truly have the appearance of food. It is therefore expedient that the Eucharistic bread, even though unleavened and baked in the traditional shape, be made in such a way that the priest at Mass with a congregation is able in practice to break it into parts for distribution to at least some of the faithful. Small hosts are, however, in no way ruled out when the number of those receiving Holy Communion or other pastoral needs requires it. The action of the fraction or breaking of bread, which gave its name to the Eucharist in apostolic times, will bring out more clearly the force and importance of the sign of unity of all in the one bread, and of the sign of charity by the fact that the one bread is distributed among the brothers and sisters.

Those who prefer home-baked bread for the Roman Rite argue that this symbol is “fuller and richer, more ample” — a desirable ideal, but not the only point to consider. For the sacraments and sacramentals we now tend to have more oil, more wine, more water, more fire and wider gestures than before the Second Vatican Council’s reform of the rites. The “ampler manifestation” principle has taken hold. But what about bread, a more complex question?

The “Wonder Bread Masses” of the 1970s (sometimes called “coffee-table Masses”) insisted on truly common, everyday bread, as ordinary as every household would know — the kind you buy at the grocery store. This bread often included tortillas, pita bread, and French peasant bread. Anything used at a picnic could be used for Mass. This was the “domestic” versus “ritual” solution. The “Eucharist-as-community-meal” idea drove some people right into the theology of the Reformation.

On a recent trip to Denver I learned that the Neocatechumenal Way bakes their own bread for Mass, so the issue is current in some places within the Church, presumably more sensibly grounded than things were in the 1970s.3 Generally, however, those groups that “baked their own” in the 1970s no longer do so today. We have more data and experience with the problems since then — and these have taught us much.

At that time, thirty years ago, there was already a decay of reverence and a harsh desacralization of the Liturgy in much of the Church in the United States and Western Europe. It was a virtual surrender to secularism, which made a kind of idolatry out of Modernity (just when it was about to collapse as a force outside the Church). For many Catholics, alien ideologies, such as a superficial pseudo-Christian feminism,4 were more compelling than the Magisterium of our Holy Mother the Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who resisted these trends (including the pope) were attacked and vilified in the press. Catholics who never witnessed those days and events, or who had other concerns drawing their attention, may not have realized how the pope and the faith itself were savaged. Maybe those times are best forgotten. But the after-shocks are still with us, and harmful ideas, which were once novel and experimental, have since been institutionalized and survive in a variety of forms.

People who prefer the traditional host point out that purity of the “matter” of the bread is insured (only wheat flour and water are used to make them) and that fragments are few and easy to manage. These hosts (even the word “host” is a hallowed part of our Catholic heritage — we never use the word “wafer”) have captured the Catholic imagination, which is witnessed to by a long history of the depiction of hosts in art, their inclusion in literature, and their being linked to Eucharistic miracles in history. During and after the Reformation there were Eucharistic martyrs, those who died for the Sacred Host! Continuity with our own past may just tell us who we are, or who we are supposed to be.

Practice and Doctrine Inseparable
Furthermore, the piety of the people is generally connected to the shape and texture of the traditional host, especially as it is adored outside of Mass. Some people think that “chunk bread” (which virtually eliminates receiving Communion on the tongue) is not really Communion. That view may be incorrect, provided that the material used to make the bread is lawful. But too often recipes for “home made” Communion bread contain ingredients that do affect the validity of the Sacrament.

A shift in piety — more particularly the psychology of piety — can mean a subtle shift in what is actually believed. This point should not be minimized or overlooked. Practice and doctrine are not as easily separated as some liturgical reformers thought. There is more confusion today than there was when I was a child growing up in the 1950s, especially in matters that are “settled questions” in the Church. I think people then understood sacramental realism and transubstantiation. They had a kind of instinct for the faith that was sound and true. They had absorbed something from the Liturgy. The “old rite” communicated doctrine well enough. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy stated that only what “had to be changed” should be changed.5 And historically the “new rite” has yet to prove itself. In “Church time” the period since 1969 — when the revised Missal was approved — hardly shows itself on the screen of history. We were able to popularize the doctrine of the Eucharist in the past because we believed in it, and the rites somehow conveyed it and our Catechism made it reasonable. What Catholics believe in now — if you interview the average parishioner in the United States – is vague or contradictory.

