Roman Catholicism – Shrouded in lies, hypocrisy, and darkness

The Sacrament
By Olaf Olafsson
Ecco/HarperCollins, 2019, 292 pp.

4 Stars

I’m not much of a fiction reader, to put it mildly, but I stumbled across a very favorable review of “The Sacrament” that was featured in the progressive Jesuit monthly, “America,” and became intrigued. The reviewer indicated the story revolved around the investigation of a pedophile priest, so why would the American Jesuits’ official magazine promote such a novel? I saw that our local library had a copy and gave it a whirl.

Plot (spoiler alert)

The novel opens in Reykjavík, Iceland with a young, Catholic grammar school student witnessing the school’s priest-principal falling to his death from the adjoining church’s bell tower. Rewind to several weeks earlier. An anonymous letter sent to the Icelandic bishop accuses the principal of the school, priest August Frans, of sexual abuse. Sister Johanna Marie, a French nun, is commissioned by the Vatican to investigate the allegations because of her proficiency in the Icelandic language. The nun is assigned a young, agnostic priest, Pall, to assist her. She interviews several children and their parents, but shame, guilt, and loyalty to the church hinder their cooperation. The nun becomes absolutely convinced of the priest’s guilt, but the investigation is closed for lack of explicit evidence. Sister Johanna then dispenses vigilante justice by stealthily following the priest up to the top of the bell tower and pushing him to his doom. She subsequently comforts the young student who had witnessed the priest’s fall, but what details did he see?

Twenty-years later, the nun is summoned back to Reykjavík because of further developments in the case. The child who had witnessed the priest’s death is now thirty-something-years-old and is struggling with his past. Unnar had also been victimized by priest Frans and, through therapy, discovers he had been suppressing a detail of the priest’s death that he had witnessed. In a meeting with the current bishop and sister Johanna, the abuse survivor tacitly acknowledges that, yes, he had seen her at the top of the bell tower and discreetly thanks her for her intervention.

Comments

This novel is challenging for the reader because the author constantly skips back and forth between the two time settings. If that confusion were not enough, an additional sub-plot and timeline is introduced involving the nun in her pre-ordination days and her growing same-sex attraction to her college roommate who hails from Iceland (which explains why the nun had learned Icelandic). Pauline/Johanna Marie never acts upon her urges, which precipitates her joining the convent and “haunts” her the remainder of her life.

Because of the discombobulated, multiple timelines, this story felt VERY convoluted until the very end when all of the sub-plots converge together in the powerful, runaway-freight-train denouement.* I felt sympathy for all of the characters who are caught in the lies, hypocrisy, and filth of the Roman religion. The rampant abuse of children by pedophilic Catholic priests is now out in the open and can no longer be swept under the rug as in decades and centuries previous. I am so grateful to the Lord for delivering me from the darkness of Roman Catholicism and saving me by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

After reading “The Sacrament,” it’s very easy to understand why the Jesuit periodical, “America,” would promote it. The editor of “America” is progressive Jesuit priest, James Martin, who is Catholicism’s #1 crusader for affirmation of LGBTers and their “lifestyle” within the church.  Progressive Catholics have no compunctions about discussing the clerical sexual abuse and cover-up scandal because they view the “problem” as a result/symptom of conservative Catholicism’s strait-jacketed rigidness. I’m sure that Martin and others at “America” were absolutely delighted that the heroine of this abuse-busting story was a crypto-lesbian nun. The lesbianism (aka “particular friendships”) that was widespread within Catholic convents, including predatory abuse by those in authority, is another distasteful story that still needs to be honestly addressed.

I had scant knowledge of Iceland (population, 360,000) previous to reading this novel so one of the upsides was frequently checking the locations mentioned in the book with my Google Earth app. Iceland is an amazing, little (size of New York State) country with a formidable climate (the temperatures in Reykjavík during the summer usually reach only into the high-50s Fahrenheit).

While I wouldn’t generally recommend this book, it is an interesting and revealing view of Roman Catholicism from the Catholic Left, especially in regards to the current scandal tsunami, that might appeal to some other evangelical Vatican-watchers.

*Hurrah for blogging! Where else but in a blog post can the average person use such a powerfully descriptive word as “denouement”?

Scripture is Sufficient

One Foundation: Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture
Edited by Jeremiah Johnson
Grace to You, 2019, 199 pp.

