Copyright (c) 1996 First Things 61 (March 1996): 13-19.

Faithful for Life

Ishmael Law

Shortly before his death in 1963 Pope John XXIII issued an encyclical with a novel distribution. Originally encyclicals were circular letters sent to all bishops. In modern times the addressees came to include priests and "all the faithful." But John sent Pacem in Terris much further. He proclaimed peace on earth as far as the angels had sung their carol: "to all people of good will."

Paul VI continued this heading on his own great encyclicals, hoping that the cogency of the faith could speak to non-Catholics and non- Christians. And those letters did begin to gain more attention from that broader, ecumenical, and secular audience.

The American bishops did likewise, and with this larger audience in mind they began to address more "public policy" issues. As they did, their mode of approach naturally adapted itself to their more diverse audience: no longer the American Catholics, but the American people . . . and the United States government. More came of this than was intended. For a public that now shared few of their convictions, the bishops were constrained to argue from a thinner philosophical and political gospel. Some thought they were more competent and more responsible to expound the gospel.

Last September the American bishops issued a document that returns to the pastoral tradition of expounding the faith to those who should be able to make sense of it. Faithful for Life: A Moral Reflection is addressed to the Catholic flock to whom the bishops are primarily responsible. It is their most cogent pro-life statement thus far. It is believer-friendly, yet it stings. The reason it may gain a wider hearing is that the bishops bottom their argument, not on civic or sociopolitical grounds, but on trademark Catholic beliefs.

The leading issue is fidelity. Abortion and euthanasia are two instances of ultimate infidelity, whereby the most helpless members of families become disposable at will if they are felt to be too burdensome. Abortion and euthanasia, the bishops observe, are both secondary infections of the same infidelity whereby spouses so commonly walk away from one another that the American public can hardly even imagine what it might mean to bind oneself to another, for better or for worse, until death. It is as impossible a notion today as it was when Jesus first said and showed it. The bishops are pleading that by God's grace we can- we must-live lives that are obligated by other persons and their needs. They say we can manage to do what Jesus did: be faithful to others whether or not they are faithful to us.

Faithful for Life begins with the story of the Good Samaritan, an unwelcome foreigner traveling at his own risk in Judea, who was the only journeyman ready to rescue a mugging victim from the ditch. Two locals, bound not to "stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake" (Leviticus 19:16), had looked and hurried the other way. Jesus' praise for this alien, the bishops note, is not for doing a favor, because for him it was a duty too: "The victim didn't need to be kin or countryman of someone to whom the rescuer had made a commitment. Anyone lying helpless in that ditch was neighbor."

"We are all journeying down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho," the bishops say, and this parable haunts us because it scorns the dogma of our day: "that our loyalties and our obligations are owed only to those of our choice. On the contrary, we owe fidelity to those we choose and, beyond them, to others we do not choose. It is we who have been chosen to go out of our way for them."

So the bishops come out as "anti-choice." If fidelity is to be Christian it is owed not only to those to whom we pledge it but to those whose needs place an equal claim upon our consciences. The pursuit of one's own "interests," satisfaction, freedom, and preferences-all summed up in "choice"-is the watchword of our culture, and the bishops are explaining how our culture can become deadly.

American society upholds the doctrine that human beings find their ultimate sense and fulfillment in individual freedom. To survive other people's competing endeavors-so this belief runs-we must assert our own solitary "best interests." Spouses must enjoy uninhibited freedom, but respect it in their partners (who are, however, revocable at will). Children (also revocable at will) must be the creatures of explicit parental choice, and once accepted they must be helped quickly into the full possession of their own right to choose (and to fend) for themselves. Grandparents (revocable also) must retain their vigor and their distance so as to enjoy their freedom to choose (but not to impinge too heavily on their children's choices), up to the timely end of their lives. Any decline from autonomy to dependence is felt as an indignity. The desirable outcome of family life, according to this belief, is a pack of freewheeling individualists who enjoy unimpeded liberty to do what they choose, limited minimally by their agreement not to impede one another's liberty. This exaltation of individual free choice has, naturally, put fidelity owed to others into full eclipse.

