The Same Old Shell Game
I agree with your view that much more than rhetoric is needed from those Republican politicians who claim to be prolife. We are seeing that same old rhetorical shell game once again with Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts, who cannot honestly be described as prolife. The man has agreed that Roe v. Wade is "settled law." Roberts is identified as a Catholic, and according to what we know of his record, he has clearly chosen not to take his Catholic identity seriously.
So, let's stop the charade, and expose the emperor. He has no clothes, and neither do his minions, including those prolife leaders who cannot and will not scrutinize the Republican shell game, even if their lives depended on it.
Judie Brown, President
American Life League Inc.
Why, Yes, Let's Kill Two Birds With One Stone
In your New Oxford Note "Now They Tell You! (Part III)" (Jul.-Aug.), you cited statements written by Elizabeth Mauro in Crisis magazine that led me to find her article and read it for myself.
Her article was an irrational mess. Your criticism of it was right on the mark.
I was amused by her dire forecast that overturning Roe v. Wade might lead to a schism in the Catholic Church: "We must anticipate what might come from overturning a law before hearts and minds have been made ready such a move could lead to a full-blown schism within our own Church." You see, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, millions of pro-abortion Catholics will renounce the authority of Rome. Why, they'll leave the Church and form their own church. Oh, no!
But why should such a schism be seen as a calamity? How can any sensible person who calls herself a Catholic attempt to justify the continuance of one of the greatest moral outrages in history on the grounds that it may provoke the inveterate enemies of Jesus and Mary to excommunicate themselves from the bosom of the Church?
From my point of view, this would be like killing two birds with one stone.
George E. Rocchio
North Providence, Rhode Island
In your July-August New Oxford Note "Now They Tell You! (Part III)," you're right in criticizing Elizabeth Mauro in Crisis magazine for worrying about any negative impacts from overturning Roe v. Wade. Her concern over a "full-blown schism" within the Catholic Church seems absurd, as does her concern alleging that overturning Roe "could substantially damage the cultural and political health of the nation as a whole." But you defend Ann Coulter's criticism of President Bush for saying, "We need, most of all, to change hearts," when Coulter believes that that part of the debate (changing hearts on the abortion issue) is over, and that therefore the major job ahead is changing the law.
I disagree with Coulter in claiming that the battle for hearts on abortion is over. While most Americans don't support unlimited access to abortion, a majority still oppose outlawing abortion during the first trimester, when most abortions are performed. I believe there still remains a major battle for the hearts and minds of Americans, a battle that would be greatly advanced if we had parental choice in education. Public schools (K-12) and colleges are still strongly biased in a "pro-choice" direction. We have not yet, in my view, won this battle.
Frank J. Russo Jr.
Port Washington, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
When Roe v. Wade made abortion-on-demand legal nationwide in 1973, the American people most certainly were unwilling to see abortion legalized in any trimester. But, you see, the law is itself a teacher and it "changed hearts" in a negative way, so now, as you say, a majority "oppose outlawing abortion during the first trimester, when most abortions are performed." If we wait for hearts to change, we could wait forever, because, given the sexual revolution, Americans need abortion, just in case.
Overturn Roe and you'll see hearts change, especially because the sexual revolution depends on abortion. And overruling Roe -- which would return abortion to the states -- could be a big step toward an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would prohibit abortion nationwide.
End This "Experiment"
Bravo for your New Oxford Note (Jul.-Aug.) on our increasingly feminist and homosexual military: Someone had to point this out, and I congratulate you for doing so.
Many of us who voted for our current President had hoped -- and indeed expected -- that one of his first actions would be to end this "experiment." Sad to say, neither he nor Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acted to correct an obviously bad situation.
David H. Grafft
Major, USMCR (Ret.)
