We enjoyed Patrick Madrid’s article tremendously (“Discovering the Catholic Church’s Eastern Rite,” Oct.). Words cannot express the joys and blessings we’ve found at St. Anne Byzantine Catholic Church in San Luis Obispo, where 92 percent of the members are, like us, Catholics of the Roman Rite. The Divine Liturgy is simply heavenly, the pastor is faithful to the Magisterium, and the parish is Catholic to the core.
It is indeed wise and of great spiritual value for Catholics who are fed up with the balloons, clowns, and gender-bender lingo in their parishes to seek a spiritual home in an Eastern Catholic Church.
Liberals won’t tell you that these Eastern Catholic Churches exist, for fear that you will discover the reverence, beauty, and orthodoxy of these Churches and therefore abandon the idiotic nonsense at the local liberal so-called Catholic “community.”
Mr. & Mrs. Constantino Santos
Dept. of Government
Don't Go East
I understand Patrick Madrid’s euphoria over finding an inspiring place for worship, as expressed in his article, “Discovering the Catholic Church’s Eastern Rite” (Oct.), and I don’t doubt the beauty and validity of the Eastern rites. Yet he’s not being completely honest about his situation, and his characterization of those of us who attend an indult Tridentine Mass is unfair.
Madrid says he’s just visiting an Eastern rite while the Church straightens out the situation in the Roman Rite, whose liturgical renewal, he says, “has done far more damage to the average Catholic parish than the eighth-century iconoclasts ever did in their heyday” (I couldn’t agree more). So why reject the Tridentine Mass and blast those of us who attend it? His reason seems to be that he doesn’t like the people who attend it. But judging what kind of people go to a certain kind of Mass is a very subjective thing.
I don’t know why we who attend the Tridentine Mass are often called “elitist snobs,” as Madrid labels us. My husband and I have found the Tridentine Mass community very welcoming and accepting of our five rambunctious children. We have made many more friends at this Mass than at any Novus Ordo Mass, where the importance of “community” is constantly expounded upon.
Madrid also accuses us of “stultifying anger,” but I’ve noticed more of that among those Catholics who are fighting all the abuses in their Novus Ordo parishes.
One reason why Eastern rites may be more acceptable to some people is that nowadays the sacred rites and beliefs that are not of the West — be they Buddhist, animist, or whatever — are in favor whereas the sacred rites of the West are considered suspect. We traditionalists enjoy our “smells and bells” at the risk of being labeled “elitist snobs,” while those who attend an Eastern rite are considered open-minded because of their exploration of other cultures. But the fact remains that we both want the same things — tradition, reverence, beauty, and the sense of the sacred.
Madrid also suggests that we have “pre-Vatican II” sensibilities. I’m not exactly sure what he means, but surely Madrid has such sensibilities just as much as we do. He attends a Mass that has not been, in his words, “jigged and poked…into an intensely bland experience.” Why was his Mass spared? The answer is simple: It was not touched by Vatican II. The Eastern rites have preserved their venerable forms, and Madrid can attend one without being seen to have a pre-Vatican II agenda. He can be postconciliar and pre-Vatican II at the same time. How convenient! But he should think about how he would feel if his ancient rite were suddenly changed by a committee of “liturgical experts.” He would have to ask himself if the Mass he attended for so many years was deficient. If the answer is “no,” and if he missed the feel of the venerable and the sacred, he would find himself in the position of being a “reactionary” obstructing the reforms of the committee. This is the position we traditionalists are in. Or if he felt that he had to side with the committee, he would have to demonize the past in order to rationalize the changes, which is the stance of the liberals. But Madrid doesn’t have to worry about such a choice, because the Eastern rites weren’t tampered with by Vatican II.
So he should not brand us traditionalists as “elitists” for making an honest but unfashionable choice. Moreover, Madrid and I are not Easterners. We are Westerners, and there is a Western rite which is also time-tested, sacred, and beautiful. The Tridentine Mass has nourished the saints, and many have been martyred for it. Let’s stand up for our own tradition!
El Cerrito, California
A National Cathedral?
