Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia’

An American Professor Who Sent a Colleague to Death in the Gulag

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

The witticism attributed to Henry Kissinger that academic quarrels are so intense because there is so little at stake does not reveal the sometimes life-and-death nature of such disputes. Universities have been the hotbed of conflict since their founding. King Louis IX sent in the royal archers in 1255 to quell attacks against the Dominican friars prior to the seating of St. Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris. History provides many other examples of riots and mayhem at universities. Occasionally, one learns of acts of deliberate murder.

I recently found a striking example of an American academic who wrote his friends in the Soviet Union circa 1927 complaining about a visiting professor who was then arrested upon return to Russia, and later sent to the Gulag and ultimately to his death.

The victim was a friend of Pitirim Alexanderovich Sorokin, one of the greatest sociologists of the 20th Century, born of a nomadic tribe called the Komi in the north-east of European Russia, who was by 1927 working at the University of Minnesota. He invited a fellow Komi, a noted economist named Nikolai Dmitriyevich Kondratiev, to visit the University of Minnesota. Here’s the story of Kondratiev’s demise, from Sorokin’s colleague Carle G. Zimmerman:

Kondratieff (sic), an agricultural economist and student of business cycles, visited Minnesota in 1927 and stayed with Sorokin. A number of prominent American scientists were pro-communist at the time. One was a forester at the Ag campus where I had an office. He upbraided me for associating with Sorokin and Kondratieff and told me he was going to send a report about Kondratieff back to Russia. Later I learned that Kondratieff was arrested immediately after returning to Russia from the trip to see American universities. However, he was not given the final “treatment” until the Stalinist purges of 1931.

Sorokin, the World’s Greatest Sociologist: His Life and Ideas on Social Time and Change, University of Saskatchewan Sorokin Lectures No. 1, 1968, p. 19.

Both Profs. Sorokin and Zimmerman moved from Minnesota to Harvard, where they achieved great distinction, and Minnesota lost thereby the corresponding opportunity for such distinction.

I find the story above a rather amazing example of how an unnamed American Stalinist true-believer professor contributed ultimately to the death of a distinguished colleague.

So perhaps academic squabbles are not so inconsequential after all. . .

I’ve added some of the information above to the Wikipedia page for Kondratiev, so history can remember. Here is the permanent Wikipedia link for my changes, just in case this information is vandalized or removed from the Wikipedia article.

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


Why St. John Fisher Should be Named Doctor of the Church

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

The consummate Renaissance scholar Rev. Edward L. Surtz, SJ (1909-1973), one of the few to actually study the complete works in Latin and in English of St. John Fisher (1469-1535), maintained that St. John Fisher should be named a Doctor of the Church.

Fr. Surtz’s reasons included the key influence on the Catholic Counter-Reformation by Fisher’s Latin theological and controversial writings, which were more widely read on the European continent in their day than the predominantly English religious controversial writings of St. Thomas More. According to Fr. Surtz, St. John Fisher’s writings formed an important bridge between the Church Fathers, the Scholastics, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. As Chancellor of Cambridge University, Fisher firmly established in English Universities the “new learning” of the classics, the Scriptures, and the Early Christian Writers in their original languages.

To those interested in the Reformation in England, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, I cannot recommend highly enough Fr. Surtz’s book, The works and days of John Fisher an introduction to the position of St. John Fisher (1469-1535), Bishop of Rochester, in the English Renaissance and the Reformation.

Here is a short selection from Fr. Surtz’s argument for naming St. John Fisher a Doctor of the Church —

The purpose of this book is not to make a biographical study of Fisher but to see him against the intellectual background of the Renaissance and the Reformation. It tries to ascertain his precise position on such key points as the nature and function of a university, humanism and Scholasticism, Greek and Hebrew, corruption and reform, orthodoxy and heresy, faith and justification, grace and the sacraments, the Church and the pope, the bishops and the councils, priesthood and the laity, tradition and Scripture, and so on.