Elk Grove, California
Fr. Thomas Doyle - A Different Take
I must respond to the letter from Mrs. Lees (Jul.-Aug.). Fr. Doyle was also our priest while my husband and I were stationed in Germany from 2000 to 2003. We were also received into the Catholic Church during that time. We knew Fr. Doyle fairly well. He has shown himself, indeed, to be a voice and advocate for the victims of priestly abuse. He has spoken in the secular media repeatedly on behalf of those victims. He also opened a chapter of SNAP at our base in Germany. He is a generous man with a gruff and crusty exterior and a heart of compassion for the abused and neglected. These qualities make him an ideal counselor. That being said, however, his views in many areas run counter to the teaching of the Church. More than once from the pulpit he told us that prayer was nothing more than "magical thinking." He is not opposed to women priests. The list could go on. My point is not to tear this man down gratuitously; however, he is not a shining example of what a Catholic priest is called to be. It is my opinion that he is not, as Mrs. Lees asserts, being punished for his outspokenness. I am not alone in holding that he had his priestly facilities suspended while on active duty because of his unorthodox pronouncements and practices.
Not a Dime's Worth of Difference
The letter from James Farrell (Jul.-Aug.) asks for "input" regarding the dismal state of our country. America was founded by our Forefathers, who were revolutionaries, rebels, and terrorists. The thought of some type of similar revolution has crossed my mind many times in the past two decades. When you see both Democrats and Republicans allowing abortion, pornography, homosexuality, etc., when you look at how the mere mention of God in public brings out the ACLU, you have to wonder what's gone wrong with this country. This country's morals are shot.
The vast majority of Senators and Congressmen are addicted to power. They have enormous egos and enough pride to sink any other virtues they may have had. You can write letters, make phone calls, send e-mails, and even visit them when they have local visiting hours, but they only listen to the money, and I mean major money. Their best friends are lobbyists. They couldnt win an election without the cash from big companies, PACs, and the filthy rich. Theres not a dimes worth of difference between the Donkeys and the Elephants.
James Farrell asks for "input." The Pro-Life Rescue Movement (presently in the doldrums) gave us an example of how to carry out resistance to the diktats of an unjust and immoral American regime. At its height, "the authorities" were at their wits' end as to how to contain it. They dared not use maximum force -- i.e., water cannons, tear gas, real bullets -- lest they stir up the sleeping masses. As an example, in the winter and spring of 1990, 95 prolifers (including myself) spent three months (February through May) in a Vermont prison. The state authorities were desperate to get rid of us to provide room for their regular clientele -- i.e., ODCs, Ordinary Decent Criminals. The Vermont Prison System had room for 600 inmates. At the time of our rescue and subsequent arrests in Burlington, it was already overloaded, with 900 prisoners (many were sleeping in corridors and gyms). Eventually, after much negotiation by our fine attorney, Dan Lynch, they just kicked us out in May.
I have seen this or something very similar on many occasions. Massive, peaceful, nonviolent resistance really does work. The "system" depends on the vast majority of people pretty much going along with it. Should a portion, even a relatively minor portion, refuse to "go along," it no longer works and those who control the levers of power in our (or any other) society must start thinking about giving the resisters what they want in order to preserve their dominance.
There is a correspondence between the Nazi Holocaust and our present American (Abortion) Holocaust. In either case, had a small but sizable number of key people resisted and simply refused to go along, it could have been stopped.
Any modern, technologically based country, such as Germany or the U.S., is acutely vulnerable to those who refuse to be a part of the "system." Granted, this may be a recipe for possible martyrdom, but if this is what it takes, so be it. Are we ready for that?
Joseph P. Wall
Lamont on Vatican II
Thank you for publishing John Lamont's article on Vatican II (Jul.-Aug.). For some decades now I have been reading every apologia I could find for Vatican II, hoping for some light. But nothing quite succeeded in justifying the alleged need for the Council against the empirical reality of its nefarious aftermath. Nothing, that is, until Lamont's article, which is the first thing in my experience to go beneath the surface and begin to shed some real light on the genuine problems the Council sought to address and why, nevertheless, the Council failed so miserably in achieving its intended aims. Lamont's article may be the single most significant article-length account of Vatican II to appear in English in the past twenty years.
Prof. Philip Blosser
Hickory, North Carolina
John Lamont defends the position that even though Vatican II was not necessary, it was a good thing. Lamont states that Vatican II "was a valid ecumenical council, which makes it impossible that its teachings could have really given a justification for the extreme abuses that followed it." A distinction should be made. An ecumenical council cannot teach error, but it may not be successful in dealing with the problems of the Church. Consider, for example, the Fifth Lateran Council.