Congratulations to Lawrence Petrus for his excellent column, “Is the Washington Cathedral Really ‘Our Nation’s Cathedral’?” (Oct.). The whole idea of a national cathedral seems a contradiction in terms, for is God really all that concerned with a particular nation? The nation-state as we know it has only existed for a few hundred years at best, and I presume that God, who got along without it in the past, can do so now. I would think that He is more interested in how we behave than in where we happen to have been born.
Prof. A. James McAdams
Notre Dame, Indiana
Obey? No Way!
Having endured the Catholic Church’s Gestapo tactics for trivial offenses and having read several issues of the NOR, I’m more glad than ever that I left the Church, which you present in its obey-or-else form.
I’ve rejected the Magisterium, and belong to another church. I won’t watch that Mother Angelica on television, and won’t call any priest “Father” (see Mt. 23:9). While I like bishops such as Gumbleton and Weakland, I hate Ratzinger, that Hitler-clone.
I’ll never again say a Rosary, and I won’t attend any Catholic funerals. I won’t read any works by devout Catholics — I’ll only read the novels of Andrew Greeley.
Edward D. Ramsberger
Mary Raper's Questions On Tradition & Mary As Co-Redemptrix
Regarding the letter by Mary Raper (Nov.): I am curious as to who is telling her that the Catholic Church “regards the Bible as a secondary matter and Tradition as primary.” It certainly is not the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that “both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (#82, italics added).
Coming from a staunchly anti-Catholic background, I learned a simple lesson as I began to study Catholicism: Let the Catholic Church speak for herself. There are many who will happily speak for her, often incorrectly and often with bad intentions. Careful study of Church documents, which are readily available, will provide a much clearer picture than the vague and misleading rumors that constantly seek to attach themselves to the Church.
Carl E. Olson
To Mary Raper: A hearty “Welcome back” to the Catholic Church! I will do my best to address the questions you raised about Tradition and the possibility of Mary being declared “Co-Redemptrix.”
The Church uses the term “Tradition” not, as a culture like ours so often does, to mean some holdover from the past, embalmed, obsolete, and potentially oppressive. For the Church, Tradition is a living reality, the heritage of the Holy Spirit’s past teaching ministry in the Church, perennially alive and assisting the Church in dealing with her present and working out her future. Tradition in this sense is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that, after His Ascension, the Holy Spirit would lead His Church into all truth (Jn. 16:12-13). The Church quite accurately infers that the fount of authoritative teaching on matters of faith and morals is to be located in the Church, not in a book, not even in the Bible. Now, from this it would be incorrect to infer that the Catholic Church “regards the Bible as a secondary matter and Tradition as primary,” as you put it. The Bible is indeed God’s fully authoritative message to fallen man. But every message needs an interpreter. In fact, in a very real sense any profound message cannot even be a message without an interpreter. For without an interpreter, the contents of the message will remain obscure. The Bible is the text of the message, but the Church, uniquely among all institutions, has the God-given authority to be the interpreter of the message.
Confusion and incoherence would ensue, not only if there were no interpreter of the message, but also if there were a multitude of conflicting interpretations, with no criteria for choosing those that are authoritative. The Church’s teaching voice, expressed in the official doctrinal pronouncements of popes and councils with an authority inherited from the Apostles, constitutes the one completely valid interpretation of what the Bible says on matters of faith and morals.
One of the most serious errors of the Protestant Reformation was its denial of the authority of the Church’s magisterial voice, on the well-intended but ultimately misguided grounds of “getting back to the Bible.” Deny the Church’s magisterial authority, and you will have as many Bibles as there are private and idiosyncratic interpreters, and then the Bible becomes a source of division rather than a focus of unity.
The term “Tradition” pertains not only to Church interpretation of Scripture, but also to those teachings that are not found in Scripture, such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. It is these “extra-biblical” doctrines of the Church that Protestants most often find objectionable. The reason for the Protestant objection lies in the view that the Bible is the source of teaching on matters of faith and morals, to which the Church is properly subject. The Protestant objection involves circular reasoning: The Church is subject to the message of Scripture, but this message cannot be known until the Church has interpreted it — yet this interpretation must itself be subject to Scripture. Round and round we go. No wonder there are some 28,000 Protestant denominations!