The term position implies personal relationships to his opponents and to his allies — and there were many of both, Catholics as well as Protestants. He had hardly ended his refutation of continental Reformers (especially Luther and Oecolampadius) when he himself became the target for English Reformers (such as Tyndale and Frith). The term position also involves connections with what comes before (the Schoolmen and the Fathers, now seen with new eyes) and with what comes after (the Council of Trent and theologians like Robert Bellarmine). In view of his writings he merits the title which undoubtedly will be awarded him in time: Doctor of the Church.

Surtz, Edward L. 1967. The works and days of John Fisher an introduction to the position of St. John Fisher (1469-1535), Bishop of Rochester, in the English Renaissance and the Reformation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. v-vi.

As a student at Loyola University, Chicago, in the last four years of Fr. Surtz’s life, I only recall once seeing him walking across campus. I greatly admired his scholarship at the time, and therefore am duty-bound to draw attention again to a conclusion he made after prodigious and lonely labor: that St. John Fisher should and would be named Doctor of the Church.

Much of the work of Catholic writers of the English Reformation remains either unknown or inaccessible in current language. Many of the Latin works of St. John Fisher still await a modern translation, not to mention the need for modern renderings of his English works. Here is a partial list of St. John Fisher’s writings.

Of St. John Fisher’s English writings, the following two books are the most accessible:

Fisher, John. 1998. Exposition of the seven penitential Psalms, in Modern English with an introduction by Anne Barbeau Gardiner, San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Fisher, John, and Cecilia A. Hatt. 2002. English works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (1469-1535): sermons and other writings, 1520-1535. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The following more recent book by Richard Rex is of singular importance for understanding the significance of the thought of St. John Fisher:

Rex, Richard. 1991. The theology of John Fisher. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sometimes a single scholarly witness such as Fr. Surtz (or Richard Rex) can open the eyes of the world to undiscovered or neglected truths. I do not want Fr. Surtz’s efforts to be forgotten! I therefore recommend that we listen to him, and ask and pray that St. John Fisher be named a Doctor of the Church.

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


Illusions of the Family: the Street Gang and the Marauding Clan

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Contrary to popular cultural debates, the greatest threat to the traditional family is not the child-raising same-sex household, which forms an infinitesimal, teeny, tiny sliver of a 1% segment of USA and world households, but the street gang, which claims tens of thousands of members in each major developed city.

There are more gang members in some individual major US urban regions than there are same-sex parents in the entire USA.

The claim that a street gang is a family is what I call The Gang Illusion.

In free societies, the Gang Illusion is arguably the greatest everyday danger to not only “The Family” as a concept or institution, but to the health, safety, and welfare of the greatest number of individuals and actual families.

The Big Lie of the Gang Illusion is that the gang is a family. This lie is fundamental to the coherence of the gang, which in other respects usually progresses from origins in mutual defense to a drug-selling, extortion, war-making, and/or vice enterprise.

Mutual aid, mutual defense, lifetime commitment, loyalty, intimate knowledge, and kinship are cited by gangs to appeal to similarity with a family. These appeals are especially persuasive to those whose real families are broken, or who have no family, or who are intimidated by fear of the gang into joining it.

Those who have no loving home are falsely drawn by the promised support of the “homies,” but many who do have loving homes also migrate to gangs for reasons including fear, identity, personal loyalty, adrenaline thrills, and ambition.

Having a father and a mother does not in itself guarantee a religious, Christian, or Catholic family, nor does simple adherence to religious ritual. The mythical Corleone family of The Godfather fame also had a paterfamilias and a materfamilias to an extended family. The Sacraments of the Catholic Church were ruthlessly appropriated into the Corleone gang rubric in a particularly blasphemous way, depicted in the famous scene where the baby was baptized with continual cutaways to assassination.

The mythical Corleones and the real gang-bangers of today, while perhaps meeting the Wikipedia definition of “consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence” do not represent true families as understood
by Catholic teaching

Nor should street gangs be represented as families under the law. But as long as developed societies continue to expand in law the definition of family beyond the natural law definition that begins with man-woman-child as the family’s foundation, not only will polygamous relationships gain family status, but also will street gang and other clan-like social structures gain, if not increased legal status, greatly increased social power.

