A Tear in My Eye
When I recently received a renewal notice, I was saddened realizing that my subscription to the NOR was soon to end. I was trying to figure out how to afford to renew it (we prisoners don't have much of an income), when I opened the envelope and saw the note offering to extend my subscription through the generosity of your Scholarship Fund. I'm not too proud to tell you that I became choked-up and got a tear in my eye upon reading it. Maybe it's because it was unexpected, or because I'd never before had an occurrence of its kind, or just that God will provide. At any rate, it was amazing and I thank you sincerely from my heart.
I find your publication astonishing in its passion of and devotion to our Faith. It's almost impossible to find challenging voices in Catholicism. Perhaps that's due to the watered-down ecumenical nature of our Faith. Your articles are such a change from the "God is love" spiel so commonly -- and tragically -- found elsewhere. The solemn beauty of Tradition seemingly discarded so casually pains my heart and inspires my prayers.
Long overdue is this letter but not so much my prayers. May our Lord's blessings lead your endeavors to even greater success in the future. May the Holy Ghost strengthen our sovereign Pontiff and God's Vicar here on earth, and even more importantly, make us humble enough to be led.
Cayuga Correctional Facility
Moravia, New York
Great Dane in Church
When I received the May NOR, I immediately read Fr. Joseph Lennon's guest column "The Problem of the Pastor's Dog," thinking it was about dogs in church. Not so. It was about dogs in the rectory. This is not a problem when compared to dogs in church.
A few years ago, I attended the funeral Mass of the son of a friend of mine. She is a very devout Catholic woman. Her son had died young, from complications of multiple sclerosis, and had suffered considerably before he died. The funeral was in a church south of Sacramento, in a rural area. I had to sit in the balcony and so was able to see the entire church below. A couple of minutes before Mass began, I was surprised to see a Great Dane slowly ambling up the main aisle. I knew that the Pastor, Fr. Dan, had a couple of Great Danes, as well as some donkeys. When I saw the dog, I assumed that someone would immediately chase it out of the church. Nothing happened. Some of the attendees even patted the dog on its way up the aisle. Mass began and the dog laid down at the foot of the sanctuary and remained there during the Mass, spending some of the time scratching its ear and even licking some areas that should have remained unseen.
The funeral Mass was, unfortunately, a modern eulogy that has become de rigueur these days, with lots of references to how the young man had enjoyed fishing (as evidenced by the collection of fishing gear at the foot of the sanctuary).
During Holy Communion, the dog decided to wander about the main aisle, and was warmly greeted by some of the communicants, some patting its head. On its way back down the aisle, it stopped a couple of times to receive pats from individuals in the pews, with one woman reaching over two others to pay her respects to the dog. At another pew, a lady, trying to pray, recoiled when the beast stuck its head into the pew. The unamused woman shooed the dog away. Before the Mass was over, the Pastor brought out a pile of books written about him, put them at the foot of the altar and urged the congregants to take one home -- no charge. Fortunately, Fr. Dan did not bring his donkey into the church, as he has done on some occasions (Palm Sundays, as I recall).
I left the church very upset at this travesty, and by the time I got home I was furious. I wrote to the bishop and complained about the event. I also sent copies of my letter to some of the attendees.
Well, I got a letter from the bishop's apologist, who airily explained that no one else had complained (obviously, therefore, I was mean-spirited and there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the fact that there was a dog in the church). Then I was bombarded with hate letters from several of the people I had sent copies to, as well as their family members whom I don't know. Wow, were they ever mad.
The dog's presence was a disgrace and a distraction at what should have been a solemn, prayerful occasion. Moral of the story: Dogs do not belong in church.
Collars Ripped Off
Apropos of Anne Hendershott's guest column "The Passing of 'Father Death'" (April): Robert Drinan, S.J., should have had his collar ripped off before he died. Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Richard McBrien should have theirs ripped off now! I can't even bring myself to give them the title "father."
You are the best Catholic publication. I can't wait to get each issue.
Bush & Hitler
In your Editor's Reply to Paul Muessig's letter (March), you say, "George W. Bush is not Adolf Hitler." We are agreed that they are not the same man, but many of their actions are very similar. Both went into an unjust war. Both lied about the reason for their wars. Both of them ordered their men to kill (murder).
These two men were responsible for the killing of many men, women, and children of all ages from babies to the old aged. They both tolerated the killing of unborn babies in their mothers' wombs. If your innocent family was killed by one of Bush's bombs in Baghdad or if your innocent family was killed by one of Hitler's bombs in London, your feelings about either of those killers would be no different.
