It’s the end of the month, so let’s board our time sphere and travel to the 31st Century for another adventure with the Legion of Super-Heroes! Last month, the Legion was contending with the diabolical Saturn Queen while the unpredictable Earth Man contemplated his new dual-role as a Green Lantern-Legionnaire, and Saturn Girl desperately searched for her twin sons. Let’s pick up the action in…
Legion of Super-Heroes #3: Earth Man’s Choice Writer: Paul Levitz, Penciller: Yildiray Cinar DC Comics, September 2010
As Earth Man begins to exit Legion headquarters, Colossal Boy and Cosmic Boy assume he’s reneging on his agreement and attempt to restrain him, but EM persuades them he’s just following instructions from his Green Lantern ring to journey to the planet Ozifer because sentient lives are at stake.
In the asteroid belt that was formerly Titan, Saturn Queen holds Brainiac 5, Tyroc, and Wildfire hostage and awaits Ultra Boy’s return in order to destroy the Legion contingent in one fell swoop.
Meanwhile, Lightning Lad tracks down his wife, Saturn Girl, with the help of his sister, Lightning Lass. Together, the trio vow to find and rescue the Ranzz’s kidnapped twins.
Earth Man arrives on Ozifer, but is overcome by a powerful swamp creature. Cosmic Boy had sent Sun Boy to keep tabs on EM and the fiery one reluctantly rescues his former tormentor in the nick of time.
Back in the Titan asteroid belt, Phantom Girl shows up to confront Saturn Queen, but she’s not alone. She’s brought Sensor Girl (known as Princess Projectra back in the Silver Age), Tellus, and Ultra Boy and the contingent makes short work of Saturn Queen.
In the middle of all of this action, we learn via a one-page blip that the Durlans are conspiring against the Legionnaires.
Back on Ozifer, Element Lad, Invisible Kid, and Shadow Lass reinforce Earth Man and Sun Boy, but a puzzled Earth Man still does not know the identity of the sentient life form he was sent to protect. The Guardians reveal a species of oversized insects will soon perish in the planet’s over-carbonized atmosphere. Element Lad and EM make the necessary correction, but EM then discards his Green Lantern ring in disgust, stating he’s just not into risking his life to save insects. As the Legionnaires’ cruiser climbs into deep space, Dyogene, powerful minion of the Guardians, ascends ominously from the glowing-green swamp.
Lightning Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lass follow the twins’ trail to the planet Avalon. As their cruiser makes its final approach, the trio spots…gasp, can it be?…uh, oh…it definitely is…DARKSEID!!!
This issue tied up one loose end, Saturn Queen, but introduced another one: the conspiring Durlans. Earth Man seems to have quit the Green Lantern Corps just as quickly as he was inducted. But what’s Dyogen up to? What a surprise (not!) that Darkseid, the Legion’s most powerful foe, is behind the kidnapping of the Ranzz’s twin sons. In one of the Legion’s previous incarnations, Darkseid kidnapped one of the twins, Garridan Ranzz, immediately following his birth and transformed him into the mindless monster, Validus, an eventual member of the dreaded Fatal Five. What evil plan does Darkseid have for the Ranzz twins this time?
Levitz does an excellent job interweaving all of the subplots. After three issues, I’m really impressed with his storytelling skills while juggling the imposingly large Legion roster. Cinar’s pencils are excellent in some frames, but border on amateurish in others. Overall, very good stuff! Levitz has me looking forward to #4 and the confrontation with Darkseid.
Back in late-July, I first shared the story about the outing of gay priest and high-level USCCB administrator, Jeffrey Burrill, by a conservative Catholic website. At the time, I didn’t foresee the ripple-effect implications. We’ve since learned that MANY other Catholic priests utilize the Grindr gay-hookup app on their smart phones and fear being exposed as well. The takeaway from the scandals of the last twenty years is that the very Catholic priests who exhort their parishioners to merit their salvation (impossible!) are some of the biggest moral failures.