Predictably, a "plague effect" has been visited on children by their parents' failures to form or maintain commitments to each other. Studies indicate that the children of severed partnerships are in a great many ways at a disadvantage by comparison with those whose parents remain together. They are more impoverished and more likely to subside into welfare, to perform poorly in their studies and to drop out of school, to become involved in juvenile crime and its legal penalties, to require treatment for physical illnesses and emotional disturbances, and to be at risk for sexual abuse. Even more dismaying, perhaps, are indications that this pathology intensifies as it is passed on. These same children are also more likely to drift into adolescent sex, pregnancy, and cohabitation, and thereby the increased likelihood that their own marriages will disintegrate.

The increasing acceptance of disposable relationships and the exaltation of divorce are but single episodes in a long subversion of fidelity that has changed the nature of the familial undertaking at its root. It is not happenstance that the country which offers the least legal protection in the developed world for the unborn is the same country that offers the least legal protection for the victims of divorce. Abortion and euthanasia, the bishops argue, bring home to us in a newly violent way how drastic is our disbelief in fidelity. For it has become obvious to any Catholic willing to see it that what was once construed as a commitment has shriveled to a wish. "The home becomes the place where, when you knock, they no longer have to let you in."

The Catholic Church has historically argued that free and deliberate choice is indeed an essential element in any Christian marital bond. But there is a companion teaching. We can and do incur other bonds without choosing them, as when we are begotten by parents and when we are gifted with children. "We are bound to our children, not because we chose them, but because we were given them: simply because they are our children, our very near neighbors."

Even the marital bond transcends choice, for one has committed oneself not only to the spouse one married, but to that spouse with all of his or her eventual developments of character and circumstance. We cannot discharge ourselves of our spouses or our kinfolk or our neighbors in their authentic needs without damaging our own capacity to love. And once we have accepted this fidelity as an inmost need in our lives, who knows in advance how many times we will have to turn aside from our journeys along that road from Jerusalem to Jericho?

It is clear that the bishops are expressing an unusually sharp critique of the national culture. It is a prophetic moment for them.

"Abortion, and now euthanasia, have become socially accepted acts because many have been persuaded that people unfairly lose their freedom when others make claims on them that pose burdens and obligations. In the course of a very few years many people have come to think of an unplanned baby as an unwanted baby, and of an undesired baby as an undesirable one. The prescribed social remedy has been to put an end to the baby's life before he or she can make a claim on yours." Such violations of human life and human dignity are now "expounded upon in classrooms, prescribed by physicians, condoned by public figures, protected by courts, subsidized by legislatures, and even advertised in the Yellow Pages. How has it come to pass that the elimination of one's child or one's parent, acts of desperation wrought in every age, are now described as sensible and even attractive alternatives?"

Infidelity, once naturalized, easily resorts to violence. Witness the homicides committed by parents upon their children, children upon their parents, spouses upon one another.

In this environment the bishops will not gain an easy hearing for their message that life is a mixture of both choice and acceptance. This nation's adults are hardly capable of convincing their children that life's moral imperatives are not a la carte.

The bishops do not mention evils more monstrous than abortion and euthanasia, nor do they claim that these two are so pernicious that they must preempt all other moral concerns: genocide, enslavement, environmental devastation, or nuclear destruction. What the bishops do say is that abortion and euthanasia are dreadful outbreaks of the infidelity that darkens our earth with both furtive and flaunted violence.

Our nation has a persistent way of not wanting to peer honestly into that darkness. Consider how prone we are to evade social remedies that carry a personal cost. We are a people scourged with drug seduction and addiction; so we have locked away more of our population than any people in the world. Our affluence has afflicted our country with overweight; so we look for the perfect crash diet, patch, or pill. AIDS sweeps the land like Bubonic Plague, and we want only a pharmaceutical to cure it. Prisons, diets, and drugs are not wrong, but they only nick the edge of these persistent problems.

