Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: April 2013

April 2013

The Great Amphibium

Alice von Hildebrand’s superb article on the wondrous marriage of body and soul (“The Riddle of Man’s Dualistic Nature,” Jan.-Feb.) put me in mind of one of my favorite passages in literature. In Religio Medici, section 35, Sir Thomas Browne reflects on the “mysterious nature” of man and calls him that “amphibious piece between a corporal and spiritual essence…that great and true Am­phibium whose nature is disposed to live not only like other creatures in diverse elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds; for though there be but one [world] to sense, there are two to reason, the one visible, the other invisible.” John Donne, at the start of “Holy Sonnet V,” likewise reflects, “I am a little world made cunningly / Of elements and an angelic sprite.”

Anne Barbeau Gardiner

Brewster, New York

According to St. Thomas Aqui­nas, the human person ceases to exist after death. This is because the human being, as a composite of soul and body, is united by one substantial form: the soul. This also constitutes the hierarchical relationships of soul to body, of “spirit” to “matter,” of man to woman, of Church to state, etc. For this reason, the state of the separated soul after the death of the body is that of an incomplete substance. The separated soul, therefore, is not completely happy until it is reunited to the body at the general resurrection. This is what C.S. Lewis undoubtedly intuited when he saw a “proof” of the general resurrection, even in natural reason.

There is also much to be said about the gravity of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and the exalted height of the state of original innocence from which they fell, to merit such a severe punishment as the death we all justly fear.

I cannot help but see a kind of unreal romanticization in Alice von Hildebrand’s concept of human marital love as exemplified by Jacob and Elkanah of Old Testament history. If Jacob’s love for Rachel had been of the ideal kind, he would have recognized Leah as the bleary-eyed un­beautiful sister that she was. Similarly, Hannah’s real desire was not for the authentic love of her husband, Elkanah, which she was assured of having, but for children, especially a son. God finally rewarded this authentic desire of all women by giving her Samuel.

Paula Haigh

Nazareth, Kentucky

To Roast or Not to Roast?

I recently received my first issue of the NOR in which David Burk­ley excoriates the NOR for offering, among other items, a BBQ apron in its Gear Shoppe upon which appears the phrase “I’d Rather Be Roasting Heretics” (letter, Jan.-Feb.). With all due respect to Mr. Burkley, I must disagree with his position. As a convert to the faith — especially one who lived a “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” life prior to my conversion — I enjoy the edgy humor portrayed by this “gear.” (I bought the apron awhile back, before I began subscribing; it was actually one of the things that led me to take a look at the NOR.) It is true that such displays of orthodoxy are somewhat shocking, and I would not recommend the apron to everyone. However, for a guy like me, for whom leading a long life of “shocking” others was my “thing,” such behavior is expected, and the apron has been a mostly well-received conversation starter that has led to many fruitful discussions of my faith and my conversion, with both Catholics and our separated brethren.

This is not to say that my apron has not met with a certain degree of opprobrium. However, so has my Catholic opposition to homosexual behavior, cohabitation, contraception, loose liturgical behavior, impiety, my insistence that I worship and adore the Eucharist itself and not what it symbolizes, and many of the other hallmarks of my faith. Catholicism is to a certain degree offensive, relative to one’s alignment with its principles and teachings. The same is true of some displays of humor. The “shocking” approach is not always correct and, in certain instances, may even be immoral. However, in a culture so numbed by sensuality and a general intellectual apathy, I feel it does some good to shock that culture out of its slumber.

Frank R. Genus

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Regarding David Burkley’s letter and the editor’s reply concerning the NOR gear with the slogan “I’d Rather Be Roasting Heretics”: Of course the slogan is meant as a joke, and of course there is nothing wrong with humor. But is this appropriate humor, and if so, appropriate for what forum?

