Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: May 2008

May 2008

The NOR Behind Bars

I am one of the recipients of the NOR’s Scholarship Fund. I cannot thank enough those who support this fund. Every month I patiently wait for the NOR to arrive, and as soon as I get it, I open it up to “The News You May Have Missed” by Michael S. Rose. I then read the whole issue cover to cover. Once I am done with my NOR, there are at least four guys knocking at my cell door asking to read it.

Just by offering one scholarship subscription, at least five inmates get enjoyment out of it. It is difficult to get good Catholic reading material in prison — we have a lot of Protestant and Islamic reading material, but we very much lack Catholic material. The NOR helps to fill this void. For this I wish to extend my thanks to the NOR and to all the NOR readers who have donated to this fund.

Damion John Leafey

Smithfield Correctional Institution

Huntingdon, Pennsylvania

No Slam Dunk

Vincent Ferro, in his letter “Abortion’s True Malice” (March), states that the real tragedy of abortion is that unbaptized, aborted children are excluded from Heaven and can only enjoy the “natural happiness of Limbo.” I found the slam-dunk finality of his assertions to be disturbing. Determined to prove him dead wrong, I flipped open the Catechism, certain that the word “Limbo” would not be found.

I was wrong. “Limbo” is listed in the Index, which directs readers to section 1261, about “children who have died without Baptism.” The word “Limbo,” however, does not appear anywhere in the text of the Catechism.

The Church does not say definitively that children who are not baptized go to Limbo. Instead, the Church “entrusts them to the mercy of God,” recalling Jesus’ tenderness toward children: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them” (Mk. 10:14). The Catechism offers us “hope” for the salvation of children who have died without baptism.

Kathryn Griffin Swegart

Rome, Maine

Abortion & Natural Happiness

After reading Vincent Ferro’s letter “Abortion’s True Malice” (March), I wondered if there were any sliver of optimism that could be gleaned from the true, but depressing, facts that Ferro lays out in concise detail concerning the loss of innocent lives by the murderous act of abortion. The key word here is “innocent,” and, given that the souls of these 50 million aborted babies, according to traditional Church doctrine, are in fact enjoying natural happiness in Limbo, I then considered what might have been their fate had they been (un)fortunate enough to have been born, lived, and died a natural (or unnaturabpdeath. This brought to mind what many of the Church’s most illustrious saints believed and expressed in their writings regarding the relatively few souls that merit eternal salvation, a conclusion supported in Holy Scripture by Christ’s own words, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” and His admonition concerning the “narrow gate” and the few who enter therein.

It could be argued, therefore, that most of those 50 million souls, if they had been born, would most likely merit perdition at judgment time, whereas now, surely, 100 percent of them at least enjoy natural happiness. I therefore put forth for consideration that while abortion is certainly an abomination that should never occur, one might consider the greater tragedy as being the loss of the souls of the abortionist and the women whose children he aborts, should God not forgive them before they die.

It might be said that abortion presents a definite paradox in that while malice is certainly present in the cases of the relatively few victims’ souls that are prevented from attaining Heaven, ironically, a much greater number of victims’ souls are shown benevolence by being rescued from the eternal torments of Hell.

M. Gregory Christensen

Post Falls, Idaho

Speak Out, Without Fear

Regarding your New Oxford Note “A Perplexing Political Potpourri” (Feb.): The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops suggests Catholics be aware of their religious values when casting ballots. However, they do not tell us how to vote, for instance by specifically supporting prolife candidates. The U.S. bishops probably don’t want to alienate Church members of whichever political party. One suspects that the concept of the “separation of Church and State” at least plays a part in their rationale to remain somewhat noncommittal observers of the election process.

The problem with such a response by bishops and priests is that many in the pews make no connection between vital Catholic standards and the need to increase prolife thinking in the ranks of elected officials. This is evident from polling data of past elections in which Catholics in large numbers voted for pro-abortion candidates.

For obvious reasons, abortion is the most significant moral/political issue of our time. I believe the clergy should speak out on this matter directly and in earnest, or stand accused before God Himself (cf. Mt. 10:33) of denying Him, in effect. Jesus also said, “Be not afraid.” Clerics must have faith in proclaiming the Word, without fear. Regarding this obligation of theirs, recall that one of the spiritual works of mercy is “to instruct the ignorant.”

Catholic clergy are supposed to be shepherds guiding their flock. Have some in a sense abdicated this role by not emphasizing to their congregations the importance of voting prolife? We need to be outspoken about our beliefs, and this crucial principle of the right to life pleads for affirmation from the lips and pens of our Catholic leadership.

What is now said or not said, written or not written, when addressing the faithful, could indeed influence the course of human history. Catholics are the principal swing vote in the U.S.

