The P.C. Nativity Set
Have you seen the Politically Correct Nativity Set? Yes, there are some pieces missing, but thats what makes it so cool:
·No manger for a crib. (The Department of Social Services wont allow a child to be born in such filthy conditions.)
· No oxen or donkeys. (The Department of Health wont allow animals in the delivery room.)
· No gifts of gold, frankincense, or myrrh. (Federal Law forbids expensive gifts from foreign leaders.)
· No Joseph. (The National Organization for Women doesnt believe that a father figure is necessary to raise a child.)
· No Mary. (Shes out having an abortion, because she realized that her fiancé wasnt the childs real father.)
· No Jesus. (Mary is taking care of that little problem.)
· No wise men. (Theyre all in Washington, D.C., passing laws to tell you how you can celebrate this Whatever-You-Want-to-Call-It, Just-Dont-Mention-the-Word-Christmas Season.)
There may not be much of anything left to display but, hey, isnt that the point?
The Latin Mass: More Than Its Cracked Up to Be
In her letter The Latin Mass: Not All Its Cracked Up to Be (Jul.-Aug.) Nancy Payne said the following: I well remember the Latin Mass the feeling of isolation, both from the priest and from fellow worshipers. I never experienced a sense of everyone being part of the Body of Christ. I believed, but could not have told you why I believed or explained the deep meaning behind much of the liturgical language. Of course I was reading my Missal [which was] a bit of a hindrance to focusing on the altar, where the awe and mystery are centered.
This quote summarizes criticisms of the Latin Mass offered by many people and raises several crucial issues: what the congregation feels, what the congregation sees or doesnt see, and the impact of language.
Where there is a sacrament, there is no isolation. In the same way, at the assembly of the people at the Latin Mass, the priest, in persona Christi, acts as the Body of Christ: We Thy holy people offer. Our participation in the priesthood of Christ is established by Baptism, not by becoming a reader, for example. Community and the liturgical action of a priestly people are completely present at the Latin Mass. Why is this not felt by many?
On the issue of feelings, the common assertion seems to be: If I feel isolation at the Latin Mass, it is the Latin Mass that causes such feelings. This criticism ignores the fact that feelings arise out of interactions between two entities: the self and the situation. The internal dynamics and perceptual habits of the self meeting an external situation result in a feeling. People are honest when they describe these feelings of isolation. But the question is, are such feelings evoked by the Latin Mass or by some of the characteristics of contemporary people?
I suggest that it is a matter of perceptual soil. In the parable of the sower, Jesus teaches that the Word of God takes root in good soil. Has there been a change in the soil of the faithful? Has visual technology nurtured us into the state of Thomas in the New Testament? Thomas needed the physical sight of Jesus, and the physical gesture of putting his hand into the wounds in order to say My Lord and My God. The words of the others were not sufficient. Jesus accommodated him but at the same time chastened his eyes: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. There are grounds for suggesting that the hyper-stimulation of our eyes by TV, film, photos, and computers has created a generation whose craving for the visible renders words mere squiggles on a Missal page dull conveyors of meaning. This situation challenges Catholic worship. What is the Church to do: continually satisfy this visual appetite by attempting to translate the total content of the liturgy into the visible, or chasten the eyes of the faithful? Which option prepares good soil in the faithful for the seed of the Word of God?
People follow the Latin Mass in their Missals. The eyes see words on a page. When the congregation lifts its eyes they see the altar, vestments, and the back of the priest. This is very stark visual fare for people used to seeing stories on the wide screen, who feel entitled to see other peoples faces. At the Latin Mass people do stand, kneel, and sit together, indicating communal participation, but dont talk to or greet one another, or make other visible gestures indicative of community. The words in the Missal are the entrée to understanding. But reading the Missal is a bit of a hindrance, as were told above. Words, though, are fundamental to Catholicism: Christ is the Word, the Gospel is words, the Consecration is effected through words. Our entrée into the mystery is through Word and words; how can they be a hindrance to the reality they effect? Words only become opaque when the appetite for the visible flourishes unchallenged.
