December 2010

Rutgers: A Gut Check

First, the facts. A 19-year-old Rutgers University freshman jumps off the George Washington Bridge to his death. A suicide note indicates his decision was based on the Internet posting of a secretly filmed sexual encounter he had had with another student in his dorm room. That student was also male. The incident was filmed and posted online by his roommate and a female student. The roommate suspected that such an encounter would occur because the deceased had asked to “have the room alone” for a few hours.

In early October, when I first heard this story on the local news, I was, of course, saddened. Although suicides, unless of celebrities, don’t make the national news, when I learned that the apparent motive had to do with homosexuality, something inside me said, “Uh oh.” Indeed, the story exploded, and was covered by all the mainstream media, including the talk shows. My sadness turned to wincing.

Now, I’m certainly no moral theologian, but let’s look at what sins are involved here. The media were concerned with only one offense: The invasion of privacy. And this invasion, according to them, was motivated by that secularist neologism “homophobia.” ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer even called the filmed event “a romantic encounter”! Faithful Catholics should see in this reporting another synecdoche of the moral sepsis into which America has sunk since the 1960s.

Let’s examine the other sins — I hope the public still remembers this increasingly archaic term — involved here. The filming obviously involved offenses against modesty, and its Internet posting certainly scandal. But have we forgotten that suicide is also a sin? And, of course, the most “forgotten” sin of all was one that Catholics might remember as egregious enough to “cry out to Heaven for vengeance”: the sin of Sodom.

In our twisted new “morality,” if we can even call it that, the most serious sins are either overlooked (suicide) or actually celebrated (sodomy). Indeed, the latter is advocated as a normal expression of love in the sex-education programs advocated by Planned Parenthood and the National Education Association. Several critics have already pointed out that, if the tryst had been heterosexual in nature, the story would not have seen the light of day.

I know nothing about the poor parents of this dead boy, but I throw out some questions for them. Did they know about his same-sex proclivities? If so, did they try to intervene via religion or psychiatry, if they could even find that rare professional who would dare to defy the condemnations of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and practice reparative therapy for those afflicted by this disorder (called so in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but since pressured by a cadre of homosexual psychiatrists in 1973, no longer by the APA)? Does anyone out there dare to tell the truth — that this boy was as ashamed of his acts as he was of the public revelations thereof?

Kenneth M. Weinig
Newark, Delaware




The Costs of Castin Off Clerical Celibacy

Regarding the debate about clerical celibacy (“A Married Priesthood: Why Not?” by George Bud­dleighton, Jul.-Aug.; letters, Oct.): Celi­bacy was instituted in the Catholic priesthood not for spiritual reasons but as a way to prevent clerics from passing church properties on to their families. The First Lateran Council (1123) addressed this problem by prohibiting laymen from disposing of church property and forbidding clerics from marrying (celibacy had been mandated as early as the Council of Illiberi in the fourth century, but was poorly enforced).

Celibacy is part of the ancient wisdom of the Church. It is here to stay, to the end of time, and it works fine.

With married priests, the picture changes. Families would come along, and housing and health insurance would have to be provided for numerous dependents (presuming priests do the Catholic thing by not limiting family size). Children are expensive: they need shoes, toys, clothes, education (including college tuition), medical care, etc. Wives are expensive: they demand fine clothes, jewelry, a second car, etc. Homes with many children would have to be large; salaries would have to be increased to pay for the many hidden expenses.

Priestly workloads would have to be reduced, so that priests could spend the necessary time with their families. More priests would then be required to handle the parish work­load — and we’re back to square one as far as the “priest shortage” goes.

W.W. Degenhardt
St. Louis, Missouri




On-the-Spot Protesting

While grocery shopping the other day, I picked up a box of Fiber One cereal. Emblazoned on the front was the message that, for each box purchased, General Mills will make a donation to the Susan B. Komen foundation, which is a major supporter of Planned Parenthood. I found General Mills’s phone number on the side of the box and, right there in the store, called the number. I courteously explained that I was not going to buy that product because of the Komen connection to abortion. The person at General Mills was respectful, and took careful note of my objection, assuring me that it would be passed on.

My hope is that this simple method of protest will catch on and “make the rounds.” It only takes a minute, and companies’ contact numbers are almost always found on their products. It’s such a simple thing to do.

Rick Bohler
Jacksonville, Florida




The NOR Then & Now

Whatever happened to the NOR’s tough stance on socio-economic issues? Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, the NOR was an advocate of radical social democracy within an orthodox Christian context, embodying the best of the Anglo-Catholic socialist movement. It seems that since the mid-1990s, despite the occasional attack on neoconservatism and your opposition to the Iraq war, this type of commentary was dropped and the NOR became strictly a religious periodical. Your democratic-socialist politics and your fervent traditional faith were a rare combination then — and rarer now.

I have long called myself a Democratic Socialist and a traditional Catholic. Church teaching is far more compatible with a social-welfare state than with free-market libertarianism. It seems that conservative Catholics in this country have decided that the Catholic Church should be the Republican Party at prayer. One need not adopt Reagan-Thatcher laissez-faire economics in order to be a magisterial Catholic.

Ryan Chegwin
St. Paul, Minnesota




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

When I began working for the NOR in the late 1990s, first as a copy editor and then as deputy editor, the shift to exclusively religious content had already been made. I suspect that economic “radicalism” as a movement was forced to the sidelines of American intellectual life and in the life of the Church at some point in the early 1990s — probably coinciding with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the “triumph” of the capitalist hegemony.

