Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: July-August 2013

July-August 2013

This Is Somewhere

Charles A. Coulombe may have made some insightful comments in his assessment of Roger Cardinal Mahony and his legacy (“Mahony Unbound,” May), but as an Angelino, I take exception to his snide dismissal of Los Angeles as “the Big Nowhere.” I speak not only as a resident but as a Christian.

Where one lives is where one pursues the life God has provided. Ask the people from all over the world who energize this international city if their dreams and labors have created a placed called Nowhere. Ask the million or so Catholics in the Los Angeles Archdiocese if their neighborhoods and schools and workplaces and parishes add up to Nowhere.

As a contributive and productive Angelino himself, Coulombe knows better. And as a Christian, he knows better than to enter his neighbor’s house and deny its dignity.

John David

Dept. of Political Science, Louisiana State University

Los Angeles, California

Charles A. Coulombe seems to commit the same offense for which he pillories Roger Cardinal Mahony. For example, Coulombe calls His Eminence the “Dowager Archbishop of Los Angeles,” and writes that he “whined on his blog” and was “succeeded in office by a gentleman.” These are all petty and unnecessary diminutions of the author’s dignity and the dignity of the NOR. Further, Coulombe goes on to describe Richard Riordan’s third wife as “his [Riordan’s] woman.” Why is it necessary to belittle the late Nancy Daly Riordan? What happened to respect for all of God’s children?

I was not happy with the way Cardinal Mahony handled all of the incidents described in Coulombe’s article. But to trivialize and make fun of the man is not a good way to make a point. Being respectful while disagreeing is much more effective and powerful.

Deacon Thomas E. Brandlin

Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, Clemson University

Los Angeles, California


I applaud Mr. David’s fervent local patriotism. While all he writes about our city is true, it is, however, a relatively small part of the picture. The sorts of spirituality I explored in my article “No Sane City” (Jan. 2005) are more rep­­resentative of the religious life of this region than is the Catholic Church. Given further the list of “Catholic” mayors and other politicians who have lurked in City Hall since my childhood, I must reiterate that while L.A. is certainly big, it is religiously nowhere — a fact that 25 years of material schism from Rome under His Eminence has not helped.

While on that topic, I also appreciate the Rev. Mr. Brandlin’s displeasure with my levity regarding Cardinal Mahony. Confronted with the enormity of his activities, one can either laugh or curse. I choose to laugh. But I do suggest that the deacon watch the film described below in Mrs. Elsberry’s letter. Then perhaps he will understand my coverage of His Eminence better.

Laurette Elsberry

North York, Ontario

Sacramento, California

Cardinal Mahony: The Video

Charles A. Coulombe certainly hit a good number of the dark points in the “career” of Roger Cardinal Mahony. Allow me to elaborate a little on the cardinal’s involvement in promoting the “gay agenda” in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

A Journey for Understanding: Gays & Lesbians in the Church, a 24-minute video by in­dependent filmmaker Rick Flynn, produced by the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1992, is a remarkable example of the cardinal’s promotion of gay acceptance. The video opens with Cardinal Mahony gravely advising the viewer that “there is nothing wrong with a gay or a lesbian person — whatsoever. They are just as equal and deserving of respect as you or I or anyone else.” Sure, there can be no disagreement with this statement if it means that we are not supposed to personally insult, denigrate, bash, etc. those who identify as homosexual. But this statement is straight out of the homosexualist playbook, equating the sin with the sinner.

Later in the video, Jim Curtan, a self-identified “gay Catholic,” tells us that “Catholic gays and lesbians have an enormous amount to contribute to the Church. They are just waiting to be asked.” Mr. Curtan explains that he had been the “best little Catholic boy,” even an altar boy, but realized he was gay when he was 14. After worrying about it for a time, he later embraced being gay as a “blessing, a vocation, a calling,” and being a gay Catholic as “prophetic.” He adds, “God gave me the gift of being Catholic and God gave me the gift of being gay — so I use them both, and use them both together as often as I can.”

The video never explained Curtan’s role in gay life, but my research reveals that he has been involved for many years with “EroSpirit,” a gay-sex movement originated by former Jesuit Joseph Kramer. EroSpirit is best described as sodomites pimping gay sex through pornographic videos, sacred New Age weekends in the mountains, and sex-and-spirituality seminars. Curtan is a teacher of “Sacred Intimates,” and he is found on the Internet as a “sex slave” in a website featuring masochism. Just another good gay Catholic!

Then Cardinal Mahony explains why he banished Dignity from his archdiocese. He felt it was “not helpful” to have gays and lesbians have their own separate Masses. He wished them to be able to join fully into parish life, so he created a program called Communidad and it did quite well in recruiting members. He is seen in the video jollying it up with Communidad members at St. Matthew’s Church in Long Beach. Communidad is still alive and well at St. Matthew’s and puts “gay and lesbian outreach” at the top of its list of ministries. Their “outreach” includes participating in the AIDS Walk and the Long Beach Pride Festival — activities clearly not in the bingo category. St. Matthew’s is listed on www.gaychurch.org, a website that catalogs “gay friendly” churches around the world.