From their pastoral ministry the bishops know story upon story of valiant people coping with family responsibility in the face of frustration. Yet what has become the "American Way" of family life invites us into shortcuts and sidesteps that can deprive us of the close community we all truly seek. A young couple by cohabiting make marital fracture and eventual divorce more predictable. Our society and often our Church look the other way, put them through a marriage preparation routine, celebrate their wedding, and "hope for the best."

Some parents who work full-time do so not from family need but to avoid tedious days with children. They buy dawn-to-dark day care for their parenting, delivered pizza for their meals, and television for their amusement-where children are presented with a hundred thousand sexual situations and two hundred thousand acts of violence before coming of age. Schoolwork slides down the national learning curve, as teachers plead for more parental collaboration, and parents put hope in a cram course for the college entrance exams. The grandparents retire and move toward the sunniest retirement community, where no children are allowed. The teenagers start binge drinking and the neighborhood parents take their turns leaving town for a weekend so that the children can all drink indoors, regularly and "safely." The kids are having sex too, and school clinics and condoms are going to make it "safe," though not safe. They don't use the condoms, the girls get pregnant, and a "safe" abortion is offered as the remedy for that, though for nothing else. The parents eventually get more time together but find they don't like one another much any more, so they go for counseling; and at the third session the therapist proposes divorce as the obvious remedy. The grandfather dies, and when the grandmother declines into depression she is put in a nursing home with other depressed and abandoned people. One of the divorcees drifts into a later-in-life cohabitation, with the assurance of a compassionate annulment to make it right.

The bishops' response is radical. "To live in fidelity we have to rearrange our lives, yield control, and forfeit some choices. To evade the full burden of putting ourselves at the disposal of those to whom we belong, to allot them only the slack in our own agendas and not what they require, is to practice desertion by other means." A life without loving fidelity is eventually lethal.

From beginning to end, Faithful for Life makes points intelligible only to those who understand the gospel. The victim of unfaithful violence who suffers the most is not the one killed, but the one who kills. When Jesus says that anyone who lives by the sword will die by the sword, he is warning his disciples that the handle can be more deadly than the blade. The reason we need to protect our helpless neighbor is that the neighbor is "the Lord, who comes in the guise of a stranger. At such times he comes as if his very life depends on our welcome; but it is our lives, not his, that most depend upon it."

It is a tough message. That is because the gospel is tough. But the bishops are not just harsh. At the end of their pastoral reflection they turn to another story from Scripture: the narrative of Cain and Abel with its lesson that violations of fidelity have a perversity and a severity all their own. The Lord told Cain: "Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground." Early Christian writers took that as their cue to list the sins that "call to heaven for vengeance": killing a kinsman, exploiting foreigners, mistreating orphans and widows, and cheating workers of their wages. "What gave each of these sins voice before God was not only the exploitation of the vulnerable by the powerful, but the misuse of the helpless by those who should have been their protectors." But then the bishops go on to show how far forward the gospel has carried the Covenant. "Crimes that cry to heaven for vengeance" read differently when the Father in that heaven is a wrathless one whose only "vengeance" is to love and not to hate, to transform but not to punish-a Father who retaliates by drawing the heart of the sinner all the more relentlessly to become faithful. That, of course, goes well beyond what any civil society might understand.

Yet this pastoral meditation, by drawing the gospel beyond what the Constitution could yield, may yet win for the bishops a breakthrough of understanding from both Catholics and other Americans. To be heard peaceably, the bishops will require people of good will. But their prophetic reflection may elicit enough good will to be heard.

The peace they are writing about surpasseth understanding, but beguileth it as well.

Ishmael Law writes on issues of moral theology, especially those dealing with the fostering of life.