John N. Heil

Los Angeles, California

What Is Meant By 'Intrinsic Evil'

I am curious about the phrase, “intrinsic evil,” that appears in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ voter guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” commented on in your New Oxford Note “A Perplexing Political Potpourri” (Feb.). It is my understanding from St. Thomas Aquinas that intrinsic evil is an impossibility. That is, some good is intended even by acts of evil, as good is the very cause of evil. I fear that the word “intrinsic” casts a Manichaean shade of color on the Catholic faith and reflects an absorption by the U.S. Church of “values” distinctly divergent from traditional doctrine. Could you please comment?

John Quintero

Lovelock, Nevada


The concept of “intrinsic evil” is not limited to the U.S. Church, but is a part of Catholic teaching on the nature of moral acts. Pope John Paul II, in chapter 2, part IV, “The Moral Act,” of his landmark encyclical Veritatis Splendor, promulgated August 1993, expounds on this teaching of the Church: “The primary and decisive element for moral judgment is the object of the human act, which establishes whether it is capable of being ordered to the good and to the ultimate end, which is God…. Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature ‘incapable of being ordered’ to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed ‘intrinsically evil’ (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that ‘there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.’… In teaching the existence of intrinsically evil acts, the Church accepts the teaching of Sacred Scripture. The Apostle Paul emphatically states: ‘Do not be deceived: neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God’ (1 Cor. 6:9-10). If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain ‘irremediably’ evil acts; per se and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person…. Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice” (#79-81).

John Paul II has a lot to say on this topic, and his encyclical is a must-read for anyone interested in the nature of Catholic moral theology.

Monastery of the Holy Cross

Make That 'Preborn'

I am trying to get prolife people, such as the staff, contributors, and readers of the NOR, to start using the term “preborn” instead of “unborn.” It is more accurate and even sounds better. After all, rocks and trees are unborn!

Stephen J. Sanborn Sr.

Mead, Washington

Oh, the Simplicity of It All

Year in and year out, month after month, I have been silently suffering your anti-Iraq war rhetoric along with the mantra of a cavalcade of would-be “smart” analysts regularly appearing in the NOR.

After ignoring the obvious signs of trouble, we suffered the Islamic murderers at the cost of thousands of innocent lives on 9/11. Our nation was in shock, and the subsequent hunt for protective remedy was “all over the lot.” We went to rid Iraq of the Baathists and their leader, Sad­dam Hussein, on the “pretext” of his stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. We found “none” — ergo, the torrent of unjust accusations of Bush’s warmongering. Even our popes waded in against the war. Fine! But let us look at the simplicity of it all.

In my estimation, a “weapon of mass destruction” is nothing more than something that kills thousands of people. An atomic bomb, such as those used in the Hiroshima/Nagasaki events that killed 100,000 each in one blow, is such a weapon. But how about a suitcase full of anthrax that, when dumped in New York City, would achieve the same results? Does that qualify as a weapon of mass destruction, and would we be justified in trying to anticipate such an attack? I, for one, believe so. And how about the chemicals that Saddam used that killed some 5,000 Kurds? Are these weapons of mass destruction? Still, we found none when we went there for the simple reason that chemicals are not only the easiest to manufacture but to transport and hide as well. There are those who supported the unverified contention that Saddam had spirited his chemicals out of Iraq to his friends in Syria.

Did the Bush administration make mistakes in conducting the war? Yes, indeed. But then the shortcomings of a civilian Commander in Chief are that he is not trained in the military sciences and more often than not conducts war on a politically motivated platform, as well intentioned as that may be. Every one of our 20th-century presidents waged war exactly the same way.

In sum, I am tired of the NOR uninterruptedly beating its anti-Iraq war tom-toms. Please move on to something more productive. In the meantime, I applaud the letters from Colonels Franklin, Lamuro, and Breede (March).

Andrew S. Erdelyi

Merrick, New York

Lies & Propaganda

Your March issue contains five letters denouncing your opposition to our war in Iraq. Let me, who has no dog in this fight, make a few factual observations.

Shortly before our invasion of Iraq, I saw then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on television tell the United Nations, speaking of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, “We know they have them and we know where they are.” This was a double lie. Powell later stated that he had been told this and believed it. Shame on him.

After U.S. weapons inspector David Kay reported that neither such weapons nor the capability of producing them existed, the story changed. I watched a member of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government state on television, “All the intelligence services, even the French and Russians, thought they [the Iraqis] had such weapons.” Another lie.

I have a book, Le Ministre, by Bruno LeMaire, published by Bernard Grasset (Paris, 2004), in which the author, who worked for the French Foreign Ministry, describes in full detail the attempts of the British and Americans to get the French, Belgians, and Germans to support the forthcoming invasion of Iraq. All available information was reviewed by all the French intelligence agencies and they found no firm evidence of the existence of such weapons. That was the basis of the decision of the French government to refuse an invasion based on suspicion, not proof. The Germans and Belgians agreed.