Much depends on what task a Catholic publication necessarily has today, especially a publication that intends to be a militant vehicle for promoting orthodoxy. If orthodoxy — right belief — is a sine qua non for a Catholic, then it ought to be our fervent wish that every Catholic who is not orthodox give up his errors and embrace wholeheartedly the Church’s faith. I question whether the NOR will further that by trumpeting items bearing the slogan “I’d Rather Be Roasting Heretics.” Will not this automatically label the NOR as simply an in-house affair, aimed at in-group readers, with no desire to make orthodoxy attractive to heretics, whether those heretics are mis­believing Catholics or Protestants?

If we came across a Protestant publication that sold gear with the slogan “I’d Rather Be Burning Convents,” one thing we could be sure of would be that these Protestants had no interest in converting anyone to their point of view. Rather, they would be happy to share in-group jokes with their in-group readership, perhaps in a self-satisfied Calvinist conviction that they, and they alone, were the elect.

But as Catholics we have a heavy responsibility, that given to us by our Lord, of preaching His Gospel to every creature, including heretics and unbelievers of all stripes. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with orthodox Catholics engaging in this sort of humor among ourselves, but in a public space — and publications are unavoidably public spaces — I don’t think this is appropriate. We should wish to engage, not to enrage, heretics, recalling the Good Shepherd’s search for even one erring sheep. Editors and writers can do this best by presenting orthodox Catholicism in the most attractive way possible, not by crude jokes that are likely to alienate those lost sheep.

Today we see a very sharp division in this country between two political-cultural factions: liberals and conservatives. Both thrive by demonizing their opponents, and neither makes much effort to attract the other. Although Catholics ought not to embrace either of these factions, neither should we imitate them by presenting a public image that mocks other human beings for whom Christ died.

Thomas Storck

Westerville, Ohio

Wild & Unjust Twists

Donald DeMarco’s article on Atlas Shrugged (“The Invalid Identification of Contraries With Contra­dictories,” Jan.-Feb.) seems like just another of the endlessly repeated attacks on Ayn Rand, which have all run together in my mind over the years. As a devout Catholic, I am well aware that Rand was an extreme atheist, and especially an anti-Christian, due entirely to her abysmal ignorance of Christianity and its precepts, since she was a former citizen of the Soviet Union and from a secular Jewish family. Rand habitually confused some eccentric opinions of fundamentalist Protestantism with profound papal encyclicals, all from hearsay. I was a personal acquaintance of hers late in her life, and for a while a member of her salon.

DeMarco could have left it at a banal remark about her atheism, with another common complaint that her characters were cardboard cutouts (however originab| and that her 58-page speech by John Galt was boring and repetitious. Instead, his article took some wild, unjust twists. First, I should confess that her book was the original basis for my political philosophy, however wrong its metaphysical aspects, as were the atheist Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, Orwell’s 1984, and Huxley’s Brave New World, all classics of freedom. I was, for a while, a member of “Galatians 7,” an organization of Christian Objectivists (Rand’s organizational creed, which established libertarianism as a movement). Although she would violently disagree, many of us did draw a clear distinction between her uneducated anti-religious dogmas and her well-educated views of unjust governmental powers, policies, and philosophies, and her disgust with the (canonicabpsin of “sentimentalism.” Surely, De­Mar­co did not mean to equate all earthly governments with Jesus Christ and our own loving and voluntary obedience to His commandment of charity?

I do thank DeMarco for his reminder of Rand’s silliest remark, that Christianity is “the best kindergarten of communism possible,” a statement that several leftist Jesuits, the objects of her bitterest diatribes on both counts, wished they had said first. And these Jesuits don’t have the excuse of ignorance. DeMarco cites many leftist atheists against Rand, with the exception of one of my heroes, Whitaker Chambers, who notoriously slandered her message as “To the gas chamber, go!”

More seriously, DeMarco shockingly charges that, “for Rand, the ruling class is more important to society than the working class. The members of the former group are the producers of wealth; those of the latter are ‘useless parasites.'” On the contrary, Rand’s book despises the ruling class (government and media elites) and, in many passages, clearly admires the working class. She respects the producers of all classes, and condemns the power-hungry ciphers in the government and “leeches” in all classes. (All of her villains are rich and/or upper-class, and some are industrialists.) Rand clearly had no interest in the “social gospel,” which DeMarco subtly premises in the above quote.