5 Stars

I had the pleasure and blessing of reading this collection of articles, which expound on the sufficiency of God’s Word. This book was published by Grace to You to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John MacArthur’s ministry.

The Roman Catholic church entered into great error when it subordinated God’s Word to its “Sacred Tradition.” Most pseudo-Christian sects/cults likewise appeal to some type of extra-biblical “revelation” or authority in addition God’s revealed Word. The writers in this collection make clear that the Bible is our sole authority in matters of faith and practice and is fully sufficient to equip God’s servants:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The articles and authors are as follows:

  • Based on God’s Word Alone – R.C. Sproul
  • Why You Can Believe the Bible – Voddie Baucham
  • The Finding of an Old Book – Jack MacArthur
  • The Sufficiency of Scripture – John MacArthur
  • Not Ashamed of the Gospel – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • The Standard of Sound Words: A Mandate for the Pulpit – Steven Lawson
  • In Praise of God’s Word – Mark Dever
  • Evangelicals, the Challenge of Modernity, and the Quest for a Christian Worldview: Lessons from a Century of Hope and Disappointment – R. Albert Mohler*
  • The Folly of Adding to Scripture – Conrad Mbewe
  • We Must Obey God Rather Than Men: Scripture, Authority, and the Reformation – Nathan Busenitz
  • Hearing from Heaven: How God Speaks Today (And How He Doesn’t) – Justin Peters
  • The Foolishness of the Cross – Phil Johnson

I appreciated all of the articles, especially “Hearing from Heaven” by Justin Peters. My blog deals in discernment ministry issues and I appreciate Peters’ calling to defend God’s Truth amidst the rampant error and deception outside and inside the church. Peters is not afraid to name the names of false teachers and apostates, as did the apostle Paul in his epistles.

*As a cautionary note, I don’t endorse Albert Mohler’s bent towards political activism/Christian nationalism and his eager willingness to ally with non-Christian “co-belligerents” (e.g., Roman Catholics) in cultural/morality wars. We’ve already seen how this type of accommodation and compromise in the interest of preserving “Christian America” ultimately leads to embracement of the Catholic church and betrayal of the Gospel (see Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, etc.).

Order “One Foundation” from Amazon here.

Excellent preface to 2020 Kazan Fest

Elia Kazan: An American Odyssey
By Michel Ciment
Bloomsbury, 1988, 238 pp.

5 Stars

I can still vividly remember watching a particular movie on television as a young teenager back in the early 1970s. The flick was, “Splendor in the Grass” (1961), and I was so startled by the unconventional, un-Hollywood-like ending that I took special note of the name of the director, Elia Kazan, in the closing credits.

Over the many decades that followed, I’ve enjoyed watching all of Kazan’s nineteen films and reading the many books written by him or about him.

“Elia Kazan: An American Odyssey” is an interesting collection of disconnected articles and notes written by Kazan regarding his directing career. The text is supplemented with many interesting photographs, some of which I’ve never seen before. Be aware that this volume is intended more for Kazan fans who are already knowledgeable about the director and his films. It’s no place to start for a neophyte.

French film critic, Michel Ciment, previously presented a collection of interviews with Kazan, “Kazan on Kazan” (1973), in which the director spoke briefly about each of his films. See my review here.

Reading “Elia Kazan: An American Odyssey” was a timely prelude to the upcoming launch of my Elia Kazan Film Festival, 2020 Redux series. I was happy to be able to purchase this handsome volume from an Amazon used-book seller at a very cheap price. Bloomsbury used to do an excellent job with these semi-coffee table books back in the day.

This Wednesday: Kazan’s excellent directorial debut, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

Pope Francis’ fight to steer the RCC toward progressivism

Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church
By Austin Ivereigh
Henry Holt and Company, 2019, 401 pp.

2 Stars

When cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected to the papacy in 2013, conservative Catholics did not know what they were in for. However, by 2016 it was crystal clear that Bergoglio was on a mission to steer the Roman Catholic church towards a progressive/liberal ideology. In that year, pope Francis guilefully overturned the ban on communion to remarried divorcees via a couple of footnotes in his “Amoris Laetitia” encyclical, and conservative opposition to Francis has been on the rise ever since.