The Church now accommodates the visual appetite in the faithful, as Christ did with Thomas. But is she at the same time chastening that appetite as Christ also did? Dance, holding hands, and swaying together are accommodations. But appetites grow with feeding. What next? We could print a Technicolor Christ on each Host. However, our sacramental encounter with the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ is in a simple uncolorful wafer. It is not a feast for the eyes! I dont think it would have satisfied Thomas and it wont, in the end, satisfy people with greedy eyes. Will worship that attempts to meet an insatiable visual appetite at the expense of the verbal in the end diminish peoples capacity for faith? Catholicism can never satisfy a what you see is what you get mentality. Doesnt reinforcing this mentality create rockier soil in the faithful, making belief in the sacrament more difficult?
Now may be the time to reassert the power of words. The Latin Mass, which fosters participation and understanding through words may prepare a chastened soil which will facilitate faith at this moment in salvation history. The Latin Mass inundates the mind and heart by means of the chaste word and ego-chastening preordained ritual. At the High Mass there is the beauty of Gregorian Chant, which, like all beauty, draws one in. It is a lavish celebration of words. Yes, it is more demanding than rock-and-roll rhythms and Las Vegas lounge melodies. But isnt the Christian journey one of discipline to find joy?
The words of the Latin Mass draw us into community. The prayers at the foot of the altar are linguistically individual but their form is communal an exchange between the priest and the server or the priest and the people. They are penitential prayers and appropriately individual. But, as soon as the priest mounts the steps to the altar, the pronouns change to we and us, establishing community. The words of the Canon bring awareness of the whole Church liturgy, both earthly and divine. This reality can be embraced only through words. Only words allow our minds to contact the whole Body of Christ. The Canon of the Latin Mass is an extensive presentation of that Body. We humbly pray for the Catholic Church, the Pope, the Bishops. We then pray for all present at the Mass, their families, their friends . The prayers go on to stress our communion with the whole Church Triumphant, Having communion with and venerating the memory of Mary the apostles and martyrs. And after the Consecration, Wherefore, O Lord, we, Thy servants, as also Thy holy people offer . Be mindful also O Lord of Thy servants who have gone before us. Certainly we can see that the language of the Latin Mass does not isolate but rather, by stages, draws us into a profound fellowship.
What about the Latin? It is true that if a young person goes to a Latin Mass without a Missal, feelings of isolation are possible, but not automatic. The Missal is the remedy and its no more difficult to master than a video game. I find many of the songs (!) sung at the vernacular Mass to be a barrier to the Eucharistic mysteries.
At the Latin Mass the priest does not face the congregation. Does this spell isolation? If perception is accustomed to an in your face mode of communication yes. Otherwise, there can be awareness of the unity between the priest and the people: They are facing the same direction toward Something beyond themselves. When, at the vernacular Mass, the priest turns around, I encounter him. This need not be a problem, but it can be. The more creative he is with the liturgy, the more my attention may be drawn to his individual ego. There is no greater isolation at Mass than fixing oneself on the personality of the priest.
When the Latin Mass was our worship we had many more priestly and religious vocations. If the Latin Mass engendered feelings of isolation, how could its fruit be so bountiful?
Our Balkanized Mass
Mass in the vernacular has led to segregation among Catholics. When the Mass was in Latin, all Catholics worshiped as one family. Use of the vernacular has given us Masses attended almost exclusively by particular ethnic groups: Vietnamese Mass for the Vietnamese, Chinese Mass for the Chinese, Spanish Mass for the Hispanics, etc. Even when English is used, segregation is often encouraged: Mass for blacks with Negro spirituals and revival music, guitar Mass for greying baby boomers, a New Agey Mass for youth, inclusive-language Mass for feminists and gays, charismatic Mass for those who speak in tongues. Liberal clergy are removing our common Catholic tradition from the Mass. The focus is on celebrating our diversity rather than celebrating the Sacrifice of the Mass. How long can this segregation continue before schism occurs along these lines?