The sins of George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler differ enormously in quantity, but not in quality.
William B. Hopper
The NOR Poses Many Questions, Opinions & Challenges
You pose many questions, opinions, and challenges relating to these trying times in the life of the Church: you are critic and commentator; you congratulate, condemn, and complain, but you are never complacent, and, God bless you, never, never indifferent. You reflect an understanding of God's admonition, "You are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth" (Rev. 3:15-16).
In light of my admiration for your magazine as the premier Catholic periodical in this country, I will discuss briefly three issues: the just war topic, your approach to criticism, and one constructive suggestion.
The conditions laid down by the Church regarding a "just war" do find specific application when applied to the case of qualified persons -- e.g., clergy, theologians, professional Catholic writers, military educators, and political leaders, etc. This testifies to the fact that with knowledge comes responsibility. Therefore, I do see the heavy weight of culpability falling on the shoulders of such as these, when they are recalcitrant. The responsibility of the average layman (sandwich-truck owner, soldier, etc.), however, is another matter. The heaviest weight of culpability must be laid at the doorstep of bishops, priests, and Catholic educators. Even a casual examination of the history of such mass exterminations as Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden, as well as London and the Nazi death camps, make this point vividly. Their silence allowed such atrocities to go virtually unchallenged.
Consequently, considerable slack must be given to the Average Joe because of the silence of responsible teachers, since his grasp of anything more than the most basic concept of moral law just isn't there. An average soldier is inspired almost totally by peer pressure, with virtually no recourse to anything resembling moral awareness. To even suggest that the average soldier has the wherewithal to analyze a battlefield situation with sufficient reflection to determine that a given action is, one, a serious matter, two, has been given sufficient reflection, and, three, is carried out with unquestioned willfulness, is to expect more of him than is realistic.
My second point concerns the NOR's approach to criticism within our own circle, such as of Cardinal Dulles, George Kendall, et al., and even of those not fully within that circle, such as Fr. Pavone, Fr. Neuhaus, William Donohue, et al. I have yet to disagree with your criticism of these and others, but I would like to see you hone your critical approach to one more closely resembling that of G.K. Chesterton, who, it is said, enjoyed the love of his most committed antagonists, such as George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Bertrand Russell. You can do it! Perhaps you could even give the NOR a subtitle, The Chestertonian.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I should like to suggest that you add a feature to the NOR that would provide a service which would have great reader appeal and perhaps increase subscriptions. As your investigative reporting attests, things are not always as they seem -- e.g., Catholic Charities, Campaign for Human Development, RCIA, Call to Action, and many "Catholic" colleges, etc.
Orthodox Catholics have a pressing need and desire to be able to make solid decisions in matters Catholic, such as guiding their children, choosing reading material, donating to charitable causes, choosing a college, picking TV programs and films, voting, etc. In short, we need the necessary information to equip ourselves to be able to distinguish between the good and the bad. Why not devote a section of the NOR to printed recognition of solidly orthodox dioceses, bishops, charities, educational programs, periodicals, colleges, and seminaries? It would become the Catholic "Good Housekeeping Seal" in these enigmatic times.
F. John O'Donnell
Brick, New Jersey
Ed. Note: G.K. Chesterton is a hard act to follow. As for "orthodox Catholics have a pressing need and desire to be able to make solid decisions ," we are a small Catholic magazine, and we cannot cover everything. Sorry!
"Fear" and "hatred" are two of the most powerful words in the vocabulary of mankind. They raise protective shields in defense of self and kindred spirit. I wish to address those who accuse others of being "homophobes" (homo-fearers or homo-haters).
Those who view as divinely revealed truth the numerous scriptural admonitions against homosexuality are not condemning people with same-sex attractions, but only the committing of homosexual acts. These acts are affronts to Natural Law, for they belie the procreative aspect of sexual union, and render it hedonistically sterile. In Leviticus 18:22, God calls these acts "abominations," and sandwiches this verse between two other verses condemning other crimes against nature: the sacrificing of children to Molech (v. 21) and bestiality (v. 23). Because these acts of "unnatural vice" can send one to Hell, "the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7), it is simply out of concern for the eternal welfare of others that people of faith evangelize in the first place. This hardly looks like "homophobic hatred" to me, but quite the opposite: Christian love.
Love One Another
My husband and I truly look forward to reading the NOR. It has opened our eyes to many things and we have even recommended it to other faithful Catholics. The letter by Scott Hahn and your Editor's Reply (May) did, however, bother me. It reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13, where St. Paul says that even if one has all the knowledge in the world, the gift of prophecy, etc., but has not love, he has nothing.
