An Effect of Grace
Bryan J.P. Gesinger's article, "A Catholic Response to Sola Fide" (Sept.), provides a very useful review of Scripture passages demonstrating that good works are expected of a person of faith. However, I was left perplexed by his failure to address the "consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification," which was set forth in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification entered into by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Council of the Lutheran World Federation in June 1998.
That text states in part: "Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works. All people are called by God to salvation in Christ. Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith.... We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it " (italics added).
My understanding of the Catholic position is that the only "works" that are required for "justification" are those of believing in Christ and consenting to God's justifying action (with the latter being itself "an effect of grace"). I encourage readers to study in full the Joint Declaration, which was approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; it appeared in Origins (vol. 28; July 16, 1998), and is available on the Vatican's website (www.vatican.va). The World Methodist Conference also subscribed to it, in July 2006 (Origins, vol. 36; Aug. 3, 2006).
In James S. Blankenship's guest column, "The Anglican Use in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church" (Jul.-Aug.), he understandably declares a personal preference for the "Anglican Use" Catholic Mass because it has been part of his own heritage. He then suggests that the Anglican Use Mass might improve the liturgy of many parishes throughout our nation.
About this suggestion, I wonder.
Here is an example of the kind of English found in an Anglican Use Mass. The penitential rite (taken from the Book of Common Prayer) reads as follows: "We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us."
Here now is the penitential rite (first option) of our present New Order Mass:
Priest: My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let us call to mind our sins.
All: I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts, and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do, and I ask Blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Priest: May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
My impression of the two penitential rites is that the Anglican Use wording seems startlingly anachronistic, florid, and almost quaintly strange. The New Order wording that we now say seems plain, direct, just as dignified, and theologically richer. It partakes of the spirit of simplicity that suffuses the Our Father (which has only two adjectives) that Jesus gave us as a model or template of how to pray to God.
Might other readers wish to comment?
Buffalo, New York
The Third Secret: Fact & Fantasy
After reading Dennis Bonnette's piece of fiction, "Must Human Evolution Contradict Genesis?" (Jul.-Aug.), it was a nice change to read Fr. James Anderson's nonfiction article, "The Timeliness & Urgency of the Third Part of the Secret of Fatima" (Jul.-Aug.). Fr. Anderson makes it clear that the secret consists of two parts, one of which was released after the beatification ceremony on May 13, 2000, for Francisco and Jacinta, a ceremony that I was privileged to attend with one of my daughters.
Fr. Anderson's research was extensive and adhered to the truth about Fatima, which made it difficult to understand why, after such a factual reporting of events, he left the solid ground of fact to enter a marshland of speculation. He says, "However, considering the gravity of the inferred contents of our Queen Mother's prophecy, prudence and filial regard for the wishes of Christ's Vicar justify our consideration of why His Holiness John Paul II decided that the time had come in the year 2000 to reveal these prophecies to the Church and to the world." From there, Fr. Anderson entered the world of fantasy.
There are, however, two things that Fr. Anderson could have stated unequivocally but didn't. At Fatima in 2000 the Holy Father did not tell the truth about the whole third secret, and in 1984 the Holy Father refused to accede to our Lady's wishes and failed to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart.
Alan E. Fricke
Medford, New York
Greetings from Mwinilunga!
Regarding Fr. James Anderson's article on the third secret of Fatima, it is clear that we Catholics are on the edge of a tremendous trial of our Faith. Mother Teresa of Calcutta has written that "the fruit of abortion is nuclear war." And with the generally accepted estimate of 50 million abortions in the U.S. since 1973, we must not be surprised if God would let such a chastisement happen. We are all part of this generation in which this genocide, and the selfish stealing of venereal pleasure, are taking place. So we must not be surprised if good men are made to suffer along with the bad.
God the Father has invited his human creatures to share in His divine power, namely, by procreation. And He attracts us to participate in this ongoing creation of each new generation by connecting special venereal pleasure to our use of sex. With the fourth, fifth, sixth, and ninth Commandments from the Old Testament, the example of His Son Jesus living for thirty years with the Holy Family, the raising of marriage to the level of a Sacrament, the forbidding of divorce and fornication in the Gospels and letters of the Apostles, God has given us guidelines for sharing in His divine power.
But how are we responding to His loving invitation? With abortion, divorce, artificial contraception, immoral sex education, widespread pornography, etc.
