Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wife of Demoted Steubenville Professor Compares Husband to Elijah and Critics to Prophets of Baal

Suzanne M. Lewis, the wife of Steubenville English Professor Stephen Lewis, took to web portal Patheos a few days ago to lash out at her husband's critics.

The piece was posted on January 9th, shortly after Stephen Lewis had come under fire for assigning a novel to his students that included graphic musings about sexual activity involving the Virgin Mary. One day later Lewis was removed from his position as chair of the English Department. He remains a full professor.

Suzanne Lewis is co-founder with ex-Steubenville instructor Rebecca Bratten Weiss of Revolution of Tenderness, which organizes a yearly arts and culture festival in Pittsburgh, and co-editor with Weiss of its journal Convivium. Weiss is now the manager of Patheos Catholic.

Even though Revolution of Tenderness, Convivium and related sites were used by Lewis and Weiss to advertise, fundraise and recruit readers and attendees, they have now been made private. [Edit: Revolution of Tenderness is still private. I believe Convivium was also made private but now seems to be back up.]

Suzanne Lewis begins her post, "Which hill will you die on?", with Calvary:
A joy can develop, even during the most humiliating affliction, when the gaze of love is exchanged between two people who have shared a history and lived one life between the two of them. Think of how Mary and Jesus must have looked at one another on Calvary: how their faces must have become radiant when their eyes met during those last hours! There is nothing more beautiful than the face of a loved one whose gaze of tenderness tells us: It is good that you exist…
She then relates how she has seen Catholic spouses grow in their faith by taking care of each other during times of suffering and even death. Apparently her husband Stephen, a busy teacher and administrator, recently nursed her through recovery after fairly serious surgery.
He performed all these tasks with quiet kindness while also preparing the family meals, driving our daughter to school and back, and continuing to fulfill all his teaching and scholarly duties at work.
I saw the same gentleness and patience in my husband that I had also witnessed in those two men I described at the beginning of this essay. What a tremendous sense of certainty this newness generated in both of us!
That's quite lovely. And, yes, I'm serious about that.

But apparently, Stephen or she and Stephen ("we") are currently experiencing another Cavalry due to people criticizing her husband's teaching assignments. Or, rather, as Suzanne Lewis puts it, they're on a "new mountain . . . this time we have arrived on Mount Carmel, where Elijah once challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest (1 Kings 18: 21-39)."

Yet in this time of tribulation, they stand by God and He stands by them:
Instead of the prophets of Baal, we confront the prophets of Greed, Calumny, Power, and False Witness. Weirdly, these prophets also do a lot of hopping. In our corner, we stand by our God, whose name is Love. His respect for human freedom makes him appear, sometimes, as though he sides with those who are wrong . . . Still . . . he never remains aloof from those who call on his name. His response is to set fire to our sacrifices: each time we fit our person according to the dimensions of his mercy, he ignites our lives with an energy we could have never supplied.
Meanwhile, the prophets of petty gods continue to hop about and slash themselves in their aridity and shame. They will discover, one day, when they call out in their need, “no sound, no one answering, no one listening.”
It's important to note that as far as I have seen, the principle critics (this blogger included) of Lewis or the Lewises have not so far claimed that he or they are bad people or bad Catholics.

Indeed, it's been exactly the opposite. Here's one small example: On a long Facebook thread featuring many members of the Steubenville community, the wife of a professor there went out of her way to praise the Lewises as good and kind friends and colleagues. Among other things, the commenter said that Suzanne Lewis had helped to catechize her children. But she also refused to back down from agreeing that Stephen Lewis was probably wrong to assign the novel.

Was that charitable woman also a prophet of petty gods, hopping and slashing in her shame?

I do think Suzanne Lewis is kooky. And in a minor Facebook thread I believe I called her a "loopy liberal academic." I said that in part based on her work with Revolution of Tenderness. But I think it now also comes out in her Patheos post.

Let's state the obvious:

Stephen Lewis isn't Christ. Suzanne Lewis isn't Mary. (Or vice versa.)

Neither of them is Elijah.

And Michael Voris isn't Baal. But I digress.

Stephen Lewis got into hot water by assigning a dirty French novel to his graduate students, a novel which also gravely insulted Our Lady. That this was part of a pattern and that Lewis was defiant about it was also relevant.

The president of the university, Father Sean Sheridan, apologized to the Steubenville community and also apologized to "Our Blessed Mother and Her Son." In addition, a Holy Hour of Reparation to Mary, Mother of God was held.

It's odd that while Mary comes up quite often in Suzanne Lewis' blog posts and other writings, on this issue - that Mary was gravely insulted - she is mute.

Mary is a real person, not a rhetorical device.

And Suzanne Lewis' unseemly attempt to play the victim will in the end only confirm for some that the Steubenville administration acted appropriately in, at a minimum, removing her husband as chair.

But I want to look finally at the last line of the piece:
They will discover, one day, when they call out in their need, “no sound, no one answering, no one listening.”
Church Militant has a large and devoted readership, viewership and subscriber base. I think people are listening. And of course the thing has now gone well beyond Church Militant.

By contrast, the web traffic at Patheos Catholic is in free-fall, due in large part to its accelerating leftward lurch under Rebecca Bratten Weiss. Fewer and fewer Catholics take it seriously, let alone read it, though admittedly it does probably have influence in certain circles - the circles Suzanne Lewis travels in.

Five days after posting, her essay had no comments, though yesterday it finally received one.

No one listening?

In truth, Catholics are starting to pay attention to the left-liberal subculture at Steubenville, which includes current faculty as well as vocal ex-faculty and graduates. It's perhaps not even a subculture as it still has a large amount of influence, arguably going all the way to the top.

Catholics are listening because the subculture keeps talking. And they do not like what they hear.


  1. "Fewer and fewer Catholics take it seriously, let alone read it."

    Was it ever popular? I never purposefully go to it and in the past several years automatically close any stories that are linked to it when I go to it by mistake. Why waste any time on it?

  2. By contrast, the web traffic at Patheos Catholic is in free-fall, due in large part to its accelerating leftward lurch under Rebecca Bratten Weiss.

    This shows that Weiss and her cohorts represent the pseudo-Catholic pseudo-intelligencia that runs the Church, not the average man or woman in the pew. Weiss et al -- like their secular equivalents -- don't want any truck with the "deplorables." They're better than that.

    It also explains why Mark Shea is becoming more and more shrill. He's losing the only audience he has. Pretty soon, he'll have to get a real job.

  3. I'd bet anyone a bottle of Lagavulin that Ms. Lewis only receives Communion in the hand, and is a "Eucharistic Minister." Any takers?