Rutler writes about “men with chests”. The “impossible dream”?

Fr. Rutler has a terrific piece at the invaluable Crisis.

Read the whole thing, but here is some with my usual treatment.

Where Are the Churchmen With Chests? [“Chests”… a great image.  It was famously used (as Rutler mentions, below, by C.S. Lewis in his Abolition of Man. For Lewis “chests” are the “indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.”  Hence, “chest” allows a man to face reality and act with confidence.]

[…]

But carrying the heavy baggage of his many calamitous missteps, such as Gallipoli in 1915, Dieppe in 1943, the Bengal famine of 1943 and his ambiguity about the Normandy invasion, Winston [Churchill – arguably one of the greatest figures of the 20th c., if not they greatest] could honestly fit the same [Teddy] Roosevelt’s 1910 description in a lecture at the Sorbonne:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

[A famous speech, and very long.  That was the most famous bit.]

[NB] These observations provoke an anxious solicitude for the present state of the Church, for it would be hard to find a surplus of church leaders in the arena of such men. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] The common instinct for Rotarian jocularity rather than true Christian prophecy resembles the manner of Churchill’s Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, whom the prime minster called “A curious mixture of geniality and venom.” [Which describes a certain mid-western prelate and a fishwraper ghostwriter.] Those anointed to proclaim Christ seem not infrequently reticent about enlisting his Holy Name in what is no less than a spiritual warfare that cannot be won by appeasement. When our bishops were assured by President Obama that there would be no imposition of civil regulations on the Church’s moral standards, specifically in matters of health care, they left a meeting in the White House boasting that they had been promised a good deal. It was their Munich. That conjures the ghost of Neville Chamberlain waving his piece of paper securing “peace for our time.” When Chamberlain died, Churchill refused to humiliate his memory and paid an eloquent tribute in the House to his predecessor’s virtue, but he could not hide the naiveté that paved the steps winding the way down to near destruction.

As it is a nervous business for prelates to court and be courted by civil power, one might question the wisdom of popes addressing the United Nations or parliaments. A pope is not merely another head of state, and the whole history of the economy of Christ and Caesar makes clear that popes are never stronger than when they are weakest in things temporal. Surely a man resolved as Pope Francis is to do what is right for mankind, was ill-served by those who counseled him on what to say in addressing a joint session of Congress. On that awkward day, the Holy Father spoke of refugees, human rights, the death penalty, natural resources, disarmament, and distribution of wealth, but there was no mention of Jesus Christ. The speech invoked acceptable figures like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, but no canonized saint that the nation’s legacy boasts.

The resources of the Church in the material order are vast, if fading, but her supernatural resources are beyond calculation an indicting finger points to the neglect of such treasures of talent and grace in lands of privilege, as for example in the mercenary hypertrophy of the Church in Germany. This affects all limbs of the Body of Christ. Where there are bishops of moral vigor, there will be an abundance of young men willing to take up the call of priestly service. [Bingo.  Trees and fruits, right?  Relatively small dioceses with sturdy bishops produce as many or more seminarians than great metropolises.] Where the spirit is tepid and refreshes itself on the thin broth of a domesticated and politically correct Gospel, seminaries will be vacant. As C.S. Lewis gave account: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”  [You see, it is merely that we may ultimately lack true men: men become traitors.  One might say that we don’t just lack men, we also see a rise of effeminacy and sodomy.]

In his Idea of a University, Newman wrote: “Neither Livy, [born in Cisalpine Gaul] nor Tacitus, [Gallia Narbonensis] nor Terence, [Carthage] nor Seneca, [Hispania] nor Pliny, [Gallia Transpadana] nor Quintillian, [Hispania] is an adequate spokesman for the Imperial City. They write Latin; Cicero writes Roman.” The Church needs a Roman vigor that persuades men to rise above self-consciousness. [This next bit is gold…] An English bishop reflected: “Wherever St. Paul went, there was a riot. Wherever I go, they serve tea.” In spiritual combat, there is no teatime, and effective strategies cannot be plotted at conferences, synods, workshops, and costly conventions at resort hotels with multiple “break-out” sessions and mellow music. One fears that a fly on the wall at any of those conversations would drop to the floor out of boredom. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8)

That last image, was constantly used by my late mentor, Msgr. Richard Schuler to describe the disastrous approach to vocations to the priesthood that was, back in the day, pursued in the Archdiocese.  Men will not follow an uncertain trumpet.

