An Absolute Gas
Your magazine is worth double its price, considering the hilarious letters you allow to be printed as well as your entertaining replies. An “absolute gas,” as we used to say in high school.
And why would anyone want to cancel his subscription and deprive himself of such lively, honest, and informative writing? It makes me wonder if the cancelers have never taken Composition 101 and can’t appreciate good writing.
North Riverside, Illinois
"I'm Gonna Let You Have It"
I’m really gonna let you have it. In the New Oxford Note “Ms. Goodie Two-Shoes Rhetoric” (Feb.), you complain about gender-neutral language. Pray tell what should you call firefighters if both men and women are wearing bunker suits? You could always say firemen and firewomen, but that’s awkward. Firefighters is correct.
Same with foreperson and chairperson. Where both men and women serve in these capacities, and the original noun was gender specific, adding “person” is simply a way of avoiding the question of whether the individual is male or female.
I don’t use policeperson to avoid having to say policeman. I say police officer. But I do say gunman because most gunmen are men. Same with con man, unless it’s for sure the con man was a woman. In that case she would be a con woman.
Spence Publishing Company
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
If you wish to be consistent with this, you must say “middleperson” instead of middleman (because you’re not likely to know if the middleman is a man or a woman), “sportspersonship” instead of sportsmanship (women play sports too, you know), “craftspersonship” instead of craftsmanship, “statespersonship” instead of statesmanship, “penpersonship” instead of penmanship, “everybody and his or her brother or sister” instead of everybody and his brother, “personed space craft” instead of manned space craft, “man and woman’s best friend” instead of man’s best friend, “no person’s land” instead of no man’s land, “yeoperson” instead of yeoman, “personslaughter” instead of manslaughter, “personhole cover” instead of manhole cover, “my fellow countrypersons” instead of my fellow countrymen, “John and Suzie are freshpersons in college” instead of John and Suzie are freshmen, “to each his or her own” instead of to each his own, and “all men and women and children are brothers and sisters and siblings” instead of all men are brothers.
And of course if one is to forbid man-based words (except when one knows it’s a real man), then one must find a substitute for “woman,” which etymologically means “wife-man.” Good luck!
You should know, but apparently you don’t, that in standard English for a thousand years man has always meant one of two things, depending on the context: (1) a human being (male or female) or (2) a male.
For example, there have been college courses called “The History of Man” (not “The History of People”). No one ever had a problem with this until the feminists manufactured an artificial crisis. (And, by the way, “history” is also vexing to feminists, because of the “his.” They’ve lobbied for “herstory,” but it hasn’t taken. According to you, since history consists of males and females, it should be “personstory,” and the course should be called “The Personstory of People.”)
The sense of man as human beings is proved by the very fact the “wife-man,” or woman, would be an absurd contradiction if man only meant male. A wife-man is thus a “wife-human being.” Get it? Of course you get it. Please don’t tell us you’re flummoxed by Dorothy Day’s assertion, “I wanted to die in order to live, to put off the old man and put on Christ.” Anyone who claims not to understand that is pretending to be a moron.
We cannot prevent you from speaking Feminese, but if you continue to do so, you now know that you’re bowing down to feminism.
A Ton of Gold
I wish to comment on the article “New Age Traps” by Anne Feaster (Feb.). Here we have a housewife who has written an astonishing article that superbly presents the infiltration of the Church by the New Age movement, and the dangers that it involves. We need to hear more from Mrs. Feaster. The last paragraph is worth a ton of gold: “It is not necessary for Catholics to look to revamped pagan religions for spiritual enrichment…. Our Catholic faith is the greatest treasure on earth, and contains all that we need for salvation and advanced spiritual growth…. Given the richness and variety of the spiritual banquet laid before us by two millennia of Catholic history, why would we need or want to go anywhere else?”
It is heartening to know that there are Catholics who are not taken in by New Age subversion and who can unmask it so well. It’s also heartening to know that there is a publication that serves as a forum for such essays. I get umpteen publications, but the NOR is the one I read cover to cover without fail. The NOR is like nothing else.
