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.