Letters to the Editor: June 2015
The First to Finish the Thought
My heart sank when Fr. John A. Perricone repeated the requisite canard, “The majority of Muslims are good, peace-loving, and decent people” (“The View from Obama’s ‘High Horse,'” Aprib~ But he is the first person I know of who has the courage to complete the thought — that they are good in spite of the Qur’an, not because of it. Fr. Perricone makes the clear distinction — rarely pointed out in this ubiquitous topic of discussion — that when Christians are devout, their actions are beneficial to society, but the opposite is true of Muslims who act in strict adherence to the Qur’an.
Fr. Perricone admonishes us to respond as true Christians when our faith is attacked, which reminds me of Christ’s instruction to “turn the other cheek” — i.e., not to respond with like violence, but not to back down either. We must stand our ground or we are bound to lose it.
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
Bradford the Bipolar
In your New Oxford Note “‘Islam Has a Problem'” (March), you mention “no-go zones,” areas in the West where “sharia law is enforced; where non-Muslims, especially non-Muslim women, are routinely harassed; and where emergency-service personnel aren’t welcome.” You state that, despite evidence to the contrary, “American reporters and politicians contend that there are no such problem places anywhere in Europe — not in London, not in Paris, not in Birmingham or Bradford, England!”
I can speak of nowhere other than Bradford, but in that city, there seem to be two separate cultures or communities. I have lectured to the Bradford Astronomical Society more than once, and that has entailed driving on the motorway from Hull and then on across Bradford. The second part of the journey is eye-opening and unnerving. The minute one leaves the motorway, one feels as though one were entering a different land; there is rarely a white person or usual Western dress to be seen. On top of this, my daughter’s father-in-law was a non-conformist minister in Bradford for some years and had bricks thrown through the window of his car on several occasions.
No, Bradford is not truly a “no-go zone,” but it comes very close to it and is certainly a city with two distinct communities. Anyone who denies this is either being untruthful or living in a dream world. In my view, Britain needs to wake up. These separate enclaves should not be allowed to develop, whether their origin is ethnic or religious.
East Yorkshire, England
Wanted: Catholic Pen-Pal
I have greatly enjoyed every issue of the NOR I have received so far courtesy of the Scholarship Fund. Thank you very much, and thanks to all of the thoughtful people who donate to make it possible for me to enjoy your magazine.
As you might imagine, the level of conversation is pretty lowbrow here in prison. So it has been wonderful to have so much thought-provoking and informative material to read; it really has been a great blessing to me.
I am now 65 years old and have been in prison for the past 30 of them. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, but I forsook my faith in favor of drugs and carnal living. This lifestyle resulted in my being here — and here I will remain while I yet live. I don’t complain; I reaped exactly what I sowed. Plus, my situation brought me quickly and fully back to my faith, and who can say that that would have ever happened had I remained out there? So I am glad to have my faith instead of my “freedom.” That is what it took to bring me to repentance, and I am content to walk in His glorious light because of it!
We do have Mass most Sundays, but because I have been here so long, all of my family has passed away and I have little contact with the outside world. On a number of occasions I have written to Catholic ministries to find a Catholic pen-pal so that I could be in touch with someone who shares my faith, but I have never received a response. I would really love to begin a correspondence with Catholics out in the “free world.”
Your magazine is my only source of news and information from the Catholic world. Please know that my prayers have been, and will remain, daily with your ministry. May God bless you abundantly!
Gerald Benton #201614
Union Correctional Institution, K3-205-1
7819 NW 228 St., Raiford, FL 32026
Found: A Divine Warrant
I found Anne Barbeau Gardiner’s article “Is There a Biblical Basis for Capital Punishment?” (Apribpto be very interesting and thought-provoking. But she failed to treat an obvious biblical account of capital punishment found in Acts 5:1-11, when the Holy Spirit “whacked” Ananias and Sapphira, if you will, for withholding part of the proceeds from the sale of their property.
Gardiner is not alone in this. I’ve not read or heard anyone address this passage. Does this qualify as “warrant from divine revelation for the death penalty as it is practiced in America”? Perhaps Gardiner, or someone, could help me understand why capital punishment should be banned rather than reformed.