Aside from the circularity of the reasoning, there are historical facts that argue compellingly against the exclusive authority of Scripture. First, canonicity. For several centuries after Christ, the Church had no universally agreed-upon canon. There was not much doubt as to the canonicity of the Old Testament books, but the New Testament was another matter. Different regions accepted different books as canonical: the Shepherd of Hermas, the Gospel of Peter, (perhaps) the Gospel of Thomas, the Didache, the book of Enoch, and others. Only by the late fourth century did there begin to be general agreement as to the canonicity of the present 27 books of the New Testament (and even as late as the middle of the 16th century Luther entertained doubts about the canonicity of the Book of James because of St. James’s rejection of sola fide). If we are to view the Bible as the ultimate arbiter of doctrinal matters, it is legitimate to ask, which Bible enjoyed that authority: The Bible that incorporated the Shepherd of Hermas but not the Epistle of St. James? The Bible that included all the Gospels but additionally the Didache? The point is that until such issues of canonicity were settled, the Church had to have some source of authoritative teaching that transcended differences as to canon. Where was it? The Catholic answer is that the Church herself, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, was the source.
Second, consider the historical availability of the Bible. Even after canonical disputes and differences had been reconciled, there remained the fact that neither Testament was universally and reliably available to all faith communities. Today we are surfeited with versions of the Bible, and we live in an era of near-universal literacy. Such was not the case for most of Church history. The classical Protestant position glosses over these difficulties. If you are going to make the written Word of God the sole authority for the faithful, then you had best make certain that that document is widely available, and that people can read it once they acquire it. But Bibles would not be available with near universality until well into the 18th century, and widespread literacy is of a much later date still. So, did Christians lack a moral and doctrinal compass for most of history? Impossible!
The answer of the Catholic Church is that the Church herself, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, was the source of that guidance. But if the Bible is not the sole and exclusive source of teaching, then the likelihood exists that not all teachings and beliefs current in the Church are written down in Scripture. If for most of her history the Church has been taught as much by the Holy Spirit as by the explicitly written Word, then there is no guarantee that the contents of the Word exhaust the inspiration of the Spirit. There may be beliefs that gained currency in the Church that result from the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Church has not accepted uncritically every doctrinal “wanna-be,” even very powerful contenders. As an example of a doctrine rejected, take Arianism. In the fourth century, one-third of all Christian bishops, and the Roman Imperial court, embraced Arianism. It took a century of debate and two ecumenical councils finally to reject the heresy authoritatively. As an example of a doctrine accepted, take the Immaculate Conception. Widely believed in the Church for many centuries, it was famously debated by Duns Scotus and Henry of Ghent in about 1300, came into general acceptance by the 16th century, and was only declared official dogma in 1854.
Catholics recognize that the Holy Spirit operates through the interpretive ministry of the Church. The leadership of the Church, in the exercise of its apostolic authority, must discern and distinguish movements of the Spirit from movements of human impetuosity and misguided piety. The New Testament itself proclaims the Church, not the Bible, as “the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
Finally, a word or two about Mary. What will happen with regard to the project to proclaim Mary as “Co-Redemptrix” with Christ I have no idea. The theological implications of such a teaching could not be unfolded until we read the text of any eventual proclamation; only then could we possibly interpret all that was involved in the title of “Co-Redemptrix.” So lacking that still-hypothetical document, any speculation would be sterile at best and irresponsible at worst. But I would like to comment on the issue you raise about Christ as the unique Mediator. There is in the Church a technical theological term, “subordinate mediation.” Suppose I am diagnosed with cancer, and all that can save my life is some form of radical surgery. I call you and say, “I am terrified! Please pray for me!” You set aside a time each day to pray for my peace of mind and body. You are, in a sense, my mediator, in that you intercede for me with God. This is an example of what the Church calls subordinate mediation. It is in this sense that, for example, the saints in Heaven are my mediators. The term “subordinate mediation” of course invites the question, “Subordinate to what?” The answer is that all acts of subordinate mediation are subordinate precisely because they all presuppose the efficacy of Jesus Christ’s one and unique act of primal and primary Mediation. So Jesus is the one, absolutely unique “Mediator-with-an-upper-case-M.” For without His sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection, man would still be alienated from God, and all prayers, all acts of subordinate mediation, would be utterly futile.
