Levada: Not A Straight Arrow
To the retired Bishop of Stockton, Calif., Donald W. Montrose, whose letter was titled “Levada: A Straight Arrow” (Jan.): There seems to be a disconnect between your knowledge and admiration of Archbishop Levada and the rest of us here in the Catholic world who knew of him.
My disillusionment with Archbishop Levada began in 1996 when the wire services told those of us here on the East Coast that he caved in to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown by paying for health premiums for the same-sex and live-in partners of Catholic Charities employees. This was in order to keep the pipeline of secular, city tax money flowing into the Church. On the other hand, the Salvation Army stood up for Jesus Christ before men and told Brown to keep his public tax money. The Salvation Army was not for sale.
Another troubling factor in my assessment of Archbishop Levada’s tenure in San Francisco was his allowing Congressman Nancy Pelosi to sacrilegiously receive Holy Communion. She is one of the boldest spokesmen for abortion in the House of Representatives, and she sent a letter to Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., on May 10, 2004, warning him about any potential fraternal correction (or Spiritual Works of Mercy admonition) on sacrilegious reception of Communion. Archbishop Levada (recently promoted to Cardinal by Pope Benedict) totally abdicated his governing function vis-à-vis Pelosi.
I have been deeply disappointed by the refusal of Archbishop Levada during his tenure in San Francisco from 1999 to 2005 to carry out the request of Pope John Paul II in his motu proprio Apostolic Letter of July 2, 1988, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, to make “wide and generous” use of the Latin Mass indult. Archbishop Levada continued the stonewalling policy of his predecessor, Archbishop Quinn, to have zero Latin Masses in San Francisco.
Archbishop Quinn was head of the NCCB committee, which included deceased Bishops Delaney and Keating, that studied Ecclesia Dei and reported on it to the collectivity of bishops at Seton Hall, New Jersey, on June 19, 1989. I assume you were there, representing Stockton, and that Archbishop Levada was also there, representing Portland, Oregon. As you know, the Catholic and secular press, as well as the Catholic public, were completely barred from that heated three-hour gathering. The underhanded, unwritten policy decided upon was to either stonewall petitions for the Latin Mass (as in San Francisco), or allow one token Mass per diocese (as in Stockton), and to publish nothing on it whatsoever for the faithful. The goal was to keep the faithful in the dark and to ignore the Holy Father. If the Holy Father said, “I ask Gerald T. Griffin” to do a certain thing, I would do it. Not so you and Archbishop Levada. Efforts on my part seven years later to get a copy of the minutes from Msgr. Moroney, Archbishop Quinn, and Bishops Delaney and Keating were completely fruitless. Msgr. Moroney told me in writing that they remain secret. Why on earth? Were the bishops ashamed of anything they said? How long are the minutes to be kept secret?
Gerald T. Griffin
The NOR has stepped up a notch in quality with the addition of Tom Bethell’s writings. In his January piece, “Archbishop Levada: Advancing on the Chessboard,” Bethell puts his finger on one of the main problems of the Catholic hierarchy — lack of fortitude. In reading of Levada, who is in “the exact middle of the road,” I could not help but think Christ was referring to this weakling and his ilk when He said, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold not hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16).
The bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and of the Twelve, who does Levada most resemble, if not Judas? Yes, Judas, for it’s certainly not Peter, James, Philip, or any of the other martyred ones who stood up for the Faith without reservation. Note the similarity between Levada and Judas. Judas did not hate Christ, nor did he intend that our Lord be crucified. Rather, Judas was full of “good intentions.” The man merely wanted to substitute his worldly agenda for the redemptive one of Heaven. Isn’t this exactly what Levada has done, accommodate the world rather than confront it for its sinfulness?
That Pope Benedict XVI promoted the likes of Levada to a high Vatican position foreshadows that the new Pope won’t be significantly better than John Paul II in running the institutional Church. Benedict might huff and puff, but when push comes to shove, he’ll look the other way as the modernistic heretics continue their destruction of the Church.
"This Is Not True"
In your February Editorial, “Homosexuals in the Seminary: Why the Priesthood Will Continue to Become a ‘Gay’ Profession,” you discuss the November 2005 document on the criteria for homosexuals in the seminary, which you call “Concerning.” You say that the previous document of 1961 forbade seminarians who (in the words of the document) had “evil tendencies to homosexuality.” Then you say: “So how do we go from ‘evil tendencies’ (i.e., orientation only) to having ‘profound respect’ for homosexual acts in ‘Concerning’?” This is not true. “Concerning” talks about a respect for persons, not acts. Yours is a serious misquote; it is false; in fact, it is a scandal. The context of “Concerning” states that we are to respect and not discriminate against them unjustly. I doubt you can make the case that the Catholic Church teaches that we should be disrespectful of any person, no matter how repulsively sinful he is.