Ronald J. Malleis, M.D.
Grand Prairie, Texas
ANNE BARBEAU GARDINER REPLIES:
Acts 5:1-11 recounts how the Spirit of the Lord struck Ananias and Sapphira dead because they had conspired to deceive St. Peter and the Christian community about the proceeds from a land sale. St. Augustine called their sin a “sacrilege,” since they defrauded God of what they had “vowed” to Him, and he termed their death “miraculous.” Dr. Malleis wonders whether this account indicates a biblical sanction for the American death penalty. It does not.
Based on the clear words of Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira were slain by God, not by man. This scriptural recounting of God’s definitive action in taking the life of two sinners does not translate to divine sanction for men, themselves creatures, to take the life of other men. God is the Author and Giver of life; He can take human life whenever He chooses. Men cannot usurp this power of God. Scripture itself reminds us of this: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19-21).
Dr. Malleis asks why we can’t just fix the American death penalty instead of repealing it. That is a fair question, one that has been asked by many Catholics and other Christians. For non-Catholic Christians, the problem is that a death penalty that complies with biblical standards appears to be unsatisfactory to politicians and execution enthusiasts. The American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code has advocated for the most fundamental biblical standard — absolute certainty of guilt — but not a single U.S. state with the death penalty has ever adopted it. Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma advocated for a moral certainty of guilt. While falling short of the biblical standard, Keating’s proposal would have come closer than the American standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. But no legislator in Oklahoma would sponsor a bill to that effect, and no other U.S. death-penalty jurisdiction has pursued that option.
For Catholics who are faithful to the Church’s teaching on capital punishment, the legal standard would need to comply with this passage from the Catechism: “If…non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means” (no. 2267). To my knowledge, no one has attempted to introduce such a legal standard in any U.S. death-penalty jurisdiction. Moreover, an additional 40 requirements would need to be enacted to meet the biblical standard. If the American death penalty were to be reformed thus, the conditions for its use would rarely ever be met — “the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically non-existent'” (ibid.) — hence, abolition is the better course.
Approval for the Piously Correct
I was troubled by Christopher Gawley’s review of Joseph Pearce’s autobiography Race with the Devil (Jan.-Feb.). It seems that Gawley, rather than focusing on providing a description of the book, was more interested in insinuating that Pearce is a less-than-honest convert to Catholicism, especially toward the end of the review, when he writes that Pearce’s “description of his current life comes off in an almost affected, ‘piously correct’ mode of writing.” Pearce, Gawley claims, appears to be “saying what he thinks he ought to say as opposed to what he thinks…. I sense that there is more to Joseph Pearce than he is letting on.”
It could very well be the case that Pearce still has an intellectual or emotional attachment to his wayward past, when he was “young, racist, and hip,” and trying to “convert his contemporaries to British nationalism.” But I couldn’t care less if that is true, provided that his words and deeds uphold his current convictions — unity with and discipleship to our Lord — which Pearce’s most certainly do in his professional life as editor of Saint Austin Review, biographer of many prominent Catholic converts, and writer-in-residence at Aquinas College in Nashville. In Race with the Devil, according to Gawley, Pearce takes great pains to present himself as firmly on the side of orthodox Catholicism, and with that task by all indications having been accomplished, I am satisfied. One should be able to read a “piously correct” book in good conscience, knowing full well that it serves the purpose of pointing the way to Christ.
Gawley bemoans the fact that Pearce “never satisfactorily explains his attraction and dedication to the British Nationalist movement. He never explains what, despite their foundational mistakes, its members got right.” Yet, were the book an attempt to get the reader to understand the darkness of the author’s past, which seems to be the kind of conversion story Gawley would have preferred, it could only be a failure, for in the end, there really is no proper way to understand evil; rather, it is proper to be filled with loathing for it, and to avoid it at all costs. I fail to see what purpose could be served if Pearce had given the type of explanations Gawley wants.