Granite Falls, Washington
Jesuits and Abortion
As for the letter from Jesuit Fr. Raymond Schroth (March), asking for examples of Jesuits who say it’s O.K. to have an abortion in some circumstances: In addition to the Editor’s Reply, I would add the following: On Public Radio the day after Cardinal O’Connor died, the hostess had Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, Editor of America, on her program. During the discussion, the hostess posed various fictitious scenarios. One was that of a single mother with two children now pregnant with a third child. Reese allowed that she could have an abortion, as the prospects for the children were so dim. I had an audio tape of this program, but I mailed it to Deal Hudson so he could publish it in Crisis (he never did).
Madison, New Jersey
Dan Brown: With a Little More Imagination...
I was somewhat surprised at the amount of space given to refutations of The Da Vinci Code (Feb.). I thought the book was a thoroughly enjoyable read, but a hopelessly fraudulent whodunit.
I would like to ask Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, why it was, if the early Christians falsified the teachings and life of Jesus, they went to their deaths in defense of what they knew to be lies.
With a little more imagination, couldn’t Brown have had some of Christ and Mary Magdalen’s descendants move on to Scandinavia and then to Iceland, from which one of them could have accompanied Leif Ericsson to Vinland, and then gone by land to what is now upstate New York and deposited the golden tablets, to be found later by Joseph Smith? Thus in one book Brown could have trashed both Mormons and Catholics.
Please, do not waste any more ink on this travesty.
Edward P. Allen
Hitting Raw Nerves
Thank you for raising the moral question about the U.S. invasion of Iraq. You hit some raw nerves with some now-erstwhile subscribers, but you are now held in even higher esteem by a lot more.
Bronx, New York
The Church Milquetoast
Thanks for your New Oxford Note on Catholics United for the Faith (“No Longer Part of the Church Militant,” Feb.). You tackled a subject that often vexes me: niceness, and those who invoke it to stifle criticism. Along with its twin, charitableness, niceness usually fails in the service of Truth.
While gratuitously hurting someone’s feelings isn’t nice, is it uncharitable to candidly condemn error? Or to say that the emperor has no clothes? The Nanny-Nice-Girls will scold you just for rocking the boat, for threatening to disturb their group unity. Catholics United for the Faith and its milquetoast cousins would indeed have us become lukewarm, neither coldly blunt nor hotly passionate. I refuse to believe that the motto over Heaven’s Gate is “Only the Insipid May Enter.”
Depriving the Devil
I greatly appreciate the way you tell the truth, month by month, and deprive the devil, the father of lies, of his children.
A Desperate Episcopalian
I subscribe to the NOR because I am a frustrated Episcopalian who is tired of the false gospel being preached by privileged and spoiled Episcopal bishops and priests. I want to be energized by Catholics who are in the business of telling it like it is.
As for your magazine: Only those who have fought many battles can write so brazenly and with such passion. I am a desperate Episcopalian in need of sane and intelligent reasoning.
As Jesus ran the moneychangers out of the Temple, please keep running the sodomites out of the Church, or at least out of the clergy. I don’t know if you can do it, but we need big mouths like yours — sassy and unafraid. You may not always be right, but you’re right often enough.
Baffled — Twice
In your February New Oxford Notes section (“If I Am the Body of Christ, Who Needs the Host?“), you baffled me twice. In regard to a weekday Mass: You stated that you would have preferred to receive Holy Communion from a layman because the visiting priest was so effeminate and repulsive. Then you said you put out your hands to receive Holy Communion from the priest (looking straight into your hands, so as to avoid viewing the narcissistic priest).
I often admire your lofty discourses, but I tell you sincerely that I would not receive Holy Communion from the unconsecrated hands of a layman. In Holy Communion we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus from the hands of the priest that have become Christ’s hands via the consecration of those hands. Hence, Jesus Himself gives Himself to us.
I believe you suffer some warpage on these matters.
David F. Bearss
I realize what the purpose of that New Oxford Note was, but I got something else from it. First of all, you go to daily Mass once a week. And you don’t want us to think you are so holy. Don’t worry!
Many of us with full-time jobs and otherwise busy lives manage to make it to Mass every day.
Then, the real shocker: You held out your hands for Holy Communion. This is hardly what I expected from the Editor of the NOR. How can you possibly think that is reverent?
