Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: April 2007

April 2007

Not Alone in the World

I would like to commend Carmelo Fallace for his efforts at matching interested NOR readers with one another for discussion and fellowship. I live in Tallahassee, Fla., and knew of no other NOR readers in my area. After I contacted Fallace via e-mail, he matched me up with another reader in Tallahassee. As it turned out, this individual is part of a group of traditional Catholics who get together once a month to pray the Rosary. They also celebrate the Tridentine Latin Mass the third Saturday of every month with a priest who travels from Orlando for the express purpose of ministering to this group.

I have been a Catholic for only three years and I attended my first Latin Mass a couple of weeks ago and was very moved. It is a tremendous blessing to find I’m not alone in the world, and I want to encourage all to contact Fallace if they are interested in fellowship with others of the faithful. His e-mail address is often found somewhere in the NOR, but in case you can’t find it, here it is: fallace@optonline.net.

Mark Nichols

Tallahassee, Florida

No Shame

The Diocese of Phoenix (Ariz.) has no shame. According to the Arizona Republic (Jan. 18), “Tonight, Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien will be honored on his 25th anniversary as a bishop at a private reception at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in downtown Phoenix. O’Brien might still be the leader of the diocese if not for his conviction in a fatal hit-and-run accident in June 2003. He has completed 1,000 hours of community service and is nearly three years into his four-year probation. O’Brien also acknowledged protecting priests who had molested children, but he never was charged in any of the cases.”

Janet Cook

Phoenix, Arizona

Same-Sex 'Marriage' Has No Precedent in the Annals of History

As a longtime Swiftian, I was pleased to see Mitchell Kalpakgian’s article on Swift’s allegory of the Spider and the Bee (Feb.). But I was not pleased to read his assertion that “Same-sex ‘marriage’ has no precedent in all the annals of history and in all the customs of nations.” I would refer him to two recent articles in the NOR (Jan. 2004 and June 2005), both of which treat of Nero’s innovations in same-sex “marriage.” Modesty forbids my mentioning the authorship.

Leland D. Peterson

Norfolk, Virginia

Missing Evidence

Mark Cole’s article on Intelligent Design (ID) and the theory of evolution (Jan.) seems lacking in both definition and scope.

First of all, what is at issue is the claim of Darwinian evolutionists that all the species of animals in the world today originated from completely different species. But there is no evidence for this. Simply showing that it might have happened is not equivalent to proving that it did happen. There is no evidence that any existing species of animal ever arose from a completely different species. Adaptation within a species, which everyone recognizes, is not evolution.

Second, there is no intrinsic contradiction between ID and evolution. For example, God could certainly have developed the higher species of animals through evolution from lower species. In such case, evolution would be an effect of ID. The only conflict is between ID and evolution from chance material causes undirected by Intelligence. But still, there is no evidence that evolution of species actually occurred.

Cole quotes Fr. Stanley Jaki as saying of those who criticize evolution: “Only those resist it who are inclined to resist facts or sane philosophy or both.” This is a strangely sweeping statement. “Evolution” is not a single, unified concept. The evolution of species is not impossible for God, but the theory of evolution as a result of blind chance is untenable, clearly leaving it open to criticism.

ID was competently defended by Aristotle in his philosophy of nature. His conclusions were not based on religious faith or metaphysics but on the application of reason to what is observed in nature — i.e., the application of sane philosophy to facts. Aristotle’s argument does not exclude evolution, only evolution by chance material causes, which is the real issue being addressed by the proponents of ID.

One can only wonder what “facts” Fr. Jaki thinks prove the evolution of species. One must also wonder what metaphysical arguments Jaki and Cole think are indisputable. Indeed, it would be perfectly reasonable — and in accord with how we observe God to act through secondary causes — if God brought higher species of living things into existence from lower species. But there is no necessity for Him to proceed this way, and no conclusive evidence that He did so.

On the contrary, the question of evolution seems to be one of natural history: How did the species of living things come to be? In philosophy, the study of how material causes produce material effects in nature is the subject of the philosophy of nature, classically called “physics,” not “metaphysics.”

What metaphysics would have to contribute to the question is unclear. The only significant point is that evolution is not necessary as a principle for the development of species. Whether the evolution of any species has actually occurred probably can never be known; but that nature is the product of ID can be known both through faith and reason.

