The Christian Review 2017

Bishop Robert McElroy Urges Catholics to “All Become Disrupters”

Deal W. Hudson
February 20, 2017

In the column written for NEWSMAX, I report on the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements, held February 16-19 in Modesto, CA.  Towards the end I call upon the USCCB, a sponsor of the conference, to publicly distance itself from the call of Bishop McElroy towards the violence of “disruption.”

NEWSMAX, February 20, 2017.

Both the Catholic bishops of the United States and the Vatican have now virtually endorsed the strategy of “disruption” being used across the nation to oppose the new administration of President Trump. Held in Modesto, California, the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements (WMPM), was sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican’s Department of Integral Human Development to address issues of “land, labor, and lodging,” as well as racism and immigration.

The 700 attendees applauded and cheered as Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego told them, “President Trump was the candidate of disruption. . . . Well now, we must all become disrupters.” Bishop McElroy, along with Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Blaise Cupich, has emerged as a leading voice among “social justice” Catholics determined to rally the Catholic Church to reject President Trump’s leadership and policy agenda.

To read the remainder, please click here.

 

A German/Danish Film – “The Land of Mine” – Proves Great Movies Are Still Being Made

Deal W. Hudson
March 6, 2017

I grow weary of hearing people say, “They don’t make good movies anymore.” Good, even great, films are released each year, but are shown in only a few movie theaters in the US. Those who complain must be paying attention only to what’s showing at the local cinema. There’s a much larger world of movies that, if you are interested, you must seek out to find.

I read film magazines such as Sight & SoundCineaste, and Film Comment, and check in regularly with websites such as dvdbeaver.com and dvdtalk.com. The highly-praised films I read about rarely achieve wide release in the US, and can be seen only when released on DVD or Blu-ray or on a streaming channel, such as filmstruck.comhulu.comnetflix.com, or mubi.com. A rare exception was Academy Award-winning, Hungarian-made, “Son of Saul” released in 2015.

A German-Danish film, “The Land of Mine,” was nominated this year for Best Foreign Film but lost to “The Salesman,” an Iranian production. The film directed by Asghar Farhadi* must be extremely good, because it was chosen over “The Land of Mine,” which I would put forward as undeniable proof to any and all skeptics that great films are still being made.

The simple story is based upon what happened to German POWs in Denmark at the end of WWII: 2000 of these prisoners were put to work clearing Denmark’s beaches of over 2,000,000 landmines placed there by German soldiers then occupying the country. This enormous number of mines were buried in anticipation of a possible Allied invasion of Denmark. Over half of the POWS would die or suffer injury removing the mines.

But this film is about more than watching the Germans being forced to risk their lives on the beaches of Denmark. [Spoiler Alert!]  “The Land of Mine” is about the moral, perhaps spiritual, conversion of the hardened Danish war veteran put in charge a small group charged with clearing a section of beach containing over 40,000 mines.

Roland Møller plays Sgt. Carl Leopold Rasmussen who at the film’s beginning appears to be driven by a vengeful hatred towards those put in his charge. With his dog, Otto, at his side, Sergeant Rasmussen humiliates and verbally brutalizes the POWs, making it clear that he cares nothing about their lives, just as the German soldiers who invade Denmark cared nothing for those they killed and maimed.  The Germans themselves are all young, either in their late teens or early 20s. As the camera scans their faces and expressions they bear no resemblances to the hardened, murderous Nazi warriors so often depicted in movies about WWII.

One of the group, Sebastian, played skillfully by Louis Hoffman, emerges as the natural leader. The relationship between Sebastian and Sergeant Rasmussen forms the heart of the film: Sebastian intuits the presence of compassion behind the hostile, volatile exterior of Sergeant. The eyes of the Sergeant himself are drawn to the knowing eyes of Sebastian, which evince both intelligence and courage. When Sebastian insists the Sergeant consider using a device he has made to make locating the mines more efficient, he succeeds in getting the Sergeant to lower his guard ever so slightly.

But the deeper changes to Sergeant Rasmussen occur as he watches his soldiers starving for lack of food and dying one by one on the beach. Against the orders of his superiors, he steals food from headquarters for the POWs, earning the enmity of a captain watching scornfully from his tent.

When one of two twin brothers is flown up by mine, the Sergeant clears the cabin of the other prisoners and, like a father to a son, seeks to calm the hysteria of the surviving twin. What Sebastian saw from the beginning is now revealed to all as he gives his prisoners a day off, taking them down to the beach for a soccer game and foot races. However, as they walk back into the dunes towards the cabin, the Sergeant throws a ball to his dog into an area of beach supposedly cleared of mines. Otto is killed by an exploding mine.

Now devastated, the Sergeant reverses his moral course and resumes treating his men as enemies who deserve death. He orders one of the POWs to fetch a ball with his mouth and kneel at his feet. As he glances at Sebastian, the Sergeant knows that Sebastian knows this anger will not last, that the good man of a few hours ago will once again return. The face of the Sergeant suggests that he knows that Sebastian is right.

One of the telling scenes begins when the Sergeant notices Sebastian pull the cross from around his neck and holds it in his hand asks, “Does that help you?” In response, Sebastian takes it off and offers it to the Sergeant who is intrigued but politely refuses. When Sebastian puts it back around his neck he explains it was given to him by his father. The Sergeant asks whether his father is still alive, and Sebastian’s choking answer, “I don’t know” creates a moment of friendship that sweeps aside the war and all the recalcitrant hatred it left in its wake.

From the beginning, the Sergeant had promised the POWs that after they cleared the beach they would be sent home. However, the commanding officer he had enraged by stealing food takes the remaining prisoners, after they had cleared their beach, and assigns them to another mine clearing operation. Sergeant Rasmussen goes to the officer to ask for their release which is coldly refused.  As he leaves the officer’s tent, his moral conversion becomes complete — he now fully identifies with the suffering and humanity of his prisoners.

