The Point – March 1953

Edited Under Fr. Leonard Feeney M.I.C.M. — Saint Benedict Center

March, 1953

POINTERS

All of our official Catholic protest-makers have registered their justified complaints over the appointment of Harvard’s J. B. Conant to the post of German High Commissioner. The principal objection has been that Conant is no man to have anything to do with the educational rehabilitation of Christian Germany. We agree.

J. B. Conant (1893-1953) Image via NNDB
J. B. Conant (1893-1953)
Image via NNDB

Catholic spokesmen, however, have been notably silent on the number of Catholic priests who, of late, have been going to school to Dr. Conant at Harvard. No one made the embarrassing observation that the same Conant who is unsuited to provide education for German laymen has long been the head of a university where American priests feel it is a privilege to study.

Boston’s Protestant Episcopal Bishop, Norman B. Nash, is one of the country’s most prominent clerical supporters of Planned Parenthood. He is also a specialist at re-planning the Bible. Nash maintains that American parents have too many children and that Holy Scripture has too many “contradictory texts.”

You can imagine our astonishment, therefore, when Nash appeared in a “planned” newspaper photograph affectionately holding hands with the Catholic Archbishop of Boston, Richard J. Cushing. To bewildered Boston, Archbishop Cushing justified his presence in the picture by explaining that the platitudes upon which he and Nash agree are vastly more important than the dogmas upon which they differ.

In Washington, D. C., late this year, Americans will be able for the first time to view a Mohammedan mosque that meets every Islamic requirement. The new mosque is being erected a few doors down from the Apostolic Delegation, across the street from the National Catholic Welfare Council, and in the vicinity of the Catholic University of America.

The presence of Moslem worshippers in such a responsibly Catholic area prompts us the indicate the kind of procedure adopted in the past by those saints of the Church who have been associated with Mohammedans. “Saint Peter Mavimenus,” says the Roman Martyrology, “proclaimed to certain Arabs who came to him in his sickness: Every man who holdeth not the Catholic Christian faith is damned like unto Mohammed, your false prophet. Whereupon he was slain by them.”

In the Atlantic Monthly, a local literary sheet not usually given to the publicizing of inter-monastic squabbles, British Benedictine, Dom Aelred Graham, a middle-aged man who is slowing down, has accused American Trappist, Thomas Merton, of being a “young man in a hurry.”

Of Merton’s best-seller mysticism, Dom Aelred feels that “no religious propaganda could be more in harmony with the Marxist book … ” By way of condemning Merton’s head-in-the-sand philosophy, Dom Aelred seems to recommend that we patronize “ … the achievements and the noise and the baseness of men … read their newspapers … [sing] their unearthly songs.”

Thomas Merton has had it coming to him for a long time. But we feel that the spectacle of one priest smacking another under Protestant auspices is a strange price for Dom Aelred Graham to be willing to pay for the sake of getting into the Atlantic Monthly.

When the National Conference of Christians and Jews held its anniversary dinner in Boston last month, the question arose, “Just what are the qualifications for being a Christian?” — and there seemed to be no proper answer from anyone at the dinner. As a public service, therefore, we decided to print the following question and answer from the Catechism of St. Peter Canisius, S. J., one of the 29 Doctors of the Church.

Saint Peter Canisius asks, “Who is to be called a Christian?”

And he answers: “He who confesses the salutary doctrine of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, in His Church. Hence, he who is truly a Christian condemns and detests thoroughly all cults and sects which are formed outside the doctrine and Church of Christ, everywhere, and among all peoples, as for example, the Jewish, and Mohammedans, and the heretical cults and sects.”

Monsignor Ronald Knox’s British lack of faith is suspected by everyone who meets him. It ought as well be suspected by everyone who reads him. Often, though, as he writes, he has a way of concealing just what exactly is his meaning. If you squeeze Knox hard enough for copy, as his publishers, Sheed & Ward, seem to do, you will ultimately get him to reveal the shallowness that lies at the bottom of his thinking and the heresy at the bottom of his beliefs.

Having previously rephrased the Bible to suit his own doubts, and reduced the Holy Sacrifice to the Hollywood speed of The Mass in Slow Motion, just published by Sheed & Ward, Monsignor Knox innovates as follows: “We all know that a spiritual Communion, faithfully made, produces all the effects of sacramental Communion; God might have decreed that no Communions be made at all except spiritual ones.”

