February 2003

Knocking Out Home Runs

You hit a couple of home runs in your December issue.

The first home run was the Editor’s commentary on Dr. Scott Hahn (pp. 41-44). Now, I’ve listened to several tapes from Dr. Hahn where he was right on the money. But as the Editor implied, a theologian who is right 90 percent of the time can be more dangerous to orthodox Catholics than a theologian who is only right 10 percent of the time, because no orthodox Catholic would pay attention to a theologian of the latter type.

The second home run was Michael Rose’s response to the “attack” article in Crisis magazine on Rose’s Goodbye, Good Men. It’s ironic that the Crisis writer (Brian Saint-Paul), who accused Rose of sloppy reporting, himself took sloppy reporting to new lows. Crisis and Brian Saint-Paul owe Michael Rose an apology.

Tom Fath
Lexington, Kentucky




Criticism Will Come

It’s inevitable that the NOR will be criticized. You are jarring people out of spiritual apathy. Keep up your important work! You may never know in this life the good you are doing.

Miss Blaise M. Gagliano
Phoenix, Arizona




As Sublime as Newman

I want to thank Elaine Hallett for her most insightful review of John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice (Nov.). It was about 38 years ago that I first encountered Ruskin’s work in a graduate course entitled Victorian Prose, a class in which I read Newman, Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, and Mill. Even in my first reading of Ruskin I experienced the very truth that Hallett describes: “who does not become a serious student when the subject turns so tantalizingly to life’s ultimate meaning?” There was no question in my mind that Ruskin’s towering intellect was as magisterial and sublime as Newman’s. This review of Ruskin’s classic works — for all his genius and erudition — reminds us of a simple but profound truth about the ultimate purpose of all great art and literature: “To see what everyone could see but which everyone else has missed — until the artist or writer opens his eyes,” as one of my great teachers, Arvid Schulenberger, remarked. What a great review by Hallett!

Mitchell Kalpakgian
Warner, New Hampshire




The Relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Dr. Gerald Bray, an Evangelical, believes the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux merit no special honor and lack any supernatural significance (as quoted in David Mill’s article [Nov.]). Yet in Dr. Bray’s Bible are verses on Moses’ corpse receiving divine protection and Elijah’s bones working a miracle.

- Jude 1:9: “the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses…” (NIV). (The Lord was interested in protecting Moses’ body from defilement.)

- 2 Kings 13:21: “they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet” (NIV). (This speaks for itself.)

Four years ago I was unhappy with my job, but, like many middle-aged family men, had little freedom to risk changing employers. As a convert to Catholicism, some Catholic beliefs seemed odd, like seeking the intercession of a saint. But what did I have to lose? I had just read St. Thérèse’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, so I began regularly asking her to intercede for my career.

About seven months later, St. Thérèse’s relics came to Baltimore for their only visit ever, as part of their worldwide tour. My family and I went to see the relics, where we knelt and prayed. Then, on that same weekend, I accepted a wholly unexpected but life-changing new job. In the years since, my amazement has remained intact, and her picture has remained on my desk.

Every Christian — Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant — would benefit from reading St. Thérèse’s Story of a Soul. It is a profound work. Take note that St. Thérèse embraced relics with fervor. In 1999 thousands knelt and prayed before St. Thérèse’s reliquary in Baltimore. I am sure many arose with new resolve to imitate her holiness in following Christ, and a few received miraculous favors as well.

Thomas Basil
Arnold, Maryland




A Knight of Columbus Responds

Anthony Gerring raises some fascinating points in his guest column (Nov.) advising us to abandon the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. Although I am a Third Degree Knight of Columbus, I admit to having seriously questioned the ability of any God-fearing and Church-loving Catholic to recite the Pledge and claim patriotic allegiance to a country as obviously on the wrong track as ours is. There may come a day when in order to be a good Catholic, we must be considered unpatriotic Americans. (Haven’t we already been there?)

If the Knights of Columbus were instrumental in inserting “under God” into the Pledge in 1954, and if we accept that the Knights are both a Catholic and patriotic organization, then we must consider that the Knights inserted these two words to establish a guidepost. We firmly believe that our nation is under God. All authority comes from God. This is not an abstract concept but a profound statement of truth. To say that because the major institutions of our country no longer accept that truth is insufficient reason to abandon the truth itself. We should be willing to pledge fidelity to our country insofar as the law of God allows.

Say the Pledge. Think about the words you affirm each time you recite them, less mechanically each time. It is true that “liberty and justice for all” rings hollow, but accept that they describe the way things should be rather than the way they currently are, and then work with renewed vigor to re-establish the City of God in the City of Man.

Christopher Garton-Zavesky
Gastonia, North Carolina




Stolinsky’s Dog

David Stolinksy, the retired Jewish M.D., offers us a peculiar view of things in his article, “The Dogs Aren’t Barking” (Dec.). His theme of “dogs” refers to a dog in a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and his main point is that Christian dogs aren’t barking enough in protest when Christians and Jews are killed or maimed in the current wave of terror. Interestingly, Stolinsky’s own dog is not barking for the innocent Christian Palestinians being killed by Israeli soldiers.

