March 2018

The Code of the Warrior

One cannot argue with Casey Chalk’s critique of the NFL and football in general (“Is Football Past Its Prime?” Dec.). The facts speak for themselves. What was once a good game played by men in leather helmets for pocket money and beer has grown into a media-driven spectacle starring super athletes playing for millions of bucks. Having played quarterback in both high school and college, coached high-school football, and been a long-suffering New York Jets fan from the franchise’s earliest days, I can say that football has been in my blood for a long time. I still love a good game. While Chalk has sworn off football, I have not.

What is missing from Chalk’s critique is the question, “Why?” Why is football so intensely popular? What, at heart, is going on here?

Ours is a culture in which many men have been feminized, taught to be soft, and ultimately emasculated. However, God created men to be manly, aggressive, strong, and tough. The Bible is rich with stories and examples of manly men doing God’s work: Moses, Joshua, David, the Maccabees, St. Paul, and Jesus, most of all. The game of football provides men with a way to be manly — to live by the code of the warrior, to take the opponent’s territory, to fight on in spite of pain and exhaustion, to struggle with dogged determination to achieve a goal, and to do it with fellow “warriors” — knights in modern armor, waging battle in the “trenches,” launching “bombs,” “blitzing,” “digging in” to thwart the “enemy.” (Football is replete with warfare imagery and terminology.)

The fragmentation of family life and the many “hot-button” issues that divide us are also sad aspects of our culture. In past cultures, people belonged to families, tribes, and clans with which they identified, were members of for life, and would defend to the death. There is still a fundamental need for this type of belonging — to be a member of a greater social unit, to draw one’s identity from that unit. For many fans, football satisfies that need. At games, fans can be part of the team — think of Seattle Seahawks fans, who call themselves “the 12th man” — decked out in the team’s colors, roaring encouragement, members of the “family,” the “tribe.” A good friend and fellow Jets fan died recently and was waked and buried in his #73 Joe Klecko jersey — a bit extreme, but an indicator of how deep the need to belong to a “tribe” can go.

True, professional football has gotten out of hand. It needs to be cleaned up while remaining a collision sport in which people can get injured. On the other hand, men need to be men — not macho men, but men with strong character, brave, aggressive in a controlled way, dignified, noble, and ready to embrace challenges and situations in which they can easily be injured and not dwell on the cost.

So, why is football so popular? It satisfies a few fundamental, very real human needs that our culture continues to fail to satisfy.

Bob Filoramo
Warren, New Jersey

Casey Chalk unequivocally states that contemporary football “is incommensurate with the Catholic conception of man as made in the image of God.” Yet he seems to believe that football has “metastasized” from something beautiful, that there is a mode of football that would be acceptable or glorious. Setting aside the football industry’s competition with the Christian religion, what is the beautiful/glorious “type” that football used to embody? Is there a form of tackling that can be found in the history of the game that could be considered dignified? Is the prime of this form found, for instance, in the movie Leatherheads? Is it found in flag football? Does tackling need to “evolve” into what it has never been historically? What about the NFL’s new tackling rules — is the league just whistling in the wind? Assuming there is no acceptable form of tackling, how can football be upgraded to a necessary evil if collegiate players were compensated justly?

Zach Kuenzli
Virginia Beach, Virginia


I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Filoramo’s assessment of football’s serving as an outlet for various essential masculine tendencies: the need to compete, to exhibit strength and courage, and to participate in a group or tribe greater than oneself. In our society, men are discouraged from exhibiting these traits, which are traditionally (and, I believe, naturally) associated with our sex, while at the same time, tried-and-true family structures are obliterated for the sake of “freedom.” Our time is indeed one of crisis, for both sexes. Yet we men ourselves are to blame, inasmuch as we run from familial responsibility, leadership in our parishes, and the kinds of activities that exemplify true, biblical masculinity. All men need to put down the TV remotes and video-game controllers and engage in the kinds of activities that engender those traits and virtues increasingly lacking in our society — including those gained on the court, field, or diamond. Mr. Filoramo’s reflections on the masculine need for aggressive athletic activity are also germane to Mr. Kuenzli’s questions.

