Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: June 2002

June 2002

Restoring Truly Sacred Music

Over a year ago L’Osservatore Romano (Feb. 7, 2001) reported on an auspicious day in the history of a venerable papal college. On that day, 90 years ago, the Pontifical College of Sacred Music in Rome was founded by Pope St. Pius X. “I thank God for the work accomplished by the Pontifical College of Sacred Music for the benefit of the Universal Church,” rejoiced Pope John Paul II. “Music and song are not merely an ornament or embellishment added to the liturgy. On the contrary, they form one reality with the celebration, and allow for a deepening and interiorization of the divine mysteries.”

It is in reports such as these that I sense a tremendous disconnect between the theory and reality of sacred music in the U.S. and in most of the West — a disconnect I deplore.

The Second Vatican Council’s directives on sacred music, found in Sacrosanctum Concilium, represented the culmination of all official Roman pronouncements since Pius X’s 1903 Motu Proprio. Titled Tra le Sollicitudini, the 1903 document urged that holiness and a truly artistic quality be demanded of all music admitted to the liturgy, with highest preference given to Gregorian chant. Second in preference was the sacred polyphony of the 16th and 17th centuries, and lastly, any modern compositions fulfilling the threefold requirements of holiness, artistry, and universality.

It goes without saying that, had American churchmen, musicians, and liturgists in critical positions of leadership in the mid-1960s been faithful to these simple and self-evident criteria, the devastation and scandal in Catholic Church music which is so apparent in our Catholic churches today (with precious few exceptions) would not have occurred, despite the influence of popular culture.

Instead, most parish churches, convents, and seminaries, following the siren song of the heavily monied, remarkably entrenched National Pastoral Musicians Association (a typical child of the Sixties) followed one novel titillation after another. This question ought to present itself to priests, religious, laity, and especially the bishops: Are not the logical consequences of the wholesale rejection of papal authority and guidance in Church music, especially since Vatican II, only too evident?

Is it any wonder that the vast Catholic music establishment, initiated by mandate of the episcopacy, has been artlessly spinning its wheels ever since? Or, perhaps, is it pursuing a reasoned, though heedless, course intentionally at variance with the wishes of the universal Church? The question begs asking: Is the music establishment truly serving the Catholic Church and her people, or manipulating them toward a “New Church”?

It is no coincidence that our people’s Catholic beliefs, and especially their Catholic spirituality, have been superficialized and eroded.

At the same celebration cited at the beginning of this letter, the Holy Father admonished that the Church “today requires of us and the faithful a sound cultural, spiritual, liturgical and musical foundation,” adding that “It also calls for profound reflection.”

It is to contribute to this end that I urge your readers to seriously consider attending the Ninth Midwest Conference on Sacred Music from Sunday afternoon, August 4, through Wednesday, August 7, 2002, in Donaldson, Indiana. The conference takes place in a quiet, secluded Motherhouse ninety miles southeast of Chicago, and a half-hour’s distance from Notre Dame. The historic lakeside buildings include a large Gothic chapel, admirably suited for the conference liturgies. With its theme, “Toward an Understanding of the Foundations of Sacred Music,” the conference will be a study-practicum addressing the Church’s undying solicitude for sacred music. Significant documents for the proper understanding of liturgy and Catholic Church music will provide authoritative guidance.

Besides establishing the wishes of the Church in regard to sacred music, various speakers will address the roots of the present liturgical malaise in such topics as “The Secularization of Catholic Church Music: How it Happened, Why, and What the Church Really Wants”; “Seminary Music: Recovering the Tradition”; and “God Dumbed Down: The Piano in the Sanctuary.” Also, by an early, former participant in the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, “Guidelines for Translating Liturgy.” There will be practical training in “Instructions in Reading Gregorian Notation,” “A Review of the Rubrics,” and “How to Properly Sing Gregorian Chant.” A chant Schola, comprised of interested participants, will rehearse and perform appropriate chant selections at the conference liturgies. A highlight of the conference will be a tour of the splendidly renovated Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus.