We need to return to one all-inclusive universal rite. The Tridentine Latin Mass is the Mass of the Ages and should be celebrated universally, to reflect the universal nature of our One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Michael D. Rains
Costa Mesa, California
The Social Services Meat Grinder
In regard to your New Oxford Note titled Snake Oil (Sept.), critiquing Dr. June OConnors advice column in Catholic Digest concerning supposed child abuse: The worst of the advice OConnor offered the wife in question was to arrange for a family consultation with a counselor at your sons school. The typical counselors at any school, public schools in particular, are first and foremost agents of the intrusive Nanny State, and want nothing more than to sink their teeth into still another family, especially a Catholic family. The situation you describe sounds made-to-order for an immediate court-mandated separation of the father from the rest of the family. If you go to see a school counselor and breathe a word about physical discipline, you might as well be saying, into the ear of the nearest family court judge, that the father is guilty of child abuse and has to be removed from the home right away. What follows is a nightmare of hearings, unfounded accusations (not by family members but by social services personnel), forced counseling and therapy, possible removal of the child or the father from the home, and general misery and humiliation for all concerned. If the mother tries to back off and plead that she certainly didnt mean for things to go that far, she will be told its too late. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the spiritually-dead Nanny State. Months or years (and thousands of dollars) later, the family might be back in one piece again at least physically but they will be traumatized for life, justifiably paranoid about the system and forever anti-government.
People who think lawyers have too much power havent seen anything. The average social worker in the average social services agency has more raw, unchecked power over the lives of people and families than any lawyer ever had. The system got this way because, years ago, the forces of liberalism i.e., modernist post-Christian statism saw social welfare as the soft underbelly of American society. The poorly paid, minimally trained social-worker occupations were easily penetrated by the heirs of John Dewey and his ilk. Their low visibility (then) provided ideal cover for the efforts of elitist social revolutionaries. Over the years, the termites the social workers and their overlords gnawed away, and they are now in a position to wield the absolute power granted them, in a moment of insanity, by legislatures at every level of government. Truly, their services are in the interests of the anti-family liberal welfare state, and they should be scrupulously avoided by believing Christians, whom they see as the enemy. That there is animus toward traditional Christian families on the part of the social welfare racket is beyond doubt.
In our own case, Ill never forget the reaction of the county attorney when we told her that our home-schooled children wore school uniforms: Her nostrils literally flared, and a look of indignation raged across her face. This was from an individual paid by the county to be objective, and to ensure childrens rights. Christian families need, more than ever, to know who their friends are. A friend or neighbor who wearies of your Christian zeal and unmistakable signs of living your faith can drop a dime on you and throw you into the social services meat grinder with impunity. Being part of the Church Militant means maintaining a good defense and insulating yourself from the forces arrayed against you.
David W. Witter
The tone of the review of my book Creation Rediscovered: Evolution and the Importance of the Origins Debate by Brendan Hodge (Sept.) suggests that he has not considered it in any depth. His piece is not a serious review; it is a demolition of a straw man, written perhaps in knee-jerk reaction without sufficient reflection. He has written me off too soon. But at least I was spared the accusation of being fundamentalist.
Unfortunately, Hodge fails to define exactly what he means by the term evolution, and stays on the safe ground of generalizations. This is simply not good enough in the vital foundational aspects of Origins and Original Sin. We all need to do our homework thoroughly, cut through the layers of confusion, and not get sucked into ridicule of others.
If Hodge truly understood the Origins debate he could not possibly have made so many comments that are easily refutable. I challenge him (and anyone else) to tell me:
· Why have no transitional fossils been found? They should be innumerable.
· Why do intermediate stages tend to be conceptually untenable?
· Where are curiosities such as, for example, the platypus located in the evolutionary tree?
· What absolutely reliable dating methods do we have?
· Where is the proof beyond doubt that the universe is billions of years old?
· Whom are we to believe the totally trustworthy Creator eyewitness who was there at creation and revealed to us a partial account, or modern fallible scientists who were not there during the creation events and can reach incorrect conclusions?
Evolution is all about the natural gaining of new, higher, genetic information not possessed by ones ancestors, and the adage that nothing can give what it does not have shows that what is commonly called evolution cannot occur. Reptiles could not possibly have given rise to birds. The overwhelming objective finding of modern scientific specialists is that DNA has been designed so that only variety within kind can occur; macroevolution beyond kind is impossible. If God used evolution as the method of creation, we should now have great trouble discerning separate species!
