Defending Dr. Scott Hahn
Scott Hahn has taken a lot of heat in your magazine of late for calling the Holy Spirit "feminine" and "maternal," etc.: "A Little Bit of Gnosticism" (New Oxford Note, Feb. 2007), a letter from Scott Hahn and an Editor's Reply (May 2007), a letter from Kathryn L'Esperance and an Editor's Reply (Jul.-Aug. 2007), a letter from Richard R. Schroeck (Oct. 2007), and a letter from Mary Foley and an Editor's Note (Dec. 2007).
In the early days of the Church, the Church Fathers displayed a great deal of originality and freedom in developing and explaining the doctrines of the Church. St. Augustine developed the explanation of the Blessed Trinity, which says that the love between the Father and the Son results in a Third Person, the Holy Spirit. This is a very beautiful concept, to be sure.
There is another way of looking at the Trinity, however, which was explored by the early Eastern Churches. In this alternate model, the Blessed Trinity is a family: Father, Son, and some sort of figure who fulfills the role of the mother in a family. "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen. 1:27). Perhaps, if we could look past our physical bodies, we might see the essence of "masculinity" and "fatherhood" as truth, justice, faith, law, order, or the head of the family; and we might see the essence of "femininity" and "motherhood" as mercy, goodness, beauty, kindness, love, or the heart of the family. "Love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss" (Ps. 85:10).
Looking at the human family itself as created in the image and likeness of the Blessed Trinity has some obvious advantages for today's society:
(1) A human family then consists only of father, mother, and child(ren) because it's the image of God on earth. The human family has its foundation in ultimate reality (the Blessed Trinity). Families that do not consist of father, mother, and child(ren) are unfortunate aberrations or attacks against God.
(2) Girls and ladies have a foundation in ultimate reality, and are to be treated with the utmost respect: "Whoever sins against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven" (Mk. 3:29).
(3) Family relationships are the greatest good and the greatest treasure that we possess. Ultimate joy and fulfillment are found in excellent relationships with our brothers and sisters, mother and father, and our Church family, as the members of the Blessed Trinity find such joy and fulfillment in their perfect relationship with one another.
(4) The role model for boys and men is God the Father: leader, creator, infinitely faithful and true -- the head of the family. Girls and women would also then have a role model in the Holy Spirit: good, kind, hidden, and behind the scenes, merciful, the Giver of life -- the heart of the family.
I think that viewing the Blessed Trinity as a family is more correct than the alternate of three guys in Heaven. I don't think there has to be a contradiction between the above views. I also suspect that this familial model of the Godhead is why the Eastern Churches reacted rather strongly against inserting the filioque into the Creed in the 10th century -- how can the "mother" proceed from the "son"?
Mostly I am writing to defend Dr. Scott Hahn for his attempts to bring us to a less mystifying and more personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is "like" mom, or "like" my wife, or "like" our Lady, or "like" the most beautiful and perfect woman in existence -- gee, I'd really like to talk to this Person!
Deacon John Bradley
Byzantine Catholic Church
San Luis Obispo, California
Ed Note: We have had our say on this topic. For the full story, browse our Topical Dossier "Dr. Scott Hahn -- Theologian."
Arise, You Bishops
My reaction to Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio freeing up the Tridentine Latin Mass, is quite different from the NOR's (Editorial, Oct. 2007).
I am grateful that the Holy Father has given to Tridentine Latin Mass devotees the right to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice in a manner which, in their opinion, is a response suitable to the degree to which they value it. The NOR believes that it will take a long time and much hard work and prayer to re-establish the Tridentine Mass as one of the usual parish Sunday Masses. I doubt that this will ever happen. The Latin High Mass -- with its solemnity; its pomp and ceremony; its wonderful liturgical music; its constant, consistent language, focused first and foremost on God -- is truly the opera of liturgical celebration. But it is not to the taste of everyone.
Every Mass, regardless of the number in attendance, the language, the music, the worthiness of the priest and the people, the position of the priest and the people, is intrinsically mysterious, sacred, powerful, sanctifying, and loving. Every Mass, by its nature, has, as the NOR says of the Tridentine Latin Mass, the "ability to revitalize the Faith and re-establish a true Catholic culture in the midst of general moral decline."
