Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: July-August 1996

July-August 1996

Orthodoxy or Bankruptcy

I’m amused by the humor in your ads (e.g., “Are Catholics Fatheads?”) in other periodicals. So, I thought you might be amused by the attached [the likeness of a 100 dollar bill with the words, “Orthodoxy or Bankruptcy,” printed across it], which is circulating around our very liberal Archdiocese of Chicago.

The point is that if we are getting “phony baloney” from our dissident priests, funny money should be deposited in the collection plates. That’s enough to curdle any bishop’s blood!

What we’re getting for our money in some parishes, including mine, is phony Masses (parts of the Mass are missing!) with temple dancing-girls, phony general absolutions where our sins are written down on pieces of paper and then burned to the god of air, wind, and fire, phony sermons full of psychobabble and feel-good bubblies, and phony Scriptures where everything is “really a myth written for illiterate nomads and primitive types.” When you really think about it, all of this amounts to fraud.

Please withhold my name. When I die, I’m afraid there won’t be a priest around town willing to do the funeral.

Keep up the good humor and common sense!

Name Withheld

Human Life International

South Barrington, Illinois

Shut Up & Sit Down?

With regard to Robert Schwind’s letter entitled “The Byzantine Option” (May), I too have considered the possibility of defecting from our Latin Rite to one of the Eastern Catholic rites. Of course, Cardinal Bernardin and his crowd are so wound up in Protestantizing and Judaizing my Archdiocese (Chicago) with their interfaith practices that I doubt they would care.

At a public meeting a representative of the Archdiocese said that certain papal directives could be gotten around (ignored, I suppose). My rejoinder was that if Cardinal Bernardin and the Archdiocese go into schism, I’m not going with them — I’m taking a walk to an Eastern rite. Then a prominent layman told me to shut up and sit down. There was no affirmation, even pro forma, of papal loyalty from the Archdiocesan representative.

A Bernardin representative was fraternizing with the Russian Orthodox in Kiev, Ukraine, just a year or two before Ukrainian-Rite Catholics in their homeland swept in out of the forests (where they had been worshipping) and booted the Russian Orthodox out of Catholic churches stolen by the Orthodox in 1946. If you mention that glorious restoration to Bernardin’s crew, they express horror and outrage, the ignorant so-and-sos!

Robert J. Gorman

Tarumizu Catholic Church

Chicago, Illinois

Talk Is Not Enough

My year with you has been good, but I’m not renewing my subscription. Your viewpoint is right, clear, and sharp, your analysis sometimes brilliant. But it is not enough to talk. It is time for shooting. Only once did you shoot: when you fired your guns at the 40 antipapal bishops and their leader (editorial, “Down the Old Schism Trail,” Sept.). One shoots when one supplies the names, places, and times of the crimes and failures one analyzes. Otherwise it is just talk (writing), even if very good talk.

Jerzy Weglinski

Aira Catholic Church

Chicago, Illinois

Defending the Faith

In regard to Chris Witham’s letter (May) requesting help in learning the differences between Mormonism and Catholicism: I would recommend St. Joseph Radio (P.O. Box 2983, Orange CA 92669; 714-744-0336), which is faithful to the Magisterium and has all one needs to deflect attacks on Catholicism, from simple outlines to advanced apologetics.

Nicholas R. Tomasek

Otis Orchards, Washington

Religion & Mental Health

Philip J. Scrofani wrote a fine article (June) on the pernicious effects of moral relativism’s encroachment into psychotherapy. But there’s some encouraging news. I’d like to direct Scrofani and your readers to a major article in the May 1996 issue of Psychological Bulletin which examines the recent boom in religious counseling (e.g., the American Association of Christian Counselors has grown from 2,000 to over 16,000 members in the past three years). This article compiles 10 years’ worth of studies, and concludes that there is a “positive relationship overall” between religion and mental health; compared with nonreligious people, religious people tend to have greater self-control, motivation, sociability, tolerance, and senses of responsibility and well-being, etc. In the past, some psychological theorists have attempted to associate religion with pathology, insecurity, or general mental imbalance. Now the exact opposite is proving to be the truth.

