I’ve been a subscriber to the NOR for a number of years, and noticed early on a trend in your magazine. In each issue I can always count on some old-timer pining for the pre-Vatican II days, followed by an exposé on liturgical abuse. I considered most of it an overreaction until I had the misfortune of attending Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community in Daytona Beach, Florida, which bills itself as “A ‘F.A.I.T.H.’ Community” (Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony).
My first clue was upon entering the building. Folks were filing in like they were going to a pop concert. There was a lot of commotion and conversation at the entrance of the church. The second clue was the display of the “risen Christ” over the altar instead of the Crucifix (always a bad sign). When I sat down, I realized I really was at a pop concert. In the comer was a band tuning up while the members of the congregation continued to chat. I observed a man who appeared to be a priest chatting it up with a number of attendees.
Once the Mass started, things went further south. The priest began by explaining that this was the “contemporary Mass.” No servers, no missalettes, no music books (words to the songs were displayed over the band via Power Point), and no Host (instead, we got baked bread pulled apart by the priest). The priest encouraged us to greet one another and introduce ourselves to anyone we hadn’t seen before. This took a good two to three minutes. The band played hip, lively music throughout the service. The homily had a heavy “social justice” tilt to it.
Preparation for the Eucharist was punctuated with more loud music and distractions. Everyone stood during the Eucharistic prayers. During Communion, the priest again appeared to chat with folks as they received. People spoke and shook hands with one another as they stood in line. Hardly anyone approached the Eucharist with hands folded or with a reverent bow. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to leave that “worship space.”
The Mass I attended was void of all sacredness — and masculinity (that’s all I’ll say about that). I felt like I needed to take a shower afterwards, and it was the first time I have ever been embarrassed to be Catholic. If this is the future of the “contemporary Catholic Church,” we have much to be worried about.
St. Marys, Georgia
Fag Hags & Other Disorders
In your New Oxford Note, “God the Father, the Elephantine God — Whatever” (Jan.), you describe the murmurings of the homosexual Richard Rodriguez. Included in these murmurings is yet another homosexual male’s claim to understand femininity, in this case, “the feminine impulse” in religion. What on earth makes homosexual men believe they know anything about women? I am frustrated by the constant pontificating of sexually disordered men on the meaning of all things “feminine.” What kind of illogic could make someone believe that an addiction to sodomy constitutes an understanding of women? Not only do homosexual men make this crazy misconnection, the heterosexual public — influenced by the media — apparently believes it as well. I am a woman. No man knows more about being a woman than I do, least of all a homosexual man. Heterosexual men at least have some experience with us!
I know there are women who hang around homosexual men. In “gay” circles, these women are called “fag hags.” These women prefer companionship with male homosexuals to that of their own sex because they have difficulty in relationships — not only with members of their own sex (with whom they tend to be competitive) but with “straight” men as well. They are almost always single, and when not, they are having trouble with their “macho” husbands. I suspect they fear their own sexuality and therefore find manliness in their husbands frightening. The male homosexual’s exposure to these fag hags does nothing to enlighten him on “femininity.” The fact is that no one in the world knows less about matters feminine than a homosexual man; but in this insane, gender-confused culture, the least knowledgeable is considered the most authoritative!
And what Rodriguez describes as a “feminine impulse” proves my point — “Why is it that only women know…that all religions are one…?” Oh, I don’t think so. Women do not “know” any such thing, nor do they, as a group, think any such thing. Rodriguez says, “What I find abhorrent in religion…is certainty….” Well, no doubt. Certainty has potency. But Rodriguez should not believe that his own abhorrence of potency is feminine. Not this woman nor any other normal woman abhors potency. Quite the contrary.
How To Successfully Oppose Same-Sex "Marriage"
In your New Oxford Note, “Is Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Inevitable?” (Feb.), you say it is inevitable. While you do say we should oppose same-sex “marriage,” you also say it’s a “hopeless cause.” Let’s not have such a self-defeating attitude, at least not yet.
Many polls still indicate that a clear majority of Americans are against same-sex “marriage.” Other polls indicate that more and more college students are self-identifying as “conservative” (however they define it).
