40 Questions About Roman Catholicism

40 Questions About Roman Catholicism
By Gregg R. Allison
Kregal Academic, 2021, 326 pp.

5 Stars

Is Roman Catholicism Christian? Such a question is repugnant to many evangelicals in this era of undiscerning pluralism. But how well do you really know Roman Catholicism and what it teaches?

In his previous book, “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” (2014), evangelical theologian, Gregg Allison, posited that the Roman Catholic church operates according to two basic constructs:

  • The Nature-Grace Interdependence, which claims the concrete conference of divine grace through nature, e.g., priests, water (baptism), oil (confirmation, last rites), laying of hands (ordination), bread (Jesus wafer), pilgrimage sites (healing), etc.
  • The Christ-Church Interconnection, whereby the Catholic church presents itself as the prolongation of the incarnation of Christ.

In this outstanding new book, published as part of Kregal Academic’s “40 Questions” series, Allison examines most of the major Roman Catholic doctrines and how they align within the Nature-Grace and Christ-Church constructs. The Catholic view on a particular doctrine is presented quite objectively followed by a Protestant/Biblical response. I would have loved to have listed the titles of all forty chapters to give you an idea of the scope of this examination, but I realize that few would have labored through it. Suffice to say Allison addresses the major doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity, most importantly, the opposing views on justification (infusion of sacramental grace and meritorious obedience vs. the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness) and salvation (by sacramental grace and merit vs. by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone). Merit was unabashedly taught as a component of Catholicism’s salvation system back when I was a young Catholic parochial school student, but the term has fallen out of favor within RC-ism because of its blatant anti-Gospel connotations and has been replaced with such sophistical phrases as “cooperating with grace” and “maintaining friendship with God,” but Allison accurately identifies merit as the bottom line of RC soteriology.

I wish there was more historical context in this book, but I realize Allison is writing from a theologian’s perspective rather than a historian’s. Allison’s tone is irenic almost to a fault, which comports with his view that confrontational evangelism is not effective. Praise God for a book such as this in 2021 when ecumenism with Rome is rampant within big tent evangelicalism. Much thanks to Dr. Allison and Kregal Academic Publishing. I’ve reviewed over 120 books on Roman Catholicism over the last six years and this one is easily one of the best. Be forewarned that this book is aimed towards academics, it’s not a breezy read for the beach.

“40 Questions About Roman Catholicism” can be ordered from Amazon here.

🎵 “‘When the pope says, ‘Don’t cry, rules we’re made to defy,’ that’s Amoris.” 🎵 [To the tune of “That’s Amore”]

Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies: Letters and statements addressed to Pope Francis, the Cardinals, and the Bishops with a collection of related articles and interviews
Edited by John R.T. Lamont and Claudio Pierantoni
Arouca Press, 2021, 433 pp.

3 Stars

After ascending to the papacy in 2013, Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio perceived that the Roman Catholic church was in a serious pickle. Official Catholic doctrine taught that remarried divorcees were adulterers and could not receive the eucharist Jesus wafer, the alleged “source and summit of Christian spirituality” as the Catholic catechism declares, or the other sacraments. That was not a big deal fifty years ago when few Catholics divorced, but these days close to 30% of adult Catholics are divorced and many obviously remarry. Then there are the many Catholic couples that cohabitate rather than marry. Rather than endure the church’s discipline, many remarried divorcees and cohabitators stop attending mass altogether. Progressive Catholics like Francis and his allies felt that scrupulous adherence to rules for rules’ sake was counterproductive when fewer and fewer were showing up for mass on Sunday mornings.

In 2016, Francis wrote Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), an “apostolic exhortation,” which among other things, declared that “in some cases,” those living in “irregular unions” were committing only venial sin rather than mortal sin due to mitigating circumstances (e.g., children) and that it was up to the discretion of the local parish priest as to who could receive the Jesus wafer and the other sacraments. The language of Amoris Laetitia was purposely vague so as not to be seen as flagrantly overturning traditional doctrine.

Conservative and traditionalist Catholics were appalled. They interpreted the pope’s apparent rescindment of the ban on the sacraments to remarried divorcees as an act of grave heresy. Four cardinals officially submitted five dubia (“questions”) to the pope, requesting that he clarify Amoris Laetitia in light of traditional Catholic teaching, but Francis refused to respond. Conservative prelates advised their priests to ignore Francis’ “bending of the rules,” however, when the Argentinian bishops published a guideline endorsing Francis’ pragmatic, rule-bending intentions, the pope cited the document as “authentic magisterium,” i.e., the authorized interpretation. Several petitions signed by prelates, priests, and laypersons followed the dubia, all accusing Francis of heresy, but they were also ignored by the pope. Conservative Catholics were now the ones in a pickle. What to do when the pope is a heretic? They were in a Catch-22 because absolute fealty to the papacy is a prime tenet of conservative Catholicism.