James R. Cowles
What is “the pillar and foundation of truth”? Most Protestants would respond, “The Bible, of course.” Well, that is not what the Bible tells us. St. Paul says that the Church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
How do we know that the books in the Bible constitute the Holy Scriptures? We know because the Church tells us so (and did so initially, when she defined the canon). We believe the Church because Christ protects her with a promise, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). He helps to actualize His promise with a visible sign of His presence through His Vicar, St. Peter (Mt. 16:18-19).
The Church teaches that the fullness of truth resides in the Holy Scriptures, Tradition, and the Magisterium (see Catechism, #95). Why do I believe in the Trinity? The Bible does not explicitly teach this central theological tenet. Why do I believe that abortion is wrong? While the Bible does teach that murder is wrong, it does not tie in this teaching with life commencing at conception. Where does the Bible say that artificial birth control is wrong? Other than the story of Onan in Genesis 38, we have no definitive passages to turn to. Yet Luther held that artificial birth control was equivalent to sodomy; Calvin held that it was akin to murder! Clearly, even these staunch Protestants held to Tradition and to authoritative Church teaching in these cases.
Tradition and the Magisterium enable our understanding of the fullness of truth. Without them, we could easily lose sight of the proper interpretation of Scripture. (Witness the various modern attacks on the faith issues mentioned above: Some purportedly Christian churches teach that both birth control and abortion are acceptable.)
I am not a theologian or apologist but, regarding Mary’s role as mediatrix, I place it within the context of the communion of saints. Among the saints in heaven, Mary holds a special place of honor as the Mother of God. As for the title of Co-Redemptrix, I, for one, anxiously await the Church’s clarification on this matter. But we must remember two things: God will protect His people from false teaching, and all “new” teaching must be compatible with Church Tradition and Scriptures. When the Church does speak on the subject, she will accurately define the teaching to avoid any real confusion.
Concerning Mary as Co-Redemptrix: By their sufferings, Catholics can be “co-redeemers,” which is the meaning of St. Paul’s statement: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the Church” (Col. 1:24). Christ’s Mystical Body continues His redemptive action. Because Mary was “full of grace,” her sufferings have a redemptive quality far above the rest of us.
Having left Christian Science (the religion in which I was reared) at age 15, and knocked about as an agnostic for a decade, I “accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior” at the behest of a preacher on television. Sure that solitary Christianity would be a spiritual dead-end, I began to search for a community in which my newfound faith could take hold. I found myself faced with a smorgasbord of over 30 denominations in just my local rural area. How was I to choose without falling into another false church?
A Fundamentalist would advise, “Search out the Holy Scriptures. The church that teaches the Word of God as found in the Bible will be the right church.” Well, as a Christian Scientist, I had been taught from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ was not God (“Why callest thou me good? There is none good but God”), that sin and death are not real (“The maid is not dead, but sleepeth”), and much else that I now believed to be patently false. Where was the church that could interpret the Word of God correctly?
I was, thank God, led ultimately to the Catholic Church, which traces her interpretation back to Christ Himself through the Tradition that commenced with His Apostles, the first bishops. This is Holy Tradition, not human tradition, and in it my new faith found its home. After more than 20 years of happy Catholicity, I remain profoundly grateful to the ancient Church Fathers, like Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and others, for showing me that many of the “later additions” with which the Church is often charged were accepted as truth during the first and second centuries. In an attempt to “return to the purity of the early Church,” many Protestant groups have actually departed from it and have, in the process, lost great treasures.
