Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: April 2008

April 2008

Pharisaical Mindset

Andrew J. McCauley, in his letter “Pope John Paul II Was Not Saintly” (Feb.), completely misrepresents the late Holy Father. To interpret John Paul’s Theology of the Body as “intruding into the bedrooms of the world” is either typical selfish liberal American rhetoric or a cerebral misinterpretation of John Paul’s intent. As a married father of four, it has sadly taken me several years to fully appreciate John Paul’s words, and I have come to realize that his combination of mysticism and practicality have been tremendously under­appreciated.

McCauley’s assertion that John Paul “tampered with the Rosary” by adding the Luminous Mysteries defies logic and misreads the Pope’s intent. He acted on his devotion to Mary and was within his privilege as shepherd of the universal Church to further the utilization of the Rosary. To write that Pope John Paul II was “on a grandiose ego trip” and possessed a mind “that was not basically Catholic” indicates a rationale more pharisaical than spiritual.

The late Holy Father laid the groundwork for a spiritual renaissance within Christendom. His 26-year pontificate will be remembered for his traditional and doctrinal approach to leading his flock to Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate, individual in its own right, can be said to be a continuation of the spiritual renaissance created by his predecessor, deservedly referred to by many as Pope John Paul the Great.

Christopher G. Tasy

St. Michael's Catholic School

Sanger, California

A fair response to Andrew J. McCauley’s letter is to ask Pope John Paul II to intercede for McCauley’s confused presentation of the late Pontiff’s service in the shoes of Peter.

Fr. Robert Buholzer

Lovelock Correctional Center

Stoughton, Wisconsin

The Dying of the Light

“The Spirit of Humanae Vitae” by Frederick W. Marks (article, Feb.) was powerfully written and reflected a perspective that the Church should be desperate to re-establish. Some might say that Marks tries to be holier than the Church. He does not. He is absolutely honest, deeply spiritual, utterly Christian, profoundly biblical, and completely faithful to the traditions, understanding, and Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

It is my impression that ambiguity, timidity, and, worst of all, explicit disagreement with Church teaching dominate the thinking of many persons engaged in marriage preparation, both teachers and students. The minimalist view presented under the label of NFP (Natural Family Planning — or is it “Not for Propagation”?) has destroyed the spiritual lives of countless “Catholic” couples. It seems to me that there is no way a healthy Church can exist in countries so affected without a radical change that presents the Church’s positive comprehension of married life. The light provided by our corporate memory, that had existed and permeated our culture in the West for so many centuries, has nearly been extinguished.

Today, there are those who regard the world as already vastly overpopulated. There are also those who think that we are not the judge of what God meant when He said, “Fill the earth,” but who have an underlying sense that God meant something much greater than we have so far surmised. (After all, we are supposed to populate Heaven, and that’s a big place.) At the present time, we have ceded the battleground and now find ourselves embroiled in discussions and arguments about methods to limit life and accomplish such things as “sustainability,” even according to some Vatican personalities (such as Renato Cardinal Martino). They seem to quake in fear that we have already reproduced too much, rather than consider why and how we should follow God’s plan of filling the earth.

The Church must do a better job of presenting a positive view of generous and abundant human life. The local churches have largely abandoned their responsibility. “Generously welcome children!” should be a universally accepted and cherished guide for Catholic life.

Bernard M. Collins

Pleasant Valley State Prison

Catonsville, Maryland

Mental Health & Family Harmony

Frederick W. Marks, in “The Spirit of Humanae Vitae” (Feb.), seems to have taken a passage from section 16 out of context. Marks states that Pope Paul VI “is not specific in defining the gravity of the motives required for birth regulation, but he excludes ‘partial perspectives — whether of the biological or psychological, demographic or sociological orders’ (#7). More specifically, he rules out greater harmony and peace in the family as an acceptable motive, along with better education for the children already born (#16)” (italics added).

Marks’s way of presenting this passage, in the context of grave or serious reasons for birth regulation, gives the impression that using Natural Family Planning (NFP) for the above reasons is condemned by Pope Paul. This is not the case. If one reads the entire passage from section 16, it is clear that what is being condemned is the use of artificial birth control: “Others ask on the same point whether it is not reasonable in so many cases to use artificial birth control if by so doing the harmony and peace of a family are better served and more suitable conditions are provided for the education of children already born. To this question We must give a clear reply. The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God. If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.”

If the greater harmony and peace in the family depends on mom or dad being mentally healthy, then I would contend that those are serious reasons for using NFP. Most would agree that women like Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who murdered her five children in 2001, could have benefited from using NFP to stay mentally healthy and maintain harmony in her family. What Pope Paul condemns is artificial birth control, not child regulation because of physical or psychological reasons.

Alexis K. DeNure

El Cajon, California


I do not know why you would infer from my article that Humanae Vitae rules out grave biological or psychological reasons for using NFP. I refer only to the failed vision of “partial perspectives” (#7).

As for my claim that greater harmony in the family is unacceptable as a motive for NFP (barring grave difficulties), I believe this interpretation of the relevant passage in section 16 is most in keeping with the tenor and tone of the encyclical as a whole.

Family peace is good, superior education is good, and so, for that matter, are many other things rightly or wrongly associated with a small-sized family. But the value of human life trumps them all. Partial perspectives are limiting. Complete perspectives are liberating. And it is the latter that one finds in Humanae Vitae.