Speakers and leaders in practicum will be Fr. Eduard Perrone, Pastor of Assumption Grotto Church in Detroit, Michigan, who conducts his own parish orchestra and choir in professional renditions of orchestral Masses and Church music selections. Joining Fr. Perrone will be pianist, composer, and co-editor of Catholic Insights magazine, Fr. Stephen Somerville of Toronto. Calvert Shenk, composer, organist, and Director of Music at the Sacred Heart Major Archdiocesan Seminary in Detroit will address the conference, as will Mary Oberle Hubley, a home-schooling mother of six and former teacher of Catholic school music, grades K-12. Fr. Vigny Bellerive of Paris, France, who is a canon lawyer, a soloist in voice and violin, and a choral conductor, will also address the conference.

Your readers may find more information and a printable registration form at www.nicholasmaria.com. (Also at this website they may hear excerpts from Gate of Heaven, a collection of original Catholic hymnody.) Your readers may request information by writing me at Nicholas-Maria Publishers, 1131 Guilford St., Huntington IN 46750; or emailing me at moberle@ctlnet.com.

Mary Oberle Hubley

Huntington, Indiana

Crossing the Tiber?

To the surprise of Fr. Federico Serra-Lima (letter, April 2002, “How Could Storck & Glover Possibly Agree?”), I wrote “an approving response” (letter, Nov. 2001) to the article by Thomas Storck critiquing C.S. Lewis’s concept of “mere Christianity” (Jul.-Aug. 2001). Even more surprising to Fr. Serra-Lima is Storck’s “agreement” with me (letter, Jan. 2002). Serra-Lima detects “a wee bit of logical and conceptual incoherence; or at the least, of ambiguity and equivocation,” given that Storck is a Roman Catholic and I am a Lutheran. Serra-Lima finds it puzzling that we could agree.

I would like to remind Fr. Serra-Lima of the reason Storck first penned his article, and the impetus that compelled me to agree with him — that being the definition of Church. Indeed, Serra-Lima is correct, insofar as a genuine Lutheran cannot accept the definition of Church as defined by a Roman Catholic, for to do so would require submission to the Vicar of Rome, the Holy Father — an office that genuine Lutherans do not hold in the highest regard. But if Storck, Cardinal Ratzinger, and the rest of the Roman Catholic world are correct in their definition of Church (and the implications of being part of that Mystical Body), then we who are separated from Church have some serious questions to ask and some important decisions to make. And it is here where Storck’s analysis of Lewis is so poignant, an analysis of Church that I find increasingly difficult to refute.

As Christians, we are called and compelled to proclaim the truth of the faith that we have so graciously been given by our Lord. This calling is one of completeness and totality. We are not called to teach half-truths, partial truths, or truths that proclaim a faith of the lowest common denominator. Rather, we are compelled to teach that which has been taught to us — first by Christ, then by His apostles, those who are the rock of His Church. We are called and compelled to this truth by Christ and His Church, a Church where Storck writes, “there is the fullness of the faith,” a faith that each of us should desire to call our own. “Mere Christianity” does not allow for this “fullness” (see Storck’s article, his letter, and my letter). Nor does “mere Christianity” allow this faith to understand and appreciate Church as a Roman Catholic does, depriving all those who cling to that concept of the richness and grace that can be found only in her.

So as one who does not desire depravity, I will say again, “To define the Church is to define our faith.” We need not doubt where the Church is, or where she is not. The Church is precisely where she always has been, housed and ruled by the same Magisterium that was, is, and will remain. A Church that freely offers the world graces and the gift of eternal life. And again I will say, “I am thankful for Storck’s wisdom, reminding even us Lutherans that we must always, coupled with God’s grace and our might, passionately strive to be ‘united visibly to Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body.'” To this unity of Church, this true unity of fullness, I give my heart, my soul, and my vocation.

Graham Bernhardt Glover

Vicar, Our Savior Lutheran Church

Carbondale, Illinois

Fr. Federico Serra-Lima has seen fit to reply to my letter (Jan.) in which I replied to him and to several other critics (Nov.) of my original article (Jul.-Aug. 2001) about C.S. Lewis’s concept of “mere Christianity.” I only reply now because he has suggested that I might be a heretic since I quoted another letter, that of the Lutheran Vicar Graham Glover, in support of my thesis. Of course I was aware that Glover and I mean different things when we refer to “the Church,” but I thought I might rightly appropriate his words since he understood correctly the role of the Church in determining the contents of the Faith, a point that my Catholic and Episcopalian critics seemed to miss, even if Glover — as long as he is not a Catholic — is wrong about what exactly that Church is.

