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Book reviews

Thomas J. Euteneuer’s Demonic Abortion: A Sobering Commentary on the Satanic Nature of the Modern Abortion Industry (Human Life International, 2010)

A classic of Catholic Christian examination of the abortion industry and its demonic nature, Euteneuer’s 2010 book is as relevant in 2022 as it was when first published, maybe even more relevant than then since abortion zealots in academia, entertainment (so-called), and government (think of the violently pro-abortion wrongs Democratic Party) collaborate to force abortion on all of us.

Euteneuer’s book can be easily read in one day, and transcribing notes using the voice feature of most email services will enhance the study of the demonic nature of the abortion wrongs movement not only for students who are fighting high school and college indoctrination, but also seasoned pro-life activists who witness at abortion mills.

Instead of elaborating needlessly about the high quality of Euteneuer’s ideas and writing style, I offer the following quotes as the ones that I deem most interesting and applicable to fighting the satanic nature of the abortion movement.

“The pro-life movement has an immense amount of resource material on issues and activities related to the effort to restore legal protection to the unborn child, but the present work is not meant to be an analysis of the pro-life issues per se.  […]  Here I examine the spiritual power that the Church can marshal in the defense of the most innocent of God’s children, the unborn—and their mothers—from abortion.  I will also relate this effort to the need to repulse other demonic attacks against the sacred institutions of marriage and the family.” (6-7)

“The term ‘culture of death’ refers to any society, region or nation where killing innocent human beings has been legalized and institutionalized.” (9)

“Planned Parenthood-style hedonistic indoctrination about sex [has] a devastating effect on the young: they hook them on birth control, indoctrinate them into alternative lifestyles and open them to the idea that abortion is just another ‘choice’ that they can make when promiscuity gets them into trouble.” (17)

“The abortion industry of today offers ritual blood sacrifice to that ancient demon of child sacrifice: it is in every way a demonic religion.  It has an infallible dogma (“choice”), a ruling hierarchy (Planned Parenthood), theologians (feminist ideologues), a sacrificing priesthood (abortionists), temples (abortion mills), altars of sacrifice (surgical tables), ritual victims (babies and also women), acolytes and sacristans (clinic workers and technicians), guardian angels (police and escorts), congregations (foundations and private supporters of abortion) and its own version of ‘grace’ which makes everything work (money).” (21)

“There is indisputable evidence now that abortion targets the very people that feminists were supposed to liberate: namely females.  Female infanticide is the ugly hidden secret of the culture of death.” (29)

“In sum, contraception is essentially the gateway drug to an immense amount of spiritual evil.  It is a bitter pill that has poisoned the human race’s very gift of procreation and seduced generations of fertile men and women into sins against God and themselves.” (43)

“Finally, abortion has contributed mightily to the fracturing of American society into essentially two opposed value camps: pagan and Christian; or those who see all truth as relative and those who acknowledge that objective right and wrong really exist and have a claim on us.  These differences are reflected roughly in our political divisions, in our social permissiveness versus true moral values, in the various opposing cultural movements which are growing in intensity each day, in the corrupt media versus the new alternative media, etc.” (49)

“It is therefore no surprise that the culture of death has grown in direct proportion to the weakening of the Catholic Church and her leadership in the past forty years.  When the Church is weak in carrying out its God-given mission, all society is weak.  When God is driven out or unwelcome in a culture, demons enter in.  Only the re-establishment of a strong, authoritative Church will heal and liberate the world from abortion.” (56)

“At an abortion mill, for example, a person can bind any of the unclean spirits that are present at that spiritual stronghold: the spirits of abortion, birth control, coercion, fear, greed, violence, witchcraft, etc. [with the following prayer] ‘In the Name of Jesus, I bind the spirit of ­­­­­ ___.’” (60)

“Abortion is a traumatic experience, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and demons can enter through this trauma.” (74)

“In general, we must always be extremely careful to present the truth about abortion in a professional fashion to an abortion-minded woman, rather than trying to scare her out of an abortion by claiming that it is demonic or will cause infestation.” (74)

“Let us never pretend that abortion is just a social or political phenomenon that has to be voted out of office to be defeated.  We must do everything we can to restore legal protection to our most innocent citizens, but our battle against the devil will not be one of the polls.  It will be won on our knees before the Lord and on our feet before the centers of death.  More than ever we need men and women of tested holiness who are willing to fight the spiritual battle for the lives of God’s precious babies and the souls of their mothers and fathers.  Even abortionists […] are caught up in a demonic religion which can be challenged and defeated by those of us who belong to the true Church of Christ, the only spiritual power strong enough to defeat the ‘sacrament’ of abortion.” (114)

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Book reviews

Lisabeth Posthuma’s Baby & Solo (Candlewick Press, 2021)

A well-written odyssey of a male teen who befriends a teen mother who rejects abortion, Posthuma has generated a fast-paced novel that transgender and pro-life activists can enjoy without being bashed over the head with woke or leftist nonsense.

So many contemporary novelists (especially those who use their writing skills to groom children and young adults to accept abortion, gay marriage, or anal genital activity) bash their readers over the head with their distortions of sexuality.  Think, for example, of Heppermann’s Ask Me How I Got Here (Greenwillow Books, 2016) or Bonnie Pipkin’s Aftercare Instructions (Flatiron Books, 2017).

How refreshing, then, that Posthuma has written a novel which contains controversial elements that develop characters and advance the narrative instead of a novel which works merely to make her readers accept her positions on contemporary biological, political, or social issues.

And the novel has much which is controversial.

You want a gay component in your casual fiction reading, a feature which every novel published in the woke United States of 2022 apparently must have?  Posthuma’s novel has it; focus on the character Maverick and his male model perfection.

You want an abortion component?  Posthuma’s novel has it; the abortion business Planned Parenthood won’t appreciate this novel, though, since the mother in question went to her appointment for an abortion but obviously rejected that choice and delivered her daughter.  Lost profit for Planned Parenthood, but an exciting narrative for everybody else.  On this criterion alone, Posthuma’s novel far surpasses the preachiness of both Heppermann and Pipkin, who struggle to disinfect the abortion company as much as they can with their stiflingly ignorant praise of the business.

You want a little bit of religion?  Posthuma’s novel has it; orthodox readers will wonder at the hypocrisy of a purported Catholic character like the mother of the narrator, Solo, and every instance of the word “God” being lower case, as though God is merely an interjection.  Agnostic and atheist readers will appreciate the life-affirming choices that not only the character Baby makes to give birth to the unborn child, but also Solo’s choice not to commit suicide.

You want aliens from Saturn sweeping the hapless and useless Joe Biden out of the White House, thus saving the planet from World War III?  Not gonna happen.  Unlike other partisan hacks who write abortion or transgender “novels” which are more didactic than entertaining, Posthuma’s work is grounded in reality.  These are real irreligious young people who swear, think sex is meant for just casual entertainment, and slither from one minor life goal to another.

You want a transgender component, another feature which every novel published in the woke United States of 2022 apparently must have to avoid being persecuted by leftist activists?  This is perhaps the most fascinating feature of Posthuma’s work, the suggestion that the narrator or his alter ego, Crystal, may suffer from gender dysphoria.  Since I like this novel, no spoiler alert will follow.  Suffice it to say that activists on both sides of the transgender nonsense plaguing the nation will appreciate the sensitivity of Posthuma’s narrative, which, unlike other activist authors, shows readers the discomfort of those genuinely confused about their gender despite their sexuality having been recognized (not assigned) at birth.

Since Posthuma’s fiction approximates real life, its 406 pages read so mellifluously and swiftly that the entire work can be leisurely read in two days.

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Book reviews

Bonnie Pipkin’s Aftercare Instructions (Flatiron Books, 2017)

Despite the pro-abortion author’s efforts to make the abortion business Planned Parenthood shine, pro-life readers can cite this book as evidence of the many negatives of the abortion behemoth—aspects that Planned Parenthood’s Marketing and Public Relations departments can never erase.

Of course, the novel has the usual components of an anti-life plot: warped sexuality (fornication), attacks on religious persons, disparaging pro-lifers, and the ambiguous use of language to refer to the unborn child.

For example, Genesis (the selfish and extremely voluble “I”, “me”, and “I” again narrator) is a young woman who is sexually “liberated”; her boyfriends Peter and Seth are just her boy toys.  Parents and grandparents are “old-fashioned” because they are religious and, ostensibly, pro-life.  Genesis’ sense of religion is a reduction to having meditated before theater class (9-10).  Peter’s parents are described as “nutso religo-freak parents” (13).

Since pro-abortion characters cannot refute pro-life ideas, pro-life activists suffer ad hominem attacks as in the case of Peter’s mother, who is demeaned as the “ringleader of our community’s pro-life, anti-choice movement” (38).  In contrast, abortionists are called “doctors” as though using this term would dignify their killing work as much as doctors who save human life (unpaginated 323).

Pipkin employs other standard tactics in the pro-abortion literary repertoire.  For example, she uses the third-person pronoun “it” ambiguously so that a reader cannot determine if that pronoun refers to the abortion procedure or the unborn child killed in that procedure.

For example, the narrator uses ambiguous language in talking about refusing sedation for the abortion when she says, “I wanted to feel it.  I wanted to feel my choice as it left my body” (unpaginated 3).  Does “it” refer to “abortion”, what she thinks is her legal right to “choose” killing another human being, or does that pronoun refer to the child killed?  Oddly, this same language and concept is repeated in one of the drama portions incorporated in this novel when Genesis tells the audience, “I need to feel this.  I need to know it’s real.  I need to feel it leaving.  I need to feel that I’m making a choice and it’s mine” (324).  Again, to what or to whom does “it” refer?

After five decades of anti-life authors writing about the abortion procedure, there is no new way to describe the act of killing, which is why Pipkin’s description of the abortion is clipped and composed of a series of nouns: “I think back.  To the click.  Slip.  Pull.  Snap of rubber gloves and metal wheels over tiled floor and my knees and thighs shaking” (62).  The description of the abortion procedure is repeated towards novel’s end in similarly mechanistic terms; the stage directions in one of the drama portions of the novel refer to “the buzzing sound of a machine” and then later, “The machine stops” (327).

All of these standard pro-abortion wrongs literary tactics are expected from a virulently anti-life author such as Pipkin, who is effusive in her praise of the largest abortion company in the country: “Thank you to Planned Parenthood, where I’ve been receiving safe and affordable care since I was sixteen years old.  Thank you for EVERYTHING you provide to the community without judgment.  I stand with you, always” (356; caps in original).