William Charlesworth
Stockholm, Wisconsin




Doesn’t Ring True

Patrick Van Durme has been Associate Pastor of our parish for the last year and a half. My observation of him over that period would lead me to believe that the characterization of him by Michael S. Rose in his December article does not quite ring true.

John B. Evans
Owego, New York




MERRY CHRISTMAS ! ! !

If there are two sources from which I expect the highest of accuracy, they are the NEW OXFORD REVIEW and Alice von Hildebrand.

For this reason I was extremely disappointed with Mrs. von Hildebrand’s quote from William Donohue of the Catholic League about King County, Washington (in her article in the Nov. issue). She repeated Donohue’s inaccurate report about a memo from King County Executive Ron Sims to county employees in November 2001.

The memo told county employees to be more inclusive and sensitive to non-Christian county employees by saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.” It did not forbid merry Christmas, it just suggested not using it. No one can be arrested for wishing someone “merry Christmas.”

The memo was a total flop. King County employees went out of their way to wish one another and the general public “merry Christmas.”

Alice von Hildebrand still has my utmost respect. The rest of her commentary was brilliant, as always.

Donald J. Lynch
Winlock, Washington




The (Lite) Catholic Moment?

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote an article about his conversion from Lutheranism to Catholicism in his First Things magazine titled “How I Became the Catholic I Was.” You commented on that article (New Oxford Notes, Jul.-Aug.) and generously titled your piece “Zen Ecumenism.” I’d call his article Oriental claptrap, where contradiction masquerades as paradox. Neuhaus needs to decide whether he’s a Catholic or still a Lutheran.

As noted in your New Oxford Note titled “Becoming the Lutheran He Was?” (Dec.), Neuhaus called for the conversion of our Catholic bishops. He’s right about that (conversion is a lifelong process), but he’s dead wrong about why our bishops need to convert. Neuhaus claimed they need to convert because of their uncharitable zero tolerance policy toward pervert priests. Actually, our bishops’ zero tolerance policy is absolutely correct — finally our shepherds are resolved to protect their sheep. What our bishops need to convert from is this: their blind acceptance of psychiatry with its false compassion and its vaporizing the reality of sin.

Neuhaus also needs to decide if he believes that final damnation is really possible. I am convinced that Neuhaus believes in universal salvation, but I also find that on the subject of salvation he contradicts himself — repeatedly.

In sum, Neuhaus needs to decide whether he’s a Catholic, and, if so, whether he’s an orthodox Catholic or a Lite Catholic.

Caroline M. Eccleston
Marshfield, Massachusetts






It appears that Fr. Neuhaus is under some criticism for his explanation of the nature of his conversion to Catholicism, as well as his various explanations of his stance on the clergy sex scandals (Jul.-Aug. and Dec.).

A much more serious issue is his attitude toward homosexuals in the priesthood. In the April 1-7 issue of the National Weekly Edition of The Washington Times, it was reported that “Father Neuhaus said he does not advocate barring homosexuals from the priesthood but emphasized that such a priest must adhere to ‘uncompromising chastity.’” However, homosexuals have two pronounced tendencies: promiscuity and predatory behavior. Who will check up on homosexually inclined priests — their bishops? Neuhaus’s position appears contrary to Vatican policy as well as to recent statements issuing from the Vatican, including from the Pope.

There is no doubt that continuing to allow the homosexually inclined into the priesthood will lead to endless cover-ups by bishops and cardinals, and the Church will be back to square one as far as the sex scandals are concerned.

Louis J. Mihalyi
Newland, North Carolina




A Bad Omen?

I read about Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus in the December NOR (pp. 12-16, 37-38, and 40-41) and about Bishop Allen Vigneron in the same issue (pp. 30-34). Imagine, then, my surprise and dejection when I saw a large ad in another conservative Catholic periodical for the new Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, featuring its Board of Trustees, among whom are, yes, Fr. Neuhaus and Bishop Vigneron.

Given that these two men are on the Board, what is Tom Monaghan’s Ave Maria University going to be like?

Ulysses de St. Germain
Diamondhead, Mississippi




Older “Gay” Priests

You are right in wanting to prevent homosexuals from entering the seminary. I wish you luck in your efforts. But as a psychiatrist, I cannot get involved because any psychiatrist who tells it as it is about the Lavender Mafia in the priesthood and episcopate must fear for his life.

By the way, as “gay” priests get older, they lose their attractiveness to other homosexuals. They need to find easy encounters, and so they are prone to prey on altar boys and other young male Catholics.

(Name Withheld)




It’s the Advertising, Stupid!

Your New Oxford Note, “Goodbye, ‘New Evangelization’” (Nov.), noting the timidity of the National Catholic Register, brings to mind the general decline of the Register since it was bought out in 1995 by Circle Media. Indeed, the Register is a vapidly empty shell if you compare it to the serious publication it was before the buy-out.