All we need to do to successfully oppose same-sex “marriage” is to provide those who are already opposed to it with rock-solid arguments, explaining why same-sex “marriage” is absurd.
One argument that I’ve found particularly useful in getting even liberals to realize that their pro-same-sex “marriage” stance is shaky at best, and downright hypocritical and indefensible at worst, is this: In effect, pro-homosexual
people are arguing that it’s wrong to “discriminate” against homosexual deviants, but it’s O.K. to “discriminate” against other sexual deviants, such as people who have sex in public or incestuous people or necrophiliacs — even if these other deviants are consenting adults who aren’t hurting anybody. Pro-homosexual people try to rationalize this inane position by saying things like, “Exhibitionists disturb or offend people.” But we can respond that millions of Americans and several billion people around the world are disturbed or offended by homosexual activity.
However, if it’s O.K. for homosexual deviants and their supporters to judge and “discriminate” against other deviants, it’s obviously O.K. for heterosexuals to judge and censure homosexual deviations. If pro-homosexual liberals can draw an arbitrary line against some sexual deviations, then heterosexuals can legitimately draw a less-than- arbitrary line against homosexual deviations.
The above argument even works well on people who are not very religious, as long as they respect reason and justice, and disvalue blatant hypocrisy.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
If this is our best argument against same-sex “marriage,” we’re doomed. If a majority of Americans are against same-sex “marriage,” that majority is declining rapidly and will likely soon be a minority. Necrophilia is a non-issue: When’s the last time you heard of anyone prosecuted for that? Because of contraception, incest is hardly a taboo anymore. As for people who like to have sex in public, we already have nude beaches, and public sex can readily be seen in films and videos. As for exhibitionism, we doubt that most liberals have serious objections to it, but probably support laws against it because it is inflicted on nonconsenting adults and children. Yes, we too are “disturbed” and “offended” by homosexual activity, but denying homosexuals the right to marry will have no bearing on such activity.
The basic line of those opposed to same-sex “marriage” is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But that’s a debased definition. The correct definition is that marriage is between a man and a woman for life. How do we know this? Because that’s what the standard marriage vow says: “until death do us part.”
Although most wedding services still include “until death do us part,” those promises are null and void thanks to no-fault divorce, first signed into law by Mr. Conservative, Ronald Reagan (himself a divorcé), in 1969 as Governor of California, which then spread like wildfire to almost every other state.
According to attorney Robert L. Plunkett (National Review, May 29, 1995), “An oral contract made with a 2-year-old is, more binding than the contract of marriage; it at least binds one party, the adult. A marriage contract is binding on no one. If Kim Basinger says ‘OK’ when asked by a producer if she will star in a movie and then backs out, she has made herself liable! for millions of dollars in damages. If she solemnly swears in church to love, honor, and, forsaking all others, keep only unto that producer till death them do part, she is free to break that promise at any time without penalty.”
Traditionally, the grounds for divorce were basically limited to adultery and desertion, and were directly related to the wedding vows. Let’s say an adulterer wanted to divorce his wife. Even then, the innocent party had the absolute right to reject divorce and work for reconciliation.
Thus it used to be that divorce was rare — and was spoken of sotto voce. Now, thanks to no-fault divorce-on-demand, one in two marriages ends in divorce, the median length of a marriage is a pitiful seven years, and you can buy “Congratulations on Your Divorce” cards in any drugstore.
As we write, the new Mr. Conservative, George W. Bush, has endorsed a constitutional amendment that says a marriage is between a man and a woman, but not unto death do us part, and without ruling out same-sex civil unions What’s the essential difference between a marriage and a civil union? Only the name. If this is defending marriage, it’s make-believe.
Moreover, because of contraception and sterilization, which separate the unitive and the procreative in the marital act, the stage was set long ago for same-sex “marriage.” If the marital act need not be open to pro-creation, then why forbid homosexuals from getting married? Also, heterosexual couples can have children via non-unitive means, and so can homosexual couples. The chickens are coming home to roost.
Add to this women’s lib, which is basically liberation from a manly husband, homemaking, and children, and throw in widespread fornication, shacking-up, adultery, and divorce, and you can see that marriage is already meaningless — except for those who choose to take it seriously and thereby make it meaningful. Giving homosexuals a marriage license could hardly make marriage any more meaningless than it already is.
