The God of All
I found the otherwise excellent and admirable Sheldon Vanauken almost mean-spirited in his article "Choosing a, Church" (April 1993). Why knock Protestants for "remaining" Protestants, for staying in their churches? Maybe they find their prayers answered there -- by the God of all. I'm a convert to Catholicism, too, but surely there is a limit to zeal. We're all following Christ and Him crucified.
In response to Sheldon Vanauken's "Choosing a Church" (April 1993): When Jesus said to Peter (Mt. 16:18), "You are Peter [=Rock], and upon this rock I will build my church ," He was not crowning Peter "as the first head of the church" and thereby initiating the papal succession. Simple exegesis provides a clear distinction between the masculine "Peter" and the feminine "this rock," so the sure foundation must be something other than Peter himself, who shortly after proved himself unworthy of any such elevated status -- personally (Lk. 22:54ff), theologically (Acts 10-11), and spiritually (Gal. 2:11ff) -- and who was also disqualified ecclesiastically (1 Cor. 1:12). If Peter establishes anything about an apostolic succession, it is its fallibility.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
In his review of John Courtney Murray and the American Civil Conversation (May 1993), Paul J. Weithman says that "one contributor -- Francis Canavan -- claims, incredibly, that We Hold These Truths is Murray's 'one published book.'" True, I said it, but I didn't exactly claim it.
In a paragraph dealing with Murray's voluminous writings on church-state relations and religious freedom, I remarked: "Some people write books, but Murray developed his thought in a series of articles . Even his one published book, We Hold These Truths, was a reworking of previously published articles." I now see that if I had said that We Hold These Truths was his one published book on that subject, my meaning would have been perfectly clear even to Assistant Professor Weithman. I realize once again that one cannot be too explicit when explaining something to young minds.
Rev. Prof. Francis Canavan, S.J.
Bronx, New York
In his "Distributing America" (May 1993), Thomas Storck fails to see that competition, economies of scale, and division of labor allow certain goods to be produced more efficiently and thus be sold at lower prices, which allow more people to afford more goods, thus raising the standard of living.
Any country implementing Storck's ideas would have to curtail trade with other countries since high-cost domestic products could not compete with those made overseas under more efficient economic regimes. The reduction in global trade would further depress the standard of living, perhaps causing global depression, famine, and starvation.
Kevin J. Morgan
Bloomfield, New Jersey
I envy Thomas Storck's knowledge, but it has a black hole about the medieval guilds. Doesn't he know that they stifled new technology, initiative, and progress in ways our early trade union bosses would have envied?
Swansboro, North Carolina
I was struck by the poignancy of James G. Hanink's "The Prolife Movement: Dead or Alive?" (May 1993). As a university student, I am inundated daily by the hypocrisy of pro-choice proponents. I was impressed by the logic Hanink used to clarify the definition of life, to wit: "If we value the condor, we will value a condor not yet hatched, for we already know what it is." This argument seemed perfectly fitted for ecologically minded fellow students. So I engaged several pro-choice environmentalists in discussion. But I soon found myself amid a steadily growing mass of viciously angry students. Apparently, my fellow students, in the grip of their passions, will blindly attack anything they feel is a threat to their freedom.
Michael K. Looney
University of Texas at Austin
Anne Pilsbury's letter (May 1993) was almost a duplicate to the one I have been composing in my mind to write you, except that I'm not a convert to Roman Catholicism. I subscribed to the NOR for the same reasons and it is my intention not to renew for the same reasons -- i.e., in Pilsbury's words, your "anti-intellectual spirit" and your "sarcastic and 'them-against-us' attitude toward people, both inside and outside the Church, who do not follow 'orthodox' [my quotes] lines."
It is inappropriate for editors to bash letter-writers, as you did in response, in a letters column where correspondents expect to express their opinions freely. That is further evidence of the above-quoted spirit.
I don't know when my subscription runs out, but please stop sending your journal now. Further copies are unwelcome.
The Rev. Anne W. Baker
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
Carrizo Springs, Texas
Reading the letters in the NOR, I am sometimes puzzled. I was particularly puzzled by Anne Pilsbury's letter in the May 1993 issue, my most recent issue: Why is it that non-Catholics are moved to join the Catholic Church while remaining in effect non-Catholics? (Similarly, though slightly less puzzling in view of the power of habit, why is it that born Catholics who have in effect become non-Catholics still call themselves Catholics?)
What is it to be a Catholic anyhow? Clearly, a Christian, whether Catholic or Baptist or whatever, is -- to put it briefly -- a believer in the Risen Lord, God Incarnate. But -- with equal brevity -- what is a Catholic in addition to being a Christian as defined? The Catholic believes that the universal or Catholic Church was founded by Christ to be guided by the Spirit in matters of faith and morals.
People who call themselves Catholic but do not believe the Church is the arbiter of faith and morals have ceased to be -- or never were -- Catholics. They are at best secret Protestants. Their noisy assertion that they are Catholics is meaningless because it is not they who define what is Catholic; the Church does.
Today there are considerable numbers of non-Catholics who are determined to call themselves Catholics in the vain hope of shaping the Church to fit them. But they are not Catholics.
I was very disappointed in your rather flip response to Anne Pilsbury's thoughtful and articulate letter. My opinion of the NOR almost exactly parallels hers. The NOR seems simply to rephrase in more modern and subtle terminology what I have come to think of as the Roman Catholic "party line."
Your reply to Pilsbury seems to indicate that she didn't demonstrate intellectual honesty when she joined the Catholic Church. Your response graphically reminded me of why I left the Catholic Church more than 20 years ago and why I could not rejoin it. Whether through wisdom, "intellectual honesty," or simply re-examining the evolution of my own ideas, I have come to the realization that religion does not consist in the re-explication of unchanging principles and practices. Rather it consists of a constantly evolving set of guidelines that speak to and inform constantly shifting conditions, which in turn force a re-examination of the use of those guidelines.
E. Thomas Dowd
Anne Pilsbury's letter (May 1993) was a masterpiece. I wish I could meet the person who wrote it. Of course it was a hoax.
I had to laugh out loud when she suggested that because our understanding of the material universe has changed since the Middle Ages, therefore we now have to reconsider the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Her letter reminded me of the Victorian scientists who proposed to subject the consecrated Host to scientific laboratory analysis. In 1893 people could reason like that, but today this can only be a prank.
Honoring the Holy Innocents
In honor of the millions of innocent victims of abortion, and as a prayer that the horror of abortion may cease, I have composed a musical setting of the Roman Catholic Mass entitled Missa In Honorem Sanctorum Innocentium (Mass in Honor of the Holy Innocents).
I would be happy to send a copy of the Missa to anyone interested. I. won't charge for the music, but I do ask for $1 to help defray the costs of copying and mailing.
Milford, New Jersey