We don’t learn the fate of Sergeant Rasmussen after he subsequently directly disobeys the orders of this commanding officer. The final shot of the film is the face of the Sergeant glowing with joy, in stark contrast to the beginning of the film when it was hardened with the hatred of his prisoners. The Sergeant has given them the freedom he promised. We can only assume the Sergeant has accepted the fact that their freedom will come at a great personal cost, a sacrifice he is willing to make.

I had not heard of the writer/director Martin Zandvliet (b. 1971) whose two previous feature films, “Applause” and “A Funny Man” were well-received in Europe and on the film festival circuit. I could find no flaw in his film, the camera work of Camilla Hjelm took full advantage of the beach, dunes, sea, sun, and sky, but most of all the superb casting and acting of the central characters. The film score of Sune Martin was appropriately minimalist, never overwhelming the visual narrative presented so masterfully by Zandvliet.

I will be very interested in seeing Zandvliet’s upcoming film, “The Outsider,” another post-WWII drama about an American soldier who joins the Japanese mafia, called the Yakuza. I will also be following the careers of Roland Møller and Louis Hoffman, whose performances were both Oscar-worthy.

*There’s little doubt that President Trump’s travel ban impacted the outcome of the Academy’s vote. Asghar Farhadi was unable to travel to Los Angeles for the awards ceremony.

What’s Wrong With the Church? Why Our Labels Fail.

Deal W. Hudson
April 21, 2017

Is there any label, or set of labels, that describe what’s influencing our Church in the wrong direction? I became aware of this question while planning a future conference with some friends. When they began using terms such as Modernism, Marxism, Socialism, Globalism, Internationalism, and Secularism, I demurred.

These labels, I argued, easily came to mind but did not fit. They either lacked precision or did not adequately explain, to my satisfaction, the currents moving through the Church under Pope Francis.

To begin with, I’ve always been uncomfortable with any one-size-fits-all label that, by its mere utterance, is supposed to convince the hearer. Labels then become short-cuts for research, analysis, and argument. Used this way, labels declare sides rather than engaging those who do share confidence in the efficacy of the label. Labels evoke fixed prejudices often grounded in a thin understanding of the idea being addressed. For example, the label “Marxism” refers to a notoriously complex political-philosophical movement.

But many Catholics are looking for explanations, because they believe some of the central initiatives of the Church under the leadership of Pope Francis are, at the very least, dangerous, and at the most, possibly heterodox. However, the assumption that a single dominant cause behind these initiatives, though tempting, will necessarily ignore the various currents of converging influence behind the present papacy.

The kind of institutional change being engineered by Pope Francis and his inner circle requires a coalition of powerful interests, each having various levels of concern about the future of the Church. In an effort to clarify the situation, I think it will be helpful to be with a basic distinction between those who believe they are seeking to “improve” the Church, and those who want to “use” the Church for political, ideological, or economic ends. Let’s call the former, the Improvers, and the latter, the Users.

The Improvers want to reshape Church teaching to conform to what they believe to be some higher standard of love than it presently embodies, such as the attempt to admit divorced Catholics to communion. Not only does this pose a challenge to the Church’s teaching on sin and the Eucharist, but also on sexual morality in general. I believe it will lead to a reexamination of the nature of homosexuality as an “intrinsic disorder,” the “sinfulness” of the homosexual act, and the possible sacramentality of same-sex marriage.

Of course, it is often the case that the Improvers often serve the purposes of those who seek to “use” the Church. Since the Users oppose the Church’s traditional moral teaching on sexuality and marriage, they would feel encouraged by a doctrinal change on admission to communion. The User’s advocacy of Climate Change, of course, is the perfect issue to claim Vatican authority not only for their population control programs but also their push for greater state regulation of industry, business, energy, and transportation. Refugee migration, so heartily pushed by Pope Francis, fits perfectly with the agenda of the User George Soros who seeks to destabilize Western democracies with the huge influx of Muslims who must require government support.

No doubt some of the Improvers welcome the convergence of interests with the Users, viewing their political and economic power as an extension of the Church’s new improved mission. Thus, the Improvers’ willingness to invite leading Users to give the Church advice. The list of “experts” invited to the Vatican under Pope Francis regularly includes those whose “expertise” is devoted to promoting ideas and programs directly in conflict with the Catholic Church. Even further, the Catholic Church has created “partnerships” with organizations whose programs also contradict Church teaching. The Vatican’s embrace of The Vatican’s embrace of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is the most egregious since population control is one of its primary goals.

But what distinguishes an Improver from a User is their intention to serve the good of the Church, no matter how misguided. It’s tempting to elide the distinction since “sleeping with the enemy” does not trouble Pope Francis or Vatican leadership in the least. Those who have been troubled, such as Cardinal Burke, are no longer in leadership positions. Pope Francis, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, and other key advisors have fully embraced these relationships, their influence on the Church, and the Catholic validation of persons, programs, and organizations pursuing anti-Catholic ends. Thus, we have recently witnessed a Vatican representative explicitly calling for population control.

I can understand those who consider my distinction immaterial, that the Improvers serve the same goals and that’s all there is say about it. But I think we need to be careful when we either ignore intention or assume a bad intention because we will smooth over the messy reality of what’s occurring at the Vatican right now.

A Son’s Love for His Mother Becomes a Musical Masterpiece

Deal W. Hudson
May 8, 2017

Some years ago, while visiting Los Angeles, I met a charming young man named Stephen Edwards. He told me he was a composer, and given our common love of music, and golf, we stayed in touch. As the years passed, I watched as Steve became one of Hollywood’s highly prized film composers, amassing over 60 film scores in all movie genres.

