Stupid in Moral Matters
With every issue of the NOR, I feel compelled to either cancel or continue. With the September issue, continuation wins out. So I will renew.
However, I find it difficult to accept your literal harshness regarding Hell, homosexuals, etc., but I do appreciate your scriptural back up. I have to admit that the fear of Hell has kept me from many misadventures, but I am truly horrified that some or many may go to Hell. I say enough prayers to assist them, or at least some of them, into Heaven.
I believe that somehow many in the human race will be saved, because most of us are so stupid we don't know what we are doing in moral matters.
Thomas J. Rollins
Does God Love Unrepentant Sinners -- or Not?
I'd like to weigh in on The Wanderer versus the NOR dispute. One of George Kendall's topics in his Wanderer article (Aug. 24) was whether or not God loves unrepentant sinners.
Kendall condemns the NOR for asserting that God hates unrepentant sinners, while Kendall asserts that God loves those in Hell. I hope and pray that God doesn't treat me so lovingly as to cast my soul into Hell for all eternity. Kendall states that God's retraction of love would render a soul into non-existence. But if a soul ceased to exist in Hell, that would be the act of love, not eternal punishment.
Mortal sin separates us from God, removes us from His Kingdom, and puts us under the godship of Satan. Then we must conclude that God loves Satan or he wouldn't exist either. The philosophies Kendall appeals to result in quandaries and quagmires.
"Vengeance is mine..., says the Lord" (Rom. 12:19). Are we supposed to believe that this is an act of love? The opinion that God loves the souls in Hell is simply that, an opinion, and not Catholic teaching as I am aware. Frankly, whether God loves the soul in Hell has no bearing on the comfort of the sinner who is in Hell for all of eternity, without any hope of relief. If someone chooses to provoke God's anger by choosing to be a member of Satan's kingdom, and is cast into Hell, to what avail is God's love to his soul? I suggest to Kendall that he perceive it in this fashion.
The Wanderer and the NOR are both essential Catholic periodicals, and should focus on secular media error, not each other.
Canton, New York
Is the Pope Above Criticism?
George Kendall raised an important issue in his attack on the NOR in The Wanderer (Aug. 24), and it is worth discussing further. The implicit position of Kendall, and of The Wanderer more generally, is that the Pope should be regarded as above criticism. As far as I know, The Wanderer allows no criticism of the papacy to appear in its pages. The idea seems to be that drawing attention to papal shortcomings will only give offense to readers. But such a policy seems unwise. If such shortcomings are real, why should readers be shielded from them?
It is widely accepted, for example, that Pope John Paul II did not pay much attention to the governance of the Church. Surely this was a defect, and I don't see why readers should not be told. Editors who think their readers need to be shielded from the truth are probably in the wrong line of business.
The papacy in recent years has received lots of criticism from the heterodox side of the aisle. If at the same time there is to be nothing but praise from the orthodox side, the Vatican will be subjected to a constantly lopsided pressure. That has overwhelmingly been the case in the decades since Vatican II.
A few years ago, a priest in New York told me that an article about Cardinal O'Connor, critical of his weak governance of the New York Archdiocese, was submitted to The Wanderer and rejected. The reason given was that "our people must have someone to look up to." Yet such an article might have had the effect of alerting O'Connor to the existence of dissatisfaction among his more orthodox parishioners. Things might then have changed for the better.
From a Letter to The Wanderer
I don't remember for how long I've taken The Wanderer -- but it's been a long time. I felt disappointed for not having taken it long before. I was even more disappointed, however, when I read George A. Kendall's article in your August 24 issue, "Is New Oxford Review Becoming a Protestant Publication?" Kendall might more appropriately ask, "Is the Catholic Church Becoming More of a Protestant Organization?"
The Catholic Church has been in a widening homosexual morass for over 50 years. I read some time ago that a Catholic priest opined that the Catholic clergy was about 60 percent homosexual! In just this period, we've had thousands and thousands of primarily boys and young men assaulted sexually. The Church has chosen to call this (when her back is against the wall) "pedophilia" rather than what it is: pederasty. A canny, politicking, elderly Church hierarchy -- a sage Pope, wise old cardinals, archbishops, and bishops -- have been moving pederast priests from parish to parish and diocese to diocese for their "cures." These are the Church leaders who have found safe harbor for fallen fellows -- those who were one step ahead of the law -- and "sentenced" them to rethinking and penance (with pay, of course). The very idea is laughable to the point of choking!
