Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: July-August 2017

July-August 2017

No Deliverance

In the conclusion of his incisive article “Why the West Abandoned Standard Rules of Conduct” (May), A. James Gregor expresses a (slender) hope for a restoration of traditional moral and intellectual values through the efforts, particularly, of churches and universities.

But is it realistic to look to those institutions for leadership in a movement to repair the collapsed bulwarks of our civilization? The very groups one might expect to be arch-defenders of inherited standards, if only for professional reasons — academics and clerics (and also attorneys) — are deplorably prominent among those who have produced and sustain the present crisis. On campuses, the liberal arts have been dying and denigrated for decades; hence, we find little required history (and certainly no “Western civ”!), few logic courses, the disappearance of classical languages, and a disparagement of real literature (by those dreaded “dead white men”). Prof. Gregor cites appalling examples of the triumph of political correctness over empirical evidence characteristic of contemporary academic discourse.

At the same time, and perhaps most distressingly, leaders of traditional churches so often appear fearful, ineffective, or unconcerned, and sometimes are themselves notable participants in the spoliation of the traditional cultural edifice. Consequently, the rising generations have been left almost completely defenseless against the toxic exudations of the “entertainment industry” and the “news media.”

Clearly, there are those in the academy and churches who struggle dauntlessly against the accelerating destruction of our culture, but it is equally clear that they are losing, if they have not actually lost, the war. Thus, while fully sharing Gregor’s eloquent dismay, I find it difficult to see where deliverance from, or even an effective response to, the present desolation is to arise.

Anthony James Joes

Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Political Science, Saint Joseph's University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Unhappily, Prof. Joes is perfectly correct. But we must begin somewhere. Elections have consequences, but to secure a revival, our churches and our universities are the places to which we must turn to secure our future. We can no longer remain passive in the face of the questionable materials delivered by those institutions — and we can directly and indirectly influence hiring practices in both and ultimately shape the quality of the substance delivered. It will not be easy. It will require organization, dedication, time, and money. We have no other viable alternative.

Kevin O'Brien, President

Theater of the Word Incorporated

St. Louis, Missouri

Cosmic Misfits

In his well-researched and well-documented article “On Pilgrimage with Shakespeare in Protestant England” (May), Kenneth Colston focuses on Shakespeare’s allusions in many of his plays to the value of “cooperative grace,” a Catholic tenet that the Protestants in England rejected. This is, indeed, more evidence of Shakespeare’s Catholicism. In fact, the demonstration of Shakespeare’s Catholic faith has been the most noteworthy trend in recent Shakespearian studies, even though G.K. Chesterton made note of it long ago. “Shakespeare is possessed through and through with the feeling which is the first and finest idea of Catholicism: that truth exists whether we like it or not, and that it is for us to accommodate ourselves to it,” Chesterton wrote. Comparing Shakespeare to Milton, Chesterton said that “Milton’s religion was Milton’s religion, and Shakespeare’s religion was not Shakespeare’s.”

Protestant theology (“Milton’s religion”), in rejecting cooperative grace and the meritoriousness of works, has produced, after 500 years, the nihilism we see around us. How can this be? Simple. If we are saved by “faith alone,” then quite literally nothing we do matters. God becomes merely volitional, arbitrary, and unknowable; grace no longer perfects nature; and we are shown to be mere cosmic misfits, regenerated to do good, and desiring to do good, but unable to do good — because it doesn’t matter: doing good does no good.

Colston is right to emphasize, more than once in his article, that even in the Catholic Church we have lost a sense of cooperative grace. We have forgotten the meritoriousness of works and the value of Our Lady’s fiat as a sign for the role of all men in the plan of salvation.

Recently, one of my former high-school students, who now attends an orthodox Catholic college, told me of the time she and her classmates got into a discussion on “grace” in one of her literature classes. The consensus of the students was that “It’s all from God. We are worthless. We have no value. Even when we do good things, it’s only God using us as a tool to do His own good through us. We are utterly depraved.”

These young Catholics, raised in devout Catholic homes, whose parents are sending them to a college known for its fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium, have the theology of Lutherans!

What they have not been told, apparently, is one of the great mysteries: God gives us the unfathomable opportunity to cooperate in our own salvation. That is perhaps the central Catholic theological truth the Protestants rejected.

But Shakespeare, as Colston points out, accepts it. His dramas are about the consequential — what flows from the free will of his characters, who do good by acting on God’s grace, and who do ill by rejecting it.