How can Hodge expect to be taken seriously when he indulges in blanket dismissal of the findings of all the eminently qualified scholars (Catholics as well as non-Catholics) quoted in my book? His statement that all of these [arguments] are scientifically flawed to one extent or another shows that he has not kept up with the debate and simply resorts to unconvincing bluster.
Some views attributed to me by Hodge are blatantly false:
· I did not suggest that Earth was formed in a black hole and later placed near a white hole.
· I did not claim that anything other than the literal sense is a lie. There are of course various senses used in the Bible.
· I did not reject as unscientific the idea of Adams rib being used in the creation of Eve; I wrote instead that the rib account may perhaps be an example of the use of the figurative sense.
How dare Hodge claim that Pius XII asserted the compatibility of evolutionary theory and Catholic doctrine? What is Hodges source material here? His claim is not found in the encyclical Humani Generis; on the contrary, Pius XII warned strongly that evolution must not be taught as fact; he only allowed discussion among specialists, concerning the possible derivation of Adams body from previously living matter. This in no way constitutes acceptance of evolution.
The present Holy Fathers comments on evolution have all been given as private views and not official pronouncements that overrule Leo XIII, Pius XII, or any other authority in Tradition. But, unfortunately, John Paul has not been precise in his terminology. What does he mean by the use of the term evolution microevolution or macroevolution? And lets not forget that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences gives him pro-evolution advice. It is ironic that the atheist Stephen Hawking is a member of that Academy while Catholic creationists are not.
Theological reality enables us to grasp a greater understanding of truth than does empirical science, and my position is in complete harmony with Catholic Tradition. Pope Leo XIII taught in his 1880 encyclical that Eve was created directly from a portion of Adams body; in doing so he destroyed the attempted synthesis of mistaken science and Catholic theology. I defer to Leo XIIIs teachings in Providentissimus Deus, that there are various senses used in Scripture, and the literal-as-given sense must hold ground until disproven. The idea of 24-hour creation days has not been overturned as a legitimate view within the Catholic Church. Following the benchmark set by Leo XIII, I dont have to prove a young universe the onus of proof lies with the person who prefers an age of billions of years.
As Scripture often states, it is possible for God to simply stretch out the heavens in the twinkling of an eye, which would account for the vast distances of the universe in a young creation just as Adam must have been created as an adult, thus giving the impression of age. We know also that Christ, in discussing marriage (Mk. 10:6), is recorded as asserting from the beginning of the Creation, God made them male and female (italics added). Why include of the Creation unless He meant to say exactly what He knew had happened?
I contend that a strange phenomenon has arisen among some Catholic conservatives. In their zeal to banish Catholic creationists, the conservative gatekeepers seem to overlook the basic obligation not to bear false witness against others, and they indulge in very un-Christian tactics to have their way. This disposition traces to a flawed notion of the papacy, as though every statement of every pope, expressed as private opinion or otherwise, must be accepted by all Catholics. Such an attitude smacks of superstition, not of a realistic understanding of the true role of the papacy.
Gerard J. Keane
Brendan Hodges review of Gerard Keanes Creation Rediscovered gives the impression that Hodge simply skimmed the book seeking passages which suited his anti-creationist bias. A close reading reveals that Hodges remarks were rebutted in the very book he was critiquing.
If Hodge had read any of the recent literature authored by such persons as Phillip Johnson or David Berlinksi, or my latest article in The Wanderer (September 7) entitled Faith and Geology, he would understand that the vast store of data recorded in Creation Rediscovered is indispensable to a Catholic understanding of the debate.
The evolutionary paradigm is in desperate trouble. In France, for instance, there is embarrassment among geologists over the recent publication in a secular scientific journal of experimental research invalidating the principles upon which the geological time-scale was constructed. The entire evolutionary hypothesis is based upon the validity of the geological time-scale.
Its a pity the NOR did not recognize this book as an opportunity for informing their readers that the bigoted view favoring evolution, kept alive by naturalist scientists, is being seriously questioned.
On reading Benjamin D. Wikers article on Intelligent Design (ID) followed by the creationism-bashing review of Gerard Keanes book Creation Rediscovered by Brendan Hodge (Sept.), few NOR readers will realize that ID theorists and creationists mutually respect each other.
