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Reactionary Catholics Warn of the Evils of J.R.R. Tolkien

You knew it had to happen.  In the ever purging and purifying world of uber-super-pure Reactionary Catholicism, the Lidless Eye has finally turned its gaze upon Tolkien and found him to be Not Really Catholic.  Rorate Coeli run the demented analysis and then passive-aggressively takes it’s hand off the piece with one of those lame “I’m just sayin’” disclaimers by which passive-aggressive weenies attack people while trying to wash their hands of responsibility.

I particularly like the way Charles Manson and drug abuse somehow get dragged into this Kitchen Sink Plus “analysis”.

  • HornOrSilk

    I’ve read such reactionary commentary on Tolkien and Lewis before. Yes, it is bound to happen, and bound to happen again. I just wish such commentaries read medieval theologians like Bernard Sylvestris. Seriously, if they work at it, they will find out why Aquinas wasn’t a real Catholic (he focused on too many side questions, not the central Catholic concern of abortion and homosexuality, after all)

    • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

      Nothing new, indeed. I’ve also read such warnings (“gnosticism!”), specifically more than 15 years ago, from the main (or the only) right-wing religious congregation in Argentina:
      http://www.teologoresponde.com.ar/respuesta.asp?id=150

    • Dave P.

      Well…Solange Hertz asserted that Aquinas’ assessment of sex was wrong. And the Feeneyite faction believes him to have erred on the matter of Baptisms of Desire and Blood…

  • Jared Clark

    Christians of Rome! Of Constantinople! My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when courage of nerdy Christians fails, when we forsake our friends and stories and break all bonds of fellowship with the geeky subculture, but it is not this day. An hour of reactionaries and shattered faith when the age of Christian fantasy comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we read! By all you hold dear on God’s good earth, I bid you stand, men of the faith!

  • Alexander S Anderson

    One begins to understand how Christians of the 16th and 17th centuries could seemingly find witches everywhere.

  • Jared Clark

    It’s too bad father missed his own, excellent point: we should not let our entertainment overcome our spiritual practices. As good as Tolkien’s works are, they are not exactly masterful spiritual reading (just as masterful spiritual reading don’t tend to also be excellent fantasy adventures). Although I don’t think an annual re-read would necessarily be intemperate; rather, I think the daily entertainment, compared to work and prayer and family, is what should be considered. (And that balance is something I often fail)

    We do live in an era where we are saturated in entertainment, and reminding us of temperance is a great message to preach today. Though father did mention this early on, he abandons this for what appears to be “fiction is bad,” a topic which either confuses obsession with enjoyment (making the same mistake some non-Catholic Christians do with alcoholic drinks) or making the Puritan mistake of any fun being a distraction from God.

    • Jared Clark

      Granted, the people who work in random mud-slinging at Blessed John Paul the Great tend to not be the kind of people who make a good point.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      The guy totally came off like a dry drunk denouncing alcohol.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Tolkien is probably the person most responsible for my own conversion. I expect and even enjoy this kind of stuff from fundamentalist Protestants. (There’s a hilarious rant on Youtube from Reverend Badhaircut all about the Satanism of Lewis and Tolkien.) But from a Catholic? I’m disappointed.
    .
    I did notice the disclaimer from a “traditional priest.” Makes me wonder if that is code for “hates Vatican II and thinks all subsequent Popes are anti-popes.” it sometimes is, although it’s impossible to tell in this case. I followed the link only to find “the preacher’s name withheld by request.” Which makes me suspicious.

    • Jared Clark

      He does sling a little mud at Bl. JPII, so this is most likely the case.

    • D Lewis

      Tolkien actually was a “traditionalist” himself in that he preferred the Latin Mass.( He was, of course, fluent in Latin, and about 10 other languages- and that’s not counting the languages he devised himself. )

      In “The History of Middle-earth” series, the Volume “Morgoth’s Ring” contains a fascinating text, ” Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” which consists of a conversation between the Elven king Finrod Felagund (Galadriel’s eldest brother) and Andreth, a wise woman of the Edain of the First Age. They deal with the respective problems of Men and Elves -having to leave the world after a short time vs. being tied to the world as long as it lasts. In it, Andreth reveals a prophecy among Men that “the One” will somehow heal the marring of the world by coming to it Himself.

      • Jared Clark

        From what I’ve heard, after Vatican II he continued to respond in Latin. Loudly.

        • Almario Javier

          But did he think to think the new Mass invalid? And while of course a little rude, the default language of the Ordinary Form is, of course, Latin.

          Nevertheless I get the sense he would be irritated with this sort of thing. All this seems to me quasi-Jansenist, which he would of course take issue with.

          • Jared Clark

            I see no reason to assume he was the kind of guy to show how much he loves the liturgy by insulting a valid form of the Mass…or how much he loves tradition by rebelling against the bishops.

            Just a funny quirk I heard about :P

      • Imrahil

        The records of Numenor were kept in “Elven-Latin” or Quenya and kings would usually take their name in that language, but one king changed that tradition, took a vernacular name, and he (or a successor) even forbade the use of Quenya. Nuff said.

  • Dan13

    Tolkien was a Catholic, but I don’t think that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were, per se, Christian books. Instead, they seem to take place in a pre-Christian, Old Testament-esque world. Characters such as Gandalf and Frodo foreshadow Christ, but they are not Christ-figures; the One Ring does not represent original sin. Other characters resemble OT figures: Bilbo as a sort of Jacob (and the dwarves as his children?) and Aragorn as a sort of David (which would make Denithor Saul and Boromir Jonathan?).

    Not that this a criticism of Tolkien or a reason not to read the books. I just think that many Catholics want to canonize The Lord of the Rings as a Catholic book instead of as a book written by a Catholic that takes place in a pre-Christian fantasy world.

    • Jared Clark

      Tolkien himself said the Lord of the Rings trilogy became explicitly Catholic by the final draft.