Taylor Correctional Institution
CHRISTOPHER GAWLEY REPLIES:
With all due respect to Mr. Clayton’s sentiments, he appears to seriously misapprehend my review, for three equally important reasons. First, I never suggested that Mr. Pearce was not a sincere convert to Roman Catholicism — I take him at his word. I never took issue with his Catholic bona fides. Rather, my critique, which was mild in any event, was directed at his “description” of his conversion — i.e., how he chose to present it in his book. To that end, I sense that there is more complexity to Mr. Pearce than he displayed in his autobiography, and certainly more than in his “description,” which I, as a reader, found at times affected, and which only scratched the surface of the “stuff” of conversion.
Second, to write a spiritual autobiography is, by its nature, to invite comparison to and run with giants, as it were. Clayton is mistaken if he thinks that autobiographies of this sort should ignore the attraction of sins that serve as the fodder for a subsequent conversion. After all, how will we ever learn? St. Augustine, who defined this very genre, laid out in his Confessions the depths of depravity to which he had sunk and how that very sinking led him to our Lord. What made St. Augustine a doctor of the Church, among other things, was that he gave us the gift of his soul brutally and honestly bared, no matter the scarring.
Third, Clayton seems to suggest that I am interested in hearing Pearce defend his attraction to racist British Nationalism. This certainly was not my point. Instead, I suspect that Pearce was as much a passionate ideologue then as he is a Catholic now. What I would have wanted to learn from him is how that past informs his present. Whittaker Chambers, in his legendary autobiography, Witness, utterly condemned communism — but not before revealing how it exerted a spiritual gravity over his life. That type of gravitas was absent from Pearce’s work — not, I believe, because he doesn’t have it in him but because he seems to have chosen not to share it with his readers. I find this to be legitimate grounds for complaint, especially in a spiritual autobiography.
Parsing the Patrimony
As someone who followed Richard Upsher Smith Jr. from the flotsam and jetsam of Anglicanism to the safety of Peter’s barque, it was with interest that I read his article “What Does the Anglican Patrimony Have to Offer the Church?” (Aprib~ I have to admit that leaving the richness of classical Anglican worship — the wonderful cadence of the old prayer-book language, the glory of English church music — for the banality of much of contemporary Catholic worship caused no little trepidation on my part, and I confess that I still sorely miss the Anglican liturgy at its best.
I am not alone in that appreciation. What Dr. Smith identifies as at the heart of Pope Benedict XVI’s mind in Anglicanorum Coetibus, when he referred to the Anglican patrimony, is no doubt the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Here, though, I would caution readers that there is now more than one version of the BCP — and not all are equal. Both Smith and I were reared on the 1928 Episcopal Church BCP and served as parish priests under the tutelage of the 1962 Canadian BCP.
The 1962 BCP was the last of the classical works produced in the Anglican Communion. The 1979 Episcopal BCP is in many ways the antithesis of a Book of Common Prayer. Its roots are in the aftermath of Vatican II, a period that saw a proliferation of rites and, especially, of linguistic styles — even outside the confines of the Roman Catholic Church. When Smith refers to the BCP, I am quite sure it is not to the latter. Note that the Book of Divine Worship — which was produced for the Pastoral Provision parishes, the forerunners of the Anglican ordinariates — was based on the 1979, not the 1928, BCP. Although Catholicized, it departed from the classic BCP tradition and lacks in many ways the unity and voice of that tradition. Thankfully, that is not so of the ordinariate forms for the Mass and other rites, now approved by the Vatican.
Except, perhaps, for its lectionaries. When Smith refers to the eucharistic lectionary and the lectio continua and the shared involvement of the clergy and laity, I’m sure there are many who would bid the “old way” good riddance. I’ve heard the old eucharistic lectionary described as what came together after some ancient monk on the road to Rome spilled all the three-by-five cards on which they were written and just gathered them up in whatever order they came to hand. That truly is not the case! I spent nearly 40 years preaching on the same Sunday each year from these same lections, and I can honestly say that I never tired of the exercise or found the readings disjointed.