In this book, the conservative Catholic editors present the dubia, the various petitions, and many relevant articles. As an interested evangelical Vatican observer, I was fascinated from start to finish of this book. This is unparalleled papal drama that every evangelical apologist should be taking note of. There was considerable “technical jargon” (references to Catholic papal theology and canon law) throughout, but I managed to wade through without my eyes glazing over too often.

I watched the Amoris Laetita “crisis” unfold beginning in 2016 and have posted many articles over the years citing the mammoth (for Catholicism) dilemma. Francis has undermined the age-old boast that it was impossible for the pope to lead the RC church into error (as per St. Robert Bellarmine, d. 1621). Five years after Amoris Laetitia, the furor among conservative Catholics has somewhat abated. The pope’s strategy to outwait his opponents has partially worked, but the pot is still simmering. All that conservative prelates can do is continue to wring their hands and counsel their priests and lay followers to ignore the heretical pope. There are no mechanisms within canon law to impeach the pope. Missing in this internecine Catholic feud is the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Postscript #1: I ordered this 2021 book from Amazon back in April, but five months later it is strangely no longer being offered. Does Amazon now regard this “Francis is a heretic” book as “hate literature.”

Postscript #2: It’s probably safe to assume that the vast majority of mass-going Roman Catholics are not aware of this Amoris Laetitia controversy. They clock-in and clock-out every Sunday and that’s about the extent of it. However, rest assured that some incensed Catholic Karen will be talking to “father” if she spots a remarried-divorcee standing in line to receive the Jesus wafer.

Relevant terms:

Papal infallibility: Some evangelicals mistakenly assume Catholics believe everything the pope teaches to be infallible. But according to the RCC, only when the pope speaks dogmatically on matters of faith and morals, ex cathedra, or “from the chair” of the Apostle Peter, is his teaching considered infallible. When have popes spoken ex cathedra? Catholic theologians can only agree on a handful of declarations, but no one, including pope Francis, considers Amoris Laetitia to be infallible.

Indefectability: The Roman Catholic church has boasted for 1500 years that it is “indefectacle,” i.e. that the church’s teaching magisterium (the pope in conjunction with the bishops) is incapable of leading the church into doctrinal error due to the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit. The five-year debate over Amoris Laetitia debunks that cherished claim.

Leonard Feeney, the Jesuit who infamously opposed the RCC’s shift to semi-Universalism

After the Boston Heresy Case
By Gary Potter
Catholic Treasures, 1995, 215 pp.

3 Stars

Century after century, the Roman Catholic church taught that only Roman Catholics could be saved (see here). The Latin term used by popes, prelates, and theologians was extra ecclesiam nulla salus, “outside of the church there is no salvation.” Liberal theological concepts began creeping into the church in the early-20th century, including the notion that baptized Protestants could also be saved as well as “righteous” non-Christian religionists who would desire baptism if they only understood its significance, i.e., baptism of (unconscious) desire.

Popular Jesuit priest, Leonard Feeney (1897-1978), opposed this shift towards semi-Universalism. He and Catherine Goddard Clarke founded the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic religious order dedicated to defending the tenet of extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Feeney’s battle with his religious superiors began in 1945 and escalated until his excommunication in 1953.

I’ve posted about Leonard Feeney previously (see here and here) and was interested in reading a short history of the Jesuit priest and his followers. “After the Boston Heresy Case” fit the bill precisely, although the title is strangely misleading. The bulk of the book deals with the prelude and ensuing “move, counter-move” chess match between Feeney and his superiors. There is actually very little about the aftermath following his excommunication.

Feeney’s modernist opponents won the battle and the RCC officially promulgated the doctrine of the possible salvation of Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religionists, published as Nostra Aetate (“In Out Time”) on October 28, 1965 at the Second Vatican Council. As I mentioned in the previous posts, the priest, nun, and brother religious teachers at my Catholic grammar school and high school were slow on the uptake and continued to teach the traditional, literal view of extra ecclesiam nulla salus several years after Nostra Aetate.