David Goldweber

New York, New York

A Slave Set Free

Paul C. Fox should be commended for discussing the matter of his masturbation so openly in his guest column, “The Sin in Masturbation” (June). I too was a slave to this pattern of behavior (and the abuse of alcohobpfor most of my life. It was only after I became Catholic, and read of the Church’s position on masturbation in the new Catechism, that I was able to make a full and complete confession of my addiction(s) and receive the freedom that comes from formal absolution.

Name Withheld

Gaithersburg, Maryland

Miserable Failures

I’ve just read Arthur J. Delaney’s masterpiece, “The Grotesque World of Today’s Sex Education” (May). Daily mail and phone calls eloquently confirm what he has so well described.

I would add that the school sex education monster is an international problem. Anyone who has followed or observed sex education programs internationally will have noted that they are miserable failures everywhere.

Thank you for publishing Delaney’s insightful article.

Fr. Paul Marx, O.S.B.

Washington, D.C.

Coming: Another Dependable Catholic Encyclopedia

I read with interest Dale Vree’s review of Bunson’s Encyclopedia of Catholic History (June). Of particular interest to me was Vree’s general remark about the scarcity of theologically dependable Catholic encyclopedias these days. Next year Our Sunday Visitor Books will publish the Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, a 500,000-word one-volume encyclopedia based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I expect it will help meet the need Vree so rightly noted.

Russell Shaw

Wooster, Ohio

Schall's Wimpy Americanist Tendencies

It’s highly ironic that Fr. James V. Schall (in his June article, “What If Catholics Weren’t So Wimpy?) is so upset that “the Pope has not been followed” and that “the Church’s teachings are not systematically, fully, or accurately presented to the faithful.” Schall himself has hardly been a follower of John Paul II when the Pope’s message has conflicted with Schall’s conservative political ideology. For example, in the 1980s the Jesuit Schall, with the twisted moral logic which gave the word “jesuitical” a sinister ring, articulated a justification for total war, including the targeting of civilians. And in a 1992 essay he took the Pope to task for his environmentalism and support of labor unions. Schall’s Catholicism is just as selective and, yes, wimpy as that of those he criticizes.

Daniel Nichols

Greenbelt, Maryland

Fr. Schall makes many very good points in his June article. I share his desire for an uncompromising Catholicism. My difficulty is that Schall himself is someone who has publicly and explicitly criticized Catholic social doctrine for years.

Moreover, in his NOR article, Schall offers a list of those in whom a “vibrant Catholicism” is found. Curiously, the list includes Robert Sirico. Who is he? A priest, almost a libertarian in his economic thought, President of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty (which describes its purpose as “to promote Classical Liberal ideas”), Publisher of that institute’s bi-monthly publication, Religion & Liberty (whose Contributing Editors include none other than Fr. Schalb| and one who, on the Acton Institute’s homepage on the Internet, refers to Lord Acton’s “capable tutelage” by the “distinguished” Fr. Ignaz von Dollinger. I wonder whether Fr. Sirico ever bothers to point out that Dollinger rejected the dogma of Papal Infallibility after Vatican I, was excommunicated, and died outside the Church. Sirico does openly describe his patron, Lord Acton, as “a leader of nineteenth-century liberal Catholicism.” But I do not consider liberal Catholics, whether then or now, champions of a “vibrant” faith.

I’m glad Schall can write eloquently on behalf of a militant faith. I only wish he could bring himself to abandon his Americanist tendencies and embrace all the teachings of the Magisterium.

Thomas Storck

Tarumizu, Japan

Endo: Great Entertainer, Very Poor Theologian

Shusaku Endo is one of my favorite Japanese authors, so I read Robert Coles’s column (June) on Endo’s novel Silence with great interest. Some of Endo’s books (e.g., Silence) are serious, others are hilarious. In both ways he is a great entertainer. But he is more than an entertainer. He tries to dig deep into Catholicism in Japan. But does he do so successfully?

He grew up without his father. His mother was both father and mother — or his mother was everything to him. From his childhood experience he developed the idea that God’s love is more like a mother’s than a father’s love. Long ago, before American feminism started clamoring for so-called inclusive language and began to talk of God-the-Mother, he was advocating the idea that God is our mother, which is not normative biblical language. Endo thinks the infinite love of God can better be expressed this way. Moreover, he is so stricken with the infinity of God’s love and forgiveness that he chooses sinners and apostates to expand on this theme. In Silence we see this clearly in the persons of Kichijiro and Fr. Rodrigues. The problem with Endo is that he has Jesus, who is God and infinitely just, say (in effect): “You may apostatize and trample the holy image of Me. Save others and yourself. I don’t mind.”