E. William Sockey III

Venus, Pennsylvania

'Many Theories of Evolution'

Mark Cole’s article on evolution (Jan.) might have been more satisfying had he defined evolution. After all, as Pope John Paul II reportedly said in his famous allocution, there are “many theories of evolution.” Let me jump into the gap, so we understand what is being discussed. Darwinian evolution, by definition, requires gradual evolutionary progress to occur by natural selection of random changes. Neo-Darwinism postulates the same random process, but bases it on natural selection of genetic mutations. (Darwin lived before genetics was known.)

Is this the sort of evolution Fr. Stanley Jaki thinks Christians should cheer? It sounds more like the randomness rejected by John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Cardinal Schönborn. Does this sort of thing comprise “sane philosophy” based on scientific “fact”?

At the level of mere science, there are enormous problems with every aspect of Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolution. (The “gaps” of Fr. Jaki.) No one has ever observed a beneficial mutation. Ever. Nine hundred ninety-nine out of one thousand kill the organism. The remainder impair specific functions. Beyond that, each of the steps required for spontaneous generation of life seem statistically impossible, as do the mechanisms by which genetic systems could have emerged “gradually, step by step, via natural selection of random mutation.” Then there are all the irreducible complexity arguments. Nothing encouraging on any of these points has been observed in the laboratory. Nor has transition from one species to another been found in the fossil record. Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard’s evolution apologist, referred to the lack of transitional fossils as “the trade secret of paleontology.”

The best one can say is that organisms are capable of adapting to change, fine-tuning themselves within the limits of their species. That’s called micro-evolution, to be distinguished from macro-evolution, which refers to change from one species to another. The latter has not been observed, only imagined.

Does one fill these enormous factual gaps with metaphysics, as Cole seems to have Fr. Jaki suggest, or does one admit that Darwinism and neo-Darwinism fail, at the level of science, no matter what creative metaphysics might be layered on? Gould did that implicitly, by postulating his “hopeful monster” theory, in an effort to save evolution.

Hopeful monsters are massive sudden shifts in phenotype — e.g., two wildebeests give birth to a horse. A boy horse. Fortunately, two other wildebeests in the next veldt give birth to a girl horse, and they get together in the same geological era, so we get horses. Gould was criticized for lowering science to the level of Rudyard Kipling, but that is where Darwinism is, at the level of “fact.” Far closer to Kipling than to sound Catholic metaphysics.

Personally, I hesitate to “resist facts or sane philosophy,” let alone both at the same time, but since neo-Darwinism offers little of either, I have yet to be seriously tempted.

Intelligent Design (ID) advocates are humble, as Cole admits; they merely discern the likely presence of design in the complexity of life. (I am neither an ID advocate nor humble.) Why is ID a threat to Catholic belief? It sounds rather like watered-down Thomas Aquinas, which is preferable to watered-down Rudyard Kipling. Perhaps Cole can clarify his position.

Robin Bernhoft, M.D.

Ojai, California


What Robin Bernhoft objects to would seem to be Fr. Stanley Jaki’s words and not mine. For some reason it does not seem to have occurred to him that I might quote someone without necessarily agreeing with him.

My intention was not to pre­sent any particular theory, but to demystify some sadly neglected and misunderstood teachings of the popes — and to offer a brief summary of the evolution controversy within the Church. I tried to avoid expressing my own opinions on the subject, although they seem to have crept in in one or two places. If I had any particular thesis it was that, despite the objections of some theologians and philosophers, the Intelligent Design (ID) movement’s best known ideas are not incompatible with Catholic teaching.

To attempt such a survey — even as brief as mine — without discussing Fr. Jaki’s work would be reckless, to say the least. Jaki is a physicist, a gifted theologian, and a Thomist philosopher. He has probably done more to combat the pervasive secularism of science than anyone since Pierre Duhem. And, as Bernhoft professes to admire John Paul II’s statements on evolution, I would also point out that they echo many of Jaki’s ideas.

Far from reflecting “randomness,” Jaki’s argument rises from one of St. Thomas’s proofs of the existence of God, the “coherence” of the universe. This means that the universe is rational and does not require any continued intervention from outside forces to function. The modern, scientific universe, which explodes out of nothingness and develops through natural laws, fits quite well into this Thomistic vision — as, Jaki argues, does the development of life from simple creatures to more complex ones.