Pope John Paul II said in responding to a reporter in 1980: “There is an apostolic letter on the existence of a special valid permission for this [Communion in the hand]. But I tell you that I am not in favor of this practice, nor do I recommend it.”
DALE VREE REPLIES:
It is my practice to receive on the tongue. But I wasn’t about to let this self-important and prissy priest place the Host on my tongue. Were our two correspondents with me, they may have felt the same way. It is lawful to receive in the hand, but like Pope John Paul II, I do not recommend it.
Also, I always try to receive Holy Communion from the consecrated hands of a priest (but it is not always possible without making an enormous fuss, which I choose not to do). As I said: “The priest was the only one distributing the Host. For once in my life I was hoping there’d be a lay Eucharistic minister, but it was not to be.” Receiving the Host from the unconsecrated hands of a layman is also lawful, though I think it regrettable.
I prefer to go to a Latin Mass, where these things are not issues, but it is not always possible to do so.
Sure to Heal Your Doubts About the Real Presence
Just thought I’d let you know that my daughter-in-law, who as of this writing is in the RCIA process, was having doubts about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist until I, as her sponsor, gave her the NOR article, “A Eucharistic Healing” by Michael Forrest (Sept. 2003). Now she is firmly committed to being received into the Church, and receiving her Lord and Savior.
Mary May Melancon
Las Vegas, Nevada
Let Us Rejoice!
About two years ago you published my letter concerning our Saint Anne Byzantine Catholic Church in San Luis Obispo. A Protestant man who read that letter started coming to our Divine Liturgy at Saint Anne, along with his 21-year-old son. A couple of months ago he became a Catholic and his son is taking instructions with our pastor.
Orthodoxy, reverence, and good sermons, along with our friendly congregation, made these two wonderful people feel right at home.
The Lord used the NOR to draw these two people into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that Jesus established. Let us rejoice!
The following was printed in my parish bulletin on the first Sunday of Lent. It compares the temptation of our first parents with that of our Lord. It tends to make Scott Hahn’s account of the temptation in the Garden of Eden even more bizarre. It was written by Pope Saint Gregory the Great: “Our ancient enemy rose up against the first human being, our ancestor, in three temptations. He tempted him by gluttony, by vain glory, and by avarice…. He [the Devil] tempted him by gluttony when he showed him the forbidden food of the tree, and told him: ‘Taste it.’ He tempted him by vain glory when he said, ‘You will be like gods.’ He tempted him by adding avarice when he said, ‘knowing good and evil.’ Avarice is concerned not only with money but also with high position. We rightly call it avarice when we seek high position beyond measure…. But the means by which he overcame the first man were the same ones which caused him to yield when he tempted the second. He tempted him [Jesus] by gluttony when he said, ‘Tell these stones to become bread.’ He tempted him by vain glory when he said, ‘If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down.’ He tempted him by an avaricious desire for high position when he showed him all the kingdoms of the world, saying, ‘I will give you all these if you will fall down and worship me.’ The second man overcame him….”
Well, whose version do we accept — Scott Hahn’s or Pope St. Gregory the Great’s?
Toby J. Russo
Vatican II Is Not the Problem
In her letter (Feb.), Helen Smart asks of NOR readers, “Why haven’t these good people recognized that the Church of the Novus Ordo is thoroughly corrupt?” Apparently, Smart suffers from Traditionalist Syndrome — wearied from Satan’s war against the Catholic Church, she has sought refuge in the simplistic notion that the “Old Mass” is the cure-all for what ails the Church. Yet, the Traditionalist Syndrome is directly discredited by the followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefèbvre, who have put themselves in schism with the Church and have gravely endangered their souls in their rejection of both the New Mass and the authority of the Church since Vatican II; in this regard, Traditionalists exhibit the same lack of obedience as the heterodox in the “Church of the Novus Ordo.” Smart should also consider that many of the pedophile priests who have inflicted so much pain on the Church received their formation before Vatican II.
