Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: December 1996

December 1996

It Just Goes On & On

Mark Shea’s article, “When Evangelicals Treat Catholic Tradition Like Revelation” (Sept.), explains why I am a Catholic. Many arguments can be made from the Bible against Catholic beliefs, but his article shows how arguments against almost any Christian belief can be made from the Bible.

Evangelicals and fundamentalists vehemently defend the Trinity against non-Trinitarian Arians such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). However, even fundamentalists, unless they are extremely knowledgeable and well-trained, are no match for the average JW. Even then it’s a game of “Scriptural Ping-Pong,” as it is termed. Fundamentalists say the Trinity is taught in the Bible, but it’s not explicitly articulated or defended there.

The bodily Resurrection of Jesus is another example of a firmly held fundamentalist belief that is challenged by JWs on biblical grounds. You’d think the bodily Resurrection is pretty explicitly taught in the Bible, but apparently not explicitly enough to prevent millions of Catholics and Protestants from being converted to the JWs.

Seventh-Day Adventists use the Bible to prove we should worship on Saturday, not Sunday. They gleefully ask: Since Catholics readily admit that Sunday worship is simply a Catholic tradition, why do Protestants so stoutly defend Sunday worship and even call Sunday the Sabbath? Curiously, the anti-Catholic Puritans put people to death who would not go to church on Sunday, even though Sunday was simply a Catholic tradition!

To me, that’s the whole trouble with the Protestant Reformation — there’s no way to know when to stop protesting and reforming. It just goes on and on. As more and more Christian beliefs are seen to rest primarily on tradition, they are jettisoned. The reductionism can continue until nothing’s left. Indeed, liberal theologians are now doing away with the Bible itself.

Jesus said, in regard to false prophets, “By their fruits you shall know them.” We can now see that, torn from tradition, the Bible becomes a battleground where different groups have their pet verses which they hurl at one another.

The Bible is used against itself, which in no way serves the Word of God.

Mack Brislawn

St. Mary's High School

Laramie, Wyoming

Wimpy Religion Teachers

Apropos of the articles by Marian Crowe and Leila Miller (Nov.) on the failure of much of the Church to educate her youth in the truths of Catholicism: Headlines tell us that drug use among teens has doubled in four years, and many parishes are unconcerned while some parishes are actually making the problem worse: Wimpy religion teachers are telling youth it’s all but impossible to sin, so teens say, “If we can’t sin, why not just have fun!” — and drugs fit right in.

Real Catholics should be raging mad. What is your parish doing about the teen drug problem?

Fr. Rawley Myers

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Secular America

James Hitchcock’s article analyzing the secularization of the U.S. (Oct.) leaves out a couple crucial points. First, is it all that certain that America was as religious as people like to claim? Many observers have argued that in America religion itself was quite secularized. Hitchcock seems surprised that anyone would consider that America “was a secular enterprise” in its founding. Yet, it seems to me that at best the Founders considered religion as an instrumental good, valuable for social stability, but were pretty much uninterested in the truth claims of Christianity. Secondly, does capitalistic consumerism and the technology it fosters have nothing to do with secularization? Our Lord said that one cannot serve both God and money. America has always been infected with the vice of Mammon, and Christians have done little to exorcise it. A merely privatized faith that has little or no relation to the social order is not vital Christianity.

Thomas Storck

Greenbelt, Maryland

Slavick's Private Religion

I was surprised by the statements made by William Slavick in his letter to the Editor (Oct.) responding to the article, “Time to Communicate What Catholicism Is & Is Not” by Juli Loesch Wiley (July-Aug.). Slavick contends that she is “mindless” because she “lumps together… abortion, women priests, assisted suicide, homosexuality, and contraception…as all ‘simply incompatible with Catholic truth.'” Slavick continues: “Juli may be privy to revealed truths that I’m not but an exclusively male priesthood is nowhere to be found in the deposit of faith. Pope Paul VI’s continuance of the birth control ban smacked far more of curial politics than any movement of the Holy Spirit. And, if Juli has read anything in the last 20 years, she would know that the current understanding of the nature of homosexuality requires abandonment of those hoary misreadings of supposed Old Testament prohibitions….”