By driving natural man-woman-child families from the legal marketplace, we will merely further empower the unregulated off-market violent gang and marauding clan. (I include the marauding clan in this analysis to link the analysis to developing societies).

Displacing the natural man-woman-child family is not effective, enduring, or stable social change, but merely another extension of the temporary Gresham’s Law phenomenon into the social structure, with violent gangs and clans filling the void.

Avant-garde legalists never cease to follow the 18th century French thinker Rousseau:

“He who dares to undertake the making of people’s laws ought to feel himself capable of changing human nature.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, NY, Dutton, 1973, pg. 194

Such hubris in reshaping and expanding the definition of the family by law will have an inevitable effect, not in the multiplication of same-sex parenting households, which are limited by the relatively small number of same-sex couples in society, but in the strengthening of violent clan-like structures like the street gang, which can grow exponentially as other more fundamental social structures decline.

The weakening of the natural man-woman-child family is a social problem primarily because it strengthens the street gang. We already have ample social evidence of this, and have not yet learned the lesson.

Perhaps we have been so entertained and distracted by false apocalypses on television and film, zombie and otherwise, that we do not see the true extent of human suffering caused by the violent gang or marauding clan which is ever around us.

The Rousseau-inspired social and legal engineers will continue to tinker away and redefine the family as they might. These elite social and legal engineers will never admit to their mistake, and will instead characteristically call for more and more radical measures along the same line, since for them “It is all about” their god-like powers to shape others. They will think that gangs grow solely because of lack of jobs and housing policy mishaps, and not family-saving policy disasters.

As this elite grows more and more radical, their numbers will shrink out of sheer public common sense, embarrassment, and other more pressing interests. This process may take the greater part of a century.

But in a sense, the actions of these elite social and legal engineers are irrelevant to the actual present human predicament: For millions worldwide, whether in the Americas, in Asia, in Europe, or in Africa, the family has been redefined as a some form of violent street gang or marauding clan.

In the end, as it was in the beginning, it will be up to pious non-violent religious believers to rebuild the natural man-woman-child family. To do this they will have to leap away from the tangle of every rejected revolutionary ideal since Rousseau and his forebears that has stumbled to its feet in a moaning, static chorus from across the Internet.

(Ideas do matter. And the Internet has exploded the ideas of past centuries across present humanity like clustered shrapnel.)

Those who attempt to change human nature, in this case the natural man-woman-child family, will in the end only unveil another manifestation of human nature, the violent and marauding gang or clan.

Those who wish to subdue the non-violent natural family will continue to unleash the Wolf in humanity, the homo homini lupus. So history is about to repeat itself again: Elite social and legal engineers are about to make Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents once again relevant. I’m just about to dust my copy off.

While our governments shift massive political capital to redefine the family, they generally ignore the street gang and the marauding clan which are problems world-wide for portions of the population much, much larger than the infinitesimal, teeny, tiny sliver of 1% of the population for which they are willing to expend political capital.

Perhaps our governments have realized that the much larger problem of street gangs and marauding clans are beyond their reach, and they must politically survive by pleasing coalitions of tinier and tinier constituencies.

So I suggest that natural man-woman-child families and their friends turn off the fake apocalypse shows and movies and watch the real violence on the news, and reflect on the origins of this violence.

Then, with some of the extra time gained, begin reading Blessed John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio.

I return again to Matthew 19:4-6:

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

The Divinely-blessed human union above, the natural man-woman-child family, is the foundation of a non-violent and complementary human society. To the extent that we try to re-invent and replace this family in law and society, we will only in the end further propagate the violent gang and the marauding clan.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Why Clergy Matter on Life Issues

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

After my post on Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Abortion as Murder, I searched the web for any evidence of the positive impact of Bonhoeffer’s condemnation of abortion.