There’s nothing wrong with a constitutional amendment, but it’s kinda like closing the barn door after the horses are long gone.
What Excuse Can Be Made?
Regarding the various items in your pages on Pope John Paul II’s legacy: I am prepared to go along with the possibility that John Paul’s failure to discipline bad bishops may be due to long-term supernatural prudence; but how to explain awarding red hats and papal medals to out-and-out prominent liberals?
In Scotland’s Archdiocese of Edinburgh there is a priest who runs an advice session on local radio in which he recommends the full liberal agenda of permissiveness: contraception, abortion, etc. He calls himself “Andy.” His Archbishop, Keith Patrick O’Brien, described him as doing “God’s work,” and Andy is now the media contact for the Scottish hierarchy! In spite of streams of letters to Rome from outraged Catholics, Archbishop O’Brien has recently been made a cardinal.
Some of your readers will be familiar with the British Tablet, a notoriously liberal weekly that has been renamed by some The Pill, where people such as Hans Küng and the Archbishop of Canterbury are treated with great honor, and their views eagerly applauded. The retiring Editor of this destroyer of Catholic faith and intellect worldwide has just received a papal award for his “critical loyalty.”
What excuse can be made for this kind of thing? The most charitable interpretation is that the Pope is being fed false information and being manipulated by powerful, malign forces in the Curia. But this raises further awkward questions, doesn’t it?
Perhaps the present Holy Father can be regarded as one of those great men whose virtues far outweigh their weaknesses. Nevertheless, I hope that the next pope will call himself Pius XIII, not John Paul III.
Torquay, United Kingdom
God Tells Pope John Paul II What To Do & What Not To Do
In your New Oxford Note, “The ‘New Springtime’ for the Church Is a Long Ways Off” (Jan.), you fault Pope John Paul II for “his failure to govern,” for his failure to discipline bishops and cardinals. But if he did, a schism would likely result. And a majority of Catholics would likely fall into schism. Because of the mass media’s powerful influence, most Catholics don’t listen to the Pope.
Schisms last for centuries or millennia. Bishops and cardinals last for a few decades.
Maybe we’re living in the Last Times. Is the Pope trying to unite all religions because Jesus won’t return until the Church is one?
The best pope would be one who spends more time in prayer than carrying out his functions as pope. John Paul II has been known to spend hours in prayer — even fall asleep on the floor or be late for appointments.
The Marian apparitions at Fatima have been approved by the bishop, and the seer was asked if John Paul II is getting divine intervention. She smiled and said “yes,” but that he will never say anything about it. Divine intervention is telling John Paul what to do and not to do.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Yes, schisms last for centuries or more, while bishops and cardinals last a few decades. But the problem is that dubious bishops become dubious cardinals, and cardinals (and who knows how many are dubious?) elect the pope. While the Holy Spirit is invoked in a Conclave, the cardinals do exercise their free will, sometimes with disastrous results. With influential cardinals such as Mahony, Kasper, Lehmann, and Danneels involved in electing the next pope, hang on to your hat!
You say that if John Paul disciplined bishops and cardinals, most Catholics (presumably in the West) would fall into schism. We doubt that, but you also say that most Catholics don’t listen to the Pope. So are they really Catholics? If not, wouldn’t the honest thing be to go into schism? We have a lot more respect for an honest apostate than a dishonest Catholic.
I have observed criticisms of our Holy Father in your letters, articles, and New Oxford Notes. I would like to point some things out.
When our Holy Father was called to his office in 1978, had he instantly started cracking the whip, just imagine the mass demonstrations (remember Fr. Curran?) in support of “our persecuted Bishop X and Fr. Y,” or even worse, an “American Catholic Church” with Pope Rembert Weakland.
Perhaps the wolves in vestments are permitted by God to scourge us into a fighting mode, to awaken the Faith in our own lazy hearts by taking it away from our cities and towns. What better way to learn to venerate a statue than by pulling it from the dumpster? How better to instill a reverence for Mass than by subjecting us to a heretical mockery of the Mass?
