Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: May 2007

May 2007


February 2007 marked the 30th anniversary of the NOR’s existence. No anniversary celebration is complete without a little reminiscing, so here is mine. My life with the NOR began in the periodical section of the University of Minnesota-Duluth library about 1978. I was wandering around taking a study break and the colorful graphics of The New Republic caught my eye. Compared to what I had been studying, it was a refreshing diversion, so the next day I again took a break and walked back, only to find that it was gone and that someone had misfiled the New Oxford Review, its alphabetical neighbor, in its place. I recall finding most of it impenetrable, but I did enjoy the columns by Robert Coles. Why did I come back to it? Partly because I wanted to be a psychiatrist like Coles and partly because I kept trying to figure out what kind of magazine this really was.

I subscribed off and on over the next few years, and by the time I had been married a few years, I recall telling my wife that the NOR was a little too Catholic for me (we were Lutheran). That must have been about 1985. I never dreamt I was on the way to becoming Catholic.

By 2002 our eldest son was in junior high school and starting to get the humor in the more lighthearted columns in the NOR. Five years later, our sons are opening the NOR before I do — and our sons are almost as critical as the NOR. For example, one recent living-room discussion was in response to one of my sons asking, “Is there anyone alive whom the NOR likes?” My answer was Bishop Bruskewitz of Nebraska.

So where does a child reared on the NOR go to college? February 2007 found us touring Benedictine College in Kansas. By the third day, I was nearly convinced this was a reasonable choice, but we still hadn’t been to the library. So after a brief tour, we went to the periodicals section. There, without The New Republic on its right, was the 30th-anniversary edition of the NOR.

Now it is March 3 and our February issue is finally here (the post in rural Canada can be a bit inconsistent). My eldest son is telling me about a great review in the NOR and wondering whether or not I have read it yet. Maybe tonight I will get to it, when he is out with his friends. Happy birthday!

Jim Chandler, M.D.

Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

The Most Sublime Passages in Sacred Scripture

The letter from Dan Mattimore (Feb.), a well-intentioned reader, suggests that the movement to bring back the Tridentine Latin Mass is a waste of time.

There are two distinct elements here: The text of the Tridentine Mass, and the use of Latin.

The Tridentine Mass contains a wealth of prayer and theology that has been stripped from the Novus Ordo Mass: The prayers at the beginning of Mass said at the foot of the altar; the offertory prayers; and the Last Gospel, the beginning of the Gospel According to St. John (including “Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”), perhaps the most sublime passage in all of sacred Scripture, are but a few examples. These prayers were probably removed as part of a plan to remove the sense of the sacred from the Mass.

The use of Latin is another issue. I grew up with that language and I still love it; but the dumbing down of our educational system for the past forty years is such that very few of the younger clergy and laymen know any Latin at all. It should be brought back if only to help people to know the roots of most words in English, now butchered as a matter of routine by writers, and announcers and participants in radio and TV programs.

Rome could easily undo some of the damage by simply bringing back the Tridentine Mass, but in the vernacular, so that our priests who don’t know any Latin could easily say the old Mass. Latin could come later. Why has this never been proposed? One can surmise that the reason is the continuing influence of faithless shepherds at high levels in the Church.

Juan J. Ryan

New Providence, New Jersey

Aborted Babies Are Saints

There is an abortion holocaust going on in our country and across the planet. Every day, babies are washed down the sink or discarded in dumpsters, and their body parts are seemingly lost forever.

Recently, a baby girl was miraculously born at about 21 weeks old, weighing only 10 ounces, and slightly larger than a fountain pen. She was released in good health to her parents. I feel stupid saying something that goes without saying, but I will say it anyway because some people still don’t get it. This baby is a living, breathing, fighting, miracle-working, loving, generous, intelligent, silly, jealous, ridiculous, daring, mistake-making human being with a fully developed soul.

So were the millions of babies her age (and older and younger) who were cruelly aborted. Life starts at conception. The beauty and complexity of human life cannot be described.

There are holy people working within the Catholic Church (you may know some) who have baptized fetuses and miscarriages. Does anyone ever pray to the aborted babies and venerate them properly? They are, after all, human just like us. Relics of saints are often venerated. In early times and still today, the bodies of the dead were considered sacred since indeed Jesus will raise the baptized ones on the last day. Cremation was considered blasphemy because of the superstition that bodies could not be raised if they were burnt to ashes. Great veneration was given to the bodies of saints. In my estimation, all of the aborted babies are saints.

