Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Malcolm Muggeridge Quotes

 [compiled and added to my website in 1997]


It was the Catholic Church's firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally made me decide to become a Catholic . . . As the Romans treated eating as an end in itself, making themselves sick in a vomitorium so as to enable them to return to the table and stuff themselves with more delicacies, so people now end up in a sort of sexual vomitorium. The Church's stand is absolutely correct. It is to its eternal honour that it opposed contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think, historically, people will say it was a very gallant effort to prevent a moral disaster . . .

{Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, 140-141}

Media Orthodoxy

There is something, to me, very sinister about this emergence of a weird kind of conformity, or orthodoxy, particularly among the people who operate the media, so that you can tell in advance exactly what they will say and think about anything. It is true that so far they have not got an Inquisition to enforce their orthodoxy, but they do have ways of enforcing it which make the old thumbscrews and racks seem quite paltry.

{Christ and the Media, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, 91}

Absurdity Among the Eminent

The eminent so often say and do things which are infinitely more ridiculous than anything you can invent for them. That might not sound to you like a terrible difficulty but it is, believe me, the main headache of the editor of an ostensibly humorous paper. You go to great trouble to invent a ridiculous Archbishop of Canterbury and give him ridiculous lines to say and then suddenly he rises in his seat at the theatre [at a performance of Godspell] and shouts out: "Long live God" . . . which, as I reflected at the time, was like shouting, "carry on eternity" or "keep going infinity" . . . And you're defeated, you're broken.

{The End of Christendom, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980, 13}

Mother Teresa

If God counts the hairs of each of their heads, if none are excluded from the salvation the Crucifixion offers, who will venture to exclude them from earthly blessings and esteem; pronounce this life unnecessary, that one better terminated or never begun? I never experienced so perfect a sense of human equality as with Mother Teresa among her poor. Her love for them, reflecting God's love, makes them equal, as brothers and sisters within a family are equal, however widely they differ in intellectual and other attainments, in physical beauty and grace.

{Something Beautiful for God, New York: Harper and Row, 1971, 23}

Concerning Cistercian Monks

What good are they doing? What future have they got? Prayers don't show in the Gross National Product, and so cannot be said to lighten the Chancellor of the Exchequer's burdens. Nor do they, like napalm and hot air, serve the cause of freedom in any perceptible way . . . Telly-deprived, denied access to the treasures of the daily and periodical press, how can the monks be expected to have meaningful views on the birth pill, LSD, the Stones and other burning issues of the day? . . . In an increasingly materialistic world they are non-productive citizens . . . By all the laws of Freud and the psycho-prophets, the monks are depriving themselves of the sensual satisfactions which alone make a whole life possible; they ought to be up the wall and screaming. Actually, . . . it is the children of affluence, not deprived monks, who howl and fret in psychiatric wards.

{Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk, UK: Fontana Books, 1969, 64-65}

Liberals and Stalin

Liberal minds flocked to the USSR in an unending procession, from the great ones like Shaw and Gide and Barbusse and Julian Huxley and Harold Laski and Sidney and Beatrice Webb, down to poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and millionaires, drivelling dons, all utterly convinced that, under the aegis of the great Stalin, a new dawn is breaking in the world, so that the human race may at last be united in liberty, equality and fraternity forevermore . . . These Liberal minds are prepared to believe anything, however preposterous, to overlook anything, however villainous, to approve anything, however obscurantist and brutally authoritarian, in order to be able to preserve intact the confident expectation that one of the most thoroughgoing, ruthless and bloody tyrannies ever to exist on earth can be relied on to champion human freedom, the brotherhood of man, and all the other good Liberal causes to which they had dedicated their lives . . . They are unquestionably one of the marvels of the age . . . all chanting the praises of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and of Stalin as its most gracious and beloved figurehead. It was as though a Salvation Army contingent had turned out with bands and banners in honour of some ferocious tribal deity, or as though a vegetarian society had issued a passionate plea for cannibalism.

{Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, 87-88}

Jesus and History

In his own lifetime Jesus made no impact on history. This is something that I cannot but regard as a special dispensation on God's part, and, I like to think, yet another example of the ironical humour which informs so many of His purposes. To me, it seems highly appropriate that the most important figure in all history should thus escape the notice of memoirists, diarists, commentators, all the tribe of chroniclers who even then existed . . .

{Jesus: The Man Who Lives, New York: Harper and Row, 1975, 23}

20th Century Credulity

Our twentieth century, far from being notable for scientific scepticism, is one of the most credulous eras in all history. It is not that people believe in nothing - which would be bad enough - but that they believe in anything - which is really terrible. Recoiling, as they do, from accepting the validity of miracles, and priding themselves on seeing the Incarnation as a transcendental con-trick, they will accept at its face value any proposition, however nonsensical, that is presented in scientific or sociological jargon - for instance, the existence of a population explosion, which has been so expertly and decisively demolished by Professor Colin Clark of Monash University. Could any mediaeval schoolman, I ask myself, sit through a universally applauded television series like Bronowski's Ascent of Man without a smile of derision at such infantile acceptance of unproven and unprovable assertions?

{Vintage Muggeridge, ed. Geoffrey Barlow, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, 74-75, "The Bible Today," from a lecture delivered on 7 October 1976}

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The pack [i.e., the media and the "intelligentsia"] is after him and because what he says is unbearable: that the answer to dictatorship is not liberalism, but Christianity. I mean, that is an unbearable proposition from their point of view, and it is where he stands . . . It has been something wonderful to watch and, to more people than you might think, enormously heartening: that that is what this man should have to say instead of a lot of claptrap . . . They started off by never mentioning that he was a Christian. I mean, for a long time, he was made a hero of the cause for freedom, but it was never mentioned that an integral and essential part of it was his Christian belief.

{Vintage Muggeridge, ed. Geoffrey Barlow, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, 132; interview on William F. Buckley's Firing Line, 1978}

Words and Electronic Images

Words, printed words, are words that have arisen in a human mind. They are connected with thought and with art. But photography or filming, is a completely different thing. It is machine made; . . . it is seeing with, not through, the eye; looking but not seeing.

{Christ and the Media, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, 106; emphasis added}

Marx and Freud

Marx and Freud are the two great destroyers of Christian civilization, the first replacing the gospel of love by the gospel of hate, the other undermining the essential concept of human responsibility.

{My Life in Pictures, New York: William Morrow and Co., 1987, 94}

The First Personal Epiphany

In atheistic despair over the meaninglessness and futility of life and the universe, Muggeridge decided to commit suicide in 1942, by walking out into the sea and drowning himself. But something strange happened to prevent this, as he recalls:

Suddenly, without thinking or deciding, I started swimming back to shore . . . I shouted foolishly for help, and kept my eyes fixed on the lights of Peter's Cafe and the Costa da Sol. They were the lights of the world; they were the lights of my home, my habitat, where I belonged. I must reach them. There followed an overwhelming joy such as I had never experienced before; an ecstasy. In some mysterious way it became clear to me that there was no darkness, only the possibility of losing sight of a light which shone eternally; . . . that our sufferings, our affliction, are part of a drama - an essential, even an ecstatic part - endlessly revolving around the two great propositions of good and evil, of light and darkness. A brief interlude, an incarnation, reaching back into the beginning of time, and forward into an ultimate fulfilment in the universal spirit of love which informs, animates, illuminates all creation, from the tiniest particle of insentient matter to the radiance of God's very throne . . . Though I scarcely realised it at the time and subsequently only very slowly and dimly, this episode represented for me one of those deep changes which take place in our lives; as, for instance, in adolescence, only more drastic and fundamental. A kind of spiritual adolescence, whereby, thenceforth, all my values and pursuits and hopes were going to undergo a total transformation - from the carnal towards the spiritual; from the immediate, the now, towards the everlasting, the eternal. In a tiny dark dungeon of the ego, chained and manacled, I had glimpsed a glimmer of light . . .

{Chronicles of Wasted Time, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1973, 458-459}

Meeting the Risen Christ

It was while I was in the Holy Land for the purpose of making three B.B.C. television programmes on the New Testament that a curious, almost magical, certainty seized me about Jesus' birth, ministry and Crucifixion . . . I became aware that there really had been a man, Jesus, who was also God - I was conscious of his presence. He really had spoken those sublime words - I heard them. He really had died on a cross and risen from the dead. Otherwise, how was it possible for me to meet him, as I did? . . . The words Jesus spoke are living words, as relevant today as when they were first spoken; the light he shone continues to shine as brightly as ever. Thus he is alive, as for instance Socrates - who also chose to lay down his life for truth's sake - isn't . . . The Cross is where history and life, legend and reality, time and eternity, intersect. There, Jesus is nailed for ever to show us how God could become a man and a man become God.

{Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk, UK: Fontana Books, 1969, 8 [Foreword] }

The Religion of Sex

When the devil makes his offer (always open incidentally) of the kingdoms of the earth, it is the bordellos which glow so alluringly to most of us, not the banks and the counting-houses and the snow-swept corridors of power . . . Sex is the mysticism of a materialistic society - in the beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word; with its own mysteries - this is my birth pill; swallow it in remembrance of me! - and its own sacred texts and scriptures - the erotica which fall like black atomic rain on the just and unjust alike, drenching us, stupefying us. To be carnally minded is life!

{Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk, UK: Fontana Books, 1969, 33}

Kierkegaard's Prediction of Mass Stupefaction

Marx and Kierkegaard, the two key voices of the twentieth century. The curious thing is that though Marx purported to have an infallible scientific key to history, almost all his prophecies have failed to happen. On the other hand, Kierkegaard's forecasts have been fulfilled to a remarkable degree. Take for instance his profound sense that if men lost the isolation, the separateness, which awareness of the presence of God alone can give, they would soon find themselves irretrievably part of a collectivity with only mass communications to shape their hopes, formulate their values and arrange their thinking . . .
[Kierkegaard:] Day in and day out the daily press does nothing but delude men with the supreme axiom . . . that numbers are decisive. Christianity, on the other hand, is based on the thought that the truth lies in the single individual . . . . . Not until the single individual has established an ethical stance in despite of the whole world, not until then can there be any question of genuinely uniting. Otherwise it gets to be a union of people who separately are weak; a union as unbeautiful and depraved as a child marriage.
{A Third Testament, New York: Ballantine Books, 1976, 104-106}

The Sacredness of Life

This life in us, . . . however low it flickers or fiercely burns, is still a divine flame which no man dare presume to put out, be his motives never so humane and enlightened. To suppose otherwise is to countenance a death-wish. Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other.

{Something Beautiful for God, New York: Harper and Row, 1971, 29}

Great Minds, Fools, and Christianity

The greatest artists, saints, philosophers and, until quite recent times, scientists, through the Christian centuries, . . . have all assumed that the New Testament promise of eternal life is valid, and that the great drama of the Incarnation which embodies it, is indeed the master-drama of our existence. To suppose that these distinguished believers were all credulous fools whose folly and credulity in holding such beliefs has now been finally exposed, would seem to me untenable; and anyway I'd rather be wrong with Dante and Shakespeare and Milton, with Augustine of Hippo and Francis of Assisi, with Dr Johnson, Blake and Dostoevsky than right with Voltaire, Rousseau, the Huxleys, Herbert Spencer, H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw.

{Vintage Muggeridge, ed. Geoffrey Barlow, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, 32-33}

TV and Fantasy

There is a gulf between reality, which for Christians is Christ, and the world of fantasy that the media project, and . . . Western people are being enormously misled by being induced to regard things on the screen as real, when actually they are fantasy. But, of course, God can use all things - even television, even you and me.

{Christ and the Media, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, 90}

Imagination vs. Fantasy

When I use the word "fantasy", I do not mean the imagination, because the imagination is the heart and source of all art. Coleridge has a splendid exposition of the difference between fancy, or fantasy, and the imagination. When Blake said he believed in the imagination, he saw the imagination as providing an image of truth. But fantasy is the creation of images and ideas which are not truth, which have no relation to truth, and which cannot have a relation to truth . . . It's an entirely different thing - like the difference between sentimentality and sentiment.

{Christ and the Media, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, 107}

The Incarnation

As far as the Incarnation is concerned, I believe firmly in it. I believe that God did lean down to become Man in order that we could reach up to Him, and that the drama which embodies that Incarnation, the drama described in the Creed, took place.

{Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, 140}

Men Like Gods

Writers like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell have imagined the sort of scientific utopia which is coming to pass, but already their nightmare fancies are hopelessly out of date. A vast, air-conditioned, neon-lighted, glass-and-chromium broiler-house begins to take shape, in which geneticists select the best stocks to fertilise, and watch over the developing embryo to ensure that all possibilities of error and distortion are eliminated. Where is the need for God in such a set-up? Or even for a moral law? When man is thus able to shape and control his environment and being, then surely he may be relied on to create his own earthly paradise and live happily ever after in it. But can he? . . . Is the endlessly repeated message of the media - that money and sex are the only pursuits in life, violence its only excitement, and success its only fulfillment - irresistible? . . . The Way begins where for Christ himself its mortal part ended - at the cross. There alone, with all our earthly defences down and our earthly pretensions relinquished, we can confront the true circumstances of our being . . . There, contemplating God in the likeness of man, we may understand how foolish and inept is man when he sees himself in the likeness of God.

{Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk, UK: Fontana Books, 1969, 112-113, 115-116}

Pope John Paul II

The Pope is a brave man and a tough man . . . he is an admirable choice as Pope precisely because he has been a cardinal in a communist country and therefore knows at first hand what it means to be at the mercy of an atheistic, tyrannical regime . . . His experience makes him - when faced by hostile movements or undermining tactics such as "liberation theology" in Latin America - the best champion to strengthen the authority of Pope and Church. And that strengthening is sorely needed in an irreligious, materialistic world, even at the cost of a certain conservatism.

{My Life in Pictures, New York: William Morrow and Co., 1987, 104}


Thomas Howard Quotes


[compiled and uploaded to my website in 1997]

Biographical Brief

Thomas Howard is one of the most popular and eloquent Catholic authors today, and (in my humble opinion) the stylistic successor to C. S. Lewis. Like Lewis, he is an English professor, formerly at Gordon College, and now at St. John's Seminary (both in Massachusetts). He was raised in a solidly evangelical family, and is the brother of the well-known missionary and writer Elisabeth Elliot. After becoming interested in a more liturgical style of worship at Wheaton College in the late 1950s, he became an Episcopalian.

In 1985, Howard was received into the Catholic Church at the age of 50, after a "20-year pilgrimage," shortly after publishing perhaps his most famous book, Evangelical is Not Enough. He cites the influence of great Catholic writers such as Newman, Knox, Chesterton, Guardini, Ratzinger, Karl Adam, Louis Bouyer, and St. Augustine on his final decision. Howard's always stylistically-excellent prose is especially noteworthy for its emphasis on the sacramental, incarnational and "transcendent" aspects of Christianity.

His conversion caused quite a stir in Protestant evangelical circles, and was the subject of a mildly frantic and somewhat defensive feature article in the leading evangelical periodical Christianity Today ("Well-known Evangelical Author Thomas Howard Converts to Catholicism," May 17, 1985, pp.46-62). His wife Lovelace has also recently entered the Catholic Church.


1967 Christ the Tiger
1969 Chance or the Dance?
1976 Hallowed be This House
1980 The Achievement of C.S. Lewis
1984 Evangelical is Not Enough
1985 Christianity: The True Humanism (with J.I. Packer)
1987 C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters
1991 The Novels of Charles Williams
1994 Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome
1995 When Your Mind Wanders at Mass
1997 On Being Catholic

Evangelical Strengths and Weaknesses

I owe my nurture to evangelicalism. The evangelical wins hands down in the history of the church when it comes to nurturing a biblically literate laity. When we think of evangelism, evangelicals are the most resourceful, the most intrepid, and the most creative. But evangelicals themselves would say that they have never come to grips with what the whole mystery of the church is. I don't know whether I've ever met an evangelical who does not lament the desperate, barren, parched nature of evangelical worship. They're frantic over the evangelical poverty when it comes to the deeper reaches of Christian spirituality and what the mystery of worship is all about.

{Interview: "Why Did Thomas Howard Become a Roman Catholic?," Christianity Today, 15 May 1985, 49}

The Meaning of Existence

There were some ages in Western history that have occasionally been called Dark. They were dark, it is said, because in them learning declined, and progress paused, and men labored under the pall of belief. A cause-effect relationship is frequently felt to exist between the pause and the belief. Men believed in things like the Last Judgment and fiery torment . . . Then the light came . . . Men were freed from the fear of the Last Judgment; it was felt to be more bracing to face Nothing than to face the Tribunal . . . The myth sovereign in the old age was that everything means everything. The myth sovereign in the new is that nothing means anything.

{Chance or the Dance: A Critique of Modern Secularism, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1969, 11-12}

Chronological Snobbery

Because a given era lacked a given body of information, we feel that its whole consciousness was naive. We can, therefore, sniff at, say, twelfth-century imagery of evil along with twelfth-century notions as to the shape of the solar system. The idea is that, having come upon information that supervenes the medieval cosmology, we can thereby dismiss all medieval notions as merely medieval . . . Their credulity left them open to the possibility of such touching vagaries as dragons, hell, and Virgin Birth. We, of course, know better . . . We now know that nothing exists that we cannot examine through a glass or on the consulting couch.

{Christ the Tiger, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1967, 138}


The eternal . . . attires itself in the routine, the inauspicious, the anonymous. It does this because it reserves itself (it is so holy) for the pure eye of faith . . . The eye of faith alone can pierce the surface and see Reality. That is why Catholics genuflect when they come to church. They know that this is a holy place, and to be found on one's knee is a very good posture in such precincts. It says, ceremonially, not verbally, "I am a creature, and thou art my Creator. I am thy child and thou art my Father. I am a subject and thou art my Sovereign. And alas, I am a sinner, and thou art holy" . . . A Catholic has difficulty in grasping what it is that non-Catholics espouse that precludes this act. Surely we are not mere minds? Surely all of us bring physical gesture to bear on all situations (a wave, a nod, a kiss). Why is the physical excluded here? Surely to exclude it here and here alone is to imply a gnostic (disembodied), not a Christian (incarnational) state of affairs?

{On Being Catholic, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997, 69-70}

Church Unity

Where we (non-Catholics) were pleased to live with a muddle, and even with stark contradictions (Luther vs. Zwingli, for example, on the Lord's Supper), the Church of antiquity was united. No one needed to remain in doubt forever as to what the Church might be, or where it might be found . . . There was one Church: the Church was one. And this was a discernible, visible, embodied unity, not a loose aggregate of moderately like-minded believers with their various task forces all across the globe. The bishop of Antioch was not analogous to the General Secretary of the World Evangelical Fellowship, nor to the head of the National Association of Evangelicals . . . . He could speak with the full authority of the Church behind him, whereas these latter gentlemen can only speak for their own organizations.

{Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome, Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1994, 38-39}

The Sins of the Catholic Church

Rome's opulence, her political machinations down through the centuries, her tyrannies and hauteur and self-assertiveness, not to mention the Dionysian romp in the Vatican in the Renaissance, what with Borgia popes and catamites and so forth: all of that is bad - very bad. The Catholic Church knows that. Dante, of course, had half of the popes head down in fiery pits in hell. Chaucer, contemporary with the Lollard Wyclif, but himself a loyal Catholic, is merciless - scathing even - in his portraiture of filthy and cynical clergy. St. Thomas More and Erasmus, contemporary with Luther and Calvin, were at least as vitriolic in their condemnation of Roman evils as were the Reformers . . . [But] Israel was not less Israel when she was being wicked . . . The Church is in the same position in its identity as people of God. We have Judas Iscariot, as it were, and Ananias and Sapphira, and other unsavory types amongst us, but we have no warrant to set up shop outside the camp, so to speak . . . Evangelicals, in their just horror at rampant evils in Catholic history, . . . unwittingly place themselves somewhat with the Donatists of the fourth century, who wanted to hive off because of certain evils which they felt were widespread in the Church. Augustine and others held the view that you can't go that far. You can't set up shop independently of the lineage of bishops . . . As far as the ancient, orthodox Church was concerned, nobody could split off . . . The problems of the Roman Catholic Church (sin, worldliness, ignorance) are, precisely, the problems of the Church. St. Paul never got out of Corinth before he had all of the above problems. Multiply that small company of Christians by 2000 years and hundreds of millions, and you have what the Catholic Church has to cope with. Furthermore, remember that the poor Catholics aren't the only ones who have to cope. Anyone who has ever tried to start himself a church has run slap into it all, with a vengeance . . . Worldliness, second-generation apathy, ossification, infidelity, loss of vision, loss of zeal, loss of discipline, jiggery-pokery, heresy - it's all there.

{"Letter to my Brother: A Convert Defends Catholicism," Crisis, December 1991, 23-24,26}

Monogamy and Fidelity

For Christians, the reason why it is ordinarily assumed that a marriage will go on "till death do us part" has been that this advanced lesson in Charity which marriage opens into is a long, a difficult one, and the life span that my spouse and I are allowed will certainly not be nearly long enough to finish the lesson . . . I will have as much as I can do to learn this advanced lesson well with one other person; a harem will only confuse my efforts.

{Hallowed be This House, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1976, 112-113}

Eucharist and Incarnation

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is, of course, one step away from the Incarnation itself, where the thing signified (The Word) and the signifier (Jesus) were absolutely one. Symbol and sign and metaphor strain towards this union; Sacrament presents it, but the Incarnation is that perfect union. Again, it is a scandal. God is not man, any more than bread is flesh. But faith overrides the implacable prudence of logic and chemistry and says "Lo!"

{Evangelical is Not Enough, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984, 111}

Christian Ceremony

Ceremony assists us to cope with the otherwise unmanageable. Far from erecting a barrier between us and the truth, it ushers us closer in to the truth. It dramatizes the truth for us. Ceremony does what words alone can never do. It carries us beyond the merely explicit, the expository, the verbal, the propositional, the cerebral, to the center where the Dance goes on . . . Ceremony belongs to the essential fabric of what we are. We do not need verses from the Bible to validate ceremony for us any more than we need verses to tell us to eat our meals or to have sex. The Bible is not a handbook of everything . . . To prohibit ceremony, or even to distrust it, and to reduce the worship of God Himself to the meager resources available to verbalism, is surely to have dealt Christendom a dolorous blow.

{Evangelical is Not Enough, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984, 98,100}

C.S. Lewis as Rhetorician

Anyone who has . . . read Mere Christianity . . . knows something of the sheer force and magnificence of Lewis in argument. There is nothing snide, nothing petty, nothing ad hominem, disingenuous, or irrelevant. All is magnanimity, clarity, and craftsmanship. Lewis knew backwards and forwards the art of argument - of rhetoric, actually, in its Renaissance meaning, designating the whole enterprise of opening up and articulating and working through a given line of thought.

{C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987, 15}

Orthodox Worship

When I walk into an Orthodox Church . . . one is immediately aware that one has stepped into the presence of what St. Paul would call the whole family in heaven and earth. You have stepped into the precincts of heaven! . . . I love the Orthodox Church's spirit. I think the Orthodox Church many, many centuries ago, discovered a mode of music and worship which is timeless, which is quite apart from fashion, and which somehow answers to the mystery and the solemnity and the sacramental reality of the liturgy.

{"A Conversation With Thomas Howard and Frank Schaeffer," The Christian Activist, vol. 9, Fall/Winter 1996, 43}


A rigorous doctrine of imputation is not only limiting but ends up doing a disservice to the nature of grace and justification. It makes the transactions of the gospel basically juridical. In the Roman view, justification and sanctification are a seamless fabric. It is more than a question of God simply seeing us through a legal scrim of Christ's righteousness. Righteousness actually begins to transform us.

{Interview: "Why Did Thomas Howard Become a Roman Catholic?," Christianity Today, 15 May 1985, 57}

The Gospel in the Mass

It is in the familiar structure of the Mass itself that a Catholic not only encounters but finds himself received into the very gospel itself, day by day, year after year . . . the entire liturgy is a seamless gospel fabric, so to speak. It is the gospel, in public, ceremonial, ritual, explicit form.

{On Being Catholic, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997, 122}

The Church Off the Rails by 95 AD

As a Fundamentalist I had discovered while I was in college that it is possible to dismiss the entire Church as having gone off the rails by about AD 95. That is, we, with our open Bibles, knew better than did old Ignatius or Clement, who had been taught by the very apostles themselves, just what the Church is and what it should look like. Never mind that our worship services would have been unrecognizable to them, or that our governance would have been equally unrecognizable: we were right, and the fathers were wrong (about bishops, and about the Eucharist). That settled the matter.

{Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome, Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1994, 32}

Devotional Legalism and "Magic"

Another thing that worried me . . . was the array of devout exercises that was seen by each group as having a unique and a divine validity. That is, people who were loyalists of any form of religious orthodoxy assumed that their set of gestures, and their set alone, represented true love for God . . . The great thing is to discover some activity that signals good intentions before God . . . There is almost no way of keeping ourselves free from the inclination to magic. We like to see others' gestures as vain, idolatrous, or superstitious, but it does not often occur to us to think about what would be left of our own righteousness if the familiar equipment were suddenly to vanish.

{Christ the Tiger, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1967, 72-73}

Sacraments and Nature

Sacrament is metaphor lifted by redemption from the mortal world, locked as that world is into mere "nature" . . . Sacrament, recalling and presenting the Incarnation itself, is not so much supernatural as quintessentially natural, because it restores to nature its true function of being full of God . . . , not in a pantheistic [sense] that blurs the distinction between Creator and creation but in testimony that indeed heaven and earth are full of His glory. Nature is the God-bearer, so to speak, not the god, nor God and nature merged.

{Evangelical is Not Enough, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984, 110}

Adam and Eve and the Fall

There is, like it or no, a Dance going on, and one may join or not . . . The implication . . . of the Adam and Eve story is that if they had bowed to the interdict placed on the forbidden fruit, life and not death would have been the guerdon. That is, paradoxically, if they had knuckled under to what looked emphatically like a denial of their freedom, . . . they would have discovered something unimaginable to them - something that, according to the story, was at that very point lost to them and us for the duration of human time.

{Chance or the Dance: A Critique of Modern Secularism, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1969, 106-107}

Inquisitorial Orthodoxy

That religious earnestness forever tends toward fright and hence towards brittleness and inquisition is clear enough in mythology and history. In the story of Job, for instance, God took the side of Job, who had complained and accused him, against Job's orthodox friends. They were correct in their propositions, but their loyalty to what they were sure was true had led them into subhuman attitudes. They had become inquisitors. Christ had a similar problem with the Pharisees, and Saint Paul with the leaders of early Christendom.

{Christ the Tiger, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1967, 97}


Love . . . asks that you disavow your attempt to enlarge your own identity by diminishing that of others. It asks that you cease your effort to safeguard your own claim to well-being by assuming the inferiority of others' claims. It asks, actually, that you die.

{Christ the Tiger, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1967, 144-145}

Sacraments and the Incarnation

Sacraments, like the Incarnation itself, constitute physical points at which the eternal touches time, or the unseen touches the seen, or grace touches nature. It is the Gnostics and Manicheans who want a purely disembodied religion.

{Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome, Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1994, 43}

Catholic vs. Protestant Heterodoxy

"Trouble," especially doctrinal conflict and the various efforts to include moral (read "sexual") innovations within the pale of the Church, is qualitatively different in the Catholic Church from what it is in the denominations . . . In church X, shall we say, we may find a bishop urging homosexuality as a profoundly Christian "style of life," or ostentatiously doubting the Lord's virgin birth, or busily eroding the confidence of his flock in the text of Scripture. Nothing can be done except ad hoc protest. Good men in the denomination may get up a White Paper, or write articles, or introduce a resolution in the next General Convention. But we all know what this sort of thing ends in. Alas. In the Catholic Church there occurs this same heresy and false teaching, often loudly taught in high theological quarters. But everyone - both in the world and the Church - knows that there is a desk on which the buck stops, so to speak, and that when Rome has spoken on the issue, it is concluded . . . Rome can say and does say to the Church and the world, "This which you hear Fathers C. and F. teaching is not Catholic teaching. It is not in accord with the Faith once for all delivered to us by the apostles." . . . No one need be in the slightest doubt on the point; whereas another denomination, if it can ever get up the votes, can only pass a resolution.

{Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome, Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1994, 84-85}

The "Embarrassed Catholic"

An embarrassed Catholic . . . goes to Mass, to be sure. But an onlooker might suppose that he was seeing a man awaiting the dentist's drill. Great gloom emanating from the facial expression, heavy winter jacket all bunched up, mouth clamped firmly shut during anything as stupid as singing, and a beeline for the door at the instant of dismissal. It can happen that, upon being asked about his faith, such a man will only mutter awkwardly, and change the subject.

