March 2005

Your Reply to the Army National Guardsman Is Completely & Utterly Wrong

Your reply to "Name Withheld" (the Army National Guardsman, Dec.) concerning the war in Iraq is completely, utterly wrong, off-base, and replete with intellectual error and moral vanity.

You find a moral equivalence between the Allies in World War II and the Axis powers, suggesting that any justification of the bombing of Hiroshima must lead directly to the moral acceptance of Muslim terrorism against the World Trade Center and the U.S. This argument somehow arrives at the conclusion that, on account of Hiroshima, the U.S. must forever endure the terrorism of its enemies without reaction or retribution.

While reasonable men may condemn the bombing of Hiroshima, that act cannot be considered without also considering the wartime calculus of President Truman that the horrific human cost of invading Japan made it necessary to seek other means to end World War II. One need not agree with the outcome of this calculation to understand that the harm done (the bomb) was done to prevent other, greater harm (tremendous casualties to American troops). In any event, the decision to bomb Hiroshima does not stand as a moral precedent for accepting or ignoring the murderous terrorist attacks on 3,000 innocent people in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden's evil cannot in any way be considered as simply a next step in mankind's horrible march of terror in which America has participated. When Japan and Germany unjustly attacked the Allies without warning, Japan and Germany invited the Allies to fight back. Stern -- even horrible -- counter-measures were not automatically to be excluded from the Allies' arsenal. Similarly, bin Laden's terror is vile and despicable and he must be stopped before he kills again. In order to accomplish that goal, it is morally necessary to contemplate expanding the war on terror sufficiently to include bin Laden's aiders and abettors.

The Editor says, "Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, had no ties to al-Qaeda, no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and had no plans to attack America." Concerning the connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, please see the articles linked below [seven articles from The Weekly Standard].

In one article (referenced here), the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, whose report you see fit to rely on, is quoted as saying: "There was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

The Editor also states that "Our Pope opposed the war in Iraq." He did? When was this? Could the Editor please provide a citation to the Pope's own words in which he opposed or condemned the war in Iraq? Citations to "Vatican sources" or "the Pope's secretary" are not acceptable in this regard. More importantly, why would the Pope's personal opposition to the war in Iraq (assuming the Editor finds some) mean any more to the Editor of the NOR than, say, the Pope's personal failings as an episcopal administrator, which failing has been expansively and correctly addressed by this same Editor? There is no moral consequence to be derived from the Pope's personal views on the war in Iraq and you know it.

The Editor also carefully claims that Iraq "no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and had no plans to attack America." Through this careful description of Saddam's current ownership of such weapons, the Editor inadvertently appears to reward Saddam for the clever job he did hiding them and/or spiriting these weapons out of Iraq just in front of the inspectors. Similarly, the Editor suggests that without formal "plans to attack America" in his hand, Saddam should be safe from American reprisal. If having "plans to attack America" is the prerequisite for America taking action, then the Editor surely would have opposed America's aggression against Nazi Germany because Germany "had no plans to attack America."

In this regard, it is instructive to remember the reasons why we went to war in Iraq. We didn't go simply because we thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and no one claimed that Saddam Hussein was about to "attack America." Indeed, the President, in his January 29, 2003, State of the Union Address, had this to say concerning Saddam: "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option." In other words, the President said that we would not wait until Saddam Hussein acquired weapons of mass destruction and we would not wait until he "planned to attack America." We would eliminate the threat now. To argue about whether Saddam currently possessed weapons of mass destruction or had "plans to attack America" is to completely ignore the basis on which America went to war with Iraq. Again, it is possible to reasonably oppose the President's point of view, but the U.S. Senate did not oppose it; instead, the Senate overwhelmingly gave the President the right to use military force to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq," and to "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." The "just war" doctrine reposes the decision to make war in the secular authorities acting under right reason.

Now, to the Editor's "main event": whether the war in Iraq is in support of Israel.