      Big events, from the king freeing the dead from their temporary prison, Gandalf being brought back in a glorified form, and Frodo carrying the source of strife in the story up a mountain, with help, so that it can be destroyed, to little details like the ring being destroyed on March 25th (in some middle earthlings’ calenders), which is the traditional date of the first Good Friday, all show how his myth was a Catholic one.

      • http://suscipesanctepater.blogspot.com/ Matthew Roth

        March 25 is also the Annunciation and connected to the creation of the world.

        • Imrahil

          In fact, some people have done the job and linked the Appendix B to the Catholic calendar, with some surprising results.

    • http://brianniemeier.com/ Brian Niemeier

      Though I see what you mean, and I think there’s merit to a lot of your typology, bear in mind that a fantasy setting can still be Catholic even if it is chronologically pre-Christian and informed by the OT. The NT is the OT fully revealed.
      One correction: Tolkien mentions original sin pretty clearly in the Silmarillion. When men first awaken, Morgoth leaves Angband to live among them and turn them from Eru. At the first meetings of elves and men, allusions are made to a darkness in the east that still haunts the latter.
      Yes, mortality is spoken of as “Illuvatar’s gift to men”, but Tolkien himself pointed out that divine punishments are also divine gifts.

      • Dan13

        “One correction: Tolkien mentions original sin pretty clearly in the SIlmarillion. When men first awaken, Morgoth leaves Angband to live among them and turn them from Eru. At the first meetings of elves and men, allusions are made to a darkness in the east that still haunts the latter.”

        I agree that the fear of the “gift of men” is original sin in Tolkien’s universe. This is distinct, however, from the desire for power and control over others embedded in the Ring.

        “The NT is the OT fully revealed.”

        I agree, and it becomes a matter of classification.

        • http://brianniemeier.com/ Brian Niemeier

          Well said. I appreciate your comments.

    • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

      Then this is an interesting question: what, in your conception, makes a work of fiction Catholic?

      I’m not trying to be mean, but it seems to me that this is the real question we need to ask, not “is The Lord of the Rings Catholic?” Else we’ll talk in circles all day and everyone will carry on cranky to no purpose.

      • Dan13

        To take it to the extreme, let’s suppose we have a book whose main theme is “love conquers all.” That’s a summary of the cross and a fairly fundamental truth of Christianity. But would that alone make it a Catholic book? Or even further, if a work of fiction contains any sort of truth is it a Catholic book because God is the ultimate source of truth?

        And I think there can be a bit of a danger in classifying works as “Catholic” because it can create a sort of self-imposed ghetto in which some authors are praised and others ignored–not for the quality of their work but rather adhesion to religious themes (that’s the problem of the author of the silly article Mark linked to). Do literary Catholics read Flannery O’Connor because she was a good writer or because she was a devout Catholic? Conversely, does that mean we ought to avoid lapsed Catholics like Joyce and Fitzgerald? Too much emphasis on “Catholic” can lead to what Mark calls “ritual purity.”

        I’d guess I’d classify Tolkien’s Middle Earth works as primarily Jewish with an eye towards the Messiah. Aragorn is David, and Gandalf is Samuel, a prophet sent by God. The conclusion is a renewal of the old covenant and not the creation of the new: Eru has not yet become man and suffered the cross to reorient men back towards him.

        • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

          (Sorry, both my sons developed fevers yesterday afternoon.)

          Depends on what you mean by love and conquers and all.

          I’m sorry for being flippant. But I’ve never found short little theme summaries of this sort to be especially helpful. It is like (to use an example I read elsewhere on the internet this morning, can’t remember where) like describing man as a mammal. True, but inadequate. But identifying themes is too broad, for describing fiction as Catholic.

          I disagree there’s any special danger in classifying works as “catholic”. The danger is on the other end, of only wanting to consume things (and to force everyone else to only consume things) specifically labeled as catholic, and that’s going to stick around no matter what anyone does. But there’s other utility in classifying fiction as catholic.

          This took some thinking on my part – I could pick out what I think is Catholic about a book and why, but finding something to unify these traits was difficult. It occurred to me the solution is in part within the meaning of Catholic itself – universal. The more universal the book is, the more it accurately and profoundly reflects truth, is a measure of it’s catholicness. But on a Venn diagram, this creates a perhaps overlarge overlap been Great and Catholic. And at the same time, it’s inadequate. After all, I’d categorize LotR as catholic, but not Harry Potter. (Not that I think there’s anything especially bad about HP, just that it doesn’t ask and try to answer very many big questions.)

          So I think a catholic book doesn’t just profoundly reflect truth, it ruminates on truth. Especially eschatological truth. Back to Tolkien, it’s especially prevalent in the Silmarillion, but Tolkien spends most of his time writing about creation, the fall, and the need for redemption.

        • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

          does that mean we ought to avoid lapsed Catholics like Joyce

          No. We should avoid him because he’s a crashing bore.

        • Imrahil

          The interesting thing I discovered on my own reading is that there are books which you feel as Catholic books – possibly by lapsed Catholics, future Catholics or, I’d speculate in lesser amount, non-Catholics – and others you do not feel so. I am not able to draw scientific criteria. But still.

          Tolkien is obviously Catholic. So is – arbitrary selection – much of the childhood fiction I read in my youth – authors like Otfried Preußler or Michael Ende, with the one exception of the Neverending Story. By which I do not mean the Neverending Story is dangerous or sinful etc. – just it does not seem fittingly called breathing a Christian, Catholic tone which, however, Michael Ende’s other works do. Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange comes to mind, or Horvath’s “Youth without God” (in English “The Age of the Fish”), or Kästner’s “Charlie & Louise” (the best work of propaganda for the insolubility of marriage I know of). I read Döblin’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz” in my youth and only learned afterwards that he would later convert to Catholicism. I thought “I should have known”.

