Left to right: J.R.R. Tolkien, Thomas a Kempis, G.K. Chesterton, and St. Augustine of Hippo
Several months ago
I was invited to contribute to a festschrift in honor of a dear friend
of mine, a well-known Christian philosopher who is a professor at a well-known
Evangelical university. I was, of course, eager to contribute to this volume,
to honor a man who I have known, as both friend and collaborator, for over a
quarter of a century. The editors, I am pleased to announce, were able to secure
a publisher, which is difficult to do, given the book’s genre. In fact, I was
present, on the evening of November 14 at a reception sponsored by the
Evangelical Philosophical Society, when a representative of Moody
Publishers revealed that his press had offered the editors a contract for this
tome. I was delighted to hear the news.
Several days later,
however, the editors informed me that the publisher had forced them to
disinvite me. Why? Because the members of Moody’s board, as the editors put it,
“are not ready as an institution to allow Catholic contributors for their
books,” even though in my prospective chapter“The Reclamation of First
had planned to do nothing distinctly Catholic. I had intended to defend the
honoree’s understanding of philosophy and its relation to other disciplines.
(To get a sense of what I mean by “first philosophy,” see my essay, “In Defense of First Philosophy,” published last June at The Catholic Thing.)
Although I was
disappointed by the dis-invitation, I was not offended. Nor did I think that I had
lost something to which I was entitled. For reacting in such ways would have
been inconsistent with what I believe about theological integrity and the
obligation that I have to respect the confessions of my fellow Christians, even
when I think they are mistaken.
of curiosity, I went to Moody’s website to find out what sorts of books it is
publishing. I was surprised at what I found.
On its front page
was an advertisement for a book authored by my friend, the immensely talented Louis Markos: On The Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with
Tolkien and Lewis. Tolkien, as virtually everyone knows, was Catholic. In
once said, “All my own perception of beauty both in majesty and
simplicity is founded upon Our Lady.” That would,
apparently, include those perceptions that Tolkien intended to communicate in
his works of fiction, such as those addressed in the book published by Moody.
Consequently, it is entirely appropriate that Peter Kreeft, a Boston College
philosophy professor and an
adult convert to Catholicism, is the
author of the book’s foreword.
I then discovered
that Moody publishes G.
K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. In its brief bio
on him, the press correctly points
out that Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man “led young atheist C.S.
Lewis to become a Christian,” though there is no mention that Chesterton was an adult convert to
Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism, and
that The Everlasting Man was
published after Chesterton’s
I also learned that
Moody publishes St.
Augustine’s Confessions. Although I know
that my Protestant brethren claim St. Augustine’s legacy as well, I am confident
that if he were alive today, and did not sport the surname Chesterton or
Tolkien (or perhaps Kreeft), the bishop of Hippo would not be offered a
contract by Moody to publish The
Confessions. For he believed all those peculiar Catholic things: the deuterocanonical
books as part of the Old Testament canon,
the deposit of sacred tradition, apostolic
gracious efficacy of the sacraments, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,
infusion of God’s grace for justiﬁcation,
for the dead.
peculiar Catholic things, Moody also publishes The
Imitation of Christ, authored by the late-medieval Catholic monk and
priest, Thomas À Kempis.
Book IV of this work concerns Holy Communion, and is unmistakably Catholic, as
these excerpts clearly reveal: “A priest clad in the sacred vestments
acts in Christ’s place”; “For priests alone, rightly ordained in the Church,
have power to celebrate Mass and consecrate the Body of Christ”; “Oh, how great
and honorable is the office of the priest, to whom is given the consecration of
the Lord of majesty in sacred words, whose lips bless Him, whose hands hold
Him, whose tongue receives Him, and whose ministry it is to bring Him to
À Kempis is also the author of the lesser-known The
Imitation of Mary, in which he offers (in Book IV) instruction for “calling
on Mary in prayer and song.” In Book II he calls our Blessed Mother “Mary,
Mediatrix of All Grace,” and explains in Book III “The Power of the Hail Mary”
and “Effects of Devotion to Mary.”
So, I am truly
perplexed about Moody’s stance on publishing Catholic authors. Perhaps, as one
of my Catholic friends has suggested, Moody’s policy of exclusion applies only to
those Catholics who, in the words of
Chesterton, “merely happen to be walking about.”
That, of course, does not explain Kreeft’s foreword, unless the policy includes
an exception for books about safely
dead Catholics. My chapter, unfortunately, was intended for a book honoring a very live Protestant.
Perhaps Moody is as much the
company’s name as it is a description of its board’s temperament. Your guess is
as good as mine. But I do know that if I had to do it over again, I would propose
my chapter under a pseudonym, claiming that it is really a foreword that had
been penned by the late North African English novelist and monk, J.R.R. Thomas Chesterton
of Hippo. I think that would have done the trick.