Robert J. Kendra

St. John the Evangelist Church

Ave Maria, Florida

How to Put Men Back to Work

Regarding Mary McWay Seaman’s review of Nicholas Eberstadt’s Men Without Work (May), the easiest way to put men back to work with blue-collar jobs is to put tariffs on all manufactured imports, thereby creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

Fr. Thomas Shaw, Pastor


Walnut, Illinois


Every nation has its own unique manufacturing strengths and weaknesses, raw-materials accessibility, labor-force characteristics, infrastructure, and geographic location. Trade deals, in which each partner comes to the table with particular strengths regarding specialized goods, services, and expertise, allow nations to trade for those things they require. Import tariffs are misguided, destructive measures that would quickly be met with backlash measures; such tariffs gin up destructive trade wars and can lead to increased prices for goods and services, as well as dangerous, downward financial spirals, potentially depressing economies.

Free trade has a long record of lifting economies and building alliances that support social, political, and fiscal stability; but equally important, free trade helps ensure the safety and security of citizens across all economic classes — bettering the lives of all participants.

Of course, Eberstadt addresses the shocking decline of the traditional American work ethic among young men, and he exposes the fact that so many of them manage to get by without working at all. The jobs and job-training programs are out there. As a former vocational business education instructor, I and my colleagues helped hundreds of our graduates find good jobs.

This increasing idleness among working-age men is a frightening and dangerous phenomenon. I will leave it to economists and social scientists to explore and explain the situation and offer remedies. But we must never forget that our trade partners contribute to our economic health, as we contribute to theirs. We need them, and they need us.

Andrew Sorokowski

Professor of Theology, John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage & Family, Catholic University of America

Rockville, Maryland

Blatty & Me

I was intrigued by Kevin Fellman’s letter (Apribpconcerning William Peter Blatty. I read The Exorcist in the early 1970s when it first came out, and I saw the movie too when it came out. At the time, I was under the impression that Blatty was a lapsed Catholic who was working his way back to the Church. I arrived at that erroneous conclusion after learning of the reaction to the movie John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! based on Blatty’s book of the same title. The film angered that august body, the University of Notre Dame, by spoofing its football team. The university actually filed a defamation lawsuit against the movie studio! (The school lost and the studio won.) Little did I know at the time that it wasn’t Blatty but Notre Dame that had lapsed. Since I was pretty much a lapsed Catholic myself, I probably read that into the whole episode.

I didn’t give The Exorcist much more thought until the early 1990s when I read Thomas B. Allen’s book Possessed, reputed to be the “true” story of the exorcism fictionalized by Blatty. Allen’s account is based largely on the reminiscences of Fr. Walter Halloran, S.J., the only surviving member of the exorcism team.

Shortly after that, I was in seminary in San Diego, taking pre-theology classes. One day, one of my professors brought a guest speaker to class. The speaker turned out to be Fr. Halloran, who was doing parish work in northern San Diego at the time. He spoke to us of the case, and although he never explicitly stated whether he thought the possession was authentic, he said some rather suggestive things.

As a Jesuit scholastic in the late 1940s, Fr. Halloran was a driver for Fr. William Bowdern, S.J., the actual exorcist. Fr. Halloran drove Fr. Bowdern and another priest who was charged with documenting the case to the house of the allegedly possessed 12-year-old boy in St. Louis. After a brief discussion with the boy’s parents, the priests went to a bedroom and quickly realized what was going on. Fr. Halloran was standing at the foot of the bed where the boy lay, and, before long, an object from a table by the head of the bed went flying across the room. “That kind of gets your attention,” Fr. Halloran commented to us, rather drolly. He also mentioned how the boy would frequently spit at them (he never missed, even when his eyes were closed) and speak in a deep voice, though not so deep as to sound like another person.

Now, none of this is necessarily indicative of demonic possession. But one incident Fr. Halloran related might very well be. He thought it might be a good idea to let the boy get out for a while, so he took him to a bluff overlooking the river. Unlike the depiction in the movie, a demonic presence was not always manifest; there was no manifestation at this time. Then suddenly the boy took off for the bluff. Fr. Halloran said he knew the boy was going to jump off the bluff and into the river, so he quickly ran after him and managed to tackle the boy just short of the bluff.

Many have argued that the boy was never really possessed, that he had a medical condition, or that it was all a hoax. Fr. Halloran told us that he and Fr. Bowdern went to a talk in the 1960s concerning the exorcism, in which the speaker, a Jesuit, claimed it wasn’t a genuine possession. Afterwards, Fr. Halloran asked Fr. Bowdern what he thought. Fr. Bowdern replied, “I was there and you were there. What do you think?” He said it in such a way as to indicate that he did believe it was an authentic possession.