          Musil’s “Man without Qualities” has insights only a Catholic can have. It discusses, though, a foundation for a better world and does not find the answer because it simply dismisses religion by putting it into the “religion; that must of course also be included” drawer.

          Some books even ostentatiously flirt with the one or the other heresy, yet I’d still say they are Catholic books – Horvath’s “Heavenward bound” comes to mind.

          On the other hand, there are books promoting truths that are *not* Catholic. Harry Potter seems to be a rather Christian book; but it is not a Catholic book. Thomas Mann almost everywhere is of the rare species of decidedly old-school Protestant. The Star Wars series does promote the one or the other truth, and is not dangerous or sinful to enjoy, but I would not term it “Christian”.

          I wonder if that can be expressed scientifically, but that it can’t doesn’t mean there can’t be something behind that feeling of “a Catholic (or Christian) book”. (Hey, maybe I should alias myself “Xenophilius Lovegood” for that comment.)

    • Ye Olde Statistician
      • http://brianniemeier.com/ Brian Niemeier

        Thanks for linking to the interview with Gene Wolfe, John Wright, and yourself. It sets an excellent example for aspiring authors of Catholic fiction, which the world sorely needs.

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

      Tom Shippey’s “J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century” (can you tell he’s a fan?) goes into depth about the Catholic themes in the LOTR. Well worth reading, if you are into lit crit.

      • Andy

        Thank you for this title – I find Tolkien fascinating and am always looking for more to read about him.

    • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com/ Kevin Tierney

      Of course they aren’t “religious” books. Just as one would never say most greek tragedy is “religious” books. Yet would we say don’t read the Illiad or Odyssey or the works of Homer because they make references to made up gods? “For the gods of the gentiles are devils.”

      Tolkien tells stories that resonate with Christian principles, and many of these principles formed the basis for his work.

    • http://suscipesanctepater.blogspot.com/ Matthew Roth

      Tolkien specifically stated (I forget where) that the Ring is a metaphor for original sin, and as he said elsewhere in a letter to a priest friend, that they were “unconsciously” Catholic in the first drafts, consciously so upon revision.

  • lspinelli

    Reactionaries: sucking all the fun out of relaxing by the fire in a huge stuffed chair with classic Western literature.

  • SteveP

    Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Lewis’ Narnia were both hobby writings by the respective authors. Perhaps the “traditional priest” would care to prepare a conference on Tokien’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – after destroying the audio recordings of course.
    .
    I’m just sayin’ . . . ;-)

  • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

    Well, I think this guy has far more serious problems than objecting to Tolkien… I didn’t know Rorate Caeli would promote this degree of nuttiness. Some snips:

    …the Bible contains no myths! Only recently have the modernist scholars tried to force the category of myth upon the Bible (most especially Gen 1-11 and the plagues of Exodus). In other words, these “scripture scholars” tried to say the sacred writers of the Bible were not original but rather borrowed much from the ancient myths of their time.

    …it easy to see why there are no myths in the Scriptures. Because, we have the real thing!

    … we are on the ground of modern erroneous ways of thinking which always tries to redefine words and meanings while keeping the word itself

    …a sign of modern revolutionary thinking… which teaches that only in recent times have we finally figured out how to do things right

    As for C.S. Lewis, his fantasy works (the space trilogy and the Tales of Narnia) are also filled with problems. Not only does he have lots of this “good” magic, but also has multiple or parallel worlds and life on other planets. In The Magicians Nephew, the children go to a sort of staging ground or intermediate place where there are many, many portals to different worlds… some of which have passed away and some which are just beginning. Thus, in this way, the children were able to be present at the creation of Narnia. This is very problematic since it just programs our children for the ways of modern science which is all but completely fantasy-based now… with all their silly claims of a multiverse… or multi-universe, UFOs and life on other planets. Although Lewis tries hard to incorporate Christian allegory throughout his works, something Tolkien despised, he nevertheless had to use myth to build up his system…and, not surprisingly, instead of promoting truth, Lewis’ mythical elements promote error and heresy.

    As a result of the Renaissance, man became more and more the focus of attention with God being more and more forgotten. Not surprisingly, the occult began to manifest itself too. By the middle of the 15th Century, Pope Innocent VIII wrote a papal bull to address the problem of witches.

    …many of these well-intentioned Catholics are more prepared to defend these modern literary works than they are the Sacred Scriptures or the dogmas of the Church

    If we take a close look at the history of the revolution we are currently feeling so keenly, we know it began with some strength in the 1300s [I guess he meant 1500s], when the leaders of Christendom started to reject Scholasticism and turn back to the pagan writings of the Greeks and the Romans.

    …what we see here is a good man looking in the wrong places and getting taken in by the swift current of the revolution. Can we not see why these are such dangerous times? The occult has never had such power as it does today! It is so insidious that most today fail to recognize it… even very intelligent Catholics!

    (that’s not the case of this “friend or Rorate”, for sure)

    • Almario Javier

      I will point out that for much of the Middle Ages, the position of the Church was that while witchcraft did exist, it was very rare, and most accusations of witchcraft concerned behaviors which were superstitious. So Rorate Caeli (which is a good hymn, pity it’s appended to such a blog) fails in their history, too.

    • wineinthewater

      “…the Bible contains no myths!”

      I hope he didn’t tell Augustine that, he’d have to revise some of his writings about interpreting scripture.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      When I was an Evangelical we had nutty nuts like this, too. I remember a mother objecting to Mary Poppins because Mary Poppins used “magic” and was therefore obviously a “witch”. A few others insisted that any fiction was “lies” and that every genre in the Bible was history to the point of arguing that the parables of Jesus were things that had actually happened to people and he knew about them because he was God.

