Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: January-February 1996

January-February 1996

"Gang of 40" Revisited

In his letter (Dec.) responding to your September editorial, Gordon Zahn claims that “only when [the Pope] exercises the power of infallibility is the matter closed to legitimate dissent.” According to Zahn’s antic ecclesiological principle, one would be perfectly justified in believing the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption while disbelieving in God, for the Church hasn’t invoked infallibility when proclaiming the existence of God.

Zahn further declares that the 2,000-year tradition against the ordination of women is “weak.” But if the Church could be wrong for so long about so basic a matter, what confidence has Zahn that she may not be profoundly wrong about other basic things, say, the Resurrection or the Incarnation?

Zahn’s attempted defense of Archbishop Weakland’s “Gang of 40” makes me wonder what the difference between a dissenter and a Protestant is. Only this, I suppose: The latter is honest enough to place himself outside the Church.

P.M. Aliazzi

University School

Hunting Valley, Ohio


Zahn’s ecclesiological principle was repudiated in Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium (25), and as recently as November 24, when John Paul II called it a “misunderstanding of the meaning and role of the Church’s Magisterium”; nonetheless, John Paul met Zahn’s objection head-on when he ordered Cardinal Ratzinger to publish a Responsum ad dubium, made public November 18, stating that the Catholic doctrine that women cannot be priests is infallible. We trust Zahn will take this to heart, and not descend, as have certain Zeitgeist-Catholics, to nitpicking or howling. As for the “Gang of 40 bishops,” Bishop Raymond Lucker of New Ulm, Minn., is now (finally!) making noises to the effect that the question of women’s ordination is indeed closed, and the others, so far as we can tell, have chosen, whatever their off-the-record feelings, not to challenge the Holy See’s November 18th pronouncement publicly. We can’t deny that we feel our September editorial (“Down the Old Schism Trail”) has been dramatically vindicated, for a most conspicuous item in the 40 bishops’ ominous anti-papal protest was women’s ordination; moreover, we suspect that the Holy See’s November 18th exercise of doctrinal muscle has averted the schism which we saw brewing. We hope that non-Catholics floundering in the swamps of interminable squabbling about doctrine and morals will be able to see that it is precisely the decisive authority of the papacy which gives Catholicism its unity and uniqueness, and much of its incomparable beauty.

Oakland, California

Who Is Offending Whom?

Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s letter to the editor (Dec.) responding to your September editorial, “Down the Old Schism Trail,” was quite telling. In his brief letter, the archbishop (1) tells you he is offended, (2) dismisses your analysis with snide shibboleths, and (3) invokes the Church Fathers. These three points deserve their own analysis.

(1) He says he is personally extremely offended. Why? Surely, the archbishop should realize that if he ventures forth into the public forum to encourage dissent, people might disagree with him, and some of them might not be afraid to say so.

(2) He dismisses your lengthy editorial as “frivolous” and as “bumper sticker” theology. Who is offending whom?

(3) He invokes “all the great bishops of the patristic era.” Does anyone seriously think that, say, St. Ambrose (“Where Peter is, there is the Church”) or St. Augustine (“Rome has spoken, the case is closed”) would side with Weakland and the 40 U.S. bishops against Rome? Whom does Weakland think he is kidding?

Finally, as for the Weakland-led manifesto (discussed in your editoriab| everyone should read it alongside the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and then decide if the manifesto represents the same religion as promulgated in the Church’s official teaching document.

Michael Ennis

Fairchild, Wisconsin

So, Archbishop Weakland is offended! The NOR shouldn’t be concerned about that, for, as our Lord said, “anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck” (Mt. 18:6), and, as St. James warned, teachers in the Church “will be judged more strictly” than others (Jas. 3:1).

Jerome Kavaney

Santa Clara, California

Your “Down the Old Schism Trail” was a masterpiece of common sense. And what a dream-come-true to have the principal subject (Archbishop Weakland) respond directly (albeit weakly)! I hold no ill will for any bishop — I respect his rightful authority and have witnessed great harm created by those to whom bishop-bashing is a sport — but it is the right and duty of the laity to raise objections when any bishop distances himself from the authority of the Holy See. A charitable but direct reminder such as your editorial should always be welcomed.

Brendan Patrick Murphy

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Archbishop Weakland chides your pro-papal editorial for not engaging “the issue of the role of bishops and collegiality according to the documents of Vatican Council II.” Well, if we look at the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium (22), we find this: “But the college…of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff…. The Roman Pontiff has full, supreme, and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops…is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff.”