Jaki recognizes the impossibility of empirical proof of the origins of life — and rejects Darwinism because of its absurd metaphysics. Instead, he argues that the only possible rational argument for some form of evolution comes from the combination of this Thomistic insight with the incomplete evidence of the fossil record. He refuses to speculate what evolutionary mechanisms might be involved (although he does reject vitalism).

I am not qualified to assess Jaki’s argument (nor, I suspect, is Bernhoft). Many other Thomists have expressed public skepticism toward ID, some for similar reasons. Aquinas may also have influenced those Catholic scientists — such as St. Hillaire — who developed evolutionary theories a generation before Darwin. Remember that, as St. Thomas defines it, as much as 80 or 90 percent of evolution could take place without involving a change in “type.”

I hesitantly offer three major reservations to Jaki’s work (which were in the original version of my essay):

(1) How necessary coherence might be expressed in a contingent universe is a highly debatable question.

(2) Jaki’s argument depends on the current scientific interpretation of evidence. Should that interpretation change (as one recent geological discovery threatens to do), then his argument would collapse.

(3) Becoming too attached to a particular scientific theory is dangerous: It might leave us in the same absurd position as the Calvinists who drove Kepler out of Tübingen.

Whether we agree or not, if a man as learned as Jaki makes such a forceful statement, we would be foolish not to study what he has to say and to consider it carefully before rejecting it. Anyone interested in the question of evolution and the secular bias of science should read his work (particularly as he explains all this far better than I can!). The Limits of a Limitless Science would be a good place to start.

Same-Sex & Opposite Sex

Regarding the New Oxford Note “A Time to Mourn & a Time to Speak” (Feb.) about how parents should react to their homosexual children: The Banner is absolutely misguided. Obviously, we parents must also implore our sons and daughters who are, or have been, sleeping with the opposite sex outside of marriage to repent of their lifestyles. Praise God that our four adult children are married and raising children.

Our son, Paul Nichols, receives attention around the world for his cartoons. To view a sampling, go to www.catholiccartoonblog.blogspot.com.

Art Nichols

Dover, Delaware

Griffin Is Right

Regarding the letter from Gerald T. Griffin (Feb.) titled “The Kendall Article, Take Two”: George A. Kendall said in The Wanderer that those who hold high offices in the Vatican are less important than those who hold lower offices, the local ordinaries. Griffin says this is erroneous, and he cites “the Vatican’s Archbishop Bugnini who did inordinate damage to the new vernacular liturgy.”

Archbishop Annibale Bugnini was initiated into Freemasonry on April 23, 1963. His code number was #1365-75. His Masonic code name was “Buan.”

At that time, the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship was Archbishop Virgillio Noe. He was initiated into Freemasonry on April 3, 1961. His code number was #43652-21. His Masonic code name was “Vino.” Please take note: Bugnini and Noe paid five Protestant ministers and one Jewish rabbi to work on the Novus Ordo Missae, the new vernacular liturgy.

Nine popes have condemned Freemasonry, 57 times, as being incompatible with Catholicism.

Indeed, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration on November 26, 1983, signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, that said: “The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”

Richard Marshall

Redlands, California


Regarding the New Oxford Note “Embarrassing & Contradictory” (Feb.) about George Kendall’s writings in The Wanderer: Kendall thinks God loves everyone, unrepentant sinners and repentant sinners, and he even thinks God loves the souls in Hell.

Just reading from the Psalms, Wisdom, and The Apocalypse (Douay-Rheims version), one realizes that this is preposterous: “Thou [God] hatest all the workers of iniquity…” (Ps. 5:7; in other versions 5:5). “For behold they that go far from thee shall perish; thou [God] has destroyed all them that are disloyal to thee” (Ps. 72:27; in other versions 73:27). “Thou [God] hast despised all them that fall off from thy judgments; for their thought is unjust” (Ps. 118:118; in other versions 119:118).

“But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike. For that which is made, together with him that made it, shall suffer torments” (Wisd. 14:9-10).

“Thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaites, which I [Jesus] also hate” (The Apocalypse 2:6; in other versions Rev. 2:6).

God does hate unrepentant sinners, and He sends them to Hell.

Istvan Varkonyi

New York, New York

Pax Vobiscum

At the Sign of Peace, I turn to my neighbor and say Pax vobiscum. Last week a middle-aged woman repeated it to me. This is my small way of returning Latin to the Mass.