      Roll your eyes, pray for them, and kick back by the fire with more tea and Tolkien.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        I’ve always smiled at fundamentalists railing against the magic in Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins is probably the most blatantly anti-capitalist movie Disney ever made, yet hardly anyone ever comments on that. Perhaps I should send Glenn Beck an email, warning him of the Poppins conspiracy?

  • Father Maurer

    There’s a great essay written by Tolkien titled ‘On Fairy-Stories’ that every Christian critic of should be required to read before being allowed to evaluate fiction. In it he puts forward a philosophy of fantasy that is perhaps the best explanation of why fantasy is an invaluable vehicle of discovering truths and Truth.

    Wikipedia has a nice article about the essay: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Fairy-Stories

  • AMoniqueOcampo

    If there’s one thing I learned in college, it’s that Catholicism and Tolkein go together like beer and a good pipe.

    • Andy

      And second breakfast?

      • AMoniqueOcampo

        Definitely.

      • James H, London

        And lunch, and tea, and supper, and…

        • Andy

          More than enough to fill in the corners,

        • RedMeg1990

          Elevensies?!??

  • kevin

    Reading Lord of the Rings and (gasp) Harry Potter made me a better Catholic. So sue me.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      Someday I will write the essay about “Why I Let My Catholic Kids Watch The Last Airbender”. I won’t try to explain it to my grandma, though.

      • bear

        The movie or the animated series?

        • Rebecca Fuentes

          Animated series, definitely. It’s nice to see the concept of forgiveness (and honor, courage, and self-sacrifice) show up in any cartoon aimed at kids over 4.

          • bear

            Granted. I watched the series on line with the kdis. We all loved it. When I grow up, I want to be Iroh.

            • Rebecca Fuentes

              I got all choked up when Zuko and Iroh were reunited in the White Lotus camp. One of the best scenes.

          • Mark S. (not for Shea)

            I generally loathe most NICK programming, but my kids started watching The Last Airbender. I sat down and watched an episode and was immediately hooked. We got my wife hooked. Friday evenings soon became Family Airbender night.

          • Heather

            Amen. One of the better TV series out there for adults OR children.

            • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

              I’ll have to check it out; sounds like Beadboy2 might love it.

          • Jared Clark

            Heck, a certain character’s arc is all about placing what is right above the power, wealth, honor, and pleasure offered by the position he would gain by siding with evil. :)

        • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

          The animated series of course, not the movie. Good heavens, I thought the torture question was settled on this blog.

    • Illinidiva

      Yeah, Harry Potter is a ridiculously Christian book. Harry sacrificed himself to defeat Voldemort.

      • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

        The hero realizing he has to die to save everyone else? Because he freely chose to do so, he could come back? The fact of his sacrifice immunizing everyone else from Voldemort’s killing spells? The fact that the greatest magic was the power of love, and especially a mother’s sacrificial love for her child, carried in blood? I don’t know what you are talking about …

        • kevin

          That’s because you’re blinded by your own gnostic, airy-fairy, multi-colored, googley-eye glasses, silly.
          wake up! WAKE UP!!!! lol…just kidding : )

  • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

    I confess, it is rather entertaining to watch Rorate engage in deconstructionist literary criticism. Talk about strange bedfellows.

  • Mark R

    I am no fan of Tolkien as literature…I do respect him immensely as a scholar.
    Is the problem really with reactionaries or with the often out of control apologetics cottage craft, which often takes the chastely minimalist teachings af the magisterium and reflects it in its own funhouse mirror?
    With all due respect to our host, who is more an evangelist than an apologist.

    • chezami

      The problem is with Reactionaries. As ever, they take any aspect of Catholic faith, culture, or preaching that poses a grave risk of attracting the riff raff to the Fortress and then do their level best to destroy it lest some evangelical opportunity arise that might attract the unclean to Fortress Katolicus. It’s part and parcel of the unerring Reactionary talent for detecting and hating evangelism.

  • Thinkling

    miruvor 1, urine & vinegar 0

  • Sean P. Dailey

    That the priest’s identity is kept hidden should tell you all you need to know about him.

    • Illinidiva

      I’m assuming that they no longer post the true identities of guest contributors because one of the last ones turned out to reject the “myth of the Holocaust.”

    • AquinasMan

      This is from Audio Sancto, which features sermons from priests of the FSSP. I’ve been listening to them for a few years, and it’s always been their policy (Audio Sancto’s) not to divulge who the priests are. Their sermons are traditional and theologically heavy. I was very surprised by the issue taken with Tolkien by this particular priest. I admit I find myself listening less and less to their sermons, as a couple of the newer contributors have gone off the rails every now and again. However, like anything, there are some excellent, amazing sermons (going back a couple years), and then… this Tolkien thing.

      I don’t get it. The Lord of the Rings is an incredible work, and whether he originally intended for it to be “Catholic” or not, it’s impossible for a creative Catholic not to reveal his or her own Catholicity in what they produce. I would venture that Tolkien was equally thrilled by the parallels he was creating; reading it is pure joy.

      • freddy

        Are you sure this is from “Audio Sancto,”? According to their website, transcripts are not to be made of the sermons they post. Rorate Coeli identifies this as from a conference and links to something called “Video Sancto,” a you-tube channel. Are they related?

        • AquinasMan

          I have the Audio Sancto podcast on my iPhone. The Tolkien talk is still there (in two parts).

          • freddy

            Thanks! I’d never heard of either, and never read Ror. Coe.
            I read Audio Sancto’s reason for not publishing names of authors or allowing transcripts, but find it specious.

    • Silly Interloper

      Sean, you really need to get off that hobby horse. There are many good reasons not to reveal one’s identity.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Cowardice is about the only reason that comes to mind.

        • Silly Interloper

          Then apparently you have excessively limited knowledge, experience, and imagination.

          • Andy, Bad Person

            Don’t forget intelligence!

            • Silly Interloper

              I didn’t forget, but I am wondering just when you are going to post your real name? I assume you will do it immediately if you don’t want to be branded a coward by your own words. But I’m still waiting. . . .

