The Rochester Mafia Wars: The A-Team vs. the B-Team???

The Rochester Mob Wars
By Blair T. Kenny
Blair Publishing, 2017, 208 pp.

3 Stars

A few weeks ago, I published a post about the former boss of the Rochester Mafia, Frank Valenti (see here). Writing that post further stoked my curiosity, prompting me to check our local library system for more information on the Rochester Mafia crime syndicate and I found this book, “The Rochester Mob Wars.” The title refers to the internecine “squabbling” between the two factions of the Rochester Mafia during the 1970s and 80s. The warring factions were dubbed the “A-Team” and the “B-Team” by the police and media and we Rochesterians had a lot of trouble keeping it all straight.

Here’s a brief summary: Frank Valenti had seized control of the Rochester Mafia in 1964. But his underlings eventually decided that Frank was skimming too much off the top and forced him to “retire” in 1972. The new boss, Samuel “Red” Russotti, and his lieutenants were later arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 1973 on murder charges. Russotti appointed Thomas Didio as the acting boss in the interim. Didio was thought to be more brawn than brains and Russotti counted on manipulating his stand-in from his prison cell. But Didio had a mind of his own and regularly ignored Russotti’s instructions. Much of the disloyalty stemmed from the fact that Didio and his close comrades were still faithful to the ousted Valenti.

In 1977, Russotti’s supporters met with Didio and a few of his lieutenants at the Blue Gardenia Restaurant and told the acting boss he was “all done” and gave him a thorough beating just to make sure there were no misunderstandings. In early-1978, Russotti and his lieutenants, Rene Piccarreto and Salvatore “Sammy G” Gingello were released from prison after it was discovered the Rochester police had manufactured evidence leading to their convictions. Russotti was back in Rochester, but the local mob was divided. Didio and his followers (the B-Team) declared war on the Russotti faction (the A-Team), with the support of the Valenti brothers, Frank and Stan (Stan had been the Don of the Rochester mob in the 1950s). At stake were the many lucrative gambling joints in the city. In April 1978, Gingello was murdered by the B-Team and in retaliation, Didio was killed by the A-Team in July. What followed was an all-out war between the two factions in the streets of Rochester, including numerous murders, shootings, and bombings. Of course, the Rochester police weren’t standing still through all of this. In 1980, the B-Team leaders were convicted and sent to jail for various crimes, followed by the A-Team leadership in 1984. In 1988, the remaining A-Team leaders were sent up the river and the Mafia was effectively eliminated in Rochester.

This book is self-published and the author is clearly not professional writer. He would have greatly benefited from a skilled editor. At times, the information is not presented chronologically and is often redundant. With those criticism’s aside, Kenny deserves kudos for digging up all of this information from old Rochester newspapers. Like most Rochesterians, I could not explain who constituted the A-Team or the B-Team and the details of what they were fighting about, but after reading this book it’s all pretty clear to me now.

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Above: A Google Earth satellite view of the sprawling former hilltop estate of Constenze “Stan” Valenti (1926-2001) at 6714 State Road 96, Victor, New York. Stan Valenti was kingpin of the Rochester Mafia in the late 1950s. His brother, Frank, eventually became “Boss” of the local Mafia operations from 1964 to 1972, but Stan remained a powerful and respected figure in the Rochester mob.
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Above: A sign at the bottom of Stan Valenti’s former hilltop estate discourages curiosity seekers and unwelcome visitors.
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Personal trivia: The house above, located on Tarrington Road in Rochester, was once home to Vincent J. Rallo, an insurance broker and member of the Rochester Mafia. In March 1981, Rallo pled guilty to two counts of arson and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of the Federal Witness Protection Program. His testimony was key to the investigation of the A-Team bosses, leading to their arrests and convictions in 1984. Following his testimony, Rallo and his family disappeared. My parents’ house where I grew up was immediately behind the Rallo house on the next street over.

Okay, that’s enough jabbering! Somebody get on the phone and order the pizza!

Throwback Thursday: If you read only one book about the Reformation, this would be an excellent choice.

