John J. Mulloy, 1916-1995

Author: William Doino, Jr.

John J. Mulloy, 1916-1995

by William Doino, Jr.

As long as people have attacked Catholicism, courageous faithful have risen to defend it. Ten years ago, I met such a hero: John J. Mulloy. Today, a few months after his death, I number myself but one of countless proteges for whom he served as a wise and devoted mentor. My debt to him is immeasurable; I can only begin to repay it by telling some part of his remarkable story.

Providence Takes a Hand

John always saw his life as a series of providential acts, and it is hard to dispute that. Born in Philadelphia in 1916, he was the first of seven children of an immigrant Irish Catholic family. A shy, frail and bespectacled youth, John had some difficulty forging friendships outside his home. In an attempt to gain favor with his classmates, he took up athletics despite his lack of aptitude. When he was playing tennis one day, a hard serve bounced into his face and smashed his spectacles, seriously cutting the iris of one of his eyes.

Rushed to the hospital, John underwent emergency surgery. The doctors were able to salvage part of the eye's vision, but the iris could no longer contract, so that John's injured eye appeared much darker than the other. "It was a tremendous blow to my ego and confidence," he told me, especially for a teenager already sensitive about his appearance. Worse yet, he was forced to wear an eye patch for a long time. But during his convalescence, one of John's tutors introduced him to the writings of Newman and Brownson and Chesterton and Dawson, among others.

John had always been a good Catholic, but had never really been aware of the complexity and depth of the Faith he so loved. Now a whole new religious world was opened up to him. "I can remember the excitement I felt upon reading Chesterton's ," he once told me. "Here was my fellow believer in arms, dueling with the antiChristian polemicists of his day, effectively dispatching them one after the next." It was exhilarating, he said, to watch contemporary Catholic apologists stare down a Nietzsche or a Marx, and expose their fevered philosophies as hollow and moribund. "Their faith and courage in the face of enemy fire was a lesson I never forgot," he remarked.

On his own, John expanded his studies to include Dostoyevsky and important Protestant writers like Kierkegaard, then began a serious study of religious poetry. Absorbing everyone from Dante and Chaucer to modern luminaries like Eliot and Auden, John embraced the Victorians as his favorites. He memorized the classic poems of Tennyson and the Brownings, of Hopkins and Christina Rossetti, then began to recite them aloud. Gifted with a stentorian voice-the one physical trait he was proud of-John initially rehearsed alone before the mirror, then, once he had mastered the sentiments and cadence of each poem, performed for his family and friends. Doing so brought him out of his psychological shell, and helped restore his self-confidence. Indeed, his new devotion to the study of Christian culture proved a tonic to both his body and his spirit, and gave him a mission in life which he previously lacked.

By the time he returned to high school, John so impressed his teachers with his precocious knowledge that they allowed him to graduate at sixteen. Thus, what he was not able to accomplish on the ball field he achieved-tenfold-in class.

Brilliant Teacher

John's insatiable appetite for learning continued at St. Joseph's College, which he attended from 1932 to 1936. There he studied not only Christianity, but the societies of China, India and Islam as well. His broad interest in nonWestern cultures allowed him to compare Christianity with rival systems. By the time he emerged from college with his bachelor's degree, John had acquired a great knowledge of religion, history and world civilization. He also had become immersed in the thought of Christopher Dawson (1889-1970), the great English Catholic historian.

With the death of Chesterton in 1936, Dawson was the best known Catholic writer still living. And as the foremost social analyst of his time, Dawson was, in John's view, the most valuable of modern Christian apologists, for his broad historical approach- encompassing religion, economics, politics, education, science and the arts-gave him a unique cultural perspective which other apologists lacked.

After graduating from St. Joseph's with honors, John struggled to find good work-as did many others-since America was still in the Depression. He could get only odd jobs for meager wages, and for a time he seemed destined for manual labor. But again Providence intervened, and John acquired a plum teaching job at Philadelphia's Central High School- the nation's oldest, and one of the most respected. There, for the next decade, John taught history, social studies and a special course in world civilizations, which allowed him to make use of Dawson's ideas on the cultural approach to history.

Central High was intensely competitive, with high-I.Q. students drawn from around the city, giving John the stimulus he needed to develop his courses effectively. Also, many students and faculty at Central were Jewish, so John was able to introduce the riches of Christianity to non-Christians. Indeed, following in the steps of Dawson, John led an ecumenical discussion group at Central, conducting lively exchanges between Catholics, Protestants and Jews.

John saw the Catholic-Jewish dialogue as particularly important. As a historian steeped in the Old Testament and Hebrew culture, John had the highest respect for the Jewish religion, recognizing that it was the foundation on which Christianity stood. But in Catholic-Jewish relations, he always believed it wrong-indeed, a betrayal of true ecumenism-for Catholics not to proselytize; for to do so would suppress the primary mission of the Church, and deny to Jews the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel.