{"Catholic is Not Enough," Envoy, May/June 1997, 39}

Malcolm Muggeridge's Conversion Story

[edited in 1991 and originally uploaded to my website in 1997. Malcom Muggeridge's words will be in black, mine in green]

Malcolm Muggeridge's spiritual evolution is fascinating (as is all that he writes):

As early as 1925, Muggeridge wrote to his father:

I want God to play tunes through me. He plays, but I, the reed, am out of tune. (1)

In 1958 he wrote in his diary:

Christianity, to me, is like a hopeless love affair. It is infinitely dear and infinitely unattainable. I . . . look at it constantly with sick longing. (2)

In 1966 he was a self-professed "religious maniac without a religion" (3). He declares, "I don't believe in the resurrection of Christ, I don't believe that he was the son of God in a Christian sense," (4) and says he is "enchanted by a religion I cannot believe" (5). Due to various studies, experiences and personal influences, Muggeridge had become a Christian sometime between 1966 and 1969, but not in the "born again" fashion:

My evangelical friends are always rather disappointed that I can't produce a sort of a Damascus road experience - you know, that I was such a person and then suddenly this happened and I was such another person. But I can't. (6)

Biographer Ian Hunter had a cloudy crystal ball when he opined in 1980 - two years before Muggeridge "poped," as the English put it:

Given his attitude to the church and clergy, it is amusing to read a news story every so often that Malcolm Muggeridge has just, or is just about to, join the Church . . . the Roman Catholic Church seems to be most often favored. In the highly unlikely event he were ever to join, this might well be where he would wash up . . . If he did, parallels with G.K. Chesterton would undoubtedly be drawn . . . In any case, whatever inclination he may have had in the direction of Rome has been extinguished since Vatican II . . . Temperamentally, Muggeridge is a nonjoiner, a free-booter who owes allegiance to no institution . . . or denomination. (7)

Always disdainful of liberal Protestantism (especially Anglicanism, like the three illustrious converts already described), Muggeridge had very mixed feelings about Catholicism through the years. Some excerpts of his ambiguous opinions will follow:

How silly, and how characteristic of the times, is the idea that truth is to be got by going back to, say, the Sermon on the Mount, or leaving out of account the historical fact of the Church, as though it were a sort of later parasitic growth. (8)

There are a lot of things to admire in the Roman Catholic Church - its survival, its plainsong, its authentic internationalism, the tough, obstinate battle it has waged against the 20th century; above all, the fact that, with all its villainies and chicanery, it has managed to keep the allegiance of the poor . . . The Protestant churches have long ago become, like N.A.T.O., a headquarters without an army. (9)

Roman Catholics are . . . altogether, in certain respects, very appealing to me, but on the other hand there are other aspects which are very unappealing. (10)

I know that Mother Teresa cannot understand the hesitations and doubts which make it impossible for me . . . to see it as other than an institution which a mortal hierarchy and priesthood can make or mar, sustain or let collapse . . . She wrote: . . . "Today what is happening in the surface of the Church will pass" . . .

What is more difficult to convey is the longing one feels to belong to the Church; the positive envy of those the bell calls to Mass . . . What joy to be one of their numbers! . . . Why not, then? Because, for me, it would be fraudulent . . . However much I long for it to be otherwise, the bell does not ring for me . . . The Church, after all, is an institution with a history; a past and a future. It went on crusades, it set up an inquisition, it installed scandalous popes and countenanced monstrous iniquities . . .

Today . . . the Church . . . has decided to have a reformation just when the previous one - Luther's - is finally running into the sand . . . If ever it became clear to me that I could enter the Church in honesty and truth, I should rush to do so, the more eagerly and joyously because I should know that it would give happiness to Mother Teresa . . . It is probable, in any case, that so potentially discontented and troublesome a member would be refused admission anyway. (11)

The only Church I would join is the Roman Catholic Church, which I have a sort of insane love for. But I would be an awful nuisance as a Church member . . . I wouldn't want to join a church that would accept me. (12)

If I were to find myself Pope . . . I should . . . meditate upon the . . . confusion, strife, and lunacy following Pope John's Vatican Council and the amazing decision resulting therefrom to have another Reformation . . . My first venture . . . would be to reissue Humanae Vitae . . . reinforcing its essential point that any form of artificial contraception is inimical to the Christian life . . . The divorcement of eroticism from its purpose, which is procreation, and its condition, which is lasting love, consequent upon the practice of artificial contraception, was proving increasingly disastrous to marriage and the family. (13)

I take a very pessimistic view of the Catholic Church, despite the very brilliant Pope you've now got . . . The things in it that hold my admiration are the very things that it's turning its back on . . . I can't join it; and I'll have to meet my Maker not having joined it. Probably I'll get a frightful pacing in purgatory for it, but I can't help it. (14)

One reason for my hesitating so long before becoming a Catholic was my disappointment at some of the human elements I saw in the Catholic Church. In spite of the following letter from Mother Teresa I held back, and a number of years went by before I could make up my mind:

"You are to me like Nicodemus . . . 'unless you become a little child . . .' I am sure you will understand beautifully everything if you would only become a little child in God's hands . . . The small difficulty you have regarding the Church is finite. Overcome the finite with the infinite . . ." . . .
As Hilaire Belloc truly remarked, the Church must be in God's hands because, seeing the people who have run it, it couldn't possibly have gone on existing if there weren't some help from above. I also felt unable to take completely seriously . . . the validity or permanence of any form of human authority . . . There is . . . some other process going on inside one, to do with faith which is really more important and more powerful. I can no more explain conversion intellectually than I can explain why one falls in love with someone whom one marries. It's a very similar thing . . .

It was the Catholic Church's firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally made me decide to become a Catholic . . . The Church's stand is absolutely correct. It is to its eternal honour that it opposed contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think, historically, people will say it was a very gallant effort to prevent a moral disaster . . .

I have found a resting place in the Catholic Church . . . Father Bidone, an Italian priest . . . and Mother Teresa have been the major influence in my final decision . . . (15)

On November 27, 1982, Malcolm Muggeridge and his wife Kitty were received into the Catholic Church - the journey completed:

Our entry into the Church is settled, which gives me, not so much exhilaration as a deep peace; to quote my own words: A sense of homecoming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long been vacant. (16)


1. Hunter, Ian, Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1980, 219.

2. Ibid., 220.

3. The Daily Telegraph, January 28, 1966.

4. Hunter, ibid., 225.

5. British Weekly, September 16, 1965.

6. William F. Buckley and Malcolm Muggeridge on Faith and Religious Institutions, New York: Nat. Committee of Catholic Laymen, Inc., 1981, 4.

7. Hunter, ibid., 232-233.

8. Ibid., 233 / Diary of November 16, 1934.

9. The Observer, December 15, 1968.

10. Muggeridge, Malcolm, Jesus Rediscovered, Bungay, Suffolk: Fontana Books, 1969, 199-200.
11. Muggeridge, Malcolm, Something Beautiful For God, New York: Harper & Row, 1971, 53-56,58.

12. Murchison, William, "The Cheery Doomsayer: An Interview With Malcolm Muggeridge," National Review, September 16, 1977, 1050.

13. Muggeridge, Malcolm, "If I Were Pope . . .", National Review, June 9, 1978, 706.

14. Buckley & Muggeridge, ibid., 28-31.

15. Muggeridge, Malcolm, Confessions of a 20th-Century Pilgrim, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988, 138-141,134-135.

16. Ibid., 13.

Ronald Knox's Conversion Story

[edited in 1991; uploaded to the Internet in 1997]

[Ronaold Knox's words will be in black; others in green]

Englishman Ronald Knox (1888-1957) converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism in 1917, and was the chaplain at Oxford from 1926 to 1939. In the 1940s, he translated the Bible, based on the Latin Vulgate, a work, according to a scholarly Protestant source, "generally agreed to be a remarkable achievement and among the best of modern renderings" (1). His many important books include Enthusiasm, Let Dons Delight, The Belief of Catholics, and God And The Atom. Evelyn Waugh, another convert of great literary repute, wrote of Knox in the preface of the latter's conversion autobiography, A Spiritual Aeneid:

He was the most brilliant and versatile churchman of the English-speaking world . . . At Oxford all the coveted distinctions . . . came to him as by-products of an exuberant intellectual and social life . . . There seemed no limit to the prizes, political, academic or literary, which a smiling world held out to him . . . In him, the Roman Church had found her most notable English convert since Newman.
Let's follow, then, the highlights of Knox's description of his journey, from the aforementioned book:

It is not easy for one who has abandoned a point of view . . . to explain, or even describe, how he came to change his attitude . . . This book was begun in the week after its author was received . . . Your religion builds itself up you know not how; some habits of thought stepped into unconsciously, others imbibed from study, others acquired by prayer. And beyond that, the whole complex of your psychology, moulded by innumerable influences not merely religious, predisposes you this way or that . . . (2)

In regard to orthodoxy, my views when I left Eton were orthodox above the average; my oracle was G.K. Chesterton (3) - he is so still. (4)

I read . . . Milman's (soundly Protestant) History of Latin Christianity . . . he comments upon the extraordinary precision with which, time after time, the Bishops of Rome managed to foresee which side the Church would eventually take in a controversy, and "plumped" for it beforehand . . . Each time Rome . . . thinks today what the world will think tomorrow . . . the Catholic party is the party in which the Bishop of Rome was, and nothing else . . . The Papacy seemed to be the thing which medieval Christendom was certain about . . . I had taken no new intellectual step: I saw the same set of facts, and my intellect made an entirely different report of them . . . If I was wrong then, how could I be certain I was not wrong now? . . . In this intolerable distrust of my own intellectual process I lay, miserable and inert. (5)

Now, I felt no pull either way, but complete inertia . . . I had become habituated to indecision, and found in myself no positive craving for light; the glamour of the Seven Hills had died away. (6)

Authority played a large part in my belief, and I could not now find that any certain source of authority was available outside the pale of the Roman Catholic Church . . . I did not crave for infallible decrees; I wanted to be certain I belonged to that Church of which St. Paul said proudly, "We have the Mind of Christ" . . . I had a more exacting idea of what "being inside the Church" meant. (7)

I arranged my rule of life for the retreat . . . about five hours a day spent in prayer, and one or two more in study . . . Before the end of my first week, I knew that grace had triumphed . . . I turned away from the emotional as far as possible, and devoted myself singly to the resignation of my will to God's will. (8)

I had been . . . fully prepared to find, that the immediate result of submission to Rome would be the sense of having one's liberty cramped and restricted in a number of ways . . . My experience has been exactly the opposite. I have been overwhelmed with the feeling of liberty . . . You can carry a weight so long that you cease to feel it; instead, you feel an outburst of positive relief when it is withdrawn. The suppressed uncertainty of mind was like a dull toothache that had been part of my daily experience . . . It was not till I became a Catholic that I became conscious of my former homelessness . . . I now found ease and naturalness, and stretched myself like a man who has been sitting in a cramped position . . . Nor do I feel cabined and cramped because intellectual speculation is now guided and limited for me by actual authority, as it had been . . . . by my own desire for orthodoxy. (9)

In 1950, Knox wrote a new preface to the Spiritual Aeneid, "After 33 Years":

The step which I took in 1917 is one which I have never had the wish . . . to retract . . . . I have never experienced a mood of discouragement or of hesitation, during these last 33 years, that has suggested . . . the possibility of going back where I came from . . . On the two or three occasions when converts whom I knew have gone back to the Church of England, I found it quite impossible to follow the workings of their mind . . .