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, in honor of Reformation Day, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on August 26, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

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The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation
By Michael Reeves
B&H Publishing, 2010, 207 pages

After Christianity became legalized by the Roman Empire and subsequently adopted as the official state religion, the early Christian church gradually began adapting and incorporating many of the beliefs and practices of its pagan predecessors. By the 14th century, the Roman Catholic church had very little in common with the primitive, New Testament church. The Gospel message of salvation by God’s grace though a personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ had devolved into clerical imperialism, legalism, and ritualism. In addition to its hopelessly compromised theology, the Roman church had become an open cesspool of greed, corruption, political intrigue, and immorality.

But then something absolutely wonderful happened. Beginning in the 14th century (some would argue for an even earlier date), men and women began rising up to challenge the church’s autocratic position through the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. The flame of reform reached a tipping point in the early 1500s when Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin broke from Rome completely in their endeavor to return the church to the Good News! of salvation via saving faith in Jesus Christ. With the translation of the Latin Bible into the vernacular and the invention of the printing press, the Roman church was unable to return the horses back into the barn despite the anathemas, inquisitions, and executions.

I’ve read several general histories of the Reformation and this easy-to-read primer is one of the best. Reeves writes with much wit while also delivering on the historical essentials. He doesn’t put the Reformers on a pedestal. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the rest were all flawed sinners saved by God’s grace. Some monarchs definitely exploited the movement for political and economic advantages and it took succeeding Reformers to move the church even farther from Roman error. But the Holy Spirit accomplished a great work through these early Reformers and we should be grateful for their courage and fidelity to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In addition to the three principals, Reeves devotes quite a bit of attention to the Reformation movement in England.

Those who attend today’s “seeker-friendly” evangelical mega-churches generally hear little or nothing about the Reformation. They are not aware of the irreconcilable differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity. Roman Catholics talk about Jesus, “grace,” and “faith” and that’s good enough for many. Sadly, these days we even have popular evangelical pastors recommending books by committed Catholics to their unwary congregations and media audiences. But Catholicism hasn’t changed any of its important doctrines since 1517. It still teaches the same false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Catholics can never say they are saved because they are taught they must continue to attempt to merit their salvation right up until the day of their death. Reeves confronts those evangelicals who declare the Reformation is over. In this era of ecumenical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel, the Reformation must continue. Roman Catholics (and unsaved “Protestants”) remain as a mission field.

Today, we mark the 502nd anniversary of the Reformation. I praise God for raising up Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the other early Reformers to restore the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. If you should decide you would like to read a non-academic introduction to the Reformation, this well-written, short book would be an excellent choice. It’s readily available from Amazon here.

Throwback Thursday: Charles Spurgeon on Roman Catholicism

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 17th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.

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Geese in their Hoods: Selected Writings on Roman Catholicism by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Edited by Timothy F. Kauffman
White Horse Publications, 1997, 206 pages

5 Stars

English Baptist Pastor, Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), was known as the “Prince of the Preachers” for his eloquent and often fiery oratory. In this volume, Timothy F. Kauffman has collected some of Spurgeon’s uncompromising views on Roman Catholicism and the pro-Romanist faction of the 19th-century, Anglican church (aka the Oxford Movement aka Puseyism). Spurgeon’s grandiloquent prose is far from breezy reading, but the material is well worth the effort.

Where are the Spurgeons of today to warn evangelicals of accommodation with Rome’s ritualism, legalism, and false gospel of merited salvation? In stark contrast, several of today’s evangelical leaders stumble over each other in their determined efforts to embrace Rome in the interest of ecumenical “Christian” unity. If Spurgeon were with us today, he would be roundly criticized as being uncharitable and ungracious for his uncompromising views on Roman Catholicism. However, Rome has not changed any of its salvation-by-merit doctrines since the Reformation, so why have some of today’s evangelical pastors and para-church leaders changed their view of works-righteousness Rome and betrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

“Reader, do you believe that men like yourself have priestly power? Do you think that they can regenerate infants by sprinkling them, and turn bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ? Do you think that a bishop can bestow the Holy Ghost, and that a parish clergyman can forgive sins ? If so, your head can be seen in the picture peeping out from the cowl of the fox. You are the victim of crafty deceivers. Your soul will be their prey in life and in death. They cajole you with soft words, fine vestments, loud pretensions, and cunning smiles, but they will conduct you down to the chambers of death, and lead you to the gates of hell. Silly goose, may grace make thee wise! Jesus Christ is the true Priest who can forgive all your sins; go to him at once, without the intervention of these pretenders. Make confession to him! Seek absolution from him! The Holy Ghost alone can cause you to be born again, and the grace of God alone can bring you to glory. Avoid Puseyite and Romish foxes, for they seek to make a gain of you, and lead you not to Jesus, but to their Church and all its mummeries. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in these deceivers.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

Used copies of “Geese in their Hoods” are available at Amazon.com starting at $4.23. See here.