John's fidelity to the Gospel bore unexpected fruit. For many times, in some cases years after he had inspired them, former Jewish students would return, privately, to report the good news: thanks to him, they had been baptized and received into the Church of Rome.

The Master Responds

In 1950, John took a sabbatical to pursue post-graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame. There he became fascinated with anthropology and sociology, two fields directly related to religion and culture. Dawson was himself an expert in both disciplines, and John decided to write him.

He did not expect much of a reply, but Dawson in fact replied at length, offering profound reflections and supplying a detailed reading list to his eager correspondent. Stunned and excited, John immediately answered back. What followed was a scholarly communication between the two that lasted a decade-"al the result," John told me later, "of a sheepish letter which I almost didn't write."

After graduating from Notre Dame in 1952 (with a combined master's in sociology and anthropology), John returned to Philadelphia. In addition to his duties at Central, he began locale speaking engagements on the history of philosophy and cultural anthropology, describing how each of these disciplines helped explain God's plan for humanly. These Lectures were so successful that he immediately began receiving invitations to speak elsewhere. Soon, John developed a special Christian culture seminar which he offered at various schools and universities throughout the United States. California, Indiana, Wisconsin and Washington were just a few of the states John visited to inspire young minds.

It was during these travels that John became aware that a need existed for an education based upon solid religious principles- and, in particular, for a Dawsonian approach to history. consequently, he decided to put together a grand synthesis of Dawson's thought, which could serve as a guide to scholars and students everywhere. After working out the details, he pitched the idea to Dawson, asking for his permission and help. Dawson complied. The result was (Sheed and Ward, 1957), a nearly 500-page collection of Dawson's best writing, which John edited and to which he contributed an introduction and postscript. The time frame covered in the book is vast-everything from primitive society to contemporary England-and a special focus is Dawson's refutations of anti-Christian historians (Gibbon, Marx, Wells, Spengler and Toynbee) who have falsified the past in the service of ideology.

The book garnered sterling reviews even from the journals known for their hostility toward Christianity-such as the , the , and the . John was ecstatic. "In a sense," he later wrote me, "the success of among the non-Christian community was a wonderful fulfillment of Dawson's own statement about the Church existing to preach the Gospel not only to the converted, but especially to the -the people most desperately in need of it. As he wrote: 'The Church does not wait until she finds a sound foundation of natural truth and natural virtue and then proceed to cultivate supernatural faith and virtue. She sowed her seeds among publicans and harlots, in the corruption of the great Roman and Hellenistic cities, in the welter of barbarism and violence of the Dark Ages, in the slums of Manchester and New York."'


In the latter half of the '50s there occurred two watershed events in John's life. First, in 1956, at one of his discussion groups, John met Oda Bartsch, a young immigrant from Germany. The two were married the same year. They had three sons: Justin, Vincent and Clement, all gifted with the intellectual passions of their parents. John once told me that he considered marriage and children a heavy but welcome responsibility, and was fond of quoting the French Catholic poet Charles Peguy: "The true heroes of the future will be the fathers of Christian families."

Then, in 1958, Harvard's Divinity School established its first Chair of Roman Catholic Studies, offering the post to Christopher Dawson who, at 69, accepted. John had met Dawson only once before, on a visit to England. But now, with Dawson in Cambridge, Mass., and John in Philadelphia, the two would meet often.

Stimulated by the new atmosphere of America, and ably assisted by John in preparing his lectures and writings, Dawson's years at Harvard were among his most productive, despite-his age. Perhaps his greatest achievements of that period were his three lecture series on "Catholicism and the Development of Western Culture"-the climax of his lifetime work on the history of culture. All three series eventually found their way into book form.

While at Harvard, Dawson also published (1961), in which he argued that only the study of Christian culture could safeguard Western culture-first, by maintaining the tradition of liberal education against the growing pressure of specialization and vocationalism; second, by preserving the unity of Western culture against the centrifugal forces of nationalism, racialism and, above all, relativism. Thus, long before Alan Bloom exposed the collapse of higher education in (1987), and long before the forces of political correctness were poisoning the academic community, Dawson saw it all coming. generated considerable controversy, not least because it contained an appendix by John advocating the abolition of America's popular secular curricula for a more demanding and religious-oriented one.

Accepting a challenge

At that point, one of the most momentous in Church history-Vatican II was about to begin-Dawson's prophetic voice fell silent. Crippled by a stroke, he never recovered, and was forced to return to England, where he remained until his death in 1970. Before he died, however, Dawson was able to communicate one last request to John: Carry on the work I began. Don't let it die. Pray that God allows you to succeed, for the coming years may prove exceedingly difficult for the life of the Church.

