The Black Legend
I am sure that Archie Salerno (article, June) will be accused of presenting an idealized portrait of his Catholic boyhood. But I for one am happy to read a testimony that counters the Black Legend that has arisen concerning the preconciliar Church. For those unfamiliar with the Bad Old Days narrative, here is a synopsis: Before the Second Vatican Council, the only Catholics who paid attention to the liturgy were neophyte altar boys worried about flubbing their Latin responses. An indigent person had to find a Catholic Worker house if he wanted to receive so much as a free cup of coffee from a papist. Priests and bishops were haughty men who spent a great deal of time in posh rectories and chanceries drinking fine whiskey, and none had the courage to confront Caesar until the Berrigans came along. If a Catholic layman deigned to touch a Bible, it was to swear an oath in court. And religious teaching sisters were all bellicose crones who retired to spooky convents at the end of the school day, where they compared notes on the best methods for battering the bodies and crushing the souls of children.
There are those who have swallowed this story whole. But I believe that most Catholics, once they dust off their memories or read Church history, realize that there is something lacking in the kinder, gentler version of the Faith now practiced. Having a Social Justice Committee at a parish is fine, but perhaps if more attention were paid to the works of spiritual mercy -- "correcting the sinner" and such -- there might be fewer women seeking disposable diapers for their fatherless babies. The new breed of pastor is often quite affable, but his homilies are more likely to concern the saving of the snail darter than the saving of souls. The lay teachers at Catholic schools are said to be "good with the kids," but they require real salaries, and are probably not going to stay around for 50 or 60 years like the sisters of old. The vernacular Mass is less likely to startle our separated brethren, but should our liturgy be almost indistinguishable from an Episcopalian or Lutheran service?
But I see signs of hope among the young, or at least among those who have not lost their faith at faux-Catholic colleges. I go to Masses where communicants in their 20s exhibit great reverence; I read of the prolife students at Harvard, in the belly of the beast, who persist in their work despite having their posters defaced and their meetings disrupted. A visitor to Boston who wants to find a Catholic congregation that is both youthful and orthodox may do so at St. Clement's Eucharistic Shrine in the Back Bay.
Theology in Catholic Schools
As a veteran Catholic high school theology teacher, I read with interest the article by Michael McBride (Jul.-Aug.). His letter to the superintendent aptly articulated some of the problems in Catholic schools. Anyone who thinks his experiences are isolated, especially in theology departments, should think again.
Bishops ought to meet with elementary and high school theology teachers to ensure conformity with the magisterial teaching of the Church. All theology teachers ought to be mandated to sign an oath of fidelity to the bishop to teach faithfully what the Catholic Church teaches. If that's a problem then send them on their way.
One concern I had was with McBride's suggestion to have a committee select religion textbooks. This is dangerous territory. All Catholic religion textbooks are not equal. Unless the committee is made up of orthodox Catholic educators who know the Catholic Faith and practice it, mediocrity will be perpetuated.
When a Child Becomes an 'It'
In the English language, the word "it" denotes a thing, a material object. The word "it" can point to an inanimate object, such as a chair, or it can point to an animate object, such as an animal. The word "it" is never used to describe a human being. To do so would be dehumanizing. Pro-abortion types have long referred to the unborn child as an "it," an object to be disposed of, if the mother so chooses.
A theological definition of the word "it" may be anything in the created universe not possessing a soul.
Please consider the following verse from the Gospel of Mark (9:36). It is taken from the New American Bible off of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website. It also appears in the Gospel reading for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 24, 2006, in the Lectionary: "Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them..." (italics added).
This translation, after all, is sanctioned by the Catholic bishops in the U.S., and forced on every parish in the nation. My initial reaction was that this is an example of the "gender-inclusive" language police, gone berserk.