The manner in which a Mass is conducted indicates the extent to which the priest and the congregation truly realize and appreciate it. This appreciation is much more evident in the Tridentine Mass than in most vernacular New Masses. In the former, the focus, by virtue of the ad orientem positions of the priest and people, is on the sanctuary crucifix and what is going on at the altar. The priest is not the "star presider" but is taking the place of Jesus as mediator between God and His people. The people are not there to pay attention to their neighbors but to adore and praise their Creator. The language and gestures are vital. At the Tridentine Mass the language is formal, consistent, and constant -- truly universal. There is no room for histrionics and capricious changes of words.
On the other hand, the language problem that afflicts the New Mass is monumental since the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), after Vatican II, misinterpreted and changed much of the traditional Scriptures -- even the U.S. bishops can't seem to agree on the distasteful translations.
The music at the Tridentine Mass tends to be truly liturgical, not comforting little songs dedicated to the congregation, often with a beat more suitable to a stage band than to the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice.
But the celebration of the Tridentine Mass will not change God's people. Rather, God's people must be educated to understand and appreciate the value of the Holy Sacrifice. The ad orientem position of the priest and the people, the consistency of language and gestures, the silence, the music -- the obstacles to transferring these Tridentine elements that express understanding and devotion to the vernacular New Mass are virtually insurmountable, the parish liturgy committee being the foremost obstacle.
With Summorum Pontificum, Benedict has freed the bishops to do their jobs of educating and preaching and leading God's poor neglected sheep. Arise, all you bishops who are neglecting your duty! You need to pray to the Holy Spirit.
The Real Beginning of Our Salvation
Michael Hichborn of American Life League, in his reply to Roger A. Chylla (letter, Nov. 2007), states rightly and properly that "the only reasonable thing to do [about abortion] is to focus on the abolition of all abortions through defining personhood as beginning at fertilization. Without maintaining that one focus, the whole foundation of the prolife fight crumbles!"
So it is time for the Catholic Church herself to get it right, and correct her New Order liturgies that wrongly give Christmas as the beginning of our Lord's life:
(1) Prayer over the gifts, Vigil of the Nativity: "Lord, as we keep tonight the vigil of Christmas it marks the beginning of our redemption" (italics added). Not so. Catholic and scientific truth is that in human time our redemption began at our Lord's conception, the Incarnation at the Annunciation.
(2) Prayer after Communion in the same Christmas Vigil Mass: "Father we ask you to give us a new birth as we celebrate the beginning of your Son's life on earth" (italics added).
(3) Preface III for Christmas: "Today in Him a new light has dawned upon the world: God has become one with man, and man has become one again with God. Your eternal Word has taken upon Himself our human weakness" (italics added). Yet all this happened at the Incarnation, not at the "today" of Christmas.
(4) Opening Prayer, 7th Day of the Christmas Octave: "Ever living God, in the birth of your Son our religion has its origin and its perfect fulfillment " (italics added). Not so on either account. In human time, our religion's "origin" was at the Incarnation, and its "perfect fulfillment" really had to wait on His death and resurrection.
(5) The "in union with" prayer, Christmas Vigil Mass, celebrates "that night when Mary, without loss of her virginity, gave the world its savior " (italics added). Again, Catholic truth is that Mary gave the world its Savior at the Incarnation, nine months before Christmas.
In addition to these specific errors, there are ambiguities:
(a) Entrance Prayer, 6th Day in the Christmas Octave: "When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run half of her swift course, your all-powerful Word, O Lord, leaped down from Heaven ." This is surely more suited to the Incarnation than to Christmas.
(b) Alternative Opening Prayer, Christmas Vigil Mass: "God of endless ages we keep vigil for the dawn of salvation" (italics added). This is ambiguous, as "dawn" could be taken as "to become visible" or "to begin."
(c) Of special interest is the Opening Prayer for our Lady's birthday, September 8: "Father of mercy the birth of the Virgin Mary's Son was the dawn of our salvation" (italics added). Again, there is the ambiguity of the word "dawn."
