Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: April 2016

April 2016

Fighting Against God

Your New Oxford Note “Francis & the Lutherans: Intercommunion Confusion” (Jan.-Feb.) proves the axiom that “those who think they know it all irritate those of us who do.”

The Note throws multiple large stones at Pope Francis. Shim’e-i threw stones and dirt at King David (2 Sam. 16:13), and later, under Solomon, he ended up paying for it with his life (1 Kgs. 44-46). As Gama’li-el said much later of those who opposed the Apostles, be careful or “you may find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:39).

Charles A. Benke

Lawton, Oklahoma

Your criticism of Pope Francis (“Francis & the Lutherans: Intercommunion Confusion”), as well as the criticism in the letters you print (e.g., “Francis: Spokesman of Immutable Truths?”), has gotten to the point where I literally threw the January-February issue in the garbage.

Harry Coveny

Seattle, Washington

Your criticism of Pope Francis’s statement to Anke de Bernardinis, a Lutheran woman who laments that she cannot receive Communion alongside her Catholic husband, is based on a total failure to understand what the Pope did, and did not, say (“Francis & the Lutherans: Intercommunion Confusion”).

The Pope did not tell de Bernardinis to “do as she sees fit” in this matter, as you put it, however much that superficially appears to be the case. I suspect, and hope, that Pope Francis was urging her to examine the whole issue of Church membership in the context of the reality and desirability of the Eucharist. Presumably, she is capable of understanding the careful distinction the Pope made, even though the NOR was not, and the public at large might not be either.

Does Pope Francis deserve to be criticized for his veiled choice of advice to de Bernardinis because it is so easily misunderstood? I decline to touch on that issue beyond stating that I would not have spoken as Pope Francis did. It is above my pay grade to publicly criticize any pope short of a far more indisputable breach of the faith. Perhaps the world’s bishops should privately comment to the Pope on these issues. I think they certainly should clarify what the Pope did and did not say. Isn’t that part of the nature of the relationship between a pope and the bishops of the Catholic Church?

James J. Harris

San Diego, California

Ed. Note: Anke de Bernardinis must be some kind of clairvoyant if she can understand a distinction Pope Francis never made. He never once mentioned Church membership in his remarks to her, or the reality of the Eucharist, or anything close to it. Would that he had! What he did say was, “There are questions that only if one is sincere with oneself and the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself.” We don’t see how this doesn’t mean “do as you see fit.”

The Pope’s statement, in fact, seems to echo the “follow your conscience” mentality promoted by theologians and churchmen during Jorge Bergoglio’s years of formation as a Jesuit priest. Prior to the pontificate of St. John Paul II, many of these theologians and churchmen conveniently forgot to mention that one’s conscience needs, first, to be well formed.

Miriam S. Dapra

Hartville, Wyoming

What Is & What Should Have Been

I, too, was flummoxed by the response Pope Francis gave to the Lutheran Anke de Bernardinis (“Francis & the Lutherans: Intercommunion Confusion”). Instead of addressing the lady’s question as to when she and her husband would be able to “finally participate together in Communion” forthrightly, the Pope cranked out a vague and rambling non-answer.

What, I thought at the time, is so hard about saying, “I’m sorry to hear that you and your husband are divided in faith and so are unable to partake of Communion in each other’s churches. As I see it, there are two options available to you: First, your Catholic husband could commit a sin against the faith and be received into the Lutheran church; there both of you could partake of what you call the Lord’s Supper. Do you really want him to do that? It could mean the loss of his immortal soul!

“Second, you could learn the Catholic doctrine concerning the Most Holy Eucharist, as well as the reasons why intercommunion like this is not permitted in the Catholic Church. Perhaps you would be led to convert to Catholicism, and then the two of you could receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar together for the rest of your lives.

“It is clear that you feel deeply about this. Think deeply, also, about what you desire. If you, as a Lutheran, believe in the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation and desire to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church, then why do you remain a Lutheran? And if your husband were to receive communion in the Lutheran church, would he not be saying that what we believe doesn’t really matter? But it must matter, because you yourself see and experience the pain caused by such division.

“And so I dare to say to you, come home! Come home to the Catholic Church and partake of the Banquet of Life provided to the world by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who said that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life! I will pray for you.”

Instead, we got what we got. Let us pray for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom for Pope Francis.

Terence J. Hughes

Fort Pierre, South Dakota

The Timidity of Peter

How many bishops believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? My doubts began when American bishops instructed their priests to give Our Lord to militantly pro-abortion Catholic politicians. These doubts were reinforced when I learned that most bishops (according to The Dallas Morning News) were sending pederast priests from parish to parish so they always had fresh altar boys to sodomize. When both of these practices continued year after year, I found it impossible to believe that these bishops could retain belief in the Real Presence. Priests, too. How could they? Something had to give. They either had to stop these practices, and perhaps openly repent, or lose belief.

If they no longer believe in the Real Presence, why teach it? Without that conviction from bishops and priests, half of Catholics first stopped attending Mass and then left the Church. Why? Because they stopped believing too. Even today, of those remaining in the Church, less than half believe in the Real Presence.

This is the dilemma Pope Francis faces, not only in the U.S. but in Europe and wherever this lack of belief has taken root. I have read enough of Pope Francis’s homilies and other statements to believe that he is a holy man and that his personal faith is strong. But it seems that he is being pushed by the liberal cardinals Walter Kasper, Reinhard Marx, and Godfried Danneels, among others, to be “nicer than Jesus,” and it shows in his response to Anke de Bernardinis regarding whether she could receive Our Lord with her Catholic husband in Holy Communion: “The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to…. I’m scared!… There are questions that only if one is sincere with oneself and the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own.” Why couldn’t he just tell her, “Become a Catholic”?

This timidity is what we saw in Peter when he denied Our Lord three times — after Jesus Christ made Peter head of His Church — but not the Peter who spoke after Pentecost. In this Year of Mercy, we simultaneously need a Year of Courage, not a Holy Father telling us, “I’m scared!” In my 78 years as a cradle Catholic, I’ve seen nothing like this in a Vicar of Christ. I’ve seen nothing like this in the Church. If we don’t pray fervently for Pope Francis, then we are unworthy of our own salvation. We must shower him with our prayers. He asks us to at every opportunity. So let’s do it!

Michael Suozzi

San Diego, California

Unpredictable & Pontifically Zany

Three years after his accession to the papacy, Francis remains an enigma. It is far too early for a historical verdict; that belongs to future generations. It is the immediate impact of these past three years that concerns us.

Popes Pius XII, St. John XXIII, and Bl. Paul VI are easier to classify: They were all diplomats, Pius being the scholar among them. The great promise of Albino Cardinal Luciani, Pope John Paul I, was cut short after one month — an inestimable tragedy. St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were scholars and contemplatives through and through. All of these six pontiffs were historically predictable in the sense that their earlier experiences were fulfilled in what their tenures as pope would be (with the mournful exception of John Paul I).

Francis, like the Poverello of Assisi whom he cherishes, strikes us with an individuality that we are not prepared for, a kind of spiritual confrontation that pulls out the rug from under our comfortable presuppositions and shakes us out of our relaxed, bourgeois conceptions. He is a radical, but in the exact etymological meaning of radix. He is pulling all the weeds out of the garden of our delights, as if he had sprung out of the poems of William Blake. He comes into the faculty lounges and kicks over tables and knocks wine glasses out of hands.

Entering his 80th year, Francis is full of youthful exuberance, and that is very good! Who am I to tell the Pope what to do? I’m anxious to experience the next three unpredictable (and possibly pontifically zany) years with enthusiasm.

Arline Saiki

Palo Alto, California

Sick of Silicon Valley "Innovations"

I recently moved, for a time, to California. It seems that the more churches I go to here, the more “innovations” I see. Case in point: At a local Ash Wednesday service, sweet bread was served in large woven baskets at Communion time. I asked the priest why they were using invalid matter, and he said it wasn’t him; it was “the landlord.” I e-mailed the pastor, who referred me to the members of the liturgy committee, three of whom responded. One gave me the recipe for the bread, saying it was unleavened. But the bread contained honey. I told them that adding honey to Communion bread invalidates the sacrament, and baskets can’t be used as sacred vessels. So far, I’ve received no follow-up response. I realize that this is not the latest “innovation,” but I am surprised that in upper-class, suburban Silicon Valley, no one ever seems to have said anything before. 

My suggestion, to deal with these novelties, is for the NOR and other like-minded organizations to educate the masses in one critical reality. As Scott Hahn has explained, the Catholic Church follows Roman law, not Western law. That is to say, Roman law dictates that “if something is not written, it cannot be done.” Then maybe people would stop chatting in church, applauding for the musicians, holding hands during the Our Father, running around shaking hands with all their friends during the kiss of peace, etc. Please do this while I am stuck here. 

Piroska Molnár Haywood

West Lafayette, Indiana

Ed. Note: The NOR has, for decades, published articles, New Oxford Notes, and book reviews on liturgical innovations. Refer to “Liturgy, Liturgical Rites & Devotions” in the Topical Dossiers menu at our website, www.newoxfordreview.org.

Dennis J. Brown

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

A Needed Corrective to One-Sided Emphases

Frederick W. Marks’s article “The Other Side of Mercy” (Jan.-Feb.) fills a gap in the recent commentary on the Year of Mercy. As with most truths of the Catholic faith, there is, in the case of the mercy of God, a paradoxical element, properly called a mystery. It has often been said that a heresy is a one-sided emphasis on a truth of the faith. This has certainly been happening in our recent emphasis on God’s mercy, and that is why Marks’s article is so important. By listing the many instances in the Gospels in which Our Lord emphasizes the justice of God and the absolute necessity of repentance for sin, Marks provides the necessary balance.

Marks’s article works to correct the tendency against which C.S. Lewis warned in The Screwtape Letters. The senior devil, speaking to the junior devil whom he is instructing in how to corrupt mankind, says, “We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere ‘understanding.’ Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism.”

Gerald Russello

New York, New York

Christianity Made Your Day-to-Day Life Possible

Regarding George Carney’s response (letter, Dec.) to the published answers (Oct.) to his question, “Are Christians Really Marginalized?” (Jul.-Aug.), one can only conclude that it is a case of “My mind is made up, don’t bother me with the facts.” This is made clear by his opening admission that, yes, some businesses are being harassed because of their Christian faith, but because he disagrees with such harassment, it doesn’t count as a satisfactory answer. Blatant nonsense!

What we have here is another sorry example of “blaming” Christians for what has constituted worldwide civilized behavior for millennia. While it is true that Christianity has had important input into the formation of civilization, it is also true that other societies and cultures have agreed that, say, marriage between a man and a woman is the normal, acceptable mode of family-building, and that homosexual “marriage,” if such a thing were ever even thought of, would constitute at best a dysfunctional, if not a forbidden, punishable act — modern sociological and anthropological “research” and U.S. Supreme Court decisions notwithstanding.

Mr. Carney’s closing remark, “Live your life your way, and extend to others the same right. It’s that simple,” says it all. Carney seems to have no idea that the reason he is able to live his life his own way is because he lives in a society where the rule of law is well established, where other, far more responsible citizens have made it possible for such as he to enjoy the protection of settled, civilized rules and order. No, Mr. Carney, it’s not that simple! Your statement is a prescription for anarchy. It is a consummately selfish, primitive outburst, and a moment’s reflection would reveal its moral hollowness. Whether or not you believe in Christian morality, your day-to-day life is made possible because of it.

I recommend Mr. Carney read C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man should he care to think just a little more deeply about who he is and what he believes.

Barbara Morris

Escondido, California

The Eye of a Craftsman

Will Hoyt astutely identifies both the hope and the tragedy of the lands of eastern Ohio and thereabouts (“Hill Country East of Bethel — Parts I & II,” Dec. 2015 and Jan.-Feb. 2016, respectively). The neglect of the Appalachians is scandalous, and he lays bare the ideological pretensions that have caused such devastation. Mr. Hoyt combines the eye of a craftsman with evocative language to bring to bear a perspective that, although “romantic,” remains clear-eyed.

E.J. Speciale

San Jose, California

Worth the Loss of Sleep

I had planned not to renew my subscription because of your antipathy toward the Society of St. Pius X, but after reading the January-February issue, I decided I was not going to behave like a closed-minded intolerant liberal and have a hissy fit because you don’t see things my way 100 percent of the time. (I will pray for your conversion to pre-Vatican II Catholicism.)

You got me with your New Oxford Note “Giving an Appearance of Solidity to Pure Wind,” which was brilliant. It should be distributed far and wide, particularly to apologetic pundits who preface their excoriation of Islamic terrorism with “But of course, most Muslims are peace-loving and tolerant.” It kept me reading until 2:30 in the morning — but it was worth the loss of sleep.

Matthew Paradise

San Diego, California

Exclusivist, Elitist & Irrelevant

The editor’s response to James Matteucci’s letter, in which he calls the Society of St. Pius X “exclusivist and elitist” (Dec.), was truly a surprise to me.

The editor rested his case on the opinion of Gerhard Cardinal Müller, who claimed that the “de facto excommunication for schism remains” for the bishops consecrated by SSPX founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. This is the same Cardinal Müller who happily attended Gustavo Gutierrez’s annual seminar in Peru on liberation theology — the same Gutierrez, a renegade theologian, who deviously evaded the cardinal archbishop of Peru’s orders regarding his manifestly heterodox teachings. I guess we can laugh at the hierarchy when it suits us. Is Müller really qualified to speak on the SSPX, compared to Dario Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, who is in fact an expert and has stated the opposite?

This statement by the NOR editor was quite much: “The SSPX tends toward an exclusivity and elitism that are inimical to the nature and history of the Church.” Did the editor think much before pronouncing this judgment? How, pray tell, is the NOR not accused by its enemies of being in the same way exclusivist and elitist? (It is, in fact, so accused by its opponents, if it is even considered relevant.)

But here is what I don’t understand, and what the NOR editor most likely can’t explain: Why is the SSPX, which professes what we have always professed, which believes what we have always believed, which has been and is now so successful in attracting young people and in developing vocations, and which maintains the official position to “recognize [the Pope] and resist [false Catholic teaching],” so opprobrious that we just must skewer it as “schismatic” and “excommunicated” in a day and age in which the barbarians reigning inside the Church have made the very words meaningless, at a time in which the Church continues her virtual collapse? Is it just easier to shoot at targets inside the citadel? Does it make one feel better about oneself?

After 15 years, it is time to let my subscription lapse. I am sure that the progressive Pope Francis Catholics are flocking to subscribe in my place. But I see that the NOR has lost its steel and is only attacking those who won’t cost it anything to do so. Go and eat your own, NOR, but I am not helping you. Benedicamus Domino.

Hank Hassell

Flagstaff, Arizona


People love it when we call a spade a spade — except when they’re the ones with the spade in their hands (the spade being the SSPX in this case). The reason we say that Archbishop Lefebvre committed a “schismatic” act and his bishops were “excommunicated” is because Lefebvre committed a schismatic act and his bishops were excommunicated. If these words are as “meaningless” as Mr. Speciale would like us to think, then why do they sting so much when verifiably applied to his favored groups and individuals?

We acknowledge that the truth is uncomfortable to some people, including the unfortunate but objective truths surrounding the SSPX leadership, but hurt feelings and inevitable cancelations (yes, there is a “cost” to uttering uncomfortable truths) aren’t reason enough for us not to call it like it is.

R.J. Mattes Jr.

Norfolk, Virginia

Check the Facts!

I see you are continuing to attack Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX (letters, Jan.-Feb”~ A few points: (1) Archbishop Lefebvre never committed a schismatic act. (2) Archbishop Lefebvre and his bishops were never legally excommunicated under canon law, and Archbishop Lefebvre and his bishops were never lawfully suspended. (3) Neither the SSPX nor its growing community has ever been excommunicated under canon law, nor can they be.

Your ill comments about Fr. Nicholas Gruner of the Fatima Center and the awesome Catholic Family News were horrible! You obviously do not know the truth. Do you actually think that Fr. Gruner was suspended a divinis? For what? What crime did he commit? None! And you are taking sides with Rome, the Mystical Body of Satan! Check the facts! Pope John XXIII was a Freemason, the enemy of Fatima; Pope Paul VI was a Freemason, the enemy of Fatima; Pope John Paul II was a Freemason, the enemy of Fatima; Pope Benedict XVI is a Freemason, the enemy of Fatima; and Pope Francis is a Freemason, a 33rd Degree Grand Sovereign Inspector General (Lucifer in the flesh).

You, Mr. Editor, need to CHECK THE FACTS before you condemn innocent priests and bishops who are trying to save souls, save the true Mass, and keep the faith in this Age of Diabolical Disorientation.

The Fatima Center is the only full-time apostolate that spreads the crucial soul-saving truth of Fatima, and our Poor Blessed Mother entrusted Fr. Gruner with her message because nobody else would listen!

May God bless you.

Ed. Note: And people wonder why we have a hard time taking the SSPX and its fellow travelers seriously. This type of discourse — and the mindset from which it emanates — isn’t all that uncommon in those circles, in our experience.

Grossly Inaccurate

The editor’s note following James Matteucci’s letter (Jan.-Feb.) stating that the pre-Vatican II Roman missal had only been widely used in the universal Church since the Council of Trent (approx. 400 years) is grossly inaccurate. According to Msgr. Klaus Gamber in his seminal book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background, the Roman rite celebrated throughout the Western Church up until the introduction of the Novus Ordo by Pope Paul VI was the standard form of worship for nearly two millennia. While originally a rite intended for use only in the city of Rome, by the eighth century this missal had spread to almost every corner of the Western world. The Gallican rite, which had heretofore been in common use, had very nearly disappeared. Only in Spain and some parts of northern Italy was this autonomous rite still used for a time.

Hence, contrary to the editor’s assertion, the missal in use by the Western Church up until Vatican II had been in use essentially unchanged throughout the Christian world for over 1,400 years. While it is true that there were changes in the missal during those centuries, they did not involve changes in the rite itself, only the introduction of new feast days and minor alterations of certain prayers and Mass formulas.

The revolution in Catholic worship that occurred in the wake of the imposition of the missal of Paul VI was virtually unheard of in the history of the Church. That the results have not been spiritually beneficial is self-evident.

In his note following James Matteucci’s letter, the editor wrote, “The Tridentine Mass does not exist in a historical vacuum. It is not the same Mass today (or in 1970) as it was prior to its codification in 1570. Pius V introduced his own revisions, as did a number of his successors.” I find this statement troubling.

The Traditional Latin Mass of the Roman rite can be traced back many years prior to 1570. I dare say that if a Catholic were to attend a Mass during the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604), he could relate quite comfortably. The basic scheme for the Traditional Mass goes back to the time of Justin Martyr, about the year 167. In his First Apology he wrote of the worship service, which is the basic outline for the Mass that was extrapolated from the Jewish worship service. By Gregory’s time, the Canon of the Mass, which was part of the Sarum rite, had been established as the central and major component of the Christian service. Without it, there is no legitimate Mass.

Priests in distress due to extreme combat or imprisonment have been able to offer a valid Mass by saying just the Canon. This Canon changed little through the years until Pope Paul VI’s Novus Ordo Missae, which has several Canons, the use of which is left to the discretion of the officiating priest. This alone makes the Novus Ordo distinctly different.

The major “revisions” before Vatican II referred to by the editor were made by several pontiffs and simply involved the addition of saints’ days to the Proper of the Mass, the addition of a word or phrase, issues dealing with music, or the removal of redundancy. No major alterations were made to the basic scheme. Changes consisted primarily of shortening parts of the Canon, which, along with the Proper, grew to unnecessary and over-used texts. These “farced or tropus/trope” embellishments crept into the liturgy over time, primarily during the Middle Ages. The Roman Canon as used in the Traditional Mass today can be found in the Gelasian Sacramentary of the seventh/eighth century.

The “Tridentine Mass” is actually a term associated only with the Council of Trent (1545-1563), in which the Fathers wished the established Roman Missal to be celebrated uniformly everywhere and to go back to an older and simpler form of the Roman rite, as some abuses and corruption had seeped into the liturgy, which caused confusion. This was especially important as the Protestant Reformation had been spreading throughout the Christian world and forcing changes on the Church and the way she worshiped. The Council accomplished this task very well. It did not make a new missal, as the NOR editor implied, but it did restore the existing one “according to the customs and rite of the holy Fathers,” wrote Pope St. Pius V (Quo Primum, 1570).

Pius V allowed any rite to be kept that could show a prescription of at least two centuries, thus we still have some local forms in Lyon, Toledo, Milan, and among some religious orders. The ancient rite took on the name “Tridentine” only because of the assertions made by the Council of Trent. This was certainly not a new rite, and to say that the Tridentine Mass today is not the same as it was prior to 1570 is misleading and somewhat disingenuous.


We did not imply that the Council of Trent “made a new missal.” We said that “Pope St. Pius V codified this Mass in 1570 in response to a mandate from the Council of Trent (hence the name Tridentine).” Codify means “to arrange or systematize,” not “to create.” Moreover, Mr. Mattes proves our point that the Tridentine Mass “is not the same Mass today (or in 1970) as it was prior to its codification in 1570” when he explains that “‘farced or tropus/trope’ embellishments crept into the liturgy over time,” necessitating certain “changes” that were “made by several pontiffs.” The confusion only arises because Mr. Mattes accuses us of saying that Pius V and his successors introduced “major ‘revisions'” when we merely said they introduced “revisions” (without qualification). We don’t mind being corrected, but we’d prefer to be corrected on something we actually said, rather than on something someone imagined we said.

Ultimately, the point we were trying to make is that the Tridentine Mass is not a museum piece — it isn’t a static entity that’s existed through history unchanged. And it has changed, whether one wants to call the changes minor or major. Compared to the Pauline missal, they are certainly minor, but considered in the context of the evolving Roman missal through the centuries, one could easily call some of them major — more so if one is inclined to believe that the Roman rite is of as ancient a lineage as Mr. Hassell claims. However, his assertion that “the missal in use by the Western Church up until Vatican II had been in use essentially unchanged throughout the Christian world for over 1,400 years” is a debatable one in that it belies the need for the top-down imposition of a uniform, standardized missal in the first place.

Lest anyone misread us (again), let us be clear: We’re not writing from any particular agenda. We love the Tridentine Latin Mass and wish it were celebrated more widely — in every parish, if possible. To quote Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: “Catholicity does not mean uniformity. It is strange that the post-conciliar pluralism has created uniformity in one respect at least: it will not tolerate a high standard of expression. We need to counter this by reinstating the whole range of possibilities within the unity of the Catholic liturgy.”

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