Eager to accept his mentor's challenge, John began a second career as a Catholic commentator. Throughout the '60s and '70s, John published articles in leading periodicals on every aspect of the Catholic faith: Church history, theology, ethics and morality, biblical exegesis, ecumenism, social justice and catechesis, just to start the list. Many of these articles appeared in , the nation's oldest and most influential orthodox Catholic weekly, of which John eventually became an editor. His essays and opinions generated such interest that John decided to devote full time to writing. He took early retirement from teaching, moving with his family to Fayetteville, Arkansas, right next to the state's university-an ideal location to carry out his new apostolate of research and writing.

A central concern of John Mulloy's commentary during these years was the great drama known as Vatican II. During his last year at Harvard, Dawson told John to keep close tabs on the Council, since he feared the liberal component would hijack its original purpose and use it as a platform to wage destruction. When Vatican II finally ended in 1965, Dawson's greatest fears came true. Controversy immediately broke out over its correct interpretation, and dissent and rebellion raged everywhere. Bringing his calm orthodox perspective to bear on the conflict, John defended the Council against both those who dismissed its legitimate authority and those who lionized it while ignoring its deficiencies. Although John found much that was beautiful and orthodox in the Council's documents, he also found much to be soft and ambiguous.

Two aspects of Vatican II particularly concerned John. The first was its lack of historical consciousness. "Is it not astonishing that in the sixteen documents of the Second Vatican Council there is practically no mention of history?" he once wrote to me. "It is as though nothing ever happened to the people of God between the death of the last Apostle, St. John, closing the canon of Scripture, and the words of Pope John XXIII, opening the first session of Vatican II. Apparently, the martyrs of the early Church, the crusaders, the heresies of Luther and Calvin and the Counter-Reformation combating them, and the glorious trail blazed by the saints, were of little interest to the fathers of Vatican II." This conscious rejection of the past, he said, left modern Catholics "rootless and profoundly alienated," and it should come as no surprise if many of them "eventually lose their faith, or wind up embracing Fundamentalism, which has no such doubts about its traditions."

The second element of Vatican II which disturbed John was , its declaration on non-Christian religions. Though orthodox, lavished extravagant praise on these religions while downplaying their essential failing-namely, their refusal to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord. This imbalance was especially reprehensible, thought John, for many Catholics (e.g., Thomas Merton) were just then experimenting with Eastern religions. In 1977 this trend became all too apparent when the American Catholic bishops published their . In a perceptive analysis for , John noted how the bishops went out of their way to stress the "positive and enriching aspects" of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, even going so far as to suggest that their beliefs could be incorporated into the Church and thus "became part of ecclesial life." He concluded his essay thus:

In fact, the surest way to see how radically deficient is the NCD's treatment of the non-Christian religions, is to ask oneself, just what motivation is left for spreading the Gospel if the ideas behind this treatment are accepted as valid?

The authors of the Directory have been misled by the desire not to offend anyone, whether Christian or non-Christian, by proclaiming that the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of Divine Revelation. And in taking this attitude, they are in direct contradiction to the teaching of Vatican Council II-a council whose teachings they claim as the charter for their enterprise.

John knew that only someone armed with Dawson's insights into the world's religions could avoid the kind of shallow enthusiasm about them displayed by the bishops. "Very few scholars have Dawson's ability to enter into sympathetic understanding of non-Christian religions, while still seeing their deficiencies," he wrote to me. "But if it is done properly-that is, from a Christ-centered perspective-it wil1 help the student see that the great majority of mankind have always held to a belief in the religious meaning of life. He will thus understand how limited and time-bound are the attitudes of atheism and agnosticism and secular humanism which influence our society so deeply today. It will give the student a sense of kinship with the innumerable generations of the past, through his realizing that they also found in a supernatural order of reality, and in a life after death, the fundamental meaning of human existence."

Exposing Frauds

Another area that concerned John was biblical scholarship. Since the end of the Council, an alarming number of exegetes had taken great liberties with Scripture. The most influential was Fr. Raymond E. Brown, who denied the scriptural evidence for many Catholic beliefs but nonetheless demanded to be accepted as a pious Catholic scholar in good standing-and was so by many, including bishops. John wrote dozens of articles eviscerating the methodology and conclusions of Fr. Brown. One of John's most effective rebuttals, entitled "Schizophrenic Theologyich" laid waste Brown's contradictory reasoning:

The scholarship of Fr. Brown involves a process which tends to cut the thinking mind in two. As a Catholic, one may believe in the Virginity of Mary, the Resurrection of Christ, the Divinity of Jesus, and the foundation of the Church of Christ; but as a biblical scholar, one is required to reject all of these teachings in the name of a higher and more scientific learning. One is then free to speculate upon whether or not Jesus was conceived as a result of rape or fornication, rather than through the virginal conception attested to by the Gospels; one is at liberty to believe that the body of Jesus may have rotted in the tomb, and that it was only the subjective conviction of the Apostles that Jesus had been a great inspiration to them which became the basis for the teaching of the Resurrection; and one can claim that Jesus had only the mind and ideas of a Jew of the first third of the first century, and therefore did not speak as a Divine Person with infallible authority.