I found a range of responses, but two common statements: One was that some persons who encountered Bonhoeffer’s condemnation of abortion (many have independently found this condemnation over the past several months) were in a powerful way convicted by it. Some reported breaking into tears, and experiencing a deep moment of conversion against the sin of abortion. In another response however, after a short pause barely considering Bonhoeffer’s words, one writer concluded that it still OK for Christians to be pro-choice on abortion because Archbishop Desmond Tutu was also pro-choice.

Clergy and their opinions do matter on life issues. If one clergy member of public standing and respect allows for fundamental injustice like abortion, the social acceptability of abortion grows, and it continues to proliferate. The responsibility of the clergy on this question is therefore profound. In this regard the strong unity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate on sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception is thus so rare and remarkable.

Images of clergy standing almost completely alone against opposition are iconic in Christian culture, and such a designation is often claimed by a wide variety of clergy standing in contradiction to each other. From St. Cyril of Jerusalem, to Martin Luther, to St. John Fisher, to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and even to Chicago’s Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand, clergy sometimes stand alone in moral witness, if only among their own congregations and among their own circle of (sometimes former) friends.

While the lonely clerical witness is an authentic Christian cultural icon, it sometimes degrades to media cliche: every media story of clerical dissent from orthodoxy appears to grant lonely Christian witness status to the clerical media darling or stock background commentator of the moment.

But solitary witness does not in and of itself manifest truth: Judas Iscariot also stood alone, and in the end, completely alone.

Perhaps the most dramatic flip of a moral position on abortion was that of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who telegrammed to the U.S. Congress in 1977–


(Source: Colman McCarthy, “Jackson’s Reversal on Abortion,” Washington Post, 5/21/88, p. A27.)

–and who then announced a pro-choice position on abortion when he chose to run for President in 1984.

Thanks to Edwin Black’s well-documented book, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, the work of the National Black Catholic Congress, and such popular media as the film Maafa 21, which have helped make African Americans aware of Margaret Sanger’s genocidal “Negro Project,” more clergy, with the notable exceptions of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Rev. Michael Pfleger, have spoken out publicly against abortions, especially in the African American community. (BTW, the Wikipedia entry for Negro Project has been moved into the Margaret Sanger wiki article, and scrubbed of the devastating case against Sanger that Edwin Black and others have so well documented.)

As I’ve written previously, abortion viciously and arbitrarily violates a person out of existence at that person’s supreme point of innocence and defenselessness.

In order to justify abortion, one must violate so many truths and moral principles, opening the door for the logic of violence and infanticide, that no effective tenets remain to protect innocent life in society. By accepting abortion, one immediately commits to some form of moral relativism. Widespread acceptance of abortion undermines the shared values of a life-affirming, and in the end, peacefully free society based upon shared values rather than force.

When the Christian history of this period is written, the names Jesse Jackson Sr. and Desmond Tutu for their pro-choice stands for abortion, and Michael Pfleger for his substantial public silence on the issue–unless they change their positions–despite their present public acclaim, stand to be marred for generations. I hope these men–and the many Catholic clergy who, unlike their bishops, remain silent on abortion–do change their minds and publicly stand for life, for the sake of eternity.

The clergy’s responsibility on matters of life is not only profound, but grave:

Nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.
(Leviticus 19: 15)

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Two Quigley Preparatory Seminary Alumni Differ on Church Teaching on Abortion and Birth Control

Friday, February 17th, 2012

The north campus of Chicago’s late and historic Quigley Preparatory Seminary of happy memory has recently witnessed colliding public statements by columnist Ken Trainor, Quigley North 1970, and EWTN’s Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ, Quigley North 1967, on the history of Catholic teaching on birth control.

My old friend Ken Trainor maintained that the “Catholic hierarchy’s” teaching on birth control dates only to 1930, while my old friend Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ cites numerous examples of early Christian writers condemning both abortion and artificial birth control. Fr. Mitch once again carries the day.