Thomas Storck

Greenbelt, Maryland

Only the Elect

Your two recent New Oxford Notes commenting on the doctrinal slide of the Christian Reformed Church from manly Calvinism to effeminate liberalism were great (“When Old Tics Die Hard,” Jan.; “When Old Tics Die Hard [Part II],” Aprib~

But I couldn’t help snorting at your pathetic caricature of Calvinism: “its most distinguishing tenet is that God predestined people (probably most people), before the foundations of the world, to the eternal torment of Hell — that God is (how else can we say it?) merciless, unjust, and capricious. If you’re predestined to Hell, you can repent all you want, you can accept Jesus into your heart a thousand times, you can solemnly profess your adherence to Calvinist theology, but you still go to Hell.”

God would not be unjust or capricious if He sent every single sinner to Hell. On the contrary, He would be perfectly just in doing so. So why, if He graciously chose before the foundations of the world to save “a great multitude that no one can count,” does He suddenly become merciless, unjust, and capricious for not choosing to save every single person? Doesn’t the Bible say somewhere, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy”?

And concerning that poor old repentant sinner, banging on Heaven’s door, begging Jesus to save him, only to be told, “Get lost, you’re not chosen” — what a hoot! It is only the elect who respond in saving faith and repentance to the Gospel, and when they do God always saves them. The reprobate hate God and don’t want to be saved. Where’s the injustice in that?

The reason Christian Reformed liberals prefer Universalism to Arminianism doesn’t have anything to do with not wanting to “concede Calvin was wrong about free will.” They’re willing to concede Calvin was wrong about other things, such as being against lady preachers. The reason is that Arminianism requires you to tell people they are sinners and they’re going to Hell unless they believe in Jesus Christ alone. It is the doctrine of eternal punishment and the exclusivity of the Gospel, not the “free will” debate, that bothers Christian Reformed liberals.

Andrew Siegenthaler

Cullman, Alabama


The capricious injustice of Calvinist predestination is not that “not…every single person” goes to Heaven, for there are those who appear to, as you say, “hate God and don’t want to be saved.”

According to Calvinist predestination, a man may love God and want to be saved, but that of itself will not save him. A man is utterly powerless to make “a decision for Christ” (as Billy Graham would have it), for the final decision about his salvation — or damnation — was made by God long before that man was even born or conceived, and God’s sovereign decree is irrevocable. This is the capricious injustice of Calvinist predestination.

You yourself are revising Calvinism when you say, “It is only the elect who respond in saving faith and repentance….” You are saying that men can be saved by responding with faith and repentance. But your Calvinism is backwards. (Indeed, your position here sounds Catholic.) Man’s response counts for absolutely nothing in classical Calvinism. The Westminster Confession of 1647 says that God predestined the elect “without any foresight of [their] faith or good works.” According to the Synod of Dort, the historic assembly of the Dutch Reformed Church which defined the key points of Calvinism in 1618-1619 in Dort (Dordrecht), Calvinism holds that predestination is “unconditional” (i.e., whether a man goes to Heaven or Hell is not conditioned by what a man does or believes or how he responds) and grace is “irresistible” (i.e., the grace given to a man cannot be refused, hence the issue of “responding” to grace is irrelevant). In the Calvinist system, neither your good works nor your repentance nor your faith nor your response can save you. It is only God’s decree before the foundation of the world that saves a man, and it is that same decree that damns others to the eternal torment of Hell.

Yes, that makes the Calvinist God unjust and capricious, and even if Calvinists can’t admit it, they have sensed it acutely over the centuries, for they have realized that, being unable to read the mind of the Almighty, they themselves could not be sure that they were of the elect. Oh, what cruel irony! To be sure, various free-will, even Pelagian, remedies for this horrendous anxiety have been smuggled into Calvinism here and there, but they all violate the iron logic of the Calvinist system, which is arbitrary and brutal, and which has proved existentially unbearable for many born into the Calvinist tradition.

Don't You Realize That Our Church Is Crumbling Fast?