I do not assume that “there is no acceptable form of tackling,” because I do think — apparently contrary to Mr. Kuenzli — that it is possible for tackling to be “dignified.” Men since time immemorial have expressed a need for thumotic, or spirited, recreation, so it’s obviously hard-wired into our sex. Moreover, the goal isn’t to make football a “necessary evil.” Athletic pursuit is a good in and of itself. Nor is there anything intrinsically evil about throwing, catching, running, or physical contact. Yet there is a difference between physical acts in which two bodies collide where there is a disproportionate likelihood of resultant brain trauma, and those in which there is not. Wrestlers, lacrosse players, baseball players, and many other athletes are permitted to collide in various ways, and the concussion frequencies in those sports are significantly lower.

The NFL’s new tackling policies are likely insufficient — there have been only marginal decreases in concussions since they were implemented. I’ll leave it to others, such as physicians, scientists, and players, to determine the exact parameters of permitted physical contact that will bring football in line with other, less dangerous, sports.

Fifty Years After the Fact

Andrew M. Seddon’s fine review of Real Music, Anthony Esolen’s equally fine reflection on the deplorable state of liturgical music and his prescription for remediation (Dec.), reminded me of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s apt summary of musical development since Vatican II as that “grim impoverishment which follows when beauty for its own sake is banished from the Church and all is subordinated to the principle of ‘utility.’” With what result? Most congregations, he says quite accurately, “endure [it all] with polite stoicism.” What a damning analysis, yet how sadly true.

Mahatma Gandhi spoke of the three modes of being found in the cosmos: The fish that live in the sea are silent; the animals that inhabit the earth scream and shout; the birds that soar through the heavens sing. He spelled it out in this way: Silence is proper to the sea, shouting to the earth, and singing to the heavens. Man, by nature, ought to participate in all three, yet what so many would-be liturgists have done to our worship is to eliminate silence and to proscribe “uplifting” music, so that contemporary worshipers are left with little to do but scream!

Truth be told, hymn-singing is foreign to the Roman liturgical tradition. Once more, we are compelled to note that, had the directives of the Council been followed, we would not be having these discussions 50 years after the fact. Sacrosanctum Concilium clearly states that Gregorian chant and the organ hold “pride of place” and that the lay faithful ought to be able to enter into the liturgical action by singing their parts in Latin. Applied to a typical parochial Sunday Mass, this would mean: a cantor or schola chanting the “propers” (the antiphons to accompany the entrance, offertory, and Communion rites), with the congregation singing the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei from the vast array of chant Masses that our glorious patrimony has bequeathed to us.

Now, I am not unalterably opposed to inserting hymns into the Mass; I believe it can constitute a genuine “development.” What I advocate is a hymn (like those highlighted by Dr. Esolen) as the liturgical ministers process to the altar; once they have arrived, chanting the entrance antiphon (introit) as the celebrant incenses the altar; leading into the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the offertory antiphon, followed by a congregational hymn; the Communion antiphon as the priest receives Holy Communion, with the congregation taking up a suitable hymn or a choral rendition of a Eucharistic motet; and either a rousing congregational final hymn or an instrumental recessional.

My pastoral experience has convinced me that Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and moving, theologically sound hymnody resonate very well with our Catholic people; nor is such a program out of their reach.

And so, my response to Thomas Day’s question (why can’t Catholics sing?) is that it is not that Catholics can’t sing but that they don’t want to sing the silly tunes that have been foisted on them for all too long. Hope is warranted, however, because a new generation of priests and liturgical musicians is not stuck in “the bad old days” of the 1950s, or in the “worse old days” of the 1970s. May their tribe increase.

Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas
Editor, The Catholic Response
Pine Beach, New Jersey


It would seem to be indisputable that weak music is a contributing factor to a weak liturgy and hence to a weak faith, resulting in a weak Church. Peter Kwasniewski (author of Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages) alludes to this in a recent interview in The Latin Mass (Christmas 2017). He mentions the “sappy songs” in a liturgy that “was designed to be populocentric, to connect people with one another and with the priest around a table, a meal. As [Cardinal] Ratzinger has said, God disappears in such a set-up.” In other words, when the focus is taken off God (where it lies in good hymnody) and placed on ourselves (as in many contemporary songs), the result is loss of belief in the Real Presence and of the faith itself.