I look forward to reading the other books about the case Mr. Fellman cites in his letter. I also look forward to re-reading The Exorcist, as well as Blatty’s 40th anniversary revision. And finally, I look forward to reading the sequels Mr. Fellman mentions, not from the perspective of a lapsed Catholic, but as Blatty intended them to be read: as a trilogy of faith.

Reynaldo O. Yana

SCI Rockview

North Mariana Islands

A Model for Russian Union with Rome

It is to be expected that in the centennial year of 2017, the visions and messages of Fatima should receive renewed attention (“Return to the Message of Fatima,” New Oxford Notes, May). It is likewise natural that at a moment of unexpected and alarming tension with Russia, the Blessed Virgin’s words about the consecration of Russia on July 13, 1917, should attract particular interest. Unfortunately, there is also likely to be a good deal of uninformed speculation. I therefore think it useful to call to mind three relevant truths about Russian Christianity and the Catholic Church.

First, although in the 19th century Russia was widely considered the most Christian country in Europe, today this is no longer the case. The Bolshevik and Stalinist assault on religion was devastating. Although as many as 85 percent of Russians consider themselves to be Orthodox Christians, surveys find that many of these professed Christians do not actually believe in God, weekly church attendance is as low as 0.5 percent, and monthly attendance is not over eight percent. Patriarch Kirill, who leads the Russian Orthodox Church, said in 2008 that only about 10 percent of Russians are “churched.”

Second, to the extent that Russia is Christian, it retains an age-old hostility, inherited from the Byzantines, to the West in general and to Catholicism in particular. Its chief historical adversaries, the Teutonic Knights and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, were Catholic. Some of the Moscow patriarchate’s most condemnatory language is directed toward the Uniate Churches — those Orthodox communities that have entered communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Third, while there have been many prominent Russians who adopted Catholicism in the Latin rite, the more natural form of conversion is embodied in the Slavonic-rite Russian Catholic Church. In May 1917, less than three weeks after the first appearance of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Greek-Catholic Archbishop-Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, who had been released from Russian imprisonment in the wake of the February revolution, presided over an eparchial synod in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). In doing so, he used powers granted him by the late Pope St. Pius X to form an exarchate. Fr. Leonid Feodorov (1879-1935), a follower of Vladimir Soloviev, was selected as exarch. Thus was born the Russian Catholic Church, which preserved the Slavonic liturgy and Russian spirituality.

After the Bolshevik coup d’état in November, both Orthodox and Catholics suffered persecution. Exarch Feodorov was arrested, tried, sentenced, and exiled to the Solovetsky Islands in the Arctic Circle from 1923 to 1932. He died three years after his release. Pope St. John Paul II beatified him in 2001. Today, despite official disfavor, there are over a dozen Russian Catholic communities in Russia. While currently under the administration of the Latin-rite ordinary, they await the creation of their own apostolic exarchate.

In contrast to vain fantasies of a mass Russian Orthodox conversion to Latin-rite Catholicism, the Russian Catholic Church offers a practicable, existing model for union with Rome — one that guarantees the preservation of Russia’s spiritual, liturgical, canonical, and theological traditions.

Bermel Paz

Centreville, Virginia

The Details Don't Add Up

It was certainly proper and fitting that you published “Return to the Message of Fatima” (May) on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. You write that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger urged that Rome’s version of the “third secret” of Fatima be taken as a reference to the assassination attempt on Pope St. John Paul II. But the fulfillment of this or any prophecy can only be shown to be true if most of its details coincide with the event it is alleged to prophesy.

The third secret, as recorded by Sr. Lucia, has the following details: (1) there is a bishop in white, who is most likely the pope; (2) there is a religious procession in which the bishop in white is accompanied by other bishops, priests, and religious men and women; (3) the procession goes through a big city half in ruins; (4) the bishop in white meets corpses along the way whose souls he prays for; (5) the procession reaches the top of a mountain where there is a large cross; (6) on that mountain the pope and other bishops, priests, and religious men and women are killed by a group of soldiers.

The third secret and the assassination attempt of John Paul II have only two things in common: the bishop in white and a procession. The other details of his attempted assassination do not coincide with the details of the third secret. John Paul was not shot by a group of soldiers but by one person, Mehmet Ali Agca. There were no other bishops, priests, or religious men and women killed in the assassination attempt. There were no dead corpses when John Paul was leading a procession through St. Peter’s Square where he was shot.

