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Made-up Martyrs

Candida Moss, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 320 pp., $25.99


Reviewed by E. Michael Jones

The thesis of this book is breathtakingly simple. Martyrdom stories, writes Candida Moss, professor of the New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, were “crafted out of thin air.”[1] When it comes to the accounts of those who died rather than renounce their Christian faith, “We are no longer dealing with stories that are authentic. We are teetering precariously on the cusp of crude plagiarism and fanciful invention.”[2] Chroniclers of the sufferings of early Christians like Eusebius did not give accurate historical accounts in their books; instead “they set down in writing campfire stories or gossipy oral traditions, the origins of which are completely unknown.”[3] Moss repeats the same thesis over and over again throughout the book:

The traditional history of Christian martyrdom is mistaken. Christians were not constantly persecuted, hounded, or targeted by the Romans. Very few Christians died, and when they did, they were often executed for what we in the modern world would call political reasons. There is a difference between persecution and prosecution. A persecutor targets representatives of a specific group for undeserved punishment merely because of their participation in that group. An individual is prosecuted because that person has broken the law.[4]

Moss, like most monomaniacs, is full of zeal for her idee fixe, which not only explains the ancient world but provides as well a much needed plan of reform for the contemporary world—especially contemporary American academe and most especially the polarized situation now regnant in the Catholic Church in America. As she puts it: “The purpose of this book is to show that the foundations for this idea are imaginary. The traditional history of martyrdom is a myth . . . a myth that makes dialogue impossible.”[5] Dialogue, as we have come to expect in instance like this, means compromising the Church’s teaching on contraception, abortion and homosexuality, but more on that later.

Because Moss’s bold thesis is dramatically at odds with the historical record, she of necessity must employ a methodology which involves bold assertion followed by qualifications which eventually rob her statements of any real meaning, as when she writes:

Between the death of Jesus around 30 CE and the ascension of Constantine in 313, Christians died as the result of active measures by the imperial government only 1) immediately following the Great Fire of Rome in 64, 2) around 250, during the reign of Decius, 3) briefly during the reign of Valerian in 257-58, and 4) during the “Great Persecution” under the emperor Diocletian, which lasted from 303 to 305 and was renewed by Maximinus Daia between 311 and 313.  These dates represent the largest time span for active persecution in the period before Constantine.[6]

From this passage, we learn that Christians did indeed die as a result of Roman persecution, an admission which requires floating a new thesis—one not quite so bold as the first—namely, that Christians were persecuted under Roman emperors, but there was no “sustained and continual persecution. The shrill complaints of early Christians who say that the Romans were out to get them were overblown.”[7]

One reviewer found this revised thesis perplexing. No one ever claimed that the Christians living in the Roman Empire were subjected to 300 years of continuous systematic persecution, a point made by Daniel Larison in American Conservative:

I’m not sure why Moss sees a need to argue against “systematic persecution” or a “sustained three-hundred-year-long effort” of persecution, since no one studying Christianity in the Roman Empire that I know of argues that this is what happened. If there is one thing we do know about Roman persecutions of Christians, it is that they weren’t systematic and they weren’t sustained. I doubt that anyone seriously defends or teaches the idea that there was a constant, universal Roman policy of persecution that never let up, and anyone who does teach such a thing knows virtually nothing about the history of the church or the Roman Empire.[8]

At another point in her narrative, Professor Moss informs us that St. Cyprian was beheaded after refusing to deny Christ. After stating this fact, she goes on to claim that “persecution was much less severe than Christians imagined it to be.”[9] This reads like a line from Mark Twain, who famously said “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds,” and “Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated,” and could have brought out the absurdity of Moss’s claim by rendering it in the following way: “The beheading of St. Cyprian was much less severe than Christians imagined it to be.”

In order to make her case, Professor Moss has to ignore centuries of historical testimony, including evidence from Sacred Scripture which she as a Catholic theologian must accept de fide. The Gospels are nothing if not stories about the persecution of Jesus Christ, a persecution which according to Christ’s own testimony is going to be paradigmatic for the persecutions which all of his followers must endure throughout history once they make the decision to take up their cross and follow Him.

The canonical sequel to the Gospels is the Acts of the Apostles, which is nothing if not a long historical account of the persecutions which the followers of Jesus Christ had to endure by following his example. Prominent among these stories is the account of the death of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Given her thesis, how does Professor Moss, the Catholic theologian, deal with the account of St. Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles. Does she dismiss it as another made up “camp fire story”?

Well, she does her best. In order to shoehorn the story of St. Stephen into her thesis, Moss begins by casting doubt on the veracity of Sacred Scripture. “The problem” with the Acts of the Apostles, according to Professor Moss, “is that we can’t be certain that the details of the story are accurate.”[10] This move, of course, imperils her standing as a Catholic theologian, because the Church has always “unhesitatingly” affirmed the historicity of the New Testament texts as well as their apostolic origin.[11]

So after casting unsubstantiated aspersions on the historicity of Acts, Moss veers away from that precipice and takes another tack. As a Catholic theologian, Moss can’t really claim that the evangelists—including Luke, whom she claims wrote Acts—were making it all up as they went along. Instead, she accuses Stephen and the evangelists of anti-Semitism, as a way of discrediting their story:

The authors of the New Testament go out of their way to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus, and the Jews are described as the offspring of Satan himself (John 8:44). It’s difficult to overestimate the profoundly negative effect that these statements have had for the treatment of Jews, especially in Western Europe. There’s no denying that that profound anti-Judaism of the New Testament contributed to the persecution of Jews by Christians from antiquity to the Holocaust.[12]

In order to keep this ball rolling, Moss has to modify her thesis in order to accommodate all of the information which discredits it. So, yes, Stephen was persecuted, but since he was an anti-Semite, he deserved whatever happened to him because ultimately he and his ilk were responsible for the Holocaust.

Eventually, Moss modifies her position, claiming that “persecution was rare,”[13] but that leads her to make absurd statements like the following: “Although persecution was rare, dislike of Christians was fairly widespread, and some Christians were in fact put to death by Romans merely for being Christians. Before we judge the Romans too harshly, we should approach the issue from their perspective.”

The absurdity of the statement becomes apparent when we substitute any of the minorities which are protected at places like Notre Dame for the term “Christian” in Moss’s original statement:

Although persecution was rare, dislike of homosexuals was fairly widespread, and some homosexuals were in fact put to death by Ugandans merely for being homosexuals. Before we judge the Ugandans too harshly, we should approach the issue from their perspective.