In actuality, “Concerning” quotes the Catechism and states that, “Regarding [homosexual] acts, it teaches that Sacred Scripture presents them as grave sins…intrinsically immoral…contrary to the natural law.”
If you publish this letter or make a public retraction, I will know that you really do stand for the truth. Otherwise, I will be forced to conclude that I cannot trust the NOR to print the truth.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
As we said in our Editorial about “Concerning”: “those ‘who practice homosexuality’ (italics added) are ‘profoundly respected.'” We intentionally italicized practice. (Obviously you — and others we’ve heard from — missed it. It’s in “Concerning,” Number 2, paragraph 4. And do read it carefully! Sorry, but it’s sadly true.) To practice homosexuality is to be an active homosexual. A non-practicing homosexual is a non-active or chaste homosexual. Homosexual persons can be either practicing or chaste. The sentence in question does not refer to homosexual persons; it refers to homosexual acts. The Catechism (#2357-58) makes a clear distinction between homosexual “acts” and “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” And “Concerning” makes the same distinction; however, the distinction is between those who “practice” homosexuality and those with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”
So yes, “Concerning” is saying that we should have “profound respect” for those who commit homosexual acts. As we said in our Editorial: “So we should have profound respect for those who commit homosexual acts, which are mortal sins. By that logic, we should have profound respect for fornicators, adulterers, and child molesters.” Sorry, but we do not have profound respect for those who commit such sins. Of practicing homosexuals, St. Paul said they are “shameful” and “perverse” (Rom. 1:27). Sorry, but we do not have respect for what is shameful and perverse. The Catechism (#2357-58) does not say we should have profound respect — or even respect — for practicing homosexuals. The Catechism says we should have “respect” for those with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” also called an “inclination” or a “condition.” These are chaste homosexuals, and they are “called to fulfill God’s will in their lives…to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (#2358). These chaste homosexuals do indeed merit our “profound respect.”
Yes, “Concerning” says homosexual acts are “grave sins,” etc., but “Concerning” also says we should have “profound respect” for homosexual acts. You are mixing apples and oranges. Why are we to have “profound respect” for “grave sins”? If there’s a scandal, this is it.
Sauce-Free Back Issues
All of my NORs are stained with spaghetti sauce or microwave-dinner gravy or whatever I happen to be eating for supper while reading cover-to-cover the issue that I found in my mailbox when I returned from work.
Recently, I spent 10 bucks and became an online subscriber. Now I am reading years and years of sauce-free back issues.
At 10 bucks, it was a steal. Here are a few more bucks so I won’t have to confess to violating the Seventh Commandment.
Gaudette in Domino Semper!
John H. Kettelkamp
The guest column by Larry A. Carstens, “Please Don’t Bless My Children” (Feb.), takes exception to non-ordained Eucharistic ministers blessing younger children during Mass, but does not object to receiving the sacred Host from unconsecrated, non-ordained laymen. Distribution of the sacred Species is and should be the duty solely of a duly ordained priest/deacon whose hands have been consecrated for this purpose.
Although I agree with Carstens, I do have one comment. Carstens should, as should we all, work on eliminating the term “Eucharistic minister” from his vocabulary. This is a bad habit that many of us have acquired over the years, but it was identified as a liturgical abuse in Redemptionis Sacramentum, which was issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in March 2004. Number 156 of RS states that “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion” is the title to be used. Titles such as “special” or “Eucharist” or “Eucharistic” are not to be used, as they broaden the scope of the minister beyond that of a distributor of Holy Communion.
Ron Galloy’s “A Prolife Semantics Guide” (Feb.) is an important reminder that language both expresses and shapes the way we think. While Galloy’s article is quite thorough and exposes the media’s manipulation of key terms and concepts, the one word that rarely, if ever, appears in the word wars is the one that most accurately describes what happens in an abortion “clinic.” It is hardly a new word; rather, it is a word that has been around for centuries. The word is “aborticide,” as in homicide, matricide, patricide, infanticide, fratricide, or feticide.