Nevertheless, many of the problems of the post-Vatican II period were not caused by the Council documents but by the "spirit of Vatican II." The lectures and writings of some of the Council periti spent a good deal of effort teaching Catholics what the Council really meant.
Lamont thinks that many of the problems of the Church, for which the Council was an appropriate remedy, stem from the influence of nominalism on Catholic thought in the late Middle Ages. That well may be one of the problems for which the Council of Trent was called. It was not a problem in the first half of the 20th century, thanks to the restoration of Thomism by Pope Leo XIII.
Lamont holds that religion and morality were understood only in terms of obedience to commands. In my rather extensive library of textbooks on moral theology, I do not think one could find an example of that position.
Lamont's charge that Tanquerey's The Spiritual Life treats the pursuit of perfection as an option is a misreading. Chapter IV of the First Part deals with the duty of tending to perfection. Article I defends the position that there is a duty incumbent on all Christians in general to tend toward perfection. Tanquerey writes: "No wonder then that Our Holy Father Pius XI in his encyclical of January 26, 1923 on St. Francis de Sales, clearly states that all Christians, without exception, must tend towards sanctity."
The Spiritual Life by Tanquerey is still an excellent work, and it is still in print from TAN Books.
I was born in 1926 and was ordained a priest in 1952. I do not have the space to controvert the image of the pre-conciliar Church that Lamont presents (though I do note that he is a convert). This is not the understanding of the Church that I learned at St. Cecilia's School, Greenpoint in Brooklyn, and Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn.
Perhaps when Blessed Pope John XXIII called the Council he was making his decision based on the conditions in Italy and France, of which he had first-hand knowledge. It would seem that those same conditions did not begin to dominate the Church in the U.S. until after the beginning of Vatican II.
In my opinion, the remedy for many of those post-conciliar problems is contained in that marvelous document, The Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council.
Rev. Msgr. George P. Graham
St. Bernard's Catholic Church
Levittown, New York
Lamont believes that it took Vatican II's Nostra Aetate to finally reject the "disgraceful Catholic history of murdering, raping and pillaging Jews, on the pretext that they were all collectively responsible for the death of Christ." That "pretext" was rejected as far back as The Catechism of the Council of Trent (the Roman Catechism of 1566). You can find a direct quote of this in section 598 of the current Catechism.
In Rabbi David G. Dallin's otherwise excellent The Myth of Hitler's Pope (Regnery), he mentions that the Good Friday liturgy used to refer to the "perfidious" Jews. The thing is, "perfidious" means "unfaithful." The New Missal for Every Day of Father Lasance (1915, 1924) translated the passage in question this way:
"Let us pray, also, for the unfaithful Jews, that our Lord and God may take the veil from their hearts, so that they, too, may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.
"Almighty, eternal God, who repellest not even Jewish faithlessness from Thy mercy, harken to our prayers which we make in behalf of the blindness of that people, that, recognizing the light of Thy truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness."
The 1962 edition of the Missal removed "unfaithful" and "faithlessness," and the present edition is even more diplomatic. After we pray for the conversion of "All our brothers and sisters who share our faith in Jesus Christ" (the former Missal's "heretics and schismatics"), we pray that "the Jewish people may arrive at the fullness of redemption."
You can argue that the present edition of the Missal is too diplomatic, but you can see why there was a demand for change.
Appropriate Dress For Catholic Women
I have followed with some amusement the letters to the Editor in the past few issues concerning the subject of appropriate dress for Catholic women. When I see the quoting of Deuteronomy to the effect that women should not wear men's clothes, I have to laugh. Do those people believe that men in biblical times wore two- or three-piece suits with shirt and tie? Of course they didn't. Men and women's clothing was quite similar.
Men wore a knee-length tunic while women wore a tunic that reached the ankles. Both wore a strip of cloth, or girdle, around the waist. The outer cloak of men was somewhat shorter than that of women, and it would have a fringe at the border of the cloak to signify attention to the Lord's commandments. In addition, men would wear a ring as a token of authority. Men often wore phylacteries, fastened on the forehead and on the arm, containing Scripture passages. These were intended to counteract the superstitious amulets worn by both men and women. In addition, both men and women wore jewelry.