Is this an argument that Professor Moss would be willing to make on the Notre Dame campus? No?  Let’s try another variation then: “Although persecution was rare dislike of Jews was fairly widespread, and some Jews were actually put to death by Nazis merely for being Jews. Before we judge the Nazis too harshly we should approach the issue from their perspective.”

If Professor Moss is unwilling make a statement like this about homosexuals or Jews, why is she willing to make it against fellow Catholics? The answer is simple: because she wants to curry favor with certain influential groups, the same groups which were behind the persecution of Christians during the first centuries of Christianity, namely, Caesar and the Jews, the people who killed Christ and persecuted his followers. Nothing has changed.


At this point, it’s worth asking whether Professor Moss’s views about the delusional nature of Christian martyrs extend to other groups. Are Jews equally delusive when they talk about persecution at the hands of the Nazis? Or are Christians the only people subject to persecution fantasies? I ask this because Professor Moss’s views on persecution and martyrdom have uncanny similarities with holocaust denial. When she claims that “there is no doubt that Christians did die, that they were horrifically tortured and executed in ways that would appall people today,”[14] but adds “Christians were not the victims of sustained and continual persecution by the Romans on either an imperial or provincial level,” she is making mutatis mutandis the same argument that led Bishop Richard Williamson to be accused of “holocaust denial.” If Moss were to say about Jews what she says about Christians in The Myth of Persecution, she would be guilty of “holocaust denial.” When Moss claims that “Christians were never the victims of sustained, targeted persecution,”[15] she is essentially repeating David Irving’s argument about Jews and the holocaust. Her claim that “The Romans rarely persecuted Christians, and when they did, they had logical reason that made sense to any ancient Roman,”[16] could just as easily be rendered, “The Nazis rarely persecuted Jews, and when they did, they had logical reasons that made sense to any modern Nazi” without doing any violence to her fundamental thesis.

When she writes, “If anyone can claim to stand in continuity with the martyrs and be victims of persecution, and if being persecuted authenticates one’s religious message, then anyone can claim to be right,”[17] it’s difficult not to think of the Holocaust Industry, even though she deflects the claim onto “right wing organizations acting in defense of Christianity,” as when she writes:

the modern media is filled with advocacy groups and political pundits claiming that they are being persecuted. This tendency is clearest in, but not limited to, the work of right-wing organizations acting in defense of Christianity.[18]

If there is ever a group which claims that “being persecuted authenticates one’s religious message,” it is the Holocaust Industry. If there is ever a group of myths that is crying out for debunking, it is the farrago of preposterous stories that the Holocaust Industry has created to exploit the sufferings of the Jews during World War II and advance the cause of Zionism. When is Professor Moss going to write a sequel to The Myth of Persecution about Elie Wiesel’s constantly revised personal histories? What about the story of the Jewish girl who traveled across Europe with a pack of wolves to rescue her parents from a concentration camp? What about Fragments? For some reason Professor Moss is silent on this topic.

Then there is the testimony of Paul, which would seem to substantiate the claim that Christians were being persecuted, since he himself was doing the persecuting. As he said to the Galatians:  “You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the Church of God and was trying to destroy it.” (1:13). At this point Moss grudgingly concedes that Paul’s testimony lends “credibility to the narrative of Acts,” but then she adds surprisingly, since it is not really part of the main thesis of her book, that “it does not prove that Jews persecuted Christians.”[19]

Wait a minute! What do the Jews have to do with the Christian persecution story? I thought Professor Moss was talking about the Romans. Professor Moss struggles throughout her book with evidence which does not support her thesis. Judging from the first-hand testimony of Paul and Stephen, testimony which she must accept de fide, there was persecution after all. Rather than abandon her untenable thesis at this point and return her advance check to Harper Collins, Moss attempts to remove herself from the bind she has created for herself by recourse to a preposterous bit of semantic sophistry: The Jews did not persecute Christians because the term Christian hadn’t been invented at the time when the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles were written. Or as she says in her own words, “The primary reason for this” lack of persecution during the first decades of Christianity:

is that there were no Christians! Not only did the name “Christian” not yet exist, but the idea of Christians as a group distinct from the rest of Judaism did not exist in the lifetime of the Apostles. The followers of Jesus were, like Jesus himself, Jews. There was no question of their founding a separate sect.[20]

So what exactly did St. Paul mean when he said, “I was violently persecuting the Church of God and was trying to destroy it”? Either he was delusional, or he as a Jew was persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ, no matter what they were called at the time. In the first instance, Moss’s argument about St. Stephen is unnecessary; in the second instance, it is preposterous and not unlike claiming that if you stumble across a strange animal in the Amazonian rain forest and don’t know its name, that creature does not exist.

Using similar logic, Professor Moss argues that:

It wasn’t until the end of the first century that Jesus [sic] followers began to refer to themselves as “Christians.” The historical period when Stephen died and Paul was writing cannot be considered a period in which Jews persecuted Christians, because Christians did not yet exist.  At the very worst, and assuming that Luke is telling us the whole story, this is a situation of conflict and tension between various Jewish groups. This tension may have occasionally erupted into violence, but this does not mean that “Christians” were persecuted.[21]

Moss’s claim that there was no persecution of Christians at the time of Stephen’s death because the word “Christian” hadn’t been invented yet is preposterous enough all on its own, but it becomes doubly preposterous in light of the fact that she made the exact opposite claim about the term “martyr” earlier in the same narrative. Ignoring the fact that the Greek word martyr came into existence as a result of Christian witness in the face of persecution, Moss claims that mythological figures like Achilles and Iphegenia were also martyrs even though the term did not exist yet and the application of the term to them was completely anachronistic.

The term “martyr” could be applied with less semantic violence to Socrates, as Moss does, but his death was a unique event in the life of a totally unique individual, and so no word was deemed necessary to describe it. In this regard, the death of Socrates was totally unlike the deaths of thousands of ordinary people who went to their deaths because of their belief in Christ, a situation so unique in history that the term martyrdom was coined to describe it.