Perhaps, if prolifers used the correct impact language, more hearts would be moved to admit the truth about what happens during the “procedure” called abortion. A simple dictionary definition makes clear what takes place: “Aborticide n. (Latin, abortus, and cidium, from caedere, to kilbp1. The crime of abortion; the act of destroying a fetus; feticide” (Webster’s New 20th Century Dictionary, Unabridged Edition).
If “aborticide” were to become common parlance in our references to the “procedure,” perhaps the truth might ultimately win the day.
J. Robert Filorama
Warren, New Jersey
Thanks for running Galloy’s excellent article. I only disagree with his recommendation that we not use the term “anti-abortion.” While I have nothing against the term “prolife,” I decided years ago that it wasn’t strong enough. Here are my reasons:
(1) Some prolifers are pro-death penalty and pro-war. Calling ourselves “prolife” allows our opponents to taunt us with what they see, or least portray, as a hypocritical inconsistency.
(2) “Prolife” does not capture the evil, the unspeakable ugliness, of what we oppose. Abortionists and their supporters call themselves “pro-choice,” not “pro-abortion.” Calling ourselves “anti-abortion” reminds everyone of what they truly do or support: They are “pro-abortion.”
James F. Csank
Seven Hills, Ohio
U.S. Democracy Has Not Murdered 46 Million Babies
I read Daniel M. Canavan’s letter (Jan.) with interest. However, I feel that he is mistaken when he argues that democracy is spiritually heedless and that “U.S. democracy has murdered 46 million babies.”
Roe v. Wade is probably the single worst decision ever handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, not just because, at a stroke, abortion-on-demand was legalized throughout the land, but also because, in the process, democracy was suborned and the separation of powers guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution imperiled.
The Supreme Court arrogated to itself powers it did not have under the Constitution, discovered a right to privacy which is quite patently absent from the document, entailing, among other things, a right to an abortion, and, in the process denied the rights of the people to vote, and the states to legislate, on the matter. In short, U.S. democracy has not murdered 46 million babies. It is precisely the opposite of democracy; seven unelected judges behaving like tyrants have murdered 46 million babies.
In poll after poll, the vast majority of the American people have declared themselves opposed to abortion, whether in all, or in all but the most extreme, circumstances. I would submit, therefore, that democracy, where it is allowed to function properly, is not spiritually heedless. Unfortunately, in the case of abortion, the democratic system was not allowed to function at all; it was simply taken out and shot.
Timothy J. Moran
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Outside of America, virtually all democracies have approved abortion via their parliaments and legislatures. (This was not by judicial fiat.) The vast majority of the American people support abortion in various circumstances or in all circumstances; only 20 percent of the American people oppose abortion in all circumstances (Gallup Poll, 2005).
If Roe v. Wade were overturned, according to prolifer J.C. Willke (Life Issues Connector, Jan. 2006), “only 7 states — Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Arkansas — would have laws that are probably enforceable if Roe and Doe were overturned. These states account for less than 10 percent of the total population of the United States.” Assuming that these seven states did not allow abortion over the last 33 years since Roe, U.S. democracy has murdered at least 41.4 million babies.
I had given serious thought to not renewing my subscription as a sort of impulsive knee-jerk reaction to Thomas Storck’s guest column, “Where Have All the Protestants Gone?” (Jan.). Actually, I agreed with most of what he had to say. Protestantism, with its some 3,000 sects and denominations and a vast array of conflicting doctrines, is a mass of confusion. Of course, God is not the author of confusion.
But last September I was ordained a priest in the Anglican Orthodox Church. The man who started this communion back in 1961, Bishop Dees, saw the path that the Episcopal Church was going down and got out. Unlike Storck, I believe our Anglican orders are still valid. Our communion, at least in regard to our liturgy, is much more “Catholic” than most Roman Catholic churches are today. The altar is where it is supposed to be (against the walb| incense is the rule not the exception, and the mood and music are reverential.
In reality, Storck and those of us in our Anglican communion have more in common than we have differences.
Your magazine continues to stimulate and encourage. That’s why I decided to renew my subscription.
Fr. David Cavall
Surf City, North Carolina
Thomas Storck, your guest columnist (Jan.), needs to brush up on his math. He writes: “Between 1990 and 2001 the number of Americans…who self-identify as ‘Protestant’ decreased by 270 percent.” “Percent” means “per 100.” A decrease of 50 percent reduces the quantity by half. A decrease of 100 percent reduces it to zero. A decrease of 270 percent is meaningless. It is impossible to guess what Storck meant. Perhaps he could enlighten us by giving us the actual figures. Then those who are mathematically gifted could work out the actual percentage for themselves.