I understood that the Sunday lections were there to teach doctrine, as Smith says, and they did a wonderful job of it. It was also reassuring to know that, for most Sundays, the propers for the day had been preached for centuries (and in some cases more than a millennium and a half) before my feeble efforts. Massey Shepherd’s The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary and the four-volume The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers were my cherished guides to the propers of the day.
I have one other comment, and this is a caution. I am all for encouraging excellence in language, music, and liturgy, but when Smith speaks of the potential for the influence of the Anglican patrimony on the theology and governance of the Universal Church, I shudder! After reading Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars, I became quite convinced that what the Catholic Church doesn’t need is the Anglican enthusiasm for popular vote. The shipwreck of the Anglican Communion is, I believe, the inevitable result of the shifting of magisterial authority from the clerical state (the pope on down) to the crown, and then to national and diocesan synods and local vestries. Clerical authority has its problems, but the correction is to discourage tyranny, encourage genuine authority, and drive home the accountability which accompanies that authority. In the words of the exhortation to those about to be ordered priests, from the 1928 BCP: “And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any Member thereof, do take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue.” The laity simply cannot be held to the same level of accountability.
New Brunswick, Canada
Richard Upsher Smith Jr. answers the question set forth in his title, “What Does the Anglican Patrimony Have to Offer the Church?” (Aprib| by way of Augustinian subjectivism, which can be of service to the Catholic Church in evangelization, liturgy, governance, and theology. I would suggest that it can also be of service as a model and practice of pastoral and parochial care. The Book of Common Prayer — to say nothing of such Anglican divines as George Herbert and Jeremy Taylor — offers not only a system of liturgy but also a system of parish life and pastoral care. For example, Morning and Evening Prayer are the daily worship of the whole Church, lay as well as clerical (the rubric in the English BCP requires the parish priest to “cause a Bell to be tolled” so that people may come to join in the Daily Office).
The inclusion in the BCP of baptism, the catechism, confirmation, marriage, the churching of women, the visitation of the sick (which, in the English BCP includes holy unction), and burial rites, rather than separating these out into liturgical books for the clergy, lays out for the laity the structure of Christian life and how it is to be lived out within the parish.
Likewise, as Smith points out, the system of reading Scripture — the “big picture” in the Daily Office lectionary, where virtually the whole Bible is read over the course of the year, complemented by the depth of the annual eucharistic lections, chosen as the doctrinal instrument of salvation — is formative not only for the individual Christian but for the character of the parish family as well.
Fr. David Ousley, Pastor
Church of St. Michael the Archangel
My good friend Richard Upsher Smith Jr. mentions those former Anglicans he knows who wondered what patrimony Anglicanism could offer — a tactful way of saying that they doubted it had one. I suspect that I am the main person he was thinking of. Indeed, some of what follows I’ve said to him in one or other of our living rooms.
I’m afraid I still don’t see it. Part of the problem is the idea of a “patrimony,” and that it has something significant to share with the rest of the Church. In various discussions I’ve had and articles I’ve read over the past few years, former Anglicans and Anglicans-soon-to-be-Catholic — almost always ministers — speak of the Anglican patrimony as something they bring to the Catholic Church, indeed as something the Church doesn’t have, something for which she needs the ordinariate. As Smith puts it, “What do Anglicans have to give the Church that is not a common inheritance from the pre-Reformation centuries or simply Protestant heresy?”
They don’t — and this is important — conceive of the patrimony as just a list of the good things Anglicanism offers, like George Herbert’s poetry or C.S. Lewis’s apologetics, but as something substantial and unique they as a group can offer to the Catholic Church. It’s the difference between bringing your host a few jars of jam from the farm stand back home and arriving with the grand piano he never knew he wanted till you brought it.
I understand the impulse. One doesn’t want to come empty-handed. And Anglicans trained in the WASP ethos tend to feel — I felt this myself — like prizes to be won.
But what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meant by his one passing reference to the Anglican patrimony seems to have been something primarily internal. In launching the ordinariate in his apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, he spoke of “maintaining the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.” When he uses the term Anglican patrimony (again, just once), he uses it in describing the formation seminarians should receive.