In the Tridentine Latin Mass, the Latin in the Mass for the Nativity of Mary is translated as "We beseech thee, O Lord as the childbearing of the Blessed Virgin was the beginning of our salvation" (italics added), which is not ambiguous. "Childbearing" and "childbirth" are not the same thing.
May the good God grant that these will all be corrected, along with other adjustments being made in the new translation of the New Order Mass into English, which is apparently expected to be ready by 2009.
No Ecumenical Council Of Vienna
Regarding E. Christian Brugger's article "Dualism, the Human Body & the Self," it should be noted that there was no ecumenical "Council of Vienna" (Nov. 2007, p. 27). The Council referred to (1311-1312) was the Council of Vienne in southern France, north of Avignon.
Thomas K. Nelson, M.D.
Fountain Hills, Arizona
Thumbs Down to the USCCB
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) should be ashamed of itself for giving the thumbs up to the movie The Golden Compass, based on Harry Forbes's anti-Catholic children's novel. Where is the bishops' defense of the Catholic Faith for which they are responsible?
Before we trust their judgment, we should remember that it was they who actively participated in the deception of the faithful by hiding and promoting pedophiles and pederasts in the priestly ranks. With precious few exceptions, they are guilty and refuse to take responsibility. Instead, they go around begging the same people whose children they allowed to be abused for money to pay off those same children.
And they're continuing their assault on children's faith by saying that The Golden Compass is "Intelligent and well crafted" -- a line the movie studio is using in its ads for the film.
I say throw them out of their expensive living quarters and put them in sack cloth so that their repentance may be forced out of them!
Monticello, New York
From Hot Pants to Habit
Apropos of Richard and Elizabeth Gerbracht's article "Theology of the Bawdy" (Nov. 2007): At our monastery we have a sign out front explaining our dress code. It reads: "Worship the Lord in holy attire (Ps. 96:9). That is, when you come to the house of God, make sure you are wholly attired. Please refrain from wearing shorts or short dresses, sleeveless, backless, or frontless clothing -- or anything you wouldn't wear on Judgment Day. Thank you for your respect for the Majesty of God."
This works (most of the time). It applies mainly to women, though I'd also like to see men come more often in their Sunday best. I do wonder sometimes, though, just whom the occasional immoderately dressed woman is trying to impress in an obscure little monastery populated with aging, bearded men in black robes.
I remember one striking occasion of the value of coming right out and telling people they are inappropriately dressed for church. Over a dozen years ago, a woman came here for a retreat (I was guestmaster at the time). She was a corporate attorney. She had bleach-blond hair, wore Hollywood sunglasses and pink hot pants. As I showed her to her room in the retreat house, I matter-of-factly said: "By the way, make sure you put on some clothes before you come to Vespers."
That was the beginning of a years-long dialogue (and sometimes debate) over various issues in the Church and points of faith and spiritual life in general. Little by little, she abandoned her defensive and dissenting positions, and when she agreed a few years later to join me in a group going on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, something really opened up for her. Today she is a nun in a traditional, strictly cloistered monastery (needless to say, totally clothed), and she loves it! Whenever she writes me, she thanks me profusely for helping her out of her errors and guiding her to the truth.
So you just never know when something as simple as reminding someone of the importance of modesty, especially in church, might be the beginning of a complete change of life -- and another soul consecrated to God!
Mt. Tabor Monastery
Redwood Valley, California
Thank you for publishing the very fine, albeit extremely depressing, article "Theology of the Bawdy." Sad to say, modesty in general, and decent (in both senses) dress in particular, are as grossly neglected subjects on this side of the Atlantic as they are on yours. It is difficult to see why even many traditionalist Christians fail to appreciate how important these are, and what a magnificent weapon the complementarity of the sexes -- accentuated by habitually dignified, attractive dress -- could be in the culture wars.
Please, may we have more articles on this subject, as it relates not only to church-going, but to all occasions.
Monmouth, United Kingdom
Ed. Note: We refer you to the article "Church, Women & Pants" by Gerrie Goguen in this issue.