The current climate of liturgical abuse has become the norm, rather than the exception, and the abuse of Scripture is guided by people with political agendas. The same rancid spirit that motivated some priests to abuse our young people continues to motivate liturgical abuse, comic-book catechisms, and now the abuse of translations of the very Word of God in Scripture. How do our bishops explain a historically unprecedented translation that reduces the human child to a thing? How do they explain this mistranslation in the Lectionary?
Ed. Note: We have examined 13 translations of the New Testament; only the New American Bible says "it." The bishops have some explaining to do.
I Will Take My Chances on Judgment Day
As one of those Catholics who supports the war in Iraq, and does not support the Pope's position on the war, I am disappointed in your position that I am condemned to the fires of Hell [Ed. Note: we never said that]. Frankly, I will take my chances on Judgment Day that I made the right decision.
Yes, there should be rules for fighting wars, but if your opponent fights by different rules than you do, you must fight by the rules your enemy sets for the war to ensure your survival. Our fire bombing of European and Japanese cities and our use of the atomic bomb on Japan shortened the war and saved lives. Was it worth it? Yes!
Ed. Note: There was no need to attack Japan, for Japan was defeated. It was pure vengeance. As the Catechism says: "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation" (#2314).
That Sandwich-Truck Owner
Paul Muessig's article, "Should Catholics Defend America?" (Jul.-Aug.), appears to make a tight, well-reasoned case, although I am not at all sure what his case is. Beyond taking the NOR to task for its vigorous opposition to the war against Iraq, and taking the Vatican and the U.S. bishops to task for not imposing moral consequences on supporters of the war, just what is Muessig's aim? He did not call the war "just." He spent a great deal of space on the moral complicity (or lack thereof) of his hypothetical sandwich-truck owner. His article raises questions that I'd love to see him answer.
First, does he consider this war to be constitutional? That is, does he think that the U.S. Congress has the right to abdicate its constitutional responsibilities concerning the declaration of war?
Second, precisely what national interest of the U.S. is being defended in Iraq? How, by invading a sovereign nation, unconstitutionally, are any of the rights we still "enjoy" here at home being protected? How is my freedom of speech being protected by the nutjobs who authorized and/or ordered torture at Abu Ghraib, or by the soldiers who carried out the torture? Please, spare me the 9/11 "connection." Iraq was nowhere near big enough to hurt us militarily any more than a few horseflies could hurt a horse.
Third, there appears to be a problem with the application of "the moral question of co-operation in evil." If we were to examine in detail what we do for a living (never mind what we do for "recreation"), then a great many people, I suspect, would find themselves in passive remote indirect material co-operation with evil -- e.g., farmers and ranchers (who supply the materials for the sandwiches in that truck in Muessig's article), automakers (someone has to drive the volunteer to the enlistment center), and clothing manufacturers (especially those who make military uniforms). And these examples just scratch the surface. If this exercise were carried far enough, then all mankind should be paralyzed by fear of being somehow complicit in someone else's evil.
Finally, Muessig's question about where he "falls in the spectrum of 'co-operation with evil,'" along with his lengthy treatment of the possible moral complicity of his sandwich-truck owner, seems to indicate that he has a serious doubt about the moral status of his own job vis-à-vis the war in Iraq. I sincerely hope that he will take to heart and put into action the NOR's suggestion that he take up the matter "with an orthodox and informed priest."
Miriam S. Dapra
Paul Muessig's article posed the question: "Should Catholics Defend America?" Surely, the answer should be obvious: "Of course not!"
In 1944 I volunteered to "defend America" against a ruthless, wicked foreign foe. Now we have become what we fought. In a sense, Hitler won the war; we Americans have adopted his beliefs. Would I volunteer again to "defend America" in the present day? No way! Why?
We Americans have become the Evil Empire that President Reagan warned about. Does anyone really have to recite the long laundry list of the many depravities that have been woven into our culture, into the vaunted American Way of Life? Obviously yes.