Jesus Rose Only Once

The short answer to Bradley Stoutt’s question about the word “again” in the phrase “he rose again” in the Creed (letter, Feb.) is that it was never intended to imply that Jesus rose twice from the dead. Both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed developed out of shorter baptismal formulas. If you look at some of the predecessor formulas, beginning with Irenaeus’s in the second century, you will find the Latin word used was, alternately, resurgens, resurrexisse, or resurrexit — with both Creeds settling on the latter word. All of these came from the verb resurgere (re+surgere), which means to rise up again or to reappear. Translations go back and forth between “rose again” and, simply, “rose,” because the word “again” was used to show that He was returning to the state of being alive. Our cognate word “resurgent” means experiencing revival, and we similarly employ the word “again” if we write of a man who has had CPR that “they brought him back to life again.” We don’t mean to say that he was brought back to life twice.

Hurd Baruch

Tucson, Arizona

In response to Bradley Stoutt’s letter about Jesus rising “again” (Feb.), the Latin verb surgo (surgere, surrexi, surrectus) means to rise or awaken. In colloquial English, it can be translated “to get up.” Thus, resurgo (re meaning again) means to rise or get up again. It would be used in a sentence like this: “Tom lay down for a nap, but soon he got up again (resurrexit).” Tom is in a standing position; Tom lies down; and Tom stands up again. One is to imagine Jesus, lain down in the tomb for His relatively brief burial, standing up again.

Latin is a very concrete language, and we are talking here about a simple concrete act, not the whole process of reviving and breaking out of the tomb. Likewise, in the “resurrection of the dead” we are talking about everyone standing up on the surface of the earth, alive again — the ability to stand up and the act of standing being a key distinguishing characteristic of a living person.

John S. Belmont

Lincoln, Nebraska

Bradley Stoutt asks how many times Jesus rose. There is no separate word for “again” in the original Latin, Et resurrexit tertia die. The “again” is embodied in the first syllable of resurrexit. Our Lord “rose again” — one compound word, one concept. The theology is profound, the imagery startling.

The original Latin word chosen by the formulators of the Creed is very fitting indeed. All else is mere translation. Our Lord lived an active life of ministry. He died. And then by His own agency He came back to us in life. “Came back to life” and “rose again” are equivalent expressions and don’t imply a second “resurrection.”

Consider the English words “revived” or “resuscitated” or even “recalled.” The initial “re-,” brought over from the Latin, clearly embodies the concept of “again.” Yet in each case only one event is being described.

George Mullally

Iowa City, Iowa

Jesus Did Rise Twice

With reference to the perplexity of Bradley Stoutt about the phrase “rose again” in the Apostles’ Creed, I have a suggestion.

The Apostles’ Creed is the most brilliant précis imaginable. It is a complete biography of Jesus Christ from birth to Heaven. The word “again” is vitally important to clarify the movements of Christ from His burial to His resurrection.

The women went to His tomb the first time in the morning after the Sabbath and found the great stone set aside and the tomb empty. Therefore, our Lord arose from the sepulcher and descended into Hell in that period of time about which nothing is revealed. Then, as the Creed announces, “He rose again from the dead” (Helb~

In other words, He actually did rise twice. To conclude that this is a mistranslation of the original Creed, as Stoutt says he was told, is extremely hasty and surprising coming from a priest.

Sheila Cardano

Cape Charles, Virginia

Identity Crisis in Catholic Schools

As a Catholic school principal, I am dismayed by the apparent anti-Catholic actions of some Catholic educators (Gabriel Espinosa, “Against a Paganized Christmas Pageant,” article, Dec. 2007). Too many schools have watered down both their religious instruction and their true Catholic identity.

Espinosa rightfully questions the principal of his son’s Catholic school about the Christmas pageant song recognizing other religious beliefs. A song of this sort has no business in any Catholic school because, as Espinosa points out, it gives the impression that other religions are equal to Christianity. By ending a Christmas pageant with recognition of pagan and secular holidays, the school is, in effect, legitimizing them. I find it appalling that the principal of this school endorsed and defended this song prior to the pageant’s performance.

In 2005 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops set forth a document titled National Directory for Catechesis, which states, “The Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith,” and “Catechetical instruction in the Catholic school should be based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and thoroughly integrated into the curriculum and objectives of the school.” Therefore, although it is necessary for Catholic schools to have a religious curriculum faithful to the Magisterium, it is not enough. Religious instruction will have little value if what is being taught is not modeled in every aspect of the life of the school at all times. Otherwise, the school will be teaching a series of contradictions and its true Catholic identity will be blurred for the sake of “progressiveness.”

Michael Beauregard, Principal

West Memphis, Tennessee

Not Trustworthy

The rash of Catholic school closings nationwide and the U.S. bishops’ silence on tuition vouchers show that they have abdicated their role as shepherds of their flocks. With the public schools indoctrinating the vast majority of students — Catholic and otherwise — in secular humanism, where will the next generation or two of Catholics come from? The bishops have proven that they can’t be trusted to take care of or protect our children.

The bishops’ refusal to have each diocese conduct public financial audits conforming to the Security and Exchange Commission’s standard for companies publicly traded on stock exchanges strongly suggests that they can’t be trusted to take care of or protect our money.

So why should we believe that they can take care of or protect our immortal souls?

Peter P. Pranis Jr.

McAllen, Texas

Capital Punishment

The U.S. bishops’ voter guide (“A Perplexing Political Potpourri,” New Oxford Note, Feb.) is an excellent example of the useless documents frequently issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Probably of most importance, as you point out, is that the bishops contradict themselves, and erroneously categorize certain things as “intrinsically evil.”

