Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: July-August 1993

July-August 1993

The God of All

I found the otherwise ex­cellent and admirable Sheldon Vanauken almost mean-spirited in his article “Choosing a, Church” (April 1993). Why knock Protestants for “remaining” Protestants, for staying in their churches? Maybe they find their prayers answered there — by the God of all. I’m a convert to Catholicism, too, but surely there is a limit to zeal. We’re all following Christ and Him crucified.

Annie Dillard

Fordham University

Middletown, Connecticut

Unworthy Peter

In response to Sheldon Vanauken’s “Choosing a Church” (April 1993): When Jesus said to Peter (Mt. 16:18), “You are Peter [=Rock], and upon this rock I will build my church…,” He was not crowning Peter “as the first head of the church” and thereby initiat­ing the papal succession. Simple exegesis provides a clear distinction between the masculine “Peter” and the fem­inine “this rock,” so the sure foundation must be something other than Peter himself, who shortly after proved himself unworthy of any such elevated status — personally (Lk. 22:54ff), theologically (Acts 10-11), and spiritually (Gal. 2:11ff) — and who was also disqualified ecclesiastically (1 Cor. 1:12). If Peter establishes anything about an apostolic succession, it is its fallibility.

John Schwane

University of Texas at Austin

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Young Minds

In his review of John Courtney Murray and the Ameri­can Civil Conversation (May 1993), Paul J. Weithman says that “one contributor — Francis Canavan — claims, incredibly, that We Hold These Truths is Murray’s ‘one published book.'” True, I said it, but I didn’t exactly claim it.

In a paragraph dealing with Murray’s voluminous writings on church-state rela­tions and religious freedom, I remarked: “Some people write books, but Murray developed his thought in a series of articles…. Even his one published book, We Hold These Truths, was a reworking of previously published articles.” I now see that if I had said that We Hold These Truths was his one pub­lished book on that subject, my meaning would have been perfectly clear even to Assist­ant Professor Weithman. I realize once again that one cannot be too explicit when explaining something to young minds.

Rev. Prof. Francis Canavan, S.J.

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

Bronx, New York

Distributing Starvation

In his “Distributing Ameri­ca” (May 1993), Thomas Storck fails to see that competition, econ­omies of scale, and division of labor allow certain goods to be produced more efficiently and thus be sold at lower prices, which allow more people to afford more goods, thus raising the standard of living.

Any country implementing Storck’s ideas would have to curtail trade with other coun­tries since high-cost domestic products could not compete with those made overseas under more efficient economic regimes. The reduction in glo­bal trade would further de­press the standard of living, perhaps causing global depres­sion, famine, and starvation.

Kevin J. Morgan

Bloomfield, New Jersey

I envy Thomas Storck’s knowledge, but it has a black hole about the medieval guilds. Doesn’t he know that they stifled new technology, initia­tive, and progress in ways our early trade union bosses would have envied?

Bob Wilson

Swansboro, North Carolina


I was struck by the poi­gnancy of James G. Hanink’s “The Prolife Movement: Dead or Alive?” (May 1993). As a uni­versity student, I am inundat­ed daily by the hypocrisy of pro-choice proponents. I was impressed by the logic Hanink used to clarify the definition of life, to wit: “If we value the condor, we will value a condor not yet hatched, for we already know what it is.” This argu­ment seemed perfectly fitted for ecologically minded fellow students. So I engaged several pro-choice environmentalists in discussion. But I soon found myself amid a steadily growing mass of viciously angry stu­dents. Apparently, my fellow students, in the grip of their passions, will blindly attack anything they feel is a threat to their freedom.

Michael K. Looney

Austin, Texas

Pilsbury's Mix

Anne Pilsbury’s letter (May 1993) was almost a duplicate to the one I have been com­posing in my mind to write you, except that I’m not a convert to Roman Catholicism. I subscribed to the NOR for the same reasons and it is my intention not to renew for the same reasons — i.e., in Pilsbury’s words, your “anti-intellectual spirit” and your “sarcastic and ‘them-against-us’ attitude toward people, both inside and outside the Church, who do not follow ‘orthodox’ [my quotes] lines.”

It is inappropriate for ed­itors to bash letter-writers, as you did in response, in a letters column where corre­spondents expect to express their opinions freely. That is further evidence of the above-quoted spirit.

I don’t know when my subscription runs out, but please stop sending your journal now. Further copies are unwelcome.

The Rev. Anne W. Baker

Carrizo Springs, Texas

Reading the letters in the NOR, I am sometimes puzzled. I was particularly puzzled by Anne Pilsbury’s letter in the May 1993 issue, my most recent issue: Why is it that non-Catholics are moved to join the Catholic Church while remain­ing in effect non-Catholics? (Similarly, though slightly less puzzling in view of the power of habit, why is it that born Catholics who have in effect become non-Catholics still call themselves Catholics?)

What is it to be a Catholic anyhow? Clearly, a Christian, whether Catholic or Baptist or whatever, is — to put it briefly — a believer in the Risen Lord, God Incarnate. But — with equal brevity — what is a Catholic in addition to being a Christian as defined? The Catholic believes that the uni­versal or Catholic Church was founded by Christ to be guided by the Spirit in matters of faith and morals.

People who call themselves Catholic but do not believe the Church is the arbiter of faith and morals have ceased to be — or never were — Catholics. They are at best secret Protes­tants. Their noisy assertion that they are Catholics is meaning­less because it is not they who define what is Catholic; the Church does.

Today there are consider­able numbers of non-Catholics who are determined to call themselves Catholics in the vain hope of shaping the Church to fit them. But they are not Catholics.

Sheldon Vanauken

Lynchburg, Virginia

I was very disappointed in your rather flip response to Anne Pilsbury’s thoughtful and articulate letter. My opinion of the NOR almost exactly par­allels hers. The NOR seems simply to rephrase in more modern and subtle terminology what I have come to think of as the Roman Catholic “party line.”

Your reply to Pilsbury seems to indicate that she didn’t demonstrate intellectual honesty when she joined the Catholic Church. Your re­sponse graphically reminded me of why I left the Catholic Church more than 20 years ago and why I could not rejoin it. Whether through wisdom, “in­tellectual honesty,” or simply re-examining the evolution of my own ideas, I have come to the realization that religion does not consist in the re-explication of unchanging prin­ciples and practices. Rather it consists of a constantly evolv­ing set of guidelines that speak to and inform constantly shift­ing conditions, which in turn force a re-examination of the use of those guidelines.

E. Thomas Dowd

Akron, Ohio

Anne Pilsbury’s letter (May 1993) was a masterpiece. I wish I could meet the person who wrote it. Of course it was a hoax.

I had to laugh out loud when she suggested that be­cause our understanding of the material universe has changed since the Middle Ages, there­fore we now have to reconsider the doctrine of Transubstan­tiation. Her letter reminded me of the Victorian scientists who proposed to subject the conse­crated Host to scientific labora­tory analysis. In 1893 people could reason like that, but today this can only be a prank.

John Peterson

Barrington, Illinois

Honoring the Holy Innocents

In honor of the millions of innocent victims of abortion, and as a prayer that the horror of abortion may cease, I have composed a musical setting of the Roman Catholic Mass en­titled Missa In Honorem Sanc­torum Innocentium (Mass in Honor of the Holy Innocents).

I would be happy to send a copy of the Missa to anyone interested. I. won’t charge for the music, but I do ask for $1 to help defray the costs of copying and mailing.

Michael McGowan

Milford, New Jersey

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