What is unique in this teen abortion novel is the recognition that Planned Parenthood has sinister sides.  High school and college students trained in close reading, an aspect of formalist literary criticism, will be able to look beyond the author’s pro-abortion bias immediately in the following lines.

For example, when Genesis wonders why Peter has not called her after the abortion, she says, “It’s not like I just had a tooth pulled” (41).  This line counters those anti-life activists who claim that having an abortion is a “simple” procedure, like a tooth extraction.

Similarly, Genesis’ description of the inside of the abortion business counters the best efforts of any pro-abortion marketing brochure.  “In the dingy waiting room where Security makes non-patients sit,” Pipkin writes, “With its gray-lavender walls and daytime television and fluorescent lights.  Trashy magazines and dead eyes” (155).

Another example illustrates Genesis’ frustration not only with her boyfriend, but also, using a typography which indicates shouting, with the business which aborted the child.  Genesis becomes angry over Peter’s leaving her “AT FUCKING PLANNED PARENTHOOD?” (221; all caps in original).  Note that she did not ask, as the author asserts, why Peter left her “at Planned Parenthood, where I’ve been receiving safe and affordable care since I was sixteen years old.  Thank you for EVERYTHING you provide to the community without judgment.  I stand with you, always” (see above for Pipkin’s sickening praise for the abortion company).  The use of the present participle “fucking”, in all caps moreover, suggests not so much a casual use of vulgar language typical of an irreverent and vulgar teen, but Genesis’ unconscious idea that there is something seriously wrong with Planned Parenthood.

Finally, Pipkin’s chapter titles betray Planned Parenthood as a place where medical attention is secondary to its profit-making motives.  Granted, all medical facilities give patients aftercare instructions, but those instructions naturally follow life-saving procedures.  Pipkin’s chapter titles, however, suggest that Planned Parenthood’s aftercare instructions are designed to minimize and cover up the killing which occurs at every one of its offices.

While some chapter titles seem innocuous; “Monitor Bleeding” (unpaginated 36) and “Recovery Times May Vary” (unpaginated 61) meet this criterion, the chapter titles quickly become more sinister as the novel progresses, such as “You May Experience a Wide Range of Emotions” (unpaginated 129) and “Talk to Someone if You Experience Feelings of Detachment” (unpaginated 144).  Given  the large number of mothers who have died at Planned Parenthood “clinics” and other abortion businesses and whose deaths are covered up by the pro-abortion media, the chapter title “Do Not Hesitate to Call with Any Questions” (unpaginated 175) could be translated by a suspicious person to “Call Us Instead of Your Attorney Because This Abortion Business Doesn’t Want to Be Sued.”

Interestingly, a series of even more sinister chapter titles occurs in quick succession, warning the mother who has aborted that “You Are Not Alone” (unpaginated 219), “If Your Temperature Reaches 100.4°, Call Us Immediately” (unpaginated 229), “A Period of Emotional Paralysis Can Occur” (unpaginated 243), “Are You Experiencing Any Regret?” (unpaginated 265), and “Support Groups Are Available” (unpaginated 275).

That a pro-abortion author would include such damning lines as the above in an ostensibly pro-abortion novel is not only fortunate for pro-life activists; it’s also a refreshing bit of honesty from those who support the harming of women, the killing of unborn babies, and the alienation of fathers.

Thank you, Bonnie Pipkin, for writing a novel that pro-lifers can use to protect women from Planned Parenthood!

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Book reviews

Heppermann’s Ask Me How I Got Here (Greenwillow Books, 2016)

Although a feeble teen abortion account, pro-lifers can use this “novel” (so-called) to show how post-abortion syndrome affects a young woman who lacks orthodox religious faith.

Heppermann’s work, a “novel-in-verse”, is anything but.  The “poetry” is feeble; the “lines” would read better if they were written as sentences in paragraphs.  Since full-length novels have the space to develop characters, this “work”, therefore, could qualify as a short story.  It still would not give Hemingway a run for his money.

Why Greenwillow Books would waste 225 pages of paper and ink like this is beyond me.  Maybe it felt that this tenuous “book” served a young adult reading audience need, I dunno.

Bad publishing and marketing choices aside, though, this “work” has some merit.  Although Addie is a typical young woman who fornicates with her boyfriend, becomes pregnant, and thinks only of killing the unborn child at one of the offices of the abortion business Planned Parenthood, the “work” does illustrate three ideas long known in the pro-life world:

1.  That mothers who abort experience post-abortion syndrome (PAS), often a short time after the killing has taken place.  This is evident when Addie’s personality disintegrates; she quits track at high school; picks fights with her boyfriend, leading to their breakup; and chooses a misguided lesbian relationship as a source of affection.

2.  That parents who are weak in their faith often abscond from their responsibility as parents in helping their teen daughters choose life.  This is the case with Addie’s parents, whose lack of firm Catholic Christian faith is evident when they say nothing about helping Addie choose life.

3.  That the abortion itself is difficult to talk about and the person killed in an abortion is always dehumanized.  This is obvious when Addie’s parents are unable to talk about the time of Addie’s abortion.  Addie’s mother refers to the abortion as “what we went through / a few months ago” (172); her father, similarly, cannot refer to the abortion:  “She never had those [side aches] before” without specifying that the term “before” is a truncation of “before the abortion” (173).  How surprising, then, to read that, when Addie writes a letter to her unborn child towards the “novel’s” end, she refers to the child as “a girl with Nick’s smile, / a boy with my eyes, / a baby” and says that she “would never want you / to hate yourself”, which suggests that Addie hates herself (211).

Maybe this novel is so feeble because the author herself is anti-life; Heppermann promotes the abortion business Planned Parenthood on the last unnumbered page of the book as one of several anti-life organizations that “exist at the community and national level that teens can turn to for help.”

This vapid “work” only takes about an hour to read; the “poetry” is ordinary language, nothing significant, so, unless you’re an English professor who must read crap like this to monitor fiction on the life issues, one can turn page after page without needing to annotate anything important.

The best way to reply to the book’s title Ask Me How I Got Here is to say, “Let’s not and say we did.”

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Book reviews

Paul V. Mankowski’s Jesuit at Large (Ignatius Press, 2021)

Mellifluous, trenchant, and often witty writing on a variety of topics, this collection of Fr. Paul V. Mankowski’ s essays will inspire faithful Catholics to fight against pro-abortion priests and to affirm their Catholic Faith.

First, though, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, don’t buy this book on Amazon.  Purchase it from Ignatius Press directly: https://ignatius.com/jesuit-at-large-jlerp/.

A few pages into reading this book, I knew I had a problem.  Besides George Weigel’s well-written introduction, which was forcing me to annotate several paragraphs, by the first couple of pages of Fr. Mankowski’s essays, I knew I had to buy the book.  The annotations were becoming so numerous that buying the book instead of transcribing notes from the library copy would save time in recording them into my electronic notes.

Why is the writing of Fr. Mankowski so worthwhile?  I offer three reasons.

First, of course, is the human element.  Every faithful Catholic who is persecuted by priests who are not pro-life or who support pro-abortion Democrats like the hapless Joe Biden or Catholics who are orthodox in their faith but are called rigid by the Church hierarchy (as the leftist Pope Francis does) can sympathize with Fr. Mankowski, a persecuted priest who died without ever knowing the praise he deserved for exposing corruption in the Jesuit order.

The book’s editor, George Weigel, notes that Fr. Mankowski “was often berated, deplored, and rejected by his own” (13).  Knowing that Fr. Mankowski was persecuted by his “fellow” Jesuits for exposing the political machinations that shoved a pro-abortion Jesuit, Fr. Robert Drinan, into the U.S. Congress colors the entire reading.  The book is transformed from a collection of essays into a dramatic narrative; the reader wants to know if Fr. Mankowski will be redeemed.

Furthermore, why is reading a book which includes a significant portion focusing on one pro-abortion Jesuit (Drinan) so worthwhile?  Weigel explains:

During his congressional career, Father Drinan was a reliable vote in favor of the most extreme interpretations of the abortion license created by the 1973 Supreme Court decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton; in doing so, he helped provide political cover for numerous Catholic politicians who tacked to the prevailing cultural winds by taking a similar stand.  (15)

When Fr. Mankowski gave Jesuit archival material to another Catholic researcher, the famous Catholic historian James Hitchcock, abortion-minded Jesuits did not merely oppose him; they persecuted him:

The publication of Hitchcock’s article unleashed a firestorm of criticism, but the hot blasts of opprobrium were not aimed at Father Robert Drinan or his Jesuit enablers.  They were aimed at Father Paul Mankowski, who had given materials he had gleaned from the archives of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus to Professor Hitchcock as documentation for his article.  (16)

Fr. Mankowski himself succinctly explains why he exposed Drinan and his politically-minded operatives within the Jesuit order, basing his actions on pro-life principles which should endear him to every pro-life civil rights activist today:

Pro-lifers (of whom I am one) regarded Drinan as one of their most formidable and injurious opponents in the U.S., despite his insistence that he accepted Church teaching on abortion.  I’ve yet to meet a politically aware pro-life Catholic who wasn’t baffled and exasperated by the damage Drinan was permitted to do as a priest-congressman and a priest-lawyer.  Therefore, presented with firsthand testimony that Drinan was complicit in a ruse from which he launched his career as a pro-abortion legislator, I was fully disposed to challenge his moral authority by making the knowledge public.  (196)

One would hope that this persecuted good man was vindicated.  Unfortunately, Fr. Mankowski’s contributions in exposing the fraud of Drinan and those who collaborated in getting him into Congress despite the opposition of Superior General Pedro Arrupe were never appreciated in his lifetime.

This book, therefore, damns those pro-abortion Jesuits who oppose the Catholic Church’s respect for human life and vindicates Fr. Mankowski for his suffering and heroism.

The second reason why Fr. Mankowski’s essays are worthwhile is that they remain relevant, even the ones dating from the 1990s.  The pro-abortion zealot Drinan is long gone, but faithful Catholics still must contend with disgraces to the Catholic Faith like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, two Democrats who, like Drinan, put “social justice” (or their distortion of it) ahead of the first civil right, the right to life, and thus vote for tax dollars for abortion, appoint judges who oppose the first civil right to life, etc.

Fr. Mankowski knew that the presence of pro-abortion Jesuits was only a symptom of a larger problem: “rot” affecting the entire order.  As quoted by Weigel, Fr. Mankowski wrote, “I believe those in command [of “the Roman Jesuit leadership”] are, for the most part, frightened to stand up to the full extent of the rot.  I believe a few positively desire the rot; they want religious life to disappear and want to be agents in its disappearance” (14).