A common error repeated by priests and the USCCB is that capital punishment is intrinsically evil. That, of course, is not so. The issue of whether capital punishment should not be used is not set in stone. The facts and circumstances of the crime being punished are of primary consideration. Pope John Paul II did not deem capital punishment intrinsically immoral, but stated that it would be morally acceptable in very limited circumstances.

Wilbur Goolkasian

Umpqua, Oregon

Neutrality Kills

With Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco giving Holy Communion to two members of the homosexual-activist outfit Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (“Archbishop Niederauer’s Eucharistic Moment,” New Oxford Note, Dec. 2007), and Catholic Charities and parishes accepting money raised by the “Sisters,” I guess I shouldn’t be so stressed that my parish raises money for the American Cancer Society, which also accepts money from the “Sisters.” Not only that, but the American Cancer Society donates to Planned Parenthood, supports embryonic stem-cell research, and denies the link between abortion and breast cancer.

“Neutrality” is killing the authority of our Church leaders.

Carol Suhr

Pine, Arizona

From a Letter to the Pope

Dear Excellency,

I hope this message finds you happy and well. I am writing about an article by Thomas Strobhar in the February 2008 issue of the New Oxford Review titled “Holy Porn!” detailing the investment practices of the U.S. bishops and the Christian Brothers. I am horrified and scandalized to learn that Christ’s Catholic Church is investing in companies that produce and distribute pornography. This is a faith-shattering disgrace, a breach of trust, and a betrayal of millions of the faithful. As Supreme Head of Christ’s Church, please outlaw these and any other corrupt, sinful practices.

Frank X. McGowan

Palm Springs, California

Persevere in Persecution

I feel a strong compulsion to respond to the heartrending letter from the prison inmate being harassed by sodomites (Feb.), because I am quite sure that he and I are in the very small minority of NOR readers who have been behind bars.

You face a very difficult and frustrating situation with little in the way of an easy or positive outcome. Submitting to the outrageous demands of the sodomites is obviously out of the question. As a Catholic, you can expect no sympathy or support from the prison staff, and indeed they will almost certainly abet the sodomites. The reasons for this are numerous and beyond the scope of this letter.

What must be done is easy to say and very difficult to accomplish. You are doing the right thing. Continuing to do the right thing will result in a trip to the hole (solitary confinement) — possibly many trips to the hole. You will be persecuted for your lonely stand. But you must persevere. “Remember the word I say unto you, the servant is not greater than the master. If they persecute me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:20). “Blessed are ye when men shall revile and persecute you…for my sake” (Mt. 5:11). Your reward will not be on this earth, but Jesus our Lord never forgets His faithful.

There are assuredly many NOR readers who happen to be lawyers, and with the help of the NOR staff, should be able to make anonymous contact with this prisoner. Use your skills and knowledge to help our brother. The pestilence of sodomites in prisons around the country is far too easy to dismiss and ignore. Pray for our brother and all those in prison, that they may be saved.

Matthew Clements

Eagle Creek, Oregon

In advice to the individual who is trying his best to live a good Catholic life while incarcerated with sodomites (letter, Feb.): First know that I will continue my prayers for you every day. The living hell on earth you are experiencing is beyond description. God’s grace will find its way to you.

If I were in your shoes, I would find my own way into “the hole,” which, as you’ve stated, is your institution’s way of dealing with “incorrigibles.” I would make it abundantly clear that I would do everything in my power to stay in “the hole” on a hunger strike in admonition against the inhumane treatment of prisoners by inmates and by staff and corrections officers. I would summon any family I could to hear my course of action and would definitely include the prison chaplain and/or any person who was involved in prison ministry to advocate for me in the process. Your stand against sodomy as a prisoner would not fall on deaf ears. The world — both liberals and conservatives — would take notice.

I would rather die a martyr for my Faith than be defiled as you’ve described your life in confinement. And, in the end, is there no greater sacrifice than to give up one’s life for the Faith?

Bill Buerger

Phoenix, Arizona

I am writing in response to the prisoner worried about sexual perversion. I am a prisoner also, and of course am faced with the same issue, which is of intensified importance behind prison walls.

The prisoner is asking what the proper Catholic response to the issue should be. What does Jesus do to the adulteress when asked by the Pharisees to judge her (Jn. 8:3-11)? At first He is silent. He doesn’t even look at her. He loves her, and hates her sin. He knows that the pride of the Pharisees is a far greater sin. He tells them to have the sinless one come forth and strike the first blow. Then He tells her to stop sinning.

The thing I hate in prison worse than sodomites is neo-Nazis. I absolutely loathe them. I don’t look at or speak to neo-Nazis. If I’m spoken to, I do not so much as give them the dignity of looking at them — I dis-acknowledge them. The pride of the neo-Nazis sickens me to my stomach. Not even the sodomites sicken me as much as the neo-Nazis. I will speak to sodomites, but I refuse to call them by their “girlie” names, refuse to joke around with them, and for damn sure don’t try to save them. That is, I absolutely refuse to dignify any of the “gayness” in them.

My point is that it’s a myth that hate is not a Christian response. What my fellow prisoner who wrote the letter might be feeling is repugnance, maybe a little despair, and sadness to boot. Being in prison also arouses constant fear. None of these passions are evil in themselves. St. Paul says, “Be angry but don’t sin” (Eph. 4:26). That means, basically, stay within the bounds of civility. But more than that, we must love God, love ourselves, and love our enemies. Loving our enemies in prison, for me, doesn’t require me to love their sin. My personal response is prayer. I pray first for those who make me most fearful or repulsed. I pray that they repent, I ask for forgiveness for myself and for them.