In the midst of his burgeoning career, Steve, a devout Catholic, mentioned to me that he had been composing sacred music, which led to an interview on my radio show, “Church and Culture,” where we played and discussed a number of his compositions in different genres. Towards the end of the show, Steve mentioned that he was writing a Requiem for his mother who had recently died of cancer. (I had met Steve’s parents at our first meeting, and I recalled the strong bond between them at the time.)  The way he talked about his Requiem I knew this was going to be something special, and I was right.

The “Requiem for My Mother” is quite beautiful, radiant in many places, majestic and fiercely resolute in others, a remarkable tribute to his mother, Rosalie, as well as to all mothers. The recording will be made available on May 12, but a documentary of the same name, about its composition, premiere performance, and recording, will be aired nationwide on over 200 public television stations. (Watch the trailer below.)

As beautiful as the Requiem is, the documentary does much more than only showcase the music. “The Requiem for My Mother” contains two dramatic storylines. First, Edward’s composition became the occasion for a remarkable collaboration of amateur and professional performers, all working under the pressure of performing in St. Peter’s Basilica with only one rehearsal. Dr. Candace Wicke, the remarkable conductor, enabled several amateur church choirs to perform at a level I am sure they never imagined possible. Her powerful personality lights up of the documentary and clearly helped to ignite both the recording and the live performance.

At a deeper level, the Requiem, which the documentary reveals, brought solace not only to the twenty Edwards family members in attendance but also to the father of the conductor, Jesse Petersen, himself a recording producer. In the course of the documentary, we find out that he had lost his son, Candace’s brother, to cancer four years earlier. Yes, we see his tears and hear his grieving, but he puts something into words that best describe the impact of Edward’s Requiem: “There is a form that even in a loss that gives a sense of reason for being.” In one sentence, Jesse Petersen has expressed how music can bring healing, can revivify, those who suffer.

Music recognizes death and in doing so expresses the reason to not only to keep living but also to live with joy.

This also is surely the reason why Dr. Wicke literally commands the chorus sing with all the emotion the words require. Dies Irae — Days of Wrath — she exhorts the singers should sound just like that, “the world will be turned to ashes.” As the camera pans the faces of the chorus expressions change suddenly, a greater focus, more seriousness, even a touch of (appropriate) fear. Let me say here, by the way, that after watching Candace Wicke conduct, I would never want to be the recipient of her right jab!

But at the heart of the documentary is the shared love between Steve and his mother, Rosalie. We see Rosalie as a young woman, a stunner, the daughter of Sicilian immigrants; as a wife and mother to four children, playing her flute, teaching youthful Steve at the piano; as a choral conductor and community, still beautiful, with an ever-radiant smile.

After seeing this documentary and hearing this music, you will wish, as I did, that you had known Rosalie Edwards. You will also have witnessed the unfiltered expression of a son’s love for his mother, reinforced by his brother Jim recalling that during the Vatican performance when the flute began to play he looked and saw Rosalie, She was there. . . . I was seeing Mom right there.”

The opening Requiem aeternum is masterful, with the statement of an attractive and memorable main theme and developed as the foundation for the work as a whole. Using the children’s treble chorus to state the theme was one of the composer’s first ideas about the piece, and the flute solo following is Steve paying tribute to his mother Rosalie who was an excellent flutist, as well as a choral conductor and pianist. I can’t imagine anyone hearing this movement and not wanting to the hear the rest.

The best comparison I can make is the first time I heard Maurice Durufle’s Requiem (1947). Yes, it’s that good.

The first movement may raise the expectation of a simple, straightforward melodically based choral tribute, but that expectation is quickly quashed by the musical variation that follows. Each movement arises from the meaning of the liturgical texts. As Edwards wrote in his program notes:

” My method was to sit with the text and let the Ancient  Latin syllables lead me to the appropriate sounds I heard in my head to accompany the text.  Then all I had to do was write what I heard.”

The Kyrie is probably the most familiar language of Requiem Mass. It begins with agitated strings followed by percussion and male voices chanting with a kind of dark intent When the ladies voice arrive much of the tension is lifted: their Christie Eleison is less demanding and more pleading. But the forward-moving returns with the trebles breaking through and the whole ends in a cappella. Edwards, in his program notes, calls this movement “pleading and angry,” which I would expand to a contrast between the anxiety of the male voices, the anger of the women, and the attempt of the children to mediate between the two.

The Dies Irae gave Edwards his biggest problem in composing. Evidently, he was in such awe of the great settings by Mozart and Verdi that he had to overcome intimidation before the music suddenly came to him, his “Eureka” moment “when the odd-meter (3/4-3/4-4/4) theme dawned on me while sitting at the piano one day.”. Its arrival may have had something to do with Dr. Wicke’s obvious impatience with the lateness of the score.

Based upon the familiar chant theme, the Dies Irae is agitated and demanding, while making clear “wrath,” taken alone, is far from beautiful. As the composer said in the documentary, he “was going to leave nothing to the imagination.”

The excellence of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, well-known throughout the film world for its countless soundtrack recordings plays brilliantly in this movement, with the strings, winds, brass, and percussion showing their stuff in playing the odd meter and very intricate scales.

The Offertory does not return to simple melodic statement but begins with an uncertain sound in the opening, “free the souls . . . from internal punishment.” But the mood turns supplicatory, as Edwards puts it, “the women take the role of asking what the men won’t ask for (“but may…St. Michael lead them into the Holy Light”) – then the men realize that this request is reasonable and correct one – and join in and trade phrases until the end of the movement.”

The next three movements follow the texts closely: the Sanctus, sublime and glorious, is led by the trebles, joined by the adult choir, and then the orchestra. Pie Jesus, the first movement Edwards composed, is both reverent and at times majestic. Edwards calls it “the most tuneful movement of the entire work,” and considers the use of the treble chorus as the basic sound material out of which the entire work developed.

