Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: January-February 2018

January-February 2018

The Real Extent of Creative Destruction

What benign examples of “creative destruction” Fr. James V. Schall gives us in his article on Fr. John McNerney’s book Wealth of Persons (Nov.): “used-car dealers, junkyards, auctions, flea markets, second-hand stores, and St. Vincent de Paul societies.” Perhaps it is well to recall other examples of creative destruction: rust-belt cities, the landscape of which is mostly abandoned factories; Mexican farmers displaced from their land and trying to immigrate to the U.S.; small, rural Midwestern towns, where the single industry and rail connections are no more and opioid use is now the main occupation; shantytowns full of displaced peasants on the edge of Latin-American megacities; and so on. This is not to mention the broken families, abandoned spouses, and abused and neglected children who are the regular human spillover from such economic dislocation.

Fr. Schall writes that creative destruction “means that new products, methods, or ideas freely come into the market cycle.” How nice that we get ever new electronic gadgets, new kinds of breakfast cereals, driverless cars, and bigger TVs — all at the expense of stable human living. But, gee, it’s “good for everyone,” or so he claims.

Fr. Schall quotes McNerney that “there is always a presupposed worldview and an understanding of the human person.” This is surely true, but, sad to say, the type championed by Fr. Schall is that of defining human beings by their consumption of new products.

Fr. Schall admits that “pornography and drugs are innovative industries.” To be sure, they are. And what is his defense against them? “We are responsible for our good and evil desires and actions in the area of economics.” Yes, this is the case, but the notion that human beings are so many isolated monads, making their choices without reference to the culture they live in, is a Calvinist myth. The same culture that celebrates creative destruction in the economy celebrates it, like it or not, in marriage, the family, and even in one’s claimed sexual identity. To pretend that we can have a culture of restlessness in one and stability and order in the other is to separate what cannot be separated. Human culture is a unity, and if we really believe that the purpose of life on earth is to attain Heaven, then we will judge all human activity, including our economy, chiefly on whether and how it is “linked with the universal teleological order, and as a consequence [leads us] by progressive stages to the final end of all, God Himself, our highest and lasting good,” as Pope Pius XI wrote. That, and not ever new kinds of stuff, is what is important.

Thomas Storck

Westerville, Ohio

Far Beyond Lambeth

In your New Oxford Note “Is the Pope Looking to Lambeth?” (Nov.), your main concern seems to be that Francis is considering a change to the conclusions of Humanae Vitae regarding artificial contraception. Of course he is. And he is looking far beyond the Lambeth Conference of 1930. He seems to want to change the Catholic Church to conform to the model of the Anglican Communion.

Francis wants to devolve authority from the See of Peter and give greater authority to national bishops’ conferences. Sound familiar? Soon these bishops’ conferences will become the Catholic equivalent of national churches. They may have some de jure affiliation with the Vatican, as Anglican churches do with Canterbury, but the real ecclesial authority will rest in their hands. The papacy will no longer function as the Rock upon which the Church is built; it will be reduced to an advisory role or a symbolic figurehead, like the one the archbishop of Canterbury plays in the Anglican Communion.

As these national bishops’ conferences begin to assert their independence, you can be sure that, in the developed countries of the world, the ordination of women and the acceptance of divorce and homosexuality will be sure to follow in quick succession. Contraception will be a mere afterthought.

Indications are that this is the direction in which Pope Francis wants to lead the Church. What is unclear is why. Has he not seen the division this has caused in the Anglican Communion? Has he not seen the drastic decrease in attendance that member churches of the Anglican Communion have suffered, at least in the developed world?

Joseph Theranger

Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania

A Vacated Bridge?

Has Francis abdicated the chair of Peter? A case can be made that he did just that when he issued Magnum Principium, his motu proprio that modifies canon law to shift responsibility for translations of liturgical texts from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship to national and regional conferences of bishops.

When Jesus founded His Church, He set it firmly on the Rock — one man, Peter. Not Peter and the Apostles, not Peter and a committee. In current terminology, “the buck stops” with Peter — and now with Francis.

Experience teaches that a ship can have only one captain. So also the barque of Peter. For 2,000 years this barque has sailed with only one captain. When Francis accepted the papacy, he accepted the full responsibility of steering that barque — the sole responsibility. From the time Francis accepted that responsibility, the barque has been sailing in stormy seas, uncharted waters. At no time during this troubling period has there been any doubt about who was on the bridge. Until now.

With Magnum Principium, Francis has formally disclaimed the responsibility to safeguard the liturgy of the Church. This authority, which is his exclusive province as Pope, now resides in the several councils of bishops, each of which is free to do what it likes with it.

The liturgy is the source and summit of our faith. It is where our faith is learned and expressed, and hence is the area that most needs papal protection. It is from this critical and threatened discipline of the Church that Francis has disclaimed responsibility.

With Magnum Principium, Francis has unequivocally declared that he does not want, and will not accept, the sole responsibility that the papal office requires of him. The captain of the barque declares that he is no longer the person responsible for steering it. How can he then be allowed to remain on the bridge? Has he not effectively resigned his position, or abdicated it?

Michael McIntire

Big Bear Lake, California

Avenue of Appeals: Closed Until Further Notice

Regarding your New Oxford Note “Under the Rainbow” (Nov.): In the past, when churchmen like San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy and Fr. James Martin would teach something publicly that is morally or doctrinally false, an appeal could be made to Rome for a correct ruling on the matter or a condemnation of the novel teaching. No more. Now no one can send an appeal to Rome because Francis’s Church seems to abhor objective rulings. The Church of Francis will issue no condemnation to solve a crisis, as the Council of Nicaea did with Arius.

Does anyone know a way out of this crisis? St. John Paul II, pray for us!

