Matthew Markovic asks (letter, July-Aug. 1995): After Pope John Paul II is gone, "who will hold back the tide of apostasy" in the Catholic Church? The answer is: the Holy Spirit. John Paul II is just the latest in a long line of popes who have never contradicted their predecessors in matters of faith and morals. Every future legitimate pope will continue to protect the truths of the Church. If a false pope should ever appear to occupy the Chair of St. Peter, you will quickly know because he will contradict the teachings of the Church.
Like others, I know the temptation to leave the Catholic Church and join the fundamentalists, whose faith is impressive. I was probably on the verge of making such a move when the Holy Spirit intervened. A quick study of Luther and Calvin revealed serious problems with their theology and personal lives.
Letters such as Markovic's are obviously sincere, but suggest a possible lack of faith in the words of Jesus Christ: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."
Donald J. Lynch
Abortion Cures 'Abortion'
In response to the very sad and (to me) self-righteous anti-abortion article, "Where Tolerance Had Limits?" by Julie Crane (July-Aug. 1995), I feel a need to remind you and your readers that, while abortion is a terrible thing, the slow and tortuous life visited on an unwanted child is only an extended "abortion" -- i.e., murder.
I have known some of these tortured children, and read about others, as you have. If you believe that a fetus is a human child from the moment of conception, then the abortion sends the child into God's arms before the despair of being unloved -- or before the anger of the unloved child becomes the rage of the adolescent. Look around you -- the war upon the child in the world is causing chaos, not only among the underprivileged, but among those whose parents have little time for them. There will never be enough prisons for the rejected.
San Jose, California
If it is no worse, and probably better, to be dead than to be unwanted or unloved or rejected, and if murder (your word) is no worse, and probably better, when it is early and fast than when it is slow and extended, then why shouldn't all those rejected people languishing in prison be electrocuted immediately? Why shouldn't all those neglected children of busy parents be gassed and put out of their misery? Why shouldn't all those seen leading a "slow and tortuous life" be rounded up and mercifully executed? And why should we give them a choice in the matter? After all, the preborn baby who's murdered isn't given a choice.
'Productivity': It's In the Eye of the Beholder
I must take issue with the article by the Rev. Howard Curtis (July-Aug. 1995), which contends that the family has been transformed from a production unit into a consumer unit. I disagree that the family has become less productive. I'm a homemaker with five children ranging in age from two to 12. I have all those pernicious labor-saving devices that Curtis rails against. Thanks to the breadmaker, slowcooker, and microwave, and of course the stove and oven, my family can have wonderful home-cooked meals that are very nutritious, and also have a much greater variety than those which my grandmother cooked. My family has clean clothes which I certainly don't wash over a washboard. I have made lye soap with my grandmother, it isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Instead of being tied to a house, I can participate in activities (such as sports and scouts) with my children. These activities broaden their world and make them more productive. The labor-saving devices also make it possible for these same children, even at a very young age, to participate in caring for the household, without risking life and limb. Also, I am able to do productive work for the community, such as hospice work and helping with my children's education. After all, the most productive thing I can do is raise responsible, thinking citizens.
My husband runs a feedyard which employs 30 or more people. He feeds thousands with his production. He and his employees have been freed by modern tools from much backbreaking labor. Therefore their health is better and they are more likely to be able to work steadily, and thus their families can be well-fed and educated. I see nothing but productiveness in that.
Curtis seems to want to return to a world where most of the country is uneducated, except in how to run a farm. I want more than that for my children.
Time, Not the Times
In his article, "The Decline of the Family..." (July-Aug. 1995), the Rev. Howard Curtis paints a bleak portrait of the American family since urbanization and the development of labor-saving devices. There are certainly fewer tasks to be done around the average home, but the "domestic productivity" of old extolled by Curtis merely kept people busy. The problem isn't the "cessation of domestic productivity," but what we've chosen to do with our time.
Free time must be used more wisely. Reduce television consumption, and use free time to read -- alone and as a family (and discuss what you read). Praying is also important, especially as a family. Give children chores, which teach them the skills necessary to establish a household later in life. I never understood why my friends had no household chores.
One hopeful sign Curtis overlooks is the increase in people working at home, part-time or full-time, close to their young children. Working women are a problem only when they work outside the home and neglect their children, which need not be the case.
Jerome J. Wolbert
The Root Cause
Fr. Howard Curtis's "The Decline of the Family...," about the greatest change in the 20th century, if not the foregoing millennium, is the most significant article in the July-August 1995 issue. It is remarkably lucid, hard-thought, and succinct. Scores of articles about abortion, the excesses of feminism, the problems in the Church, children running wild, working wives, and such are merely about the effects of the root cause, which Curtis makes clear: the transformation of the family from a production unit to a consumer unit.
Second Incomes Raise Prices
The Rev. Howard Curtis's article on the degeneration of the American family (July-Aug. 1995) was topnotch, an example of a literary work that says more than the words themselves state -- much like Orwell's straight social commentary. Moreover, it was perceptive and poignant, especially in its depiction of how "the home, the sacred and productive realm of women, has been made obsolete, priced out of reach for most women." He blames this state of affairs on consumerism, which he states has made the home "nonproductive and too expensive for one income to support."
True enough. But more needs to be said, since it is just this situation that feminists cite to justify their position that women must seek careers outside the home. We need to take into account the role feminism has played in bringing about the financial need for so many women to enter the workplace in the first place.