You at the NOR are warriors by nature, and have the fault of warriors: You want action now. You want to draw your rusting swords and charge head-on into the enemy. But you cannot see from your post in the ranks what General John Paul II starkly sees from his command center, with scouts reporting constantly, namely, that the enemy is vast and multiform, and that half of our men are cowards who would break in a charge. The Holy Father sends men out subtly, he appoints trusty captains, and sends spies among the enemy to cause division. The chafing knights and footmen in the front must trust the general, lest their ill-timed valor lose the war.
Regarding Fr. Michael Morris’s “Previewing Mel Gibson’s Passion” (Feb.): I was surprised to read that Jim Caviezel derived inspiration for his role as Christ in the movie from the unapproved and very peculiar apparition site of Medjugorje. Either Caviezel is unaware that the Bishop of Mostar opposed the apparitions and that the Official Statement from the Yugoslavian Bishops Conference states that it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations there, or he was lured into the thrills-and-chills phenomenon of Medjugorje’s Disneyland Spirituality.
As a former MaryChaser, I can attest to the addictive thrills and chills of visionaries, spinning suns, floating Hosts, and Rosaries turning gold. And like all visitors dazzled into the resultant emotional “conversion” ignited by so-called heavenly messages and visions, I can empathize with the ensuing subjectivity that insists that “what I saw” and “what I felt” in Medjugorje attests to its authenticity. In Caviezel’s case that would seem to include his feelings for his new “good friend,” Ivan Dragicevic, the “mystic” who gave him a personal message from Mary on how
to live a better life. Interestingly, Mary also had a “plan” for Ivan Dragicevic’s life that included expulsion from two seminaries, an oath of loyalty to serve in the military of an atheistic Communist government, marriage to a beauty queen, lavish homes, and $100,000 sports cars. Practices in sharp contrast to Dragicevic’s preaching to pilgrims to fast on bread and water.
The article states that “both Gibson and Caviezel believe in miracles, in signs and signal graces.” In this era of signs and wonders that can even seduce Hollywood actors, we should consider the insight of a theologian who suggested that the most incredible miracle is that of the Eucharistic Body and Blood continuing to look like bread and wine. Meanwhile, thrill seekers should take note of St. John of the Cross’s warning that unless the opposite can be proved, assume that mystical experiences
come from evil influences.
The article also states that both Gibson and Caviezel “reject the Christ who has been demythologized by modern exegetes….” Hopefully, Caviezel will apply the same rejection to the chatty Mary of the endless banal messages who supposedly travels the world with the Medjugorje “mystics” to whom she speaks and appears on cue.
Gibson Was Not Lynched
The subtitle of Fr. Morris’s preview of Mel Gibson’s Passion (Feb.) asserts that Gibson was lynched. Hardly. Your report of Gibson’s martyrdom is premature; last I heard, Gibson was alive and well. He has created an important work of art that will be recognized long after all who are alive today are gone. More importantly, he has created an icon that will inspire many to conversion to Christ, perhaps even including members of the media, officers of the Anti-Defamation League, and functionaries of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Gibson has managed the negative publicity brilliantly, parlaying it into an otherwise unobtainable level of pre-release publicity. He will be amply rewarded for his admirable work in this world and the next, and will in all likelihood go on to create further works of art and expressions of faith. Let’s not express too much regret about the persecutors without whom we may never have heard of this film. I don’t believe for a minute that “as industry opposition intensifies, The Passion of the Christ has had a hard time getting marketed.” The film has been brilliantly marketed, thanks in no small measure to the unwitting assistance of the forces of darkness.
Thanks to Fr. Morris for a fascinating look behind the scenes.
I do not agree with Fr. Morris and Mel Gibson that The Passion follows Scripture: Why have a demon in the Garden of Gethsemane, among other additions? The Scripture should be followed exactly. Why change it?
Sr. Geraldine Marie Wagner, O.P.
Kneeling & The Eastern Tradition
In his letter (Feb.), William Soisson asks this about a particular Byzantine Catholic parish: If it is the Eastern tradition to stand, why does that parish have kneelers?
At my Byzantine Catholic church in San Luis Obispo, we do not kneel during the Divine Liturgy on Sundays because we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. However, for weekday Divine Liturgies we do kneel — even though we do not have kneelers!