Fr. George Rutler, who, like myself, has an Anglican background, also comments on “the banality of our liturgical life” and the “miserable afflictions that keep cropping up in the baleful ‘missalettes’” in his welcome book The Stories of Hymns (2016). He too, like Anthony Esolen, regrets the bowdlerization of many hymns.

The sorry state of current Catholic hymnody is regrettable because, as Fr. Rutler writes, “The Church is not faithful to her prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices if she does not inspire great art. For the Catholic, art is not superficial or extraneous, nor is it peripheral to the sacramental vision.” Hymns — good hymns, musically, poetically, and doctrinally — should enhance the liturgy, not diminish it; they should act like aural stained-glass windows to throw into glorious relief the Good News we celebrate and into which we are drawn.

Instead, as Fr. Rutler comments, we have people singing about “rising up on eagles’ wings while dashing out to the parking lot” and “dwindling congregations in their imposed aesthetic squalor [singing] painful metaphors about satisfying the hungry heart and breaking bread on their knees.”

Fr. Stravinskas sees a glimmer of promise in a new generation of priests and liturgical ministers. We can only hope and pray that such a generation will lead the Church out of the musical wasteland into which she has wandered and reclaim the glories of her heritage. In doing so, the Church can only be strengthened.

Trump: Looking Past the Sound & Fury

I really enjoyed “Was Trump’s Election Divinely Ordained?” by Christopher Gawley (Dec.). It pretty much said all the correct things, and it only made me wince once, when Gawley wrote, “The Incarnation itself was, among many other things, an action of God in history to rectify worldly injustice and impiety.” Really? And I thought it was to save us from our sins and our nasty tendency to fall under the influence of the ancient Serpent.

I did not vote for Donald Trump. I would have supported any other Republican candidate besides him, for the “social conservative” reasons Gawley mentioned. I clearly could not support Hillary Clinton, but I was not willing to support Trump either — it was a choice between a criminal and a jackass, and I could not, in good conscience, be a party to either one. So, for the first election in many years, I didn’t vote for the presidential candidate of either major party.

While I still think Trump sometimes behaves like a jackass, I have to admit that I was wrong about several aspects of his job performance. His nomination of Neil Gorsuch to stem the leftist corruption of the Supreme Court, his actions in defense of the Little Sisters of the Poor and other victims of anti-religious, government-sponsored bullying, and his support for our allies (e.g., Israel) and strength against our enemies (e.g., North Korea and Iran), have demonstrated to me that — if you can look past the foolish words and tweets — there is a record in his young presidency of solid and worthwhile actions.

What am I saying? I am saying that, to the horror of many of my friends and relatives, I may actually cast a vote for the man in 2020. In their minds, he’s a racist, fascist, woman-hating, “homophobic” conman. (I take some comfort in the thought that those who would be most horrified are not likely to read the NOR!) However, once we get past the hysterics and hyperventilation of those who hate him (and to whom, it seems, he has a nasty habit of giving ammunition unnecessarily), we have — at least so far — a strong and worthy president. There, I said it. Deal with it!

Larry A. Carstens
Castaic, California

Christopher Gawley states that “the election of Trump is explainable by the fact that what we witnessed was a political retrenchment of a plurality of the American electorate against the ascendant globalism that has come to dominate both political parties.” I have two concerns about that sentence. The first time I read it, I thought Mr. Gawley was saying that Trump had won a plurality of the vote in the 2016 presidential election, which, of course, is not true. While I realized on a second reading that Gawley does not literally say that Trump won a plurality of the vote, he seems to imply it. Second, I don’t know on what basis Gawley can claim that it is a “fact” that the election was a statement that a plurality of voters opposes globalism since a plurality of voters endorsed Hillary Clinton and not Trump.

John Neville
Mountain Brook, Alabama


It takes humility to admit when one was wrong, and Mr. Carstens is hardly alone in his reappraisal. His letter demonstrates that, despite the noise, as it were, of Trump’s antics, many “Never-Trumpers” are slowly coming around to the fact that our President is governing as a successful conservative. I suspect that the Democratic Party will find Trump far more formidable in 2020 than he was in 2016, precisely because of the sentiments of Mr. Carstens and those like him.

