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.

My Conversion to the Catholic Church (Radio Interview With Al Kresta)

[originally transcribed and uploaded on 12 January 1999, from a radio interview of 8 September 1997]

I consider myself (in apologetic matters) primarily a writer. That being the case, I haven't done much public speaking. On a few occasions, however, I was persuaded to venture out into the "oratorical world." I was interested in these particular opportunities because they were largely conversational in nature, which is my personal preference, as opposed to a straight lecture format. Talking is quite distinct from writing, and one who has read some of my papers may note that my style is markedly different as well. I'm much more formal and rigidly logical and systematic in my writing. The following exchange gives an indication of what I am like when I sit down to talk to my Christian friends and fellow apologists, or to a non-believer. I've been told that I am perceived as a much gentler, tolerant, friendly soul in person, compared to the impression some get from my writing! LOL I find that fascinating; I would hope that my writing does not come across as uncharitable at all. I do find most apologists to be genuinely nice people - contrary to what the stereotype may be.

The following is a transcript of the only spoken version of my conversion story, which presents several details and perspectives not included in my two written accounts. I was interviewed in studio by my longtime friend and former pastor Al Kresta (his words are in green), on his Catholic talk radio program Al Kresta Live, on WDEO-AM, from Ann Arbor, Michigan (now called Kresta in the Afternoon, and able to be heard on local Catholic radio or on the Internet). His story of his own return to the Church was also included in Surprised by Truth, right after mine: the last one of the book. Al's previous endeavor on WMUZ-FM, Talk From the Heart, was one of the most popular and influential evangelical Protestant talk shows in the country, from 1987 to 1997. I have also transcribed his own marvelous story of coming back to the Church. The interview was approximately 25 minutes long.


You're listening to Al Kresta Live. With me right now: Dave Armstrong, Catholic apologist and free-lance writer. Dave is also a longtime friend, and I think [he] has one of the best websites out there, if you're interested in the biblical evidence for Catholicism. Dave, good to have you here.

Great to be here, Al!

We wanted to talk about your story; how you came to know Jesus, and how you came to recognize His Church. It's contained in the volume Surprised by Truth. So, take us to the beginning.
Well, the beginning is when I was born, I guess, which is 1958. So I've been joking that I had my Jack Benny birthday this year: 39. [laughter] I was raised Methodist; pretty nominal. It wasn't very vital, and there wasn't much fire there, for whatever reason. So it took really, till 1977 to become an evangelical Christian.

Uh huh. How did that happen?

Basically, my brother Gerry, getting "saved" around 1971, and the spectacle of his long-haired friends comin' around, carrying Bibles [laughter] [laughter]; truth is stranger than fiction! And just observing them; it kinda got me wondering, "what's going on here? These people are talking about Jesus . . . " I thought you had to be a square [to be a good Christian]. It's kinda funny to look back.

[laughter] The things that were important to you then, yeah . . .

Yeah, as a 13-year-old [laughter]. But a big influence on me was the movies about Jesus that would come on.


Like The Greatest Story Ever Told. One time we were watchin' that (this would be mid-70s, I guess), and my brother Gerry said "well, Jesus is God." And I didn't even know that! That's how ignorant I was. I didn't even know the Trinity. I said, "no, he's the son of God!" And he said "no, He's God the Son." So I started thinking about . . . it gave me a different perspective, watching the movie, even, that this person is God in the flesh.

Yeah, I bet; it certainly would. You know, it's characteristic: a lot of kids who are raised in various religious traditions grow up completely ignorant of what those traditions formally teach. You were raised Methodist, which of course believes in the tri-unity of God and the deity of Christ, but by the time you hit your teens, anyway, you didn't even know that . . .

At least in the Catholic tradition, generally kids are going to parochial school; they get some kind of catechetical instruction. But I really didn't have that. I didn't have a good Sunday school, or much at all. I think if I had learned earlier, some of the things I learned later, that I think I would have had more zeal for being a Christian.