When you ask women, especially women with traditional values, why they feel it necessary to enter the work force, even at the cost of sacrificing important time with their children, they will usually cite the impossibility of providing decent housing and putting their children through college without the second income.
But the point is that these costs have escalated in large measure because women accepted the feminist line that they could find meaning in life only through a "career." Housing costs could not have quadrupled in the 1980s if the typical buyers had not become "double-income" families. College administrators could not have asked for the increased tuition rates if the parents paying the bills did not have the wife's salary to pay the freight. Prices moved upwards in response to the second income.
Feminism's advocacy of working women is more a cause of this economic problem than a result.
James K. Fitzpatrick
Mahopac, New York
Apropos of Mark Shea's article on the liturgical "reformers" who would censor Scripture (July-Aug. 1995): Pollyannas in the Church are making Catholicism silly. They don't have the slightest idea of what's going on in the real world. They take down the crucifix when they can, not knowing that people, especially teens, are hurting, and that Christ on the cross is the one thing they can relate to.
Wimpy Pollyannas are teaching that Catholicism is all fun and games. But teens are smarter than that. They say, "That's kids' stuff. Get real, man!" Teens know that saccharine sermons, silly songs, and banal banners will not solve their problems in the real world. They say, "If this is religion, who needs it?"
Fr. Rawley Myers
Colorado Springs, Colorado
I just finished reading Mark Shea's article on the censoring of Scripture readings at Mass (July-Aug. 1995). I'm 35 years old, and two years ago, when my hometown was embroiled in a homosexual issue ("Domestic Partnership Ordinance"), I asked my parish priest what I should do. He told me, "Do what you think is right." That did not answer my question. I then opposed the ordinance, based on outside research.
More recently, I asked my priest why, during the readings at Mass, the masculine pronouns are always changed to female or neutral. He replied that the parish wishes to be "more inclusive." When I asked if he would consider changing pronouns in Shakespeare, he laughed, and asserted that the Bible is always being "revised" according to better translations. I didn't dare question how a simple pronoun could be mistranslated. You can thus understand my mixed emotions when I read Shea's article: both joy, because I learned I'm not alone, and despair.
What should I do? Go to Mass and grit my teeth? Stop going to Mass? Go to another Catholic parish (not easy when this one is where I've gone since baptism, and is only a few blocks away)? Going outside Catholicism to another church is out of the question.
What am I to do?
Michael T. Nevins
Oak Park, Illinois
I am an evangelical Protestant, and have been a happy reader of the NOR for many years. We evangelicals have much to learn from Roman Catholics -- e.g., the importance of the Eucharist, confession, and Mary; using our reason; authority in church and family (the list could go on and on). I'm finding that more and more of my friends are Catholics, and I'm continually encouraging my evangelical friends to be more open-minded toward Catholics.
So, how refreshing it was to find twice in your July-August 1995 issue the admission that maybe Catholics can learn from us evangelicals too! Your editorial acknowledged that Catholics can learn from our zeal for evangelism, and Mark Shea's article confessed the lack, in certain Catholic parishes, of solid biblical teaching, one of our strengths.
Catholics and evangelicals desperately need one another.
What Gives Evangelicals Their Verve?
I read with great interest your editorial on evangelization, "A Burden for Souls?" (July-Aug. 1995). I am a fairly orthodox Catholic with fundamentalist and evangelical friends (one of whom is a former Catholic). It is true what you say: "if we Catholics don't do the job of bringing souls to Christ, the Holy Spirit will raise up other Christians to do it -- and He already has," namely, the "fundamentalists and evangelicals." My evangelical friends are indeed bringing souls to Christ. We might ask, "What gives them their verve?"
I think I know. The evangelicals emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus wants us to know Him intimately. We can talk to Him and hear His voice, if we listen. He changes lives. His presence can be felt. When He is present, the recipient of the Spirit is moved to share the love.
And the evangelicals are right. I'm beginning to find this out in my own life. Jesus' presence is beautiful and powerful. It's ironic that, although Catholicism gives us so many ways to reach Jesus -- the Sacraments, the Blessed Mother, the saints, even the icons and statues -- we sometimes cannot get beyond them to the real thing. What we do have, however, and it's the reason I could never leave the Church, is the Eucharist the greatest of the Sacraments. The Eucharist brings us into such close touch with Jesus that we consume Him, as He directed us to do. The Eucharist is the ultimate sacrament -- Jesus' call to us to take Him into us, both spiritually and physically. I wish the evangelicals had the Eucharist. If the various Christian denominations ever become one again, it is the Sacrament of the Eucharist that will be the binding element.
Catholics need to understand the depth and beauty of their tradition and share it fully with both nonbelievers and Protestants.
Bucking Peer Pressure
I recently subscribed to your magazine, and it echoes what I believe. As a teenager, it's difficult, even among my peers in a Catholic school, to profess that I believe in traditional Catholicism. Although a few of those peers go to church every Sunday, a number of them not only don't go but try to persuade me that the Church is "too old-fashioned." They say that celibacy is stupid, the Church's rules on Mass attendance and the indissolubility of marriage are too strict, and our Pope is out of touch.
I very much believe in traditional Catholicism, and find that your magazine proves that there are Catholics outside my family and the older parishioners who believe the same. Thank you and keep up the good work!