Last fall, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, let the cat out of the bag when he stated, “The Iraq war is largely about oil.” Now the war in Iraq is being spun as part of our “war on terror.”

Let’s go to another falsehood uttered by George W. Bush: “Islam is a religion of peace.” Any student of history knows that Muslims have attacked Christians in Europe from the Moorish invasion of Spain in A.D. 692 until the present day, and that Muslim attacks on Christians continue in parts of Africa and Asia.

On the other hand, the attacks of 9/11 were in response to American support for Israel in its oppression of Palestinian Arabs, and American military presence in Saudi Arabia. The attacks in Spain and England were in response to the participation of the governments of those countries in the invasion of Iraq. Our continued occupation of that country is a recruiting boon for al-Qaeda.

Our continuing war in Iraq is not only bleeding our military forces; it is bankrupting our country.

Juan J. Ryan

New Providence, New Jersey

No Fluff Here

As a Protestant, I’ve been hard pressed to find a publication that hits as hard as yours does. In my world there’s a lot of fluff and not a lot of truth. It seems rather strange that I’d be subscribing to a Catholic magazine in order to hear some solid truth. Anyway, keep up the great work, and I am taking advantage of GoodSearch to help you out.

The Rev. Sam King, Th.M.

Coquille, Oregon

Ed. Note: GoodSearch.com is an Internet search engine that donates proceeds to nonprofit organizations, including the NOR. For more information, see the notice on page 25 of this issue. Thanks for your support!

Fried Simpletons

Robert M. Olesnevich’s reply (March) to my letter about the 70,000 “simpletons” in Portugal (Jan.) overlooks an important fact. If the sun truly descended and danced at Fatima in 1917, then those “simpletons” would have been fried instantly, indeed also evaporating at the same time.

Louis J. Mihalyi

Newland, North Carolina

Ed. Note: That the onlookers didn’t get burned is part of the reason why this event, known as the “Miracle of the Sun,” is properly described as a “miracle.”

Southwestern Revisionism

I was surprised by the historical revisionism in the letter from Wallace Spaulding (March). A review of the history of the American Southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming) claimed by Mexico for 27 years after gaining independence from Spain shows that Mexico had little or no control over this vast area. In most of it there were no Mexican settlers and no Mexican government presence. Santa Fe seems to have been their one success.

With few exceptions, the Indians did not accept Mexican sovereignty. The Mexican government was not even able to control Indian activities in Sonora, much less in areas to the north. Spaulding’s belief that all in Mexican lands married and lived happily ever after ignores Spanish and Mexican hostility to the Indians, and their custom of collecting the ears of the Indians they killed.

Though Spain claimed California in 1542, they made no attempt to settle the area until 1769. In 1781 a Spanish party of soldiers and priests was massacred by the Indians at Yuma. After that the Spanish/Mexicans chose to remain in only a small area. The non-Indian population there was always very small.

The Mexican claim to the Southwest lasted only 27 years. Rewriting history and encouraging Mexican myths and claims to land they never controlled serves no constructive purpose.

Monta Pooley

Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Americans, Mexicans & Freemasonry

Wallace Spaulding’s letter (March), indicating that the U.S. stole the American Southwest, especially Texas, from Mexico in the 1846-1848 phony war, seems “right on the beam.”

One of the characteristics of the U.S. invasion of Mexico is found on the left retaining wall at the Alamo (as you face the front of what was once a Catholic mission). We took photos of this wall in the early 1980s. In high profile are two plaques attached to this old wall. The first reads: “The Birthplace of Freemasonry in West Texas. This plaque was dedicated Jan 15, 1948 by Alamo Lodge #44 honoring the 100th anniversary of the chartering of the lodge and honoring those pioneer Masons of that era who founded the lodge upon this site.” The second reads: “Honoring those Masons, James Bowie, David Crockett, Almaron Dickenson, William Barret Travis and those unidentified Masons who gave their lives in the battle of the Alamo. March 1836. Erected by the Grand Lodge of Texas March 1976.”

Since most of the U.S. “founding fathers” were Masons and the U.S. founding documents have an obvious Masonic bent, and while all the monuments in Washington, D.C., suffer a Masonic consecration at the very root, formally excluding our Lord, it would certainly seem that this war of aggression by the U.S. Masonic government against what was then a Mexican Catholic government was part and parcel of the demon’s war against the Church. Would it surprise anyone to know that Quetzalcoatl, the stone serpent worshiped by the Aztecs in what is now Mexico, and which was crushed by Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, is now honored in bronze at the entrance of the annex of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.?