All these are signs of the misuse of our free will to selfishly steal venereal pleasure and avoid the responsibility of raising a family in the fear and love of God the Father. God can't be happy about our selfishness. He wants our generous cooperation in His divine program.
There is another trial of our Faith that is emerging, and it is the moral corruption in the highest levels of the Church, particularly the reports of some cardinals being practicing homosexuals and members of the Masonic Order. Pope Paul VI warned about the devil walking in high places in the Catholic Church, and now his warning is being justified.
When our Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, she revealed secrets about the Church's future to a little girl who became Sr. Lucia. These secrets were to be passed on to the Pope. The Pope at that time was Benedict XV. He chose to keep the secrets secret. Since then, Popes Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and the present Pope, Benedict XVI, have all chosen not to reveal the full secret. Why? If the secret is about nuclear war, they would have no problem sounding the prophetic warning. But if the secret foretells immorality in the highest levels of the Church (e.g., homosexual cardinals), the Popes would not like to believe that this could happen.
Try not to be scandalized as revelations are made in newspapers and magazines, and on television. Non-Catholics and fallen-away Catholics may take comfort in our troubles. Jesus is being publicly crucified again in His Mystical Body. And His current Apostles (priests, bishops, and cardinals) are running away again.
Yes, our Church is sick even unto her highest levels, but God guarantees that this sickness is not unto death.
The Holy Spirit wants to use our prayers and sacrifices to aid the sick members of the Christ's Mystical Body, the Catholic Church. Our Lady at Fatima asked us for Rosaries, and praying the Rosary aids the healing of the sick members of Christ's Mystical Body.
The Rev. Terence M. Tobin, O.F.M., Conv.
Bad Precedent or Incremental Advance
Michael Hichborn's article, "Dissecting the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act" (Jul.-Aug.), does little to advance the prolife cause, but instead reveals how he and the American Life League (of which he is the Assistant Director of Media Relations) are rigidly opposed to any incremental approach to confronting the abortion regime either in Congress or the courts.
One of Hichborn's annoying tendencies is to unjustly blame the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act for somehow strengthening a bad precedent or introducing a new bad precedent, when in fact the deplorable precedents were well established in earlier cases. For example, Hichborn argues that Section 2.14(H) of the Act will plant "a very evil seed" because this section states that an unborn child is "in the process, in fact mere inches away from, becoming a person,'" and thus enjoying protections afforded by the 14th Amendment.
Hichborn argues that the language of this section, while sounding very good on the surface, somehow confirms that a partially born baby is not a person by its allusion to the fetus being "mere inches away" from becoming a person. Hichborn goes on to make the naïve assertion that "prior to this provision in the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, the definition of personhood remained an open issue...."
I don't see the potential of an "evil seed" being planted by the Act, but rather the reality of an evil oak tree established by Roe v. Wade when Justice Blackmun wrote: "The Constitution does not define person' in so many words.... All this together with our observation, supra, that throughout the major portion of the 19th century prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than they are today, persuades us that the word person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn" (italics added).
How does Hichborn conclude from Blackmun's ruling that the definition of personhood was an "open issue"? Only by such ignorance can one accuse the Act of somehow introducing a bad precedent.
Hichborn argues that because the Act fails to challenge an existing precedent or contains certain defensive language to guarantee passage or defend against lawsuits (e.g., exception for the physical health of the mother), somehow these concessions will actually strengthen the existing precedent or introduce a new precedent that will obstruct future progress. Let me challenge that logic with an historical example. Did the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 that freed the slaves only in the Confederate states somehow make it more difficult to ratify the 13th amendment just two years later that freed the slaves in all states?
An additional flaw in Hichborn's article is the omission of the consideration of any positive effects that the law and its intense debate has had on the general public since the Act was first proposed 14 years ago. Let me summarize the positive impacts of the Act:
- The public became educated and aware of the horrors and brutality of the partial-birth procedure. Gallup polls show that the percentage favoring a ban on partial-birth abortions steadily rose from 57 percent in 1996 to 72 percent in 2007.
- The public's disapproval of the procedure led to increased skepticism of "abortion rights" in general, as evidenced by numerous polling numbers. Experienced pollsters and poll analysts consider the Act one of the primary reasons for a shift from 33 percent identification of "prolife" in 1995 to 50 percent identification in 2007.
