Tag Archives: Christianity

John 11: 50


Here is a letter I have written to Fr. Robert Shanley, President of Providence College, and who is currently presidentially presiding over the very dignified and collegial lynching of a great scholar, a devout Catholic defender of the Truth, and a good and decent man.  I imagine him in his robes of office: aloof, yes, compassionate, of course, aware of all the necessary facts, without question, and deeply concerned for the lives, and souls and the, well, the reputations about to be supported or sacrificed for the greater good of the school and benefit of all mankind.  It is what presidents do…when not playing golf or hosting benefactors, delivering speeches and looking magisterial and compassionate, wise and consoling, boundlessly merciful and intuitively practical; when being, in a word, godly:


Rev Robert Shanley, O.P.


Providence College

1 Cunningham Square

Providence, RI 02918 USA


Dear Father Shanley,

You have been described to me by people better informed than I am as a philosopher, an art of which I have only a passing knowledge.  And as a priest, and a Dominican at that, I am reasonably sure that you are more than well versed in Catholic theology. Indulge me in a little bit of my own background, stories from my youth about philosophy and theology.

Father Anthony Rubsys, who went to Heaven, I am sure, in August, 2002, was a refugee from Communism who came to America during the Hungarian uprising.  He was a biblical scholar fluent in seven languages, a good and gentle, a loving, man.  He taught me in class and counseled me out of it.  He was extremely intelligent, extremely gentle and deeply concerned for The Good.  Why else not, I have often wondered while thinking about and praying for him; a man who saw and suffered much, all of it the result of when and where he lived before coming to this country, through the horrors of Nazism and the Second World War and the soul sickening weight of post-war Communist rule.

As an assignment in one of his classes, I wrote a paper on Thus Spake Zarathustra.  I was taken then with the Strauss tone poem, and stupid student stuff.  So I wrote the paper and handed it in.  Several days later Father Rubsys returned it with this note in his handwriting above my title, which was something like Superman, “Why do you waste your time on this when the faith has so much more to offer, to study?”  I cannot remember much beyond the title of the thing I wrote about. Nor can I remember much about the music, except what bit of it opens that film by Stanley Kubrick.  Few, I suspect, will remember much about it, if anything at all in another hundred or so years.  Almost no one knows the film’s music’s title.

Harry Blair was a much decorated World War II veteran, a tank commander in Gen. Patton’s Third Army, a tragic man, and a Shakespeare and Renaissance scholar.  I took every class of his that I could and got to know him very well.  He drank too much; but, I suppose, he had every reason to do that.  When he taught King Lear his classroom was filled beyond capacity. His rendering of the King’s speech in the storm on the moor brought more than one student to tears, myself included, as we listened to an old man pour out his grief at having given his life to his children and been misunderstood, spurned, betrayed, cast away.

I once had a letter published in the school’s newspaper…the editor was a friend of mine…and Harry read it, of course.  The letter called for the “aggiornamento” underway in Rome to be extended and applied at the school, for there to be a radical change in, well, just about everything.  I remember I called not only for windows to be opened but walls to be demolished and ended with “I would have no church at all!”  Brave words, I have thought more than once since.  Brave words for the inferno we face, now.  We sat together, Harry and I at the bar in the Pinewood drinking an afternoon beer and he showed me the issue of the paper with my letter, quietly asking me what had possessed me to write it.  Seriously I answered at length about all of the things I saw that were wrong and needed changing.  “You are very young,” he answered, and then we went on to talk of other things, though I do recall him wondering aloud about the lady I was soon to marry and asking how she felt, how I might feel when I was a father.  But, there he left it.

Bear with me, please, Father.  I do have a point.