The Church is better than your expectations, because she puts your ideas right about what you ought to expect . . . She moulds and mellows us . . . I do not find myself high and dry, but comfortably afloat in a fair depth of water. And that is, I think, no uncommon experience among converts who look back over a length of years. (10)


1. Cross, F.L. & E.A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford Univ. Press, 2nd ed., 1983, 787.
2. Knox, Ronald, A Spiritual Aeneid, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1950 ed., 2-4.
3. Chesterton was not yet Catholic at this point (1910), but had just written the very "Catholic-sounding" theological masterpiece Orthodoxy.
4. Knox, ibid., 107.
5. Ibid., 192-196.
6. Ibid., 205-206.
7. Ibid., 212.
8. Ibid., 213-214.
9. Ibid., 218-220,222.
10. Ibid., xviii-xx.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Further Catholic Reflections on the Ethics of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

[revised version {23 October 2006} of a similar paper, originally posted on 1-28-06. My former words are in blue]

* * * * *

First of all, it should be stated upfront that I write relatively little about "political" issues (though when I do, I write as vigorously and passionately as I do on any other subject I deal with). I try very hard to stick to strict apologetics (i.e., theology). I do more of that than any Catholic apologist on the Internet today, I dare say, while many apologists these days seem to want to deal quite a bit with cultural, ethical, political, and social issues: much more than theology, it appears, in many cases.

I think they deal with non-theological matters too much, relatively speaking (if they are apologists by profession, or as a major non-occupational interest), though it is no big deal and I am not faulting them for it; it's just my own opinion on emphasis. People have only so much new subject matter to write about. So they have to address current events or ongoing controversies while they wait for inspiration and subject matter to produce something original. It's tough; I understand that. But it is passing strange that I have to receive this criticism, all of this being the case.

I have produced many popes, bishops, conciliar statements, leading theologians, well-known priests, and apologists who oppose those bombings as inherently contrary to just war tradition, and hence, proper Catholic ethics.

Catholic bomb proponents with regard to this issue have not produced a single one that I am aware of. If it is such a respectable Catholic position, then I wish they would do that. But they haven't, and I think that is very telling, if not compelling. We're not Protestants; we form opinions hopefully with the Mind of the Church in our own minds.

It goes without saying that no one can speak "magisterially" about Hiroshima except for the pope or an ecumenical council, which is why I haven't done so, and have appealed to exactly those Catholic authorities whom I believe have done so at some important level. I'm not a canon lawyer or a theologian, and don't claim to understand every jot and tittle of how that works in this particular instance, but I do know that what has been written is pretty straightforward and all in one direction, which ought to count for something for a Catholic. Hence, when I was asked if the nuclear issue was similar to that of capital punishment and just war theory in general, I answered:

No, because I don't believe that this particular instance can be squared with just war ethics. If indeed it can't, then obviously, it falls into a different category, since it would be immoral by its very nature . . . . If, on the other hand, it can be, then the answer would be yes. Then I would like to see some major Catholic teacher / figure / bishop, etc. state that it is morally defensible by just war standards.

(comment of 1-22-06)

Obviously, I was giving my own opinion (not pontificating or attempting to ridiculously speak magisterially), which I am perfectly entitled to have. If indeed the act is immoral (as I believe) then no Catholic could hold it. But note that I didn't rule out the contrary hypothetical: "If, on the other hand, it can be . . ." I was simply nothing that there is no middle ground here: it is either impermissible by Catholic ethical standards or it is permissible. Everyone I can find who has any authority says it is impermissible. So I (as an obedient Catholic who abides by the Mind of the Church - whether the specific issue is defined at some high level or not) follow their thinking, which is nothing new for me because I held the same view as a Protestant since the early 80s.

I made my own view quite clear, again, on the next day, showing that I am not at all speaking as some "magisterium of one" (like the RadCathRs and integrists habitually try to do):

There is a sensible middle ground here, in what you are saying, Jim [Scott]. I agree that one can argue that a limited use of nuclear power is permissible and moral in a given circumstance. Pius XII himself said so. It is not inconceivable to make such an argument as a Catholic. Thus, I am not a "nuclear pacifist." Nor do I oppose deterrence. I accept it in precisely the way that JPII did.

However, concerning the particular instance of Japan (which is, after all, the only examples of military use thus far), I contend that the Church has condemned it, in the sense of it clearly being of the type that is condemned in the general teaching. It's condemned (by very strong deduction) at a lower level of teaching authority, but as I have shown, that is still sufficient to be binding and to prevent public contradiction of what has been stated.

Moreover, no one can find anything to the contrary, and it is condemned specifically in many lower-level statements, especially by Pope John Paul II. Such consensus proves to me that it is foolish and futile for any Catholic to attempt to argue otherwise (certainly publicly, at any rate). There may still be room for "conscientious objection" at least privately (I don't know; I'm no canon lawyer or moral theologian), but that doesn't mean that it isn't foolish to keep up the objection publicly, when the consensus in the Church is so crystal-clear.

Furthermore, these are two particular acts that we know a lot about, which is a lot more concrete than something like capital punishment or favoring a certain war: things which involve many variables. Those things are factually and situationally complex, so that men of good will obviously will come to different conclusions in different cases. But what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki forces one to take either one view or another (somewhat like the stark choice of accepting or decrying abortion). It's a known act. We know all about how it was planned and what occurred. What have popes and Councils stated about the matter? I have documented that. Pope Pius XII stated:

Even then, however, one must strive to avoid it by all possible means through international understanding or to impose limits on its use that are so clear and rigorous that its effects remain restricted to the strict demands of defense. When, moreover, putting this method to use involves such an extension of the evil that it entirely escapes from the control of man, its use must be rejected as immoral. Here there would be no longer a question of "defense" against injustice or a necessary "safeguarding" of legitimate possessions, but the pure and simple annihilation of all human life within the radius of action. This is not permitted for any reason whatsoever.

(source: Allocution {or} Address to the 8th Congress of the World Medical Association, 30 September 1954; cited in Gaudium et spes, at 80:3 as a background thought-source, and listed in AAS 46 [1954], p. 589; cited in John J. Cardinal O'Connor, In Defense of Life [Daughters of St. Paul: 1981]. Part of this book was reprinted in The Apocalyptic Premise: Nuclear Arms Debated, edited by Ernest W. Lefever and E. Stephen Hunt, Washington, D.C.: Ethics & Public Policy Center, 1982, pp. 295-308; entitled "The Church's Views on Nuclear Arms.")
Cardinal O'Connor remarked about the above statement:
This is a critically important statement that goes beyond the demand for what is usually called "proportionality" - that war is never justified if the means used, the cost, and the consequences seriously outweigh the anticipated gain, redress of wrong, or whatever. Here the pope goes directly to the heart of the crucial question about nuclear weapons, the question of predictability.
The Cardinal goes on to summarize what he believes the Church teaches on the matter. I agree with him. I disagree with my opponents. Those who are supposed to proclaim magisterially (I think it can be very strongly argued, as I am attempting to do right now) have done so in this case!

Gaudium et spes (80:3), from Vatican II, drew upon Pius XII's statement above, in its own very strong proclamation:
. . . the Council, endorsing the condemnations of total warfare issued by recent popes (3), declares: Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.