Mm hmm. So when do you usually date your conversion to Christ, or your commitment to Jesus?
That would be 1977, and it took a huge depression that I went through. I was 18 years-old at the time, and God - the way I look at it - God more or less had to put me right on my back to see that I couldn't survive on my own. Because I was under this illusion, "well, you don't need God." I had lived for ten years without goin' to church - a very secular life; kinda like what you see in England now, where 4% go to church every Sunday.

Yeah, . . . yeah. Once having committed your life to Jesus, were you immediately on fire?
Well, for a few days [laughter]. Then I kinda went back into a lukewarmness for three more years.

Well, I would go to Bible studies, at Messiah Church [an evangelical Lutheran church with an outreach to the inner-city and young people]. That's a very good church. It was a good place to start. But I didn't even go to church on Sunday; I just went to the Bible studies. And I would read things like Hal Lindsey, which interested me because of prophecy.


But in 1980, when I went to Shalom House (where Al used to be the pastor - if people don't know that here); that's when I really started to - I would say - commit myself to Jesus, and since then, it's been pretty constant.

Yeah . . . and that was before I was pastoring there, to give all due credit to [name], who was pastor at the time.

Yeah, Al got there six years later . . .

[laughter] What was your experience like as an evangelical?
Well, I loved it . . . ummm . . . I was thinking, driving out today: most conversion stories I hear from Catholics, they don't run down their evangelical experience.

They see it as kind of a stepping-stone. So I have great memories and fond memories. I learned all about the Bible when I was there, good moral teaching . . . I just think there was more to it that the Catholic Church can offer, along the lines of sacramentalism and tradition and matters of Church and authority.

Yeah. Now, when did it first dawn on you that you wanted something more than you were receiving in this particular evangelical setting?

Really, it wasn't until . . . I went about ten years being an evangelical, and involved in counter-cult ministry and my own campus ministry, and then in the late 80s, I started becoming involved in Rescues (Operation Rescue: pro-life activities). Even then, I didn't have a sense that there was something more that I need, than I have now. So it really goes all the way up to 1990, when I started having a discussion group. I invited two Catholics that I had met in the Rescues, and that started getting me thinking, when they would start answering questions, because I used to think, "Catholics don't have any answers to these questions . . . " I had very little experience talking to informed Catholics, unfortunately. And then I met one, named John McAlpine, who's a good friend of mine, that could actually answer things that I would ask him. And he just got me curious, and I started studying at that point, in 1990.

My very good friend John McAlpine (left), sponsoring my reception into the Catholic Church on 8 February 1991. He had the most personal influence in my conversion.
What were the questions that were most puzzling for you?

At that time, being a pro-life activist, I was curious about contraception, where Catholics would be against that - or supposed to be against it; the Church is against it - and they would make a connection between that and abortion. And I'd try to figure that out: "what connection does that have, because one is trying to prevent conception; the other is killing a child?" That got me thinking. And they'd tell me facts like, "the whole Christian Church was against contraception until 1930."

Did that bother you?

Yeah, that gave me a start, because I always valued Church history. So, to hear that fact, it was kinda like a bombshell. So I thought, "man, if it was unanimous up till then" . . . I thought it was a stretch to believe that in our century, that we would get a moral teaching right, and 1900 years had messed it up . . .

Of all centuries, with all the murder we've had in the 20th . . .

I was gonna say, the bloodiest century in the history of the human race . . .

Yeah, exactly.

And all of a sudden we have some grand new moral insight.
The light goes on . . .

Yeah [laughter]; that's good . . .

It's interesting, too, how in 1930, it was the Anglicans, in their conference that year, that changed it, and they talked about "hard cases," just like we've heard in our time.


So it's the same kind of mentality: "it's only in hard cases, and we won't expand it any further than that." But obviously it has been [expanded].