(Ken Trainor’s argument–that the “People of God” reject the Church’s teaching on birth control, and therefore the Church’s real teaching on birth control agrees with the “People of God” and not the hierarchy–doesn’t persuade. Most of the “People of God” don’t go to church on Sunday, but that doesn’t invalidate the Third Commandment. Come to think of it, in the time of Moses, most of the “People of God” worshiped the Golden Calf.)

The Quigley North classes of 1967 and that of 1970 had differing experiences of this wonderful school. The class of 1967 had three years under the original Quigley weekly schedule, in which Thursday was a day off, and Saturday was a school day. The students under this old system immediately entered a more segregated clerical culture, in which students were even expelled if they were caught dating girls. Quigley students would often gather together at a local church gym on Thursdays, and share their days off. Cardinal Mundelein’s original concept for Quigley was that students could have an authentic seminary experience while still living at home with their mom and her home cooking. More history at the Quigley Wikipedia site.

By Fr. Mitch’s senior year, which was Ken Trainor’s freshman or “Bennie” year, Quigley had moved to the standard weekday school schedule, so Ken Trainor’s class never had this “Thursday” experience, and by Ken’s day, Quigley was easing up on the “no dating” rule as well. Fr. Mitch’s cohort attended a Quigley in which students could still opt to study Greek and Polish, while both the 1967 and the 1970 cohorts studied Latin and either French, German, Spanish. For a time, Italian was offered.

My class, 1969, was the last to experience the Thursday schedule. It was in many ways a special experience, although I was grateful to be able to sleep a little more on Saturdays when the change away from Thursdays was made. With three to four hours of homework after extra-curriculars, getting only six hours of sleep on weeknights was a hard adjustment for some of us teenage boys, although this commitment did evoke a special esprit de corps among the Quigley students back in what we called “The Days of the Giants,” in which there was even a club called the Beadsmen, who gathered after school or at break time to pray the rosary in Quigley’s magnificent chapel.

Quigley students were required to attend daily Mass in their home parish prior to going to school on weekdays, and on Saturdays as well as Sundays, but this home parish Mass requirement, as well as the requirement that one’s pastor sign one’s report card, was less strictly enforced and had faded away by Ken Trainor’s senior year. Now a 6AM weekday Mass is rarely even seen in parishes.

There’s something to be said for requiring an heroic commitment of time and effort from teenage boys. For decades, Quigley students rose to the challenge, although each passing year from the late 1960s forward made Quigley less and less of a seminary. But what Quigley accomplished, as noted on its Wikipedia site: awardees of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, two Vatican II periti, two members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, numerous bishops, thousands of priests, and thousands more well-educated Catholic men who made manifold contributions to Catholic and American life.

That such a hard-earned institutional stature was extinguished still remains something of a scandal. Believe me, I will write more on this topic.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Commonweal and Pius XII

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Commonweal, which one day may be known as the Sr. Carol Keehan of Catholic magazines, is at it again in their own subtle and sophisticated way in keeping the slanders against Pius XII alive with an online scholarly article by John Connelly weakened by just a few too many unsubstantiated anti-Pius XII asides in an otherwise very interesting and informative narrative about the role of convert Catholics against Hitler.

[Please see the Comment to this post attributed to Fr. John J. Hughes for specific criticisms of the Connelly excerpt.]

The narrative of Catholic resistance to Hitler rarely includes three sets of facts:

1. The assassination by Hitler’s henchmen of Erich Klausener, the head of German Catholic Action during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, thus decapitating Catholic Action as a movement in German civil society;

2. The closing of hundreds of German Catholic newspapers, the seizure of German Catholic schools, and deportation of Catholic clergy immediately after Chicago Cardinal George Mundelein’s famous “paperhanger” speech against Hitler in 1937. Please see the references for these at the Archbishop Quigley Seminary Wikipedia page;

3. The German Catholics involved in the various anti-Hitler assassination plots. The hundreds of plotters executed after failed attempts were not exclusively Protestant.