A third reason why Fr. Mankowski’s essays are worthwhile is that they address those relevant issues within the Catholic Church in a learned, beautifully written style that often contains snarky humor.

Examples of Fr. Mankowski’s mellifluous prose can be found when he affirms working-class Catholics.  His praise for such hardworking people ranges from the simple “In effect the new liturgists disenfranchised working-class Catholics, and in particular working men, from reasonably wholehearted participation in the Mass” (30) to lengthier and more complex prose, culminating in a call to “resist” those who would distort the most significant item of Catholic worship, the Mass:

Taken together, all the visions of the deconstructionist, all the resentments of the disaffected, all the personal quirks and daydreams of the individual minister, all the globally contextualized inclusivities of the professorial hierophant, do not add up to a single reason to deprive the faithful of the Mass, the Mass in its full integrity.  Those who come into our midst mouthing the sweet words of compassion and openness are, very often, trying to wheedle us out of our birthright.  Perhaps the time has come to resist.  (37)

Faithful Catholic readers will understand immediately Fr. Mankowski’s discussion of a category of cleric he calls “tames”, priests, bishops, cardinals, and, we could add, perhaps even the current problematic (and Jesuit) Pope Francis.  These tames aim for popularity instead of orthodoxy, which, by itself, is not problematic, but Fr. Mankowski explains how the drive for popularity emasculates tames when they are compelled to collaborate with the aggressive gay and lesbian lobby.  “In the contemporary Church,” Fr. Mankowski writes:

tames serve the agenda of gays in the long run, even though they sometimes find themselves forced to take a contrary stance.  Tames are extremely susceptible to emotional blackmail of all kinds, and gays are adept at putting a thumb on the emotional windpipe of weak men in order to manipulate them.  (67)

Readers will find footnote six on this matter especially interesting:

It is noteworthy that bishops who are tames almost always have a number of gays as advisers or high officials in the chancery; once in office they are virtually powerless to prevent gays from collecting around them, and as a consequence any pressures for reform are effectively neutralized.  (70)

Fr. Mankowski’ s comments about the sexual orientation of his fellow priests are alarming.  Regarding the number of priests who have unresolved same-sex attraction, he writes:

I would estimate that between 50 and 60 percent of the men who entered religious life with me in the mid-1970s were homosexuals who had no particular interest in the Church, but who were using the celibacy requirement of the priesthood as a way of camouflaging the real reason for the fact that they would never marry.  (74)

Since persons with same-sex attraction who have fallen victim to the gay and lesbian lifestyle invariably oppose chastity and purity, Church officials who promote those virtues would necessarily be targets of their opposition and hatred.  Fr. Mankowski accounts for the Jesuit hatred of Pope, now Saint, John Paul II thus:

Over the course of twenty-eight years in the Society of Jesus, I’ve watched Wojtyła- [Pope John Paul II-] hatred turn into one of the principal subthemes of Jesuit life [….]  The dreams that progressivists surfaced during Paul VI’s pontificate—of a congregational, sexually emancipated, anti-sacral “picnic” Catholicism—were frankly infantile.  Yet Catholics over fifty will remember the emotional mist of auto-suggestion that “the next pope” would move with the times and make these dreams come true.  Not all Jesuits got smitten by this vision, but the majority did, and was stunned when Wojtyła failed to act out its fantasy.  Many left the Society to seethe outside it; others remained, and seethe within.  (81-3)

One fellow Jesuit is a particular target of Fr. Mankowski’s criticism.  Everybody knows Fr. James Martin, whose pro-LGBTQ views and opposition to the Church’s teaching on sexuality saturate contemporary leftist media.  Martin has done more damage to persons with same-sex attraction than any other by suggesting not only that gays and lesbians have been abandoned by the Church, but also that the Church must accept their homosexual lifestyles.  Fr. Mankowski counters Martin’s flaccid arguments with one succinct line: persons with same-sex attraction who live a chaste life “already live in the heart of the Church” (158), and the frequency with which same-sex persons receive the confidential Sacrament of Penance testifies to their faith.

Fr. Mankowski offers a thorough analysis of another unorthodox and famous (infamous) priest, Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame.  “Hesburgh became resentful of direction—which he viewed as interference—on the part of agencies claiming superior authority, most notably the Holy See and his own religious congregation” (186), Fr. Mankowski writes, so it is understandable that Hesburgh would coordinate the Land O’ Lakes conference, which sought to separate Catholic colleges from the Magisterium on a distorted claim of “academic freedom” (186).  Hesburgh further manifested his antagonism to the Magisterium by supporting contraception (188-9).  Hesburgh relegated the right-to-life movement to an inferior position, siding instead with leftists in favor of the safer, politically-correct social justice issues of “global poverty and world peace” (189).  Unlike Fr. Mankowski, who praised working-class Catholics, Hesburgh had a “fear of being lumped with the defenders of Humanae Vitae—the thick-necked ‘red meat and rosary’ folks who typified working-class Catholicism” (190.)

Students who want to appreciate a solid writing style should study Fr. Mankowski’s use of parallelism: the repetition of “I live” (21), “gone” (60), and “every culture” (112) are exemplary.  His diction is concise, as demonstrated by his ability to translate the psychobabble of papers presented at leftist academic conferences into plain English.  For example, he brilliantly reduces one paper from the American Academy of Religion to the following: “Were I forced to decode [the presenter’s] thesis in monosyllables, I would render it thus: gay men see things in more black-and-white terms than do ‘bi’ girls” (104).

I can confirm Fr. Mankowski’s general comment about the academic preoccupation with sex, having attended numerous academic conferences whose programs read more as sex therapy or heterosexuality gripe sessions than symposia for English language and literature professors:

For want of a better term, I would call it an impulse to vandalism.  The interest here displayed was overwhelmingly an interest in aberrant sexuality—evidenced not only in repeated protests against so-called “compulsory heterosexuality” but in a macabre litany of erotic pathology: mutilation, child abuse, incest, sadomasochism, ritual castration, and so on ad nauseam.  (116)

Granted, Fr. Mankowski critiques the culture well in a learned manner, but the essays are punctuated with comic gems.  For example, there is this first-page bit of humor: “I am promised prosperous and intriguing companions by the folks who brew my beer; and those who sell my shaving cream are at pains to assure me that it will provoke the women I encounter into sexual frenzy.  (The last claim, I might add, is an exaggeration.)” (21).

Feminist nuns are an especial target of some of Fr. Mankowski’s humor, probably because they, like pro-abortion Jesuits, don’t care for the pro-life issues as much as politically-correct leftist social justice ones:

Today’s Skimpole is more likely to be a feminist than a Nazi, but both are missing something—and not just a balanced picture of God.  [….]  Feminist Skimpoles [….]  are in the same intellectual position as a pouting child at the breakfast table picking the raisins out of the bran flakes.  (131-2)

Fr. Mankowski even jabs feminist nuns while reviewing a dismally ridiculous Norman Mailer novel:

[H]e is so far behind the Heterodoxy Curve as to be unaware that his shattering innovations are little more than the platitudes of New Age suburbia, and have long been superseded by those “weekend spirituality workshops” in which feminist nuns and retired orthodontists are taught how to deconstruct the New Testament and make pumpkin bread.  (152)

This 237-page compilation ends with a chronology of Fr. Mankowski’s expose of the pro-abortion Drinan and a detailed list of Drinan’s extensive anti-life votes (229-31).  Unfortunately, the volume does not have an index, a fatal flaw from Ignatius Press which impedes faculty and student research.

Summary judgement: it’s time to canonize Fr. Paul V. Mankowski for having accomplished two major tasks, exposing corruption within the Jesuit order and living worthily as a genuine and pro-life Jesuit priest.

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Book reviews

Richard Antall’s The X-Mas Files (Atmosphere Press, 2021)

Antall’s latest novel is a delightful review of the mistake called “Christmas” from a perspective that every pro-abortion Democratic politician would appreciate: Satan himself.

If the preceding sounds emotionally charged, then you’ll love Richard Antall’s latest novel, an account of how Satan and his minions would view the birth of Christ if, as the novel suggests, “computer” files were obtained of “reports” from Satan’s demons, trying to explain how they let the baby Jesus slip through their hands and failed to kill Him.

The novel is an attempt of reportage from Hell.  No one has ever considered the birth of Christ from the perspective of Satan, who calls the Incarnation the “Invasion” by the “enemy” angels who chose to remain with God.  Antall does a remarkable job of filling in the gaps of what a demonic account of this supreme failure would be.

And “failure” is what Christmas is, if you’re a fallen angel working for Lucifer.  Since devils despise human life (which explains why they would promote abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia), the birth of Jesus is the ultimate failure for the third of the heavenly host which fell from Heaven instead of the joyous time that the Christian world knows it to be.

The novel is certainly not simple, as in naïve.  It contains several erudite passages, including sophisticated Persian or French terms like “Dahak” or “mauvaise foi”, most of which, fortunately, are translated for us ignorant American readers (9, 58).  Also, some literary allusions require diligent readers to check DuckDuckGo.  For example, “who said that history might have been different if a certain Egyptian queen [Cleopatra] had had a longer […] nose”?  Answer: Blaise Pascal (172).

But that’s the fun of this fictional account of Satan and his minions covering their asses for the failure of stopping the birth of the Messiah.

Antall has a wonderful ability to create characters with whom us ordinary people can identify, probably because he has decades of experience not only reading the quantities of books that he has (when you think of Antall, think of an educated man), but also “reading” people who come to him for spiritual counseling or remission of their sins.

For example, even though she was a most exuberant whore and conveyor of abortifacients all of her life, readers will cheer when Pulcheria has a change of heart near the time of her collapsing in death (118).  Similarly, readers feel joy when the drunkard Nathan acts like a little child, urging his animals to warm the Holy Family as the Virgin Mary gives birth (178).

Moreover, the novel’s comedy is obvious and sophisticated.  I laughed out loud on reading the hilarious “transcriptions” of what are purported to be court records of the trials of the devils who were unable to stop Jesus’ birth.  A filmmaker would have a delightful time producing a Perry Mason-like version of many of these passages (cf. 58ff).

Technically, the novel has merits which should endear it to college and university faculty and students.  The polyvocal contributions of devilish commentary on the Messiah’s birth, the sometimes erudite literary allusions, and the plausibility of what can be categorized as a spiritual allegory should make this novel popular with students in secular institutions, which love anything which seems to attack Christianity.  Orthodox Catholic colleges and universities, of course, will appreciate the novel for its contrarian perspective.