Moss simultaneously downplays the number of Christian martyrs and the sufferings they endured while at the same time exaggerating martyrdom among the non-Christian population:

Today, we are pointedly aware that martyrdom is not an exclusively Christian practice; [so there were Christian martyrs after all] virtually every religious group holds the death of their heroes in high esteem, and many people have died for religions that no longer exist.[22]

Moss then mentions the Maccabees as an example of “Jews in ancient Palestine” who “accepted death before apostasy.”[23] Unfortunately, if we’re talking about the Maccabees, we’re not talking about Jews in the post-Christian sense of the term. Once the Jews rejected Christ, Moses was no longer a Jew, as Jesus pointed out in the Gospel of St. John. The Jewish rejection Christ had dramatic consequences when it came to the issue of persecution because post-Christian Jews preferred to dissemble rather than die. The story of Shabbatai Zevi is a good illustration of the Jewish attitude toward martyrdom. When faced with death at the hands of the sultan’s archers, Zevi, whom every synagogue in Europe at the time considered the Jewish Messiah, apostatized and became a Muslim. He then claimed to a remnant of his disillusioned followers that he hadn’t really converted to Islam, but was using his sham conversion as a way of converting Muslims to his brand of Judaism. After a while, the situation became so confusing that no one paid any attention to the Jewish “Messiah” who converted to Islam. But the point of Zevi’s apostasy was clear: if he wasn’t willing to die, as Jesus had, then the sultan could be sure that Zevi didn’t really believe his own claim to be the Messiah. This was not a unique case. The rabbis of post-Christian Judaism all supported lying and apostasy in the face of persecution, a fact that led to the converso crisis in Spain. In the post-Christian era, there was no such thing as a Jewish martyr.

Upon closer inspection, a subtext begins to emerge in Moss’s book. Moss isn’t so much claiming that there was no persecution; her whole book is an attempt to exonerate the Jews from any responsibility for that persecution.  In order to do that she has to simultaneously accuse and then exonerate the Romans of the same crime. And, in order to do that, she has to dismiss the historical record tout court just as she dismissed the historicity of the New Testament. That means discrediting the historical record, as compiled by pagan Roman historians like Tacitus, who claimed that “Nero fastened guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on [the Christians who] were hated for their abominations.”[24] According to Moss, the fact that Tacitus, who was not a Christian and had no dog in this particular fight, makes this claim:

does not mean that this story is completely believable. We need to exercise some caution when it comes to dealing with Tacitus. Tacitus’s Annals dates to 115-120, at least 50 years after the events he describes. His use of the term “Christian” is somewhat anachronistic. It’s highly unlikely that, at the time the Great Fire occurred, anyone recognizing Jesus [sic] followers as a distinct and separate group.  Jesus [sic] followers themselves do not appear to have begun using the name “Christian” until, at the earliest, the very end of the first century.  If followers of Jesus weren’t even identified as Christians, it’s highly improbable that Christians were well known and disliked enough that Nero could single them out as scapegoats. It seems more likely that Tacitus’s discussion of the events in Rome around the time of the fire reflects his own situation around 115. Tacitus is evidence for growing popular animosity toward Christians in the second century, but he does not provide evidence for their persecution in the first.[25]

First of all—and I know this will come as a shock to our readers—histories are always written after the events they describe. If that fact is used to discredit their reliability, then there can be no such thing as history.  Secondly, in terms of the time separating the event from the historical account describing it, 50 years is hardly a long period of time. World War II began 74 years ago, but soldiers who participated in it are still alive, and presumably would object if someone wrote a book claiming that Germany invaded England on D-Day, which is the equivalent of what Moss is claiming about persecution.

But Moss’s dismissal of Tacitus brings with it other problems. If the credibility of the historical account diminishes in direct proportion to its distance in time from the event it describes, why should we choose Professor Moss’s account over the one written by Tacitus? Tacitus writing about the Great Fire would be like a Notre Dame professor writing about the Second Vatican Council. Various interpretations of the council abound, but if an historian were to claim that, it never happened or that it was held in New York or that it was convened by the Muslim Brotherhood, would he be taken seriously enough to keep his books in print for 2000 years? Similarly, if “Tacitus’s discussion of the events in Rome around the time of the fire” can be discredited because it “reflects his own situation around 115,” doesn’t the same caveat apply a fortiori to Professor Moss? Doesn’t her book reflect her own situation in 2013?

The answer to that question is a resounding “yes”! In fact that is all that Professor Moss’s book reflects. The Myth of Persecution is not a work of scholarship about the early Church. This book is about Notre Dame. It is an attempt to use the simulacrum of scholarship to justify an increasingly untenable ideological agenda. Everything Moss writes resonates with the Obama administration’s attitude toward Catholics, not Caesar’s view of Christians. Christians are not “always” persecuted. Christians are only persecuted when they proclaim the gospel. Notre Dame is proof of that. This book was written to save Americanist Notre Dame’s standing with the Obama administration. Grants to ND doubled after Obama was given an honorary doctorate. In fact, Moss’s despicable attempt to discredit those who died rather than renounce their faith is nothing more than a cryptic gloss on the latest episode in Notre Dame’s ongoing saga of rebellion against Church authority, the one which began when Theodore Hesburgh stole the university from the Church by issuing the Land ‘o Lakes statement in 1967.

This particular battle began when Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, objecting to provisions of the newly passed HHS universal health care act, compared the Obama administration to Hitler’s and Stalin’s regimes. Jenky is a Holy Cross priest and a product of Notre Dame. Having served as rector of the Sacred Heart Basilica under Bishop D’Arcy, Jenky received his reward for renovating the church and restoring discipline to the liturgies there when he was made bishop. Now it seems that the office of bishop has gone to his head, as was the case with Thomas a Becket. In spite of the Americanist spell which Father Hesburgh cast over Notre Dame, Jenky now thinks he has the right to criticize Caesar.  What is worse, Jenky is also on the prestigious Board of Overseers that runs Notre Dame. Taken together, all this may explain why Moss was intensely embarrassed by his attack on the Obama administration’s health care package. “On April 14, 2012,” Moss writes:

Daniel R. Jenky, the bishop of Peoria, Illinois, delivered one of the most controversial sermons in recent American memory. During his sermon at the Mass for the “Call to Catholic Men of Faith” rally, he challenged his audience to practice “heroic Catholicism.” Heroic Catholicism, in this case, meant standing—and voting—against the Obama administration and opposing the US Department of Health and Human Services mandate. There’s nothing surprising about a Catholic bishop opposing abortion and contraception, but what drew heated response and fervent debate was the implicit comparison that Jenky made between President Obama, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin.  Jenky stated, “Barack Obama—with his radical, pro-abortion, and extreme secularist agenda—now seems intent on following a similar path” as other governments throughout history who have “tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches.” Jenky singled out the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as antecedents to Obama’s health care reforms.[26]

As the previous passage indicates, Moss’s book isn’t really about the suffering of Christians at the hands of the Romans during the first centuries of the Christian era. It is about the embarrassment which certain Notre Dame faculty members feel when confronted with that university’s resistance to the health care mandate proposed by the Obama administration. In particular, Moss was particularly mortified by the fact that Notre Dame President John Jenkins filed a legal brief challenging the Obamacare provisions which force the university to pay for contraceptives, claiming that it violates Catholic conscience. In an article which appeared on the Yahoo website:

Moss pointed to the new U.S. health care law's requirement that insurance companies cover contraception as an example of a law that inadvertently targeted Christians but was interpreted as a direct attack on the faith.

