February 2000

The Institutional Church & the Church Militant

Regarding your November editorial “The Revolution in the Catholic Church”: You cited Fr. Andrew Greeley. He recently appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show on the Fox News Network. Greeley said the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is stupid. That Greeley can present himself publicly without even a frown from the powers-that-be in the Church gives the impression that the Institutional Church favors the revolution going on inside Catholicism. From the standpoint of the current Institutional Church, the Catholic League is indeed stupid. For example, as a secular publication so aptly pointed out in its review of the movie Dogma (a movie the League has opposed), there is nothing in the film that is markedly different from the current revisionist theology in the Church. This theology is what Catholics normally encounter in the Institutional Church. And yet the League is successful! Why? I’ll tell you why. Because the League is giving the average Catholic the means to express his views in the public forum. This is something he often believes he cannot do in the Institutional Church. So the Institutional Church should take note. The power politics of that Church can cajole the faithful Catholic into submission or silence, but those politics cannot muzzle him in the public arena.

The entire history of the Catholic Church has been one of conflict between her power politics and her truth, with the best times being those in which the two appear to coalesce. So a distinction must be made between the Institutional Church and the Church Militant. The latter will survive until the end of time, whereas the former will continue fomenting confusion among the faithful.

Magazines such as the NEW OXFORD REVIEW (and Homiletic & Pastoral Review and First Things) are dedicated to presenting the full truth, while Our Sunday Visitor and the National Catholic Register are more like public relations sheets for the Institutional Church, and thus are often willing to employ their own versions of power politics (e.g., by banning your trademark ads). To you I say: Plant your feet, look them in the eye, and keep telling the truth. That’s what the Lord requires.

Edgar Wyatt Stephens
Montgomery, Alabama




The Tongue Wins Hands Down

I’d like to add my two cents to the controversy in your pages on receiving the Host on the tongue vs. in the hand. First, we take in our hands many things we wouldn’t dare take in our mouths. Not to disparage the hand, but the mouth is a more special, more discriminating part of the body. I’d hold any kind of cheesesteak, but very few would qualify to meet my south Philadelphian tastebuds. Secondly, how many of us communicants are able to wash our hands just before going to church? And even if we are able, how many of us reflexively pet dirty old Poochie — and are licked by him — before getting in the car? How many of us, while at church, visit a bathroom without soap or hurriedly change a diaper before receiving? I rest my case.

I’ve enclosed a modest contribution for your fund-raising drive. It’s not only to help with your excellent cause (no one is better able than you to needle the tolerant ecclesial liberals — indeed, such needling is the one thing they can’t tolerate) but also to thank you for not dunning me with renewal notices six months before the expiration of the subscription, as many other periodicals do.

Robert H. Vasoli
South Bend, Indiana




Thou Shalt Not Criticize

After reading the letter to the Editor from Dean Davis titled “Banzai!” (Dec.) criticizing a “Bozo” liturgy he witnessed, I’ve decided not to renew my subscription to your magazine. Moreover, your material has degenerated into backbiting periodicals that refuse to print your ads, attacking the People of God, and defending liturgical formality and uniformity, etc.

The community of faith with whom I worship probably wouldn’t measure up to your standards. We don’t have kneelers. There is conversation before and after Mass. The laity play a large role in the liturgy, acting as extraordinary ministers and such. And we do — to the dismay of Mr. Davis — raise our hands during the Lord’s Prayer. Also, one of our liturgies utilizes a full band.

If Davis is dissatisfied with the current liturgy, he can join an Eastern-rite parish or the Lefebvrites or Eastern Orthodoxy.

Instead of criticizing others, I’m learning to devote myself to what I believe in, and run with it.

Jim Grisham
Dearborn, Michigan



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