November 2010

It's Not So Easy

I am glad that Paul Koenen (“An Apologia for the Local Parish,” Sept.) is able to stay in a committed relationship with his parish, St. Paul’s in Hingham, Mass. Those of us who’ve been abused spiritually by our geographical parish should be excused for fleeing with our faith intact. I don’t think we can underestimate the subtle but insidious harm that is done by subjecting ourselves and our families to a constant barrage of heresy (at worst) and pabulum (at best). Seeking authentic Catholicism should be as easy as going to one’s neigh­borhood church; it isn’t.

We as parents will have to stand before God and answer for the state of our own souls as well as those of our children. I personally won’t risk certain danger to either for the uncertain prospect of building community, giving good example, or teaching my kids to be resilient.

William Provencher
Haverhill, Massachusetts






Paul Koenen urges us to stay with our home parish no matter how bad it may be. If, however, Sunday after Sunday, one leaves Mass at one’s home parish and feels that one has just spent an hour in Purgatory instead of Heaven on earth, then it is time to move on. Luckily, my wife and I found Heaven on earth in a parish near our home.

Frank Joseph Wodzinski
Elizabeth, New Jersey




A Rebuttal & a Clarification

Kindly permit me to address two interlocutors in the September issue who wrote in response to my letter (June) about Fr. Regis Scan­lon’s article “The Validity of Homosexual Vows of Chastity in Religious Life” (Mar.).

To Chuck Steer

To the best of my recollection, Fr. Scanlon never dealt with the issue of seminaries and candidates with same-sex attraction, whereas Mr. Steer makes him do so. Of course, this was the very point in my original response — namely, that it was a short run from saying that those with same-sex attraction could not properly vow chastity to saying that those with same-sex attraction could not be ordained.

Steer maintains that the novelty of Fr. Scanlon’s line of argumentation is of no consequence. I beg to differ. Novelty in theological discourse is always suspect. Sometimes, it can indeed be a new and valid insight; however, the presumption that someone has come up with an entirely original idea for the first time in 2,000 years is calling for a bigger leap of faith than acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity demands! (Please allow for a bit of exaggeration here, lest anyone question my belief in that doctrine.)

My argument about the presence of heterosexually oriented men in the priesthood facing a “near occasion of sin” is exactly on the mark, if one holds to the argument on the other side of the equation. Readers will recall, however, that I said I thought that argument was ridiculous.

I never said that John Paul II’s theology of the body was “Puritanical and Jansenistic.” Au contraire, I believe it is entirely too naïve in its belief that human sexuality can be readily and seamlessly integrated into a wholesome and holistic Christian moral theology.

To Constantine Kliora

I thank Mr. Kliora for his kind remarks about my theological perspectives.

I need to underscore that just as a heterosexual orientation, in and of itself, is not sinful, neither is a homosexual orientation. I am glad that he acknowledges that all sexuality after the Fall is disordered. The point is that acts, not proclivities, are sinful — and the focus of Fr. Scanlon’s article was not on acts but on orientation. It is absolutely correct that heterosexual acts can be sinless, while homosexual acts can never be such.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify my stance.

The Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas
Editor, The Catholic Response
Pine Beach, New Jersey




A Major Escalation

I was gratified to see two New Oxford Notes in the September issue on how the obsession to avoid angering homosexuals has resulted in the firing of Prof. Kenneth Howell and Prof. June Sheldon from academic positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and San Jose City College, respectively. This is a major escalation in the campaign to mainstream sodomy, and it will only get worse, leading to criminal prosecution of anyone who upholds the biblical view on that affliction (as is the case already in Canada).

The day will come when “not ten just men” will be found in American society who will be bold enough to speak the truth. This is what places sodomy in a wholly different category from fornication, adultery, etc., as sexual sins. Practitioners of fornication and adultery don’t demand that society embrace these practices, nor do they use the force of coercion and law to silence those who demur. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Church, in her wisdom, has designated sodomy as one of the four sins crying out to Heaven for vengeance.

Terence J. Hughes
Orono, Maine




The Real Problem

As an NOR subscriber for the past six years, and having led a career as a federal backgrounds investigator, I have gained substantial insight into the sexual-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. When Pope Benedict XVI visited the U.S. in 2008, a journalist asked him what he was doing to prevent future occurrences of abuse in the Church. The Pope responded, “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.”

This response left me reeling. Blaming the scandal on pedophiles and then implying that the Church has some means of testing for or recognizing pedophilia in a candidate for the seminary does not ring true in my understanding of the scandal.