Fr. John Gorski

Westlake, Ohio

Prescience of the Vampire

Thank you for another clever, well-written article from your archives, “A Letter from a Concerned Episcopalian” (Oct.). Once again, I found myself laughing as I read it! Fr. Edward B. Connolly was right on target.

During my mother’s 80th decade, the minister at her small Episcopal church (a former Catholic!) announced that he and his wife were divorcing. He said the bishop had given his approval for the divorce, and his wife and three children would continue to come to church there and remain in the choir. In other words, not much would change. My poor mother was shocked and sad, though perhaps it would work out for everyone. After a few months, the minister’s ex-wife and three children started going to another Episcopal church, and his new girlfriend began attending services in his parish. The minister married his girlfriend shortly thereafter.

Practically the same conversation between Fr. Connolly’s “vampire vicar” and his congregation took place in my mother’s Episcopal church!

Pamela Ahearn

Hammond, Indiana

The Kids Aren't Alright

I’ve always been an ardent admirer of Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, but I couldn’t more strongly disagree with his letter (Nov.) about the state of Catholic schools. I’d sure like to know what schools he’s visiting!

A Catholic identity in Catholic schools is more than a façade, more than window dressing. Catholic identity means knowing and living the Catholic faith. With the exception of some students at very fine and exclusive independent Catholic schools, I have yet to meet a Catholic schoolchild who knows what the seven sacraments are. Most don’t even know there are seven! No child I’ve spoken with knows this, anywhere, at any age, all the way through grade 12. Not one.

Larry Ford

Villa Ridge, Missouri

Division You Will Always Have with You

All men of good will desire and pray for harmony in society and the Church. However, forcing square pegs into round holes does not promote harmony. People are simply more comfortable associating with folks like themselves. This does not make them racist or evil, contrary to what Bryan Cross seems to imply (“The Most Segregated Hour,” Oct.). Often it is the case that peace and harmony are produced by just letting people congregate in their own organically formed social circles. Forcing people to accept alien ideals or people typically produces friction and resentment.

The reality is that division, like the poor, we will always have with us. This need not be seen as a negative but can help us focus our work toward unity within diversity — that is, holy and blessed diversity, rather than what the word has come to mean today, which is the imposition of people and their ideas on others.

Alexander Clayton

Avon Park Correctional Institution

Avon Park, Florida

Ed. Note: What Mr. Clayton proposes, “letting people congregate in their own organically formed social circles,” is a recipe for the balkanization of society — blacks against whites, liberals against conservatives, haves against have-nots, and so on — every group hunkered down in its own ghetto or gated enclave, suspicious and untrusting of its neighbors. Although to a large extent this describes today’s society, it is inimical to the ideal of America as a great melting pot. In ecclesial terms, leaving groups of people alone to form their own communities is contrary to the call of the Church to baptize all nations and people into a catholic community that is “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). That oneness is what Bryan Cross was arguing for in his article, the supernatural ability of the Church to create holy unity amid human diversity, to make co-believers out of people who otherwise consider themselves “alien” to one another.

The Beast Within Us

In response to critics of my letter regarding Anne Barbeau Gardiner’s review of The Other Slavery (Nov.): I recently reread Lord of the Flies by William Golding and was amazed at his insight into human nature’s proclivity to evil. A large number of British students, ranging in age from six to 12 years old, survive the crash-landing of their shot-down airplane. Golding craftily describes the rapid descent of decent, civilized boys into brutal savagery on a remote tropical island. Fear of some unknown Beast is the driving force. One of the boys, Simon, an embryo mystic, “interviews” the Beast — a pig’s head staked on a pike, swarming with flies.

The book’s editor comments: “Simon fights with all his feeble power against the message of the head, against the ‘ancient, inescapable recognition’ — the recognition of human capacities for evil and the superficial nature of human moral systems. ‘Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!’ said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echo with the parody of laughter. ‘You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?'”

Slavery through human history is the natural result of the Beast within us. Or, as Freud would have it, our ruthless id grovels to survive, no matter the cost to others. The superficiality of human moral systems is evident when, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, pride and prejudice still govern human behavior, and slavery trudges on, not enforced by whips and chains but by indentured employment at poverty wages. And when one nation seeks to dominate another by waging war — where have all the young men gone? gone to graveyards, every one — despite their skin color, it is servitude to the Beast indwelling us. Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill, that you could enslave, brutalize, and work to death. That’s why the other slavery continues on!

The only hope for wretched humanity is Christ’s redemptive message to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Only then can that indwelling beast, Beelzebub, be eradicated. Only then will nation stop warring against nation and men become truly free.

Richard M. Dell’Orfano

San Marcos, California

About That Free Lunch

Regarding the item “The Funeral Crasher” in The News You May Have Missed (Nov.): In our parish there is a woman who has the same propensity as the woman in England toward the “cheap [or free] lunch.”

When I first saw her, thoughts and emotions assailed me that were identical to those experi­enced by the British mour­ner. But after a big-hearted parishioner introduced herself to the woman, I was moved to do so too. Soon after, I invited her to join our parish’s Rosary apostolate, which also reaches out to local nursing homes. This woman has turned out to be a devout Catholic, faithful friend, responsible volunteer, and gracious person. While she continues to have the same interest in the “free lunch,” she has become a lector and has proven herself in the new evangelization.

Her story includes institutionalization, social assistance, living alone, and a developmental disability. This carries with it fears and anxieties about not having enough food or money, coupled with a strong desire to be independent. I confess that initially I needed to be nudged to show her charity — to open a new door for her and thus be an instrument for her to exercise, develop, and increase her spiritual gifts on behalf of the Church. But doing so has allowed me to see Christ’s Kingdom a little more clearly.

Gloria Ausubel

Port Ewen, New York

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