Therefore, to say that the third secret of Fatima is already fulfilled leaves a lot to be desired. That secret is yet to be fulfilled in our future.

If we put together the third secret of Fatima, Daniel 9:20-27, and the Blessed Mother’s message to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa of Akita, Japan (which, by the way, was ultimately recognized by a bishop as worthy of belief), the scenario would likely be as follows:

In the year 2020, the majority of cardinals oust Pope Francis, electing in his place the Antichrist, without knowing his true identity. Just as the popes of earlier times did when ousted by anti-popes, Francis transfers his see to a place close to the Vatican. Those who oppose his ouster follow him. Soon thereafter, the cardinals who elected the Antichrist begin to realize who he is. The Antichrist then summons his terrorist troops and orders them to kill all the cardinals, priests, and religious and lay people who do not swear allegiance to him. Pope Francis hears about the massacre and leads a procession of bishops, priests, and religious men and women up a mountain with a big cross on top, where the troops of the Antichrist kill them all.

Mary Shivanandan

Washington, D.C.


There certainly is no end of folks who fancy themselves prophets and interpreters of prophecies, yet the true, wise prophet is rare. How sad that so many well-meaning Catholics have obsessed over the prophecies of Fatima — to the detriment of Our Lady’s central message. Too busy acting as pseudo-cryptographers, they fail to see and to understand these private revelations as ultimately a call to repent, believe, and live with the love of God in one’s heart — in other words, personal conversion. Many self-proclaimed interpreters of, for example, the “third secret” of Fatima have the curious inability to understand figurative language (symbols, metaphors, paradoxes, etc.) — what it is, why it is used, and how it adds depth and even beauty. They demand the fundamentalist’s literal interpretation. Consider biblical prophecies: They were rarely to be taken quite so literally, and so it just may be with the “third secret” of Fatima.

Mr. Yana isn’t satisfied with the future Pope Benedict XVI’s interpretation. It is not enough that communists killed countless religious and attempted to assassinate a pope. Yana seems to need the fulfillment of the Fatima prophecy to be like a scene in a movie, where every little detail lines up — literally — with the details recorded by Sr. Lucia. Anything short of that will not satisfy him. So Yana has taken it upon himself to script the movie-like scene that he believes will be a true fulfillment of the third secret — and Pope Francis gets to play the hero-victim. And Mr. Yana believes this is somehow more convincing than Cardinal Ratzinger’s interpretation?

Debbie Wheeler

Alexandria, Virginia

What St. Cyprian Says to This Age

I took great pleasure in David D. Jividen’s guest column “St. Cyprian on Schism: A Patristic Reality Check” (May). In this age of excessive politicking, when narcissism appears to be an acceptable norm, the writing of St. Cyprian highlights the universality of the Church and is a reassurance that God’s forgiveness extends to all.

Lorraine Hoppe

Fairfax Station, Virginia

David D. Jividen has much to say to the contemporary controversy in the Church on the issue of sexuality. In St. Cyprian’s time, the third century, it was a question of allowing back into the Church those who had fallen away in times of persecution. Today it is restoring to the Church, specifically to the Eucharist, divorced Catholics in new unions whose previous marriages have not been declared invalid. Jividen records how St. Cyprian prescribed “returning to Peter, the ‘head’ of the Church, the ‘origin of unity'” as the answer.

Many Catholics are troubled by interpretations of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AB,/i> that recommend reintegration of “fallen-away” Catholics to the Eucharist after a period of penance yet without full conversion. A new book by three professors at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome, Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating: A Handbook for the Pastoral Care of the Family according to Amoris Laetitia (Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), takes a positive approach to AL‘s concept of accompanying the sinner on his journey back to the Church. At the same time, it reads AL in continuity with tradition concerning sacramental marriage.

This is but one instance of challenges the Church faces on issues of sexuality. Pope St. John Paul II understood that countering the modernist mindset of most contemporary Catholics is not an easy task. A different anthropology or science of man is at stake. Much mercy is needed to accompany today’s Catholic to a true understanding of marriage and responsible parenthood. In that regard, a group-study program titled A New Language, produced by Imago Dei (www.imagodei-tob.org), takes the participant step by step through his own unique experience to a transformation of mind and heart. Realizing that most Catholics are on a journey to the truth, only the facilitator needs to have a formal commitment to the Magisterium. It is programs such as these that honor the call of accompaniment and mercy that Pope Francis so eloquently expounds in AL.