I have researched and read the 2004 investigation into the sex-abuse scandal conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The main finding was that over 80 percent of the confirmed acts of sexual abuse were perpetrated against post-pubescent males (teenage boys), meaning that abuse was mostly of a homosexual nature.

Statistics in Germany suggest that 60 percent of the confirmed acts of sexual abuse there were committed by homosexual priests on post-pubescent males.

With the above findings, can’t we identify the major cause of the scandal as one of pederasty, not pedophilia?

This scandal has been a great embarrassment to all practicing Catholics, and has called into question the honesty and judgment of a good many members of the Church hierarchy. It has greatly diminished all respect for our Church and has to be forthrightly corrected in order to ensure the survival of Catholicism in the U.S. In order to do that, we must first accurately identify the problem.

Bob Connelly
Granite Bay, California




Tracking the Reform of the Reform

Ken Skuba’s article “Whither Goeth the Reform of the Reform?” (Sept.) was a refreshing reflection on the current developments in liturgical reform. Many of his considerations were of a “top-down” nature — that is, they are well-argued directives that cannot be lived by most Catholics. Perhaps we would do better to focus on what the people in the pews can do to help move forward the reform of the reform.

First, the faithful ought to include the sanctoral cycle in their prayers. For instance, at meal prayers, people could invoke the intercession of the saint of the day. Also, people could observe the great custom of the Rogation and Ember Days, which were never suppressed (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 394). It would be most worthy to offer these days of prayer and fasting for priests and priestly vocations. Finally, it would be most helpful to pray com­pline as a family for the conversion of priests. In this way, the faithful can help us priests in the work of reforming the Roman liturgy.

Rev. Fr. Ryan P. Hilderbrand
Diocese of Evansville, Indiana






As an 82-year-old woman who has been a member of the same parish since age 8 and sung in its choirs for 66 of those years, I have experienced and participated in liturgy in all its forms and re-forms: from Latin only accompanied by Latin hymns and organ from the choir loft to the vernacular with guitar and mariachi accompaniment in the nave with the congregation singing from the pews. To hear a whole congregation respond in song rather than a select few, of which I was one in the days of the “high” Mass, is, for me, exhilarating and prayerful. I would never want to go back.

For a time in our parish, we did have priests and lectors who took great liberties with the texts of the liturgy. Some substituted the word “God” for any masculine pronoun that described Him. It sometimes became very cumbersome and even laughable. One priest would never call Jesus the “Son of God” but only “the Beloved.” Another refused to use the word “Jew” in the reading of the Passion, substituting “people” in its place. The congregation actually tittered when someone began the Lord’s Prayer with the words “Our Mother.” Embellishment of the set prayers of the liturgy was rampant. This was, indeed, arrogant and prideful behavior that has, for the most part, been eliminated. Now, we enjoy all those elements of liturgy that Mr. Skuba deems most important.

Perhaps the sense of sacredness he longs for is what we bring to our liturgy, rather than what we expect to be there.

Norma Gray
Berkeley, California






Ken Skuba’s article rang a bell for me. I’ve experienced various varieties of the Holy Mass since Vatican II, some of which can best be described as “Broadway productions.” The priest facing the people making various facial expressions and seeking eye contact with parishioners has been a distraction. Another distraction is the “presider’s chair” placed in the center of the sanctuary where the tabernacle once was. Not only is the constant chatter before and after Mass annoying, but so is the applause solicited by the priest for some person or another. But rather than lamenting the many abuses, there is a solution: re-introduce the Tridentine Latin Mass to parishioners.

In our community and surrounding area, we have a cluster of six Catholic churches. If one or two of them were to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, parishioners would have the opportunity to attend either form of the Holy Mass. The result just might be to raise Mass attendance.

Ralph Santoliquido
Larchmont, New York






The reform that is needed is not to go back to the Tridentine Latin Mass, which was necessary for its time, but to insist that the Novus Ordo Missae, or New Mass, be celebrated as Vatican II intended. That it has been celebrated in many and various ways with all kinds of abuses is not the fault of the New Mass, but of the bishops and pastors who allowed them to take place.

Though the abuses, in most areas, are not as flagrant as they once were, the annoying practice of laymen mimicking the celebrant’s gestures is still prevalent; and at the sign of peace many parishioners still leave their pews to cross aisles and shake hands or hug one another or exchange pleasantries, especially during Masses for children. Skuba is correct that contemporary liturgical music requires much overhauling — bringing back at least some Gregorian chant would go far in restoring reverence to the liturgy.