Books critical of pope Francis by Catholic authors began appearing in late 2017 and have continued to be published. See here for details. There is disappointment and frustration with Francis among some conservatives that borders on outright rebellion. Discussions of schism are held in check by hopes that the next pope returns the church to pope John Paul II-style conservatism.

British journalist, Austin Ivereigh, answers Francis’ conservative critics with this very flattering apologia of the current pope. The problem, according to the author, is not Francis’ attempts to make the church more relevant, “pastoral,” and appealing in an era of rising secularism and an increasingly disaffected membership, but, rather, the problem is the intransigence of rigid conservative Catholics who are rooted in “clericalism” and doctrinalism at the expense of compassion and mercy.

In this book, Ivereigh covers all of the sturm und drang of Francis’ controversial papacy, including such topics as…

  • The fight with conservatives over control of the Order of Malta
  • The ongoing Vatican Bank financial scandals
  • Reform of the corrupt Vatican Curia
  • The ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandal including Francis embarrassing mishandling of the situation in Chile in early-2018.
  • How Francis is adapting the “Aparecida” movement (focus on the poor, social justice, etc.) of Latin American Catholicism to the entire church.
  • Francis’ elevation of environmental concerns and climate change to the forefront.
  • The “Amoris Laetitia” controversy including the dubia sent to the pope by the resistant right-wing cardinals.
  • Francis’ method to orchestrate liberal change through synods rather than by papal decree.

One of the greatest ironies of our era is watching conservative Catholics line up in opposition to their own pope!

This book will give the reader a good understanding of the pro-Francis progressive viewpoint in this ongoing feud between liberal and conservative Catholics. Except for a brief account of Francis’ bumbling accommodations to Argentina’s murderous dictatorship as head of the country’s Jesuit order in the 1970s, the pope is portrayed with embarrassing adulation. This book reminded me, no exaggeration, of the fawning Catholic saint hagiographies of yesteryear.

Please keep in mind that neither the conservative Catholic doctrinalists or Francis and his progressive allies proclaim the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I would recommend this puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers who are interested in the current internecine tug-of-war within Catholicism.

Postscript: Here’s a question for Catholics regarding the title of this book, Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church: The Roman Catholic church boasts that it is the “one, true church” and that it is Semper eadem, always the same. Why then is pope Francis trying to convert it?

Throwback Thursday: “On the Wings of Grace Alone: The Testimonies of Thirty Converted Roman Catholics”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on July 26th, 2015 and has been revised.

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On the Wings of Grace Alone: The Testimonies of Thirty Converted Roman Catholics
Edited by Richard Bennett and Glenn Diehl
Solid Ground Christian Books, 2015, 301 pp.

5 Stars

In “On the Wings of Grace Alone,” ex-priest, Richard Bennett (bereanbeacon.org), presents another collection of testimonies from ex-Catholics who left their works-righteousness religion and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. In two previous books, Bennett culled together the testimonies of ex-priests (“Far From Rome, Near to God: Testimonies of Fifty Converted Catholic Priests”) and ex-nuns (“The Truth Set Us Free: Twenty Former Nuns Tell Their Stories”), but in “On the Wings of Grace Alone: The Testimonies of Thirty Converted Roman Catholics” he presents the stories of ex-Catholic laypersons.

Each contributor speaks of being born into a Catholic family and being indoctrinated into the Catholic religion of sacramental grace and merit. Catholicism is a religious treadmill of constantly striving to live in a “state of grace” by participating in the sacraments and adhering to church rules. In Catholicism, tradition is given much greater emphasis over God’s Word. Few Catholics read the Bible. When they finally did examine the Bible, the contributors were surprised to find that salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. They all repented of their sin and accepted Christ as their Savior by faith alone and left their works-righteousness religion.

This is a valuable collection that will bless Catholics who are searching for Christ, ex-Catholic Christians who have already come out of Rome, and Christians who are interested in the irreconcilable differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity. The theology doesn’t get too deep, but the contrast between Catholicism’s salvation system of sacraments and merit and Biblical salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone is the overriding message.

A couple of the contributors were familiar to me. The late Jim Tetlow wrote a couple of books on Romanism (“Messages from Heaven” and “Queen Rome, Queen of Islam, Queen of All”). Joe Mizzi’s website (justforcatholics.org) is devoted to reaching Catholics with the Gospel. A few of the testimonies get a bit tangled up in the weeds and could have used some more stringent editing. One person goes into detail arguing for the doctrine of predestination while a couple of others promote the “KJV 1611-only” viewpoint. This is the wrong book for delving into arguments on tertiary beliefs. Those few criticisms aside, this is an excellent collection that will bless the reader.