I found this short book very interesting and informative. Catholic journalist, Gary Potter, is unapologetic in his admiration of Feeney and the traditional understanding of the doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

Why should evangelicals care about the Feeney controversy? The Feeney case is a glaring example of how RC-ism has changed its teaching despite claims of being Semper eadem, “Always the same.” We also see that Catholicism now dichotomously holds to two opposing false gospels: 1) people must be baptized to be saved, and 2) people needn’t be baptized to be saved as long as they sincerely follow their conscience or religion. Feeney saw the glaring incongruity for what it was and took a stand.

Make no mistake, I’m not a fan of Leonard Feeney. The conservative Jesuit priest would have been convinced I was going to hell for renouncing the Catholic religion and accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. But at least Feeney’s pre-conciliar false gospel was a recognizable and unambiguous opponent rather than the dichotomous, incongruent, foggy-bottom false gospel of post-conciliar Roman Catholicism.

Postscript: Potter makes the salient point that American Catholicism was fertile ground for semi-Universalism because, as a minority church in an unfriendly nation, it sought recognition and acceptance rather than emphasizing alleged Catholic prerogatives and superiority.

Above: Leonard Feeney (black suit) with adoring disciples at the entrance of the St. Benedict Center at the corner of Bow St. and Arrow St. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The center was the headquarters of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary until 1958 when Feeney sold the property and he and his devoted followers moved to Still River, thirty miles west of Boston.
Above: The same entranceway as it appears today

Throwback Thursday: Growing up Catholic, turning to Jesus

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on June 21, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

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Growing Up Catholic: The Pursuit of Truth – From Tradition to Satisfaction
By Tim Lott
Abundant Publishing, 2007, 192 pages

4 Stars

This book is an interesting testimony from ex-Catholic, Tim Lott. Lott grew up in the Catholic religion, receiving the sacraments, and attempting to merit his way into Heaven by trying to obey the Ten Commandments, as his church taught. He married an evangelical Christian and began attending his wife’s church, although still identifying as a Roman Catholic. But when Lott began reading the Bible for the first time in his life, he discovered there were many differences between God’s Word and Catholicism. Over time, he was convicted of his sin by the Holy Spirit through Scripture and received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Lott briefly examines some of the un-biblical beliefs of Catholicism including purgatory, confession of sins to a priest, praying to saints, worshiping (aka venerating) Mary, eucharistic transubstantiation, and the sacrifice of the mass.

I enjoyed the author’s testimony. Lott is not a trained scholar so there are other books that do a much better job of critiquing Catholic theology, but I praise the Lord that he came out of religious error and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Especially interesting was his struggle regarding baptism. Most Catholics are baptized as infants. Catholicism teaches the sacramental waters actually wash away original sin and incorporate the infant candidate into the church. Lott’s evangelical church taught that baptism is not a sacrament that imparts any grace, but that it’s a public profession of faith in Christ by an adult or a child old enough to fully understand the Gospel. Lott had been baptized as an infant, like most Catholics, and wrestled quite a bit with being baptized again after accepting Christ. I personally had a hard time relating to his struggle and all of the drama. After I accepted Christ, I knew my infant Catholic baptism counted for nothing, so I got genuinely baptized as a professing believer. No drama. But each believer’s journey is different.

Used copies of “Growing Up Catholic” can be ordered from Amazon here. For those who desire to read a thorough critique of Roman Catholicism in comparison to God’s Word, order “The Gospel According to Rome” by James G. McCarthy from Amazon.com. See here. For a list of over 360 books (with hyper-links to over 120 of my reviews) which compare Catholicism to God’s Word, see my Books tab here.

Legion #4: “That Which Is Purest Among You”

Last month, at the conclusion of Legion #3, we witnessed what I thought were the Ranzzes landing on the planet Avalon and spotting Darkseid. Silly me. It was only a statue of Darkseid.

Legion of Super-Heroes #4: That Which Is Purest Among You
Writer: Paul Levitz, Pencillers: Yildiray Cinar and Francis Portela
DC Comics, October 2010

3 Stars

Plot

Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Lightning Lass arrive on the planet, Avalon, in desperate search of the Ranzz’s twin sons. They encounter a religious cult dedicated to Darkseid. But what do the fanatics want with the twins?

