After Considering the Alternatives
Regarding your Editor's Note (letters section, May 1995) asking about the Archdiocese of Seattle: I am one of the three letter-writers you referred to. My letter on the theological problems in Seattle's Catholic churches (which appeared in the Oct. 1994 NOR) was entitled "Mod-Catholics Driving Me to Fundamentalism." But since writing you, I have gained a new appreciation for the Catholic Church, even in Seattle.
Although at first I found it refreshing to attend fundamentalist churches (in addition to Mass), I have come to value the merciful aspects of the Catholic Church, which believes that some good souls outside Christianity may be saved. After talking with several fundamentalist pastors and laymen, I realize that their churches do not believe this. The Catholic Church understands the mercy of God. May God bless her!
Who Will Hold Back the Tide of Apostasy
John Swanson's letter (March 1995) rang true with me. I agree that it is difficult to find orthodox Catholic clergy and lay people, which means the faithful Catholic faces increasing loneliness. Margaret Murton's letter (May 1995) suggests a solution I think more and more Catholics are taking: turning to fundamentalism in one way or another, while still, in some cases, trying to keep a tenuous hold on their Catholicism.
The Jesuit magazine America recently published a major article on the booming worldwide Pentecostal movement. Not only are many ex-Catholics commonly found in Pentecostal churches, but in some of those churches, ex-Catholics actually comprise the majority.
Yes, converts continue to be attracted to Catholicism, as Avery Dulles well described in your pages in his (March 1995) article "The Lure of Catholicism." They are attracted to the theory of Catholicism, or as Dulles calls it, the "truth." But what do these converts, as well as the even larger group of returnee "converts" to Catholicism, find in practice once they get there?
They often find half-filled churches staffed by egocentric clergy who graduated from the kind of confused seminaries that Stanley Rudcki described in "The Tale of a Dead Seminary" (May 1995). Then there is the insipid sermonizing, non-existent evangelism, unaesthetic liturgies, sex scandals, "Catholic" schools that have abandoned Catholicism, and an utter lack of Christian fellowship. This "dead parish" scenario is rounded out with a theologically ignorant laity that has bought into worldliness, materialism, pleasure, and, like some of their pastors, the corruption of Satan's New Age program.
The late sociologist Will Herberg observed that American Catholicism entered the 1960s as a vibrant, growing denomination that had made the successful transition from immigrant status to mainstream. Yet only a decade later, that Church was in disarray.
We are witnessing the disintegration of the once great Roman Catholic Church. There still exists some hope, as exemplified in our admirable Pope. But John Paul II is not a well man. After him, in the 21st century, who will hold back the tide of apostasy?
Swanson's follow-up letter (May 1995) indicated his reconciliation to the Church. His faithfulness is another touching example of hope for us. Nonetheless, I expect fundamentalism to continue its inroads into the spiritually starved crowd of Catholics.
Are the 'Fighting Irish' Afraid of the Pope?
According to my count, the present Pope has made three extensive tours of the U.S., visiting centers and citadels of Catholicism. But he has not visited Notre Dame. These questions intrigue me: Did the Holy Father ever receive a genuine invitation to the university from its administration? If so, did he decline? If so, is it because of the presence of theologians and other faculty members at Notre Dame who dissent from Catholic teaching?
If the Pope has not received an invitation, is it because it is felt that the appearance of the Roman Pontiff on campus in broad daylight would cast a shadow on that university's vaunted "academic freedom"?
John Paul II will be visiting the U.S. later this year. I understand that Notre Dame will -- again -- not be one of his stops. Why not?
Msgr. Vincent Horkan
In his letter (April 1995), Robert T. Jefferson was a little hasty in accusing Rush Limbaugh of hatred. There's a good reason for Limbaugh's campaign against corrupt government -- because it's a reality. He's like a voice crying in the desert: Make straight your oath of office! Uphold the Constitution! He is uncovering a lot of what the major media and the liberals are hiding from the public, and as a result he's the object of their scorn. While Rush's statements are at times hateful, I don't think they're directed at people -- only at what people do. Didn't Jesus use some pretty harsh words with hypocrites and hardened sinners? Don't some elected officials fall in that category, both politically and morally? It was only the repentant who received divine forgiveness, and so will it be today. Jefferson says, "hatred is a key to Hell," but that needs some specifics: It's hatred of God and neighbor that is the key to Hell; hatred of sin and injustice is the key to Heaven.
