Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: June 2000

June 2000

How Could Christ Have More Than One Bride?

Stuart Koehl’s letter about Byzantine Catholics and the Orthodox (Apribpraises many questions and illustrates many confusions plaguing the Church in this Vatican II period. What does it mean to say that the Orthodox Church is a “true Sister Church” to the Catholic Church? Since the Church on earth is those baptized who are submitted to the Magisterium and jurisdiction of St. Peter and his successors on whom Christ built His Church indefectibly, the Mystical Body of Christ and the Catholic Church are one and the same thing, as Pius XI and Pius XII had to remind us in the last century as ecumenism began coming into the Church. Since Christ founded one Church and it is His Bride, how can the universal Church, the Bride of Christ, have a sister? Fr. Adriano Garuti of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has published articles in his capacity as a theologian in which he carefully examines the theology and history involved and suggests that it would be better not to call the Orthodox Church a sister to the Catholic Church.

How can Koehl say that the Orthodox Church fully maintains the apostolic Tradition, when it denies the primacy and infallibility of the Pope, which are part of that Tradition?

In Orthodox fashion — i.e., by seeming to limit dogmatic development to a selection of patristic texts — Koehl agrees to see the Church as “a locally organized Eucharistic assembly.” Insofar as modern Orthodox prioritize this “local Church” — in which Koehl says priests are “ontologically” (!) equal to the laity — they have an ecclesiology that Presbyterians might feel comfortable with.

Koehl seems not to distinguish between a married continent clergy and a married clergy. In other words, though he is right that in the early Church it was common for priests to be married, he should have mentioned that these married clergy were also expected to refrain from marital relations, as seen in the canons of many provincial councils and in other evidence. This was the discipline of the Eastern Church as well until it was relaxed by the Eastern Synod of Trullo in the late seventh century. The present Latin practice is thus more traditional. This has been ably argued by Christian Cochini and by Roman Cholij (a Ukranian Catholic canonist) in recent years. I have read critical reviews of these two authors by Orthodox writers; I have yet to read a convincing refutation of the essentials of Cochini’s and Cholij’s case.

Koehl makes several valid points in his defense of Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox against Latin misunderstandings. But I would like to close on a paradox of the Vatican II period: Rome tells the East that she must maintain her integral liturgical tradition, and simultaneously Rome deletes from and adds to her own tradition — see the new Mass of Paul VI. The anomaly is that much of what Paul VI abolished as “accretions” and so forth developed in the very same medieval period in which the Byzantine liturgy was still reaching its state of full development. So thanks to the NOR for Peter Kreeft’s article in the same April issue, “A Proposal for a New Alliance: The King James Bible & the Latin Mass.”

Br. Ansgar Santogrossi, O.S.B.

Mt. Angel Abbey

St. Benedict, Oregon

Koehl refers to the Orthodox Church as “the beloved Sister of the Catholic Church.” Beloved?

The Orthodox are heretics. They don’t recognize the pope. They reject the Immaculate Conception. And their people may “re-marry” in the Church after divorce.

Their current literature is replete with paranoid tales of persecution by the Catholic Church. They perceive Catholics as their enemy. The Orthodox czars were anti-Catholic as well as anti-Semitic. Recently Pope John Paul II declared as martyrs two Polish Catholic priests who were shot to death under a czar’s orders for not turning their church over to the Orthodox.

In Kosovo, Orthodox Serbs not only targeted Albanian Muslims for massacre but also Albanian Catholics. Last year in Orthodox Bucharest we witnessed the spectacle of the Patriarch placing John Paul, who was visiting there, under house arrest so as to prevent him from visiting the Catholic area of Romania. Then the Patriarch refused to discuss the return to the Catholic Church of thousands of churches, cathedrals, monasteries, and seminaries in Romania that were seized from the Catholic Church by the Communists and turned over to the Orthodox.

In Russia, recent Duma legislation declared Orthodoxy the state religion and placed severe restrictions on the Catholic Church, making her almost persona non grata.

With “beloved” friends like these….

Walter G. Perry

Quo Vadis Theatre

Hudson, Wisconsin

Congratulations to Stuart Koehl for his extremely knowledgeable and intelligent letter. It raised several questions in my mind:

(1) While the Holy Father is infallible in matters of faith and morals, would it be wrong to oppose him on disciplinary matters such as clerical celibacy and the selection of bishops?

(2) Is The Wanderer’s condemnation of certain liturgical practices in what it calls the “Amchurch” really relevant? If it’s commendable for Eastern Catholic Churches to have their own specific liturgy based on their ethnic backgrounds, then why isn’t it so for the American Church?

(3) Should the laity have a voice in the hiring and firing of parish priests, or should this be strictly the prerogative of the bishop? Do Scripture and Tradition mandate a dictatorship, outlawing all forms of democracy in the Church?

(4) If a married priesthood works well in Eastern Catholic Churches, why couldn’t it work just as well in the Roman Catholic Church?