The most fundamental response to the Editor's complaint is to ask why it is wrong to prefer Israel's democracy to the theocratic thugocracies found in the Muslim world. After the distasteful experience (highlighted by the Editor) of supporting Saddam, surely it is fitting for America to support a country whose political values are most like ours in the Middle East and whose values respect freedom and democracy. Surely the contributions of the Israelis (ridding the world of the Osirak nuclear reactor, disarming and controlling murdering Palestinian terrorists, providing the U.S. with a strategic partner in a far corner in the world, etc.) argue for supporting Israel. Americans should be proud of the fact that we, unlike the Europeans, have actually done something to ameliorate the anti-Semitism rampant in Europe and Arabia by guaranteeing the Jewish nation a place to merely exist. What could be a more just enterprise? Especially for Christians whose God is a Jew.

The Editor posits the following as "evidence" in support of the contention that the war in Iraq was fought for Israel and not for the U.S.:

1. Saddam is Israel's enemy, not the enemy of the U.S.

2. Senator Ernest Hollings said so.

3. General Tommy Franks agreed with Senator Hollings.

4. Khalid Sheik Muhammad violently disagrees with U.S. policy concerning Israel.

5. The neocons did it!

No. 1 is clearly wrong. Saddam Hussein spent the years between the two Middle East wars attacking American fighter planes patrolling the "No Fly Zone." Each and every missile launched against our planes was an act of war.

In No. 3, the Editor has, unfortunately, mischaracterized General Franks as having "said the very same thing as Sen. Hollings" -- i.e., "that the U.S. attacked Iraq for the sake of Israel." Here's what the article cited by the Editor about Tommy Franks actually said: "The threat of a missile attack on Israel was one reason justifying a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, Gen. Tommy Franks said. Franks, who retired from the U.S. military last year after leading the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he supported the Bush administration policy of pre-emption. 'The reason we could not afford to give up time is because we wanted the water infrastructure to remain in place,' Franks said Monday at the National Press Club. 'We wanted the oil infrastructure in Iraq to remain in place. We did not want to subject ourselves and Israel to the potential consequence of a long-range missile being fired into Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.' Franks also said Israel's conflict with the Palestinians fuels anti-U.S. resentment in the Middle East" (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Aug. 10, 2004). That's the whole article. It's one thing to find friends for an argument; it's another thing to make them up. Far from being the reason for the war, Gen. Franks very clearly states that the threat of a missile strike against Israel was one reason.

No. 4 should earn a big "so what" from Americans, since Khalid Sheik Muhammad's opinion on anything is surely not determinative of America's foreign policy.

And as to No. 5, the argument that the neocon cabal is responsible for the war in Iraq for the sake of Israel can only be the result of intensely felt wishful thinking or of a mind that refuses to rise above Oliver Stone-like ramblings about world politics. And the risible idea that George W. Bush has been "easily outsmarted" by the evil neocons would do Michael Moore proud.

To the extent that the Editor actually believes that this list contains "reasons" to believe that the war in Iraq was conducted on behalf of Israel, one can only charitably say, "Our prayers are with you."

The Editor suggests in his final line that the attacks of 9/11 occurred because the U.S. did not "mind her own business." The Editor clearly feels that it is because we support Israel. Therefore, implies the Editor, if only we would stay away from Israel, then we'd "have nothing to fear from the Muslims." This comment contains a dangerous fallacy: that the U.S. is somehow at fault for doing its business in the world. Neo-isolationists, like the Editor, seem to suggest that America is not good enough to be allowed out in the world at large. After all, we supported Saddam (and, presumably, the Shah and other unsavories), and we support Israel.

Such ideas do not arise from any factual, historical understanding of America's role in the world. America has sent more of her treasure to other countries in the form of foreign aid than any other country in the history of the world. And America has not demanded an empire in return. With respect to America's choice of allies, surely the Editor recalls Lord Palmerston's axiom that nations don't have permanent allies, they only have permanent interests. One of America's permanent interests is the spread of democracy. As has been noted elsewhere by experts, democratic nations do not attack one another. Israel, not any other Muslim country in the Middle East (soon excluding Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East's newest democracies), is the nation upon which America can depend, not only not to attack America, but to support American political, cultural, and religious interests.

In conclusion, it is easy to concede that the Editor is not an anti-Semite. However, this fact does not excuse his irrational anti-Israel bent. In its core, the Editor's argument is that America had no reason to attack Iraq and thus must have done so to support Israel. This proposition is not proved by the weak evidence on which the Editor bases his argument; more importantly, even if the Editor is correct, American support of Israel would constitute right and proper geopolitical action on the part of the U.S.