Below is a link to Timothy F. Kaufman’s blog:
http://www.whitehorseblog.com/

Throwback Thursday: Hislop’s “The Two Babylons, or The Papal Worship, Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on July 22, 2015, and has been slightly revised.

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The Two Babylons, or The Papal Worship, Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife
By Alexander Hislop
Loizeaux Brothers, 1959, 330 pp.

4 Stars

“Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city.” – Genesis 10:8-12.

The Bible speaks very sparingly of Nimrod, but in “The Two Babylons, or The Papal Worship, Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife,” Free Church of Scotland minister, Alexander Hislop (1807-1865, photo right), sets out to prove that Nimrod and his alleged wife, Semiramis, were the inspiration for the important pagan religions of antiquity. He argues that a slew of deities including Adonis, Apollo, Attes, Baal-zebub, Bacchus, Cupid, Dagon, Hercules, Januis, Linus, Mars, Merodach, Mithra, Moloch, Narcissus, Oannes, Odin, Orion, Osiris, Pluto, Saturn, Tammuz, Teitan, Typhon, Vulcan, Wodan, Zoroaster, not to mention Aphrodite, Artemis, Astarte, Aurora, Bellona, Ceres, Diana, Isis, Juno, Mylitta, Proserpine, Rhea, Venus, and Vesta can all be traced to the Babylon mystery cult worship of Nimrod and Semiramis. Hislop then claims that many elements of pagan belief and practice were adapted by the increasingly institutionalized Christian church by pragmatic, pseudo-Christian prelates, laying the foundations for Roman Catholicism.

“The Two Babylons” was first published in 1853 in pamphlet form, expanded in 1858, and first published as a hardcover in 1919. The publication has been surrounded by controversy since it was first introduced. Many cite Hislop’s extrapolations as reckless. I’m certainly not an antiquities scholar, but there appears to be more than a grain of truth to Hislop’s arguments, which are supported by 400 footnotes along with 61 illustrations. However, neither do I endorse all of Hislop’s claims. Despite a number of questionable assertions, there are so few books that examine the devolution of the New Testament church into institutional Romanism, “The Two Babylons” is an indispensable resource for those interested in the subject.

This book is definitely a tough read due to the 19th-century prose and the small-font used for the footnotes, so it won’t do for breezy relaxing at the beach. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on the older Loizeaux Brothers edition (red and white dust jacket, see photo) which contains the unaltered text and supporting material. Unfortunately, several of the recent print-on-demand editions have removed some of the text and don’t include the brief introduction, sixty-one illustrations, copious footnotes, lengthy appendices, or index (as I found out). Back when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983, the Loizeaux Brothers edition of this book, with its bright-red dust jacket, was a staple at Christian bookstores. Those days are obviously long gone.

Ecumenicity, Evangelicals, and Rome

Ecumenicity, Evangelicals, and Rome
By John Warwick Montgomery, Ph.D.
Zondervan, 1969, 113 pp.

2 Stars

While reading a booklet on the errors of Catholicism, “What’s Happening in the Roman Church?: A Report from Rome” by William C. Standridge (see my review here), I took note of the author’s favorable reference to what looked to be an interesting book, “Ecumenicity, Evangelicals, and Rome” and immediately ordered a copy from an Amazon third-party used book seller.

At the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Catholic church changed its stance regarding Protestants from confrontational militancy to conciliatory cooperation. Protestant theologians were quite surprised by the dramatic change and many were eager to enter into ecumenical dialogue with the RCC.

In this book, published in 1969, John Warwick Montgomery (1931-, photo right), a theologian affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), takes a look at the rising tide of Protestant ecumenism with Rome.