How long is it possible for any person thus to split his mind in two between the teachings of the Catholic faith, and the alleged scientific conclusions of biblical scholarship? Is the position of Fr. Brown that he accepts the Virginity of Mary as a dogma, while implying that Jesus was in fact conceived as the result of some illegitimate union, any more than a pose meant to deceive the unwary? Does anyone-can anyone-really adopt two such contradictory beliefs and still remain sane? Is not the logical result the sacrifice of either one's sanity or of one's honesty? (, May 4, 1978) Years later, when the so-called "Jesus Seminar," a group of dubious biblical scholars, created a sensation by claiming that eighty percent of Our Lord's sayings were fabrications, John took to his typewriter again. In an editorial entitled "The Jesus Seminar and the Jesus of the Gospels," he chastised the media for their uncritical acceptance of these radical exegetes, and challenged the seminar's assumptions and conclusion:

It doesn't really matter whether a biblical critic accepts only 20% or all of 95% of the sayings and actions of Jesus in the Gospels as authentic, if his premise is that his ideas determine the content of what the Christian shall believe about Jesus. For this betrays a scholarly hubris which thinks that it has the authority to overrule the Word of God by the word of man...Either God has spoken His Word to man through the words of Jesus in the Gospels, or He has not. If the critics believe He has not, they should make that clear from the very beginning.

Of course, there would be one great disadvantage to their doing so. If they were to make their real beliefs clear, they would no longer command newspaper headlines. If it were once recognized that they are not in fact believers in the faith of Christianity, but the usual agnostic met with so often in the modern world, the game would be over, and the media would no longer have any interest in them ( April 18, 1991).

Contra Curran

John was equally adept at upbraiding dissenting theologians. In 1987, during the Pope's second visit to America, Fr. Charles Curran took to the airwaves to assail the Holy Father, and to advocate a change in Church teachings on sexual morality. Curran argued that whereas the Church once taught that freedom of conscience, in the words of Pope Gregory XVI, "is a sewer," but now regarded it as an inviolable right, the Church would justify changing its teaching on a host of other issues: contraception, fornication and homosexuality.

But in a blistering editorial entitled "Fr. Curran and the Pope," John immediately replied that the Church has never changed its essential moral teachings, and that those who claim it has 1) always use selective quotations; 2) ignore the context in which the quotations were made, as well as the qualifications surrounding them; and 3) rely upon the theological and historical ignorance of their listeners. Answering Curran specifically, he remarked:

Let us suppose that the claim to freedom of conscience is being used to justify the vileness of homosexual behavior, on the basis that this kind of behavior is a contribution to one's better understanding of the meaning of Christian love. Would not this kind of "freedom of conscience" most accurately be called an evil- smelling sewer? Or let us suppose that Christians are appealing to freedom of conscience in order to justify an alleged right to kill unborn babies, and that this barbarous and horrible practice has spread throughout the entire world, killing millions of these defenseless infants each year. What better description of that kind of freedom of conscience can be given than that it is indeed a sewer full of the most loathsome rottenness?

It is a clear indication of the corruption of the moral sense of our society, and the diminution of our minds by words rather than realities, that Fr. Curran thought that all he had to do was to refer to freedom of conscience in order to win his point hands down.

When a Catholic invokes freedom of conscience to go counter to the teaching of the Church, he is saying that his own unaided conscience knows more about the moral law and its obligations than the teaching of the Son of God transmitted through His Catholic Church. What more absurd position could be imagined?

. .. It is possible that Pope Gregory foresaw the kind of thing which would result from the assertion of an unlimited freedom of conscience, with no objective norms of morality to guide it, and left at the mercy of man's pride and self-will. But if he had tried to make his point by giving as examples such things as are now thought normal in the late 20th century, the people of his time would have thought him mad. It is left to our own time to make madness a sign of sanity. (, October 11, 1987).

Changing Minds

How effective were these brilliant apologetics? While a few men like Curran remained lost in dissent, others were dearly influenced by John's criticisms. In the 1970s, for instance, Fr. Avery Dulles, the prominent Catholic theologian, published a number of books exploring the history of Catholic doctrine. After reading them, John thought that Dulles had come dangerously dose to suggesting that Catholic teaching was historically relative-and said so, in . Dulles wrote a letter of protest to the paper, professing his complete loyalty to the Magisterium, and recommended that Mulloy consult Cardinal Newman's famous , whose methodology Dulles claimed to follow.