              And, by the way, the social engineers and identity thieves would like to extend their gratitude to you for proliferating the whole “coward” canard. It plays right into their hands. The more people browbeaten into giving out their names to prove their “courage,” the better. I’m sure they are good friends to have, so as soon as you let me know your real name, I will forward it on to them. All in good faith and for your benefit of course. When can I expect this, Mr. “Bad Person?”

        • Silly Interloper

          –crickets–

    • Silly Interloper

      That is not to say that I sympathize with this priest in any way about his commentary.

  • Cypressclimber

    This from the site that labeled Pope Francis a heretic within 24 hours of his election. I have a lot of sympathy with folks who flock there; but the site itself should be ashamed. It is not.

    • chezami

      It was actually about an hour after his election. The headline was “THE HORROR”. Their chief informant on Evil Pope Francis was a Holocaust denying nutjob. And I have zero sympathy for the folks who flock there. They need, not pity for their butthurt Phariseeism, but a swift kick and something constructive to do. Rorate Coeli makes .the world a colder, deader, uglier place.

      • wineinthewater

        How about compassion? There are a lot of parishes that make it hard to be a faithful Catholic, that feed their congregations only a thin gruel of the faith rather than a rich banquet. And so some people, being fallen sinners hungry for salvation, sometimes settle for the red meat of sites like Rorate Coeli instead.

        Reactionaries have real wounds – even if only the wounds of original sin – and contempt doesn’t have any healing properties.

        • chezami

          We all have real wounds. I have received countless numbers of them from Reactionaries who are filled with self-pity and absolutely adamant about denying an ounce of mercy to everybody but themselves. They can cry me a river. I will myself to pray for them because Jesus commands it. But I long ago lost any empathy for their endless pleas about being “wounded”.

          Here is What Reactionaries Mean to Me: http://demonicinfiltrationcatholicchurch.blogspot.com/2013/11/mark-sheas-private-revelation-that-his.html

          That is the Reactionary spirit distilled to its quintessence. I could not care less about yet another mewling plea for pity from such people. They need to learn a little pity for others.

          • AnsonEddy

            As to that link: Wow! That is the coldest, most mean-spirited thing I have had the displeasure of reading for a long time. How can a human heart become that twisted?

          • Evan

            Regarding that link: Holy shit! Is that blog for real?! I’ve never seen that much insane hatred from one source.

          • lspinelli

            What the hey…? Is this a basement dweller who does nothing but read CAEI and foam at the mouth all day? That’s some seriously funked up sheet.

        • chezami

          Another sample of The Wounded Reactionary: http://demonicinfiltrationcatholicchurch.blogspot.com/2014/01/new-mass-goer-simcha-fisher-has.html

          Not interested in the butthurt anymore. Don’t care. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of vicious malice from these self-absorbed jerks.

          • AquinasMan

            Ugh — wish I didn’t click on that. That’s some seriously malicious detritus being hawked over there.

          • AnsonEddy

            I have no words. I’m actually trembling with anger after reading that.

            • chezami

              You and me both. That guy needs an exorcist.

              • Almario Javier

                Mark and Anson, agreeing with something? Are pigs flying? :P

          • Mark S. (not for Shea)

            Is that a site a joke? On the one hand, I have a hard time believing that anyone is that genuinely stupid. On the other hand, if it is a joke it’s in extremely poor taste. What they wrote about Simcha Fischer deserves a running start followed by a swift kick in the nether regions.

            • chezami

              It’s no joke. That guy is a psycho.

            • Andy

              Perhaps some time with the Nazgul? All of the links lead to hideous things – I cannot call them writing.

          • Heather

            That is so astonishingly awful that words cannot contain it.

          • Kristin

            That’s awful. How could she have possibly baptized her baby under those circumstances? :(

          • Kathleen M. Ritter

            Pure evil. Pure, pure evil. Mark, don’t even engage. After reading that I feel there must be something truly demonic going on with that blogger. And I’m largely a cynical, rational, left-brain type who raises an eyebrow at that kind of talk. But this man is consumed by something evil and bigger than you, I’m convinced, and to do anything more than pray is to play his game. That is easily the most disturbing thing I have read on the internet (or anywhere else, for that matter). Don’t engage, just pray.

        • chezami

          And here is our genius today, by the way: http://demonicinfiltrationcatholicchurch.blogspot.com/2014/02/gnostic-mark-shea-defends-his-sacred.html

          This is also hilarious: http://demonicinfiltrationcatholicchurch.blogspot.com/2014/01/mocker-of-god-defender-of-star-trek.html

          Heaping still more pity on these people is like giving vampire the key to the nursery. Some people don’t need pity. They need to be spanked and then sent to their room till they can interact with adults.

          • Andy, Bad Person

            Don’t even link to it, Mark. That rambling obsession of his will only be fed by attention. Those links probably exponentially spiked his hit count. It’s almost hard to believe every post has “no comments.”

            • chezami

              I seldom link to that psycho, for exactly that reason. But when people hand me another hanky and plead for still more pity for Reactionaries, I want them to understand what Reactionaries mean to me. That guy is the distilled quintessence of the Christian love and mercy I have received from Reactionaries. Boo freakin’ hoo for their “woundedness”.

          • wineinthewater

            You can be pitiless in your confrontation of their ideas while still showing compassion for the people themselves. You can call out their “butthurt” for what it is while still being mindful of the real hurt that lies behind it for so many of them.

            Reactionaries are no more victims than anyone else. We all suffer from the Fall. But Christ calls us to compassion for everyone. It’s not about kid gloves, or gentle pats on the head accompanied by a soft “shhhh, it’s ok.” It’s about seeing them as actual people and treating them with compassion.

            Speak the truth by all means, confront the error and even evil of their ideologies and rhetoric, but speak that truth with love instead of contempt. That’s my point.

