He is back! Diogenes unveiled | Catholic culture


By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio – articles – email ) | October 18, 2022 | In reviews

Longtime readers of CatholicCulture.org will remember the satirical wit of Diogenes, now known as the late Father. Paul Mankowski, SJ, whose biting comments on Church affairs were published on CatholicCulture.org until his Jesuit superiors ordered him to stop writing under that name. Phil Lawler had been key to the publication of Diogenes’ material, both in Catholic World Report when Phil was editor and on Phil’s Catholic World News website. CWN eventually merged with CatholicCulture.org, where Phil continues to serve as news director, and we welcomed these entertaining and incisive pseudonymous writings until 2010, when Fr. Mankowski was ordered to cease and desist.

Although a few others wrote under the same pseudonym, the brilliance of the cut gems of P. Mankowski’s style was unique and unforgettable. Therefore, when Fr. Mankowski passed away in 2020, Phil decided to make Diogenes’ story better known, and to republish the best of his pseudonymous work. The result is a new book from Ignatius Press, Diogenes unveiled.

Phil has included in the collection pseudonymous writings of Fr. Mankowski from all relevant sources. The wisdom of his picks has ensured that they’re as focused, as biting, and as incredibly entertaining now as they were when they first appeared. The collection includes three articles which were not published under the name of Diogenes. It begins, very appropriately, with the devoutly Catholic Jesuit priest’s diary written during Fr. Mankowski’s 2002 visit to Romania to minister to the poorest of the poor, published under the pseudonym Francis X Of course, you won’t find any satire here; the poorest of the poor neither invite nor deserve it.

It ends with an almost mostly satirical play on a theme and in a poetic form borrowed from Shakespeare, “The Tragedy of Macdeth” (originally published in The American Spectator under the pseudonym of Francis X. Bacon), revealing, as Phil points out, the extent of Mankowski’s literary power. And it also includes, penultimately, a work under his own name: His brilliant exhibition of “The Imposture of Pagels” which, in 2006, led the world to believe that ancient texts had been discovered proving that Christianity had no not of cohesive origin. This, like all subsequent commentaries by Diogenes, was published on CatholicCulture.org.

Organized by target and on target

After the introduction, two tributes that followed Fr. Mankowski’s death, the diary and an excellent sample of Diogenes’ very early material, Diogenes unveiled is conveniently divided according to the predominant topics of the various positions. The topics covered are as relevant today (alas) as they were ten or twenty years ago:

  • The use and abuse of language
  • Attacks on the dignity of life
  • The political world
  • What we believe
  • The Anglican Alternative
  • Abusing the Liturgy
  • Holding the Hierarchy Accountable
  • The sexual abuse scandal
  • The Lavender Mafia
  • Why be a priest?

The final section, as you can imagine, examines many of the wrong reasons for becoming a priest in a time that has largely lost the faith. An example from a comment:

His game was to get little boys to join a football club he had created: “Father Joseph Jordan was a modern priest, always dressed in a baseball cap, tracksuit and sneakers. A mother remarked that the only time she had seen him in office dress was in the dock at Cardiff Crown Court.

I love these guys. When it comes to bar-hopping, dining out, or watching a movie, they are invariably in civilian clothes (“I find the necklace a vestige of an antiquated clerical caste system that puts a barrier between me and the people I serve”). When their recreations finally catch up with them and they end up facing five to eight of conducting underage listening sessions, under what emblem of the piety and propriety of the 1950s hiding behind? [from “Sporadically Authentic Priests”, 11/6/2003, pp. 252-3]

High diversity

We could keep quoting until the entire collection is exhausted, but I’ll limit myself to another one from the “What We Believe” section. Here Diogenes comments on a National Catholic Journalist story in which the editor asks if it is not possible “that the Catholic Church is still wrong about sexual morality and must reconsider the attitudes and teachings of the Church? This would require admitting that the Church is, like other institutions, capable of making mistakes, however big. This would require becoming a more humble church, perhaps one with less sweeping claims to infallibility. In response, Diogenes does two things:

First, he notes that “an honest man does not speak of ‘less radical claims to infallibility’. If my calculator gives me a wrong answer for a sum, I don’t pat my chin and suggest that Texas Instruments make “less radical claims to accuracy” – I say the calculator is worthless and throw it away.

Second, he compares babies in the womb to tapeworms as a way of acknowledging the difference between Catholics and Dissenters:

Dissenters are tapeworms. A tapeworm and a fetus can simultaneously get their nourishment from the same woman. But while the baby is fed blood to blood, so to speak, and so prolongs and continues the life of the mother, the tapeworm feeds her blood in her intestine. The tapeworm is an alien, no matter how intimate and “inside” it may be, no matter how furiously it insists on feasting at the same table as the baby.

In the church, at the altar, fetuses and tapeworms share a loaf and a cup. From the outside, it is impossible to tell us apart. And note that what makes a baby and what makes a tapeworm (in this sense) has nothing to do with sin. Many babies frequently fall into serious sins, and many tapeworms live lives of continence and generosity. Tapeworms are often friendlier and generally more presentable than babies. It’s not a question of “we’re better than you”; it is to admit that the mother-child relationship and the host-parasite relationship are radically contrary. For us, the Church is mater and magistra; for dissidents, it is a source of jobs, or Marty Haugen music, or chances to show off, or political soapboxes, or hiding places, or access to important people, or opportunities to sabotage. [from “Tapeworms”, 8/7/2003, pp. 105-6]

Books

Last year Ignatius Press published a collection of the best essays Fr. Mankowski wrote under his own name – longer, often more scholarly, and in general less biting pieces but also singularly well written and pleasant to read, edited by George Weigel. Phil Lawler began to approach Diogenes’ revelations in his review of this book (see Silent but restless: the testimony of a faithful Jesuit, in which the link to buy the book is given at the end). But now Phil himself has edited what only he could edit, Father’s ultimate and unparalleled collection. Mankowski writing as Diogenes, a terrific Catholic voice for whom Phil himself held the mic.

Fortunately, despite the best efforts of its internal and external enemies, the Catholic Church is not really, after all, the Land of Oz. No good Catholic will be disappointed by this opportunity to look behind the curtain…and see the truth.

Philip F. Lawler, ed. Diogenes unveiled: a collection by Paul Mankowski: Ignatius Press, 2022. Paper, 294pp. $17.96.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a doctorate. in Intellectual History from Princeton University. Co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full biography.

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