John DeFriend

Floyds Knob, Indiana

'Let Daddy Do It All'

The magnanimous actions of the self-described “progressive” Jesuit priest Michael Kerper (New Oxford Note, “First Impressions Are Often Correct,” March) in deciding to offer the Tridentine Latin Mass at his parish is quite distinct from the actions of the pastor of my local parish, who was ordained into the Tridentine Mass.

When Pope Benedict’s motu proprio liberating the Tridentine Latin Mass was released, this pastor wrote in his parish bulletin that he was “very saddened by this development.” It is true, he says, that the Tridentine Mass was “celebrated and venerated for many, many years.” But that Mass “belongs to a different era,” and “by the mid-20th Century it was getting old and crusty.” The Tridentine Mass, he says, “reflects a time when the Mass ‘belonged’ to the priest. The people were an audience,” and their attitude then was to “sit back and relax and let daddy do it all.”

This pastor says he has “no intention of celebrating the Tridentine Mass” — unless he is ordered by his bishop to do so.

It’s interesting to note that those who want the Tridentine Latin Mass have no objections to the Novus Ordo Mass being available to those who want it. But there are those who want the Novus Ordo Mass — and they are many! — who do not want to allow the Tridentine Latin Mass for those who want it. This is what we are up against.

Stephen Tracy

Holyoke, Massachusetts

Don't Go There

“Don’t go to the Latin Mass!” Those were the words I heard from my local Catholic priest. Instead, he said, “Go to the Spanish Mass.” He made me feel like I should avoid the Tridentine Latin Mass like the plague.

In my diocese, there is only one Tridentine Mass, making it impossible for some to attend. With gas prices so high, many cannot afford to drive two or three hours one way, even if they want to. The vernacular Spanish Mass, on the other hand, is widely available, with 21 spread throughout the diocese.

The Tridentine Latin Mass should be encouraged by the priests and bishops. After all, we are the Latin rite, not the Spanish rite.

Glenn Thomas

Lexington, Kentucky

A Glorious Transformation

Here in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, we have had a glorious transformation. The Traditional Latin Mass has not been very well viewed, over the past 35 years, by a presby­terate very suspicious and critical of things traditional.

The Traditional Latin Mass had been relegated to a nursing home chapel that seats about 45 people. There were usually two Masses on Sunday, except when, on occasion, one was canceled due to the lack of priests willing or able to say both Masses. That meant usually between 60 and 90 people came to the Sunday Masses over the past eight years.

Then, on the Second Sunday of Lent (Feb. 17), Fr. Francis McHugh, pastor of St. Pius X Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, invited us to have an inaugural Mass at his parish near Fort Sam Houston. What a miracle, considering no pastor had before even hinted at being sympathetic to the Traditional Latin Mass!

Here’s where it gets phenomenal and almost unbelievable in a religious climate that can only be described as hostile to the Traditional Latin Mass. He agreed to move an existing 12:15 PM Novus Ordo Mass to the 5:30 PM time slot. He allowed the Traditional Latin Mass to be moved to 12 noon to better suit the priest saying the Mass. He allowed a communion rail to be constructed. He allowed the high altar to be reconstructed and enlarged. Finally, he asked that the Traditional Latin Mass be said on First Fridays as well, so that the schoolchildren could be exposed to it!

The inaugural 12 noon High Mass attracted nearly 600 people to a church that seats 650. The collection was nearly double what the 12:15 PM Novus Ordo Mass had previously averaged. The Traditional Latin Mass, over ensuing weeks, has averaged around 400 people every Sunday, and the collection continues to exceed the previous 12:15 PM Novus Ordo Mass average.

St. Pius X now has a Wednesday 7 AM Traditional Mass attended by about 40 people, and a Saturday 8 AM Mass attended by about 80 people. The inaugural 8 AM First Friday Mass of March 7 (Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of Catholic schools, according to the traditional calendar) had about 300 students and about 300 family members and parishioners present.

The Most Rev. Jose Gomez, our Archbishop, and Fr. Francis McHugh deserve a huge deal of credit for withstanding the barrage of criticism they have received for allowing the Traditional Latin Mass into the mainstream of Catholic life here in San Antonio.

The Rev. Fr. Donald Kloster

San Antonio, Texas

Not Awestruck

I am not awestruck by the Tridentine Latin Mass, based on my experience with it early on in life. I find I can be just as intimately joined to our Blessed Lord in the vernacular New Mass, and I enjoy the greater participation of the congregation.

Most important is that we have good, holy, and, yes, humble priests providing us with the Most Blessed Sacrament — our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is the paramount reality, in my estimation.