(Austin Flannery edition; Footnote 3: 3. Cf. Pius XII, Allocution, 30 Sept. 1954: AAS 46 [1954], p. 589; Christmas Message 1954; AAS 47 [1955], pp. 15 ff.; John XXIII, Litt. Encycl. Pacem in Terris: AAS 55 [1963], pp. 286-291; Paul VI, Address to the United Nations, 4 Oct. 1965: AAS 57 [1965], pp. 877-885)
The Walter M. Abbott version of the same passage follows:
. . . this most holy Synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes (260), and issues the following declaration:

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

(the footnote 259 informs the reader that this passage "contains one of the few uses of the term "condemnation" in the record of Vatican II")
Likewise, Pope Paul VI wrote on 1 January 1976:
. . . If the consciousness of universal brotherhood truly penetrates into the hearts of men, will they still need to arm themselves to the point of becoming blind and fanatic killers of their brethren who in themselves are innocent, and of perpetrating, as a contribution to Peace, butchery of untold magnitude, as at Hiroshima on 6 August 1945?" . . .
And again on 1 January 1977:
The close relationship between Peace and Life seems to spring from the nature of things, but not always, not yet from the logic of people's thought and conduct. This close relationship is the paradoxical novelty that we must proclaim for this year of grace 1977 and henceforth for ever, if we are to understand the dynamics of progress. To succeed in doing so is no easy and simple task: we shall meet the opposition of too many formidable objections, which are stored in the immense arsenal of pseudo-convictions, empirical and utilitarian prejudices, so-called reasons of State, and habits drawn from history and tradition. Even today, these objections seem to constitute insurmountable obstacles. The tragic conclusion is that if, in defiance of logic, Peace and Life can in practice be dissociated, there looms on the horizon of the future a catastrophe that in our days could be immeasurable and irreparable both for Peace and Life. Hiroshima is a terribly eloquent proof and a frighteningly prophetic example of this. In the reprehensible hypothesis that Peace were thought of in unnatural separation from its relationship with Life, Peace could be imposed as the sad triumph of death. The words of Tacitus come to mind: "They make a desert and call it Peace" (ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant: Agricola, 30). Again, in the same hypothesis, the privileged Life of some can be exalted, can be selfishly and almost idolatrously preferred, at the expense of the oppression or suppression of others. Is that Peace?
Here are the words of the late great Pope John Paul II from September 1999:
We cannot forget that your country is one of the symbols of peace, as you have just emphasized, since the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a message to all our contemporaries, inviting all the earth's peoples to learn the lessons of history and to work for peace with ever greater determination. Indeed, they remind our contemporaries of all the crimes committed during the Second World War against civilian populations, crimes and acts of true genocide which we thought were for ever in the past but are still being perpetrated in various parts of the world. In order not to forget the atrocities of the past, it is important to teach the younger generation the incomparable value of peace between individuals and peoples, because the culture of peace is contagious but is far from having spread everywhere in the world, as is demonstrated by persistent situations of conflict. We must constantly repeat that peace is the essential principle of common life in all societies.
(see source)
In February 1981, John Paul the Great said at Hiroshima: "To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war." Furthermore, here is an excerpt from the US Bishops document: The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response (1983), which cites Pius XII:
1. Counter-Population Warfare

147. Under no circumstances may nuclear weapons or other instruments of mass slaughter be used for the purpose of destroying population centers or other predominantly civilian targets. Popes have repeatedly condemned "total war" which implies such use. For example, as early as 1954 Pope Pius XII condemned nuclear warfare "when it entirely escapes the control of man," and results in "the pure and simple annihilation of all human life within the radius of action." [64] The condemnation was repeated by the Second Vatican Council:

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man itself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.[65]
148. Retaliatory action whether nuclear or conventional which would ndiscriminately take many wholly innocent lives, lives of people who are in no way responsible for reckless actions of their government, must also be condemned. This condemnation, in our judgment, applies even to the retaliatory use of weapons striking enemy cities after our own have already been struck. No Christian can rightfully carry out orders or policies deliberately aimed at killing non-combatants.[66]
True, this doesn't mention Hiroshima by name, but it certainly can be strongly, plausibly asserted that what it describes (as in Gaudium) would include Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville (IL), the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement to mark the anniversary of the bombings:

. . . we recall also the fateful days on which America became the first and last among the world's nations to use an atomic weapon. Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain permanent reminders of the grave consequences of total war . . . the permanent graves of Hiroshima and Nagasaki compel us to once again declare our rejection of total war . . .
Furthermore, to give but one example, prominent moral theologians casually assume that the bombings were "immoral" according to Catholic moral principles. I noticed one such statement in the densely-argued book Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism (Oxford, 1987) by the "conservative" moral theologians John Finnis, Joseph Boyle, and Germain Grisez. I looked up "Hiroshima" in the index, and the authors (no dummies, and quite acquainted with the traditional principles of just war and moral theology), quickly dismissed some argument trying to defend it. They also proved in short order (just as I have done in my research) that the plan was to bomb the cities and deliberately kill many civilians (utterly contrary to just war principles) , so as to destroy Japanese morale, and noted (as I did, again, long before I ever saw this book) that President Harry Truman later called these acts "murder" himself. I didn't write the page numbers down because I was looking for something else in the seminary library at the time, but they can be easily found via the index.

I've cited three popes and one ecumenical council, which directly draws upon the statement of Pius XII to make a very strong condemnation of something that I think includes these bombings within its purview.

If someone asks me as an apologist, "what does the Church teach about nuclear war, or about Hiroshima?," I answer to the best of my ability (in my case, very similarly to how Cardinal O'Connor answered the same question). I not only tell them what I believe the Church teaches, but (as far as I can determine and know, myself) the reasoning and some of the history behind that opinion, as that is what apologists do: give rational reasons for why we believe things, not merely what we believe.

To take a provincial, exclusivistic view of "apologetics as strictly theological only" is to fall into the same error that the fundamentalist Protestants fell into: by radically separating what they called the "social gospel" from doctrinal considerations. The liberals who were forsaking their traditional Protestant theological beliefs concentrated almost solely on social issues. The ones who retained the former beliefs concentrated almost exclusively on those and neglected the social, intellectual, and culturally transformative elements of Christianity.

We see those same dynamics (very much so) today, in Protestant and even political circles. Catholics are (or should be) much different than that. We (including apologists) combine both aspects, and do not dichotomize them against each other. Anything having to do with Church teaching, I will try to defend. That's my job. I discuss, for example, contraception, divorce, and racism. The last two are social issues. If they can be discussed, why not also matters of war and peace and just war, or, say, the excesses of capitalism and oppression of the poor (which is a huge theme in Holy Scripture)? These are clearly matters of high importance for Catholics and anyone who is conscientious about world affairs.

It is quite possible for me to cite others as to the situation and about what those in the Church have proclaimed about it. That makes perfect sense, yet some of my opponents on this issue didn't like that at all, and complain that I don't depend on my own self as the final determinant of my opinions on this (as they appear to do), but instead rely on others far more informed about the matter and authorities in the Church with regard to the particularly Catholic slant on the issue. They wrongly think that must be the fallacy of appeal to authority, by its very nature.

I have made no "magisterial statement." I again expressly deny having ever done so, and no one can produce a remark of mine which would qualify for such a thing - which would be utterly impossible anyway (not to mention ludicrous), as I am a nobody, and "magisterial" statements must come from popes and ecumenical councils.

It could very well be that the Church didn't condemn Hiroshima and Nagasaki specifically (i.e., by name) in Gaudium et spes, because it decries the tragedy that all war entails and consistently seeks to be a voice for peace, without ruling out the possibility of just wars and actions. That doesn't rule out the distinct possibility, however, that what was condemned there includes those acts as included within its description. The Church uses general language whenever it can. The classic example is Trent, where the Protestant founders (Luther, Calvin, etc.) were never mentioned, though their errors were condemned in no uncertain terms. Nevertheless, there are indications of a moral judgment, such as use of terms like "butchery" (Paul VI) and "crimes" (John Paul II).

It is true that Gaudium dealt with larger total war and Cold War issues (which is obvious from the context of 80:3), but not exclusively, since this passage cited as background thought Pius XII's allocution to the 8th Congress of the World Medical Association (30 September 1954) - cited above - in which that pope referred to "the pure and simple annihilation of all human life within the radius of action. This is not permitted for any reason whatsoever." Pius XII doesn't specify how large of an area, and according to Cardinal O'Connor, this statement even bypassed the criterion of proportionality. I have heard no argument back that it couldn't possibly include what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (only bald, dogmatic denials). Moreover, section 79 refers to general just war considerations, which are not solely dealing with total destruction of a global nuclear conflict:
. . . the natural law of peoples and its universal principles still retain their binding force . . . Any action which deliberately violates these principles and any order which commands such actions is criminal and blind obedience cannot excuse those who carry them out . . .

On the question of warfare, there are various international conventions, signed by many countries, aimed at rendering military action and its consequences less inhuman; they deal with the treatment of wounded and interned prisoners of war and with various kindred questions. These agreements must be honored; indeed public authorities and specialists in these matters must do all in their power to improve these conventions and thus bring about a better and more effective curbing of the savagery of war.
Thus, it seems quite plausible to me that the next section has a wider scope than simply the arms race and mutually-assured destruction. The rules of warfare and the just war tradition are also in mind, it seems. I believe that one can construct a strong argument that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were condemned, based on the characteristics in the conciliar condemnation as applied to that specific situation.

I have never claimed that President Truman was a war criminal; nor have I utterly condemned his decision to drop these bombs. In fact, I have stated over and over, the exact opposite. I completely agreed with George Weigel's "sympathetic but opposed" position.

I quoted another anti-Bomb writer in agreement, stating that he did not consider Truman a "bad man." I have denied numerous times that I consider Truman a war criminal or "murderer." Some people I cited think so, but I do not.

The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response
, written by the American bishops in 1983 offers one way of viewing the issue:

12. This passage acknowledges that, on some complex social questions, the Church
expects a certain diversity of views even though all hold the same universal moral principles. The experience of preparing this pastoral letter has shown us the range of strongly held opinion in the Catholic community on questions of war and peace. Obviously, as bishops we believe that such differences should be expressed within the framework of Catholic moral teaching. We urge mutual respect among different groups in the Church as they analyze this letter and the issues it addresses. Not only conviction and commitment are needed in the Church, but also civility and charity.

Apologists can give an opinion that we believe the Church teaches a certain thing. There is nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, allowing diversity of opinion means exactly that: diversity of opinion! One could hold that the Church teaches one thing; another might think it teaches a contrary position; a third may believe that the Church has not any preference either way.

Some bomb proponents seem to think it isn't even permissible for a Catholic to think that the Mind of the Church has opposed these bombings, even though this may be "sub-magisterial".
In any event, I am certainly not bound to their opinions as to what I should and shouldn't write about.