Yeah. We've got three instances that come to mind here: the contraception case, which was argued [on the basis of] hard cases, "so let's permit it here"; then you have Roe v. Wade; "hard cases, well let's permit it here"; and of course the case before us today has to do with assisted suicide: "well, we need it for hard cases." But if the hard case argument has any historical meaning, then we know that what was once the hard case becomes the normal case.

Yeah, that's right.

So contraception has become well accepted under not just hard circumstances, but in almost all circumstances - same thing with abortion.And my guess is, you'll have the same thing with assisted suicide. Hard cases make bad law . . . So at the 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Church goes ahead and permits contraception in tough cases; the first time any Christian Church has permitted the use of contraception. John McAlpine tells you that; you're shocked [laughter]; you say, "wait a minute! I don't think we've got any grand new moral insights in the 20th century that the Christian Church has missed for the last 1900 years." So that shook you up a bit. What'd you do? What'd you do about that?

Basically I didn't have a defense for that. I just stood there, silent, at one of the meetings - I don't know if it was during the meeting or after. But I just started thinking about that issue, and I became convinced, that . . . I tried to work through the distinction between contraception and Natural Family Planning, which is permitted for Catholics. And I came to realize that in one case you're deliberately thwarting a possible conception; you're going ahead and having sex anyway, and it's kind of against the natural order. You don't even have to appeal to Church authority to know the wrongness of it, if you reflect on the morality. Then I remember one time, you were at my house, and made this analogy of - I was convinced by then, but it makes sense - comparing that to how when people eat, you have the nutritional aspect and the taste buds. That people would think it strange if you separated one from the other; if you just ate for pleasure or vice versa. And I thought that was good. I don't know if that's original with you, or where it came from.

[laughter] I don't know where it came from, either, but yeah, I do remember that. You weren't yet a Catholic at the time, or were you?

No; at that time - the middle of 1990 - I was evangelical. And I remember thinking, "well, if I change my mind on this, I'll be in a small minority among evangelicals . . . "


And I knew what the implications of that might be . . . it could develop further, but I still would have said, "well, it doesn't mean I'm gonna be a Catholic."

Right, right.

But I thought it strange that the Catholic Church had, I thought, the best moral theology of any church. So I thought, "how could they be right about these things, and be so wrong on Mary and the pope?," and the typical things that evangelicals don't like.

Yeah. So really, your entrance; your being wooed into the Catholic Tradition, was through this question of contraception? That's the beginning?

The very first thing, yeah.

Where does it move from there?
Um . . . well, see that brought to my mind matters of "What is the Church?," because I believed that there was such a thing as the Church, with a big "C". And I found it interesting . . . I was in counter-cult ministry, and they had this habit of talking about, "well, the early Church condemned Arianism in the Council of Nicaea." They'd have this notion of the Church. But then somehow that gets lost after Luther comes on the scene; all of a sudden now, it seems like evangelicals are reluctant to talk about the Church, because they know it usually refers to us. We're the only ones who use that terminology (well, the Orthodox, do, too). So I started thinking, "how does that work out?" I had a view that the early Church was Protestant. It became corrupt with the Inquisition and the Crusades. And then - I mentioned in the book - Luther picked up the ball in the 1500s; it sort of switched over to Protestantism at that point. The Catholic Church was still Christian, but it wasn't what I would call the mainstream. The evangelicals were really where it was at and the Catholics: they had enough truth, but not enough . . . they could still be saved, but they were just in a different league - that's how I used to think.

Hmm; interesting. So, you began to question what it means to be "the Church" and how you can consistently use that phrase: "the Church," because, of course, unless you have some sort of visible unity, then how do you know who's in and who's out? Who really speaks for the Church?