Not only to be read during Christmas, Antall’s latest work can supplement one’s faith journey throughout the year since the topic is universal: the importance of Jesus’ Incarnation.  Who would have “thunk” that a novel written from the perspective of devils could increase someone’s faith?

Categories
Book reviews

Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (Vintage International, 1992)

Written by a lesbian writer, this novel affirms heterosexual normativity and Christian belief in the sanctity of marriage seen through the lens of adultery.  Gay and lesbian literary critics, therefore, and, even worse, transgender literary critics, would probably abuse Winterson the same way they have tried to cancel J. K. Rowling.

A genderless and unnamed narrator has an adulterous affair with a woman, who either has died or merely vanished from the scene.  That this entire novel is merely a linguistic exercise and not a fictional work meant to have some type of meaning in reality or didactic value for contemporary readers is obvious on the penultimate page, when the narrator asserts that “It’s as if Louise never existed, like a character in a book” (189).

That’s it.  Nothing else to say about the plot.  Typical adultery novel.

What’s fascinating, though, is that the gender of the narrator is irrelevant.  If the narrator is female, then the adultery involves a lesbian relationship.  If the narrator is male, then the adultery involves a heterosexual relationship.  So what?  Adultery is still adultery.  The narrator is still contributing to a wife breaking her marriage vows.

What’s more fascinating are the literary allusions to Scripture and Christianity throughout the novel.  Being a British work and set in Britain, the type of Christianity is Anglicanism grown flaccid in its theology and practice as the descriptive passage about a feeble worship service on pages 151-3 illustrates.

Also interesting are casual comments from various characters who show that a vibrant Christianity was desperately needed in the Britain of 1992 as it is still needed now, in 2022.  The philosophy of one of the narrator’s boyfriends is not that love is God Himself and the greatest distinguishing feature of humanity, but that “love had been invented to fool people” (93).  Another typical void-of-religion statement comes from a cancer doctor who says that taking care of cancer patients is “wasting your time”; the question “Why bother?” posed to this doctor is unanswered (149-50).

Pro-life readers, whether those who have same-sex attraction or those who are secure in heterosexual normativity, can cite one statement from the seemingly irreligious narrator as evidence against suicide.  Commenting on being separated from his adulterous lover, the narrator affirms that “Although I felt that my life had been struck in two I still wanted life.  I have never thought of suicide as a solution to unhappiness” (155).

Categories
Book reviews

Vivek Ramaswamy’s Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam (Center Street/Hachette Book Group, 2021)

A lucid and cogent analysis of corporate America’s distortion of social justice and its support of racist groups like Black Lives Matter, Vivek Ramaswamy’s 358-page work is an indictment of corporate greed and should be an embarrassment to those who swallowed the woke ideology without stopping to think about its anti-American positions.

So much of the book is worthy of annotation that it may be best to purchase it.  Of course, since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, don’t buy this book on Amazon.  Purchase it from Hachette Book Group directly: https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/vivek-ramaswamy/woke-inc/9781546059820/.

I will, however, highlight some major ideas which will help conservative and pro-life persons fight against the Big Tech and Wall Street billionaires who (invariably) support Democratic politicians who finance the racist, pro-abortion, and anti-American woke activists.  After some initial remarks, the balance of this review will provide quotable quotes to help high school and college students fight back against the leftist tyranny of teachers and faculty, since academia, also, has swallowed the woke nonsense whole without thinking about its negative effects on the nation.

While ordinary patriotic Americans intuitively know that the woke agenda is anti-American, Ramaswamy defines it as clearly as possible for his reader.  “Basically,” he writes, “being woke means obsessing about race, gender, and sexual orientation.  Maybe climate change too” (5).  From this, he asserts that “the point of this book is to expose the dirty little secret underlying […] corporate America’s act, its Prestige.  Here’s how it works: pretend like you care about something other than profit and power, precisely to gain more of each” (3; italics in original).

It helps, too, that, like every American who has been saturated with woke politics obstructing the administration of President Donald Trump, Ramaswamy is “fed up with corporate America’s game of pretending to care about justice in order to make money” (3).

Ramaswamy’s discussion of specific legal and financial concepts can be daunting, requiring several rereadings of the text, but, overall, his language is eminently understandable to the layperson and often quite comical in its metaphors.  For example, “So, in a nutshell, here’s how wokeness and capitalism shacked up: large corporations knocked up woke millennials.  Together they birthed woke capitalism.  And they put Occupy Wall Street up for adoption” (136).

Ramaswamy does not hesitate to identify corporations which succumbed to petulant woke agitators, and his list of companies which follow the “woke-industrial complex” (1) is disturbing, making it seem as though no one can buy anything or use any electronic service without supporting the leftist lunacy of woke activists.  The companies include:

Goldman Sachs, involved in the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad Fund) scandal, while boasting of its purported “ethics” in the United States (15);

L’Oréal, Coca-Cola, and Delta, all of which endorsed the positions of the racist group Black Lives Matter (16-7);

Apple and Uber, fearful of being tainted as “racist” companies after the death of the criminal George Floyd because it would have hurt their business (58);

Volkswagen, which perpetuated the sham of being green after it installed “’defeat devices’ […] to circumvent EPA emissions standards” (91);

Airbnb’s collaboration with the Chinese Communist Party (162);

LeBron James, who fiercely defended the dictatorial regime of the Chinese Communist Party (167-8); “The whole affair exposed a darkly hilarious truth: the NBA and its stars felt duty-bound to criticize America’s president and judicial system but considered it beyond the pale to criticize China’s” (168);

Google’s cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party in censoring its people (172);

YouTube censorship in the United States (183-4);

Facebook censorship in the United States (186);

Mailchimp censorship of conservative groups (187);

the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center, which Ramaswamy calls “the charitable world’s equivalent of a Ponzi scheme” (188);

Big Tech’s suppression of Hunter Biden’s extortion crimes (190);

Twitter censorship of the New York Post (191);

Regarding Facebook and Twitter censorship: “Don’t be fooled by their [Mark Zuckerberg’s and Jack Dorsey’s] practiced vulnerability.  Was it merely a coincidence that Facebook and Twitter adopted the exact same policies with the exact same political effect at the exact same time?  Nope.  This wasn’t a case of two bumbling gentle giants that simply couldn’t get out of their own way.  It was a case of nefarious coordination” (191-2);

and finally Coca-Cola and Delta caving in to the boycott by the racist group Black Lives Matter (283).

Of course, while much of the book is devoted to highlighting the insincere support of woke politics by American companies, Ramaswamy does suggest several solutions to counter the disastrous effects of wokeness on the nation.

The first solution is philosophical.  A recurring theme is Ramaswamy’s belief that “I believe the best way to achieve diversity of thought on a corporate board is to simply screen board candidates for the diversity of their thoughts, not the diversity of their genetically inherited attributes” (14).  The idea of selecting intellectual diversity over skin color or gender identity recognized at birth is often repeated.  “True diversity is very valuable,” Ramaswamy judiciously affirms, “both for a nation and for a company.  But it’s diversity of thought that’s supposed to matter, not a kind of diversity crudely measured by appearance or accent” (219; italics in original).  A further insight shows that Ramaswamy can rightfully accuse woke companies and academia themselves of practicing racism: “when institutions conflate racial and gender diversity metrics with diversity of thought in their organizations, they implicitly reinforce the incorrect assumption that genetic characteristics predict something important about the way that a person thinks—the most fundamental assumption underlying racism itself” (266).

Ramaswamy’s remaining solutions to woke’s corrosive effects on the United States are more practical.  “The solution to today’s new dilemma isn’t to change capitalism, as Democrats try to.  But neither is it to ignore the inherently invasive qualities of capitalism, as many Republicans are prone to do.  Rather it’s to prevent capitalism from changing everything else, by building protective walls around the things we cherish most, like democracy” (54).

Moreover, he advocates that shareholders should be able to sue social activist shareholders of woke companies like BlackRock (76-7).  He also argues for a limit to the business judgement rule (97).

Ramaswamy thinks that Senator Josh Hawley is wrong about using antitrust law against Big Tech censorship because Big Tech will only feign a fear of being broken up.  Besides, Big Tech doesn’t restrict markets and raise prices; it censors ideas, a category not specified in the Sherman Act (194-5).  Ramaswamy does, however, recommend that “A more promising solution, at least in theory, would be for Congress to amend Section 230 in the following manner: any company that benefits from Section 230 is bound by the standards of the First Amendment” (208).

Ramaswamy’s final recommendations seem simple, but, if implemented, could halt and correct the damage done by Big Tech and corporations in their support of woke extremism.  Ramaswamy, a practicing Hindu, recommends that we should be charitable towards woke zealots as “Christ gave the Grand Inquisitor a courtesy that the Grand Inquisitor wouldn’t return” (238).  Ramaswamy, the Yale law graduate, argues for protection of political beliefs under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against private actors like Big Tech (244).  Ramaswamy, the multimillionaire entrepreneur, proposes that, instead of divisive critical race theory (CRT), we should practice “critical diversity theory” (CDT), hallmark concepts of which are “Excellence, Opportunity, and Civility—an Alternative to ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’” (267, 270).

While the volume has extensive notes (329-53), there is no index, a grave disservice for students who may need to locate his commentary on a given topic.  For example, researching how woke activists support abortion would be enhanced if an index would collate the references to the Chinese Communist Party’s forcing abortion on Uighur mothers (165); or the book’s discussion of Disney, the CCP, and abortion (169); or vaguer references elsewhere.

Here are some quotable quotes that high school and college students may find compelling to argue in class and in their research papers:

“[T]here’s a difference between speaking up as a citizen and using your company’s market power to foist your views onto society while avoiding the rights of public debate in our democracy.  That’s exactly what Larry Fink does when BlackRock issues social mandates about what companies it will or won’t invest in or what Jack Dorsey does when Twitter consistently censors certain political viewpoints rather than others” (19).

“When companies make political proclamations, employees who personally disagree with the company’s position face a stark choice: speak up freely and risk your career, or keep your job while keeping your head down.  That isn’t how America is supposed to work, yet that is a reality for many Americans today” (20-1).

“As a society we should allow and even embrace the corporate pursuit of financial self-interest above all.  The only thing we should ask in return is this: keep it naked, instead of dressing it up as altruism” (39; italics in original).

“Personally while I believe racism exists and should be eliminated, I don’t believe in ‘systemic racism.’  In fact, I don’t even know what it means: to me, it sounds like a catchall phrase designed to allow political leaders to escape accountability for solving real-world problems like poverty and failure in education” (63).