The Church does not view the Bible as a “secondary matter.” She does, however, view the Holy Tradition she has received and maintained to be of equal importance. The Holy Bible did not materialize on a coffee table in the upper room at the Last Supper. The canon of Holy Scripture was the product of centuries of reflection and debate, guided by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is a product of the Church, not the Church a product of the Bible.
As to the question of Mary’s being declared “Co-Redemptrix” (leaving aside the Vatican’s denial of any plan to do this), is this such a major difficulty? There is only one Redeemer, Jesus Christ. But since all members of the Church are members of His one Body, we share in His redemptive mission. That is why Christians pray for one another; we are able to intercede through His intercession for us. Likewise, the Church has always recognized the value of sufferings lovingly accepted in union with Christ’s sufferings for the salvation of others. If this can be said of such hit-and-miss Christians as ourselves, how much more can it be said of Mary, whose every breath was a paean of glory to God?
Regarding Mary’s role in the economy of salvation: It looks as though our present Holy Father has, for now, decided against the formal definition and promulgation of Our Lady’s status as Co-Redemptrix. In any event, such a title could not denote equal status with her divine Son. Inasmuch as she participated in the Incarnation by her submission to the Father’s will, by conceiving and bearing the God-Man and by sharing in the agony of Christ’s sufferings on Calvary, she may be called “Co-Redemptrix,” provided that the term is understood not to imply any intrinsic merits on her part independent of Christ (Lumen Gentium, ch. VIII; Catechism #970). As for Christ’s unique Mediatorship (1 Tim. 2:5), it is by virtue of His hypostatic union of human and divine natures that He mediates God’s grace to mankind, but just as the sacraments are celebrated by priests who mediate through Christ’s delegation of authority to them, so Christ can and does choose certain men and women, principally His own mother, to be secondary mediators under Himself. (It is also His mother from whom He received His human nature through which, in conjunction with His divine nature, He mediates.) This in no way compromises His perfect Mediatorship. In fact, it demonstrates it.
There is no validity to the theology of the title “Mary Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate for the People of God,” put forth to Pope John Paul II by its proponents. Tragically, this new Marian dogma would move Catholic theology and devotion further away from the truth of Holy Scripture. The Bible never suggests that Mary should be honored with unbiblical titles, that she augmented the atonement, or that she functions in the role of mediator.
As for Tradition in the Catholic Church: Mary’s Immaculate Conception was only accepted as dogma in 1854 and the Assumption in 1950, hardly comparable to the 2,000-year-old writings of the New Testament.
Talk about the delusion of the Latter Days! If these Marian dogmatists have their way and convince this Pope to bestow these unbiblical titles on the Virgin Mary, there will be a great schism in the Catholic Church between the scriptural, “born-again” Catholic believers and Mary cultists.
Being a “cradle Catholic” and “born again” in 1975, I find it disheartening that Catholics are generally so scripturally illiterate. Many seem to be always searching for the false security of a teaching, while never grasping the knowledge contained in the Word of God — with understanding given to each by the Holy Spirit who wrote it.
Mary E. Traeger
Mary Raper says she has “returned to the Catholic Church.” Still, like a good Protestant, she protests that “declaring Mary as Co-Redemptrix sounds like idolatry.”
Was the Virgin standing at the foot of the Cross? Did Simeon’s sword of sorrow pierce her heart? Did she join her intense suffering and anguish to that of her Redeemer and for the same purpose? Did Christ redeem us by using a most sacred instrument, His pierced and bleeding Body? And where and how did He get this Body? Where was the Word made flesh — on a distant star?
Christ knew that on the first Good Friday His mother would share with Him that love that redeemed us. She co-operated fully with that love as an Accomplice and Conspirator. A co-operator, accomplice, and conspirator in murder is truly a co-murderer even though, as a subordinate, he did not pull the trigger. In the same logical manner Mary is truly Co-Redemptrix.
Raper is amazed “to keep hearing that the Catholic Church regards the Bible as a secondary matter and Tradition as primary.” From some hyperventilating televangelist?
She should read Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, which has been around for 32 years. Just one little quotation: “This Sacred Tradition, then, and the Sacred Scripture of both Testaments, are like a mirror in which the Church…contemplates God” (#8). A mirror is a mirror is a mirror. There’s nothing primary or secondary about it.
