June 2004

The Gift of Discernment

I commend David Palm for his balanced assessment of the current pontiff (“Catholic Confusion at the Very Top,” Mar.). As are many, I am of two minds about our Pope.

I am glad that John Paul II has approved the use of the Tridentine Latin Mass, but I am dismayed that he has left final approval in the hands of local bishops. I am encouraged when the Vicar of Christ condemns abortion and homosexual practice, but I am dispirited when he gives free rein to churchmen who serve as apostles of homosexual abomination. I am happy that he has had the stamina to travel so widely, but I am saddened that “inculturation” has been defined so broadly as to include a bare-breasted New Guinean woman reading the Epistle at a papal Mass. I see it as an example of true ecumenism when the Servant of the Servants of God co-operates with Muslims to fight the population control agenda of the U.N., but his kissing the Koran is a stunt that would be beneath the dignity of a nominally Christian city council candidate.

May God grant him, and us his flock, the gift of discernment.

Jim Macri
Malden, Massachusetts






David Palm’s article was hard reading only because it was all so true.

The spectacle of pagan rites in the church at Assisi brings to mind the biblical words: “When you shall see the abomination of desolation standing where it should never stand, in the holy place, know that the end is near.”

Are we there yet? Maybe not, but, as the rest of the article shows, we are getting awfully close.

Juan J. Ryan
New Providence, New Jersey




Three People Who Are Definitely in Hell

In the article by David Palm (“Catholic Confusion at the Very Top,” March), one sentence says: “And the entire Catholic Tradition has affirmed that we can indeed be certain that there are human souls damned, although we cannot know specifically which individuals are so affected.” But the Bible clearly names three people in Hell. In the book of Numbers it says: “And the Lord said to Moses: Command the whole people to separate themselves from the tents of Core and Dathan and Abiron…. And Moses said: By this you shall know that the Lord hath sent me…and that I have not forged them of my own head: If these men die the common death of men…the Lord did not send me. But if the Lord do a new thing, and the earth opening her mouth swallow them down…and they go down alive into hell [sheol], you shall know that they have blasphemed the Lord. And immediately as he had made an end of speaking, the earth broke asunder under their feet: And opening her mouth, devoured them…. And they [Core, Dathan, and Abiron] went down alive into hell, the ground closing upon them, and they perished from among the people” (16: 23-24, 28-33; Douay-Rheims).

Joan A. McLeod
Fort Myers, Florida




Discourtesy: The Only Cardinal Sin forEpiscopalians?

Your New Oxford Note’s observation (April, p. 14) that “good taste and good manners trump just about everything in the Episcopal Church” is fully confirmed by Episcopalian minister Peter Mullen’s letter in The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 26, 2003). There he says that no one in his church cares much about whether a priest or bishop is “gay,” and that it would be regarded as discourteous even to raise the issue. The Rev. Mullen pays obeisance to good manners in derogation of God’s law and good morals, and what he says reads like it could have been written by Lord Chesterfield, a man of the world, rather than by a Christian minister.

Kalman I. Nulman
New York, New York




Why No Rebukes?

I enjoyed Sean Salai’s article (April) describing his experience with inane diocesan journalism. It fits our diocesan paper, The Southern Cross, to a “T”!

I also enjoyed Michael S. Rose’s article (April) about the lively traditional priest Fr. Eduard Perrone. It’s too bad our Pope does not use his authority to censure dissenting (and usually homosexual) bishops. As St. Paul said, “But if any of the leaders should keep on sinning, they must be corrected in front of the whole group, as a warning to everyone else” (1 Tim. 5:20, CEV). Priests don’t even rebuke the large percentage of their flocks about the sins of contraception and abortion. As a result, as Fr. Perrone says, this leads to having few people in the parish after a while, as the older generation dies off and there are almost no children. And the few kids remaining won’t be Catholics, as sermons and catechesis are so abysmally useless.

Jane Collard
Lakeside, California




Why Aren’t We Praying for The Conversion of the Moslems?

As I write this, the threat of global terrorism looms throughout the globe and our military has its hands full in Iraq. I can’t help but think that maybe we are fighting this war with the wrong weapons, or at least we haven’t taken full advantage of our entire arsenal.

In 1571 the Holy League, against overwhelming odds, dealt a crushing blow to the Moslem Turks at the naval Battle of Lepanto. That victory was attributed to Catholic sailors reciting the Rosary (“The Weapon,” in the words of Padre Pio) before a picture of Our Lady prior to that decisive battle. In more recent times, we have been asked to pray for the conversion of Russia without fear of Communist reprisal.

