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Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1918–2008

Russian traditionalist, Nobel laureate, feted in the West for criticism of Soviet Communism, then spurned for rejecting liberal materialism

Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, the most famous Russian writer and historian of our age, has died at eighty-nine years of age. Solzhenitsyn was the earliest to bring first-hand knowledge of the Gulag, the Soviet system of prison colonies and labour camps, to wider Western attention. For this noble task, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 and expelled from the Soviet Union four years later, returning in 1994. After the fall of the Soviet regime, he despised Boris Yeltsin’s incompetence, identifying 1998 as the low point of Russia’s recent history. “Yeltsin decreed I be honored the highest state order,” Solzhenitsyn explained. “I replied that I was unable to receive an award from a government that had led Russia into such dire straits.”

He gave cautious support to the presidency of Vladimir Putin, and was pleased that while, in his words, “Moscow is still communist”, there was a growing readiness under Putin to admit (and even broadcast on state television) the crimes and outrages of the Soviet regime.

“Putin inherited a ransacked and bewildered country, with a poor and demoralized people. And he started to do what was possible — a slow and gradual restoration. These efforts were not noticed, nor appreciated, immediately. In any case, one is hard pressed to find examples in history when steps by one country to restore its strength were met favorably by other governments.”

Influenced by his experience in exile in both Switzerland and New England, Solzhenitsyn insisted on the need for local self-government in Russia. “Today I continue to be extremely worried by the slow and inefficient development of local self-government. But it has finally started to take place. In Yeltsin’s time, local self-government was actually barred on the regulatory level, whereas the state’s ‘vertical of power’ (i.e. Putin’s centralized and top-down administration) is delegating more and more decisions to the local population. Unfortunately, this process is still not systematic in character.”

Solzhenitsyn expressed further disappointment with the new Western imperialism being waged against Russia, embodied in the 1999 War against Serbia which turned so many Russian minds against the Western powers they had previously been quite friendly to.

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, Solzhenitsyn was asked whether he was afraid of death:

“No, I am not afraid of death any more. When I was young the early death of my father cast a shadow over me — he died at the age of 27 — and I was afraid to die before all my literary plans came true. But between 30 and 40 years of age my attitude to death became quite calm and balanced. I feel it is a natural, but no means the final, milestone of one’s existence.”

When the interviewer from Der Spiegel wished him many more years of “creative life”, Solzhenitsyn calmly responded “No, no. Don’t. It’s enough.”

Born in the Caucasian spa town of Kislovodsk in 1918 just a year-and-a-month after the Bolshevik revolution, Solzhenitsyn’s father was a wealthy self-made man who died in a hunting accident shortly before his birth. He was raised in humble circumstances in a Russia mired by civil war that did not end until the last tsarist general, his back to the Pacific Ocean, surrendered in 1923. All land was confiscated by the Soviet government and the Solzhenitsyns’ holdings were turned into a collective farm.

His well-educated mother had encouraged Alexander’s academic disposition and raised him in the Russian Orthodox Church. Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics at Rostov State University while simultaneously taking correspondence courses from the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature, and History. He had not questioned the Soviet apparatus until his service in the Red Army during the Second World War, for which he was twice decorated. In February 1945, he wrote a letter home from Soviet-occupied East Prussia in which he included a passing comment that questioned Stalin’s handling of the war. The letter, like all letters sent home by soldiers, was opened and read by the security apparatus. Solzhenitsyn was arrested, beaten, interrogated, and four months later given the standard sentence of eight years in a labour camp followed by permanent internal exile.

It was during his imprisonment and internal exile, when he spent every night writing in secret, that Solzhenitsyn rejected Marxism and developed the religious philosophy for which he became known. In 1962, with the approval of Nikita Khrushchev, his book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published. It was the first book ever printed in the Soviet Union to deal openly with the system of forced labour in prison camps and caused a sensation both in the USSR and the West. In 1964, Khrushchev was ousted by the Soviet politburo, and Solzhenitsyn’s moment in the sun came to a swift conclusion as he was denied permission to publish and had some of his papers seized by the KGB.

Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970, but refused to receive the award for fear that he would not be allowed to return to the Soviet Union and so be separated from his family. In 1974, the government of the USSR deported him to West Germany and stripped him of his Soviet citizenship. Feted in the West, he spent some time in Switzerland before accepting an invitation to reside at Stanford University in California. In 1976 he moved to the woodland town of Cavendish in the state of Vermont, which remained his home for the next eighteen years of his life. Two years later, Harvard University awarded him an honorary degree, and the incident took place which ended the West’s love affair with the exiled Soviet dissident.

