Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: December 2008

December 2008

The Old & New Guard

A great big south Texas thanks to you, Dale Vree, for all the work you’ve done to bring to the public the authentic and truth-filled work found in the NOR. I don’t recall what brought me to reading your magazine — but I would frown upon my reflection in the mirror if I hadn’t long ago made the effort to look into reading what you have to offer.

For your son, Pieter Vree, I applaud you for stepping in and holding the reins. I have faith that you’ll perform as well as, if not better than, your wise old man has.

March forward with faith, honor, and humility, knowing that we are out here yearning for the nourishment found in your magazine.

Jonathan Beckett

St. Hedwig, Texas


On behalf of Dale, myself, and all the NOR staff, I heartily thank you, and all those who have written and phoned in words of encouragement and support. We are truly blessed to have such a dedicated and prayerful readership.

Limbo: An Enigma

Regarding the debate in your pages on the enigma of limbo (article by Hurd Baruch, April; letters, June, Sept.), I would like to feed in some more suggestions, starting with a caution. As we attempt to resolve this difficulty, we must not let the illusion of trying to be more compassionate than God influence our thinking and declare that all babies go to Heaven.

Since God is prescient, He knows, even before we are born, what choices we will make in life. Therefore, if a baby is aborted or dies without baptism but would have chosen to accept Christ and obey Him if allowed to live to the age of reason, he will go to Heaven by, for want of a better term, the “baptism of desire.”

All innocents who would have rejected their Savior will not go to Heaven but, since they have committed no personal sins, they will not be punished. Hell, according to Dante, is all punishment with no neutral or grey areas, so they cannot go there either. Where to put them?

We do not know the exact nature of such a place because it has not been clearly defined by the Church. Traditionally, the word “limbo” (which means “hem” or “border”) has been used, but this does not throw any light on the quality of life there. It has always been conjectured as a place of perfect but purely natural happiness. Perhaps sensitivity to supernatural love has been mercifully deadened in the souls there, so that they do not feel the loss. After all, many people in the world seem perfectly “happy” and contented without any sense of God!

Jim Allen

Torquay, England

What Is the Life of an Unborn Baby Worth?

Save Unborn Life, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit incorporated in Pennsylvania, offers $3,000 to any pregnant woman who is considering killing her baby in abortion to instead carry her baby to term and give him life.

We have fulfilled one contract so far with a woman who had decided to abort her unborn baby but instead gave birth. Another three women have chosen life by signing contracts with Save Unborn Life, one who is due to give birth this month. The mothers have the option to either keep their babies or give them up for adoption. We will only give the offer to those who have visited crisis pregnancy centers and decided to have an abortion; each of the women we have contracted with had already made an appointment to abort her child.

Just think: A mere $3,000 will save an unborn baby from being torn apart in abortion; it has been proven to work! Now is the time to put our money toward saving innocent unborn babies.

Please phone 814-835-0249 for more information. Your donation can save lives!

Laura Merriott

Save Unborn Life

Erie, Pennsylvania

The Target of Evil

Maria Hsia Chang’s article “Peering Into the Abyss” (Oct.), about the tragic effect on some who project themselves too far into the study of evil (especially actors who assume such a role), is incredible and reminds me of my own pursuits years ago. Mostly faithless at the time, I had a great desire to know what was behind mundane events and undertook research that led me to the history of Masonry and various occult, even diabolical, groups. I began getting depressed, but one day a truly profound thought came to me as to why I should continue this way, and I burned all my materials. I felt better and shortly thereafter met the woman who was to become my godmother. She told me about the events at Fatima, which opened my eyes to the true target of all this evil: The Catholic Church and faith. I eventually entered the one true Church with no regrets.

Russell Pond

Nashua, New Hampshire

Maria Hsia Chang’s “Peering Into the Abyss” (Oct.) is excellent! It put me in mind of something my late husband once told me. He said he deeply regretted having had to read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood during his graduate studies. He complained that he had been haunted afterwards because that book made the reader enter into the evildoer’s mind in an attempt to comprehend his thinking. But evil is profoundly chaotic, he added, and not at all comprehensible by any sane person. It’s a serious mistake even to dwell on the details of crimes reported in the newspapers.