Peter W. Stein

San Mateo, California

Pity Thomas Aquinas

I must have missed a turn in Peter Kreeft’s logic on the King James Bible and the Latin Mass (Aprib~ It seems to me that a return to the Tridentine Latin Mass would entail a return not to the King James Bible, but to the Latin Vulgate Bible (bad news: there’s a “new” one of those too). The Vulgate is certainly able to shape, or reshape, Catholic culture — the whole of it, not just the Western bit. Even so, our Eastern Rite brethren might justly complain of exclusion.

Whose culture are we talking about? It seems Anglo-centric to proclaim that the King James Version “shaped Western literature, culture, and education as no book except the Qur’an has ever shaped a culture.” It’s a pity Thomas Aquinas didn’t have a copy — he might have made a more substantial contribution.

English-speaking Catholics have long had a very serviceable Bible translation, one many consider imbued with holiness. Indeed, were the translators of the Douay Bible alive to read Kreeft’s article, they might respond, “What are we? Chopped liver?”

Richard Rice

Alexandria, Virginia

Learning Latin

Would Thomas Storck suffer a slight demur to his excellent article (Apribpon conversational Latin for today? Over the years I have attended (reveled in, actually) two Cenacula — where people converse with one another for a week in Latin — and I brought my oldest son to the second. Only the press of other duties has prevented me from attending again. Storck’s experience was clearly mine; we both loved it. That said, I must differ with Storck when he twice castigates the rote memorization of Latin’s conjugations and declensions.

I have been teaching Latin to home-schoolers for several years, and I absolutely insist on the memorization of the forms with my students. A baby will not learn English if he hears it only an hour a week, and my students, all of whom come from homes with no Latin reinforcement whatever, will not learn Latin if they hear me lecture to them for an hour four times a month. What virtually all of us lack in real opportunities to hear Latin spoken, then, we must try, as best we can, to make up for by committing to memory the structure of the language.

There are any number of good reasons for people with no Latin to accept the invitation of the Family of St. Jerome and come to a Cenaculum. The simple fact remains, though, that those who bring something more, even if it is only memorization of some verbs and nouns, will get more out of their time with such accomplished and approachable experts as Fr. Seidl or Jan Halisky, Esq. In any event, we could do with a little less knocking of the traditional study methods; people engaged in such studies are at least trying, which puts them light-years ahead of most.

Dr. Edward Peters

San Diego, California

Catholic Heroes on Stage

Eric J. Scheske’s article about the importance of heroes in shaping young lives is very true (“Skinheads & Rock Stars — or Saints?” March). Referring to cynical youngsters in San Francisco and elsewhere, Scheske makes a plea for “someone to show them a real hero toward whom to direct their admiration.” We at Quo Vadis are doing just that. A few years ago we founded a Catholic theater company to produce plays about the great heroes of our Faith.

Some of the heroes we’ve brought to the stage include Margaret Clitherow, who was executed for hiding Jesuits in 16th-century York; Matt Talbot, the Dublin dockworker who conquered an addiction to alcohol; and Oliver Plunkett, the famed Irish martyr.

The response of theatergoers to our dramas has been positive. Many in the audience are high schoolers. Though we struggle to stay afloat financially, the possibility that a young person may be inspired or changed by what he sees, makes it all worthwhile. We also found out, to our surprise, we are the only Catholic community theater in America. Your readers may write to Quo Vadis, P.O. Box 9023, San Jose, CA 95157. Tel. 408-252-3530.

Cathal Gallagher

San Jose, California

No Room in the Inn for Dogma

In reading your April issue, I was fascinated (appalled, really) to read the letter from Louis J. Mihalyi. He blasts the NOR for being “dogmatic” and “orthodox,” adding that what the NOR stands for “is not welcome in a free, democratic society.”

Does Mihalyi own a dictionary? Mine says that dogma is “a doctrine or system of doctrine maintained by a religious body as true and necessary of belief.” And orthodox is defined as “correct or sound in doctrine.”

Apparently, Mihalyi believes that religious truth and sound doctrine have no place in a free society. Alas, in our present society, he might be correct.

Andrew C. Batten

Port Washington, New York

Mihalyi claims that because there are over 30 million adult Catholics in America and because the NOR has only 15,800 subscribers, therefore the NOR is “rejected by the vast majority.” Doesn’t Mihalyi understand that the reason why most Catholics don’t read the NOR has much more to do with the weighty nature of its contents than any rejection of its viewpoint? The NOR is not People magazine, after all!

Mihalyi says the NOR is “dogmatic, authoritarian, and orthodox” and therefore it’s “not welcome” in Mihalyi’s “free, democratic society.” So who’s really being authoritarian — and intolerant — here?

Russell J. Ruscigno

Carlsbad, California

From a Letter Sent To Our Sunday Visitor

I was extremely interested in OSV’s March 19 editorial, “Our Recent Primer in Anti-Catholicism.” You state there that it’s good for “the laity to give a robust defense of the faith….”