Islam Vis-a-Vis Post-Enlightenment Ideology
I was very much disconcerted by some remarks in Paul Bower's review of Robert Spencer's book The Truth About Mohammed (Nov. 2007). Bower suggests that Spencer says that "Muslims find themselves completely alien in any country that adheres to post-Enlightenment ideology" and that "ideals present in the early days of Islam are in toto contrary to Western liberalism."
This is not intended to be an apology for Islam, but is Islam to be condemned because it does not conform to "post-Enlightenment ideology" and "Western liberalism"?
Robert C. McCarthy
Buchanan Dam, Texas
Simpletons in Portugal
Please note that I am canceling my subscription to the NOR, because of Fr. James Anderson's article on Fatima (Jul.-Aug. 2007), and subsequent letters. However, I will renew it instantly, once I see the sun "descending from the sky and dancing," as "witnessed" by some 70,000 simpletons in Portugal in 1917.
Louis J. Mihalyi
Newland, North Carolina
Joseph P. Bonchonsky's guest column "With God in Russia" (Nov. 2007) was highly inappropriate. Beyond his mention of Pope Pius XI, Jesuit priest Fr. Walter Ciszek, and the fate of martyred Catholic priests in Czechoslovakia, his column is nothing but an unabashed propaganda piece for, and a plea for alliance with, the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church and her sister Orthodox Churches have been in schism with the Roman Catholic Church for 1,000 years. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexei II, is a member of the KGB and a tool of that country's Communist government. Yet Bonchonsky says that the Russian Orthodox Church is a "marvel to behold." He ignores the fact that they deny the universal jurisdiction of the pope, papal infallibility, and the Immaculate Conception -- and they quarrel over Purgatory and the filioque.
Bonchonsky says, "The strength of our Christian Faith is the ability of the obedient and faithful to pray together." But he ignores the fact that the Roman Catholic Church alone holds the truths of Christianity, and that we have no need to pray with schismatics. Pray for them, yes. But pray with them, no. To pray with them is to sanction their schism.
Bonchonsky asks for "an alliance between Rome and Constantinople." But he ignores the alliance proffered by the Church at the Council of Florence in 1439, which the Orthodox originally agreed to (so that Rome would assist them in their fight against the advancing Turks), but which they repudiated only 33 years later under Dionysius I of Constantinople.
Ironically, Bonchonsky does stumble onto the truth in his very last sentence when he says that the people of Russia will "influence the world." But this will not be because of the Russian Orthodox Church, as he suggests. It will be because, as promised by our Blessed Mother at Fatima, when the pope and his bishops consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, "Russia will be converted and a period of peace will be granted to the world."
In the many years that I have subscribed to the NOR, I have never been tempted to cancel my subscription, even if I have not always agreed with articles or editorial positions. But I am tempted to do so now, after loyal support for many years, because of the guest column by Joseph P. Bonchonsky.
Not only is this piece in sharp contrast to the orthodox and thoroughly Catholic position of the NOR, it is full of misrepresentations and the irenic false ecumenism so encouraged by recent popes but clearly denounced by many more popes as detrimental and dangerous to the Faith and an injustice against Truth. The Church's denunciation of false ecumenism is magisterial and done with the good of souls in mind, not as acts of petty triumphalism or arrogance. The false ecumenism that has done so much harm to the Catholic faithful in the past 45 years or so by fostering in them a quasi-heretical religious indifferentism (all religions are basically good, even if some are more complete than others) is not and cannot be but the product of prudential decisions -- and misguided ones at that. Such prudential decisions cannot undo de fide Catholic teaching that the historical Catholic Church under the successor of St. Peter is the only True Church established by Christ.
For Bonchonsky to suggest that Pius XI's founding of the Russicum was a "brotherly act that the Roman Church extended to the Orthodox Church" (why the omission of "Catholic" when referring to our Church while according the misnomer "Orthodox" to the schismatic Churches of the East, in the spirit of Protestant and "Orthodox" anti-Catholic polemics?) is a misrepresentation of historical fact. We can be certain that no pre-Vatican II pope would found an institute to aid a schismatic and heretical Church -- even one with valid Apostolic Succession -- that collaborated shamefully with Stalinist policy and savagery; that was and remains bitterly anti-papal and anti-Roman; that has ever practiced Caesaro-Papism and Erastianism; that denies boldly defined Catholic doctrine necessary for salvation, such as papal infallibility, Purgatory, and the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, among others; that continues to this day to persecute Catholic minorities in Russia (we are listed as a sect, with the Jehovah's Witnesses, in a roster of cults and sects defined by the Russian government with the full approbation of the Russian Church); that accepted stolen property from the Soviet government, and continues to hold many such properties belonging to the Catholic Church.