Giving the 1978 Commencement Address at Harvard University, Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered a sharp and stunning rebuke to the modern West, repudiating its liberalism, materialism, and supremacism.

“There is this belief,” Solzhenitsyn said, “that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity or incomprehension from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction. However, it is a conception which developed out of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet’s development is quite different.”

He went on to describe the mentality which led the Western elites to adopt multiculturalism and pluralism, while they simultaneously lacked the courage to defend their Western culture or to challenge Communist governments which did not have the support of the peoples they governed. Solzhenitsyn described this lack of courage as “the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days”.

“The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists. Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?

Solzhenitsyn went on to condemn the materialism of Western culture, fostered by the welfare state. He argued that the extreme safety and prosperity of the Western world caused Western people to be unwilling and reluctant to defend the most essential and important values that their culture and tradition were based upon, for fear of relinquishing the “physical splendour” they enjoy “to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about”.

“Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.

The wide freedom allowed by the rule of law in the West is admirable, Solzhenitsyn argued, but in these circumstances it led to a system in which morality and legality were confused, whereby what is legal is automatically also considered acceptable:

“One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames. An oil company is legally blameless when it purchases an invention of a new type of energy in order to prevent its use. A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to buy it. I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either.

The hyperindividualism of the West, Solzhenitsyn argued, hampered the necessary civil good from being enacted:

“A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly; there are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him, parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that every single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself; from the very beginning, dozens of traps will be set out for him. Thus mediocrity triumphs with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.”

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.”

“And what shall we say about the dark realm of criminality as such? Legal frames (especially in the United States) are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorists’ civil rights. There are many such cases.”

“Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature; the world belongs to mankind and all the defects of life are caused by wrong social systems which must be corrected. Strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still is criminality and there even is considerably more of it than in the pauper and lawless Soviet society.”

“The press too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word press to include all media). But what sort of use does it make of this freedom? Here again, the main concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no moral responsibility for deformation or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist have to his readers, or to history? If they have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No, it does not happen, because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. One may safely assume that he will start writing the opposite with renewed self-assurance.”

Again referring to the legalism of Western society, Solzhenitsyn criticized the attitude which purported to refuse morality a place in political decisionmaking:

“Very well known representatives of your society say: we cannot apply moral criteria to politics. Thus we mix good and evil, right and wrong and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On the contrary, only moral criteria can help the West against communism’s well planned world strategy. There are no other criteria.

“… no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being.”

But what, Solzhenitsyn asks, is the cause of these unfortunate circumstances in which the West finds itself? “How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about?”

“How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.”

“This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.”

“This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones.”

“However, in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.”

“As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.”

We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the [Communist] East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.”

“It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. … Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?”

“If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.”

“This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.”

Harvard was not amused. It had identified a genius, it had awarded him laurels, it had graced him with earthly dignities, but he had seen through all its pretensions and glanced the rotten core of its very soul. Harvard is one of the highest temples to Man in our realm. It was founded as a Protestant seminary, and Man’s usurpation of God’s role is inherent (if only implicitly) in Protestantism. In Catholic Christianity, not even the Pope can change the Truth; in Protestant Christianity, every single individual person is the arbiter of every single aspect of doctrine, belief, and morality. Catholicism is authority, Protestantism is the absence of authority, and the liberal Enlightenment thinking which easily superseded Protestantism at Harvard is the negation of authority.

Communism has ceased to play a part on the world stage, but if Solzhenitsyn is remembered centuries from now I do not think it will be for his criticism of Communism but for his repudiation of the West’s rejection of Christianity and it’s embrace of the Enlightenment. His experience of the prison camps of the East, in which humanity was despised, allowed Solzhenitsyn to see through the vain pomp and glory of the West, in which humanity is worshipped. Solzhenitsyn understood, to the incomprehension of the self-satisfied elites of our time and place, that it was neither communism nor capitalism, neither money nor equality, neither economics nor politics that should be worshipped, but only God.

May God in His mercy grant eternal rest to the soul of
Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
1918–2008

This post was published on Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 10:40 pm. It has been categorised under Church History Politics Russia and been tagged under , , , .
Comments
  1. Liz Smith
    7 August 2008
    10:12 pm

    Still not following you on the “stone is evil” idea, dear.

  2. Charlie Frobisher
    7 August 2008
    10:28 pm

    OK, admittedly not a Catholic so don;t really have a dog in this fight, but I was wondering PRJ: You attack the Cafflics for this ‘fresh sacrifice’ thing, they say ‘actually, we agree, the fresh sacrifice thing is wrong and a heresy’ and you just keep on going ‘no! you do believe in a fresh sacrifice!’

    well I had a looksy-dooksy at the old catholic encyclopedia cited by none other than Mr. PRJ and it says in the article on ‘sacrifice’ and in the article on ‘the mass’ that there is only ONE sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. so if, as you suggest, the Catholic Encyclopedia is a reliable source of info on what Catholics believe, then shouldnt you just admit that you and the Catholic agree?