Friends, I’m a Theology 101 type of guy and this book was written for Theology 401 types. The academese is so thick that the lay reader must use a fork and knife to labor through it. Difficulties aside, what I catch from the grandiloquent prose is that Montgomery definitely favors dialogue with Rome. However, he doesn’t view ecumenical discussions as accommodation and compromise, but supposedly as opportunities to witness on behalf of the genuine Gospel of grace to Roman Catholic theologians with their false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit (p. 42). What Montgomery and other overly-optimistic and naive evangelical theologians failed to consider was that ecumenical dialogue is a two-way street and Roman Catholic theologians also relished opportunities to advance their false gospel.

Below are the chapters of the book with some comments from myself:

  • Evangelical Unity and Contemporary Ecumenicity

The author notes the change to the RCC’s approach to Protestants and argues for the value of ecumenical dialogue as a chance to witness for the Gospel. Montgomery strangely devotes several pages to complimenting Eastern Orthodoxy for its emphasis on subjective mysticism, but he ultimately rejects it in favor of the absolute authority of God’s Word.

  • Sixtus of Siena and Roman Catholic Scholarship in the Reformation Period

Montgomery is highly complimentary of Catholic theologian, Sixtus of Siena (1520-1569), and his encyclopedic overview of the Bible in his “Bibliotheca Sancta” (1566), but finally renounces the scholarship of Sixtus for his intellectual approach to Scripture rather than embracing the spiritual message of the Gospel therein.

  • The Approach of New Shape Roman Catholicism to Scriptural Inerrancy: A Case Study for Evangelicals

Montgomery notes the rise of “New Shape” theologians within the Catholic church by which higher-criticism/modernism was introduced into the RCC in the 20th century. As a result, Catholic theologians (and also, prelates and priests) increasingly viewed the Bible as myth and allegory rather than God’s literal Word.

  • Rome and the “Death of God”

Modernist RCC theologians of the “New Shape” argued that the church was “progressively unfolding” and was not anchored to “ancient manuscripts” (i.e., the Bible). The RCC’s untethering from Scripture has always allowed it to place its magisterium and its evolving “sacred traditions” above God’s Word.

  • Three Reviews: Hans Kung, Alonzo Schokel, Nathan Soderblom

Montgomery cites three books that were influential in promoting ecumenism and points out their particular faults.

This is a VERY strange book. Montgomery welcomes ecumenical dialogue while simultaneously warning against Rome’s heterodoxies. Via the efforts of theologians like Montgomery, ecumenism gained a foothold within evangelicalism and eventually reached a point where the author’s cautions and objections back in 1969 were no longer voiced or even considered (see William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, etc.). Ecumenism with Rome always, always, always results in accommodation, compromise, and betrayal of the Gospel. What looked to be an interesting book turned out to be a big disappointment.

Legion of Super-Heroes Index: Adventure Comics #346 thru #380

Way back in mid-April, 2018, I began this series of bi-monthly reviews of Legion of Super-Heroes tales in Adventure Comics from DC Comic’s Silver Age. I began with issue #346 and ended with #380. That stretch was very significant because it marked the writing debut of young Jim Shooter. Teamed up with DC’s premier penciller, Curt Swan, the duo created some of the Legion’s most iconic stories that are still being talked about fifty years later. The stretch was personally significant for me as well because I became a fan of the Legion after buying Adventure Comics #350 and I continued buying the comic up to and including Adventure Comics #372.

So, without any further ado, below is an index to my 35 reviews of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics, #346 (July, 1966) thru #380 (May, 1969). The titles hyperlink to my reviews:

“One of Us is a Traitor!” –  Adventure Comics #346, July, 1966 – Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, Nemesis Kid, and Princess Projectra join the Legion, but one of them is a traitor.

“The Traitor’s Triumph!” – Adventure Comics #347, August, 1966 – In the conclusion, the Legion’s traitor is revealed.

“Target – 21 Legionnaires!” – Adventure Comics #348, September, 1966 – Dr. Regulus wages war against the Legion.

“The Rogue Legionnaire!” – Adventure Comics #349, October, 1966 – The Legion opposes Universo.

“The Outcast Super-Heroes!” – Adventure Comics #350, November, 1966 – Superboy and Supergirl are forced to quit the Legion and two mysterious strangers take their place.

“The Forgotten Legion!” – Adventure Comics #351, December, 1966 – In the conclusion, the Legion defeats the “Devil’s Dozen” and Starboy and Dream Girl become members.