For Bonchonsky to state that "the real hope for Mother Russia is the Russian Orthodox Church and her ability to teach," that "every conceivable act of assistance to the Orthodox is a must," that the Russian Church's "obedient and faithful existence is a truly heroic example of following Christ's instructions" and a potential great influence for the entire world are outrageous claims that ignore the true history of the Russian Church, beginning with the sufferings of many great saints and faithful Catholics -- the true orthodox -- at the unfriendly hands of these haters of Rome and the papacy. Statements like these insult our saints, our history and beliefs, and raise the question as to why their author is a member of the Byzantine Rite of the One, True Church rather than a member of that institution engendered in the Photian schism. His heart seems to be far from his Church affiliation, but that is not the main concern of this letter; it is a spiritual concern of Bonchonsky.
What is a real concern for readers of the NOR is the reason such an irenicist column was published. The free marketplace of ideas is not the highest or an absolute good -- just like Apostolic Succession and valid orders (enjoyed illicitly by the Orthodox outside the True Church) are not the only constitutive elements of the Church of Christ. Several non-Catholic bodies, like some Old Catholics, also have valid orders (obtained mainly from the Orthodox), but that does not -- at least in traditional Catholicism -- make them proper venues for our worship and Sacraments (except in extreme cases, and that allowed only recently and, in the opinion of many, imprudently).
The NOR has developed into one of the most vigorous, sane, and authentic voices of traditional Catholicism in our country and the world. It is indispensable for the serious, orthodox Catholic. But a column such as Bonchonsky's harms its great apostolate, so needed in its uncompromising form today more than ever. I pray this strange editorial decision is not an indication of a veering by the NOR into the direction of the devastating ecumenism that has resulted, undeniably, in the compromised faith of millions who do not even know today what they believe -- and, more tragically, often do not even care.
Our Lord made His abhorrence of the lukewarm clear in Holy Scripture, just like the NOR many of us know and love has always done. May the courageous NOR never be found among the lukewarm, not even in the hope for reunion with separated Christians like the Orthodox, with whom we do share many essential beliefs but not the same Faith understood in the totality that Catholicism has always demanded of its faithful.
Dr. Robert Carballo
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The Catechism states, "Those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.' With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist'" (#838). Certainly this is not "false ecumenism."
Pope John Paul II, a Slavic Pope, wrote in his 1995 apostolic letter Orientale Lumen, "the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ's Church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to encourage the process of unity ." The Pope called on Catholics of the East and the West to "seek Christian unity tirelessly." His letter commemorated the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Orientalium Dignitas which, John Paul II said, was "intended at that time as an aid to restoring unity with all the Christians of the East ."
Pope Leo XIII -- a pre-Vatican II pope, and no soft-headed ecumenist (he condemned Anglican clerical orders as invalid) -- said in his 1894 encyclical referenced by John Paul II, "The Churches of the East are worthy of glory and reverence ." The "antiquity" of Eastern rites, Leo XIII said, "is august," and "is a brilliant jewel for the whole Church, it confirms the God-given unity of the Catholic Faith." Of unity between East and West, Leo XIII said, "The reasons for rivalry and suspicion must be removed; then the fullest energies can be marshaled for reconciliation. We consider this of paramount importance ." This does not smack us as "irenic false ecumenism."
As for Carballo's claim that "no pre-Vatican II pope would aid a schismatic and heretical Church ," Leo XIII wrote that the "Roman Church" (note he did not feel it necessary to say "Roman Catholic Church," that being easily understood by all) "has never failed in any way in farsightedness and acts of kindness to sustain them [the Eastern Churches] against the forces that would strike them ." Indeed, Pope Benedict XV founded the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in 1917 in reaction to the Russian Bolshevik revolution that year, to further the chances of reunion between the Eastern and Western Churches. These modern-era popes were simply following the policies and actions of their predecessors who strove for reunion: St. Gregory VII (1073-1085), Bl. Urban II (1088-1099), Innocent III (1198-1216), Gregory IX (1227-1241), Clement IV (1265-1268), Bl. Gregory X (1271-1276), Bl. Urban V (1362-1370), Eugene IV (1431-1447), to name but a few notable examples.