Think of the Abortion Holocaust that over the past 33 years has snuffed out the lives of some 50 million of our precious, innocent American children -- five times the number the archdevil Hitler killed in his death centers. And then we have the Sexual Revolution that is destroying the very concept of marriage with its fifty percent divorce rate; the legalization of homosexual "marriage" coming down the track; a huge, multi-billion-dollar pornography industry; the deliberate, almost routine, corruption of our children that has turned our staunch young men into tattooed, purple-haired studs, and our sweet young girls into sleep-around sluts; the illegal drug traffic, whose supply may for the large part originate on foreign soil, but whose demand is American.
Not content with having destroyed the former American culture we grew up with (and many of us fought for), our rulers now want to export their massively evil system to other countries, whether they want it or not. One remember that, right on the heels of the American invasion of Afghanistan, International Planned Parenthood came in with $22 million (and much more to come) of birth-control pills, condoms, and aspiration suction machines (yes, abortion devices), thereby bringing the benefits of our present American culture to Afghanistan.
You can see why I wouldn't want to "defend America." God help us all!
I decline to re-subscribe to the NOR, even though I agree with many of the issues you discuss. The most important is your incessant editorializing in opposition to our Mid-East war against Muslim terrorists. Your attitude is similar to the suicidal pacifism quite prevalent on the east and west coasts of this country, due to the prevailing multicultural societies in those areas. The Islamic world intends to destroy Western Civilization, as they attempted to do several times in previous centuries, as late as the 1600s during the Turkish occupation of southern Europe. Wake up! Defend Christianity! Don't allow it to be destroyed by pacifism.
The Catholic Church in America, as in western Europe, has been essentially overrun and destroyed by secular humanism from within. The Church preaches more Marxism than Christianity.
Earl E. Sprung
Kansas City, Missouri
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The U.S. invasion of Iraq is creating more terrorists than it is eliminating. The NOR does not support pacifism, suicidal or otherwise. And what do multicultural societies have to do with it? Is there a hint of racism here? Catholicism is the most multicultural of all the world's religions. Catholicism is a global religion; it is not confined to Western Civilization.
You say, "Defend Christianity!" But then you say: "The Catholic Church in America, as in western Europe, has been essentially overrun and destroyed by secular humanism from within. The Church preaches more Marxism than Christianity." If so, what is there to defend? Do you want to defend Marxism and secular humanism?
The U.S., Britain, France, and Russia have the vast majority of nuclear weapons. The Islamic world cannot destroy Western Civilization. Only the West can destroy Western Civilization.
From a Letter to 'Crisis' Magazine
I have been very deeply concerned about Crisis magazine's negative coverage of the Palestinians. Having traveled to the Holy Land and having seen how the Palestinians are brutally treated by the Israelis (one Catholic Palestinian teenager I know has been in an Israeli jail for almost a year without being told what he was arrested for), and observing the current situation, where Israeli troops are purposely targeting civilians in Lebanon and Gaza (for example, by bombing the only power plant providing electricity in Gaza, which provided power to hospitals for children), I am appalled by the opinions of Crisis magazine.
Thomas Zabiega, M.D.
A Proposal for the Middle East
After the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and the consequent massive destruction of Lebanon (an out of proportion response), an objective observer who is not intimidated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) would readily admit that the possibility of peace in the Middle East -- short of Arab annihilation -- is impossible.
In Lebanon, about a thousand civilians have lost friends, relatives, brothers, sisters, parents, and grandparents. Never mind the wounded. The Lebanese, whether Muslim or Christian, will never stop hating the Israelis.
The only move that makes sense to me -- given that Arab annihilation is unthinkable -- is to shut Israel down. To aid in the shut down, the U.S. could give one million dollars to each Israeli family now living in Israel. The U.S. must, however, attach a proviso: Once having accepted the million, the expatriate Israelis must settle in northern Mexico, close to the U.S. border. The Mexican government would surely welcome this moneyed group of immigrants.
These steps would effectively accomplish two things:
(1) Removing Israelis from a mortal danger. (Hey, if the Arabs want to fight, let them fight among themselves.)