A percentage of conservative American Catholics have bought into the same the-pandemic-is-a-hoax, anti-vax, group-think that’s sadly rife within evangelicalism. They’ll passionately defy progressive pope Francis’ instruction to get vaccinated until they end up in the hospital ICU. While Bergoglio is right about getting vaccinated, he simultaneously propagates Roman Catholicism’s spiritually-deadly false gospel.
Speaking of Catholic anti-vaxxers, prominent conservative cardinal and anti-vaxxer, Raymond Burke, caught the C-19 virus and struggled for his life in an already-overburdened hospital ICU. Burke is now off of the ventilator, but remains hospitalized. I wonder if he’s still anti-vax?
The only remains of the first Roman Catholic church in New York City (and State), the church’s bell, has been put on display. The bell’s peal called unwary Catholics to the anti-Biblical “sacrifice of the mass” and the other particulars of the RCC’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The object deserves dishonor rather than veneration.
Pope Francis is a progressive anti-doctrinalist when it comes to many Catholic tenets, but he’s in lock-step with Catholic conservatives in his views on the Jesus wafer and Mary worship (aka “veneration”).
According to official Catholic policy, only Roman Catholics with no unconfessed mortal sin on their soul may receive the Jesus wafer, but liberal priests have been inviting non-Catholics to receive the Jesus wafer at funeral and wedding masses for decades.
Catholic priests have been trained to ask probing questions about embarrassing sexual sins of those who come to them for confession, supposedly in order to exact a “good” (thorough) confession. The scandals of the last twenty years exemplify how millions of Catholic children and women were exploited over the centuries by predatory priests, often beginning in the confessional booth.
Today, we continue our series examining and responding to Catholic apologist and philosopher, Peter Kreeft’s book, “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic” (2018). Thanks for joining me.
Claim #5: “I am a Catholic because of the unprecedented historical fact that the church has never once lowered her standards, never changed her teaching.”
In this very short chapter, Kreeft readily acknowledges that Roman Catholic church history is riddled with scoundrel popes and prelates and the fallout from their failings. Kreeft specifically cites 1) the unabashed accumulation of wealth by the Borgia popes,* 2) the sexual abuse of children by clerics including the systematic enablement of predators by the church hierarchy, and 3) the blood-thirsty Catholic armies of the Crusades (1095-1291). However, Kreeft claims that “Catholic dogmas have remained pure even when the teachers were impure” (p. 21), and that “like the Jews of the Old Testament, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the Church does not compromise her high and holy standards and teachings” (p. 22). In the introductory title to this chapter Kreeft goes so far as to boast that it’s an “unprecedented historical fact that the (Roman Catholic) church has never once lowered her standards, never changed her teaching.”
Anyone with even a smattering of knowledge regarding Catholic church history stands gape-mouthed at Kreeft’s audaciously fallacious claims and Jesuitical sophistry. What exactly is “lowering her standards” if not the forced baptisms, the relentless persecution of Jews, the initiation and endorsement of the Crusades, the creation of the bloody Inquisition, and the enthusiastic persecution of Protestants. In regards to the oft-told lie that Catholicism has never changed its teachings, we’ve already discussed the example of Rome’s condescending declaration promulgated at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), officially teaching for the first time that members of other religions and even atheists were also able to merit salvation. We also briefly mentioned pope Francis’ lifting of the centuries-old ban on sacraments for remarried divorcees in his 2016 Amoris Laetita encyclical. Only a couple of months ago, we witnessed Francis’ restriction of the Latin mass aimed at its eventual elimination. Other blatant changes in RC teachings include its reversals on usury, slavery, and Limbo for unbaptized babies. It has also done an about-face in regards to the following: capital punishment, the selling of indulgences, the ban on meat on non-Lenten Fridays, and the condemnation of religious freedom (aka freedom of conscience).