Smith’s suggestive answer to the question of what is the Anglican patrimony is the best answer I’ve seen, but he never makes clear and concrete what special insights Anglicanism’s “Augustinianism of modernity” brings to the Church. The one concrete example he offers is that the minister in an Anglican service faces in both directions for different reasons — but the Church does not need Anglicanism to decide to do so as well, especially since High-Anglican liturgists took this practice from the Church. He mentions without detail the patrimony’s possible contribution to wrestling with St. Thomas after neo-Thomism, and its experience with lay leadership. Finally, he claims that the patrimony will help the Church “to make herself open to this free modern subjectivity,” but he does not in any way explain how.
Suggestive, as I say, but not a compelling answer until explained much more specifically. He may be right, but the claim is not yet proved.
For my own part, I think the creation of the ordinariate was a great and bold pastoral act on Benedict’s part. Its main use, however, is in bringing into the Church clergy and their congregations who, quite understandably, want to remain together in a parish, and secondarily to ease the transition into the Church for those who really love the Anglican forms. But as a way to bring a substantial patrimony into the Church, no.
I wonder how sustainable the ordinariate will prove to be, once all the Anglicans who want to enter the Church have entered. In my experience, moreover, the longer you live as a Catholic, the thinner appear the things you so valued as an Anglican. Former Anglicans often mention C.S. Lewis as an example of the patrimony, but though he was an astonishingly gifted writer, his apologetics don’t match for depth Ronald Knox’s or R.H. Benson’s or Herbert Thurston’s or many other Catholics’. And in any case, Catholics can read him without caring about the Anglican patrimony. The Catholic spiritual writing is deeper and richer than the Anglican, the theology deeper, richer, and more inventive than the Anglican. You naturally find yourself turning more and more to the Catholic sources, the way a starving man instinctively eats the more nutritious food.
RICHARD UPSHER SMITH JR. REPLIES:
I am heartily grateful to Richard Harris and Fr. David Ousley for their thoughtful responses to my article. Both men were heroic high-church priests in the Anglican Communion and devoted pastors in their parishes. I ask the readers of this magazine to pray for Mr. Harris’s ordination to the Catholic priesthood for the Anglican ordinariate to take place soon, and for the mission of Fr. Ousley’s ordinariate parish in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Harris is quite right that I was referring to the classical BCP tradition, not to the prayer books that have been foisted upon the communion under that title with the radical intention of altering the doctrine and discipline of Anglicanism. He is also quite right to be wary of the Anglican synodal system of government. However, I would add that the alteration of the prayer book and the manipulation of the synodal system by the radicals succeeded because there is no Magisterium in the Anglican Communion. The Catholic Church has survived a tendentious English translation of the liturgy for decades precisely because of the Magisterium, and now we enjoy a much-improved English translation because the Holy Spirit does dwell within the Church in ways that He did not, and does not, in the Anglican Communion.
Fr. Ousley rightly points us to the great Anglican pastoral tradition and its two greater lights, George Herbert and Jeremy Taylor, in both of whom the Platonic influence is manifest. Herbert’s characterization of the work of the country priest — “Now love is his business and aime” — could serve as the text for every ordination sermon preached. At least, the work of J.F. Powers would suggest this.
Both Mr. Harris and Fr. Ousley point out the genius of the Common Prayer Book’s methods of reading Holy Scripture. I would add that both methods — doctrinal in the Communion Service and continuous in the Daily Offices — promote the memorization of Holy Scripture and the basic teachings of the Church much better than do the contemporary methods. Two- and three-year cycles stretch out the hearing of Scripture over too much time, making it hard to memorize and interiorize, indeed, jumbling up the order of Scripture enough that it becomes confusing. But interiorization builds a holy soul, as both the Hebrew and the Greek traditions knew well, and as St. Augustine communicated to the West in his teachings on memory. Indeed, as Dr. Robert Crouse used to say, “Memory is the ground of personality.”