I am not going to renew my subscription. I am writing to tell you why.

The Catholic Church in this country is in a severe crisis, which has been building since January. During the past weeks I have read different articles, ranging from Newsweek to The New York Review of Books. Yet when I look at recent issues of the NOR, especially the most recent (Aprib| one would never know that the edifice built by Bishop Hughes and others is crumbling fast. I am writing about an estimated one billion dollars in legal (hush) payments, a hierarchy more concerned about protecting fellow priests and the institutional Church than the laity, and a hierarchy that is both out of touch and arrogant.

I realize that it takes time to write articles and have them reviewed, but the New Oxford Notes in the March and April editions could have commented on the Church’s growing problems. “Fire Alarms in the Night” in April touched on it (homosexual priests and New Age spirituality), but that New Oxford Note was really focused on an article by Stratford Caldecott.

I have decided to look elsewhere for a Catholic publication that meets my needs, one which is quicker off the mark and focused on the real world.

Edward Kreuser

Interim Provost, Ave Maria College

Ypsilanti, Michigan


Yes, we could have commented on the recent horrendous sex scandals in our April — or May — issue (but not March, given our production schedule). However, believe it or not, we don’t have an instant opinion for every occasion, at least not one we’d want to commit to print. We don’t like to shoot from the hip, though in this case we certainly felt the urge to. Sex scandals are not our specialty, and we like to have our facts straight before addressing a specific crisis, especially this one, where many contentious technical issues have been raised. Moreover, we see little value in repeating what others have already said. Perhaps you are not aware that we have commented with stern disapproval on the general topic of sex scandals and homosexuality in the priesthood on many occasions, going at least as far back as an editorial in our April 1991 issue. We’ve even raised the topic in our controversial ads (as early as 1995). We are confident that very few people could be uncertain as to our basic stance.

We disagree that our Church is “crumbling fast.” The Church will withstand this scandal, this assault from Satan, as well as those sure to come in the future. As it happens, this issue of the NOR has plenty on the recent sex scandals.

We were also slow off the mark in commenting on 9-11. We explained why in our New Oxford Notes section (Dec. 2001, p. 18), saying: “For one thing, we are a monthly publication and it would be hard — given the fast pace of events — to write anything that wouldn’t be ancient history by the time the NOR hits your mailbox. For another thing, we couldn’t come up with anything that hadn’t already been said a hundred times.” Then we proceeded to briefly discuss “one aspect of the [9-11] apocalypse that we have neither seen nor heard any comment about.” The NOR is not a me-too magazine. We do things our own way. We don’t go in much for “instant analysis.” We prefer to get things in perspective, see the big picture. Yes, that can take time. We like to let our thoughts and those of our writers ferment, in the hopes that what results will be fine wine rather than off-the-shelf grape juice. We had two articles and one guest column about 9-11 in March (six months after the fact) and one in May, and we thought they were fine indeed. Well worth waiting for.

The NOR is simply not a news publication. We are a monthly, and you need to be a weekly to present the news in a timely and effective fashion. Now, if you want a Catholic publication that is quick off the mark, we’d recommend the weekly Wanderer (651-224-5733). It gives you Catholic news fast — and not candy-coated. If you are of a more liberal bent, the weekly National Catholic Reporter (800-333-7373) could serve a similar purpose. We don’t care for the Reporter’s point of view, but we must admit that it’s full of hard news, no-holds-barred.

But since you’ve canceled, how will you see this? We’ll send you this NOR gratis, and hope you’ll reconsider.

Vero Beach, Florida

Good Effects Are Not Good Enough

I congratulate Kenneth Whitehead on addressing “the very question Justice Harry Blackmun was so doubtful about ever being able to find the answer to in his original 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion” (article, March). Whitehead is on target (if not in the bull’s eye) in stating that the question of the origin of human life is not a belief but, as scientifically established, occurs at the fertilization of the female ovum by the male sperm. And he is correct in his argument that this scientific fact demands from the prolifer, if he is principled, that he oppose any form of “emergency contraception,” which is in fact abortifacient.

If prolife individuals know this fact — and are not simply “conflicted and unsure” — and support, or do not at least oppose, “emergency contraception,” which is abortifacient, they are, indeed, “less than principled in their responses.”

