Letter from the Editor
In this issue of The Christendom Review, we honor in Special Features the life and work of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, who passed away in January, 2007. To anyone who has kept abreast of the culture wars, she needs no introduction. Some may recall her as one of William F. Buckley’s most gracious, refined, and quietly intense conservative guests on his PBS series, “Firing Line.” Betsey, as she was known by many, was a prolific scholar (see Douglas Ambrose’s Selected Bibliography) who wrote books and articles on everything from Marxist economics and the French Revolution to the relations between black and white women in plantation households of the Old South; from reappraisals of “individualistic” feminist doctrine and ideology to accounts of her conversion to Catholicism and writings that emphasized the importance of traditional marriage as an aspect of the sacramental life.
A number of Betsey’s former students, now distinguished scholars and teachers themselves, as well as fellow parishioners and friends, including the priest whose catechesis ushered her into the Church, have contributed essays, articles, and reminiscences of this elegant, fascinating, and astonishingly learned woman. They tell of her love of learning, her “terrible gentleness”, her boundless energy despite failing health, her hallmark intellectual honesty, and her uncompromising pursuit of Truth despite academic political retribution. Hers is an amazingly grace-filled and inspiring life-story.
Also in this issue we remember the tragedy of the state-sanctioned death-by-dehydration of Terri Schiavo. Two excellent writers* who have studied and thoroughly researched the moral and legal wrangling surrounding that injustice dissect the intellectual modern error at work that made it legal to put to death a young woman despite the pleading willingness of her parents and loving members of her family to care for her in her demise. As Elizabeth Fox-Genovese concluded in Feminism Without Illusions, the right to abortion for the sake of individual convenience suggests the right to kill for any individual convenience. This is individual autonomy gone awry, using legal monkeyshines to accomplish its ends, and it gives this writer at this writing some pause, reflecting upon the travesty of justice awarded Terri Schiavo; for as the current powers in Washington consider DMV-style healthcare for everyone, they beg the question: who else among us , as we grow old, sick, or weak, might be left to the tender mercies of their court-sanctioned Central-Planning, where “government bureaucrats” will decide who lives and who dies because they are deemed (as the murderous idealists among “the most educated people in Europe” during the Weimar Republic named it) “useless life?” The writer Caroline Gordon once quipped that the reason the government insisted on putting numbers on our residences was because it would make it easier to round us all up when the time came. Her words become more sinister as time passes and mankind “progresses.”
This issue includes poetry by William Mickelberry, Anthony Esolen, and Darius Lecesne, as well as short stories by William Miles and Jeff Trippe. Hillsdale College’s Michael Jordan writes on the transcendent value of The Great Books of the Western canon, distinguishing between what we here at the Review call “educationism,” the Devil of which Flannery O’Connor noted can only be driven out by prayer and fasting, and an education in the traditional Liberal Arts, where the Academy serves and exists for the edification and benefit of the whole (intellectual, moral, and spiritual) person. Finally, in “Signs of Grace,” the co-founder (in the United States )of Birthright, a pro-life crisis pregnancy center with offices all across the country, tells the story of its origins and continues to remind us of the hidden hand of God in signs and wonders even as Orcs are on the march.
*We owe a special note of gratitude to Lydia McGrew for her painstaking research resulting in the acquisition of ALL of the witness testimony in the original Schiavo trial from 2000. That testimony is now available at her homepage (http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/SchiavoTrialTranscript.htm), and as far as we know it is the only place online where it can be found.