Nonetheless, I believe that voters who are warming to Trump are still a very long way from seeing his election as a divine action. Perhaps there is good in their skepticism — it serves to tamp down the expectations of the rabid social-conservative Trump supporters and gives our President the room to be simply another politician, and not a political messiah.

Most of the punditry saw Trump’s election as the ascendancy of anti-globalist sentiment that has a close cousin in the surprising decision of the British electorate in June 2016 to exit the European Union. Setting aside the semantics of plurality, a majority of the American electorate rejected Hillary Clinton, who firmly represented the status quo of the current globalist hegemony; she may have received more votes than Trump, but her tally was less than 49 percent of the total. 

In any event, what is Mr. Neville’s point? Is he arguing that 2016 was a good year for globalism, despite Trump’s election? If he is, he is in the extreme minority. Most globalists view it as the worst year since the end of the Second World War and the global order created in its aftermath. I will be the first to admit that we do not yet know whether Trump’s election portends a lasting political realignment or the political equivalent of the Battle of the Bulge, in which the dying order went on its last futile offensive against globalism. Only time will tell, but clearly, Americans today are far more skeptical of the globalist system than at any time since before World War II.

Don’t Discount Those “Obscure Figures”

In your New Oxford Note “Chronic Confusion, Polarization & Polemics in the Church of Francis” (Dec.), you quote Joshua J. McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter as deriding the correctio sent to Pope Francis because it was signed by a mere “few dozen” people who are “mainly obscure figures.” Yes, there have been a few big names among those who were called to be outstanding in faith, morals, fealty, and action, but I would remind McElwee that throughout the history of the Catholic Church, God has chosen “mainly obscure figures” to bring forth His message to the world — for example, St. Juan Diego of Guadalupe; Servant of God Lucia dos Santos of Fatima and her cousins, SS Jacinta and Francisco; St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes; and, ultimately, Mary of Nazareth, a simple Jewish maiden betrothed to an equally if not more obscure gentleman by the name of Joseph.

I guess these people (and others) would not have made the cut in McElwee’s list. Perhaps he can find the time to join us little people in prayer for guidance.

Lucia Bartoli
Idyllwild, California

Signs of the Apocalypse?

I thoroughly enjoyed the NOR’s final 40th-anniversary reprint, Peter Kreeft’s “Trialogue with C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther & Thomas Aquinas” (Dec.), although I think he was far more charitable toward Martin Luther than Luther himself would have been toward anyone. Kreeft humorously ends the trialogue with an “apocalyptic” event: the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series, which happened ten years after the article was originally published. That brings up a question: What sort of apocalyptic event occurred when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016?

Fr. Thomas Shaw
Walnut, Illinois

Quitting Time

Some years ago, you published an inane article comparing the Southern gentleman to something odious — an abortionist, I think. I almost quit you then.

Your latest diatribe demonizing Southerners in general (ed. reply to “Dawn of the Vandals” letters, Dec.), and specifically anyone whose ancestors fought in the 1861-1865 war, apparently represents the editorial opinion of your publication. Either you do not know what you are talking about, which means I can no longer trust your magazine, or you do know what you intended, which is worse. 

At Christmastime in 1864, two black men died trying to protect our farm from Gen. Sherman’s marauders. Union soldiers gang-raped a black woman and left her for dead in a water trough. Thus “freedom” came to our part of Georgia. You should know what you are actually defending.

The Northern victory meant the triumph of Chesterton’s Hudge and Gudge. You must approve, since you attack the only reasonable attempt made to defeat it. Robert E. Lee knelt next to a black man for communion in an Episcopal church, unlike most of the cheese-and-cracker types who speak as you have of the South and those who support what was just in her. Please learn some history!

Unfortunately, I must sever a 40-year relationship with your magazine. Your New Oxford Note about Confederate monuments (“Twilight of the Idols,” Oct.) was a complete disgrace. I would have expected it from The New York Times, but not the NOR. Please cancel my subscription.

