Archive for the ‘Arts and Letters’ Category

What the Game is Really About

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

It’s not about winning. It is about childhood, and hope, and joy of expectation. It is waking up to a beautiful day before the dew burnt away and getting your ball and mitt and calling out your friends, and if there weren’t enough of them, to play derivative games like fast pitching, or running bases, or bounce or fly, or 500, or peggy-move up, or even, as my dad taught me, baseball with a jackknife in a clearing on the prairie, or if it rained, show each other our baseball cards, and maybe trade them. It is about one stry stries, or odds and evens, or flipping a coin, or rock paper scissors, or catching the tossed bat nearest the end, placing fingers next to fingers, and trying to kick the bat away from the last kid holding onto the thin knuckle of the bat to see who got to pick sides first. It is even about just playing catch, or rolling the ball back and forth with a squealing little toddler.

It has nothing to do with drunks, or car commercials, or overpriced tickets or sports bars or hip neighborhoods, or uniforms or authentic gear. It has to do with transcendent moments of perfection, when somehow the most difficult feat in all of athletics, to hit a ball squarely within a fraction of a second of decision, happens just when we want it to happen the most, and the ball goes just where we want it to go. Each component of the game — running, throwing, fielding, batting, coaching, umpiring, even groundskeeping — has its own beyond. Any group of children with a bat and a ball and some gloves can do it, any time the weather and conditions permit, as long as bullies aren’t there to steal your stuff, or someone doesn’t demand to see a permit.

This game, when played right, and yes, with respect, is open to be shared by any who work to skill up for it, and who are willing to learn from those wise in it. This game, and what it meant, is a wonderful memory, like my father’s spooky knuckleball. As the man said, it’s only about what happens between the two white lines, nothing else. Once the game starts, you stay to the end, unless Mom or Dad calls you home.

For thousands of hours of my life, I have played and anticipated and practiced this most difficult game, and tried to teach it to my kids and to other kids. I have permanent injuries because of it. Although I treasure the memories of friendship it brought, I have let it go, and probably will never spend more than two minutes watching it played professionally again, because the game is no longer innocent and free enough for children, and because my own time is running out, and other, better purposes demand my attention each moment.

But I celebrate your joy! Come a future spring, I may again stand in the cold air and watch the young play their hearts out in a neighborhood park as the bat stings their hands with every swat. I know the feeling.

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.


Richard Dawkins, Mark Tushnet, and the Rise of the “PC Fatwa”

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Earlier, I commented on what I satirically termed a “fatwa” by Richard Dawkins when in 2012 he called upon his atheist followers to mock Catholics who believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

On 5/8/16, Harvard constitutional scholar Mark Tushnet issued what I am now calling a “PC fatwa” to treat conservative Christians as Nazis.

Political correctness, or PC, first advanced benignly within university culture over the past decades as a polite way of avoiding conflict among students and scholars of divergent backgrounds and points of view. But it gradually became a malignant orthodoxy banning opposing points of view, and has now metastasized across government and society.

Those like Richard Dawkins and Mark Tushnet who speak for the PC orthodoxy now issue their own PC edicts, or “PC fatwas.” A future age will view these edicts, and PC orthodoxy, as regrettable mistakes.

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.



Monday, September 7th, 2015

When evaluating the benefits of public policies, one must not only consider the theory of market failure, which evaluates when government must step in to provide a solution to a public problem, but the theory of government or bureaucratic failure, which considers how government can stumble when stepping in.

The former is a strategic question involving fact-finding and vision, but the latter is a management question, involving competent stewardship of bureaucracy amidst scarce resources.

The question of justice of a government solution therefore rests on whether government can actually deliver. For a government solution for a market imperfection to work, government must be competent.

Government solutions to market problems therefore remain prudential questions. Some governments are so incompetent that they can be relied upon to make bad situations worse.

When forming public policy, it is best to pair a theory of market failure with a theory of government failure.

The question, Must government act? should therefore include a follow-up, Can government succeed?

Theologians and clergy have much to say pertinent to the first question. But the second question is almost completely the domain of the laity.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.


Aphorism LXXXVI

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

One use of political partisanship is to stand apart from history and to judge it, as one intellectually and morally superior to the mistakes of others. This I call the practice of identity maintenance, and it often leads to no good purpose and to the social pursuit of political illusion.

But one’s own life can change, and sometimes the world can change, when one is compromised by love and engaged by humility to accept the fact of one’s predicament, to cease standing apart, and to remain standing in. While standing in, one can try to shape apparent madness into some form of sanity, to turn despair into joy, even for the briefest of moments.

