Bush Has Given Prolifers Hope
Your October guest column by Thomas Storck, “Catholic Voters: Play Hard to Get,” is dangerously misguided. The column argued, among other things, that because George W. Bush did not intervene to stop a bill against abortion protestors which was defeated on the floor of Congress anyway, Bush is somehow insufficiently prolife.
President Bush is on record as having signed the partial-birth abortion ban, stopped federal funding for abortion, signed the “Laci and Conner’s Law,” stopped embryonic stem cell research, and supported federal laws restricting minors from seeking abortions across state lines. He has appointed prolife justices, and when Congress filibusters his nominees, he has appointed them by executive order. He has instituted a 100 percent prolife Republican Party Platform and has supported banning human cloning internationally. He stated in his convention acceptance speech that “because a caring society will value its weakest members, we must make a place for the unborn child,” and he stated that he would appoint justices such as “Scalia” and “Thomas,” both of whom voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in the 1992 Casey decision. In his second debate, he stated (referring to abortion) that he believes that every child should be protected by law. John Kerry opposed all of these things.
A cynic could perhaps wonder if Bush would continue to nominate prolife justices in a second term, but no one can doubt that Kerry would nominate only pro-death justices. Three justices presently are on record for voting to overturn Roe, and two to four justices are likely to be replaced in the next four years. Were Kerry elected, Roe would stand for another 20 to 30 years by all estimates. There would be no hope.
By abstaining from voting for President, as Storck urges, one is, by act of omission, supporting the certain entrenchment of pro-death forces for the foreseeable future and a catastrophic increase in the murder of the innocents over the next four to eight years, and that is morally untenable by all Catholic moral standards.
Michael L. Parkinson
American Life League
Gosh, I wish I could be an intellectual giant like Thomas Storck and equate the darling of N.O.W. and Planned Parenthood with the hero who refused to give millions to the U.N. Population Fund and who does not allow abortions on U.S. military bases. I guess I’m stupid for thinking that the man who voted consistently for abortion an instant before birth is no worse than the President who signed a dastardly credit card bill.
After reading Thomas Storck’s column, I want to give my observations that I’ve garnered the hard way, serving six terms in the Arizona Senate as a practicing Catholic.
Storck’s treatise is a common misconception among many Catholic voters. By not voting in the presidential race, one would be aiding John Kerry. A non-vote means one less vote in defeating the pro-abortion, stem-cell experimenting, euthanasia supporting, and anti-marriage Kerry. You can bet the abortionists are voting, and it is commonly known that the 2000 election was close because four million Christians were embarrassed by President Bush’s late revelation of a drunk-driving charge thirty years ago, and so did not vote.
Did their staying home help? I think not. If they had voted, the Florida fiasco would not have happened and the four years of moaning and whining by the liberals would not have occurred.
In Arizona we have selected a prolife legislature for the first time in a number of years due to a low turnout in the primaries which helped a number of pro-abortion incumbents go down in flames. If the advice of Storck had been taken, the status quo would still be there. That is why a Catholic voter should vote in every race based on the principle of who will do the least harm.
In the 8th Congressional District, the two major party candidates were equally bad on the Catholic fundamental issues. Do you sit that one out, as many Catholic voters did? My suggestion was vote Republican, because the first vote cast by the winner is in the race for the Speaker of the House. Do you want Rep. Pelosi or Rep. Hastert to be Speaker?
So playing hard to get can have you end up at the altar with no mate, as they say. Sometimes a nudge is required to get some action, and voting is the principal way to nudge our Republic back to the Judeo-Christian heritage of our Founding Fathers.
Senator Jeffrey J. Hill
Ethics and Public Policy Center
It's a False Hope
It is always a breath of fresh air to read your publication, but the October 2004 issue carried a special inspiration for me. When I finished reading “Catholic Voters: Play Hard to Get” by Thomas Storck urging Catholics to abstain from voting for President, a silent prayer of thanks went straight to God. Finally someone else is telling the truth about the man, George W. Bush, whose party is hardly prolife.
In the past 24 years, the prolife movement has given its support blindly — and some would argue foolishly — to the Republican Party, and in that time we’ve had three Republican presidents (16 of those 24 years) and abortion is still the law of the land. It has come to pass over these years that the measure of a prolife politician has gone from someone who truly expressed horror for every act of abortion, and made a commitment to end it, to someone who will say that our nation needs to “make a place” for the unborn child! I’m not sure what that means, but it surely does not mean opposition to every act of abortion without compromise, without exception, and without apology.
I wonder when those in the prolife movement who fawn over Republicans will wake up, smell the coffee, and get with the program. It is of even more concern that there are so many prolife citizens who remain ignorant because those in the know are not telling it like it really is.
Will a resident of the White House ever end abortion? Well, only God knows that; I surely do not. But one thing is clear: As long as the prolife elite is satisfied with Republicans at any price, we are never going to find out. Thank God for Thomas Storck!
Judie Brown, President
Ave Maria University
Regarding Thomas Storck’s column: Instead of not voting for the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate — after all, there are more than two candidates to choose from — why not vote for a 100 percent prolife candidate for President? That’s why I voted for Michael Anthony Peroutka, the candidate of the Constitution Party (in my state, he was the candidate of the American Independent Party).
Los Angeles, California
Thomas Storck’s column discusses a problem that has been apparent to most Catholic voters for some time. Storck is right when he implies that neither the Democratic Party nor Republican Party reflects Catholic values. The answer, however, is not to call for a “tactical cessation of voting in certain cases,” as Storck suggests.