Constantino N. Santos
I have had many years of experience with the Byzantine Catholic Church. In Byzantine churches, each Sunday is a little Easter, a joyful feast of the Resurrection. Kneeling, viewed as a penitential act, is considered inappropriate and is discouraged. On the other hand, on fast days, and during penitential periods, kneeling — and prostration, if there is room — is expected.
Allan E. Foster
San Diego, California
A Glaring Error
There is a glaring error in Andrew Sorokowski’s letter (Feb.), namely, that “Catholics are bound to support a. prolife ethic” and that “a consistent prolife ethic would include opposition to abortion [and] capital punishment….” I absolutely do not support such a prolife ethic because abortion kills an innocent life whereas capital punishment takes a guilty life. The two cannot be equated. I support a pro-innocent-life, ethic.
James J. Harris
We Are Not Judged As a Community
Despite the carnival atmosphere of today’s liturgy, to my relief there at least remained those two quiet, powerful moments that provide opportunity for personal reflection: during the Consecration and immediately after Communion, when we kneel. These moments I treasured, not only for their personal intensity but for the relief they provided from “acting in community” and feeling obliged to participate in the cacophonous “sing-a-long” that Mass often becomes.
Some weeks ago, following Communion I knelt as I normally did, only to be violently elbowed by my husband. Upon looking around, I realized everyone else had remained standing, the result (I learned later) of a unilateral directive issued by our new, young priest, recently reassigned to our parish from the local Newman Center. Feeling a terrible sense of loss and bewilderment, I rose and stood with the others, and afterwards was left with the feeling I had lost yet another portion of the Mass that was personally important to me.
Since no one I spoke to seemed aware of the reason for this change, I called our priest myself He informed me that the point of standing after Communion was to “wait as a community,” as was only polite, until everyone was finished with the “meal,” whereupon we would kneel in unison. I argued that we “act in community” in any number of ways during the Mass, and that he was depriving some of us of one of the few remaining refuges for personal reflection. All to no avail. When I inquired if the standing directive was optional (and he never did get around to implementing the kneeling as a community part of the change, for we go directly to sitting), he replied, “Well, no one’s going to put a gun to your head!” I’ve noted that not all parishes are making this change.
Thus, I will continue to kneel — as I’ve noted one or two others doing — but I’m left feeling at odds with my parish on yet one more issue. Perhaps my husband said it best: “You can ‘act in community’ until you’re blue in the face, but you will be judged as an individual.”
If the Catholic Church Is The One True Church, Why Doesn’t She Behave Like It?
In the exigencies of moving a couple of years ago, a notebook was stored in a relative’s house and has just shown up. I was much pleased to find it full of material about my conversion to Catholicism.
When I opened it and began to read, I came across pages I had written in dismay, disillusion, and almost despair. On reading them over, I thought I would share two of them with you. You may find that you cannot use them, but somehow I feel impelled to send them.
I don’t know what we Catholics would do without the NOR to keep up our courage and faith.
The first one is dated October 19, 1993:
Since becoming a Catholic a few years ago, I have observed with increasing dismay a dangerously limited and censorial attitude in Catholic prayers, hymns, and other devotional material toward any other culture but the current flat, abysmal, and stultifying one. Who is responsible for this? Who are the vandals ruthlessly destroying our Catholic culture and devotional treasures?
My dismay has changed to fright and anger. Last Sunday I browsed through the hymn section of the current missalette. I was delighted to find a hymn that is a dear favorite. “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” composed by Sir Henry Williams Baker, first appeared in 1869, in the Appendix of the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modem, of which Sir Henry was chairman of the editorial committee. The words, gentle and poetic, are a worthy paraphrase of Psalm 23 (or Psalm 22 in former Catholic Psalters). Imagine my horror, disgust, and righteous anger to find the words changed, the meaning corrupted, and the devotional content flattened by a culture-smashing bulldozer. I ask again, who is responsible for this?
Are we, and what is desperately more important, are our children to be shielded from all grace and beauty that doesn’t find its echo in the 1990s bare-bones culture?
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A pervasive modern sentiment suggests that "each person has an inalienable right to be considered good, however he behaves."