Appearing in a guest spot in the video is Steve Schulte, then-mayor of West Hollywood. As most Southern Californians know, West Hollywood is a homosexual enclave. Mr. Schulte possibly was elected because his face — and the rest of him also — was very familiar to West Hollywood voters since he was an enormously popular gay porn star. In the video, Schulte declares that the Church’s views on sex are at least 800 years old and must be brought up to date. He does not explain the 800-year reference. Schulte also states, “We don’t expect John Paul II [the Pope at that time] to come out and say that it is O.K. for you to be gay and practice it, but that’s not the point anymore and I don’t think we need that anyway.”

One of the most well known of the video’s gay guests is Jim Fouratt, cofounder of ACT-UP, a gay activist group. Fouratt informs us that ACT-UP is fighting for gay rights and to keep abortion clinics open. He explains that, growing up in Rhode Island amid Catholic neighbors, he and his friends were imbued with the philosophy of caring for others. Even now, he feels that Catholics should fight as ACT-UP does, for AIDS funding, condoms, and needle-exchange programs.

What a reprehensible cast of characters for Cardinal Mahony to have had in an archdiocesan-produced video! All of the above is public information and there is no reason why he could not have known about the individuals he used in his gay-promotional video.

William Tighe

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Suffering & Death

Lois Manning (letter, May) is bothered by the new translation of the Nicene Creed in the revised Roman missal, particularly the phrase, “He suffered death and was buried.” She explains her discomfort: “In this case, suffered means tolerated. We all suffer bad neighbors, wild kids, diseases and other dirty tricks of fate. We’ll all suffer death. To say that Christ ‘suffered death’ negates His passion. It should have remained, ‘He suffered, died, and was buried.’ By merely saying that ‘He suffered death,’ we pass over His agony, His scourging, His terrible trip up to Calvary, and His excruciating death on the cross.”

She is mistaken on all counts. The Latin of the Nicene Creed reads passus et sepultus est — literally, “He suffered and was buried” (passus is the past participle of the deponent verb patior, pati, passus, “to suffer”). In context it means “He suffered death and was buried” and, contrary to what she wrote about suffered meaning tolerated, in this case it clearly means endured, with the sense of “endured (a tormenting) death.” (Even in English the primary meaning of suffer is to “endure or undergo something painful or unpleasant”; the use of the word to mean “tolerate” or “permit” is secondary and rare.)

There is no problem with the new translation, which is, as so often, more faithful to the Latin original than the one it replaced.

Thomas Howard

Manchester, Massachusetts

Faith in the Face of Baleful Forces

In her article “Armchair Heroes” (May), Alice von Hilde­brand puts her courageous — and characteristic — finger on some delicate points. What do we ordinary mortals do, for example, when we see baleful forces massing? Huge numbers of people “went along with” the Third Reich. A few protested. But what sort of a warrant do we, many decades later, have to fix judgment on anyone who may have seen the danger of Hitler but who realized that there was “nothing” he could do about it? Adducing the cases of Moses, Gideon, and St. Peter, she considers the situation in which a man is faced with impossible odds: How does faith behave itself here? At one and the same time, Dr. von Hildebrand gives no quarter but speaks with wise charity.

Jacob Copper

Iowa City, Iowa

Curtailing the Courts

Regarding Ronald Rychlak’s letter and Christopher Gawley’s reply (May), on the latter’s article about Hungary’s new Constitution (March), I encourage both to seek out The Warren Revolution by the late L. Brent Bozell Jr., a contributing editor of the NOR. In his critique of the Warren Court, Bozell made the case that the famous Marbury v. Madison decision by the Marshall Court contained nothing about granting the Supreme Court the powers of review it presently enjoys. Hungary’s efforts in its new Constitution to curtail the powers of its high court, seen by Prof. Rychlak to be something of an attack on the separation of powers would, according to Bozell, not be an attack at all if his arguments regarding Marbury v. Madison are accepted. Indeed, on the moral and governmental issues that Mr. Gawley cites in his reply, Bozell advocated for noncompliance with the currently accepted system, including urging Congress to take away the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction on abortion, among other things.

Given that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress great power in regulating the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary, criticizing the Hungarians for amending their new Constitution to regulate the Constitutional Court seems rather disingenuous.

James R. Stoner Jr.