            • chezami

              You are right, of course. And I will try. Boy, do they make it hard.

            • Dan C

              Once upon a time, conservatives were all for a bitter shout-downs to liberals. In fact, the Fr. Z-o-philes flock to him for such. I see that the praxis is only valid against liberals, but conservatives, ones in error, get all kinds of passes.

              I also do not find their story of hurt and pain compelling. I have been a child in 1970′s CCD, a student at a Jesuit college in the 1980′s and have been a Catholic the whole time. There has been plenty of opportunities for faithfulness for Catholics, although I did not feel faint when I was a witness to minor liturgical errors. Nor did I find a need to point these out.

              These folks want to be dealt with in ways they do not deal with liberals.

              Like me start with the Fr. Z “biological solution” tag he places on his entries. That, to clarify, is his dearly awaited hope for the day that those baby boomer “aging and greying” post-Vatican 2 priests and nuns die out from old age. He largely holds the false belief (once widely spread by the conservative blog-o-sphere) that the next generation is wildly conservative. Not actually so. For this alone, (his gleeful approach to the death of other priests and nuns), he should be radioactive. He is not. Such posts get blogging’s equivalents of high-fives from a large readership.

              Liberals are to be managed by the “biological solution.” Nice. Mr. Shea is mild compared to what is needed with Reactionaries. He is compassionate.

          • MitchellJ

            I clicked through to that nut job. Now I’m pretty darned convinced you and Fr. Longenecker are in some evil cabal to make us worship Gandalf while getting gay divorced and living on a moving planet! The horror, and to think this evil truth was hiding in plain sight. How could I have missed it?

            • MitchellJ

              Seriously, I’m sorry you get to deal with these people. I have to imagine nuts like this don’t just shout into the abyss, but try to send you their garbage as well.

          • Kathleen M. Ritter

            “Through some crack . . .” I nearly spit my wine out when I read that and glanced down at the accompanying painting. That is some crack, indeed.

          • kevin

            “If the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien are truly Catholic then where are the conversions?

            Answer: There are no conversions”

            …yes, that’s some sound literary criticism going on there. Even if we were to grant this person’s assumption that the number of conversions to Catholicism a fictional work effects in its readers is the “be all, end all” of its literary merit, how would we measure such a thing? Does this person want to send out a survey to all Catholics living and dead from the past 60 years and ask them if LOTR convinced them to become Catholic? All manner of things work on a person’s conversion, and LOTR may or may not be one of them for some people, on a conscious or subconscious level. Gosh, the way this person views the inner workings of the human heart and soul is simplistic…

            “The works of Tolkien are pure Gnosticism
            They are not channels of Grace!”

            LOL…ah, yes, the gnosticism. Always with the gnosticism, these guys. How does this person know whether the LOTR books are “channels of Grace” or not? This is something that can easily be measured??

            …if only Chesterton were alive now to see this

            • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

              I’m a Tolkien convert. My Evangelical dad read me LotR when I was a kid and it significantly Catholicised my worldview.

              • Mark S. (not for Shea)

                Me too! Tolkien’s stories are not obviously allegorical like C.S. Lewis’s nor ham-fistedly preachy like Pilgrim’s Progress, which seems to be the Fantasy most evangelicals prefer. But Tolkien’s in Tolkien’s tales you hear the Melody of the Faith on every page, even if the lyrics aren’t always obvious.

            • Imrahil

              Hm.

              In one sense, God’s grace can somehow work in any circumstance where men do not directly oppose her.

              In the other sense, channels of grace principally are the Sacraments, and then perhaps Lectio Divina and that sort of thing.

              Noone ever *ever* claimed that Tolkien’s works belong to that.

              We (if I may say we) only claim that Tolkien is good fiction*, and yes, Christian fiction of a wise Catholic Englishman.
              For not to get some things into wrong heads: in the “circles of the initiate” ( :-) ), we may perhaps say “ah that is just like back then when Sam came home after all” or “you know, that sort of ideology has already been tried by Saruman and didn’t work out”, or – as I did over there on Fr. Z’s blog when someone opposed having affectionate terms for saints – “even Saruman was right in that one thing that he enjoyed being called Sharkey”. But – for people who do need explanation – that sort semi-mythical speech in which the ennerving phrase “in the story ‘the Lord of the Rings’ by Tolkien which I assume you are familiar with” is left out for convenience is just the same as we would treat Shakespeare, Homer, Dante, Faust or whatever in case that we happen to know the part and happen to assume the same about the addressee.

              In addition, I would contradict Rorate’s view that the Lord of the Rings is not part of a literary canon.

      • kenofken

        “The Horror”, eh? Francis could have gone all Col. Kurtz on him! :)

  • Alma Peregrina

    “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

    This Church paradigm never caught up, thankfully… but it had its proponents from the beggining. Just like today… In fact, this is a quote by a ultraconservative quasi-heretic.

    • Almario Javier

      “Quasi”? The man was a Montanist.

      • Alma Peregrina

        As far as I know, montanism was never formally condemned as such by the Church. But I could be wrong about that, though.

        • wlinden

          Well, it is the apparent reason there is no “St. Tertullian” (Terry Jones to the contrary), and we can assume that there is not going to be a St. Tertullian.

  • ChGPe

    Tolkien was actually a very traditional Catholic who was not at all a fan of the post-Vatican II reforms of the Mass. When Mass was being said in the vernacular, he would bitterly shout out the responses in Latin.

    So the irony of Mark defending Tokien is that were Tolkien alive today, Mark would be refering to HIM as a “butt-hurt, reactionary”.

    • Illinidiva

      Wow.. then Rorate Caeli is so bored with the usual subjects that they have decided to initiate a circular firing squad.

  • wlinden

    I guess someone should have told Lewis that he didn’t need to be suspicious of the “Papist” after all.