If Smart is looking for one issue that was a Pandora’s Box for the Catholic Church, I would suggest it was not the result of an act of the Magisterium at Vatican II, but rather an act of dissent — an orchestrated and well-organized public protest by a number of priests and theologians against Humanae Vitae on July 30, 1968. Dermott Mullan wrote an excellent article on it (“The Catholic Hiroshima,” NOR, Sept. 2001). The irony should not escape notice that the Humanae Vitae dissenters’ manifesto read, in part, “It is common teaching in the Church that Catholics may dissent from authoritative non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium when sufficient reasons for doing so exist.” This is exactly what Traditionalists claim as a basis for dissenting from the “pastoral Council” of Vatican II — i.e., that Vatican II “was not directly dogmatic, but disciplinary and pastoral.”
Yes, there are many problems in the Church, but that doesn’t justify breaking with her, as Martin Luther did because of the indulgence scandal of his day. Nor do the many problems of the Church justify the condemnation that she is “thoroughly corrupt.” Jesus told Peter that “the powers of death shall not prevail against” His Church that He was founding upon the Rock; He didn’t qualify that with “at least until Vatican II.” No, the Church is not “thoroughly corrupt,” and Smart is the one who is being deceived by an angel preaching another gospel. Jesus also told Peter, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Accordingly, the Church has also always taught that the primacy of the successors of Peter is permanent and continues until the end of time (Vatican I: Pastor Aeternus, ch. 2). Furthermore, the primacy of the Supreme Pontiff includes matters of discipline and government, as the Church declared at Vatican I: “Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world” (Pastor Aeternus, ch. 3).
If there were any question remaining on the authority of Vatican II, Pope John Paul II put them to rest with his letter Ad Tuendam Fidem and its resulting changes to canon law.
I trust most readers of the NOR have been able to find a local “New Mass” parish that offers them a respite from the nonsense they read about in the NOR and elsewhere.
Gregory J. Roden
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Catholic Immigrants Won't Save the U.S. Church
Early last year I wrote a letter to the Editor of the NOR expressing my bewilderment over the apparent contradiction that, in spite of forty years of manifest decay within the Catholic Church, the number of Catholics in the U.S. has actually risen by 43 percent. You were kind enough to publish my letter (March 2004), and to suggest in your reply that Catholic immigration was undoubtedly the explanation. You were absolutely right.
Based on a recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune (Nov. 29, 2004), and some census data regarding the population of Hispanics in the U.S. in 1970, we can estimate that:
– Since 1970 the number of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. has increased from 6.4 million to 28 million, an increase of 335 percent! They now represent 43 percent of all U.S. Catholics.
– Over the same period, the number of non-Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. has declined from 41.5 million to 37.3 million, a decrease of 10 percent. While comprising 87 percent of the Church in 1970, they now represent only 57 percent of all U.S. Catholics.
In other words, as the novelties of Vatican II eroded the traditions they knew, the non-Hispanic core of the 1970 Church did not increase in number. To the contrary, they began staying home on Sundays, and/or leaving the Church entirely. Apparent contradiction resolved!
So, do we look to Catholic immigrants as the salvation of the U.S. Church? I am very doubtful. Since Hispanic Catholics already represent 43 percent of today’s Church, they also contribute significantly to the unhappy statistics in Kenneth C. Jones’s recent book, Index of Leading Catholic Indicators.
Take Mass attendance as an example. Even if non-Hispanic Catholics did not attend Mass at all, Hispanic Catholics could only be attending Mass 58 percent of the time in order to be consistent with the current Mass attendance estimate of 25 percent for the entire U.S. Church. Since Hispanic Catholic Mass attendance is undoubtedly less than this maximum figure, they fall far short of pre-Vatican II Mass attendance levels in the U.S., which were as high as 74 percent. And why not? For Hispanic Catholics have been exposed to that same watered-down, feel-good Catholicism that we all have for the past forty years.
As you said, the liberalization of Catholicism has not been good the U.S. Church. But neither has it been good for those who have immigrated, are immigrating, or will immigrate to the U.S. Thus, the future of the U.S. Church is not in immigration. It is in the return to the two-thousand-year Tradition of our Fathers and our saints. Pray that our Pope and our bishops are given the light to see this truth.
Judge Roy Moore
The NOR has been conspicuously absent in writing about the high-profile Alabama Federal Judge, Roy Moore. He lost his lifetime position by refusing to remove his 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument from his court’s lobby. He was permitted to keep it in his office behind closed doors, but refused. He broke no law. He did not break any fire code or weight restrictions, etc., so he is free to display the monument to the public. The Ten Commandments hang publicly in the U.S. Supreme Court.