These are the same ecclesiastical leaders who serve Holy Communion to those who advocate for abortion. At Mass for over 30 years I've heard only twice about abortion -- once from a woman handing out position papers after Mass, and once from a very elderly priest. At these Masses, I've heard pleas for more government aid to the poor. What about "aid" for the "least of these little ones" who are murdered by, of all people, their mothers?
"Methinks," in Shakespeare's words (really, Edward de Vere's), that Kendall "doth protest too much." Kendall's article looks like the same old "cover-up" modus operandi to this old woodchopper. I stand with the Editor of the NOR. To me, he follows Jesus Christ.
Stafford Springs, Connecticut
The Government Does Not Screw Things Up for the Rich
James Kussy's letter (Sept.) in reply to the guest column "Dives the Tax-Evader" (June) was a bit harsh on government. Contrary to his view that "Government screws up everything it does...," government does a superb job of transferring wealth from the taxpaying middle class to the profit-obsessed super-rich plutocrats. One of the mechanisms is the U.S. "Defense" Department spending up to one-fourth of its budget protecting the exploitation of the Middle East by large, private, multinational corporations, particularly Big Oil.
Kussy might be correct in claiming that "The free market, with all its faults, has given us the richest poor people in the world." But he conveniently glosses over the suppression of countless Third World poor mired in hopeless poverty by free-marketeers, who rapaciously usurp their natural resources for profit.
Robert J. Kendra
Co-opration in Evil
Paul R. Muessig's article (Jul.-Aug.) examines the ramifications of the Church's opposition to the war in Iraq and moral questions relating to this. Included in the article is a useful primer on the theological principle of co-operation in evil. Muessig explains this concept by considering the moral problems faced by a sandwich-truck owner who plies his trade at lunchtime in front of a factory that makes weapons for the U.S. military. Assuming the war in Iraq is morally unjust, is the sandwich-truck owner complicit in supporting this evil and, if so, to what extent? Muessig examines these questions in detail.
I live in the Archdiocese of Boston in a town served by a private, for-profit community hospital. The hospital has a substantial obstetrics-gynecology (ob-gyn) department that looks after the birth of several hundred babies each year. Abortion is another of the "services" offered by this department, and some ob-gyn physicians accredited to the hospital are willing to kill preborn babies there upon request. As far as the hospital is concerned, the only requirement needed to accept a patient for an abortion is the fact that an accredited physician has said that this procedure is "needed." There is no abortion-specific informed-consent form to be read and signed by the baby's mother, and what the abortionist tells her about the pros and cons of killing her baby is left to his discretion.
Persons employed at or patronizing this hospital, and who wish to avoid co-operating in evil, have to contend with the same sort of problem faced by the sandwich-truck owner and direct employees of Muessig's weapons factory. Clearly, a hospital nurse who assists at an abortion is guilty of what is theologically defined as formal co-operation in evil. In the case of a Catholic, the penalty is automatic excommunication from the Church. But what about other hospital workers whose jobs have nothing to do with abortion? And what about ordinary hospital clients? Could persons from either group be considered even remotely complicit in the crime of abortion and, if so, is there a moral obligation for them to do something about this?
Abortion is kept hush-hush at the hospital, and some of the employees and many of the hospital clients may even be unaware of it. For those who do know what is going on, it seems to me that they have an obligation, in some way, to oppose it. If they fail to do so, I believe that, theologically speaking, they would be guilty of passive, material co-operation in evil. Muessig's sandwich-truck owner faces the same moral problem. To avoid co-operating in evil, he could stop plying his trade at the weapons factory and find some other way to earn a living. Or, according to a less drastic scenario offered by Muessig, he could continue to sell his sandwiches to the factory workers, but with the understanding that he would be obligated to take some other action opposing the war. For example, he might put anti-war stickers on his truck. Such a protest might impact his ability to earn his livelihood by selling sandwiches to the weapons-factory employees, but we hope he would accept this as a sacrifice for the Gospel.