I should like to end by reiterating my sincere, inquisitive request for those who hold the position that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified attacks according to Catholic principles: please produce for me some orthodox Catholic moral theologians (even one, if that is all you can find) who argue as you do. I'm not denying that they exist at all. I have simply never seen one, and would like to know if such a creature exists and how he argues his position.
* * * * *

I say the bombings are pretty clearly condemned in the ordinary magisterium in Vatican II (as a species of what was described there). The task of those who disagree is to show that Hiroshima and Nagasaki do not constitute an example of what was condemned in Gaudium et spes. They've tried, but I don't buy it. I find their arguments ludicrous and special pleading of the worst sort (and that includes the arguments from double effect). They don't fly.

How does Gaudium et spes not condemn Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since it utterly condemned bombs which kill all human beings within a certain radius, as part of its inherent capabilities? I don't see how this doesn't apply. Double effect is superceded by this sort of moral reasoning concerning something which is absolutely impermissible in any circumstance. Double effect is irrelevant because the very nature of the act is intrinsically immoral. Pius XII's statement from which the Council derived some of its thought here is even more clear.

I believe that the pro-bombing position (from a Catholic standpoint; made by a Catholic) is ludicrous not only because it seems to clearly contradict magisterial teaching in Vatican II but because it is radically untrue to the known facts (i.e., it is based on factually-suspect premises in addition to being questionable according to Catholic teaching). These facts being:
1) That the decision was clearly made with the intention of targeting both military installations AND civilians. I believe that I proved this by producing several formerly top secret documents and Truman's own words.

2) The entire population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not all part of the military, as proponents seem to argue at times.
Therefore, there were innocents as classically-defined who were deliberately targeted. That cannot be squared with just way ethics. Period. Double effect is irrelevant because it wouldn't even apply if the intention from the outset was to also kill the civilians.

Happy Birthday to Mozart (250 Today) / Mozart's Catholicism

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) is (needless to say, but I will anyway) of inestimable importance to the world of music and western culture. Those of us who have a musical background (see mine) all grew up with his music. My sister Judy (same name as my wife) played his famous Rondo alla Turca endlessly on the piano back in the mid-60s (I listened to it today to celebrate the birthday), while I often played (and immensely enjoyed) one of the famous sonatas in the piano books (I don't recall the opus; any pianist will know which one I mean, I'm sure). I reached the height of my piano career in 1970 at age 12, with Chopin's Minute Waltz (I botched the correct fingering terribly, but managed to barrel through the piece with some semblance of respectability). But alas, my classical piano days ended in 1971, when my sister moved and took the piano with her. After that I concentrated on trombone in high school orchestra and band.

Once I got to high school, I discovered what is probably my favorite Mozart piece, Horn Concerto No. 1 in D, K. 412 (from 1782), which is playing on my turntable (yes, turntable!) as I write (Barry Tuckwell with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, conducted by Neville Marriner, Angel EMI S-36840, 1972). I once went to a Tuckwell recital in Orchestra Hall in Detroit. An acquaintance of mine played the solo horn part with my high school orchestra, shortly before I joined it myself. He was very good (as were many at my public school, Cass Technical High in Detroit, which is renowned nationwide for its music program, and offers vocational and avocational music majors - the latter was mine), and, last I checked, was teaching french horn at some respectable musical establishment somewhere.

Another person who played cello in our orchestra is now in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Many of my musical friends in high school are professional musicians now, while I became a Catholic and a writer. Back in 1976, I would have thought I had more chance to become an astronaut or ballet dancer than that! I didn't have the slightest idea what I would do with my life. I was scarcely a Christian at all, let alone a Catholic (which would come 14 years after that time). But those days playing music in ensemble are some of the very fondest memories of my life. It was fabulous, and should be experienced by any young person who loves music. I took lessons on trombone from the first chair in the DSO, and later actually played Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with them. Our brass section was invited to play during the finale. We came rising up out of the pit in front of the stage, blasting away, to the tremendous acclaim of the young crowd (I think it was one of those days where school kids visited the symphony). What a thrill!

So-called "Hagenauer" or "Leeson" portrait of Mozart from the mid-1780s (Mozart was about 30), recently discovered. See the link on comparison and authenticity of Mozart portraits, included in this post.

My first job (if you can call it that) was as an usher at the Detroit Symphony concerts. I think we got $5.00, plus, of course, the free concert. Shortly afterwards, Antal Dorati became the musical director, and began with a series of Beethoven concerts (that being 1977: the 150th anniversary of Beethoven's death). I was able to get in for free, as a former usher (which was good, as I had little money), and heard most of the symphonies and got to meet the maestro, too. I had read biographies of Beethoven as a child, and was always fascinated by him. I also thoroughly enjoyed whatever Mahler symphonies were played (he's my third favorite composer after Wagner and Beethoven).

But enough of all that (little-known facts about the early life of a Catholic apologist . . .): today is Mozart's birthday. I thought it would be interesting to note a few myths about Mozart, from the Wikipedia, in honor of the occasion:


Mozart's final illness and death are difficult topics of scholarship, obscured by romantic legends and replete with conflicting theories. Scholars disagree about the course of decline in Mozart's health—particularly at what point Mozart became aware of his impending death and whether this awareness influenced his final works. The romantic view holds that Mozart declined gradually and that his outlook and compositions paralleled this decline. In opposition to this, some contemporary scholarship points out correspondence from Mozart's final year indicating that he was in good cheer, as well as evidence that Mozart's death was sudden and a shock to his family and friends. The actual cause of Mozart's death is also a matter of conjecture. His death record listed "hitziges Frieselfieber" ("severe military fever"), a description that does not suffice to identify the cause as it would be diagnosed in modern medicine. Dozens of theories have been proposed, including trichinosis, mercury poisoning, and rheumatic fever. The contemporary practice of bleeding medical patients is also cited as a contributing cause.

. . . According to popular legend, Mozart was penniless and forgotten when he died, and was buried in a pauper's grave. In fact, though he was no longer as fashionable in Vienna as before, he continued to have a well-paid job at court and receive substantial commissions from more distant parts of Europe, Prague in particular. Many of his begging letters survive but they are evidence not so much of poverty as of his habit of spending more than he earned. He was not buried in a "mass grave" but in a regular communal grave according to the 1784 laws.

Mozart is unusual among composers for being the subject of an abundance of legend, much due to the problem that none of his early biographers knew him personally. They often resorted to fiction in order to produce a work. Many myths began soon after Mozart died, but few have any basis in fact. An example is the story that Mozart composed his Requiem with the belief it was for himself. Sorting out fabrications from real events is a vexing and continuous task for Mozart scholars mainly because of the prevalence of legend in scholarship. Dramatists and screenwriters, free from responsibilities of scholarship, have found excellent material among these legends.

An especially popular case is the supposed rivalry between Mozart and Antonio Salieri, and, in some versions, the tale that it was poison received from the latter that caused Mozart's death; this is the subject of Aleksandr Pushkin's play Mozart and Salieri, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Mozart and Salieri, and Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus. The last of these has been made into a feature-length film of the same name, which won eight Oscars. Shaffer's play attracted criticism for portraying Mozart as vulgar and loutish, a characterization felt by many to be unfairly exaggerated.

According to an essay by A. Peter Brown, "the Mozart mania of the 1980s was initiated by Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus. It and the subsequent film directed by Milos Forman did more for Mozart's case than anything else in the two hundred years since the composer's death." The same could be said of the popular myths currently surrounding Mozart, many of which are firmly rooted in the film.

However, Shaffer and Forman have never claimed that Amadeus was based in fact, as pointed out by Shaffer himself: "From the start we agreed on one thing: we were not making an objective Life of Wolfgang Mozart. This cannot be stressed too strongly. Obviously Amadeus on stage was never intended to be a documentary biography of the composer, and the film is even less of one."

Shaffer and Forman are equally quick to defend elements of the film which they believe are accurate but are disputed by Mozart historians. Shaffer has detailed in many interviews, including one featured as an extra on the DVD release of the film, how the dramatic narrative was inspired by the biblical story of Cain and Abel—one brother loved by God, and the other scorned. Transcribed as creative rivalry between Mozart and Salieri, the notion of divine blessing and murderous jealousy provides the basic premise for Amadeus, although there is no historical evidence of any rivalry between the two composers. Conversely, it is well documented that Salieri frequently lent Mozart musical scores from the court library, and Mozart selected Salieri to teach his son, Franz Xaver. One of the more detailed essays on the "dramatic licenses" present in Amadeus is written by Gregory Allen Robbins, titled "Mozart & Salieri, Cain & Abel: A Cinematic Transformation of Genesis 4".

. . . It has been speculated that Mozart suffered from Tourette syndrome. . . .


See a fascinating article on a newly-discovered Mozart portrait; also a second related one which authenticates the two newly-discovered portraits.


What about the Catholic faith of Mozart? Music writer David Wright, in some concert notes, stated: "Certainly the letters of those two composers [Bach and Mozart] are full of references to their (respectively) Lutheran and Roman Catholic faith." One music website opined:

Later generations, in their fervor for the only “true church music,” have found Mozart to be wanting in the requisite seriousness and lacking, with respect to his membership in a Masonic lodge, a genuine attachment to the Roman Catholic faith. Surely this is unjust: Mozart used the Masonic lodge primarily to cultivate his social contacts (and to secure many a loan from his fellow Masons), and the accusations of superficiality and lack of commitment are completely unfounded.

Liane Ellison Norman wrote a review of the book Mozart and the Enlightenment: Truth, Virtue and Beauty in Mozart’s Operas (W.W. Norton & Company, 1992), by Nicholas Till, in the non-Catholic Christian periodical Sojourners (May 1994):


. . . Till . . . concludes that Mozart was "one of the most penetrating intellects of his age, and...undoubtedly one of the great religious artists of Western culture."

. . . Shaffer and Foreman made Mozart into a sort of giggling rock star whose glorious music was both peerless and timeless. Till describes an altogether different figure.