But sticking out one’s tongue to receive Holy Communion is not — I repeat, is not — more reverential than receiving the Lord in one’s hand; in fact, it strikes me as less so. And what is this nonsense about dispensing with altar girls? It was a long time in coming. It is a good thing for girls to serve at the table of the Lord as did Martha, Lazarus’s sister. As altar boys might be inspired to the vocation of the priesthood, so girls might be inspired to the sisterhood.

No, the Novus Ordo is not a “failed experiment,” as some would have it. Given the tenor of the times and the same bishops and pastors, I doubt that the venerable Tridentine Mass could have withstood the onslaught of abuses.

Incidentally, I was born in 1921 and grew up with the Tridentine Mass. It was an integral part of my life. As an altar boy I struggled with the Latin, which I later learned to appreciate along with Gregorian chant, the greatness of which is unparalleled. In her wisdom, Holy Mother Church gave us the Tridentine Mass for its time; it is now a new age, and in her wisdom she has given us a new Mass. Let us accept it with humility, and do what we can to correct the abuses.

Anton Smario
Concord, California






The Church has begun to acknowledge the damage done to the liturgy and the Body of Christ as a result of the senseless, empty revisionism that arose after Vatican II. The closer the New Mass gets to the Tridentine Latin Mass, the better it becomes. The ideal “reform of the reform” would be a full return to the Tridentine Mass, known today as the “extraordinary form” of the Mass. But neither a full return to the Tridentine Mass nor to a hybrid thereof will be very successful at the parish level without two accompanying documents: one on the exegesis of the Mass and another on ecclesiastical Latin grammar.

“Exegesis” — the in-depth analysis of a text to impart insight and understanding — has traditionally been limited to the Bible. There should also exist a standard comprehensive exegesis of the structure and meaning of the Mass. This exegesis would be a companion volume to the Catechism. It is likely in part due to the lack of such exegesis that we have witnessed so many deviations in the “ordinary form” of the Mass.

“Ecclesiastical Latin” refers to that limited and specific part of the Latin language used by and in the Tridentine Mass and to the context in which it is employed. It is discouraging to many people when we are told that we have to learn the entire Latin language in order to fully understand or appreciate the Latin Mass. This is not at all necessary for the congre­gant, and only selectively so for the celebrant. The number of words used in the Mass is relatively small; their context is fixed and well established. Many of the words and phrases of the Mass are repeated extensively and most of the Mass itself does not change from day to day. Most of the parts that do change are read in the vernacular. The question, “How do you say such-and-such in Latin?” simply doesn’t arise within the context of the Mass. Therefore, the congregation need not concern itself with cases, conjugations, declensions, and all the other labor of actually learning a language in order to rapidly come to a full understanding of the meaning of what is being said. For example:
Dominus vobiscum
(The Lord be with you)
Domine non sum dignus…
(Lord, I am not worthy…)
Corpus Domini nostri…
(The body of our Lord…)
Quid retribuam Domino…
(What shall I return to the Lord…)
Clearly, nothing is sacrificed in comprehension by not knowing, for example, the case used for “Lord.” This is not to say that gaining a thorough knowledge of Latin is not a good thing in itself; it is simply not an absolute requirement for comprehension and appreciation of the Latin Mass.

Given an appropriate side-by-side missal, not only can the Mass attendee understand fully what is happening and being said, but over a very short time he will be less preoccupied with the word-for-word translation and more united — at first by repetition and then by reflex — with both the celebrant and his fellow Catholics as the Mass builds toward and achieves its dual objectives: sacrifice and communion. This is every Catholic’s rightful heritage.

Joel Avren
Palm Bay, Florida




A Prefect Companion Piece

During an RCIA class I teach, we discussed the seventh commandment, “You shall not steal,” when, guided by the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the idea of the relationship between Church and state came up. Later that night, I read Fr. James V. Schall’s article “Roman Catholic Political Philosophy” (Sept.). I immediately saw it to be a perfect companion piece to the discussion we had been having, and I copied it for my students and the other instructors in our group.

Even though the NOR does not charge for reprints, I enclose here a small contribution, not only as an expression of my appreciation for Fr. Schall’s fine article, but as a means of offering a bit of financial support to your — our! — great magazine. I have been a subscriber for many years and I know that small, independent Catholic publications such as yours struggle with finances. I hope that this donation, and the silent prayer that accompanies it, helps some.