Giovanni Cardinal Bona, the author of Guide to Eternity, warns that there is an “intemperance” in the pursuit of knowledge, as well as in other things. We should keep our minds from running after “subtleties and curiosities,” because we were given this great gift for the sake of substantial wisdom: “Wisdom does not consist in knowing much,” he warns, “but in knowing things that we are the better for, and those things, in the first place, that concern our salvation.” Cardinal Bona’s advice is over three centuries old, but it’s very much needed today, when we are overwhelmed by a tsunami of empty “curiosities” in the media.

Anne Barbeau Gardiner

Brewster, New York

Maria Hsia Chang’s “Peering Into the Abyss” (Oct.) produced a counterproductive, though surely unintentional, effect in me. The message of the article seems to be that artists, actors, and writers who excel, and take a perverse delight in excelling, in the portrayal of evil end up suffering from the madness of such activities. Chang’s article itself does exactly the same thing as the “art” of Heath Ledger and Iris Chang: It leads the reader to “look into the abyss.” The article produced in me an almost unspeakable despair. Only the more lighthearted articles that followed it checked the tailspin and vertigo that “peering into the abyss” can cause.

John Quintero

Lovelock, Nevada

Prayer in Adoration

In his guest column “Alone at Last With My God” (Oct.), Richard Courtney illustrates vividly how the relationship between eucharistic adoration during Mass and after Mass is expressed in the words of our Lord in John 17:9: “I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me: because they are thine.”

Fr. Robert Buholzer

Stoughton, Wisconsin

The Pleasure of Kalpakgian

Mitchell Kalpakgian’s articles have become one of my favorite parts of your excellent publication. His most recent article “The Theology of Pleasure” (Oct.) was an outstanding example of his work. When I finished reading it, I only wanted to add to the pleasure I had received from his marvelous observations. Thank you for bringing us his optimistic and thoroughly Catholic perspective stated in such beautiful prose.

Bernard M. Collins

Catonsville, Maryland

How to Kick the Bad Music Habit

I grew up in the 1970s, and the music used then in the typical American parish (both hymns and parts of the Mass) is the music I learned. Since then, I’ve come to regard it with a high degree of annoyance, bordering on loathing. So I read Lucy E. Car­roll’s article “Why the Music is so Bad” (Oct.) with interest.

As I began to pay more attention to liturgical music, I noticed something about the music often used in the liturgy today: It sounds mass-produced. One has an image of a roomful of semi-talented men, each with a keyboard and a stack of blank staff pages in front of him, spinning out songs like yarn from a jenny. The phrase “Hallmark music” comes to mind.

Pondering this led me to a concept that may just offer an indirect path to restoring the sacred quality of music used in the liturgy. It has to do with a simple mechanism that the music publishers use to make money: copyright. If we, the Church, want to lift ourselves out of the musical quagmire we have made for ourselves, we must start by eschewing copyrighted music for liturgical use.

The few people I’ve mentioned this to, when I first propose the idea, mistakenly think I’m suggesting that the Church is somehow in violation of copyright law by playing copyrighted music. They answer by pointing out to me that they get permission for the performances, etc. Let me assure you: That’s not my point. I won’t get into the history of copyright law and the various effects copyright has had on publishing, both good and bad, but the fundamental fact of copyright in America today is this: In order to make a copy of a copyrighted musical work, whether that copy be of an ephemeral type, such as a public performance, or a more material type, such as a lyric sheet to pass out to parishioners, one must have the permission of the owner of the copyright.

When it comes to liturgical music, this is an inversion of proper subordination of the secular to the sacred. There may once have been a time when certain sacred music was banned from public performance in order to prevent the profanation of that sacred music. Such a ban may have even made sense. However, it should never go the other way. It should never be the case that the Church is under secular constraints and encumbrances regarding liturgical activity.

This is true regarding both liturgical performances (reading, singing, etc.) and the practical aspects of bringing about the proper tools for participation (printing of missals for the congregation, music sheets for the choir, etc.). Music that is not completely free for performance, copying, and use of any kind by the Church should be regarded as simply unfit for liturgical use.

The one reason that good liturgical music cannot come out of the modern music-publishing industry is that modern liturgical publishing (not just for music, but all aspects of it) is driven by profit. That’s why all newly produced so-called liturgical music is copyrighted.