“Cicero writes Roman.”

Romanitas… Roman-ness, the Roman Thing… is the sum of the enduring values and practices of Romans, especially ancient Rome and, now, in the Roman Catholic Church. It is hard to pin it down, but you “know it when you see it”. However, it always includes the virtue of gravitas. Moreover, it also includes a seemingly contradictory fusion of sternness with humor, inflexibility with the adaptive, mercy with justice, austerity with extravagance. Consider the Roman ability to fuse, for example, Hellenism, Judaism, and later the Gaulish and Teutonic, etc. The Baroque movement is the perfect example of Romanitas, and how Romanitas then transforms cultures. Romanitas is the key to a correct understanding of inculturation, whereby what the Church has to give always has logical priority in the ongoing, simultaneous process.

Concerning the splendid quote about the “man in the arena” I would add two points.

I have often remarked to people that “arena” refers to the sandy surface of the gladiatorial battleground.  Participation in the area of blogs, writing articles in print or electronic media, is a descent onto the sands of the arena.  If you tread the sands, don’t whine when people go for your guts.  If you don’t have the stomach for it – the chest – then this is not for you.

Next, that “man in the arena” passage has always reminded me of the climax tune of the musical Man of Lamancha about Don Quixote, “The Impossible Dream”.  When I was pretty young I saw Richard Kiley, who created the role on Broadway, and it has stuck in my head for that last half century.

Decades of terrible education, both secular and from the church, dreadful catechesis and feckless preaching, temporizing, compromising, enervating leadership, caving in to the Zeitgeist with enthusiasm…

Are there men with chests anymore.

Damn straight there are!  But for men of chests to discover themselves, they will need trumpet calls.

Not to devolve this into a musical review, but in the spirit of clarion, I am also reminded of a song from a Christian “rock” group called “Courageous”, which serves as the theme of a movie.  HERE USA BlueRay+DVD HERE.  Just DVD HERE. UK DVD HERE.

We were made to be courageous
We were made to lead the way
We could be the generation
That finally breaks the chains
We were made to be courageous
We were made to be courageous

We were warriors on the front lines
Standing, unafraid
But now we’re watchers on the sidelines
While our families slip away

Where are you, men of courage?
You were made for so much more
Let the pounding of our hearts cry [chest]
We will serve the Lord

We were made to be courageous
And we’re taking back the fight
We were made to be courageous
And it starts with us tonight

The only way we’ll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands
Make us courageous [grace… and elbow grease]
Lord, make us courageous

This is our resolution
Our answer to the call [trumpet]
We will love our wives and children
We refuse to let them fall

We will reignite the passion
That we buried deep inside
May the watchers become warriors
Let the men of God arise

We were made to be courageous
And we’re taking back the fight
We were made to be courageous
And it starts with us tonight

The only way we’ll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands
Make us courageous
Lord, make us courageous

Seek justice [women sing this in the background]
Love mercy
Walk humbly with your God

In the war of the mind
I will make my stand
In the battle of the heart
And the battle of the hand

[“chest” is the liaison of the intellective and affective which leads to action]

In the war of the mind
I will make my stand
In the battle of the heart
And the battle of the hand

We were made to be courageous
And we’re taking back the fight
We were made to be courageous
And it starts with us tonight

The only way we’ll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands
Make us courageous
Lord, make us courageous

We were made to be courageous
Lord, make us courageous

Please share!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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16 Responses to Rutler writes about “men with chests”. The “impossible dream”?

