The Five-Step Method
In answer to Barbara Baur's letter about confession (Sept. 2006): Efficacious confession requires that five actions be performed: examination of conscience, true sorrow for offending God, sacramental confession, penance, and sincere intention to avoid sin in the future. While even valid confession is no guarantee that the appeal of sin is eradicated, faithful and frequent adherence to the five steps is sufficient to conquer any sin.
I recommend the following booklets for detailed information about confessions: The Secret of Confession (TAN Books) and A Guidebook for Confession (Scepter Publishers). Readers can contact me by email for a free copy of either at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
No Revocation of Ordination
Replying to John Gilligan's letter (Nov. 2006) questioning whether a validly ordained priest's ordination can ever be revoked (i.e., declared invalid): In view of the distinct character imparted to the soul of a ministerial priest upon ordination, such a scenario is an impossible hypothesis. This is not to suggest that there are never cases in which laicization (i.e., the dispensing of a priest from his sacerdotal duties) is reasonably warranted. However, even a laicized priest remains "a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek" (cf. Heb. 7:17).
Bryan J.P. Gesinger
Better Off Dead
In light of the Rev. Daniel B. Gallagher's excellent article "Apologia pro Munere Suo ('A Defense of His Work')" (Nov. 2006), I would like to offer an apologia for Latin that I have sometimes employed when challenged by people who see no value in the Church's preservation of Latin.
The usual argument I hear is, "Latin is a dead language." Well, in a sense it is, in that it is not commonly employed in present-day society. But I contend that it is precisely because it is in that sense "dead" that it is so valuable. Over time, languages tend to "evolve" and, therefore, the meanings of words are in a constant state of flux, subject to whim, fancy, fad, and even to devolution.
Latin has ceased to "evolve." Latin words of bygone days still mean today what they meant when they were in common use so many years ago, and therein lies the beauty as well as the immense, lasting, "living," and "life-giving" value of the "death" of this language, which is way overdue for a resurrection, at least among Catholic priests and theologians. After all, the faithful deserve to have those who are in persona Christi be conscientious and knowledgeable about what the Church really believes and teaches.
When the Church uses Latin in composing her formal doctrinal documents, the risk of manipulative debates as to what the meaning of the word "is" is becomes nullified. "Is" is not an "evolving" word in Latin. This facto is a great grace for the Church, which enables her to speak with a clarity of meaning, to which authentic translators must remain faithful as they put the Church's teachings into so-called living languages. I understand from a first-hand witness that at least one of the documents of Vatican II was originally written in French instead of Latin and that, as a result, there were some shenanigans involved in the translations into English. This serious danger might have been avoided if Latin had been the original language and if those charged with the responsibility of accuracy had been expert in Latin and knew that other Latin experts would be examining their work for fidelity to the original text.
I am not at all well versed in Latin and can only recall a few phrases I learned as an altar boy. But I find great solace in knowing that the Church has brilliantly preserved this ancient language, because Latin can serve all Catholics of all times as a safeguard against distortions of those truths that never change. And, when Catholics say they are leaning on the supremacy of their "consciences" in order to justify their embrace of immorality, the Church can point to the Latin word conscientia, which contrary to popular belief does not mean "whatever feels O.K. to me" but rather has to do with consciousness and deciding matters with knowledge (attained through careful study).
Deacon Tom Bills
The Rev. Daniel B. Gallagher, after having given some reasons why Latin should be taught in the seminary, admitted that "few seminarians" will actually "use the Latin language on a daily basis in their future priestly ministry." Why is this? Why teach future priests the Latin language only for them to squander it by hiding it under some kind of liturgical bushel basket? Why not teach them to incorporate Latin into the Masses they celebrate?
Abortion, Nativism & Anti-Catholicism
Frederick N. Dyer's laudatory article, "The Physicians' Crusade Against Abortion" (Nov. 2006), praises this 19th-century doctors' group, and virtually canonizes its founder, Dr. H.R. Storer. There is another side to the story.