The chorus alone sings the Agnus Dei, which is fervent, pleading, then calmly prayerful. I wondered why there were such obvious pauses between some of the held notes, and then I read in Edward’s program notes, they “are symbolic pauses for prayer – and common tones for the singers to pick up the next phrase – and move on to another line of text.” Nice how the theological and musical can enhance one another!

The Communion, however, contains the biggest musical surprise in the piece with a jubilant, even jaunty, rhythm and an almost operatic descant over the children’s voices. Libera me is appropriately importunate and pleading, reminding us that Stephen Edwards is, after all, a Hollywood film composer, who knows how to use orchestral and choral climaxes to great effect. When the Dies Irae returns, it arrives with less fear, more assuredness, and leaves no question mark at the end.

With In Paradisum, the scene changes: the trebles sing a cappella, and we are in heaven, as signified by the harp and flute themes, the earlier agitated rhythm returns on the strings, but now it’s joyful, hopeful excitement, the soul is moving upward, the voices rise and rise, voices and orchestra meld and the french horn sounds (always a sign that majesty approaches), And finally the main theme returns on the women’s voices — repeating “in paradisum” — singing forte with the horns echoing the theme, we are climbing towards heaven and the gates are opening.

As Edwards describes it,  “As the entire chorus sings ‘angelorum,’ they bring back the theme originally heard at the very beginning of the piece by the children singing ‘Requiem aeternam.’”

All the performers are strong, but the childrens chorus stands out since they are given many of the most emotionally powerful moments. The soloists are both excellent, and the baritone has a very secure high register. The chorus as a whole melds powerfully in complete unison, and when the ladies are forward they have very lovely sound. Yet, it is Candace Wicke who pulled these seemingly disparate forces together into a whole which does not betray, even for a moment, the pairing of amateurs with professionals. She is no doubt a “force of nature,” and I mean that entirely as a compliment.

Stephen Edwards has written a work that will be performed for many years to come. I predict his “Requiem for My Mother” will catch on quickly among those who know and love sacred music but find a much larger audience.  What Edwards has composed will become contemporary Requiem of choice to those who seek beauty first.

Christopher Nolan’s Brilliant, Un-Romanticized, “Dunkirk”

Deal W. Hudson
July 23, 2017

The achievement of Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is his unromanticized portrayal of a lost battle where over 300,000 lives were saved by a flotilla of over 800 small boats. Nolan’s British soldier’s don’t laugh off their plight with a chorus of “jolly good,” they’re tested to the edge of their humanity by the clash between the instinct to survive with common decency.

Some are seen to fail that test and the remainder of their lives will be lived under a far darker shadow than the rest. But none of these battered soldiers have anything to say during their moments of rest from Nazi onslaught.  No one attempts to cheer up the troops, after the first few minutes of the film all the soldiers begin to wear the look of hunted animals.

Nolan breaks all that molds of the British war movie. I can understand if the viewer leaves the theater feeling good but without elation. The film evokes deep respect but not the kind of elation that takes the war into the realm of fantasy. Take, for example, the music of Hans Zimmerman which never reaches a tonic chord until the armada of small ships is seen on the horizon but culminates with a direct quote from Elgar’s Nimrod at the end in salute to a heroic RAF pilot, played by Tom Hardy.

Nolan’s trimmed-down approach is signaled from the start when a young soldier Tommy, played by Fionn Whitehead, barely escapes death in the town from Nazi fire and finds himself on a broad expanse of beach with thousands of soldiers, as far as he can see in both directions, standing in long lines facing the ocean, waiting.  We’re going to experience Dunkirk from the viewpoint of those among the ordinary and unnamed men who experienced it. The focus of the film is on two soldiers, two pilots, a professional boatsman, played with understated brilliance by Mark Rylance.

As Commander Bolton, Kenneth Branagh is given no “St. Crispin’s Day” speech, but rather he plays a minor role serving as a pivot point for each act of the drama. Nolan’s determination to avoid the standard heroics is very noticeable in one of the final scenes when Commander Bolton chooses to stay with the French soldiers still waiting on the beach. When he informs the other departing officers of his decision, the camera pulls back with the boat away from the figure of the Commander standing at the end of the pier. Why glamorize the act of one officer when so many have died, and so many have risked their lives to save thousands? Nolan, in my opinion, made a film that will resonate with veterans themselves who, when they speak at all, speak with great humility of their war experience.

The heart of the film is the story that transpires in the boat carrying Mr. Dawson (Rylance) and his son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his friend George (Barry Keoghan). Neither really understands the fervent patriotism of Mr. Dawson as they head out to sea under Nazi fighters and bombers, and to make matters worse they pick up a shell-shocked soldier, Cillian Murphy, who doesn’t want to be taken back to beaches of Dunkirk. The soldier’s growing agitation leads to a tragedy that tests the moral resolve of Dawson to complete his voyage.  Without giving anything away, I can say that the scene in which the father nods in agreement with Peter was one of the moving and meaningful of the film. Compassion has survived utter brutality. 

Winston Churchill, indeed, gets his due in the final scene when the young soldier who wondered on the beach at the beginning of the film reads Churchill’s famous House of Commons speech to a mostly uninterested fellow survivor (Harry Styles). His “fight them on the beaches” rings even truer coming from a soldier we’ve watched pass through a gauntlet of the bombing, gunfire, churning water, burning oil, and murderous panic.

Viewers will not return to Nolan’s Dunkirk for heroic uplift, but for those who do return it will be to delve deeper into the moral subtleties of one group of men acting on the instinct to survive and the other, on a sense of duty to their country and comrades.

Why Are the Knights of Columbus “Partners” with Crux?