A Den of Thieves?
Has the average member of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and other Western nations become less obedient to what the Church teaches, and become more worldly during the past 40 to 50 years? Has the average priest become a “master of ceremonies” during Holy Mass? Is he more aware of the presence of the “crowd” than he is of the presence of God? Is the telling of jokes, and the “social” atmosphere more important than reverence during the celebration of Mass? Has the Vatican learned to “tolerate” sexual scandals among the clergy? Is this why lukewarm bishops and priests are frequently complimented instead of admonished?
Is the Lord’s Day no longer considered holy? Is deliberately missing Sunday Mass no longer a grave sin? Do today’s priests still know and recognize what sin is? Has the Church learned to accept hypocrisy and spiritual lukewarmness as a way of life for the average Catholic? Priests are given the honorary title of “Father,” but do they act the part of a good father, and correct and admonish their “children” when necessary? Or is being popular more important? Have Church leaders in the Vatican fallen asleep?
Fewer and fewer Catholics sincerely practice their faith. More and more lukewarm bishops and priests rob Church members of any type of real spirituality. More and more, with the blessing of the Vatican, has the Church in the West become a safe haven for a “den of thieves” (Mk. 11:17)?
The First Mass Versus the Tridentine Latin Mass
Inspired by Jim Macri’s Guest Column “I, Liturgist” (Feb.), I offer a few observations.
Let us go back in imagination to “the First Mass,” the Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples. They are gathered together as friends in an upper room with Jesus seated among them. Jesus, speaking in their shared tongue, consecrates the bread and wine and then distributes the Body and Blood of His “new covenant” to His disciples/friends. They sing a hymn and go out to Golgotha.
Contrast this picture with, say, a Tridentine Latin Mass of the 1950s at St. Peter’s in Rome. In this “Solemn High” Mass, the Pope ascends a high altar and near him are some “Princes” of the Church, a few Cardinals in rich red robes. The organ peals loudly within the vast and lofty stretches of St. Peter’s; a multi-voiced choir of specialist singers intones lengthy Latin hymns and the Mass is in Latin, a language “dead” for nearly a millennium; processions wend down the aisle, incense fills the air, and only a dedicated Master of Ceremonies is familiar with the elaborate rubrics for this service, which lasts some 90 to 120 minutes.
I ask that you contrast these two pictures in your mind’s eye and then ask yourself: Is the St. Peter’s scene a picture of a wonderful liturgical flowering and positive development over the centuries? Or is it (possibly) a picture of a liturgy encrusted with layers of old Roman culture from the vestments to the language; encrusted with growth of organ and choir, both pulling sung prayer away from the common congregation and into a concert-like listening event; and encrusted with accretions of pomp and pageantry?
Doesn’t this St. Peter’s scene remind us too much of the “old wine” of religion — the Jewish Temple of Solomon, the splendid temples to Isis and to Baal of the pagan religions, the golden mosques of Islam? And do not edifices like these seem to focus too much on the transcendence of God?
Yet wasn’t it this same transcendent God who sent His Son to an upper room to bring “new wine” and a “new covenant,” who wants His followers to worship the Father “in spirit and in truth,” as He tells the Samaritan woman at the well? Our new bond with God is to be no longer tied to this or that mountain or even temple, whether located in Jerusalem or in Rome.
Those who would label the new vernacular Mass as undesirable “primitivism” seem unable to see that it might in fact be a restoration (albeit imperfect) of the authentic purity and humble vigor of the worship of the early Church.
Do we think that the sacrificial character of the new Mass should be made more evident? Do we think it should engage the people even more in unaccompanied, sung prayer? Do we want a higher standard for permitted music? Do we want more accurate translations of the Mass Scriptures?
If so, then by all means let us work tirelessly through Church structures to bring about such changes. If patient, we will uncover and project even deeper beauty in this simpler, more accessible new English Mass.
Buffalo, New York
No Longer a Conservative Catholic
I was a New Order (Novus Ordo) Catholic for thirty years. I no longer worship at the 1969 New Order Mass of Paul VI — a Mass that isn’t even as old as I am.