Nazi propaganda minister and baptized Catholic, Joseph Goebbels, once famously said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Kreeft is employing that very same sophistry by claiming it’s an “unprecedented historical fact” that the Roman Catholic church has never once lowered its standards and never once changed her teaching, despite the overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary. Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have all apologized for teachings/directives authorized by their predecessors that resulted in undeniable atrocities.
I will readily admit, however, that the Roman Catholic church has consistently propagated its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.
Mr. Kreeft, I am NOT a Catholic because, not only does the Catholic church teach a false gospel, but history stands as an objective witness to the fact that Catholicism regularly lowered its “high and holy standards” and also changed its teachings.
*Kreeft cites only the three Borgia popes as greedy pursuers of wealth, but popes have lived like kings and bishops like princes for 1500 years.
Next week: Claim #6: I am a Catholic for the same reason G. K. Chesterton gives: to get my sins forgiven.
Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on June 28, 2016 and has been revised.
The other day I was listening to the May 5, 2016 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM out of Buffalo, New York with Catholic priest, Dave Baker, and moderator, Mike Denz, taking questions from listeners. During the show, the topic of conversation turned toward demonic possession and exorcism. Priest Dave suggested that Catholics could protect themselves from demonic activity by wearing a Saint Benedict medal. Huh? I was a member of the Catholic church for 27 years until 1983, but I wasn’t familiar with the obscure Saint Benedict medal, although its history goes back 1000 years.
The medal has the image of Saint Benedict of Nursia (480-543 or 547) on one side and, along with other nomenclature, the Latin inscription, V.R.S., Vade retro satana (“Begone, Satan”) on the reverse side. Tradition has it that Benedict, an Italian monk living in a mountain cave as a hermit, was visited by Satan who put lustful thoughts in his mind. Benedict stripped off his clothes and rolled in a nearby thorn-bush, completely lacerating his body and thereby purging all sinful thoughts. Another time, fellow clerics attempted to poison his food, but Benedict allegedly escaped harm through miraculous intervention. Benedict is most famous for having created the rules and rituals of Catholic monastic life.
The sacramental started out as the “Benedictine cross,” but Leo IX redesigned it as a medal after he became pope in 1049.
Catholics use a large variety of sacramentals blessed by priests to allegedly ward off evil and bring good favor, including holy water, scapulars, medals, palm fronds, rosaries, statues, candles, crucifixes, etc. Catholicism is a religion of the physical/natural. God’s grace is allegedly received through the priest’s administration of the sacraments. A Catholic must always “do” to attempt to maintain their good-standing: go to church, receive communion, visit a shrine, display sacramentals in the home, etc. One must say the rosary so many times, go to mass on the first Fridays of the month so many times, say a novena so many times, etc. There’s a ritual for every occasion. It’s a religious treadmill. Somewhere buried deep under the rituals and religious striving is Jesus Christ. He’s the One you need.
Catholic friend, wearing a medal or any other religious object won’t protect you. You won’t find any reference to wearing blessed objects for protection in the New Testament. We must come to God by faith, by accepting God the Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior by faith alone. Religious routines won’t make us holy. Pious rituals won’t make us acceptable before a Holy God. You could wear 100 Saint Benedict medals and it wouldn’t do any good. Protection from demons? Satan’s biggest lie is that people can earn their way to Heaven by being religious and “good.” But only God is good. Accept Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Rest in His righteousness, not your own. We don’t have any. After you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior then follow Him as Lord. Ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise. You’re no doubt a little nervous even contemplating leaving your religion. Follow Christ. Everything else is worthless in comparison.
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:2-4
Today, as the conclusion of our “Kazan Redux” series, we’re going to re-review director Elia Kazan’s nineteenth and final film, “The Last Tycoon.” The review below was first posted on December 28, 2017 and has been slightly revised.