Hitler and Goebbels intentionally set out to destroy Catholic mediating institutions and to decapitate Catholic leadership in German civil society. While this doesn’t account for all of the silence among German Catholics against Hitler, the systematic decapitation of Catholic Action leadership and Catholic mediating institutions is lopped out of the story with regularity.

Moral superiority to Pius XII is part of the bedrock of Catholic progressivism. I wish they would, but I don’t expect the editors of Commonweal to depart from this unfortunate theme any time in the near future. They just can’t seem to let it go, no matter how much evidence piles up to the contrary.

Please see the book, The Pius War, for another view.


For what it’s worth, I have three long-term “beefs” with Commonweal which led me to drop my subscription many years ago, and dispose of an extensive collection of back issues:

1. Commonweal’s dissent on Humanae Vitae. (Which brought me to give Commonweal the sobriquet, Cogleyweal, after its late editor and Humanae Vitae dissenter John Cogley.)

2. Commonweal’s prolonging of the slanders against Pius XII, above mentioned.

3. (And this one may be obscure, Catholic “inside baseball,” but it’s a dispute about a Catholic essential) Commonweal’s support for the anti-Fr. Hugo camp in the Catholic Worker. Fr. John Hugo was a pious retreat master who led the “cool” sophisticated Dorothy Day of the New York intellectual night life to embrace a life of Eucharistic prayer and devotion along with her activism for social justice. For some reason, a few in the Catholic Church, and perhaps still at Commonweal, have yet to forgive Fr. Hugo for this. While this theme rarely manifests itself in Commonweal any more, it still irks me to no end when it does.

Dorothy Day’s daily Eucharistic devotion was an integral part of her mission and message. The integration of devotion to the Eucharist with Catholic social action is absolutely essential. Witness the contribution of Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand to this same essential Catholic theology and practice. Please see my scholarly article on Msgr. Hillenbrand for more.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Saving Father Pfleger

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Fr. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was suspended on 4/27/11 in a letter from Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago.

Several writers have seen either power, personality, politics, or a simple difference of opinion between Cardinal George and Fr. Pfleger. These writers have followed the beaten path of previous conflicts regarding Fr. Pfleger and his bishop on race, or Left vs. Right, or conservative Catholicism versus a more liberal Catholicism.

But few writers have outlined the predicament of Fr. Pfleger as set down by Cardinal George himself, who presented Fr. Pfleger with a clear choice, and asked for a declaration: Did he either choose to remain a Roman Catholic priest, or did he not? Did he, Michael Pfleger, believe as a Catholic believes?

The first time I saw Michael Pfleger in public action was one Sunday evening early in the 1970s, when he brought the Precious Blood parish choir to our alma mater, Niles College Seminary, then the college seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Clothed in a white turtle-neck, Pfleger accompanied and directed from the piano an enthusiastic and happy group of young people. I recall that one of the songs performed by the choir was “O-o-h Child,” written by Stan Vincent, which had earlier hit the charts in a recording by the Five Stairsteps. If I’m not mistaken, others among the songs may have been the gospel song, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” and also the song “Everyday People,” popularized by Sly and the Family Stone.

In 1976, a year after Fr. Pfleger’s ordination, I was providentially asked to direct this same wonderful choir, and did so for the better part of two years. This work took me in and out of the Rockwell Gardens public housing “projects” in Chicago, and into friendship with some beautiful young people and their families. Many of these children maintained a deep admiration for Fr. Pfleger, although in some cases, their parents took a more cautious, wait-and-see approach toward him.

In 1990, with several hundred others I marched with Fr. Pfleger around Cardinal Bernardin’s home over the issue of the closing of Quigley Seminary South. Fr. Pfleger was already then the Chicago media’s favorite priest. He drew attention, he divided opinions, and he was, in the eyes of at least one Chicago op-ed writer, very good looking in his own blue eyes and vestments on a Sunday morning.