Deal W. Hudson
August 4, 2017

John L. Allen Jr’s news website Crux (www.cruxnow.com) bears the subtitle, “Taking the Catholic Pulse.” Crux was formerly hosted by the Boston Herald at its founding in 2014 but was dropped two years later. Crux was saved by none other than a “partnership” with the mega-philanthropic Knights of Columbus, headed by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.

Allen is now considered the go-to-guy for Catholic news and opinion on this side of the Atlantic.  It was little noticed that after the election of Benedict XVI, the then senior correspondent for the dissenting National Catholic Reporter had been highly critical of the new pontiff in his 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the FaithBut with the unexpected change in wind direction, Allen hurriedly published another biography two months after Ratzinger’s election, The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church. Readers may recall that the liberal Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan was expected to succeed Saint John Paul II.

This is not to say that Allen is not an excellent reporter — he is — but merely to underscore that Allen’s personal proclivities have always been with the Catholic Left.  Thus, I have watched with interest as Crux has sought to navigate some sort of middle way through the Catholic world of news and opinion. No doubt the rescue by the Knights of Columbus made this balancing act even more delicate.  As Kaya Oakes noted at that time of the new “partnership,” there was a fear among Catholic leftists that the Knights would push Crux to the right and lose its “true editorial independence.”

Any lingering doubt regarding Allen’s “independence” should have been brushed aside long ago; however, the recent article by Steve Krueger, “Vatican article on ‘ecumenism of hate” in the U.S. was long overdue” (August 2, 2017), should have delighted Kaya Oakes and her fellow watchdogs of the Catholic extremists on the Left. Krueger gives high fives to the shallow attack on Catholic Trump supports by Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J. and Rev. Marcelo Figueroa in their much-discussed article in La Civilità Cattolica.

But more importantly, Krueger himself belongs to a network of Catholic organizations and political operatives bearing the nihil obstat of George Soros’s efforts over the years to undermine and redirect Catholic social teaching.

Steve Krueger has been the president of the Catholic Democrats since 2011, after serving as national director since 2008, which has consistently openly supported pro-abortion and anti-marriage candidates. In October 2012, Krueger’s Catholic Democrats launched a Catholics for Obama effort with a board of seven pro-abortion Democrats, including Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

But Krueger was also the first national director of Voice of the Faithful from 2002 to 2004. If anyone needs a reminder, VOTF advocated women priests, the end of priestly celibacy, the removal of the contraception and abortion ban.

As I wrote in a 2004 Special Report, a 2002 VOTF conference, featured speakers such as Leonard Swindler who proposed severing ties with the Catholic Church by writing a constitution for an American Catholic Church. Another speaker, Debra Haffner was a member and former president of SIECUS whose sex education guidelines approve children ages 5-8 being taught that masturbation and homosexuality are acceptable practices and that young teens be taught how to obtain and use contraceptives. And so on….*

Steve Krueger’s Catholic Democrats stand shoulder to shoulder with other extremists groups such as Catholic United, Catholics In Alliance for the Common Good, and Catholic for Choice, all partially funded by George Soros through the Tides Foundation. In 2012, Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society wrote an excellent overview of the interconnection, both financial and ideological, between these three groups. A complete list of Soros-funded organizations can be seen here.

This year, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, wrote about the close relationship between these dissident Catholic groups and John Podesta who heads the Center for American Progress. The October 2016 Wikileaks dump produced a number of Podesta’s emails about Catholics that showed he was engaged in an effort to change Catholic teaching to favor the Democratic Party. One such effort was his support for Catholics United — “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this.” (I myself was the subject of several emails from James Salt of Catholics United to John Podesta.)

In Krueger’s article for Crux, listed as a “special to Crux,” he explains his agreement with the “two intrepid souls” who penned the article for La Civilità Cattolica. What Krueger finds fearless, I found laughable — imagine calling Donald Trump as “theocrat”? But Krueger lets that howler, and many others, slide. He does, however, note the authors mistake in using Church Militant as an example of a political player in the Evangelical-Catholic political alliance, but to prop them up he finds a few tough headlines on the EWTN website and announces them guilty as charged — EWTN is part of the “ecumenism of hate.”

I guess Steve Krueger missed how many times EWTN and its affiliate news services, the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, joined in on the Catholic Trump-bashing during the campaign. As someone who followed the Catholic media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign, I consider Krueger’s equation of EWTN with Church Militant as laughable as the article he calls “long overdue.”

So why would this article by Steve Krueger be published by Crux whose partnership with the Knights of Columbus is widely known? Krueger has not changed his views on Catholic teaching as far as I know, and his Catholic Democrats have not stopped espousing the election of pro-abortion political candidates. I am also not aware of any repudiation of the stances he took as head of Voice of the Faithful. So what gives?

It appears to me that the Knights of Columbus have gone the way of most Catholic colleges and universities where open dissent is shrugged off, or even celebrated, as either part of the necessary “dialogue” or ingredient to an “enlightened” way of thinking about the “contemporary” Church.  I hope I am wrong, but that’s the message being sent by this “partnership.”

If John L. Allen, Jr. thinks he is “Taking the Catholic Pulse,” he needs to reach beyond those writers who confirm his own predilections.

*My report results in an unexpected invitation to speak at a VOTF meeting which I much enjoyed and wrote about here.

Yes, Pope Francis, President Trump IS Pro-Life

Deal W. Hudson
September 15, 2017

It saddens me that Pope Francis refuses to recognize the pro-life intentions and actions of President Trump. The president has made good on his promises to pro-life voters, starting on his first day in office with his restoration of the Mexico City Policy, which he later expanded. Federal funds can no longer pay for abortions overseas. And there is more, not the least of which is the presence of Justice Neil Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But rather than applauding the president’s actions, Pope Francis has attempted to co-opt the meaning of “pro-life” to include his preferred immigration policies. Speaking to reporters on his flight back to Rome from Colombia, the pope was asked about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which the president had ordered phased out in six months. “I hope they rethink it a bit,” the pontiff said, “Because I heard the U.S. president speak: He presents himself as a person who is pro-life.”