Meanwhile in Metropolis, Earthman attends a clandestine meeting of Earth-firsters, but rejects their invitation to lead them. At Legion headquarters, current-leader, Cosmic Boy, announces the upcoming election of a new leader to assembled members, including Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Quislet, Sensor Girl, Shadow Lass, Sun Boy, and Timber Wolf.*

On Naltor, Dream Girl, accompanied by Dawnstar and Gates, convinces Beren Kah to allow thousands of Titan refugees to settle on the planet.

Back on Avalon, the three Legionnaires are in a life and death struggle with the Servant of Darkness and his right-hand-creature, Zeemith.

On Oa, Dyogene admits to failure because Earth Man rejected the Green Lantern ring, but Sodam Yat prods him to find a new candidate.

Returning back to Avalon, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Lightning Lass defeat the Servant of Darkness and recover the twins.

At Legion headquarters, the team conjectures about the unpredictable Earth Man and his possible connection to the “xenos.”

Comments

With all of the jumping back and forth between planets, as well as the kidnapping of the Ranzz twins storyline ending with a resounding thud, this issue rates only three stars. I had fully expected an epic battle with Darkseid. Some dangling plotlines include the destiny of Earth Man in relation to the Earth-firsters, the Durlan conspiracy (referred to in #3), the election of the Legion’s next leader, and Dyogene’s search for the next Green Lantern candidate.

*At the meeting, Cosmic Boy mentions the Legion roster is comprised of 26 members. From the first four issues, I’ve culled the list of 23 heroes below. Who are the 3 Legionnaires who have yet to make an appearance?

  1. Brainiac 5
  2. Chameleon Boy
  3. Colossal Boy
  4. Cosmic Boy
  5. Dawnstar
  6. Earth Man
  7. Element Lad
  8. Gates
  9. Invisible Kid
  10. Lightning Lad
  11. Lightning Lass
  12. Mon-El
  13. Phantom Girl
  14. Quislet
  15. Saturn Girl
  16. Sensor Girl
  17. Shadow Lass
  18. Sun Boy
  19. Tellus
  20. Timber Wolf
  21. Tyroc
  22. Ultra Boy
  23. Wildfire

Postscript: Hmm. There’s semi-credible rumors floating around out there that DC may be bringing back the LSH. See here.

Catholic Republic: Wacko Catholic fundamentalism, but with one very cogent point

Catholic Republic: Why America Will Perish Without Rome
By Timothy Gordon
Crisis Publications, 2019, 288 pp.

1 Star

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The vast majority of adult Americans are familiar with the above words penned by Thomas Jefferson as part of the Declaration of Independence of 1776. However, most Americans are not aware of the historical context; that America’s founders were strongly influenced by the philosophers of the Enlightenment including John Locke, Charles Montesquieu, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In “Catholic Republic: Why America Will Perish Without Rome,” fundamentalist Catholic philosopher, Timothy Gordon, argues that Enlightenment thinkers plagerized many of their ideas from Catholic Natural Law, a syncretic “christianization” of Aristotelian philosophy, most notably by Italian Catholic friar, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

A Catholic source defines Natural Law as “a system of principles that guides human life in accordance with our nature and our good, insofar as those can be known by natural reason. It thereby promotes life the way it evidently ought to be, based on what we are and how the world is, from the standpoint of an intelligent, thoughtful, and well-intentioned person. It’s much the same, at least in basic concept, as what classical Western thinkers called life in accordance with nature and reason…We might think of it as a system that aims at moral and social health and well-being—which, like physical health, can at least in principle be largely understood apart from revelation.”

America’s Enlightenment-influenced founders were largely deists, not evangelical Christians. As Gordon points out, the concept that God endows men with the unalienable (i.e., impossible to take away or give up) “rights” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Gordon states this third right should actually be property ownership) is contrary to Protestant understanding of Biblical teaching. Neither Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli would have endorsed Jefferson’s statement on the “unalienable rights” of men. The Reformers correctly declared that men are morally depraved because of sin and that all of nature is in a fallen state due to sin. The Catholic church, in contrast, teaches men are only “spiritually wounded” and are able to achieve great personal and community virtue with the assistance of the “hospital” Roman Catholic church.

Gordon argues that the American republic is declining because it is based on the founders’ bastardized, crypto-Catholic, “Prot-Enlight” (Protestant-Enlightenment) version of Natural Law and that for the nation to survive its citizens must turn to the Roman Catholic church and its sacraments.