“By adopting these new ‘woke’ values, America’s business leaders stumbled upon a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leap from heresy to sainthood.  Corporations were no longer the oppressors.  Instead, corporate power—if wielded in the right way—could actually empower the new disempowered classes who suffered not at the hands of evil corporations but instead at the hands of straight white men—the real culprits who had exploited their power not only since the birth of the corporation but throughout all of modern human history” (135).

“The wedding of wokeness to capitalism offers a tempting, individually rational choice that harms the nation as a whole by handing corporations social and political power.  They don’t truly have wokeness’s best interests at heart, and the two systems aren’t truly compatible.  Wokeness and capitalism simply tolerate each other because each feels it can use the other.  They will turn a blind eye to each other’s faults as long as they themselves can still benefit.  But a marriage in which each side secretly has contempt for the other cannot end well” (140).

“Large publicly traded technology companies, as of this writing, have added over a trillion dollars of market capitalization since the start of the pandemic in early 2020—an order of magnitude more than the GDP of most nations in the same period.  Why?  Because lockdowns meant more people decided to get their groceries on Amazon rather than go to the local store, because more people were able to meet via Zoom rather than travel to a conference, and because more people chose to subscribe to Netflix rather than go to a movie theater.  Meanwhile, small businesses across America suffered for the very same reason.  It’s no wonder that Big tech stacked the decks of public debate to favor lockdowns” (186).

“A recent report from the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology found that over a third of conservative academics and PhD students in the US have been threatened with disciplinary action for their views, and 70 percent of conservative academics report a hostile departmental climate for their beliefs.  The report contains a number of other grim statistical findings, like the fact that more that 40 percent of US academics would refuse to hire a Trump supporter” (265).

“Committed liberals should be concerned about what woke capitalism does to pure ideals like service, altruism, and social good.  Anyone who sincerely cares about important causes like female empowerment, racial equality, and environmentalism ought to be offended when these causes are cheapened by corporations that pawn them off to advance their own goals” (304).

Categories
Book reviews

David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl (Penguin Books, 2000)

A fictionalized account of a transgender person whose life supports traditional heterosexual values; worth reading to counter the idiocy of today’s transgender zealots.

Reader warning!  Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, don’t buy this book on Amazon.  Obtaining a copy for reading purposes free of charge through your local public library would suffice.

David Ebershoff, who has been on a gay serial’s “list of influential LGBT people” (biography page before the title page), views the case of Einar Wegener, who later became Lili Elbe, as “a pioneer of the transgender movement” (10 of the “Penguin Readers Group Guide”).  However, it would be foolish to claim her case as evidence to support today’s aggressive transgender political movement that Ryan T. Anderson cogently warned us about in his 2018 book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.

From my application of the five principles of right-to-life literary theory to Ebershoff’s novel, Einar Wegener’s unfortunate case of hermaphroditism and eventual transformation into Lili supports heterosexual and Jewish and Christian sexual values more than it attacks them.

First, regarding whether the literary work supports the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless, it is obvious that Einar, his wife Greta, Lili, and other characters believe that living is worthwhile, despite the anxieties created by Lili’s bodily and sexual confusion.

Second, the literary work does respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life.  The action of the novel is supposed to occur in Denmark and Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s when eugenicist thinking was pronounced and, in the case of the latter nation, forming the ideological basis of the Nazi party.  Yet no instance of support for killing a sexually-confused person like Einar is suggested in the novel.  Even those doctors who attempted to assist Einar in resolving his sexual confusion should be cited as advocating treatments deemed scientific at the time, but quackery in our supposedly sophisticated medical elitist era.

Third, does the novel respect heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?  Granted, the depictions of family life show the flaws of poor parenting.  Einar’s father’s disciplinary methods were typical of the time.  When Einar at age seven wore his mother’s beads, his father exclaims, “’You can’t do that!’ [….]  ‘Little boys can’t do that!’”, to which Einar’s counter question of “But why not?” goes unanswered (28).  Similarly, some statements about married life illustrate a negative view that some have towards marriage.  For example, Greta equates marriage not as the sacramental union of a man and a woman, but as “the great cave of wedlock” (19).

Lili, however, utters several heterosexual affirmations which run contrary to transgender political correctivity.  “’Marriage is like a third person,’ Lili said.  ‘It creates someone else, more than just the two of you’” (79)—a statement which can attest to her own “creation” within the marriage of Einar and Greta and to the life-giving sexual function of marriage.  Carlisle, Greta’s brother, affirms Lili’s desire to be a wife and mother when he asserts the rhetorical question, “What little girl doesn’t want” to be a mother (251).

Moreover, the third question of right-to-life literary theory offers some lightness at this point.  Gay and transgender zealots (and even ordinary readers) would delight, chuckle, and (if the reader is a high school or college student) thrill with the desire to write a standard literary research paper loaded with the usual crap about sexual imagery in the similes and metaphors which Einar uses to describe his penis.  Einar identifies his penis as a part “as small and useless as a white radish” (10) or “the garish lump in his groin” (11).  The penis of his boyhood friend, Hans, is described as “pink […] flopping around like [a] schnauzer tail” (31).  Later, when Einar is transforming into a woman, Lili considers Einar’s shriveled penis (or his scrotum; the text is ambiguous) as “vile” (107).  When he anticipates the first of his sex surgery operations, Einar describes his penis as “parasitically worthless, the color of a wart” (173) and later “spongy flesh” (192).  After the surgery, the author colorfully (and weirdly!) writes that “Einar Wegener has passed from man into woman, two testicles scooped from the pruned hammock of his scrotum” (200).

It would be litotes to say that Einar’s/Lili’s attitudes towards the penis are not consistent with any male who thanks God for his ability to use such a tool for sexually pleasing his wife and being open to the creation of new life.  Oh well, what else can be expected from an author like Ebershoff who writes characters who seem to be devoid of religious values?

Fourth, determing whether the literary work comports with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist could be challenging since this novel concerns neither abortion, infanticide, nor euthanasia as topics.  However, the attitude towards respect for human life is evident in two seemingly insignificant passages.  Greta’s child by her first husband is a stillbirth, and, even though Greta “sometimes hated the baby growing inside her” (42), the author notes that she had the child baptized.  While religion or religious incidents and values are virtually absent in the novel, this notation is surprising.  Why would Greta even bother to have her stillborn son baptized if she and her husband lead lives devoid of any religious activity?  Is this act of faith perfunctory or a sign that a deeper set of values is inherent in human life as manifested in these characters?

Similarly, when her first husband asks her to kill him as he lay dying from tuberculosis, Greta refuses to perform the euthanasia, but only on aesthetic, not religious or moral grounds.  “She couldn’t do it.  Such a horrible way to die, beneath this smelly old thing, rubber the last scent of your life” (168).  While this is a feeble reason not to kill someone, it is at least a reason, so credit must be given to Greta for affirming that her husband’s mature (and diseased) human life has an inherent right to exist.

Finally, when they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?  The reader cannot determine this question with certainty.  Lili dies at novel’s end, and Greta leaves Denmark to marry and live in California.  While the film version of this novel may suggest a “spiritual” ending, finding such in the novel requires a subjective, if not tortured, analysis which would detract from this novel being a quick read.

I can understand how transgender zealots may use this novel as literary evidence of ambiguity about bodily integrity that supposedly afflicts many in contemporary culture.  However, the bodily or sexual confusion that transgender zealots think people experience may be located more in Ebershoff’s following claim in the “Penguin Readers Group Guide”: “We struggle throughout our lives to learn to accept the shell that transports us through this world” (15).  Jews and Christians, especially Catholics who know about St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, would dispute such a negative view of the human body. Maybe that’s why transgender zealots are so furious when the rest of us affirm heterosexual normativity.

Categories
Papers

Contemporary Literary Theories, Problems with Those Theories, and Why Students of Literature Will Benefit from Right-to-Life Literary Theory

Abstract:  After summarizing contemporary literary theories used in colleges and universities, this paper highlights both the positive aspects of the literary theories and their gaps and deficiencies.  The paper then demonstrates how right-to-life literary theory is a more comprehensive foundational tool to help readers appreciate and critique literature before they apply the standard literary theories.  A passage from Nicki Minaj’s rap song “Autobiography” (abortion), an excerpt from Thomas Rydahl’s novel The Hermit (infanticide), and a portion of the Teri Schiavo television episode from Family Guy (euthanasia) will be examined, using the five questions of right-to-life literary theory.  This paper corresponds with the companion PowerPoint presentation used in the video for the LifeTech 2021 conference. The organizers of the 2021 LifeTech conference posted the video presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqBZ2_KHV_c.

          I would first like to thank the organizers of this year’s LifeTech conference for asking me to consider presenting the following material.  I am not only impressed that a pro-life organization would continue its work despite the social upheaval of a pandemic, but also honored that conference organizers asked me to discuss one of my current research projects.

          [slide 1]  Attendees and, since it will be remotely conducted, viewers of this year’s conference are encouraged to submit their comments and questions either by email or phone.  Since I would like to present this continuing research project at other academic and pro-life venues, comments obtained here may refine my ideas about right-to-life literary theory and therefore improve the presentation.

          [slide 2]  The structure of this presentation is as follows.  After providing a functional definition of “literary theory”, I will first review contemporary literary theories used in academia; most of these theories have been taught in colleges and universities for decades, while some are recent innovations in literary study.  I will then discuss problems, gaps, and deficiencies in most of these theories, particularly from a pro-life perspective.  The presentation then advances to what I call right-to-life literary theory, which consists of five questions.  I then apply the five questions of right-to-life literary theory to three contemporary examples of literature: Nicki Minaj’s rap song “Autobiography” (which concerns abortion), an excerpt from Thomas Rydahl’s novel The Hermit (which includes the topic of infanticide), and a portion of the Teri Schiavo television episode from Family Guy (which attempts to promote euthanasia).  “Literature” is broadly defined in academic circles to include all formats (the written word, the spoken word, the sung word, etc.), but this study will examine the texts of the three examples to demonstrate the utility of right-to-life literary theory.

          Normally, I end this customary introductory slide of my presentations with the notation that time will be reserved for questions and answers or the joke that I would give my audience utterly hopeless deer-in-the-headlight stares.  Since this presentation is online (and not merely online, but asynchronous), any possible embarrassment of my looking like the deer in this slide is obviated.  Joking aside, I would greatly appreciate participants’ comments and questions for the reasons stated above and will answer any queries as quickly and efficiently as possible.