The law in Deuteronomy was intended to forbid women from wearing anything peculiar to a man, such as a signet ring. Likewise, the short tunic was not to be worn by a woman nor the long one by a man. This prohibition against exchanging tunics was intended to prevent sexual stimulation as practiced by idolaters.
The real point of the discussion about men and women's clothing should be centered on the subject of modesty. There are women's pantsuits and slacks that look very feminine and would never be confused with men's clothing. On the other hand, there are skirts that reach to mid-thigh and barely conceal a woman's underwear. Likewise, there are dresses so formfitting as to leave little to the imagination. In the same vein, many women wear jeans that are too tight, and pants that hardly cover the hips. What I am saying here is that women's dress is a not a matter of slacks or skirts; it is a matter of feminine dignity. In like fashion, men's clothing can also be subject to criticism. Modesty, good taste, and appropriateness for the occasion should be the criteria for judging both men and women's clothing.
"An Inadvertent Pawn Of Our True Enemy"
I was thankful when you said that you would no longer produce articles on the irresolvable disagreement over Tom Monaghan/Mike Healey/Fr. Joseph Fessios statements and actions regarding Ave Maria College in Michigan and Ave Maria University in Florida. I accepted your argument that Andrew Messaros should get the last word in the debate, since that is standard editorial policy. And I understand the need to publish the numerous letters to the Editor that followed the five-part diatribe that appeared in your pages.
However, your New Oxford Note, "My Friend, Benedict XVI" (Jul.-Aug.), puts your editorial credibility at risk. The fact of its appearance puts the lie to your promise to no longer participate in the debate. Of course, the diabolically clever way in which you worked Messaros into the Note enables you to argue that you didnt say when his last word would appear. If you were to take that position, though, your credibility would diminish further.
Beyond the credibility issue, the approach you took in the Note makes it clear that you are out to destroy Fr. Fessio's image and reputation and, in the process, undermine the establishment of Ave Maria University:
You jump on "Anonymous" (a defender of Fr. Fessio) for not revealing his/her name; yet you do not criticize "OregonRN," "Gyrine," or "Confiteor" for doing the same thing -- and you do not even provide the online pseudonym for the person who started the discussion on Michael S. Rose's website.
You make "gotcha" assertions that "Anonymous" knows Fr. Fessio and (later) is a professor or staff member at Ave Maria University simply because (in the first case) he/she would rather stand with Fr. Fessio on Judgment Day than with those who were attacking him, and (in the second case) made the factually accurate statement that a winter trip to Florida would have given Messaros some first-hand experience and the possibility of making a gain on housing if he chose to relocate. I, too, know Fr. Fessio -- just as I know Pope John Paul II, George W. Bush, and John F. Kerry: from their writings, speeches, and TV appearances. I am not a professor or staff member at Ave Maria University, but, as a Founder of the University, and a Florida snowbird, I know that the Michigan-based faculty was offered a chance to visit the Florida site; and I know the cost differences in housing between our Northern states and Florida. While the NOR is an opinion magazine (as distinct from a news journal), it is not proper editorial practice to jump to conclusions and then cite those conclusions as if they are fact, in a sarcastic criticism of your adversary.
You use 19 paragraphs in a 28-paragraph Note to resurrect the issue you promised to no longer address in your pages. It's one thing to criticize Fr. Fessio for being an egomaniac and a media hound, if that's what you feel. It's quite another to spin the original Fessio article (on his own website) about his relationship with our new Pope into a vitriolic ad hominem attack. Since you wonder toward the end of the Note who exactly is doing the smearing, the answer -- in this case -- is you.
As a professional communicator, I recognize and appreciate the cleverness with which you crafted this latest support of Messaros and those at Ave Maria College who feel betrayed. I also respect your right to take one side over another in your editorial pages.
As a practicing orthodox Roman Catholic, who shares your concerns about the current problems in our Church, I neither respect nor appreciate your continuing assaults on the leaders of Ave Maria University. It seems to me that, on this issue, you are accepting as fact the feelings and opinions of one side of an honest, though hurtful, dispute and are looking for ways to demean the legitimate efforts of the other side. In the process, I believe you have gone beyond the bounds of proper Christian witness and may have become an inadvertent pawn of our true Enemy.