Dyer points out that the physicians' crusade was founded in response to the fact that abortion, hitherto confined largely to unmarried and poor women, around 1840 began to become prevalent among married, white, Protestant American women, often of the middle or affluent class. He also points out that abortion was virtually unknown among American Catholic women in the 19th century. Dyer makes no connection between these facts and the motivation for the "crusade."
Dyer cites very approvingly James C. Mohr's book Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy (1978), and this book was clearly central to Dyer's own research, but this source is curiously selective. Mohr lists six motivations behind the physicians' anti-abortion campaign. He gleaned these motivations from an intensive study of the physicians' own published writings. First there were three "professional" reasons: to force out the quacks and unprofessionals who were competing with them, to professionalize the medical profession, and to restore its high social status. Then there were three personal reasons: first, moral objection against abortion; third, the discomfort with abortion these immigrants felt played a greater role in the drive for anti-abortion laws in 19th-century America than Catholic opposition to abortion did.
Mohr tries to soften his aspersions against the good doctors by using the term "nativism" as much as possible, but anyone familiar with 19th-century history knows that nativism is just a euphemism for anti-Catholicism. But in another place Mohr frankly refers to Storer's "patent anti-Catholic bias."
It is heartwarming to know that 19th-century Catholic women firmly resisted the idea of aborting unwanted babies. Dyer's sources attribute this to the influence of priests in the confessional, but Mohr also points out that the Protestant belief in the early 19th century was that human life began only at "quickening," and so abortion in the first five months was considered neither a crime nor a moral wrong. Catholic women, of course, were firmly catechized in the truth.
But it is Mohr's second personal motivation that is of interest to us. Let me quote at length: "The desire to save America from itself also underlay a second personal reason why regular physicians fought so strongly for anti-abortion laws. Most regular physicians were white, native-born, Protestants of British and North European stock. And so, they constantly reiterated for twenty years between 1860 and 1880, were most of the women having abortions. The doctors both used and were influenced by blatant nativism. In his prize essay Storer had made the standard claim that abortion was 'infinitely more frequent among Protestant women than among Catholic.' Elsewhere around the country other doctors also continued to beat the old nativist drums on behalf of anti-abortion policies. Many physicians treated their colleagues in medical journals and convention speeches to fantasies of reverse Darwinism ruining the nation, or of 'the ignorant, the low lived and the alien' taking over by the straightforward process of outbreeding 'our own population.' [Another doctor wrote that] 'America is fast losing her national characteristics.' There can be little doubt that Protestants' fears about not keeping up with the reproductive rates of Catholic immigrants played a greater role in the drive for anti-abortion laws in nineteenth-century America than Catholic opposition to abortion did."
John S. Belmont
The Vaccine Question
I was truly happy to see the NOR publish Agnes M. Penny's article on the vaccination question (Nov. 2006). This is a profoundly important issue, and while it has heretofore been relegated to a small group of parents with vaccination-age children, it will soon involve each and every one of us. More on this below.
Regarding Mrs. Penny's article, though: The specific pediatric vaccines currently in use that are manufactured using human cell lines derived from aborted babies include the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine and the rubella (German measles) vaccine, both manufactured by Merck. In addition, the Hepatitis A vaccine is "tainted," but it is not part of the routine pediatric series. The other vaccines in routine use are not "tainted," including the Hepatitis B vaccine. The interested reader can find specifics at any number of websites, though I regard Debi Vinnedge's "Children of God for Life" (www.cogforlife.org) as the best maintained and most up to date.
Secondly, I would encourage readers to carefully study the 2006 Pontifical Academy for Life document for themselves (also available at numerous websites). The document does suffer, in my opinion, from a bit too much "nuance" in certain areas, including the notorious "Footnote 15" that Mrs. Penny references. That's the one that appears to place a moral burden for the transmission of rubella on the parents who don't vaccinate their child. Overall, though, the document does support the family that chooses to refuse the vaccination as a matter of conscience, while simultaneously not condemning the family that does vaccinate, due to the very real moral coercion that surrounds the entire issue. There are no federal laws regarding vaccination; they are all at the state and local level. Exemptions of conscience are frequently allowed, though states and localities vary in how difficult it is to get them (ranging from really easy to really difficult).
