March 1998

Yes, Do Look Elsewhere

Enclosed is a donation to cover the canceled subscription from Mary Hartigan of Beverly Hills (letter, Dec.). She charges the NOR with “intolerance” and “bigotry,” but those charges are unsubstantiated. Let her find the “faith relevant to the modern era,” which she says she wants, in some religion other than Catholicism, in some “feel-good” religion — and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them out there.

Richard Hodulik
Burbank, California




When Our Churches Were Full

I read with interest the article by Msgr. George Kelly, “Needed: Formidable Bishops” (Dec.). I agree with Kelly, but was disappointed that he didn’t explicitly say that our greatest problem is with those bishops who are not following Rome — indeed, who seem to be purposely defying Rome.

For example, Kelly says that “Catholic” universities must be brought back into line by the bishops. But this is hardly an adequate answer. Often the bishops are the problem, not the answer.

I am not aware of all the problem bishops, but Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Rochester, Saginaw, and the wandering Auxiliary Bishop Gumbleton are some of the more obvious abusers. What is needed is a forceful statement from Rome that the behavior they exemplify will not be tolerated. One strong public rebuke of just one of these bishops who has run amok could send an unmistakable message to the rest.

We must pray, and openly support the bishops who are standing up to the dissident movement, particularly those in strongholds of dissent. Cardinals Maida and George need our prayers and support via letters to them as well as letters to the editors to show the media that we want changes that will bring the Catholic Church back to orthodoxy.

I remember when — some 35 years ago — the clergy said what was right and wrong. There was no wide gray area. There was no bending the rules or silly excuses to avoid the rules. As a result people tried to do what was right, and the churches were full.

I remember when the clergy were symbols of authority and were not concerned about being popular. Then they were respected, and the seminaries were full.

I remember when nuns lived in community and wore habits. They were respected, many young girls considered giving their life to God, and the convents were full. For those who say times have changed — tell that to Mother Teresa’s order.

I remember when we had to fast from midnight for Communion and we knelt to receive Communion. In those days there was no doubt about receiving the Body of Christ. There was no thought that the Eucharist is merely symbolism, and the Communion rails were full.

I remember when it was a badge of honor not to eat meat on Fridays. Restaurants were aware of the power of the Catholic Church then and would have special fish or nonmeat dishes on Fridays. Now the Church is ridiculed on television and by Disney, and some priests aren’t even bothered by the message being sent. When we gave up meat on Friday we felt ourselves to be one strong united group; today, a majority of “Catholics” vote for a presidential incumbent who defends partial-birth abortion, and we wonder why we, as a group, are ignored.

In the old days the Irish learned the importance of the ballot box. Today homosexuals, feminists, and others use the ballot box to support their agendas. Catholics must do the same by speaking in one voice and making morality the prime consideration when they vote.

Leadership starts at the top. Not all bishops are at fault, but those who allow dissidents to spread confusion and poison without reproach are at fault.

John J. Crinnion
Harbor Springs, Michigan




Please Reconsider

We agree with Mr. and Mrs. Daniel McGuire and Kerry Noonan (letters, Jan.), who took James K. Fitzpatrick to task for his November article, “Can Teenagers Survive Marilyn Manson?” Truly, Fitzpatrick underestimates the ability of the various forms of shock-rock music to influence behavior. It has been our experience in working with juvenile delinquents that most parents are unaware of the vileness of the lyrics of such music (indeed, Fitzpatrick admits he doesn’t listen to it). But the kids who listen to it are not unaware. If lyrics and music did not affect behavior, the history of radio and television commercials would be one of dismal failure, but we know that such is not the case.

The natural phase of rebellion through which most teens go, along with the hormonal disturbances and resultant angst and the desire to “be somebody” (as Fitzpatrick acknowledges), render youth extremely vulnerable to the explicit advocacy of evil for the sake of self-fulfillment or success.

We hope Fitzpatrick will reconsider his position as he reads the following account of Elyse Marie Pahler (the grandchild of a friend of ours), written by David and Lisanne Pahler of The Elyse Marie Pahler Foundation (P.O. Box 1831, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406):

“When our beautiful, loving, 15-year-old daughter, Elyse Marie Pahler, was missing, we felt we had endured a parent’s worst nightmare. Tragically, our nightmare was just beginning. For months we had no word on Elyse, not knowing whether she was alive or dead. Finally, authorities learned not only where Elyse was but what had happened to her.