These days, many evangelical pastors and para-church leaders are jostling in line to embrace the pope and works-righteousness Catholics as fellow Christians so it’s a blessing to see that there are still faithful witnesses, like Richard Bennett,* who distinguish between the Gospel of grace and Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. As the accommodation of error within evangelicalism continues, with pastors praising the pope and Catholic theologians from their pulpits, those who take a stand against Rome will be increasingly marginalized. In addition to the three books mentioned, Bennett also wrote “Catholicism: East of Eden, Insights into Catholicism for the 21st Century.”

I was able to purchase a copy of “On the Wings of Grace Alone” directly from the publisher, Solid Ground Christian Books, at a very favorable, new-book discount. See here.

*Addendum: After fighting the good fight of faith for so many years, Richard Bennett went home to the Lord on September 23, 2019.

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Everybody wants that trident!

Legion of Super-Heroes #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciller: Ryan Sook, Inks: Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, December 2019

5 Stars

Plot

Issue #1 of the “new,” re-launched Legion of Super-Heroes ended with the Legion surrounded by a gang of angry Horrazian pirates eager to reclaim the contraband trident of Aquaman. In the midst of the battle, Ultra Boy slips the trident to Superboy, who attempts to escape, with the leader of the pirates, Tortor, in hot pursuit. Saturn Girl, with her power of telepathy/mind control, is able to induce the combatants into a stupor, but Superboy and Tortor are too far away to be affected. Saturn Girl then focuses all of her powers on the two adversaries and a mysterious flood of water – somehow brought into existence by the trident – subdues the Horrazian leader.

Elsewhere, at United Planets headquarters, the Legion’s diplomatic liason, Rose Forrest, attempts to smooth things over with the U.P. President, whose last name is Brande. Hmm. That’s a name that rings a bell with Legion fans. The negotiations between the two get off to a rocky start and devolve from there. Rose returns to Legion headquarters and informs the team of the tense tête-à-tête. It’s clear Madam President is not happy about Superboy’s presence in the 31st century or about the Legion’s possession of the trident.

The Legionnaires amble down to their “consumption hall” for a strategy meeting over dinner. Ultra Boy (aka Jo Nah) reveals his father is a powerful and dangerous leader on his civil-war-torn home planet of Rimbor. Both the elder Nah and Mordru were after the trident until Ultra Boy intercepted the Horraz pirates and took possession of the thing himself. A contingent of Legionnaires decides to travel to Rimbor to attempt to smooth things over with Jo’s dad before things escalate while another contingent heads to Planet Gotham to try to find out what Mordru had planned for the trident. Superboy is so excited about the existence of Planet Gotham that he makes the journey back to the 21st century to inform his buddy, Damian Wayne aka Robin. Looks like the Boy Wonder is headed to the 31st century!

Comments

We can predict a cataclysmic brouhaha ahead with the U.P. President, Ultra Boy’s father, and Mordru all in competition for Aquaman’s trident. I’m still a bit fuzzy regarding Gotham Planet. Is it one of the several domed cities of New Earth or is it off by itself somewhere? This was a good story with some excellent dialogue from Bendis. Also, I’m so pleased with Sook’s masterful illustrations. The Legion hasn’t been drawn this well since Curt Swan did the duty back in the 1960s.

Trivia alert: I forgot to point out Ultra Boy’s Biblical connection in my review of LSH #1. His civilian name is Jo Nah and he supposedly acquired his super powers after being swallowed by a space energy beast, which exposed him to strange radiation while inside.

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In this excerpt from Superboy #98 (1962), Ultra Boy explains the origin of his penetra-vision. Note Jo Nah being swallowed by the space beast. It would later be revealed that Ultra Boy had all of the powers of Superboy, although he was limited to using one power at a time.

The woman who “defied the Puritans”?

American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans
By Eve LaPlante
Harper Collins, 2004, 312 pp.