Jesus called us to carry our cross daily. This force of this call is echoed in the writings of Shakespeare, of Tolstoy, of Dostoyevsky, of Undset, of Pasternak, and of Faulkner.

We live, and love, and die at a particular place, at a particular time. We can accept this particular place and time, and try to do something with it, or else live in illusion.

Love and humility are not so much about being right, but about being alive and sharing life’s burden and predicament for the benefit of others.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Dietrich von Hildebrand’s 1930s Anti-Nazi Essays

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

The 20th century philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), best known in the English-speaking world for his writings on human intimacy and personality, aesthetics, ethics, and the liturgy, was also an active and determined opponent of the National Socialist or Nazi movement from its early days in the 1920s.

When Hitler took power in Germany in 1933, von Hildebrand, who had a decade earlier been condemned to death by the first Nazi thugs, left the country, and eventually settled in Vienna, where he led, through his journal Der Christliche Ständestaat (the Christian Corporative State, a concept that drew its inspiration from Pius XI’s 1931 encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno) and his partnership the soon-to-be-assassinated Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, an intellectual resistance to Nazism and especially to anti-Semitism, until von Hildebrand was again forced to flee Austria as Hitler’s Anschluss absorbed that country in 1938.

The recent publication in English of selections from von Hildebrand’s handwritten memoir as My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich has brought von Hildebrand again into the intellectual and cultural mainstream.

While reviews of My Battle Against Hitler have focused on von Hildebrand’s adventurous fight with and narrow escapes from Nazism, I urge readers to study his 1930s essays collected as a group in this memoir. While it is fun to learn how von Hildebrand and his friends tricked the Nazis into allowing his furniture to be shipped from Munich to Vienna after his flight from Germany, and sobering to read how many were taken in by the Nazis, it is better to read the focused, insightful, and passionate words of von Hildebrand written at the time against the steady advance of anti-Semitism and Nazism.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), once the teenage student paramour of philosopher and later sometime Nazi Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), achieved fame in 1963 with her coining of the phrase “banality of evil” in her Eichmann in Jerusalem. Yet von Hildebrand’s November 10, 1935 Der Christliche Ständestaat essay, translated as “The Danger of Becoming Morally Blunted,” contemporaneously described this blunting process as it was happening decades before Arendt. This essay alone is worth the price of My Battle Against Hitler, since it describes how moral compromise can weaken us all. The power of anti-Semitism as a moral anesthetic that deadens resistance to violent extremism is very much still at work today, whether in the Middle East, in Russia, or in First World cultural elites.

My compliments to John Henry Crosby, Alice von Hildebrand, John F. Crosby, and all those from the Hildebrand Project who spent the decade necessary to bring this book to English-language readers.

I understand that the Hildebrand Project intends to eventually post all the writings of Dietrich von Hildebrand online. I especially look forward to more Der Christliche Ständestaat essays, and especially to an English translation of his Metaphysik der Gemeinschaft: Untersuchungen über Wesen und Wert der Gemeinschaft, or The Metaphysics of Community.

The Hildebrand Project is worthy of our support!

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Seamus Heaney’s Last Words Were JPII’s First — Be Not Afraid

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The reported last words of Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney were the same as the first words of Blessed John Paul II when he assumed the Papacy — Be Not Afraid.

Nice story in the Guardian on Mr. Heaney’s funeral and his son’s statement about the impact of Heaney’s “Noli Timere.”

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Dr. King’s Song Not Allowed on Stage at 50th Anniversary March on Washington?

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Dr. Alveda King, daughter of Rev. A.D. King, Sr. and niece of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an an African American pro-life activist.

Perhaps that is why her song, “Let Freedom Ring,” was according to her tweet below, pulled from the 50th Anniversary March on Washington on 8/28/13.

Alveda King ?@alvedaking 29 Aug

My song “Let Freedom Ring” pulled from 8/28 MLK Rally to play a lot of BB Winan’s singers Broken agreement Beyond our control Stay tuned

8:06 PM – 29 Aug 13 · Details

Here are more details from Dr. Alveda King’s EWTN interview on 8/29/13–

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


In Memoriam, Rev. Stanley R. Rudcki

Friday, May 24th, 2013

My soul, give praise to the Lord;
I will praise the Lord all my days,
make music to my God while I live.
Psalm 146

As the conductor’s baton urged them briskly forward in a swift Allegro with the simple, direct movements learned from noted Chicago Grant Park Symphony founder Thomas Peck, a dozen or more professionals began Handel’s chorus in B flat major, His Yoke is Easy, and His Burden is Light.