“The Fatal Five!” – Adventure Comics #352, January, 1967 – The Legion teams up with the most powerful group of criminals in the Universe, the Fatal Five, to battle the Sun Eater.

“The Doomed Legionnaire!” – Adventure Comics #353, February, 1967 – In the conclusion, Ferro Lad sacrifices himself to save the Solar System.

“The Adult Legionnaires!” – Adventure Comics #354, March, 1967 – Superman visits the Legionnaires when they are adults and the team tangles with Ferro Lad’s twin brother.

“The War of the Legions!” – Adventure Comics #355, April, 1967 – In the conclusion, the adult Legionnaires battle the grown-up Legion of Super Villains.

“The Five Legion Orphans!” – Adventure Comics #356, May, 1967 – Five Legionnaires are transformed into tykes.

“The Ghost of Ferro Lad!” – Adventure Comics #357, June, 1967 – The Legion battles the Controller and gets some unexpected help.

“The Hunter!” – Adventure Comics #358, July, 1967 – The Legion battles the Hunter in the 30th-century version of “The Most Dangerous Game.”

“The Outlawed Legionnaires!” – Adventure Comics #359, August, 1967 – The Legion is banned and its members are hunted down like common criminals.

“The Legion Chain Gang!” – Adventure Comics #360, September, 1967 – In the conclusion,  the Legion’s nemesis is revealed to be Universo.

“The Unkillables!” – Adventure Comics #361, October, 1967 – An alien manipulates descendants of the most famous assassins in galactic history into attacking the Legion.

“The Chemoids Are Coming!” – Adventure Comics #362, November, 1967 – The Legion must stop Dr. Mantis Morlo and his environmentally-toxic experiments.

“Black Day for the Legion!” – Adventure Comics #363, December, 1967 – The conclusion of the Legion’s confrontation with Dr. Mantis Morlo.

“The Revolt of the Super-Pets!” – Adventure Comics #364, January, 1968 – The Legionnaires’ super-pets stage a rebellion.

“Escape of the Fatal Five!” – Adventure Comics #365, February, 1968 – The Universe’s most powerful criminal team returns and the Legion is in trouble. The introduction of Shadow Lass.

“The Fight for the Championship of the Universe!” – Adventure Comics #366, March, 1968 – The conclusion of the epic battle between the Legion and the Fatal Five.

“No Escape from the Circle of Death!” – Adventure Comics #367, April, 1968 – The Legion faces certain destruction at the hands of the “Dark Circle,” until they remember the “Miracle Machine.”

“The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines!” – Adventure Comics #368, May, 1968 – First, the super-pets revolted and now, the Legion’s female super-heroines.

“Mordru the Merciless!” – Adventure Comics #369, June, 1968 – The Legion confronts one of its most powerful enemies.

“The Devil’s Jury!” – Adventure Comics #370, July, 1968 – In the conclusion, the Legionnaires battle for their lives against Mordru, one of the most powerful villains in the Universe.

“The Colossal Failure!” – Adventure Comics #371, August, 1968 – Colossal Boy appears to betray the Legion.

“School for Super-Villains!” – Adventure Comics #372, September, 1968 – In the concluding story, the Legion determines the Legion of Super-Villains is extorting Colossal Boy.

“The Tornado Twins!” – Adventure Comics #373, October, 1968 – The Flash’s 30-century descendants give the Legion a “run for their money.”

“Mission: Diabolical!” – Adventure Comics #374, November, 1968 – It’s gang warfare, 30th-century style, and the Legion is caught in the crossfire.

“King of the Legion!” – Adventure Comics #375, December, 1968 – Bouncing Boy? King of the Legion? C’mon!

“The Execution of Chameleon Boy!” – Adventure Comics #376, January, 1969 – In the conclusion, Chameleon Boy is robbed of wedded bliss.

“Heroes for Hire!” – Adventure Comics #377, February, 1969 – The Legionnaires feign that they’re soldiers-for-hire in order to trap the crooks on the planet, Modo.

“Twelve Hours to Live!” – Adventure Comics #378, March, 1969 – The lives of five Legionnaires hang in the balance after being poisoned.