To Murmur Name Upon Name

Charles M. Gray

Too long a sacrifice Can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice? That is Heaven's part, our part To murmur name upon name, As a mother names her child . . . - W. B. Yeats, "Easter 1916"
Every year, at the University of Chicago, a ritual of reading out names is performed-the names of University members who have died during the year. A list intoned, a catalogue recited, the mere naming of names-what is the good of that? Around the names cluster stories and myths; each bears a string of epithets; each is a text whose eloquence and whose obscurities merit endless commentary. For some in this audience, a particular name evokes those stories, connotes the words that characterize the man or woman, calls up praise and wonder at works completed or left incomplete. But, for most of us, many of the names will be only names. And what meaning can unknown names have?

A great deal, I should like to say. The ritual of naming names survives on the strength of resonances hard to capture but harder to elude. We know each unknown name points to a space now empty of the person named, but full of memories and interpretations that persist and even grow in the minds of those who knew that person. There is a chastening and a satisfaction in being reminded how many scenes crowded with life in the living and in the recollection are veiled from one's vision; there is a point in reckoning undiscovered continents and counting the peopled stars.

And yet, it seems to cheat proper names of their richness to think of them only as signifiers. We know that each X is anything but an X, that each human being is a stage for unwitnessed tragedies and comedies. Proper names in logic label things that may or may not be describable in public language, language that gets its meaning from its shared applicability to groups of things and persons. But proper names also belong to language as a whole; they fill the mouth as well as other words, have specific sounds and shapes. Words, proper or improper, cannot escape from being words, cannot take refuge in the clean confines of logic. They mean not only by labeling X's, but also by sounding and looking as they do, by spilling over their sensuous qualities, as do the sounds of music and the painter's shapes. What meaning beyond the reach of logic is I am not confident I can say. Proper names of people seem to have magic beyond their power of pointing out human beings. It is as if the persons whom logically the names only label took on a presence, as if in knowing nothing but their names-so long as that knowing is not too casual and unreflective-we knew something deeper of them than the causal fact they bore those names.

There are in literature important characters whose existence in the work is a name or little more. They occur in epic and chronicle, names dropped or listed, signifying people with no particular role in the story, or none worth singling out, but without the stirring names of supernumerary heroes the texture of those texts would lose weight and complexity. Catalogues must not be skipped or edited away. The Scottish ballad "Mary Hamilton"-the story of a lady-in-waiting, all-too- successfully courted, who drowns her baby and is condemned to hang- concludes with the lines:

Last nicht there was four Maries, The nicht there'll be but three; There was Mary Seton, and Marie Beton, And Marie Carmichael, and me.
Does the naming of the other three Maries not somehow make the poem? Context can encourage us to imagine the outlines of stories about those we know only by name: Four court girls, all bearers of aristocratic Scots names, four lives one would expect to run in similar channels. What did the three survivors have that Mary Hamilton lacked, or lack that she had? Less beauty, more resistance? Some deficit of passion or greater endowment of prudence? Some talent for ordinary living that would have disabled them, even if they had found themselves in Mary Hamilton's trouble, from being as sassy on the gallows as she, for her final speech-matter-of-fact, bitter, spirited, joking-is anything but the repentance good form might demand or the self-pity that might be natural. In naming her luckier or chaster survivors (her rivals perhaps), she triumphs over them.

One character who is mostly a name, in a very different vein of literature, has long haunted me-Ramon Fernandez in Wallace Stevens' poem "The Idea of Order at Key West." He appears about four-fifths of the way through the poem, before which one would suspect no presence save for the poet's and that of a visionary-seeming woman singing by the sea. Then suddenly Ramon Fernandez is addressed in the stanza:

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know, Why, when the singing ended and we turned Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights, The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there, As the night descended, tilting in the air, Mastered the night and portioned out the sea, Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles, Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.
Just following, at the very end of the poem, he is addressed again in an exclamation:

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon, The maker's rage to order words of the sea, Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred, And of ourselves and of our origins, In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.
At his second appearance, we do discover one fact about him-he is pale. And once Ramon is present, speculation about his role is invited. With the "we" in the poem, the poet must be talking about himself and Ramon, two particular people listening to the same commingled song of the woman and the sea, complicit in their understandings and doubts. Is Ramon appealed to because he is likely to know what the poet cannot figure out, or does the poet know Ramon will be unable to tell what he is asked to tell if he knows? Must the poet cry out to him what their common experience means, or does this pale Spaniard have some intuitive grasp of those "ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds" that Stevens must struggle to articulate? In any event, what we know about Ramon- scant and speculative-has nothing like the force in the poem of his mere name-his beautiful Hispanic name. The poem could say about what it says without Ramon Fernandez, but a nearly unanalyzable element in the poem's mysteriousness and in the profound humanism it affirms would be lacking without the presence of a human being primarily present as a name, and I think just that name.

I confess a certain regret at the youthful preference in fashion now for traveling light in names. "I'm Carol," "I'm Jeff," is often as much identification as one can extract from a student, as if to reveal more were to produce cards of identity that tell the older generation more than it's safe to let Them know. And yet, this is precisely my argument- names do tell more than they strictly ought. But I could do with a few more syllables in introductions and self-introductions. The baggage of A. A. Milne's three-year-old is perhaps excessive-James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree. Only royalty and its imitators in the British upper classes can get away with strings as long as that. But it seems to me we should not be shy about sounding out the two or three names that suffice for most of us, pronouncing them boldly at times between our birth certificates and our tombstones.

When one is young, one mostly is one's name. History has not had time to accumulate, character to be engraved, but the child most certainly knows who he is. Our names are our oldest and surest possessions. The child's name to the child is no empty label on an empty space, but a thing of color and sonority, an object of unexampled interest and importance. It tells all about me, and even if I am plain John Jones, when I am only three I am the John Jones. Proper names hold onto meaning, perhaps, because they once had so much. They join the class of favored hieroglyphs, signs that express though they do not represent, speak to the spirit though they have outlived their everyday use.

The ritual of naming names is most of all a celebration of individuality. As it is performed here, it may seem to call attention primarily to our corporate life. The dead are named according to their "orders," their particular roles in the complex and enduring career of the University, and those of us who did not know them learn from the proceedings, besides the names themselves, only their general location within a fabric that survives, where the dead are replaced in their roles and live on as examples of parts well-played. But the ritual's insistence on proper names, the way the names resound beyond the scanty information we gain about their bearers, seems to call the mind away from the secondary office of affirming a community to contemplation of the mystery of individuality. A rite of civil religion turns to true religion after all; when the just and necessary claims of the Earthly City have been satisfied, the mind is carried on the wings of those unique and resonant names to the City of God.

The God of monotheism is the final symbol of individuality. We should not look for another name for Him, because if we do we misunderstand "God" as the word for a kind of thing; "God" is a proper name. God, like our individual selves, is unknowable in essence; we only know something about Him through His works-and universities are devoted to revealing again and again how little we know of those, how yesterday's truth fails to meet the phenomena's complexity.

For the reality back of the phenomena we have only a name. To have only a name, however, is not to be impoverished, is not the same as having, or being, only an X. Common language is made for the common uses of this world; proper names echo the depths we cannot talk about. It is as true of ordinary names-ours and those of the dead-as of the Name of God. We are images of God in that we share His individuality, cannot be plumbed or measured, cannot be reduced to roles and works, enjoy a liberty to be ourselves and to shape our world, to figure as beginnings, not merely as results of those processes of nature and history that form us.

Of his comical but apt symbol for the flesh-and-blood individual, the hippopotamus, T. S. Eliot wrote:

He shall be washed as white as snow, By all the martyr'd virgins kist, While the True Church remains below Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.
Institutions have their advantages. As Eliot says earlier in the poem:

Flesh and blood is weak and frail, Susceptible to nervous shock; While the True Church can never fail For it is based upon a rock.
But the hippopotamus has the last word, the last laugh. The University, like its ancestor the Church, does not subsume, does not explain, the individuals who have been part of it. Its debt to them is for more than the service they have rendered, each in his generation, each in her capacity; it is for having been themselves, each as he or she was, and for having touched the collective life with life from life's exclusive source in individuals.