The Last Tycoon Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Robert De Niro, Ingrid Boulting, Robert Mitchum, Theresa Russell, and Jack Nicholson Paramount, 1976, 123 minutes
Film producer, Sam Spiegel, tapped successful playwright, Harold Pinter, and director, Mike Nichols, to bring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel, “The Last Tycoon,” to the screen. When Nichols bailed on the project, Spiegel desperately turned to his “On the Waterfront” director, Elia Kazan. “The Last Tycoon” would be Kazan’s last film.
Monroe Stahr (De Niro) is the ruthless, arrogant, production executive at a major film studio in 1930s-era Hollywood. He’s so successful he routinely flouts the studio president, Pat Brady (Mitchum). When an earthquake causes a flood on the lot, Stahr spots movie extra, Kathleen Moore (Boulting), clinging to a massive floating movie prop; the head of the Hindu god, Shiva, and instantly falls in love with this young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to his dead wife. Brady’s daughter, Cecilia (Russell), has a schoolgirl crush on Stahr, but he only has eyes for Kathleen. A relationship ensues, but Kathleen attempts to break it off by leaving a note stating she’s engaged. Stahr won’t take no for an answer and pursues the enigmatic Kathleen at the expense of his studio responsibilities. When Kathleen telegrams him that she married her fiancé, Stahr is crushed. He attempts to vent his anger and frustration in a meeting with a union organizer (Nicholson), but succumbs to a forceful right hook. While Cecilia consoles the physically and emotionally battered Stahr, Brady and the studio board sharks smell blood. Stahr is dismissed and takes one final, lonely walk through the lot.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished, last novel was inspired by MGM’s legendary, golden-boy producer, Irving Thalberg. Sixty-seven-year-old Kazan had not directed a film in four years, but he accepted Spiegel’s offer to direct “The Last Tycoon” mainly as an opportunity to move from New York to California so that his terminally-ill mother could escape the bitterness of another New York winter. Unlike his previous film projects, Kazan had no input into the script. There is very little about this movie that distinguishes it as a Kazan film.
There’s none better than De Niro in portraying a mafia goon, but he’s out of his league playing the sharp-as-a-tack Stahr, who must deftly orchestrate ten or twenty film projects in his head nineteen hours a day. De Niro lost forty-pounds in preparation for the role of the sickly executive. Boulting is so detached in her performance she simply can’t muster any interest from the audience. One of the few bright spots in this movie is Theresa Russell in her film debut. A number of screen notables make appearances including Tony Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Ray Milland, Dana Andrews, John Carradine, Anjelica Huston, and French film actress, Jeanne Moreau.
“The Last Tycoon” is a paper-thin story that generates little audience interest. While there are a few decent performances, it’s not enough to save this clunker. Kazan wrote later that he immediately knew he had a dog on his hands the day of the first private screening. Unfortunately, the great director finished his film career on this sour note.
There are no extras with the DVD.
Additional thoughts from a believer
Like the character, Monroe Stahr, and his inspiration, Irving Thalberg, Elia Kazan had also been one of the entertainment industry’s wunderkind “golden boys.” In the 1940s and 1950s, no other American director could rival Kazan’s combined standing in Hollywood and Broadway. But as Kazan became increasingly involved in autobiographical projects in the 1960s, audiences lost interest and his star began to descend. Kazan would finish his life writing novels for an ever-dwindling readership. He died in 2003.
Kazan’s rise and fall is another reminder to us that life without Jesus Christ is unfulfilling and ultimately, deadly. Kazan achieved great career success and was the toast of both coasts, but was also haunted by his friendly testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. Atheist Kazan had remarkable insights into human beings; their strengths and especially their weaknesses. But he had no answers, only questions.
Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities By Ann Carey Our Sunday Visitor, 1997, 368 pp.
In 1965, there were 180,000 nuns in the U.S. Fifty years later, in 2014, there were only 50,000 and most of them were elderly. What caused the steep decline?