Catholics make up about 25 percent of the voting population, yet have little or no influence in presidential elections. Faithful Catholics must change the course of elections, not cease to be part of them. Both major political parties are so entrenched in their positions and so dominated by special-interest groups that neither party will, nor can they, make the necessary changes in their policies to gain Catholic support.
Catholics must attempt to find a political party that reflects Catholic values. If it takes the formation of a third party, so be it. Maybe then Catholic voters will finally discover a political identity of their own, a place where there will be a united Catholic vote that could change the direction of American politics.
St. Eleanor Church
Sherman Oaks, California
Cardinal Dulles Speaks
Regarding your New Oxford Note (Sept.) where you question my understanding of freedom, as given in a speech at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast: In all honesty you should inform your readers that your true adversary is Pope John Paul II, who has insisted throughout his career that there is no authentic freedom without truth. This holds not just for Christians but for everyone, in the world as in the Church. Read his encyclicals Redemptor Hominis, Centesimus Annus, and Veritatis Splendor.
As for theocracy and the confessional state, I can think of no one more unlikely to be advocating them than John Paul II, with whom I obviously agree. In expecting the State to defend justice and the right of the innocent to life, he is not seeking to establish a Church.
I find it hard to believe that you, as a Catholic publication, take your ideas of freedom from the existentialists and Max Eastman, whom you cite as authorities, or that you really agree with the Supreme Court when it supports the so-called right to abortion.
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
Bronx, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
My, my, how unusual that you would let your cardinal feathers be ruffled. Not like you. You know very well that we do not support the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions.
You say that Pope John Paul II’s position is that “there is no authentic freedom without truth.” We have no problem with that.
If you had read our New Oxford Note carefully, you would know that we never claimed to take our idea of freedom from the existentialists. We take our idea of freedom from the dictionary — as clearly noted in the companion New Oxford Note on George Weigel (Sept.). That is, freedom is being free from restraints, is the exercise of free will, the exercise of choice, is choosing between (what we Christians regard as) truth and falsehood, right and wrong, good and bad, which we partially reiterated in our New Oxford Note on you. But you are right that we also take our idea of freedom from Max Eastman, who said: “To advocate freedom, and then lay down the law as to how men ‘should’ use it, is a contradiction in terms.” Ah, but he was talking about freedom, not “authentic” freedom.
When you use the word freedom, you want to slip in the word “authentic.” Hey, that changes everything. No dictionary, however, will define freedom the way you want it to. The concept of “authentic” freedom is a Catholic concept. Sorry, but we have separation of Church and State here, for better or worse. Moreover, America is a secular state, and you cannot expect America — especially as it is now — to buy our Catholic idea of “authentic” freedom.
You say that the idea of “authentic” freedom holds for everyone, not just Christians. So you’re invoking natural law. But few people in the West, other than highly informed Catholics, believe in natural law. And those few people who do usually have a deficient understanding of it. The Magisterium tells us what authentic natural law is. So, in the final analysis, the natural law is what we Catholics say it is — and that will never get any traction in hedonistic America.
In your speech, you said, “Freedom, therefore, cannot be divorced from truth.” We commented: “Oh, but it most certainly can be. It’s done every second of every day all over America.” If you had said, “Authentic freedom, therefore, cannot be divorced from truth,” we would have no problem with that. In the paragraph where you say freedom cannot be divorced from truth, you say: “In heaven the saints will look upon God in all his infinite beauty and be so attracted to him that they could not, even if they wished, turn away. Their love of God, while necessary, is pre-eminently free.” But you are confusing Heaven with America. Our earth is sin-besotted, and man will use his freedom to deny the truth, to do evil. On this earth, freedom (without any qualifiers) and truth are not interchangeable terms.
If America outlaws abortion, homosexual acts, and pornography — and we hope she will, though doubt she ever will — people will not be free to have abortions, to commit perverse acts, to view pornography. They will not be able to exercise their free will (i.e., without dire consequences, which serves as a huge deterrent). Their freedom will be restricted.
In much of the Muslim world, abortion, homosexual acts, and pornography are outlawed or severely restricted. Surely, you’d like to see abortion, homosexual acts, and pornography outlawed or severely restricted in America, and surely you’d regard that as “authentic” freedom. So, by your lights, Muslims enjoy “authentic” freedom. We Catholics are fond of saying that all truth is God’s truth, no matter where it comes from, so in these three areas, there’s more “authentic” freedom in the Muslim world than there is in America, and the Muslim countries have a greater appreciation of the natural law than we Americans do.
You gave your speech to a bunch of neoconservative war hawks and Republican faithful. President Bush has repeatedly said he wants to spread freedom all over the world. He does not say “authentic” freedom. When America invaded Afghanistan and toppled its government, one of the first freedoms given to women was the right to abort. We deprived many Afghan women of their “authentic” freedom, and gave them American-style freedom. If the same happens throughout the Muslim world, “authentic” freedom will diminish and the Muslim world will “gravitate toward hedonism and moral chaos,” which is what you say is happening in America.
At the October 5th Vice Presidential Debate, when the question came up about same-sex “marriage” and Vice President Cheney’s lesbian daughter, the neocon Cheney said (as he’s said before): “Freedom does mean freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to choose any arrangement they want. It’s really no one else’s business.” Cheney has been a key architect of America’s war on Iraq. He wants to bring freedom to Iraq, but not necessarily “authentic” freedom.
You had a great opportunity in your speech to speak as a prophet, to point out that in key areas there’s more “authentic” freedom in the Muslim countries than there is in America, and that maybe America shouldn’t try to remake the Muslim countries in America’s image. It’s a shame you failed to do so.
George Weigel Speaks
The rest of the country has often had reason to wonder about the contents of the Berkeley water supply. Whatever is going on in your fair city now appears to have degraded your Editor’s capacity to read.