Note that my proposal has nothing directly to do with the quality of music itself. Nonetheless, it seems nearly certain that if bishops were to begin enjoining their dioceses to use only music in the public domain for liturgical purposes, the quality of music used in the Mass, both in sacredness and beauty, would increase tenfold almost instantaneously.

Dan Engel

Shelbyville, Indiana

Medjugorje Contradictions

I agree with only one part of Hurd Baruch’s “defense” of Medjugorje (Hurd Baruch Replies, Oct.): the quote from Christoph Cardinal Schönborn that the “fruits [of Medjugorje] are tangible, evident…. I observe graces of conversion, graces of a life of supernatural faith, of vocations, of healings, of a rediscovering of the sacraments, of confession….” I know people who went there with a lukewarm faith but upon returning started to frequent confession, attend daily Mass, pray the Rosary more frequently, and attend adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The sad part about Medjugorje is that the “visionaries” have never been obedient to Church authorities; evidently, thousands of Catholics haven’t noticed this serious sin manifested right in their midst.

Nan B. Wilsterman

Fort Worth, Texas

It is disturbing to observe the absence of offense among many Catholics toward the claims of Medjugorje “visionaries.” A cautionary word toward apparitions was provided in 1923 by a Sulpician priest, Fr. Al­bert Farges, who wrote in his Treatise on Mystical Theology, “Whereas the divine vision always conforms to the gravity and majesty of heavenly things, diabolical figures will infallibly have something unworthy of God, something ridiculous, extravagant, disorderly, or unreasonable about them.”

A moment of phoniness occurs in our souls whenever we pursue a sense of moral or spiritual superiority, what we have always called pride. Much of New Age spirituality is little more than a condescending dismissal of the meaning of God’s direct involvement in the drama of human history, particularly that of the Catholic Church, or any religious experience that values humility. In Medjugorje we see textbook New Age interpretations of religious experience, such as when the vision proclaims that “all religions are equal before God. In God there are no divisions or religions. It is you in the world who have created divisions.” The seers are not on record — they prefer to hand out press statements than answer questions — explaining how pro-abortion cultic pseudo-religions are “just like” the Catholic religion, which we know not only defends vulnerable life but developed veneration of Mary in the first place.

In a later exchange, the vision parroted common Protestant prejudices claiming that “Jesus prefers that you address your petitions directly to him, rather than through an intermediary.” Not to be outdone by end-of-the-world prophets, the vision once arranged a guest appearance by Satan and authenticated as true the seer’s question regarding an anecdote reported by one of the town’s wandering lost souls who claimed he was given a bloody handkerchief by Jesus and told to throw it in the river. Had he not done so, the vision said, the world would have ended. As early as 1983 the vision was losing patience with Bishop Zanic’s prudent reservations when the vision said, “Tell the Father Bishop [Zanic] that I request his urgent conversion to the events of the Medjugorje parish. I am sending him the penultimate warning. If he is not converted, or will not be converted, my judgment as well as that of my Son Jesus will strike him.”

I am skeptical of claims that Cardinal Schönborn is enthusiastic about events at Medjugorje given the history of proponents’ repeated claims, repeatedly denied by the Vatican, that Pope John Paul II approved pilgrimages. Regardless, let’s not lose sight of the fact that only God can judge the interior fruit of a soul’s conversion. As to medical miracles, none have been authenticated, but cases of blindness from staring at the sun, wanting it to spin, have been. (I bear a minor cross whenever my neighbor shows me her still photograph of the sun at Medjugorje, which to her is clearly spinning.)

In his advocacy, Hurd Baruch trivializes the Bishop’s authority by quoting Archbishop Tarcisio Ber­tone’s May 26, 1998, letter, which actually forbade official, organized pilgrimages, and then using the word “opinion” in a secondary point describing the Bishop’s position. This has been used as a pretext to mean false, as though because Bishop Peric holds the “opinion” that Jesus rose from the dead, it can’t be true. The complete letter — easily found on the Internet — actually affirmed the authority of the Bishop’s judgment.

Authentic faith would at least consider the pride involved in even wanting a Rosary to turn to gold or in visionaries organizing groups, for a fee, to touch the veil or hand of a visionary. If we cannot remove ourselves from a disinformation campaign with personal animus toward the authority of local bishops, or ignore the authority of Jesus when He said, “It is an evil generation that looks for a sign,” we can at least have sufficient regard for protecting the honor of our Mother.