There is no doubt that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a philosopher like yourself, and a great and good man.  Were he a Catholic, I suppose his cause would already have been introduced.  In many ways he was a martyr for the truth, and a lover of the beautiful in people, in society and in all of creation; even when found in the Gulag, anterooms to hell built and maintained by hell’s servants here on earth.  Maybe that’s overly dramatic, but, nevertheless…  Joseph Pearce, who wrote an excellent biography of Solzhenitsyn, has written his own story, and a fascinating one it is.  He calls it Race With the Devil, and discusses his descent into violent racism and hate, and ascent from it through the grace of God.  Indulge me in a quote from Pearce’s book:

“My descent into delinquency was aided and abetted by the progressive philosophy adopted by the school. No effort was made to impose discipline, which resulted in the triumph of anarchy in the classroom… (The) disruptive elements made it difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to teach and for students to learn.”

I apologize for the size of the quote.  I cannot figure out how to change the font. Nevertheless, it’s the sad truth and the tragic cause of the matter at hand, and the inevitable result of the choice in this matter (and in how many others?) you and the faculty quislings who brought this complaint against Professor Esolen to you seem, for all of your wisdom, training, education and Catholicity, to have made.  That the “death” of one man is necessary.

And, I cannot understand why you did what you did; a great disservice to the students , confirming them in their stupid and uncharitable,  selfish and infantile behavior…at the same time causing pain, anxiety and worry to not only this good man and his family, but thousands of other people who have never yet met the man face to face but know and treasure him through his prolific good works, his brilliantly clear and consistently charitable mind, and his reliably masterful scholarship.

You are a priest and pastor, too, finally much more important callings than mere president.  Have you acted in this instance as either one?

I expect that  Caiaphas was thought a wise and good man, a president, so to speak, who gave no help when help was needed.  And, of course, we all know what to think of Pontius Pilate, who simply gave up before the angry mob.

Which of the two should one say best describes you in this matter?

Yours truly,

Peter Gallaher

PS:  I only know of one other person named Shanley, a fellow I came across many years ago when I was working.  He was a Wormtongue, covert slave to Saruman.  In other words a coward and a traitor.




Do Ya Think?

Yesterday I read a short article in a British paper: The Telegraph.  The article was a report on a study conducted on the life, and the prospects for life, of Christianity in the Middle East.  Those few of you still familiar with the word, Christianity, comfortable in its presence, inclined to use it favorably and with some affection and loving attachment will know what I have reference to.  For the growing majority of people whose understanding of and connection with the word and its meaning is arguably much less than their knowledge of the leading actors in The Walking Dead or the line on next week’s NFL games let me try to place it for you; to contextualize it.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  You will immediately see there is a similarity between the words Christianity and Christmas.  I will not belabor the thing, but simply point out that the first syllable is, itself, a word: Christ.  And the word signifies a man.  Tomorrow is, despite the amazing amount of evidence to the contrary, the celebration of the birthday of that man, the annual observance of that event by the dwindling few who happen to believe in the man and the stories told about him; what he said and did.  Simply put that is the astounding fact that Christ is at one and the same time God incarnate and the savior of the World and a man “born in time, born of a virgin.”  No, I mean it, really.  (Actually His name is Jesus, and Christ is, more or less, a title.)  I happily count myself among the remnant who think this way about Jesus Christ; that He is truly God and truly Man.  And, that is just the beginning of the amazing facts about Him.  But, let us not get ourselves involved in that.

For those who know it is not necessary to do so; for the rest, they will be made aware sooner of later, here or there.

The prognosis is not good.  That is, the prognosis for Christianity, that system of beliefs and practice, that way of living that grew from the testimony of some few people who knew and lived with this man Jesus about what he did and said so many years ago in Palestine, in the Middle East.  It is dying, they say in The Telegraph; dying in the place where it was born and where it has lived longest.  The prognosis for the “rest” I have reference to above; that they will be made aware of certain “amazing facts” at some time is certain: they will.

The study reported on in The Telegraph did provide a cause for the imminent demise of Christianity in its homeland, may it rest in peace.  Militant Islam (MI) is infecting Christianity in the Middle East, and the disease, so says the article, is likely to cause its quick death.  “Sic transit gloria coeli et terra” to corrupt a phrase.