. . . BECAUSE THE German Enlightenment largely repudiated religious music in its attempt to rid society of superstition and the power of the church, Mozart had relatively few opportunities to express his faith in religious music. Mozart thought of his talent as a gift from God and his work as a duty to God. His operas, Till thinks, work out his understanding of a Christian God in the context of real life.

Beginning with The Marriage of Figaro, Till suggests, Mozart worked on operas in pairs, trying to resolve problems posed by the Enlightenment in terms of his own sense of the continuity and values of his religious faith. Figaro, a play by the French dramatist Beaumarchais, was considered offensive by the emperor: In it a pair of servants are both morally superior to and smarter than their aristocratic employers.

. . . Mozart explored what the legal equality necessary for making contracts like marriage entailed. While affirming marriage, Mozart drew on his understanding of the Catholic doctrine of forgiveness. His "Christian Enlightenment recognizes that society can only operate effectively if human beings are also able both to apologize and to forgive....that only those who are willing to pardon others can hope for ultimate pardon for themselves." Forgiveness implies a different kind of contract, fidelity and sympathy of a more spiritual kind, than that any legal system recognizes.

All of Mozart’s operas, according to Till, "deal with the theme of ultimate forgiveness...charting a passage from transgression of some sort to forgiveness....In [Figaro] theological grace becomes truly immanent." The plot moves on the popular theme of a woman’s constancy, which "has the power to redeem the unsettled, improvident male worlds of business and politics with its promise of transcendent certainty and ultimate forgiveness."

. . . In Don Giovanni, literal damnation is a sign that Mozart was not prepared to abandon the ultimate sanction of Christian belief for the secularist’s confidence that nature can be regulated by gardens or contracts.

Don Giovanni is an unreflective sensualist, whose freedom is used to satisfy his appetites. He rapes, murders, violates the bonds of marriage, seducing women casually and indiscriminately and boasting of their numbers. Contracts have no meaning for the Don, because he breaks his promises just as casually. He ignores class distinction, regarding all women as the same, and thus destroys the distinctions among individuals.

. . . The question for Mozart, says Till, was "how can Don Giovanni be stopped?"


Dimitrios Markatos, who runs a website about Brahms, offers some marvelous particular evidence of Mozart's (and that of other composers, especially Beethoven's) deep faith (I've edited out one little dig at the Catholic Church, which is irrelevant to what he presents from documentary sources):


Two of the greatest composers in all of history, Beethoven and Mozart, consoled to God as a child does with his earthly father to whom he confides all his joys as well as sorrows. They stood toward God in the relationship of a child full of trust in his father. God was to Beethoven the Supreme Being whom he had jubilantly hymned in the choral portion of the Ninth Symphony in the words of Schiller, "Brothers, beyond yon starry canopy there must dwell a living Father." He was through and through a religious man, as Mozart was. . . . they knew God and sought after Him. Beethoven, in his diary wrote: "He who is above, - O, He is, and without Him there is nothing." As concerns Religion, he said: "Religion and thorough-bass are settled things concerning which there should be no disputing." The ways of God were ever-present with him at all times, which inspired him to quote in his diary, "In praise of Thy goodness I must confess that Thou didst try with all Thy means to draw me to Thee. Sometimes it pleased Thee to let me feel the heavy hand of Thy displeasure and to humiliate my proud heart by manifold castigations. Sickness and misfortune didst Thou send upon me to turn my thoughts to my errantries. - One thing, only, O Father, do I ask: cease not to labor for my betterment. In whatsoever manner it be, let me turn to Thee and become fruitful in good works." 19 In is of no coincidence that this proclamation by Beethoven is also stated and verified in the Bible "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24). This is the profound effect God and His divine word had on Beethoven. It's no wonder or some random luck that he's a supreme genius, either.

The eternally pious Mozart, had a cheery temperament which made it virtually impossible that his religious life should be as profound as that of Beethoven, but nonetheless he was still intensely devout. Mozart being a very religious person, disliked anyone who wasn't. In regard to them, he wrote to his father, saying: "...in a word I do not trust them. Friends who have no religion are not stable." Mozart personally knew God, and was greatly inspired by Him in his life and in his music (which attests that fact immeasurably), which in turn made him to say to his earthly father: "...I live with God ever before me. I recognize His omnipotence, I fear His anger; I acknowledge His love, too, His compassion and mercy towards all His creatures; He will never desert those who serve Him. If matters go according to His will they go according to mine; consequently nothing can go wrong, - I must be satisfied and happy." Furthermore, he wrote, at another time, to his father, saying: "Moreover take assurance that I certainly am religious, and if I should ever have the misfortune (which God will forefend) to go astray, I shall acquit you, best of fathers, from all blame. I alone would be the scoundrel; to you I owe all my spiritual and temporal welfare and salvation."20

Beethoven, Mozart and the other great masters, didn't need to physically see God to realize His reality. The ever-inspired Beethoven observed: "God is immaterial, and for this reason transcends every conception. Since He is invisible He can have no form. But from what we observe in His work we may conclude that He is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent." 21 To further proclaim Beethoven's humility before God, at one point, a copyist of his, Rampel, obsequiously addressed Beethoven as "gracious Sir," to this Beethoven replied "Go to the devil with your 'gracious Sir!' There is only one who can be called gracious, and that is God."22 This is who God is and what He does, and the impact He has on all true geniuses who are inspired by Him. Again, Johannes Brahms knew this of God, and said that God's "Spirit cannot be defined, but we can appropriate it,"23 just as they attained, and look at what they have bestowed us with. The great Brahms, further added: "You see, the powers from which all truly great composers like Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Beethoven drew their inspiration is the same power that enabled Jesus to work His miracles. We call it God, Omnipotence, Divinity, the Creator, etc." 24

Portrait of Mozart by Johann George Edlinger, done in Munich in 1790, a year before the composer tragically died at 35. It was also recently discovered, and is now considered the best and last portrait. I was ecstatic to discover these new portraits. Hooray and many kudos for Wikipedia for bringing them to our attention.
In like manner, Brahms was asked: "Dr. Brahms, how do you contact Omnipotence? Most people find Him aloof." "That is a great question," Brahms replied. "It cannot be done merely by will power working through the conscious mind, which is an evolutionary product of the physical realm and perishes with the body. It can only be accomplished by the soul-powers within - the real ego that survives bodily death. Those powers are quiescent to the conscious mind unless illumined by [God's] Spirit. Now Jesus taught us that God is Spirit, and He also said, 'I and my Father are one' (Jn. 10:30). To realize that we are one with the Creator, incidentally as Beethoven did, where he said, 'I know God is nearer to me than others in my craft. I consort to Him without fear,' is a awe-inspiring experience. Very few human beings ever came into that realization and that is why there are so few great composers or creative geniuses in any line of human endeavor. I always contemplate all this before commencing to compose. This is the first step." And after realizing all this, then, as he so well put it, said: "Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God..." Then Brahms was asked to further clarify what he meant, "Just what is your process in appropriating it [God's Spirit]? You must have some definite attitude towards that Power but what I wish to know is how you contact it?" And the ever-inspired Brahms replied: "Well, first of all, I know that that Power exists. You cannot appropriate unless you believe that it is a real living Power, and the source of our being" (Heb. 11:6).25 That is the profound understanding and insight, which so few are unable to comprehend nor grasp. The affect that God has in our entire completeness and of our progressive culmination towards perfection under His inspiration. The inspiration of God's Holy Spirit acting influence upon the ones who acknowledge Him, and therefore in turn produce divinely inspired treasures. Thus, God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). As Beethoven did, in knowing so declared that his ideas came from God. He knew quite well the source of his genius, as do all the composers that I have and will mention. Again, there is no coincidence - none!

(The Great Presence and Inspiring Effect of God in Man's Life)

Markatos also notes the strong religious faith of Haydn, Bach, Handel, Richard Strauss, Edward Grieg, and Giacomo Puccini. He concludes near the end:

The music of these profound masters speak louder than anything else, in defense of Theism. Think of all the timeless masterpieces we would have been deprived of, if they were atheists. And don't think they didn't come across any. Mozart (as we said earlier) who was like his father, a man of sincere piety, absolutely abhorred atheism. Mozart, who when he heard of Voltaire's (an atheist) death, wrote to his father, saying: "Now I give you a piece of news which perhaps you know already; that godless fellow and arch-rascal, Voltaire, is dead - died like a dog, like a beast. That is his reward."29
Just one correction: Voltaire was not an atheist, as commonly supposed. I'm pretty sure (without double-checking at the moment) that he was a theist, but vehemently opposed to the Catholic Church and institutional Christianity. The same was true of Hume, Paine, and Rousseau: also often thought by many to be atheists. I once shocked a philosophy professor with the proof about Hume (quite easy to discover with just a little checking). That just shows the needless ignorance about these matters, which reigns in academia.

On a humorous note; I just heard on the radio, which is broadcasting from Mozart's birthplace, Salzburg, Austria, and ringing the bells in celebration (they started right after I finished writing this), the following delightful little story:

A young child who was learning music wrote to Mozart asking if he could teach him how to write a symphony. Mozart wrote back, "a symphony is a very complicated piece of work. Perhaps you should try something a little simpler at first." The persistent child wrote back, "but Herr Mozart, you wrote a symphony when you were eight years' old!" Mozart replied again, "but I didn't have to ask anyone how to do it."
Indeed. I heard a lovely, very beautiful and moving piece of Mozart music on the radio yesterday. I was wondering what it was, and afterwards they said that he wrote it when he was 15 years old. What an amazing genius this devout Catholic man was. Happy birthday once again to the glorious Mozart: great witness of God's gifts and beauty. May he rest in peace, and above all, let us give thanks and praise to a God who will bless us with artistic giants like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Raphael, and Shakespeare (all Catholic, save for Bach).