“Burial in Space!” – Adventure Comics #379, April, 1969 – In the conclusion, the Legion is forced to assist a race of weaklings in order to save their five dying comrades.

“The Legion’s Space Odyssey!” – Adventure Comics #380, May, 1969 – Superboy stages a convoluted ruse to protect his comrades.

Final Word

Nope, it’s not my goodbye to the blogosphere, but, rather, it’s the title of John MacArthur’s latest book!

Final Word: Why We Need the Bible
By John MacArthur
Reformation Trust, 2019, 136 pp.

5 Stars

Over the past couple of years, Reformation Trust has published three short books written by Pastor John MacArthur on some of the basics of Christian belief. This latest one focuses on God’s Word, the Bible. Whether you’re new to the Christian faith or you’re a “seasoned saint,” you’ll enjoy this book, which explains why the Bible is our totally reliable standard of faith and practice. Argh! We Christians sometimes take God’s Word for granted. May we always cherish the Bible for what it is; God’s inerrant and infallible Word.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Chapters:

  • The Bible is Under Attack
  • The Bible is Truth
  • The Bible is Authoritative
  • The Bible is the Catalyst of Spiritual Growth
  • The Bible is Central to Faithful Ministry
  • The Bible is Food for the Soul

Order this book from Amazon here. See my reviews of the two other books by JMac in Reformation Trust’s basics-of-Christianity series, “None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible” here and “Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ” here.

Throwback Thursday: Catholics called it the “anti-Catholic bible”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on October 1, 2015, and has been slightly revised.

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Roman Catholicism
By Loraine Boettner
Presbyterian & Reformed, 1962, 466 pp.

4 Stars

“Roman Catholicism” is a classic, evangelical Protestant assessment of Catholicism in general and American Catholicism in particular, written at the pinnacle of that church’s power and influence in this country. Reformed theologian, Loraine Boettner (1901-1990, photo right), expresses the early-1960s viewpoint of evangelical Protestantism, which feared the encroaching catholicization of the nation at that time, epitomized by the election of John F. Kennedy to the White House. Boettner’s tone approaches draconian hyperbole at times and is quaintly alarmist in contrast to today’s ecumenically-correct standards, but it’s important to note that the Catholic church at the time this book was written was far more militant than today’s version. In 1962, one could cite Spain and Portugal along with most Latin American countries and the still-vivid memory of the European Catholic clerical fascism of the 1920s and 30s as concrete examples of the reality and danger of Catholic hegemony. Boettner quotes Catholic clerics and writers of the period who still claimed Rome’s God-given right to suppress Protestant churches in cooperation with civil governments in countries where Catholics were in the majority. Since those days, the Catholic church’s political influence has waned dramatically.

Boettner outlines how the Catholic church evolved from New Testament Christianity into apostasy and examines the ritualism and legalism of Catholic belief and practice in comparison to Holy Scripture and Protestant evangelicalism. His sources include theologians as well as pamphleteers, which makes for some entertaining if not always objective reading. Catholic apologists attempted to completely dismiss “Roman Catholicism” over a few questionable dates, but for many of his arguments Boettner references Catholic sources. Boettner doesn’t shy away from detailing some of Catholicism’s most bizarre and superstitious beliefs and practices, material that today’s religiously-correct evangelical apologists are apt to avoid lest they be accused of being uncharitable.

For several decades “Roman Catholicism” remained as the primary resource on Catholicism for evangelical Protestants. Catholics referred to it spitefully as the “anti-Catholic bible” but there have been several important changes to the religious landscape since this book was first published in 1962:

* Both the orthodoxy of the mainline Protestant denominations and the American public’s interest in organized religion have declined tremendously.

* Vatican II softened the Catholic church’s outspoken militancy towards the Protestant “separated brethren.”

* The Catholic church no longer wields anywhere near the degree of political power and influence it had in some parts of the world.

* Catholic religious vocations have rapidly declined resulting in a severe shortage of priests. The number of priests in the US: 58,534 in 1981, 52,227 in 1991, 45,713 in 2001 and 38,275 in 2014. More than 40% of today’s priests are over the age of 65.

* The mushrooming scandal of pedophile priests, including the cover-up by the hierarchy, has rocked the RCC to its foundations and demoralized its membership.