David Mills and I certainly have debated the question discussed in my article, as I have debated it in other living rooms as well. I thank him for the clear statement of his objections to my argument.
It seems to me that Mr. Mills places too much emphasis on the fact that Benedict used the word patrimony only once. He did use it, prominently, and in employing it in reference to the formation of seminarians — of the future priests of the ordinariates — he indicated its crucial importance for the ordinariate and for Rome. As someone once said, “A word to the wise is enough, and many words won’t fill a bushel.”
Mills concedes that my ideas are suggestive but denies that they are conclusive. That concession is really enough for me, as I respect his opinion and know that many others do too. Perhaps, maybe, one still hopes that someone in a position of authority is listening.
One thing, however, must be said about Mills’s critique. He mentions, but does not address, the argumentative part of my article — that Anglicanism has had long experience with the development of modern subjective freedom — and he aims his criticism rather at my suggestions of ways in which the Anglican patrimony might make a contribution to the Church. My suggestions were necessarily tentative; my argument was not. It was condensed, it may have been wrong, but it had a well-developed, logical train of thought with which Mills might have engaged.
Mills’s point about high-church eucharistic ceremonial is mistaken. Ritual Notes Anglo-Catholics, who borrowed their priestcraft from the Continent, did not use the ceremonial I described, which was instead elaborated from the prayer-book rubrics by what has been called the “British-Museum school of liturgy,” embodied in Percy Dearmer’s Parson’s Handbook.
It is true that C.S. Lewis is a second-rate theologian. But the early-modern Anglican theologian Richard Hooker was not. Isaak Walton reports that Pope Clement VII, Hooker’s contemporary, on hearing a translation of a portion of Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, said, “It has in it such seeds of eternity that it will abide until the last fire shall consume all learning.” Whether or not the story is true, such a judgment of Hooker’s work is merited. The Anglican Communion lived Hooker’s insights until the 19th century, and has this at least to offer the Church, a very nice jar of jam, when spread on slices of the loaf that is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The other day I picked up a jacket from a tailor. The tailor is a cradle Catholic born in Calabria and yet he started asking me about the Book of Revelation (his name for it). While he admitted that Scripture is clear that we do not know the time when our Lord will come again, he still averred that it is clear that the end times will begin this year! His is the modern subjectivity, although in its most unlettered form. No claims of an ecclesiastical authority that descends through the hierarchies of reality will persuade it. The Church must approach such indocile souls on the ground of their own freedom, and with this the Anglican patrimony may be able to help.
Traversing the Boundaries
Carl Sundell’s article “Isaac Newton: Scientist, Theologian & End-Times Prophet” (March) invites readers to note that Newton, as a scientist, arrived at cosmological and teleological understandings of existence that correspond to biblical faith. Sundell also relates to what a surprising extent Newton delved into and appreciated the Scriptures. But it seems that at the heart of Sundell’s article is the unsettling possibility that Newton’s prediction of an “end time” in the not-too-distant future (2060) might be accurate. Sundell gets us thinking about what most of us would prefer not to think about. After all, that is the work of prophecy.
As one who does not warm to end-times prognostications — a cataclysmic finale for the human project is thoroughly unappealing and unacceptable to me — it still does not take much convincing to agree with Sundell that currently things do not look promising. There seem to be little grounds for reassurance. What should or can one do but “ponder and repent,” as Sundell suggests?
A further question presents itself. Can the ponderous penitent yet be of some needed good cheer, with which to more charitably (toward oneself too) contend with “what we have wrought” and what must not be resigned to?
In a sad or dark time, it is surely counterintuitive to “sing in the rain” like Gene Kelly — that is, unless you are in love. In her book Thérèse: A Life of Thérèse of Lisieux, Dorothy Day claims that “love is a science, a knowledge, and we lack it.” It seems that ignorance of this science is what we must now urgently attend to and remedy. Might we hold up Isaac Newton, socially awkward as he was, as one whose graceful reappearance to us today might inspire us to take up a still-needed labor of love — that of correlating the scientific mindset with the biblical sense of creative order, unmerited gift, beauty, reverence, and the ability to marvel and see purpose, blessing, and the salvific in it all? Like Newton, might we traverse the boundaries that would unduly separate legitimate skeptical thought from the reasonable acceptance of the revelatory and the mysteries of lived faith?