Gretna, Louisiana

Applause for a Grand Project

Although I am neither a physicist nor a theologian, I applaud the publication of Anthony Rizzi’s two-part article series, “Recovering by Grounding Modern Physics” (April & May). While they barely tap the wells of learning that Dr. Rizzi and his team have discovered in their work of integrating into modern physics the foundation of thinking in the senses, as discovered by Aristotle and perfected by St. Thomas, his NOR articles tell enough to indicate the potential this knowledge has to revolutionize modern society and contemporary faith — that is, to bring them around again to a proper ordering, based on a sound account of nature and of human nature.

Modern science has vastly increased our power over the material world, but it has simultaneously diminished our understanding of ourselves and of our place in the universe. Rather than inducing us to recoil from science into our imaginations, Rizzi shows how science, properly grounded, can restore our true self-understanding and, as a consequence, our ability to grasp the truths of the faith as well. I look forward to seeing more of this grand project in your pages.

Murray Daw

Clemson, South Carolina

Part II of Anthony Rizzi’s article series on the importance of the proper foundation of physics (“The Redemption of Man Requires the Redemption of Science,” May) is as astounding as Part I (“How a Neglect of Physics Has Turned Christianity into a Myth for Modern Man,” Aprib~

The mission of the Church is to transmit to her members the integrity of body and soul that was re-established by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The greatest danger to this mission to date is the apparent separation of reason from the Church in the modern world. The solution? Returning to the first physics that we should have learned as children.

Physics is necessary for man’s salvation!

“Physics,” properly understood, is not restricted to the narrow, modern equational subject taught in all schools (even Catholic schools), but is the broader, basic, fundamental, and rigorous study of changeable being that includes the mathematical as a tool.

The Institute for Advanced Physics, of which Dr. Rizzi is the founder and director, is the only institution I know of where the problem and its solution are clearly understood, and the proper foundation for science is established. If you recognize the above statements as true, then you must realize your obligation to participate in the work of the IAP.

Bernard M. Collins

Catonsville, Maryland

Don't Die on Us!

Vacationing at the ocean last year, other family members wanted to have the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun every day. I would stop at the local 7-Eleven and pick them up after Mass. I was spending approximately $5 a day for two mediocre newspapers (far worse, in the opinion of many). In two weeks I spent approximately $70 for something I did not even read, save for the puzzles on Sunday. Then I thought of your supremely satisfying magazine and the $24 pittance you charge for a year’s subscription.

If it happens that your recent rate increase to cover today’s costs results in a loss of subscriptions, then I think there is one of two things wrong: (1) We have all lost our happy minds, or (2) You do not advertise well enough.

I have been gravely disappointed by the demise of the printed version of several of my favorite magazines over the past couple of years. Homiletic & Pastoral Review was number two on my list of worthies after yours. Catholic World Report was another. Reading these magazines online is tedious and a bore, and I simply do not do it. I go googly-eyed and find myself cut off from the people around me. There is no substitute for the printed page, which you can carry about, sit with in a comfortable chair, share with a TV program if necessary, interrupt to talk with your wife or children, get back to after supper, discuss spontaneously as the spirit moves you, etc.

Please, charge enough for your work. Encourage your subscribers to share your magazine with others. Ask them to quote it and talk about it. And if they have a pastor who doesn’t like your orthodox theology, urge them to give him a subscription. Talk up giving subscriptions as Christmas gifts. See if you can find a way to step out of the Catholic community by offering analysis of some of the national-political and world-news events. Challenge each of the bishops of the U.S. to subscribe and promote your work. And, last of all, stop feeling shy about your history. Your history and your professional work are gifts of the Holy Spirit to a struggling Church of secularized and falling-away members. Strengthen your brethren! Don’t leave us and offer us just an electronic cloud, please.

Your magazine needs a serious and ongoing campaign, not yearly cup-in-the-hand begging for donations to cover the costs of your work — work that is essential for the proper feeding of the American and global Catholic mind. Yours is a great magazine. Don’t die on us!

Michael Audet

Silver Spring, Maryland

Thanks to the NOR for your stead­fast presentation and defense of the Truth. The NOR does seem to be the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness. We can only hope and pray that a new, and more discerning, generation hears that voice and helps spread the insightful perspective found in the NOR.

Best wishes for success in your fundraising efforts and for the continuation of the fine work of the NOR.

Ana Kouba

Auburn, Nebraska

I’m not sure what Bridget Callahan (letter, Apribpmeant when she said your publication was getting “long-haired,” but it is getting increasingly harder to understand and therefore less enjoyable. Nevertheless, my husband wishes to continue subscribing to read your “take” on our new Pope. The “extra” in the check is to show that we do not mind the new increased rates. Other magazines charge far more per year.

William Olivito

El Cerrito, California

I believe it is only through sources like the NOR that traditional Catholics like me can receive the information as to what ails or helps the Church. As a longtime, avid reader and supporter of the NOR, I am happy to continue supporting you. My best wishes and prayers for your continued success in so ably fulfilling your mission, while our Church continues in her failure to keep us informed.