This reader believes that our esteemed Editor is a much better religious writer and thinker than he is a geopolitical one. Let us pray that he recognizes his talents and sticks with what he does best.

John C. Shea
East Lansing, Michigan




DALE VREE REPLIES:

I'm glad you think I'm a better religious thinker than a geopolitical one. This is high praise, for I have never had a theology or religion course in my life. On the other hand, I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from Berkeley. I was a determined foe of the student (and faculty) radicals and liberals, and my primary sponsor was Prof. Paul Seabury (may he rest in peace), a specialist in geopolitical matters, an ardent supporter of Israel, a warhawk, and a certified neoconservative. (I'm sure he'd be shocked to find me compared to Oliver Stone and Michael Moore. As I am. I've never seen any movies by Stone or Moore.) And later I spent a year as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of International Studies at Berkeley, and another year as a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford. So all this study for almost a decade was essentially for naught. Had I only known!

As we noted in our February 2005 issue, we received several off-the-wall responses to my reply to the Army National Guardsman, but we printed two of them to give our readers a sense of their flavor. Since then we received several more, but some have not been off-the-wall. The one from Mr. Shea is "on-the-wall" and the most comprehensive one we've received, so this is the one we're printing. Other rather intelligent letters made similar points, so in responding to this one, I will be covering most of the points in other letters.

Now to the particulars of Shea's letter:

- I did not find a "moral equivalence" between the Axis powers and the Allies in World War II.

- Yes, if you can justify the atomic terror bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you are in no position to object to Muslim terrorism. Evil is evil, no matter which nation or group does it. Catholic teaching is crystal clear on this.

- That America intentionally killed innocent civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki has nothing to do with fighting a proper war on terror.

- Concerning any possible connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda: I too read The Weekly Standard (TWS) and have found that TWS has just been straining out gnats while swallowing camels. After the re-election of President Bush, the Editor of TWS, Bill Kristol, called for the firing of the most hawkish member of the Bush war cabinet, Donald Rumsfeld, on the grounds that he's not hawkish enough. You may want to reconsider your highly biased sources.

- You quote Thomas Kean, the Republican Co-Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. The article you reference in The Weekly Standard does not quote or even mention Thomas Kean. The article tries to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, but it's very inconclusive. The article does say that "The 9/11 Commission reports that Iraq and al Qaeda had a series of 'friendly contacts' that did not appear to have developed into a 'collaborative operations relationship.'" The author, Stephen F. Hayes, may think this is damning evidence, but it isn't. America has "friendly contacts" with all kinds of regimes and rebel groups without having collaborative operations with them.

- So, in search of the Thomas Kean quote, we checked the other six articles from TWS, and we found it. Kean does say, "There was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda." But what kind of relationship? The author, again Stephen F. Hayes, states once again that there were "friendly contacts," but no "collaborative operational relationship." Sorry, your point cannot be sustained. (Moreover, the 9/11 Commission Report stated that there is "no credible evidence" of a meaningful link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.)

- You didn't know that Pope John Paul II opposed the war on Iraq? Let me bring you up to speed. One criterion of a Just War is that it must be a "last resort." Only four days before the U.S. war on Iraq began, the Pope (once again) appealed to the Just War doctrine of "last resort," adding that "there is still time to negotiate" (Inside the Vatican, April-May 2003). Ipso facto, the war was unjust. Bush invoked his own "doctrine" of preventive war for invading Iraq. But the Pope condemned the "doctrine" of preventive war in his 2002 Christmas message. Why? Because preventive war is not a morally legitimate grounds for war in Just War doctrine. So now we have two reasons why the Pope regarded the war as unjust. The Pope's position on the war was not a "personal" view. It's called Just War doctrine for a reason, and anything having to do with life and death is a moral matter, and the Pope speaks officially, not personally or privately, when he addresses moral matters.

- You say Saddam hid his weapons of mass destruction and/or spirited them out of Iraq. This is mere speculation, and no one has been able to prove it.

- Nazi Germany declared war on America, and did have plans to attack America.