First sopranos, then tenors, then altos, then bass squarely hit each others’ mark. Glances and smiles shot around the chorus as if to say, “This is great tempo, great rhythm, great pacing; I’ve never sung or heard Handel this way before; This conductor really knows his stuff; I’ve never had so much fun.” Each singer then took off–together–with confident abandon, and let the music dance and ripple, or if you prefer, rip. His yoke is indeed easy, they sang–and meant with all their hearts–and His burden indeed light. Despite having sung Messiah a hundred times before, each sang as if seeing the notes in first light.

The date was Sunday, May 22, 1994, at St. Michael’s Church in Orland Park, IL, the parish where the conductor began his first priestly assignment in 1953. And on May 22, 2013, nineteen years from the very date of that memorable concert of Messiah, in the sixtieth year of his Roman Catholic priesthood and in the eighty-sixth year of his life, Rev. Stanley R. Rudcki met the Lord he had served so faithfully and so creatively.

Rev. Stanley Rudcki, M.A., S.T.L., M.Mus. was a graduate of the Chicago Archdiocesan Seminaries and the Chicago Music Conservatory, with studies at the University of Chicago, DePaul (1958-60, in music), and Loyola (1960-61, in English) universities. Ordained in 1953, he served at St. Michael’s Church in Orland Park, Quigley Seminary (1957-1961), for a time as organist at Holy Name Cathedral and as a part-time faculty member at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, where he completed his musical graduate studies (1960-65), and from 1961 until its campus closed in 1994-5, Niles College Seminary, then the Chicago archdiocesan college seminary, where he taught Music and English Literature.

In 1964 Fr. Rudcki organized the Niles College Seminary Concert Choir and the Niles Symphony, whose members were professional musicians drawn from the Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony. Among the many works performed during the 1960s through the 1990s by the Chorus and Orchestra at a number of Chicago locations including Orchestra Hall and Holy Name Cathedral, St. Mary’s Riverside, St. John Cantius, St. Thecla, St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, were Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (Chicago Premier, 5/20/1968), John Rutter’s Requiem (U.S. full orchestra premier, 10/5/1986, St. Mary’s Church, Riverside, IL, with orchestrations sent personally to Fr. Rudcki by the publisher in close cooperation with the composer [John Rutter had reportedly completed the orchestration just a few days earlier; I’ve been told that the ink was still wet when the parts arrived in Chicago two days before the concert]), Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (Chicago Symphony Hall Premier, 5/11/1967), Poulenc’s Gloria, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (May, 1972), Verdi’s Requiem (5/8/1966), a fully dramatized version of Honegger’s Joan at the Stake, Mozart’s Requiem, Berlioz Te Deum, Mahler’s Veni Creator Spiritus, and many other major choral symphonic works in dozens of performances. Rev. Rudcki directed the Hillenbrand Sacred Music Project for the former Hillenbrand Institute of Niles College at the time of the 1994 Messiah Concert, and conducted community concerts at St. Alexander Church in Palos Heights, IL (where he served as Associate Pastor in 1995 until his retirement from active ministry in 1997), and elsewhere in the Southwestern suburbs of Chicago, where his orchestra was named the Palos Symphony. He retired from conducting in June of 2011.

Stanley Robert Rudcki (6/13/1927-5/22/2013) was the son of the Polish and Bohemian owners, Stanley Martin Rudcki and Bessie nee Salak, of a past and noted South Side Chicago bowling alley, the Archer-Kedzie Bowl formerly at 4300 S. Kedzie, and grew up in a bungalow at 6501 S. Albany Avenue in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. His gentle demeanor blended somehow with his absolute confidence in several arenas, including bowling, water polo, music, literature, and theology.

He began his musical studies in second grade at the former St. Agnes School (Pershing Road). His talent as a young pianist was so exceptional (playing Rachmaninoff by 8th grade) that, at the behest of his teacher Sister Jane Elizabeth, the very structured Quigley Seminary of his 1940’s high school days allowed him to walk downtown after school to Chicago Music Conservatory, where he studied with Dr. Edgar A. Brazelton and Dr. Bernard Dieter, anointing the young Rudcki thereby a “grandson” by tutelage of Franz Liszt.