Ralph C. Mason

Stuart, Florida

Regarding Archbishop Weakland’s letter responding to your editorial: Like most liberal Catholics when confronted with logic and rational argument, Weakland replies with epithet and invective. Interesting.

You correctly identified Weakland and his cohorts for what they are: potential schismatics. In his letter Weakland does not deny that he questions the teaching authority of the Pope. It should be noted that, in Common Law, silence in the face of accusation was consent to its validity. The archbishop’s silence is deafening. Perhaps, like the Long Parliament, His Grace has sat too long for whatever good he has done.

John E. Fennelly

Hollister, California

Archbishop Weakland’s letter missed the point. My family and I are moving toward full communion with the Catholic Church. We recently left a liberal Protestant denomination precisely because many of the disastrous attitudes exhibited by Weakland and his associates are found in it — viz., a general acquiescence to the reigning cultural ethos.

Jim Roth

Phoenix, Arizona

I’m enjoying the correspondence about your editorial.

Sadly, over the last 30 years our clergy have often served us what we wanted instead of what we needed (I thought they were supposed to lead, teach, and guide!). Ironically, the result of all the goofiness has been the emptying of the pews — even as “the band played on,” usually from the altar, unfortunately.

The bishops should disband all their committees and promise not to talk to the press or any politicians for the next six months, and spend that time praying, reflecting on the Ten Commandments, and studying the Pope’s encyclicals and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When they’re done, they should be ready to truly lead and teach the flock. Those, however, who don’t find peace and truth in the Catholic Church united with the Holy Father should join one of the 28,000 Protestant denominations, or band together and form the Church of the New and Different Vision. I’m sure they’ll have many followers. But many of us will choose Rome, and we’ll finally be assured that what we choose is what we get — a kind of “truth in advertising” thing. It’s time for making some real choices.

Ilse Robbins

Cincinnati, Ohio

Elevator-Music Catholicism

I’m enjoying the correspondence about your editorial.

Kent Brudney’s article, “Knocking on the Church’s Door: But Will a Catholic or a New-Age ‘Catholic’ Greet Me?” (Nov.), was poignant. It reminded me of my difficult entrance into the Church, which you can read about in my new book, Moonie-Buddhist-Catholic (White Horse Press, 6723 Betts Ave., Cincinnati OH 45239). Tell Brudney to keep looking for an authentically Catholic priest. I found one, and was even able to avoid those damnable catechumen classes (RCIA). The best way to get into the Church is to find a good priest who will catechize you personally and do an end run around those RCIA classes, which merely prepare people to be elevator-music Catholics.

Thomas W. Case

Nashville, Tennessee

Regarding Kent Brudney’s article on his frustrating attempts to get into the Church: He is too easily betrayed. My advice: Read Holy Scripture, Catholic apologetics, the lives of the saints, and the writings of the Church Fathers. Find a true Catholic priest, not a modernist heretic, who will gladly guide you spiritually and intellectually.

Richard D. Prudlo

Bloomville, Ohio

I want Kent Brudney to know that my search for Catholicism and my experience with RCIA were similar to his. But I learned to overlook the ignorance of particular instructors, and focus on God’s Son and the rich history of His Church. I love the Catholic Church with all my soul because, in spite of her occasional screw-ups, she has survived the test of time, which could only have happened with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Carolyn Price

Cincinnati, Ohio

Kent Brudney’s article could have touched on another major problem for many prospective Catholics today: the utter lack of aesthetics in many parishes. It saddens me to see the Church, once known for her beautiful artwork, architecture, and music, sinking to the level of popular culture. In many suburban parishes we are forced to endure architectural eyesores, silly hymns, and a liturgy that resembles kindergarten. Fortunately, there are still parishes committed to the rich cultural heritage of the Church, which I hope more Catholics will reclaim.

Mark Schardine

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Apropos of Kent Brudney’s sad tale: Catholics who go to Mass regularly are now down to 25 percent. A person in business who lost so many “customers” would think something is wrong. But our liturgists don’t — because they’re out of touch with real people. The liturgists think their grade school level ceremonies, complete with pedestrian language, are exciting. But the people in the pews find it all quite dull, for it lacks majesty, mystery, and reverence.