John was only too happy to do so. In a devastating reply, he outlined the seven criteria Newman had established to recognize authentic developments of Catholic doctrine (as opposed to corruptions) and showed how Dulles' writings violated or disregarded every one. Not surprisingly, Fr. Dulles chose not to continue the exchange. In the years that followed, John wrote many more pieces about Dulles, contrasting his increasingly questionable speculations with his earlier orthodox writings and reproving Dulles for his sympathetic attitude toward dissenters. Then, just when it seemed likely that Fr. Dulles would join their ranks, he began sounding unusually orthodox-publicly defending the new , issuing warnings about secular humanism, assailing false brands of ecumenism and praising the new wave of converts to the Church. Fr. Dulles even wrote an essay lauding St. Robert Bellarmine, the great Catholic reformer and apologist who was the arch-foe of Luther and the Protestants.

Fully vindicated but never one to gloat, John welcomed Fr. Dulles back to orthodoxy in the pages of , and later wrote him a personal letter of congratulation, mentioning how the study of Bellarmine and the Catholic Reformation had been instrumental in the conversion of Christopher Dawson.

John's most satisfying exchange, however, occurred between him and Richard John Neuhaus. In 1987 Neuhaus, a leading Lutheran theologian, wrote , an acclaimed analysis of the post-Conciliar Church. John liked the book, but noted one glaring error. Commenting on the heresy of Modernism and the Church's reaction to it, Neuhaus had written:

The Modernist movement...was condemned by Pius X in 1907. The Modernists were a talented and varied lot and their condemnation, in the form of the decree and the encyclical , cast a terrible pall over Roman Catholic theology for over half a century.

This was exactly the type of revisionist Church history that so aggravated John. Not only had Neuhaus misrepresented the Catholic past, but-worse yet-he had misrepresented the very period when Christopher Dawson and other Catholic giants had produced their best work. In a swift response, entitled, "St. Pius X and the Catholic Half Century," John retaliated with evidence that surely must have jolted Pastor Neuhaus. "The actual record shows that this was one of the most intellectually productive periods in the history of the Catholic Church," John wrote in In point of fact, he argued, it was precisely St. Pius X's courageous condemnation of Modernism which cleared the air and created an intellectual environment which made possible the Catholic renaissance of the early twentieth century. Commented John:

However much Modernist sympathizers in the ranks of the clergy may have felt repressed by being prohibited from using Modernist ideas to emasculate Church doctrine, their unhappiness did not prevent a great flowering of Catholic thought and culture. This was to be seen in theology and philosophy, in history and sociology, in poetry and the novel. Consider such facts as these:

In French poetry, we have the great achievements of Charles Peguy and Paul Claudel, with Peguy coming back to the Catholic Church in 1908, the year following the Papal encyclical against Modernism, and writing his poetic masterpieces between then and his death in 1914. Claudel's is a drama of epic dimensions which critics have compared to Dante's .

In the novel we have the impressive achievements of Francois Mauriac, Bernanos, Waugh, Graham Greene, Gironella (author of ) and Sigrid Undset, author of , possibly the greatest novel of the twentieth century.

In philosophy, we have three important French figures whose thought is well known to the English-speaking world: Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson and Gabriel Marcel. Maritain's influence has been especially strong in America, while Gilson and Marcel were each invited to give the prestigious Gifford Lectures in Scotland. In addition, Gilson gave the William James Lectures on the occasion of the Harvard tercentenary. All of these thinkers possess a worldview of reputation. Moreover, Pierre Duhem's pioneering work on the history and philosophy of science was carried on in this same period.

In France these years were a time of great flourishing of theology. Danielou, Congar, de Lubac and Bouyer are French theologians whose work is highly regarded both in their own country and in England and America. During this half century, French scholars were producing a massive 20-volume history of the Catholic Church, while Henri Daniel-Rops was publishing his own ten-volume Church history. In fact, the work of French scholars during this period of alleged repression is so rich and impressive that it is not possible to give even a summary of it all.

In Germany Karl Adam, Romano Guardini, Joseph Pieper and Theodore Haecker were doing outstanding work in theology and philosophy, and applying the principles from these disciplines to cultural issues also. Karl Adam's had considerable influence on the teaching of Vatican II concerning the nature of the Church, as set forth in

In England during this period, when the decrees against Modernism were supposed to have darkened Catholic intellectual life, there was a steady stream of outstanding converts entering the Church. Among these we may mention E. J. Watkin in 1912, Christopher Dawson in 1914, Ronald Knox in 1917, G. K. Chesterton in 1922, Arnold Lunn in 1932, R. C. Zaehner in 1946 and E. Evans Pritchard, an outstanding cultural anthropologist, in the same year... In English poetry, David Jones, a convert to the Catholic Church, wrote poetic works which are now compared in importance with the achievement of Eliot and Keats. Nor did the Modernist decrees do anything to check the widespread influence of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose work was first published in 1918.... In England, this was the time when Hillaire Belloc, Phillip Hughes and Martin D'Arcy were producing some of their finest work.

And in the United States, Fr. John O'Brien was able to fill five books with autobiographical accounts of how prominent nonCatholics found their way into the Catholic Church.