- You say that "no one claimed that Saddam Hussein was about to 'attack America.'" But in the second sentence after that you say that Bush said that America "would not wait until he [Saddam] 'planned to attack America.'" So Saddam had no plans to attack America, but maybe, someday, he would "plan" to attack America. So America attacks Iraq. What a pathetic excuse. This justifies Hitler's invasion of Poland. Poland was not about to attack Germany, but maybe, someday, Poland would "plan" to attack Germany. So Germany attacks Poland. This is what's wrong with the "doctrine" of preventive war -- it excuses everything. It's a prescription for bloodbaths without end.

- You say that "'just war' doctrine reposes the decision to make war in the secular authorities acting under right reason." But our secular authorities did not act under right reason, as the Pope said.

- You say Saddam attacked American fighter planes patrolling the "No Fly Zone" between the two Middle East wars, and this was an act of war against America. So why didn't we go to war with Saddam then to protect our own interests? Why?

- Your full quote from Gen. Tommy Franks simply reinforces what I said: "the U.S. attacked Iraq for the sake of Israel." Gen. Franks says possible missile attacks on Israel was one reason, but he gives no other reasons. That Gen. Franks supported the strike on Iraq for Israel's sake -- indeed, led the invasion of Iraq -- makes him an unimpeachable source. Right from the horse's mouth.

- I did not say that Khalid Sheik Muhammad's opinion should determine America's foreign policy. What I said was that he was the "'mastermind of the 9/11 attacks,'" and his "'animus toward the United States stemmed...from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel'" (I was quoting directly from the 9/11 Commission Report).

- Every informed person -- Left, Right, or Center -- acknowledges that the attack on Iraq was hatched by neoconservatives. Here's an unimpeachable source: Gen. Anthony Zinni, who bled for the anti-Communist cause in Vietnam and worked in Rumsfeld's Department of Defense, said: "The more I saw, the more I thought that this [war on Iraq] was the product of the neocons who didn't understand the region and were going to create havoc there. These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks.... I don't know where the neocons came from -- that was not the platform [Bush] ran on.... Somehow, the neocons captured the president."

- It is clear that 9/11 happened because America has one-sidedly supported Israel. The "mastermind" of 9/11 said it himself (see above), and in our response to the National Guardsman we quoted Osama explaining the reasons for the 9/11 attack: "Our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon...." There you have it, right from the mouths of the key horses. You say, "American support of Israel would constitute right and proper geopolitical action on the part of the U.S." Actually, our geopolitical actions are suicidal. If we can't mind our own business, at least let America have an even-handed policy. You are wrong if you think I want America to "stay away from Israel" or be "anti-Israel." All we need to do is be reasonable and fair-minded.

- Actually, I do not consider myself a "neo-isolationist." I am not an America Firster, I am a Catholic Firster. Because I am a Catholic, I'm an internationalist. Catholic means universal, and Catholic internationalism trumps any nationalism.

- Because I am an internationalist, I support what our Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said in his First Inaugural Address: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.... These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us.... The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment.... Should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety." In other words, mind your own business politically wherever possible.

- You approvingly quoted "Lord Palmerston's axiom that nations don't have permanent allies, they only have permanent interests," adding that "One of America's permanent interests is the spread of democracy." These words you paraphrase from Viscount Palmerston were given in 1848, and his idea of "permanent interests" had nothing to do with spreading democracy, much less by force. He was speaking of Realpolitik. You refer to the "thugocracies" in the Middle East. Actually, America has a terrific record of befriending thugocracies all over the world, from a multitude of military regimes in Latin America to Red China and now Libya, from Saudi Arabia to the Shah of Iran and even to Saddam some years ago. When India and Pakistan have had military skirmishes, we have sided with Pakistan, an autocratic state, over India, a democratic state. India is 200 times the size of Israel. Why didn't we side with India and invade Pakistan and impose democracy on them? Why? If you really believed that nations only have "permanent interests," you'd surely object to going on ideological binges in support of one tiny Middle Eastern democracy (which sure looks like a "permanent ally") when our permanent interests clearly lie with the numerous Arab and Muslim states with their huge populations -- and, hey, think about all that oil! Oil is a huge interest. If you really want Realpolitik, this is it!

- You say, "democratic nations do not attack one another." While there is no perfect democracy, France, Britain, the U.S., and Germany were all democracies before World War I (for instance, males in all those countries voted in elections, though Negro males in the southern U.S. were basically disenfranchised). In the aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, which set the groundwork for World War I, France called up its troops, and Germany -- in an act of pre-emption -- went to war against France. The German democratic parties were highly enthusiastic about the war, as were the French democratic parties. Then Britain (a hereditary monarchy with a House of Lords, but still a democracy) declared war on Germany. Yes, democratic nations do attack one another.