James J. Murphy III

New Rochelle, New York

Beyond Banality

F. Gregory Walsh (letter, Dec. 2007) claims that there is “much to be said for” the Novus Ordo Mass because of its “increased emphasis on sacred Scripture.” True, the Novus Ordo adds one reading from the Old Testament to Sunday Mass, and includes fractions of various Psalms into the daily Mass. However, the prevalence of lectors who are ineffective public readers because they insist on reading out loud to themselves, the unavailability of printed missals in many parishes, and lame New American Bible translations at the Novus Ordo do little to enhance the meditative experience offered by these extra passages.

More important is what was left out. For example, there is virtually no mention of the “Divine Majesty,” with which the Tridentine Mass is liberally sprinkled. Also ignored is the fact that most of the “unnecessary” short prayers of the Tridentine Mass that were eliminated in the Novus Ordo appear for the most part to be taken from sacred Scripture, typically from the Psalms. Virtual elimination of the Lavabo, which probably was recited by priests of the Old Testament before performing a sacrificial act, is a case in point. Throwing out the beautiful and very Catholic Last Gospel of St. John is another poignant example.

The Novus Ordo Mass is valid, but its usefulness as a teaching instrument is questionable: combine the above-mentioned problems with elimination of the communion rail in most churches and one cannot help but wonder if the Novus Ordo is not merely beyond banality, but was designed by its perpetrators to undermine fundamental Catholic belief.

Mario de Solenni

Crescent City, California

Wanted: Dead or Alive

Craig Rideout (letter, March) suggests that, since Latin is a “dead” language, the Vatican should select a “live tongue” as its official language. His thinking, however, misses the importance and necessity of using a “dead” language.

The words in the Latin language have a specific meaning, and those meanings haven’t changed for centuries. No new words and, more important, no new meanings of old words have evolved in Latin. Nor can they, precisely because it is a “dead” language.

Contrast this to the English language, Rideout’s preference as the official Church language. This language is constantly evolving; new words are added and new meanings are given to old words. That’s why English-language dictionaries are constantly being updated. Every person reading this can come up with words that have had a radical change in meaning over the past 50 years. For example, it wasn’t too long ago that the word “gay” had a completely different meaning from what it has today. Now think of how some words have had a radical change in meaning over centuries. Think of the thousand of lawsuits over the definition of words (e.g., “privacy”) in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

I submit that it is practically impossible for this to happen with Latin, due precisely to the fixed meanings of this “dead” language.

Wilbur Goolkasian

Umpqua, Oregon

Half & Half

Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament must surely be offended by the people who half-sit/half-kneel — knees on the kneeler, backsides resting against the pew — instead of kneeling straight up out of respect for Him. Of course, some people, especially the elderly, have sore or weak knees and can’t kneel up straight. It would be better and more reverent if they would remain sitting. Our posture in church is an indication of how much we revere our Lord, truly present in the Tabernacle.

Donna L. Kruger

Lincoln, Nebraska

'Saint' John Paul II

Andrew J. McCauley, in his letter “Pope John Paul II Was Not Saintly” (Feb.), responding to a point in the NOR’s October 2007 editorial, presents an interesting view on the late Pontiff. Although I generally agree with McCauley, a few distinctions must be made.

We have to distinguish between “saintliness” as a personal trait and on-the-job performance in one’s official capacity. To be canonized a saint, one must display exemplary behavior in both. Personal sanctity alone is not sufficient. John Paul II admittedly did not insist on orthodoxy, and according to the results, was a poor administrator. One may add that he went too far in his ecumenical zeal and tolerated the disintegration of the liturgy by allowing the rubrics to be so widely discarded.

That he was saintly, meditated, and prayed the Rosary is nice — it may get him to Heaven — but it is not enough to canonize him because he clearly lacked in his performance as pope. According to the Catechism, “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. ‘The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history'” (#828).

Thus, saints should serve as “models” for the faithful — even for popes. The NOR’s October 2007 editorial explicitly asks that Pope Benedict XVI not model his papacy on that of John Paul II, but that he be “more traditional, a much better administrator, [and] more insistent on orthodoxy in the Church….” The implication is that the NOR does not think Pope John Paul II should be canonized. Neither do I, and I am sure, neither does McCauley.

The same goes for Pope John XXIII. Although in some ways both Popes Paul VI and John Paul II modeled their papacies on John XXIII’s (as Cardinal Wojtyla’s choice of the name “John Paul” suggests), instead of a more successful pope’s, I believe it was a mistake for both men to follow John XXIII as a model, and to beatify him (as John Paul II did), because the decline of the Church started under him — or, one may say, because of him. None of the post-Pius XII popes so far should serve as models for future popes, or be canonized.