The nice thing about prison is the nearness of death — it forces one to meditate on the Four Last Things daily. I hope my fellow prisoner will see the sin and sinners around him as a call by Providence to contemplate Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, and carry the practice with him back into the world.

John Quintero

Lovelock, Nevada

I once asked my catechism class if they could envision any place on earth they thought might be similar to Hell. Their replies were all along the lines of “in the middle of a fire or a volcano.” I reminded them that whether Hell was uncomfortably hot or not wasn’t the point.

Hell is a place where God and His grace are absent. You’re in a place that’s as close to that as any place I can think of. But it might help you to remember that you’re not the only person who’s ever gone through something like this. Cuban Catholic priests in Castro’s prisons suffered much the same things, along with other physical tortures and humiliations. Please don’t give up hope — and keep praying! I’ve already begun praying for you, though I don’t know your name.

Arlene Moulthrop

Coraopolis, Pennsylvania

It seems from the prisoner’s letter that he may be new to the system and in shock over the way things work. Some advice from someone who’s been there and done that: First remember that when you can’t change anyone or anything around you, all that’s left is changing yourself. Get a mentor or three and pick the brains of the guys who seem like they have some sense and have learned the ropes. Drill it into your head that this is your time in the desert; make it a long Bible school or seminary, but keep the focus on improving only yourself.

It may be true that sodomites are buggering each other merrily, but you might want to come down off your high horse and realize where you are and how you got there. We are all sick in some way, just some are sicker than others. Try looking at them as God’s suffering lost sheep.

I know how disgusting and frustrating your situation can be. You’ve discovered the hard way that grievances are a joke and the system perpetuates and protects itself. It may come as a shock to some readers to learn that most prison blocks have homosexuals purposely placed so as to keep the peace. Officials turn a not-so-blind eye on these and other practices, for many reasons. What this means is that, if you can’t get transferred to a less homosexual friendly unit, then you have to deal with where you are. Get up with the old-timers for advice on getting along. Try the chaplain’s office to see about getting Catholic volunteers to come in for services. Join Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, where you can learn some coping skills. Hit the weight pile or any exercise that will build up your physical strength, because predators are best kept at bay by meaner predators. Daily Bible and Catechism study will keep you spiritually built-up. Daily prayers to St. Michael, your guardian angel, and other saints call down awesome spiritual helps. Say the Serenity Prayer often. Pray the Rosary constantly. Try praying for God’s abundant mercy on the individuals who bother you the most. Pray God’s will — not yours — be done, and then accept it.

Focus on using your time to improve yourself mentally, physically and, most of all, spiritually. If you treat sodomites like flawed humans on an individual basis, you might find that some of them are really miserable but don’t know any other way. You’re being tested and learning hard lessons. The hardest one is whenever someone disturbs your serenity the problem is you. Take responsibility for your feelings as well as your thoughts and actions and you’ll become free even behind bars. Being wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove in your current environment means you have to set limits very quietly. Even the worst heathen can teach us something if we have ears to hear. Often, those who seem to be the worst teach us the most. St. Paul called himself “chief among sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15), so where there is life there is hope. Even if you are one of the very few truly innocent men unjustly imprisoned, God has allowed it in order to draw you closer to Him and through you to touch others by your example.

Shawn M. Nolte

Fairfield, Ohio

In response to the prisoner who asked for advice regarding his encounters with the sodomites in prison, I can only offer my personal experiences in dealing with my own prison life. First, let me be completely honest that I was shocked that such an open sexual environment could exist in a prison, and even more mind-blowing was the fact that a prisoner could file a complaint against another prisoner.

I have been incarcerated for 12 years in a high-security prison in California. Without getting into the prison politics that run amok in every prison in the U.S., I can say that every prisoner has difficult choices to make during his incarceration. Most of the destructive choices that I see daily around me deal with drugs and alcohol, gambling, and violent acts. If someone tells you to go stab a guy, then you have to make a choice to do it or say no and probably get stabbed yourself. If a race riot breaks out, you have to make the choice to participate or not to participate, which will lead to other consequences. People who have sexual desires or tell on other prisoners are met with violence here in my prison. I do not offer this course of action as advice; I just want to make the point that every prisoner has a choice.

To complicate matters, people of faith are often looked upon as being weak. We try to live a life as Catholics only to see it tested around every corner. I’ve learned some key principles that I hope all Catholic prisoners can use. When I first began my incarceration, I was attacked one morning for playing basketball with other races — something I have done all of my life. In the California prison system, most prisons have unwritten rules that say whites do not play basketball with blacks. I knew every person involved in the decision to attack me. I could have used violence to combat violence. However, I asked God for guidance and strength.

I then learned that I could love my fellow prisoners by praying for them. I learned that I could not judge others because I did not know why or how they came to their current state of mind — only God knows such a thing. If someone I don’t care to be around needs something, like soup, toothpaste, coffee, etc., I will usually give it to him, but I will tell him not to make it a habit. Another way of helping someone is to give it to someone else to give to him. When it comes to doing things that are against our Faith, we must say no and trust that God will protect us.

Jesus said seek the Kingdom of Heaven and everything else will be given to you (Mt. 6:33). Often we forget that our salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven is what are promised if we just live a Catholic life and trust in God. What has helped me is reading the Gospels and reading the stories of our saints. A common phrase in the Gospels is “be not afraid.” Wow! What powerful words. If I live life not being afraid because I know that I am a child of God and I have a purpose, then who can destroy that? No one.