Wallace Stevens, unlike Eliot, was not a man to spend Sunday morning in church, preferring "late coffee and oranges in a sunny chair." But in "The Idea of Order at Key West" (and elsewhere) Stevens celebrates the human voice, human freedom, the need and the power we have to transcend the givenness of nature. Of his singer he says, in the poem's opening line: "She sang beyond the genius of the sea," and adds:

It was her voice that made The sky acutest at its vanishing. She measured to the hour its solitude. She was the single artificer of the world In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea, Whatever self it had, became the self That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we, As we beheld her striding there alone, Knew that there never was a world for her Except the one she sang and, singing, made.
The poem is of course about art, but it is also full of the awareness that each of us-each proper-named person, each Ramon Fernandez-is a "single artificer of the world." It is the poet and Ramon, "when the singing ended," who with their shaping, human, individual eyes see that the random lights from the boats:

Mastered the night and portioned out the sea, Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles, Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Charles M. Gray is Professor of History at the University of Chicago.

On The Other Hand

At Stake in the Enlightenment

Peter L. Berger

Christian conservatives generally subscribe to two strongly held propositions: that a return to Christian values is necessary if the moral confusion of our time is to be overcome, and that the Enlightenment is to blame for much of the confusion.

Looked at empirically, these two propositions undoubtedly have merit. It is historically accurate to say that the morality of Western Civilization has its roots in Christianity and farther back in Judaism, and it is at least plausible to say that convinced Christians are less confused about their values than people with more shaky religious convictions. Moreover, it is safe to ascribe to the Enlightenment the origins of a process of debunking every sort of certitude that has led to the moral relativism of our present moment.

Yet things are a bit more complicated. One complication turns up as soon as one asks just which period of history and which part of the world one wants to hold up as an example of a society in which Christian values were reasonably dominant. Presumably it would have to be a place and a period where the effects of the Enlightenment were not, or not yet, in evidence. How about central Europe in the seventeenth century?

I was made to think about this on a recent visit, my second, to a monastery of Loccum in northern Germany. It is located near Hannover, though that sizable city seems far away from the rustic tranquillity of Loccum. The monastery was founded in 1163 by a group of young Cistercians (one historian has referred to this order, in its early years, as a kind of youth movement). Like many medieval monasteries, Loccum soon acquired extensive stretches of land, including several villages, and it was also given political and legal jurisdiction over the surrounding territory. When most of northern Germany became Protestant, Loccum (along with some other places in the region) held on as a Catholic enclave, then very quietly became Protestant around 1600. It is highly unusual though not unique that there continued to be monks in residence for some time (Lutheran monks, that is) and that, when these finally disappeared, Loccum retained its status as a monastic establishment under the authority of the Landes-kirche of Hannover-with an abbot and a chapter functioning under the old charter, though the individuals carrying on these functions were now no longer Cisterian monks but Lutheran church officials.

This status has remained intact up to the present time. The oldest part of the complex of buildings (the magnificent Romanesque church in the center dates from the thirteenth century) now serves as the seminary of the Landeskirche (where about-to-be-ordained pastors spend a year of practical training after completing their theological studies at a university). Clustered around it are other church institutions, including the Evangelical Academy of Loccum, one of the three most active Protestant think tanks founded after World War II. Hanns Lilje, one of the most impressive figures in the church resistance against the Nazi regime, was both Landesbischof and "abbot" of Loccum; he is buried there, beside all his predecessors, a line stretching back to the High Middle Ages.