Traditional Catholics worship at the Tridentine Latin Mass, codified by Pope St. Pius V. It is the Mass of the Catholic Church. Traditional Catholics understand that it is the Mass that matters.
Latin was to remain the primary language of the Mass as even John XXIII (the Pope who instigated Vatican II) attested to in his last encyclical (1962). Yet even this is considered “outdated ecclesiology” by the New Order Vatican bureaucrats.
I am a traditional Catholic, no longer a conservative Catholic. It has been said that the traditional Latin Mass will be the Mass of our children as sure as it was the Mass of our fathers. It’s true. Traditional Catholics are a growing presence in the Church. They are the only ones capable of fighting the Modernists. Traditional Catholics keep the Faith. A traditional Pope, backed by solid traditional Catholics, is the only way to restore order, discipline, and holiness in the Church.
North Bay, Ontario
Cardinal O'Brien As I Know Him
I have heard from everyone and his brother in the U.S. that the NOR is a fighting force. But it was with utter astonishment that I read your glowing testimonial by Tom Bethell to our “orthodox” Cardinal O’Brien here in Scotland (Feb.).
Cardinal O’Brien’s newfound zeal for orthodoxy dates from precisely the moment that his elevation to the College of Cardinals (due to a technical error which was well documented in the Scottish press at the time) was announced.
Due to his open criticism of Catholic teaching and not least his insistence that priests “have a right to a sex life,” none of us, including the then-Archbishop himself, expected that he would ever be given the red hat. As soon as he saw the hat within his grasp, or at least a top job in the Vatican, his “zeal for orthodoxy” knew no bounds.
Never mind that his representative had already signed up to the Sexual Health Strategy produced by the Scottish Parliament for Scottish schools and that the Archbishop had expressed his approval to the Minister for Health, once his red hat was conferred the Cardinal denounced them as “state-sponsored child abuse.” He neatly avoided mentioning the fact that such child abuse goes on routinely in Catholic schools throughout Scotland, including the schools in his own Archdiocese. Indeed, only a few short years ago, the Cardinal had to be ordered by the Vatican to remove the imprimatur from an HIV/AIDS pack which openly promoted the safe-sex/condom message in schools in the Archdiocese of Edinburgh, and his spokesman at that time used the secular media to attack laymen who had written to Rome to express their concerns about the disgraceful sex education approved by the then-Archbishop O’Brien for use in the schools in his Archdiocese. This media spokesman described these concerned Catholics as “nitpickers.” Very recently, as reported in the secular and Catholic press, the “gay lobby” welcomed the new sex education guidelines for Catholic schools in Scotland because of their pro-“gay” content.
In any case, the simple fact is that, whatever lip service Cardinal O’Brien has recently been paying to orthodoxy, now that he sees a top job (if not the top job) within his grasp in the Vatican, he continues to refuse to remove Fr. Andrew Monaghan, one of his own priests, from his job as an Agony Uncle on local radio where he openly condones and promotes everything from contraception to cohabitation, to divorce and “remarriage,” and he has even condoned extra-marital affairs and “gay” partnerships. Cardinal O’Brien is on public record as saying Father “Call Me Andy” Monaghan is “doing God’s work and the Pope’s.”
If his enthusiasm for the re-Christianization of Scotland is genuine, the Cardinal could make a very public start by removing this openly dissident priest from the airwaves. This he refuses to do.
Cardinal O’Brien has systematically worked to destroy the Mass, replacing it where possible with eucharistic services, and stated openly at a press conference in Rome that “we” (i.e., he and his liberal friends) would not get the changes they want in the Church until this Pope dies. Cunning cardinals, like leopards, do not change their spots.
Patricia McKeever, Editor
With considerable interest, I read Thomas Storck’s review of Heinrich Pesch’s monumental work on Catholic social teaching (Feb.). But who will buy the 10 volumes for $1,349.50, even with the 20 percent discount, and who will read them all? May I recommend a smaller volume in which Pesch condenses his thoughts in a clear and admirable way: It is Ethics and the National Economy (available from Loreto Publications; phone 603-239-6671). It is a gem.
Santa Rosa, California
"I Would Crawl Through the Aisle"
I wrote to our bishop saying he is not worth his salary. We cut our Sunday offering in half. Our money paid for clerical sex abuse; destructions of beautiful churches; and throwing out confessionals, kneelers, even crucifixes. Meanwhile, many orthodox organizations, crusaders for the Church, beg for financial support.