Much like the Emperor Diocletian’s edict that all Romans make a sacrifice to the gods (which Moss describes as being like a mandatory “pledge of allegiance”), the contraceptive mandate was not designed to target or single out Christians, she says. (Christians and others who refused to make the sacrifice in the fourth century were slaughtered. Christian organizations that do not want to provide contraception under the 21st century law will be fined.)

Notre Dame is one of dozens of religiously affiliated universities that sued over the birth control mandate, saying providing its employees and students with health insurance that covered contraceptives would violate the university's religious freedom.

Some in the religious community framed the contraceptive mandate as a deliberate persecution of Christians, rather than as bad policy, Moss says, in a way that’s made it difficult for them to negotiate.

“Labeling it persecution is saying, ‘We’re under attack, we’re persecuted. The other side has no reason to do this and we have to fight. We shouldn’t have to negotiate or compromise,” she said. Moss says she is personally against her university’s decision to sue over the mandate.

“I think that the University of Notre Dame does not control how I spend my salary, therefore controlling what kinds of health care people have access to is maybe something we should not be trying to do,” she said. “I think Catholic institutions should trust their employees not to use contraception.”[27]

So The Myth of Persecution is really about birth control pills and the troubled consciences of the lady professors who use them at Notre Dame. The six figure salaries of full professors at Notre Dame would not take a significant hit if these professors were forced to buy their own birth control pills, so something else is at work here. It’s the principle of the thing that’s at stake here, and the principle of the thing is bound up with the guilty consciences of the sexual revolutionaries. Why does every attempt to limit access to abortion elicit howls of protests from feminists? It is because any restriction implies moral disapproval, and any hint of moral disapproval ignites rage in the troubled consciences of those who have failed to repent of the sin of killing their own children. The same psychological dynamic applies to homosexuality and birth control. The converse of this law also applies. Whenever the courts strike down laws criminalizing homosexuality, the sodomites feel vindicated. Public approval gives them a momentary reprieve from the pangs of guilt they feel as a result of their disgusting and immoral behavior. Moss found Bishop Jenky’s homily embarrassing because it  “immediately highlighted the divisions among the already polarized Catholic laity” over the sexual issues which people like Moss would prefer to keep undiscussed.

In The Myth of Persecution, Moss has confected a counter-narrative which inverts the traditional martrydom story by portraying the Notre Dame professors who have to buy their own birth control pills as the true martyrs and Sts. Cyprian and Stephen as crude impostors. Eusebius is the main villain in Moss’s Manichean morality play because 1) he “invented the overwhelming majority of the martyrdom stories we have today,”[28] 2) he initiated the process of redefining the church as persecuted church in his history, and finally because he, unlike Professor Moss, “had an agenda” in writing his Church History:[29]

The consequence of Eusebius’s history of the persecuted church is that he divides the church into two groups: orthodox, as represented by orthodox bishops and martyrs, and their opponents—the heretics, schismatics and persecutors. Eusebius’s targets are the dissenting voices within the Church: those with whom he disagrees, those who threaten the idea of a single line of authoritative bishops, and those who question the tenets of orthodoxy.  By polarizing Christianity in this way, Eusebius forces those groups outside of the Church.[30]

Eusebius creates and uses this idea of a persecuted church filled with martyrs in order to advance his agenda. Eusebius helps to create the “persecuted us against the aggressive them” mentality that is used as a powerful rhetorical device to this day. When Moss writes that “The persecuted ‘us’ is now the establishment,” she is referring to Eusebius, but her claim has uncanny relevance to the situation at Notre Dame, where the persecuted “us” that still believes in the failed sexual revolution of the 1960s is in fact the establishment. Moss’s book has no relevance to the early years of Christianity, but it is a good depiction of the current state of affairs at Notre Dame University.

During the ‘60s and ‘70s, when Father Hesburgh was busy licking the boots of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, Notre Dame portrayed itself as leading the Church to a new era of sexual liberation. Notre Dame has always felt that the Church—as Father Bryan Hehir said at St. Mary’s College in the mid-1980s, when the sexual issues were still being contested within the Church—needed to learn from America on sexual issues. The papacy of John Paul II, however, held the line, and as a result, when the tide of sexual liberation began to ebb in 1979, Notre Dame found itself left high and dry, bypassed by the course of history, which now flowed in the direction of desexualization in both the Catholic and the Islamic worlds.

Deprived of the influence of the Catholic Church, the forces of sexual liberation took over American culture and the Democratic Party, which was given a new lease on life by the wretched foreign policy excesses of the Bush dynasty. The revolutionary cadre which was granted a beachhead at Notre Dame by Father Hesburgh became increasingly strident in following the sexual party line of the Obama administration, but at the same time increasingly isolated from non-academic Catholicism, which is to say, the overwhelming majority of Catholics in the Church, both lay and clerical, including most notably Notre Dame’s own Bishop Jenky.

As a result, Notre Dame has become a schismatic sect of sexually liberated heretics, not unlike the renegade nuns and priests who called themselves Anabaptists when they took over Muenster in the 1530s. The sexual revolutionaries at Notre Dame have absolute sway over the Catholics on campus but no influence whatsoever in the life of the Church. Hence, the strange us/them dualism that pervades Moss’s book. When she says “the persecuted ‘us’ is now the establishment,” Moss is not talking about the time when Eusebius was bishop of Caesarea in Palestine but rather when Jenky was bishop of Peoria and on the board of trustees at Notre Dame, where the establishment which has committed itself to the failed idea of sexual liberation now feels persecuted because the post-John Paul II church has studiously ignored everything that Notre Dame stands for.

Even when Moss denigrates the cult of the saints and the preservation of a saint’s relics as “big business,”[31] the charge has more relevance to Notre Dame than to Christians living in antiquity. The remains of Martyrs, we are told:

could draw a crowd [like Notre Dame football games]. The possession of a martyr’s remains . . . brought a town not only protection and fame, but also visitors.  Pilgrims to a martyr’s shrine [or Notre Dame football games] need places to stay, things to eat and a commemorative lamp or comb [or T-shirt] to take home with them. Every town wanted to have the remains of a famous martyr [like Knute Rockne]. . . . a town needed more than just a rumor; it needed a legend [like the Gipper][32] . . . [because] for the locals, it’s a way to promote local commerce.[33]

Is there any place on the face of the earth that is more shameless in promoting legends for local commerce than Notre Dame? That university recently enacted a policy of charging visitors a $2 fee for to park in the lot adjacent to the mis-named “bookstore,” which is dedicated primarily to the sale of Notre Dame T-shirts and other souvenirs. If ever an institution were guilty of promoting a cult of the “saints” for financial gain, it is Notre Dame University. At Notre Dame, these “saints” have names like Knute Rockne, George Gipp, Joe Montana and Lou Holtz. The new Notre Dame stadium is a combination of the Coliseum and Pantheon, with gates named after coaches who have been deified because of their winning records and/or national championships.