There are so many things wrong about this, it’s hard to know where to begin. We might note what Trump said about DACA when he announced his decision: He explicitly gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution, adding if Congress did not act he would revisit the issue himself. The president clearly does not intend to send “Dreamers” out of the United States but does not want to act unilaterally as President Obama did in June 2012. Pope Francis ignored the president’s stated intention. In addition, DACA is a nullity, born of an unconstitutional assertion of executive power by Obama. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually would have struck it down.

Then there is the doctrinal problem with what Pope Francis said: He effectively used a prudential matter—immigration policy—to override a matter of settled moral teaching—prohibition of abortion. In prudential matters, Catholics are free to come to different solutions based on general principles. “Welcome the stranger,” the Church teaches. But how a nation chooses to welcome strangers does not require open borders. The Church also teaches that a nation’s leader has a duty to protect all citizens. The pope, it must be said, got the issues backward.

To read the remainder, please click here to continue at American Greatness.

Today We Remember the Millions Who Were Killed for Communism

Deal W. Hudson
November 7, 2017

One hundred years ago today — Nov. 7, 1917 — the Russian Revolution began in Moscow leading to the creation of a communist state in the former empire of Russia. It’s an anniversary worth thinking about not only for its historical significance but also because of the recent poll of millennials, ages 15-35, that found a majority of them would prefer to live in a social, fascist, or communist state.

Even for those who have faced squarely the demise of education at all levels, this is sobering.

The poll itself was commissioned by the Communist Memorial Foundation that tracks public attitude towards the regimes responsible for murdering 94,000,000 persons in the twentieth century. (28,000,000 were killed under fascism.)

Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said the report showed,

“This troubling turn highlights widespread historical illiteracy in American society regarding socialism and the systemic failure of our education system to teach students about the genocide, destruction, and misery caused by communism since the Bolshevik Revolution one hundred years ago.”

“Historical illiteracy” is putting it mildly. This is an ignorance that puts the future of our nation in jeopardy. We have 82,000,000 young people entering college, in college, or the workforce who lack any understanding of how a misplaced sense of compassion has led to militarism, dictatorship, genocide, and the total loss of personal freedom.

It’s natural for young people to feel touched with the idealism of helping other, of relieving suffering and raising the standard of living of those who live in poverty. This was why the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution held such an attraction for several generations of the politically engaged.

Whereas the graphic films of Hitler’s concentration camps quickly doused any lingering admiration for his promise of a Reich, the revelations of the Soviet death camps, the deliberate starvation of millions in Ukraine, and the takeover of Eastern Europe failed to convince many hard-core communist sympathizers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Sir Oswald Mosley.

Communists in England, the Cambridge Five, successfully infiltrated British intelligence (MI16) after WW II, supplying the Soviets with vital information in the early years of the Cold War, while a cadre of French intellectuals led the French Communist Party in capturing enough support for it to be included in the Fourth and Fifth Republics.

In America, the ongoing grip Communism among political elites, rightly challenged by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, was exposed by the testimony of Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist Party member, about Alger Hiss, a senior official of the U.S. State Department who was part of U.S. delegation under to the Yalta Conference where FDR, Churchill, and Stalin decided on postwar division of Europe.

Chamber’s subsequent 1952 memoir, Witness, remains one of the most eloquent refutations of the communist ideology in both theory and practice. (Give your millennial Witness for Christmas!)

What to do? To begin with, Parents should be paying more attention to how their children are being educated, especially regarding history and politics. Oftentimes, it’s not the textbooks that need policing but the offhand comments of teachers who feed their students with vacuous criticisms of our nation, capitalism, and the treatment of minorities.

Parents themselves should have bullet points ready-to-hand when and if their children or grandchildren start criticizing the United States and assert the superiority of other systems of governance.

For example, Did you know that Lenin himself started the Gulag system of forced labor, incarceration, and summary execution the with the decree, “On the Red Terror,” issued September 5, 1918? The Gulag was Lenin’s response to the peasants — yes, the peasants! — who were rebelling against Lenin’s Bolshevik leadership? Lenin’s 1922 New Economic Policy (NFP) initiated Bolshevik control of banking, industry, and transportation, as well as the censorship of all printed materials.

In other words, Lenin’s promise to redistribute wealth, from the landowners to the peasants, to bring economic well being, and better lives to the unprivileged quickly became a brutal dictatorship of the party elite.  Lenin promised compassion and delivered tyranny, servility, and death. Needless to say, Stalin would far surpass Lenin in ruthlessness.

The millennial generation has a lot to learn. Surely much of the fault lies with the parents who never found the time, or recognized the need, to provide their children a roadmap to the atrocities of the 20th century.

Eight Books for Christmas, from Politics and a Thriller to Paris, Moscow, Chartres, New York City, and My Back

Deal W. Hudson
November 18, 2017

Several of these books I read as audiobooks, which in the case of those by Ali Land and Scott Isacoff simply added to their enjoyment. Nowadays, I probably read two audiobooks for every print book I read, the advantage of the former being their availability while driving and getting dressed in the morning. I’ve never caught the bug of e-reading which leaves me rather confused about what I have read and where I left off in the book. Seeing words on a page helps me to remember what I have read, though I am not sure why. And listening to a talented narrator can make a good thriller, such as Good Me Bad Me absolutely riveting. I live surrounded by books, the piles of books and overflowing bookcases have probably pushed the foundation of my house deeper into the ground, which is a metaphor for why books matter so much.

