Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: December 1993

December 1993

Only Jews Know

Regarding Bruce M. Bogin’s letter (Sept. 1993) agreeing with John Warwick Montgomery’s column, “When Is a Jew Not a Jew?” (June 1993) that, in Bogin’s words, “any Jew [should have] the right to believe in the Messiahship of Jesus and to remain a Jew [in the eyes of Israeli law]”: I disagree.

The question of who is a Jew should be left to the Jews them­selves. After 2,000 years of history, mostly tragic and full of suffering at the hands of Christians, only Jews should judge whom they want to recognize as a Jew. More­over, Jews have had very bad expe­riences with converts: Through­out the Middle Ages, Jews were forced into apostasy, and renegade Jews were used to torment Jews. This torment often took the form of rigged disputations in which the converts put forth trumped up charges against Judaism, while the Jewish partners in the disputa­tions were not allowed to defend themselves. Forced conversions would then be imposed.

In modern times, when six million Jews have been massacred in Christian lands, it would be the height of wickedness for Chris­tians also to force renegade Jews on us, many of whom are intent on proselytizing among the Jews. Do Christians really want to eradi­cate Jews entirely? Do they have to complete the job of Hitler?

Israel is living proof of the di­vine selection of the Jews, and their return to their own soil vindi­cates all the prophecies of the He­brew Bible. The Christian world, especially the Vatican, will sooner or later have to make peace with this fact. While Christians expect Jews to forget and forgive 2,000 years of unspeakable crimes and atrocities against Jews, Christians themselves have not forgotten what happened 2,000 years ago to one Jew, at the hands of the Ro­mans. Renegade Jews are totally misled and confused: You cannot be a Jew and recognize someone in whose name such crimes were committed. The Supreme Court of Israel has the right and duty to follow Jewish law on this, which is crystal clear: A renegade Jew is no longer a Jew, just as someone who believes in the overthrow of the American government or who was a member of the SS cannot ever become an American citizen.

Christians should learn to be tolerant of others’ religion. It is a rule in Jewish law to respect oth­ers’ religion, but not to allow their intermingling.

Manfred R. Lehmann

Spring Valley Bruderhof

Miami Beach, Florida

Ed. Note: Just for the record: Bruce Bogin is a Jew (not a Jew­ish-Christian, but a Jew).

We Deserve Better

What a pleasure it was to read the perceptive article by Fr. Ber­nard D. Green, “Tremors in the Foundation of the U.S. Catholic Church” (Oct. 1993). However, it doesn’t take an erudite observer like Fr. Green to see what is taking place in the U.S. Catholic Church. In trying to be all things to all Catholics, the Church has inadvertently brought upon itself the current situation: li­centious priests, congregations ig­norant of Church history, the out­right disregard for the reverence due Christ in His house, churches that look like auditoriums, the col­lapse of ecclesiastical dress and manner, etc.

But I guess I can see how dif­ficult it must be for a religious in­stitution to satisfy an increasingly materialistic and indifferent people, not to mention to get its flock to encounter the grace of God through the eyes of faith.

Yet, we Catholics do not de­serve what our Church is allowing to happen.

Steven Durcsak

Middle Village, New York

Points Missed

Regarding the October 1993 NOR: I was, as a political scientist, in­trigued by Jean Bethke Elshtain’s article “Salvaging Patriotism from the Narrow Nationalist” and, as an Anglican, interested in Brian Barbour’s review of The Panther and the Hind. Both are good treat­ments, but I feel both miss impor­tant points.

Elshtain’s statement that “the overriding political passion of our time is nationalism” perhaps needs some qualification. Cer­tainly the force of nationalism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union surprised us all, and the apparent religious fervor of East German Protestants and Pol­ish Catholics may have lessened once their nationalistic goals had been achieved. I would submit, however, that the first loyalty of Protestant fundamentalists in the Americas and Islamic ones in the Middle East, central Asia, and north Africa is such as to override any nationalistic instincts they might have. Also, for much of black Africa, it appears that tribal­ism, rather than nationalism in the Western sense, is the first loy­alty. In fact, dominant or would-be dominant tribes have attempted to use the structure of the nation-state, once it was vacated by the colonial power, as a vehicle with which to dominate rival and usu­ally weaker tribes.

The review of Panther and the Hind also missed something. Present-day Anglicanism, in spite of Hooker’s “invention” (Barbour’s term, not mine) in the 1590s, claims to have no distinc­tive dogmas of its own, but to put forth merely the belief of the “early” and relatively undivided Church. It is in this context that the lack of interpretive authority, noted in the review, becomes so serious: What is the cutoff date for this authoritative period, and what beliefs were considered essential during that time? The end result is that in practice there is no agree­ment within Anglicanism on what the basic minimum is for Chris­tian (and, therefore, Anglican) or­thodoxy. Worst of all, some of the more extreme relativists within the Anglican Communion are not even concerned about the ques­tion, considering it irrelevant.

Wallace Spaulding

McLean, Virginia

Fido & Me in Donkey Heaven

Regarding John Warwick Montgomery’s inability to say whether animals can go to Heaven (“Fido in Heaven?” Oct. 1993): Chim­panzees have 98 percent of the ge­netic stuff that current humans have. Where, and on what rational basis, does one draw the line be­tween creatures with a spirit life and those without? If dolphins in the Seaquarium have more brains per body weight than do Dolphins in the Orange Bowl, why the put-down on aqua-life?

One tale out of Genesis that I buy completely is “original sin.” Man is cursed. In an old Star Trek episode, the Alien says to Captain Kirk, “The human is one of the few species in the universe that preys on its own kind; it truly is a vicious, cruel species.” A hundred years ago Francis Jammes wrote a prayer poem asking to be sent to Donkey Heaven in place of Human Heaven. Donkeys, dogs, and dolphins — sounds like heav­enly fun to me. Would listening to some blowhard lawyer from Lon­don (Montgomery) for all eternity be Paradise for you?

Walter Corrigan

Cresskill, New Jersey

Orthodox Catholics: Poor & Ignorant

As a former Catholic, I found Mark Lowery’s article “Why Catholic Orthodoxy Is Not ‘Catholic Fundamentalism'” (Sept. 1993) in­teresting. He is quite right that many self-declared progressive Catholics have fallen outside legiti­mate boundaries of Catholic belief.

Human beings have an innate desire for certitude regarding God. On a gut level we sense that we per­ceive spiritual truths through something of a haze. The human species must endure the ambiguity. Most traditional Catholics are merely high-church Anglicans who feel comfortable within their theological surroundings. Their milieu fits like a warm protective glove. Their minimal financial wherewithal and lifestyle allow them to envelop themselves in a cocoon protecting them from the tensions the majority of us grudgingly ac­cept. Their intellectual pursuits are usually narrowly focused. “There are more things in heaven, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philoso­phy.” Aye, also in your religion, dear Prince of Denmark.

David Thomson

Houston, Texas

Catholic Fundamentalism? So Be It!

I found Mark Lowery’s article “Why Catholic Orthodoxy Is Not ‘Catholic Fundamentalism'” (Sept. 1993) interesting, but he left out some important facts about those Catholics who appear to be taking on an image of fundamentalism.

If some Catholics seemingly slide into what is perceived by oth­ers as fundamentalism, it is only because of the magnitude of their zeal to defend Catholic orthodoxy. If that zeal is somewhat faulty, that should not distract from the legiti­macy of the concerns of Catholics over the loss or watering down of Catholic orthodoxy as exhibited in the changes made in the name of the spirit of Vatican II.

Church leadership today has dramatically deviated from many pre-Vatican II Church teachings, and I don’t mean customs, such as how long the tassels of a cardinal’s robe should be. I am referring to basic Church teachings up to Vatican II. If some Catholics raise the question of orthodoxy within the Church’s leadership, it should be answered not with accusations of fundamentalism, but instead with truth to the contrary, which has never been done. The answers given are usually a rigid defense of Vatican II changes, the very same things that have created the attack on Catholic orthodoxy. This is usually followed by a severe rebuke for questioning Church leadership in the first place.

A good example why some Catholics legitimately question the orthodoxy of present-day Church leadership is the changes in the Church’s liturgies, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The new liturgy of the Mass completely reverses the fundamental teach­ings of the Church as clearly writ­ten in the decrees of the Council of Trent and its catechism that fol­lowed — just to appease Protes­tant theology. In fact, the changes in the Mass have so masterfully ap­peased Protestant theology that Protestants actually now use the new Mass liturgy without any qualms of Protestant conscience, which certainly is a fitting tribute to the legitimacy of questioning the orthodoxy of present-day Church leadership, from top to bottom, in adopting such changes. If reaction to such changes results in some Catholics sliding into Catholic fundamentalism, so be it! The basic questions remain: Why the changes, and under whose rightful authority do we accom­modate Protestant theology at the expense of Catholic theology?

There is nothing wrong with changes in the Church. They can actually be a sign of vitality. However, the Vatican II changes repre­sent not mere changes or reforms, as has happened occasionally in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church, but complete substitutions; they represent a new ecclesiology.

It certainly is strange that while Catholic leadership, from top to bottom since Vatican II, has bent over backward trying to please Protestants with all kinds of changes, the Protestants have not moved one inch in their position. They have not even said one Hail Mary! The reason is obvious. They can’t without compromising their Protestant faith. They still really believe in their theology — a sin­cerity and honesty somewhat lack­ing in our present-day Catholic leadership.

What precisely was wrong with the pre-Vatican II Church? All seminaries were full; parish churches and schools were full; priests and religious leaving their calling were very few in number; lay contributions to Church activi­ties were high; and past council decrees and papal teachings were given a place of honor throughout the Catholic world.

William J. Holdorf

Woodridge, Illinois

Not the 'Type'

I must take exception to Dale Vree’s offensive caricature of reli­gious pacifists in his review of Gordon Zahn’s Vocation of Peace (Oct. 1993). Pardon me, but I don’t “know the type” at all. Perhaps the Catholic Church abounds in such abominations as he describes, but permit me to draw attention to the fact that there are whole churches of religious pacifists which prac­tice a biblically consistent Chris­tian nonresistance of the type which, apparently, Zahn repre­sents. I refer, of course, to the churches of the Anabaptist tradi­tion: Amish, Hutterite, and Men­nonite. If Vree would care to meet religious pacifists who oppose all wars, including the one against the unborn, and who uphold a bib­lical standard of sexual morality, we would be very glad to welcome him at one of our communities.

Paul C. Fox

Farmington, Pennsylvania


Point well taken. My apologies. Still, if you’d spend time, as have I, among the most vocal, visible, and influential grouping of religious pacifists in the U.S., the Quakers, you’d prob­ably find yourself coming to “know the type” quite well. But — not to pick on the Quakers — yes, you’ll find the type in the Catholic Church, though it would be an ex­aggeration to say the Church “abounds” with the type.

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