Stanley Rudcki played Schumann’s A Minor Concerto to mark the end of his high school days (“Watch out for that third movement, kid,” a member of the Chicago Symphony had advised him). Rudcki’s father had promised him that if he could learn Chopin’s Heroique A flat major Polonaise his father would let him use his car to drive to Mexico as a graduation gift (the war had just ended), and young Rudcki memorized it in a week. At the major seminary, young Rudcki organized an orchestra of fellow students, and performed the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor in a school concert. Humble to a fault, Fr. Rudcki sometimes stated that Cardinal Edward Egan, a Chicago seminary near-contemporary ordained four years after Fr. Rudcki, was a better pianist.

When given the chance to formally study Gregorian chant in Rome, Fr. Rudcki chose instead to continue his musical studies in Chicago, and to master conducting and composition. Among other works, he crafted a Mass in Honor of Chardin (1966), and A Symphonic Fantasy on the Salve Regina (1993), and served from time to time as an arranger on other’s musical projects.

Along the way, he deepened his knowledge of literature, especially tragedy and comedy, Shakespeare, G.B. Shaw (Fr. Rudcki was a regular Niagara On the Lake, Ontario, Shaw Theater Festival attendee), Dostoyevsky, and G.K. Chesterton. As a Chestertonian, Fr. Rudcki suggested to his fellow scholars that the dozens of Chesterton’s Illustrated London News articles be hunted down and published (they were by Ignatius Press). Fr. Rudcki also penned a number of Chestertonian plays that were performed at the seminary, and established an annual Chesterton Lecture for invited upper-level Niles Colleges students to give on weighty topics (very few volumes of these lectures remain). Few of his students will forget Fr. Rudcki’s stirring lecture on the Grand Inquisitor scene from the Brothers Karamazov, or his course on tragedy.

After Niles College affiliated with Loyola University, Fr. Rudcki was named Loyola faculty member of the year in 1969. In 1970, the Zoltan Koldaly Academy and Institute made him an honorary member in recognition of his promotion of the musical arts. In 1993, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, as well as Professor Emeritus at Niles College.

Fr. Rudcki also taught music appreciation to Chicago seminarians, many of whom had no background in classical music whatsoever, and gave a few of them private lessons. (He also kindly gave my oldest daughter a few lessons, gratis, and she continues to teach others the ways of excellent music). The performance Fr. Rudcki mounted of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis to enthusiastic press reviews at Holy Name Cathedral in 1972, sung by dozens of seminarians, parishioners, and professionals along with members of the Chicago Symphony, was in many ways a high point of Catholic culture in Chicago. But such culture, according to Fr. Rudcki, was possible to experience within any Catholic parish church, where indeed Fr. Rudcki brought his musicians.

Fr. Rudcki’s view of art was bound to the Thomistic distinction between prudence as the recta ratio of acting (agibilium) or doing, and art as the recta ratio of making (factibilium). But Fr. Rudcki’s Thomism was living, dynamic, and poetic, witness his nuanced 1987 article in the journal Thought, entitled “The Loss of Art: A Cultural and Theological Perspective,” for the beauty of his written expression.

Fr. Rudcki’s Christmas music during the late Advent prayer service at Niles College was a memorable annual spiritual ascent that realized his vision of art in service to the Gospel. But it didn’t hurt that legendary Chicago Symphony trumpeter Adolph (Bud) Herseth rang out the Gabriellic downward run from high A in the Hallelujah Chorus. Fr. Rudcki combined community musicians with just the right spike of professional excellence. He knew that inspiring music required great composition and musicianship, not simply good intentions. He also had a discerning ear for new music, and very early on performed the works of John Rutter. Chicago soprano Sarah Beatty was a regular soloist at Fr. Rudcki’s concerts for a musical association of forty-one years.

Fr. Rudcki also humbly sweat the small stuff. He would plan his concerts for weeks, and personally lay out the music for each symphonic position. He worked closely with the Chicago Federation of Musicians and the Recording Trust Fund of the American Federation of Musicians which supported many of his concerts, and with Robert Rushford, who contracted his orchestras for a period of years. (Throughout his teaching career, the Chicago seminaries also provided support for Fr. Rudcki’s concerts.)

One day, Fr. Rudcki decided to give up smoking, cold turkey, after decades, and simply did. Another day, Fr. Rudcki asked how to lose weight, and then lost twenty pounds. He very much liked Robert M. Hutchins’s joke about lying down and resting whenever he had the urge to exercise.

And who could forget Fr. Rudcki’s wit, especially his irony? See his 1992 letter to the Chicago Tribune about a critic who tried to juxtapose the Murphy Brown TV show / Dan Quayle controversy with famous characters from Shakespeare.