(2) Mexico's Israeli immigrants would vitalize the border towns with their energy by providing jobs for Mexicans, thereby abating drastically the illegal Mexicans coming into the U.S.
A tongue-in-cheek approach. But honest to goodness, it would have been cheaper 10 or 20 years ago.
Jeanne B. Feeney
Sagaponack, New York
Update on NOR Reading Clubs
Many thanks to the Rev. F.J. Nietfeld (letter, Jul.-Aug.) for his enthusiastic support of independent NOR Reading Clubs. I would like to update those interested on the progress made in organizing these local groups. As of early September, there are interested readers in each of the following three-digit zip code areas (3DZ): 027, 053, 087, 117, 127, 152, 191, 300, 323, 333, 474, 481, 554, 559, 610, 631, 757, 783, 913, 939, 985, and 992. Additionally, there are interested readers in Colombia, Japan, and Ireland, as well as others in the U.S. who have not yet confirmed their 3DZ. We are using the first three digits of readers' zip codes as a means of identifying where interested readers are. As soon as there are two or more readers in the same or a neighboring 3DZ, they are connected (via e-mail) and helped to organize their local Reading Club. If anyone has previously contacted me, but his 3DZ does not appear here, I ask him to send it to me. Additionally, those who would like more info may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lake Grove, New York
The Legionaries & Fr. Maciel
Regarding the letters on the Legionaries of Christ (Jul.-Aug.): In the U.S., it seems like only Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ are really growing. They must be doing something right.
Even if the founder of the Legionaries, Fr. Marcial Maciel, is immoral or once led an evil life and even now should live in luxury, he still started an organization faithful to Christ and His Church. Charity covers a multitude of sins. If the founder was immoral, he must have found willing accomplices. For what good are they if they continue to bring up old charges? The Christian finale is forgiveness and repentance. We serve a God of mercy, not vengeance.
Anthony D. Lutz
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
You make good points. However, there are things you don't consider. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Communist Party was really growing in the U.S., and the Legionaries have been compared to the Communist Party.
Yes, charity covers a multitude of sins, but that the Legionaries under Maciel were growing does not necessarily indicate charity. It sounds more like ambition, which is not necessarily bad, but which is different.
As for "willing accomplices," they were mere boys, and the boys said that Maciel told them he had a dispensation from the pope to commit pederasty.
As for "what good are they if they continue to bring up old charges," that could be said about other priestly sex abusers with old charges. Surely you don't want a cover-up. Pederasty must not be tolerated under any circumstances, regardless of how "charitable" the perpetrator may have been at other times.
As for "repentance," John L. Allen Jr., who broke the story about the disciplining of Maciel, talked to a cardinal at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who said, according to Allen, "the material left little doubt as to the validity of the charges, though he said he was less clear how Maciel understood what he had done" (NCRonline.org, May 18). We hope Maciel repented, but if not -- if his state of mind was too befuddled -- we must leave this in the hands of God.
As for "we serve a God of mercy, not vengeance," St. Paul said, "for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Rom. 12:19). We serve a God of mercy and vengeance. May the Lord have mercy on Maciel.
Pulled It Out of the Trash
I have been disgusted with the NOR and have been throwing them into the trash. Today I pulled your latest issue out of the trash and reread it. Thanks be to God! I commend you for your fortitude and genuine portrayal of the unfortunate crisis in our beloved Church. May God bless you!
Mountain Home, Arkansas
Is Divorce a Sin or Not?
In your New Oxford Note, "A Massive Failure to Teach Catholic Truth" (Jul.-Aug.), you report on a survey that asks Traditional Catholics and Liberal Catholics if "divorce is a sin." This statement can only be answered with a "Yes" or "No," but it depends on the circumstances and the part taken in the divorce action of an individual.
In reviewing number 2383 of the Catechism, we find this statement: "If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense."