Seeking to heal the schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches is a traditional Catholic goal. The Orthodox Churches maintain valid Apostolic Succession and Sacraments. There is nothing "lukewarm" about working toward reunion with concrete action so that the Church may, as John Paul II repeatedly stressed, once again "breathe with her two lungs" -- East and West -- provided that papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, and the filioque in the Creed are acknowledged.
And as for King's quote of Bonchonsky that the Russian Orthodox Church is "a marvel to behold": The "marvel" here refers not to doctrine but to the remarkable resiliency of the Russian Orthodox in the face of severe Communist persecution. It is a lesson we in the West would do well to learn: While the Russian Orthodox Church suffered greatly, she has rebounded and thrives; meanwhile, our Roman Catholic Church, free of overt persecution, declines at an alarming rate.
JOSEPH BONCHONSKY REPLIES:
I am a practicing and faithful Byzantine Catholic in full communion with the Holy See. I love my Roman Catholic neighbors; I regularly attend their parish Masses (my Byzantine parish is 225 miles away in Sacramento). I also have the greatest respect for the Russian Orthodox. My Russian Orthodox friends, of whom I have many, have the greatest love for the Pope and the great accomplishments of their brother Christians. When I enter a Russian Orthodox Church (which is often) there is but one missing statement, everything else is identical to my Rusyn Orthodox (Byzantine) Catholic Church. The missing statement is allegiance to Peter.
The problem that plagues us Catholics (Roman and Byzantine) is a lack of true love -- even for one another. There is no need for me to love my Byzantine faith more than I love your Roman Catholic faith. I love them both equally, because we are both of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The Nicene Creed does not say "Roman Catholic Church." The Nicene Creed (that we all profess) was prepared and promulgated by the Orthodox half of the One Church (in the first and second ecumenical councils; Roman bishops were not even present at the second ecumenical council), when they were still in union with the Roman Catholic half of the One Church.
The Orthodox Churches have always honored the See of Peter, which they founded. During the first millennium's ecumenical councils, the Orthodox Patriarchs not only established the order of primacy after Peter but always submitted the ecumenical councils' conclusions for the See of Peter's final approval.
As an American Byzantine Orthodox Catholic, I have the opportunity to read both sides of the stories of the two lungs of the Church concerning the 1439 Council of Florence. The Orthodox Patriarchs signed the document of unity at the Council only to be offset later by the people of Greece, who remembered being brutally pillaged by the Romans during the Crusades -- the persecution that Carballo speaks of was, unfortunately, not one-sided; Roman Catholics too have been guilty of violent persecution of Orthodox Catholics. The Greek Schism of 1054 resulted largely from the Roman Magisterium seeking the unilateral power to conduct ecumenical councils (which they did from there on). The Orthodox did not leave Church Unity with the Roman Catholics, but were "kicked out."
King claims in his letter that the current Patriarch of Moscow, Alexei II, "is a member of the KGB and a tool of that country's Communist government." Surely he must know that Russia is no longer Communist and that the KGB was disbanded in 1991, long before Alexei II was elevated. In fact, in a new book written by a former KGB operative, Alexei II is quoted as saying, "Why are you exaggerating what happened? Yes, we collaborated with the KGB, even I did. But it was a struggle for peace, for disarmament! There's nothing wrong with that!" Indeed, the Patriarchs of Moscow have a long history of opposition to the Russian Communist government and the KGB, which decimated their Church. That some Orthodox Church members have collaborated with the Communists, however, is undoubtedly true -- but then so did members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, including the former Archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wieglus.