Having written this, I'm now going to listen to Rush and see what skeletons he will pull out of the political closet today.
Robert T. Jefferson's gratuitous, unjust, and unchristian put-down of Rush Limbaugh and his audience (letter, April) really ticked me off. I quote Jefferson: "Perhaps Rush Limbaugh enjoys tremendous popularity because he makes it easy and satisfying to hate." As a Christian, I am commanded by Christ to love my neighbor. If Rush were guilty of facilitating my hatred, I would drop him in a flash and run out to do penance. But I may hate the sin. No?
Is Jefferson so sensitive and thin-skinned that he can't distinguish traditional, robust political satire and clever burlesque from the more extreme, vicious, and unchristian speech so frequently used by Rush's enemies?
Rush constantly stresses that his attacks are in the area of ideas and are not against individuals. A little well-placed ridicule -- as was used against the Pharisees and Sadducees -- goes a long way in undercutting the credibility of pompous politicians, media stars, and academics. And, by the way, Rush is an unapologetic champion of the unborn and a proselytizer for the best of America's Judeo-Christian heritage and family-values traditions.
Matawan, New Jersey
As a recent convert to Catholicism, I was surprised and disappointed by the letter from Episcopal pastor Ralph W. Pitman Jr. (May 1995), which criticized Avery Dulles's article, "The Lure of Catholicism" (March 1995). Pitman is mistaken in his view that the article was "blatantly propagandistic," "intellectually irresponsible," etc. The article was an excellent survey of some of the common experiences and thoughts of recent converts; in fact, I found many parallels to my own passage to the Church. Dulles's straightforward account cannot reasonably be construed as a biased attack on Protestantism.
With unconscious irony, Pitman urged restraint in the dialogue between Christians of different affiliations. Sadly, his indignant and intemperate letter (e.g., his reference to "the medieval rush of which Dulles is so enamored") contradicted his own urgings.
David K. Mulhern
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Dulles Wasn't 'Gloating'
Regarding the letter from Episcopal pastor Ralph W. Pitman Jr. (May 1995) on Avery Dulles's article, "The Lure of Catholicism" (March 1995): I had a different reaction. As one who grew up Southern Baptist, spent some time as an Episcopalian, and was recently received into the Catholic Church, I was glad to find myself in the company of others who had been influenced by Dorothy Day and the "magnetic power of the Eucharist," etc. Their stories helped me understand my own.
Contrary to Pitman, I did not find Dulles's tone to be one of "gloating." There is an undertone of celebration, but the article celebrates the joy of many who found themselves, through the unexpected prompting of the Holy Spirit, led into the Catholic Church. In my case, one sign of the Holy Spirit's charitable guidance is that I honor both my Baptist heritage and the time well spent in the via media of the Episcopal Church.
Pusan, Republic of Korea
A Generation of Deprived & Savage Children
The article by Zoe Deen, "The Time of Reckoning for Women's Liberation" (May 1995), is absolutely accurate in every respect. Every day I see evidence of children out of control because of lack of a mother's direction. My own three daughters got up out of childbed and went back to work. They're doing the best they can, but the pressures are enormous and I see real problems ahead for my four grandchildren.
Why, oh why, have women ignored their own true natures and desires? Now, 20 years after buying the idea of "finding themselves" through careers outside the home, the piper must be paid. Women are trapped.
The trouble is, the whole U.S. economy is now geared to the two-income household. Not only that, virtually every young husband-to-be expects his future wife to work outside the home. In fact, the marriage plans would be in serious jeopardy if the woman were to announce that she intends to quit work to rear children when they come. Thus, the idea of women working is deeply embedded in our culture, and as a result we're enduring a generation of deprived and savage children.
San Leandro, California
In his review of Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli's Handbook of Christian Apologetics (May 1995), Michael Pakaluk criticizes their view, as he phrases it, that Hell is simply a "consequence of our having departed from some regularity established by God." Instead, Pakaluk says, "Hell is not simply the immediate result of our not choosing God; it is also a punishment directly applied by God."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, however, would appear to differ with Pakaluk. Number 1033 defines Hell by teaching: "To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called hell'" (emphasis mine). Moreover, number 1472 teaches that both the temporal and the eternal punishments of sin "must not be conceived as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin."
Stephen G. Yoder