In light of these facts, would it not seem advisable for Pastor Neuhaus to reverse his verdict on the harmful effects of the measures taken against Modernism? Is it not likely that these measures made possible, not a Catholic moment, but a great Catholic half century in the life of Western civilization? ( May 5, 1988)

Reforming Education

John's lively exchanges in the Catholic press earned him a reputation as a leading Catholic apologist; and this reputation, in turn, enabled him to raise funds for a project he had long desired: the creation of a journal devoted to the ideas of Christopher Dawson. In 1981, with the help of generous Catholic benefactors, John founded which he edited. The purpose of the was twofold: to persuade academics of the importance of the study of Christian culture; and to convince them that Christianity not only had saved Western civilization, but could revitalize it again.

A persistent theme of was the virtual collapse of higher education in America. Indeed, not only had secular colleges and universities been corrupted but-worse yet- Catholic education had as well. In John's view, the changes in the Church during the 1960s and 1970s turned in quite a different direction from that prepared by Dawson. Whereas Dawson had spoken of the great importance of understanding our Christian historical roots, Catholic education now turned away from this task. There emerged an emphasis on the contemporary period-an emphasis that was encouraged by the misconception that Vatican Council II had made the achievements of the Catholic past irrelevant.

Even the few orthodox Catholic colleges that tried to rectify this situation often missed the mark. An example was their adoption of the "Great Books" reading program established at Columbia University, then expanded and made famous by the University of Chicago. Because the program was sponsored by two prestigious universities and gave attention to a few Catholic authors (e.g. Augustine and Aquinas), many Catholic colleges rushed to embrace it. But as made clear, there was a serious problem with the program: unlike Dawson's approach to education, the Great Books curriculum had no overarching cultural vision, much less one that saw the hand of God acting throughout history. In effect, the Great Books program was a hodgepodge of classic works which had no unifying theme. This approach left young minds lost in a jumble of ideas, rather than giving them a coherent outlook on life.

Another error of the Great Books curriculum was its concentration on philosophy and literature at the expense of history. Again and again, John would tell of meeting bright young Catholic undergraduates who could brilliantly elucidate the abstract concepts of Aristotle and Aquinas, and speak knowledgeably about the merits of or -but could not for the life of them describe the history and culture out of which these achievements arose. They were largely ignorant of ancient cultures and the factors that led to their decline; they knew little about the rise and expansion of early Christianity, or the: reasons for its dramatic success; knowledge about Western Europe during the Middle Ages was hazy, and they knew even less about the Byzantine Empire; they could not explain the history of the Crusades, much less defend them; they did not know the actual historical record of the Spanish Inquisition; they could not recount the heroic Christian missions of North and South America or India, China and Japan; they knew only the barest facts about the Reformation, Renaissance and Enlightenment, and could not speak intelligibly about the Romantic Period or the Victorian Age; their knowledge of the modern anti-Christian ideologies- Marxism, Darwinism and Freudanism-was shallow and, worse yet, they could not effectively reply to them.

This lack of historical literacy among young Catholics was in John's view disastrous, and he set out to reverse it. This he did, not only through but also with the Society for Christian Culture, which he established at the same time. The idea behind the Society was to create a nationwide network of academics who would enact Christian culture study programs at their respective colleges and universities. Its success exceeded John's greatest expectations. Major Christian culture conferences were held throughout the land, which John usually hosted or at least directed from afar. As a result, countless teachers introduced Dawsonian ideas to their curricula. More importantly, young Catholic students have been introduced to the rich heritage of Christian history all because of John's tireless efforts from a tiny office in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Devoted Mentor

It was during this time-in 1986, to be exact-that I first discovered John. Because of a serious illness, I was more or less homebound and devoted many hours to Catholic reading. And of all the Catholic periodicals I read, none was more lively or intellectually exciting than -largely because of John Mulloy. Eager to meet the man behind the words, I wrote him a letter describing how impressed I was with his commentary and stating that I, too, hoped to write for the Catholic press someday. John immediately responded, exhorting me to begin writing at once. He gave me a detailed reading list and even sent me a complimentary subscription to Just as Christopher Dawson had inspired him with an encouraging letter years earlier, so did John now do the same for me.

What followed over the next decade was an exchange of letters, phone conversations and personal meetings with John, in which he gave me an informal education-every bit as demanding as a college degree-always making certain that my path as a Catholic never strayed into enemy territory. Thus, early on, when I wrote John a concerned letter about an attack on the accuracy of the Bible in , he was there to rescue me. After sending me the names of a dozen illustrious historians and archeologists who established the veracity of the Old and New Testaments, he scolded me for my initial reaction:

You must realize that you are not acting in a prudent manner to accept the unfounded allegations of all of these secular humanists, while you have next to no knowledge of reputable authorities on the subject they speak so confidently upon. Who ever gave the right to speak with such authority on matters that have been subjected to investigation for many years now?