Fr. Rudcki could not abide Wagner’s Parsifal (“Even Wagner’s religious music is profane,” he said, echoing Chesterton), nor could he stand it when the 1960’s seminarians sang “Rambling Boy” at Mass. For his own 50th priestly anniversary, he chose Mozart’s Coronation Mass, K. 317. The last movement of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony Number 6 in B minor moved him so deeply he could barely listen to it.

It was Fr. Rudcki who proposed the name “Niles College” to end a faculty impasse on the question of the name of the new Chicago Archdiocesan Seminary in the early 1960s, a decision he later regretted. With his colleague Fr. Martin N. Winters, Fr. Rudcki taught at this college seminary at the time of its rise, and of its fall, of which he wrote in a 1995 New Oxford Review article, “The Tale of a Dead Seminary.” (See my earlier post on the bad old days of Niles College).

One friend and colleague described Fr. Stanley R. Rudcki as the last of the true liberals, meaning not a New York Times editorial page political true believer, as the word has come to mean, but liberal in the sense of a humanist educated in the liberal arts freeing the human spirit to hear the Divine and to fully realize the authentically human.

Chicago’s former Quigley Seminary had an expression, “Days of the Giants,” to describe a past era of manly, spiritual commitment and accomplishment. In Fr. Rudcki, quiet giant is who we’re talking about. He was a gentleman when the word meant something.

Fr. Rudcki will be waked at St. Alexander’s Catholic Church in Palos Heights, IL on the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, May 29, 2013, with a funeral at that same church at 10:30 AM, Thursday, May 30. Funeral announcements are here.

I understand that Fr. Rudcki’s friends are quickly working to assemble the musical forces to sing and pray Rutter’s Requiem at the funeral.

May Fr. Rudcki’s soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in the Lord’s peace.

I regret I will not be able to sing the Salve in person on May 30th, but I will be singing it in my heart. Later that day, I’ll play a Mazurka or two for Fr. Rudcki.

[At a priest’s funeral in Chicago and in many places, at the very end of the service, the clergy gather at the side of the remains and lead all in singing the Salve Regina.]

[I wish to thank Mr. Paul A. Knez, a long-time supporter of Fr. Rudcki’s efforts, for some of the fact-checking. Any errors are entirely my own.]

© Copyright 2013, 2016 Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


On Finally Finishing a Book from My Father Twenty-Five Years Later

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Our family has an established tradition of passing books around as loaners or gifts, and a related running joke about not reading them. Then dangerously, we sometimes do read them!

My late father had a saying that “If you learned one thing” from reading a certain book or attending a course or a certain workshop, it was probably worth it.

I remember, on my father’s side of the family, both my grandfather’s and my father’s enthusiasm about certain classic self-help books in positive mental attitude tradition that I eventually dutifully and substantially read. My grandfather especially liked stories in the Horatio Alger spirit of success after adversity, and also relished various guaranteed cures for arthritis (these I read in my pre-teen years, and have served me in good stead).

Grandpa used the expression, “Go Getter,” to express his approval of a person who took initiative, then with great ceremony, gave his grandchildren a quarter (because we had not as yet learned the proverbial “Value of a Dollar”). If one remained at Grandpa’s side long enough, he would tell his life story, while also explaining the Gold Standard. I recently found what I think was the book by Peter Bernard Kyne from the early 1920s that popularized this expression, Go Getter.

On my mother’s side, my Canadian great-grandmother gave me a book, The Incredible Journey, that she absolutely loved, and I never absolutely finished. Our kids did love the movie, which I watched over and again with them through various Disney movie remakes over several decades. Their great-great grandmother would be very pleased. I suspect our grandchildren will soon watch one of these movies, thereby honoring the memory of their great-great-great grandmother.

In fact, so many were the books passed on to me in my youth that my father presented me the summer gift when I was fourteen of attending an Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course. During this course, I completed Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger in five minutes. (It’s about a man who killed an Arab on a beach, and who thought a lot about the meaning of life, right?) At my peak I was blazing along at thousands of words a minute, although this capacity has faded with the years and with the eyes. But I do recall how sad it was to read an entire comic book in a few seconds. . .

I must admit I used this speed-reading technique from time to time on books my Dad gave to me. In doing so, I performed two “Dad” acts at the same time. Our family does try to kill several birds with one stone whenever possible.

(I’m also reminded that my high school students over thirty years ago referred to Albert Camus as Famous Camus, to rhyme with a notable maker of chocolate chip cookies.)