Arthur Livingston
Chicago, Illinois

Ed. Note: The article to which Mr. Livingston refers, “The ‘Catholic’ Politician of 2001 & the Southern ‘Gentleman’ of 1860,” appeared in our Oct. 2001 issue. In it, John L. Botti compares Southern “gentlemen” slave-owners to pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians.

Bile & Lies

For years I thought that something good could come out of Berkeley, but now I see that your opinions come from your close neighbors only (and two atheistic, revisionist propaganda publications). Thanks for printing my letter (Dec.); no thanks for countering it with nothing but bile and lies. You weren’t even honest about the most virulent white supremacist in American history: Abraham Lincoln.

I will apologize to the poor people I suckered into subscribing to John Brown and Nat Turner’s new NOR and encourage them to find a Christian Catholic magazine. Please cancel my subscription. I’ll leave you to the Northern Transcendentalists, Puritan witch-burners, atheists, and others of your kind. But I’ll pray for you.

Egon Richard Tausch
San Antonio, Texas

Ed. Note: We’ve been called a lot of things over the years, but never Transcendentalist, Puritan atheists. Tausch then turns around and suggests that the NOR’s Catholicism might be non-Christian! Nobody could be a puritanical, non-Christian, Catholic, atheistic Transcendentalist, even if he tried. His head would explode.

Tausch, in his determination to defend a short-lived political entity, the virtues of which have reached mythical proportions, blurs some fairly important and fundamental religious distinctions. It makes us wonder: To what kind of god is he praying?

Don’t Believe the Narrative

Although it is commonly called the Civil War, there were not two sides contending for control of the country. Rather, one side wanted to be independent, and the other side, under Abraham Lincoln’s command, would not allow this. If you tried to get out from under his government, he sent his soldiers to kill you. Here in Missouri, Lincoln took over the state rather than allow us to govern ourselves.

Even after the war had continued for some time, and very many men had been killed, Lincoln still prosecuted the war. The Confederate monuments are a reminder of something horrible and extremely sad — the deaths of brothers and the excesses of the U.S. government — but also of those men of the South who fought for independence.

Robert E. Lee is remembered because he fought for his state and his people, against all odds, nearly always in a defensive manner. He turned down the U.S. government’s offer of command at the start of the war. He was trusted and loved by his men. Even you, in your reply (Dec.), have only a few remarks to hold against him, and a single incident of cruelty to slaves.

I write from Missouri. Near St. Louis is a city called Ferguson, which was the site of a great many riotous scenes in the past few years. It seems to me that the rioters who broke into shops and burned down gas stations there are the same group of people who are most interested in vandalizing various monuments of Confederate soldiers. They are barbarians and savages. We know this by what they do. Why would you believe any narrative announced by self-proclaimed spokesmen of this group with regard to why they tore down statues?

Although I gather that we share a dislike for slavery, please define your terms. It seems to me that the abolishment by Christ was slavery to sin; and there have been various forms of involuntary servitude throughout the ages. Even the 13th Amendment does not prohibit such servitude entirely; it is still allowed as a punishment for crimes.

Christopher Hummel
Bowling Green, Missouri

Ed. Note: We presume that Mr. Hummel is referring to our citation of Vann R. Newkirk II, a staff writer for The Atlantic who covers policy and politics. Newkirk wrote an article on his experiences as a black youth growing up in North Carolina. Does that make him a spokesman for rioters in Missouri? Where did he proclaim to be any such thing? His recent articles cover a variety of topics, including, yes, racial issues, but also health care, redistricting, the opioid crisis, and Hurricane Harvey. He’s even written recently about Tolkien, on the 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, and he has a good amount of science fiction to his credit. But sure, go ahead and lump him in with race rioters if you think diminishing his personal experience of racism in the South helps you prove a point about Abraham Lincoln.

We ask once more: Why are only black “rioters” who busted monuments and shop windows considered “barbarians” (and now the even more racially loaded “savages”) but not the white supremacists who injured and killed actual people in Charlottesville? Why are they not censured? Since when is the vandalizing of inanimate objects a more barbarous act than the taking of human life?