Thirdly, I think that there is increasing clarity in the Catholic medical ethics literature on the topic. The Catholic Medical Association has a statement condemning the "tainted" vaccines, which is available to any Catholic. The National Catholic Bioethics Center has devoted an entire issue of their National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly (Fall 2006) to the matter, and the articles in there will give the interested reader an enormous amount of information.
The problem of vaccines manufactured using human cell lines from aborted babies is not going to go away, and it's not going to be a matter solely for parents of small children anymore, with everyone else watching from the sidelines. It's going to explode into every aspect of medicine very soon. New human cell lines have recently been developed from aborted babies which are being used as human technology manufacturing platforms on which, in the near future, any number of vaccines will be manufactured. A short list includes the flu vaccines, the avian flu vaccine, a new polio vaccine, an HIV vaccine, a new smallpox vaccine, and a host of others.
Even more ominously, a number of non-vaccine therapies including cancer treatments and treatments for other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis are under development using this technology. This stuff is here now, folks; it's slipping in the back door while we argue about embryonic stem cells, which are probably a dead end anyway (as well as being morally reprehensible). I believe that the time is upon us when it will be easier to identify what in medicine is not tainted by these morally corrupt processes than what is tainted by them. We are standing at the threshold of a whole new era in medicine based on human technology manufacturing platforms. Catholics must understand this stuff.
Finally, I don't conflate the topic of vaccine morality with vaccine safety. Vaccine safety is enormously important, and the medical profession as well as the pharmaceutical industry has a profound obligation to investigate questions regarding safety. But vaccination and mass vaccination programs are not, in principle, intrinsically evil. They are, in fact, an objective good. Therefore, interdigitating vaccine safety questions with moral questions regarding specific vaccines even further confuses an area that is already sufficiently complicated and confusing. Likewise, neither should every new vaccine that comes down the pike be accepted by the medical profession. The varicella vaccine story is a good cautionary tale for anyone who wants to look into that little topic further. In general, though, the vaccines we use are far, far safer than the diseases they prevent, and we would be an unwise society indeed were we to jettison a thing which has served us so well. We will do well to remember that.
Timothy P. Collins
Afraid to Admit
The NOR prints what Catholics know about, but are afraid to admit. I pray that the truth you print encourages Catholics to "not be afraid," and do what is right.
Steven G. Carlson
Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas
Thank you for taking our present-day evils head on. I know how much the NOR has to suffer because of your steady stand. But there's joy in the heart and soul for standing with the Lord and His Truth.
Sister Jane de Chantal
Monastery of the Visitation
Mendota Heights, Minnesota
The New Oxford Note "EWTN: What Happened to Mother Angelica's Catholic Militancy?" (Nov. 2006) could apply to Catholic radio broadcasting, Relevant Radio. We seem to be experiencing the feminization of our Church, our TV and radio programming, and our educational system. Love and compassion have replaced truth and justice.
I used to listen daily when Ray Flynn and Dan Lungren were on the radio. I was very sorry when the program collapsed. I can't get Bob Dornan here in Illinois. Too bad. I wish he and Flynn and maybe Alan Keyes would take over Relevant Radio, at least for a couple of hours per day. There may be better news people out there, but I don't know of any.
I appreciated your New Oxford Notes, "The Homosexual Colonization of the Catholic Church" and "The So-Called War on Terror" (Nov. 2006). Keep up the good reporting.
Slippery Hegelian Fashion
A friend handed me a copy of your October 2006 issue. I found it to be informative and accurate.
I noticed on page 14 that The Wanderer has banned your ads. As a former subscriber to The Wanderer, over many years it became increasingly obvious that The Wanderer was no longer opposed to the revolution in the Church, while pretending to oppose it in slippery Hegelian fashion.
If The Wanderer has added your traditional Catholic publication to its hit list, that seems to me a good reason to subscribe to the NOR. Enclosed is my check for a one-year subscription.