First of all, then, try to read something from the Christian side of these subjects before you take on the anti-Christian side. You remind me of a swimmer who constantly goes beyond his depth, without any support from others, and who then cries out for help. Remember that the practice of a certain intelligence in dealing with these controversial matters is a part of the virtue of prudence. You over-estimate your own strength and abilities, and thus are in danger of drowning. Remember that Christianity is a cooperative enterprise, and that means not trying to do everything yourself.

When I ignored his advice, and wrote him a second anguished letter about another attack on the Church I had read, John chastised me even more severely and told me to consider the source of the criticism:

Since you know that these are enemies who are anxious to destroy you and your beliefs, one would assume that you would advance cautiously upon their position, making sure that you had adequate support to protect your flanks and to be able to make a good move against them. But, instead, you rush right out against the enemy like Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, and then you ask yourself why you are cut to pieces and your faith comes reeling back in disorder and near despair. What else can be expected if you act with the kind of rashness that you make use of?

You would seem to be the only one left who is committed to the idea that truth will necessarily win out in any contest with falsehood. If one were speaking of angels or men without Original Sin, there might be some likelihood of that. But, as it is, it is not truth which is the object of most of the anti-Catholic and antiChristian scholars, but the destruction of Christianity. And you ignore that fact. Most of these writers you are drawn to are not tolerant and balanced; they have a passionate desire to show that Christianity and Catholicism are not true. They thus see things through a glow of hatred and loathing when they approach Catholicism-and yet you plan to take them as your guides. You seem to feel that, unless you can refute every argument brought against Christianity and the Catholic Church by those who hate them, your faith is not secure. Which means that you will never come to the end of your doubts and mental anguish, for there will always be new attacks arising to replace the old.

John urged me to read Cardinal Newman's famous sermon, "Faith and Doubt," which argues brilliantly that Christian faith is invalid if it does not have the courage of its convictions; and that no true Christian could believe that his faith might someday be undermined by a scientific or scholarly argument- for if he believed that, his faith was empty to begin with. As Newman remarked, "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."

After I read the sermon, I felt much more secure, though I still peppered John with questions about my faith. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from him was the hypocrisy of liberals who railed against the "absolutism" of the Church. In actual fact, John taught, such liberals were more intolerant and intransigent than anyone they condemned. As he wrote to me:

The dearest reply to moral relativism is this: no one really accepts it when it is his own moral code which is concerned; he only uses it against someone else's morality. In particular, secular liberals use it against sexual morality derived from Christianity. But when it comes to issues which they think important-racism, slavery, the treatment of women or the exploitation of workers-these are regarded as sins which cry to Heaven for vengeance. Liberals do not look back on societies which have had different views on these subjects and say, "We must not be judgmental, for the experience of history shows that all societies are culturally conditioned and that morality is purely relative." In fact, liberals always assume that their moral concerns are absolute, while those of Christians are only relative.

Remember that liberals, although they often speak of the freedom to read, do not read books which are antagonistic to their own beliefs-they shut themselves off from such books...But the modern- day secular intellectual is more attached to sin than he is to truth, and when he realizes that the ideology of liberalism provides a convenient excuse for his sins, he naturally declares himself to be a liberal in due time...

Passing the Torch

Without doubt, the most important gift John gave me was the ability to write in defense of my faith. Within a year of contacting him, I was writing for leading conservative journals, selling reviews to influential magazines and writing full-length essays for Within two years I began contributing to , and within three John made me the associate editor.

It was while working as an assistant to John that I first realized that my relationship with him was hardly unique. In fact, John served as a tutor to countless others. Each day, he would spent at least two hours typing letters to academics and students, instructing and exhorting them as he had done me. And these correspondents came not only from America, but from abroad as well: Canada, England, Italy, Austria, Latin America, Australia and Africa and elsewhere.

But the highlight of our friendship came when I finally met the grand old man in 1988. At the time, John had been delivering a series of lectures along the East Coast, and he had generously offered to interrupt his travels to stop by my home in Connecticut and speak to my local parish. Since he was used to addressing large, prestigious audiences, I was somewhat embarrassed to tell John that my parish would consist of a much less numerous, nondescript audience. He was surprised at my remark. God was no respecter of persons, he told me. And besides, he said, he speaking to small gatherings of lay people, who were less snobbish than academics.

Although I did not know it, John was suffering from prostate cancer at the time, and I learned later that he had been working under considerable pain. Yet he never showed it, and he buoyantly entertained my family during his visit and promised to return again-which he did, many times in the early 1990s.

Mulloy vs. the Mob

One thing I was able to share with John was my passion for great movies. Every other week, I would send him a video of a favorite film and, after he had seen it, we would debate its merits. Because of the drastic decline (both moral and artistic) of motion pictures in Hollywood during the last thirty years, John was naturally suspicious of any movie made after 1965.