Why then would Notre Dame want to subject itself to ridicule by promoting Moss and her preposterous book, to the point in fact of making her the new face of Notre Dame by featuring her in one of their premier on-line courses? The answer is now, as it was 2,000 years ago, emperor worship, or in this instance Title IX funds which get dispensed by feminists in the Obama administration. Moss is a product of Affirmative Action. Moss’s book is, in fact, typical of the sort of scholarship that affirmative action produces. Knowing that Notre Dame has to hire a certain number of women, Moss wrangled job offers from more prestigious universities and took them to Dean of Arts and Letters John McGreevy to extort a pay raise.  This is the lingua franca of career advancement in academe today, and evidently McGreevy fell for it, announcing to the Program of Liberal Studies where Moss was languishing as an assistant professor who actually had to teach courses that, “We can’t afford to lose another Catholic woman theologian.” Moss, at Dean McGreevy’s direction, was transferred to the theology department and promoted to full professor within three years. She has since then become the new face of Notre Dame teaching the online courses that will allow Notre Dame to follow in the footsteps of Harvard and Stanford and expand their brand and their income to include courses attended by hundreds of thousands of students willing to pay for the internet equivalent of a real degree.

Professor Moss doesn’t mention John McGreevy in the Acknowledgements section of her book, but she does thank Dan Myers, who “assured me that I wouldn’t be fired” for writing The Myth of Persecution. Professor of Sociology, Daniel P. Myers was Associate Dean of Arts and Letters, 2008-2011; in 2011 he was appointed Vice-President and Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, which means he is the highest University of Notre Dame official dealing with the faculty and someone who speaks with the full authority of the university when it comes to advancement or assuring faculty members that they won’t be fired.

Neither Myers nor McGreevy signed the faculty petition calling for Jenky’s ouster from the Board of Trustees. That uprising was led by Gramscian revolutionaries like Joe Buttigieg of the English department, father of South Bend’s current mayor. Myers endorsement of Moss’s book shows, however, that the revolutionaries at Notre Dame have the full support of the administration. By fast-tracking Moss’s career and promoting The Myth of Persecution, Myers and McGreevy have also shown their support for the attack on Bishop Jenky which lies at the heart of Moss’s book.

The book is a launching pad for other ventures involving Moss, who is on her way, via the alluring head shot that adorns the dust jacket of her book, to becoming the new face of Americanist theology at Notre Dame. This will be brought about by featuring Professor Moss as the teacher offering Notre Dame’s first MOOC (massive, open, on-line course). Students who can’t afford to spend the $60,000 per year that it now costs to attend Notre Dame or who don’t want to expend the effort it takes to plow through her 260-page book can sign up for Professor Moss’s MOOC and spend a semester listening to her diss the martyrs while gazing at her smoldering head shot—all for only $4,900.


Since the quality of Professor Moss’s scholarship is evident to anyone who takes the time to read The Myth of Persecution, it’s difficult to discern what Professors Myers and McGreevy hope to achieve by promoting her career. Is her book a totem that gets passed from hand to hand in some arcane academic ritual without being read? Do they seriously believe that anyone who reads it will come away impressed with the caliber of scholarship at Notre Dame? The “perception of academic quality by other institutions” is the category where Notre Dame has traditionally scored lowest in the US News and World Report rankings of colleges and universities. Thanks to the efforts of Dan Myers and John McGreevy, Notre Dame’s “perception of academic quality by other institutions” is destined to sink even lower when the next survey comes out.

Catholicism has always been an anomaly in American intellectual life. Catholics have never really fit in. When Catholics preach the gospel, as Jenky did when he attacked the Obama administration, they are superior to American culture, but when they are ashamed of the Gospel, as has been the traditionally the case at Americanist Notre Dame, they manifest the Catholic inferiority complex that has always been the university’s hallmark. Under the long regime of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, Notre Dame’s Americanism became conscious of itself, as Hegel might have put it. Hesburgh arrived on the scene when the WASP ruling class elite, led by John D. Rockefeller, 3rd, was looking for a way to undermine the Catholic Church’s position on birth control, as a way to destroy Catholic demographic and political power, and when the CIA’s C.D. Jackson was working with Time’s Henry Luce and the Jesuit John Courtney Murray to find a solution to what Paul Blanshard called “the Catholic problem.” Hesburgh mentions defending Murray against Time magazine’s perennial Catholic villain Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani in his autobiography God, Country and Notre Dame.

Catholicism was always the American Original Sin, according to the Gospel of Theodore Hesburgh, and a Notre Dame education was the baptism which washed that sin away, at least for the largely Irish population that flocked there in droves. German and Italian Catholics, in general, stayed away in droves, as Sam Goldwyn would have put it. In the end, the solution to Paul Blanshard’s Catholic Problem was disarmingly simple. It was the birth control pill. When the history of the Catholic Church in America finally gets written, it will show that all of the fierce Catholic resistance to American culture during the 1930s—from Cardinal Dougherty’s boycott of Warner Brothers theaters in Philadelphia under the aegis of the Legion of Decency to Msgr. Ryan’s defeat of Margaret Sanger before the American Congress to Father Coughlin’s attacks on usury and his defense of the working man—all collapsed over night when Hesburgh took Rockefeller money and gave Catholics permission to use birth control pills. By promoting Candida Moss’s career and book, Dan Myers and John McGreevy are only taking the Notre Dame narrative established by Hesburgh to its logical conclusion by defending the Obama administration’s decision to force Notre Dame to pay for their employees’ birth control pills, destroying Notre Dame’s last pretensions to intellectual credibility in the process. McGreevy has already shown his hand in this arena. He destroyed his own reputation as an academic historian when he wrote his “aspirational” book Catholicism and American Freedom, which was another attempt to justify the Notre Dame Hesburgh birth control regime. He then became Dean of Arts and Letters, where he proved that he could fail upward again by presiding over a 20 percent drop in the enrollment in the College of Arts and Letters. Not content to rest on his laurel, McGreevy discovered that he could do still more damage to Notre Dame’s academic reputation by promoting hot intellectual properties like Professor Moss, who went from newly minted Ph.D. to full professor in three years under McGreevy’s mentoring (“unheard of in academe,” according to one professor familiar with the case). Well, if the late Rabbi Michael Signer can earn an endowed chair at Notre Dame for producing literally nothing, i.e., not one book and not one article that was not co-authored by someone else, then why can’t someone of Professor Moss’s intellectual caliber become a full professor in three short years by producing preposterous pieces of sophistry like The Myth of Persecution?