In the end, prisoners have to make the choice of serving God or serving the iniquities of our prison life. This should be an easy choice. I will pray for the prisoner of the sodomites. For the rest of the NOR readers, please pray for all prisoners who often make choices that many people outside of prison could never understand.

Steven Narry

Coalinga, California

Ephemeral Empire

In your cogent reply (Jan.) to Willard King and Robert Carballo defending Joseph P. Bonchonsky’s guest column “With God in Russia” (Nov. 2007), you wrote, “As for Carballo’s claim that ‘no pre-Vatican II pope would…aid a schismatic and heretical Church…,’ Leo XIII wrote that the ‘Roman Church’ (note he did not feel it necessary to say ‘Roman Catholic Church,’ that being easily understood by albp’has never failed in any way in farsightedness and acts of kindness to sustain them [the Eastern Churches] against the forces that would strike them….'”

It appears to me that Pope Leo XIII, when he wrote “the Roman Church,” was not referring to the “Roman Catholic Church,” meaning the Catholic Church or Roman Catholic Church as a whole, but rather to “the Church of Rome,” that is to say, the Church and See of Rome (the prima sedes or “first see” or “premier see” in Latin Patristic parlance).

One example of this is the initial reaction of horrified indignation of Pope Innocent III in 1204 when the news of the capture and sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusaders in April 1204, instigated by the Venetians, reached him. He condemned the act in an unqualified manner, and regarded it as a prostitution of the whole crusading enterprise; and he gave serious thought to excommunicating the Crusaders in general, and the Venetians as well. However, rightly or wrongly, he came to the conclusion that the “deed was done,” and finally recognized the setting-up of what proved to be an ephemeral “Latin Empire” in Constantinople as a replacement of the Roman (or Byzantine) Empire.

Unfortunately, the “Latins” thereafter tried to replace all those “Greek” bishops who followed their ancestral rites and customs with “Latin” bishops, who sought to replace them with their own (Latin) rites and customs, thus rapidly alienating the vast majority of their new subjects — an alienation which contributed, in turn, to the rapid weakening, steady shrinkage, and ultimate demise, in 1261, after only 57 years, of the “Latin Empire,” when the ruler of one of the Greek “successor states” of the Byzantines, the Empire of Nicaea, retook Constantinople and recreated the Roman-Byzantine Empire with himself as emperor.

In the aftermath of the sack of Constantinople in 1204, a number of Greek bishops offered to accept the papal universal primacy over the whole Church, on condition that these Byzantine bishops retain their sees and, more importantly, that the Byzantine Church retain its rites and customs intact. Unfortunately, by the time that this offer reached Rome, Pope Innocent III had already abandoned his earlier inclination to condemn the taking of Constantinople and had recognized the “Latin Empire.”

One may regret (as I do) that Pope Innocent III had not stuck to his earliest reaction to the news. Still, it is true that the “Roman Church” has defended Byzantine Christianity (as well as Byzantine Christians) when the “Roman Catholic Church” (in generabphas been less eager to do so. The sad fruits of Rome’s eventual acquiescence to the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops’ demands, in the 1890s and again in the 1920s, to ban the immigration into America of married priests to serve their communities and later of ordaining married men to the diaconate and priesthood, was widespread schism and the “return to Orthodoxy” in both the Ruthenian Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic communities in America — although today Rome seems to have abandoned its negative stance on this matter, and it is rather the hesitations of the bishops of those Ruthenian and Ukrainian Catholic Churches who have delayed all but a few ordinations of married men (among the Ukrainians and Mel­kites). Even at the present time there are instances of children from one or another of the Byzantine Catholic jurisdictions who attend Latin Catholic parochial schools being made to undergo “Confirmation” — despite the fact that these children were “confirmed” (by “chris­mation”) at their baptisms. Rome has always censured and rebuked such actions when they have been brought to its attention, but this has not always been the case with regard to the local Roman Catholic dioceses and parishes.

The “Roman Church,” therefore, despite a few failures in practice, deserves Pope Leo XIII’s words of praise, while the “Roman Catholic Church” does not — “by and large” in each case.

William J. Tighe

Allentown, Pennsylvania

The 'True' Meaning of Ecumenism

In defending your unfortunate decision to publish Joseph P. Bonchonsky’s propaganda piece for the Russian Orthodox Church (Jan.), you quote from the Catechism (#838) saying, “Certainly this is not ‘false ecumenism.'” To the contrary, this is a classic example of false ecumenism!

Today’s ecumenism holds that the Church of Christ merely “subsists in the Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium), and that, while the Catholic Church is better than the other Churches, these others, even if not Christian, are nevertheless also “means of salvation” (Unitatis Redintegratio). This totally novel thinking arose from the Second Vatican Council, was championed by Pope John Paul II, and permeates that Pope’s writings, and the Catechism he promulgated in 1992, both of which you cite in your reply to my letter.