I believe that the Boston-area hospital employees and clients should, first of all, seriously consider bearing witness to their faith by severing their relationship with the hospital. If they do not feel called to go this far, they should find another way to make known their objection to being associated with an abortion-providing organization. For example, they should complain about the hospital's abortion policy to their physicians and hospital administrators. They might also protest publicly by participating in the monthly prolife prayer vigil held in front of the hospital.
Up to now, aside from the monthly prayer vigil of a handful of prolife activists, nothing noticeable is being done to halt the murder of innocent victims at the hospital, nor to expose and condemn the abortionists and their accomplices who profit from this evil. Unfortunately, abortion seems to be tolerated -- and even considered commonplace -- by the largely Catholic population of this area. The attitude of many is that because abortion is legal, nothing can be done to stop it. Regarding the war in Iraq, Muessig suggested that the Catholic Church should throw secular considerations and caution to the winds, stand up more firmly for the Gospel, and issue moral sanctions against supporters of the war. Is it possible that the Church might be persuaded to take the same sort of action against abortion at our local community hospital, and the hundreds like it around the country? I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has had any salutary experiences with this.
Charles O. Coudert
A Reply to Barbara Baur's Letter
In response to Barbara N. Baur's letter, "What Takes Place at Private Confession?" (Sept.): The Catechism explains this Sacrament, and for the purpose of this letter I would like to quote from two paragraphs.
Number 1451: "Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is 'sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again' [quotes refer to the Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676]."
Number 2120: "Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments.... Sacrilege is a grave sin...."
In other words, going though the motions of confession with no intention of reform compounds the sin rather than granting forgiveness.
Thomas F. Brands
Los Angeles, California
Can a Priest's Ordination Be Declared Invalid?
Can a priest's ordination ever be declared invalid if, like in marriage, certain conditions were not met or the disposition of the individual was less than forthright when the vows were professed?
If the answer to the above question is yes, could it be argued that recently ordained priests known to be practicing homosexuals or actively promoting the homosexual agenda might have had an existing impediment (homosexuality) that would have invalidated their ordination?
Reason leads me to believe that many of our priests sought ordination not to serve the Church, but to subvert her teachings.
St. James Catholic Community
Solana Beach, California
The Legionaries of Christ & the Oblates of the Virgin Mary
Sadly, the case of the Legionaries of Christ and Fr. Marcial Maciel reminds me a great deal of the issues concerning the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and Fr. Gino Burresi.
I was among the first disciples of Fr. Burresi, joining the Oblates back in 1972. Over the years, I and others heard unsettling things, spoken in hushed voices, mostly suppressed due to the religious fervor that surrounded this man. Little did I expect that, in 1988, as the Secretary General of the order, I would be among those superiors who would make the decision to remove Fr. Burresi from his charismatic role.
Interestingly, we and the Legionaries attended philosophy and theology classes together at the pontifical universities in Rome. They and we competed to be the group with the largest number of seminarians. Several of us American students often commented to one another about how strangely cult-like the Legionaries were, without perceiving that we were largely in the same condition.
In 1988 the movement surrounding Fr. Burresi came crashing to a halt as several young men and women finally came forward with numerous revelations concerning his conduct. It created a violent rift within the Oblates and led to many abandoning their vocations. The Oblate superiors, myself included, were hounded mercilessly by Fr. Burresi's supporters. Our phone lines were tapped, and we were attacked morally and, on occasion, physically. The Vatican intervened, and after 15 years of vacillation and uncertain decisions by many high-ranking authorities, then-Cardinal Ratzinger finally issued a decree finding Fr. Burresi guilty of the exact crimes we superiors had reported in 1988. He confirmed his decision shortly after his election as Pope Benedict XVI. But, to this day, there are prominent leaders in the Vatican, as well as devoted followers of Fr. Burresi around the world, who regard all that has happened as the unjust persecution of a living saint who continues to relive the passion of Christ. This kind of blind obedience and surrender of oneself to another human being is a perverse form of idolatry.