West Vancouver, British Columbia
THOMAS STORCK REPLIES
He is surely correct to call my attention to this mathematical impossibility, which I had not noticed. I took the statistic right out of Newsweek (Aug. 29-Sept. 5, 2005, p. 54). I don’t know what to make of it any more than he does.
Your Magazine Is Violent
As far as I can see, after several months of reading the NOR, your magazine is full of blabber. It doesn’t even qualify as spiritual work, but leaves me feeling greatly distressed. For the most part, your magazine is coarse, crude, and violent. Your choice of material is almost trash.
The truth and grace of the Church are the simple and humble people, which are missed by you. I converted to this beauty and know it well. Do something beautiful and true. I know that is not what Berkeley is about, but try anyway. Remember what St. Paul said, “Whatever be of good report, think on these things.”
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Yes, we understand your feelings. You want to live in your dreamland of beauty. So many people do. But we are doing our job by making you feel “greatly distressed.” The Church is in dismal shape. But you want us to ignore it. Sorry!
You also exhort us: “Whatever be of good report, think on these things.” But you sure do know how to get down and dirty. You call us “full of blabber,” “coarse, crude, and violent,” and our choice of material “is almost trash.” Yeah, right, “Whatever be of good report.”
How to Get Out Of This Mess
At last I found a publication that talks about the things I think about. I wondered if I was the only one. I just finished reading the latest NOR. You take my breath away!
Don’t ever stop telling us how we got here, and how to get out of the mess we’re in.
Somerville, New Jersey
You're Right About George Weigel
At last I found a publication that talks about the things I think about. I wondered if I was the only one. I just finished reading the latest NOR. You take my breath away!
Don’t ever stop telling us how we got here, and how to get out of the mess we’re in.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
It is characteristic of Weigel to respond with ad hominem attacks. In his letter to the NOR (Dec. 2004), he said, “the contents of the Berkeley water supply…have degraded your Editor’s capacity to read.” Par for the course.
You wrote back suggesting that Weigel “find honest work at a university.” That option is not available to him because he doesn’t have a Ph.D. But since you brought it up, what he should do is find work in the military, since he’s so eager to spread liberation by military might. We have examined Weigel’s biography and found, not surprisingly, that he’s never served in the military. Just like so many neocons. He’s probably too old to serve in the military now, so he should find work in the USO.
You're Wrong About George Weigel
I take issue with your review of George Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral (Jan.). You make some good points, such as the superiority of Muslim values to those of contemporary secular Europeans, but many of your criticisms are unreasonable, which has the unfortunate effect of discrediting your substantive objections. I will try to show where some of your criticisms go wrong.
(1) You say, “Look, freedom is the exercise of free will, of choice, of doing what’s right or what’s wrong.”
That is certainly one sense of freedom, and, as you point out, the most commonly used one. However, there is another sense of freedom that cannot be equated with “doing what’s right or what’s wrong.” This is the sense of freedom used by Orestes Brownson, when he said, “Liberty is not in the absence of authority, but in being held to obey only just and legitimate authority.” This is the kind of freedom used to distinguish free citizens from slaves of a despot, and whose enjoyment is a natural right. This sense of freedom is clearly distinct from the sense you refer to. Every State has to proscribe some (although not albpsorts of bad behavior. However, that does not mean that their citizens are no longer free, or less than fully free — unless the State’s proscriptions go beyond, or contradict, the Natural Law. Nor can restricting people from doing what’s wrong be an infringement on their natural rights. Weigel has a legitimate point when he says that the former sense of freedom has been confused with the latter in both political and personal spheres, with the result that people have come to think that they have a right to do either what’s right or what’s wrong; and that this confusion has had a destructive effect on European society (as it has on American society, something Weigel does not emphasize as much).
(2) You say, “Weigel also says freedom is ‘freedom for [moral] excellence.’ Ah, but who defines moral excellence? The Church? If so, it’s a theocratic society, not a free society.”
The Natural Law defines moral excellence, and this law is available to human reason. The teachings of the Church and the teachings of the moral law overlap, it is true. But even if the moral teachings of the Church are enforced by the State, this does not make a society theocratic rather than free; it is quite compatible with freedom in Brownson’s sense, which is the sort of freedom that the State should promote.
(3) You say, “Weigel also says that freedom is a means to ‘human happiness,’ but in a free society, individuals decide what makes them happy, and they will decide that in various and opposite ways.”
