Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: January 2003

January 2003

Christ: Clown or King?

It was edifying to read the supportive letters in response to Dan McCullough’s letter (Jul.-Aug.) about his being annoyed by those chatty folks in church. But allow me to suggest what I think is the only real solution to the problem: Bring back the Communion rails for kneeling to receive the Body and Blood! Disbelief and its corollary, lack of reverence for the Real Presence, are at the center of our clown culture — i.e., happy, chatty folks who put cuteness above all else.

Disbelief in the Real Presence? — the liberals will ask. Isn’t Christ really present when we gather together in His name? Isn’t Christ really present during the reading of Scripture? Well yes, but the doctrine of the Real Presence has been so mutilated by this ubiquitousness that, well, why bother to kneel or genuflect in His physical presence? After all, Christ is really present in all of us.

And the U.S. bishops just issued a statement to the effect that there would be no more kneeling to receive Communion! Unless we return to those dispositions of heart that treat Christ as our King — i.e., kneeling to receive Him — the clown antics in church will only get worse. Pray for the bishops and offer sacrifice. They are out there in La-La Land and don’t want to come home.

Michael Fiorillo

Marist Community

Schenectady, New York

The Traditional Latin Mass Is the Answer

I would like to comment on the recent letters prompted by Dan McCullough’s letter (Jul.-Aug.) about the noise and confusion seen at Mass these days. I find myself wondering why the many people who complain about the noise level continue to tolerate it. I do not mean to suggest that discussing the matter with the pastor is going to get you anywhere, although it’s worth attempting. I simply do not believe that the problem is ever going to be fixed in the context of the New Mass (NM). In order to have people observe some level of reverence at Mass, the Mass itself must command reverence. The NM simply doesn’t. I have come to realize that the problems people complain about — and that I used to complain about — are never going to go away. The NM itself is the problem.

I now attend the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), as permitted by Bishop Wuerl of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. After going to the TLM, I never looked back. At the TLM there are no clowns, no guitars, no dancing girls, no armies of laity at the altar, no Baptisms during Mass, no ad-libbing the text by the priest, no short pants or halter tops, no hand-shaking, no altar girls, no handholding at the Our Father. Also, the church is quiet before, during, and after Mass, the Eucharist must be received on the tongue while kneeling, the choir is in the loft (or at least in back of the church), the rubrics are followed strictly, the sermons are substantive with regard to magisterial teaching, and the Mass has a strong element of mystery and reverence because of the Latin language and the silent Canon. All this is true every Sunday.

There is another, more subtle aspect of the TLM I’ve noticed: respect for the priest and the priesthood. When I went to the NM, I wondered why anyone would ever want to be a priest. Gobs of laity were running around on the altar doing the work, and since the Real Presence was apparently not considered important — given that no priests ever mentioned it — the unique power of Transubstantiation given to the priest was (probably) lost on most people. At the TLM, the opposite is true. The priest’s powers of Transubstantiation are admired and respected. No wonder traditional seminaries are packed to the gills.

The solution to the problems voiced in the NOR by distraught and disgusted Catholics is the TLM. I appeal to those Catholics to find a TLM. If you can’t find one, petition your bishop to permit one. It will add years to your life by subtracting out years of aggravation. The NM will not get any better, at least not in our lifetime. Even if it comes to be said properly and respectfully, why would I want the NM when the TLM is so much better in every respect? The NM is unnecessary in the first place. Fifteen hundred years of martyrs, saints, and popes can’t be wrong.

Bernie Hete

Trafford, Pennsylvania

A Desperate Attempt To Hold On to Power

I wish to thank you for the article by Michael Torre in the October 2002 issue (“The Dismissal of John Galten & the Demise of the Saint Ignatius Institute”). It is an example of the best sort of writing: It inspires anger at injustice and prevarication, and yet also inspires hope for the future, and an admiration for the Catholic fighting spirit of present-day heroes such as Fr. Joseph Fessio and John Galten.

