Religion

Trojan Donkey

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I have written the cover story for the October 21 issue of The Catholic Herald. My piece concerns the controversial pilfered emails from John Podesta, released by Wikileaks, that point to Democratic activists’ use of certain Catholic groups to influence the U.S. Church.

Here’s a taste:

It’s hardly surprising that liberal activists would create organisations devoted to left-wing goals. But these comments should open up fresh debate about the use of religious groups for political ends – and the often close relationship between a small circle of powerful Democrats and liberal Catholic groups.

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How Will Turkey’s Christians Fare In The Long Run?

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In the August 12 issue of The Catholic Herald, I ask whether Christians in Turkey can stay out of danger in that troubled country. The piece is available only in the print and app editions, but here is a snippet:

In 2010, the Austrian politician Ewald Stadler delivered a rousing speech from the floor of the National Council in Vienna. For more than eight minutes, he harangued the Turkish ambassador, who was present in the chamber, for complaining about the treatment of Turks in Austria. Listing ignored crimes against Catholic clergy in the ambassador’s homeland – the kind of crimes Austrian imams don’t face – Stadler pulled back the veil of hypocrisy that covers any discussion of anti-Christian violence.

Here’s another bit:

Violence against Christians in Turkey may not be endemic, as it is in other Muslim-majority countries. But the periodic glimpses we get are every bit as horrific. One of the crimes mentioned by Stadler, for instance, was the gruesome murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese in 2010. The apostolic vicar of Anatolia was stabbed more than two dozen times and decapitated outside his home in İskenderun. The culprit was the bishop’s driver, a young Muslim man.

All these incidents prove that vile hatred lurks not far beneath the surface. It will only worsen if Turkey further embraces political Islam.

When Pope Francis visited Turkey in 2014, he called for greater tolerance and acceptance of Christians. There is little indication this will happen.

Subscribe to The Catholic Herald or download the magazine’s app to read the whole article!

Why Have So Many C.I.A. Directors Been Roman Catholics?

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In the May 6 issue of The Catholic Herald, I analyze the history of Roman Catholics in the Central Intelligence Agency:

The United States is a country in which – with the recent exception of the Supreme Court – Catholics have never dominated the highest offices. Only one out of 44 US Presidents has been Catholic. The first and only Catholic Vice President is the current one, Joe Biden. Before John Kerry, the last Catholic Secretary of State was Alexander Haig, who left the post in 1982. Catholics are a rarity in other top positions such as Secretary of Defence.

By contrast, three out of the last five CIA directors have been Catholic: Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, and the current director, John Brennan. Looking back, a number of Catholics led the agency in critical periods during the Cold War. (There were no Catholic directors in the 1990s.)

I have a few theories about why this turned out so. One is that the CIA’s predecessor agency, the Office of Strategic Services, was founded by the devout Catholic William J. Donovan and may have been something of a haven for anti-Communist Catholics:

Catholic anti-communism in the 1940s and 1950s was at its zenith. Major Catholic organisations such as the Knights of Columbus supported Senator Joseph McCarthy (himself a Catholic) in his quest to purge the US of communist influence. Were young Catholics inspired to take a more activist role in fighting the godless Soviets?

Near the middle of the 20th century, establishment Protestants still treated Catholics with suspicion. Donovan would have been attorney general in Herbert Hoover’s administration had anti-Catholic sentiment not kept him from it. Catholics were more likely to be trusted and accepted within Donovan’s OSS than in other government agencies.

The online version of the article is truncated. To read it in full, subscribe to the magazine or try out its new app.

Just as I suspected, the conspiracy theorists are already starting to appear; they are drawn to such articles like so many dogs to their own feces. Check out the comments section below my piece. One dim soul called Hugh O’Neill has wandered out of his catacomb to lecture me, “the oddly named Mr. Wargas,” on his version of events, which includes the CIA’s assassinating John F. Kennedy. I must call the Department of Justice to get them on this at once!

The Magic of Christmas in New York

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I have a piece in the December 25 issue of The Catholic Herald about Christmas in New York — specifically how movies have shaped our perceptions of the city as a romantic backdrop for the holiday. Alas, the article is not available online (at least not yet), but here is a snippet from the print edition:

Whenever I speak to foreign friends, acquaintances and even strangers near Christmastime, they often openly fantasise about spending the holiday in New York City. They also tend to cite the film Home Alone 2 as the source of this fantasy.

Films have that effect: they alter our perceptions of a time and place into impossible standards by which we judge our real lives. I won’t pretend I didn’t develop my own fantasy of spending Christmas in London when I first saw Love Actually.

Everyone wants to fall in love, actually, and wants it to happen in certain places: on the Pont Alexandre III bridge in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower rising in the background, just as Jack Nicholson did in one of the 57 movies he made with Diane Keaton (or was it Helen Hunt?) — or, if Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron have any say in it, in Yuletide Manhattan.

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