When was that settled for you?
At that time - we're still in the middle of 1990 - in my discussion group every two weeks, we were talkin', and John and another friend of his named Leno (really good Catholics and committed pro-lifers) . . . it was just observing them: the faith that they had and the answers they would give . . . But I would try to shoot down the idea of infallibility. I would say, "Ok, you guys can be the Church, or a Church, but you're not infallible." I thought that was just totally out of the ballpark. That couldn't be: there were too many errors, and there was the Inquisition, and so forth. So I started doing my own study, and even going to Sacred Heart Seminary and trying to shoot down the Catholic Church. I found the typical things that people bring up, about Pope Honorius, who supposedly was a heretic, but it was all from a kind of jaded viewpoint. As I look back, I wasn't being objective; it was like special pleading: you go in there with an idea and try to just find what fits in with it. And so, when I look back at that, I can see that it was sort of a dishonest effort; that there are good Catholic answers to all these so-called charges of heresy. And we see it; it comes around. This kind of stuff is being talked about today, even within the Church. Like Hans Kung and his book Infallible? An Inquiry. It's the same kind of thing, but on my website I have a book that refutes that, by Fr. Joseph Costanzo. So there are answers to these things. Catholics just aren't aware of them, by and large.

Yeah. And it's part of the problem. How do you go about empowering the laity, so that they have this background in history and theology and Scripture. This is a major issue, it seems to me, facing the Catholic Church today.


We've got such grand impetus from Vatican II and from this present pope about the necessary role of the laity in carrying out the priorities of the kingdom of God and of the Church, and yet we find, at the same time, really very few Catholic bookstores; very few places where people can find information. I hope now with the Internet out there . . .

Thank God for that!

. . . people can have access . . . and get their education, and learn a little bit more about Church history and theology and Scripture.

You're still not in the Church yet . . . what finally starts pushin' you over the line?

Al Kresta, talk show host and author of Why Do Catholics Genuflect? and Why Are Catholics So Concerned About Sin?
Well, that's one word and that's [John Henry Cardinal] Newman. My friend John became totally exasperated with my constant questions. I was getting into some pretty technical things, and he hadn't done the study, so, understandably, he wouldn't be able to figure out Honorius, and all these things in history. So he said, "why don't you read Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine?" - which is considered the classic on that subject. And of course, Newman is a genius; he lived in the 1800s. So I started reading that book, and basically it destroyed the whole conception that I had, this notion that the early Church was simple and Protestant, and became corrupt . . . because he develops (no pun intended) the idea that you can have a development as opposed to a corruption. A doctrine can grow, but it doesn't have to be a corruption, because it remains the same in essence. What's happening is that you just understand more. You can find this in Augustine and early Fathers; it's there - the idea is there, and I think it is the key to Catholic history; why we think we're the apostolic Church, and Protestantism broke off of that, because their doctrines - many of them - didn't develop; they just sprang into existence.

So that was for you a turning point in dealing with this idea of "why does the Catholic Church, with this luxuriant overgrowth of custom, and teaching, discipline, and liturgy; why doesn't it look more like what Paul is describing in 1 Corinthians 12-14?" - which looks more like a primitive pentecostal church service.

Yeah [laughter]; yeah, cuz we had this notion that - probably you did, too - the early Church was this bunch of "Jesus Freaks" runnin' around, meeting in caves [laughter]. You know, they didn't believe in the Eucharist, or any of that kinda hifalutin' stuff. But that's really not what you find . . . I didn't do this at the time, but since then, I've read the Apostolic Fathers, and you see that it's very "Catholic." They believed in Real Presence, and regenerative baptism - all the things, pretty much, that Catholics believe today, only in more primitive form. You didn't have - particularly - the idea of Scripture Alone / sola Scriptura. It's just not there. People will quote the Fathers, extolling the Bible, and they'll say, "well, see, they're Scripture Alone." But no, they're just saying the Bible's a great book (of course, everybody agrees with that). Catholics think that . . . The bottom line is the question of authority: who has the authoritative interpretation of Scripture? No one's denying that Scripture is God's Word. And the Catholic Church has an impeccable record on that score. So it's a question of authority, and the Church Fathers would appeal to apostolic Tradition, or succession. They would say, "we trace ourselves back to the Apostles; therefore we have true Christian teaching." And that was the basis of it, rather than Bible Alone. Because people would disagree on that basis, as they do today.

