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Joseph Bottum is the former editor of First Things.

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The End of the Pius Wars

From the April 2004 Print Edition

Who, even among scholars in the field, could keep up with the flood of attacks on Pius XII that began in the late 1990s? John Cornwell gave us Hitler’s Pope , and Michael Phayer followed with The Catholic Church and the Holocaust . David Kertzer brought charges against Pius XII in The Popes . . . . Continue Reading »


From the August/September 2003 Print Edition

I burn for all good heresy in this ungodly town. If I had any hope to raise I’d tear cathedrals down. I’d show the bishop priestly crimes except that he is blind. I’d damn the Protestants to hell if only they would mind. George Fox rebuked our dainty tread by kicking off his . . . . Continue Reading »

Dakota Thanksgiving

From the November 2002 Print Edition

Thanksgiving was always tense while I was growing up, and I don’t know why. Christmas, now—Christmas was mostly fun and presents and carols and laughter, as I remember. But Thanksgiving was arguments and huffs and recriminations and doors slamming and one indistinguishable great-uncle or . . . . Continue Reading »

September 2001

From the January 2002 Print Edition

We meet our griefs again when work is through and do with words what little words can do. A stranger weeps beside us through the night. Beneath our pleasant sun, we never knew the dark that hates the sky for being bright. We thought to build a garden without rue, to climb and, all-beloved, to reach . . . . Continue Reading »

What Violence Is For

From the December 2001 Print Edition

On Sunday, October 7, as the United States began at last its air strikes against the Taliban, I was on an airplane, more than twenty thousand feet above the Midwestern plains”that height from which the square-edged farms and checkerboarded fields seem not quite real: a toy land, a counterpane . . . . Continue Reading »

The Winter Orchard

From the January 1999 Print Edition

Say, my love, this world is whole: a windfall here beneath the bole. Or hold, my love, love’s time is now: a flourish, then the fruit along the bough. But O, my love, how hard to hold bare thoughts of love in winter’s cold. The apple limbs are bent and gray. My love, O Christ, my love . . . . Continue Reading »

November Funeral

From the November 1998 Print Edition

From faded grass beneath the bole the last red windfall hunted down, last marigold, last aster blown, the dingy shades of autumn fall and tinctures drown.The orange-flash hunters go to ground; a gray reed takes the wind and sways. Season of death and fruitlessness: Green sea-ducks flee the leaden . . . . Continue Reading »