Sandor Balogh

North Port, Florida

Ed. Note: In our October 2007 editorial we also called Pope John Paul II “saintly,” which elicited Mc­Cauley’s letter. Whether or not John Paul II is to be canonized is, and rightly so, the determination of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Pope Benedict XVI, who knew John Paul II intimately and was a personal witness to his holiness, has waived the customary five-year waiting period for initiating John Paul’s cause. “If that reputation for holiness did not exist,” said José Saraiva Cardinal Mar­tíns, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saint, “a cause for beatification could not even begin.” Beatification, of course, precedes canonization. At Mass on April 2, the third anniversary of John Paul’s death, Pope Benedict, mentioning John Paul’s “supernatural qualities” and “exceptional spiritual and mystical sensibility,” said, “We can read the entire life of my beloved predecessor, in particular his Petrine ministry, as a sign of the Risen Christ” (emphasis added). Nobody can predict the future, but we wouldn’t be surprised if, pending the approval of verified miracles attributed to his intercession, Pope John Paul II sailed through the canonization process.

What Pope Leo XIII Meant

In the editor’s reply (Jan.) in support of a traditional justification of the contemporary reconciliatory posture of Rome toward the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the quotations of Pope Leo XIII, as cited by Pope John Paul II, are clearly taken out of context. For example, John Paul quotes Pope Leo’s 1894 encyclical Orien­talium Dignitas,: “The reasons for rivalry and suspicion must be removed; then the fullest energies can be marshaled for reconciliation….”

Pope Leo similarly addresses the issue of rapprochement in his encyclical Preaclara Gratulationis Publicae (“The Reunion of Christendom”), also promulgated in 1894, and unambiguously declares his conditions to achieve it: “Therefore Our mouth is open to you [emphasis in original], to all of the Greek or other Oriental rites who are separated from the Catholic Church…. It is not for any human motive, but impelled by divine charity and a desire for the salvation of all, that We advise the reconciliation with the Church of Rome; and We mean a perfect and complete union, such as could not subsist in any way if nothing else was brought about but a certain kind of agreement in the tenets of belief and an intercourse of fraternal love. The true union between Christians is that which Jesus Christ, the Author of the Church, instituted and desired, and which consists in a unity of faith and a unity of government.”

Moderns seemingly never tire of repeating the prayer of our Lord, “I pray…that they may all be one” (Jn. 17:21-22), and may find Pope Leo’s position to be merely obstinate. One should, indeed, put all the pertinent cards on the table, review the evidence from Scripture, Tradition, and history, and attempt to objectively discern the truth. But one should never attribute to Leo any position other than that which he holds to be the final irrefutable Truth: “Before the day when man separated what God had joined together, the name of the Apostolic See was held in reverence by all the nations of the Christian world; and the East, like the West, agreed without hesitation in its obedience to the Pontiff of Rome, as the legitimate successor of St. Peter, and, therefore, the Vicar of Christ here on earth…. Yes, and the yearning desire of Our heart bids us conceive and hope that the day is not far distant when the Eastern Churches, so illustrious in their ancient faith and glorious past, will return to the fold they have abandoned.”

James Rago

Libertyville, Illinois


The quote that we gave of Pope Leo XIII’s Orientalium Dignitas was not a citation of Pope John Paul II, but came verbatim from Leo himself. To dispel any notions that the quote was “taken out of context,” here is its context: “Clearly, out of all the Christian nations that have been torn away from Us, We have striven to call out to the Christians of the East in the first place, to exhort them, to beseech them with the most heartfelt and paternal love. We have begun to have hope, We are fostering it because its realization would be a great cause for joy, and, it is a fact, We are pursuing more strenuously this work so profitable for the salvation of many. Our goal is to discharge to the utmost degree whatever may be hoped for from the prudent direction of the Apostolic See. The reasons for rivalry and suspicion must be removed; then the fullest energies can be marshaled for reconciliation. We consider this of paramount importance to preserving the integrity proper to the discipline of the Eastern Churches. For Our part, We have ever rendered extreme attention and concern for this endeavor.” We make it a habit to give the sources of our quotes, so that readers may pursue the original documents. Evidently, you did not do so.

Pope Leo’s words here are entirely his own; they too represent his “position.” What he wrote in Pre­aclara Gratulationis Publicae does not cancel out what he wrote in Ori­entalium Dignitas, or vice versa. The two must be understood as parts of the same whole.

Tom Fath

Unconditional Love: Implied in Scripture

I enjoyed Carmelo Fallace’s fine article about “unconditional love” (Feb.). It emphasizes how strong God’s conviction is when any of His children deliberately break His commandments. Further, the thesis of “unconditional love” is not to be found either in Scripture or in the teachings of the Church.

