Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: May 1997

May 1997

Strength for the Journey

In these days of attack on our basic beliefs, the NOR is a beacon that assures us we are right to persevere in our faith, and in spite of all the defections.

I rely on you for strength. Persist!

Charles N. Valenti

Fordham University

Lewes, Delaware

Ed. Note:

Your words, and similar words from many other readers, give us strength. Thank you all!

Nuns With Hair in Rollers?

Apropos of Ann Carey’s article “Why Rank-and-File Catholics Don’t Love Women Religious Anymore” (Mar.): I urge all nuns, whether teaching, in the kitchen, or elsewhere, to resume wearing their traditional habits.

In 1927 Paul Hallett, a Protestant, was permitted — by a suspicious senior nun — to enter Sacred Heart High School in Denver. Of his experience with teaching nuns, he wrote: “I was not prepared for these strange figures, half out of this world, clad in long, black robes and white starched wimples, whom everyone addressed as ‘Sister…. I had an awe of them that remained with me as long as they wore the habit. The mystique of the nun is more than her dress, but her ancient garb is more than half her image.” He added: “I have heard that nuns who visited public schools at that time would remark on the good behavior of the pupils, and were told by the visited teachers that this uncanny goodness was not habitual but occasioned by the dress of the nuns, which excited awe and commanded respect among all students.” Hallett, as we know, converted to Catholicism and became a frequently-published Catholic writer.

When nuns began to raise their hemlines and put their hair in rollers, something happened to the ideal of the consecrated woman that damaged her image in the minds of Catholic and non- Catholic alike. As nuns shed their garb, they also shed their sacred character.

Jack Doughty

Seattle, Washington


One impression that emerges from Kenneth Whitehead’s article on so-called inclusive language (Jan.-Feb.) is that women are not an oppressed class in the Catholic Church today. If there is such a class, it is a hierarchy being bullied by feminists.

Rev. Prof. Francis Canavan, S.J.

Bronx, New York

Gender and the English Language

Kristen West McGuire’s article on inclusive language (Jan.-Feb.) asserts that “English forces us to ‘choose a gender’ [and] traditionally the gender chosen has been male.” This represents a common error in the analysis of English syntax. It is wrong because English does not have a masculine gender.

To comprehend this, one must first realize that languages do not automatically have three genders — some have fewer, some have more. One of the available choices is the common gender, used for what might be either male or female.

Unfortunately, when academics began to analyze the structure of English they arbitrarily applied the gender terminology they knew from Latin. But what they called the masculine gender in English was really the original common gender. That minor error in denotation did not much matter until recent times, when feminists chose to apply an erroneous significance to this flawed terminology.

John R. Haeuser

San Rafael, California


So, having read Noel Augustyn’s article on Lent (Jan.- Feb.), I see I can’t go to Reno in Lent. Well, I was going anyway, but the trip was canceled. Thy will be done.

Made Breitenbach

El Cerrito, California

Is This How We Honor a Saint?

Regarding Noel Augustyn’s article, “Lent: Time for Another Parish Party?” (Jan.-Feb.): Some parishes in my area have a St. Patrick’s Day party on a Friday in Lent at which meat is served, even when St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t fall on a Friday. This is of questionable propriety. In inquiring as to how it’s possible to serve meat on a Friday in Lent at a Catholic event in the parish hall, I am told that a dispensation was obtained.

I don’t question the validity of the dispensation. I do question whether there’s a sufficiently serious reason for requesting one. Couldn’t a St. Patrick’s Day party be held on a night other than Friday if meat is to be served? Or couldn’t the party be held on a Sunday, since the observance of Lent doesn’t apply to Sundays?

People, being human, will take advantage of any loophole to exempt themselves from any inconvenience. I certainly don’t understand Church leaders who co-operate by granting dispensations where a serious reason is lacking.

John M. Hagerty

Mendham, New Jersey

A Shock

I’ve spent the last 20 years as a feminist, and as a lukewarm, “out-to-reform the Church” liberal, and so it came as a shock to me when I found myself enjoying your magazine tremendously.

I’m a very recently reconverted cradle Catholic, and I thank God for your work. Through the NOR I’ve learned a great deal about the richness of the Catholic faith, and the flaws in my former ways of viewing the Church.

Lauri Ann Fenlon

Vancouver, British Columbia

Nestorianizing in Chicago

Regarding Kenneth Whitehead’s article “‘Inclusive Language’: Is It Necessary?” (Mar.): I want to relate a personal experience with so-called “vertical” inclusive language. Last year I was contacted by Liturgical Training Publications of the Archdiocese of Chicago, which requested to use a hymn text of mine. I was of course happy to give my permission. But I was disconcerted when they contacted me later and asked if they could substitute the name “Christ” for all the male pronouns referring to him. I asked whether there was any doubt in their minds that Jesus Christ was male. No, was the reply, but they preferred to make “Christ” gender-inclusive, as opposed to “Jesus,” who was more obviously male. I did not accede to these requested changes to my text, so they decided to look elsewhere. But I was rather surprised that an agency of the Catholic Church has gone so far in what I can only describe as a Nestorianizing direction in the interest of “inclusivity.”

Name Withheld

Ed. Note:

The author of this letter does not want his words to be perceived as “sour grapes,” and so requested that his name be withheld.

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