Nathan Knight

Kensington, California

Spiritual & Intellectual Scholarship

You have held on to your classic cover, which speaks to the quality within your pages. We are grateful that you give us the work of Ade Bethune, remarkable woman and artist. And we are educated through the spiritual and intellectual scholarship in the writings of Alice von Hildebrand, Anne Barbeau Gardiner, and Mitchell Kalpakgian, to mention only a few.

Jim & Frances Castner

Lawton, Michigan

Sick to My stomach

I read your exposés of Deal Hudson, Fr. Marcial Maciel, and others, and felt sick to my stomach. It couldn’t be true; the NOR must be wrong, I thought. I read your writings on the war in Iraq and was angry. We need to defend ourselves against future terrorist attacks, I thought — a passioned response to 9/11. Yes, I wanted to rescind my support for the NOR.

Alas, you’ve been proven correct on all accounts. So no more rash judgment from me. Here is a donation to cover five of the 3,700 subscribers who jumped ship too soon and unnecessarily.

Maria Briggs

Hercules, California

Is Fr. Pavone Really a Republican Party Shill?

I have to take issue with the suggestions that Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life is a Republican Party shill (New Oxford Notes, Jan., pp. 16-18; letters section, March, p. 8). Concern seems to center, in part, around Fr. Pavone’s suggestion that voters should not only look at a candidate’s position on prolife issues, but that of his party as well. There is a suggestion, then, that it might be better to vote for a pro-choice Republican over a prolife Democrat. In fact, that may be true.

There is a difference between the parties, and it can be seen most dramatically on the issue of abortion. For Democrats, legal abortion-on-demand is an article of faith. It underlies much of what they do. Consider the recent Supreme Court nominees. Can one honestly say that any other single issue raised more concern for Senate Democrats than the nominees’ view on abortion? There were other issues, to be sure, but the overriding issue was and still is abortion.

Republicans, on the other hand, generally take a more life-friendly position. Obviously, there are noted exceptions, pro-choice Republicans hold some prominent positions within the party; however, the same cannot be said about the Democrats.

So, what does this all mean? Simply put, as Fr. Pavone correctly points out: Parties do matter!

Every legislative body is controlled by the majority party. That means that the majority names the presiding officer and all committee chairmen, has a majority on each committee, and, in the case of the House of Representatives, controls the all-important Rules Committee. In short, the majority controls the flow of legislation.

What Fr. Pavone is saying is that, when viewed from this perspective, the election of a prolife member of the pro-abortion party can be counterproductive, even though that position seems counterintuitive. Translation: A prolife House Democrat still means a Speaker Nancy Pelosi, means legislation promoting abortion gets moved to the floor for debate and vote, and means bills protecting the unborn are left to die in committee.

Complicating the understanding of all this, and compromising the efforts of prolife organizations such as Fr. Pavone’s, is the tendency for many of our Church leaders to blur the issue even further by promoting a liberal non-dogmatic social agenda that invites Catholics to consider all issues equally. Thus, the Catholic voter can simply add up a given set of candidates’ positions and use that as a scorecard to cast his vote for the candidate he concludes is most pro-Church.

But as Fr. Pavone, and anyone involved in the prolife movement, knows, all issues are not equal. Abortion is an inherently evil act. It outweighs immigration reform, health care, the environment, even the death penalty. Forty-five million babies, whose only crime was that they were inconvenient to someone, legally aborted since Roe v. Wade testify to this.

There is no such thing as a “just abortion” doctrine and Fr. Pavone understands this better than some of the social scientists who try to make Church policy these days. He understands the workings of government better, too.

Michael J. Manno

West Des Moines, Iowa


You say that Fr. Frank Pavone is not a “Republican Party shill.” The NOR neither suggested nor implied that Fr. Pavone is a “shill” — a shill poses as a satisfied customer to dupe innocent bystanders into making them victims of a swindle (according to the dictionaries). Fr. Pavone was the one who was duped.

You say Fr. Pavone suggests that “it might be better to vote for a pro-choice Republican over a prolife Democrat.” You make it abundantly clear that Fr. Pavone is a Republican Party advocate. Thank you for making our point.

The recent Supreme Court appointees are John Roberts and Samuel Alito. In our New Oxford Note “When Will Prolifers Wise Up?” (Nov. 2005), we noted that when Roberts “came before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his appointment to the Court of Appeals on April 30, 2003, [he] said: ‘Roe vs. Wade is the settled law of the land…. There’s nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent….’ Sen. Arlen Specter asked Roberts at the Judiciary Committee hearings for his appointment for Chief Justice (Sept. 13, 2005): ‘Do you mean settled for you, settled only for your capacity as a circuit judge, or settled beyond that?’ Roberts answered: ‘Well, beyond that.’ That means that Roe is settled law, not just for Roberts himself, not just for Roberts as a circuit judge, but is settled for him as a Supreme Court justice.” We further noted: “After the Senate Judiciary hearings, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Fox News Sunday (Sept. 18): ‘If your view of being conservative is that he [Roberts] has to decide your way [against Roe], then you’re going to be disappointed.'”