Let me end with a passage from my book, The Other Catholics, Obedient and Faithful: "It was the hierarchies of the East and West that initiated the Great Schism in 1054, and it is now the time to re-establish communion. It is high time that the successor of St. Peter called an Ecumenical Council for one single purpose, the communion of East and West . The fact that the Orthodox and Catholic are in communion on the faith and morals of the One Church is the essence of an Ecumenical Council. The definization of the primacy of the seat of Peter should be consummated . We need each other, and that is the most significant point. The sins of man have kept us apart, and the results have been devastating to all of us . Orthodox/Catholic communion is paramount to growth in the Christian Church ." In 1965 Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras, agreed to lift the mutual anathemas of 1054. There exist several obstacles in the path to reunion of the East and West, but they are not so insurmountable as to make it impossible.
Mary: The Real Hope for Russia
I read with great interest Joseph P. Bonchonsky's guest column "With God in Russia" (Nov. 2007). It has long been the desire of popes to heal the schism with the East. St. Josaphat, bishop and martyr, died in 1623 working to achieve just that. As Bonchonsky notes in his column, the late Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J., suffered greatly for nearly 23 years to help our Russian brethren, both Catholic and Orthodox.
The Orthodox have recently expressed a desire to form an alliance with Rome on matters of mutual concern, related to defending life, marriage, and the family. Catholics of today do not truly help the Orthodox without working to bring them back into union with the See of Peter. How this is accomplished is the true challenge! The Holy See could continue with "ecumenical dialogue" and diplomacy, which although no doubt well meaning, has so far been fruitless.
The real hope for Mother Russia is not so much the Russian Orthodox Church and her ability to teach, as Bonchonsky asserts. The real hope for Russia and every nation is Mary, the Mother of God, who humbly brought our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, into this world.
The same year of 1917 that the Bolshevik heathens unleashed the godless scourge of Communism upon Russia, our Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima to three shepherd children with a peace plan from Heaven. One of her requests was that the pope and bishops consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. There is a great deal of controversy over whether or not Pope John Paul II's 1984 entrustment of the world to the Immaculate Heart actually met this request, but to date Russia is not converted in any sense of the word, as evidenced by many factors, including increased abortions, suicides, divorces, etc.
Abortion was legalized in 1920 in Soviet Russia (then prohibited in 1936 and again legalized in 1956). Is this one of those "errors of Russia" that have spread throughout the world? Is it also possible that if the pope and bishops of the world, including the Russian Orthodox bishops, were together to specifically consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that our Lady would transform Russia into the most zealous defender of the Gospel of Life?
What does the Russian Orthodox Church or the Holy See have to lose if this is done? How's that for an alliance?
Bonchonsky makes the commendable recommendation that the Russian Orthodox Church be assisted in every way because she can both lead the Russian nation to conversion and also be a strong ally with the Roman Church in opposing the evils besetting the world today.
Before this can be a reality, however, two things must happen:
(1) The Russian Orthodox Church's hierarchy and clergy need to be purified of former collaborators with the Soviet secret police, the KGB. A September 21, 2000, article by the Keston News Service, re-run by Catholic World News on September 22, 2000, presents the scandalous fact that the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II was a KGB agent with the code name "Drozdov." A lesson needs to be learned from the January 2007 resignation of Warsaw Archbishop Stanislaw Wieglus for being a Communist spy. A Church needs to be as free of taint as possible among her leadership if she is to provide a credible witness to the world.
(2) The Russian Orthodox Church needs to embrace communion with the See of Peter. Not only have numerous Church Fathers, both Western and Eastern, made it clear that Peter is the foundation of the Church of Christ, but no less a luminary than Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviev called for this. A case in point is the Ukrainian Catholic (a.k.a. Ukrainian Greek Catholic) Church, of which I am a member: We're Eastern Orthodox in communion with Peter since 1596 and have many beati (blesseds) from the Soviet era testifying through their martyrdom to the necessity of being in such communion. Indeed, the Russicum itself was originally established by Pope Pius XI for the purpose of fostering the spread of the Russian Catholic Church (analogous to her Ukrainian counterpart), and not the Russian Orthodox Church as it then stood. While there's room for debate nowadays as to how the Russian Orthodox Church will actually enter communion with Peter, the absolute necessity of such communion is without doubt.