Whitehead includes in his argument against such responses the following: “admitting the legitimacy of so-called emergency contraception means admitting the legitimacy of at least one procedure which possibly does, at least some of the time, cause abortion….”

But how does the above square with Whitehead’s own identification as a prolife “gain” the recently “enacted laws requiring parental notification or parental consent for abortions performed on minor girls; and…a waiting period before an abortion — during which a woman must be informed of the nature of the abortion procedure and the alternatives”?

Surely, such laws regulate abortions as opposed to restricting or prohibiting them. The law sets requirements as a condition for abortions. What if these requirements are fulfilled? Surely, the state must protect the right of the woman to have an abortion after fulfilling the requirements. Here it is not a question of one possible procedure that causes abortion, but rather any and all procedures that secure an abortion to which the woman has a right, having fulfilled the legal requirement.

It is hard to understand how a law that regulates a right to abortion can be considered a gain for the prolife movement. Whitehead states that this “gain” could be seriously undermined if prolife opinion were “prepared to acquiesce in principle to the legitimacy of at least one form of (possible) abortion.” Yet the very law he identifies as a “gain” would allow for the possibility of at least one abortion if the parents consented to an abortion on their minor daughter.

His interest in arguing against one possible form of abortion — “emergency contraception” — leads him to commit an error that is deadly to the prolife principle. He accepts and possibly would support, promote, and vote for an intrinsically unjust law — intrinsically unjust because it grants a legal right to abortion even as it regulates the exercise of that right. The Casey law, for example, was an unjust law. It simply regulated abortions without prohibiting them, as the dissenting Justices clearly stated. The Casey law is wrongly considered prolife and Governor Casey is wrongly considered a prolife hero.

It would seem that Whitehead holds the above laws a “gain” in as much as they would lessen the number of abortions. They would have a “good effect.” On this account he would be applying a principle condemned in Veritatis splendor. An effect, however good, does not justify an evil action. The concrete application of this principle is found in #73 of Evangelium vitae: It is never licit to support, promote, or vote for an intrinsically unjust law.

Section #73 of Evangelium vitae clearly distinguished between two kinds of law: a permissive law, which sanctions abortions and is therefore called a pro-abortion law by the encyclical, and a restrictive law with which it is licit to co-operate as long as it is not unjust, namely, as long as it does not legislatively protect any abortions. The latter law may be imperfect because it does not ban all abortions but only prohibits some, namely, restricts a specific category. It lessens, or restricts, the evil results of pro-abortion laws already in existence. An example would be the prohibition of all abortions in military hospitals. It is imperfect because it does not prohibit all abortions in the U.S. But at the same time, it does not protect any so-called rights to abortion.

A number of commentators have erroneously assumed that it is permissible to support, promote, and vote for an intrinsically unjust law as long as one only intends its “good effects.” Such an interpretation is a patent contradiction of the encyclical as well as the traditional teachings of the Church.

Whitehead seems to have committed the same error. This does not imply that he is less than principled or that he has lost his integrity. But he could be conflicted and unsure about being a spectator rather than a participant in doing good at the cost of evil.

Fortunately, the traditions of the Church, which the NEW OXFORD REVIEW otherwise and so well defends, are a way to peace and certainty.

Damian P. Fedoryka

Lakewood, Colorado

The Origin of Naming Hispanic Sons Jesus

The Editor wonders (April, pp. 7-8) why it is that Hispanics, but not others, name their sons Jesus (Jesús), and asks for reader response. Here’s the answer: On October 7, 1571, a united Christian fleet led by Prince John of Austria defeated a Turkish fleet off the coast of Lepanto, Greece. The Christian fleet, known as the Holy League, was formed by Pope Pius V, and consisted of ships from Spain, the Papal States, Venice, and Genoa. A tremendous victory was won by the Holy League, and Europe was spared the possibility of Turkish conquest. As a result, the Pope declared that all males of Spanish descent could henceforth be named Jesus and that they did not have to abstain from meat on Fridays. (Interestingly, France did not participate and in fact had an alliance with the Turks, allowing them shelter in French harbors.) Lepanto is one of the most important naval battles in history.

Bart McDonnell

Willow Street, Pennsylvania

So What?

