Thursday, September 14, 2006

Personal Asides: Former Governor Jim Edgar Will Guest Lecture at My Roosevelt University Class…Bob Novak Pops in on Chicago and Talks About His Conversion to Catholicism…Speaking of Conversion--.



Jim Edgar, the 38th governor of Illinois, will guest lecture at my Roosevelt University class after all. After a scheduling delay, I was called by his stunningly effective personal aide Sue to say that the former governor will indeed make a presentation and respond to questions the night of September 28 beginning at 6 p.m. (The man he named as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, Dan Miller, will talk about business regulation, the media and business beginning at 7 p.m. on the same night. Miller is exceedingly qualified to talk of all three as business editor of the “Sun-Times.”


Bob Novak, at age 75 the acknowledged dean of political columnists in the nation, popped into town yesterday for a luncheon address to the newly-formed Leadership Forum at the Union League Club…and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Bob, whom I’ve known since I was a Nixon administration underling in 1969, talked about his remarkable conversion to the Roman Catholic church at age 68. In powerfully simple terms, he said that he had made a speech at the University of Syracuse when a young woman student came up to him and happened to bring up the subject of eternity…asking if he had made preparations for the after-life. When he said no, she underscored the importance of thinking seriously about it. Shortly after that he visited with Fr. C. J. McCloskey of the Washington Information Center, a priest of Opus Dei. Fr. McCloskey, an outstanding thinker and homilist, followed through with the conversion and led Novak and his wife into the Church. It is a remarkably simple but effective story.

When Dan Cheely who was at our table asked why Novak picked the Catholic Church when Evangelical churches ask the same question of one’s final destination, Novak responded with an answer that is very un-journalistic, not fact-filled and not speculative. He lays it to the power of the Holy Spirit. He said he had read a history of the Catholic Church—“Triumph” by H. H. Crocker…and commented that the Church had lasted for 2,000 years, sometimes under terrible leadership of awful men: corrupt Popes, Popes who were indentured to emperors, venal and despicable people down through the centuries—sprinkled with a few saints—and concluded that if an organization can survive under leadership like that against all the odds, that Church truly must be divine.

Speaking of Conversion.

You’re familiar with the freeing last week of the Fox news correspondent and his cameraman. They were forced to say they were converted to the Muslim faith…which they readily acknowledged in order to save their necks (literally).

But the question has been raised by Mark Steyn that despite whether we would have the strength to measure up to an order to “convert,” the Fox crew’s acquiescence was used to prove the weakness and lack of certitude of Westerners by the Muslims. I for one would hope that I would have to guts and fortitude to say, “go ahead and kill me but I’m not converting”—don’t you? My view is that it is not a black and white thing that one should automatically take the view that anything should be done to save one’s life including denying one’s faith. Would you at least agree with me when I say that I would pray to have the spiritual strength to embrace martyrdom in that case? Your views solicited.


  1. I also would like to think that I would choose to die than to renounce my faith. If it happened, though, I sure the video of my refusal would not be aired.

    I don't know what the Fox crew believes in so I can't really fault them for promising to convert. I don't know how I would actually handle it either if I were in the spot. As you wrote, I would hope I could do the right thing.

    I strongly object to the Islamic terrorists' use of the word martyr. While I don't know what the word means in their language, in English, martyr means one who dies at the hands of others for a refusal to change his beliefs. A suicide bomber is not a martyr. He is instead a kamakazee.

    I thought Steyn's column was brilliant.

  2. The Islam proclaimed in the Koran demands respect (if second class citizenship) for all "People of the Book" -- any monotheist. Catholics certainly are included; as you know, the Koran contains more references to the Virgin Mary than the New Testament. Bloodthirsty heathens such as the bunch that took the Fox News crew captive are no more Muslims than you are.

    I know, I know: Back in the day, in Sister Mary Holy Water's class, we read the Lives of the Saints and dreamed of our own spectacular martyrdoms. Your post today called those old memories to mind.

    But I thought of St. Thomas More, struggling with the loyalty oath, trying to find a way to take it and remain true to his faith. He was martyred, certainly, but not without seeking every way around it. If the "Islam" proclaimed by murdering thugs is not the religion of Islam, does "converting" to it -- to save your own neck -- deny your own faith? And even Sister Mary Holy Water would agree that too eagerly seeking to die for your faith amounts to a form of suicide -- a sin in both Christianity... and Islam.

  3. If Bob Novak is a staunch Catholic, then he might care to explain why he published the story about Valerie Pflame. What was his purpose in doing so?

  4. David: I suppose Bob published the story because it's news analysis. It shows how Joe Wilson got onto the scene. Good reporting.

  5. Tom, When I heard that the reporters had converted, I thought the same thing. "I would hope I had the strength to claim my faith in the same situation..."

    It shocked me that no one picked up on that angle in the original reporting of the story.

    My grammar school was named for St. Felicitas, and she watched her seven children killed before being killed herself. She stayed faithful. In a similar situation only a saint could.

    What a profound experience to have been placed in position to choose between the religion you believe, and the only life you have ever known.

    Comfortable at the computer, anyone would hope never to face that fate.

  6. Novak is a commentator, not a reporter. The "Prince of Darkness" who has used his column repeatedly to punish those he disagrees with or dislikes and to help his buddies had to know what would happen when he wrote about Valerie Pflame. He wasn't reporting the news. He was striking back at Joe Wilson through his wife.