Edward J. Baker

Fresh Meadows, New York

Why Jesus Ordained Only Men

Joseph Scaffidi (letter, Oct.) writes that “the Church’s position on only male priests is based on the assumption that Jesus called only male disciples,” and he makes a point that Jesus also had female disciples. Of course Jesus also had female disciples, but the only people He ordained were males. Thus it is often said that only males can be priests because Jesus ordained only males.

I submit that a more fundamental statement might be somewhat the reverse, that Jesus only ordained males because only males can be priests.

In celebrating the Eucharist, the priest acts in persona Christi, in the person of a groom, the Spouse of Holy Mother Church, which is the Bride of Christ (cf. Eph. 5:25-32). The Church is feminine, an aspect that will be emphasized in the revised translation of the Eucharistic Prayers (replacing “it” with “she” or “her” when referring to the Church). A good example of the necessity for a male priest is the image of Christ as the Lamb of God, prefigured by the Hebrew paschal lamb, chosen from among the males. Just before Communion, the Mass emphasizes the marital relationship between Jesus and His Church by recalling the passage in Revelations (19:7-9) in which the Lamb’s Bride is decked out in her wedding garment, and that “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” The celebrant, acting in persona Agni, has to be male.

Francis J. Slama

Montgomery, Illinois

Three Marys

In his letter alleging a “chauvinistic” Catholic Church (Oct.), Joseph Scaffidi uses Mark 14:9 in support of his erroneous argument that Mary Magdalene (a.k.a. Mary of Mag­dala) anointed Jesus. She might have intended to anoint our Lord when she went to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday, but there is nothing to support the claim that the woman who performed the anointing of Christ’s feet in Bethany was Mary Magdalene. One can also wonder why John, who obviously knew who Mary of Magdala was (see Jn. 15:40; 16:1), wouldn’t have identified her in chapter 14.

The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish three persons:

– the “sinner” in Luke 7:36-50;

– the sister of Martha and Lazarus in Luke 10:38-42 and John 11-12; and

– Mary Magdalene.

The woman who anointed our Lord might have been Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, who were all from Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. Luke 10:39 does place Mary at the feet of Jesus, but for instruction not anointing. John 12:1-3 seems to indicate that it was she.

Scaffidi also claims the Church knows Mary Magdalene “as a prostitute.” Can he, or anyone, show me where in Scripture that is supported?

Given that Magdala is in Galilee, Mary Magdalene — definitely a disciple of Christ — might have followed Him from there. For sure, she followed Him to the foot of the cross and was ready to anoint Him after His death, but there is no evidence she anointed His feet in Bethany.

Marty Martins

San Diego, California

Traditional Catholic Resources

I want to thank you for keeping me on your Scholarship Fund subscription list these past several years. The NOR has made a huge impact on my formation, and I shudder to think where I’d be without your influence. After all this time, your magazine still brings sustenance to those of us in prison, as the ravens fed Elijah. Please accept the pittance I offer, in the spirit of fraternal charity. You are in my prayers.

I would like to draw the attention of your readership to the struggles of a publisher who, like the NOR, makes a living by purveying traditional and orthodox Catholic reading materials. This company has recently undergone a painful but necessary restructuring. Like your own efforts, TAN Books & Publishers has brought the pure waters of traditional Catholicism to inmates and many others for many years.

Why not buy a few Christmas gifts from TAN Books’ list of titles? Please help spread the word about this great resource for orthodoxy in our struggles against modernism, neo-paganism, and all other deviations from the truth and life of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.

Patrick Seaton

San Luis Obispo, California

You May Also Enjoy

In Turkey, the Church Officially Does Not Exist

Why did Murat Altun, after murdering a prominent archbishop, shout "Allah Akbar!" (God is great!) and boast of having killed "the great Satan"?

The 'Hard Sayings' Line

What could be less fashionable, less trendy -- or more shocking -- than wearing an NOR T-shirt bearing a weighty Scripture saying?

What Is Happiness?

Spitzer's genius lies in showing, in so many ways, the links between one's chosen "level of happiness" and one's view of the contentious life issues.