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Letters from our readers.


Michael Hanby’s outstanding essay (“The Crisis of Catholic Atheism,” Trinity 2023) put a name to a vague feeling I have had for some time about modernity. We do not often act as though God’s existence affects our discussions on policy, society, or morals. But it most reminded me of the famous passage in Hilaire Belloc’s Path to Rome wherein he contemplates the nature of Faith and Belief while smoking a cigar on a bridge in the village of Undervelier, Switzerland: “The Catholic Church will have no philosophies. She will permit no comforts; the cry of the martyrs is in her far voice; her eyes that see beyond the world present us heaven and hell to the confusion of our human reconciliations, our happy blending of good and evil things.” I have returned to Belloc’s mystical vision time and again when the transcendentality of the Church recedes from my day-to-day life, and it was a pleasure to recall it when reading Hanby.

The question is how to resurrect that vision in the eyes of many clergy who seem only too happy to blend good and evil things. I do not mean necessarily that we must return to the Church as Belloc experienced it fifty years before Vatican II. We are not the same church sixty years on from Vatican II, and those solutions to the struggle cannot be simply reinstated. Belloc himself recognizes that there must be trade-offs in balancing our divine obligations and our civic duties: “This again is very hard, that we must once more take up that awful struggle to reconcile two truths and to keep civic freedom sacred in spite of the organization of religion, and not to deny what is certainly true. It is hard to accept mysteries, and to be humble. We are tost as the great schoolmen were tost, and we dare not neglect the duty of that wrestling.” But the modern experience has pushed too many churchmen into the immanentist mindset; we must look back to the peaks, as Belloc wrote, and find our way home there. I hope Hanby’s essay finds ready ears and willing hearts among our Catholic clergy to do just that.

Jake Neu
Nashville, Tennessee

I was delighted by Minoo Dinshaw’s article on Pius II (“Aeneas the Poet,” Trinity 2023). Piccolomini visited my abbey, Stift Heiligenkreuz, in 1449. In a thank-you letter to the abbot he praised our library, calling it “a treasure greater than that of Darius or Croesus.” The future Pius II was also friends with Johannes Hinderbach, parish priest in Mödling, a short walk from my former parish of Gaaden. Allegedly, one of the churches that Pius II had built in Pienza bears a striking resemblance to Saint Othmar in Mödling. Your readers might like to hear that the Piccolomini family is still going strong. At a theological conference in Rome a few years ago I met the current Prince Piccolomini, a great-great- . . . nephew of Enea Silvio.

Edmund Waldstein
Heiligenkreuz, Austria

I have been very fortunate to have had a number of outstanding teachers, far more than anyone deserves. They include over many decades James George, S.J., Frank O’Malley, Father Stanley Parry, C.S.C., Brian McGuinness, Isaiah Berlin, Lorenzo Minio-Paluello, Sir Peter Brunt, Stuart Hampshire, Nancy Llewellyn, and Richard Janko. But in such a galaxy of bright stars, the supernova was Peter Brown. When I attended his seminar on Saint Augustine in the winter of 1965 at All Souls, I was stunned that anyone, much less a young man in his mid-twenties, could have such a mastery of such a vast corpus. Two years later, his magnificent biography appeared; and he went on to do what almost no historian since Burckhardt had done, to create his own period of history, Late Antiquity. Now from his essay (“Learning to Listen,” Assumption 2023), I know how he accomplished this task and am even more astounded. As perhaps the only retired stockbroker in Michigan to own Augustine’s Opera Omnia (in the Migne Patrologia edition), I credit even more that he worked in the St. Maur edition with a total prohibition against even pencil notes in the margin. Thank you for reminding me of one of the greatest intellectual delights of my many years.

Raymond J. Kelly
Flushing, Michigan

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