By his insightful piece on St. Cyprian, Jividen has shown just how important it is to be loyal to the barque of Peter and to cling to Jesus’ promise: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).

Damion Leafey

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

David D. Jividen is correct that the writings of St. Cyprian are still instructive for church leaders today. And he is correct that it is important to stay close to one’s faith and one’s church. The Catholic religion has lost many parishioners to other Christian faiths by not adhering to the teachings of St. Cyprian in recommending a path for lapsed members to return to their fold.

I have the greatest respect and admiration for the Catholic religion, but as a Protestant I don’t agree with Jividen’s view of Protestant religions as “unseaworthy vessels” or that, as John Henry Cardinal Newman would have it, “Anglicanism separated from Catholicism is doomed to whither like a branch separated from a tree.” The unity of all Christian faiths in serving God is an important concept that should be embraced by all Christians.

We Can Do Much Better

I was moved by the plight of Fr. Thomas Thumpailchirayil’s landless and homeless parishioners (letter, Dec.). He and I have corresponded a few times. He impressed me as a kind, humble, sincere, and passionate champion of his poor parishioners. I have set up a Go Fund Me campaign with the stated goal of raising funds for one of his homeless families. But it is my hope that, with the grace of God, we can do much better and house them all!

Please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/2whd7-helping-one-family-at-a-time. Any amount will help. Just as importantly, please spread the word. Please post this link on your Facebook page and other social-media platforms. Let’s help Fr. Thomas help his families!

As I read Fr. Thomas Thumpailchirayil’s plea for assistance for his flock in India, my heart tore in two. Sadly, I cannot afford to send him any money because I am an inmate and earn only 19 cents an hour. (Yes, that is correct, 19 cents.)

Even though I earn so little money, I have sponsored a child in India for the past 15 years. This is no simple feat from prison. First, it is nearly impossible to find an agency that is willing to allow an inmate to sponsor a child. Second, I actually spend more on sponsorship than I earn from my prison job. I have to give up so much to sponsor a child, but I do it out of love.

My child lives in Bihar, which is nowhere near Fr. Thomas. But she and Fr. Thomas’s flock have similar problems. In India there is still a caste system, which is technically illegal. The lowest caste is the Dalits, formerly known as the untouchables. Since my child and Fr. Thomas’s flock are Christians, they do not fall within the caste system. You might think that, being outside the caste system, they do not have to suffer the struggles of the Dalits. No, their struggles are worse. Christians are considered outcasts. They are forced to live in the worst and most rundown communities in the country. They are considered filthy and are given the worst jobs — that is, if they can find a job.

Even though their lives are a constant struggle, Indian Christians are some of the most faithful people in the world. Unlike Americans, family is very important to them. In many parts of the country, the dowry is still in force. Being unable to marry off a daughter brings great shame to a family. Many poor families cannot afford a dowry and girls are forced into prostitution simply to live.

My sponsorship of a child costs only $36 a month. With this, my child is able to attend Catholic school, have a school uniform, eat well, and have health care. All this for only $36! Chances are, you reading this spend more than that just to go to a baseball game. If I, an inmate, can help those in need for 15 years, I have no doubt that readers of the NOR can do the same.

Sadly, the agency though which I sponsor my child no longer allows inmates to sponsor children. Luckily, I have been grandfathered in. If you wish to help more than just Fr. Thomas, you can become a sponsor of a child in India, giving that child a chance not only to live but to have a life worth living. The love you will receive from those you help is incalculable.

Depending on their level of poverty, an Indian family lives the following way:

– A typical home for an entire extended family is about twice the size of a prison cell.

– The home has a dirt floor and walls made from dung.

– They have no running water and are forced to relieve themselves in public.

– The heat and humidity are oppressive and, needless to say, they have no air conditioning.

– They sleep on a mat on the ground.

– The average family lives on about US$5 a day.

– They have little to no protection from the police.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child, contact Unbound at 800-875-6564. Ask for Enrique Espinosa and mention my name. Mr. Espinosa, or any other agent at Unbound, would be more than happy to help you help those in need.

Ed. Note: Unbound is a lay Catholic organization with 501(c)(3) nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service. Grounded in the Gospel call to serve the poor and inspired by the principles of Catholic social teaching, Unbound meets the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance’s standards for charity accountability, has earned four out of four stars from Charity Navigator, and has received an A+ rating from Charity Watch. Find out more at Unbound.org or by phoning 800-875-6564 or writing to Unbound, P.O. Box 219114, Kansas City, MO 64121-9114.

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