An Ignoble Cast of Mind

My husband and I have been NOR subscribers almost from the time it began — quite a while before Dale Vree “crossed the Tiber,” and we were delighted to hear the news when he did.

The NOR has published many excellent articles over the years. Ronald G. Lee’s “The Truth About the Homosexual Rights Movement” (Nov.) is one of the very best articles I have read on the subject.

Here is the other shoe: You have not done your homework on the subject of the South, the Confederacy, and the War Between the States. Your New Oxford Note “Twilight of the Idols” is an unhappy demonstration of this fact. My husband and I discussed whether we should cancel our subscription then, but we were inclined to overlook the lapse.

Imagine our dismay and disappointment at your response to the very eloquent, polite, reasonable, and discerning letters from several readers who questioned your blanket condemnation of the South, the Confederacy, and particularly Robert E. Lee. Surely, there is enough argument on the other side of this issue for at least a polite discussion? But no. Your response to these reasonable letters is filled with “quotation mark” comments that indicate your contempt for anyone who disagrees with you.

The past is a complicated thing, and you are guilty of the rather ignoble cast of mind that has been called “presentism” — that is, judging people who lived generations ago by the political mindset of the current population. You might try reading a few books or articles that offer a more comprehensive view of such a complex issue.

We are very sad to do so, but we would like to cancel our subscription as well.

Edward & Linda Schafer
Lafayette, Indiana

Ed. Note: In those supposedly eloquent and reasonable letters, readers accused us of dishonesty, of “hating history,” and of being “in lockstep with small groups of street thugs,” among other things (oops, there are those quotation marks again). Are we not allowed to defend ourselves against wild accusations and unjust name-calling? Aren’t such accusations themselves contemptuous?

For the record, yes, we do believe that there are valid arguments to both sides of this (and other) issues. That’s why we’ve printed critical letters such as yours. Some letters, however, require a response — especially those that misrepresent what we said, such as that we issued a “blanket condemnation of the South,” when we did no such thing. Misrepresentation doesn’t make for a “polite” discussion.

Immature Reactions

I have been a subscriber to the NOR for several years and enjoy every issue. It is not surprising to me that some people who take offense to some article published in this magazine would drop their subscriptions. I’ve seen this behavior on the playground many times. So sad! I have friends who do not live or believe the same things I do, but I cannot leave them just because of that.

I want your staff and writers to know that I will continue to read this excellent publication as long as I can, in the interest of expanding my mind, not closing it to alternative ideas, whether they are sound or not. As we used to say in the Army, “Drive on”!

Joseph Droddy
Tionesta, Pennsylvania

Fascists’ Friendly Fire

It is reassuring to see an orthodox Catholic publication support the anti-Confederate position in historical dialogue. Another Catholic-inspired magazine chronicles the severe opposite position — i.e., that Lincoln destroyed America — so I appreciate the difficulty in which the NOR must find itself.

“Who are the real street thugs?” you ask (ed. reply, Dec.). Disregard the proposition that there is a serious difference between the two camps of disturbed secular humanists battling over a weak broth that’s served as the latest truth du jour. The scene in Charlottesville was reminiscent of a street-fighting Mussolini duking it out bare-fisted in a lethal Marxist family feud. The white-supremacist fascists were a small group and had a permit to protest. The Antifa (“antifascist”) fascists who poured into town did not have permission to counter protest and consisted of a larger number of dissatisfied youths. They and other anarchist/fascist groups threw urine and waved aerosol torches at their ideological cousins. They beat and kicked them too. Maybe the authorities wanted a show, a pummeling of the “crackers.” Like the recent race riots, it’s good for divisiveness and certain election outcomes.

Please, Fr. Bradley (letter, Dec.), renew your subscription. We who subscribe to the NOR do not read it merely to be validated but to be challenged in our orthodoxy. Traditional Catholicism, Christianity, and the NOR are hanging on in tough times. Fr. Bradley, you should continue passionately writing to and supporting noble, non-perfect enterprises such as the NOR.

May God’s peace and blessings be with you and the staff of the NOR.