  1. scrchristensen says:

    Thank you very much for for sharing Fr. Rutler’s article and for your own comments Fr. Z! This came at a very needed time for me.

    Question: I have been meaning to study Churchill for a very long time, but I have yet to do so. Is there a book Fr. Z or any dear ZedHead would recommend as a one-stop-shop for really getting a good grasp of the man? I have come close to buying the third part of the Last Lion, but worry I would be missing important content if I limited myself to that time period only. I wish I had the time to read the trilogy, but really can only afford a single book right now!

    Any and all suggestions would be very appreciated!

  2. Neal says:

    “Surely a man resolved as Pope Francis is to do what is right for mankind, was ill-served by those who counseled him on what to say in addressing a joint session of Congress.“

    So, when Fr. Rutler removes from the Pope the responsibility for the words coming out of his mouth and passes it on to unnamed, perhaps nonexistent, counsellors, is he giving us an example of brave, brawny manliness? Oo-rah, indeed.

  3. Kypapist Retired says:

    Churchmen with chests for the last 50+ years have been the faithful “underground” Bishops and priests in Red China. Many imprisoned and tortured for decades, such as Cardinal Kung and Bishop Fan. Now I am reading on CWR that the Vatican is calling for the resignation of two faithful bishops that their places may be given to the government “bishops.” Have the suffering of the Faithful Church in the East, kept God’s wrath from striking the adulterous, scabrous Church in the West?
    Maybe we will soon know.

  4. Amateur Scholastic says:

    “Churchill – arguably one of the greatest figures of the 20th c., if not the greatest”

    Father, with the utmost of respect, I don’t understand how a Catholic can think this. The man had some magnificent qualities, no doubt, but he oversaw the incineration of tens of thousands of German civilians. [Think about it.]

    scrchristensen: Both Hitchens brothers (Christopher and Peter) have written well on Churchill. Easily available online.

  5. Amateur Scholastic says:

    Thanks for your reply. I’ll try and be a bit clearer:

    I’m no historian, but I don’t believe the following is disputed: Churchill oversaw, allowed, encouraged and (to some extent) directed the RAF’s bombing campaign over Germany. One of the campaign’s main objectives was killing civilians.

    If this is true, and assuming (as Catholics) we can’t justify it on consequentialist grounds — which we can’t, because this we know this is a false way of looking at morality — then it seems to me that Churchill was guilty of murder.

    Therefore I don’t believe we can call him one of the greatest figures of the 20th Century. It’s hard to see how a murderer can be great in the eyes of God — even had he defeated Hitler single-handedly.

    (Again, I’m not a historian, so if my facts are incorrect, my point is invalid. But I don’t believe the facts are disputed.)

  6. Imrahil says:

    One of the greatest? Sure.

    The greatest? No.

    I don’t know whether here, to put it briefly, “literature counts”, or I’d have mentioned Chesterton or even Tolkien. But even in the Second World War, if rankings must be drawn up, Churchill obviously has to stand back to De Gaulle.

    Churchill organized the resistance of a country under siege, De Gaulle of one under occupation. Churchill came as a political outsider when the fashionable politicians were deposed as proven wrong; De Gaulle came as a political outsider (he was a French rightist, monarchist, and former close collaborator of Pétain, military-tactical differences notwithstanding) who, just when the outsiders became mainstream and were apparently proven right, chose rather to remain an outsider than to violate his conscience by collaboration with the evil forces of Nazism. Churchill fought for English tradition, which was clearly defined; De Gaulle managed to fight for all that was valuable in the two differring French traditions, putting the Cross of Lorraine (for the one tradition) into the blue-white-red tricolor (for the other tradition). Churchill led the British Empire (though the center of which was under aerial attack); De Gaulle, initially, led some two thirds of a division.