Once that obstacle is removed for you: the idea of a developing doctrine, what remains?
Umm . . . at that point, I told myself, "okay, now I have the Catholic viewpoint of history, so I need to look at the Protestant 'Reformation' and determine, 'what is the Protestant Reformation?' " I had read a little bit about it, but I wanted to get more in depth and maybe read the Catholic views of it - get the other side . . . Because, there again, you have this myth that Luther came . . . and somehow the Bible was in chains, and the Church was in darkness, and Luther comes out and brings the Bible to the people . . . And there's a lot of mythology there, because, for instance, a hundred years before Luther's time, there were fourteen versions in German of the Bible. By Catholics. And yet the popular notion is that no one had the Bible, and they were chained . . . and that's because of the printing press. You didn't have widespread literacy and Bibles until the printing press, and that was only in the 1450s. So, there's a lot of that kind of . . . it's really anti-Catholic at its core, the idea that the Catholic Church was somehow suppressing the Bible.

Yeah; putting a deliberately negative spin on these historical circumstances. And there were cases, of course, where you have legitimate debates over what is an acceptable interpretation, as the debates between Sir Thomas More and William Tyndale show, where the Church had to act, just as any government would act to protect people under its charge; the Church has to act to protect people from bad translations. In its lights at the time, they saw Tyndale's translation as a bad translation.

Yeah; that's really the Catholic answer to this charge that "you suppress the Bible!" And we say, "we just suppress bad translations of the Bible." That's nothing more than fundamentalists do today. They say "this is a liberal translation." It's the same exact thing, but it has that slant to it because they assume that we're somehow anti-Bible, which is absurd. We're the ones who preserved it for a thousand years! You know, you hear about these monks and their manuscripts: these beautiful books. So people should just know more about the history; that's really what needs to be done.

So then, where do you move, after that?

Ummm, at that time I read a book called Evangelical is Not Enough, by Thomas Howard. He's a great writer. I see him as the successor to C.S. Lewis, stylistically. And he showed how the liturgy was . . . the Catholic Mass had this transcendent quality to it, that transcends time and space. It's a fantastic book. So that kinda gave me a feel for liturgy, which I had virtually no experience with, or that much love for, really, cuz I was evangelical low church. And I read a book, also, called The Spirit of Catholicism, by Karl Adam.

Oh yeah - one of my favorite books.
And that was just wonderful. And then at that point, basically it was just a matter of getting over the cold feet and the jitters.

Did you have this period of time where you kind of intellectually were persuaded, but somehow the will just wouldn't grasp; wouldn't jump?
Yeah - the common thing with most converts is, "I think I believe it, but now I have to . . ." [laughter] Kinda like getting married: "I have to do this, and it just has to be done."

[laughter] What finally warmed your heart to move, then?

I was reading a little meditation by Newman, called Hope in God the Creator. And it ended with a whimper; whatever resistance was there . . . I said to myself, "well, no, I'm a Catholic now, I believe everything, so now's the time." So it just happened. And there's a lot of other stuff, but that's basically it.

Well, I remember when you were going through that. I had stopped pastoring at the time, and was also moving in the direction of the Catholic Church, and yeah, I had no real resistance to offer you [laughter] [laughter]. I thought you didn't have too many options, Dave. [laughter]
[laughter] That's bad when your former pastor has nothing to say . . . [laughter]
Well, the story is well told in Surprised by Truth, . . . I wanna thank you so much, Dave, for being with me. And we'll talk again.

It's been great; been a pleasure.

Dave Armstrong: longtime friend and now Catholic apologist and free-lance writer. His story is told in Surprised by Truth.

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.