Over the last year or so, the tone of the material in your magazine on questions of orthodoxy, conversion, and ecumenism has become mean. Your editorial “The Common Ground Project at the End of an Era” (Jan.-Feb. 1997) is a good example. You take great pains to haggle over terms like “accountability” and “engagement,” as employed by the Common Ground Project. My basic problem with the way you frame issues of faithfulness and dissent is that you do so in terms of loyalty to or dissent from the Church and its Magisterium. But the real issue is loyalty to Christ.
President, Quo Vadis
Huntington, New York
I used to buy the NEW OXFORD REVIEW from the parish literature rack, but I’m not fast enough anymore — it’s snapped up quickly (while the National Catholic Reporter just sits there, lonely and untouched). So here’s my check for a subscription. You are a breath of fresh air — or is it the breath of the Holy Spirit blowing by?
Elizabeth Mary Cole
I am writing to give you some reasons why I am not renewing my subscription. I am a liberal Protestant, and I find your articles arrogant and intolerant in the worst sense of those words. And, frankly, I am insulted by your characterizations of liberal Protestants. I neither recognize myself nor many of my colleagues in your portrayal of theological liberals as gluttons for convenience. I don’t support choice in abortion or gay rights because they are convenient. On the contrary, many of these decisions are made in agony, and have required tremendous courage on the part of people to whom I have ministered. I can think of instances when it would have been much more convenient for people to follow the moral guidance you offer than pursue a course that cost them the condemnation of family and friends.
Rev. Dr. Sandra L. Olsen
Until I was accidentally introduced to the NOR three years ago, I was beginning to think that the cause of traditional Catholicism had been lost, and that only intervention by the Holy Spirit could deter the forces of neo-Modernism and relativism from turning the Church into just another denomination. It now seems to me that the emergence of the NOR and other magazines like yours is likely part of that intervention. The traditional faithful must hold on until liberal Catholicism, like liberal Protestantism, self-destructs.
John J. Connolly
Mendham, New Jersey
A Bum Rap For Britain
Robin Bernhoft’s letter titled “Britain’s Ethnic Cleansing” (Dec. 1996), referring to the controversy in your pages about the Irish Potato Famine and about Britain’s behavior toward the Irish generally, drew a parallel between Britain in Ireland and Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews. That was inexcusable. Bernhoft’s contention that “Germany was committed to genocide for about a decade” while Britain was committed to it “for centuries” minimizes the German situation and shows ignorance of German history. Jewish documents about the murderousness in the German-speaking world are many centuries old. I have in my possession a work dated 1888, not by a Jew, which forecast the Holocaust. And from what Bernhoft says, one would never know that Britain had an essential role in defeating the Nazis. As for Ireland, the Irish government openly collaborated with the Nazis, and indeed the Irish government sent a wreath of mourning to the German Embassy on receiving news that Hitler had committed suicide.
Regarding the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in Irish-British relations, Bernhoft fails to note that there is much blood on the hands of both Catholics and Protestants. As a Catholic, I am willing to admit that evil has existed on both sides.
Finally, Bernhoft refers to “the strength of the Faith” in Catholic Ireland. I wonder what he would have to say about current developments in Ireland in that regard.
Brooklyn, New York
It’s no overstatement to say that Catholic-bashing has arrived on stage and screen. It may be a play that ridicules the Pope, or a movie that is sacrilegious — e.g., Priest or The Last Temptation of Christ. Catholic organizations and laity respond with letters to the studio or protests outside the theater. But nothing changes. The end result is a feeling that it’s now okay to mock Catholic values, and that nothing can be done about it.
But something is being done. Catholic playwrights, directors, and stage technicians have come together to form a theater company called Quo Vadis, which is pro-Pope and prolife. Our goal is to produce new plays about heroic figures in Church history. Plays like A Man for All Seasons, Becket, and Joan of Arc have inspired millions. Our playwrights are busily writing similar works.