Ultimately, everything is doctrinal. Even if we are only talking about one symbol (in this case the kind of bread used for Mass), soon thereafter we are entering the realm of doctrine and doctrinal positions. The “meaning” question can never be avoided. Faith and morals are paramount. What we actually believe in is of the essence. Finally, we either have a sacramental worldview, or we do not.

Ritual Food
For those of us who are aware of our Christian roots in Jewish worship, there is another consideration. The Jewish matzo used at Passover is analogous to our unleavened bread required for the Roman Rite. Jewish spirituality often isolates and enhances a symbol for ritual purposes. The shofar — the ram’s horn trumpet that is blown for Rosh Hashanah — is reserved for that sole purpose,6 just as our monstrance that holds the Host for adoration is reserved for one single purpose. In our ritual, the pyx and the miter are also univocal. There is nothing ordinary about these symbols. They are all marvelously extraordinary. In them “we can envision the ocean in a drop of water”.

The need for a ritual food that is extraordinary and “reserved” or set aside as special for this purpose alone is part of Catholic sacramental history. Even though the traditional host may be less symbolic of a “community meal”, it is a stronger sacramental symbol, and prevents subtle erosion of reverence for the Presence of Christ it contains after the consecration. On a practical level, use of traditional hosts avoids a serious excess of fragments, lack of good preservation and storage, and the inclusion of additives (internal and external) that would render the Mass illicit, invalid, or both.

Recovering the Sacred Dimension
The failure of the “modern-liturgy-contemporary-worship” movement in the postconciliar period (1965-present) is by now evident. It has not inspired a sense of awe and majesty. Beauty has been the victim of excessive renovation. Trendiness has just about killed our capacity for prayer at all. And there is as much division and strife and lack of charity as ever, despite the prolonged rite of peace during Mass — a practice that was never approved by Church authorities.

The distance between the liturgical vision of the Council fathers and what people today actually experience in most of our churches in this country is breathtaking. Going to church may be traumatic, banjoistic, flippant, numbing, upbeat, bouncy, or political — but less and less Catholic.7

While there has been a modest gain in active, popular participation, in contrast to the pre-conciliar liturgical celebrations, the quality is still defective. An expanded Liturgy of the Word has had some benefit. But what can be said when the noble Graduale Romanum is replaced by songs like “Sing a New Church Into Being” or “I Myself am the Bread of Christ, You and I are the Bread of Christ”? How can we tolerate a hymn that begins “Here we are, all together as we sing our song, joyfully” when there is no mention of God at all, just ourselves by ourselves and seemingly for ourselves?

Obviously, I am painting with broad strokes — and leaving out many other examples. But there can no longer be any doubt about it — as a Church, we need to go back to the drawing board to permit the Liturgy to convey more powerfully the Church’s doctrine of the Eucharist. Perhaps we need what some have called the “reform of the reform”.

One can read about the history of the first liturgical reform movement, from the mid-nineteenth century to 1963, and the need now for a true renewal, in three books of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Feast of Faith, A New Song for the Lord, and The Spirit of the Liturgy). And the cardinal-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not alone.

The Holy Father’s latest encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Church of the Eucharist), and the recent “disciplinary” instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, also urge this renewal and reform of our celebration of Mass.

The transcendence and “otherness” of God must not be lost in a type of “immanentism”8 where people end up worshiping themselves and each other in the search for “community”. In such a system, the Mystery of Faith is reduced and trivialized to entertainment, therapy, good feeling, and coziness. Emotion becomes more important than belief grounded in doctrinal commitment and the truth. A closed circle prevents the priest and the congregation from facing the Lord together as we march in unity — together with the whole Church — on our pilgrim way. Awareness of the Paschal Mystery becomes muted, and a type of worship redolent of secular humanism comes to dominate the consciousness of the worshippers.