Charles Shunk
West Sacramento, California




When Will We Come to Our Senses

Laura Bush recently published her memoirs on life in the White House and her responsibilities as First Lady of our nation. She states that “abortion is a personal matter” and that she does not expect the overturning of legalized abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court. I was surprised by her position on abortion but realized it was in keeping with the opinions held by many in society, particularly a­mong pro-abortion Catholics.

In an effort to be “politically correct,” many pro-abortion Catholics will use the specious argument that an abortion is between a “woman and her doctor,” or say, “I am personally opposed to abortion, but I support a woman’s right to have one.” In both cases, the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death is ignored. Pro-abortion Catholics dismiss innocent human life in the womb as a mere collection of tissue to be discarded at will, and refer to judicial decisions (Roe v. Wade) as convenient excuses to shield them from any guilt. Regrettably, this is not the first time in our nation’s history that a group of innocent human beings has been targeted as subhuman.

One hundred and fifty-three years ago, African American slaves were declared to be “chattel or private property” as a result of the Supreme Court’s declaration in the Dred Scott case that slaves had no rights under the Constitution. No doubt there were Catholics then declaring that “I would never own a slave but would not stop my neighbor from owning one,” or “the sale of a slave is a private matter between the owner and the buyer.” Rather barbaric statements, but why not? African American slaves were not considered “real human beings,” and the law gave pro-slave Catholics the necessary cover to make such illogical and insensitive claims.

Thankfully, our nation came to its senses and amended the Constitution to abolish the inhuman act of slavery. It is unconscionable that in the 21st century the same archaic thinking that allowed slavery permits the callous destruction of innocent human beings for convenience and profit.

Let us pray that our nation comes to its senses again and ack­now­ledges the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

Humberto J. Brocato
Monument, Colorado




The Tin God's High Priest

In his new book The Grand Design, celebrity physicist Stephen Haw­k­ing postures as the self-anointed high priest of idolatrous atheism, pon­tificating that God was unnecessary to spontaneously create life from nothing, and that the laws of nature spontaneously did so without any help from a bearded myth. By failing to acknowledge the First Cause origin of these fine-tuned, inscrutable, im­mutable laws, he unknowingly worships the fashionable tin god of mathematical logic and scientific reasoning, a robot of meshing gears with­out a warm parenting personality and devoid of salvific spiritual purpose. His idea of science would have us live in a cold, cruel, calculating world stripped of any moral compass, a pathetic condition that renders “finding oneself” in holy communion with God, our almighty Father, impossible.

So which came first, I ask, re­ligion’s moral rectitude and aplomb, or the universal law of gravity that forces all beings and structures to stand upright or collapse? If moral laws are the basis for all the laws of science, then it is little wonder that the immoral are ignorant of God as the invisible First Cause.

Richard M. Dell’Orfano
San Marcos, California




A Second Request for Materials

Thank you for your offer to extend my scholarship subscription for another year. Without your generosity I would not be able to enjoy such a fine publication (I have no money and have had no family contact in five and a half years now).

I would like to thank you once again for printing my plea (letter, Oct. 2009) requesting reading materials to aid me in my university-level studies. Those studies are progressing along nicely due in part to the overwhelming generosity of NOR readers. Thanks to all of you for those materials!

Unfortunately, some of the packages were denied to me for one technicality: In Texas prisons we cannot receive any book packages with someone’s personal name in the return address. All incoming book packages (including large packages of reading materials) must have an organizational name in the return address — e.g., the name of a church, religious group, bookstore, bookseller, etc. Other than that, there usually isn’t any problem. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused and once again thank all of you for your love, kindness, and generosity.

That said, I’m once again in search of a few items that will greatly assist me in my pursuit of one day becoming a Franciscan. These are all practical for anyone pursuing the religious life, and anything along these lines in any condition — new, used, damaged — is very much appreciated.

1. Four-volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours, or a one-volume copy of the condensed version, titled Christian Prayer (a breviary), published by Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 77 West End Rd., Totowa NJ 07512.

2. The Catholic Study Bible (NAB version, 2nd edition), leather or hardback, with or without thumb index, published by Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Ave., New York NY 10016-4314.

3. Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd edition).

Amazon.com has an outstanding record of sending used books here at substantial savings. I have been blessed by the Lord, and it is my desire and prayer that God will continue to richly bless the NOR and its readers.

James S. Colbert Jr. 1339224
Billy Moore Correctional Center 8500 North FM 3053
Overton TX 75684



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