Why aren’t Catholics being called on by the Holy Father, bishops, and priests to pray for the conversion of the Moslems in the same manner? Is it because it would contradict Pope John Paul II, who publicly kissed the Koran?

To pray aggressively and offer Mass for the conversion of Moslems would not only change Islam, it would change the Catholic faithful. It would challenge effete believers to “grab a mitt and get into the game” by boldly proclaiming the Truth of Christ. It would also harness the hate of Christians.

Let the Moslems pray for our destruction and death while we pray for their conversion. Then let us see whose prayers God answers.

Michael Eversman
St. Marys, Georgia




Doublespeak

The Official Voter Information Guide for the California recall election might have amused Karl Keating and the NOR (“Inclusion Confusion,” New Oxford Notes, Nov. 2003). However, the Spanish translation, Guía Oficial de Información Para el Votante, is downright deceptive. The translators’ twisted tongue renders the issue of abortion into an issue of maternity. In the English version, Peter Camejo is “pro-choice” and Cruz Bustamante supports a “woman’s right to choose.” But in Spanish, they both favor a woman’s right to freely decide about maternity (“el derecho de la mujer a decider libremente sobre la maternidad”). Is the State of California responsible for the mistranslations? Why are two English phrases translated into the one phrase in Spanish?

The two phrases mean nothing in Spanish if translated literally. The noun “choice” doesn’t have a Spanish cognate. One has to use the Spanish translations of decision, option, election, or selection. “Pro-decision” makes no sense in English. Are we now supposed to believe pro-abortion liberals want women to freely decide about maternity? What does this mean? Maybe this helps explain why prolife Hispanics keep electing pro-abortion politicians.

Jesús Arellano
Los Angeles, California




Kremlinologist Needed

I recently hired a Kremlinologist to read the NOR for me, and tell me what it all means. He noticed that the letters and articles that you chose to print in your April issue did not address the very important Feast of Divine Mercy to be celebrated on April 18, 2004, by the Holy Catholic Church all around the globe.

“They must think that ‘All is well’ with the world, and nobody needs to throw himself on the mercy of Jesus Christ in the confessional at this feast,” the Kremlinologist told me.

He also noticed that your editorial board often complains about how Catholic priests do not preach meaningful sermons about the great sins of our times, such as abortion, sodomy, and artificial birth control. Priests refuse to talk about these sins in their homilies, as if they did not exist. Instead, they often offer inane platitudes to the faithful. He wondered if you would do the same with regard to the Feast of Divine Mercy, that is, if you would refuse to talk about this Feast Day as if it didn’t exist. He wondered if you would continue to offer your readers banal commentaries about atheists calling themselves “brights” or inane platitudes from an old bird advising the young not to go too far into debt. What a novel idea! What financial genius! Don’t go too far into debt? Why, I never thought of that one. Duh.

“If the buyers of education refuse to purchase an overpriced product, the laws of supply and demand will take effect, and the cost of education will become more affordable” (article by Mitchell Kalpakgian, April). WOW! I am totally blown away! With insightful and erudite commentary like that, who needs to read Adam Smith? Over 500 pages of The Wealth of Nations summarized right there in one sentence. And three pages of this, but not one sentence about the Feast of Divine Mercy? The same Feast of Mercy that Jesus said — and apparently the Pope believes — is the last chance for men on earth to repent before His Second Coming?

Truly, the editors of the NOR are as enigmatic as that cardinal from Boston who claims he knows nothing about the scandals in his own Archdiocese.

American troops are in a war halfway across the globe in the name of protecting democracy, again. The fate of government-protected abortion is hanging on the next judicial appointment to the Supreme Court. Legalized homosexual marriage is on the horizon, and the artificial womb is nearing perfection with customized babies, leaving no need for the female’s natural womb — just in time for those “married” homosexuals to pick the physical traits of their kid, just like they pick what kind of flowers they have at their “wedding.”

A nun had visions over 70 years ago about Jesus telling her that the Feast Day that she would inaugurate would be celebrated all around the world just before His Second Coming, and the “spark” that would ignite this would come from Poland. And all the editors of the NOR can find to rant about are atheists calling themselves “brights”?