    I mean, like cusack says, isn’t it a good thing everyone agreeing on something? Or you just tryin to be ornery for the shit of it? I mean whats the deal?

  3. PRJ
    8 August 2008
    9:15 am

    I see what you’re saying. However, Cusack and myself mean two different things by ‘one sacrifice’. I do not believe Holy Communion involves sacrifice. I believe that Christ died *once*, then rose bodily, and ascended bodily into heaven. The Roman faith has it that, as the Catholic Encyclopedia says, “the Church intends the Mass to be regarded as a “true and proper sacrifice””.

    Indeed:

    “If any one saith that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema”.

    Now, they would say this simply involves bringing down the eternal single sacrifice of Christ by the authority of priests. And quite how this isn’t a new sacrifice in addition to the historic cross, I don’t know; they simply think it’s an ongoing one, I suppose. But Protestants would say that when Christ said “It is finished” and gave up the ghost upon the cross, he really meant it. And that God looking upon that sacrifice to pardon us, does not in any way require a recreation of it; for God is after all outside time, and knows full well what happened there. And Christ is after all fully man, and so ascended as God/man to heaven; so cannot descend regularly into bread and wine to be sacrificed except in a spiritual sense. For we believe in the Apostles’ Creed, that he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead; and not one moment sooner.

    So, then, the Mass denies in part or in whole the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Second Coming. Pretty good going! The kind of monstrosity you can only perpetuate if you have degraded the Holy Scriptures to be no longer the very substance of Truth which Christ acknowledged to be, and even fleshly incarnated, but something solely equal to the authority of men.

  4. Andrew Cusack
    8 August 2008
    9:58 am

    Wow, I never thought I’d see the day when Charlie Frobisher deigned to leave his cocoon and post a comment on my blog!

  5. Charlie Frobisher
    8 August 2008
    10:10 am

    Ta-da!

  6. 8 August 2008
    5:04 pm

    St Thomas Aquinas dealt with some of this when he said that Christ does not move from heaven as bodies move from place to place. Protestants believe as we do that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18.20) and this does not affect our belief that Christ will come again in glory.

    You have to choose between Luther’s belief that the bread and wine are present as well as the body and blood of Christ, Zwingli’s view that the Eucharist was a simple memorial, and Calvin’s view that we receive the body and blood of Christ by faith.

    They all based themselves on the plain meaning of scripture, of course. The problem is that St Paul tells us what is the pillar and ground of truth – not “the scriptures” but the Church (1 Tim 3.15) which existed before the scriptures, and from which the scriptures came, inspired by the Holy Spirit. If you appeal to the scriptures without a living teaching authority which can define, with the certainty of Christ, what the scriptures mean, then you will have to find some other way of picking out which particular interpretation of scripture is the true one. John 6 is a good case study.

    And in fact, the scriptures testify to this living teaching authority, founded by Christ: “he who hears you hears me” (Lk 10.16) “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt.16.19). Christ himself said “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matt 28.20) and this is true both in terms of the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist and his living teaching authority in the Church.

  7. PRJ
    8 August 2008
    7:15 pm

    Why then does the Roman church so fail to resemble the faith embodied in scripture? It seems a bit thick to say scripture needs a guarantor, and then have that guarantor wander off and ignore it, indulging in all sorts of obvious wrongs which it can only justify by degrading what it guarantees or by equally useless elaborate, pip-squeaking explanations that ignore whole tranches of scripture and history.

    Sticking with 1 Tim, indeed…

    Where are we ever told to supernaturally engage with Mary or any other saints, as Romans do? We aren’t. We are taught the Our Father. Never the Hail Mary. Never saints as God’s bureaucrats. And further warned by the same St Paul you say refers to the Roman church of Popes and Cardinals (by sending a letter long before either existed): “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).

    You can splice and elide all you like, but the plain entirety of scripture is totally inimical to all of the Roman heresies which Protestants protest against.

    If the Roman church is the same church which wrote the scriptures (even though of course it didn’t exist at the time; only discreet, local churches did, much like in Protestantism), why then does it contradict its own text so much? Surely whilst it might claim authorship, a brief survey of the facts will show us that such a claim must be laughed out of court.