Ali Land’s first novel, Good Me Bad Me, is terrifying in the best possible way, that is, as superb fiction. Land uses her background as a mental health nurse who has worked with traumatized children to create a cast of characters that will leave a permanent mark on your imagination. It begins with the arrival of Milly, the daughter of a serial killer mom, at a foster home where the father is a psychiatrist, the mother outwardly warm but is inwardly fragile, and a daughter, the beautiful Phoebe who immediately sets out to make Milly’s new life as miserable as possible.  The psychological struggle between Phoebe and Milly seems to be stacked in Phoebe’s favor because of her absolute command over the local high school. But Phoebe has her own, shall we say, resources as a result of the years spent in her mother’s home.

Cathryn Jakobson Ramin has given millions of back pain sufferers a precious gift — her Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting On the Road to Recovery exposes the false promises of the back pain industry, especially the dark side of back surgery which is rarely successful and more often causes greater damage. The author has done exhaustive research on the recent history of the back pain “business,” and the results are devastating, especially for the chiropractors. I predict her book will eventually reshape and redefine how back pain is treated by our nation’s medical community, as well as how it is covered by insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid. The bottom line is this: Millions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of out-of-pocket dollars are being needlessly spent on back pain treatments that not only have no benefit but also present serious medicals risks for patients, from induced strokes to partial or total paralysis.

In When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends, Mary McAuliffe probes well beyond the well-known, often-told, stories of Hemingway, Picasso, Stein, Joyce, and Proust. McAuliffe displays an excellent grasp of the revolutionary music of the period — not just Stravinsky and Ravel, but also Satie, Milhaud, Auric, Honegger, Poulenc, and Tailleferre — and its creative collaboration with photography, ballet, painting, and theatre, especially through the mediation of Jean Cocteau. She also manages to connect the pots between the conservative political poetics of Paul Claudel, the monastic escape of Max Jacob, and the rise of Charles Maurras.  The artistic development of Man Ray as a photography is presented in parallel with the Modigliani, Duchamp, and Dada, as well as the modernist trends in architecture, primarily Le Corbusier. The entry into filmmaking of Jean Renoir is also deftly woven into the narrative, which justly underscores how French cinema recovered from the devastation of the war years.

With Trotsky in New York, 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution by Kenneth D. Ackerman has written a hugely interesting narrative about the ten weeks Leon Trotsky spent in New York City in early 1917. What surprises me was the warm welcome that greeted Trotsky and his wife and how all the radical organizations and their leaders were eager to align themselves this emissary from the upcoming Bolshevik Revolution. Within only a few days after his arrival, Trotsky attracted an overflowing hall for his first public speaking appearance. When Trotsky got the news of the Russian uprising and tried to return home, he was taken captive by the British authorities in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Rather than fretting, Trotsky set out, successfully, to convert his fellow captives to Bolshevism.

Scott Isacoff tells a fascinating and important story in When the World Stopped to Listen: Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph and Its Aftermath. Those of my generation will have a memory of Van Cliburn’s remarkable victory at the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. While illuminating the life and achievement of Cliburn, Isacoff shows how Cliburn single-handedly created a revitalized, warmer relationship between the Soviets and America. Part of this was due to his Appolinian talent but just as important was his charismatic presence — tall, boyishly handsome, with a broad Texas accent,  a natural humility, and impeccable manners, Cliburn won over the Russian people, millions of whom listened to his performances on the radio.

Stephen Baskerville’s The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Governmental Power may be the most important book of 2017 — he has written a masterly and authoritative account of how “sexual radicalism” has infected and transformed culture, politics, and the legal system. He reveals the full impact of feminist and homosexual activism on the entire criminal justice system which Baskerville sees as creating an entire network of self-serving agents enforcing laws that ignore the presumption of innocence, due process, and public transparency. Baskerville also shows with jaw-dropping clarity how “no-fault” divorces laws have allowed the intrusion of federal and state government so far into our private lives that “privacy” no longer exists.

Visions of Mary: Art, Devotion, and Beauty at Chartres Cathedral is quite a magnificent book. Jill Geoffrion is not only a superb writer but also an equally talented photographer. But her book is far more than a comprehensive survey of all the images of Our Lady at Chartres Cathedral, rather Visions of Mary is a splendid introduction to the theology and spirituality of Marian devotion. As an ordained American Baptist minister, Jill Geoffrion arrives at Chartres with completely fresh eyes and an open heart. Through this book, she communicates her excitement of discovering why Catholics venerate Mary and how that devotion could enrich her own faith. As she writes, “if God wants to use an American woman minister to introduce others to praying with a Catholic relic in France, who am I to say no?” This book is her resounding “Yes” to the calling she felt to share her experience of Mary at Chartres with persons of all faiths and no faith. This is a book you can give to anyone who asks about Mary or anyone who already knows and loves her as Our Lady. Both will be enriched.

Sharyl Attkinsson has explained the present political climate better than anyone I know: The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote is a tour de force of classical reportage, revealing the Russian “scandal” and the “fake news” accusations for what they are — pure inventions of a political party desperate to remain in power at any cost. It’s remarkable that major news operations continue to talk about Russian interference in the 2016 election and fake news after Attkinson has put all the pieces together and traced these allegations back to their source in a Google-funded think tank. The Smear deserves a lot more attention and traction than it has received, a fate often accorded to authors to publish the truth too soon, before the public is ready to hear it.  Perhaps the time has come?

Eight Recordings for Christmas — From Grand Mahler and Sacred Rachmaninov to Superlative Rozsa and a Requiem for Mothers

Deal W. Hudson
November 19, 2017

In spite of habitually slow sales, in comparison to pop music, recordings of classical music continue to be released by the dozens each month, and some of them equal or supersede the best recordings of the past.  Examples from this list are Brabbins’ performance of Vaughan Williams 2nd Symphony and Thierry Fischer’s 8th Symphony of Gustav Mahler.