Contrary to your Editor’s polemic in your September issue (“George ‘Humpty Dumpty’ Weigel“), I have never written that “freedom” is “another name for virtue.” In the column that so offended your Editor, what I noted parenthetically was that “habit” is “another name for ‘virtue.'” Those capable of reading English understood this — except, evidently, those looking to deal the dread neoconservative beast another lick. I might also point out that my snapshot description of the meaning of freedom in that column — “doing the right thing for the right reasons in the right way, as a matter of habit (which is another name for ‘virtue’)” — leans on the work of Fr. Servais Pinckaers, O.P., one of the principal influences on Veritatis Splendor and the leading contemporary interpreter of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Before he charges his sundry bogeymen with “rhetorical witchcraft,” your Editor might do them the courtesy to read what they write with that minimum of care nominally associated with the office of “Editor.”
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
In your original piece and in your letter, you said “freedom” is “doing the right thing for the right reasons in the right way, as a matter of habit,” and you said “doing the right thing…as a matter of habit” is “another name for ‘virtue.'” What’s not to understand? What you wrote is crystal clear: Freedom is habit is virtue. Therefore, freedom is virtue. Sorry, but there’s no “plausible deniability” here. You can’t wiggle out of it. You said it, and you can’t pass the buck on to Fr. Pinckaers.
All this stuff about what’s in the Berkeley water supply, our inability to read English, and denying what you actually wrote just proves our point: You are indeed a practitioner of rhetorical witchcraft.
Naples, Florida and Ypsilanti, Michigan
"God Made People To Be Free"
I was saddened by the pessimistic view expressed in the two New Oxford Notes (Sept.), “George ‘Humpty Dumpty’ Weigel” and “Can You Be Two-Thirds Free & One-Third Slave?,” which were about the meaning of freedom, a concept dear to the Founders of our Nation. Freedom today, according to the NOR, can only mean total freedom, two-thirds of it consisting of political and economic freedom and the remaining third being moral freedom (such as sexual freedom, abortion, pornography, and homosexuality). This may be the new American-style freedom, giving us license to do whatever we want, but it is very different from the morally restrained freedom of the Founding Fathers. And, I would like to believe, it is the political and economic freedom that George Weigel and Cardinal Dulles (referenced in the first and second New Oxford Notes, respectively) had in mind.
The Declaration of Independence talks about the unalienable rights endowed by their Creator upon men, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No moral liberty or sexual freedom here! We know that the Founders were moral and religious people. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” James Madison observed, “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation.” John Adams was equally blunt: “We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.” We know that Jefferson said: “Liberties are a gift from God, and they are not to be violated but with his wrath.” Thomas Paine said that “God made people to be free.” And President George W. Bush has said repeatedly that freedom is not a gift we, or the government, give ourselves, it is God’s gift to humanity. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses freedom: “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin'” (#1733). Cardinal Dulles said it a little differently: “Once freedom operates in a moral vacuum, it becomes meaningless” — and Weigel: “Freedom is another name for virtue.”
Unfortunately, we have strayed from the Founders’ ideal of freedom.
Adolf J. Giger
Los Angeles, California
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Yes, we have strayed from the Founding Fathers’ ideal of freedom. The question is: Can we ever get back to it?
Since we’re quoting famous men, here is one from Edmund Burke, who states your point most eloquently: “Society cannot exist unless a controlling power of will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” The proposition here is empirical. Unfortunately, it turns out not to be true. We Americans have free sex, abortion, pornography, homosexuality, etc. By and large Americans are not virtuous, and it’s even worse in Europe. Are political freedom (democracy) and economic freedom (capitalism) in danger in America or Europe? No. (Yes, we know, some people think freedom of religion is compromised because Mormons are prohibited from practicing polygamy, some think that outlawing incitement to riot violates free speech, and some think the Electoral College infringes democracy, but these are quibbles.) It is most obvious that licentious people — those unable to control will and appetite and passion — are capable of being free.
As for the Catechism (#1733), here we have reference to “true” freedom. That’s our special Catholic vocabulary. And the Catechism says, “The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin’ [referencing Rom. 6:17].” But that’s not how America understands freedom nowadays. Gobs of people are perfectly happy to be slaves of sin — they revel in it (just turn on the TV) — and consider it not an “abuse” of freedom but the fulfillment of freedom.
American Catholics love to forget that the Catholic Church resisted democracy and freedom of conscience well into the 20th century. Only after World War II did she make peace with democracy and freedom.
In the encyclical Mirari Vos (1832), Pope Gregory XVI condemned the “absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone,” adding that, “When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly ‘the bottomless pit’ (Apoc. 9:2) is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws…” (#14). When the Church finally came to accept liberty of conscience at Vatican II, she had no idea of what would come out of Pandora’s box. Re-reading the pre-Vatican II popes, one could be excused for thinking that they had a far shrewder view of the human condition than did the optimists at Vatican II.
Yes, Jefferson said “Liberties are a gift from God…,” and Paine said “God made people to be free.” Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, was a Deist, unitarian in theology, and he rewrote the New Testament (the Jefferson Bible) with the parts he didn’t like taken out. Paine was also a Deist, and his Age of Reason was widely referred to as “The Atheist’s Bible.” Any Catholic should take what Jefferson and Paine said about God and religion with a grain of salt. That God wants people to be free is our civil religion, our national mythology. But nowhere in the Bible will you find that God wants political freedom, democracy, or capitalism. The traditional position of the Church has been indifference to forms of government, so long as the common good is protected and the Church is not under the thumb of the State — and it’s not hard to see where that position came from.