The Council of Trent (1545-1563) has been around a bit longer than Vatican II. It declared that we should receive both sources of Divine Revelation (Bible and Tradition) with equal love and reverence (pari pietatis affectu et reverentia). Does “equal” mean “secondary”?
The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes Tradition as “the authentic speaking of the Spirit in the Apostolic witness of the New Testament writings.” It states: “the Christian Church
…possessed also its tradition of memory about Jesus Christ. This tradition lies behind and is presupposed throughout the New Testament.” Further: “Awareness of this tradition is necessary [and] helps to explain why certain books were selected as canonical….” It states that in fourth-century Christianity there were 27 fake gospels, 10 spurious Acts, eight phony epistles, and about 12 counterfeit apocalyptic writings that mimicked St. John’s Apocalypse. These pious frauds were tossed out. How and when?
· In 367 St. Athanasius, in his 39th Festal Letter, gave the inspired New Testament list which we accept today.
· In 382 a synod in Rome under Pope Damasus confirmed this list.
· Three councils held in Hippo (393) and in Carthage (393 and 419) under the guidance of St. Augustine embraced the same canonical books approved subsequently by Pope Boniface.
Raper quotes 1 Tim. 2:5: “there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.” Indeed, but were not Athanasius, Augustine, and Popes Damasus and Boniface mediators in giving us the true Gospels?
Does Christ contradict St. Paul by telling the Apostles to be His mediators in evangelizing and baptizing (Mt. 28:19) and in forgiving sin (Jn. 20:23)?
I wish Mary Raper well and will remember her to our Eucharistic Lord in my Masses.
Fr. Ralph Federico
The title of Mary as Co-Redemptrix is not a new one, although it is easily misunderstood. The question currently facing the Church is whether to elevate this teaching to a dogma (as was done with the Immaculate Conception and Assumption). The confusion is a matter of translation. We think of “co-” as meaning equal. But the prefix “co-” comes from the Latin cum, which means “with,” and implies a subsidiary relationship. Thus the co-pilot is not the equal of the pilot.
My grandmother had a tender devotion to Our Lady — or Our Blessed Mother, as she always called her. She was not ashamed to have a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes in her house where everyone, even her mostly Protestant friends, could see it. When she was deathly sick, she told me what had happened on the morning of her operation. The operation had been delayed, but no one bothered to tell her. As time passed, she became more and more worried and upset. Finally, she heard a voice saying to her, “Don’t worry. Whether you live or die, everything will be alright.” And she said that then she felt peace — which, I can attest, never left her. She told me who had spoken these words: “It was Our Blessed Mother.””
Thereafter I said the Stabat Mater every night, that she might die a happy death and not linger and suffer. She died soon, on my birthday, May 18, in Our Lady’s month -— which I took as signs that Mary had indeed interceded. I have often felt Mary’s love. I know that it is here, enfolding the whole world, a Mother’s care and love.
Robert E. Williams
Mary’s special co-operation with the work of redemption entitles her to the title Co-Redemptrix. However, this can be easily misunderstood, which is why I think the Holy See has stepped away from officially declaring her Co-Redemptrix. The title could lead people to give her total equality with Christ, which is simply not true. Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium calls her Advocate, Mediatrix, Helper, and Benefactress.
Harold B. McKale III
Mary Raper worries about “idolatry” in regard to St. Mary, but that word should never be uttered in the same breath with Mary. In all her roles and private revelations, the Blessed Virgin has always and only pointed to her Son. God blessed her as no mere mortal has been or ever will be blessed (see Lk. 1:48-49). Catholics venerate Mary, but worship her Son.
You May Also Enjoy
Reviews of The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, and Methods... Bonaventure: Mystical Writings... Solanus Casey: The Official Account of a Virtuous American Life
Our Lady lamented to St. Catherine Labouré that abundant graces are not fully dispensed because they are seldom sought in prayer.
"The morality of Catholics all too often sinks below the standards commonly observed by Protestants and unbelievers."