“Elyse was lured from our home, tortured, raped, repeatedly stabbed, and her life savagely taken from her. While she lay dying, she called out for her mother and prayed to God while her attackers laughed and bragged about ‘earning a ticket to hell.’ No one should ever have to die like that.…

“We might never have known what happened to Elyse had one of her attackers not come forward with information about the horrific crime. This young man led police to two other high school students, and the story that unfolded sickened even the most hardened law enforcement officials. Taken from her home because she was blonde, blue-eyed, and represented the ‘perfect virgin sacrifice’ to the devil, Elyse died a horrible death. Her body was found only a short distance from our home.

“The three teens had formed their own ‘death-metal’ band called Hatred and believed that if they sacrificed a virgin to the devil, they could earn their ticket to hell and become better musicians. The influence of ‘death-metal’ lyrics and music was so persuasive to these three teens, that they committed this atrocity. This type of music is readily available to kids in music stores.… The lyrics advocate murder, rape, mutilation, dismemberment, anarchy, necrophilia, control/domination, ritual sacrifice, stalking, kidnapping, torture, devil worship, and mocking Christianity.

“For more than two years, we witnessed the wheels of justice turn for Elyse. All three young men pled guilty to first degree murder. Two of the three have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 25 years to life imprisonment and the third is awaiting sentencing. But, none of that will bring Elyse home.”

We’ve admired Fitzpatrick’s writings and insights in the past, but he missed the boat in this case, for if rock music can move a few teens to commit murder, it can certainly move many more to commit lesser — but nonetheless soul-deadening — sins.

Robert & Dorothy Wagner
Hayden, Idaho




Eastern Misunderstandings

Reading Stuart L. Koehl’s letter entitled “Eastern Catholic Churches: Not Halfway Houses” (Dec.): I saw a number of highly questionable things. I have no disagreements with Koehl’s discussion of the quasi-autonomy of the Eastern Catholic Churches. However, I wonder if the condition of union he specifies — “recognizing the primacy of the Pope” — can mean very much in the end if Eastern Christians continue to depreciate and even insult Western theology, liturgy, and spirituality, as they frequently do. For Koehl to say that “the theology of the West is derived largely from the work of St. Augustine” is true, but extremely misleading. Is Western theology not also nearly as indebted to St. John Damascene, St. Athanasius, St. Jerome, St. Gregory, St. Leo, St. Anselm, St. Bonaventure, and numberless others, not to mention the early Eastern Fathers whose writings have exercised a continual, if admittedly lesser, influence? I have seen modern Eastern authors again and again pointing to the ominous influence of Augustine, apparently without even realizing that Thomas Aquinas, to take a famous example, constantly utilizes and follows a galaxy of authors in his works.

Again, Eastern Catholics may wish to understand the dogma of Transubstantiation in a way more amenable to their own theological tradition, but they cannot reject it outright. Koehl’s letter implies that Eastern Catholics are not obliged to accept the dogmatic declarations of all of the ecumenical councils, especially the Council of Trent. Koehl’s statement that the West “developed a fascination with the question of just when the [eucharistic] transformation occurs” grossly oversimplifies a matter of fundamental importance in sacramental theology which the East would understand better if it took the time to examine Western theologians. Indeed, to claim that the “liturgical tradition of the Eastern Church is much richer” because of the “Eastern concept of Tradition as the ultimate source of revelation” is an incredible assertion. The present mess in the Western liturgy has numerous causes, not the least of which is a steady effort on the part of modernists to undermine the very tradition of the West. One might gather — mistakenly — from Koehl’s remarks that the West has a flimsy tradition behind it or that the West minimizes Tradition.

Finally, Koehl’s sketch of the difference between the “downward” symbolism of the Western Mass and the “upward” symbolism of the Eastern Divine Liturgy is unsatisfactory. I would like to know if any traditional liturgy is not both upward and downward — if we must use these misleading phrases. The Western liturgy, although it commemorates the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord, tends to emphasize the advent of Christ as Redeemer and Savior, the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, and in this sense places the accent on man’s sinfulness and God’s infinite mercy, leading to purification and the forgiveness of sins. The Eastern liturgies tend to place worship in the context of the Eschaton, the kingdom of the Holy Spirit, in which the life of Christ figures as the exemplary model and cause of what all Christians are called to become anew, the image of God. But it could hardly be imagined that the Western liturgy (I am thinking specifically of the Tridentine Mass, since it alone makes all these things clear) lacks an eschatological, pneumatological, Christomimetic dimension, nor that the Eastern liturgy lacks contextual reference to the Sacrifice of Calvary, the sinfulness of man, and the merciful drama of redemption. To hold either position would be to incriminate oneself as a most regrettably ignorant person.