Individuals may have different opinions on what will make them happy, but that does not mean that they can decide what will make them happy. On the standard Catholic understanding of happiness, to be happy is to enjoy the supreme and final good for man, and this good is found in the Beatific Vision (see St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Prima Secundae, quests. 1 to 5); and sin is an obstacle to happiness. The exercise of Brownson’s freedom in a wider sense — where the “just and legitimate authority” which one obeys includes God’s authority as conveyed both in the Natural Law and in Christian revelation — is a sufficient path to happiness, and can be called a means to it. If freedom is understood in a narrower sense, where the “just and legitimate authority” is that of the State exercising its legitimate authority according to the Natural Law, the exercise of such freedom is necessary for achieving the happiness of the Beatific Vision, but is not sufficient; so it can be called a means in a restricted sense. Some individuals do decide to pursue sinful objects in order to be happy, but they necessarily fail in this object; both in this life, where they suffer from the misery of being in mortal sin, and in the next, where they suffer in Hell forever. Such individuals can pretend that they are happy (although I doubt if in Hell they can do even this), but they cannot decide to be happy.
(4) You say, “Weigel says that the term ‘freedom for excellence’ comes from Aquinas. However, Aquinas preferred monarchy over democracy, which makes hash of Weigel’s claim that democracy is ‘freedom for excellence,’ for Aquinas regarded monarchy as the most excellent form of government.”
Aquinas does not think that monarchy is the only legitimate form of government, only the best one, so he would not think that democracy excludes “freedom for excellence.” And his notion of democracy — following Aristotle — was not ours; what he had in mind was the Athenian form, where the entire body of citizens would decide on questions of state by a vote. He defines monarchy as rule by one man, and does not exclude the possibility of this one man being chosen by the people (see Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 105 art. 1), so it is not clear that his preference for monarchy would exclude some forms of what we call democracy. However, the point that Aquinas’s political ideals differ considerably from Weigel’s is well taken.
(5) You say, “The cry of the French Revolution was liberté, égalité, fraternité. Weigel is reduced to saying that ‘Catholic faith can nurture a free society (liberté), human dignity (equalité [sic]), and human solidarity (fraternité).’ This is just me-too-ism, and quite late in the day.”
This view did not emerge so late in the day as all that. Lacordaire and Montalembert, in the 19th century, were arguing to good effect that Catholicism is compatible with, and even requires, the good features of the ideas behind the French Revolution. Weigel is in a well-established tradition here, and he need not feel embarrassed about saying “me too” to such important figures. The anti-clerical picture of the Church as an oppressive force, a picture that has its origins in the French Revolution and the Enlightenment behind it, is still influential in Europe, so Weigel has reason to oppose it.
(6) You say, “This is a third-rate book permeated with the odor of witchcraft.”
Although it is droll to think of the buttoned-up Weigel participating in a witch’s Sabbath along with Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, it is unjust — and absurd — to rank him with such as Mary Daly. As for his book being third-rate, opinions may differ; but I do not think it is third-rate in the sense of being badly written and of no interest. Weigel is, after all, a fairly competent writer, something that is a precondition for the success he has enjoyed. Intemperate remarks like these, while perhaps satisfying to the reviewer’s feelings, tend to discredit his attacks on the book reviewed.
(7) In general, I think it was unfortunate that you allowed your fire to be drawn to the wrong targets in Weigel’s book, while neglecting some of the more important ones. In particular, you failed to adequately address the following: How can Weigel reconcile his espousal of “freedom for excellence,” Brownson’s freedom, with any form of neoconservatism? And, how can he reconcile his enthusiasm for democracy as the ideal form of government with the Church’s teaching on this subject? This teaching was expressed by Leo XIII in his encyclical Au Milieu des Sollicitudes: “Various political governments have succeeded one another in France during the last century, each having its own distinctive form: the Empire, the Monarchy, and the Republic…. In all truth it may be affirmed that each of them is good, provided it lead straight to its end — that is to say, to the common good for which social authority is constituted; and finally, it may be added that, from a relative point of view, such and such a form of government may be preferable because of being better adapted to the character and customs of such or such a nation. In this order of speculative ideas, Catholics, like all other citizens, are free to prefer one form of government to another precisely because no one of these social forms is, in itself, opposed to the principles of sound reason nor to the maxims of Christian doctrine.” How can one square this with Weigel’s views, and with his support for President Bush’s ambition to extend democracy? That is what you should have been asking.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
As for point (1): Modern democratic societies are not based on Catholic Natural Law or rights.