In the end, the only position which Notre Dame administrators and professors find comfortable is bent over licking the boots of someone they perceive as intellectually superior and more powerful politically than they are. This was true of Notre Dame when Hesburgh made a career of licking John D. Rockefeller, 3rd’s boots and it is true today when Professors Myers, McGreevy and Moss try to curry favor with the Obama administration in the same degrading way. Like Hesburgh who was willing to sacrifice Notre Dame faculty members if they didn’t meet with John D. Rockefeller, 3rd’s approval, Professors Myers, McGreevy and Moss are willing to sacrifice Bishop Jenky on the altar which Notre Dame has erected for worship of the Golden Calf of worldly esteem in the hope of gaining good rankings in next US News and World Report survey.

Almost two millennia after the age of martyrdom, Moss is rewriting history in an attempt to inject new life into the Hesburgh agenda, which is the real cult of the saints at Notre Dame. This means, of course, rehabilitating the role of the Roman Empire or, in contemporary parlance, the status of the Obama administration. Caesar is looking more and more tyrannical these days. When a product of Notre Dame, one of the great bastions of Americanism like Bishop Jenky, criticizes a president of the United States, you know relations with Caesar are not going well. Moss’s attack on martyrdom is Notre Dame’s attempt to mend fences with Caesar by throwing Jenky to the lions, as when she writes:

Christians saw martyrs as soldiers in the battle between good and evil. This view of the world led them to portray the Roman government  [i.e., the Obama administration] and their jailors, judges, torturers and executioners [i.e., the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the NSA, etc. etc.] as agents of Satan. Christians were at war with a world possessed by Satan [according to Bishop Jenky], and the martyrs could not yield a rhetorical inch. Ultimately, this is the worldview of apocalyptic, a form of writing and mode of thinking concerned with the supernatural, divine revelations, visions, eschatological salvation and cosmic battle.[34]

Jenky’s most serious thought crime, however, involved “his comments about Hitler and Stalin” which “were met with public declarations of support, horror and outrage.”[35] Moss isn’t being honest here. The outrage wasn’t general; it came from one source. The call for an apology was issued on Wednesday, April 18, by Lonnie Nasatir, the regional director of the Chicago branch of the Anti-Defamation League. Nasatir demanded an apology from Jenky, calling his remarks “outrageous, offensive, and completely over the top.”[36]

“Clearly,” Nasatir continued, “Bishop Jenky needs a history lesson. There are few if any parallels in history to the religious intolerance and anti-Semitism fostered in society by Stalin, and especially Hitler, who under his regime perpetrated the open persecution of Jews, Catholics and many others.”


On Monday, April 23, a petition circulated among faculty members of the University of Notre Dame demanding that Bishop Jenky apologize to the ADL.  By late Tuesday afternoon of April 24, 131 faculty members at the University of Notre Dame had signed the petition. That letter, which was addressed to President John Jenkins of Notre Dame, concluded by saying:

We request that you issue a statement on behalf of the university that will definitively distance Notre Dame from Bishop Jenky’s incendiary statement. Further we feel that it would be in the best interest of Notre Dame if Bishop Jenky resigned from the university’s board of fellows if he is unwilling to renounce loudly and publicly this destructive analogy.

It was a textbook case of the Jewish Revolutionary Spirit in action. Jews singled out their victim and accused him of thought crimes, and the revolutionary cadre at Notre Dame rose up in response to the accusation and tried to force Jenky out of the university’s governing board. It’s an open secret at Notre Dame that the revolutionaries want to remove the Holy Cross order from its governing position there. The ADL accusation gave them their causus belli. The diocese of Peoria issued a clarification of Bishop Jenky’s remarks after the ADL issued its challenge, but so far no apology has been forthcoming.

Moss’s book is a continuation of the attack on Jenky that began a year ago. The revolutionary cadres that were allowed to come into existence during the era when Hesburgh was collaborating with the Rockefellers to undermine the Church’s teaching on birth control were now collaborating with the ADL to oust Jenky from the board of trustees because he had said:

For 2,000 years the enemies of Christ have certainly tried their best. But think about it. The Church survived and even flourished during centuries of terrible persecution, during the days of the Roman Empire. The Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The Church survived Nazism and Communism. And in the power of the resurrection the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the malicious wickedness of the abortion industry.[37]

It is not surprising that the ADL was upset. Communism, Hollywood, media, and abortion are all Jewish projects. By mentioning them in the context of persecution, Jenky was returning to a scenario that had long been declared off limits by the theological commissars at Notre Dame, namely, the venerable idea broached in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and virtually all of the Church Fathers, that the Jews, more than the Romans, were responsible for the persecution of Christians.  The idea is so shocking that Moss can only advert to it obliquely, as when she writes, “Jenky here invokes the now standard Christian idea that the Church has always been persecuted.”[38]


In effect, Moss’s concentration on the persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire is a red herring. What is not true of the Romans is, however, true of the Jews, something even Moss is forced to admit at one point, when she writes: “According to the Evangelists, it was not the Romans, but the Jews who were responsible for the death of Jesus and persecution of his followers. In the Gospel of John, the Jews sought to kill Jesus because he spoke against them.” According to Justin Martyr, “The Jews were behind all the persecutions of the Christians. They wandered through the country everywhere hating and undermining the Christian faith.”[39] In his book The Treatment of the Jews in the Greek Christian Writers of the First Three Centuries, Robert Wilde finds “references in early patristic literature” which offer evidence that Jews had a hand the persecution of Christians”: in Justin in the Dialogue with Trypho, as well as in the Apologia; in Irenaeus’s Adversos Haereses, in Tertullian, Scorpiace, where he writes that “synagogas Iudeorum fontes persecutionem”; in Ad Nationem and Apologetics; in Hippolytus, In Dan; in Origen, Contra Celsum, in Cyprian, Epistolae; in Eusebius’s History of the Church, and in Epiphanus, Haereses.[40]