It is sad that the Church has such "false prophets" within, and the NOR is to be commended for seeing through to the truth. For almost 20 years now, I have remained mostly silent about what I learned in the investigations that I was commissioned to lead regarding Fr. Burresi. I understand perfectly the pain and sorrow of those men who made their accusations against Fr. Maciel, only to be ignored and treated as if they were the villains.
There is one good lesson to be gained from cases like these. All serious Catholics must learn to be extremely doubtful of "miracle workers," charismatic leaders, and anyone, in the Church or elsewhere, who can charm the spiritually hungry and then use them to fulfill his own worldly ends. The faithful must learn to focus solely on Christ, the basic Creed, the Sacraments, and never build their faith on the sands of these phony leaders.
In years past, both the Oblates and the Legionaries were looked upon as sources of hope for the future of the Church. This was because of their traditional values and the large numbers of vocations they were attracting. By now, the Oblates have gone through part of their purgation and they are still attempting to recover from the horrible scandal that was Fr. Burresi. It will be revealing to observe in the coming years whether the Legionaries will be able to rediscover the valid roots of consecrated life in Christ.
I, for one, hope they do, but the followers of Fr. Maciel must realize that they will have no freedom of spirit until they have thrown off all meaningless attachment to this man.
Moreno Valley, California
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!
Many conservative Catholics have noticed that the NOR has gone off the deep end, but not all have caught on to your fundamental dishonesty. What you said about me in the September issue ("What Happened to Bill Donohue?," New Oxford Notes) is strewn with distortions and indeed lies. I will offer one example.
You said that I once labeled the charges of pederasty against Father Maciel as "balderdash." That is a lie and you know it. On March 16, 1997, a letter I wrote to the Hartford Courant was published taking the newspaper to task for printing the following: "Several [of Father Maciel's accusers] said Maciel told them he had permission from Pope Pius XII to seek them out sexually for relief of physical pain." To which I said: "To think any priest would tell some other priest that the pope gave him the thumbs up to have sex with another priest -- all for the purpose of relieving the poor fellow of some malady -- is the kind of balderdash that wouldn't convince the most unscrupulous editor at any of the weekly tabloids."
So either this balderdash convinced the NOR, in which case you are worse than the most unscrupulous editor at any of the weekly tabloids, or you deliberately altered the facts in an attempt to smear me. Considering what the rest of the New Oxford Note had to say, I believe that the most accurate conclusion is that you are liars.
William A. Donohue
President, Catholic League
New York, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The accusers of Fr. Maciel were not priests; they were boys, seminarians. Several boys said that Maciel (the founder of the Legionaries of Christ) told them that he had a special dispensation from Pope Pius XII to commit pederasty. They were boys, and apparently they believed Maciel. And you call this "balderdash." How would you know? Were you there?
We are not telling lies. Jason Berry and Gerald Renner (the two investigative reporters who know more about Maciel than any other reporter), in their book Vows of Silence, call your statement to The Hartford Courant a "blatant distortion." This is not an attempt to smear you. You said it.
You defended Maciel, and now you're unwilling to pay the price. So who is going off "the deep end"?
And when you defended or ran interference for Archbishop Weakland (an active homosexual), Deal Hudson (an adulterer), Msgr. Woolsey (who committed grand larceny), and the "gay" couple at St. John the Baptist School, can you tell us that we were telling lies? You can't.
We reported that your salary (as of 2004) was $287,222 a year with $28,722 in other benefits. Are you saying we lied about that? The Catholic League's IRS Form 990 is available on the Internet (at www.guidestar.org). And we now have an update: Your salary for 2005 was $303,766 with $30,377 in other benefits.
You have a reputation for going ballistic. Before you issue hasty letters and press releases, it would be wise if you would cogitate about what you really want to say. Instead of just blowing off steam, think before you act.
The Donohue Letter
As a member of the Catholic League, I received the same letter from William A. Donohue (see above) in response to "What Happened to Bill Donohue?" (Sept., NOR).