I selected this book because as I was searching through our library’s website the ridiculously audacious cover illustration (a statue of Mary atop the U.S. Capitol Building) and title caught my attention. The author’s main argument, that America must turn to the Roman Catholic church in order to survive as a republic, is wacko Catholic fundamentalism, a specialty of Crisis Publications. The American Catholic bishops can’t convince the majority of the U.S.’s 70 million Catholics to attend mandatory Sunday mass let alone “convert” the nation. That said, the author’s argument that Jefferson’s declaration on the unalienable rights of men is contrary to Gospel Christianity is cogent and well-taken. American Christian Nationalist believers must incongruously juggle both Jefferson’s highly-revered, but un-Biblical declaration on unalienable rights and citizen virtue and the Bible’s teaching that no one is “endowed” with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or ownership of property) as God-given “rights.”

What Gordon guilefully neglects to mention is that the Roman Catholic church was largely opposed to the concept of republican government well into the 20th Century. In his 1899 encyclical, Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae, Pope Leo XIII condemned the heresy of Americanism, specifically the concepts of separation of church and state and freedom of religion (aka freedom of conscience). The Roman Catholic church historically preferred sympathetic monarchies and dictatorships that guaranteed the Catholic church’s privileges and prerogatives.

Roman Catholics: Saved or Lost?

Roman Catholics: Saved or Lost?
By Larry E. Miller
Westbow Press, 2020, 378 pp.

4 Stars

Are Roman Catholics saved or lost? That question is downright offensive to ecumenically-minded evangelicals. However, sixty years ago, evangelical pastors and laypersons were generally quite aware that the Roman Catholic church taught a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit and that almost all Catholics were lost and in need of Gospel outreach. What changed? As former pastor, Larry E. Miller, relates in this independently-published book, a number of things contributed to the dulling of that awareness regarding Catholicism:

  • At its Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) the RCC dramatically changed its approach to Protestantism, from militant confrontation to dialogue and collegiality. Some evangelical Protestants made more of the RC overtures than was warranted and mistakenly assumed the RCC had adopted a more Biblical soteriology.
  • The Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) initiative in 1994 overlooked or outright dismissed doctrinal differences in an effort to unite Catholics and evangelicals in the struggle against rising secularism.
  • Trans-denominationalism as seen in such events as the Billy Graham Crusades and Promise Keepers rallies weakened loyalty/adherence to doctrinal distinctives, including Gospel distinctives.
  • Within evangelicalism, there was/is a noticeable decline in interest in doctrinal clarity.

Miller then goes back to basics and carefully compares the genuine Good News of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone to Roman Catholicism’s unchanged false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The two gospels are diametrically opposed and irreconcilable.

In the last section, Miller counsels evangelicals on how to reach out to Roman Catholics with the Gospel (mainly via friendship/personal evangelism).

I’m generally not a fan of independently-published books. Brother Miller makes a good effort with “Roman Catholics: Saved or Lost,” but he’s not a polished writer and some of the material is redundant. That said, he does a good job in the early chapters of explaining how the evangelical attitude toward Roman Catholicism and its false gospel flip-flopped in the short span of only sixty years, including naming the names of some of the Rome-friendly evangelical accommodators and compromisers. I read the Kindle edition of this book.

The radicalization and steep decline of nuns

Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women’s Religious Communities
By Ann Carey
Our Sunday Visitor, 1997, 368 pp.

2 Stars

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.

Above: An enclosed passageway allowed the teaching nuns of the former-St. James Elementary School (left) to comfortably enter and exit their convent house (right) in all types of inclement weather.
The woman above exemplifies today’s radicalized nuns

Legion of Super-Heroes #2: The Day After Titanfall

It’s the first week of the month so it’s time once again for some 31st Century frivolity! Last month, in our inaugural review of the 2010-2013 Legion of Super-Heroes, we witnessed the…gulp…destruction of Titan and the annihilation of its inhabitants. Let’s pick up the pieces in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #2: The Day After Titanfall
Writer: Paul Levitz, Pencillers: Yildiray Cinar and Francis Portela
DC Comics, August 2010

5 Stars

Plot

Brainiac 5 directs a contingent of powerful Legionnaires – Mon-El, Tyroc, Ultra Boy, and Wildfire – as they break up the dangerously large asteroid belt around Saturn, the sad remains of the destroyed moon, Titan. The evil Saturn Queen stealthily enters the scene of her former homeworld and easily subdues Brainy.

Back on Earth, Earth Man secretly contemplates his new Green Lantern ring while Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, and Cosmic Boy, make preparations to assist the thousands of refugees from Titan who face the wrath of the xenophobic Earthers.