His favorite was the 1962 drama , starring Gregory Peck. Based on Harper Lee's famous novel, it is the story of Atticus Finch, a white defense lawyer who bravely defends an innocent black man accused of rape against a mob wanting to hang him, as seen through the eyes of the lawyer's young daughter. Although on the surface it might appear a politically correct allegory filled with stereotypes of the South, on its deepest level it is about the importance of standing up for the truth even at the cost of one's reputation or one's life. I believe John enjoyed so much because he identified with Atticus Finch. He saw himself as a defender of God's truth against a lynch mob of anti-Christians in academia, in the media and, all too often, within the Church. As he subsequently wrote to me in a revealing letter about dissenting theologians:

Such people are not really scholars, but advocates-I compare them to unscrupulous lawyers aiming to present only that evidence which favors their side of the case, and aiming to distort whatever evidence they cannot easily ignore. For this reason, the only sensible way to combat dissenters is through an adversary relationship, as exists in a court of law. That is, the lawyer for one side is counterbalanced by the arguments of the lawyer for the other. Unfortunately, the orthodox Catholic side rarely gets presented nowadays, and thus the laity is left in ignorance that there is an orthodox side. This is the situation which lies before us, and one we desperately need to correct.

True to the End

By the beginning of 1995, John's cancer had spread and his body was often wracked with pain. Yet amazingly he continued to write, lecture and correspond. In one of his last letters to me, he told me never to become discouraged about my own chronic illness, "for the Devil would like nothing better than to vanquish another Christian soldier."

In words that are no doubt guilty of excessive flattery, John wrote to me:

You are probably some kind of chosen instrument to do God's work- which is why you are being pruned as it were. You know that famous story of St. Teresa of Avila who, when crossing a stream fell from her donkey and went under. She called out to God for help and came gasping to the surface, but then she sank again, came up a second time after asking for help from God, and then sank a third time before being able to get onto the bank. She reproached Our Lord for this and asked Him why He had been so slow in coming to her aid, why He had almost allowed her to drown. He replied to her, "Teresa, that is the way I treat my friends." She said in response, "Lord, that is why you have so few of them!"

In his final conversation with me, in the autumn of 1995, John told me that he had received Last Rites, and noted that he was just a few days away from the 150th anniversary of John Henry Newman's reception into the Church. "I hope to make it," he said. He did- dying on October 10, 1995, one day after the anniversary of Cardinal Newman's conversion.

There are two images I will always cherish of John Mulloy. The first: One night during one of John's visits to my home-it must have been 2:30 in the morning-I came across a shadowy figure on my living room couch, speaking something barely audibly. As I approached I realized it was John, reciting the Rosary, as he did each night (I later learned). For all his intellectual gifts and erudition, John was first a devout man of prayer, one who especially loved those devotions hallowed by centuries of use by humble Catholics everywhere.

The second image is that of the lonely but brave defense lawyer. Like Atticus Finch, John was a man who stood up for the truth no matter what anyone thought-including his fellow Catholics. "When any member of the faithful sees Catholic teaching being eroded or undermined, it is his right- indeed it is even his duty-to speak out in protest," he once declared. "It is not the right of wayward theologians, or of bishops who may acquiesce in their views, to decide that certain parts of the Gospel and Catholic tradition are now antiquated and may be dropped-and then to protest against usurpation of their authority when the faithful demand that they receive the whole Word of God."

No statement better summarizes the purity of John's faith, or his commitment to the Church, which he spent his whole life defending. To the very end, John Mulloy remained faithful to his calling.

The Best of John Mulloy

For those interested in sampling the work of John Mulloy, Christendom Press has just published a 275-page paperback collection of John Mulloy's best essays entitled (available for $17.95 postpaid from Christendom Press, Dept. 395, 134 Christendom Drive, Front Royal' Virginia 22630).

Many of John's finest lectures are available on affordable audio and video cassettes from Keep the Faith (P. O. Box 10544, Fairfield, New Jersey 07004. Phone: (201) 244-1990).

Two works of Christopher Dawson, which John edited and provided learned introductions and postscripts to, remain in print. These are the acclaimed and , both available, respectively for $15.95 and $11.95 postpaid, from: Sherwood Sugden, Open Court Company, P. O. Box 599, Peru, Illinois, 61354.

continues under the editorship of Professor James Gaston, Director of Humanities and Catholic Culture at the Franciscan University at Steubenville. John Mulloy's enormous library--consisting of some 5,000 books-will also be transferred to Steubenville. (For further information contact: Department of History, University of Steubenville, Steubenville, Ohio 43952).

This article was taken from the Summer 1996 issue of "Sursum Corda!" Published quarterly and mailed in December, March, June and September by the Foundation for Catholic Reform. Send all subscription requests to "Sursum Corda!", Subscription Dept., 1331 Red Cedar Circle, Ft. Collins, CO 80524. RATES: $26.95 per year.