This statement marks the end of belief in our incorporation into the Body and Blood of Jesus, and makes the eatable reality of the Fruit of Mary’s Womb merely a ritualistic luxury. Just whom Knox means by the “we” in his “We all know … ” is hard to say. Possibly he means his Anglican friends and himself. For these friends are sure to be delighted by this statement and will make it to mean that as far as Knox is concerned, whether you have the Real Presence in your tabernacles or the “real absence,” it all amounts to the same thing.

THE ORACLE AT ADELPHI

The Most Reverend Fulton J. Sheen, D. D., star of the Du Mont television program Life is Worth Living, and winner of the award “TV Man of the Year,” is the inevitable outcome, the ultimate fruit, of teaching that there is salvation outside the Catholic Church. He has taken the belief that Heaven belongs to the ignorant and the sincere as surely as to the lovers of Our Lady and the receivers of Our Lord in Holy Communion, and has pushed it to its final, fantastic conclusion. For Bishop Sheen, who first won renown by his fashionable instruction of fashionable converts, has now decided to try a new line. He has abandoned preaching the Catholic Faith, and, to the five million people who wait expectantly for his message as it is broadcast from the Adelphi Theater each Tuesday night, he expounds something he feels is more needful and more consoling: his own philosophy.

This rejection of the dogmas of the Church in favor of his own ideas has been purposeful and assiduous, and Bishop Sheen wants there to be no misunderstanding about it. He has seen to it that no matter what magazine a person might pick up, he is certain to find in it an interview with the Bishop. And the recurrent theme in all these interviews, the one point about which Bishop Sheen is most anxious, is to dissociate himself, as far as his program goes, from any tinge of Catholicism. “Mine is not a religious program,” he proclaims, in his own imitable way: “I am speaking merely as a university lecturer.”

There is no denying, of course, that as a television message, Bishop Sheen’s has it all over the Catholic Faith. The mere fact that he is the most popular performer on television, whereas if he were preaching the Faith he would be off the air in two weeks, is proof enough of that. As to just what his message is, however, it is not easy to say. He seems to be concerned mainly with fighting such evils as “boredom” and “internal conflict;” in warning his listeners against psychoanalysis, while at the same time he diagnoses their ills in psychoanalytic terms; in urging his listeners to stop reading “Nietzsche one day and Freud the next and Sartre the next” (and some other writer they have never heard of the next), and to get themselves “an abiding philosophy of life.”

The purpose of his program, he says, is to make people “think.” And this might well be the secret of his popularity. For there is undoubtedly a certain scintillation in having the whole family sit around the television screen, thinking. And the Bishop’s style of presentation is exactly suited to the thinking of America’s television watchers. “If Christ is not God, then He is Anti-Christ.” This, though taken from his religious days, is a fair sample of the kind of cogent aphorism he gives his listeners to mull over.

But it is not so much what the Bishop says that makes his listeners sit up and take notice as his manner of saying it. For every utterance he makes, from the most dire warning of what will happen to the world if it does not let itself be healed by him, to the most inane description of the kind of paper he uses to make his notes on, is delivered in the manner of an over-done Hamlet reading from the Apocalypse.

Then, too, there are the well-publicized rumors of the Bishop’s asceticism — talk of hair shirts and holy hours and hot water for breakfast — all of which gives him an unmistakable glamour and manages to make him somehow as attractive as the more lusty entertainers in whose midst he appears.

It is ironical that, in addition to his television duties, Bishop Sheen also holds the office of National Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The purpose of this Society is to send missionaries into the farthest corners of the world so that everyone might hear the saving message of the Catholic Faith — the very message that Bishop Sheen, speaking each week to five million people, has discarded in favor of an utterly Faith-less message of his own.

BY FATHER FEENEY

It will never be defined that Saint Joseph was immaculately conceived, for he was not. He was conceived and born in original sin. He is a little son — our beautiful fallen-race boy — who was great and beautiful enough to be the father of Jesus when he needed a father’s care, and the virginal spouse of Our Lady when she needed the protection of a husband. He gave this protection with marvelous tenderness and purity. He is pictured, as you know, with a lily in his hand. We can move over and stand with Saint Joseph, we who were born in original sin, in a way we could not with our august Lord and our august Lady.

There are only two relics of Saint Joseph which have been left to us. The marriage ring he gave to the Blessed Virgin is at Perugia, in Italy. His cincture is at Joinville, in France.

Saint Joseph Image via Wikipedia
Saint Joseph
Image via Wikipedia

Saint Joseph died before Our Lord did. I am prepared to believe, and so may you, although the Church has not yet infallibly so defined, that Saint Joseph’s body rose with Christ and that he is in Heaven body and soul, crowned with glory and honor — because, next to Our Lord and Our Lady, he is the highest of all the saints.