Over the years, Fr. Pfleger became something of an institution. Like his mentor Fr. George Clements, he learned to play the press as a foil against the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago. With St. Sabina’s parishioners and supporters, the parish and school have become a forceful presence in the community. Fr. Pfleger grew close to national civil rights figures, politicians, and figures like Louis Farrakhan Muhammad, whose antisemitic statements have been well-established. But Fr. Pfleger lost much of his political standing after his controversial mockery of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Several times during Francis Cardinal George’s tenure as Archbishop of Chicago, public discussion arose whether Fr. Pfleger should step down as pastor of St. Sabina parish in Chicago, in keeping with the pastoral term limits established and agreed in the 1970s by Chicago’s presbyterate and its Archbishop.

Here is the original text of my earlier letter published on this subject:

February 18, 2002

Chicago Sun-Times

Dear Editor:

It’s understandable that Catholics would like a good pastor to stay a few more years, but it’s not possible, or fair to others not so fortunate.

People who say they can’t go to church or contribute any more if a Rev. Mike Pfleger or Rev. Jack Wall stop being their pastor don’t realize how much they have weakened their pastor’s credibility. After two decades of pastoring, if Frs. Wall and Pfleger have a majority of parishioners who give and pray and do good works because of them personally and not because of Jesus Christ, they have indeed failed as religious leaders, and should not remain in any case.

The Good Lord said, “One man sows, another reaps.” This saying conveys something of the mystery of the Church’s endurance throughout the centuries. By holding on to a pastorate, a Catholic priest risks weakening the meaning of his own ministry, risks encouraging a cult based upon his own personality, and can lessen the sustaining power of the Gospel itself to guide his people.


Albert Schorsch, III

While Fr. Pfleger has differed with the Catholic establishment, he has apparently never, ever, publicly bucked the civil rights establishment, even to the point of refusing to rebuke the Rev. Jeremiah Wright when Wright invoked the malicious lie in 2008 that HIV was invented by the US government to destroy African Americans.

Then Sen. Barack Obama’s unequivocal 2008 rejection of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s HIV-US government conspiracy theory was not joined by Fr. Pfleger, who somehow laboriously reasoned at the time that both the Senator and the Reverend could both be simultaneously right.

While known for his opposition to handguns, Fr. Pfleger did not in 2008 rebuke the more deadly HIV-US government conspiracy theory, shown by scientific research to prevent HIV victims from seeking treatment. No one should be taken seriously who spouts such harmful and nonsensical demagoguery as Wright did about a deadly disease, misinforming some of the public who then avoid medical help. Wright’s HIV conspiracy theory deserves every bit of opprobrium that comes its way. But on this point in 2008, Fr. Pfleger was substantially silent, and refused to be drawn into criticism of Wright’s spreading of this divisive, vicious, and hurtful HIV-US government blood libel.

Neither has the press reported any significant public statement from Fr. Pfleger against abortion in the African American community. Had Pfleger ever spoken such a condemnation, his friends in the media, in government, and in politics would have dropped him completely. If a single, dramatic pro-life, anti-abortion statement ever passed Fr. Pfleger’s lips, there would be no more microphones for Fr. Pfleger (except perhaps on Relevant Radio or EWTN), no more cameras, no more Tavis Smiley interviews.

Robert McClory has likened Fr. Pfleger to Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand. But Hillenbrand publicly defended Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, losing many of his friends in the process. Fr. Pfleger has done no such thing.

To the chagrin of the Right, Cardinal George has taken his time with Fr. Pfleger. But the Cardinal’s long journey toward suspending Fr. Pfleger is best explained in light of the Cardinal’s concern to “save the soul” of Fr. Pfleger.

Our history teacher back in the day at Niles College, Fr. Martin Nathaniel Winters, STL, MA, used to say that it took brains to be a heretic, and that most so-called heretics were actually too dumb to effectively frame an heretical position. It appears that Fr. Pfleger is no heretic.

St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the sin of heresy is a sin against faith, but that the sin of schism is a sin against charity. Fr. Pfleger may be in schism.