A few weeks ago, while still recuperating from surgery, I more closely studied a book that my Dad gave to me twenty-five years ago, and to which I gave a quick skim then. This book is the Ratzinger Report (1985), based upon a series of interviews of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger with journalist Vittorio Messori, the first in the now genre of Joseph Ratzinger interview books in English, which continued to currently number four, the latter three–Salt of the Earth (1997), God and the World (2000), and Light of the World (2010)–being with journalist Peter Seewald. A similar kind of record, although comprised of addresses and correspondence, can be found in Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, and Islam (2006), by Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera.

Joseph Ratzinger’s (Benedict XVI’s) interview books, while formal and not aphoristic in structure, provide something of a historic, theological, and cultural counterweight to Martin Luther’s informal and aphoristic Tischreden, or Table Talk, and now outnumber the corpus of Luther’s Tischreden by a page factor of almost four to one.

(Speaking of Luther, I chanced upon a bon mot quoted by the great Luther scholar Jaroslav Pelikan in his book, Whose Bible Is It?: A Short History of the Scriptures, in which he quotes the saying, “The Reformation began, so the saying went, when there was a pope on the seven hills of Rome, but now there were seven popes on every dunghill in Germany.”)

I have spent many hours reading (not speed-reading) the writings of Joseph Ratzinger over the past several decades, and can definitely number many more than “one thing” I learned from him. His gentle demeanor belies the prayerful depth and clarity of his insights and summations.

One key insight contained in the Ratzinger Report is an interpretation of the Vatican II concept of “People of God,” which has been popular since the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, and which seems to have dominated the theology of the Church after the Council.

“That’s true [said then Cardinal Ratzinger]. There was and there still is this emphasis, which in the Council texts, however, is balanced with others that complete it, a balance that has been lost with many theologians. Yet, contrary to what the latter think, in this way there is a risk of moving backward rather than forward. Here indeed is even the danger of abandoning the New Testament in order to return to the Old.

‘People of God’ in Scripture, in fact, is a reference to Israel in its relationship of prayer and fidelity to the Lord. But to limit the definition of the Church to that expression [People of God] means not to give understanding to the New Testament understanding of the Church in its fullness. Here ‘People of God’ actually refers always to the Old Testament element of the Church, to her continuity with Israel.

But the Church receives her New Testament character more distinctively in the concept of the ‘Body of Christ’. One is Church and one is a member thereof, not through sociological adherence, but precisely through incorporation in this Body of the Lord through baptism and the Eucharist.

Behind the concept of the Church as the People of God, which has been so exclusively thrust into the foreground today, hide influences of ecclesiologies which de facto revert to the Old Testament; and perhaps also political, partisan, and collectivist influences. In reality, there is no truly New Testament, Catholic concept of Church without a direct and vital relation not only with sociology but first of all with christology. The Church does not exhaust herself in the ‘collective’ of believers: being the ‘Body of Christ’ she is much more than the simple sum of her members.”

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger with Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, 1985, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, pp. 46-47. Paragraphing above mine.

Then Cardinal Ratzinger’s words on the limitations of the expression “People of God,” and his preference for the simultaneous use of the expression “Body of Christ” along with “People of God,” sum up the fundamental difference between those with a mere political interpretation of Vatican II, as opposed to an integration of the social and the sacramental. I agree with Joseph Ratzinger that the Church is definitely more than the sum of her members, and that using the phrase People of God exclusively without also invoking the Body of Christ is to rely substantially upon pre-Gospel traditions. The People of God and the Body of Christ belong together not only when describing the Church, but when witnessing to Christ as part of His Church. This theology of combining the social with the sacramental is very similar to that of Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand, of whom I’ve written previously.

On a different note, one of the theological questions that has returned to me throughout my life is the question of the Fall and of the necessity for Redemption, in other words, What happened after Creation that was so bad that it required Christ to have to suffer, die, and rise to save us?

The question of the Fall is one that Joseph Ratzinger has expressed the wish to write about in retirement because of its critical importance. Here is his answer to a question about the Fall from 1985:

“The biblical narrative of the origins does not relate events in the sense of modern historiography, but rather, it speaks through images. It is a narrative that reveals and hides at the same time. But the underpinning elements are reasonable, and the reality of the dogma must at all events be safeguarded. The Christian would be remiss toward his brethren if he did not proclaim the Christ who first and foremost brings redemption from sin; if he did not proclaim the reality of the alienation (the ‘Fall’) and, at the same time, he did not proclaim that, in order to effect a restoration of our original nature, a help from outside is necessary; if he did not proclaim that the insistence upon self-realization, upon self-salvation does not lead to redemption, but to destruction; finally, if he did not proclaim that, in order to be saved, it is necessary to abandon oneself to Love.”