My only difference with the article has to do with Torre’s statement that “the liberal theologians at the University could have just decided to ‘live and let live.'” As one who came of age under the reign — and the reins — of the liberal Catholic establishment (I graduated from the Jesuit-run Loyola Marymount University in 1989), I am well acquainted with the mindset of liberal theologians. And, no, I don’t think they could have decided to tolerate orthodox Catholicism. Toleration is the way liberals “talk,” not how they “walk,” especially when it comes to orthodox Catholics under their authority. When there is a vibrant orthodox Catholic community, it is, by its very existence, a threat to the liberal establishment. As one whose youth is not that far gone, I have observed from experience that young people are innately attracted to orthodoxy. When a group of orthodox Catholics is practicing the full Catholic faith in all its uncorrupted truth and beauty, young people take note and are attracted. I remember well the difference between professors who really invited the class to think and others who seemed threatened by any expression of disagreement. Liberal theologians tend to fall into the latter category and, over time, students sense that and react to it by “voting with their feet.”

So, I don’t think the liberal establishment really had the option of leaving the St. Ignatius Institute (SII) alone. Lord love their souls (and graying heads): They really believe that the “youth culture” of the 1960s can and must be passed on to today’s younger generation. When they saw the success and vibrancy of the SII, they had to shut it down, as a means to their survival. It is very similar to the persecution of orthodox orders such as Opus Dei or the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, orthodox schools such as Thomas Aquinas College, and orthodox businesses such as St. Joseph Communications in West Covina, Calif., by liberal administrators and prelates. If a group of orthodox Catholics is formed, they may grudgingly tolerate its existence, but if it succeeds and grows, it becomes a threat that must be stopped. And so, when they can, they move in for the kill.

The powerful autocrats of the gray guard of liberal Catholicism are fooling fewer and fewer people. As historians have called the Ottoman Empire the “sick old man of Europe,” we might justly refer to the liberal Catholic establishment as “the sick old man of Catholicism in America.” While they still hold the reigns of power in many dioceses and universities, and while they still receive generous donations from rich anti-Catholic groups such as the Ford Foundation, liberal Catholics are dying out, literally. The younger generation of Catholics sees through their perpetual rebellion (we should know, they taught it to us) against God-given authority. And while the corrupt liberal establishment still holds much of the power and money in the Church, it is increasingly losing the respect of younger Catholics.

Meanwhile, John Galten and Fr. Fessio continue their great work, and attract young Catholics in droves, as do all the strict and traditional religious orders that have refused to capitulate to the times. The graying liberals still strut, but liberalism in the Church is uttering its dying gasps, even as it seems to be at the height of its power. Corrupt liberal ideology was at the root of the sexual scandals; it has also been the basic cause of many departures from religious vows, and many destructions of beautiful church buildings (in favor of soulless, neo-Puritan “worship spaces”), and banal, tasteless “soft rock” liturgical music. But every victory it has achieved is eventually a cause of its demise. Every time liberalism succeeds in destroying something orthodox, more and more people see it for what it is and are repelled by it. Something similar happened with the Arian heresy many centuries ago: It almost triumphed before it was finally and definitively defeated. In the same way, the liberal Catholic establishment will not hold on to its power forever. It has already begun to crumble. Torre’s article was an excellent exposé that speaks volumes on the true state of the liberal establishment in the Church, and its desperate attempts to hold on to power.

Communism in Eastern Europe seemed like it was never going to go away, and yet good people banded together and refused to be cowed by the powers that be, and soon said powers lost their power. The same can and will take place (indeed already is taking place) among the faithful of the Church in America. Orthodox Catholics — especially many born during and after the Second Vatican Council — are standing up and fighting for the Faith like never before. In the end, after all the smoke and lies (“the smoke of Satan within the Church,” as Pope Paul VI put it) have been exposed, the true Faith will triumph, with the Rock at its foundation.

Until then, as Patrick Henry once said: “We must fight! I say it again, sir, we must fight!”

Larry A. Carstens

Castaic, California

Led Astray

There can be little doubt that Anne Barbeau Gardiner has proved conclusively that many statements in Adrienne von Speyr’s book The Passion from Within seriously conflict with Catholic teaching, and that Fr. Jacques Servais’s attempt to defend those statements was a total failure (NOR, Sept.).

Hans Urs von Balthasar and von Speyr were the closest of friends, so it is reasonable to discount his extravagant approval of the value of her writings. Balthasar had some famous predecessors who, like him, were led astray by “enlightened” women. One was Tertullian, who was led to accept the heresy of Montanism by the outpourings of the prophetesses Priscilla and Maximilla. Another was Fénelon, Archbishop of Cambrai, who was a friend of Madame Guyon and was attracted to her teaching, and who defended much of her Quietist mysticism. Fénelon was refuted by Bossuet, the Bishop of Meaux, and condemned by the Holy See in 1699.