- The number of performed abortions has consistently dropped as public awareness of the partial-birth abortion procedure increases.
Hichborn also fails to propose an effective alternative approach to attacking the abortion regime using legislation and litigation. Don't get me wrong, legislation and litigation should definitely not be the only focus of prolife efforts. I don't begrudge the American Life League or any other prolife group that seeks venues of prolife advocacy that allow them to avoid making concessions and compromises. I do take issue, however, when such groups consistently spend time and resources attacking the initiatives of other prolifers who must make these types of concessions to achieve progress in these arenas.
No piece of legislation, however virtuous in intent, will ever protect a single unborn life if it does not achieve passage. Arguments made in a courtroom, however eloquent, will be fruitless if the parties making those arguments do not ultimately prevail. People who want protection for the unborn or just limitations to existing abortion practices must secure the cooperation of people who are not committed prolifers, and they must work within the framework of existing legal precedents, however morally bankrupt those precedents are. The only reason to criticize a prolife initiative is if it makes the current situation worse; it's counterproductive to criticize any initiative for not doing enough good. The latter criticism will always be true for any incremental strategy.
Can Hichborn cite how the American Life League (ALL) has passed more effective legislation than National Right to Life (NRL), which supports the Act, or how ALL has done a better job than NRL in helping to win important court cases? If Hichborn and ALL think that the Act -- and similar initiatives -- are on the wrong track, I propose that they invest more time and effort in demonstrating results with their methods as opposed to detracting from the efforts of other hard-working prolife organizations.
Roger A. Chylla
MICHAEL HICHBORN REPLIES:
Roger Chylla's defense of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is both ineffective and naïve, and he mistakenly persists in the delusion that the Act did anything good.
Before diving into the various intricacies of Chylla's accusations, I wish to respond clearly and firmly to his challenge to the American Life League (ALL) regarding the passage of more effective legislation. As a 501(c)(3) organization, our mission is to educate and inform. We are not equipped for, and in fact are barred from, direct involvement in the political process. That being said, however, this does not mean that we must stand idly by as weak-kneed lawyers and politicians pay lip service to certain elements of the prolife movement with ineffective legislation that merely perpetuates pro-abortionists' own arguments.
Chylla accuses me (and ALL, by extension) of being "rigidly opposed to any incremental approach to confronting the abortion regime either in Congress or the courts." My article said nothing of incrementalism and made no implications regarding it, but since Chylla brought it up, I wish to make perfectly clear that any step forward in stopping abortion in any form is always a good thing. However, small incremental steps toward abolishing abortion, while tolerable, must never be the focus, strategically or ethically.
Strategically, the only reasonable thing to do is focus on the abolition of all abortions, and that is achieved through defining personhood as beginning at fertilization. Without maintaining that one focus, the whole foundation of the prolife fight crumbles!
Ethically, the incrementalist philosophy is morally corrupt. It makes no sense whatsoever to adopt anything but a total-victory strategy. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act went to great lengths to illustrate why the procedure was particularly heinous, and illustrated how the procedure would never be necessary to preserve the health of the mother. But it then went on to say that the procedure would be allowable if the life of the mother were in jeopardy. If the procedure is unnecessary for preserving a mother's health, then how in the world would it ever be necessary for saving her life?
Not only is the legislation contradictory in this sense, but the very mention of an exception in any case is abominable.
The swiftest way to end abortion in this country would be to define personhood as starting with fertilization. Chylla was right to point out Justice Blackmun's statement regarding personhood, but Blackmun also said: "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. On the other hand, the appellee conceded on reargument that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Any legislation that enters the court system with a definition of "person" that contradicts the notion that personhood begins with fertilization is an obstacle to prolife victory. All Blackmun did was point out that no case could be cited to support the notion of prenatal personhood. Because the Act has gone to the Supreme Court with such a definition, it can now be cited in future cases. Ergo, bad precedent.
Regarding Chylla's charge that I omitted any positive effects that the law and its intense debate had on the general public, he seems to forget that the purpose of law is specifically to maintain the protections of man's God-given rights to life, liberty, and property. Laws are not made to spark debate, to raise public awareness, or make a point. Laws are written either to permit or forbid certain behaviors. Since the Act does not really prohibit partial-birth abortions (it simply regulates when they can be performed), there is really nothing positive that can be said of the legislation itself.
Incidentally, one does not need to provide an alternative idea to a bad one in order to prove that the bad idea is indeed bad.