In this book, the author attempts to explain the reasons why the bottom dropped out of Catholic women’s religious orders. The RCC was already contemplating modernizing tradition-bound religious orders prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The unofficial aggiornamento “fresh air” theme of the council emboldened nuns in leadership positions, who were simultaneously being drawn into the burgeoning feminist movement, to make drastic changes to their orders. They increasingly viewed the church as a patriarchal institution that devalued women. The church hierarchy watched in dismay as nuns jettisoned habits (uniforms) and convents and became increasingly involved in social gospel causes and New Age philosophies. Pope John Paul II repeatedly attempted to rein in the rebellious nuns, but the horse was already out of the barn.
Author Ann Carey, a conservative Catholic, laments in excruciatingly painstaking detail how American nuns became increasingly radicalized and distanced themselves from the control of the church hierarchy. Readers will need a program to keep track of all of the sundry councils and committees that were involved in the transformation. The traditions and structure that had once attracted fresh recruits to the orders were gone and membership plummeted.
Back in the 1960s in my northeast corner of Rochester, there were three Catholic parishes within a two-mile radius, each with its own grammar school and convent of teaching nuns. Is there anything more cultish than a convent full of virginal women claiming to be brides of Christ, replete with wedding rings? American Protestants had gradually become inured to the bizarre cultishness of convents.
My parish school, St. James, had a mixture of nun and lay teachers. My nun teachers were Sister Imelda (kindergarten), Sister Annunciata (1st grade), Sister Tarcisius (3rd Grade), and Sister Mary Ann (8th Grade). Other nuns at the school who I can remember were Sister Lourdes, Sister Gemma, Sister Goretti, Sister Virginia, and the principal, Sister Edwardine. Who were these mysterious women in their 14th century garb with their faces tightly squeezed by a multi-layered, cloth tourniquet? How did they live together in that convent building next to the school after classes were over?
In my nine years at St. James (1961-1970), under the tutelage of the Sisters of Mercy, I NEVER ONCE heard the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Instead, I was indoctrinated into Roman Catholicism with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit and its intricate rituals and cultish practices. Those poor nuns were deluded slaves of a pseudo-Christian counterfeit.
This book was both painfully boring and interesting, if that’s possible. I did appreciate learning the history of how the radicalized nun leadership steered their orders into steep decline.
Gymnast-extraordinaire, Simone Biles, made headlines by pulling out of events at the recent Tokyo Olympics due to mental strain. Only a handful of American Catholic celebrities wear their religion on their sleeve. That group includes Stephen Colbert, Patricia Heaton, Mark Wahlberg, and Biles. Catholic media sources loved to brag on Biles, noting how she kept a rosary in her gym bag during competitions. But Biles caused a big stir within conservative Catholic circles after the Olympics by joining fellow Catholic, President Joe Bidden, in supporting abortion “rights.” Biles’ book, “Courage to Soar” (2016), was a bestseller at “Christian” bookstores.
Catholic internet sites are still abuzz over the outing of monsignor Jeffrey Burrill. Data illegally obtained from the cell phone of the secretary-general of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revealed that the priest/administrator visited gay bathhouses and frequently used the “Grindr” gay-hookup app. A conservative Catholic internet site, The Pillar, outed Burrill as part of an offensive against the queer culture within the Roman Catholic clergy.
Catholic conservatives and traditionalists continue to fume over pope Francis’ restriction of the Latin mass via his Traditionis Custodes apostolic letter of July 16th. They will certainly defy the 84-year-old progressive pope and cling to the hope that his successor shares their philosophical bent.
Cardinal Raymond Burke is one of the leaders of Catholic conservatism and an outspoken critic of pope Francis. While he caused harm by discouraging his followers to get vaccinated, he caused even greater harm by propagating Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.
I have made a note to eventually read the book mentioned in this article, “Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America Since Vatican II” by Stephen Bullivant. Unfortunately, the Rochester library system doesn’t have a copy.