  8. PRJ
    9 August 2008
    12:34 am

    Now, I suppose everyone is as tired of this as I am, given the lack of replies as the thread continues. So I am quite happy to leave you with the final word, whoever wants it, and go back to normal, silent readership of this fine publication.

  9. Neil Glanfield
    9 August 2008
    5:05 am

    “Communism has ceased to play a role on the world stage”? And here’s me thinking the Olympics were in Beijing.

  10. Paul Knight
    9 August 2008
    7:05 am

    ‘Why then does the Roman church so fail to resemble the faith embodied in scripture?’

    I’m afraid that’s merely your opinion, PRJ. To understand the Scriptures as they are meant to be understood one must strive think with the mind of the Church, and one can only do that by living the life of the Church, that is, by full participation in the liturgy/sacraments. It is the liturgy which conforms us to the mind of the Church, and it is the proper place of the Scriptures. It is by living this life that God reveals Himself to us and we in return encounter the living God.

    The Scriptures were never meant to be used as the sole authority for our faith: ‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.’ (2 Thessalonians 2:14) Neither are they something which can be interpreted by us alone: ‘Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation.’ (2 Peter 1:20)

  11. T. Hayward
    9 August 2008
    7:25 am

    And here’s me thinking the Olympics were in Beijing.

    Beijing’s capitalist these days.

  12. 9 August 2008
    11:53 am

    To me, as a “completed Catholic” (that is, a convert from Protestantism), PRJ’s criticisms of the Church seem pretty off base. Where you see people actually worshiping Mary or the saints (as my wife did when she spent a semester in Guatemala in college), there you see heresy and wrong practice — the same as when you see misguided Protestants convinced that acting correctly (not smoking, dancing, drinking, etc.) will somehow save them. (Before anyone objects, let me say that I spent four years at a pretty prestigious Protestant Christian college where I had to commit to not smoke, drink alcohol, or dance. I can honestly say that I met more people there who really — if often unconsciously — believed in “works righteousness” than I ever have as a Catholic.)

    Concerning Saints, Catholic teaching identifies official saints as exemplars meant to inspire others. That’s all. As for “praying to” saints, or the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary), well, it’s no different than talking to your friend and asking him to pray for you. Or don’t you believe in “the communion of saints”? If the communion of saints is true, then asking believers who’ve died to pray for you is no different than asking your friend who’s still alive to pray for you. After all, God is not the God of the dead but of the living — all believers are alive in Christ and are part of the same communion. Denying that is denying the Nicene Creed.

    As for John 6 being symbolic, well, that interpretation just doesn’t comport with Jesus’ style, does it? Several times in the Gospels, Christ says or does something that the disciples misunderstand, and when that happens Christ points out their misunderstanding and explicitly tells them the correct interpretation. For example, in John 4 Jesus tells his disciples that he has food to eat that of which they know nothing. When the disciples conclude that he must have already bought bread, he corrects them and tells them that his food is to do the will of the Father. In another place, when Christ says to beware of the yeast of the pharisees his disciples are sure that he’s talking about their lack of bread. He corrects their error and lets them know that “yeast” meant “teachings and influence”.

    Now, in John 6 you have a case where Jesus makes an inflammatory statement with explicit cannibalistic rhetoric. (He tells people they must gnaw on his body, chew and swallow his flesh, and drink his blood.) His disciples take his words at face value — and begin to leave. If ever there was a time to correct misunderstandings, this was it. But Jesus doesn’t. He seems fine with them taking him at face value. He never (at least in the Gospels) corrects the cannibalistic interpretation his disciples took from his words. Given his quickness to spot and correct errors and misinterpretations (at least among his close disciples), Jesus’ refusal to correct his disciples’ belief that they must literally eat his flesh and drink his blood speaks volumes. The fact that the early church (“early” meaning “late first century”, if the records of Polycarp’s teachings are at all accurate) believed that the Eucharist was literally Christ’s body and blood only adds to the abundant evidence that the Catholic Church’s teaching is correct and scriptural.

  13. Maureen Flannery
    12 January 2012
    2:53 am

    Andrew
    I loved this tribute. Solzhenitsyn is the one greatest figures of the 20th century and I’ve always considered that he would be a supporter of the Catholic economic system of distributism. I have read his address to Harvard as well as his novels. His criticism of the capitalism influenced by the Darwinism of the Austrian school was so prescient. I wish all my “conservative” friends would read his Harvard address as a warning to the West.
    Thanks for the tribute. Maureen

  14. JLaan
    17 February 2012
    9:15 am

    Even it is now 2012, the comments on this article have advanced my trod towards the Roman Catholic Church as The Church closer. Still stuck on papal infallibility, though. I hear the explanations but not yet totally convinced.

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