March 2006

Let's Change the Date of Christmas

Your New Oxford Note "Chrismukkah: It's in the Cards" (Dec.) and your comment, "Let's admit the obvious: Christmas is lost to us," sparks an unusual thought (or maybe it's just unusual to me). Maybe it's time we Christians consider opting out of the contemporary observance of Christmas entirely. Let's observe a real Christmas by ourselves, but on a different date.

What if Christians got together and said, "All right, we've had it -- enough! You secularists want to hijack Christmas? O.K., you got it." We may have to ease out of it -- buy the kids a few toys, have a hearty dinner, and watch bowl games on December 25. But it will have no particular significance to us -- just another secular holiday. We might even call it Santa's Day to underscore that. (The non-sentimental might opt to skip the celebration entirely.)

But December 25 is really Christ's birthday, you say? No, it isn't. We don't know when Christ was born; the date we celebrate is arbitrary. It can be changed.

Consider what it would mean to have our very own Christmas back again. A day devoted to what Christmas is really about: Mass, the manger scene, Christmas carols, joy, and goodwill toward men.

Donald V. Schuster
Normal, Illinois




"It's Not My Fault"

I was very impressed with the guest column "The Blame Game" by Thomas Finneran (Dec.). I have often mentally composed a similar article which I title: "It's Not My Fault." Finneran does an outstanding job of describing one of the most pervasive issues of our time: a lack of personal accountability.

Society can only work if we are all held accountable for our own actions. Official rules, whether they be for driving our automobile, cheating in business or school, or general behavior while living and working in our communities, must be obeyed, whether we like them or not. Finneran is correct when he cites the current "Devil made me do it" excuse that is being used to cover our violations of society's rules.

John E. Hirten
San Francisco, California






I am writing in response to Thomas Finneran's "The Blame Game." I am a third-year psychiatric resident at a major academic hospital in the Midwest. I am also a practicing Catholic. It is clear that Finneran's perspective on psychiatry is simplistic and inaccurate, and his criticism fails to acknowledge the important role that the field of psychiatry plays in our society. I have three major objections to his article:

(1) He fails to acknowledge that a very large burden of psychiatric illness treats the very severely and chronically mentally ill. Disorders such as bipolar disorder and major depression, while intermittent, can be gravely incapacitating. During acute exacerbations, patients can become completely detached from reality and be unable to care for their basic needs, much less take care of their family or go to work. Of course, suicide is a very real concern in such episodes. Before the advent of anti-psychotic medications, those with chronic mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, were resigned to the institution, and rehabilitating them to a basic level of functioning in the real world was never again to be considered.

(2) Finneran takes select psychoanalytic theories and makes them the driving force of the entire psychiatric profession. While Freud indeed called religion "the universal neurosis of humanity," this is very much a sideline to the main pillars of psychoanalytic theory, and has even less to do with the general practice of psychiatry today. To label psychiatry as intrinsically anti-religion is to presume that there is no room in the psychiatric profession for a spirit of Christian healing for the mentally ill.

(3) To say that the role of psychotherapy is for the patient to place appropriate blame on other factors rather than embracing his own faults and failings is entirely inaccurate. Rather, many patients cannot even identify what are the causes of their disturbance until psychotherapy helps them to gain insight into what their own contribution to their suffering really is. It is far more often a process of self-introspection rather than of fostering a habit of projective blaming.

The human person is complex and the brain-mind-soul interface is at the heart of the human condition. While moral choices, the state of the soul, or the role of the Devil must never be underestimated or neglected in understanding mental illness, the noble enterprises of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy should be considered essential tools in bringing Christian healing to so many broken lives.

Christian Stepansky, M.D.
Chicago, Illinois




Dry Up the Coffers

Michael S. Rose's article "Homosexual Activism Meets Catholic Kindergarten" (Dec.) is an indictment of all clerics and religious who aid and abet the incursion of homosexuality into all aspects of the Church. All levels of leadership in the Church are so entrenched in homosexuality -- extending all the way to Rome -- that the liberal Fr. Andrew Greeley called it the "Lavender Mafia."

It bewilders me to see the religious authorities of that southern California school -- referenced by Rose -- engaged in language designed to "sanctify" the perverse "lifestyle" of same-sex unions, a lifestyle condemned by Church teaching.

Rose's book Goodbye, Good Men exposed where the encroachment of homosexuality begins: the seminaries. He started a movement to clean them up. But a larger cleaning is needed -- throughout the whole Church, leading all the way to Rome. We see what happens when we petition our bishops or the hierarchy in Rome. We get stonewalled by the Lavender influence -- or the parents are forced to apologize, as seen in Rose's article.

We need to look to the civil rights movement and how it achieved success: economic boycotts. Hit them in the pocketbook. That seems to be the only thing that will work. The faithful need to withhold monetary support.

We are seeing all levels of the Church defying the limits of their authority by openly encouraging the perversity of homosexuality. In the words of Robert Hart's NOR article "'Question Authority'" (Dec.), they "claim the highest authority of all: To change the truth of God for a lie."

John P. Gawlak
Stamford, Connecticut




Different

Your approach is different from what I'm accustomed to reading in other Catholic periodicals. I look forward to each issue, curious as to what I'm going to find and read about next. There have been times where I think the NOR has been a bit heavy on the criticism, but as the clichés go, "call a spade a spade" and "let the chips fall where they may."

Joe Schiebel
Green Bay, Wisconsin




Untrue Facts

Your Editorial "What Is a Neoconservative?..." (Dec.) and your Editor's Reply to J.W. McKernan (Jan.) are filled with falsehoods, spins, and slants that are very troubling to me. It's not possible to argue with someone when the facts are not true. I am completely upset, and am canceling my subscription.

Virgil Lieske
Austin, Minnesota




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

The Editorial and the Reply to McKernan had to do with the war on Iraq. Yes, they should be "very troubling" to you, and you should be "completely upset," because you've been hoodwinked by the Bush Administration and the neocons.

It is definitely possible to argue with someone when the "facts" are not true; all you need do is state the facts. It's hard to imagine what an untrue "fact" could be; a fact is objectively real, therefore true.





You Parrot Pope John Paul

My father had a wonderful saying, "the more we know, the more we don't know." And except for that saying, I would have canceled my subscription to the NOR after reading your Editorial, "What Is a Neoconservative? -- & Does It Matter?" (Dec.). You publish the NOR in adulation of the Catholic Church. You need my guidance and criticism, not my cancellation.

I just cannot condone your constant disapproval of our invasion of Iraq. You are seen to parrot John Paul II in this effort. Why did he not constantly pressure Europe with its empty churches and homosexual, birth-controlled, euthanasia-practicing, socialistic, blood-sucking society? Because John Paul was a European and he believed in socialism.

The Europeans are the most materialistic, selfish, and self-centered people in the whole world. They are, by their nature, imperialists. They have been for a thousand years. They hate the U.S. because we are the goodie two-shoes in the world. You will notice that the casualties America suffered during World War II are rarely mentioned or appreciated by the French, the Belgians, and even the Dutch. The Europeans are now saddled with a Muslim underclass whom they brought to their lands, not to help them, but to do the dirty work that socialistic countries provide to immigrants because their laws provide them cradle-to-grave services so they need not work.

You may hate to hear this, but the Catholic Church is a European entity. The late and present Holy Fathers are first of all Europeans. They were raised in a socialistic society. Europeans are relentless ingrates.

If we lose in Iraq, the price of oil will probably be $250 per barrel. To take out a dictator in Iraq and set up a democracy is a gift to the world. If anything, America is totally altruistic.

Everyone who was alive at the time of the Holocaust must take some blame. That includes the Church. The Jews have a right to a homeland as much as the Poles. And God knows they have had to fight for it.

On another topic, my first marriage was ruined by my wife's alcoholism. We heard in the 1950s, while I was in the first of three marriages, endless diatribes against birth control from the altar. She never enjoyed making love and after many trips to the confessional and much soul-searching, she decided to stop having a sex life altogether. We agreed to it and she slowly sank into an alcoholic bliss. She became impossible to live with. Not once in that time did I hear anyone in the Church condemn alcoholism. Let's get off birth control and abortion, and start at the beginning: The problem is alcohol.

J.W. McKernan
Carolina Shores, North Carolina




Support the Bush Administration

I've attempted to follow the NOR for a few years, and am at a loss in following its editorial policy. At first blush it appears that its position is for orthodoxy in following the Magisterium of the Church. One would applaud that position. Then it appears to shift to political positions and it is difficult to reconcile your "apparent" attempt at being orthodox.

Your editorial position, while not stating it outright, appears to suggest opposition to Israel and its position in the Middle East. You continually refer to American imperialism, and you suggest that the U.S. is engaged in an unjust war in Iraq. To sum it up, your editorial position supports the Democratic Party against the Bush Administration.

While I'm sure that you would state that you are prolife, I don't see any comment on those in elected government positions who favor abortion.

You need to allow positive thought to permeate your publication.

Nick Campbell
New Canaan, Connecticut




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

We have no position on Israel, pro or con. But we do more than "suggest" that the U.S. is engaged in an unjust war in Iraq. It is definitely unjust, as Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) have said. An unjust war is a war of aggression, and a war of aggression is an imperialistic war.

When two Popes call the war on Iraq unjust, are they supporting the Democratic Party? That's ridiculous. And when the NOR supports two Popes, is the NOR supporting the Democratic Party? No, we're supporting the Catholic Church. (And, by the way, there are many Democratic politicians who still support the war, and there are an increasing number of Republican politicians who oppose the war.)

Of course we're prolife. Where have you been? And we have called for pro-abortion Catholic politicians (largely Democratic politicians) to be denied Holy Communion.





A Democratic Iraq

Your Editorial "What Is a Neoconservative?..." (Dec.) did it for me. Donation enclosed. You hit the nail on the head. I saw the change at the University of Chicago in the late 1960s, a hotbed of neoconservatism.

Unfortunately, there are no good options in U.S. politics. Republicans are bad, Democrats are worse. The Libertarian and Constitution parties are just protest votes.

As for Iraq: A democratic Iraq is going to be just as hostile to Israel as was Saddam -- and possibly a lot crazier. Plus, the Iraq experience will preclude our going into Iran. If Israel nukes Iran, it could be the beginning of the end of Israel.

Peter P. Pranis Jr.
McAllen, Texas




At Your Own Peril

I imagine you up there in the belly of the beast, Berkeley, with bits of wild honey and locusts in your beards, as you shout "Repent!" at Sodom and Gomorrah across the San Francisco Bay, and "Peace!" to the warmongers among your subscribers. Beautiful.

You speak the truth as you see it and at your own peril. I know this has cost you dearly. May God reward you for your wit and bravery.

Gary Schuberg
Camarillo, California




Not Dutch Courage

You've given me courage to stand up and speak the truth which the Catholic Church teaches. It's not as hard to do as I thought it would be. Keep up your excellent writings; they are inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Sister Jane de Chantal
Monastery of the Visitation
Mendota Heights, Minnesota




A Crime Against Humanity

November 2005 marked the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Nuremberg Trials. The U.S. Attorney-General at that time, Robert Jackson, made the case for four major crimes against humanity; the first of these was the crime of abortion. Nazi officials were charged with "encouraging and compelling abortions." Alfonso Cardinal Trujillo has said that "the Nuremberg Trials are very embarrassing for those who want to legalize the killing of the unborn, the aged, the sick and disabled."

Fifty years later, Janet Reno (a successor of Robert Jackson) was vigorously prosecuting and tossing into jail those (including myself) who still agree with Jackson that abortion is a crime against humanity.

Joe Wall
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania




Despicable Article

Joe Wall's article "Murder in the Cathedral" (Nov.) sent me over the top! I was born in London and happen to be a witness survivor to the Blitz. I was a teenaged student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art when it was bombed and severely damaged. This sickening article is a disgraceful insult to the courageous pilots of the RAF who defended London at the sacrifice of their lives and to the British people who suffered atrociously by the indiscriminate brutality of the bombing by the Luftwaffe from May 1940, without ceasing, day and night, for nine months. The Blitz on London alone continued for 57 consecutive nights. I know. I was there. Horror, destruction, and death. Wall's tale is a false and offensive insult to the country which has always been a close friend and ally to the U.S.

I am outraged that you would publish such a despicable article, completely inaccurate, and very badly written.

I conclude with a few statistics. During the light months of the Blitz from September 1940, a total of 18,000 tons of high explosives were dropped on London and all the major cities of Great Britain: 18,629 men, 16,201 women, and 5,028 children were killed, 695 charred bodies were identified. Please note -- all civilians.

Sheila Mullin Cardano
Cape Charles, Virginia




THE EDITOR REPLIES:

Joe Wall quoted the Catechism (#2314): "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation." That is a condemnation of the London Blitz. Wall never disparaged "the courageous pilots of the RAF who defended London."

You give statistics. And Wall gives statistics: Six hundred thousand German civilians were murdered because of indiscriminate British-American bombing. There is nothing "false" in Wall's article. If you can justify the murder of 600,000 German civilians, then for you, two wrongs make a right. And if two wrongs make a right, you cannot condemn the London Blitz.





Political Correctness Gone Crazy

Finally, someone has enough courage to write about the real reason our country is so hated in the Middle East, and the root cause of the terrorism directed against the U.S. The letter from William Berkley (Jan.) is refreshing, but sad. Israel's treatment of the Arab portion of its population is the gorilla in the kitchen that no one wants to mention. This is political correctness gone crazy.

Yes, I'm aware of the suicide bombings. It is a practice which should be condemned in every culture. But human beings should not be forced to live in refugee camps for three generations either.

According to 2002-2003 figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, our government gave Israel $666 billion in foreign aid in that period -- that's nearly $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in that country. Those funds pay for the tanks, mortars, and helicopters in the Israeli military. It also pays for the 25-foot-high wall that snakes through the Palestinian neighborhoods and orchards, disrupting social and economic activities.

On several occasions, I have visited with Palestinian Catholics. They speak of a long history of living with their Muslim neighbors in peace, friendship, and co-operation. They just want to be left alone to live their lives. The only factor that keeps the pot boiling is Israeli government policies.

M.E. Elliott
Manteca, California




Our War Against Japan Was Just

This is in response to the letter from George Noonan (Dec.), who says he was a Marine with combat experience on Saipan in World War II and says that our war against Japan was not defensive and therefore not just.

Japan's expansion in the Far East led it to attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This brought the U.S. into the war.

Historians can't agree on the exact date World War II began, but some say it started when the Japanese invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931, with Japan's desire for more territory and when this aggression was not curtailed by the League of Nations.

In 1938 Japan placed an economic blockade on China. In 1940 Japan occupied Indochina. It was then that the U.S. froze all Japanese assets in the U.S., and stopped shipping gasoline, iron, steel, and rubber to Japan. This is what Noonan calls an attack on the Japanese!

The sneak military attack on Pearl Harbor took place while Secretary of State Cordell Hull was negotiating with the Japanese. Immediately, the Japanese government declared war on the U.S. and Britain. The following day, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

I too had combat experience during World War II in the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis. For Noonan to claim that we attacked the Japanese first and that the war was not a just war is not only erroneous, but fictitious.

Philip A. Tucci
Orange, New Jersey



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