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
You are right that "civil divorce...does not constitute a moral offense." On the other hand, the Catechism says: "Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law.... Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society" (#2384-85). So, what are we to make of this? Is this a contradiction? Is the Catechism trying to have it both ways? We don't think so.
There is a catch to civil divorce. The "innocent victim" bears no blame: "There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage" (#2386). This presumes there is an "innocent victim," which is not always the case. There can be two guilty parties. In the U.S., we have "no fault" divorce, so we cannot tell who the "innocent victim" is. The Catechism also says: "Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery" (#2384). In the "In Brief" section, the Catechism says: "Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free union are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage" (#2400).
The survey asked, is "divorce...a sin"? "Yes or No." Under the circumstances, we would think that a Traditional Catholic would answer "Yes." But in the survey, 70 percent of Traditional Catholics said "No," and 82 percent of Liberal Catholics said "No."
Divorce is like murder: The first one is the hardest; after that it becomes easier. And divorce statistics bear this out. No Traditional Catholic should counsel divorce.
In response to the letter by Jan Michalski, "Is EWTN Truly Orthodox?" (Jul.-Aug.), I say yes. I watch the Eternal Word Television Network as much as possible, and while there are programs that do not appeal to my taste, there is no unorthodox content.
I was taken aback by Michalski's question of whether Fr. Benedict Groeschel slips into indifferentism. Fr. Groeschel has many Protestant and Jewish friends, but he never, ever waters down his stance on Jesus Christ, Catholicism, and the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. This past week (July 23), he was very clear that ecumenism is not watering down the Faith, but ensuring people know the true Faith, Catholicism. And he has brought up the terrible state of catechesis.
Fr. Groeschel may take a different approach, but his actions and statements show he is in no way indifferent.
Timothy J. Sergus
In response to Jan Michalski's letter, I would say that I have long suspected that at least some of EWTN's programs are not accurate representations of Catholic teaching. After reading the book by Christopher Ferrara, EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong (Good Counsel Publications, 2006, 800-954-8737), I have found my suspicions to be valid. EWTN's new management apparently has not remained completely faithful to Mother Angelica's staunch Catholic orthodoxy. I found especially disconcerting, among other things, that some of the reruns of Mother Angelica Live have been cut or otherwise censored to meet with the approval of the current management.
Since much of EWTN's programming still reflects sound Catholic theology, I remain a viewer, albeit with a discerning and critical eye.
Raymond V. Ferrier
Woonsocket, Rhode Island
Questioning EWTN's orthodoxy is akin (though not exactly) to questioning the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church. Anyone who reads Raymond Arroyo's biography, Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles, and doesn't see the hand of the Lord in EWTN's success would surprise me. Is EWTN perfect? No, of course not. But it's the best thing that has happened to the Church as far as reaching out to the American public since Bishop Fulton Sheen.
And Fr. Groeschel simply tries to reach out to men of all faiths. He is an orthodox Catholic if you listen carefully to his words.
I thought myself once too "intellectual" for EWTN -- then I started listening. A little humility, and that "nervy" not "intellectual" nun, brought me to my knees.
Albert Regan Doyle
I Doubt I Would Be Converted in Today's Church
Why do Catholic Church leaders allow dissent? It is their vocation to lead people to the truth. As a convert to Catholicism prior to Vatican II, I heard the truth and saw the unity of faith. I feel blessed that I converted when the Church knew about absolutes. As for converting today, I doubt I would.
Andrew B. Williams Jr.
Bear Poverty With Equanimity
According to the guest column by Angus Sibley, "Dives the Tax-Evader" (June), the message of the parable of Lazarus is that "exorbitant inequalities are, in themselves, offensive in the sight of God." This message was apparently lost on St. John Chrysostom, a Doctor of the Church, who is considered the foremost exegete of this passage, who delivered at least seven major sermons on this text. In his Third Sermon on the passage, St. John Chrysostom says: "The parable of Lazarus was of extraordinary benefit to us, both rich and poor, teaching the latter to bear their poverty with equanimity, and not allowing the former to be proud of their wealth."