Since I took over as editor in 2008, we have been trying to restore a measure of the socio-economic critique that defined the NOR in that era. (I doubt that “democratic socialist” is an accurate description of what the NOR stood for, but in our age of impoverished language, it will have to suffice.) The problem is that there is a dearth of writers these days who can elucidate the Church’s social teachings from an orthodox perspective, and do so effectively. This is, I think, due to the polarization of Catholics along left/right political lines — something that is very unhealthy in the life of the Church. Many Catholics, especially in America, are quick to tune out anything that doesn’t fit into these prefigured categories, and one ends up talking to a wall instead of fostering an engagement of ideas.

I wonder whether there is an audience wide enough to support a journal dedicated exclusively to the type of commentary the NOR routinely carried in those days. I tend to doubt it (another reason, and a big one, I suspect, for the shift in content), and I doubt that it will ever again come to define the NOR. But we’re trying to recapture some of the spirit of that time, though we’re finding it difficult to do so.

If there is one writer who is so capable, it is Thomas Storck, and we are pleased to feature his review of The Church and the Libertarian in this issue (see p. 41).





Cannonball!

Mark Maynard (letter, Jul.-Aug.) believes that outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should be excommunicated. Pelosi, who claims to be a practicing Catholic, from time to time instructs the country about her faith. I think Pelosi should be canonized. The only question is: Who will supply the cannon?

Peter F. Reilly
West Palm Beach, Florida




When Is It Time to Pull Up Anchor?

While I can appreciate the overall sentiments of Paul Koenen’s article “An Apologia for the Local Parish” (Sept.), his views are a bit too utopist in these dark days of the post-conciliar Church. In my many years of searching for the truth in numerous parishes, I have endured far more horror stories than I have experienced cohesive, orthodox Catholic communities.

I agree with Koenen that many people today lack grit (no doubt why there is a 52 percent divorce rate) and often prefer to “jump ship” than stay and fight. However, it was not a lack of character that compelled me to be a “pew jumper”; rather, it was a complete lack of Catholic character in the many parishes I attended.

Granted, every parish has its “characters” — women who come to Mass scantily dressed, men who fight over parking spaces, and ill-behaved children who disrupt the Mass because their parents haven’t taught them any better. These things reflect our fallen human nature and are no reason to leave a parish. However, when the CCD teacher is teaching evolution, a layman is reading the Gospel from the pulpit instead of the priest, and a teenager is awarded first place in the Young Feminists Art Contest, it might be time to look for another parish. Especially when you have invested gallons of ink and reams of paper in letters to pastors, priests, church leagues, and bishops — only to have your voice fall on deaf or apathetic ears.

Furthermore, consider the mixed messages you are sending to your children when you continually have to undermine the priest’s authority by explaining to them that what he said from the pulpit about Jesus not being divine while on earth (among other atrocities) is heretical and they shouldn’t believe it.

A sense of community is vital to a vibrant parish. But when God and His Church are being smeared, and voices and letters of complaint go unheeded, it is time to recall the words of Jesus: “shake the dust from your feet” and move on.

Sean P. Colfer
St. Clairsville, Ohio




The Great Altar Girl Debate

In response to Mary Stone, who asks whether altar girls have had a negative impact on vocations (letter, Oct.): The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, has more diocesan seminarians than any other diocese in the U.S.: one seminarian for every 2,186 Catholics. The Diocese of Lincoln also happens to be the only diocese in the U.S. that does not have altar girls.

Readers can draw their own conclusions.

(Name Withheld)




The Battle for Souls Behind Bars

I saw your advertisement in Inside the Vatican and was moved by the commentary that accompanied it. I am incarcerated in Texas and we have a small Catholic community here of about 200 or so. I want to share with you that those behind the walls of prison who have truly repented can attest to the malignant reality of demonic forces and their influence in contributing to the current state of life these men have been brought to. This does not mean that they blame only the Devil for their situations — they realistically assume the ultimate responsibility for their actions — but they recognize that Satanic influences played a part.

There are, of course, plenty of non-repentant men here who are clueless about the demonic forces struggling for their souls. There are those of us who are in an active, ongoing campaign to enlighten and convince the repentant and the non-repentant alike that this battle is a reality. There are many who can give testimony to this fact and can be a great resource for testimonials inside the walls of the prisons of this country.

If you ever want to utilize this vast resource, just visit your local prison and get in touch with the convicts who have repented and have embarked upon a journey of renewal for the balance of their lives. You might be impressed with the level of piety and the depth of devotion with which those who have felt the flames of faith upon their souls now live their lives. I really believe that God’s hand guided many of these souls to prison to be reclaimed, rather than being lost to addiction and other vices in the world.

I would like to ask humbly if you would consider giving me a free subscription to your publication so that we could utilize it in our struggle against the veil of deceit the Evil One has thrown over the marginalized and the pathologic cases on the inside. Thank you for your consideration.

Eugene Paul
Eastham Unit
Lovelady, Texas






Ed. Note: This inmate, along with numerous others, is a recipient of a gratis subscription to the NOR through our scholarship program, which is entirely reader-funded. For information on our scholarship fund, including how to contribute, see the notice on page 33 of this issue.




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