Let us compare this thinking with the constant teaching of the Church over her first 19 centuries:

Baltimore Catechism (1941):

–  “The Church is the congregation of all baptized persons united in the same faith, the same sacrifice, and the same sacraments, under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him” (#136)

–  “All are obliged to belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved” (#166)

–  “A baptized person separates himself from full incorporation in the Mystical Body [the Church] by schism when he openly refuses obedience to the lawful authorities of the Church, particularly to the Pope” (#169-E; italics added)

Catechism of the Council of Trent (1571):

–  “The Creed, Article IX: Those Who are Not Members of the Church: Hence there are but three classes of persons excluded from the Church’s pale: Infidels, heretics and schismatics, and excommunicated persons…. Heretics and schismatics are excluded from the Church, because they have separated from her and belong to her only as deserters belong to the army from which they have deserted” (italics added)

The Popes:

–  “By the heart we believe and by the mouth we confess the one Church, not of heretics but the Holy Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic (Church) outside of which we believe no one is saved” (Innocent III, Eius Exemplo, 1208)

–  “The sacrosanct Roman Church, founded by the voice of our Lord and Savior,…firmly believes, professes, and preaches that no one remaining outside the Catholic Church, not just pagans, but also Jews or heretics or schismatics, can become partakers of eternal life; but they will go to the ‘everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels,’ unless before the end of life they are joined to the Church” (Eugenius IV, Cantate Domino, 1441; italics added)

–  “There is but one way in which the unity of Christians may be fostered, and that is by furthering the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it; for far from that one true Church they have in the past fallen away…. If, as they constantly say, they long to be united with Us and Ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church, ‘the mother and mistress of all Christ’s faithful’?” (Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, 1928)

Clearly, the new ecumenism not only differs from, but contradicts, the perpetual and infallible Magisterium of the Church taught over her first 1,900 years. It is blasphemous. It is heretical. And it is false.

Without doubt, as you suggest, all the popes since the time of Photius have desired reunion with the separated Orthodox Churches. But the reunion they sought was not the reunion of equals suggested in Unitatis Redintegratio. Rather, it was the return to the One True Church by our separated brethren. I have quoted above Innocent III and Eugenius IV, two of the popes “striving for reunion” that you mentioned in your reply. It is quite obvious from their quotations that, unlike John Paul II, these popes were not confused about the true meaning of ecumenism.

And also, without doubt, many of these popes have, in charity, made overtures to the separated Orthodox in the interest of true ecumenism. Unfortunately, whether you blame it on the Greeks, the Crusades, or the devil himself, all of these overtures have been rebuffed. And they will continue to be rebuffed until, as specifically requested by the Mother of God at Fatima, the pope, together with his bishops, consecrates Russia to her Immaculate Heart. As the Virgin said, “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world” (italics added).

In the meantime, even St. John, the Apostle of Love, forbade society with those professing any corrupt form of Christ’s teaching: “If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you. For he that saith unto him: God speed you, communicateth with his wicked works” (2 Jn. 10-11).

I fear that by publishing Bonchonsky’s column, you have abetted the very communication John forbade.

Willard King

Escondido, California


In the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church” (Jan. 29, 2007), ratified and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI, it is written: “In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth…. The word ‘subsists’ can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone…. The use of this expression [‘subsists in’]…does not change the doctrine on the Church” (emphasis added).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is “a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium,” and is “a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion” and an “authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine.” It expresses “what the Church believes” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, 1992). As such it is a valid, legitimate expression of the authentic Magisterium of the Catholic Church. If you don’t believe in the veracity of the Catechism, then there can be no reasoning with you.

Moreover, if we are guilty of the “very communication John forbade” by publishing a column, then so are those popes who have, as you say, “in charity, made overtures to the separated Orthodox.”

Eastern Confusion

I was very disappointed by the Editor’s reply to my letter (Jan.) concerning Joseph P. Bonchonsky’s guest column “With God in Russia” (Nov. 2007). You seem to confuse the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church with the schismatic “Orthodox” churches. When preconciliar popes speak of the antiquity and glory of the Eastern rites, they are talking about just that: the various Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and not heretical/schismatic bodies, as you suggest. The many efforts for reunion you cite — and which any right-thinking Catholic would praise and pray for — have nothing to do with the irenic aid to the Russian Orthodox Church that Bonchonsky is calling for. I maintain that no pre-Vatican II pope has aided a schismatic body; that would have been against both charity and Catholic teaching and practice. There is a huge difference between working for the reunion of those afflicted with schism and aiding a schismatic body; that should be easy for anyone to see. The Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches have nothing to do with the schismatic bodies but with the “Uniates” already in communion with Rome. The notion that the Church needs her Eastern lung to breathe well is a John Paul II novelty that smacks of heresy concerning the unity of the One True Church. The True Church has always breathed with her two lungs and nothing is lacking in her unity. The only ones who have trouble breathing are those who, for political and doctrinal reasons, have broken unity with the papacy.

Bonchonsky’s reply to my letter (Jan.) compounds his confusion. He speaks of loving both his Byzantine faith and “our Roman Catholic Faith.” What on earth is he talking about? There are several rites and liturgical, spiritual disciplines in the Catholic Church, but only one Faith. This clearly shows the confusion brought about by the present un-Catholic ecumenism: Mature Catholics cannot even distinguish between liturgical rites and traditions and the one Faith that all must hold for salvation. As for the Russian Orthodox Church being this great beacon of hope for the world, as Bonchonsky naïvely proposes, look again at the barbaric Russian society that has surfaced after the fall of Communism — the highest rate of abortions per woman in the West, a vulgar and rampant materialism, and terrifying crime (including one of the most fearsome mafias in the world). These are hardly the fruits of a society wisely guided by a healthy, vibrant church.