DeMarco describes Atlas Shrugged‘s horrible train crash in the tunnel, yet conveniently omits its cause — unjust, malicious confiscation and subsequent bureaucratic mismanagement of the railroad. Pace DeMarco, Rand does not imply that the passengers “deserved” to perish, but does say that some of them had contributed to their own deaths by lifetimes spent advancing, as the article admits, the unlimited power of government force, the relativism of morality, and the purely evil nature of man. All of these philosophies were condemned by the Church Fathers, as the Church has condemned their advocates in DeMarco’s list: Marx, Rousseau, and Hobbes.

When Rand praises “selfishness” and “greed” she first radically (if arrogantly) redefines them, and she denounces “sacrifice” only when it is “trading a greater good for a lesser good,” which Christians (and chess-players) would recognize as wrong. She honors a soldier dying for his unit or country, and a husband giving his life for his beloved wife, and would have praised Christ’s sacrifice had she known and understood anything about Him or His mission. I tried to bring Him up to her, but she shouted me down in obvious panic.

DeMarco then mischaracterizes Rand’s Aristotelian logic. She was not speaking about “contraries” but “contradictions,” which are always mutually exclusive, as in forced collectivism versus individualism (freedom from a totalitarian state). If De­Marco means that there is sometimes a Christian third choice, is he still unaware that Rand was no more a Christian than Aristotle was?

Finally, his article ridicules Ayn Rand’s response in an interview by an atheist liberal, which could have been spoken by any of the Church Fathers. She says, “When you have established that one alternative is good and the [only] other is evil, there is no justification for the choice of a mixture. There is no justification ever for choosing any part of what you know to be evil.”

“Then you believe in absolutes?” the interviewer asked.

“I do,” she replied.

Well said, Miss Rand. May God have mercy on your soul.

Egon Richard Tausch

San Antonio, Texas


I disagree with many of the points Mr. Tausch makes, but it would require a lengthy article to respond to them. Instead, I will simply bring to his attention, as a self-proclaimed “devout Catholic,” Rand’s views on abortion. Let him try to square them with either Catholicism, reason, science, or Aristotle.

In an essay titled “Of Living Death,” which appears in a collection of essays appropriately called The Voice of Reason, Rand writes, “An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).”

From the perspective of reason, which science honors and Rand professes to live by, an unborn child is an embryo for only a short period of time. For the greater part of its gestation, it is a “fetus.” Nonetheless, from what science tells us, the embryo/fetus is a human being from the time of conception, at which moment it has a complete and unique DNA containing all the genes it will ever have and which will, given time, express themselves in the fully developed human being.

On the matter of potency and act, Rand throws Aristotle out the window. For the distinguished disciple of Plato, no object is pure potency. He distinguishes something that has potential from something that is merely possible. Basic to Aristotelian philosophy is the recognition that every being we perceive through our senses is a composite of potency and act. Such a being is not mere potency, but a being with much potential. Change takes place when the potential for a particular form is actualized. The unborn child is certainly an actual being. It is completely unreasonable, as well as unscientific, to believe otherwise.

When Rand asserts that a “child cannot acquire any rights until it is born,” she indicates by her own words that the unborn is a child, an actual being, though one that does not, as yet, have rights. The self-professed proponent of Aristotelian logic, consequently, contradicts herself, violating the very cardinal principle on which she bases her Objectivism.

Then she goes on to claim that the unborn child is “not-yet-living.” This is an astonishing claim that is neither objective nor rational. The unborn child is surely alive — a fact made sufficiently evident to any reasonable observer of its continued growth and development, biological characteristics that apply even to an unborn squid.

Constantine C. Kliora

Gurnee, Illinois

What Do We Owe the Poor?