I do not find Donohue's letter to the NOR to be either credible or responsive. Not a word about his monumental Msgr. Woolsey gaffe or about the "gay" couple at St. John the Baptist School, or worse, his "obscene" $300,000 salary from the funds contributed by little people to fight anti-Catholic bigotry.
In fairness, before reconsidering my membership in the Catholic League, I will allow Donohue one more time at bat to address each allegation in an honest and straightforward manner.
Frank J. Murray
Troy, New York
I find your critique of the New Mass to be right on. As an altar boy who served Mass for 12 years, I am sick about the New Mass. I would add several other items to the list of abuses:
(1) Many priests skip the Penitential Rite.
(2) No devotion to Mary, not even in the month of May.
(3) No respect for the Elevation and Consecration. Bells are not rung and people stand or sit.
I will pray for Pope Benedict, who should know that the Church needs more direction.
The only way the faithful can nail the struggle between liberal clergy and the desire for more holiness is for the faithful to withhold their money. Do not give your money to liberal parishes or dioceses, and maybe not to Catholic Charities. The decrease in money will be noticed quicker than any other form of protest. It would at least be heard, and we will not be taken for granted.
A Neglected Wife
I must say that I cannot approve of your magazine. Not because it is bad, mind you. On the contrary, it is almost too good. When I first got married, I thought that my jealousy would rear its ugly head in response to another woman. But it is the NOR! My husband is all smiles when he sees the NOR in the mailbox. Only when he has read the NOR completely through do I get attention.
Unfortunately, I must also admit that I have come to enjoy reading it too. Our poor children!
I enjoy your publication, even though at nights I have difficulty sleeping after reading your magazine.
Troy, New York
'A Christian With a Catholic Flavor'
Years ago, I thought Fr. Benedict Groeschel of EWTN was a great priest. Not anymore. He calls himself, and I quote, "a Christian with a Catholic flavor." I am sorry to say, but this man refutes dogmatically defined doctrine.
I can't bear to watch Fr. Groeschel on EWTN. He is always talking about how much more kind, tolerant, prayerful, and faithful the Muslims and Protestants are compared to Catholics. Also, a big red flag pops up when he persists in calling the Catholic Church a "denomination" rather than referencing the one, holy Church of Jesus Christ.
I too remember the day. I had gone to a friend's to mow the grass. She said a plane had flown into a building. I figured some crop duster had hit a barn, but she insisted it was a larger incident and that I look at the TV, which I finally did. I saw the second plane hit the tower.
I realized that we Americans should not be surprised at planes being flown into our tall buildings. Why? A few days earlier on TV, I saw an Israeli helicopter firing rockets point blank into a Palestinian building.
You may ask, "Why would I connect the Israeli incidents with 9/11?" America supports the Jewish nation militarily, and therefore we are guilty also of the sins the Jews commit.
New Sharon, Iowa
I remain pro-Israel and pro-Iraq war -- but I am confused. Your point of view on the Iraq war pointed out to me the need to learn the concept of the social reign of Christ the King. Before I thought the choice was between capitalist democracy and socialism or Communism. I am struggling with my belief in the Iraq war. I know the overall prize is the oil fields in the Middle East.
Eugene "Butch" Acosta
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Just War Doctrine Is Outdated
No, I will not renew my subscription. Your editorial position on the Iraq war is unrealistic, negative, and unproductive. Just war doctrine is outdated and needs to be studied anew regarding modern warfare. Goodbye for keeps!
Lake View, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
You're opening up Pandora's box. If Just War doctrine is outdated, then it can be said that the Church's doctrine on homosexuality is outdated, the Church's "no" to women priests is outdated, the Church's opposition to embryonic stem cell research is outdated, the indissolubility of marriage is outdated, the Church's ban on contraception is outdated, and perhaps the Church will have to "study anew" her stance on abortion. Catholics have proposed that all of these doctrines have to be "studied anew" or are outdated, and that the Church needs to get in step with modern times.
Ave Maria University: A Monument to Tom Monaghan
Regarding your New Oxford Note "'Buying Things to Get Attention, to Have People Notice Me'" (June): Poor Tom Monaghan, he can't really give up his fortune, like the young man who was challenged by Christ. Instead, he built a monument to himself. What a waste of good money that could have funded scholarships to those few good Catholic colleges that still exist or to orthodox orders that actually serve the poor, such as the Missionaries of the Poor and the Missionaries of Charity.