Now, who is claiming to be “privy to revealed truths,” Juli or Slavick? Juli is simply following the unalterable teaching of the Catholic Church — what we have believed always, everywhere. When was active homosexuality not a sin? When was contraception accepted Catholic practice? When wasn’t there an exclusively male priesthood? By the way, on October 28, 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the explicit approval of the Pope, promulgated the teaching that the Church’s doctrine of the all-male priesthood “is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of the faith.”

On what bases are we now to demand the overthrow of Tradition, the testimony of the Old and New Testaments, and the teachings of the Magisterium? If Slavick is a rational man of faith, he must certainly be “privy to revealed truths” not known to the rest of the Catholic faithful. Slavick is “kicking against the goad” and has placed himself in the position of a dissenter from the teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Luis Caso

Worthington, Ohio

As I read and re-read William Slavick’s letter objecting to my article, I could see that his fight is not really with me, but with the Catholic Church (to which he belongs). There are many millions of people in the U.S. who have major problems with Catholic doctrines. Many of them are good Protestants, good Orthodox, good Jews, good humanists. They are people with integrity: They don’t believe what the Catholic Church teaches, and so — God love ’em! — they do not want to be Catholics. This I can understand. Back in my “sins of youth” period, when I was sure the Catholic Church was wrong about sex and gender, wrong about God and Man and especially Woman, I said, “Stupid Church, I’m outta here!” And out I went. So what’s Slavick’s problem? The Unitarians would be glad to have him. The music’s much better there — and the demands are immensely fewer.

Slavick claims that the masculine character of priestly service is not found in the deposit of faith. But all forms of licit religious sacrifice as far back as we can go — back to Aaron and the Levites, back to Samuel, back to Melchizedek, back indeed to Abel — were made by males. The New Testament explicitly reveals the nuptial character of priesthood — the husband loving his wife as Christ the High Priest loves the Church, the priest embodying a specifically husbandly love. The Jewish and Christian priesthood has been a masculine office throughout the 50 centuries of the Old and New Testaments, and throughout all of Catholic and Orthodox history for 20 centuries. If 7,000 years of unbroken unanimity doesn’t count as part of the deposit of faith, then we can safely assert that there is no deposit of faith. As for the popular perversions of sexuality (viz., homosexual intercourse and contraception): Whatever anyone’s genes, drives, or temptations, no one is entitled to act in a perverted way, in a way that deliberately denies the man/woman significance of sexual union, or that deliberately denies the gift of fertility.

Slavick is wrong about consequentialism. The Church does in fact find counter-city bombing, such as the obliteration of Hiroshima, “intrinsically wrong.” To quote from Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, “Any act of war aimed at the indiscriminate destruction of cities…is a crime against God and against humanity itself. It is firmly and unequivocally condemned.” And as for Slavick’s equivocation on abortion, Gaudium et Spes also states, “Abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” These are not obscure sentences. I, for one, can find the subjects and verbs.

Much more worthy of serious consideration are the objections noted by Walter Perry and Fr. Patrick Carroll in their letters (Oct.), who rightly remind us that the death penalty is not to be found in the “intrinsically wrong” category. But I never said it was. I did strongly imply that the death penalty is often — or usually — carried out in a wrongful manner, and this is a position found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. After explaining that legitimate public authority has the right and duty to punish malefactors by means “not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty,” the Catechism goes on to explain that “punishment has a medicinal value; as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender” (#2266). Furthermore, “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor…public authorities should limit themselves to such means [since they are] more in conformity to the dignity of the human person” (#2267). As long as life imprisonment without parole is available as a punishment for the gravest offenses, the imposition of the death penalty does not satisfy the moral conditions and limits taught by the Church.

Juli Loesch Wiley

Johnson City, Tennessee

Not Far Enough

Your editorial examining the topic of excommunication (“The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” Oct.) didn’t do far enough — not by a long shot. I refer to the letter from William Slavick (Oct.). A guy like that should stand before a good stout Dominican court of Inquisition. A little crisp timber around Slavick’s toes with a BIC lighter handy might go a long way toward moderating his anti-Church positions. Is it this serious? You bet it is. Slavick’s invective against the Church is the manner and tool by which she is being destroyed.

Doug Brown

Newmanstown, Pennsylvania

The Struggle Is Just Beginning

I read your October editorial (“The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”) with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was “gratified” — if I may use that word — to see that I’m not alone in my diagnosis of the situation in the Church. On the other hand, I was dismayed by your confirmation that the patient is indeed as sick as I had feared.

As a new convert to Catholicism — from a liberal Protestant denomination — I’m very disturbed to see the forces so active in my former Protestant denomination also at work in the Church. Your analysis is sadly correct: For many Catholics, the Zeitgeist has become the norm for the Church, and unless this is corrected the results will be disastrous.

Today most people in the Western countries no longer seem to believe in absolute truth. Because relativism is so pervasive today, it’s reflected in the Church. The question is: Does the Church have the strength to hold to her traditional patrimony of teaching and liturgy in the face of the sea change in popular sentiment? And will she be able to withstand the relativist attack until such time as she is able to re-educate the faithful?

I am reminded of the intensity and duration of the early christological controversies in the Church (Arianism, etc.). However, those struggles were not the result of a paradigm shift in human self-understanding, such as we see today. So today’s Church is faced with a challenge far greater than what the early orthodox Catholics faced.

The struggle in today’s Church is in its early days, and there are many twists and turns in the road ahead. While we believe that ultimately God will prevail, the immediate outcome is far from certain, humanly speaking.

Jim Roth

Hollister, California

Bravo for your editorial call to arms in the October issue! History is defined by struggles, some more momentous than others. The good fight we orthodox Catholics wage is of vast consequence. It’s a battle for the heart of the Church and the soul of Man. Acquiescence to heresy by our generation of Catholics would habituate sin and effectuate the loss of countless souls for eternity. For this reason, orthodoxy must not and cannot be surrendered.

Brett M. Decker

Alexandria, Virginia

Enclosed is a donation, for many good reasons, not least of which being your October editorial and the writings of Juli Loesch Wiley. I live in the boonies, and my driveway is more than 650 feet long. I’m never able to transgress the whole driveway from the mailbox to my easy chair without reading one or more pages of the NOR and often in spring or summer I just might sit down along the driveway and read the whole darned thing. I also read all your ads in other magazines and papers (often the best part of those mags and papers).

There are so many aspects of our Church that make me cringe that I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are here for me, and for all Catholics who need you so much.

When I was a young man I almost cried for joy when Clare Boothe Luce and Thomas Merton joined the Church, but I do believe that the converts gathered around the NOR plus convert Scott Hahn are more timely and more needed than even Luce or Merton. I’ll even put the NOR in a tie with John Henry Cardinal Newman. How’s that!

I’m in your corner, and proud to be there.

Francis P. Gallagher

Carnation, Washington

Flannery O’Connor certainly took a big stick to liberal Protestantism (see the box item in the Oct. issue, p. 11). She gets nothing but a loud “Amen” from this Puritan descendant and long-time Methodist, dismayed by flatulent liberal Methodism.

I hope and trust that O’Connor wouldn’t thump the articulate Protestant messages of the likes of Ralph Sockman’s “National Radio Pulpit” of the 1950s-60s. Sockman preached sound, high-I.Q., conservative theology — a different fare from the wishy-washy homilies I’ve picked up on occasional attendance at Mass! Of course, the NOR catalogues Catholic claptrap as well as the Protestant variety. Your October editorial examined our mutual anxieties. I cheered when Bishop Bruskewitz moved so vigorously.

There are many of us out here who regularly say, “Thank God for the Catholic Church,” who wait patiently, knowing it will take the Catholic Church to lead us all back to the eternal message of Christ crucified and risen.

H.B. Hubbell

Rowayton, Connecticut

Generous Souls

Apropos of your November editorial, “Rome Under Siege”: I live on a very limited income, so I greatly appreciate your providing a special subscription rate for low-income senior citizens like me.

Since I’m not in a position to assist you financially, I fondly quote Mother Teresa: “God has lots of money.” I believe she said this to the saintly Fr. Benedict Groeschel, who works among the poor in the Bronx (and who had an article in your Nov. issue). In this spirit, I am asking God to send you generous souls who will support your apostolate.

May God bless your commitment to evangelization and ecumenism in accord with the Magisterium.

Frances M. Murray

Sebastopol, California

Worth the Bother

While still an Anglican, I had a bishop who complained about “Anglican fundamentalists” who not only took the Bible literally but were “creedal literalists.” My reply to him is in my Under the Mercy. He sped my departure to the Catholic Church. Thus I was extremely interested in the words of the subjectivist Episcopal priests in Kimberley Manning’s powerful article (Sept.) on her escape from gender feminism (subjective relativism) to Catholic Truth (objective truth). A great testimony!

Nevertheless, I should like to invite her attention, and that of every reader who cares about objective truth, to the words of a great Anglican layman who cared deeply for objective truth, C.S. Lewis, who was closer to Catholicism than he ever would admit to himself. His article is “The Poison of Subjectivism” (1943), to be found in his Christian Reflections. It is one of the most powerful attacks on subjectivism I have ever seen. And how the world needs it today! It’s worth the bother of finding it, I promise.

Sheldon Vanauken

Lynchburg, Virginia

Britain's Ethnic Cleansing

Regarding Adrian Day’s letter (Oct.) contradicting Francis Manion’s article (July-Aug.) on the Irish Potato Famine: Day’s bizarre attempt to blame the Famine on Irish improvidence is brilliantly rebutted by Lady Cecil Woodham-Smith’s classic, The Great Hunger. Manion is right: The deaths were chiefly caused by the British government’s slavish adherence to laissez-faire ideology. Day’s notion that there were “Irish political leaders” who could have promoted small holdings or emigration is as fictional as “black Congressmen” prior to the American Civil War. Contrary to Day’s comic book rendition of Irish history, the only “Irish political leaders” at the time of the Famine were English Protestants in Westminster and their English subordinates in Ireland.

Contra Day, very little food relief was allowed the starving Irish, even after the death toll objectively put the Famine outside the bounds of “Irish myth,” to which it was instinctively consigned by English officialdom. Small amounts of “Indian corn” were brought in from America, but it could neither be processed nor made edible. There was, again contra Day, plenty of agricultural diversification: Mountains of Irish meat and grain (which went to English landlords as rent) were exported during the Famine, because the British government refused to interfere with the operations of the “free market.” Irish peasants were expected to subsist on potatoes and buttermilk. Some landlords kept their peasants from starving, but most considered emigration or the death of surplus tenants quite acceptable.

As for Day’s apparent desire to sanitize history: England’s 750 years in Ireland is without parallel for barbarous cruelty. From the mass expropriations and de facto enslavement of the Irish people to the genocidal campaigns of Raleigh, Drury, and Cromwell, the ethnic cleansing of Ulster, and the attempted extermination of Catholicism and Irish language and culture, England’s record bears comparison to that of Nazi Germany. Germany, with modern efficiency, killed six million Jews; England, using hand methods, four or five million Irish. Germany was committed to genocide for about a decade, under one government; England for centuries, under many. Germany has admitted its guilt and paid reparations. England remains supercilious, enjoying a racial contempt for the Irish which permeates (in my experience) all strata of English society.

The Irish, however, contrary to Day, do not blame the English for all their woes. Despite the painful historical litany, most Irish people have forgiven England its crimes against Irish humanity. There is almost no prejudice against English people in the Irish Republic. That such should be so is as great a testimony to the strength of the Faith, the power of the Sacraments, and the impact of judicious clerical leadership as I know. As St. Paul said, where evil flourishes, there will Grace blossom all the more.

Robin Bernhoft

Everett, Washington

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