Dr. Robert Carballo

Lancaster, Pennsylvania


Pope Leo XIII, the “preconciliar pope” you mention, wrote, “The Churches of the East are worthy of glory and reverence,” and “The reasons for rivalry and suspicion must be removed; then the fullest energies can be marshaled for reconciliation” (Orientalium Dignitas, 1894). If Pope Leo were talking about the Eastern rites already in communion with Rome, as you claim, then why would “reconciliation,” which he deems to be “of paramount importance,” be necessary? Moreover, Pope John Paul II, on the 100th anniversary of Orientalium Dignitas, wrote that Leo XIII intended his encyclical “as an aid to restoring unity with all Christians of the East” (Orientale Lumen, 1994; emphasis added). Again, if Leo XIII were talking merely of the Eastern rites already in communion with Rome, why would there be any need to “restore unity” when that unity already exists? John Paul writes further that “Our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters are very conscious of being the living bearers of this tradition [the ‘venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches,’ which is ‘an integral part of the heritage of Christ’s Church’], together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters” (emphasis added). He says that the “full manifestation of the Church’s catholicity” is “expressed not by a single tradition, and still less by one community in opposition to another….”

You say we “confuse” Eastern Catholic rites with the “schismatic ‘Orthodox’ churches.” Surely you don’t believe that Pope John Paul II was “confused” about his predecessor, Leo XIII’s encyclical? Perhaps it is you who are “confused” about Leo XIII and John Paul II’s intention. And why is “aiding a schismatic body” inimical to “working for the reunion of those afflicted with schism”? To the contrary, it seems that charitable gestures (“aid”) would go a long way toward “removing suspicions” and thus furthering the work of reunion.


Dr. Carballo, you are 100 percent correct, the faith of the two lungs of the One Church is the same, identical, word for word, especially as we profess our one and the same faith in the Nicene Creed. Oops, the Eastern lung of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church (including my Byzantine-rite Church in communion with Rome) follows the early Fathers’ text from the first and second ecumenical councils, “the Holy Ghost…who proceeds from the Father,” and the Western lung changed it to “the Holy Ghost…who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This is what is known as the “filioque” controversy.

In regard to your claim that “no pre-Vatican II pope has aided” the Orthodox Churches: Fr. Paul Mailleux, a Roman Catholic Jesuit from Belgium, educated in Rome’s Russicum seminary, obtained the personal letters of Leonid Feodorov (1879-1935), the first Russian-rite Catholic Exarch (bishop) in Moscow (1917-1935), from the office of Metropolitan Andrew Szepticky, Pope Pius XI’s representative, to “work with and support” the separated Russian Orthodox Church. Exarch Feodorov worked with the American Jesuit Fr. Edmund A. Walsh, director of Rome’s Pontifical Mission of Aid to Russia, directly via the Russian Orthodox Patriarch at the time of the great famine of 1921-1922. Fr. Mailleux and I have had many discussions relating to his book Exarch Leonid Feodorov: Bridge­builder Between Rome and Moscow (also the subject of a chapter in my book The Other Catholics, Obedient and Faithfubpof the many occasions of direct assistance (as noted in Exarch Feodorov’s personal letters) provided by Rome to the Russian Orthodox Church, especially in their time of need when the Russian Orthodox Church suffered for its opposition to the Soviet atheists, our common evil enemy. The charity and support by Rome to the Russian Orthodox Church is legendary and worthy of my writing another book. Exarch Feodorov eventually died, along with too many fellow Catholics and too many Russian Orthodox priests, after 12 years of barbaric imprisonment in the gulag archipelago.

Fr. Mailleux, along with four other Jesuits, were personally responsible for aiding the escape of 6,000 Russian Orthodox faithful through China, via Shanghai, to the Philippines and then to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and to New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Two of these Jesuit priests were my pastors, Fr. Fionan Brannigan at St. Andrew’s Russian Catholic Church in El Segundo, Calif., and Fr. Andrei at Our Lady of Fatima Russian Catholic Center in San Francisco. Their Catholic parishes were comprised of many of the same Russian Orthodox escapees whom they aided. Fr. Mailleux became the Jesuit Superior at Fordham University (the eventual home of my dear friend Fr. Walter J. Ciszek). All of these “pre-Vatican II” Jesuit priests are now of Eternal Memory, and their works of charity have been recognized lovingly by Rome in accepting Fr. Ciszek’s papers toward beatification.

That is why, in my January reply, I professed my love for my Byzantine faith and the Roman Catholic faith, as well as my great respect for the Russian Orthodox.

The “full” purpose of Pope Pius XI, before Vatican II, in establishing Rome’s Russicum seminary was to provide “love and charity” to the Russian Orthodox Church and her faithful, not as you point out, exclusively to my Byzantine Church, which is in allegiance with Rome. Dr. Carballo, evidently you are unaware of the “initial” intent of the Crusades, way before Vatican II, as a response by Rome to come to the aid of the Orthodox Churches, especially in Greece, Turkey, and the Holy Land.

You say that the Pontifical Oriental Institute has “nothing to do” with the Orthodox Churches. You must not be aware that, as of this writing, Orthodox Patriarch Bar­tholomew I of Constantinople will visit Pope Benedict XVI on March 6 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Institute, or that Bartholomew himself received a doctorate from the Institute.