Peter A. Kay
Gordonsville, Virginia




Exiled by the Americanists

I, a Roman Catholic since shortly after my birth in 1951, am not able to attend Mass. Why? Because it seems to me a greater sin to promote a church, the American Catholic one (an oxymoron), than to miss Mass altogether. I am aghast, to put it mildly, that the Pope’s rulings on women priests, homosexuality, abortion, etc., are always “up for grabs,” and that the Pope and his teachings are given the same treatment by prominent Catholics as one sees on Meet the Press or Crossfire.

I am saddened by whatever part I may have unknowingly played in the late 1960s to liberalize the Church. But God is stronger than I by a long shot and will multiply the minuscule work I currently do to stand strong for the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. When a Roman Catholic parish is established in my vicinity, I will most reverently attend Mass and ask forgiveness for my sins. Until then, I will stay away from the American Catholic “get-togethers.”

Maybe I’m too harsh, but then I’ve had enough.

Robert L. Bouchard Jr.
P.O. Box 3346
Longview, TX 75606




Impossible

Regarding the proposed title for Mary, “Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate of the People of God”: The letters in your January issue focused on the “Co-Redemptrix” part. But let’s take a look at the “Mediatrix of All Graces” part: Many see this, if taken literally, as not only heresy but even blasphemy and apostasy since Mary would have to be an infinite and eternal divine person, as well as having a perfect human nature, to be a mediator of all graces. Even if she were in a subordinate relationship to the male Mediator of All Graces, she would at least have to be of like substance to the Son or a quasi-incarnation of the Holy Spirit. Even though Vatican II praised Mary as “Mediatrix,” the Council seemed to rule against considering her as mediator of every single grace. Why are not the advocates of the “Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces” novelties satisfied with the titles of Vatican II or with praising Our Lady as “Co-Operatrix” and “Mother and Model of Believers” and “Queen of Martyrs and Intercessors”?

James O’ Driscoll
Somerville, Massachusetts




Call No Man Father?

In his letter (Jan.), ex-Catholic Edward Ramsberger insists that he “won’t call any priest ‘Father’” and backs up his position by citing Matthew 23:9.

In that verse, Jesus says, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” Are we to believe that since leaving the Catholic Church Ramsberger has never referred to his earthly, biological father as “father”? If he has, according to his personal interpretation of this verse, he is guilty of a grave sin.

According to Ramsberger’s logic, St. Stephen, St. Paul, and St. John were guilty of breaking this command of Jesus — as was Jesus Christ Himself! St. Stephen addressed the Jewish council with the words, “Brethren and fathers, hear me” (Acts 7:2). St. Paul wrote, “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). Thus St. Paul adopted the title “father” for himself! St. John, the beloved disciple, said, ”I am writing to you fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning” (1 Jn. 2:14). Finally, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus Himself referred to Abraham as “Father Abraham” (Lk. 16:24,30).

I wish Ramsberger would read all of Matthew 23, not just verse 9. Then he would see that when Jesus said “call no man your father” He was obviously only referring to hypocrites who puff themselves up with titles (not only “father,” but also “rabbi” and “teacher”), but are unworthy of them.

It was also sad to see Ramsberger, who seems to think he’s seen the light in a non-Catholic church, write, “I hate Ratzinger, that Hitler-clone.” St. John wrote, “He who says he is in light and hates his brother is in the darkness still” (1 Jn. 2:9). Let’s pray that Mr. Ramsberger receives the light of Christ and returns to His Church, “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Katherine Johnson
Richardson, Texas






It may surprise Ramsberger to learn that we Catholics have not only read Matthew 23:9, but have read the entire chapter. That’s how we know that in this very same chapter where Jesus said to call no man father, He Himself followed it up by using that word two times while speaking to the same audience. In the King James Version, no less, Jesus uses the word “father” in verses 30 and 32. So it’s obvious that Christ meant something quite other than that which Ramsberger thinks He meant.

Margaret Finley
Banning, California






In response to Edward Ramsberger’s vehement statement, “I hate Ratzinger, that Hitler-clone” (letter, Jan.), I would like to offer the enclosed donation to your magazine in honor of our beloved Cardinal Ratzinger — the pride of Germany, a great and deep mind, and a true prince of the Church.

Carol D. Mays
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania



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