As for Alito, in our March 2006 Editorial, we noted: “At his Senate Judiciary hearings [for the Supreme Court]…. he responded to a question from Sen. Charles Schumer (Jan. 10), who said, ‘you would very likely vote to overrule Roe vs. Wade.’ Alito replied: ‘If I have had an agenda to uphold any abortion regulation that came along, I would not have voted as I did in my Third Circuit cases.’ We all know how he voted in those Third Circuit cases, pro-abortion on five out of six. In other words, he’ll vote on the Supreme Court the same way he did on the Third Circuit.” Also noted in our Editorial: Alito was interviewed by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (on Nov. 16, 2005), and Alito told her that “the precedent is established” regarding Roe.

President Bush nominated Roberts and Alito (and Harriet Miers, see our New Oxford Note, Dec. 2005, pp. 16-18), and not one of them will overturn Roe. This is a charade, and Fr. Pavone fell for it.

But there is another life issue at stake, the invasion of Iraq. Two popes condemned this war on Iraq as unjust. In an unjust war, killing soldiers, killing civilians who get in the way of military targets, and killing civilians on purpose are all murder. Fr. Pavone said, “Many ask whether one can be a good Catholic or be pro-life and support the war [in Iraq]. The answer is yes….” Yet again, he is supporting President Bush and the Republicans over two popes. What other conclusion can we come to but that Fr. Pavone has been easily deceived by the Republican Party?

Clean Hands

Fr. Emmanuel Charles Mc­Carthy’s article “War & the Requirement of Moral Certainty” (March) was a bombshell, metaphorically speaking. The U.S. turned a blind eye to Saddam’s crimes so long as he was useful to our government. Actually, in some instances, we connived in his misrule. We need clean hands.

As for laxism: A Catholic cannot rightly be a Republican, a Democrat, a Constitutionalist, etc. Strictly speaking, a Catholic’s ultimate loyalty is to the King of All, the Crown Rights of King Jesus. The com­mination (1662 Prayer Book) says it very well: “Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, and takest man for his defence, and in his heart goeth from the Lord.”

Any of us who puts our country before the Crown Rights of King Jesus sets the things of man above the things of God. Churchmen in ancient times refused to burn incense before Caesar. Now many of us gladly perform this idolatry. How far we have fallen!

Benton Marder

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Seven Catholic Churches Are All Bad

Of the seven Catholic churches in my area, all are bad. You never hear words such as sin, salvation, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (it’s a “meal”). But you will find chatting, visiting, noise, irreverence, and altar girls who don’t know what they are doing. People don’t genuflect and rarely go to confession. It’s all New Age.

I am the only one who receives on the tongue and wears a head covering.

Of all the Catholic periodicals I receive, I enjoy the NOR the most. Your articles are very interesting and, most of all, traditional. You give me a sense of sanity in our crazy world.

Elizabeth Moncrief

Janesville, Wisconsin

Scott Hahn Defends Himself

In response to your New Oxford Note “A Little Bit of Gnosticism” (Feb.) about me, I have to wonder whether you read what I wrote about the Holy Spirit.

First, I expressly deny that the Holy Spirit is feminine, in both the hardcover and paperback editions of my book First Comes Love. In this connection, I cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and its teaching about God: “He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective ‘perfections’ of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband” (#370).

Second, I always refer to the Holy Spirit as “He” — never “She” — in all my writings and teachings.

Third, it is absurd to say that modern defenders of Gnosticism (such as Elaine Pagels) derive any support whatsoever from exploratory study of maternal aspects of God and the Holy Spirit, whether by me or the orthodox Catholics I cite (e.g., St. Ephrem, St. Methodius, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Edith Stein, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Louis Bouyer, Matthias Scheeben).

Fourth, what you imply about me supporting lesbian marriage is unspeakably vile and slanderous. And on what basis do you argue: That if the Spirit has a maternal function, then Jesus had two mommies? The same twisted and perverse logic could be turned right around to show that Dale Vree, the Editor of the NOR, must support gay marriage between men: “If the Spirit’s role is really paternal, then Jesus had two daddies — at least (the first and third Persons of the Trinity), not to mention St. Joseph.” As I said, this is twisted and perverse.