We receive no funding from the National Endowment for the Arts! Our first play, The Pearl of York, opens this spring. it was written by one of our playwrights, and tells the story of the English Catholic martyr Margaret Clitherow. if any readers would like to help or receive further information, contact me.
San Jose, CA 95157
Removing the Claws From the Lion of Judah
Kristen West McGuire’s “A Case Against ‘Inclusive Language'” (Jan.-Feb. 1997) was concise and cogent. My first confrontation with “inclusive language” came in 1991 while serving on the hymnal selection committee for our (Protestant) church. Like McGuire, I found the people in the pews mystified by — and wary of — inclusive language, both vertical and horizontal. You know, “the Creator’s face” is not nearly as compelling, challenging, or personal as “the Father’s face.” I saw real theological erosion with the language-tampering in hymnals. The committee wanted to pull the teeth and remove the claws from the Lion of Judah — yes, they wanted the lion in the jungle, but didn’t want to fear him anymore.
In 1992 I traveled to East Africa. While worshiping at an Anglican boys’ high school, I browsed through its new hymn book and found inclusive language had already washed ashore, an unbidden export from the West. There I was in Uganda, where by tradition the girls and women kneel to greet visitors. My African friends were appalled when I pointed out the language changes in their hymns, prayers, and creeds.
I found it interesting that McGuire is a full-time mother. Those of us women on the “mommy-track” must rise up and address this issue. Three cheers for McGuire’s courage!
Also in the same NOR: The article on divorce by Mitchell Kalpakgian proved quite timely. I could read what he said on my nephews’ faces: “Divorce…overwhelms the young with a sense of their unimportance.” I am immediately sending a copy of the article to a close friend who’s contemplating divorce.
Judith E. Palpant
Out of Character
I congratulate Kristen West McGuire for her very thoughtful article, “A Case Against ‘Inclusive Language'” (Jan.-Feb.). However, she says: “There can be no doubt that the history of Christianity includes the spiritual and physical oppression of women.” I am at a loss to conceive the meaning of this statement. To substantiate the charge that women, as a class, have been oppressed, it would not be sufficient to cite one or another church incident where a woman has suffered. There have been many church incidents in which men have suffered.
McGuire also states: “The feminine struggle for respect within the Church will not be won with hollow ideological victories, but with the triumph of the Holy Spirit within each Christian heart.” True enough, but are women in need of waging “a struggle to win respect within the Church”? In the Church there are some holy women, like Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica and the sisters in their congregations — and many other orthodox women in and out of religious congregations — for whom I thank God dearly. But from them one will only hear expressions of love and devotion to our holy Mother, the Church, not accusations that they are not being respected.
In writing this, I do not for a moment think I am telling McGuire something she doesn’t already know. Her erudition and commitment to the Church are evident from her article. It seems to me, therefore, that her statements are out of character, that they are a concession to some feminist interlocutors with whom she is in some sort of internal conversation.
A Doctor Wants a Diagnosis
Your editorials on the Common Ground Project, especially the one in your January-February 1997 issue, finally awakened me to what’s wrong in the Catholic Church in America. I subscribe to several other orthodox Catholic periodicals — they describe the malady, but don’t provide a diagnosis. You do, and so your words have been a real wake-up call for me.
Thomas F. O'Connor, M.D.
Hobe Sound, Florida
I was gratified to read Mary Rita Crowe’s letter (Jan.-Feb. 1997) endorsing the boycott of Hoechst Marion Roussel Inc., the company responsible for RU 486, the “French abortion pill.” I had just written a letter to my local paper about the same subject, and it was deemed unfit to print.
The “Hoechst” in the company’s name is the Hoechst Corporation in Germany, which during the Second World War was called E.G. Fabens, which won the bid to produce cyanide gas, used to “solve” the “problem” of unwanted people who were considered by law subhuman. Sound familiar?
Today Hoechst wants to “solve” another “problem,” that of unwanted babies who are considered by law nonhuman. Good grief!
Warnerville, New York
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