Finally, what all of us outside of Russia need to do is to take seriously our Lady of Fatima's words about the necessity for the conversion of Russia (to God, and to communion with Peter), and thus offer much prayer and sacrifice for that goal. We know from Heaven itself that Russia has been playing a pivotal role in world history for the past 100 years or so, and to what outcome that role will lead is to a large degree dependent upon us as well -- we are our brothers' keepers!
Ademar Rakowsky, S.T.L. (Cand.)
Bonchonsky wrote a good guest column on Russia, but I find it difficult to agree with his hopes and conclusions. He wrote that "The real hope for Mother Russia is the Russian Orthodox Church," and "the Russian Orthodox Church will provide the strength and the will to reconvert the nation." Instead, we Catholics should look to our Lady of Fatima's request for what will save Russia (and the world) -- the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. She said if Russia is consecrated to her Immaculate Heart by the pope in union with all the bishops of the world, then Russia will be converted and a period of peace will be given to the world.
For those who want to write in saying I'm a fool because the consecration of Russia was done in 1984 (or any other time), please address the following questions in your letters: If Russia has been consecrated as our Lady requested, why hasn't she kept her promises? If the consecration has been done, why hasn't Russia converted? Where is the period of peace that our Lady promised?
I enjoy the NOR very much and usually devour it in a single sitting. I've watched the deterioration of the Church since Vatican II, and raised two children in the New Mass style.
My most deeply spiritually satisfying years were in a Byzantine Rite parish in Anchorage, Alaska. Since then we have been living in Texas, where the search for anything similar has been as futile as the parishes are few and far between.
Thomas C. Hilla
San Antonio, Texas
Shame On You
Shame on you for printing "Definitely Not a Political Theorist" (New Oxford Note, Nov. 2007), denigrating the political thoughts of Pope Benedict XVI.
Instead of a polite, respectful, internal conversation between the Pope and the NOR, followed up by a Q&A to take care of the differing points of view, you opted for the pompous approach.
Please try to remember that he is the Vicar of Christ on earth, deserving of the greatest respect you can afford.
Joseph F. Foye
Ed. Note: The NOR did not denigrate the political thoughts of Pope Benedict XVI; he was Cardinal Ratzinger at the time he wrote the book we commented on, Values in a Time of Upheaval. This book is not part of the Magisterium. The Pope has far more important things to do than dialogue with the NOR. Do you want the truth about conscience? The Catechism has it right (#1793, 2039).
Our family of traditional Catholics agrees with almost everything you write about. We have certainly been enlightened regarding the state of the Catholic Church today. You are truly a sparkling light in the darkness of today's assault against the Church.
Chris J. Kachulis, M.D.
Monte Sereno, California
General David Petraeus
Regarding the New Oxford Note "The Woeful Plight of Iraqi Christians" (Nov. 2007): I will not comment on your uncharitable description of Gen. Petraeus's motivation, or on why we lost the Vietnam War. However, there are two statements in that Note that are wrong. First, you wrote that President Bush is Petraeus's boss. It would have been better to say that the President is his ultimate boss. Somewhere in there you omitted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense. Second, there are no Five Star Generals in the military today, so that cannot be one of his motivations. If you cannot get items like this complete and correct, what am I to think of all the other references you have in that Note regarding the plight of Iraqi Christians?
All in all, I believe that you are more Roman Catholic than patriotic American. That is bothersome since these are not mutually exclusive.
Basil J. Hobar
Colonel, USA (Ret.)
Bonita Springs, Florida
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Yes, the President is Gen. Petraeus's ultimate boss, so it is accurate to say that "Petraeus's boss is, of course, President Bush," the Commander in Chief, and unnecessary to list all of his intermediate bosses. One of those intermediaries, Adm. William Fallon, Chief of Central Command, disdained Petraeus as "an ass-kissing little chicken-sh-t" (see our New Oxford Note "The Great Blunder'" in this issue).
Although the rank of Five Star General is not currently in use, it still exists and can be bestowed in a time of war with the approval of Congress. But Petraeus has his sights set even higher -- the presidency of the U.S. (again we refer you to our New Oxford Note "The Great Blunder'").
The Holy See has proclaimed the war on Iraq an unjust war. "My country right or wrong" is moral relativism.