- There is nothing wrong with supporting democracies, but it is perilous to force democracy upon people militarily. The Soviet Union believed in forcing Communism on people, so as to support its "political, cultural, and religious [i.e., ideological] interests," so as to have a peaceful world on its terms. It worked for a while, but ultimately didn't work, and we are doing exactly what the Soviet Union did. President Reagan called the Soviet Union the "Evil Empire," and the Muslims call America the "Great Satan." Imperial hubris always comes to ruin.

- I had no idea that "God is a Jew." Thanks for the tip.





Drifting Away From Your Primary Focus?

About three years ago my wife and I subscribed to the NOR after seeing some of your hard-hitting ads. It seemed to us that the NOR had a clear vision in focusing on the problems that had developed in the Church since Vatican II. We were very pleased with the NOR, so pleased that we took out subscriptions for our children.

However, in the past few issues we sensed what might be described as a drift away from the NOR's primary focus, specifically in your December issue. Your Editor's Replies to the complaints of Cardinal Dulles and George Weigel were handled in your customary sophisticated style. But in your Editor's Replies to Adolf Giger and the Army National Guardsman, you pretty much let loose your strong convictions about George W. Bush and the war in Iraq -- i.e., "Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, had no ties to al-Qaeda, no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and had no plans to attack America." No doubt you insulted some of your readers besides us. But for those of us without an ounce of intelligence, what do your personal views on Bush, the war in Iraq, the Founding Fathers, and the bombing of Dresden have to do with the mission of the NOR to help return the Church to her rightful path?

W.E. LaMothe
Sanibel, Florida




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

In our reply to the National Guardsman, we tried to explain how President Bush got himself into this Iraqi mess, saying he was "outsmarted" by the neoconservatives in his Administration, adding that "in many other ways [Bush] has been a fine President...." You are free to agree or disagree with either proposition.

In our reply to Adolf Giger, we said regarding Bush: "As the justifications for attacking Iraq have fallen one-by-one, President Bush has increasingly turned to religious rhetoric to salvage his Administration's war." We said that "one should always be leery of politicians who use God -- sincerely or insincerely -- for their purposes, especially when carnage results," and we said this "applies to...all politicians." We concluded with the words of the Psalmist: "'Put not your trust in princes' (146:3)." What orthodox Catholic could disagree with that?

The only thing we said about the Founding Fathers was: "Yes, we have strayed from the Founding Fathers' ideal of freedom. The question is: Can we ever get back to it?" Why is that controversial?

When it comes to the war on Iraq, it is clear that our Pope regarded it as an unjust war (see the reply above to John C. Shea). An unjust war is objectively murder, as sure as abortion is. The fire bombing of Dresden intentionally targeted innocent civilians, and that is also objectively murder. In Catholic teaching it is always gravely sinful to target the innocent. Were that not true, abortion could be justified.

We believe your letter was written with good intentions, so what we are about to say doesn't apply to you: We have received many letters about the war on Iraq, and it's obvious that there are conservative Catholics who simply don't care about Catholic Just War doctrine. For them, any war America is involved in is automatically just. They don't care that the Pope has denounced, in moral terms, the war on Iraq on traditional Just War grounds. For them, America and President Bush are right and the Pope is wrong. Too many conservative Catholics love their country (and the Republican Party) far more than their Catholicism, just as many conservative German Catholics during World War II loved their country far more than their Catholicism.

If one wants to "return the Church to her rightful path," one must adhere to all the traditional teachings of the Church, not just those that suit oneself. It should be obvious that the NOR is not drifting away from its primary focus. Just War doctrine is traditional teaching, as is the doctrine that the innocent may not be intentionally targeted. Anything to the contrary constitutes neo-Modernism, which is an accommodation with secular culture or government.

And while we're at it, we'd like to commend Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. A certified neoconservative, he has had second thoughts about the war on Iraq, which he initially supported. Said he (First Things, Dec. 2004, pp. 66-67): "I believe that military action in removing...Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq could be morally justified on the basis of what was known then. Some of what almost all informed people thought they knew then has turned out not to be the case.... What is known in retrospect has led to long second thoughts.... There is a lively and legitimate argument about whether, knowing what we know now, this war was justified and necessary.... Global crusading for democracy is a delusion fraught with temptations to the hubris that has been the tragic undoing of men and nations throughout history" (italics added). Of course the Pope and his men knew the war on Iraq was unjustified and unnecessary well before it was launched. But better late than never.

Others as well have had second thoughts. For example, William F. Buckley Jr., a Catholic, has said: "With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn't the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war."





Queering Women's Wear

Donald Wilcox in his letter (Jan.) pleads with women to dress in more feminine attire. I don't expect him to know much about struggling with pantyhose, stockings with tears in them, leotards that don't match, slips that hang out of skirts, not to mention garters and girdles -- all manufactured by men. How much simpler and faster it is to slip into a pair of slacks and look presentable.

However, I will agree that for women to "dress for success" they must wear not just slacks but man-tailored pantsuits, shirts, and ties. Mr. Mom who stays with the children is not expected to wear a housedress and an apron.

Someone wisely pointed out to me that the cause of the situation is that most designers are homosexuals and they revel in that sort of androgynous look. So you see, it's not that women don't want to look feminine and beautiful, but it's a cruel world out there and we are left to choose from what is made available to us.

Clara Sarrocco
Glendale, New York






In regard to the letter from Donald Wilcox: I do not agree that the skirts Jesus wore in His earthly life made Him a pervert. The skirts worn by some priests, however, might qualify.

J.C. Weems
Tuscaloosa, Alabama




Itching Ears

I appreciated the Editor's insightful response to Martin Lobert's somewhat frantic reaction (letters section, Jan.) to my letter criticizing Scott Hahn (Oct.). As a convert to the true Faith, I found some irony in what Lobert had to say. My conversion story (how about a moratorium on these?) was initiated by two nagging questions. One, why are there so many Protestant sects and denominations? The other, why do they all have such a wide variety of doctrines and beliefs? A study of Church history gave me all the answers I needed. When I have questions pertaining to the Bible, doctrine, and faith, I go to our popes. That's what a Roman Catholic is to do. I don't really need Scott Hahn giving me his personal and private interpretations of Scripture and doctrine. Many Catholics should heed what St. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

David Cavall
Surf City, North Carolina






I really enjoy your magazine. I have a particular interest in the series of articles and New Oxford Notes on Scott Hahn. A friend of mine worships the ground he walks on, and my friend won't listen to anything about Hahn's "feminine" Holy Spirit.

Steve Graessle
Kansas City, Missouri






In reference to Dr. Scott Hahn's "theology" as discussed in your January New Oxford Note: Your readers might want to look at Python by Joseph Fontenrose. I met Prof. Fontenrose at Cal-Berkeley in the late 1970s -- a most interesting man. Dr. Hahn speculates that the serpent in the Garden of Eden was actually a dragon. Fontenrose's book discusses the "dragon myth" in the various world religions. Perhaps this "pop" theological trend of Dr. Hahn's is derived from this dragon myth in some way.

William David Cox
Hanford, California




Why Is the Church Dissolving Marriage?

I share the indignation and discontent expressed by Sheryl Temaat (letter, Jan.) in regard to the Catholic divorce, euphemistically entitled "annulment." When practically any Catholic marriage can be annulled in many dioceses in the U.S., only a fool would be so naïve as to consider all of them "invalid." The tragedy of this farce is compounded by the ingenuity of liberal theologians who, with the help of secular psychologists, find new ways to dissolve a Christian marriage.

As a consequence, petty disagreements are often magnified to crisis proportions. The obligation to "work at the marriage" in order to preserve the union cedes to individual rights, the cult of personality, and self-fulfillment. Those parents place their needs above the needs of their children. The mental and moral damage done to the children as a result of the disruption in their lives is unfathomable.

Mrs. Temaat faults the NOR for failing to raise its voice against the prevailing evil of loose annulments, but that charge could be brought against the whole Catholic media as well as against the Church. How often have you heard a sermon on the sacredness of marriage? How often have you heard mutual sacrifice for the sake of the children stressed? What you may have heard, however, is that there is a meeting for the Separated and Divorced in the parish.

Let us hear thundered from the pulpit the themes of "maturity, sacrifice, responsibility" in marriage. If easy annulments are available, there are no incentives to work out solutions. It seems ironic that the Church, which stood so formidably alone in her insistence on marital stability and family unity, should be in the business of dissolving marriages.

Chuck Steer
Clearwater, Florida




Be Very Supportive

I would like to comment on Thomas Stock's guest column (Oct.), and some subsequent letters in the December NOR, which were critical of President Bush and the Republican Party's commitment to the prolife cause.

Storck's article indicated that Bush and Republican Senators pushed the credit card bankruptcy bill after Senate Democrats added an amendment that prevented prolifers from using bankruptcy if they got into legal trouble protesting at abortion clinics, and the bill was defeated because "a few courageous prolife Republicans (and many liberal Democrats)" voted the bill down in the fall of 2002. The bill is important for the economy. If we are serious about "feeding the poor," we must realize that it is the strong economies that feed the weak economies where the poor reside. Not many of us are saints and give from our needs instead of our surpluses.

What happened with the bill wasn't that simple. The events are confusing to follow, but as I understand them, the bill was designed to prevent people from cheating the system by declaring bankruptcy to avoid legitimate payments. There were even means tested to prevent undue hardships. After the anti-prolife amendment was added by Senator Schumer, the Republicans (Senator Hyde, hardly a "prochoice" Senator) tried to negotiate it out and/or change the wording to read "illegal" protesting. Some Republicans continued to vote against the bill because of the amendment.

In 2002 pro-abortion Senator Jim Jeffords jumped the Republican Party and became an Independent, but he caucused with the Democrats. The bill was reintroduced by the Republicans without the objectionable amendment, but was successfully opposed by Senator Tom Daschle and liberal Democrats. Senate Democrats said they "would not take the bill without the abortion provision." Senator Daschle prevailed because the Senate was now split 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

President Bush pushed and signed the Partial Birth Abortion Act which, as Storck said, is being challenged in the courts. There is nothing he can do about this or to change Roe v. Wade except what he has done, nominate people for the Supreme Court who will make that change. His nominations were filibustered by Senator Daschle and the Democrats. In the 2004 election, the Republican Party spent a lot of money to defeat Daschle and elect a prolife Republican.

Storck's proposal for Catholics to be coy in presidential elections flies in the face of reality. Storck talks as if Catholics all vote alike, and we can influence the election by threatening to withhold our vote. In the last election, only 55 percent of the church-going Catholics voted for Bush, leaving 45 percent for pro-abortion Kerry. If we play coy, we lose any chance of electing a prolife candidate. I propose a better solution. We should influence a prolife candidate by being very supportive instead of threatening.

During Mass petitions to God, which is also a teaching prayer, how many times have we heard a prayer for the "victims of abortion"? In the churches in the Norfolk area, we pray for the poor, homeless, the sick, the souls of the departed, and I heard us pray for the safety of travelers during holidays, but never for the victims of abortion. Prior to the past election, I tormented a local pastor with letters to include a prolife prayer, which he finally did. It did not last long, and was quickly changed to the protecting of life "from inception to natural death," which equates the lives of millions of innocent unwanted unborn babies with those of a very few brutal murderers. Then all prolife prayers ended.

On October 30, 2004, a prominent local priest's letter, endorsed by 26 other religious, was printed in the secular newspaper Virginian Pilot. The letter argued that it was permissible to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, based upon the priest's distortion of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter about "other proportional reasons."

With this type of direction from the clergy and the Mass petition silence about the "victims of abortion," it is understandable why so many Catholics viewed abortion as not that important and voted for Kerry.

I propose that if we really want to address the abortion problem, we should start with making the Catholic voter aware of the Church's position on abortion by addressing it in the petition prayers. So many of the clergy and parish workers are silent about the "victims of abortion" in this area, and I suspect in many others. I suggest that a petition prayer for the "victims of abortion" be imposed by the American bishops.

J.J. Harwood
Norfolk, Virginia




My Jesuits?

This concerns your guest column by Lois Manning (Dec.). Since you assume responsibility for what you print, would you please give me some examples, by name and source, of the Jesuits who said that "abortion is O.K. under some circumstances." I thought I kept up on these issues fairly well, and I can't recall a Jesuit taking that position.

Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.
Saint Peter's College
Jersey City, New Jersey



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