John F. Barrett
Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
You refer to the "five-part diatribe" in the NOR. But one of the five parts was written by Nicholas Healy Jr. (not Mike Healey), the President of Ave Maria University (AMU), and one was written by Fr. Joseph Fessio, Provost of AMU. Surely you're not saying that Healy and Fessio's articles were diatribes, are you?
You are correct that the five-part series was a debate, and that the original author gets the last word if he wants to. But we never said that we would not return to the issue, especially since Fessio upped the ante by banning NOR ads and list rentals from his publications, and yanking Ignatius Press ads and list rentals from the NOR.
The NOR didn't jump on Anonymous for not revealing his name; Messaros did.
Everyone concerned knows Fr. Fessio from his writing, speeches, or TV appearances, but Anonymous said the criticisms of Fessio reflect "just plain ignorance of the man [Fr. Fessio]." This would indicate that Anonymous knows Fessio personally. (Indeed, in a sentence we didn't quote, Anonymous said, "His [Fr. Fessio's] day begins with extensive prayer and he sets a great example for those around him." So yes, Anonymous knows Fessio personally.) Then Anonymous said: "You [Messaros] could have spent a winter in Naples [Florida] . Not exactly torture, and you probably would have enjoyed 100K+ of appreciation on a place in Florida." Then Messaros identified Anonymous as an AMU professor, and in the subsequent posts from Anonymous, he avoids the subject (i.e., he does not deny it).
The NOR didn't criticize Fessio for "being an egomaniac and a media hound." Others said that. We posed another possibility: "Could it be sheer emotional exuberance?"
Messaros's response (March 2005) to Fessio's article (Jan. 2005) mentioned a lot of incriminating evidence about AMU and Fessio. We asked Fessio to respond in a letter, but he didn't. Anonymous didn't respond either. And you don't either. As a Founder of AMU, we'd think you'd want to look into Messaros's charges. It would certainly be helpful if someone could actually refute Messaros's accusations.
You accuse the NOR of ruining reputations and of smearing. You also accuse the NOR of "lying," of being "diabolical," and of perhaps being an "inadvertent pawn of the true Enemy." This is choice, for you certainly know how to ruin reputations and how to smear.
By your logic (not our logic) you too are "an inadvertent pawn of the true Enemy."
Rash Judgment & Detraction
I think all of us need to spend time meditating on the Eighth Commandment before we write or speak publicly about another person. The Catechism states: "He becomes guilty of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor" and "of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them" (#2477).
I am raising this issue because of comments on the Internet concerning the Ave Maria University dispute published in the July-August issue (New Oxford Notes, "My Friend, Benedict XVI"). I found the personal attacks on both sides to be beyond the pale and unfit for publication. Nor can I see how the Editor's claim that "ad hominem attacks" and "disparaging someone's character" are permissible "as long as they are based on facts," squares with what the Catechism says about detraction. What need does an NOR reader have to know the presumed or even certain faults of any of the participants in the dispute?
Please close the door on the controversy in the pages of the NOR. The invective has been such that I am none the wiser as to what really happened.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The Eighth Commandment says: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (italics added). We quoted Andrew Messaros (from the Internet): "It was precisely 'charity' (benevolence and generosity toward others) that required me to write the aforementioned New Oxford Review articles. There was nothing 'in it' for me...other than opening my family up to the risk of a lawsuit by Fr. Fessio's billionaire underwriter [Tom Monaghan]... Do you know how incredibly stupid it would be of me to make false claims against Fr. Fessio...when I have little mouths to feed at home?" According to Messaros, he was not bearing false witness against Fr. Fessio. If you have any evidence that Messaros was bearing false witness against Fr. Fessio, we'd be glad to hear about it.
"Rash judgment" is making claims "without sufficient foundation," and "detraction" is making accusations "without objectively valid reason...to persons who did not know them." Messaros believed he was making claims against Fr. Fessio with "sufficient foundation" and with "objectively valid reason," and he believed people needed to know about them so they would not be hurt or abused. He sketched his claims against Fessio on the Internet, and more fully in an article in the NOR (March 2005).