Last Saturday was the deadline for filing claims against Roman Catholic dioceses for priest sexual abuse under New York State’s Child Victim Act. Here in Rochester, 475 former victims filed claims against the diocese, while in nearby Buffalo, 924 filed claims against the diocese. That number was double the largest number ever filed in the more than 20 prior diocese bankruptcy cases in the U.S., stretching back to 2004.
Today, we continue our series examining and responding to Catholic apologist and philosopher, Peter Kreeft’s book, “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic” (2018). Thanks for joining me.
Claim #4: “I am a Catholic because the Catholic religion is from God, not just from man”
Kreeft opens this chapter by asserting the Roman Catholic church’s claim that it is the ONLY divinely authorized church. Is such uniqueness unprecedented? Kreeft points to the Jews as God’s chosen people. History has confirmed the uniqueness of the Jews by their survival in the face of unparalleled hatred and persecution. Kreeft then points to Jesus Christ as the unique God-Man. Kreeft argues that, just as the Jews and Jesus Christ were distinct in their position/roles, the Roman Catholic church is “the one true, authoritative, visible Church that Christ Himself founded and authorized to teach His truth, in His name, with His infallible authority” (p. 18).
It’s certainly true that the Israelites (later, the Jews) were God’s chosen people and that Jesus Christ was/is the unique God-Man. By presenting these divinely-authorized examples as validations/confirmations of Catholicism’s claims to authority, Kreeft is employing some philosophical sleight of hand in the manner of if A=C, and B=C, then D=C.
The early church was persecuted throughout the Roman Empire until 313 when Constantine legalized Christianity. In 380, Theodosius I signed a decree making Christianity the religion of the state. The young church became increasingly institutionalized and conformed to the Roman imperial model. The church’s hierarchy developed according to the Roman political pattern.
“But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.'” – Matthew 20:25-26
Pagan religions were outlawed and their practitioners were persecuted. However, elements of Roman pagan religion were borrowed and adapted. The simple yet sublime Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone proclaimed by God in His Word was gradually transformed into a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit, tightly controlled by the increasingly powerful prelates and their priests. See historian, Alistair Kee’s “Constantine Versus Christ: The Triumph of Ideology” (see here) for how the early church spiraled into formalism and corruption following Emperor Constantine’s patronage. Rather than clinging to Sacred Scripture as its sole guide, the evolving Roman church produced tradition after anti-Biblical tradition. The church’s magisterium (the pope and his bishops) declared itself and its traditions on par with Scripture, both eventually superceding Scripture.
“In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:9
Divine authority is not found in a worldly religious institution, but is found in God’s unchanging Word. Genuine Christians gather in local churches that teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Christians the world over are members of the Body of Christ, the truly “catholic” (universal) church. Jesus Christ is our Head and the Holy Spirit is our Guide. It’s messy. It’s not organized like the RCC. But within the patchwork quilt of evangelical Christianity is where the Holy Spirit works, not in the worldly grandeur of Roman Catholicism, a faux church with its faux gospel.
Mr. Kreeft, I am NOT a Catholic because the Catholic religion is NOT from God. It’s a counterfeit Christianity created by men. It’s understandable that Kreeft doesn’t address the current conflict within the RCC between pope Francis and his progressive allies and conservative and traditionalist prelates and priests. I would ask Kreeft if pope Francis’ Catholicism is the one that’s divinely authorized or is it the conservative Catholicism of cardinals Burke, Müller, and Sarah? The two are not the same. Why does Kreeft even quibble about the alleged authority of the RCC since it officially proclaims that all religionists and even atheists may also merit their salvation?
As in his previous three chapters, Kreeft does not base any of his arguments on Scripture.
Next week: Claim # 5: I am a Catholic because of the unprecedented historical fact that the church has never once lowered her standards, never changed her teaching