Elisabeth Augusta

North Fort Myers, Florida

I Am Not a Sedevacantist

Thaddeus Kozinski (letter, March) thinks I am a sedevacantist or attend SSPX chapels. Kozinski obviously didn’t read my article in its entirety (“The Fever of Vatican II,” Jan.). I have never been to an SSPX chapel (although I do give them credit for preserving the Tridentine Latin Mass), and I am anything but a sedevacantist. I love the Church and our current Pope. But no pope has been perfect. In the Church today we are inundated with modernists; we are experiencing a crisis similar to the Arian crisis. It is a formidable crisis, but our Church will survive, and perhaps come out of it stronger.

The Tridentine Latin Mass developed over centuries and produced some of the greatest saints and thinkers the Church has ever known. To say the Church took a misstep by trying to suppress this liturgy is not to disparage the Church but to disagree with a particular moment in history. Vatican II documents do not forbid the Latin Mass, and so one may argue that it is an insult to our faith and those of the faithful who came before us for some bishops to ostracize or, in some cases, forbid it.

There is no greater expression of love for God than the Tridentine Latin Mass. I beseech those who doubt me to pray the indult Latin Mass some time, and read the translations of its solemn, powerful words — words forged through centuries of triumph and tribulation.

Chris Conlee

Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Fever of the 'Greatest Generation'

Regarding Chris Conlee’s article “The Fever of Vatican II” (Jan.): Today’s climate was prepared by the pre-Vatican II Church. It was Pope Pius XII who began to urge active participation in the liturgy, who restored the liturgy of Holy Week, mitigated the eucharistic fast, and encouraged vernacular singing. It was in the late 1950s that our diocesan bishops began to grant dispensations from Friday abstinence on St. Patrick’s Day.

As for the mess we are in, I suggest that it was set in motion by people who were formed by the pre-Vatican II Church. This was the “greatest generation” who went on to spoil their children and grandchildren so that the offspring would not have to endure what they endured. Having led them into consumer capitalism, they then allowed them to be raised by Playstation and MTV. Basically, the greatest generation said: “I don’t want my kids to grow up as I did!” That included the way of the Church.

The Rev. Phillip Pribonic

South Park, Pennsylvania

Taking Intimacy Too Far

The letter from Dan Mattimore (Feb.) extolling the supposed intimacy and immanence of the Novus Ordo Mass was answered perfectly by the article that followed by Alice von Hildebrand (Feb.). She wrote: “Once reverence is eliminated, religious life is threatened at its very core. We should never forget who He is and who we are. The religious decadence, so sadly expressed in our churches, is a result of this lack of reverence.”

To understand this better, Mattimore might ponder why most people who attend the vernacular Mass dress inappropriately. Taking intimacy too far, most of the congregation views the Mass as a friendly meeting with Jesus, complete with feel-good music and a meaningful spiritual “meal.” Thus, everything about them is relaxed: clothes, posture, even their tendency toward lack of proper spiritual preparation.

Catholics should remember that only 12 men were invited to the Lord’s Last Supper. The rite of the Mass was never meant to be patterned exclusively on that event anyway. Early Christians worshiped in the exalted manner of the Old Covenant, and they enhanced those traditions with forms and rites based on the revelations received by Christ. Thus, the Mass of the Ages developed.

At every Tridentine Latin Mass, God is in His proper place and we are in ours. He is Savior and we are sinners. We are not worthy, yet we are filled with confidence, because God is merciful and faithful to His promises. When we worship with these attitudes and postures, we are worshiping God in spirit and in truth because our words and actions speak truths about Him.

If the glorious angels in Heaven tremble at His presence, should we not also?

Anne Sweden

Paxico, Kansas

Longing for the Tridentine Latin Mass

I liked the article by Chris Conlee on “The Fever of Vatican II” (Jan.). As for the new vernacular Mass, I did hang in there for 14 years, but the loss of the Tridentine Latin Mass was too much to take. Fr. Moga was the last priest with permission to say the Latin Mass in Tucson, as far as I know. He escaped from the Communists in one of their satellite countries.

When I went to the new Mass with my mother — God bless her — she did not want to shake hands with anyone, nor did I, so we did not shake hands with each other, or anyone else around, including people who would come back two rows just to shake hands, as it was disturbing our tranquility.

I felt sorry for the old Mexican ladies in church, wearing their black dresses and shawls, and having to listen to a trumpeter along with a drummer in the front of the church. I wonder what they thought of such shenanigans.

If all thinking Catholics would quit supporting the church with money, maybe the bishops and cardinals would make a fuss with Rome and get things back to normal.