However, I believe that this thesis of “unconditional love” is implied in Scripture, just as the Trinity is implied. Scripture scholars are almost unanimous in agreeing that whenever the word “hate” is used, it means to love less, which I believe more accurately defines God’s reaction to sin. It is simply extremely difficult to embrace the thought that we have a God who will openly hate us if we disobey His rules. Earthly fathers don’t hate their children when they break a rule. They may be greatly disappointed by their actions and mete out firm discipline, but they do not hate them. If this were not true, the father would not have rushed to embrace his repentant prodigal son.

Mr. & Mrs. R.P. Ganzer

Lexington, Kentucky

Absolutely Immutable

In response to the article by Carmelo Fallace, “Is God’s Love Unconditional?” (Feb.), in which he states that His love is not unconditional, we offer some added insights.

The Church has defined as de fide the absolute immutability of God in the Fourth Lateran Council and Vatican Council I, which is supported by Scripture verses such as James 1:17: “The Father…with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration,” and Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

Yet Fallace would have us believe that, far from being immutable, God is in a continuous state of variation based on our own actions, sins, and repentance. If we are able to change God by our own actions, how is He God?

Additionally, Fallace states, “In other words, unconditional love means, as far as God is concerned, that whatever we do — good or bad — does not matter, and we can expect God to love us the same as He always has.” How can he jump to such a conclusion, that God is forced to save us because He loves us? Does this mean that God’s love negates our free will? Preposterous.

We refer Fallace to 1 John 4:10: “In this is love, not that we loved God but he loved us and sent his son to be the expiation for our sins,” and 1 John 4:8: “God is love.”

John Koenig

Middleburg Heights, Ohio

What Is the Source of Feminie Qualities?

I have been reading with interest both the pros and cons in the ongoing debate about the gender of the Holy Spirit. There seems at times to be a fundamental lack of understanding about whom we are discussing.

The all-powerful Creator God existed before time began. He existed before sex. He is the source of all good — masculine and feminine. He created the man to embody certain characteristics and the woman to embody others. By design, they are complementary, yet He is the source of all. In fact, the reason we can consider things to be masculine and feminine flows from the way He created us.

If the Holy Spirit is male, as are the other Divine Persons, then what is the source of feminine qualities?

Jesus Christ, God incarnate, reveals the triune nature of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus (male) speaks of His Father (male). At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrived as promised to animate the Church (female). How can this be? His mysteries overwhelm our puny intellects. Praise God!

In short, attempts to place the Creator into a created category are wrongheaded. While it is true that we are sexual beings and Christ took on a male body, the other two Persons did not and are infinitely beneficent. Pushing this analogy beyond its limits creates confusion.

Carrie Tomko

Granville, Ohio

Women in Pants, Men in Skirts

Mrs. Jeffrey Bond’s letter (March) about the relative immodesty of pants, in church and out, calls for a response. A pants-and-blue-jeans-wearer from way back, this is a topic that ruffles my feathers invariably.

I learned to wear pants — and alas blue jeans — from my mother, a cradle Catholic born in 1908. She was widowed when I was young (in the 1950s), and had to assume my father’s duties around the house. Pants assured that a billowing skirt would not interfere with the power mower, nor expose what she wanted covered as she bent over to weed the garden. Pants made climbing the ladder to fix the roof of the chicken coop a modest affair, unlike a skirt, which would have presented problems as she climbed up onto the tractor as well. Skirts are anathema when blacktopping the driveway.

The conversion to blue jeans meant her pants took longer to wear out. On a widow’s income, that was important. Not every woman is blessed with the opportunity to spend her days hiking, horseback-riding, bicycling, and playing tennis.

After reading Gerrie Goguen’s article “Church, Women & Pants” (Jan.), the topic of Mrs. Bond’s letter, and wondering if my thinking that pants are not immodest was possibly in error, I presented the question to my husband — did he agree with me or not? Should I switch to skirts? He assured me switching was a silly idea I should ignore because he found nothing immodest in pants unless they are skintight.

If women are considered immodest in pants, then why are pants considered modest on men? Perhaps men should adopt the attire Jesus and His Apostles wore. A flowing skirt on a man would assure that no one ever saw his — ahem — unwelcome reaction to a beautiful woman. He could stop worrying about whether his zipper were closed, and that infamous anatomical feature of plumbers and other men who work in bent-over positions would never again cross the pages of joke books.

Yes, I definitely believe that if pants are deemed to be immodest for women, they are equally immodest for men. But don’t confuse me with the back-to-skirts crowd. As I said, I’m a pants-wearer from way back.