4 Stars

As I prepared the draft for my annual “Happy Thanksgiving” post, it occurred to me that I didn’t know all that much about the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Were they Puritans? I did some investigating via Wikipedia, which eventually led to this book. Turns out both the Pilgrims and Puritans of early-17th-century England embraced Calvinism/Reformed theology, but the Pilgrims desired to completely separate from the Anglican church with its vestiges of Roman Catholic sacramentalism, while the Puritans chose to remain in the state church and attempt to “purify”/reform it from within. But the Puritans faced increasing persecution within England. Lawyer, John Winthrop, led the first Puritan mass migration to Massachusetts in 1630, establishing the Bay Colony and serving as governor for 12 of the colony’s first 20 years. The founders touted the colony as a divinely covenanted “New Jerusalem;” a semi-theocracy, where citizenship and church-membership were inseparable.

Francis Marbury was a Puritan pastor who walked the tightrope of conformity within the Anglican church in England. His daughter, Anne, witnessed his many travails throughout her childhood and was emboldened by his example. Anne married Will Hutchinson in 1612 and they journeyed the 25 miles from Alford to Boston (England) each Sunday to hear non-conforming Puritan minister, John Cotton, preach. Cotton, facing persecution from the Anglican hierarchy, immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in 1633 and the Hutchinsons followed him the next year.

Cotton emphasized God’s grace and election to a preeminent degree compared to other Puritan pastors in the Bay Colony who also taught salvation by God’s grace alone, but also strongly emphasized works as evidence of salvation in a semi-theocratic community where conformity to the established civil-religious order was absolute. The other pastors of the colony taught “preparationism” (see here) and Cotton rejected that theology as a “covenant of works.” Cotton believed certain of the elect had the gift of determining who had been redeemed and who hadn’t. His church in England and the one in Massachusetts consequently had separate services for the redeemed elect and the unredeemed. Hutchinson began holding mid-week Bible studies, initially attended only by women, but subsequently by men as well, at which she reinforced Cotton’s “grace alone” sermons and strongly criticized the other pastors. A controversy erupted and spread throughout the colony and in 1637 Governor Winthrop ordered Hutchinson to stand before the civil court where she was convicted of heresy and sentenced to banishment. In an ecclesiastical trial the following year, the Puritan ministers of Boston excommunicated her. The Rev. Cotton, in an unadmirable act of self-preservation, increasingly distanced himself from his disciple during both proceedings and eventually became one of the main witnesses against her.

Winthrop is credited with coining the term, “Antinomianism” (Greek: “against law”), to disparagingly describe Hutchinson’s “free grace” teachings, although Hutchinson did not endorse licentiousness as she had been accused. The troubling circumstances involving Hutchinson came to be known as the Antinomian Controversy of 1636-1638 (see here). In addition to her theological non-conformism, she was criticized for usurping the role of male ministers. Her opponents claimed she was either a witch or demon possessed.

The Hutchinsons subsequently immigrated to Providence, Rhode Island, a colony founded by Roger Williams guaranteeing religious freedom. After Will died, rumors spread that Massachusetts was attempting to annex Rhode Island. Fearing for her safety, Anne Hutchinson fled to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (Manhattan, New York City). In 1642, she settled her family on a farm near Pelham Bay in modern day Bronx, but was murdered by a band of Siwanoy Native Americans the following year.

This book was a fascinating look at the early-Puritan settlers of Massachusetts Bay Colony including their theology and their governmental/social structures. The author attempts to portray Hutchinson as a proto-feminist, but that is a role she would not have accepted. Controversies over Antinomianism continue today. Popular TBN prosperity gospeler, Singaporean, Joseph Prince, advocates a form of free grace/hyper grace Antinomianism whereby he teaches his followers they needn’t feel convicted by or confess sin after their “redemption.”

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Postscript: Harvard College was founded in 1636 in response to the “Antinomian Controversy” in order to properly train ministers to prevent the type of “heresies” propagated by Hutchinson. The Puritan churches (eventually named “Congregational” churches, a term coined by John Cotton) began drifting into liberalism/modernism apostasy in the mid-19th century. Don’t expect to hear any semblance of the genuine Gospel at Harvard Divinity School today.

Throwback Thursday: The Papacy 101

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 23rd, 2015 and has been revised.

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A Christian’s Pocket Guide To The Papacy: Its origin and role in the 21st century
By Leonardo De Chirico
Christian Focus Publications, 2015, 116 pages

5 Stars

In this short book, evangelical pastor and apologist, Leonardo De Chirico, examines the development of the papacy in Catholic history with a chapter especially devoted to recent popes, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis.