While I have only read one book by Scott, I have listened to him many times on the radio. I have great respect for him, even though he is often too deep for my understanding. I have never had the sense that he tries to mislead others, but perhaps some of us simply don't have the theological acuity to appreciate what he is saying. That being said, I felt the NOR (as intelligent as you sound) was rather critical of Scott.
Aren't we all in this fight together as Catholics to be united and not divided? It would be an entirely different matter if Scott isn't trying to live up to the teachings of the Church.
Why don't you guys get together and go out to lunch? As for me, I'll continue reading the NOR and learning more from Scott Hahn. Let us all who feel the same about our Holy Catholic Church try to love one another.
Clinton Township, Michigan
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Yes, St. Paul says, "If I...have not love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2). In 1 Corinthians 13:8, he says, "Love never fails." But love does fail. St. Paul admits elsewhere that love fails. For example, the following words of St. Paul do not recommend love or charity: "If any man loves not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema [other translations say let him be outcast or accursed, or let a curse be on him]" (1 Cor. 16:22); "For men will be lovers of self having a form of godliness but denying it power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Tim. 3:2,5), and he even calls such men "traitors" (v. 4); "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Eph. 5:11); "If anyone does not obey our words do not associate with him" (2 Thess. 3:14); "Purge the wicked man from among you" (1 Cor. 5:13); "If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:9); "See to it that no one deceives you by philosophy and vain deceit " (Col. 2:8); "I beseech you, brethren, to mark them who cause dissensions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and to avoid them" (Rom. 16:17); "For there are many insubordinate men, both idle talkers and deceivers whose mouths must be stopped . Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.' Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith " (Ti. 1:10-13). As should be obvious, St. Paul is not referring to Scott Hahn.
Hahn says the Holy Spirit is feminine. But the Virgin Mary is also feminine, so by Hahn's logic, Jesus has two mommies. In the Gospel of John (chapters 14, 15, 16), Jesus repeatedly calls the Holy Spirit "He" and "Him." In the Catechism, the Holy Spirit is again and again called "he" and "him" (e.g., #683, 687, 1092, 1107, 1129, 2652). What can we conclude other than that Hahn is a deceiver, as St. Paul says?
You say, "Why don't you guys go out to lunch?" Hahn lives in Ohio, and I live in California. But we had many phone conversations before this started. Hahn says he's right, and I say I'm right. Our readers can make up their own minds.
So Does an Animal
In your New Oxford Note "Touchy, Touchy!" (April), on Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, I noticed that Dick Cheney said at least a year ago on television that his daughter's lesbianism is a kind of free expression. So does an animal give a kind of free expression. Dick Cheney makes light of immorality.
New York, New York
Returning to the Church
I was intrigued by the article by John F. Kippley (March) on breastfeeding. I breastfed my children and it forms a bond with a child.
I have raised two kids and the culture dictates having two children -- and lavishing them with games, videos, and toys to keep up with the "Joneses." I had to explain to them what a hand-me-down was.
I married outside the church, used birth control, and now my two children are floating in a sea of random influences in their world.
I am in the process of returning to the Church.
San Diego, California
The Quasi-Entertainment Mass
Since Vatican II the Mass has become a quasi-entertainment event, with full participation by the community of believers. The priest now faces his community; elevates the chalice and Host to them; laypersons administer the Host; they don't prostrate themselves to receive the Host; and they make a great display of their sign of peace.
Throw into the mix the innovations the celebrant may conjure up for his particular Mass. Also, we must not forget the liturgical committee, which keeps trying to figure out ways they can make the Mass more relevant to the community of believers.
The Mass used to be a solemn memorial to God wherein everything about the Mass was focused on His death and resurrection.
We were not distracted by the mundane and the intrusion of feel-good actions of the celebrant or laity. It is easy to see why today's Catholic is bored by the Mass.
Paul F. Scheckel
Facilitate the Transition
In response to the letter from Juan J. Ryan (May): I agree that it would be a good idea if the Tridentine Mass were available in English, as a way of introducing modern Catholics to the Traditional Rite.
At the same time, I would also suggest the opposite approach: greater use of the New Order Mass in Latin. This too could serve as a bridge for modern Catholics. I disagree with Ryan that "very few of younger clergy know any Latin at all." The language is still taught to all seminarians.
Both ways would serve as bridges to bring the younger generation to the ultimate goal of the Traditional Latin Mass, and either of these intermediate steps would lessen the shock and facilitate the transition.
Glendale, New York