Nicholas Cisar

Akron, Ohio

Calm Down

Michael S. Rose’s letter (March) in response to Gerrie Goguen’s article “Church, Women & Pants” (Jan.) can only be characterized as an overwrought diatribe. Wondering what could justify such an outburst, I went back and re-read her article. What I found was nothing more than a tactful, even graceful, plea for modesty. Rose, in stridently proclaiming that he has never “found [himself] staring at a woman’s buttocks at Mass, no matter what a woman may or may not be wearing, or how tight it is,” misses the spirit of Goguen’s argument: Due to Adam and Eve’s sin, women will always be inclined to throw men curves and men will always be inclined in one way or another to trace them. Nowhere should men and women be more aware of this than at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I know Rose’s rectitude is unassailable, but it is not commonplace — although it would be if he, like women who make it a conscious concern as to how they adorn their bodies, considers others with the intention to help them avoid the near occasion of sin. He can start with the 14-25 year olds — leaves blown about by hormonal winds — who really need a space absent the in-your-face sexual provocation ubiquitous in the world. As Goguen states, “We are our brothers’ keepers.”

Calling Goguen’s argument “Calvinistic” is plainly lacking in logic. Rose should pour himself a tall one and relax.

Fr. Joseph Fishwick

Lake Station, Indiana

Temptations In Church

Michael S. Rose (letter, March) should thank his lucky stars that he has never stared at a woman while in church, regardless of how immodest her attire. Contrary to Rose, I consider Gerrie Goguen’s article “Church, Women & Pants” (Jan.) to be, while unusually frank, quite realistic and not at all “condescending,” “self-righteous,” or “Calvinistic in its argument.”

Having spent a lifetime hearing confessions, I believe that most men are very vulnerable to women’s immodest fashions. While they won’t admit this to other men in conversations at the corner pub, they will admit to their confessor the temptations that they daily encounter, yes, sometimes even in church.

Rose is lucky if he is not like most men. Let’s be honest: We are all sinners. Some of us have tendencies to avarice, some to gluttony, some to lust, and some to materialism and despotism, among other things. But Mrs. Goguen should be commended for honestly bringing up something that most Christians don’t want to talk about nowadays — the virtue of modesty.

Fr. Sean Kopczynski, C.P.M.

Miami, Florida

The Treasury of Christian Modesty

The recent articles (“Theology of the Bawdy,” Nov. 2007, and “Church, Women & Pants,” Jan. 2008) and subsequent letters on modesty are very refreshing and very useful for homilies. While working as an associate, one experienced pastor taught me to preach on modesty during the late winter and spring months in order to prepare for summer. At least that way, in this hypersensitive age of ours, no one in the pews feels like you are pointing the finger directly at him. In one parish it worked quite well for those who were awake. The others would have to be approached and admonished individually. To reinforce the message, we composed a bulletin insert to be printed up regularly that quotes the Catechism (#2521, 2522, 2523) and finishes with this: “In keeping with these guidelines on modesty, we ask that you please do not wear sleeveless tops, low necklines, halter tops, tank tops, shorts, short skirts (above the knees), and clothing that is tight fitting.”

Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on holy virginity, Sacra Virginitas, has a wonderful description of modesty that perhaps pastors could put in their bulletins and use for preaching: “Modesty foresees threatening danger, forbids us to expose ourselves to risks, demands the avoidance of those occasions which the imprudent do not shun. It does not like impure or loose talk, it shrinks from the slightest immodesty, it carefully avoids suspect familiarity with persons of the other sex, since it brings the soul to show due reverence to the body, as being a member of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. He who possesses the treasure of Christian modesty abominates every sin of impurity and instantly flees whenever he is tempted by its seductions” (#58).

Fr. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified, M.Carm., Prior

Iron Mountain, Michigan

A Wellspring of Vocations

Praised be Jesus Christ! I have prayed long and hard about writing this letter. It is difficult for me to ask for help, but I sincerely desire to share the fruits of our life of prayer and sacrifice with the readers of the NOR.

Since the founding of our monastery, the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Powell, Wyoming, four years ago, nine zealous young men have joined our order, and 37 others are awaiting entry. Our monastery finds itself not facing a shortage of vocations, but rather a multitude of young men who seek the monastic life for the love of God. We live in an old rectory with only a few bedrooms, where our monks have to sleep on the floor, in the library, chapter room, office — some have even resorted to sleeping in closets. We are currently unable to accept all the men called to our life; we simply do not have enough space for them! As a father to these young monks, I beg for your charity toward us.

How precious and valuable is but one more vocation to the Order of Carmel for the glory of God and the salvation of souls! Only in Heaven will we know at last all the graces that were purchased for us by the prayers of religious who pray for us day and night. Like St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower, we are privileged to share in this dynamic apostolate in the heart of the Church.

As a spiritual father, I adopt the readers of the NOR as my spiritual children. Please send us your intentions so the monks and I can pray for them daily. I also humbly ask you to consider making a generous donation, so I may have the means to help my sons. I beg our Lady to shower graces upon NOR readers. You are forever in my heart and in the prayers of the monks!

35 Road AFW, Powell WY 82435

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