Basically, people lose their faith — or have it unplugged from their Catholic patrimony. The greatest need in the Church today is for deeper understanding of what it means to be Catholic: for religious orthodoxy and the reassertion of authentic Catholic doctrine. This is done first through the sacred rites. A study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and recent Church documents on the Liturgy will help us to understand those rites.

Church law authorized by the Holy See, independent of private opinion and personal preference, binds us together. The liturgical norms are not optional, and they are not mere guidelines. They are to be observed by the Church universal, in every country, in every diocese, and in every parish. And the rules do allow for legitimate variation. Concerning the bread used for Mass, the law is clear on the matter (only wheat flour and water), whether it is made in someone’s home or in a convent that produces traditional hosts.

The Liturgy Anchors Faith
The purpose of the rules that govern the Liturgy is to bring order to the Mass and unity to the Church. Making up our own rules defeats this purpose. The Liturgy should never be allowed to become a politicized battleground or an arena for intimidation. When Mass is seen as a “combat zone” it drives people away. Nobody can meet Christ under those conditions.

For most of our history the classic Latin Rite was understood to be the chief source of grace, the mystery of all mysteries. The more we move away from this conviction and the piety that goes with it, the more we lose our treasure of faith, and our identity as Catholics disintegrates. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass produced the saints. Let us never forget that. Holiness is the reason we have a Church in the first place. Our Liturgy is an anchor in a storm, and every age is stormy. Is any liturgical experiment or novelty strong enough or deep enough to provide this anchor? Is not the attitude of novelty-seeking itself part of our problem? The Liturgy should orient us toward the eschaton and glory. Only God’s grace can make us whole.

As the prayer over the gifts for the Sunday after Trinity Sunday, the Feast of Corpus Christi, says: “Lord, may the bread and cup we offer bring your Church the unity and peace they signify. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord”.

1 Redemptionis Sacramentum, released April 23, 2004, was published in Adoremus Bulletin July-August 2004, and is accessible on the Adoremus web site.

2 General Instruction of the Roman Missal – Third Typical Edition, (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2003), available on the USCCB web site at Also see the USCCB summary “The Roman Missal 2000” and Latin version of the GIRM at

3 Bishop Attila Miklósházy provides an enlightened discussion of this point. See Benedicamus Domino! The Theological Foundations of the Liturgical Renewal (Ottawa: Novalis, 2001), page 120.

4 On feminism, see, for example, “Creation and Nuptiality: A Reflection on Feminism in Light of Schmemann’s Liturgical Theology” by David L. Schindler in Communio (28, Summer 2001), pages 265-295.

5 The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) 23, available on the Adoremus web site.

6 See “The Magic of Shofar” by Rabbi A. Brander (

7 Seminarians today are often far more traditional in their religious views and sentiments than their parents’ generation. For developments among youth nationwide, see Colleen Carroll, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2002).

8 “Immanentism” refers to being locked into the visible world, with nothing but our sense experience, and no way to contact any reality but the reality of our own mind and our subjective consciousness. It excludes faith in things unseen.

Father Brian W. Van Hove, S.J., is the rector of the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, and is also a spiritual director at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. This is his first contribution to the Adoremus Bulletin.

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“The Mystery Hidden for Ages in God” by Paul M. Quay, S.J.


posted on AmazonThe Mystery Hidden for Ages in God (American University Studies Series VII, Theology and Religion)
by Paul M. Quay

