Pope Leo XIII’s 1895 encyclical Longinqua, on “Catholicism in America,” begins with effusive praise of the nation. “We highly esteem and love exceedingly the young and vigorous American nation, in which We plainly discern latent forces for the advancement alike of civilization and of Christianity.”
What did Pope Leo mean by “latent forces”? Among other things, like Catholic missionaries and cities named after saints, he meant Christopher Columbus, who sought to “open a pathway for the Christian faith into new lands and new seas” and who planted the sacred emblem of the cross on American soil, as a seed of “mighty States” imbued with “the principles of Catholic religion.”
Pope Leo’s Longinqua came to mind recently upon reading about how Pepperdine University decided they wanted to dump their statue of Christopher Columbus after a student outcry.
Like the covering up of the Columbus murals at Notre Dame, which President Jenkins decried as part of the “darker side” of the treatment of native peoples, Pepperdine’s president called their Columbus statue a “painful reminder” of the past.
One key principle of woke pedagogy at our elite universities is that we should be selective about historical memory. We must be careful to remember only those who thought and acted wokely.
But the story gets better, and happier. Pepperdine planned to shuffle the statue of Columbus off to Italy when last year, in the nick of time, Thomas Aquinas College quietly asked if they could have the statue. Pepperdine released this statement, which was published by The College Fixyesterday:
Last year Pepperdine announced a plan to relocate a statue of Christopher Columbus from the Malibu campus to the University’s campus in Florence, Italy. As preparations were being made for the relocation, Pepperdine was presented with an opportunity for the statue to be donated to Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California.
After much consideration, Pepperdine accepted the offer, and the statue is now located on the Thomas Aquinas campus. The University is grateful for our friendship with Thomas Aquinas, and we remain committed to nurturing a campus community that welcomes a variety of perspectives and the free exchange of ideas.
It’s a wonderful story of how Catholics can help this country, which often seems so lost. The President of Thomas Aquinas College, Michael McLean, said that he was happy they could provide the statue with a “worthy home”, next to their science building and facing their chapel — honoring Columbus’ commitments to exploration and the Catholic Faith. Frankly, that sounds a lot better than the “variety of perspectives and the free exchange of ideas” which kicked Columbus to the curb.
Pope Leo would be proud that those “latent forces” for the advancement of civilization and Christianity in American still find some winsome exemplars. Leo concludes his letter with the power of Catholic witness to help convert our most confused — or should I say woke — neighbours.
Great is the force of example; particularly with those who are earnestly seeking the truth, and who, from a certain inborn virtuous disposition, are striving to live an honourable and upright life, to which class very many of your fellow-citizens belong. If the spectacle of Christian virtues exerted the powerful influence over the heathens blinded, as they were, by inveterate superstition, which the records of history attest, shall we think it powerless to eradicate error in the case of those who have been initiated into the Christian religion?
Give us your tired statues, your huddled memories, and we shall order them to what is right and just so that one day you might know the truth and be set free. Great indeed is the force of example. Well done, TAC.
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