As early Christianity gradually displaced paganism and was declared the state religion of the Roman Empire, it adapted many of the beliefs, practices, and rituals of its former rival. The bishop of Rome vied with the three other patriarchates (Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) for preeminence. When the imperial seat was transferred to Constantinople, the bishop of Rome became the de facto emperor of the West along with the title of il Papa. The papacy patterned itself on the Caesarian imperial model and thenceforth sought to become the most powerful ecclesiastical and political authority in the world.

Dr. De Chirico provides many valuable insights into the history of the papacy and its possible future prospects especially in light of the growing secularization of the West combined with the relentless march of ecumenism. There is no doubt the Vatican is planning for all possible eventualities.

Every evangelical pastor needs to read this book and every believer would benefit from it as well in this era of increasing ecumenism. A Christian’s Pocket Guide To The Papacy can be ordered from Amazon here.

Here also is a link to Dr. De Chirico’s excellent blog, Vatican Files: Evangelical Theological Perspectives on Roman Catholicism.

Postscript: When this book was written in 2015, Dr. De Chirico could not have anticipated the mounting crisis within the Catholic church regarding pope Francis. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics are appalled by the doctrine-bending, progressive pope and some are even calling him a heretic.

After six long years, DC Comics brings back the Legion of Super-Heroes

After a hiatus of six long years and then a lengthy preliminary introduction spanning five preludes over three months, DC Comics finally relaunched the Legion of Super-Heroes as a monthly comic on November 6th. Climb aboard our time capsule as we journey to the 31st Century in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciller: Ryan Sook, Inks: Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, November 2019

5 Stars

Plot

The action begins with Ultra Boy chasing a Horraz spaceship through the massive sewers of Planet Gotham. After the craft crashes, UB spots its stolen booty: a capsule. But what’s inside? A powerful alien suddenly appears to take possession of the contraband. Could it be…? Yes, it’s Mordru the Merciless, one of the Legion’s most powerful adversaries! A contingent of Legionnaires – Karate Kid, Star Boy, and Wildfire – arrive at the scene and help Ultra Boy to ward off Mordru and claim the capsule. When they open it they discover…gasp…the trident of Aquaman!

Next, we join the rest of the Legionnaires as they welcome Jon Kent/Superboy as the team’s newest member with plenty of high-fives all around. The Legionnaires give Superboy an aerial tour of Metropolis and inform him the entire city is the Legion’s headquarters. Wow! Remember back in the Silver Age days when that tiny, yellow faux spaceship shell served as the team’s clubhouse? The Boy of Steel then learns that the Old Earth was destroyed, including its oceans, in an enormous cataclysm and the artificial, ocean-less New Earth was created by engineers enlisted from across the galaxy. The Legion is then summoned back to their headquarters where Ultra Boy and his contingent inform them of the recovery of Aquaman’s trident. Immediately after one of the Legionnaires wonders out loud if the trident could possibly play a part in restoring the Earth’s oceans, a gang of Horraz criminals attacks Legion headquarters intent on reclaiming the trident. Is this curtains for Superboy on his very first day in the Legion? In the final scene, the President of the United Planets expresses her outrage at the Legion’s defiance of U.P. directives by bringing Superboy to the 31st Century, not to mention their possession of Aquaman’s stolen trident!

Commentary

It’s hard to believe the Legion is back after six-years. Bendis did a nice job with the appearance of Mordru and the dangling mystery of what the recovery of Aquaman’s trident is going to mean for the artificial Gotham Planet. The Legion is immediately off to a bad start with the administrators of the United Planets, a familiar theme for Legion readers. Sook, Von Grawbadger, and Bellaire do a tremendous job with the artwork. I’m thoroughly impressed with issue #1 and I hope many DC readers will climb aboard the Legion star cruiser.

Catholicism’s Flying House!

The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World
By Karin Vélez
Princeton University Press, 2019, 292 pp.