The NOR has always been my favorite Catholic magazine. Its appeal has been its adherence to orthodox Catholic belief. That’s why I was taken aback by the editor’s reply to the letter from J.R. Vazzo (Jan.-Feb.).

The scriptural interpretation given by the editor correctly defends the command of Jesus to give generously to the poor. There are, however, some errors in his reply. St. Ambrose is quoted as saying, “you are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his.” This citation could lead some astray. St. Ambrose lived in the fourth century A.D. and was not aware of the modern evils of socialism or communism. If taken literally, his position on private property is in error. In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII places the ownership of personal property in the proper perspective: “Every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own” (no. 6). By no means does private property belong to everyone.

A modern-day heretical notion known as liberation theology has gained ground in the Church and influenced the minds of many Catholic theologians, perhaps even the NOR editor. For example, the English trans­lation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church…” (no. 2448). This is a mistranslation of the official Latin version, which reads, “in eos quos percutit miseria, potiore dilec­tione fertur Ecclesia….” Translated literally, the passage would read, “unto those whom misery strikes, the Church is moved with a more powerful love.” There is no specific mention of “the poor” here, though they are, of course, included.

The most dangerous aspect of the English translation is the term preferential love. Communist ideology is behind these words. The phrase “preferential option for the poor” is attributed to left-wing social reformers in Latin America and was used as a rallying cry to protest the 1979 Latin American bishops’ conference meeting in Puebla, Mexico. Of course the word option could not be used in a Catholic context, so the word love was substituted in places like the Catechism.

In 1971 Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian priest, published an essay titled “A Theology of Liberation,” which insisted that the Church should concentrate her efforts on liberating the people of the world from poverty and oppression. The radical leftists in the Catholic clergy took his idea as a rallying cry to integrate Marxism into Catholic theology.

Attempts were made to reorganize the Church along these lines, led by Fr. Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian cleric. However, his writings met with condemnation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the leadership of Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI. Leonardo Boff soon renounced his priesthood and took a position as a professor emeritus at the Rio de Janeiro State University in Brazil.

His heretical writings and the influence of liberation theology, however, have not died. They have been influencing Catholic thought ever since. The expression preferential love for the poor has appeared in countless Catholic magazines and parish bulletins.

Our love of and care for the poor is certainly an important part of Christianity, but it is not “preferential.” The sick, the elderly, the disabled, and everyone who suffers, in proportion to their need, are part of the emphasis of the Catholic Church. Pope Leo XIII explained the way to aid and assist those in need: “The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property” (Rerum Novarum, no. 15).

James Hundt

Midlothian, Texas

Ed. Note: Pope Leo XIII also said, “In protecting the rights of private individuals, special consideration must be given to the weak and the poor” (Rerum Novarum, no. 54). The Pope does, as did Jesus before him, and the Mosaic Law before Him, single out the poor for special — preferential? — consideration. Indeed, it is dangerous sledding to try to divorce concern for the poor from Catholic orthodoxy, especially considering that Pope Benedict XVI once said that “the defense of orthodoxy [is] really the defense of the poor” (The Ratzinger Report). The right to private property isn’t the issue here; it’s one’s relationship to it, and how one uses it, that is. On this point, Pope Leo echoes St. Ambrose: “How must one’s possessions be used? The Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor [St. Thomas Aquinas]: ‘Man should not consider his outward possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without difficulty when others are in need….’ When [one’s own] necessity has been supplied, and one’s position fairly considered, it is a duty to give to the indigent out of that which is over” (no. 36). Leo was certainly aware of the evils of socialism and communism; in fact, his encyclical was written in response to those movements. His teaching, and therefore St. Am­brose’s, is neither obsolete nor in error.

John G. Pennell

Pomona, New York

It appears that in his reply to J.R. Vazzo the NOR editor is not only supporting assistance to immigrants but government assistance. I agree with Vazzo but for another reason: the government does a very poor job of it. I have worked in management in the grocery business at the store level since the beginning of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society.” I have worked in Anglo, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian communities in my career. Food stamps, WIC, and AFDC programs are damaging to those who are on those programs for a long time. They create a state of dependency on the government and, due to man’s fallen nature, stifle recipients’ desire and need to make the best use of their talents.

Such programs destroy families by replacing fathers, and perhaps even God, with the government. There is no need for either if you get your basic needs and more from “Big Brother.” I have also seen and continue to see a large amount of waste and fraud in the system.

Yes, we should provide a safety net and support for our citizens and even immigrants, but it needs to be done at the local level, where possible, by churches and other religious and private aid organizations.

Gerald Gelazela

Surprise, Arizona

In the editor’s reply to J.R. Vaz­zo, a statement was made that made me more than a little upset: “Yes, governments have a moral obligation to protect and provide for their citizens.” At first glance, this short sentence might not seem offensive, but it embodies a false premise that is a root cause of much that is wrong with our society.

I would agree that governments have an obligation to protect their citizens from threats to domestic tranquility; I take exception to the idea that governments have a moral obligation to provide for their citizens. In order to be moral, governments must be limited, and in our case must follow the Constitution, which wisely leaves the corporal works of mercy to individuals, exactly where Jesus put them in the first place.

I would suggest that one of the great evils in our culture is the belief that government can provide what it is the duty of each individual to do. In fact, when the government takes my money and gives it in the form of food or shelter to other individuals, it performs one of the most immoral acts imaginable.

Our government can do nothing without the money it takes from me and you. Our founders realized this and went to great lengths to warn us about the fallen nature of man, especially those men who aspire to politics. They will always pick our pockets for the noblest reasons while lining their own. Unfortunately, our fellow citizens have become quite comfortable with the concept of passing off their moral responsibilities to a government that is all too willing to fill the vacuum created by lazy and uncatechized Catholics.

Vernon O'Rourke

Frederick, Maryland

Ed. Note: That governments have an obligation to provide for their citizens was not an original idea of ours. Pope Leo XIII again: “The poor and helpless have a claim to special consideration…. Those who are badly off have no resource of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly rely upon the assistance of the State” (Rerum No­varum, no. 54). Of course, as Mr. Hundt explains above, such assistance should not replace individual charity and should be reasonably limited and not become habitual. How to reform our nation’s welfare programs most effectively and eliminate the entitlement culture they have created, while staying true to the principles of charity, remains a burning question. Any ideas?

Colleen Drippe

Brighton, Missouri

J.R. Vazzo expressed concern that the flood of immigrants into this country was putting a severe financial burden on the U.S. and will lead to financial ruin. The NOR editor’s reply is a social gospel run amok. It is definitely in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI, who issued a strong call for establishing a true world political authority with real teeth to manage the global economy with God-centered ethics to bring economic justice to the world’s poor (in Caritas in Veritate). Maybe the Pope feels that a one-world government would give the Church another chance to wield political power as in the Middle Ages. No wonder Catholics adore Obama’s policies and vote for him — the Church hierarchy constantly preaches altruism from the pulpit until it overrides moral instruction as Catholics render unto Caesar whatever Caesar wants. What the Pope and the NOR want is a hippie commune where everything belongs to everyone and no one works.

It is interesting to note that this same issue contains an article by Donald DeMarco trashing Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged and her philosophy. Perhaps DeMarco and the NOR should read her collection of essays in the book Capitalism: The Untried Ideal, written in the 1960s. Fifty years ago she predicted what has evolved up to the present when big government and altruistic policies shape the world. One chapter she wrote thoroughly dissected the errors in Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, which the NOR editor cites in his reply to Vazzo.

So I side with J.R. Vazzo, Ayn Rand, Jesus, and common sense regarding charity — and not with the Church or the NOR. I believe charity to the poor is an individual duty not an altruistic collectivist one. I have lived on the earth for 76 years and subscribed to the NOR since 1999. I enjoy the NOR for its Catholic morals but if it insists on stuffing a socialist philosophy down our throats then my remaining days will be lived without a renewal of my subscription.

Bridget Callahan

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ed. Note: Ayn Rand was an atheist; to suggest that she stands with Jesus is bizarre, to say the least, as is the notion that Pope Benedict, and the editors of the NOR, are hippies or socialists.

William Borruso

Bonita Springs, Florida

The NOR presents itself as an “orthodox” Catholic magazine, and no doubt it provides a refreshing alternative to the progressive theology that predominates in too many of our churches today. But the editor’s reply to J.R. Vazzo reads like a crude rendition of liberation theology, not a well-reasoned, sincere reply to what is one of the most vexing issues facing Americans. Immigration impacts every area of life in America, and those who support an immigration system that is in the best interest of American citizens cannot be dismissed by quoting a few snippets of Scripture completely out of context.

American Catholics also cannot overlook the fact that mass immigration has strengthened the political power of the secular, radical far-left who are intent on inhibiting Catholics (and all Christians) in the free exercise of our religion.

The editor writes that the U.S. can afford to give immigrants more of its wealth even if it means we “compromise our comfort.” Saddling future generations with debt, or, as appears increasingly likely, completely bankrupting our nation and making it impossible to support any of our needy citizens, is hardly a mere discomfort. The Bible nowhere says that the mark of a good Christian is one who puts the material needs of others before his and his family’s own survival. Is the NOR advocating that all Americans must agree to forgo a better life for themselves and their families in order to support any and every foreigner who happens to show up within our borders, invited or not?

The editor’s citation of Scripture was no doubt intended to give authority to his reply, but it only served to undermine it. First of all, Matthew 24:35 does not say at all what he insists it does. Even when he gets his scriptural references correct, they are not in context, which is probably why the entire passage is not quoted. The editor’s reply uses the Bible to give religious cover to a political argument that is not supported by Scripture, theology, tradition, or plain common sense.

Treating an illegal alien with dignity does not equate with government appropriation of Americans’ “wealth” in order to provide for those who have made a conscious decision to break the law and have disregarded the interests of the American people. As the Pew Hispanic Center revealed in 2005, 95 percent of illegal aliens from Mexico working in the U.S. had jobs in Mexico before they came to the U.S. It is not the desperate poor who come illegally into the U.S., it is those who “regard the possession of more and more goods as the ultimate objective,” which the editor so deplores.

Being generous with someone else’s money or livelihood, as the editor commands us to be, is not charity and it is not mercy. It is an injustice, as many Catholics, such as J.R. Vazzo, recognize. The issue is complex, and sincere disagreements on what is the best immigration policy do arise. Unfortunately, the NOR chose to take the low road and accuse those who oppose amnesty and mass immigration of holding views that prevent them from being “good” Catholics.

Jerry C. McNierney

Titusville, Pennsylvania

Ed. Note: Mr. O’Rourke is right: We gave the incorrect Scripture citation. Instead of Matthew 24:35 we should have said Matthew 25:35; it is in this verse that Christ commands us to feed the hungry and welcome the stranger. We apologize for our typo. We did not, however, make any policy prescriptions nor did we argue that “all Americans must agree to forgo a better life for themselves and their families in order to support any and every foreigner who happens to show up within our borders, invited or not.” That’s just a bad parody. We stated that America “enjoys great wealth and abundance relative to the rest of the world,” and that these blessings come with obligations specified by our Lord in Matthew 25. Clearly, Mr. O’Rourke is uncomfortable with the implications and therefore resorts to reductio ad absurdum arguments — national bankruptcy, the inhibition of religious freedom — in an attempt to make a case against welcoming “foreigners,” specifically illegal immigrants from Mexico, whom he accuses of “disregarding the interests of the American people.” We would remind American Catholics that our true home is not on this earth — not found between the borders of Mexico and Canada — but is in the heavenly city. And as Pope Benedict XVI has written, “In the kingdom of Jesus Christ there are no distinctions of race or origin. In him and through him, humanity is united” (Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Nar­ratives). If we are found worthy of entering the heavenly kingdom, it will be because we lived out His commandments here on earth, including those difficult ones found in Matthew 25.

Mary Lou James

Modesto, California

Why Should We Be Shocked?

I appreciated Andrew M. Sed­don’s article “Bumping Off Baby” (Jan.-Feb.) for its unpretentious clarity and excellent analysis of the argument behind modern proposals of legalized infanticide. He does well to begin with the historical precedents as practiced among our cultural forefathers before drawing any parallels.

I hope Dr. Seddon wasn’t expecting anyone to be shocked that modern people have no better sense of ethics than the ancient Romans. Human is human, after all, and, rather than define humanity in terms of having goals or appreciating one’s own life, why don’t we just start with the capacity to sin? Isn’t that what distinguishes me from my cat? Buster tears into voles, rabbits, and other cats with innocent relish — but if I tear into my neighbors, I offend God in whose image I — and the neighbors — were created. Because I can choose to do this anyway, I am human. So were the Romans.

To rename the infanticide of the ancient world as “after-birth abortion” actually makes it more horrible, as the use of a euphemism often does. Evil is always more insidious when we gloss over it, especially when we use fancy modern language to describe it. How can something be morally wrong if it has a scientific name? There’s no need to repent when you redefine sin, is there?

In defense of the Stoics, I would like to mention that Epictetus, a more humble man than Seneca, actually adopted and raised an abandoned child. He had a few things to say about those who left children to fend for themselves.

The comment on “faked exposure” reminded me of those Chinese families who, instead of aborting surplus children as the law requires, tell gov­ern­ment officials that they “found” their extra babies on the door­step. Human nature has its good side as well as its bad.

It is rather surprising, however, to hear that so many people would be outraged at an article (in the Journal of Medical Ethics) advocating infanticide by any name at all. I thought we already had it. Aren’t newborns with Down syndrome routinely denied life-saving surgery?

Dr. Seddon’s distinction between a person and the properties of a person is a good one. Like substance and accident. A human being is what it is, not what it does. Therefore, to keep and cherish a child who will never be “normal” becomes an act of loving obedience to God — an acceptance of something He has offered to those in whom He has especial confidence.

Studying Philosophy

Many thanks to Thomas Storck for his article “Why Study Philosophy?” (Jan.-Feb.). I’d like to offer a practical addendum. As a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, I am truly grateful for the education I received there, including an excellent formation in Aristotelian and Thomistic thought. I highly recommend the program to anyone interested in pursuing the intellectual life in a thoroughly Catholic manner. Students study the Great Books, learning from the greatest minds of Western civilization, and are therefore brought to a better understanding of and appreciation and love for reality and Truth, and thus, God Himself.

Please be advised that I almost did not renew my subscription because the NOR is becoming too long-haired. If I want to study philosophy, I’ll go back to school!

A Brighter Future for the Dark Continent

I read with interest the New Oxford Note “Sexual Sanity on the Dark Continent” (Jan.-Feb.). I was lucky enough to serve in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa, from 1965 to 1967. I can attest that in that country at that time homosexuality was practically nonexistent.

I stopped in at the local family-planning office one day, mainly because it had air-conditioning. There was one lonely Liberian teenager in there who was running things. Liberian women generally ignored family planning.

The West is being punished for its faulty approach to sex and reproduction. At least in Liberia in the late 1960s “sexual sanity” carried the day. Since, as they say, “demographics is destiny,” it could be said that the future bodes well for the Dark Continent. Not so for us.

A Right & Just Man

Mark Kennedy (letter, Jan.-Feb.) writes that “Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s prayer at the Democratic National Convention and his dinner with Obama were a disgrace.” I would remind readers that Jesus ate with sinners and He too was disparaged for doing so. In fact, He came to save sinners — and thank God He did, or we’d all be lost. Moreover, Cardinal Dolan was one of the first to file a lawsuit against Obamacare. He is a right and just man who is following his beloved Lord. May God bless him, and may God bless Mr. Kennedy.

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