  • MarylandBill

    I found the authors points to be interesting but flawed.

    Yes it is true that Tolkien’s works were embraced by 1960s counter culture and the New Age… but then again, the Bible was embraced by the Protestant Reformation. One needs to be careful when looking at fruits that you assign the fruits to the right causes.

    I also noticed that his discussion of magic missed a critical point. Only the Wizards (really angels) and the Elves could use magic safely. All humans, dwarves and hobbits that rely on magic (except elvish weapons designed explicitly to fight evil) seemed to be corrupted by its use. Gollum, the Nazgul were corrupted. Bilbo and Frodo were nearly enslaved by the Ring. Of the men, only Aragorn was able to use the Plantir stones, and that was to confront the evil of Sauron, not to gain advantage.

    • Imrahil

      Tolkien is safely distinguishing between magic (or necromancy or “Morgul”) and natural or supernatural* powers of certain peoples or objects.

      He freaking puts into Galadriel’s own mouth the astonishment that men have one term for both!

      Some power includes the creating of powerful objects. A subcreator is quite free to use include such a possibility into his subcreation.
      Coming to think of it – though existence in the real world is *not* a test of orthodoxy – no sane Catholic will go to the Confessional and confess himself superstitious just because he associates in some (of course not exclusive) way God’s blessing with the rosary he had blessed by a priest and carries with him.

      [*That is in fact interesting. Catholic theology contains a distinction between the essentially supernatural, such as seeing the Essence of God, and the accidentally supernatural, such as if a man by some miracle is given the power of an angel for a moment. Catholic theology does teach that angels, even by their nature, have the one or the other power, though I have not studied whereof this precisely consists. If Tolkien introduces in this sense an order of Elves somewhat between angels and men (though far nearer to the latter), that is even from that point entirely plausible - as the idea that men would have called superior Elven powers magical; called, mind you.]

  • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com/ Kevin Tierney

    And this is why I’m glad I’m not a professional Catholic.
    I don’t mean those who make income for doing their thing. That’s for another discussion. When your “job” is a blogger such as it mostly is to the guys at Rorate, you have to put out stuff constantly to stay relevant.

    When your a niche blog, you also have to work your niche audience, even when they do some legitimately crazy things, like when a traditional priest said that traditionalism was not just the Latin Mass, upholding a healthy suspicion of novelty, and belief that the customs and traditions of the Church are a thing worth upholding zealously, but you also had to jump full onto the farmland movement, distributism, organic (and hate GMOs) anda host of other things. That’s just going to “thin the herd” so to speak, and drive away a lot of faithful Catholics who don’t want to live like bible-belt evangelicals.

    This article is one of those things. Even if Tokien’s writings were this horrid pagan thing, is there really a pressing urgency of now to tackle it?

    • James Kohn

      since when has Rorate been an income generating blog? Substantiate

      • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com/ Kevin Tierney

        Where did I say anything about income generation?

        It’s hardly accurate to call a blog of their size, with several respected names, “amateur”, in the sense that they are like my old blog projects which, on their best days (when I actually updated the thing) drew in 2,000 hits a day. They draw far more than that. They’ve worked hard, and become a big player in the Catholic blogosphere. They cultivate news sources better than most paid publications.

        Money is not the only form of currency. With the frequency they post, the depth with which they post, the polish and other such, they are pros.

  • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com/ Kevin Tierney
  • kirthigdon

    While I disagree with the overall thesis of the article, the author does make some good points. Tolkien has given rise to some misinterpretations and unhealthy inspirations. Some adherents of the “Dark Enlightenment” are Tolkien fans. He has been condemned as a racist and fascist by many on the left and to the DE people that speaks well of him. They admire his quasi-Nordic mythology. Of course, numerous other Catholic myths (the Grael, for example) have also been misinterpreted, including parts of the Bible itself – as another commenter pointed out. Personally I prefer Lewis and for that matter George R.R. Martin to Tolkien. I hate to think of what the author of the Tolkien article would have to say about Martin, another popular Catholic writer.

    Kirt Higdon

    • Tomas Diaz

      Martin? Catholic? Where did that come from? Last I hear, he grew up Catholic, but has since divorced himself from it (ala Anne Rice). He’s definitely friendly to religion, in a religious studies “Spiritual but not Religious.” His whole Faith of Seven is taking the trinity to what he thinks is it’s logical conclusion – basically neoplatonic polytheism.

      Have you heard anything differently?

      • kirthigdon

        Martin describes himself as a lapsed Catholic and says “you could consider me an atheist or agnostic”, not that he is one. The Catholic inspiration for his novels is to me rather obvious. Your comparison to Anne Rice is a good one and I am not sure if she is currently claiming to be Catholic or not. I guess my idea of a Catholic is broader than simply a practicing Catholic like Tolkien. A lot of these “lapsed” are struggling to find their way back home and hopefully all will make it. Many Catholics have been lapsed or non-practicing for at least part of their lives.
        Kirt Higdon

        • Dave

          Put me down as liking Martin better than Tolkien, too, as far as the sheer expansiveness of the story. But yeah, having said that, the sexual stuff is a bit over the top.

        • Mark S. (not for Shea)

          I’d term Martin “Christ haunted” rather than Christian. He has clearly rejected the Faith, though he does still retain some affection for the Church in a historical perspective.
          .
          Martin has always struck me as an affable fellow with a rather dirty mind. A nerdy byproduct of the 1960s.
          .
          I enjoyed his first Ice and Fire book to a degree. I think he lost his focus as a narrator after that. There are still portions of a good story in his books, but he’s meandering all over the place. And I just don’t share his fascination for heraldry. Martin’s prose buries us in heraldry like Jordan’s buried us in stitching.

          • Illinidiva

            Martin is enamored with his world and all the minute details of it, so yes it has gotten a bit meandering. I think that the third book is the best with all its shocking scenes and revelations. Dany’s story suffered the most because Martin wanted to world-build in Westros.