  7. One could also argue for John Paul II or Ronald Reagan.

  8. Spinmamma says:

    I have nothing deep to say. Just wanted to thank you for posting that beautiful rendition by Richard Kiley. I have heard many versions of this song, some of them truly awful, but he evokes the aspect of childlike goodness and earnestness that makes Don Quixote such a beloved character. As for the lyrics of the other song, I pray that prayer (in much more humble words of course), every day as I read my daily Lives of the Saints. May we all have the courage to stay the course. Thank you for helping us do that.

  9. Antonin says:

    I find commentary on being a manly man, men with chests, or whatever euphemism is used very off putting. [Wow. I don’t think you understood what that term means AT ALL.] I grew up 6 boys, Catholic school, ethnic, working class town, hard working, hard drinking, hard playing, and never did I hear commentary like this. And there was a downside…enjoying cultural refinements was sure to put you in the category of a sissy or closet fruitcake. But i think there is a place for these.

    At any rate, I think the best aphorism on the subject is “the only definition of an Alpha male – if you have to try to be one – you aren’t one” – Word!

  10. Pingback: Where Are the Churchmen With Chests? |

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    A sterling article by Fr. Rutler and post by Fr. Z. I agree, one could make the case for John Paul II and Ronald Reagan.

    Insightful CS Lewis quote: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

    Imrahil: You make a good point about DeGaulle, but for me I’ll stick with ranking Churchill ahead of DeGaulle.

    Antonin: Your fixation on “Alpha male” is a straw man. Fr. Rutler’s article is about “men with chests.” The Alpha male term itself has mostly a negative connotation relating to a “pack dynamic.” You appear to be enamored with that term, and you may want to rethink that, as it goes against the grain of this article and post. Also, if someone teased you in the sixth grade because you preferred Bach to some screeching hippie with a guitar then, quite frankly, get over it. If someone is teasing you now, find new friends. Either way, it is to your sincere benefit to reread Fr. Rutler’s article. Thank you for admitting “…never did I hear commentary like this.” May I suggest you’ve never heard Fr. Rutler’s perspective before because androgny, role-reversal, feminism, and homosexualism is ambient, even dominant, in popular culture. Too often today, fathers and mothers fill their son’s and daughter’s heads with that toxic nonsense. Also, if you’re a Tolkien fan, the Inklings would have laughed at the term “Alpha male.” Let me close with an amiable tip: try not to end your comments with “Word!”

    Amateur Scholastic: You raise a good point, but let’s take a closer look at World War II.

    The British and U.S. strategic bombing campaign targeted weapons factories, bridges, railyards, and oil refineries. It also targeted the workers who ran those installations and who, after the Allied bombers returned to base, repaired and restored those facilities to full operational use.

    However, in 1944, after three years or so of the Allied strategic bombing campaign, the Nazis were actually producing even more weapons, and of higher quality, than when the campaign first started. So, the strategic bombing campaign slowed the growth rate of Nazi weapon production, but it could not stop it or even reduce its quality or quantity. In other words, the strategic bombing campaign only reduced the rate of growth in quantity and quality, and Nazi Germany continued to strengthen in military capability.

    And here is our problem. If I recall, the Nazis first experimented with a radio-contolled bomb in 1943 against an American warship off the coast of Italy. In 1943 the Nazis began introducing the Panzer V tank to the battlefield, soon followed by the Panzer VI. The Allied Sherman tank was no match, it often took three or more Shermans to knock out one of those monsters. In 1944 the V-1 and V-2 rockets began hitting London. In 1945 the first jet fighter, the Me-262 I think, began to attack Allied bombers over Germany. The Allies were also unsure of the status of Hitler’s nuclear weapons program.

    Time, always critical in warfare, was of the essence. The Allies had to break the Nazi will to resist and recapture territory before the Nazi regime could bring these new weapons into production in quantity. Recall, the strategic bombing campaign did not reduce Nazi production in quantity or quality, it only slowed the rate of growth.