Craig McEwan
Portal, Arizona

The Single Best Thing

Your magazine, which I have subscribed to for many years, is the single best thing going in the Catholic intellectual world. I also subscribe to The Wanderer and National Catholic Register, but your cogency, logic, and outrageous humor make me think through a great deal of the chaos that’s going on, and down, in the Church.

I’m on Social Security, so I can only donate $20, with the modest hope that you can use it somehow, one way or another, perhaps by paying your writers commensurate with their labors.

Bill Hensleigh
Kalispell, Michigan

Ed. Note: We are grateful to Mr. Hensleigh, and others like him, for making such a sacrificial donation, and we thank him for his kind words. Let it be known that the NOR does not pay its writers, and never has. Every article that has appeared in our pages over our 40-plus years of publication, whether written by someone with a household name or someone nobody outside a small circle has heard of before, has been published without recompense. We wish we could lavish our writers with great financial rewards, but alas, our shoestring, nonprofit budget does not allow it. Perhaps we should launch a “Writer’s Fund” (similar to our Scholarship Fund) to rectify that. What say you, good people?

Perverse Appetites & Power Dynamics

I was struck by Ronald G. Lee’s article “The Truth About the Homosexual Rights Movement” (Nov.). During my time in prison, I have noticed similar things about the insanity of homosexual behavior, but in a starker way, for in prison one cannot simply retreat from reality; one is forced continually to confront it.

My primary observation is that homosexuality is predatory. In all the cases I have witnessed, there is a power dynamic at play — the exploitation of the weak by the stronger. In prison, the dominated party is called a “boy,” perhaps since small and feminine prisoners are the ones most often made to submit to the sexual advances of larger men. All types of coercion, from threats of violence to monetary gain or “protection,” are used until the weak are “turned out” and more or less forced into sexual servitude.

Targets are selected according to appearance, sentence, and crime committed. I’ve already explained the first. The second typically means a prisoner with a short sentence is more easily pressured by prisoners with longer time. The third relates to the fact that sexual offenders are commonly preyed on due to the nature of their crimes — people with perverse appetites feeding on one another’s sickness. Prison officials are aware of all these things, and they do take some preventive measures, but all too often they ignore what is obvious but unreported, due simply to their basic lack of sympathy for prisoners.

My second observation is that homosexual behavior is a matter of an unbalanced mental state. It seems that homosexuals tend to identify with their sexuality far out of proportion to other facets of their identity and lifestyle. This is perhaps less the case in prison than it is in the outside world, for there is still a stigma attached to such behavior, at least for the dominated ones. However, this is not always true since many “boys” go to great lengths to act the part and therefore draw attention to their homosexuality. In the end, this facet of their persona seems to dominate all others — and a type of compulsive behavior arises in which monogamy is seldom, if ever, practiced. One notices similar behavior in alcoholics and drug addicts, both of whom are known for what they are: people living in a disordered state.

My third observation is that homosexuals are not necessarily “born that way.” I have questioned a number of open homosexuals on this and have often found that they themselves were preyed on sexually by other men at a time of fragility in their lives — many were molested, by someone close to them, prior to puberty, at a time when their perception of themselves was relatively sexless. Having been unaware of their sexual functions prior to the abuse, the victims grow up believing themselves to have a natural predisposition to homosexual activity. They try to put a rational face on a great trauma they experienced and often become apologists for the same.

My last observation is that practicing homosexuals are often immersed in drama. An old convict told me at the beginning of my time in prison to avoid the three Gs: gangs, gays, and gambling. A large portion of the violence and trouble one observes in prison is centered on the chaotic interplay between homosexuals. If you allow such folks to enter your life, it typically makes your life more difficult. The above having been noted, it is not my intention to convey the idea that homosexuals are less worthy of respect or somehow less human than others. I merely wish to note the high probability of chaos associated with their lives.

People who suffer from homosexuality are in the thrall of a sickness that can destroy them. When somebody is ill, we are compelled to help them become better. But through misplaced compassion, our society facilitates this sickness, helping it grow stronger. We must do better by helping the sick get healed, according to our own talents and inspiration. Prayer and fraternal charity with the courage to stand in the truth are what we need. All else is in God’s hands.

Alexander Clayton
Avon Park Correctional Institution
Avon Park, Florida

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