Your readers deserve better. Indeed, I invite them to read my chapter and judge for themselves, which they can now find online (courtesy of Doubleday).

Scott Hahn

Steubenville, Ohio


Yes, we read what you say about the Holy Spirit carefully, twice and sometimes thrice.

(1) Just to cite your paperback version. You do say the Holy Spirit is feminine. You say: “In Syriac as in Hebrew, the word for Spirit, ruah, is feminine, and so it ordinarily called for a feminine pronoun” (p. 160). You say: “Christians often interpreted the Bible’s wisdom passages as referring to the Holy Spirit…. In the Book of Wisdom, chapters 7-9, God’s Wisdom is referred to as ‘holy spirit’…. The Hebrew word for Wisdom, hokmak, is also feminine…” (p. 161). You say: “Dominican theologian Father Benedict Ashley…. concludes ‘it is to the Third Person of the Trinity…that the Old Testament descriptions of the feminine Wisdom are applied.’ And his conclusion seems very reasonable” (p. 162). You say: “Etymology doesn’t usually make for good biblical theology; but these cases might be an exception. The great Dominican Thomist Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange said: ‘Since “Spirit” — in Hebrew, Ruah — is of the feminine gender…'” (p. 163). You say: “St. Edith Stein [said]…’Such love is properly the attribute of the Holy Spirit. Thus we can see the prototype of the feminine being in the Spirit of God…'” (p. 165). You wrote it. How can you deny it?

As for your quote from the Catechism (#370), the Catechism preponderantly says that God is our Father (#233, 238-40, 268-70, 272-74, 278, 2779-85, 2794-2802). As you say in a subtext, God is “Still Our Father” (pp. 166-67).

(2) As we said in our New Oxford Note (Feb.), Hahn says: “We know Who the Spirit is by what He does, and what the Spirit does is bridal and maternal…” (italics added). No “He” (the Holy Spirit) can be bridal or maternal. You might just as well have said the Holy Spirit is a “She.”

(3) It is not just the modern defenders of gnosticism who say the Holy Spirit is maternal or motherly, it was also the bogus gnostic gospels. In the authentic Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly calls the Holy Spirit “He” and “Him.” And in the Catechism, the Holy Spirit is repeatedly called “he” and “him” (e.g., #683, 687, 1092, 1107, 1129, 2652).

(4) We would be startled if you would support lesbian “marriage,” but that’s where your argument leads. If Mary was female or maternal, and if the Holy Spirit is female or feminine and maternal, then Jesus had two mommies, which validates lesbian “marriage.” No, Dale Vree does not support “gay marriage” between men: The Holy Spirit is paternal and Mary is maternal. That’s the proper order.

We said in our New Oxford Note (Feb.) that “Hahn brings in Pope Benedict XVI to support his views…. [But] Hahn completely misreads it [Benedict’s June 8, 2005, General Audience].” We noticed that you do not defend that argument — and you can’t.

Yes, we encourage our readers to judge for themselves at your website.

Clear Thought

The NOR is a voice of clear thought in defense of truth. Keep up the gutsy writing. There’s nothing like a fiery and fighting Catholic. Enclosed is my $10 contribution toward your Internet project, times 10.

Christopher Cridge

Yardley, Pennsylvania

Hatred Is a Healthy Response to Evil

George A. Kendall, in his columns in The Wanderer attacking the NOR, said that we must love our enemies. There are eleven passions bestowed on mankind: love, hate, joy, sadness, abhorrence, etc. The passion of hate is a good when it is directed to the aversion or revulsion of evil or to that which attacks and corrupts the good. Hate is a sin when it is directed against the good (including the goodness and virtue of others), and the worst hatred is when it is directed against God, His Commandments, and His Church.

D.Q. McInerny, Professor of Philosophy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska, said in one of his writings (“The Passion of Hatred: When Is It Right”): “Hatred is one of the eleven passions, or sensitive appetites. As a passion, it is not to be confused with the sin of hatred…. Hatred is the natural response to what we perceive as hateful…. An earnest pedagogue says, ‘One should never hate.’ Taken literally, and without qualification, that is simply bad advice, and has its source in sentimentality rather than in reason…. We live in a world in which evil is a pervasive reality, and the only proper response to evil is hatred…. Someone who is completely out of touch with reality would be a person who harbors no hatred in his heart for anything whatever…. Hatred is nothing more than the healthy response to the unlovable, to the absence of good…. Hatred is the rational response to evil, and so long as the passion of hatred is under control of reason, it will cause us to react to the world around us as we should be reacting to it.”

Erven Park

Toledo, Washington

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