You should be on guard when you hear that God blesses our American system. God has been said to bless just about anything: slavery, freedom, socialism, fascism, the divine right of kings, free enterprise, feudalism, tsarism, Americanism, aristocracy, communism.
Yes, President Bush has said that freedom is God’s gift to humanity — and he’s also said it is America’s mission to spread God’s gift of freedom throughout the world. How does President Bush know the mind of God?
So it’s Manifest Destiny once again. But can America impose freedom and democracy militarily on people who probably don’t want it? Does the end justify the means? Democracy is foreign to Islam, and Islam believes in the unity of Mosque and State, holding that the State must root out evil, such as abortion, homosexuality, and pornography. This is not the way it is in America. So of course many Muslims regard America as “the Great Satan.” Moreover, by imposing America’s freedoms on the Muslim countries, America is violating her own principle that people should be able to practice their religion as they wish.
President Bush has been using God to justify his foreign policy. As the justifications for attacking Iraq have fallen one-by-one, President Bush has increasingly turned to religious rhetoric to salvage his Administration’s war. He seems to be quite sincere in believing that America is doing God’s work by bringing freedom to others by force of arms, though we admit we don’t have a window into his soul — only God does. Einstein said, “It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man,” something that especially applies to politicians, all politicians. Clearly, one should always be leery of politicians who use God — sincerely or insincerely — for their purposes, especially when carnage results. This tactic of using God and religion was spelled out long ago by Machiavelli in The Prince : “It is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious…. A prince must take great care that nothing goes out of his mouth which is not full of the above-named five qualities, and, to see and hear him, he should seem to be all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity, and religion. And nothing is more necessary than to seem to have this last quality, for men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel. Everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are…. In the actions of men, and especially of princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means.”
From which we conclude with the Psalmist: “Put not your trust in princes” (146:3).
The Radical Muslims Want To Destroy The Western World
I have been a subscriber to the NOR for almost two years, and have come to greatly appreciate it as an alternative to liberal Catholicism. But I take great offense at your New Oxford Note titled “George ‘Humpty Dumpty’ Weigel” (Sept.). You state that George Weigel “wants ‘war’ against the radical Muslims” and that Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center “because of America’s financial and military support of Israel.” You state that “Weigel…ought to lighten up on the Muslims.”
I am a soldier in the Army National Guard. Although I do not speak for the Army National Guard, as a Guardsman and a Catholic I find it reprehensible that you would advise someone wanting war on those who seek to destroy us to lighten up on that same enemy. Did bin Laden attack us because of our support of Israel? Perhaps he did in part, but what about the radical Muslims who killed hundreds of innocent school children in Russia? Their beef with the Russian government was not its support of Israel, but with the situation in Chechnya. Radical Muslims will do anything, kill anyone, to achieve their goals, which in the end is the destruction of the Western world and our way of life.
Those of us in the military all join for different reasons. My chief reason was to defend my faith. America is the most powerful, strongest nation on earth. If it falls to the terrorists, the rest of the Western world will not be far behind. The Church would not be destroyed (for Jesus promised to be with us until the consummation of the world), but she would most definitely suffer much persecution under the hands of a radical-Muslim ruled West. I fight for this nation to preserve my constitutional rights, chief among those being freedom of religion. Do I have my doubts as to the direction and moral state of this country? Yes, of course I do. But just as I did not lose hope in the Church after the sex scandals, so too do I not lose hope in this nation.
As a National Guardsman, and most importantly as a Catholic, I will have to think and pray very hard if I can in good conscience renew my subscription to this publication.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Yes, Muslim terrorists from Chechnya killed hundreds of innocent school children in Russia, and that’s absolutely evil. (No one claims it had anything to do with Israel.) America, on the other hand, has killed far, far more innocent school children in our fire bombing of Dresden, our atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in Vietnam. Innocent civilians were intentionally targeted. If you can justify our terrorist acts (and many Catholics do), then you cannot object to Muslim terrorism. The NOR condemns both, for according to Catholic teaching it is absolutely prohibited to kill the innocent, whether born or unborn. No end, however noble, can justify intentionally killing the innocent.
You say “the destruction of the Western world and our way of life” is the ultimate goal of the radical Muslims. But you also say “America is the most powerful, strongest nation on earth,” so destroying the Western world is clearly impossible. The only way the Muslims could “rule the West” would be if Americans and Europeans were to abort, contracept, sterilize, and euthanize themselves into oblivion. Which is exactly what’s happening. Muslims, who have large families, are emigrating to Europe (less so to America at the moment), and if they come to rule the West, it might be God’s just punishment for the sins and apostasy of the Christian West. Just read the Old Testament to see how God deals with His wayward children — also see the New Testament, Hebrews 12:5-8,11.
Perhaps a good persecution is what the American and European Church needs. Most Catholic dissenters lack sufficient faith to withstand persecution and would peel away, and the fag priests and bishops would likely renounce their Catholicism in a heartbeat. The greatest glories of the Church have come when she has been persecuted. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” said Tertullian. The second-century Letter to Diognetus says, “when Christians are persecuted, their numbers increase daily.” You are willing to kill Muslims for your country, but are you willing to be persecuted for your Faith?
Ah, but you wouldn’t even be killing Muslims for your country; you’d be doing it for another country, Israel. Yes, let’s tell the unvarnished truth — even as we are well aware that many of our readers don’t want to hear it.
As a National Guardsman, you could be sent to Iraq. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, had no ties to al-Qaeda, no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and had no plans to attack America. Our Pope opposed the war in Iraq from the get-go, long before the above was so blatantly obvious.
And America didn’t topple Saddam for the benefit of the Iraqi people. Saddam used to be our ally, and America armed him even as we knew he was using weapons of mass destruction on his own people. Saddam was not our enemy; he was Israel’s enemy, a “strategic” enemy — but not all that great an enemy, for Israel has plenty of weapons of mass destruction.
Senator Ernest Hollings wrote in an op-ed in the Charleston Post and Courier (May 7): “With Iraq no threat, why invade a sovereign country? The answer: President Bush’s policy to secure Israel.” Sen. Hollings said this right after announcing his retirement from the Senate. Nothing to lose. Of course he was smeared as an anti-Semite by the neoconservative Weekly Standard, and by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (the same guy who smeared Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ as anti-Semitic). These knee-jerk, defamatory accusations are getting very old. Yes, there are some anti-Semites in America, but this scattershot approach is totally counter-productive and is becoming the last refuge of a scoundrel. (If anyone wishes to argue with the NOR, do please spare us from stooping to the humbug of anti-Semitism.)
And, by the way, Abe Foxman wrote to U.S. Senators on July 12, 2004, urging them to vote against the proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting “gay marriage,” and the Anti-Defamation League awarded its First Amendment Freedom Award in 1980 to Playboy’s Hugh Hefner. And of course the Anti-Defamation League is eager to bring freedom to Iraq.
Curiously, General Tommy Franks, who led the U.S. forces to victory in Iraq (and then quickly and wisely retired in July 2003), said the very same thing as Sen. Hollings, namely, that the U.S. attacked Iraq for the sake of Israel (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Aug. 10, 2004). Will The Weekly Standard and Abe Foxman denounce Gen. Franks as an anti-Semite too?
Ralph Nader has said: “The subservience of our congressional and White House puppets to Israeli military policy has been consistent,” and he quoted Tom Friedman’s “memorable phrase, ‘Ariel Sharon has Arafat under house arrest in Ramallah and Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office'” (The American Conservative, June 21). Will The Weekly Standard and Abe Foxman denounce Nader and Friedman as anti-Semites as well?
Name Withheld asks, “Did bin Laden attack us because of our support of Israel? Perhaps he did in part…,” and then he proceeds to change the subject. “In part”? Listen to this summer’s 9/11 Commission Report: The “mastermind of the 9/11 attacks” was Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, and his “animus toward the United States stemmed…from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.” Listen to Osama bin Laden’s videotape of October 29, 2004, explaining the reasons for the 9/11 attack: “Our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon….”
President Bush, who in many other ways has been a fine President, was easily outsmarted by the neoconservatives in his Administration (from Cheney and Rumsfeld to Wolfowitz, Abrams, Perle, and Feith). President Bush barked up the wrong tree (Iraq). He might as well be under house arrest by Sharon and his neocon surrogates in the Administration.
America has given over $100 billion in loans and grants to Israel since 1949. No wonder Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, boasted on October 3, 2001, during a Cabinet meeting (as reported by Israel Radio): “I want to tell you something very clear, don’t worry about America. We, the Jewish people, control America and the Americans know it.” Surely this is an exaggeration, but there could be a good deal of truth to it. Brent Scowcroft, the National Security Adviser to President Bush the Elder, said in an interview in London’s Financial Times (Oct. 15) that “Sharon just has him [Bush Junior] wrapped around his little finger. I think the president is mesmerized,” adding that “He [Sharon] has been nothing but trouble.”
There’s only one beneficiary of America’s bleeding of life, limb, and treasure in Iraq (prescinding from the debatable issue of oib| and that is Israel, specifically Sharon and his Likud Party. Happily, there are many Israelis and American Jews who want nothing to do with our unjustified attack on Iraq. So don’t blame the Jews, even though Sharon is brazenly and stupidly inviting one to do so.
Meanwhile, the Muslim world — and not just the radical element — grows ever more enraged with America. And with Israel. “Is it good for the Jews?” goes the perennial Jewish question. Muslims are incensed with Israel and the Jews worldwide — and indiscriminately. The attack on Iraq has multiplied the number of Muslim terrorists. In the long run, no, it is not good for the Jews. And America is being snookered by Sharon, Likud, and America’s fanatical neoconservatives, both gentile and Jew. And speaking of the slaughter of the Russian children by Chechen terrorists, America’s neocons have formed a front group called the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. The neocons are calling for Russia to give Muslim Chechnya its independence. How curious. You see, Chechnya has nothing to do with Israel. But after 9/11, the neocons did not call for giving Palestine its independence; rather, they called for war on the Muslims. This tells you all you need to know about most neocons.
If you, Name Withheld, want to fight for Israel and its Likud Party, that’s your choice. But don’t claim you’re fighting for America, and please don’t claim you’re fighting for your Catholic Faith (the Pope would never believe you). If you really want to fight for your Faith, become a priest or a permanent deacon or a religion teacher or a missionary. If you’re so worried about the Muslims, go to them as a missionary. Convert them, don’t kill them.
In short, let’s clean up our Church and our country, and let’s have America mind her own business. If we do that, we’ll have nothing to fear from the Muslims.
Providence, Rhode Island
"Cramped Quarters In a Somewhat Run-Down Area"?
Nicholas Healy’s defense of Ave Maria University (Oct.) offers some reasons for what Tom Monaghan’s top people are doing to Ave Maria College (AMC), but it might also disclose some attitudes behind those actions. May I suggest an example?
In partial defense of moving Michigan operations to southern Florida, Healy writes “AMC was in cramped quarters in a somewhat run-down area of Ypsilanti.” How should the administrators of so many Catholic educational institutions that are making do with “cramped quarters,” or that have stayed the course “in a somewhat run-down” neighborhood, read those words?
Is it wrong for a Christian institution to make a statement by remaining in a “somewhat run-down” area? Is Catholic or educational quality measured in zip codes? Adam Cardinal Maida has maintained his Sacred Heart Major Seminary in a section of Detroit that looks little better than a war zone, in part to witness to Christ’s unswerving commitment to the poor. Interestingly, some of Ave Maria’s brightest academic displaced persons (e.g., Dr. Janet Smith and Dr. John Hittinger) found faculty positions in Cardinal Maida’s seminary. Nor is the Cardinal quixotic.
I attended St. Louis University (SLU) in the 1970s. It was surrounded by the worst urban blight one could see anywhere, a bleakness that made modern Ypsilanti seem gentle by comparison. SLU has its deficiencies, but any fair-minded person must admit this: The Jesuits did not flee the desolation of the city, they transformed it. It has taken them 35 years, and they did it without a billionaire’s backing, but they resolutely reclaimed and revitalized a major community. And not a few residential blocks around a small campus either, but a huge center-west swath of the city of St. Louis. When I read words like Healy’s, with his access to so much money, and facing far fewer urban-decay problems, I wonder, what in the world he is complaining about?
As for AMC being “cramped,” that too depends on what you think a campus is for. If you see it as a setting, for example, for a 3,000-seat oratory — as planned for Ave Maria University (AMU) in Florida — then I must agree, AMC is too cramped. But if your goal is to establish an authentically Catholic liberal arts college in a secularized area that desperately needs Christian witness, then AMC’s location is perfect. All the more so because little AMC lies literally across the street from a large (20,000-plus students) state university that has been quite accommodating to AMC’s requests to share sports and dining facilities, library privileges, and so on, enabling AMC to put more of its money into students instead of into braggadocian building schemes at AMU Florida touting the world’s-biggest-this and the world’s-biggest-that.
Finally, whatever disparaging things some might say about AMC’s campus, none of those would apply to the Ave Maria School of Law, which is possessed of spacious and modern facilities in Michigan (in the right zip code even!), and is, in short, a testament to what Monaghan’s money can accomplish. Yet even the Law School has been pressured to uproot everything and start over from scratch in Florida’s wetlands! None of this makes any sense.
No one is asking Healy to return to AMC or live in Ypsilanti. To help promote Monaghan’s latest venture, Healy has moved to the resort city of Naples, Florida, and built a splendid home there. I rejoice for him. But I do not see how any of that justifies his use of AMC’s admirable willingness to continue serving “in cramped quarters in a somewhat run-down area” as one more reason to shut it down. To the contrary, that’s one more reason to keep it open.
Dr. Edward Peters
An October New Oxford Note (“Dumb Dutchmen“) laments the decline of what used to be called the True Dutch Reformed Church, and is now known as the Christian Reformed Church. The Editor’s distress is personal; he was brought up in that Church. My distress is less personal, but perhaps even more acute.
Years ago my wife and I saw a film titled The Hiding Place. It dealt with an aspect of World War II with which I was unfamiliar. The ten Booms, a Dutch family consisting of an elderly father and two sisters, took in Jews and hid them from the Nazis. Their heroic actions were motivated by their deep Christian faith, as made crystal clear in the film. Eventually, they were discovered. The old man died in the police station. Both sisters were sent to a concentration camp. One sister died; the other was released by mistake — shortly before she would have been killed.
The survivor, Corrie ten Boom, appeared at the conclusion of the film. Her righteousness came through loud and clear. Corrie died not long ago, largely forgotten by her own countrymen. But sometimes I pull out the video and watch it, to remind myself that no matter how cynical I become, humanity still contains people like her. Or at least it did.
Suppose your city were almost destroyed by a conflagration, but heroic firemen saved thousands of lives. Would you praise the fire service and do everything you could to strengthen it? Or would you criticize it at every turn, and do everything possible to weaken it? Europe was almost destroyed by the flames of hatred — both physically and spiritually. But churches, both Catholic and Protestant, saved thousands of lives — and saved what was left of Europe’s honor. And what did people then do? They exerted every effort to weaken Christianity, and to a large extent they succeeded.
But what if Europeans need devout Christians again? What if the flames of hatred — perhaps sparked by extremist Islam — break out again? Then who will provide a hiding place? Where will the new Corrie ten Booms come from?
Buy a video of The Hiding Place and watch it, and consider how lucky America is to still have so many devout Christians. And then do your best not to close down any more fire stations. We may need them again. Take my word for it; I’m a Jew, and my father’s eldest brother died in the Holocaust.
David C. Stolinsky
I am a retired surgeon, and throughout my career fought the concept of abortion. Aborting the newly conceived infant is not just evil, but murder. Partial-birth abortion is not just murder, but torture, mutilation, and then murder. Only God knows the heart of the pathetic woman willing to abort her child, but we all know the heart of the politician willing to accept any horror in his ugly pursuit of political power. And please, no more, “I am personally opposed to abortion, but….” That’s nonsense.
And stem cell research is horribly distorted in the service of that magical word, “research.” These stem cells, which many scientists and politicians treat disdainfully, either out of ignorance or malice, are actually conceived human beings — babies who at the very earliest stage of development are being torn asunder — and these pieces of human beings are then subjected to further mutilation; all in the name of the great god, “science.” Whatever good might be achieved from this deed could be done as well or better with stem cells taken from adult bone marrow with a simple needle and syringe. We don’t have to kill babies to find stem cells. Then why do we? The answer is sickening.
J. Michael Bestler, M.D.
Macomb Township, Michigan
Medjugorje — Very Strange
As regards the letters on Medjugorje (April, June, Sept.): On March 24, 2003, Ivan Dragicevic, one of the Medjugorje “seers,” spoke in Colorado Springs, Col. The Medjugorje phenomenon seems good; it promotes prayer, peace, penance, conversion, reading the Scriptures, and fasting. However, there isn’t anything in the messages nor was there anything in Ivan’s talk that would motivate people to do these good things. There is nothing about sin. Ivan said the word “peace” 22 times in his one-hour talk. This is probably the essence of the messages, but it seems strange to me that Our Lady would repeat herself over and over, stressing peace, when the Church has been going through the worst priest sex scandal in her history. Why nothing about this?
In order to think rationally about the messages of Medjugorje, I compare them to the approved messages of Our Lady of Fatima in which Our Lady was highly concerned about souls going to Hell. So much so, in fact, that she scared the wits out of three young children with a vision of Hell. No horror movie today can match that vision.
I get the impression that the Lady of Medjugorje wouldn’t approve of the emphasis on Hell that Our Lady of Fatima presented. The official website for Medjugorje (www.Medjugorje.org) contains an alphabetical listing (a concordance) of all the principal terms and words appearing in all the messages. The word “Hell” is not there. Neither are the words “abortion,” “contraception,” “divorce,” or “homosexual,” or any variations of these words. Now, these words signal serious problems in the Church, problems which Our Lady would certainly be concerned with.
Because these words are not in the concordance, this indicates that the Lady of Medjugorje doesn’t have them high on her list of concerns — in spite of the fact that she has allegedly been speaking to some of these young people (Ivan, for example) on a daily basis, for over 20 years! Neither are they among Ivan’s concerns.
So, what is the Medjugorje obsession all about? I can just say that I don’t know what motivates Ivan to travel about giving his talk, but it pays very well. The collection baskets that went past me were piled high with cash.
Mrs. Sheryl Temaat
On Providence College: Jackson Is Just Disappointed
I am writing in response to an article published in the October issue titled “Is Providence College All It’s Cracked Up to Be?” Jeffrey R. Jackson, the author of the article, has no connection to Providence College beyond reading back issues of our student newspaper The Cowl.
Jackson purports to describe a meeting and discussion he had with me that occurred several years ago. I am constrained from describing my own perspective on the same meeting: A Vocation Director is unable to set the story straight owing to issues of confidentiality. Suffice it to say, I doubt that there is any Vocation Director nowadays who does not get inquiries about the priesthood or religious life from people who he believes to be unsuited to the calling.
That a young man such as Jeffrey Jackson might feel angry to have been advised to continue his vocational search elsewhere is certainly understandable. For a journal such as the NOR to give Jackson a forum to vent his anger with allegations and years-old recollections and quotes which are not (and cannot be because they are untrue) substantiated, is irresponsible, especially given his history of similar diatribe-authoring.
To the best of my knowledge, neither Jackson nor the NOR has spoken with anyone at Providence College to confirm or comment on Jackson’s assertions. Jackson grafted his article from the student newspaper, cherry-picking only those portions he found that bolstered his personal conclusions about Providence College. This leads thinking people with discerning and critical eyes to ask: “What is the NOR’s responsibility in publishing erroneous and one-sided articles from disappointed and disgruntled authors who have their own axe to grind?”
The one amusing aspect of the article is to see myself referred to as “hip”; my Dominican community shared my amusement!
Fr. Mark D. Nowel, O.P., Ph.D.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
You had your chance to refute Jackson’s charges, and you failed utterly. You say his charges are “not substantiated” and “untrue.” So prove it! But you didn’t and you can’t. It’s your claims that are not substantiated. If you can’t disprove Jackson, no one can.
You say Jackson has vented his “anger with allegations and years-old recollections” and that he is “disappointed and disgruntled” with his “own axe to grind.” So we’re not supposed to believe the Jews suffered during the Holocaust because they’re just venting their “anger with allegations and years-old recollections” and because they’re “disappointed and disgruntled” and have their “own axes to grind”? Surely, you’ve heard of the Holocaust-deniers. (Actually, Jackson was “disappointed,” not because he didn’t have a vocation to the Dominican Order, but because he learned the Dominicans are so liberal.)
You say you cannot discuss your encounter with Jackson on the campus of Providence College (PC) because of issues of confidentiality. But that was only a small part of the article, and the least of his concerns. You are Dean of Undergraduate Studies. The performance of the vulgar and pro-lesbian Vagina Monologues on campus (promoted by at least seven undergraduate departments) occurred on your watch. The “sex professor,” Prof. Moorhead, who describes one of his classes as being about “f- – -ing, sucking, and butt-f- – -ing,” is occurring on your watch. The “gay” club on campus is also occurring on your watch. What kind of priest would allow all that? This definitely makes you “hip” (if your Dominican community found this amusing, they’re obviously hipper than thou).
As a matter of fact, Jackson, who resides in Rhode Island, consulted with a half-dozen current and former PC students.
You say the only thing Jackson did was read back issues of the student newspaper, The Cowl. That’s a great source for getting at the truth, because students aren’t interested in spin and PR. But you don’t refute anything The Cowl said.
You are a Ph.D., and so we do wonder about the quality of your scholarship: No, Jackson did not just read back issues of The Cowl. As Jackson noted in his article, he researched the College Guide of National Review, Choosing the Right College, The Kaplan College Guide, PC’s 2003-2004 Course Bulletin, PC’s 2003-2004 Course Bulletin Addendum, Rhode Island’s Providence Journal, and The Spectrum (PC’s faculty newspaper). The other Ph.D.s at PC would surely be most embarrassed by your “scholarship.”
Given your pathetic performance here, it’s time for you to resign.
I read the review (Oct.) of A Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion by Dombrowski and Deltete, and I read their views with disbelief. The reviewer, Anne Barbeau Gardiner, does a great job of demolishing their arguments.
Since these two men present themselves as Catholic, I certainly hope that they do not present themselves for Holy Communion as long as they hold their wacko views.
The Vatican’s Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in a letter to an American cardinal, reminded the cardinal that the Church teaches that abortion is a grave sin, that it is never licit to promote it, and if any person persists in formal co-operation in its execution (as Dombrowski and Deltete have) “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.” You can’t get much plainer than that.
Rev. Msgr. John M. Galyo
I have a recommendation for the Jesuits who operate Seattle University. The book A Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion by Dombrowski and Deltete, both professors of philosophy at Seattle University, is obviously at odds with the teaching of the Church on abortion.
That same issue (Oct.) contains a New Oxford Note concerning Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, and his requirement to have all the catechists, liturgical readers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, cantors, and directors of youth activities in his Diocese profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes and teaches, and without reservation.
I would recommend that the Jesuits at Seattle University require all instructors and professors of that Catholic institution to make such an affirmation of their beliefs as a condition of employment.
William E. Kerrigan
What Priest Shortage?
A few observations about the priest shortage in America.
There are approximately 43,000 priests in the U.S., and approximately 63,000,000 Catholics. This is a rate of approximately 68 priests per 100,000 Catholics. There are approximately 150,000 dentists in the U.S., and approximately 270,000,000 Americans. This is a rate of approximately 55 dentists per 100,000 Americans. Is there are even worse shortage of dentists in America than there is a shortage of Catholic priests? Why doesn’t anyone talk about the dentist shortage? Who is holding back the number of vocations to the practice of dentistry?
In America, approximately half of the Catholic population does not attend weekly Mass. This leaves us with 43,000 priests for approximately 31,500,000 practicing Catholics. This is a rate of approximately 136 priests per 100,000 practicing Catholics. Approximately 32 percent of Americans don’t visit a dentist. This leaves us with 150,000 dentists for approximately 183,600,000 dentist-visiting Americans. This is a rate of approximately 81 dentists per 100,000 dentist-visiting Americans. Thus there are about 1.68 times the number of priests per 100,000 population of active Catholics as there are the number of dentists per 100,000 active dentist visitors in this country. Is the state of vocations to the practice of dentistry in America doomed, or is the state of vocations to the priesthood thriving? Or are they both in dire straits, and dentistry in even worse shape than Catholicism?
The Catholic population in America is expected to increase to approximately 90,000,000 people in the next 5 to 10 years. The population of Catholic priests in America is expected to decline by 16,000 over the same period of time. This trend would leave America with 27,000 priests for 90,000,000 Catholics, or approximately 30 priests per 100,000 Catholics in America in the next 5 to 10 years. The number of Catholics worldwide is approximately 1.06 billion people. The number of Catholic priests worldwide is approximately 404,000. This is a rate of 38 Catholic priests per 100,000 Catholics worldwide. Thus the current number of Catholic priests per 100,000 Catholics in America (68) is approximately 56 percent higher than the current rate of Catholic priests per 100,000 Catholics worldwide. The projected number of Catholic priests per 100,000 Catholics in America in 5 to 10 years from now (30) is approximately 21 percent lower than the current rate of Catholic priests per 100,000 Catholics worldwide. Is the number of vocations to the priesthood worldwide suffering, or is the number of vocations in America not as bad as we think?
By strict numbers, the current number of priests in America is not as bad as the overall situation across the world. Even if projections hold true, and there are 16,000 fewer American priests in 5 to 10 years while the Catholic population increases to 90,000,000, the situation in America will be only slightly worse than the current situation across the globe.
The Catholic Church has had problems with the clergy since her inception. Of the original 12 Catholic bishops, one totally betrayed Jesus and His Church, one denied even knowing Jesus Christ, and nine others ran away and hid while Jesus was being crucified. These things occurred after they had personally witnessed Jesus raise a man from the dead; become transfigured in the presence of God the Father Almighty, and the Holy Spirit; walk on water; command the elements; heal the sick; cure the blind; and order the lame to walk. And you think the faith of the current group of bishops is weak?
What makes the Catholic Church greater than all others, and makes her the one true Church of Jesus Christ is that she is one in faith, separated from worldliness in her values, universal among all peoples, and endowed with the Holy Spirit which has been passed from generation to generation by Apostolic Succession.
Ultimately, I think that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the most important. No other Christian denomination can claim that its ministers in charge of dogma are personally guided by the Holy Spirit. Only the Catholic Church can lay claim to this gift. Knowing this truth, what does it matter how many priests per 100,000 there are in America or anywhere else?
Our greatness lies in Who our Head is, not in how many of us there are following Him. And if all of His current followers abandoned Him, didn’t He once say that His Father could raise children to Abraham from the very rocks of the ground? Let us stop worrying about tomorrow’s numbers, and start combating evil today by concentrating on shedding the light of the Truth on the sin that darkens the vision of our own hearts. Then we will have the ability to see how to take the speck out of our separated brothers’ eyes today, tomorrow, and forever.
Canning Fr. Stravinskas
My husband and I have subscribed to the NOR for several years. Some of your material is unpleasant to read about, but given the poor state of our Church it is most necessary.
As subscribers to The Catholic Answer, we only found out about Fr. Peter Stravinskas — who was canned after 17 years as Editor by its parent Our Sunday Visitor Inc. — by reading the NOR (Sept.). Isn’t that funny? I’m afraid The Catholic Answer has gone the way of most Catholic periodicals. So we canceled it, and ordered Fr. Stravinskas’s new periodical, The Catholic Response, instead.
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