* Fewer and fewer Catholics actively attend services leading to the closing of a high number of churches. Recent research shows that only 24% of Catholics go to obligatory weekly mass compared to 75% in 1958. That’s a LOT of “mortal” sin. 1000 American Catholic churches have closed since 1995.

* 4000 U.S Catholic parochial schools have closed since 1965.

* A rising percentage of Catholics either question, disagree with, or ignore official church doctrine (see birth control, divorce, male hierarchy, unwed cohabitation, obligatory participation in the sacraments, etc.). A New York Times survey revealed 70% of Catholics between the ages of 18 and 44 do not believe the “consecrated” eucharist wafer is the literal body of Christ. Only 12% of Catholics go to confession at least once a year as they are required to do. That’s a LOT MORE “mortal” sin.

Boettner could not have possibly foreseen the lowly depths American Catholicism has sunk to only 57 years after his book was published.

However, while Catholicism faces many daunting challenges at the local and national levels, the current pope enjoys worldwide prestige and popularity (excepting conservative Catholics). News sources run to the pope for his comments following every major catastrophe to get the “religious” perspective. Are there any thoughts on how that will all play out down the road?

While many of Boettner’s other-era arguments are no longer applicable, this book provides a valuable glimpse into early-1960s Protestant angst when Catholicism’s power and influence crested in this country. There certainly is no danger these days of a weakened Catholic church gaining political control over America as Boettner repeatedly warned against. Such a notion is now completely outside the realm of plausibility. The real danger to Christian witness began decades ago when some evangelical pastors and para-church leaders began embracing Catholics as co-belligerents in social causes, which transitioned to compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ and embracing works-righteousness Catholics as fellow Christians (see Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Rick Warren, etc.). Catholicism currently teaches the same fundamental doctrines that it taught at the time of the Reformation. Most importantly, the Roman church teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit while Gospel Christians hold to salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Given this irreconcilable difference, how can some evangelicals now embrace Rome?

For more-current critiques of Catholicism I recommend:

The Gospel According to Rome by James G. McCarthy
The Roman Catholic Controversy by James R. White
Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment by Gregg R. Allison

Also, check out my Books and Links tabs for many additional resources.

The Legion navigates a convoluted ruse

Yes, my friends, it’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for one final adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“The Legion’s Space Odyssey!”
Adventure Comics #380, May, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Curt Swan and Mike Esposito

3 Stars

Plot

At the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis, Superboy is performing a routine inspection of communications equipment when he is contacted by Dream Girl, who informs him of a mysterious pending catastrophe. The Boy of Steel immediately proceeds to gather up the other Legionnaires present at the compound – Bouncing Boy, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Invisible Kid, Light Lass, Sun Boy, and Ultra Boy – when they are all suddenly transported to a distant planet. As the team contemplates how they’re going to get back to Earth, a powerful, dinosaur-like creature attacks and apparently kills Superboy (see cover).

After the team builds a monument to their fallen comrade, they create a temporary shelter on the apparently hostile planet and then proceed to build a makeshift spaceship using their unique powers. The team begins their slow “odyssey” back to earth, but encounters several challenges along the way, which they overcome.

As the returning wayfarers approach Earth, Ultra Boy, using his “penetra vision,” observes a deadly ray apparently annihilating everyone in the Legion clubhouse. But after the dust settles, Ultra Boy sees Superboy and Mon-El standing unharmed amidst the strewn parts of faux decoy Legionnaire robotic-doubles. The Legionnaires land their ship and learn from Superboy that he sent them to the distant planet to protect them from the prophesied attack, and the Legion of Super-Pets assisted in delaying their return by staging the multiple challenges.

The source of the deadly attack upon the Legion’s headquarters came from a ship that improbably plies the Sun’s molten surface. Inside the vessel, two criminals, Skyzznx and Alrrk, celebrate their assumed victory over the Legion, but the heroes teleport themselves inside the craft and confront the villains. With no way out, the dastardly duo destroy themselves.

Commentary

Shooter’s plot line in this tale is rather ridiculous. Why didn’t Superboy just warn his teammates of the impending attack you ask? He justifies the complicated ruse by saying he knew his teammates wouldn’t have believed him. Ach.