What Men Want
In reference to Donald Tremblay's guest column, "Where Are the Men?" (Jul.-Aug.): One can see a clear distinction between the male and female aspects of Catholicism by comparing the documents from the Council of Trent to those produced at Vatican II. The dogmatic documents of Trent were clear and concise, and those of the pastoral Vatican II were wordy and flowery. It is simple: Men are attracted to well-defined doctrine containing eternal Truth, whereas women and homosexuals prefer the softer, gentler, and more obtuse notions of truth that are most often propounded in today's Church. No wonder solid men shy away.
From a Letter to a Parish Priest
Dear Fr. ______:
Today, on the feast of the patron of parish clergy, St. John Vianney, at the end of Mass, you asked us why young men aren't accepting their vocations to the priesthood. You said you simply can't understand it, and you asked us to tell you if we know the answer. Well, I know the reasons, and I'm happy to share them with you.
Forty years of contraceptive practice have given three generations of Europeans and North Americans the family habit of saying "no" to God's call. Moreover, they have given the Church families with either one or no sons, and no particular reason to pass up the chance for grandchildren who will continue the family name into the future. Parents don't particularly want a priest in the family, so they don't pray for religious and priestly vocations together, and they don't encourage their son to listen to God's call.
Now, let me tell you the not-so-obvious reason the young men in your congregation want nothing to do with priestly vocations: It's the way you celebrate the Sacraments, Father. You are probably shocked at what I just wrote. Good. I'd like you for a few minutes to consider from the point of view of a 17- or 20- or 25-year-old man what you and many of your brother priests do every Sunday.
Today the priest faces the congregation all the time, and is in public-speaking mode every minute, except when the lector is proclaiming Scripture or the congregation is singing. He has multiple Eucharistic prayers to choose from. So if there are twenty young men in the congregation whom God is calling, the current praxis of the Church -- Mass "against" the people -- will knock out at least ten of them before they think ten seconds about doing what you do. They simply can't "perform" for an hour at a time three or four times every Sunday, not to mention weekdays and funerals and weddings, when they need to do the same thing again.
What about the other ten men, you ask? The first "cut" has been imposed by contemporary Catholic culture. The next "cut" has to do with the way you and your brother priests celebrate the Eucharist.
In every Mass I have assisted with you, you have played extemporaneous games with the prescribed prayers. You change the words of most, if not all, the prayers, including the Eucharistic Prayer. Worse, when you make a change, it is so clumsy that you stumble over your own improvisations. In so doing, you not only make the Mass illicit and hinder the graces of the Sacrament, you distract those of us in the pews, and subject the priesthood and the Mass to ridicule. What young man would want to do that for a living? If he loves the Church and the Eucharist, he will not want to "make it up as he goes along." If all he sees is your ghastly improv, he will rightly say, "I can't do that," or, better, "I refuse to do that." He may come to think that ignoring the Mass prayers is normal. So he wants nothing to do with your liturgical chaos.
If the vocation-minded young man wanders from parish to parish in search of a true role model, he encounters stand-up comedians, third-rate motivational speakers, and angry clerics with agendas. In brief, Father, he will wear out his shoes looking for a simple priest in the mode of St. John Vianney. St. John was no scholar, but a perusal of his often lengthy sermons yields a clear understanding of why he was so effective: He stood with the Catholic Church solidly in every teaching. He called his people to repentance and offered them the healing consolation of the Sacrament of Penance. He celebrated Mass with reverence and never deviated from the prescribed words -- Latin words he had struggled for a decade to understand and pronounce. He prayed and fasted and sat in the confessional for hours on end, thinking only of the salvation of souls.
He was prayerful, simple, and direct, Father. If you want to attract young men to the priesthood, then you and every other priest concerned about the future of the Church need to ask God for the same virtues John Vianney had. That is the answer to your question. Young men are not accepting vocations to the priesthood because they do not want to be like you.