    A strategic bombing campaign over Nazi Germany day and night was critical to slowing Nazi advanced weapons developments, and demonstrating psychologically via high explosives that the Thousand Year Reich would not last a thousand years. That psychological effect assisted in shortening the war and reducing casualties by encouraging Nazi soldiers to surrender, certain Nazi officials to spy for the Allies, and certain neutral countries to halt their covert assistance to Nazi Germany.

    An unpleasant business to be sure. If there were more “men of chest” in the 1930s perhaps it all could have been avoided by taking resolute action when Hitler began illegally rearming Germany and reoccupied the Rhineland.

    Churchill had his flaws, but mass murderer was not one of them. He was a voice in the wilderness in the early 1930s as Hitler rose to power.

    Here’s another article by Fr. Rutler, this about Pius XII, Hitler, Just War, etc. :

    https://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/a-question-of-tyrannicide

    In the movie “Patton” George C. Scott, in a scene set in December 1944 at the beginning of the powerful Nazi counteroffensive known as the Battle of the Bulge, delivered the line: “We could still lose this war.” That wasn’t the colorful Patton being melodramatic, that was the professional Patton making an astute observation.

  12. Amateur Scholastic says:

    Semper Gumby:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I feel bad to write something so short in return. Nonetheless, I don’t believe your reply undermines my claim. The RAF didn’t just kill workers directly helping the German war effort (which is legitimate in war), but also people in the street and in their homes. Churchill ordered this tactic, or at the very least made no attempt to stop it. From your comment, I’m not certain whether you dispute this historical claim. I believe it’s uncontroversial.

    Deliberately killing these people was murder, regardless if it was done ‘for good intentions’. Remember, we can’t do evil that good may result: this would be consequentialism, contrary to both natural reason and the magisterium. Therefore, it would not be morally acceptable to deliberately kill one innocent (or command someone to do so), even if, in doing so, the entire war had been bought to an end instantly.

    Obviously the other side did far worse things, but this doesn’t undermine my point unless we affirm consequentialism.

    [On the other hand, imagine the war effort of WWII without Churchill. Imagine. Stop. Think about it. WWII without Churchill.]

  13. Semper Gumby says:

    Amateur Scholastic: You’ve taken an interest in these serious matters, which is commendable.

    However, I will have to be blunt.

    You appear determined to avoid comprehending Fr. Rutler’s article, Fr. Z’s post and comments to you in red, my comment and its link to an additional Fr. Rutler article.

    Slow down. Take a closer look at Consequentialism, Double Effect, Just War Theory, and Vincible Ignorance. Reread my comment and take a closer look at the strategic bombing campaign, time pressure, and advanced technology in modern warfare. Try to understand that at times, at headquarters and on the battlefield, very difficult and grievous decisions must be made to the best of one’s ability under highly stressful circumstances.

    You are confused about the targeting of innocents. Rather, the infrastructure of urban life, the utilities and houses that supported those workers, was one of the targets. Quite frankly, “killing innocents” is a waste of time and resources, and any normal man would rebel at such an order. This particular campaign goal was to turn urban advanced-technology workers into rural refugees- unable to run those factory production lines, process strategic minerals, etc. I repeat myself again, the Allies were under serious time pressure as the Nazis continued to grow in military capability and, pay attention here, produce weapons more advanced than any in the Allied arsenal. As I already stated, the status of the Nazi nuclear weapons program was unclear.

    You must also acquire a better understanding of the differences between combat operations, immoral acts, and murder.

    This is a vast and complex topic. No doubt you want to avoid appearing as a hasty, uninformed, and self-righteous observer. So, slow down, read more, ask questions, think. Good luck.

  14. Amateur Scholastic says:

    Semper Gumby:

    If I’m right, we’re dealing with a very great evil here, and it would be best to expose it. If I’m wrong, I’m slandering a great historical figure, and the sooner I’m corrected the better. Either way, I keep taking up space in Fr Z’s combox, and I’m grateful for his forbearance.