Point (2): If the moral teachings of the Church were enforced by the State, we few orthodox Catholics would regard it as a free society, but the great majority of citizens would regard it as a theocratic society. Natural Law does not define “moral excellence” in modern democratic societies.
Point (3): You make it clear that you’re advocating a theocratic State. That is definitely not what Weigel wants.
Point (4): You make a distinction without a difference.
Point (5): Weigel, you say, supports the good features of the French Revolution, and he also has good reason to oppose the French Revolution. Huh? Lacordaire and Montalembert are not especially important figures. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says of Lacordaire that he was “hardly a profound theologian or philosopher,” and of Montalembert that his “works of history…were uncritical.”
Point (6): We weren’t comparing Weigel to a witch’s Sabbath or Mary Daly. Witchcraft denotes sorcery and magical influence. Weigel’s sorcery comes from his Orwellian Newspeak. Just as politically correct liberals redefine words to suit their purposes, such as turning homosexuals into “gays,” now, according to Weigel, we’re supposed to believe that freedom is “virtue.” In modern democratic societies, freedom is manifestly not virtue, but Weigel is nevertheless an advocate for modern democratic societies. His magical influence comes from his neocon funding, which accounts in large part for “the success he has enjoyed.”
Point (7): We did comment on Weigel’s support of Bush’s ambition to extend democracy by military might. See the penultimate paragraph, and the one that precedes it. We also noted in the paragraph before that: “The traditional position of the Church has been indifference to forms of government, so long as the common good is protected and the Church is not under the thumb of the State….”
Scott Hahn Is "Dazzling"
I have enclosed a copy of a review of Scott Hahn’s book Understanding the Scriptures: A Complete Course on Bible Study, published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review (Jan. 2006). The reviewer uses words such as “dazzling” and “simply staggering,” but it appears the reviewer did not read the book, for he only uses a quote from the back cover of the book.
The reviewer says: “If you are a pastor and have, or desire to have, a Bible study in your parish, buy this book! If you are a seminary, University or College professor teaching Scripture, do yourself and your students a favor, buy this book!” The reviewer sounds like a used-car salesman. The “review” is written by a robot from Steubenville, where Hahn teaches.
This surely does not make one want to read Hahn’s book.
The Holy Spirit Picks the Pope
Regarding your February Editorial about Benedict XVI: Both ends of the Catholic spectrum are horribly upset about the Holy Spirit’s picking of Benedict. Those of us who try to remain orthodox Catholics have always believed, and still do, that the Holy Spirit gives us the pope that the Church needs at a particular time. Therefore, apparently God wants to foster unity among Catholics — and also among Catholics and our separated brethren. Who are you to tell us that God and Benedict are wrong?
Regina M. Burke
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The pope is not God. Even popes have free will. How do you account for the lecherous, money-grubbing, incompetent, wimpy, and scandalous popes in history? If the Holy Spirit gives us the pope the Church needs at a particular time, what do these popes say about the Holy Spirit? That would be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and we know that is not what you want to say. And not even Benedict XVI agrees with you: He has warned about attributing papal elections to the direct control of the Holy Spirit.
The Republican Party
Senator Jeffrey J. Hill of Arizona (letters, Jan.) says that he has a feeling of déjà vu whenever someone brings up the idea of a third party that would be more acceptable to Catholics and other Christians than the regnant Republican and Democratic parties. Maybe Hill, an elected official in the Republican Party, should ask himself why the idea of a third party comes up so frequently in the first place. Maybe increasing numbers of people are genuinely drawn to this idea.
Hill says that we have a “two-party system.” This may be true in fact, but where does it stipulate this in the Constitution or any of our other founding documents? America was once a slave country, too, but we ultimately didn’t settle for that. I would argue that we are now a one-party system, and that party is the Republicratic Party. It has an agnostic, pro-abortion left-wing, and a neoconservative pro-war right-wing. Neither wing is authentically prolife. Both wings are controlled by rich pro-abortionists. How much genuine variation on abortion is there really between these two parties?
The Democrats, once the allies of Catholics, have abandoned us and now hold our religion in contempt for sticking to moral principles. The Republicans will tolerate Catholics, but only so long as we remain on our hands and knees, like dogs, sniffing obediently at their heels. It is fruitless to talk about “transforming” the Republican Party to make it more acceptable to faithful Catholics. It won’t happen. Republicans don’t care about abortion, they only care about keeping The Rich rich. They care only about Profit.