Regarding "detraction" in the Catechism: Was Jesus guilty of detraction when He disparaged the character of the Pharisees by calling them "hypocrites," "fools," a "brood of vipers," "sons of Hell," etc. (Mt. 23)? Talk about invective! Ah, but He said this with "objectively valid reason," and He said this when speaking to "the multitudes" who indeed needed to know. To be silent about the Pharisees is not golden; its yellow. And Jesus was not yellow. What we say does square with the Catechism: You can make "ad hominem attacks" and "disparage someones character" as long as theyre made with "objectively valid reason" (i.e., as long as theyre based on facts), and as long as people need to know about them. Another example: Its perfectly fine to disparage Archbishop Weaklands character, given that he had a homosexual affair with Paul Marcoux and paid him $450,000 from Milwaukee Archdiocesan funds to cover it up. To be silent about Weaklands character would be uncharitable and an injustice to those who trusted him and gave him money, never mind the wider Church.
We had five articles on Ave Maria University (AMU) -- Sept. 2004, Oct. 2004, Nov. 2004, Jan. 2005, March 2005. One was written by Nicholas Healy Jr., President of AMU, and one by Fr. Fessio, Provost of AMU. It was a debate. You can assume that neither Healy, Fessio, nor Messaros intentionally made false claims, yet the anti-AMU and the pro-AMU sides contradicted each other -- and the debate was quite intense. Thats the nature of a debate at its best. You are a long-time subscriber, and you say youre "none the wiser as to what really happened." Thats fine. Each reader should make up his own mind about whos right, or mostly right, just as some will come to no conclusion.
You want to know why NOR readers need to know about this dispute. Heres why: AMU constitutes a great hope for orthodox Catholics, in which case youd want to donate to it and send your children there; but if AMU is founded on injustice and deception, you wouldnt want to support it. Weve heard from several readers that Messaross accusations against AMU dont matter. They will support AMU. Its called informed consent -- which is better than uninformed consent.
The problem with Anonymouss ad hominem attacks against Messaros (on the Internet) was that they were not based on any facts. This is rash judgment, never mind detraction. And you might consider if you too are engaging in rash judgment, for you accuse us of "moral fault," but "without sufficient foundation." But, hey, we dont mind; were used to it.
Your often overly aggressive statements and fulminations about the issues affecting the Church are entertaining to read.
Rest assured, the Church, like any other authoritarian dictatorship with an orthodox dogmatic system and ideology, will change significantly in time. Roma locuta, causa finita (Rome has spoken, the case is closed) is long gone, especially in the progressive Western world, and a mere two thousand years is a very small period in the history of Homo sapiens.
Louis J. Mihalyi
Newland, North Carolina
Standing After Communion?
Is standing after Communion the last step to protestantize the Catholic Mass? True, it has been a gradual process. The results have given us: (1) A request to greet those around us before Mass, creating a community atmosphere rather than focusing on the miracle of the Mass. (2) It is common to see glass or plastic rather than precious metals used to hold the Host and Precious Blood. (3) We no longer use the sanctus bells to announce the miracle of the Transubstantiation. (4) We no longer kneel as a sign of respect to receive Communion. (5) Many receive Communion in the hand with little concern of what happens to particles of the sacred Host as they fall (remember the patens?). And now (6) we are told we should not kneel, but stand, after Communion, at a time we should reflect on the importance of having received the Blessed Sacrament and spend special time with the Lord.
This seems to have become a Sunday community social meeting rather than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Is it any wonder that many Catholics no longer feel the need to attend Mass each week? Is it any wonder others are looking toward the Traditional Latin Mass to bring back the sacredness of the Mass? There are no changes, no watering-down, in the Traditional Latin Mass.
Transubstantiation is what separates the Catholic Mass from Protestant Communion services. The changes listed above diminish the miracle of Transubstantiation.
The bishops who encourage these neo-Modernist changes are the same bishops who have trouble attracting new seminarians, who refuse to allow the Traditional Latin Mass, perhaps fearing its popularity. These are the same bishops who refuse to acknowledge that homosexual priests are the cause of the priestly sex abuse scandals in the Church.
John J. Crinnion
Harbor Springs, Michigan