Sam Wright


Is Pope Francis Flouting Tradition?

I am disappointed that Pope Francis chose to forgo tradition and wash the feet of two women during the Holy Thursday liturgy at Casal del Marmo prison in Rome, as discussed in your New Oxford Note “Will the Real Pope Francis Please Stand Up?” (May). The Holy Thursday liturgy recalls the Last Supper, during which Christ introduced the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood, which is reserved to men only. Therefore, liturgical law prescribes that only men can be chosen for this ritual.

There are, no doubt, many ways in which the new Pope can reach out to women. Flouting tradition and abandoning liturgical laws are not among them.

Even more disturbing is Vatican spokesman and spin doctor Fr. Federico Lombardi’s sarcastic and arrogant jab at practicing Catholics in his statement that the Pope’s move was a “very beautiful and simple gesture of a father who desired to embrace those who were on the fringes of society; those who were not refined experts of liturgical rules.” Does Fr. Lombardi enjoy belittling those who uphold tradition and who adhere to liturgical rules? Sadly, these types of paeans to liturgical relativism are what have destroyed orthodoxy and made it a barren wasteland in the minds of most Catholics.

Case in point: Fr. Lombardi claims that the Pope’s gesture was valid because “the ritual of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday evening…took place in a particular, small community that included young women. When Jesus washed the feet of those who were with him on the first Holy Thursday, he desired to teach all a lesson about the meaning of service, using a gesture that included all members of the community.” This twist on Jesus’ meaning of service, broadly injected into the narrow context of the Last Supper when Christ created the ministerial priesthood, could be used to justify women’s ordination. Is that what the Vatican is ultimately aiming at?

Fr. Lombardi also stated that the Pope’s initiative “should call our minds and hearts to the simple and spontaneous gesture of love, affection, forgiveness and mercy of the Bishop of Rome, more than to legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions.” This kind of spontaneity that rejects authority is what led to the creation of the Novus Ordo Mass which, by inherently inviting a legion of abuses, led to our present-day crisis of faith. As Jesus once said, “Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones” (Lk. 16:10). Taking Pope Francis to be a truly humble person, I hope his “spontaneity” will be somewhat more measured in the future.


Many commentators have raised reasonable concerns about Pope Francis’s decision to wash the feet of two women during his pontifical Holy Thursday Mass at Casal del Marmo. To be clear, Mr. Wright is correct. According to the distinguished canon lawyer Edward Peters, writing on his “In Light of the Law” blog, “If liturgical law permitted the washing of women’s feet at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, no one would have noticed the Pope’s doing it. What was newsworthy (apparently, massively newsworthy) is that, precisely because liturgical law does not authorize it, the Pope’s performance of the action was huge news.” Pope Francis did in fact make the decision to contravene the clearly stated liturgical law. Is the Holy Father “allowed” to do such a thing? In the words of Dr. Peters: “The question is not usually whether the Pope is bound to comply with the law (he probably is not so bound), but rather, how he can act contrary to the law without implying, especially for others who remain bound by the law but who might well find it equally inconvenient, that inconvenient laws may simply be ignored because, well, because the Pope did it.”

We agree with Wright when he says that “abandoning liturgical laws” is not the best way for the Pope to reach out to women — or to anyone else. Rather, the Pope’s flouting of the liturgical foot-washing norm has presented a pastoral problem, one that is not simply limited to Holy Thursday liturgy. The logic runs like this: The Pope flouted a liturgical norm. If the Pope can do it, so can we. “A Pope’s ignoring of a law,” writes Peters, “is not an abrogation of the law but, especially where his action reverberated around the world, it seems to render the law moot.” If the law is moot, it is therefore meaningless.

As for Fr. Lombardi, he has long had a knack for saying the wrong thing. Here again he’s been caught with his foot in his mouth. His response, as Mr. Wright notes, is arrogant and wrong-headed, at the very least in the eyes of canon law. “The Pope’s decision [to wash the feet of women on Holy Thursday] was ‘absolutely licit’ for a rite that is not a Church sacrament,” Fr. Lombardi explained. Although a Pope may technically be able to permit himself to discard a Church norm or liturgical law, the implications of Fr. Lombardi’s fallacious statement are far-reaching. As Peters explains from the standpoint of a canonist, the Vatican’s spokesman’s response “implies that liceity is a concept that applies only to sacraments; but of course, liceity is an assessment of any action’s consistency with applicable law (canon, liturgical, sacramental, etc.). One would never limit questions of Mass liceity to, say, the matter used for the Eucharist or the words of institution (that is, the sacrament at Mass) as if all other rubrics were merely optional.”

We too trust that, given Pope Francis’s reputation as a man of humility, “his ‘spontaneity’ will be somewhat more measured in the future.”

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