Book Review by Nicholas Wansbutter, Esq.
Title: Letters From the Rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Volume III: The Winona Letters, Part 2
Author: Bishop Richard Williamson
Publisher: True Restoration Press
Excellence: 3.5 stars
Why: In this book Bishop Williamson says many things that ought to be said, and are not, to the spiritual and intellectual benefit of every reader
Summary in a sentence: The continuation of the series of books that belongs in every serious Catholic’s library, this volume delves deeper into the insanity of our age by examining history, modern cultural phenomena, philosophy, and art.
At the risk of reading like a broken record, I’d like to open this review by once again thanking Bp. Williamson for writing these letters, and Mr. Stephen Heiner for having the courage, fortitude, and gumption to collect them and publish them under his own label. I think I can safely say that were it not for Mr. Heiner these letters may have never been published in this manner. I hope, then, that I’ve left no reader in suspense wondering what I think of this third volume and the series as a whole: it is another excellent part of a most excellent collection.
In my reviews of Volumes I and II of this series, I have discussed the no-nonsense style of the letters, the enjoyment one can expect from reading them (including a healthy helping of British humour), and their saturation with Christian culture. As such, I will not till that ground again, save to reiterate briefly how important I hold this collection of letters to be for any Catholic (or even non-Catholic) serious about understanding and unravelling the madness of our time. That is because, most of the obvious horrors of our time, including the breakdown of marriage and even false œcumenism are merely symptoms. The diagnosis of the chief cause is to be found in these Letters, where we can clearly see that the Devil’s onslaught today is not only an attack on the supernatural, but the natural. A quote from this volume shows how the theoretical and practical intertwine: “Theology is not just theory - from errors in theology flow torrents of blood” (in reference to how Vatican II instigated the massacres in Rwanda).
Now, to speak of Volume Three specifically, it picks up shortly after the Second General Chapter of the SSPX in 1994. It then wastes no time in diving into the subject matter (the “diagnosis” aforementioned) with Letter #130 telling “A Teenager’s Story” which reproduces a letter from one of His Lordship’s correspondence regarding a modern teenager they recently dealt with. Through his commentary, Bp. Williamson deals with the other side of the coin: the traditionalist children insufficiently taught reality and a love of the faith.
The letters go on from there with a discussion in Letter #131 warning against “tradecumenism”. The letters contain a healthy dose of Bp. Williamson’s clear and penetrating analyses and teaching on theology and philosophy, including a brief discussion of the theology of John Paul II (as decrypted by Prof. Dörmann) which is a “Cole’s Notes” version of the twenty-hour conference His Lordship gave in Winona to laymen on the topic, and which is highly recommended but, sadly, can no longer be purchased from the Seminary (sad is an understatement, it’s a travesty, but I digress). There are also letters covering the true definitions of liberty, charity, and equality. Letter #156 deals with an especially pernicious error that infects even traditionalists, that lingering parasite, Americanism.
This volume contains more quotes than previous ones, including lengthy quotations from Cardinal Pie, Pope Pius X, and divers correspondents of the bishop sharing anecdotes which His Lordship uses to communicate important lessons to us. The volume also includes a number of letters very helpfully written in a “question and answer” format.
As always, Bp. Williamson shows himself no coward in the face of controversy, as he takes on, in Letter #160 that golden calf, “The Sound of Music”, thus unleashing a timely barrage on 1950’s “sweetie-pie” Catholicism that is like strychnine to the proper militancy that the Church Militant must have. Most readers of this review are no doubt already familiar with that letter, but it is worthy reading again, and it fits in with this volume’s heavier emphasis than Vols. I and II on the broken nature of modern society. This includes analysis of such unlikely things as Pink Floyd and a number of Oliver Stone’s movies. Bp. Williamson shows how these works of modern art are in fact cries for help from men who have at least an inkling that something is horribly wrong.
At the writing of this review, Bp. Williamson has been sidelined by the SSPX hierarchy, and “word on the street” has it that this shall be the case indefinitely. I shan’t bore our readers with a tirade on how wrong that is, but I think it does make this collection of letters all the more important since it gives those that thirst for truth access to a great spring of it that they otherwise would be denied. As I wrote in the “blurb” for the back of this volume: Any Catholic serious about integrating the Faith into his life and saving himself from modern madness, must read this book. Anyone who wants insight into how and why our society is broken, must read this book.
Nicholas Wansbutter [email him] is a criminal lawyer operating his own firm in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. He writes and blogs at Durendal and is the founder of the Collegium Scriptorum Catholicae, a traditionalist Catholic fiction writers’ group.