How is this being accomplished, and how, better yet, is it so being done right under the eagle eyes of our many media snoops?  Does no one have any idea except some old rag in Blighty? And, finally, why have not those in powerful places and positions, guardians of freedoms, protectors of widows and orphans, weak and underprivileged the world over raised even an eyebrow at this rather depressing (to say the least) bit of news?  Well, I have my ideas about who might have gathered a rumor here and there, and why they haven’t whispered a word, but then, I am a suspicious type.  I’ll leave it to more rational folks to explain why the imminent death of Christianity in the land of its birth means simply nothing here in the West which owes simply everything to it.

What interests me, just as much, is this little fact; call it a sidebar.  It, too, will never appear anywhere soon.  Maybe it is simply too boring?  That fact is this: 150,000 Christians a year are killed for being Christians.  What, some editor might reasonably ponder is newsworthy about that, or a burnt village in Africa when compared to Our Dear Leader bodysurfing in Hawaii?  Many, many more are imprisoned without trial, little girls raped, women raped, churches blown up or burned to the ground, homes burned, villages burned, neighborhoods attacked by armed fanatics and , well, sad to say, more schoolchildren, murdered in Muslim countries simply because they are Christian than are murdered by our own madmen.  Again, one wonders about the silence, the the lack of interest.

Tertullian was an early Christian Father, a theologian whose work helped form what was becoming Christianity.  He was from Carthage, part of the Middle Eastern world where Christianity is now dying of that disease called MI, also known to be fatal to Ambassadors and people in tall buildings in places like New York City.  Among other things he is famous for having said is this, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”  Now that might scare a good atheist or modern day secularist in a corner office somewhere.

And now, before I leave you to turn on your Santa Claus lights, your reindeer with their red noses, your Frosty the Snowmen in their hats, to fill your living rooms with wrapping paper and your bellies with rich foods and rare vintages, and to taste deeply all of the other signs of our winter holiday, may I ask you to wonder this.  Will there be more to mourn over the death of the last winged cardinal at your feeder or the death of the last Christian once from some place west of the Indus and east of Eden?  I do not think so, because you will not know.  Few are those in any position to let you know who hazard saying a word about it.  Fewer still are those who think anything should be done.  Many, I suspect rather hope that nothing will be done.  Ever.

We are being flooded with the blood and the bodies of the dying victims of militant Islam as the story in The Telegraph has it.  The dead are the seed.  The raped and beaten and dispossessed are the soil, the field and the planting where will grow anew the the fruit of their sacrifice.  It has suddenly occurred to me that “they” are afraid of what this way comes when , some day, the once and future Christianity appears.  I can think of no other reason for such a black curtain over this news, a holocaust across a third of the world.  As Special Agent Gibbs often says, “Do ya think?”

Merry Christmas!

Good St. George Pray For Us

St. George was a soldier, an officer, in the Roman army “back in the day” when such things as crucifixion and flogging and stuff like that were more or less business as usual for a trooper.  They had no CIA or anything similar, I think, in Rome.  If you wanted to find out what the locals were up to…were they sufficiently cowed to keep on paying tribute…you simply pulled fifty or so of them out of line and started skinning a few of them, or baking them, or crushing them by bits and pieces until one of them smartened up and told you what you thought you knew all along.  Then you killed every one in sight, or sent them off to Rome to become players in the Empire’s version of “Ultimate Fights”.

Way back then no one got their shorts in a twist about torture, or EIT (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques).  When you needed to know something you simply asked the fellow or girl, and, if you didn’t get the answer you wanted two things would happen.  You’d kill them and yell, “Next!”.  Or, you’d slice a bit of something off and ask the question again, and then kill them.  It was neater that way.

That was until this troublesome Jew in Palestine threw a wrench into the works just around the time that Augustus was making things nice for everyone whose name ended in a vowel or an “ius”..pun intended.

One weekend a dozen or so weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a front-page piece on “ethicists” alleging that psychologists and physicians who supervised CIA interrogations “broke the law and shame the bedrock ethical traditions of medicine and psychology.”  Now, nothing like this would have happened when the Roman “Band of Brothers” in occupied Palestine got a hold of some Jew who needed a little tuning up so he could tell the Procurator everything he needed to know…and then be crucified, or flayed or brought to some other entertaining end.  “Hey Romulus, lemme have that hot poker over there, willya?  Let’s see if mulling this guy’s eyeballs will promote a little evidence against everyone in the town.”