Yes, the new ownership has made the Register more physically attractive, but in the process the Register has become less and less willing to take on the hard issues facing the Church. A look through its pages shows that the formerly lean and hungry Register is now engorged with ads — and therefore ad revenues. And the editorial staff shows no indication of being willing to anger the advertisers providing the banquet.

You say the Register has been using the “New Evangelization” as an excuse to avoid “tackling head-on the dreadful and crippling problems in the Church.” But I’d say that what’s driving the Register is not the “New Evangelization” but the “New Advertising” — that’s why the Register is so evasive. A kinder, gentler, more cowardly and ad-happy Register has no use for serious, substantive thought, either in its editorial content or its advertising. That’s why the NOR’s ads are no longer welcome in the Register.

Further, the Register is clergy-controlled at a time when the Church’s problems are rooted in a corrupt hierarchy and priesthood. Fr. Owen Kearns, the Publisher and Editor in Chief of the Register, is unlikely to view conflict with bishops or peers as desirable. And this dovetails perfectly with “playing nice” to keep ad revenues up.

As a regular reader of the Register, I have figured out what the formula in the Register’s editorial handbook must be: First, take anything the Pope says over dinner as the binding teaching of the Church. Second, tiptoe around abuses committed by members of the clerical class. Third, cream any troublesome layman who is prominent enough to be of interest, but incapable of causing real problems for the Publisher (as seen in the hatchet jobs on Michael Rose, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Gov. Frank Keating). Fourth, throw in lame features, stale news that anyone with Internet access has already read, and nice color photos and graphics. Fifth, send it off to the printer. Amazingly, this formula will keep the money rolling in.

Unfortunately, the Register is unlikely to return to being the serious publication it once was when it was controlled by the laity. I only hope that a group of loyally Catholic laymen will find the wherewithal to establish a competing weekly paper that avoids the temptations that have brought down the Register.

William Ferguson
Tulsa, Oklahoma




A Big Skeleton in the Closet?

The articles by Michael Rose and Jay McNally (Dec.) both referred to the attack on Rose’s book Goodbye, Good Men by the National Catholic Register. Curiously, The Hartford Courant (Feb. 23, 1997) published a major story (exposé?) about Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder and head of the Legionaries of Christ, which is in effect the publisher of the National Catholic Register. According to the Courant story, written by two veteran journalists, nine men training to be Legionary priests (who are now in secular professions) gave testimony about homosexual abuse practiced on them and others for three decades by Fr. Maciel. If true, Fr. Maciel’s “authority” and the desire of those seminarians to stay in the order could have helped break down their resistance.

That Fr. Maciel allegedly gave them the line that he had a dispensation from Pius XII to engage in sex acts in order to get relief from a physical ailment is certainly conceivable, for this is a classic kind of pitch for priests leading double lives. Now, I’m not accusing Fr. Maciel of anything, but the charges are plausible.

You will understand, then, that I was not surprised by the Register’s attack on Rose’s book — which deals with homosexuality in seminaries — and with the Register’s refusal to run ads for Rose’s book. I can imagine that the Register would fear Rose’s book because it could help cause the accusations against Fr. Maciel to surface again, accusations that have not gone away and are still very much alive.

Fr. Philip Pavich, O.F.M.
Chicago, Illinois




From the Mouths of Babes

This is in response to W. Michael Westbrook’s guest column, “Friendly Churches & The Church” (Nov.):

A longtime friend of mine had been urging me to go with her and her family to her new church. She loved this evangelical church. The services were exciting. The kids had fun in their Bible classes. The church had a coffee shop, restaurant, bookstore, roller skating rink, and more Christian community building opportunities than one could count. Finally, we set a date.

I was looking forward to the experience. As an RCIA director, I have always been interested in understanding the pull of “full-service” evangelical churches. For me, this would be an educational experience. I was fairly certain that my two younger children would think they were at a new version of McDonald’s. I had only one concern: How would my nine-year-old interpret and respond to a “fun” church?

So we headed off to my friend’s church. I prayed in the car that God would protect my son and his Catholic faith. I also asked God to give me the words to respond to any of his questions. I wasn’t worried, but was very aware of how attractive “fun” is to a nine-year-old.

We arrived at the church. The entire church complex was the size of a community college. It was overwhelming. We entered the main building. My son said, “Where’s the priest?” I responded, “This church doesn’t have a priest. Instead, they have a pastor. He teaches the people about Jesus.” My son then asked, “Is there going to be Holy Communion?” My friend and her husband were caught off guard, so I said, “People don’t receive Holy Communion at this church service.” My son looked absolutely baffled. Then he said, “There is no priest. There is no Holy Communion. How can you have church without a priest and Holy Communion?” He was waiting for an answer. My friend’s face turned a hot shade of red. She became frustrated and turned quickly, leaving us in a huff. You see, my friend had left the Catholic Church to be a part of a priest-less and Communion-less church.

With one question, my son did more to challenge my friend than I ever could. I put my arm around my son and said, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.” He didn’t understand my comment. But he does understand what Church is. Praise God!

Janis Parker
Squaw Valley, California



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