Dr. Carballo, before you lay the blame for the barbaric Russian society at the feet of the Orthodox Church, please look into your American mirror. Surely, you do not blame the tens of millions of “legal” abortions in the U.S., materialism at the world’s highest degree, and rampant drug abuse and murder (including mass murders in schools) on the Catholic Church in the U.S.? Surely you do not want to mention the Roman Catholic bishops’ handling of pedophile priests, who not only destroyed the lives of countless young boys, but whose crimes have resulted so far in nearly two billion dollars’ loss to the Catholic Church, and the selling off of Church property, including those properties that support our faith-filled parishes and good priests. Can you name 12 Catholic bishops whose dioceses are not guilty of this most barbaric crime against our Catholic youth? The Russian Orthodox Church, along with the Russian people, suffered under the boot of the brutal Soviet regime for some 70 years. As Russian society convulses under Western-style “capitalist freedom,” the Russian Orthodox Church is experiencing a remarkable rebirth.

Dr. Carballo, please continue your letters to the editor. I am thereby able to understand, at least a little bit, what deters the One Church from being united.

Russian Nightmare

The colloquy on the Russian Orthodox Church (Nov. 2007, Jan. and Feb. 2008) is quite fascinating. Having lived in Moscow and St. Petersburg, I observed much genuine and sincere activity by the ordinary Orthodox believers.

Few American Catholics can appreciate the ghastly nightmare our Russian believers lived under for generations. Give them time; treat them with charity and patience. In God’s good time, they will come around. Remember, they have had their martyrs for Christ — huge numbers of them. They too died for Christ and He will bring them home.

Joseph P. Wall

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Search No Further

In response to Thomas C. Hilla (letter, Jan.), who laments that, since moving to Texas, the search for a parish as “spiritually satisfying” as his Byzantine parish in Alaska has been “as futile as the parishes are few and far between”: I recommend Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, in his adopted town of San Antonio (15415 Red Robin Rd.; www.Atone­mentOnline.com). Our Lady of the Atonement is a Roman Catholic parish of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, and is the founding parish for the Anglican Use liturgy within the Roman Rite, and one of several “personal parishes” in the U.S. established under the terms of the pastoral provision granted by Pope John Paul II.

George Roth

Savannah, Georgia

Open to Interpretation

Now you’ve done it! After all the discussion about the defects in the Novus Ordo Mass, I have begun paying closer attention to the words, and I do not like what I hear. For instance, in the Preparation of the Gifts, the priest says of the bread, “It will become for us the body of our Lord Jesus Christ” (emphasis added). And then, referring to the wine, he says, “It will become our spiritual drink” (emphasis added).

What’s wrong with these prayers? Well, they simply go against the Church doctrine of Transubstantiation. The former indicates that, after the Consecration, the bread becomes for us — and only for us — the body of Christ. To all others who do not believe as we do, it remains simply bread. Therefore, our Lord is not objectively present under the appearance of bread, but is present only subjectively from our point of view.

As for the consecrated wine, which has become the blood of Christ, it is a drink for our spirit only, and not for the body. What of our belief that Christ can heal the whole person, body and soul? According to this prayer, the sick who commune under the species of wine, praying that Christ heal them, are acting in vain because Christ’s blood is a spiritual drink only for the good of the soul but not the body.

Now I wonder if I haven’t been to a valid Mass in 30 years!

Crescente G. Villahermosa

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Ed. Note: Worry not. The Novus Ordo Mass, though defective, is a valid Mass.

A Dead Vine

In your New Oxford Note “The Emasculate & Effeminate Priesthood” (Feb.), the only thing left unsaid that needs to be said is that on the Roman Catholic altar the preservation of the memory of the events at the Last Supper and at Calvary 2,000 years ago was, and is, made possible only by the total, physical, and divine presence of Jesus Christ on that altar. The reason is that Christ instituted the memorial as such. Any “reformationist” tampering with this doctrine — whether in the intellectualizing of a Martin Luther, which demeans the Sacrament of the Eucharist by dispensing with the priestly office, or in the modernist interpretation that makes the priest a “crypto-feminist” breastfeeder — results in a dead vine. The altar is for the Body and Blood of our Redeemer. It is not a “milk” kind of place.

Nicholas Cisar

Lake Station, Indiana

The Best Conversation in a Long Time

For more than a year we noted the special message in each issue proclaiming the “New Oxford Reading Clubs.” Meeting with other subscribers could be stimulating we thought, but we kept putting off doing anything about it until recently.

When we e-mailed Carmelo Fallace, the coordinator of the Reading Clubs, he put us in touch with another couple some miles away. After exchanging a few e-mails with the couple, we met on a Sunday afternoon in a restaurant located about halfway between our homes. We talked for three hours — it was the best conversation for us in a long time. In the several weeks since the meeting, we still haven’t had another conversation that comes close, which tells us that the Reading Club idea is a good one.

On the NOR website, the list of subscriber zip codes in our area shows about 60 subscribers within reasonable driving distance; it’s probably the same in many areas. Getting together with other subscribers means a gathering of like minds. We wonder how many hesitate, as we did, to send that start-up e-mail to Mr. Fallace.

Richard & Elizabeth Gerbracht

Hudson, Ohio

Ed. Note: We encourage all of our readers to investigate the Reading Clubs. For more information, click on the Reading Clubs link in the left toolbar of our website, www.newoxfordreview.org.

You May Also Enjoy

Hitting Below the Belt

Crisis magazine responds to Michael Rose by banning NOR's ads from their pages.

Shacking-Up: A "Divine Imperative"?

Our goal as Christian parents is to guide our children into the grace of God's love, that they might be with Him for all eternity.

For Mature Audiences Only

America’s conception of sex is downright sophomoric, and its overhaul starts with understanding what sex is and what it is for.