Doctor?  Doctor, schmocter, they would answer if anyone suggested there be one on hand for humanitarian reasons, a word not invented until a couple of thousand years later, almost.

Anyway, George got the same treatment when he took an unhealthy turn towards that new thing Christianity that was getting a lot of people into a lot of trouble.  Had there been a Fox Network back then, Christians might have been looked upon as some sort of terrorist organization, kind of like today’s Al-Qaida, trying to take the Empire down.

But that’s not my point, at all, though it’s an interesting one to consider for an essay question in the final exam for Ethics 101:  Compare and contrast the Roman Empire’s response to Christianity with the Modern World’s response to Al-Qaida.  Be sure to include in your answer a critique of the effectiveness of the methods used by both groups to advance their cause, whatever you conceive it to be.  Use concrete examples and make reference to the Dar al Islam in light of the saying of Christ, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Whatever you may conceive that to mean.  Entertain me.

As I said, though, it’s not my point.  No, I was more concerned with the question of “ethicists” and their commenting on the fact that some doctors and psychologists may have broken the law and shamed bedrock ethical traditions.  You see, there used to be something called morality which operated in matters like this.  Ethics, which some say is the study of how, or what morality is: “The study of the general nature of morals…” as my American Heritage Dictionary has it, has taken the place in the wide world of that word or term which was once the subject of its study, morals or moral behavior.

Morality, conveniently, which carried with it the uncomfortable baggage of sin if contravened in thought word or deed, has been put under the bed in a nice box. Put there in favor of Ethics which is a nice thing, a malleable commodity available for sale in the person of ethicists who have studied the subject and know how to apply it to whatever the issue du jour is.  (Nasty rigid Morality is connected to that concept called Natural Law; long ago discredited as something primitive and silly.)

Take “torture” for example; and the use of doctors to tell you when to stop and start again and ethicists pronouncing on the bad ethics of the whole thing.  Now, one can go out the door of any office building in DC, or any large city, walk in the door of just about any other and find a floor full of “ethicists” who practice the profession.  They’ll be happy to advise one and all about everything and anything; from the ethics of “dope slapping” an “insurgent” whose goal in life is to kill as many folks as he can and gain himself those 70 virgins to the ethics of how much liquor to serve under age teens at a prom party.  The wonder of it is that you may purchase the services of an ethicist who will parse your problem…or slice it and arrange it in any number of ways until it simply disappears as a problem.  This used to be called “casuistry”. ( Lately it has also been called Supreme Court decision, but that’s just my opinion, I think.)

You see, as it has been explained by folks on the other side of this torture question, desperate times require desperate measures. The ethics of desperate measures, I suppose presume the availability of things like torture to lower the risk of the times and their consequences to the folks on the side of Truth, Justice and Our Own Way.

This side used to be called God’s side.  That’s now no longer necessary because we have an ample supply of ethicists to tell us, “Fine, nothing wrong here.  Just make sure you have a doctor or two to tell you when to throw some water in anyone’s face…or not…as the need arises.  Even if someone finds it unethical, it’s not illegal, and that’s ethical.”  As everyone knows, doing things legally is ethical, hence my idea about Supreme Court decisions.

Since we have done away with natural law, and pretty nearly done away with the idea of God, ( thank, umm, something or someone) that’s all anyone need concern themselves about.  That and no one else with their own staff of ethicists to tell them, “Nuh, uh.  No fair doing that.”

At least that’s what the evidence seems to show was the case with a few of the memoranda released written in answer to the question, “How far is far enough?”  “Don’t concern yourself with such matters,” the ethicists say.  “We have the answer.”

Poor St. George.  He was silly enough to have thought such things, in light of his foolish decision to become a Christian, immoral.  What’s immoral, nowadays, seems to be ethics.