Be that as it may, Chylla seems to think that in order to make any headway, one must be willing to compromise his principles to some degree. I say to you, Mr. Chylla, that if one compromises his principles, he has already lost. By proclaiming exceptions and conceding any ground to abortion proponents, this plague of infanticide will continue and this war will not be won!
Stunned By the Protestantized Catholic Church
Well, you've hooked me. I'll be sending my $19 for a one-year subscription to the NOR. I applaud your upfront and cheeky approach.
I'm a Lutheran parish pastor serving in Chicago. I consider myself an evangelical catholic, with a great love for the Western Rite and the Blessed Sacrament of our Lord's Body and Blood. As you know, we are presently engaged in a titanic battle for the Gospel. I mourn for the faithful in my tradition, and for those who struggle in the Roman Catholic Church. The rapid Protestantizing of the Roman Catholic has simply stunned me.
The Rev. Peter M. Berg
The Sacrifice of the Mass is Back
Pope Benedict XVI has given his blessing to restore the original Latin Mass. Many of today's Catholics have forgotten or never experienced the Mass in the 1960s, before Vatican II. Back then, Catholics knew it was a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sundays and holy days. Catholics entered church in silence, kneeling in prayer before a crucifix, mindful of Christ's love. The priest gave a serious homily, fulfilling his mission to preach and teach as Christ did. Catholics were told of God's love and His justice for sinners, that there is a Heaven and a Hell. They knew what sin is and that sin would separate them from Christ. Only those in a state of grace received Communion. They kneeled at a Communion rail and received on their tongues (not in the hand). They had no doubt that they had received our Lord Jesus Christ. What joy was had when they left church knowing that they had Christ in them!
Unfortunately, many of today's churches do not have a large visible crucifix to remind Catholics of Christ's love for us. Many have a risen Christ, and most do not even show the wounds Christ suffered for us. We hear homilies that usually contain jokes or humorous stories with a few historical facts thrown in. Sinfulness is seldom mentioned, and if it is, it is done in a frivolous manner, its consequences never mentioned. Communion is received by all -- including those not in a state of grace.
Thank God the Sacrifice of the Mass is back.
Andrew B. Williams Jr.
A Working Strategy for Traditional Catholics
There is a critical requirement in the recently promulgated motu proprio of His Holiness Benedict XVI (Summorum Pontificum) that must not be overlooked. It specifies: "Article 5§1: In parishes where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962...."
The key words here are "stable group." Too often we find that traditional Catholics have drifted away from their parish churches and are attending Latin Masses at other locations. It is of primary importance that we restore the Traditional Mass to as many parish churches as possible. Therefore, I would suggest the following: Families and individuals who are not currently registered with the parish in which they reside should do so at once. Inform the pastor of your intention to (re)join the parish, and of your desire for a Traditional Latin Mass. This is the only way for your voice to be heard. Merely showing up and requesting such a Mass will not suffice, because you are not part of a "stable group" as required by Article 5§1.
This may entail some sacrifice. You may have to attend a few New Order Masses before you and your fellow parishioners can build up enough strength to obtain a Traditional Mass, but this is in line with His Holiness's desire that both forms of the Mass be treated with equal respect. You may also find that, in the absence of altar rails at your parish church, Holy Communion may still be given standing up at the Traditional Mass. But all of this is worth it in order to achieve the final goal of restoring the Traditional Latin Mass to as many parish churches as possible.
Glendale, New York
Nowhere to Lay My Head
Orthodoxy is now an afterthought.
When I became an ordained deacon some 12 years ago, orthodoxy was our watchword. I was full of faith, full of the Spirit, and full of Gods Church on earth. I wanted to visit all the shrines and monasteries in America, and it was a sublime journey.
My orthodox stance resulted in my early forced retirement from the deaconate when I still had several years left to serve the sick and shut-ins, as I had so diligently done, considering it my divine calling.
Unaware and naïve like many of us, I trudged on meeting no evil, seeing no evil, and speaking no evil. This, of course, is the norm for most Catholics who sit helpless in the pews, hearing no mention of Hell, Satan, or the fear of the Lord. New Age, secular, and bland Catholicism has put a whole generation in danger.
In this environment, I find myself driven and derided with a vanity that, Heaven forbid, says I have nowhere to lay my head.
Deacon Don Tucker