          [slide 3]  Before delving into the various literary theories used in colleges and universities (and, increasingly, high schools), a simple functional definition of “literary theory” may be helpful.  A literary theory is a way to look at literature, and, since there are many perspectives or ways to approach the study, appreciation, and application of literature, many theories have developed over the centuries.  Since ancient times, literary criticism was essential not only to heighten the appreciation of literature, but also to help us learn something from the literature.  Moreover, as mentioned above, “literature” includes not only written works (poems, short stories, dramas, and novels), but also lyrics of songs (for example, the contemporary genres of rap and trap) and material in other formats such as films (both traditional and internet-based) and other items.  Finally, this listing of literary theories is alphabetical for the reader’s/viewer’s convenience.

Archetypal or Jungian Criticism

          Developed by Carl Jung, archetypal criticism concerns dominant symbols, called archetypes, which are common to our culture and which generate the same reactions and responses in all of us.  Colors, seasons, and other symbols can become such archetypes.  For example, red is standardized as the symbol of passion, martyrdom, and whoredom, and white is symbolic of holiness and purity.  How we “universally” react to these colors is culture-bound; for example, while white symbolizes purity in the West, in China white symbolizes evil.  Seasons, similarly, are highly symbolic and conjure the same images and ideas for all of us.  Spring represents the beginning of new life.  Summer is that time or age when our lives are most productive.  Autumn is that time period when we can harvest our goods (either literally, as in garden or farm products, or figuratively, as in 401k wealth).  Winter is the time which symbolizes lives well spent and an era of resting, realizing that death will end our physical existence.

          Archetypal criticism is important for pro-life readers for an obvious reason: we all have the same negative reaction to an abortionist as we all have the same positive reaction to the terms “mother” and “unborn child.”  These reactions occur no matter how forcefully authors may try to change the archetype of an abortionist to a positive one by calling him or her a “doctor” instead of the killer that he or she is.  For instance, the abortionist Dr. Swain in Grace Metalious’ 1956 novel Peyton Place is, for all the “good” work he does for the community, still an abortionist.

Biographical Criticism

          It seems much too simple if not tautological to assert that the facts of a writer’s life may be important to help us understand what he or she wrote.  If one is interested in the background of an author, then one has chosen biographical literary theory as a way to appreciate the literature.

          Biographical criticism—curiously, a method of appreciating and interpreting literature which is often ignored in the academy and in textbooks of literary criticism—is crucial for pro-life readers.  Knowing that John Irving is an active supporter of the abortion business Planned Parenthood, for example, will affect one’s reading of his famous abortion novel, The Cider House Rules (1985), as mere propaganda for the abortion industry.  This may account for the film version being beloved by anti-life Hollywood and severely criticized by pro-life critics.

Critical Disability Studies

          The analysis of able-bodiedness and disabilities in literature is a newer literary theory which has produced some interesting interpretations and re-interpretations of literature.  This theory challenges the anti-life idea of “life unworthy of life”, a Nazi concept embraced by anti-life writers and activists in contemporary society, thus contributing to the pro-life movement recognizing this theory as life-affirming.  It is striking, however, that, with notable exceptions, many academics using this theory are hesitant to connect anti-life philosophy with the movement which supports abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia of persons with disabilities.

          Pro-life readers, therefore, have an opportunity to affirm the value of human life depicted as inferior or disabled by adopting the principles of this theory.  Literature which shows disabled or differently-abled characters ranges from the mid-nineteenth-century character Hetty, called “retarded”, in James Fenimore Cooper’s 1841 novel The Deerslayer to the contemporary example of F. X. Toole’s 2000 short story “Million $$$ Baby”, which later became an Academy Award-winning film.

Critical Race Theory

Contemporary activists and parents protesting at school boards have pointed out the inherent racism of critical race theory, yet that was not the original purpose of the theory.  While some textbooks may use confusing nomenclature, critical race theory as a type of literary criticism functions to highlight racial differences between characters, showing, for example, how African slaves were mistreated by white slave owners.

It would be a serious challenge for any pro-life reader to use critical race theory for any purpose except to assert the equality of any human being, no matter his or her race.  Accepting the principles of the aggressive political movement which bases its ideas on radical race consciousness is abhorrent to the pro-life community, since pro-lifers follow the principles of respect for all human life, no matter its condition of dependency, gender, or, in this case, racial identification.  Furthermore, as pro-life social media commentators have noted, critical race theory does more to divide humanity in terms of race instead of uniting them in what should be a concerted effort to stop assaults on human life, the most egregious being the much ignored fact that African-American mothers abort at a rate three times that of whites.  Activists in pro-abortion race-conscious groups and businesses, like Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood, can learn much from Ramona Treviño’s 2015 biography Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back.  Nowhere does Treviño, a Latina, blame white society for her abortion decisions, unlike race-centered groups, which deflect responsibility for women’s abortion decisions onto whites.

Deconstruction

          While formalist literary criticism (see below) focuses on the meanings of words as an author intends and looks for the inherent unity of a literary work, a deconstructionist critic argues that words are so inherently unstable that a standard meaning can never be obtained.  While this idea may be a fun exercise in the classroom, this essential criterion is farfetched for many ordinary, competent readers.

          Pro-life readers, of course, can use deconstructionist principles to argue a life-affirming interpretation of literature, especially literature which advances a pro-abortion, pro-infanticide, or pro-euthanasia position.  Thus, pro-life readers can critique Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? not merely as a classic science fiction work, but as a fulfilled prophecy of how abortionists and others degrade human life.

Feminist Criticism

          The earliest form of gender criticism, feminist literary criticism should be distinguished from feminist political activism.  This theory argues that literature shows women as victims of “patriarchy”, the idea that men are oppressing women.  Feminist literary criticism attempts to highlight female characters who overcome such oppression; moreover, the theory argues that women’s writing is different from that of male authors.  One can be a feminist literary critic and still accept the Judeo-Christian heritage of the father being head of the family; one simply looks at literature from a woman’s perspective.

          While the above paragraph severely oversimplifies feminist literary criticism, it should be obvious to all pro-life readers that this criticism is particularly fertile as a means to advance pro-life interests.  After all, if the idea of feminist literary criticism is to emphasize the oppression of women by men, then abortion can easily be documented in fictional literature as the most oppressive force against women and their success in society.  Unfortunately, contemporary anti-life feminist pro-abortion fiction still suffers from the myopic perception that abortion is necessary to overcome patriarchy, as evidenced by Elizabeth Keenan’s tedious 2019 novel for teens, Rebel Girls.  Pro-lifers will enjoy countering biased work like Keenan’s novel, however, by using the principles of feminist literary criticism against what such literature advocates.

Formalism and New Criticism

The standard literary theory used in the academy, if one ever had a teacher or faculty member ask what a term in any story, novel, drama, or other literary work means, then that teacher or faculty member was using formalist literary criticism, the idea that, unlike deconstruction, words have stable meanings and the ideas expressed by an author can be understood.  Moreover, a formalist critic is concerned about the unity of a literary work’s plot, consisting of four steps: the exposition, the problem to be addressed in the literary work; the crisis or crises between the protagonist and antagonist characters; the climax, the essential conflict between the characters; and the denouement, the literary work’s conclusion, which may or may not be satisfactory in the reader’s estimation.

Formalist criticism is certainly beneficial to a pro-life reader since such a reader adopts, consistent with pro-life principles, the idea that words have stable meanings; “mother”, for example, refers to a female parent, and no corruption of the idea of motherhood with a verbose phrase such as “birthing parent” can destroy the essential meaning of the term.  Regarding the unity of the literary work, a pro-life reader or critic would find much anti-life fiction faulty, especially if the ending of that work results in the killing or death of a human being.  Such is the case with Lisa De Niscia’s 2011 novel Momentary Mother; the denouement leaves the reader wondering why the main character aborted, given what seems to be loose ends in the plot.

Gender Criticism/Gay and Lesbian or Queer Studies

          The category of gender criticism originally consisted only of feminist literary theory, arriving in academia around the time of the second wave feminist movement.  It quickly became apparent that, if literature can be appreciated and interpreted through the lens of a feminist, then it could also be viewed from a man’s perspective, thus creating a masculinist approach to literature.  Persons with same-sex attraction established the gay, lesbian, or queer studies division of gender criticism, the last term sequenced in the title of this heading being politically-correct usage.  Transgender activists have added another aspect to gender literary criticism, and no doubt the category will expand when adherents of other sexually-confused categories claim their right to interpret literature according to their agendas.

          The political machinations of extremist gay and lesbian activists aside, pro-life students of literature can use gender criticism in support of human life threatened by abortion, infanticide, or euthanasia on the principle, stated above, that human life is sacred no matter what condition of dependency or gender recognition (or confusion) may obtain.  In fact, since the aggressive gay and lesbian political agenda has argued that actively homosexual persons or persons with same-sex attraction have the right to exist as heterosexual persons do, activists in any category would appreciate input from pro-life activists supporting their first civil right, the right to life.  After all, no person should be killed because he or she may be confused about his or her sexuality, as happens in, for example, Islamic nations, where gays and lesbians are executed in horrible ways.  Moreover, some gay and lesbian novels can generate sympathy that only pro-life people, who are by definition compassionate, would understand, as in Tim Murphy’s 2016 novel Christodora, a tortured account of persons with same-sex attraction who cannot understand that their actions suggest a yearning for heterosexual normativity.

Historical Criticism

          As with biographical criticism, knowing the milieu in which a literary work was created is eminently helpful to advance the appreciation of the literature.  Unfortunately, contemporary literary critics are more concerned about contentious, if not nonexistent, issues, like “white privilege.”  Knowing the world of 1850 when Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his masterpiece The Scarlet Letter should help any reader understand his complex and antiquated language and the importance of the effort to establish an American literature which could match the grandeur of European literature.

          From the pro-life perspective, understanding the historical circumstances of a literary work is crucial in its explication and application to contemporary life.  For example, knowing that a master writer like William Faulkner wrote his abortion novel The Wild Palms in 1939 when it was still an abhorred practice helps the reader understand how dire unplanned pregnancy may have been for hedonistic women at that time.  Similarly, understanding the history of abortifacients, touted as alternatives to risky surgical abortion methods, will help readers appreciate how an anti-life author like Sharon Biggs Waller could presume in her feeble 2019 teen abortion novel Girls on the Verge that what was once an abhorrent practice is standard procedure for young mothers who wish to violate the civil rights of unborn babies and possibly harm themselves with dangerous abortifacients.

Marxist Criticism

As with feminist literary criticism above, one does not have to renounce one’s (pro-life) Democrat or Republican affiliation or be a political Marxist to use Marxist literary criticism.  The theory is dominantly concerned with economic factors and power relationships.  The ideas of “ideology” and “counterideology” are important in this theory, since the conflicts resulting between those who arrange social life in certain ways and those who oppose or want to change society are necessary in Marxist thinking to lead to the creation of a better world.  For example, the United States once followed the ideology that Negroes (the politically-correct term in the 1950s) could sit only in the back of busses; a counterideology developed that Blacks or African Americans could sit anywhere they wanted.  Note that the ethnographic labels themselves indicate a shift in ideology.

The importance of Marxist literary theory to pro-life students of literature is obvious.  If a literary work suggests an ideology that the types of killing called abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are appropriate for society, then it is the pro-life activist’s counterideology to assert the opposite and to generate conflict so that those methods of killing human beings are stopped.  Fictional accounts of conflicts between anti- and pro-life factions are replete in the literature, ranging from the early days of pro-life fiction, such as Stephen Freind’s 1987 novel God’s Children, to Matthew Archbold’s 2020 work, American Antigone.

Moral Criticism, Dramatic Construction

Some compilations of literary theories, especially the Purdue University Online Writing Lab, categorize the ancient debate of Plato and Aristotle regarding whether literature serves moral purposes or not as moral criticism.  There is not much more to say about the utility of this category from a pro-life perspective, the assumption being that literature does serve a moral purpose.  That is, people read literary works or watch them enacted in drama or music videos (a format not available to the ancient writers) because they want to be entertained, yet the didactic value of these entertainments cannot be avoided.

Thus, pro-life readers and students of literature can certainly be entertained either by the drug-induced language of Richard Brautigan’s 1971 novel The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 or the linguistic free-for-all of Kathy Acker’s 1986 abortion novel Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream.  Pro-life readers will also learn something about the fantasy worlds that must be depicted in order for the brutal violation of civil rights called abortion to be validated.

New Historicism/Cultural Studies

          While some more leftist activists may have corrupted the purposes of this literary theory, the foundational principles still have merit.  That is, it is important to consider, or re-consider, past historical events from the position of contemporary life.  Also, it is a valid area of concern to study artifacts in any given culture which contributed to the rise of its literature.  Thus, for example, while Columbus Day is still known as a day to rejoice over the discovery of America, others reinterpret that historical event as the beginning of the European invasion of the Americas.  Reinterpreting a fact of history could lead to a political position justifying the destruction of European culture and ideas in the New World, let alone statues of famous Europeans who saved the aboriginal peoples from human sacrifice.

          Pro-life researchers have accomplished much according to the principles of these theories, as illustrated, for example, by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer’s 2017 Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, a biography of the infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell.  If it were not for their research and exposé, a man whom some thought was performing needed “services” for women would have remained that instead of being redefined as the infamous abortionist and serial killer that he is.

Postcolonial Criticism

Unless one reads literary works from former colonies of the European powers, this theory is rare to find in contemporary criticism of literary works meant for the general reading public, although some scholars are trying to rejuvenate this theory by considering the United States as an imperialist power which had “colonies” around the globe or by altering the definition of what constitutes a “colony.”  From a pro-life perspective, for example, if one were anti-life, can could claim that the unborn child is a “colony” implanted by a patriarchal “power” in the body of the woman/mother.  Arguing such a contorted idea may be an interesting intellectual exercise for a classroom when more important matters are completed (grammar or logical fallacies); however, the utility of such a classroom question would be deemed as more evidence that academia has become so leftist as to make anything coming out of higher education irrelevant for the real world.

However, considering fiction from former colonies of the European powers is often an enlightening educational experience, confirming how pro-life the cultures beyond Europe and the Americas are.  For example, pro-life readers will appreciate the angst and post-abortion syndrome which the aborted mother experiences in Buchi Emecheta’s 1994 novel Kehinde.  Similarly, pro-life readers can use this theory to advance the movement by pointing out that anti-lifers use the bodies of unborn babies, whether dead or alive, for “research” as much as colonial powers may have used the people whom they colonized for their purposes.  The difference, of course, is that anti-lifers use those bodies in ways which destroy human life instead of enhance and protect it.

Psychoanalytic Criticism

          While it has been my experience that incorporating Freudian ideas about phallic and yonic imagery in literature to discover the repressed desires of authors or characters often led to comedy in the classroom instead of serious discussion of psychological principles, the core beliefs of psychoanalytic criticism are useful.  It is important to know what an author may have been thinking in the creation of a literary work, as it is important to understand or try to perceive a character’s emotions in the work.  Sometimes the author him- or herself will identify those emotions in interviews or ancillary material; even those disclosures, however, may not be reliable, thus necessitating biographical research to affirm or negate an author’s claims.

          The psychological problems associated with post-abortion syndrome and the medical killing of euthanasia or the killing euphemistically called “assisted suicide” are creating a new genre of literature for pro-life readers and critics to explore.  This theory can assist pro-life readers in reevaluating the evidence of post-abortion syndrome in Graham Greene’s 1988 novel The Captain and the Enemy as much as the depersonalization of a human being, antecedent to euthanasia, in James T. Farrell’s 1978 novel The Death of Nora Ryan.

Reader-Response Criticism

          Of all the literary theories introduced to students over the last two decades, I think most students appreciate reader-response criticism more than any other since this theory gives the reader the authority to interpret a literary work instead of relying or, worse, adopting, how the teacher or faculty member interprets it.  While proponents of this theory argue that a reader must be competent before he or she can derive a valid interpretation of a literary work, reader-response criticism is liberating for ordinary readers who may not be versed in all the literary terms and concepts in which faculty have been trained.  After all, literature is not produced for academics to study and determine if the literary work comports with their ideological positions.  Literature is meant for consumption by ordinary readers, whose opinions about a literary work could differ greatly from those who think they are more qualified not only to read literature, but to discourse and to write about it.  In fact, among today’s highly leftist higher education elites, readers must counter the often contorted opinions of a literary work with their own commonsense interpretations.

          The utility of this theory for pro-life readers is clear.  Pro-life readers are not obligated to accept the received academic opinion of the abortionist Wilbur Larch as a hero in Irving’s The Cider House Rules, nor must they accept the idea that euthanasia or medical killing comports with pagan values, as April Genevieve Tucholke seems to suggest in her 2018 novel geared for teens, The Boneless Mercies.

Structuralism/Semiotics

          I know of no colleague or ordinary person who ever consciously thinks of structuralism or post-structuralist principles before he or she reads a novel, short story, poem, or rap or trap song, let alone anyone who consciously thinks of semiotic concerns of a literary work as academics demand.  If he or she is concerned with the meaning of words used, however, then that reader is probably concerned with formalism literary theory, where the meaning of the words that a novelist or a poet uses are important to determine.

          How difficult, if not irrelevant to the concerns of ordinary readers, the structuralist and post-structuralism theories can be is apparent by how scholars have defined (or attempted to define) them:

[Post-structuralism] concerns itself with the ways and places where systems, frameworks, definitions, and certainties break down.  Post-structuralism maintains that frameworks and systems […] are merely fictitious constructs and that they cannot be trusted to develop meaning or to give order.  In fact, the very act of seeking order or a singular Truth (with a capital T) is absurd because there exists no unified truth.  Post-structuralism holds that there are many truths, that frameworks must bleed, and that structures must become unstable or decentered.  Moreover, post-structuralism is also concerned with the power structures or hegemonies and power and how these elements contribute to and/or maintain structures to enforce hierarchy.  Therefore, post-structural theory carries implications far beyond literary criticism.

(Purdue University, “Post-Structuralism”)

I have written elsewhere about scholarly psychobabble.[1]  If the above quote is challenging for academics to understand, one can only surmise how onerous it is for ordinary readers who, while educated, are unfamiliar with the jargon used by literary critics who function in the academy and seem to be unaware of issues in the real world.

[slide 4]  In discussing the problems of the various contemporary literary theories, I will repeat the phrase “human life is not merely about” followed by the phrase “the total life of the human person is more important than.”  This repetition is necessary to show that, while the various literary theories used in colleges and universities (and, increasingly, high schools) have benefits, they all suffer from a myopic view of human life, ignoring the essential reason why human beings have literature in the first place: literature is written for humans not only to enjoy, but also to aid them in learning deep cultural values.

What, therefore, are some gaps and deficiencies in the standard literary theories?

          Regarding archetypal or Jungian criticism, human life is not merely about symbols or our universal reactions to them; the total lives of people are more important than symbols.  Human life is not merely about the details of our lives as biographical criticism would dictate; the total life of the human person is more important than just the actions one performs or problems one endures.  Human life is not merely about physical conditions of our bodies; the total life of the human person is more important than our abilities and disabilities, as critical disability studies rightfully asserts.  Human life is not merely about the quantity of melanin in our skin, a fatal error in critical race theory; the total life of the human person is more important than his or her race.  Human life is not merely about how some words can be more playful and have multiple meanings than others or one’s inability to determine or establish the meanings of words which human beings have stabilized over the centuries (have deconstructionists never heard of a dictionary?); the total life of the human person is more important than the varied meanings of the words which he or she uses.  Human life is not merely about oppression of women by men, as feminist literary critics would have people believe; the total life of the human person is more important than oppression of one gender by another, whether men oppressing women or women oppressing men.  Human life is not merely about the meanings of words, a key idea of formalist literary critics; the total life of the human person is more important than determining whether the meaning of a term, like “mother” or “woman”, has been stable for millennia.  A near repeat of the entry for feminist literary criticism, human life is not merely about gender; the total life of the human person is more important than whether one’s sex is recognized—not “assigned”, but recognized—either before or after birth as male or female.  Human life is not merely about the chronological circumstances of an event or the historical period in which an author wrote; the total life of the human person is more important than his or her milieu.  Human life is not merely about economics or forces of power, demanded by Marxist literary critics; the total life of the human person is more important than the money that he or she uses or the political influences affecting him or her.  As appropriate and valid as moral criticism is, human life is not merely about whether one perfected one’s moral code or whether what one writes follows the four steps of plot development; the total life of the human person is more important than the sins one commits.  Human life is not merely about how history is interpreted or reinterpreted by one’s contemporaries; the total life of the human person is more important than redefining the importance of Columbus’ discovery of the New World as the beginning of the European invasion of the Americas.  Human life is not merely about the effect of European powers on Africa, Asia, and Latin America; the total life of the human person is more important than the political influences that may have hampered some cultural development.  Human life is not merely about one’s psychological repressions or sexual desires expressed through phallic or yonic imagery; the total life of the human person is more important than whatever deviousness exists in human minds.  Human life is not merely about whether one reader is able to force his or her opinion about a literary work on another person as the best reading; the total life of the human person is more important than any interpretation of literature.  Human life is not merely about worrying about what an author meant when he or she wrote something; the total life of the human person is more important than such intellectually stimulating, yet vapid discourse—especially vapid if people argue over the merits of the structures of works by human authors instead of, for example, understanding sacred scriptures.

          The above paragraph is one which no English professor would ever ask his or her students to write: more than one page, repetitive, complex, with no clear topic sentence.  However, I trust that I have made my point that every literary theory has a flaw, sometimes a fatal flaw, in that, while it may appropriately concern some aspect of human life, it neglects the essential criterion, the idea that the literary work exists to benefit human life.  Thus is born right-to-life literary theory.

          [slide 5]  I developed the idea of right-to-life literary theory for a paper in 2018 on the right-to-life issues in gay and lesbian literature.[2]  Having studied and used the various literary theories established in the academy and, most importantly, knowing what those theories leave out (the importance of human life), I formulated the following five questions which I use to examine all literature, especially works which concern the right-to-life issues of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.

  1. Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?
  • Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?
  • If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?
  • Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?
  • When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

The balance of this presentation will apply the five questions of right-to-life literary theory to three works of literature.  The questions are repeated for each literary work, followed by brief commentary for each question.  It is hoped that students of literature can perceive that each brief response can be expanded into a lengthier analysis or, for college and university students, a research paper.

          [slide 6 and 7]  Nicki Minaj is one of the most successful rap artists in the world.  I recently wrote about her because I wanted to understand what a contemporary cultural force such as Minaj had to say about abortion and what we, her auditors, can learn from her experience.  (Readers: please consult the appropriate slide for the text of Minaj’s “Autobiography” to be studied.)

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

          Critical thinking skills must be used to answer this first question of right-to-life literary theory, since, on the surface, life as a philosophical good is not explicitly stated in this excerpt of the song.  However, one can conclude that the persona of the song (Minaj herself or the “character” singing the song) does consider life as such a good.  Why would she want to have the child with her if she thought that existence in real life was not a noble thing?

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

Here, also, more critical thinking must be used to reply to this question since the words of the song do not seem to recognize the paramount inherent right of all human beings to exist.  The persona recognizes that the conception (fertilization) of a human being is a good thing and that “leaving” that human being is neither in the child’s or the persona’s best interests.  It is interesting to note that the idea of leaving suggests that our rights are connected with our responsibilities, and the persona in this song is keenly aware that she has neglected her responsibility to the aborted child.

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

          The integrity of the family is a glaring issue here; the persona is obviously the mother of the aborted child, and the child him- or herself is “present” because he or she is being addressed.  The father, however, is absent.  One could write much about the dire situation of the African-American family, which is dominantly matriarchal.

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

          That the mother talks to the aborted child is clear evidence not only of her compassion for him or her, but also of the hope that the child has an existence in the afterlife.

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

Using the words “God’s plan” is rare to find in a rap song, especially one which concerns abortion.  Their inclusion here indicates that the persona does have a sense of the divine presence in the world, one which can overcome even a seemingly definitive act of killing called abortion.

          [slide 8]  Thomas Rydahl’s The Hermit (2016) is noteworthy first as a murder mystery novel with a variety of interesting characters and, second, as a lengthy European work which contains a strikingly sympathetic view towards newborn human life.  (Readers: please consult the appropriate slide for the text to be studied.)

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

          This excerpt indicates intense sorrow over the child’s death.  The effort that the police and investigators have taken indicate that the child should be alive, and, if they think this, then they must consider that life is a philosophical good worth experiencing.

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

          This question, also, can be answered in the affirmative as question one, with an important notation: lacking a name, the dead child is called most affectionately the “boy”—not a cadaver to be buried, or a deceased newborn, but a more loving term.  The individuality of the dead child is thus affirmed.

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

          This passage clearly indicates that the heterosexual normativity which should obtain in any family has collapsed.  The characters note that the father and mother, “the mum and dad”, are gone and left only their son, affectionately called “the boy” (51).  The lack of heterosexual normativity of the dead boy’s family is further highlighted by the fact that the investigators have researched all the remaining couples who recently had newborns, even to the point of giving an explicit number, 187 children.  That the dead child cannot be included in that large number of children born to couples increases the pathos of the situation.

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

          While no commentary is apparent from this excerpt about the inherent right to exist of other categories of human lives (from the unborn to the elderly), the use of a vulgarism is further evidence of the sadness over the boy’s death.  The use of “fucking” (51) is entirely appropriate and consistent with the depiction of these male characters as tough men.  The term indicates the rage that men who see an innocent person killed would feel, their anger at such injustice manifested not by copious tears that a female character might display, but a solid vulgar term that a man would express.  The vulgarism demonstrates not only the man’s anger at the injustice of a dead baby boy, but also his frustration of not being able to rectify the injustice.

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

          Answering this question from this brief excerpt is not possible; the entire novel must be read and various other passages and references to religious entities studied.  One can suggest, however, that the unanswered rhetorical question, “How can someone abandon a child?” (51), set off as its own paragraph, indicates that at least one character has internally recognized a divine precept that no one should abandon a child.  If this recognition were not supplied, then the characters would be perceived as no better than male cats killing newborn male kittens as happens in nature.

          [slide 9, 10, and 11]  The final passage to be considered is the Teri Schiavo episode from the television program Family Guy, which attempts to justify her starvation.  As I argue elsewhere,[3] this episode is inherently not comical yet attempts to use humor to persuade the viewer that the killing of Teri Schiavo was justifiable.  (Readers: please consult the appropriate slide for the text to be studied.)

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

          This excerpt makes it clear that human life is not a philosophical good, and one can base this primarily on the high estimation placed on the technology used to maintain Teri’s life.  The respect for technology over human life is further evident when one character expresses disdain for vegetables, which, like human life, is another item of God’s creation.

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

          While all of us know the conclusion to the story (Teri is starved to death), one cannot determine from the excerpt whether individual rights are respected.  Again, as with question one, it seems that non-human entities deserve more respect than the human beings, whether it is the technology used or, towards the end of the segment, the reference to the United States Constitution, a document written by humans but more deserving of respect than the humans themselves for whom it was written.

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

          Since Teri herself is a silent actor in this episode, it is clear that Michael Schiavo does not meet the standards of what a husband should be, especially in his role as protector of the family.  In fact, one can argue that the excerpt shows not only Teri’s dehumanization by calling her “The most expensive plant you’ll ever see”, but also her reduction to a child instead of the adult that she was by calling her “a lively little bugger.”  The implication is profound; if Teri is a child and not the equal partner in sacramental marriage with Michael Schiavo, then Michael can treat her in a subordinate position as any parent would a child.

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

          The episode requires a negative response to this question, if only because mocking human life as happens here does not comport with the nature of comedy.  The episode does, however, illustrate well the disrespect of a human being who needed medical care and compassion more than a legal authority to sanction her starvation.

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

There is no evidence in this excerpt that any character recognizes a divine presence in the world.  If anything, Michael’s reliance on the Constitution shows that he and presumably the other characters have replaced God with a man-made legal instrument.  These characters apparently do not perceive how unstable their foundation justifying the killing of Teri Schiavo is.

          I trust that this presentation has been not only interesting, but also helpful for participants who must engage in the battle against the anti-life movement in the courts, in the sciences, at the sites where killing occurs, and in an area of great importance which pro-lifers have been slow to engage, the humanities, specifically literature.  I further hope that what has been discussed here will assist pro-life readers to construct significant reviews of literature that they have read on the life issues.  Great work needs to be done to communicate to the general public our objections to literary works which do not support the right to life and our affirmations of those works which do.  Whether conference attendees write reviews for Amazon, Goodreads.com, some other social media outlet, or their own blogs, I hope that what has been presented here will increase the quality of their work significantly.

[slide 12]

Works Cited

Acker, Kathy. Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream. Grove, 1986.

Archbold, Matthew. American Antigone. Resource Publications, 2020.

Brautigan, Richard. The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966. Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Deerslayer. 1841. Philadelphia: Macrae Smith, [n.d.].

De Niscia, Lisa. Momentary Mother. Whitepoint, 2011.

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Del Rey, 1968.

Emecheta, Buchi. Kehinde. Heinemann, 1994.

Farrell, James T. The Death of Nora Ryan. Doubleday, 1978.

Faulkner, William. The Wild Palms. Random House, 1939.

Freind, Stephen. God’s Children. Morrow, 1987.

Greene, Graham. The Captain and the Enemy. Viking, 1988.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter and Other Tales of the Puritans. Ed. Harry Levin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.

Irving, John. The Cider House Rules. William Morrow, 1985.

Keenan, Elizabeth. Rebel Girls. Inkyard Press, 2019.

Koloze, Jeff.  “Critical Disability Studies and Fiction on the Right-to-Life Issues: Carlos Fuentes’ Christopher Unborn, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and the Million Dollar Baby Franchise.” Life and Learning XXIX: Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth University Faculty for Life Conference at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois, 2019. Ed. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J. Bronx, NY: University Faculty for Life, 2019. 225-52.

—. “Making Abortion, Infanticide, and Euthanasia Funny: Determining Whether Five Principles of Comedy Derived from Ancient Writers Apply to Attempts at Humor by Contemporary Comedians.” Lifeissues.net. 30 July 2020 http://lifeissues.net/writers/kol/kol_46abortionandcomedy.html.

—. “Right-to-Life Issues in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Literature.” University Faculty for Life: UFL Life and Learning Conference XXVIII. http://www.uffl.org/pdfs/vol28/UFL_2018_Koloze.pdf.

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—.  “Post-Structuralism, Deconstruction, Postmodernism (1966-Present).” Purdue Online Writing Lab, 27 October 2021, https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism/postmodern_criticism.html.

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Toole, F. X. “Million $$$ Baby.” Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner. HarperCollins, 2000, pp. [61]-101.

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[1] See my “Critical Disability Studies and Fiction on the Right-to-Life Issues: Carlos Fuentes’ Christopher Unborn, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and the Million Dollar Baby Franchise.”

[2] See my “Right-to-Life Issues in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Literature.”

[3] See my “Making Abortion, Infanticide, and Euthanasia Funny: Determining Whether Five Principles of Comedy Derived from Ancient Writers Apply to Attempts at Humor by Contemporary Comedians.”