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger with Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, 1985, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, pg 81.

The questions of the Fall (What was it?) and of Redemption (Why was Christ’s Death and Resurrection necessary?) remain challenging indeed. But I very much like Cardinal Ratzinger’s point that we must realize that we cannot save ourselves, and that to be saved we must abandon ourselves to Love.

So, although, it’s twenty-five years too late, I thank my late father again for the book (I did thank him back then as well). Had he not given it to me, I would not have encountered the holy wisdom imparted by Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger.

That’s the nice thing about a book as a gift. It patiently waits for one to tolle, lege, to take and to read.

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Smell as Truth’s Revenge

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Upon the liberation of the Nazi death camps in WWII, Allied forces compelled nearby citizens in Weimar and other areas adjacent the camps to walk through them, and to confront the brutal reality of Nazi genocide, as documented in this film. Please notice, when viewing the film clip, the German townspeople shielding their noses.

The Allies were familiar with the recurrent human capacity for committed self-deception, and wanted to definitively break the Nazi propaganda-hold on the populace. One way to counter this self-deception, and it is still not a 100% guaranteed way, is to do what the Allies did: to force citizens to come to view–and to smell–first-hand the terrible results of their own political choices.

The expression, “rub their noses in it” remains to this day one of the firmest expressions of disproof and refutation. Smell triggers memory, and rarely can ever be forgotten.

History is filled with recumbent and attractive myths built upon self-deception, sometimes bolstered by outright cynical lies by political and intellectual leaders. Holocaust deniers, be they Neo-Nazi punks or heads of state like the current leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, provide but a few examples. The dead, now buried, cannot readily be smelled without significant spadework. So new liars and deceivers arise with each new demographic cohort.

American (both North and South) and European intellectuals, revolutionaries, and radical labor activists for generations have clung to the false promises of Marxist-Leninist government, despite the voluminous documents and criminal evidence released to the world after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on the Russian Gulags, of Robert Conquest on the Stalinist genocide and politicide in the Ukraine, of former French communists in their Black Book of Communism, the relentless and thorough vivisection of Marxism by philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, and the complete moral and historic discrediting of the late New York Times journalist Walter Duranty, who to his and to that newspaper’s everlasting shame, knowingly hid the deaths of millions caused by Stalin in the Ukraine in the 1930s.

But despite its resounding historical failures and crimes, Marxism-Leninism is alive and well as a recurrent fantasy in academia, in journalism, in arts, letters, and film, in labor (despite the role of US Big Labor in supporting Solidarnosc), and among trendy theologians. To these true believers, the Gulags and famines, the Maoist democides of the Cultural Revolution, and the Cambodian killing fields were but mere aberrations in theory and practice, not the true Marxism-Leninism of which they themselves are surely capable. Undoubtedly the failures of Stalin and Mao must have been due to the Russian and Chinese culture or character, these true believers assume, not their own pristine theory.

Latin America, to its misfortune, remains the legacy Marxist-Leninist’s own sandbox of choice for post-fascist fantasy football, more so for some their intellectual playground for “praxis,” translate please as high-minded meddling and social engineering. From the capitalist experimentation by US drug companies with Puerto Rican women to test the dosage levels of newly generated birth-control pills (some reportedly died) in the early 1960s, to the more recent moral and cultural support given to the late dictator Hugo Chavez by Bill Ayers, Sean Penn, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., misguided beneficent “praxis” on Latin America’s behalf abounds.

It is thus in the opening of graves–and in the smelling of them– that some of history’s most uncomfortable truths, and some of humankind’s most significant hopes, can be found.

Neither is it accident that some of the most determined anti-abortion activists are among those close enough to aborted babies to have smelled them, be they those who have encountered dumpsters of abortion debris, or the nurses who have been faced with the dilemma of an aborted baby surviving, and then forced to be neglected to death (a public policy earlier supported by Barack Obama about which, to use a polite euphemism, he has been less than forthcoming), or worse, intentionally terminated.

Pro-life, anti-abortion activists have for decades tried to force images of abortion into the general consciousness. But only until recently, with the Kermit Gosnell trial, has the stench of abortion as well reached the public. This trial has led prominent pro-choice writers, like veteran journalist Roger Simon, to rethink their positions on abortion.