In recent issues you claim that Catholics should evangelize more. Please, for the sake of the truth, for the sake of your readers, and for your own sake, take your own advice and tell people about the Feast of Divine Mercy, what it is about and what it means. I think that your readers would like to know, if they do not already. Otherwise, you will continue in this editorial rut that you are in, and the NOR will become an irrelevant one-note singer in the opera of life.

Matthew Ciaravino
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan




The Beauty I See Is Useless to the Blind

Regarding Fr. Raymond Gawronski’s and Hans Urs von Balthasar’s paeans to beauty (New Oxford Notes, April): I wonder if they are missing the truth about beauty? Let me illustrate from my own experience. I volunteer with the mentally retarded. They are not beautiful. If you saw them for the first time, you would note that they have teeth missing, misshapen heads, funny hairdos, and odd clothing. You might notice that they shuffle when they walk, and cannot speak clearly. There is no beauty in what you’d see, at least not the kind of beauty that Balthasar seems to consider beautiful.

But they are beautiful — and with the beauty that some people do sneer at. Their beauty is the Cross: They know they are retarded. They know they can never get married and have a family. They know “we” (the non-retarded) think they are funny-looking or ugly. They know they can’t understand a lot of what we say and do. They know they are in a prison that makes jail seem like a day at the beach (I’ll bet that no convict in this country would trade places with one of them even for an hour).

They are not perfect. They lose their tempers, some steal, some use bad language, and sometimes they lash out in anger. Wouldn’t you? But they usually carry their crosses with a grace that “we” would find hard to emulate. We complain about our pains and losses and sufferings. I rarely hear them complain. Most of us should be grateful that our crosses, compared with theirs, are minor.

Oh, there’s beauty enough in this world, but it has little to do with how something looks or sounds. Balthasar says, with Gawronski concurring, that whoever sneers at beauty’s name “as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past…can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.” But it is the image of Christ that is beautiful — damaged, distorted, ugly, suffering. That’s what will teach us how to pray and love. That’s where I learned more about love than “beauty” ever taught me.

I enjoy “beauty” as much as anyone, but the beauty I see is useless to the blind, and the beauty I hear is meaningless to the deaf. Maybe there is something in Balthasar’s beauty to sneer at after all — the part that is pompous and self-righteous, that is unable to see the beauty in ugliness.

Peter Goedicke
Houston, Texas




Medjugorje: Not a Disneyland Spirituality

I would like to respond to Jane Sears’s letter in your April issue about Medjugorje being a “Disneyland Spirituality.” I don’t know what her experience with Medjugorje is, but, as one who has been there two times, it is not Disneyland Spirituality. I found the village and the people there to be very devout and humble. I felt a sense of peace there that I have never felt anywhere else. The church is packed for every Mass, as is the evening Rosary. Many people have gone to Medjugorje and come back transformed. Medjugorje brought me back to the Church. I went to Confession for the first time in 14 years. I have heard more powerful sermons there than I have heard at home. Priests who have gone there say they have heard the most powerful confessions of their lives.

I learned more about the Catholic faith through Medjugorje than I ever did going to Catholic school. It made me want to learn more. I was pro-choice on abortion before, and I am now prolife. In fact, I was led to the NOR in my search for orthodox spirituality.

As for Disneyland, I thought Lourdes looked more commercial and more like Disneyland than Medjugorje did. I think you get out of these places of pilgrimage what you put into them. Sears is right in that many people get caught up in what she calls the “thrills-and-chills” phenomena. The Medjugorje supporters advise people not to go there looking for that, but to seek to deepen their relationship with God and Mary.

I understand that the Medjugorje case was taken out of the hands of the Mostar bishop by the Vatican, an action almost unheard of, because he was unable to study it objectively. It has not been condemned.

From what I have heard and seen of the seer Ivan Dragicevic, he comes across as one who does not relish the attention this has brought him. He seems like an introvert. At his talk, he said, “I don’t know why I was chosen for this.” He was not kicked out of the seminaries; he dropped out because he could not handle the academics. I don’t think he wanted to serve in the Communist military; I don’t think he had a choice. It is not a sin to be rich, although I never heard of his owning a $100,000 sports car. If he allowed that to get in the way of his relationship with God, that would be a sin. But you don’t have to be poor to fast on bread and water.

The reason Mary gives such “banal messages,” as Sears puts it, is that we have not absorbed and put into practice what she has given us, and therefore, she can’t progress with the messages.

People might want to read In Testimony: Priestly Reflections on Medjugorje published by The Riehle Foundation, P.O. Box 7, Milford OH 45150.

Becky Geiger
Arlington, Virginia



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