How do we know, in loving Christian faith, that Saint Joseph’s body is in Heaven? Well, because he and Jesus and Mary make up the Holy Family. Just imagine the Holy Family in Heaven, with one body missing! When we pray for a happy death, we pray to Jesus, Mary and Joseph to be with us in our last agony, and Mary and Jesus having bodies and being able to be with us, and Saint Joseph alone left in the order of sheer soul!

Saint Bernardine of Siena and Saint Francis de Sales both proclaimed their belief in the resurrection of the body of Saint Joseph from the dead, and his ascension into Heaven along with Our Lord, Jesus Christ. No Holy Father ever scolded them for so speaking, and Our Holy Mother the Church canonized them despite this utterance.

(from The Bread of Life, published by St. Benedict Center)

THE ANTI-SEMITISM OF THE JEWS

We, as Catholics, love Jews — not abstractly, not sociologically, not for the relaxation of ethnic tensions, not for the improvement of race relations. We, as Catholics, love Jews for religious reasons. And since love must be of persons, not of groups, we Catholics can name the Jews whom we love. They are Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Elizabeth, Zachary, and John the Baptist; Simeon, Anna and the Twelve Apostles. They are the King of the Jews and the handful of Jewish subjects who remained loyal to Him when mobs of Jews demanded His crucifixion in a wild prophetic shout of, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

For two thousand years now, we gentile Catholics have been eager subjects of the King of the Jews. We have enthroned Him in our chapels and cathedrals. We have taken His virginal mother to be our Queen. We have sent our missionaries to remote gentile lands so that the Kingdom of Jesus, King of the Jews, might cover the entire Earth.

One whole chapter of history is the record of our zeal for the return of Jesus to the Holy Land of His royal Jewish ancestors. At the cost of our children’s prayers and our widows’ tears, we sent our young men to die before the walls of Jerusalem, in those glorious spectacles of faith and folly called the Crusades.

Out of wood and stone we gave structure to our loyalties. We built the universities of Europe as places where our scholars could train our minds in allegiance to the eternal truths of Jesus and His Kingdom. We built the monasteries and convents of Christendom as havens where our hearts might be pledged in singular fidelity to the King of the Jews.

As the Gospel was spread, we welcomed new gentile nations, encouraging them to give over to the service of Jesus all they had that was good and beautiful. From our solicitude there grew murals and frescoes, hymns and poetry, Italian madonnas, Spanish crucifixes, and French carols.

In times of trial and adversity, we are able to present to Christ the King the most royal of our saints for His consolation. Out of the Roman persecutions came the twelve-year-old Agnes, offering her patrician head to the executioner. Out of the Protestant revolt came the nobleman Francis Borgia, spending his final strength for the unity of Christ’s Kingdom.

Still, as we look back over the centuries of our labors, we are struck by a glaring paradox: the most sustained and ubiquitous opposition we have had to the spreading of the Kingdom of the King of the Jews has come from the Jews themselves. History books are full of the many measures we have had to take in order to guard ourselves against the hatred of Jesus by His own people. Pope Saint Pius V, for the protection of Christians, at one time ordered that all Jews in Rome were to wear bright orange hats, so they might be easily recognizable and, therefore, easily avoidable. The Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, made it an impediment to joining their order that an applicant should be of Jewish blood. The situation got so bad in Spain once that the King had to order every Jew who would not become a Catholic to quit the country.

Because we hold out for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and try to protect them against other Jews who hate them, we Catholics have left ourselves wide open for that much-wielded present-day stigma, “anti-semitism.” And, indeed, if “anti-semitism” means not loving those who blaspheme the Divinity of Jesus, we plead guilty. If, however, “anti-semitism” means a religious contempt for the King of the Jews and His subjects, then we might well accuse the Jews of it.

In all the tabernacles of our Catholic churches, there is truly present the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Thus, Jesus remains among us, a constant challenge to the Jews who will not take Him for their King and have chosen rather to take Him for their one profanity. “Jesus Christ!”, in blasphemous ejaculation, echoes through the ghettoes of the world. “Jesus!” — the designated name of the messias — a Jewish name to haunt each Jewish generation — a name waiting to be a grace for the dark-eyed girl or boy who will dare to acknowledge his King, who will kneel at our altar-rails and receive into his heart the Fruit of Mary’s Womb, the New Manna, the Emmanuel.

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