There’s new music, too, well worth hearing, such as Stephen Edwards much-lauded “Requiem for My Mother” which will warm the heart of anyone who loves those by Faure and Durufle. Though it’s not strictly new, the American works for piano performed by Laura Downes are deeply satisfying and suggest there must be more from that well to tap.

Beethoven symphonies played on the piano may not appeal to you at first glance, but if you listen to the first few minutes of these Lizst transcriptions you won’t stop. As far as I am concerned there can’t be enough recordings of the film scores of Miklos Rozsa, especially when they sweep the field before them as Nic Raine has done with his recent “Ben-Hur.”

I always come back to Haydn, even before Mozart, but I’m not going to argue the case — I am immediately drawn into his sound world, so full of emotion, of dancing and weeping, and the conductor Giovanni Antonini is afraid of neither. Finally, the All-Night Vigil of Rachmaninov belongs to the pantheon of great sacred music and the recording by Gloriae Dei Cantores catches the sacred in this sacred music.

Stephen Edwards, Requiem for My Mother

Film composer Stephen Edwards has written and recorded a remarkable Requiem for My Mother that will eventually make its way into the repertory of sacred music regularly performed in churches and concert halls. His Requiem is quite beautiful, radiant in many places, majestic and fiercely resolute in others, a remarkable tribute to his mother, Rosalie, as well as to all mothers. The opening Requiem aeternum is masterful, with the statement of a beautiful and memorable main theme which becomes the foundation for the work as a whole. Edwards has written a work that will be performed for many years to come. I predict his “Requiem for My Mother” will catch on quickly among those who know and love sacred music but find a much larger audience.  What Edwards has composed will become contemporary Requiem of choice to those who seek beauty first.

Ralph Vaughan Williams, 2nd Symphony, “London.”

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 2nd Symphony, the “London,” has been recorded many times quite successfully, but Martyn Brabbins new recording of the “1920 Version” has an exceptional emotional force — this disc has the sense of occasion usually missing from even very good performances.  The famed Lento movement has never sounded more expressively tender. This marks the beginning of an entire Vaughan Williams symphony cycle for Brabbins and Hyperion, and if future recordings remain at the level it will challenge all the previous best, such as Previn, Handley, Boult’s EMI version, and Haitnik.

Lara Downes, American Again (American piano works)

Lara Downes pianism in American Again will both melt your heart and make foot start tapping with delight. Downes has collected an unusual assortment of American piano pieces, from arrangements of familiar folk tunes such as “Shenandoah,” “Over the Rainbow,” and “Blue Skies” to lesser-known works by composers such as Morton Gould, Leonard Bernstein, Coleridge-Taylor, Ernst Bloch, Duke Ellington, Roy Harris, Aaron Copland, and Howard Hanson.  There’s not a dud among them. The Coleridge-Taylor arrangement of the spiritual “Deep River” is especially moving.  The sound is state-of-the-art.

Miklos Rozsa, Film Music for Ben-Hur

A great Christmas gift for any music lover: Nic Raine’s new recording of the Miklos Rozsa soundtrack for “Ben-Hur.” This re-recording surpasses any other in both performance and sound quality. Order from Tadlow Music in the UK and your discs will arrive in about a week on your doorstep. I just finished listening and am swept away…..The City of Prague Symphony Orchestra has a wonderful set of players and the soloists are superb. The choir knocks it out of the park.

Beethoven, 6th and 9th Symphonies (transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt)

Yury Martynov has recorded all the Lizst transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies, and all of them are worth hearing — not only are they delightful to hear for themselves but also afford an opportunity to learn more about their structural development. You can start with his recording of the 9th Symphony and you will be surprised by how lively and fulsome the final movement, “Ode to Joy,” comes across in Liszt’s piano version.  His 6th Symphony, the “Pastoral,” is just as irresistible.

Gustav Mahler, 8th Symphony, “Symphony of a Thousand.”

Mahler 8th Symphony, conducted by Thierry Fischer, Utah Symphony, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and soloists, is exceptional, among the best 8ths I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard most of them. The soloists are first class, especially the tenor, Barry Banks, meeting all the challenges of the score. One expects the MTC to be great but here they surpass themselves, helped greatly by the RR engineers. Thierry Fischer has a marvelous feel for Mahler and delivers at every step of the way. The finale is appropriately overwhelming, but few recordings actually pack the kind of punch the composer imagined. Repeated hearings may lead me to say this is the best of all.

Haydn, Symphonies 60, 70 & 12; Cimarosa, Il maestro di cappella

Some recordings of familiar music are just that, familiar, but this one immediately grabs you and won’t go — it gets to the heart of Haydn’s greatness as a symphonic composer, his evidently inexhaustible invention allied with master craftsmanship, and the ability to capture the totality of all human emotions. Giovanni Antonini conducts Il Giardino Armonico in the Haydn, Symphony 60, “Il Distratto” in C major; Symphony 70 in D major; Symph0ny 12 in B major; and Cimarosa, Il maestro di cappella (Orch. M. Brolli).

Rachmaninov, All Night Vigil, Op. 37

The Gloriae Dei Cantores deliver a spectacular new recording of Rachmaninov’s “All Night Vigil” (1915), augmented by two Russian Orthodox choirs and two opera singers from the Kiev Opera. As stated in the 52-page booklet accompanying the CD, the conductor Peter Jermihov was determined to perform the Vigil in order to fully express its Christian intent and meaning. The result is an overwhelmingly beautiful and moving liturgy sung on the Saturday before the Resurrection. Music critics have praised it as “one of the very best recordings this work has received,” and I agree. This is deeply-felt sacred music written when Rachmaninov was in his prime, having already published his 2nd Symphony.