Floyds Knobs, Indiana
"Ka-Ching": A New Song Unto the Lord
From the beginnings of Christianity, well up to the first decades of the 20th century, our sacred music was composed by the musically and poetically gifted among our brethren and bequeathed by them or their patrons to the patrimony of the Church and the faithful in general. True, some of them were composed and written by musicians who dedicated them to their patrons (noblemen, rich merchants, etc.) who commissioned them, but the result was the same in that their compositions ended up as common property for everyone to enjoy, even non-Christians.
It is, therefore, with some sadness and consternation that whenever I take up the hymnal in our Catholic parishes, I note that all of the songs therein are protected by copyrights. Even the re-arrangements of traditional and even ancient music are copyrighted. So whenever I look at them, it is not the uplifting sounds of holy notes that I hear in my imagination but the "ka-ching!" of cash registers. I also note that there seem to be two major publishing houses that have cornered the Catholic hymnal market. At one parish I attended, the good padre was begging his parishioners for generous contributions for updating their hymnals, which would cost thousands of dollars.
Well, if that's the case, then let's all go back to singing St. Thomas Aquinas's Tantum Ergo, Franck's Panis Angelicus, or even the fairly recent version of Ave Maria by Gounod.
Crescente G. Villahermosa
Virginia Beach, Virginia
The Greater Glory of God
Those two detractors of Fr. Benedict Groeschel (letters, Nov. 2006) have obviously spent very little time reading his books and viewing his videos. This man has tirelessly devoted every waking moment of his life since his teens to the greater glory of God.
Rose Marie Ezatoff
The NOR is correct when it states that the real enemy is secularism ("The So-Called War on Terror," New Oxford Notes, Nov. 2006). Given the fact that the West has abandoned its Christian roots and lives for immediate gratification and comfort, it is not surprising that it may lack the will to fight the war against Islamic extremism and terrorism. Western Europe's negative birthrate has necessitated the mass migration of Muslims to Europe to sustain its economic viability. By the middle of this century, it is estimated that Muslims will make up the majority of the population in major European cities and 50 percent of those under the age of 25 in Europe will be Muslims. Demographics alone would suggest that Islam will replace Christianity as the dominant religion of Europe, not to mention the lack of conviction by many Europeans to believe there is anything worth fighting for when their cultural heritage is under attack by the evil forces of relativism.
In the U.S., support of abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, and same-sex "marriage" has undermined our religious foundation and given credulity to the claim made by Islamic fanatics that the U.S. is the "Great Satan." As the NOR suggests, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the void created when we lose our souls. But Muslim extremists have filled this void and are willing to die for what they believe.
Nevertheless, the NOR's claim that the war on terror would not be needed if U.S. policy in the Mid-East was more even-handed is a bit too simplistic. The NOR states that if you "insult Israel or the Jews you're cast into the outer darkness, but insult the Arabs and Muslims and you'll be praised and lionized." Such a statement belies the reaction of Muslim countries toward the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, or the reaction of the Ayatollah toward Salman Rushdie, when he criticized the Muslim religion. When Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a descendant of the famous painter, produced a documentary critical of the way women are treated in Muslim culture, he was stabbed and killed by a Muslim extremist.
There are no simple answers. As the NOR states, there is no country that is completely clean. Nuclear weapons further complicate the picture. Nuclear weapons in the possession of an Iranian President who denies the Holocaust and vows to wipe Israel off the face of the map is very disconcerting to Israel, despite the NOR's reassurances that the simple threat of the U.S. bombing Iran "back into the Stone Age" would act as a deterrent against Iran ever carrying out a nuclear attack against Israel. Iran would never openly attack Israel or any other nation, but would use the auspices of Hezbollah, Hamas, or any other terrorist organization to smuggle a "dirty bomb" into Israel or any major Western city and detonating such a device so as to render such a city uninhabitable for many, many years. A future president of the U.S. may have to confront a scenario where he is faced with the possibility of conducting a pre-emptive (or preventive) strike against a foreign nation suspected of possessing a "dirty bomb" and striking this foreign nation before it passes its "dirty bomb" to a terrorist organization. Would such a pre-emptive strike be morally justified to avoid the possibility of a greater calamity?