In 614 AD, long after persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire had ceased, the Persian army under King Chosroes conquered Jerusalem with the help of 26,000 Jews, who upon reaching the Holy City “took revenge upon the Christians for the cruel persecutions and many humiliations they had suffered over the centuries. It is claimed that 90,000 Christians perished.”[41] According to Heinrich Graetz, the father of Jewish historiography, “the Jews relentlessly destroyed the Christian sanctuaries. All the churches and monasteries were burnt down, and the Jews undoubtedly had a greater share in the deed than did the Persians.”[42] According to Elliott Horowitz, “the tendency of Jewish historiography to ignore the slaughter of Jerusalem’s Christians in 614 and/or the Jewish role therein only strengthened after the city came under exclusive Jewish rule as a consequence of the Six Day War.”[43]

A prime example of this suppression of evidence of Jewish persecution of Christians can be found in Paul Johnson’s book A History of the Jews, in which Johnson wrote, “in 611 when the Persians broke into Palestine, taking Jerusalem three years later after a twenty-day siege. The Jews were accused of assisting them. But if, as the Christians alleged, the Persians had given, in return, a promise to restore the city to the Jews, they certainly did not keep their word.”[44]

Moss’s emphasis on the Romans cleverly disguises the main stream of Christian persecution, the one which has perdured from the death of Stephen to Obamacare. The point of her book is to denigrate any Christian who stands up against Caesar in defense of the faith, as Bishop Jenky did in opposing the HHS healthcare mandate.

Moss struggles mightily to get the evidence that she puts forward to support her thesis to say the opposite of what it actually says. “Pliny,” we are told, “had two female slaves who were also deaconesses tortured and had decided that Christianity was nothing other than a foolish ‘superstition.’ . . . but this doesn’t mean that Pliny hated Christianity.”

“I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed.”

But there was no persecution of Christians, even though Pliny found reason to condemn them to death for their stubbornness and obstinacy.[45]

The message here is clear. Anyone who defies Caesar deserves to die. This is aimed at Bishop Jenky and anyone else at Notre Dame who is foolish enough to defy the Obama administration and its health care bill, mandating that Catholic institutions pay for contraception and abortion.

Moss claims that since “martyrdom stories themselves, should have disappeared with the Christianization of the Roman empire,” there is no place for them under the Pax Americana, which is known for its tolerance, either. First of all, the Apocalypse was written in response to the persecution of Nero; secondly, Christians had every reason to be wary of Constantine’s “Christianization of the Roman Empire,” because it was followed by the vicious if subtle persecution orchestrated by Constantine’s grandson, Julian the Apostate. There was no evidence that persecution was not going to return in ever more vicious and subtle forms. Moss can state that martyrdom “disappeared” only with the benefit of historical hindsight. She can claim that there is no persecution of Christians in our era only through self-imposed blindness, and the purpose of her book is to spread that blindness to others, by claiming that “The idea of a persecuted church is almost entirely the invention of the fourth century and later.”[46]


Unlike Christian writers, feminists, who have no ulterior motives, provide the lens through which we can perceive the true meaning of Christianity. According to the tenets of feminism, which Moss cites approvingly: “As much as we admire those who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others, there are also circumstances in which this is inappropriate.”[47] As another example of how Gloria Steinem gets it right and Jesus Christ gets it wrong, Moss opines that “The idea that suffering is personally redemptive . . . has had and can have a damaging impact on the lives of many.” And finally, “Black womanist theologian Delores Williams, for instance, points out how the valorization of redemptive suffering has led to the subjugation of African American women.” So much for the valorization of redemptive suffering. So much for Christ’s death on the cross.[48]

Moss concludes her book by discussing “The Dangerous Legacy of a Martyrdom Complex,” implying that martyrdom is now a mental illness that can be listed in the DSM and that Big Pharma will soon create a pill to treat it. Until that time, Moss will have to continue to suffer embarrassment every time some Catholic runs afoul of the canons of political correctness. It can happen at any time, especially while attending Mass on campus, as she recounts:

The reading for that day was taken from the Acts of Apostles. When Bishop D’Arcy began his homily, he compared the apostles and their struggles against “the world” in the first century, struggles that led to their eventual martyrdom, to the struggles of advocates of the pro-life movement.  The implication was that pro-lifers are modern-day martyrs and victims of persecution. I vividly recall turning to my friend and raising my eyebrows.[49]

Moss can’t get away from the fact that she is intensely embarrassed by the Catholic Church’s outspoken opposition to abortion. She tries to disguise that fact by claiming that “Abortion is a hot-button issue for Roman Catholics living in the 21st century,”[50] but that is not the case.  It’s only a hot-button for Catholic faculty at Notre Dame who do not want to run afoul of the Obama administration and its granting agencies. At the very moment when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has conceded that Roe v. Wade has failed to persuade the American people that abortion is not evil, at the very moment when virtually every state west of the Hudson and east of Death Valley is threatening to place legal restrictions on abortion, Professor Moss wants to run up the white flag known as “dialogue,” or as she puts it:

Rather than demonizing our opponents, we could try to find points of agreement and work together. This is not a book about abortion, and I am not an ethicist, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would truly like to see more abortions.[51]

This was Notre Dame’s position in the ‘80s. One of the people who articulated the middle-of-the road position on abortion was Professor Dave Solomon of the philosophy Department. I know this because I was on the same TV show when he attempted it. After struggling valiantly to come up with a middle-of-the-road position on abortion, the moderator interjected, “Solomon wants to divide the baby.” As if that weren’t bad enough, my wife chewed him out after the show. Even though my wife doesn’t remember what she said, it was a tongue-lashing that Dave never forgot, and one that forced him to abandon his [and Moss’s] preposterous middle-of-the-road position in favor of the only consistent position of the issue, namely, the pro-life position. Solomon has been ostracized for his prolife views, as have others at Notre Dame. Or dare we say—pace, Professor Moss—“persecuted”?

Moss concludes her argument by claiming “I would like to abandon the conspiratorial assumption that the world is out to get us.”[52] In making this claim, Moss puts herself at odds with Jesus Christ, who said “The World will hate you.” In her attempt to be irenic, Professor Moss finds herself at war with the English language and the common meaning of its words, as when she writes: “The rhetoric of persecution suggests that the persecutors are irrational and immoral and the persecuted are innocent and brave.” Persecutors are by definition immoral, and the persecuted are by definition innocent.

In an attempt to un-demonize those on the other side of the abortion debate, Professor Moss asks: “Is the rest of the world acting for Satan?” If what she meant to ask is “Are the advocates of abortion acting for Satan,” the answer is, well, yes, as a matter of fact they are. The Church was always persecuted, and being a Christian means being persecuted. In the words of Bishop Jenky, “It has never been easy to be a Christian, and it’s not supposed to be easy.” Nothing that Professor Moss says in her book can change that fact.