4 Stars

About a month ago, as part of my Throwback Thursday series, I republished a post about the so-called Holy House located in Loreto, Italy. Catholic tradition has it that the small (13′ x 31′), stone structure was the childhood home of both Mary and Jesus in Nazareth in Judea and that angels miraculously transported the building, first to Trsat (in modern Croatia) in 1291. The inhabitants of that city were said not to have accorded the holy relic the proper degree of veneration, so the angels moved it to Recanati, Italy in 1294, and to an initial and then final location within Loreto in 1295. My those angels were quite capricious!

I had learned that a scholarly work on the “flying house” had recently been published and I discovered that our library had a copy much to my delight. Well, delight quickly turned to frustration as I began reading the book. The acadamese was as thick as pudding and I suspected the book was an expanded doctoral dissertation. A quick internet search confirmed that to be the case. Anyway, either my brain adapted to the affected pomposity or the author gradually toned it down because the last three-quarters of the book read pretty easily.

Okay, back to the “flying house” itself. The author barely examines the actual origins of the flying house myth, which she attributes to imaginative Catholics who had immigrated from Dalmatia (Croatia) to Recanati and Loreto. However, Vélez provides some fascinating information regarding the following:

  • Medieval Europe was awash with religious relics attributed to Jesus and Mary and claimed to have been brought from the Holy Land. Bishops and parish priests vied for the most spectacular relics. However, few relics could compete with the supposed house that both Jesus and Mary had allegedly inhabited.
  • The Holy House of Loreto myth was spread via the writings of influential 16th century Catholic writers. The pilgrimage destination of the Basilica della Santa Casa encompassing the Holy House, which was encased in an elaborate, carved marble “screen,” was largely completed by the end of the 16th century.
  • In that superstitious era, great spiritual powers were associated with relics. Pious pilgrims journeyed for hundreds of miles to view and possibly touch the relics. Vows were made and monies were contributed to the churches. It was big business. Evangelicals (and most modern Catholics) have no idea how popular pilgrimages once were as part of Catholicism. Many of the pilgrims to the Holy House scraped and collected dust from stone walls as a religious souvenir until the practice was prohibited. In a religion devoted almost exclusively to the sensory/tactile, a visit to the Holy House was to walk in the footsteps of the divine.
  • Another important relic, a painting of Mary attributed to Gospel writer, Luke, was initially displayed within the Holy House. Pilgrims journeyed to Loreto to view the painting as much as the Holy House. Inexplicably, the darkened painting was at some point replaced with a darkened statue of Mary and baby Jesus with no explanation. Luke was also claimed to have painted the famous Mary and Jesus icon located at Jasna Góra monastery at Częstochowa, Poland. Existing painted icons attributed to Luke number at least 28 (see here) although they are clearly different artistic styles.
  • Ignatius Loyola and the early Jesuits were champions of Marian veneration (i.e., worship) and adopted the Holy House of Loreto (174 miles from Rome) as their paramount Marian shrine. As part of their efforts to spread Catholicism throughout the world, they erected imitations of the Loreto flying house at several of their mission sites. While many of the painting and statue icons in Europe were purposely darkened to suggest antiquity as part of the relics charade, such as those at Loreto, in marked contrast no attempt was made to darken the icons created in Asia and the Americas because they clearly fell outside of the Medieval relics sham.

Despite its uniquely outrageous claim to contain the actual physical home of Mary and Jesus, the Basilica della Santa Casa was eventually eclipsed by other Marian shrines as pilgrimage destinations, such as those at Lourdes and Fatima. As a Catholic grammar school student, the nuns regaled us with tales of Lourdes and Fatima, but I don’t recall ever hearing about the Holy House of Loreto. No doubt the plausibility factor chipped away at confidence in the authenticity of this relic. Lourdes’ and Fatima’s apparition mythologies were safe and unassailable by comparison.

Although this book got off to a very slow start, I ended up really appreciating “The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto” for how it “deconstructed” Catholic relic “mythohistory” by example of the bogus flying house. The Holy House mythology and all of its trappings stands in marked contrast to the Gospel message of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

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Above: In this fanciful mural, Mary with baby Jesus sits atop the Holy House as angels fly it up, up, and away.
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An ornately carved, marble shroud encases the alleged “Holy House” within the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy
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Pope Francis meditates inside the bogus “Holy House.” Note the icon of Mary and infant Jesus above the “altar.”
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The capricious flight of the “holy house” from (1) Nazareth, Palestine to (2) Trsat, Croatia, to (3) Recanati, Italy, to (4) two locations in Loreto, Italy.