On my recent visit I was again struck by the peaceful atmosphere of the place, itself a tangible sign of an unbroken history of Christian piety and thought. It was not even broken by the great chasm of the Reformation, not only in the sense that the monastery became Protestant without any sharp conflicts, but because it subsequently tried to serve as a mediator between the two religious parties. Toward the end of the seventeenth century its Abbot Molanus initiated a number of theological negotiations between Protestants and Catholics that attracted wide attention (the philosopher Leibnitz was one of the participants). Theologically, Loccum stood for a mellow ecumenism in an era when this was hardly widespread. As my host, Landesbischof Horst Hirschler, showed me around, I felt soothed by the genius loci and I could well imagine how a young person spending a year in Loccum would be strongly shaped by the experience.

This tranquil mood ended abruptly. The Landesbischof showed me various old manuscripts in the monastery library, then took one out with particular care. It was a brittle-looking volume that he had accidentally come upon some years ago. The volume contained the full record of a trial for witchcraft. Bishop Hirschler was evidently moved by this discovery. He sat down and read parts of the document to me (I could not have deciphered the archaic German script by myself). Subsequently I read an account of the episode in a history of Loccum, which also contained extracts from the juridical record. But it was in handling and poring over the old book that these long-ago events seemed to come alive. It is not a pretty story.

The case was that of one Gese Koellars, a widow with several children, of the village of Wiedensahl, which was within the jurisdiction of the monastery. The case was begun in October 1659, a good half century after Loccum became Protestant. Koellars was accused by the mayor and several villagers of being a witch and of having harmed the animals of some neighbors by witchcraft. She was arrested and brought before the monastic court. She indignantly denied the accusations, pointing out (relevantly, one would think) that one of her accusers was a neighbor whose advances she had rejected. When the court (which throughout the entire trial tried, within the limits of its preconceptions, to be fair to the accused) expressed doubts about the accusations, Koellars' fellow-villagers came up with more serious allegations-that she had been responsible for the supernatural apparition of a black man, that she had hexed a child who then died, that she had kept the communion host in her mouth in order to give it to the devil. The court then asked the advice of the law faculty of the nearby university of Rinteln as to whether Koellars should now be questioned under torture. The law professors advised that this would be premature, that she should be further interrogated to see if inconsistencies appeared. None did. The next advice was to begin with the lowest form of torture, the so-called ligatura or painful shackling. This was done by a professional torturer, who was specially imported for this purpose from one of the nearby towns.

The record gives a clear impression of a feisty, even belligerent woman. Koellars did not break under these ministrations; instead, she asked to be subjected to the "water ordeal" in order to prove her innocence. That, alas, was a fatal mistake. She was thrown into a pond three times, and three times, despite all her efforts, failed to sink. The record now shows shock and uncertainty in her responses. She admitted that she had failed the test, but still maintained her innocence. Surprisingly, the court, again upon advice of the law faculty, stated that there was strong suspicion but no conclusive proof of witchcraft in this case, and considered a sentence of banishment from the region. But the villagers of Wiedensahl brought forth even more accusations. Koellars was subjected to more severe torture (the application of screws to the legs).

And now the record shows that she finally broke. She confessed that she was indeed a witch, even named her diabolical lover (whom she called "bushman"). The court pronounced her guilty. The sentence was imposed by the nearest secular authority, the Count of Schaumburg, who, as an act of mercy, ordered Koellars to be beheaded rather than burned at the stake. The sentence was carried out in June 1660.

Between 1628 and 1660, thirty-two women and three men were executed for witchcraft at Loccum. Not all the records of these trials have survived, but all the names are known.

There was opposition to those trials from within both churches in Germany in the seventeenth century. The Jesuit Friedrich von Spee, who had been a prison chaplain to many accused witches, did not doubt the reality of witchcraft but denounced the trial methods in a book published in 1632. The Protestant Christian Thomasius published a more comprehensive attack on the whole practice in 1701.

But it was the Enlightenment that put an end to witchcraft trials. Enlightened rulers prohibited such trials. They also stopped the practice of judicial torture and, in some countries, abolished the death penalty.

Peter L. Berger is Director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture at Boston University.