But what really impoverished us is how we receive our Lord. A Protestant said: “If I believed what the Catholic Church teaches, I would crawl through the aisle.” He has a better understanding of what the Church teaches than we do?
A woman went to receive, hands in the pockets of her shorts. Only when the person in front of her stepped aside did her hands come out of her pockets. She put the Host in her mouth and her hands back in her pockets. And no one is teaching her differently. Hardly anyone goes reverently up to Jesus.
Magazines may ask us to write to politicians about some new law proposals. But no effort is made to advise the faithful to write letters to the bishops, demanding, for example, altar rails for those who want to kneel.
From a Letter to the Fundraiser of the Legionaries of Christ
Dear Fr. Bannon,
I have been a past contributor to the Legionaries of Christ and I believe many fine priests and seminarians comprise your order, but I cannot continue to contribute until the matter of sex abuse charges against your founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, are satisfactorily resolved. I do not wish to get into a debate over the details, but the charges by eight men (none of whom is seeking a financial settlement) who claim to have been abused by Fr. Maciel are frankly so serious that they cannot be ignored. The Vatican has reportedly re-opened its investigation into the accusations, and I would hope that the Legionaries and Fr. Maciel will give full co-operation so the matter can be cleared up with all deliberate speed.
It is unfortunate that this issue was apparently not resolved when, without explanation, the matter was dropped by the Vatican a number of years ago. In light of the ongoing sex scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church in the past three years, this was certainly not the wisest course of action. It is my hope that the Legionaries will not only co-operate fully in any renewed investigation by the Holy See, but will follow the truth wherever it leads. It is my further hope and prayer that Fr. Maciel will be exonerated, but until the case is concluded and all of the facts are on the table, I believe it is unwise to continue financial support of your order.
From a Letter Printed in the National Catholic Register
I just read your New Oxford Note (March) about the National Catholic Register’s publishing an article by Deal Hudson, and I thought you’d like to see the letter I previously wrote to the Register (published by the Legionaries of Christ) objecting to the publishing of that article. I said: “I was surprised to see an article by Deal W. Hudson in the December 12-18, 2004, Register in light of the recent sexual revelations about Hudson’s past. Some of us could conclude that the Register is simply ignoring the sex scandal, with a business-as-usual attitude, thereby implicitly supporting Hudson.”
The Executive Editor, Tom Hoopes, wrote back saying that my letter wasn’t the only one received on the topic of Hudson.
However, none of the letters questioning why they published the Hudson article was printed.
In reply to Hoopes I said: “Your readers are left with the impression that the Register doesn’t consider Hudson’s behavior a serious matter.”
K. Dale Anderson
In Defense of Fr. Maciel
One would never know, from reading the New Oxford Note (March, pp. 16-18), that the Legion of Christ has responded at length, in detail, and with categorical denials to the sexual accusations against Fr. Maciel. We are told only that the Legionaries have “branded the sexual predation charges against Maciel as ‘detraction,'” and that the Legion “has never said anything” about a “new” investigation. It seems fair to say that the piece conveys at least that the Legion has not answered the accusations, and perhaps even that it has implicitly admitted that they are true.
The opposite is the case. The extensive response of the Legion is available online (legionaryfacts.org). It includes, among other documents, the sworn recantation of one of the accusers. No doubt many will not be persuaded, but if one is going to characterize the charges against Fr. Maciel as “well-established” — whatever this may mean — an acknowledgment of the response to the charges is, as a point of justice, obligatory.
Unfortunately, this omission is typical of the piece, which is the very model of a smear. It contains gratuitous comments that give the impression of something bad, without actually making an accusation that can be refuted (e.g., “it pays to be friends,” “neoconservative Catholics,” “preoccupied with money and power,” “if you can believe that”). It attributes guilt by association (“Among the neocons defending Maciel is…Deal Hudson”). And it asks leading questions (“Do you ever wonder why the Register has such a soft spot for the sexually depraved?”). All that is missing is a comparison to Hitler, though perhaps the mention of Rembert Weakland serves that purpose.