Hodge calls the creationists rebuttal to evolution scientifically flawed, yet in an interview in The Catholic World Report (July) by Benjamin Wiker, ID proponent Dean Kenyon states, Creationists developed many lines of evidence and argument which have substantially weakened the case for evolution and scientific creationism is actually one of the intellectual antecedents of the ID movement.
With Catholics depending on reviews like those of Hodge, few will appreciate the flaws in the scientific data of evolutionists. For example, in 1999 the National Geographic Society made a big deal of a fossil, Archaeoraptor liaoningensis, reported as a true missing link in the complex chain which connects dinosaurs to birds. The Institute for Creation Research rebutted that assertion, citing such scientists as the curator of birds of the Smithsonian Institute. It looks like this feathered dinosaur isnt going to fly.
The isotopic (radiometric) dating methods used to prove the earth is very old are being questioned. Indeed, a new book is to be published soon by the RATE group which will address the obviously relevant topic of radioisotopes and the age of the earth. (Datings at Mt. St. Helens place the timing of the eruption as ages ago yet we saw it occur.)
Anyone reading the four pages Keane devotes to discussing Pope John Paul IIs views will not doubt the divergence of Keanes and the Popes views on evolution. While Keane hopes that a papal clarification will resolve any apparent differences between the Popes statements and Keanes approach, this is unlikely as long as the Pope depends on his current scientific advisors.
Hodges statement that Catholics have in effect been advised by the Pontiff himself to consider the possibility that evolution is correct is very distressing. So now, because Im a Catholic, am I supposed to put aside my scientific training and experience Ph.D. (Biopsychology) and M.D. and give credibility to a concept whose scientific basis gets more and more shaky as science learns more?
Lets not deify scientists. No doubt there were many brilliant German scientists who accepted Hitlers idea of Aryan racial superiority (it goes well with survival of the fittest, by the way).
Creationists do not claim that science can prove creationism. But one can contrast the Evolution and Creation models as to which is more consistent with the scientific data e.g., the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the lack of transitional fossil forms.
Frank Grabarits, M.D.
San Diego, California
Whats Really Important
Thank you so much for publishing my guest column In the Trenches at Sunday Mass (Oct.). I have one concern about the bio information published at the end of it. No reference was made to our apostolate by name. It is Hope of Saint Monica, Inc., and that is more important than my name or the name of our newsletter (Called to Conversion) or the name of our bookstore (the Catholic Restoration Shop). Even mentioning our Web site (www.hopeofstmonica
.com) would have been a pointer. I would like to clarify that the author (me), the Catholic Restoration Shop, and the newsletter are all affiliated with the apostolate known as Hope of Saint Monica, Inc.
Laurie Balbach Taylor
Who Killed Jesus?
Regarding the debate in your letters section about who crucified Jesus: Dan McCullough (Oct.) says: Jews did not crucify Jesus. They could not crucify anyone, as their nation was occupied by Rome. Ah, but the Jews forced the Romans to crucify Jesus (see Mt. 27:15-26), and the Jews said, His blood be on us and on our children (Mt. 27:25).
E. Carondelet, Illinois
Regarding McCulloughs letter: Our Lord Jesus Christ came to this world to offer forgiveness for mens sins, but certain men were nonetheless instruments of His crucifixion. As anyone should know from the gospels, Pontius Pilate found Jesus innocent whereas the Jews demanded that He be crucified. Fearing insurrection, Pilate gave in and Jesus was crucified. McCullough contends that the Jews didnt crucify Jesus, though maybe the Romans (the Italians) did and mankinds sins certainly did. With this kind of logic, one could easily conclude that the Germans didnt kill the Jews during World War II, but mankinds sins certainly did.
Merrick, New York
Thank you for your New Oxford Note titled Spooking Loyal Catholics (Sept.) on my FAITH FACT, Should I Obey?: Faithfully Responding to Lawful Authority, published by Catholics United for the Faith (CUF). You cite several sections from the Catechism, sections that I frequently use when assisting people to assess and address specific situations. You also raise several important questions that I frequently raise when I help others address problems they face within the Church. Both the Catechism citations and the questions are of great value for anyone who struggles with what to do when lawful authority demands something contrary to the faith.