Biblical Stages in the Christian Life
November 24, 2008

Father Paul Quay died in Chicago at Loyola University on October 10, 1994. He was 70 years old. Although his formal academic doctorate was in Theoretical Physics, his secondary area of interest was theology. He wrote on both morals and spirituality. When he died, he held the position of Research Professor of Philosophy at the same university. His mother preceded him in death by five months. This posthumous book of 438 pages was first conceived as a project in 1964 through conversation with Winoc De Broucker, SJ, and then again in 1969 as a result of further investigation at Fourvière (Lyons) with Henri de Lubac, SJ. The book is really the exploration of the thought of de Lubac, and was distilled into its present form after being presented first as a university course, then as symposium lectures, then as essays. The book is therefore the result of thirty years of meditation upon the theme of “Recapitulation”, that is, how the individual Christian goes through “biblical stages” of gradual transformation into the likeness of Christ. Father Quay’s concern is practical and concrete through the vehicle of his massive and refined erudition. Some of the motivation to ponder these things came from Prof. Alfred Shatkin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology–convinced atheist who forced Quay to answer hard questions about why Catholics or Christians in general might at times be no better or worse than atheists. Why is there this phenomenon of “baptized pagans”? The book deserves a wider appreciation. Hopefully it will find a translation into other European languages in the near future. There are three major parts: I. Adam and Christ: Original Sin; II. Recapitulation in Christ; III. The Church, the New Israel. The goal of the Christian life is maturity, and maturity in Christ is charity or love, as St. Ignatius says in the Contemplation on Love. Sacrificial love is not sentimentality. So how do we make progress in the Lord, and how do we go beyond “infancy” to “adulthood”? Father Quay explains in great detail the steps that are inherent in Sacred Scripture’s presentation of spiritual development. The hermeneutical difficulties experienced by various generations of Christian thinkers and writers are outlined for us in a clear and direct style. The author is painstakingly precise. His definition of “the spiritual sense of Scripture” is particularly well-defined and exact. It seems that, for the West, a disaster began with the detachment of learning from faith in divine revelation. Faith and reason were separated by a divorce, although very gradually and often not intentionally. We have arrived at the end of the present millennium with no faith at all, either in God or in man. The substitutes have all been found wanting, if not murderous. Father Quay explains the progressive spiritual decline of the West between the Renaissance and our own time. And Catholics need not boast–they have lost the spiritual sense of Scripture just as Protestants have. What we have here is the loss of the Christian sense of dependence upon God and his revelation. The literal sense alone constricts the source itself and prevents us from really understanding what is intended by the Bible, especially the Old Testament. It has become a body of texts for mere technicians, not a vision of history and the explanation of human existence itself. Quay calls this “Marcion’s Revenge: the Disappearance of the Old Testament” (Chapter 20, pp. 396-422). Moreover, since the Enlightenment even the literal sense of Scripture has been under attack by the savants, referred to by Paul Johnson as “intellectuals”. As he says on page 414, “Now, the damage done by an academic approach to the faith through the growth of Western university culture seems to have come in large measure from the late scholasticism that increasingly ignored or misunderstood the spiritual senses of the Bible.” Our contemporary fascination with cultural analysis is the symptom, not the cause, of a prior phenomenon in the loss of the transcendent. Love of God has been replaced with self-preoccupation. Incidentally, Quay is clear that St. Thomas Aquinas is not to be classified among the rationalists. Thomas had not lost or bypassed the spiritual sense of Scripture (pp. 414-415). After some comments on Christianity outside the West, and its future in those places, the book ends with some reflections on the future more generally, and an epilogue. He says, “It is essential, however, to remember that recapitulation is a sharing in the inner life of Jesus.” (p. 421) Evil in the world is only overcome by love, and that love is ultimately seen in the Trinity. We grow in Christ by suffering and learning to love as He loves us already. While it sounds so trite, what Father Quay has done for us is clarify the steps along the way, especially to show how the alternatives have produced the present state of affairs in our Western world. This book is about structures. It is about the structure of charity, the structures of growth, and the structure of the Christian life. It is about the structure of the human person, that is, of ourselves, how we are structurally in sin, and how we can achieve by God’s grace a transformation that makes us like Christ. While we take for granted the “what” in our thoughts about the Christian life, what Father Quay does is demonstrate that the “how” is both coherent and imperative today. Sacred Scripture is more relevant than ever, but only if it is fully grasped in all its senses.