The likelihood of Fr. Maciel’s guilt is presumed, without a word about the existence of potentially exculpatory evidence. The tolerance of sex crimes by the Legion and the National Catholic Register is, therefore, taken for granted. On this basis, differences of opinion, emphasis, and expression are given the most unfavorable interpretation. And it is all presented as nothing more than a reporting of the facts.
I have no association with the Legion, other than an acquaintance with some of its members; but I need not have a personal stake in this matter to know that men of good will do not treat their brothers this way. Cheap grace? Cheap shot.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
We did not say that the Legion has never said anything about the new investigation of Maciel (though, as of this writing, it hasn’t). What we said was that “the National Catholic Register…has never said anything about the Holy See’s new investigation of Maciel.” The Register is a weekly newspaper, and newspapers are supposed to report the news. One would have expected the Register to say something about this major Catholic news story, which takes credible accusations of priestly pederasty to a new level. On the other hand, the Register is a feel-good paper, so maybe it had a convenient excuse not to report the story.
You say: “It seems fair to say that the [NOR] piece conveys at least that the Legion has not answered the accusations, and perhaps even that it has implicitly admitted that they are true.” We said nothing of the kind. You’re jumping to wild conclusions.
We did, as “a point of justice,” note that the sexual predation charges against Maciel were labeled “detraction” by the Legion, and in the preceding paragraph we said what the Legion meant by detraction, namely, “unjust injury.”
And we did not say that the charges against Maciel are “well-established.” We said “well-substantiated.” There’s a difference.
You say we make accusations that can’t be “refuted,” but all of them can, in principle, be refuted. It’s just that you can’t refute them.
As for “guilt by association,” we’d rephrase it this way: You’re known by the company you keep. That Deal Hudson would defend Maciel is a hoot. And that the Register published Hudson after his sexual predation came to light, and after more recent allegations of sexual misconduct appeared, says a lot. It’s not unlike Bill Clinton vouching for Michael Jackson (as of this writing, we don’t know if Jackson will be found innocent or guilty).
As for “leading questions,” we gave sufficient evidence why the Register has a soft spot for the sexually depraved.
Our focus was on the Register and Commonweal, not Maciel. Just as we didn’t give the Legion’s website in regard to Maciel, so we didn’t give ReGain’s website, which consists of conservative Catholics who are ex-Legionaries and ex-Regnum Christi members (the lay affiliate) who tell of the cultish practices they’ve suffered from. Since you give the Legion’s website, we’ll give ReGain’s website: regainnetwork.org. Jason Berry and Gerald Renner, the two investigative reporters who know more about Maciel than anyone, say in their book Vows of Silence on Maciel and the Legion that “the harshest critics of the Legion are not progressive Catholics but those who are staunchly conservative and conclude that the order violates basic standards of honest conduct.”
As for the Legion website, we know very well that it has defended Maciel. But the Legion’s website lacks any and all credibility. Why? Because the Legionaries take a fourth vow: never to speak ill of Maciel and the Legion, never to criticize one’s superiors, and to inform on those who do. But apparently you choose to give credence to the Legion’s propaganda machine.
There are nine men who have made accusations of a sexual nature against Maciel (one died in 1995). Then a tenth, Miguel Diaz Rivera, accused Maciel in 1996. The sworn recantation you refer to is that of Diaz. Previous to that he detailed his sexual encounters with Maciel with a sworn affidavit. Less than a month later, he signed a new affidavit retracting his statements (which is what you’re referring to). In one or the other affidavit, he committed perjury. Diaz has no credibility. But if you didn’t presume he was credible, why did you bring him up?
Of the original nine men making accusations against Maciel, none has issued a recantation.
It is not for us to presume Maciel’s guilt. We only hope that the Vatican’s new investigation will be impartial, in spite of the fact that Maciel has lavishly wined and dined many influential cardinals in the Curia, even sending his Mercedes to pick them up. We have studied the Maciel case in depth, including the Legion’s side, and we must say that the evidence against Maciel is overwhelming. But again, it’s not for us to decide.
You speak of “men of good will.” Men of good will must investigate the charges against Maciel objectively. Men of good will must consider the victims (which you don’t seem to want to do). Men of good will seek justice. Otherwise, they’re men of bad will.
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