The only alternative is to form another party, one that draws from the Republicans and the Democrats, one that unites Catholics and other believers who think there’s more to life than pleasure, power, and pockets full of gold. A third party could grow to several million, with representatives in all states; it could at the very least be a tiebreaker, even a kingmaker. This God-fearing party of economic progressives and religious traditionalists would only continue growing as regular people recognized that it alone championed their beliefs, their welfare, and their economic liberty.
But be warned: The Democrats and the Republicans will unite as never before to quash this emergent threat to their power. The two wings of the Republicratic Party will close in like boulder-crushers. The plutocracy will not go down without fighting. The success of our new party will require a long and bitter political struggle. Are we up for that? Or will we just sigh and continue to let ourselves be herded like sheep, fed by the “bread and circuses” of a diseased culture, and finally ushered into a moral and political grave?
Montclair, New Jersey
God Only Hates Unrepentant Sinners Who Have Died
I believe that the dispute (letters, Jan., pp. 8-9) regarding God’s unconditional love and the passages in Scripture showing that God hates unrepentant sinners can be reconciled easily.
By definition, “To love is to will the good of another” (Catechism, #1766). Now, we know that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8); therefore, we know that God wills the repentance of all unrepentant sinners, as this is by far the best “good” for them. However, He can only will their repentance if they can indeed repent. When the unrepentant sinner dies unrepentant, he has made an irrevocable choice: Hell. At this point, there is no “good” that can be willed that individual soul. So, by definition, God cannot love this soul any longer, as there is no good God can will for it. In a similar way, God can’t love Satan because of Satan’s irrevocable choice; there is no good God can will Satan either.
Since any sinner can repent up until the time of actual death, the passages that state that God hates an unrepentant sinner are accurate, but refer to a sinner who has not repented and has died. Sinners who are living, yet unrepentant to date, are loved by God because God wills their good — namely, that they repent.
Does God hate unrepentant sinners and send them to Hell as contended in the NOR (Oct. 2005, pp. 13-14; Jan. 2006, p. 9)? An attribute of God is infinite love. Hate and infinite love cannot exist together.
Of beings created with ego and free will (angels and men), a certain percentage will inevitably sin and implacably reject their Creator and His lifestyle. A remainder of angels will not sin and a remainder of men will repent of their sins and be saved by God’s Son dying most cruelly on a cross.
The prodigal son made the determination to return to his father rather than remain in his hellish condition. God does not send anyone to Hell.
Why does God create angels and men whom He knows will implacably hate Him and damn themselves? Is it because it’s better to exist and be damned than to not exist at all? God and they know.
Can He or would He annihilate them — or would He create the most compassionate Hell possible for their existence?
I can certainly concur with your objections to people who say that God loves us unconditionally and draw from that assertion the conclusion that sin need not be taken seriously and everyone is saved. However, your assertion that God hates unrepentant sinners replaces one piece of bad theology with another.
When I was getting my Catholic education in the 1940s and 50s, the nuns taught us that God loves even the souls in Hell. It is true that His love does them no good, perhaps even adding to their torment, but that does not mean He does not love them. Souls are in Hell not because God hates them but because they hate Him. They are there in spite of God’s love for them. Were God to cease loving any creature, that creature would cease to exist because existence itself is the work of divine love. If God did not love the souls in Hell, He would simply annihilate them rather than keep them in existence, even in Hell. You may recall that Dante asserted that Hell itself was the work of divine love.
Furthermore, God gives grace to unrepentant sinners in the effort to bring them to repentance, something He would hardly do for people He hated.
If Christ died for unrepentant sinners, then He must love unrepentant sinners. St. Paul clearly tells us: “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man — though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8). St. Paul’s use of the expression “the ungodly” clearly implies that he is talking about unrepentant sinners, since one would hardly use such an expression in reference to repentant sinners.
Furthermore, the same person may at one time be a repentant sinner and at another an unrepentant one. If God loves me but then I fall into mortal sin and refuse to repent, and God begins to hate me instead, then God has changed, which is impossible. And, of course, if later on I repent and God starts to love me again, He has once more shown Himself to be mutable.
Furthermore, if we are not allowed to hate our enemies, no matter how grievously they have offended us, but are, on the contrary, told to love them and pray for them and do good to them, in order to be like our heavenly Father, then clearly God cannot and does not hate His enemies. If, as Christ tells us, in loving our enemies we will be like God, then God too loves His enemies.
It is true that unrepentant sinners are not in a mutually loving relationship, that is, friendship, with God, but it is the sinner, not God, who has withdrawn from the relationship and hence ended it.