Here in Japan many Catholics were disappointed and angered by this. Especially so was Asajiro Cardinal Satowaki of Nagasaki, who sort of banned the novel in his archdiocese. It may be within the power of a novelist to have God speak in a certain way. However, to put what is obviously impossible and evil into the mouth of God is sacrilegious, and Endo does not have that privilege, even as a novelist. He may be a great entertainer, but he is definitely a very poor theologian. The public does not make that distinction, and is easily misled. That is why the good pastor, Cardinal Satowaki, was so indignant with him.

Another important point is that Endo has Fr. Ferreira tell Fr. Rodrigues (in effect): “Japan is like a quagmire where any plant that has been transplanted starts rotting at its roots. Soon the leaves will turn yellow. In this quagmire we have planted Christianity.” Is Endo saying here that Japan is different from the other countries of the world? According to Ferreira, many converts believed in God before the persecution started, but that was not the Christian God but the God of their invention, and the Japanese simply cannot accept the concept of a transcendent God. But are the Japanese really so special? Aren’t the Japanese human beings and children of God before they are Japanese?

Fr. John Nariai

Kagoshima, Japan

Regarding Robert Coles’s column on Shusaku Endo’s Silence: A novelist creates stories as he sees fit, and the world can become a more delightful place, thanks to novelists. However, there’s something a novelist should not create: the Creator. Of course a novelist can create Him, but the moment he does, the Creator is falsified, thus confusing immature and uncritical readers.

Among people who believe in the same religion, there have been and are terrible conflicts. But a war between two Catholic nations is incredible. This has happened, however, even in recent history — e.g., the war between Peru and Bolivia. One or both parties believes it is in the right and doing the will of God. This we call self-righteousness, meaning one or both is wrong, objectively speaking. When people do this, they create God’s voice to justify their actions.

Itaru Kawashima, a Japanese literary critic, has sharply criticized Endo’s Silence in this regard. In Endo’s novel a foreign priest apostatizes, at a time when native Christians have given their lives to witness to Jesus Christ. To many Catholics in Japan, this is not acceptable.

At the climax of the novel, Endo writes: “The priest [Fr. Rodrigues] raises his foot…. He will now trample on [the holy image of Christ]…. And then the Christ in the [holy image] speaks to the priest: ‘Trample!…It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world….'” Kawashima points out that before the priest heard this voice, he had already raised his foot. To Kawashima this is very important. Fr. Rodrigues conveniently created the voice of Christ. Rodrigues decided to apostatize before he heard any voice. That’s for sure. The novel itself attests to it.

Endo created a God who is too lenient, a false god. This is a danger for all of us, for we are always prone to create a convenient deity for ourselves.

Fr. John T. Kohira

Jacksonville, Florida

Robert Coles’s column on Shusaku Endo’s Silence is on target in noting that the martyr can be in the grip of pride and that few, if any, “comfortable burghers of the late 20th century” would dare condemn Fr. Rodrigues for eschewing martyrdom. And yes, there is ambiguity to a martyrdom that entails the martyrdom of others. And yes, Fr. Rodrigues’s apparent apostasy can be seen as a “risky leap of faith.”

But martyrdom, with its temptation to pride, is also a “risky leap of faith,” as is a martyrdom which entails the martyrdom of others. Fr. Rodrigues’s choice of submission to his captors over martyrdom certainly comes as a relief to us comfortable burghers, me included, for it gets us off the hook, encourages us to rationalize our habitual inclination to take the easy road.

If we lived in an age when many Christians were eager for the martyr’s crown, Endo’s message might be a needed corrective. But today, it only assists Christians — assists me! — in going with the secular/relativist flow. Is that perhaps why Endo is so popular in the West?

I was quite surprised that Robert Coles, of all people, didn’t pick up on this.

The Christian Century said, regarding another Endo novel, Deep River, that “Endo suggests that the many faces of God are seen not only in Christianity and Judaism but also in Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.” Martyrdom, in such a world view, becomes problematic, perhaps incoherent, for why die for Christ — for merely one of the many faces of God?

I hope Coles will take another, more searching look at Shusaku Endo.

A Robert Coles Admirer

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