When the NOR blames the war on terror primarily on U.S. foreign policy and our one-sided policy toward Israel, it fails to account for the growing militancy of Islam that can be attributed to factors other than our support of Israel. This growing militancy can be attributed to the Wahhabi school of Islam as practiced by many Muslim believers in Saudi Arabia. Saudi money has financed the construction of mosques throughout the world where this Wahhabi belief is practiced and taught. These mosques are creating militant Muslims who have learned to hate their host country and are taught to spread violence at home and abroad. They have learned to hate all "infidels," and their ultimate goal is to restore the glory of Islam throughout the world and subjugate all nations to Sharia law. It would be delusional for the NOR to think that a simple change of U.S. foreign policy would pacify such Islamic militancy.
There Are Absolutes in Catholicism
It is refreshing to see someone standing up for the teachings of the Catholic Church. There are absolutes in Catholicism. One absolute is that our Lord never condoned the killing of innocent people for the benefit of others, so they could keep their standard of living. Our Lord told us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow Him, to practice true and undefiled religion, to help the widows, orphans, those in distress, and to help the stranger in our land.
We should be taking a strong stand against the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. What right do we have as ambassadors of Christ to promote the devastation of foreign lands? To see so many Catholics drawn away by emotionalism, greed, nationalism, avarice, and warmongering is truly disheartening.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
'It Irritates Many Of Our Readers'
In your New Oxford Note "'Relevant Public Authorities'?" (Oct. 2006), you preface your truly patriotic and informative Catholic critique on the unjust and murderous war on Iraq with the comment, "we realize that it irritates many of our readers." Well, here is a hundred dollars that says I'm not irritated. I am blest by your courage and wisdom.
Mineola, New York
Mel Gibson Is Not Anti-Semitic
So far, I like your publication. You fight against the wrongs within the Church, like a good doctor would fight disease with the purpose of making his patient whole.
There is just one statement that I could not digest. I would like to offer you food for thought regarding your belief that Mel Gibson is anti-Semitic (New Oxford Notes, Nov. 2006, p. 22), and ask you to look at in vino veritas in context. Gibson was falsely accused and slandered as anti-Semitic before his in vino veritas incident. Holy Scripture states, "slander has shaken many." It was O.K. for him to be falsely accused and slandered as anti-Semitic on an international level, yet it is not O.K. for him to have negative feelings or experience emotional turbulence toward the people who did this -- expressed under the influence of alcohol. His words to the officer, "Are you a Jew?" could just as well have been, "Et tu, Brute?"
Emerson said, "What you do speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you are saying." Gibson's actions prove effortlessly that he is not anti-Semitic. He has Jewish friends, made a film sympathetic to the Holocaust, and in his The Passion of the Christ I saw two Jewish women and a Jewish man stand by their Lord, risking crucifixion themselves, when stronger men fled for their lives fearing even remote association with Jesus.
I believe it must be difficult for the Jewish people to look at the heroics portrayed by their Jewish ancestors in this film, because it would challenge their beliefs about Christ. They see the depiction of corruption (accurately portrayed and typical of any government) of the Pharisees as a personal attack because they only see the Pharisees who condemned Christ as their spiritual ancestors. It's painful for all of us to look at the cross and see what we did to Jesus -- what they don't know is that they are not alone.
Mel Gibson is a soldier and bombed the infernal enemy's camp with his testimony of the truth in The Passion of the Christ. Did we not think that he would get bombed back? If the evil one can smear Gibson as anti-Semitic or worse, then those of less faith might be prone to doubt Gibson's work. A really insightful movie to watch regarding the strategy of "principalities" toward good people is Fallen, starring Denzel Washington. This is war. Gibson went out on a limb to share the Gospel and has been persecuted for it. He deserves the Church Militant to cover his back.
From a Letter to William Donohue
Dear Mr. Donohue:
With a salary of over $300,000 from the Catholic League, maybe you can afford to buy all my raffle tickets.
The Catholic Church at the present time is not worth defending. The bishops (except for a minority) are afraid of their own shadows. Maybe if the "gay" cardinals, bishops, and priests took a trip to the North Pole and stayed there for a while, we could have our orthodoxy back again.
As for me, give me the Tridentine Latin Mass. We still call it the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.