Regarding Louis J. Mihalyi’s letter (Aprib| where he says regarding the odor of sanctity, “Yes, there are such stories, but they have no authentic, scientific rationale, and never will,” I respond: And neither will Christ’s Resurrection — or any other miracle.

Donald R. Bocast

North Bergen, New Jersey

Free the Traditional Mass

Several letters to the editor have eloquently expressed what many Catholics believe: The Novus Ordo experiment has failed. In The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, Msgr. Klaus Gamber wrote, “Instead of the fruitful renewal of the liturgy what we see is a destruction of the forms of the Mass which had developed organically during the course of many centuries.” Therefore, it seems to me that the Pope should begin to rectify the situation by freeing the Traditional Mass (i.e., granting universal permission to any priest to celebrate the Tridentine Latin Mass). This is precisely what the Society of St. Pius X has requested in its negotiations with Rome. Such a courageous act would help to bring about the hoped for reunion between Econe and Rome, and begin the process of restoring the liturgy of our beloved Church.

Erick Wittemann

Can Someone Clear Some Things Up for Me?

I have recently become aware of a branch of religiousness known as Christian Identity. They offer incredible insights into the Bible, many of which challenge my Catholic upbringing. I am hoping you — or someone — can clear some things up.

In Genesis 1:26, describing the Sixth Day of Creation, God made “human beings.” In Genesis 2:1-3 God was finished with Creation and rested. But in Genesis 2:7 God “took some soil from the ground” and formed a “man” out of it. This leads me to my first question: Why does the Bible, and why did God, differentiate between “human beings” and “man”?

The folks within Christian Identity say that “man,” who was called “Adam,” was actually the first of the white (Aryan) race. They say his name, “Adam,” is actually more of a description in Hebrew, “Awdawm,” which means “to turn red or to blush.” (See Strong’s Concordance Listing 119 in Hebrew Dictionary.)

Christian Identity says that this special race of white (Aryan) peoples, which the Bible outlines as having been created after “human beings,” are “God’s Chosen People,” known as “Israel.” This challenges my Catholic upbringing, which has always referred to the Jews as “God’s Chosen.”

They bolster their argument with Genesis 3, wherein Eve is beguiled by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. They say the “serpent” was Satan, and he “beguiled” Eve into “partaking of the forbidden fruit,” which is actually a metaphor for sex. Eve then shared that knowledge with Adam, which caused them to cover themselves with fig leaves because they realized they were “naked.”

When God asked why they hid, and who told them they were naked, He realized what they had done. As punishment, God increased Eve’s desire for her husband and woman’s pain in childbirth — again a direct correlation with sex — and cast them out of the Garden.

Afterwards, the Bible says Adam “knew” his wife, another metaphor for sex. She bore Cain, then Abel. But Christian Identity says that Cain and Abel were fraternal twins, with Cain being of the Devil’s seed and Abel being of Adam’s seed. They say this is why God accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected the offering of Cain in Genesis 4:3-5.

After Cain slew Abel, God placed a “mark” upon Cain and cast him out, making him a homeless wanderer. Christian Identity says this “mark of Cain” is an ugly hook nose which everyone can clearly discern. They say the descendants of Cain represent the seed line of Satan and that this seed line exists to this very day, in the persons presently called “Jews.”

They bolster this argument with John 8:44, wherein Jesus says to the Jewish Pharisees, “You are the children of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. From the very beginning he was a murderer and has never been on the side of truth because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is only doing what is natural to him because he is a liar and the father of all lies.”

Further, Jesus repeatedly refers to Himself as the Son of Man, which Christian Identity says is a reference to His direct, racially pure lineage from Adam!

Thus, they conclude that racially pure white people are “Israel,” as opposed to geographical lines drawn by men on a map, what we call the State of Israel.

They say that such racially pure white people are “God’s Chosen” and that Jesus was sent only to save them because they are “the lost tribe of Israel.”

Given what the Jewish Talmud says about Jesus, that He is in Hell, boiling in hot semen, plus the hatred the Talmud expresses for all non-Jews, I am wondering if Christian Identity is right, and whether we should be total enemies of Jews because they are satanic? I am troubled by this major contradiction with my Catholic upbringing.

Hal Turner

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

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