Cardinal George framed with his typical clarity the question for Fr. Pfleger: Is he willing to be a Catholic priest? —

Now, however, I am asking you to take a few weeks to pray over your priestly commitments in order to come to mutual agreement on how you understand personally the obligations that make you a member of the Chicago presbyterate and of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal George’s question, demanding a clear choice in an age founded on equivocation, is both unheard of, and truly unheard to the point of being completely missed. He asked, in effect: Take your time, but answer me clearly, Are you a Catholic, and a committed Catholic priest willing to live out that commitment in obedience to your bishop?

The word “obey” here has a biblical, theological meaning over and above that of the notion of authority as power. This difference most commentators have likewise missed.

Jesus, the Son, obeyed the Father and carried his cross. As bishop, as “head,” Cardinal George is asking for a similar kind of obedience. This obedience is the key to Catholic Christian identity, and especially to priestly identity. It is this very obedience that leads to salvation. Cardinal George’s intent therefore appears to be the saving of Fr. Pfleger:

Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
(Hebrews 5:8-10)

Without such obedience–the obedience of Christ–despite a thousand laying on of hands, there is no Catholic identity, and no Catholic priesthood.

© Copyright 2002, 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Now showing in the US: Of Gods and Men

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

The acclaimed French film, Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux), is now (mid-March, 2011) showing in the US.

Fair use of scaled down version of film poster, Copyright © 2010 by Mars Distribution, from Wikipedia

For more on the history of the film, see my previous post, the film’s Wikipedia entry, and for theater showings, see its official website.

The film is out on DVD and Blu-Ray as of 7/6/11.

This film challenges the presuppositions of its viewers. In particular, Roger Ebert’s review of the film questioned whether the monks made the right decision by remaining at the monastery “in the face of quite probable death. . . . It is egotism to believe their help must take place in this specific monastery.”

Apparently, Ebert’s paradigm of truth is politics, and his model of priest is social worker. Ebert may not be aware that Trappists take a vow of stability, to remain in one place. This vow forces them to confront the Incarnation of Christ in their own vocation–a confrontation dramatized so prominently in the film.

If all Christians who remained in place after threats of violence followed instead Ebert’s preference, the Coptic Christians in Egypt should have stayed home at Christmas, Christians should leave Iraq and most of the Middle East, and the late Shahbaz Bhatti should have held his tongue about Pakistan’s unjust blasphemy laws. Following Ebert’s logic, Christians under threat should depopulate their homelands. No one should live out their religious freedom if under serious threat, but each should go someplace else safe instead, and somehow then “help many.” It is interesting that on this count Ebert’s view, based upon his “realistic terms,” echoes that of the Islamists.

To both Ebert and the Islamists, Trappist spiritual stability poses a challenge. The calling of a Trappist monk is to incarnate the Word of Christ at a particular time, at a particular place. This the film Of Gods and Men reveals beautifully.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


The Murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, Catholic Critic of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti, the highest-ranking Catholic official in the Pakistan government, was murdered on 3/2/11 due to his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

Public domain, from Pakistani government

XT3 story here.

Rome Reports video here.

More at Daily India, and from the Jubilee Campaign.

Public comments on Mr. Bhatti’s death from: the Vatican, President Obama, and Secretary of State Clinton.

Please see this video statement by Mr. Bhatti.

May this brave man rest in peace!

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Film Preview: Of Gods and Men

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Now showing in the UK in early December, 2010, and unfortunately not to show in the US until late Spring, 2011, director Xavier Beauvois’ film Of Gods and Men (Des Hommes et Des Dieux), won the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes film festival, and has been viewed by millions in France.

Of Gods and Men tells the story of a small group of Cistercian monks in Algeria in the 1990s who must make a decision whether to remain in their monastery and risk being killed by terrorists, or to leave for safety in France.

The following links offer several previews of the film: review, with embedded trailer.

Cineuropa listing with alternate trailer. listing.

The List review with embedded trailer.

YouTube site with several different film clips.

The Wikipedia listing.

France has picked this film as its national entry into the Oscar competition.

As the film draws closer to the US release, I’ll post further information.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved