March 2013

Spiritual Fare with Literary Flair

The December issue of the NOR was outstanding, though hardly atypical for a journal that manages, month in and month out, to serve up spiritual fare with literary flair.

Clement Mulloy’s memorable profile of Huron convert Joseph Chihwatenha, “The Forgotten Martyr,” highlighted the sanctifying power of the laity. Joseph’s radical gift of self lit the way for Goupil, Jogues, and Brébeuf.

Mitchell Kalpakgian, in his analysis of “Manhood’s True Test,” did what he does best, which is to delight and instruct through the medium of literature. Thank you, Prof. Kalpakgian, for your critique via culture of “the contraceptive mentality,” positing the need for “preparation, work, and savings” if marriage is to regain its former footing.

“On Taking the Kingdom by Force” by William Mahoney was laser-sharp as a plea for the importance of context in biblical analysis. Matthew 11:12 must indeed be read in conjunction with Luke 16:16, along with Matthew 5:29 and 10:34. And this is only one example of many. Jesus’ words of consecration, as recorded in Matthew 26, are open to gross misinterpretation without the clarifying context of John 6. Likewise when it comes to passages stressing the salvific role of faith. Interpretation hinges on Scripture’s unambiguous affirmation of a final judgment based on deeds (e.g., Mt. 16:27; Rev. 20:12- 13; 22:12).

“The Radiant Joys of Marital Discipline” by Christopher Stravitsch was again interesting, though mainly as a commentary on how birth control is being taught in Omaha — without the caveats mandated by sections 10 and 16 of Humanae Vitae. Judging from what Stravitsch has to say, Nebraskans are being left with the erroneous impression that there are only two kinds of folks out there: libertines and “NFP couples.”

Frederick Marks
Forest Hills, New York




Like the Aroma of Baking Bread

Profound and beautiful thought requires profound and beautiful prose to do it justice. Donald Lospinuso’s “Incarnations” (Dec.) accomplishes that task precisely. His writing has the intricate delicacy of the finest lace, yet at the same time it has the breadth, depth, and weight of an exquisite tapestry. Indeed, “It is the unique gift of the Christian faith that the uncircumscribed can be found in the circumscribed, and the transcendent in the particular, without the circumscribed or particular being superseded, lost, or forgotten.” Or swallowed up, I might add.

A corollary to this truth, if I may be a bit corny, is that little things mean a lot, for good and for bad. Evil has the echo effect of spreading like a virulent disease. Each evil act has transcendental reverberations like a burst appendix releasing its poison throughout the body. By contrast, Lospinuso’s whole­some counsel, given to the preg­nant mother, allowed her beautiful daughter to be born and to become the apple of everyone’s eye. Acts of pure goodness are like the aroma of baking bread; they fill the room, and society, with a certain joie de vivre, a longing for more of the same, a desire to go and do likewise.

Why God’s permissiveness allows the horrors of life to occur is something we cannot fully understand in this life — to wit, the New­town massacre and the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents. As the Anglican mystic Evelyn Underhill noted, the word we shall most often use when we get to Heaven will be “Oh!” If I may modify Miss Underhill just slightly, I suspect that the phrase we shall use most often, should we be admitted to Heaven, will be “Oh, of course!”

As our society grows increasingly hostile, we must not respond with hostility but with acts of pure goodness to all around us, never yielding to the allures of evil, yet offering goodness, truth, and beauty with abandon. Those are the Christian’s weapons and never have they been more needed.

R.W. Merchant
Naples, Florida






Donald Lospinuso’s “Incarnations” was remarkable. It was a great pleasure to read truly elegant writing on a truly important subject. The contrast between what is and what could be (and is in the Church of the Incarnation) is stark indeed. Our society really has sunk a long way in the past 50 years. The NOR is fortunate to have Lospinuso as a contributor. I’m looking forward to more from him.

Terence J. Hughes
Fort Pierre, South Dakota




A Contrived Solution

William F.E. Mahoney’s article “On Taking the Kingdom by Force” (Dec.) provides a good example of how difficult it can be, two thousand years later, to be exactly certain about what Jesus said and what He meant by certain sayings. Dr. Mahoney attempts to harmonize two similar but problematic verses, Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16, both of which in many translations, such as the Catholic version of the New American Bible, seem to speak of people in the time following John the Baptist as besieging the Kingdom of Heaven and entering it by violence.

The magnitude of the disagreement among translators, and thus the magnitude of Mahoney’s task, can be appreciated by comparing the volumes on Matthew and Luke in the Anchor Bible series, translated by different authors. In the former, from the time of John the Baptist, the Kingdom had been wrongfully besieged: “The kingdom of heaven has been under violent attack and violent men despoil it.” In the latter, the attack is rightful and is not directed by evil men against the Kingdom. Rather, it is pressure being exerted by Jesus against men, to force them into His Kingdom: “From that time on the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is pressed to enter it.” (Compare the parable of the king who compelled people to come to his banquet in Luke 14:15-24.)

Mahoney solves this problem by suggesting that the passages really do speak of violence, but not violence directed against the Kingdom. Rather, they speak of violence against one’s sinful nature, a nature that must be overcome in order for one to enter the Kingdom. In this, he accords with Fatima seer Sr. Lucia dos San­tos, in her book, Calls From the Message of Fatima. While I agree with Mahoney’s point that such a war is necessary, it seems to me a contrived solution designed to give a positive explanation of the phrase (in his own translation of Matthew) “the violent take it by force.”

I’m more persuaded by Msgr. Ronald Knox’s translation, which is like Mahoney’s in reading the passages together and in taking the result as being for the better: “Ever since John the Baptist’s time, the kingdom of heaven has opened to force; and the forceful are even now making it their prize” (Mt. 11:12) and “The law and the prophets lasted until John’s time; since that time, it is the kingdom of heaven that has its preachers, and all who will, press their way into it” (Lk. 16:16).

If we accept Msgr. Knox’s translation of the two verses, it would seem that what Jesus was referring to was not an internal struggle against sin (which surely also took place before John’s time but was unavailing in allowing people to enter the Kingdom), but the new, day-to-day, external struggle by those who would become followers of Jesus, in the face of disapproval and persecution by the religious establishment. And the people who succeeded were not the violent but those who so prized the Kingdom that they pressed forward to the goal of union with Christ.

Hurd Baruch
Tucson, Arizona




WILLIAM F.E. MAHONEY REPLIES:

Naturally, I agree wholeheartedly with Hurd Baruch that it can be very difficult to be certain about what Jesus said and what He meant by certain sayings He uttered two thousand years ago. It was even difficult to understand the exact meaning of Jesus’ words only a hundred years after they were spoken, as a perfunctory knowledge of the history of biblical hermeneutics will easily demonstrate. That said, my admittedly non-omniscient exegesis was not meant to highlight this difficulty.

My article had two elements that were not entirely clearly. The first was an attempt to arrive at the literal meaning of the text based on the context of the original Greek and the use of terminology in other places in Scripture. The second was an appropriation of that literal meaning in the same vein as many Fathers of the Church have heretofore offered. In fact, the appropriation I offered was based on writings of Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Regarding Matthew 11:12, the Rev. George Leo Hay­­dock, for example, cites St. Jerome and St. Thomas Aquinas when he states, “Certainly it is great violence for a man to look for a seat in heaven, and to obtain that by his virtue which was refused him by his nature.”

Regarding the literal meaning of the text, I would like to add for the record that the purpose of comparing Matthew 11:12 to Luke 16:16 is not to harmonize them. I was comparing them to show how the Greek word, which occurs only twice in the New Testament, has been rendered more or less consistently in Luke but not in Matthew. It is true, of course, that these two passages have obvious similarities and this must be — and was — taken into consideration when translating.

Using the chart below, we can compare Msgr. Ronald Knox's translation to a literal translation of the original Greek to demonstrate his version's obvious poetic license.
Original Greek, Matthew 11:12:
Apo de ton hemeron Ioannou tou baptistou heos arti he basi­leia ton ouranon biadzetai kai bia­stai harpadzousin auten.
---------------------------------
Literal Translation:
“From yet the days of John the Baptist till present the Kingdom of the Heavens is being violently forced and violent ones are seizing her.”
---------------------------------
Msgr. Knox's Translation:
“Ever since John the Baptist’s time, the kingdom of heaven has opened to force; and the forceful are even now making it their prize.”
-----------------------------------------------------
-----------------------------------------------------
Original Greek, Luke 16:16:
Ho nomos kai hoi profetai mech­ri Ioannou apo tote he basi­leia tou theou euangelidze­tai kai pas eis auten biadzetai.
---------------------------------
Literal Translation:
“The law and the prophets until John from then the Kingdom (of the) God is being brought the good news and everyone into her is violently forcing.”
---------------------------------
Msgr. Knox's Translation:
“The law and the prophets lasted until John’s time; since that time, it is the kingdom of heaven that has its preachers, and all who will, press their way into it.”
With all due respect to Msgr. Knox, his translation seems to be quite loosely based on the Greek and is more of an interpretation than a translation. For example, his phrase, “it is the kingdom of heaven that has its preachers,” does not occur in the original text. I am not persuaded to accept a translation that observably goes beyond what the original text clearly states.

There is another important factor, which I did not include in my article, to consider. The original language of Jesus’ discourses was not Greek, at least not primarily. One of the main methods for attempting to decipher the original Aramaic is to cross reference words and passages from the Septuagint with the Syriac Peshitta in order to find the Semitic words underlying the Greek of the New Testament. Based on this method, we learn that the Sep­tua­gint uses the problematic verb biad­zomai, which makes Matthew 11:12 difficult to understand, mostly to translate the Hebrew word paratz, which conveys the idea of “breaking forth.” It is used this way, for example, in Micah 2:13, which might be an Old Testament image Christ was referencing regarding the Good Shepherd, but that is material for another article.

I think it is fairly clear that Matthew 11:12 is about the Kingdom of Heaven “pushing forward violently,” “breaking forth,” etc. It is also clear that it is “the violent,” “those who break forth,” etc. who take the Kingdom of Heaven. How one understands the details of this is an open question. I offered one appropriation based on some Fathers and Doctors of the Church.





Reason's Failure

William F.E. Mahoney’s article “On Taking the Kingdom by Force” reminded me of something I once read (I don’t recall exactly where or when), and that is that the onslaught of relativism in the world, in all its various forms, cannot be dealt with or defeated by employing the argument of reason. The main thesis was that nothing short of the use of “force of will” can prevail against these dark forces.

In our churches, homilies are brimming with warm mush filled with examples of the slow and deliberate overhaul of the vernacular — e.g., diversity not dogma, tolerance not truth, celebration not sacrifice, equality not authority, sentimentality not sin, frivolousness not reverence. The list is virtually endless.

This is no mere longing for what was. It is a recognition that we are truly under assault. The atheist, the libertarian, the get-along moderate, let alone the increasingly naked radical, has no real interest in “common ground.” Every effort to meet the opposition only results in repeated failure. As the stakes become higher, so too, lately, is the certainty of defeat in battle.

And yet, the preferred method of dealing with any notion of disagreement, let alone the “forces of darkness,” is to seek consensus, to make more of an effort to be “liked.” Any argument rooted in principle is immediately attacked as being too rigid. We’ve all heard it said that the devil’s favorite color is gray, not red — that ambiguity between the Light and the abominable darkness. No one wishes to publicly acknowledge that spiritual combat exists.

Patrick Norton
San Diego, California




The Loneliness of Southern Protestants

In her informative review of Dark Faith: New Essays on Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away (Oct.), Mary McWay Seaman writes about a number of themes that scholars have discovered in O’Connor’s great novel. One of its largely unexplored themes is that of loneliness. This should be the first to be discussed because it hits the reader squarely between the eyes. The other themes are there as well, but O’Con­nor’s overarching theme appears to be that of bitter isolation and dark loneliness. In Scripture, one of God’s first words about man is that it is not good for him to be alone. Loneliness is contrary to human nature.

As a Catholic writing about fundamentalist Protestants in the Deep South, O’Connor presents with great sensitivity and compassion the reality of their metaphysical loneliness. Since Protestants hold that there is no visible Church abiding here on earth after Christ’s ascension, they seem to O’Connor like orphans. Yet Jesus promised, “I will not leave you orphans.” They live in a secular historical time, looking back in memory to the time Christ walked on earth and looking forward in expectation to His second coming. For them, Christ is really absent from history. When they take communion, they do not think they receive, in body and spirit, the real presence of Christ’s body and blood, soul and divinity. Rather, they think what they receive is bread, while at the same time they remember Christ in spirit. Thus they divide body from spirit. Yet man was created as a composite of body and spirit.

O’Connor’s characters are separated internally and are unable to reconcile their animal body and angelic spirit. We see a town-dwelling rationalist pitted against a crazy country man of faith. We see an intelligent teacher isolated by his shortsightedness, his concern with secular recognition, and his quickness to tune out what he doesn’t want to hear. And we see a child isolated by his disrespect for the material body of his adoptive father because “the dead don’t deal with particulars.” He burns the corpse of the man who raised him, even though it goes against the dead man’s wishes and the child’s own conscience.

The artificial separation of body from spirit creates an inner fury: The alienated child-prophet rails against the world and its Creator because both have failed to hear his message.

Contrary to modern notions of self-realization and personal au­­tonomy, O’Connor shows that this loneliness leads to great loss. The rationalist whose subjective idea of peace is to “feel nothing” is drawn, like all mankind, to Christ, but stands alone outside a church, numbly looking in, unable to embrace the peace beyond understanding. The child prophet stands alone outside a shop that has a loaf of bread in the window, looking at the bread open-mouthed with a “hunger too great to be contained inside himself.” He is summoned to the real presence, but is separated from it by the glass. He sees a symbol but cannot taste the reality that is the summit of faith, so he returns to a “place that was forsaken and his own.” O’Connor vividly encapsulates and empathizes with the profound loneliness of Protestants, whom she observed all around her in rural Georgia.

John F. Ballentine
Greensville Correctional Center
Jarratt, Virginia




Degrees of Isolation

Since I normally associate solitude with a positive, prayerful isolation seeking communion with God and neighbor in, for instance, nature or certain monastic vocations, I was looking forward with interest to the New Oxford Note “Solitude’s Strange Allure” (Dec.). I was doubly surprised at what you rightly describe as an epidemic of loneliness, of which I was unaware. Although it’s been more than 30 years since I read it, I was immediately reminded of The Great Divorce, in which C.S. Lewis depicts Hell as a place of isolation not only from God but from other people, where the outposts are populated by the greatest sinners in greater degrees of isolation and loneliness. This spiritual phenomenon is, it would seem, manifesting itself in our very midst, not only in the ways suggested in the Note, but also in the rash of inexplicable acts of violence we see almost daily in the headlines that might be described as anti-communion. Certainly an alarming sign of our times.

I appreciate the heads-up and hope you’ll have the opportunity to report soon on the positive, counter­cultural Christian notion of solitude’s strange allure.

Patrick McNamara
Tucson, Arizona






The New Oxford Note “Soli­tude’s Strange Allure” discussed “alone­­ness” at length with many statistics and sociological observations. But your commentary was incomplete because you failed to include a certain small select group that deliberately embraces solitude and could not live effectively in any other way.

In the Litany of Saints (remember that?) “holy hermits and anchorites” follow patriarchs and prophets, Apostles and martyrs, and doctors and confessors. Although meriting no such honor in our secular society, this traditional group is very much alive and increasing today while the Church in general is in decline.

There are at least 450 people living the hermit life in the U.S. right now, and 250 in Britain, though not all are Roman Catholic or officially consecrated. For them, loneliness is not a burden or a catastrophe but a necessary means of fulfilling what God demands of them: complete obedience to the First Commandment, from which automatically follows the grace of the Second, which is “like unto it.” You cannot have one without the other.

By no means are all of your single readers called to the religious life of solitude, but I hope that all may find in its existence a chink of light in their loneliness and, even for a few, the transformation of an apparent disaster into a providential opportunity. It pains me that so much loneliness is going to waste!

J. Allen
Torquay
United Kingdom




Destroying the Right Targets

James Tillman (“Why Liberals Love Satire,” Nov.) makes his points well, and his points are well worth making. The well-balanced way in which he addresses both the caustic nature of a typical satire, and the positive uses to which satire has sometimes been put by such authors as Swift, Waugh, Belloc, and Ches­terton, was a refreshing admission of complexity.

I wonder, however, about the particular distinction Tillman makes between good and bad satire. His main objection to satire in general is that it “sees through” the essentials of a thing to mock the thing’s inessential details. Good satire, however, reverses this by “shifting one’s perspective in a way that isolates what is central to a thing while ignoring what is peripheral.” One troubling aspect of this dichotomy is that, if I have understood him correctly, “good satire” is just the opposite of “satire” — not the best pair of definitions, logically speaking.

Tillman suggests in his example a slightly better way of distinguishing between what I would call “healthy” and “unhealthy” satire when he refers to Milton’s and Lewis’s depictions of evil. It is not so much that Milton and Lewis isolate what is central to evil — even though one could describe their projects this way, it would lead to the problematic pairing of definitions mentioned above — rather, they show evil “as the senseless, childish, foolish, even mad thing that it is.” In other words, they show that evil has no center. It is very much the same claim that liberals make about Christianity, except that where evil is concerned, it happens to be true.

So I would propose that good satire is in fact just as destructive as bad satire, but that its destructiveness is aimed at the right targets — at things that truly are silly or empty or wrong, and therefore deserving of mockery. Perhaps the difference between this formulation and Tillman’s is merely semantic. But I think, since the inconsistency in his formulation might prove troubling to some, the revision is not wholly unreasonable.

Sophia Mason
Arlington, Virginia




JAMES TILLMAN REPLIES:

Sophia Mason’s points are perceptive. It’s true that I don’t give an evenly applicable definition of satire, although I think I at least hint at one: After all, as either Aristotle or Chest­erton might point out, two exactly opposite things always fall into a single genus. The smaller the difference between any two positions, however, the larger the discussion necessary to distinguish them; so any analysis long enough to do justice to us both would be far longer than is warranted by the size of our perhaps mostly semantic disagreement.





Of Insurance, Taxes & Religious Discrimination

I am honored that my simple letter “No Violation of Conscience” (Oct.) elicited rejoinders from no less than three gentlemen who are obviously my betters in casuistic argumentation (Dec.). It puzzles me, however, that they would deign to react to my views, which they considered sophistic, tragically wrong, and even ignorant. I do not consider myself their equal in intelligence and so I can only respond to their criticisms with illustrative examples and simple stories.

To Mr. Regan

I purchased insurance coverage for my wife and myself because I believed that the insurance company I chose would actually provide me with financial assistance by covering some of my medical expenses. Should the company fail in its promise and duty to do so, it would not be my fault, it would be theirs. If they say that they would provide contraceptive coverage to my co-subscribers without using my money, I have no choice but to take them at their word. If, by way of subterfuge, they were to use part of my money to do so, I would not in any manner or form be at fault. I have no responsibility in the matter, so my conscience would not be violated.

Over the years, I have been a parishioner in several dioceses, some priests of which were later found to have had common-law wives whom they supported with church money gained from contributions by parishioners. Such priests, therefore, committed fornication, theft, sacrilege, etc. Was I responsible or even a contributor to their sins and crimes?

As for the reliability and effectiveness of the efforts of Presidents Reagan and Bush Jr. in furthering the pro-life cause, I leave the matter to the more capable mind of the NOR editor, who discussed it in the June 2012 issue as a rejoinder to a letter from Edward A. Nowatzki.

To Mr. Harris

I agree with our Founding Fathers that it is not the business, duty, or obligation of the government to impose any kind or brand of morality on anyone or on society in general. Remember the First Amendment? In our system and philosophy of government, the scope of governance is simply to ensure safety, peace and harmony among individuals and groups in society. To illustrate: Adultery violates the Sixth Commandment. There indeed is a law in our legal system against adultery. But it is not there to uphold Catholic or Christian moral teachings on sexuality or marriage. It is there because the majority of Americans at the time of its promulgation and up to now believe in the exclusivity of sexual partnership. It is there because we can’t have jealous lovers on the rampage killing their rivals. It is there to assure men that they will be providing for their own progeny rather than that of others.

As for following a law despite a perception that doing so violates one’s conscience, I find myself, along with many other Americans, in the same quandary. I object to our government’s unjust military intervention in other sovereign countries — e.g., Iraq, Vietnam, Grenada, to name just a few. I also object to efforts by our country’s spy networks to destabilize regimes in other countries — Iran in the 1950s and presumably up to now, Cuba and Nicaragua, to name just a few. Obviously, the government uses part of my minuscule tax payments to finance such efforts. Should I then stop paying my taxes? Some of my co-objectors might not mind going to prison for that, but I shudder at the thought that if enough people were to do the same, our self-defense capabilities would be in jeopardy. The Christians among conscientious objectors must also be mindful of St. Paul’s teaching on the matter: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1). For those who would argue that Paul’s teaching applies only to the just exercise of authority, please remember that at the time he preached this, Rome was the governing power and was viewed as the evil imperium by Christian exegetes — the Beast, the whore of Babylon, etc.

To Mr. Orgovan

I have addressed most of Mr. Orgovan’s objections to my views in my responses to Messrs. Harris and Regan. But his claim that Christians did not have recourse to politics in Rome is only partly correct. That was true at first, but eventually their influence grew so that they were able to gain governance of the empire. Is it Mr. Orgovan’s wish that we Catholics seize governance of the U.S. and impose our moral precepts on everyone? If so, he should come right out and say so.

As for his stance that Catholic institutions should not discriminate based on faith, let me share another story: I have been offered jobs in both a non-Catholic evangelical organization and a Muslim charitable organization that also ran a mosque. Both times I badly needed a job, but both times I refused. Why? Because working in non-Catholic religious organizations would have required me, whether directly or indirectly, to propagate what I believe are false religions, the teachings of which are antithetical or even hostile to my own religion. In my old country, a devout parishioner was renting out a house. It had been vacant for years because of the high rent she was seeking, which was justified by the size and quality of the house, a mansion by professional estimates. She received an offer sweetened by a large advance. When she found out that the person who made the offer was a pastor of a splinter Baptist congregation known for its fundamentalism and attacks on the Catholic Church (think of diatribes typical of Chick Publications) who would use her house as a church, she went to our parish priest who advised her to turn down the offer. It is not improbable that some of the non-Catholics employed by our Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities are also devout missionaries of their faith. By providing them with salaries, we not only provide them with sustenance but also with the means to propagate their particular kind of religion, some of which preach that Catholics are agents of the devil and that the Roman Catholic Church is Satan himself incarnate on earth.

Crescente Villahermosa
Virginia Beach, Virginia




How Can You Violate an Oath You Haven’t Taken?

The New Oxford Note “Rushing Death” (Dec.) includes the statement, “The American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society oppose physician-assisted suicide because it violates the Hippocratic Oath.” It is amazing that anyone still pretends to swear the Hippocratic Oath in places where abortion is practiced with little or no restraint and where the pressures to legalize euthanasia mount daily.

“The Use of the Hippocratic Oath: A Review of 20th Century Practice & a Content Analysis of Oaths Administered in Medical Schools in the U.S. & Canada in 1993” by Robert D. Orr, M.D., and Norman Pang, M.D., gave some indication of what was being sworn to 20 years ago:
·  Ninety-eight percent of schools administered some form of the Oath.
·  Only one school used the original Hippocratic Oath.
·  Sixty-eight schools used versions of the original Hippocratic Oath.
·  Only 43 percent vow to be accountable for their actions.
·  Only 14 percent include a prohibition against euthanasia.
·  Only 11 percent invoke a deity.
·  Only eight percent prohibit abortion.
·  Only three percent prohibit sexual contact with patients.
It’s doubtful there’s been a lot of improvement in the past two decades.

Frank Sehn
Long Island City, New York




Out of Sight & Out of Mind

Frank J. Schwindler’s letter (Dec.) relating to his experiences with meager Catholic services supplied by bishops to prisoners corroborates what I have encountered as an inmate in ten different prisons across the U.S. and one in England: The Catholic Church’s ministry ranged from scant to nonexistent.

This contrasted with the evan­gelicals, who spent hours working with inmates and who held regular worship services. In one prison the Catholics were lucky to get one hurried Mass per week (none on holy days). At times an extraordinary minister came in once a week to hold a brief prayer service and distribute Communion.

In another prison no Catholic services of any kind were permitted. Further, no priest was permitted into the prison, not even to hear confessions. We were told that we could attend the Protestant service held during the week. When we protested, the guards told us that if they allowed Catholics their services, they’d have to permit devil-worshipers to have their services too! I’m not making this up. I wrote to the local bishop, whose chancery office was just a few blocks from the prison. Needless to say, I received no reply.

In prisons where the official chaplain was a Protestant minister, Catholics were often treated as second-class citizens. In one large prison, the official Protestant chaplain relegated the Catholics to a crowded basement room where they had to stand shoulder to shoulder for their hurried Sunday Mass while he held his Protestant services in a large open space with chairs. This man once told our visiting priest that he could not offer Mass for us on holy days since Protestants do not have services on those days. I wrote to the local bishop twice about this. I have it on good authority that he received and read my letters, but he did nothing and didn’t even give me the courtesy of a reply.

I can only speak about the prisons where I have personal experience; one hopes that this is not the general pattern around the country. At any rate, these prisoners are our fellow Catholics and they do not deserve to be forgotten.

Ah yes, why was I in prison? We live in a country where it is against the law to stand peacefully and nonviolently in the way of those who are trying to kill helpless, innocent unborn children at abortion mills. This is called a “crime” for which the authorities will throw you in jail with sentences of varying lengths. Sometimes they beat you up too. What a difference with the recent shooting rampage at the school in Newtown, Connecticut. If our pro-lifers had been there to stand in the way of the killer, they would have been hailed as heroes.

Joseph P. Wall
Jenkintown, Pennsylvania




The Example We Set

We, as parents and adults, set examples for children to follow. There are those among us who have voted to make abortion legal, and have voted leaders into office in local, state, and federal government, including our “Parent-in-Chief” Barack Obama, who are pro-abortion and push for its funding.

Why, then, should we get our underwear in a bunch when a young man takes a gun, goes to a nearby school, and kills 20 “precious babies”? Isn’t he just following our example? After all, it is legal to kill babies, isn’t it?

Ora A. Webber
Pinole, California




A Need Fulfilled

William S. Carnazzo (letter, Dec.) seeks an organization that lists companies that support Planned Parenthood and the homosexual movement. There is such an organization.

L.I.F.E. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, approved by the IRS and registered in Florida. It produces a monthly publication called Christian Action News, to which I have subscribed for many years, that lists organizations that support both of these causes. In addition, this wonderful organization places pro-life billboards in many places in Florida that are seen by millions of motorists every day. I would like to see an organization like this in every state.

Contact L.I.F.E. by e-mail at lifecan@bellsouth.net, by telephone at 772-219-1144, or by visiting their website, www.lifecan.org. May God bless their efforts.

Robert Stegner
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida






In reply to William S. Carnazzo, who wanted information about companies and organizations that support Planned Parenthood, my husband and I are members of Life Decisions International (LDI), an organization dedicated to fighting Planned Parenthood. As part of its Corporate Funding Project, twice a year LDI publishes a “Boycott List,” a roll call of corporations, subsidiaries, products, and services that support Planned Parenthood, with information on how to contact each company. The Boycott List, however, is not free. Visit the “Corporate Funding (Boycott)” section of the LDI website, www.fightpp.org, for an explanation of why it isn’t free.

LDI also publishes a “Celebrity Watch” that lists which celebrities have supported or pledged support for Planned Parenthood. This list is available for free. LDI does more than publish lists; it also has a Prayer Project, Student Outreach, chastity programs, and more.

LDI can be reached by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 439, Front Royal, VA 22630-0009, by phone at 540-631-0380, or by e-mail at ldi@fightpp.org.

Francesca Pems Tebon
Apache Junction, Arizona




Spiritual Comfort

My wife and I have been subscribers to the NOR for several years now and get great spiritual comfort from the many articles you publish. Many thanks for your staff’s fine efforts.

Several magazines and newspapers are ceasing publication due to finances. The struggle you go through each month must seem like an endless burden. The continuing attacks from so many sides on the baseline of our Catholic faith adds still another burden. But your efforts really do aid so many of us readers.

The continued infiltration of Catholic colleges and universities by the servants of “the dark side” was brought home markedly by the recent recognition and funding of a LGBTQ staff person at Notre Dame University, my alma mater. I am deeply ashamed by this.

I look forward to continuing to receive your fine publication and I try to believe that times will improve, with God’s help.

Dr. James M. Daschbach
Bryan, Ohio






In the past I have subscribed to Commonweal on a “know thy enemy” basis. But you need my support more than they do. Enclosed is a donation in the amount of the two-year renewal fee to the “enemy” publication. It will be my great pleasure to go down the tubes (of truth!) with you guys.

Guy McClung
Rockport, Texas






Keep the print edition! I would be willing to pay twice the new subscription price for a print edition. My donation is enclosed. May God bless your efforts.

Robert Parran
Western Springs, Illinois






Your December editorial (“Print Is Dead! Or Is It?”) discussed the seemingly inevitable demise of print and the rise of digital. You seem to hold a hope of preserving the print edition of the NOR. This may not be the best thing for you.

I am in the Knights of Columbus. Our council raises funds for our charities with street-corner solicitations. Recently we put up signs several hundred feet ahead to alert oncoming cars that we were asking for donations. This increased our income by over a third.

It might help if you did something similar. E-readers seem to be the coming thing. It might be a good idea if you were to print short articles each month to help readers transition to an e-zine version. Some like me are older and could use the help. The main objectives might be:

1. Telling readers exactly what is involved with e-readers, how they work, who makes them, how much they cost, how to subscribe, and what their advantages are to both subscribers and publishers.

2. Stressing that e-readers will certainly improve in the future but that even now they can be used in comfort while sitting in an easy chair. That is an attraction to me. Sitting at a desktop for a few hours isn’t as attractive.

3. Informing subscribers that e-readers can be used for books and other periodicals, in addition to the NOR.

I’m sure you can come up with more ideas. But as yet I haven’t seen any attempt by the NOR or any other magazine to ease the transition that I think is inevitable. If you got ahead of the curve, you would improve your chances of survival. One major point would be the subscription cost. I would be willing to pay the same for digital as for print. After all, it’s the ideas and information you give us that are so valuable.

Thank you for a wonderful, very interesting magazine.

Curt Lampkin
Azle, Texas






I do not know whether you will survive financially, but you should be in no doubt as to the value of your witness. My own faith life has significantly benefitted from the NOR over the years.

The temptation to despair that you mention is all too human, but is this not the sign of a secret pride, and of fear that has not sufficiently prayed? We identify too closely with our own particular human agenda (however good it may be), and we do not take sufficient time to connect with God in prayer after the example of our Lord Himself. We think that the “practical” demands of our human agenda must take precedence over such prayer. How wrong we are! We should be at peace amid the storms and crucifixions of life, for we are all in the hands of God, who is sovereign over all.

Otherwise, my personal vote for the all-time-best NOR highlight was a letter stemming from editor emeritus Dale Vree’s scathing critiques of the Iraq war. The letter-writer — a retired U.S. army colonel, as I recall — not only canceled his subscription but promised to personally piss on Dr. Vree’s grave! Such are the wages of witness in this world. I miss Dr. Vree’s insightful critiques of U.S. foreign policy from a Catholic perspective. Issues of war and peace are just as much “life” issues as are contraception and abortion, and are too important to blindly consign to the “prudential judgment” of our benighted leaders (which should, in any event, never happen in a democracy). An unjust war is a terrible sin, and no Catholic should ever participate in one.

Joe Panico
Uxbridge, Massachusetts




The Company of Nutjobs

In his letter on the salvation of aborted babies (Dec.) James L. Koeser states that “any pope at any time could easily use this power [to bind and loose] to put the whole matter to rest by definitively declaring ex cathedra that this group of hapless innocents [those killed by abortion] is summarily and unequivocally saved. Who, except for a few nutjobs, would object?”

I guess I’m one of those “nutjobs.” But I’m in pretty good company. The Council of Lyons II (1274) and the Council of Florence (1438-1445) both declared infallibly that “the souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, however, immediately descend into hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.”

No pope can declare what Mr. Koeser proposes. One must possess sanctifying grace in order to enter into Heaven. We all start out as “children of wrath.” As a matter of fact, if Koeser were correct in assuming that aborted babies go to Heaven, then abortion is the greatest of God’s gifts because it is an automatic ticket through the Pearly Gates! To oppose abortion would then be a grave sin.

Abortion is a dreadful horror not because these little ones will never see a sunrise but because they will never see God. Let us redouble our efforts to end abortion.

Andrew J. Kawalec
Rock Creek, Ohio




What Have I Missed?

Bruce Charles Johnson’s letter (Dec.) in response to Frederick W. Marks’s article “Can Nice Guys Finish First?” (Sept.) suggests that Marks add several names to his list of virtuous and honorable men who found earthly success. Among the names he suggests including is the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. Have I missed something or is it now acceptable to write in an orthodox Catholic publication that we should honor a man who could not act honorably toward his own wife? A man like Shackleton, who took up with mistresses for many years, cannot be held up as an example for anyone to honor. He should not be on Marks’s list, much less at the top.

Mrs. David J. Metherd
St. Louis, Missouri




Signposts on the Road

Mitchell Kalpakgian’s article “Manhood’s True Test” (Dec.) was like a drink of cool, fresh water in a dry and thirsty land. His sound words are health for the body and the spirit. It is a blessing when a man gives heed to the natural truths that Dr. Kal­pakgian illuminates, not only for his own sake but for that of his wife and children as well. The good road is a difficult one, but it helps to be able to read a sign that shows that one is on the right path.

Steven Stroh
Indianola, Iowa






Mitchell Kalpakgian’s article “Manhood’s True Test” is right on target. But men are very much impacted by the kind of women in their lives — mothers, wives, etc. — and what we’ve witnessed in America these past 40 years is the decline of “the feminine principle” modeled by the Virgin Mary, a very feminine, sweet-tempered, gentle, modest, humble, pious, and peace-loving woman, obedient to her husband and to God.

Feminists in and out of the Church have worked diligently to change her image to that of an Amazon — tough, arrogant, and endlessly argumentative and competitive with men.

The feminist movement has insistently encouraged women to become more like men and to compete with them for jobs and all the goodies of secular society.

As in male prisons, when the feminine principle is banished, many of the men turn to homosexuality. When a society downgrades the feminine principle, it inevitably suffers a plague of divorce, violence, psychiatric disturbances, and aimless children who don’t know how to act like real men and women.

The feminist press is constantly polling women about their views. But would they dare poll men to determine if they prefer the Amazon model of women or the true Mary model? I’m sure the vast majority of Americans, if asked, would prefer the Mary model and the feminine principle.

Cal Samra
Portage, Michigan




What the World Needs Now

Christopher J. Stravitsch begins his guest column “The Radiant Joys of Marital Discipline” (Dec.) by quoting Humanae Vitae that “the practice of periodic continence…trans­forms [spouses’ love] by giving it a more truly human character.” I can attest to this truth both personally and professionally. Every man and woman united in matrimony is to live out the call to love in every physical expression, especially in the most intimate act of conjugal intercourse. Far from destroying spontaneity or marital intimacy, natural family planning (NFP) helps to strengthen those bonds and to assist spouses in their mission to love each other as Christ loves the Church. This revelation is made known first and foremost to the spouses, then to their children, and then to the entire world.

One of the goals of Christianity, and of marriage, is to help us to become more, not less, human. NFP has this same objective. If it is practiced in a genuinely altruistic fashion, it helps to unveil to the world, in a visible, physical way, the love of God. If couples would take this yoke upon themselves and learn NFP, they would realize that every sacrifice, every “no” to one’s selfishness, is a prayer offered up for the redemption of the world. I have seen in my own marriage how practicing the virtues inspired by an NFP lifestyle has brought life to my wife and children. Far from restricting my freedom, my freedom has been set free from selfishness (Gal 5:1). This sweet “burden” is truly no burden at all; it’s the call of the Bridegroom to carry my cross every day and follow in His footsteps, loving as He does.

Is this not what our world needs more than ever?

Steve Pokorny, Associate Director
Office of Marriage, Family Life & NFP
Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas



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