George A. Kendall
Grand Marais, Michigan
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
To Charles Corbalis: You make a powerful case, but only at first glance. “To love is to will the good of another” (#1766) comes from the section in the Catechism called “The Morality of the Passions,” which includes numbers 1762 through 1770. The Catechism is here speaking of the “human person,” not God. Can man hold God to that maxim?
Let us quote the full text of 1 John 4:8: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (Many Catholics will say they do indeed love. But be careful, for 1 John 4:18 says, “perfect love casts out fear.” How many of us are without fear?) So, we are implored to love because God is love. But is God so bound?
The opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. God is not indifferent. He is a jealous God, and when His love is spurned, it turns to wrath. As Nahum 1:2 says: “The Lord is a jealous God and avenging, the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.” Wrath is vengeance, vindictive anger, punishment, divine retribution for sins. No, God’s love is not permissive or unconditional.
You could say, if you want, that God is loving even when He hates unrepentant sinners, just as a father is loving when he is wrathful to (punishes) his children.
In the passages from the Bible that we gave in our New Oxford Note (Oct. 2005, pp. 13-14), eight of the nine passages did not say that God hates unrepentant sinners only after they’ve died.
There is also the problem of Romans 1: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse…. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts…” (vv. 18-20,24; italics added). This is from the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. As for verse 24, the New Century Version says, “God left them and let them go their sinful way, wanting only to do evil”; the Contemporary English Version says, “So God let these people go their own way. They did what they wanted to do, and their filthy thoughts made them do shameful things with their bodies.” If, as you say, God wills their “good,” He would not give them up before they died. But He did.
To Tom Cunningham: As we said above, the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference.
Yes, unrepentant sinners damn themselves to Hell, but you can be sure that most of them don’t want to go there. At the Last Judgment, Jesus is the Judge. As the Catechism says: “Jesus solemnly proclaims that he ‘will send his angels, and they will gather…all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,’ and that he will pronounce the condemnation: ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into eternal fire!'” (#1034).
If Jesus loves unrepentant sinners and nevertheless sends them to Hell for ever and ever, that is a sick kind of love. Call it what it is: vengeance. As St. Paul says, “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).
You hold out hope that God would “create the most compassionate Hell possible.” What could that be? You want to take the sting out of Hell. Or that God would annihilate them? The Catechism says that Hell is “eternal” (#1035). There is no annihilation, however comforting that would be.
To George Kendall: You say, “the nuns taught us that God loves even the souls in Hell.” Again, that’s a sick kind of love. You say that God loves the souls in Hell, “perhaps adding to their torment.” Truly, that is a sick kind of love. If He truly loved unrepentant sinners, He would forgive them and bring them to Heaven.
In our New Oxford Note (Oct. 2005), we gave four passages from Scripture that say that God or Jesus “hates” unrepentant sinners (Ps. 5:5; Sir. 12:6; Sir. 15:13; Rev. 2:6-7). There are other passages that say that God hates — Psalm 31:6; Psalm 45:7; Proverbs 6:16-19; Malachi 2:16; Judith 5:17; Hebrews 1:9; and others as well. And St. Paul repeats what God said in the Old Testament: “As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated'” (Rom. 9:13). There are many more passages that say that God inflicts vengeance and wrath upon His enemies. We don’t know how you can argue with Scripture.
You say that “If God did not love the souls in Hell, He would simply annihilate them rather than keep them in existence, even in Hell.” Rather the opposite: If God loves the souls in Hell, He would (at a minimum) annihilate them. That’s why Tom Cunningham holds out hope that they will be annihilated.
You quote Romans 5:6-8. You are wrong that “St. Paul’s use of the expression ‘the ungodly’ clearly implies that he is talking about unrepentant sinners, since one would hardly use such an expression in reference to repentant sinners.” You fail to quote the rest of Romans 5 (vv. 9-10), for St. Paul is clearly speaking about repentant sinners: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
You say that if God hates you because you’re an unrepentant sinner, and then you repent and He loves you, God has “changed” and is “mutable.” This is mere philosophy. If God did not hate unrepentant sinners, the Bible would not say the He does. And God loves repentant sinners. Again, the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference.
We are implored to love our enemies. But is God so bound? Clearly, He hates His enemies. St. Paul says, “Let all…wrath…be put away from you…” (Eph. 4:31). But there are hundreds of passages in Scripture that speak of God’s wrath. Clearly, God is not bound by what He enjoins on Christians. The Gospel of John (3:36) says: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Hell is simply the eternal place of God’s wrath.
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