 In an attempt to lend contemporary relevance to her account of Christian martyrs at the time of the Roman Empire, Moss begins her book with an account of the terrorist bombing of the al-Qiddissin church which took place in Cairo on the eve of the Coptic celebration of Christmas on January 6, 2011. Miriam Fekry, one of more than 20 Coptic Christians who died in the blast, became for Moss “the face of martyrdom in the cyber age.”[53] Moss deplored the violence that followed the bombing as somehow connected with the tradition of religious martyrdom, because “Even though it was unclear who was responsible for the bombing, the protestors targeted specifically Muslim institutions”[54] in retaliation. In dragging the martyrs into this act of terrorism and turning it into a example of Muslim-Christian hatred, since both groups identify those who died in the on-going wars in the mid-East as “martyrs,” Moss ignored the fact the main group suspected of being behind the bombing was the Mossad. Hezbollah claimed that:

“All evidence, physical and circumstantial, points directly to Mossad being the culprit behind the al-Qiddissin church bombing.”[55]  Egypt’s former Foreign Minister, Abdallah al-Ashal, and the Egyptian Bar Association made the same claim.[56] According to The Jerusalem Post:

A coalition of Egyptian lawyers accused Israel of being behind an terror attack in Alexandria that killed 22 members of the Christian Copt sect attending midnight mass on New Year's eve, Army Radio reported Monday. “The Mossad carried out the operation in a natural reaction to the latest uncovering of an Israeli espionage network,” the lawyers accused at a rally in memory of the victims, organized by the Egyptian Bar Association, according to the report.[57]

If in fact the Mossad was involved in the attack, they most probably made use of terrorist Islamic groups like the Salafist insurgents which the Zionist-American empire is now supporting in Syria to topple the Assad regime. It is those Zionist-American proxies who are responsible for the destruction of Christian Churches in Syria, for the ethnic cleansing of Syria, and for the murder of:

the 49-year-old martyr, Father Francois Murad, who was beheaded with two others by rebel Moslems in Syria on June 23. Father Murad was ordained as a Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land. He was in the process of building a monastery based on pre-Benedictine Coenobitic monasticism, but he moved back in with the Franciscans when his monastery was bombed. There is a graphic video on the internet of his beheading in front of a large, cheering crowd, praising Allah.[58] Father Murad recently sent messages to Archbishop-Archeparch Jacques Behnan Hindo; the priest said that if he was killed, he offered his life for peace in Syria.[59]

In bemoaning the fate of Miriam Fekry, Moss ignores the fact that the Obama administration, following the lead of former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, supports the Muslim groups most likely to persecute Christians and destroy their places of worship in their on-going and as yet unsuccessful attempt to topple the Assad regime in Syria.

Moss engages in lots of hand-wringing about the fate of Miriam Fekry, but her book heaps contempt on her memory and that of the other 21 Coptic Christians who died in the same terrorist attack. In fact, Moss’s book heaps contempt on any Christian who takes his faith seriously enough to suffer for it. Moss never gets around to articulating her position honestly, but it is nonetheless clear from an even superficial reading of her book: As long as the Obama administration pays for our birth control pills, who cares how many wogs they kill in the Middle East? Who cares if Christians are persecuted by the Salafist thugs who eat the hearts of their prisoners of war or execute them with a bullet to the back of the head? If they’re complaining about being persecuted, it’s their own damn fault. They probably made it all up anyway.CW

E. Michael Jones is the editor of Culture Wars.

This review was published in the September 2013 issue of Culture Wars.

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Is Notre Dame Still Catholic? by E. Michael Jones. Revised Second Edition. When Notre Dame's president, John Jenkins, CSC, announced that the university planned to give Pres. Barack Obama an honorary doctorate, a storm of protest erupted. Over 250,000 people signed a petition condemning the action, and Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead of Phoenix called it a “public act of disobedience” and a “grave mistake.” Beginning in the mid-1980s, Fidelity (and more recently, Culture Wars) published a series on Notre Dame that rocked the Catholic world. This updated and expanded book collects 25 years of investigative journalism. An extensive dossier of what went wrong at Notre Dame, this book chronicles the demise of Catholic education, Catholic culture, and Catholic political power. $27 + S&H, Paperback. [When ordering for foreign shipement, price will appear higher to offset increased shipping costs.] Read Reviews


[1] Candida Moss, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (New York: HarperOne, 2013), p. 234. Moss adds the caveat “sometimes.” For more on her method, see below.

[2] Moss, p. 234.

[3] Moss, p. 235.

[4] Moss, p. 14.

[5] Moss, p. 19.

[6] Moss, p. 129.

[7] Moss, p. 159.


[9] Moss, p. 240.

[10] Moss, p. 132.

[11] Dei Verbum, para. 18-9.

[12] Moss p. 133.

[13] Moss, p. 163.

[14] Moss, p. 160.

[15] Moss, p. 162

[16] Moss, p. 187

[17] Moss, p. 250.

[18] Moss, p. 250.

[19] Moss, p. 133.

[20] Moss, p. 133.

[21] Moss, pp. 133-4.

[22] Moss, p. 17.

[23] Moss, p. 17.

[24] Moss, p. 138.

[25] Moss, p. 139.

[26] Moss, pp. 9-10.


[28] Moss, p. 216.

[29] Moss, p. 216.

[30] Moss, p. 233.

[31] Moss, p. 236.

[32] Moss, p. 236.

[33] Moss, p. 238.

[34] Moss, p. 240.

[35] Moss, p. 10.

[36] E. Michael Jones, “The Bishops and the Logic of Events,” Culture Wars, June 2012, p. 12.

[37] Moss, p. 10.

[38] Moss, p. 10.


[40] Robert Wilde, The Treatment of the Jews in Greek Christian Writers of the First Three Centuries (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1949), p. 145.

[41] Wilde, p. 200.

[42] Graetz is cited in Elliot Horowitz, Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), pp. 232-3.

[43] Horowitz, p. 238.

[44] Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, p. 166.

[45] Moss, p. 142

[46] Moss, p. 245.

[47] Moss, p. 202.

[48] Moss, p. 202.

[49] Moss, p. 251.

[50] Moss, p. 251.

[51] Moss, p. 257.

[52] Moss, p. 256.

[53] Moss, p. 2.

[54] Moss, p. 3.




[58] Subsequent reports claim that Father Murad was shot, not beheaded. See:



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