Returning to the orbit of Saturn, Saturn Queen switches her attention from the vanquished Brainiac 5 and subdues Ultra Boy with her telepathic powers. Jo quickly turns on his fellow Legionnaires.

As the pages turn, we see Saturn Girl hot on the trail of her two kidnapped twins, while on planet Winith, hubby, Lightning Lad, hears of his family’s predicament for the first time from his sister, Lightning Lass. What was Garth doing all this time? He was trying to track down his brother, Mekt, the evil Lightning Lord. Hmm. Saturn Queen? Lightning Lord? Does anyone else smell a reunion of the Legion of Super-Villains in the near future?

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Invisible Kid, Phantom Girl, and Sun Boy join Colossal Boy as he attempts to defend the Titan refugees from the xenophobe mob at the disembarkation site. Earth Man surprisingly closes ranks with the Legionnaires. Phantom Girl and Shadow Lass are injured in the fracas and as they later commiserate about the day’s events in the Legion infirmary, the renegade Ultra Boy crashes the scene. But girlfriend, Phantom Girl, is able to break Saturn Queen’s telepathic control over Jo. As the book closes, Earth Man sits alone in his Legion dormitory room and ruminates on his next move as the new Green Lantern. Oops, I almost forgot to mention the one-page subplot involving Dream Girl, Dawnstar, and Gates as part of a Legion emissarial team sent by Earthgov to reassure the Outer Worlds after the near-war.

Comments

There was an incredible amount of action at the various planetary settings packed into this issue. Writer Levitz does a nice job of interweaving the various sub-plots: 1) the attack of Saturn Queen, 2) Saturn Girl’s search, and 3) Earth Man’s transition to a Green Lantern, all against a backdrop of continuing hostility from the Earther xenophobes. There’s also a nice bit of interpersonal drama (Mon-El moping over his break-up with Shady), without excessive soap opera suds. Good issue! Ranks right up there with any of the 2019-2020 Brian Michael Bendis issues. Maybe better. Looking forward to #3 next month!

The Twilight Zone: The hazy divide between reality and the supernatural?

Stories from the Twilight Zone
By Rod Serling
Bantam Pathfinder, 1970 (22nd printing), 151 pp.

3 Stars

The Twilight Zone was a successful television series, which ran five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. Rod Serling (many mistakenly thought his name was “Sterling”) served as executive producer and head writer. The stories always involved some type of bizarre supernatural circumstance that put the characters in a tense quandary. I remember watching the show as a young child and being creeped out and fascinated at the same time. Sixty-years later, Twilight Zone reruns still play on cable television and via streaming.

I bought and read this book as a thirteen-year-old and recently purchased a slightly dog-eared used copy from an Amazon third-party used bookseller as a lark. It presents five Twilight Zone episodes from the early years of the show in short-story format:

  • The Mighty Casey – A robot pitcher turns the cellar-dwelling Brooklyn Dodgers into a contender.
  • Escape Clause – Hypochondriac, Walter Bedeker, makes a deal with the devil to gain near-immortality, but immediately regrets it.
  • Walking Distance – A stressed-out, Madison Avenue advertising executive travels back in time to his idyllic childhood hometown, but gradually realizes you can’t go home again.
  • The Fever – A male version of the “uptight church lady” catches gambling fever in Las Vegas and becomes completely unhinged.
  • Where Is Everybody? – An Air Force sergeant is part of an isolation experiment and nearly loses his mind, or were his “imagined” experiences real?
  • The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street – Neighbors suspect an alien invasion and gradually succumb to paranoia, turning against each other.

Science fiction was at its peak in the early-1960s. People were trying to make sense of life in a culture where technology was rapidly advancing. It was all part of an empty search for “spiritual meaning” outside of God’s Word and Jesus Christ. People are still fascinated with the “paranormal” and “supernatural,” but scoff at true spirituality in Christ. The search for genuine spirituality begins with trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The closer a Christian walks with the Lord, the more the spiritual/eternal overtakes the natural/temporal.

The Twilight Zone joins my small collection of books that sat on my bookshelf when I was a kid in 1970: CIA – The Inside Story, Bump and Run (San Diego Chargers football), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (fiction), Arundel and Rabble in Arms (both Am Rev historical fiction), Uncle Tom’s Cabin (my grandfather’s copy), First NFL-AFL Illustrated Digest, We Came of Age (AFL football), and The Other League (AFL football).