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This was our last review of DC Comic’s Silver Age Legion tales. We began our Legion “odyssey” way back on April 2018 with our review of “One of Us is a Traitor!” (Adventure Comics #346, July, 1966), Jim Shooter’s writing debut, and continued with the next thirty-four issues of Adventure Comics.

Following this issue, DC pulled the Legion from Adventure Comics and consigned the franchise to the secondary story in Action Comics. Jim Shooter’s last Legion tale appeared in Action Comics #384, January 1970.

I hope you had as much fun looking back at these old Silver Age Legion tales as I did! I’ll be posting an index of all 35 reviews shortly. In the meantime, DC is in the process of relaunching the Legion franchise and I’ll be posting about that very soon.

Postscript: Human beings have been attracted to tales of good heroes overcoming evil foes and dispensing justice for millennia after millennia. I’ll be writing a post about mankind’s fascination with heroes, super and otherwise, down the road.

Dead Legionnaires buried in space?

It’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Burial in Space!”
Adventure Comics #379, April, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

At the conclusion of our previous issue, Adventure Comics #378 (see here), five Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – teeter on the brink of death, with their enigmatic executioner gleefully celebrating over them, when suddenly, time mysteriously stops. Let’s pick up the action:

We learn that a strange alien from a highly-advanced race from the planet, Seeris, has intervened and stopped time at that specific location to momentarily save the dying Legionnaires. He had been hoping that the heroes could assist him with some unspecified problem, but their current condition makes that impossible. As he monitors the situation, another contingent of seven Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters to find their five comrades and mistakenly assume them to be dead. The Seeron immediately transports to Legion headquarters and informs the heroes of all that transpired and proposes that he will cure their teammates if they will assist him with his problem.

The seven are quickly transported to Seeris where they are informed a warlike race of brutes has invaded the planet. The aggressors are of such low intelligence that they are almost impervious to the Seerons’ impressive mental powers. The Seerons are unable to resist the invaders because their complete emphasis on intellectual prowess over the centuries has rendered them physical weaklings and they have no defensive capabilities.

The seven Legionnaires – Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, and Ultra Boy – agree to the deal and set out to stop the vanguard of the advancing horde. A battle ensues and the brutes prove to be more powerful than expected, forcing the Legionnaires to retreat.

In the meantime, ANOTHER contingent of the Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters, also mistaking the five that are in stasis for being dead, and proceed to give them a burial with honors in space. Back on Seeris, the seven Legion members regroup and formulate a plan to build an impregnable fortress to stop the enemy’s advance. The brutes easily breech the citadel’s walls, but Ultra Boy is able to buy some time with his impressive powers. Ultra Boy then sends out an appeal to the entire Seeron race to join in the conflict despite their physical limitations. The sheer number of Seerons proves too much for the invaders and they are defeated.

In gratitude, the Seerons transport the septet back to Earth and send a “thought force” to end the localized time stasis and cure the five heroes of their poisoning. However, upon arriving, the seven discover their five teammates had been mistakenly buried in space. Taking a cue from Brainiac 5 in the last issue, Ultra Boy suggests they use the mysterious “Miracle Machine” and the quintet subsequently reappear at Legion headquarters, none the worse for wear. Who was it that poisoned the five Legionnaires in the first place? Come to find out it was only a penny-ante crook by the name of Alek Korlo. Sheesh!

Commentary

This was an entertaining conclusion to the two-issue tale. Perhaps the most interesting element of the saga was back in the previous issue when writer, Jim Shooter, employed a “park bench philosopher” to counsel the dying Princess Projectra to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it,” and to “think of what’s been good in your life…don’t bother regretting a moment and squeeze your last hours dry, too!” The lost certainly don’t have much to offer when it comes to dealing with death.

Below is a detail from the cover of this issue that I wanted to emphasize. Note what appears to be a minister in ceremonial robes sending off the apparently-dead Boy of Steel while holding a book clearly labeled “Bible.” Great! God gets His digs in even in a comic book from DC’s Silver Age!

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Detail from the cover showing a robed minister holding a clearly-labeled Bible!

Only one more issue to review in our Legion Silver Age series. That’ll be coming up in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, DC is currently in the process of reintroducing the fabled Legion franchise, so I’ll be replacing my bi-weekly reviews of Silver Age Legion tales with monthly reviews of new LSH stories hot off of DC’s presses.