While the smell of death rarely loses its repugnance (a term recalled recently again by physician and ethicist Leon Kass), the force of smell declines with repeated exposure. It is thus possible for a physician to deliver babies in the morning and abort them in the afternoon, a situation described by the late Bernard N. Nathanson, MD, who only stopped aborting after thousands of cases, upon quiet and persistent reflection after viewing a sonogram of an abortion.

While the English word “odious” is often associated with repugnance as if to a bad smell, it comes from the Latin word for hate.

One of the most olfactory of writers, and the person who coined (with some help from the brilliant translator Maria Boulding, OSB) the term “truth’s revenge,” in citing the memorable line of Publius Terentius Afer, “Veritas odium parit,” or “truth engenders hatred,” was St. Augustine of Hippo, who wrote:

cur autem veritas parit odium et inimicus eis factus est homo tuus verum praedicans, cum ametur beata vita, quae non est nisi gaudium de veritate, nisi quia sic amatur veritas ut, quicumque aliud amant, hoc quod amant velint esse veritatem, et quia falli nollent, nolunt convinci quod falsi sint? itaque propter eam rem oderunt veritatem, quam pro veritate amant. amant eam lucentem, oderunt eam redarguentem. quia enim falli nolunt et fallere volunt, amant eam cum se ipsa indicat, et oderunt eam cum eos ipsos indicat. inde retribuet eis ut, qui se ab ea manifestari nolunt, et eos nolentes manifestet et eis ipsa non sit manifesta. sic, sic, etiam sic animus humanus, etiam sic caecus et languidus, turpis atque indecens latere vult, se autem ut lateat aliquid non vult. contra illi redditur, ut ipse non lateat veritatem, ipsum autem veritas lateat. tamen etiam sic, dum miser est, veris mavult gaudere quam falsis. beatus ergo erit, si nulla interpellante molestia de ipsa, per quam vera sunt omnia, sola veritate gaudebit.

Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 10.23.34, from, accessed 4/21/13

I’ve posted Augustine’s Latin above so his extensive word-play can be seen even by those readers not conversant with his Latin.

Here is the late Dame Maria Boulding, OSB’s translucent rendering of the passage above, which I’ve paragraphed for easier apprehension:

Why, though, does “truth engender hatred,” why does a servant of yours who preaches the truth make himself an enemy to his hearers (John 8:40; Galatians 4:16), if the life of happiness, which consists in rejoicing over the truth, is what they love?

It must be because people love truth in such a way that those who love something else wish to regard what they love as truth and, since they would not want to be deceived, are unwilling to be convinced that they are wrong.

They are thus led into hatred of truth for the sake of that very thing which they love under the guise of truth.

They love the truth when it enlightens them, but hate it when it accuses them (John 3:20; 5:35).

In this attitude of reluctance to be deceived and intent to deceive others they love truth when it reveals itself but hate it when it reveals them.

Truth will therefore take its revenge: when people refuse to be shown up by it, truth will show them up willy-nilly and yet elude them.

Yes, this is our condition, this is the lot of the human soul, this is its case, as blind and feeble, disreputable and shabby, it attempts to hide, while at the same time not wishing anything to be hidden from it.

It is paid back in a coin which is the opposite to what it desires, for while the soul cannot hide from truth, truth hides from the soul.

Nevertheless, even while in this miserable state it would rather rejoice in truth than in a sham; and so it will be happy when it comes to rejoice without interruption or hindrance in the very truth, upon which depends whatever else it true.

The Confessions of Augustine, translated by Dame Maria Boulding, OSB, 1997, Hyde Park, NY, New City Press, pg. 201; now also available in a second edition with Bibliography, and a critical edition from

It is no accident that early in the development of the field of psychology that scientists claimed Augustine as one of their own. For in his description of the reluctant human apprehension of truth, Augustine went beyond the theory of cognitive dissonance to a theory of self-deception based upon a paradoxical fear of truth as truth unfolds. It is our very selves that must change when we learn the truth. And as long as we hide from the truth, truth also hides from us.

It is thus very useful to truth to open the mass graves of the persecuted and even of the aborted, and not only to look, but to smell, to remember, and to speak. As Augustine noted, speaking truly of such things brings hate. We should not fear to continue this speech of truth, and to conquer this hate.

Christ, who wept outside the grave of Lazarus, about to be raised, was then warned of the smell, but stepped forward to show us that there is more than the smell of death that meets us when we seek for and speak the truth.

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved