Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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 Msgr. David Q. Liptak

Msgr. David Q. Liptak 

Working on a homily for the First Sunday of Lent, I reviewed the section on the temptations of Christ as analyzed in Pope Benedict XVI’s best-selling book, Jesus of Nazareth, published last year. After reading through the book as a unit, I recently began to set aside 15 minutes each evening to study a few pages at a time.

The Holy Father’s exegetical explanations and his profound reflections are literally mind-riveting, manifesting years and years of study, reflection and prayer.

The second temptation, Benedict notes, is “the most difficult to understand” in terms of catechesis. This is the temptation in which Satan appropriates to himself the credentials of a Biblical exegete; with devilish arrogance, he cites Scripture in defense of his trickery. To put this bluntly, Satan quotes Psalm 91:11 sqq.! The Devil pretends that he is a competent theologian!

Here the Holy Father recalls the Russian mystic, Vladimir Soloviev, and his short story entitled The Antichrist. “The Antichrist,” explains Benedict, “receives an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tübingen and is a great Scripture scholar.” The story emphasizes that some “alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle the faith.” (Jesus of Nazareth; New York 2007; p. 35)

Vladimir Soloviev? When I read about him in the Holy Father’s book, I suddenly felt like a savage entering civilization for the first time. Dostoevsky, I know about; thank God, and my seminary education. Likewise, other Russian greats, such as Tolstoy, Berdyaev, Pushkin, Chekov; and, of course, contemporaries like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. But Soloviev? Somehow I missed his contributions, obviously to my disadvantage, since he is cited by the greatest theological mind in the world today, Joseph Ratzinger, who happens to be the Pope.

Since Lent began, however, I have begun to enter the fascinating world of Soloviev. I simply asked a parishioner who (I long ago learned) has a private library much like my own. When I asked him – Mark – if he had a copy of The Antichrist, he lent his own copy to me within a day – plus four more volumes later. But when I asked how he came to know about Soloviev, I felt like a savage again. Mark’s answer was that he simply set out to read all the great theological/philosophical minds whom Pope John Paul II cited in his monumental encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), issued in September 1998. Soloviev appears therein, alongside Newman, Maritain, Gilson, Stein, Florensky, Chaadaev and Lossky. (Sec. 74)

The Antichrist is must reading. The prescience of Soloviev, who died early in the 20th century, has to be assessed as extraordinary. It projects the specters of Gnosticism revived in New Age “theologies”; trendy patterns of religion downgraded to mere sentiment (and, of course, entertainment, not authentic worship); “all-inclusive” religious “clubs,” where dogma is marginalized in favor of false unity or even ignored for convenience’s sake; it even foresees the phenomenon of a “United States of Europe.”

At one point of the Antichrist’s ascending to world dominion, he produces a book entitled The Open Way to Universal Peace and Welfare. Writes Soloviev:

“It was all-embracing and all-reconciling… And it was all put together with such consummate art that every one-sided thinker or reformer could easily see and accept the whole entirely from his own particular point of view, without sacrificing anything… or in any way correcting his mistaken views and aspirations…”

Meanwhile, Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords, the Messiah whom we worship as Savior and Redeemer, is left almost alone, save for Peter and his followers, who on that historic day of Eucharistic promise, replied, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe…” (Jn 6:68-9 sqq.)

Incidentally, the text I read of The Antichrist bore an Introduction by the theological giant, Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar, who reminded us that Soloviev’s thinking followed upon that of the French Revolution, German idealism, the Hegelianism of the Left with Feuerbach and Marx; also Comte’s positivism, Darwin, Nietzsche, etc. The volumes he wrote, accordingly, are substantial and numerous.
Soloviev (or Solovyov, or Soloviov) is thought by some to have entered the Catholic Church as death neared. Two ikons were placed by an unknown visitor on his gravesite in Moscow: one, of the risen Christ; the other, of our Blessed Lady.

Msgr. David Q. Liptak is Executive Editor of The Catholic Transcript, and censor librorum for the Archdiocese of Hartford.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.