The article by Dwight Longenecker, “The ‘Odor of Sanctity'” (Feb.), is highly inappropriate to an educated reader. Longenecker says, “There are lots of accounts through the ages, in both Catholic and Orthodox circles, of the odor of sanctity, corpses that exude perfume instead of putrefaction.” Yes, there are such stories, but they have no authentic, scientific rationale, and never will.
Louis J. Mihalyi
St. Saviour's Priory
Newland, North Carolina
The Chickens Come Home to Roost
In his “MTV: A Recruiting Ground for Priests?” (guest column, Feb.), Michael S. Rose writes against the secular approach that some bishops are using to attract aspirants to the priesthood. I would add that the root causes of the vocations malaise are (1) the lack of moral leadership and holiness among too many of our bishops and priests, and (2) the contraceptive mentality among the laity, which drastically limits the birth rate among Catholics. Related to the first is the negative view of the clergy arising from the many sex scandals among clerics. We have allowed homosexuals into our seminaries. The weak moral stand of our bishops on homosexuality ? in seminaries and elsewhere ? has degraded the standing of the Catholic priesthood in the eyes of many worthy young men who might aspire to it.
Anthony D. Lutz
How Could Storck & Glover Possibly Agree?
Thomas Storck’s letter (“Yes, Merely C.S. Lewis,” Jan.), in response to several critical comments elicited by his article on C.S. Lewis (Jul.-Aug. 2001), helps clarify his thinking but raises further questions.
He begins his letter by making it clear that one of his key points is that Lewis’s concept of “mere Christianity” is logically incoherent. Then, toward the end, talking about the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, he writes, “Now, in fact, I do not doubt that C.S. Lewis has helped many on their journeys to that Church (he helped me!), but this does nothing to make ‘mere Christianity’ a worthwhile concept.” Since the fruit is so beneficial, why worry about the shape of the tree? Have the 12 volumes of Karl Rahner’s Schriften zur Theologie, written with Germanic logical coherence and conceptual precision, led more people to Christ and His Church than Lewis’s unpretentious little book? By casting a cloud of suspicion and withholding his imprimatur and nihil obstat, isn’t Storck depriving many a Catholic from the same benefit he himself derived from C.S. Lewis? Isn’t the Catholic Church going through a time of catechetical crisis, shortage of vocations, and diminishing Sunday Mass attendance? If recent polls are accurate, only 30 percent of Catholics in America believe in the Real Presence. Wouldn’t that indicate that a great number of Catholics could be helped if injected with a judicious dose of “mere Christianity”?
I was mildly surprised to see an approving response to Storck’s original article by a Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Graham Bernhardt Glover (letter, Nov. 2001). I was greatly surprised to see Storck in agreement with him. Glover states, “To define the Church is to define our faith…. But within this Body — His catholic Church, with His right sacraments, and with His pure Gospel — we believers will not just be ‘mere Christians,’ but we will be members of that faith where ‘there is the fullness of Christian truth.’ So I am thankful for Storck’s wisdom, reminding even us Lutherans that we must always, coupled with God’s grace and our might, passionately strive to be ‘united visibly to Jesus Christ in His Mystical Body.'” To which Storck, in his January letter, responds: “As the Rev. Graham Glover rightly points out in his letter, Jesus Christ invites men to become part of His Church, His Mystical Body, and thus to accept what that Church teaches.” I detect here a wee bit of logical and conceptual incoherence; or at least, of ambiguity and equivocation. This exchange of mutual approval gives the false impression that Glover and Storck concur in the definition of the Church that defines our faith. Yet the fact is that Glover speaks of “the catholic Church” and Storck speaks of “the Catholic Church” and that neither one could accept the other’s definition of the Church and of our faith (except, ironically, in terms of the “mere Christianity” they both decry). Logically, for Glover the Church is not just the Roman Catholic Church (unless he is in the process of crossing the Tiber): He must have in mind the larger one holy catholic and apostolic Church and regard the Lutheran Church as one of her branches. This, of course, cannot be acceptable to Storck. To begin with, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has made it clear in Dominus Iesus that only the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox have the right to apply to themselves the term Church. Denominations are simply to be known as ecclesial communities.
So, what is the ecclesiology behind this passionate “striving to be ‘united visibly to Jesus Christ in His Mystical Body'”? What visibility is operative here? Is it a function of ecumenism of reunion, the eschaton, anakephalaiosis? Does Storck subscribe to the branch theory of the Church? Does he believe that the one holy catholic and apostolic Church also subsists in the Lutheran Church? Does he agree with the view, advanced by some Eastern Orthodox theologians, “that we know where the Church is, but we do not know where she is not”? Or is it simply a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?
Fr. Federico Serra-Lima, SSC
Old Chatham, New York
Sheryl Temaat’s article “Shacking-Up: A Divine Imperative?” (Jan.), which took Msgr. Joseph M. Champlin to task for saying that parents should not tell their fornicating children that they need to repent and confess such sins, is worth more than a hundred wishy-washy sermons, which are the normal Sunday diet in countless parishes across the nation.
Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them” (Mt. 7:16). Perhaps all those priests who seem to lack the fortitude to preach the unvarnished truth that “offends” sinners need to do some soul-searching. It appears that many of our spiritual shepherds have lost their zeal for souls. Preaching a this-worldly gospel, they have turned their churches into social clubs devoid of the full power of the Gospel.
I read many Catholic periodicals, some of which are quite good, but none can hold a candle to the NOR. Month after month you educate and inspire, and you also have the stamina to expose the waffling or worse of those Catholics who wind up tolerating evil and who may assist others in losing their souls.
Constantino N. Santos
This Catholic theologian cannot begin to adequately express his gratitude for Sheryl Temaat’s devastating critique of Msgr. Joseph M. Champlin’s views on fornication. The sheer effrontery of his arguments boggles the mind.
It has been during the post-Vatican II period that many seminarians and priests were taught that sexual sins could scarcely ever be mortal (the exact opposite of Aquinas’s view). It is no wonder that homosexual and pedophile priests have romped around and scandalized millions. Undoubtedly they find no problem with fornication.
Msgr. Champlin has been a great warhorse for a good many years in the cause of Christ and His Church. Many things he has written over the years gave me cause for real rejoicing. However, I was greatly saddened a half-dozen years ago when my local parish office gave me a booklet by him on marriage. It never mentioned contraception, and I could find no words about sin at all.
Temaat omitted one basic argument. If fornication is objectively wrong, it is so because it is both self-destructive and socially destructive. Even if people could engage in it innocently, subjectively guiltless, it remains destructive. No doubt that helps explain why 75 percent of marriages of people who first lived together end in divorce, while only 40 percent of those who did not fornicate get divorced.
There was one kernel of truth in Champlin’s argument. The Council of Trent did teach that we cannot judge even our own moral state with absolute certainty, much less that of others, and should not presume to try. But the Church and her members (parents) are bound to communicate Church teaching. Fornicators commit sexual sins. Sins need absolution. God alone may know the precise degree of freedom, knowledge, and guilt for the one who commits a particular sin, but all sinners should repent, seek pardon, and sin no more. John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth lost their lives for preaching repentance.
Apropos of Willard King’s letter (Jan.): I grew up with the Latin Mass and, contrary to what many believe, its wealth of theology was not lost on those of us in the pews. Our English-language Missals, which were exact translations, made sure of that.
The change to Mass in the vernacular was said to be for the benefit of the faithful who could not understand Latin. Not so; it was for the benefit of priests and bishops whose intellectual sloth had kept them from learning Latin adequately. One could sometimes hear it as they stumbled through the text. For this reason, the Breviary was changed to English before the Missal.
The change to the vernacular led to the “dumbing down” of the liturgy. The Novus Ordo Rite, from a theological standpoint, is but a shadow of the Tridentine Rite. Gone are the Introit, the Dies Irae, the Last Gospel (perhaps the most sublime passage of all Scripture), the prayers for the rite of the washing of hands, and the foot prayers after the Mass. Instead, we have the mawkish Prayer of the Faithful.
To illustrate my point, one need only contrast the former Offertory with that of the present. The Tridentine Mass has it: “Receive, O holy Father, almighty eternal God, this immaculate host which I thy unworthy servant offer to thee my living and true God, for my innumerable sins, offenses, and neglects, and for all who are here, but also for all faithful Christians, living and dead, that it may work for me and them unto salvation into eternal life.”
Now read the present, truncated version: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.”
Which is more reverent? Which reminds the priest that he too is a sinner?
Certain liturgists took advantage of the change to English to give us a watered-down version of the Mass. The result was to weaken the faith of millions.
Juan J. Ryan
New Providence, New Jersey
Taken by Surprise
In Scripture, Our Lord tells us that the seed of sin is sown in the human heart. A fascinating feature of the human heart is that its contents cannot be discerned by another human — God alone possesses the moral electrocardiograph for our hearts. In light of this, the letter from Maxwell Miller (Feb.), where he asserted that “jeez Louise” (or “geez Louise”) is “blatant blasphemy,” took me by surprise. I am careful to never utter Our Lord’s Holy Name in vain, and I often need to politely request that those I am with refrain from doing so. It never occurred to me that I may be guilty of just that when I utter the seemingly innocuous word “geez.” In my mind (and heart) it has always been a contraction for “gee whiz.” Now that I know that some may hear something different from what I intended, should I cease its use lest I scandalize? Perhaps, but if it slips out I’ll not lose sleep over it. Numerous seeds have taken root within the confines of my heart, but violations of the Second Commandment are not among them.
With regard to Maxwell Miller’s letter, a priest whose given name is “Jesus” came to visit us. I heard him greeted with the remark, “Jesus, what a wet day it is.” (Irish weather!)
C.T. Greenan, O.P.
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