Fr. Rawley Myers

Stratford, Connecticut

Forget Notre Dame!

David Solomon’s article, “What Baylor & Notre Dame Can Learn From Each Other” (Dec.), strays from the central fact that Notre Dame is Catholic in name only. How can any institution call itself Catholic while having no qualms about the dissent and anti-Catholic thought espoused by much of its faculty with regularity?

A “Catholic” education at places such as Georgetown, Fordham, Boston College, and Notre Dame is a death warrant for many students’ Catholic faith. The feel-good, New-Age, and liberation theologies running rampant at these institutions are a disgrace to the name Catholic. I always discourage Catholic high school students from attending such places.

There are only three truly Catholic institutions of higher learning: Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), Christendom College (Virginia), and Thomas Aquinas College (California). These are the only three that have signed the declaration of allegiance to the Holy See.

Fr. Don L. Kloster, Jr.

Port au Port, Newfoundland

If It's Really Murder…

Jeanne Petersen’s letter to the editor justifying legal abortion (Oct.) claims that forcing an unwanted child to live is actually to murder that child, much as aborting that child would be. If she is correct, then those responsible for that “murder” — viz., the parents who compelled the child to live in the first place — ought to be punished. If the state were to punish severely all those who generated children they were not prepared to raise with love, then those parents who lacked that love might be induced to fake it quite skillfully, to the great benefit of their children. And if Petersen is right, the state ought to execute all parents whose children are unwanted — at least in the view of those of us who favor capital punishment for murder.

Colin Burke

(from a boat near Chesapeake, Virginia)

The "Deadbeat Dads" Fetish

Regarding Thomas Gannon’s satire, “Supreme Court Voids Child Support Statutes, Supports ‘Deadbeat Dads'” (Nov.): The fetish, “deadbeat dads,” is furry and soft underfoot, but there are probably as many different kinds of dads, deadbeat or otherwise, as there are human beings on the planet. I am acquainted with at least two so-called deadbeats who could not be otherwise, both being financially skewered beyond the limits of common sense by tyrannous courts. Since both sinners are now safely incarcerated, they aren’t paying anybody anything — except Society, whatever that is.

As a card-carrying philosophical anarchist (Romans 13 notwithstanding), I object to the encroachments of the State on my personal liberty.

Merrilee Stoerm

Martinsburg, West Virginia

One Candle Then, Many Now

Regarding your editorial (Nov.) on the origins of the NOR: I certainly remember — way back when — when the NOR was the lone candle in the window during many very dark nights.

Tony Atkinson

Jamaica, New York

Not Exactly Bedtime Reading

In the evening I take my ease reading various hopefully restful writings: my friend’s theological-psychological papers, fairy tales, stories. But tonight it’s the NOR — not always conducive to sleep. Your November editorial suggested a little trouble on the horizon, no bigger than a man’s hand. I almost made a move in the direction of my desk to write a donation check. But no.

Then our daughter, who’d been on the phone with a pal, bounded, after the manner of a kid, across my bed, and then made an athletic scramble downstairs to answer yet another phone call. Still a kid, but with adulthood close on its way and big challenges ahead. My first tear.

I then read William Brennan’s article, “What the Holocaust & Abortion Have in Common,” in the same issue, and I thanked God for our daughter’s life. Then many more tears.

I sprang (ha-ha — not having our daughter’s energy) out of bed and wrote you the enclosed check. I pray that your efforts prosper.

Denis Cullinan

Dearborn, Michigan

Where is Our Emancipator?

Apropos of William Brennan’s article, “What the Holocaust & Abortion Have in Common” (Nov.): President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, announcing the freeing of Confederate slaves, was arguably a blatantly unconstitutional seizure of property, especially following the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott, which ruled that the words of the Constitution were not meant to apply to Negroes. But it was not the first time a president ignored the Court, and there’s no reason it can’t be done today.

Lincoln wondered aloud in his second inaugural address whether the Civil War would continue “until every drop of blood drawn [from the slave] with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.” Today this nation stands guilty of the blood of tens of millions of its children. This horror hangs on the obscenely familiar fiction that the word “person” does not apply to preborn babies. The basis for the choice to discriminate has simply been changed from skin color to physical maturity, but the choice has been applied in much deadlier fashion.

Where is our Great Emancipator who will free us from this curse, who will ignore the despicable drivel of Roe v. Wade and use federal resources to shut down the killing centers?

Alfred Lemmo

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