G.H. Duggan, S.M.

Silverstream, New Zealand

Disordered and Defective

The Editor’s vigorous justification for using the word “fag” as a negative denotation asserting a social stigma says it all (Nov., pp. 6-7). Still, I’d like to offer a supplement to his etymology of the word.

By Act of Parliament (4 Edw. IV), clothes are required to be perfect, that is, without any difference in workmanship and without difference in material or weaving, etc. If, however, any such difference, referred to as a “fagge,” is joined or fitted to said clothing, a seal of lead is to be set, so the buyer knows what he’s getting. Thus “fag” appears to have been considered inferior material or workmanship.

Kalman I. Nulman

New York, New York

I Defiantly Protest

You attempt to justify your use of the word “fag” (Nov., pp. 6-7), but your efforts strike me as pedantic, pretentious, and ill thought-out.

In answer to the question, “Do you honestly think that calling men…’fags’ will attract them to…chastity?” you say, “Yes, we do.” Kicker #1 follows: “Flattering them by calling them ‘gays’ will not.” This assertion is trumped by Kicker #2: “We believe in social stigmas. ‘Fag’ has a negative denotation; to use the word is to assert a social stigma. Take homosexually-oriented priests who violate their vow of celibacy: They’re despicable. They need to be shamed…. Shaming people has a way of getting their attention and letting them know that they need to change their ways.”

Well now. “Fag” and “queer” don’t shame fags and queers; they use it freely, as African-Americans use “nigger.” Besides, fags are stigmatized already; anything you as fine orthodox Catholic cultural fixers have to say to them they’ve heard before. And if dirty names and shame could change them, they’d have gone straight after the first grade or so.

Please be very careful; should you “shame” somebody to “change their ways,” for God’s sake and yours, get the right guy; don’t call a straight California “joy boy” a “fag” because he will either kill you or make you wish he had.

I personally think prayer is a great method for changing minds, but it takes so long. Besides, .357 Magnums focus minds with remarkable clarity.

In 1984, I and the lady with me were assaulted and robbed. The assailants shot me as I tried to protect her. In 1993, at a diocesan conference, shortly after lunch and in broad daylight, a street gang jumped me from behind, a 15-year-old slammed a metal baseball bat into the back of my skull, grabbed my wallet, which had $30, and left me with traumatic brain damage and disability.

Now, remembering your discourse on “fag,” what term do you think best describes my assailants, in both cases? “Black” is both ambiguous — African black or Cuban black or Ethiopian black? — and no longer in fashion for the black community. It is effete. Now “street gang” has a mystique and the advantage of being neither racist nor offensive to “African-Americans,” a term which confers a touch of dignity. It gives members of our black communities a sense of historical and ancestral value. Perhaps these terms are also “effete.” What hath our decadent culture wrought?

Yet having seen my assailants up close and personal (in 1984) and having taught many like them in prison, I find none of the above terms adequate to capture my assailants’ character.

So back to your efforts with “fag” and “gay.” You say: “That our decadent culture insists on the word ‘gay’ indicates ipso facto that we have entered the final, effete period of the American Republic. To use the word ‘fag’ is to underline the point and defiantly protest our decline.”

To say “A black shot me,” or “an African-American bashed in my skull,” or that “ghetto/inner city youth damn near killed me twice” just doesn’t work. Effete. Sanitized. Politically correct. Media conspiracy.

Thus can I defiantly protest: Niggers shot me and crippled my right hand, and a goddamned nigger with a baseball bat left me in poverty and snared in the demonic Catch-22s of disability.

“Nigger” is a rich, full, remarkably definitive term. So is “fag” or “redneck” or “cracker” or “trailer park trash.”

So, NOR editors — so assured, so blessed with a righteousness of passionate intensity that allows you to hurl gutter terms when disciplined, thoughtful discourse fails — does “nigger” work for you? Wouldn’t you just love to “take it out of the closet”?

You surely must know that now that you have in print spelled out a theology of salvation/renewal through name-calling and shaming, you must follow through. Call Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Maxine Waters what they are — niggers of the first magnitude. No? Then the NOR is mere vanity.

When I scan your responses to letters and your New Oxford Notes, I’m amazed at your glib, breezy arrogance of style and tone. I wonder what asshole — a grand term, of cultural decadence, for shaming — allowed that cuteness to get by? This is a Catholic journal of thought and insight?

John Marion

Colonial Heights, Virginia

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