Pray tell, then, why is it that you no longer allow the lay-run NEW OXFORD REVIEW to buy space for its trademark ads in your pages? Certainly the NOR’s defense of the faith is robust. But perhaps it’s too robust for your tastes. Still, shouldn’t this level of enthusiasm be left up to your readers to evaluate? Why would you want to hurt a well-written publication that promotes that faith vigorously — namely, the NOR?

I’ve found the NOR to be thought-provoking and on-target. I urge you to reconsider your boycott of the NOR’s ads. Save your energy for publications that work against the faith.

Jere Joiner

Divide, Colorado

Vatican II: A Modest Council

Regarding Andrew Tardiff’s article on Dignitatis Humanae (Aprib* His arguments have merit and certainly will stimulate more thorough evaluations. However, his insistence that Vatican Council II was a pastoral Council will bring him some embarrassment. He is going directly against the proclamations of Pope Paul VI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and the venerable Dietrich von Hildebrand.

Pope Paul said (General Audience, Jan. 12, 1966): “In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium which must be accepted with docility according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document.”

Cardinal Ratzinger said (Address to Chilean Bishops, July 13, 1988): “There are many accounts of it [Vatican II] which give the impression that from Vatican II onward, everything has been changed, and what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II…. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council.”

Dietrich von Hildebrand said (in his The Charitable Anathema): “In the case of the theoretical authority, the important question is whether a teaching refers to matters of faith and morals and does not contradict the deposit of Catholic faith. Here infallibility is in question, when a teaching is pronounced ex cathedra or de fide. A specific case may help to illuminate the matter. The Second Vatican Council solemnly declared in its Constitution on the Church that all the teachings of the Council are in full continuity with the teachings of former councils. Moreover, let us not forget that the canons of the Council of Trent and of Vatican I are de fide, whereas none of the decrees of Vatican II is de fide; The Second Vatican Council was pastoral in nature. Cardinal Felici rightly stated that the Credo solemnly proclaimed by Pope Paul VI…is from a dogmatic point of view much more important than the entire Second Vatican Council. Thus, those who want to interpret certain passages in the documents of Vatican II as if they implicitly contradicted definitions of Vatican I or the Council of Trent should realize that even if their interpretations were right, the canons of the former councils would overrule these allegedly contradictory passages of Vatican II, because the former are de fide, the latter not.”

Also, I was puzzled by Tardiff’s citing Canons 511-514 (of the Code of Canon Law) as referring to General Councils; actually those canons are quite specifically addressing diocesan Councils.

Erven E. Park

Toledo, Washington

On Emptying Hell

In your March issue, Fr. Regis Scanlon tries to prick “The Inflated Reputation of Hans Urs von Balthasar.” Scanlon says that, “Balthasar, in Dare We Hope ‘That All Men Be Saved’?, claimed there was no certainty that anyone is in Hell or ever will be in Hell,” not even Judas. Scanlon argues that Scripture and Church doctrine prove that Judas is in Hell.

Scanlon believes that when Jesus said few will enter the narrow gate (Lk. 13:23-24) He meant it literally, but that when Jesus said He Himself did not know the time of the end of the world (Mk. 13:32) He did not mean it literally. Scanlon gives us a list of authorities who say that Mark 13:32 must not be taken the way it looks. Well, maybe Luke 13:23-24 need not be taken the way it looks either. In fact, Balthasar would say that Luke 13:23-24 is part of a passage which is meant as an exhortation, not as a theological discourse, still less as a description of fact.

As for the fate of Judas, Balthasar asked, “Who can know the nature of remorse that seized Judas when he saw that Jesus had been condemned?” The answer is, only God knows.

Balthasar reminded individual Catholics that they should fear Hell for themselves even if they do not presume its infliction on others. He suggested that Catholics who seek to “fill hell” are putting limits on their love. He warned them to avoid judging others. He urged that Christianity at its best seeks to “empty hell” — that is, it writes no one off as hopeless.

Balthasar’s point was that Christians should concentrate on keeping people out of Hell, not on putting them into it; and that we cannot give up on anyone, no matter how unlikely a prospect for salvation he may seem. The rest is up to God.

Roderic L. Notzon

Tulsa, Oklahoma


How do we keep people out of Hell? By abolishing Hell? By hoping that all men will be saved? Oh, if only it were so simple! Yes, only God judges, but He has given mankind Scripture and Catholic Tradition, which show what must be done to avoid Hell: Believe in Christ and keep His commandments (whether explicitly or implicitly). If Hell can be “filled,” the best way to accomplish that is to hide Christ and His Church, to deprive others of the fullness of truth and grace.

To worry about one’s own damnation sounds so saintly, and to concern oneself about the damnation of others can sound so, well, judgmental. But there are mortal sins which, if committed contrary to the conscience and if not repented of, can send one to Hell. It is precisely a work of mercy to warn and instruct such sinners, and point them to Christ. Contrary to appearances, to worry only about one’s own damnation could be the height of selfishness and egotism.

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