        • Illinidiva

          Martin is a cultural Catholic and a self-professed atheist. However, despite Westros being a really dark place and Martin considered an anti-Tolkien, I do think that it retains Christian themes. Redemption comes up quite a bit.. (See Jaime and Theon.) And there is a sense among many of the big heroes in the book (Jon, Dany, Brienne) that the weak are worth protecting. I think that if the books were 100% bleak and dreary and there were no rays of light, then no one would want to read them.

    • Dave P.
    • Chase

      Tolkien *loved* Norse and Germanic mythology and culture, but he hated Nazism with a passion, as well as racialism and fascism in general. He lamented the fact that his beloved Germanic mythology had been co-opted by racists and ideologues to the point where “Nordic” has become a byword for racism.

      It’s not his fault hippies and DE guys misunderstand him (for different reasons). Manson claimed the Beatles inspired him to kill, but that’s nonsense.

      As for Martin – I think he’s an excellent writer and world-builder, but Catholic? I personally found the graphic sexual stuff to be too much (and pointless) by about halfway through the 4th book. I understood the general thrust of his work, but for me it was too much.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      Martin is a self-professed atheist.

    • http://www.geeklady.wordpress.com/ GeekLady

      Martin is a Crystal Dragon Jesus hack.

  • ivan_the_mad

    I think I’ll take Dr. Birzer’s analysis in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth over that any day.

  • Elmwood

    Unbelievable. Tolkien helped me see the truth of catholic teaching more clearly, especially on those things related to the death penalty and the environment. I find his writings to be entirely catholic.

    • Athanasius

      You know the Vatican had the death penalty until 1969 right?

      • chezami

        So what?

      • Paul

        it still does too, but context is what matters. no penalty in the US, yes where people have no other way to defend live of the inocent. Chezami is right, So what?

  • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

    The guy reads Tolkien like Dawkins reads the Bible. Philosophically unreflective people should not write literary criticism.

  • MJD

    “Reactionary Catholicism.” Is this not a redundancy?

  • Brian

    So, Mark, did you actually read the whole post on Rorate or what the priest had to say…or their follow-up post reminding people about what they said in their first post? I’m sure the ad-homs against Rorate and “reactionary Catholics” are great for the hits….but is it really good argument? Attack substance, not post titles or google translations of some source for yet un-countered claims that you dislike.

  • Richard Metzger

    Mr. Shea, you are in my prayers

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      Oh, look: an uncontextualized quotation: the Reactionary warrior’s AK-47. Not that accurate, but there are a trillion of them.

  • Matthew

    That rambling is completely over the top and a perfect example of how a little knowledge can be dangerous. There are honest observations made, but they are only observations and have not pondered the reality. Perhaps the reason why people get into the ‘cult’ aspects of things like this is because they have never been evangelized in the first place! If people get a glimmer of truth and follow it, they will certainly get lost on the way if no one offers them help, their becoming lost doesn’t mean that they didn’t follow truth in the first place. LOTR, Silmarillion, etc. do communicate truth (as an analogue, read your Aquinas) but nobody, ESPECIALLY TOLKIEN, ever in their right mind claimed that it is divine revelation!!! People need to be shown how they are already looking for Christ and that the good they perceive in the world is a Person, but apparently this article assumes that if any art is to be worthwhile it must completely communicate God, having an infallible author and allowing for no misreadings of the reader. BTW: tolkien did NOT believe death was a gift, he said this in a letter asking him about the very same question the Silmarilion was written from the eyes of the elves, who were tempted to think their immortality was a curse. AND, elves and Valar said that only Illuvatar knows how death is a gift, it was a strange idea to them but they and men had to trust illuvatar. Jesus eventually would turn death, a curse, into a gift by making dying himself as a man. And now we are tempted to think that death is a curse because we want this world to be the only reality there is, immortality is now unnatural to us. I share the writer’s disgust at the sort of people who are either completely Aetheist or completely Catholic and call Tolkien a Gospel. But both groups are not thinking, and too many of our Catholics, at least the ones causing the real problems, do so precisely because they are treating it as an allegory. A thing is what it is, not what you try to fit it into. What LOTR is is good, true, and beautiful. And it’s Author was a good man and devout Catholic with a faith so deep and an intellect so oriented to God that I cannot bring myself to question the truth of his work.

    • Imrahil

      Interesting about that “point of view of the Elves”. Did not know that and explains much.

    • Tom

      That is a good point I would also like to add three points. Many saints looked on death as a blessing in the way that it would join them together with God. St. Augustine relates how his mother, St. Monica, looked on death peacefully and expectantly because she had, “no longer any pleasure in anything in this life and I(St. Monica) do not know what more I want here or why I am here.” this sounds a lot like the men of Numenor laying themselves down into death because to them the world had grown grey and weary. Further if people have abused Tolkien this does not say things about him but rather about the culture of today. We seem to be able to take anything that is true, good, and beautiful and make it a monster. Art, Music, even the Human Body have all been defiled by men. This does not mean that any of them are intrinsically evil but that they have been misused. lastly I would point out that the ‘magic’ in LOTR is in no way occult. Tolkien himself lamented his use of this word but saw no alternative. He clearly distinguishes the sub-creative art of the elves(which is art delivered from many of its limitations in reality) and the, “deceits of the enemy.” The one is ordered to beauty and healing, the other to the domination of life and nature(analogous in many ways to the modern machine). Then there is the ‘magic’ of Gandalf and the Wizards. well it turns out that Gandalf is one of the Maiar, a lower species of ‘divine’ beings. The Wizards are beings which by their very nature have authority over many powers of the world. Tolkien even distinguishes this ‘magic’ from that of Sauron, who also is(was?) a Maia. The Wizards when they were sent over from the West were strictly forbidden from the domination of other peoples.


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