Despite these strengths, you failed to recognize the main points of the FAITH FACT. Further, you made certain conclusions that are not supported by the information in the FAITH FACT. In particular, there are three points that NOR readers should be made aware of before misjudging the FAITH FACT or CUF in general.
First, the FAITH FACT is not about kneeling and standing at the consecration. Rather, it is about general principles used to assess problem situations. By use of these principles, the faithful can determine the best possible approach for resolution. I used the issue of kneeling or standing at the consecration to illustrate a principle; the FAITH FACT in question does not purport to definitively address this particular issue.
Second, the FAITH FACT notes several principles that you do not mention. Of primary concern, you unfairly characterized the reasoning in the FAITH FACT as an expectation that faithful Catholics be intimidated into silently swallowing a multitude of unlawful or outlandish innovations that modernist priests shove down their throats. This generalization is contrary to the canonical prescriptions explained in the FAITH FACT on how to appropriately challenge lawful authority.
Finally, the FAITH FACT recognizes that being obedient to the Church and challenging lawful authority are not mutually exclusive. It says that respecting the person and office of those in authority does not preclude the faithful from seeking redress for their grievances.
Abuses by lawful authority happen every day. Because these problems do occur in the Church, canon law contains norms for recourse. However, the cases that have a chance of being heard are those in which (A) a serious violation has occurred, (B) the aggrieved party has not gone public (by this I mean that he has not involved others who are not party to the solution), and (C) Church protocol has been followed. Rome does and always will give the benefit of the doubt to bishops and priests. As a faithful Catholic and a canon lawyer, if I do not provide information to people that allows them the best possible chance of a favorable outcome, then I have failed in my duty.
Problem situations in the Church are often difficult to address. The FAITH FACT does not presume that there is only one way to solve a problem, nor that every problem requires the same approach. It does presume that those involved will take into account the protocol of the Church. Faithful Catholics must be united on this. If we call ourselves faithful to the Church, but will not recognize her protocol, then to Whom or to what are we really faithful? And, if we hope to be successful in having a voice, we must follow the procedures required by the Church. This will not only facilitate the best result, but even more will foster our own growth in virtue.
For more information on these points, I encourage NOR readers to call CUF toll-free (1-800-MY-FAITH) or visit www.cuf.org to obtain the FAITH FACT in question, as well as the following materials that further explain ecclesiastical protocol and principles for addressing problems in the Church: Effective Lay Witness Protocol; Defending Our Rites: Responding to Liturgical Abuse; and Smells, Bells, and Other Liturgical Odds and Ends.
Philip C.L. Gray
Vice President, CUF
The Liberal Asylum
A belated realization allows me to further develop the train of thought I pursued I my article, The Cult of Liberalism? (NOR, Oct.), which drew some parallels between modern liberalism and cult-like organizations.
The four main blocs which make up the base of contemporary liberalism feminists, blacks, Jews, and homosexuals have all been traumatized in some way. Many feminists have been traumatized by men. Many blacks have been traumatized by cruelly racist behavior and the legacy of slavery. Many Jews have been traumatized by anti-Semitism and the legacy of the Holocaust. And numerous homosexuals have experienced trauma.
Now, we know that, generally speaking, psychologically traumatized people are those most vulnerable to the lure of cults. And we also know that psychologically traumatized people are frequently highly emotional and less than rational.
The fact that there are so many psychologically troubled people in the ranks of modern liberalism helps explain why it supports irrationalities such as abortion-on-demand, reverse discrimination (i.e., affirmative action), politically correct indoctrination (e.g., corporate and academic sensitivity sessions), hate crime legislation (i.e., mind-control legislation by the Thought Police), and homosexual activity, etc.
The resemblance between modern liberalism and cult-like ideologies is looking stronger and stronger. The saying, the inmates are running the asylum, seems more and more relevant.
Downers Grove, Illinois
Im laughing too hard to walk to my computer to type this letter, so its in longhand. The cause of my convulsions is the ad in The Wanderer (Oct. 5) denouncing the NEW OXFORD REVIEW headlined A Rebuttal to Those Hurtful Ads in This Publication, sponsored by the Ad Hoc Committee to Expose the Vast Right-Wing Catholic Conspiracy.
That ad has your fingerprints all over it. Fess up: You put that ad together, didnt you?