The Scriptures tell us that the earth is meant to be lived in. I surely hope that renewal rather than wreckage will be our fate. As Sundell and Newton prophetically remind us, the year 2060 presents a serious challenge in any case. It stares at us foursquare some years not too far hence. For our part, what would we have? May there be blessings galore to all for the answering, and may special graces of faith and hope come the way of those who so reasonably find it most difficult to “sing in the rain.”
Why They Aren't Rebuked
In his excellent and bold letter (Aprib| Douglas Spies asks, “Don’t our bishops have a solemn and sacred duty…[to] courageously and consistently rebuke [pro-abortion Catholic] politicians in every medium at their disposal?” In his reply, the NOR editor remarked, “Why our bishops don’t do so, and why they allow pro-abortion Catholic politicians to receive Holy Communion, are questions we have been asking for decades.”
Let me offer a possible answer as to why most bishops and priests are silent. It’s not for ideological reasons. What really muzzles these white-washed sepulchers, full of dead baby bones, over which men walk unawares (Mt. 23:27), is the fear of losing power, influence, and financial support if they speak against the sentiments of the majority of lax Catholics who still attend Mass. They love to wear long, gilded garments and Pharaoh-like miters and carry crosiers, to be praised and reverenced by men. They realize all too well that making inflammatory remarks and abruptly excommunicating powerful pro-abortion politicians would only cause rain to fall on their pomp-and-circumstance parade.
The Church is a big business, as God intended, but that’s a double-edged sword. Financial concerns are paramount, especially after parish collections dwindled in the wake of the clerical sex-abuse scandals. Anything that endangers the Church’s financial standing is avoided like the plague. Priests eager to “go tell it on the mountain” are subdued, humiliated, or shuffled to rural parishes to keep them from reaching a large audience.
Catholics have left the Church in droves for evangelical sects that “tell it like it is.” They know the temple of the Living God as their very persons, built into God’s spiritual House with jeweled living stones (1 Pet. 2:5). They’d rather hear rip-snorting sermons denouncing abortion in a tent on a grassy knoll than dull homilies on polished cathedral floors with marble pillars and stained-glass windows — troublesome structures that require millions of dollars a year to maintain, thereby muzzling their eminent caretakers.
If the Church had not slipped into moral decadence and lost her spiritual fervor over the centuries, there would not have been Protestant sects in competition. They offer embarrassing evidence, each in its own way, of what’s been long lacking in the Catholic Church.
What’s the cure? Only the severe austerities of early Christendom will kindle a new fire.
Richard M. Dell’Orfano
San Marcos, California
For the Love of Paper
I love paper: books, newspapers, and magazines — some magazines. My three favorites are Claremont Review of Books, Touchstone, and the NOR. National Review was, at one time, on my “favorites” list. No longer. I canceled my subscription in 2011 after they published an article by Jason Lee Steorts (Feb. 7, 2011) in which he advocates for homosexual “marriage.”
Sadly, I must agree with you about the future of print: It is on its way out (“Going Mobile,” editorial, Aprib~ I see it in the vacant stares of our youth wherever they are, whomever they’re with, as they each stare into their own “devices.”
Enclosed is my donation. It won’t save your print format, but it’s a gesture I feel is necessary.
I have been an NOR subscriber for over 10 years, and I think your fine publication keeps getting better and better. The variety and quality of articles has never been better, not to mention the right-on New Oxford Notes. Even the letters and book reviews are “must-read” sections.
Keep up the good work!
I just want to say “thank you” for:
(1) being a beacon of light in the shadow of death;
(2) promoting the fundamental Christian principles that are of an eternal nature and never changing;
(3) being saintly examples of children of the everlasting and eternal God;
(4) being perpetuators of the eternal hope of salvation in Jesus Christ; and
(5) being guardians of the precious Catholic faith.
All praise, glory, and honor to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father!
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