    To business:

    “You appear determined to avoid comprehending Fr. Rutler’s article, Fr. Z’s post and comments to you in red, my comment and its link to an additional Fr. Rutler article.”

    The additional Fr Rutler article was about assasinating Hitler. Fr Z’s red comments rightly drew attention to Churchill’s overall role in winning the war. The other things you mention discuss the ‘Men With Chests’ question.

    I fail to see the relevance, since our debate is about deliberately killing civilians with bombs, and whether this is murder. [No, this isn’t our “main debate”. I choose the main debate when I post. Review the topic of the entry. You are the one who took us down the rabbit hole of bombing, etc.]

    You raise the principle of double effect, but this applies only to actions that are not in themselves immoral. Now, you will agree that I’m arguing the RAF’s area bombing _was_ intrinsically immoral, and you’re arguing it wasn’t. We can therefore only appeal to PDE if we’ve already established that you’re right. In other words, to even raise it in our current argument is question-begging.

    “You are confused about the targeting of innocents. Rather, the infrastructure of urban life, the utilities and houses that supported those workers, was one of the targets… This particular campaign goal was to turn urban advanced-technology workers into rural refugees- unable to run those factory production lines, process strategic minerals, etc. ”

    Is this a denial that killing civilians was a goal of the British bombing?

    “I repeat myself again, the Allies were under serious time pressure as the Nazis continued to grow in military capability and, pay attention here, produce weapons more advanced than any in the Allied arsenal. As I already stated, the status of the Nazi nuclear weapons program was unclear.”

    I don’t understand how this is relevant. Is it an assertion that killing civilians with bombs was justifiable because the Germans were on the verge of developing nukes?

    “You must also acquire a better understanding of the differences between combat operations, immoral acts, and murder.”

    Deliberately killing people who aren’t soldiers and who pose no threat to you — whether with bombs, guns or knives — is a particular species of immoral act known as murder. It may be considered a ‘combat operation’ as well, I’ve no idea. I suppose one could call it that if one wanted to hide from oneself what one was doing.

    Let’s avoid the bane of Internet debates: talking past each other. If I break my argument into three parts, can you tell me which part(s) you disagree with?

    1. Do you agree that it was a deliberate goal of the RAF area bombing to kill German civilians? (I’m not saying this was the _only_ aim of the area bombing; only that it was _an_ aim?)
    2. Regardless of what you think of 1, do you agree that if it was a deliberate aim (even one aim among many) of the RAF to kill civilians, then this would be murder on the part of the people planning and directing these operations?
    3. Regardless of 1 and 2, do you agree that if commanding the bombing was an act of murder, then no extrinsic intention, however good, could stop if from being murder? Not even stopping Germany’s nuclear programme?

    Hopefully we can pinpoint where we agree and where we disagree, and focus the discussion on the latter.

    [Rather, hopefully, we can bring this rabbit hole to a close very soon. Time for a closing response.]

  15. Amateur Scholastic says:

    Thanks, Fr Z. My apologies for opening a rabbit hole. Nothing more from me on this.

    [Your posts were off topic, but they were not offensive. Perhaps your interlocutor will want to respond. In any event, let’s, please, wrap it up soon.]

  16. Semper Gumby says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for the opportunity to respond. I’ll be brief.

    Amateur Scholastic: You wrote on 27 Jan: “It may be considered a ‘combat operation’ as well, I’ve no idea.” This is not to embarrass you, but that sentence you wrote should highlight for you the necessity of slowing down, reading more, and thinking as I suggested on 26 January and Fr. Z in red before that.

    You also wrote on 27 Jan that you failed to see the relevance of my link to Fr. Rutler’s article on tyrannicide. I provided that link due to your comment of 23 January: “It’s hard to see how a murderer can be great in the eyes of God- even had he [Churchill] defeated Hitler single-handedly.” Fr. Rutler’s article can shed some light, there is alot going on in that article. Nothing wrong with reading an article two or three times, I’ve done that myself.

    In closing, this is a vast and complex topic. Take your time.