If "exorbitant inequalities are, in themselves, offensive in the sight of God," why do they exist so often in nature? Creation abounds with inequality, both in genus and species. The mere exercise of taxonomic groupings is a lesson in radical inequality. Examples might include weeds and roses, minnows and sharks, and angels and men. Further, some men are smarter, taller, and better looking than others. Whereas a man has a chance to better his financial lot in life, he has little chance of bettering his height. Nature is much more unforgiving than capitalism.
Sibley's article is quite like many of the distributist articles I see lately regarding economics.
John Clark, Capitalist
Paladin Financial Group
Front Royal, Virginia
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Regarding St. John Chrysostom's treatment of the parable of Lazarus, you leave a lot out. Chrysostom said: "God has given you many things to possess, not in order that you may use them up for fornication, drunkenness, gluttony, costly clothes, and other forms of soft living, but in order that you may distribute to the needy." He also said: "Because you have not made the accustomed offerings... therefore have you robbed the things that belong to the poor" (De Lazaro Concio).
Chrysostom also said: "Is wealth, therefore, good? By no means. At the same time it is not bad...if its possessor be not covetous; it is not bad, if it be distributed to the poor; otherwise it is bad; it is ensnaring" (In Epistolam I ad Timotheum).
As for your question, "If 'exorbitant inequalities are, in themselves, offensive in the sight of God,' why do they exist so often in nature," Chrysostom would not agree with you: "All this about 'mine' and 'thine' is mere verbiage, and does not stand for reality. For if you say the house is yours, it is a word without a reality; since the very air, earth, matter, are the Creator's..." (In Epistolam I ad Corinthios). Chrysostom also said: "Mark the wise dispensation of God.... He has made certain things common, as the sun, air, earth, and water, the sky, the sea, the light, the stars, whose benefits are dispensed equally to all as brethren.... But when one attempts to possess himself of anything, to make it his own, then contention is introduced, as if nature herself were indignant," and "God in the beginning did not make one man rich and another poor" (In Epistolam I ad Timotheum).
It's obvious that Chrysostom would see that "exorbitant inequalities are, in themselves, offensive in the sight of God."
If you are content with the poor bearing their poverty with equanimity, you might want to consider what Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-46: "For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink.... Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me." And we know what will happen to them: They go to "everlasting punishment." In the parable of Lazarus, maybe that's why the rich man, "who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day," went to Hell (Lk. 16:19-31). There is no indication that the rich man was diabolically evil. But in Luke 16:13, Jesus says, "No servant can serve two masters.... You cannot serve God and mammon [money]."
My Good Name
Eamonn Keane has committed calumny against my good name as a Catholic scholar and catechist, spreading false judgments against me. In his book, A Generation Betrayed (Heatherleigh Press, 2002), Keane, who teaches in an Australian high school, pretends to offer a scholarly critique of my published work. Instead, by misrepresentation and manipulation of my writings, couched in a collage of false accusations, innuendo, and guilt by association, he makes a calumnious attack on my character, falsely accusing me of being "a dissenter" from the dogmas and doctrines of Catholic faith. His book would be more accurately titled Truth Betrayed.
Keane has made it a mission to ripple his lies out across the Catholic community. People who are familiar with me and my work have dismissed his accusations for what they are -- the truth betrayed. Yet, he has found an audience, including authors and readers of the New Oxford Review. For example, in the December 2004 issue, Stacey Johnson published an article, "Beware of Thomas Groome or Anything Associated with Him." She repeatedly quoted Keane's book as the "authority" for her critique. His work has been cited by other NOR authors, most recently by Fr. Bryce Sibley in the March 2006 issue.
I have published a lengthy rebuttal of Keane's false claims; the full text can be read on my website.
Prof. Thomas Groome
Institute of Religious Education, Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts