The Motivating "Sting"
I thought it very revealing that in Tom Bethell’s column “Last Things” (Sept.), he said the priest in charge of his Tridentine Latin parish in Washington, D.C., was of “curmudgeonly demeanor,” from which I gather that he made no attempt to charm his congregation and was of modest pastoral talent. No “welcomers,” pop hymns, jokes, or rushing from the altar immediately after Mass to socialize at the church door. And yet this parish is a success, and attracts lots of male Catholics of intelligence, while modernist parishes tend to terminal decline. Why?
After my reception into a large suburban parish in 1960, I had as my parish priest an elderly man who was generally regarded as below average ability. He could also be a little mean and petty at times, but he had two big virtues that compensated for this: He worshipped and obeyed the Church, and was never happier than when presiding over a big liturgical ceremony. What was laid down for the Latin liturgical season, that he delivered. In those days a quite ordinary priest preaching homiletic commonplaces still carried some of the massive mandate of St. Peter, and you could feel it. Now a weak vernacular liturgy requires a celebrant with a strong personality to support it.
During Lent we were thoroughly steeped in the Four Last Things and received many dire warnings about the perils of not confessing mortal sins (remember those?). Combined with the covering of statues and no music, Lent was a very spiritually sobering affair and (dare I say it?) not without a certain element of healthy fear. Then the grand opera of the sacred Triduum followed by the explosion of light and joy on Easter Sunday! All the priest had to do was to go through all these motions and set pieces as honed to perfection by men of genius and sanctity down the centuries and graces flowed through in abundance to the people.
Just after Vatican II, a new priest was appointed to the parish, a monsignor of obviously superior talents. I watched, bewildered and apprehensive, as the initial force of this man’s ministry was slowly emasculated by an enervating liberal theology and a desupernaturalized liturgy and the virtual disappearance of that essential motivating “sting” of Judgment, Purgatory, and Hell.
The inescapable conclusion to all this is that before Vatican II, I received a better ministry from a priest of very moderate ability (may he R.I.P.) than afterwards from a very gifted one! This says it all.
While ability is very desirable in Catholic pastors, pre-1968 parishioners received ample guidance to save their souls through the Mass, even if the parish priest was “curmudgeonly,” or like Evelyn Waugh’s preferred model, “Stumped up to the altar with his tools like a plumber with his mate to do a job that only he could do, and without bothering to look at the size of his congregation.”
Alumnus, Inaugural Class of Ave Maria School of Law
Torquay, United Kingdom
Dumbing Down the Liturgy
I do not appreciate the new hymns sung at the vernacular Mass. They are rather dull and insipid. What really annoys me is when secular “pop” music is rewritten with religious lyrics.
I would rather that the choir return to the loft. Under the new order of the Mass, choirs became rather brazen and not a few of their members seem to imagine themselves as popular entertainers. First they moved down to the floor, although usually at the right transept. Then they moved out of the transept and well within the view of the congregation. Now I see that some of them are on elevated stages in line with and at the same height as the altar. They are a distraction, especially when there are members or soloists who seem to want to inflict their talents (or want of them) on us. When the choir restricted themselves to the back loft, I could imagine that I was actually hearing angels’ voices from the heavenly choir joining us in worship.
At some churches I go to, the members of the so-called music ministry appear to be ill-matured geezers of the beatnik, hippie, and yippie generations still flailing at their bongo drums and electric guitars. I long to hear various composers during Communion (“Panis Angelicus” by César Franck) and Handel’s march at weddings. How about the various versions of “Ave Maria” by Gounod, Schubert, et al.? I only hear them today at secular concerts.
Oh, and about the priest standing at the front door after Mass to “greet” the parishioners in the Protestant tradition: I have seen priests playing favorites — talking longer with distinguished-looking people who obviously have fatter wallets and practically shooing away people who may look like rednecks, immigrants, or proletarians.
During the Tridentine period, there were priests ready to hear Confessions during Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. I never see this anymore. I shudder to think of the many unworthy receptions of the Holy Eucharist because of this change. The fact that people are practically dragooned into receiving Communion today by “eucharistic ministers” who police the congregation pew by pew adds to this danger. Granted, they are just assuring order for the reception of the Sacrament, yet I do not doubt that this practice pressures people into receiving unworthily seeing that it would be obvious who would not stand once the lay ministers stand by their pew. I prefer the old protocol when those in the pews stood and proceeded to receive on their own accord. The disorder in the reception of the Eucharist cropped up when our ancient marble or mahogany communion rails were ripped out by misguided innovators claiming to be implementing alleged changes decreed by Vatican II.
One final thing. I prefer my Sacred Host to be made of unleavened white bread in circular form and stamped with holy images. At some parishes today, I am given broken pieces of brownish bread, possibly leavened, of doubtful provenance and even more of doubtful validity for sacramental use. They crumble easily and leave crumbs everywhere.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
What We Have Lost
As a traditional cradle Catholic brought up in Austria in the 1930s, I miss the beautiful High Mass that is still being celebrated with a full symphony orchestra and opera choir at St. Augustine’s Church in Vienna every Sunday at 11 AM. It is so popular that all pews are full and every inch of standing room is taken. The High Mass was also celebrated in most other churches with several priests officiating and lots of incense being used. The prayers of Mass were usually chanted in Latin in the Gregorian style.
I also miss the beautiful ringing of the many church bells — on Sundays, calling the faithful to Mass, and particularly the ringing for the Angelus at 6 AM, noon, and 6 PM.
Ordinary Masses on Sundays had singing of the congregation, accompanied by the organ, but always in German, never in Latin. I can still remember the inspiring melodies by Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert. The hymn for the Sanctus was especially solemn and moving: “Heilig, heilig, heilig, heilig ist der Herr….” I still get tears in my eyes when I think about these hymns.
The hymnal of our church in Roseville, Calif., has some 500 different hymns. Many people do not sing. Who can get used to that many hymns?
The homilies (sermons) also leave much to be desired. Many Catholics are now worshiping in evangelical or fundamentalist churches, which are often very large and rapidly growing. While they do not have the most important thing, the holy Eucharist, we Catholics could learn from them regarding their sermons.
Dreading Those Christmas Homilies
The Christmas season is coming and I just dread all the homilies I will have to endure casting our Lady in the role of unwed teenage mother. We just got the opening shot on September 8 with the celebration of her birthday. How can so many priests be so uninformed when it comes to Jewish marriage law? Even the authors of Catholicism for Dummies put it in big headlines: “pregnant and unmarried.” They fall for the same trap of equating “betrothed” to our use of “engagement,” when even in the next few lines of the Gospel account it says that Joseph would have to “divorce” her, and a few more lines down the angel tells Joseph to take Mary, “your wife,” into his home. I wrote to these authors and pointed this out and quoted from Jewish law. These authors, who claim to be staunch supporters of Pope John Paul II, did not even seem to be able to comprehend that their hero, in his encyclical on St. Joseph, Redemptor Custos, was emphatic that Mary was a married woman when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Making Mary an unwed teenage mother is one of the worst insults to our Lady and her Son. To modernize Mary from a wife to an unwed mother cuts Catholicism off from a link to Mary’s Jewish heritage. Only the truth about Mary, Joseph, and her Son should be told, not some “soap opera” version of an “unwed” mother.
Turmoil Spreads to Ave Maria School of Law
In his letter (Oct.), John F. Barrett says in regard to Tom Monaghan/Ave Maria: “Enough already!!!” However, I wish you would cover more of the Tom Monaghan/Ave Maria story. Especially now that Ave Maria School of Law (AMSoBpin Ann Arbor, Michigan, is getting dragged into the quagmire, as evidenced by the recent ousting of Prof. Charles Rice, a champion of the Culture of Life, from AMSoL’s Board of Governors. Alumni and students are outraged at the ousting of Rice. The rumors about the motivation for booting Rice include his public opposition to moving AMSoL to Naples, Florida [see the March NOR, p. 31]. About a week after the ousting of Rice, Associate Dean Michael Kenney, one of the founders, announced he was leaving in December to take a position at the University of Notre Dame (whether by coincidence or not). It is hoped that this will not start a mass exodus from AMSoL.
You mentioned in an Editor’s Reply (Oct., p. 11) that the higher educational institutions bearing the Ave Maria name were symbols of hope within the orthodox Catholic community. In order to advance that hope, some of us left great jobs, and rearranged our lives to invest in the future of those institutions. I myself left a good career at the Eternal World Television Network in order to be in the inaugural class of AMSoL. Others have pledged money or sent their children.
Realistically, most of my class could have gone to some other top-tier law school. At this point in our lives, we would have had significantly different career options based on the ease with which law school reputations lend to job opportunities. Thus, many of us are still investing in AMSoL.
Educational institutions are not pizza parlors. Law schools, in particular, rely heavily on intangible qualities such as public trust in the institution and prestige caused by faculty appointments and perceived alumni accomplishments. Thus, if AMSoL encounters the same issues that have been reported about Ave Maria College/University, the alumni in particular will take the greatest loss, because difficulty in finding jobs and clients would be immediately noticed.
Creating a population of lawyers on which an orthodox Catholic can rely was and is a promise of AMSoL. You, your readers, and all of us have a real interest in the preservation of what AMSoL has become. It’s not some rich guy’s toy anymore; it’s a place that makes something no one else does but all of us need.
The central issue at Ave Maria University is whether the Administration is comprised of individuals who are free to make the best administrative decisions possible without fear of being perceived as in opposition to the powers that be. The ousting of Prof. Rice from the Law School Board could mean that an environment of fear is being installed in the Law School. Can you imagine how differently the Law School would be perceived if it faced the same ethical charges from the U.S. Department of Education as has Ave Maria University?
Pope John Paul II encouraged us to do things in the light, so that it may be plainly seen. Accordingly, the entire Ave Maria educational complex should be in the light. The NOR’s job as part of the Catholic media is to be the place where events and opinions on matters affecting us Catholics can be examined in the light. Cover it, get into it, and be good journalists — and bring it all out into the light.
John B. Manos, Esq.
Walking the Fine Line
I will not be renewing my subscription to The Catholic World Report (CWR). While I empathize with Phil Lawler (the Editor) for his efforts to walk the fine line between being Catholic and being correct in the eyes of his master (Fr. Joseph Fessio, the Publisher), CWR has taken a pro-intervention stance toward Iraq, to the point of seeming to diverge from Church teaching. In your Editorial (Sept.), you mentioned certain magazines whose sources of money came with ideological “strings attached,” but without mentioning CWR. But I had already figured out that there were ideological strings attached at CWR. Their banning of your ads, motivated principally by Fr. Fessio’s petulance, also carries the smell of an ideological payback.
Lake Placid, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
According to a press release from Ignatius Press and Fr. Fessio (Sept. 1), Phil Lawler has “retired” from CWR — though he’s too young to retire and has many children. Phil is now Editor Emeritus, and will be involved in various writing projects, and will continue with his Catholic World News website. Phil has been a good friend of the NOR. God bless Phil Lawler!
We received a well-meaning letter from another reader saying we should “bury the hatchet” with Fr. Fessio. Of course we already tried, offering him the opportunity to write a letter in response to Andrew Messaros’s article (March 2005) to which Fr. Fessio took such exception. But he chose not to.
Nonetheless, Fr. Fessio has kindly buried the hatchet — right in the neck of the NOR.
We will make another effort at reconciliation when Fr. Fessio departs from Ave Maria University. Fr. Fessio has been proclaiming his friendship with the new Pope, and rumors have been flying that he’ll be named a bishop very soon (indeed, it may already have happened by the time this NOR reaches our readers). Our hope is that Fr. Fessio becomes Archbishop of San Francisco, which is where his roots are, and where he could do some real good.
Months ago I wrote to you explaining that because of financial constraints, I needed to cancel my subscription — as well as my subscriptions to other Catholic magazines. The NOR was the only Catholic magazine to give me a free subscription (courtesy of your Scholarship Fund). Thank you for your generosity. In recent months my situation has made a turnaround. Enclosed is a check for $150.
Our War Against the Japanese Was Not Defensive
I am a Marine with combat experience on Saipan in World War II. You say in your reply to Larry Carstens’s letter (Sept.) that our war against the Japanese was “defensive” as the Japs attacked us at Pearl Harbor. That is wrong. The Japanese attack was reactive, as from their perspective the U.S. attacked them first when we enforced a total blockade against them from any trade in the Western Hemisphere. Was our war against the Japanese in World War II a “just war”? I think not.
North Las Vegas, Nevada
Job Approval Rating Sky-High With Big Oil
President Bush’s job approval rating among Americans may be at its lowest in five years, but his rating with the Establishment, particularly Big Oil, is sky-high. His humongous public spending has increased the National Debt astronomically, thereby guaranteeing the future transfer of billions of dollars from the middle class to the super-rich via interest payments.
His war in Iraq has secured for Big Oil the second largest oil reserves in the world. Plus, he has ensured future mega-profits for these multinational corporations by committing U.S. troops to the future security of all Middle East oil with 14 new military bases in Iraq. This military adventure benefiting Big Oil, thanks to an accommodating Congress, is to be paid for by middle-class taxes and the blood of middle- and lower-class soldiers.
Robert J. Kendra
I like your thoughts on the problems of homosexuality among the Catholic clergy. However, concerning the problem of the war in Iraq and its consequences, I have concerns about your opinions. As a veteran of World War II, I have strong feelings for our men on the battlefield. In the beginning, I supported the war, but later, after reading The American Conservative and reading the opinions about the war by Generals Zinni and Shinseki (the former Army Chief of Staff), I came to feel differently about its cause and the conduct of the war in Iraq.
Henry D. Chieffo, M.D.
The Party's Decadence
As a recent prolife candidate for New York’s City Council in the Democratic primary on Manhattan’s upper east side, I agree with your New Oxford Note, “Prolifers: Thanks for the Votes; We’ll See You Again in Four Years” (Sept.), asserting that the prolife movement needs to move away from exclusive dependence on a Republican Party dominated by moderates and neoconservatives.
How did we get trapped by the moderates and neoconservatives? Essentially, it was a miscalculation by Christian voters who decided to become “Reagan Republicans” in response to the difficult battle they faced in the new Democratic Party of the 1970s.
For 150 years prior to the contentious Democratic convention that nominated George McGovern in 1972, the Irish Catholic machines in America’s big industrial cities and the Dixiecrats had seen to it that traditional Christianity had a respected voice in the Democratic Party concerning public mores. The Irish Catholic machines were a direct response to hostile forces in American culture, forces with roots in the Reformation and Enlightenment. Now those hostile Enlightenment forces are in the driver’s seat of American culture and the Empire.
Our machines and political clubs collapsed in the 1960s, due to the success of extremists in the civil rights movement who succeeded in restricting our rights to control the sale and rental of our real estate, and our right to be hired for jobs and accepted at colleges based on our qualifications, not quotas.
Our ability to elect officials who would represent our point of view disappeared with the end of our neighborhoods. So did our ability to recruit the best for our clergy, a clergy that had always had a respected place in our ethnic communities. The Democratic Party that elected John F. Kennedy is now dominated by pro-war neoliberals, labor bureaucrats, international finance, wealthy “gay” organizations, and militant minority race hustlers. But there is hope within that Party. Many rank-and-file labor-oriented Democrats have grown disenchanted with the Party’s decadence, and are open to forming a new coalition with former Democrats.
They are open to compromise positions on abortion and other moral issues, particularly solutions that offer assistance to the poor and pregnant, as well as returning control of these decisions to the states for popular control, as opposed to judicial fiat.
The way to go is for disillusioned traditionalists to join Democrats for Life, a dynamic grassroots organizations with an effective lobby in Washington, D.C., and help us turn the Democratic Party around. Call me at (212) 365-4930 for more information.
New York, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
As for the civil rights movement “restricting our rights to control the sale and rental of our real estate,” we have no sympathy for your position. As for being “hired for jobs and accepted at colleges based on our qualifications, not quotas,” we have much sympathy for your position. We believe that quotas or affirmative action (also called “diversity”) makes the beneficiaries of the quotas scorned second-class citizens. A prime example is President Bush’s appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court because, as the White House admitted, the nominee had to be a woman. If Miers had been seated on the Supreme Court, very few would have given her any respect.
As for Democrats being “open to compromise” on abortion, there can be no compromise with the Culture of Death. As for returning abortion to the states, that would be a good first step, but it is our understanding that Democrats for Life does not call for that.
It would be helpful if the Republicans and the Democrats would compete for our votes. But the Dems have a long way to go before they can do that on the national level. Yes, Democrats for Life is a good start.
Who benefits from sex education in schools? Condom manufacturers, abortionists, pornographers, textbook printers, and, worst of all, the traffickers in fetal body parts; it is not the students.
What would qualify as sexual harassment if it occurred in the workplace — i.e., demonstrations of how to put a condom on a cucumber — is called “health instruction” in the classroom.
The recipients of contemporary sex education are overwhelmingly engaging in activities that put their health and self-respect at risk, and on a broader scale the health of the culture in which they live.
It is time to drop sex education; it is time to fire the network of sex educators who survive on government contracts.
Elizabeth Ward Nottrodt
Fr. Maciel: A Laborer in the Vineyard
With regard to your protracted criticisms of the Legionaries of Christ, I would like to make a request: Move on. Your criticisms began when the National Catholic Register decided not to run the NOR’s ads. You have been harboring resentment ever since.
However, rejection by a magazine or newspaper does not have to lead to resentment. I myself have had an article rejected by the NOR. To be sure, it is never pleasant to receive a rejection letter. But it wasn’t the end of the world. I looked around for another magazine.
Resentment can be a small thing. But disrespect for the reputation of a particular person is a more serious matter. Certain writings in the NOR over the past year have involved personal criticisms of the founder of the Legionaries (Fr. Marcial Maciebpthat border on rash judgment or even detraction. According to the Catechism (#2477), one is “guilty of rash judgment if even tacitly he assumes as true without sufficient foundation the moral fault of a neighbor.” And one is guilty of detraction when “without objectively valid reason, one discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them.”
Is the NOR descending to the level of certain media whose modus operandi seems to be one of a constant drumbeat of criticisms of their enemies? Or will the NOR aspire to build up some members of the Church to create a lasting legacy?
I have recently seen a piece of Fr. Maciel’s legacy to the Church: I refer to the consecrated members of the Regnum Christi movement. At a Mass I attended in their house of formation in Greenville, R.I., more than one hundred women were gathered in the chapel. In the words of a vocation prayer, these women “leave everything in order to follow You [Jesus] alone, the Supreme Good, in perfect charity. They give their freedom out of love for You, they offer up the best of their affection and love to You….”
This community of lay women serves the Church by spreading out across the country (and the world) to help girls and women grow in the spiritual life. They do this by offering practical advice about prayer and spiritual reading on a one-to-one level, and by putting on days and evenings of recollection in places where a local mother has organized a group.
Talk about Vatican II and the vocation of the laity! These women are doing precisely what Vatican II called lay people to do: bring Christ to the world. And they were founded by Fr. Maciel in the part of the vineyard where he was called to work.
There is plenty of work for the Church to do. I hope that the NOR will find its niche, where it also can develop a legacy that will build up a part of the Church rather than tear down some of its members who are laboring in the harvest.
Dermott J. Mullan
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The Register banned our trademark ads in January 1997. Our “protracted” criticisms of the Legionaries began in May 2005. To keep silent about “resentment” for over eight years is pretty hard to do. You accuse the NOR of resentment, a “moral fault.” That is precisely rash judgment, for you have no way of knowing the soul of the NOR. When the Register (controlled by the Legionaries) refused to run our ads, we did not become resentful; we became suspicious. Why? Because our ads spoke the truth about the state of the Church. When our ads were first rejected, we were sent the Register‘s official “Ad Acceptance Policy,” saying advertisers are not allowed to say “anything that directly or indirectly questions, creates doubt, degrades or attacks Church officials…[or] anything that is…controversial….” Here’s where we ran into trouble. The first ad rejected by the Register questioned Cardinal Bernardin’s Common Ground Project, which was intended to bring dissenters and the orthodox into dialogue. Significantly, three cardinals attacked Bernardin’s Project. Shame on those cardinals for casting doubt on a “Church official,” Cardinal Bernardin. Another ad rejected was titled “Why Liberal Catholicism Is Suicidal,” which criticized liberal priests (also “Church officials”). And so it went.
The Legionaries have reputations for being preoccupied with money and power, and have frequently been called Machiavellian. We believe our ads were rejected because the Legionaries and the Register want to curry favor with bishops and priests, so as to gain power in the Church. And we’re not the only ones who believe that (we could name names, but these people don’t want their ads banned by the Register).
Like you, Mr. Mullan, we had assumed that the Legionaries were an outstanding order in the Church. But when we started to investigate the Legionaries, we were horrified.
You speak of our “personal criticisms” of Maciel. But what are they? You don’t say. They are multiple charges of pederasty committed by Maciel on his seminarians, among other things.
Not surprisingly, the Register has downplayed the clerical sex scandals. The Register tried to trash Michael S. Rose’s book Goodbye, Good Men, on the homosexual scandals in the seminaries. The Register even refused to advertise Goodbye, Good Men. When Deal Hudson — who defended Maciel against charges of pederasty — was accused of adultery, the Register claimed it was “detraction.” The charge against Hudson was absolutely true, and young women needed to know. And the Legionaries have branded the sexual predation charges against Maciel as “detraction.” Not reassuring!
The Legionaries remind us of the Communist Party, which fought bravely for the rights of labor and was in the forefront of the civil rights movement. Does that get the Party off the hook? Likewise, the Legionaries have done many good things. Does that get the Legionaries off the hook?
The Communist Party has a principle called democratic centralism, which means that when the higher-ups in the Party make a decision about anything, no one can criticize it. The Legionaries, in addition to the traditional three vows, have a fourth vow: never to speak ill of Maciel and the Legion, never to criticize one’s superiors, and to inform on those who do. Right out of the Communist Party’s playbook. As for the vow of poverty, the Legionaries, still a small order, are one of the richest organizations in the Church, and Maciel is known for his opulent lifestyle, just like many Communist dictators. Maciel is also known for building up a cult of personality around himself, just like many Communist dictators. Chairman Mao had strict rules for sexual purity for his Communist cadres, but Mao had harems of lovely Chinese girls wherever he went — or is this too “detraction.” As our Lord said, there will be false messiahs who will perform deeds so great as to deceive the elect (to paraphrase Mt. 24:24).
Moreover, the Legionaries and Regnum Christi have been said to have broken up families and ruined people’s lives. They have been accused of deceptive tactics and mind-control. That’s why the Legionaries and Regnum Christi are often referred to as cults.
You hope the NOR will find its niche. We already have: speaking truth to power and bringing things out into the light of day. We do realize that certain delicate souls, as T.S. Eliot said, can’t handle too much reality. If these people want to live in dreamland, there’s nothing we can do about it.
You ask us to build up the Church rather than tear down some of her members. As the Book of Ecclesiastes says: “There is an appointed time for everything…. A time to tear down and a time to build” (3:1,3). The Church is probably experiencing the worst sex scandals in her history, and you want us to cover it up. Sorry, but we don’t care to be enablers. As Jesus said, only “a fool” builds “his house on sand” (Mt. 7:26).
At this time, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is investigating the numerous charges of pederasty against Maciel. Is the Holy See involved in rash judgment and detraction? The Legionaries would likely say so. What say you?
Your Eternal Salvation Is in Jeopardy
Jesus said: “But I say this to you, anyone who is angry with a brother will answer for it before the court; anyone who calls a brother ‘Fool’ will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls him ‘Traitor’ will answer for it in hell fire” (Mt. 5:22-23).
Concerning your expressed views on Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ: Are you sure you want to bet your eternal salvation on these stories?
Buffalo, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Ah, but there are so many stories! If Maciel were a priest in the U.S., given the numerous charges of pederasty against him, he would have been removed from active ministry by the Church long ago.
As for Matthew 5:22: Other versions say that he who is angry with his brother is in danger of the judgment, and he who calls his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire. That makes it even stronger.
As for anger, in some versions it says anger “without a cause.” Jesus was very angry with the moneychangers in the Temple — and with cause. When people watched Jesus to see if He would heal on the Sabbath — and He did — “Jesus was angry” with those people (Mk. 3:5). Have you never heard of righteous anger?
As for calling people fools, Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees fools — and not only them. The New Testament writers repeatedly called people fools and foolish.
As for traitor, in the Gospel of Luke, Judas is called a traitor (6:16). St. Paul referred to people as traitors (2 Tim. 3:4). Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees sons of Hell, which is the equivalent.
So did Jesus send the holy writers of the New Testament to Hell for saying such things? Did Jesus send Himself to Hell for ever and ever for saying such things?
Your citing of one passage in isolation is not very helpful in this case. Your method — dare we say it? — is foolish. It’s obvious that getting angry and calling people fools and traitors depends on whether you have a just cause.
Appropriate Clothing for Catholic Men & Women
Regarding the letter from Helen Smart (Oct.): When any interpretation of a passage from Scripture has the effect of making that passage null and void, it is the interpretation itself which is null and void. For Scripture can never be broken (Jn. 10:35). Therefore, the passage from Deuteronomy 22:5 (which Helen laughs at), which requires men and women to dress differently, cannot be interpreted in such a way as to make it meaningless for us today. God intends that men and women dress differently because clothing is an expression of behaviors and roles. God intends men and women to have different behaviors and different roles in the Church, the family, and society.
Modesty is a separate issue. If a man or woman dresses immodestly, it is an offense against God. But if a woman dresses like a man, or a man like a woman, this is a different offense against God. Offenses of immodesty are generally a matter of degree: a skirt that should be longer, or clothing that should be looser. However, the offense of a woman dressing like a man is not a matter of degree, but is an offense against the very order that God chose for the human race. This latter offense is even more common in modern society than the former offense and, as a result, is more widely accepted, even among the faithful.
Since clothing is an expression of behaviors and roles, the still greater offense is that of women taking on the behaviors and roles of men, and vice versa. Sinful secular society teaches us that men and women should have the same roles and the same behaviors. Christ and Mary teach that men and women should have different behaviors and roles, as is clearly shown by their own examples. Clothing is merely an indicator of this teaching. And the disorder found in modern customs of dress is merely a symptom of the greater disorder of men and women acting as if they should have the same behaviors and roles in society, the family, and the Church.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Bush Had No Choice
In your New Oxford Note (“Here Come the Catholic Cheerleaders,” Oct. 2005), you complain in regard to the “neocon” Catholic supporters of President Bush’s Supreme Court selection of John G. Roberts. You state that Roberts “won’t vote to overturn Roe,” but you do not know this for sure. Going mostly on the basis of Roberts’s comments in the federal appellate court nomination hearings, you eventually reach the presumptuous conclusion that Bush “doesn’t care about abortion.”
This analysis completely leaves out a critical component of the entire process of selecting Supreme Court nominations as it stands today. An honest and complete analysis of the situation would have included the conundrum that Bush was put into after seven Republicans agreed on a “deal” with seven Democrats regarding judicial nominations. In this deal, three anti-Roe nominees were allowed to proceed to the appellate court (Priscilla R. Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and William H. Pryor Jr.). At the same time, the deal allowed the filibuster option to continue in “extraordinary circumstances.” Considering that the seven Republicans who agreed to the deal (Lincoln Chafee, Susan Collins, Mike DeWine, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, John Warner, and Olympia Snowe) are all “moderates,” I think we know what “extraordinary circumstances” means. It means a filibuster is allowed if a known anti-Roe nomination is selected for a position on the Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade is the holy grail of liberal thinkers and it can only be overturned by the Supreme Court — the appellate court must rule according to the Supreme Court’s precedent. It is the last stand of Democrats. This is why the deal was made.
With anti-Roe nominees facing a certain filibuster that would not be disallowed using the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules on filibusters, Bush has no choice but to nominate “stealth” candidates who are strict constructionists but do not have an open position opposing Roe. The blame for the sellout of prolifers lies squarely on these seven Republican Senators.
Let us remember that President Bush cut off international funding for abortions, passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Act (which has a very good chance of being upheld by the Supreme Court), and passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
To simply blame the President and indicate he “doesn’t care about abortion” is either a misinformed position or is not being intellectually honest.
Williamsville, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Yes, we were sure John Roberts would not vote to overturn Roe, based (in part) on Roberts’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his nomination to the Court of Appeals on April 30, 2003. We gave the quote by Roberts in our New Oxford Note (Oct. 2005): “Roe vs. Wade is an interpretation of the Court’s prior precedents. You can read the opinion beginning not just with Griswold, which is the case everybody begins with, but going even further back in other areas involving the right to privacy…. And what the Court explained in that case was the basis for the recognition of that right [to privacy]…. Roe vs. Wade is the settled law of the land…. There’s nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent.” A key sentence was: “Roe vs. Wade is the settled law of the land.” In our New Oxford Note (“When Will Prolifers Wise Up?,” Nov. 2005), we said: “Sen. Arlen Specter asked Roberts at the Judiciary Committee hearings for his appointment for Chief Justice (Sept. 13, 2005): ‘Do you mean settled for you, settled only for your capacity as a circuit judge, or settled beyond that?’ Roberts answered: ‘Well, beyond that.’ That means that Roe is settled law, not just for Roberts himself, not just for Roberts as a circuit judge, but is settled for him as a Supreme Court justice.” The cunning Specter wanted to be absolutely sure. So, yes, we were right, though we didn’t need to be absolutely sure.
You think you know that “extraordinary circumstances” means being opposed to Roe. But you contradict yourself when you say that Owen, Brown, and Pryor — approved by the deal — were “anti-Roe.” Owen, Brown, and Pryor were largely filibustered for their presumed opposition to Roe. Bush could easily have appointed any of those three, because he knew there would not be any “extraordinary circumstances.” All three were acceptable — i.e., immune to filibusters. (For more on this, see our New Oxford Note, “The Miers Disaster,” in this issue.) No, Bush did not need to nominate a “stealth” candidate. As we write, Bush has just nominated Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to replace Harriet Miers. Alito is definitely not a stealth nominee. He has a paper trail of 15 years on the Federal bench.
You mention the cutting off of international funding for abortion. That was good; however, other nations have made up the funding loss and have filled the breach. You mention the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. That too is good. However, abortionists have other ways of performing late-term abortions other than stabbing the baby’s skull with scissors. No unborn babies will be saved. You mention the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. That too is good. However, no unborn babies will be saved by it.
Bush could have pressed for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion nationwide. Or Bush could have restricted the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court regarding abortion, which under Article III, section 2, of the Constitution requires only a simple majority of Congress. Short of those acts, overturning Roe is the ballgame. By appointing Roberts and Miers, Bush made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t care about abortion.
Sorry, but it’s true that Bush “doesn’t care about abortion.” We refer you to neoconservative Hadley Arkes, a White House insider, writing in First Things (April 2005). If this isn’t an unimpeachable source, we don’t know what would be. Arkes says: “That the President should have had no interest [in abortion]…, at virtually no cost to himself, must be ranked among the great political mysteries of our time. But apparently more pressing…has been the President’s desire to preserve his reticence on the matter of abortion.” Arkes also says: “In the President’s world, a willingness to talk about abortion is seen as tacky and unseemly.”
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