When I read Conlee’s article, it made me think of what Marlon Brando said as he lay dying in the movie Apocalypse Now. He said, “The horror, the horror.”

Peter Meis Jr.

Tucson, Arizona

Ed. Note: As of January 28, 2007, the indult Tridentine Latin Mass is back in Tucson, at St. Ambrose Church, courtesy of the St. Gianna Latin Mass Community, established by Bishop Gerald Kicanas. Bishop Kicanas presided over the Com­munity’s inaugural Tridentine Mass, which is to be regularly celebrated by Fr. Richard J. Rego, S.T.L. For indult Tridentine Latin Mass locations and schedules in the U.S. and Canada, contact Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei: PO Box 2071, Glenview IL 60025; phone 847-724-7151; www.ecclesiadei.org.


The NOR is a different kind of Catholic publication. I like your strident and militant stand, and I find myself agreeing with your writers more often than not. To me, a “liberal Catholic” is an oxymoron.

Laureen J. Holt

Troy, North Carolina

My Very Thoughts Too

I loved the New Oxford Note “Prolife & Pro-War?” (Jan.) about Fr. Frank Pavone. A friend sent it to me. I am going to subscribe. I have had these very thoughts about Fr. Pavone, who is prolife and pro-Iraq war, which is a blatant contradiction. I pray that you continue to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

I would suggest that you look into Raymond Arroyo on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). He promotes President George W. Bush at every turn. Otherwise, I love EWTN.

Rose Alfidi

Chagrin Falls, Ohio

No Satanic Smoke

As a supporter of the Legionaries of Christ, I was able to meet and share Mass and lunch with Francis Cardinal George and a number of Legion priests. The Cardinal dedicated an elementary school that the Legion established for parents who want their children to receive a Catholic education, instead of the paganism now being taught in most public elementary schools. I really enjoyed meeting such fine, young, and enthusiastic Legion priests.

Several weeks later, Fr. Jason Brooks of the Legion celebrated Mass at Sedgebrook, a senior community in Lincolnshire, in which I live. The Mass was dedicated to the veterans of World War II.

In none of my encounters with the Legion have I smelled even the slightest bit of satanic smoke.

I thank God that the Legion is providing our Church with many fine, dedicated priests at a time when truly Catholic priests are so sorely needed.

John B. Lord

Lincolnshire, Illinois

A Direct Impact

The NOR has had a direct impact in convincing me to convert to the Catholic Church. I thank you.

Benjamin Thompson

Nutley, New Jersey

Shut Up

Unless Robert J. Kendra (“Fuel Conservation: No War Needed,” guest column, Feb.) tools around Putnam, Conn., in a horse and buggy, never sets foot on an airliner, does his cross-country travel on foot, has no TV, radio, or computer, wouldn’t be caught dead on a snowplowed street, uses whale oil lamps at night, washes his dishes in the river, washes his clothes by beating them on a rock, burns dried buffalo chips and dried cowflops to keep warm in winter, cuts up ice blocks with a handsaw and packs them in sawdust for refrigeration in summer, I strongly suggest that he shut his carping trap and keep it shut.

Ray Descaro

Pollock Pines, California

That Sandwich-Truck Owner Will Not Go Away

I have followed the debate in your magazine about the justness/unjustness of the Iraq war. In the article by Paul Muessig, “Should Catholics Defend America?” (Jul.-Aug. 2006) and the letters that followed (Oct. 2006, pp. 5-6; Nov. 2006, pp. 6-7), one of the arguments made concerned a man who sells sandwiches from a truck to workers in a factory where weapons are made for use in an “unjust” war. I want to ask whether or not, if this man is guilty of aiding the war, is he a legitimate military target for the enemy?

I have argued with my comrades that the bombing campaigns undertaken by both sides in World War II were immoral and unjust, according to the rules of war. My argument has always been that it is just to kill those who wield the sword, but not those who make the sword.

Does this line of thought fit in with the teachings of the Church, and if so, where does this leave the man selling sandwiches? Does Catholic Just War doctrine consider those involved in the “war effort” to be in the same class as combatants?

I wish to thank you for your incredible work. You are one of the many influences that brought me to “traditional” Catholicism. I do not agree with many of your positions, but you make me think.

William J. Granger Jr.

Colton, New York

Ed. Note: This is a complex question. Do any of our readers want to answer this question?

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