Terry Scambray’s review of The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obama’s America (Mar.) had vital lessons for our times, especially in light of America’s brutal decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Scambray’s treatment of appeasement was first-rate, and he is correct to point out how the moral weaknesses of key Western leaders allowed Adolf Hitler to seize the initiative, resulting in the loss of so many millions of innocent lives. His discussion of the legacy of President Woodrow Wilson, however — in particular Wilson’s poor judgment and his utopian idea to deploy Americans to promote democracy worldwide — was far from adequate. President Wilson’s worst and most obvious blunder was his fatal decision to expand the scope of World War I, which only added new layers to the ongoing catastrophe.
Today, many historians admit that the “great” war was an epic disaster — the result of vaulting ambition, miscalculation, and rampant corruption on all sides of the unnecessary conflict. Betraying his campaign pledge of 1916 (“he kept us out of war”), the narcissistic and gullible Wilson caved in to an ugly and deceitful campaign by the British government and their allied American business interests. A relentless barrage of media falsehoods and propaganda was mounted to manipulate the American public. One example of “waving the bloody shirt” involved the ocean-liner Lusitania, which was sunk by the Germans in 1915. New information published after the year 2000 reveals that the passenger ship was in reality a converted British war destroyer, armed and carrying war munitions. The German submarine captain merely acted according to the laws of international warfare. Instead of properly warning the 126 Americans who were killed not to travel, Wilson’s state department kept mum. The tragic sacrifice of those families had its intended effect of eliciting and shaping public outrage.
America’s fateful entry into the war did break the stalemate and end the war, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. A faction of European politicians showed up at the Versailles peace conference determined to exact revenge. The entire burden of the war was placed on the German people, with disastrous consequences. One early dividend of the “war to end all wars” was the coup that brought the Soviet communists to power in 1917 and introduced the world to mass murderers Lenin and Stalin. A second dividend was the subsequent alliance between Mussolini and the Nazis. A story is told of a 1930s dinner party in London shortly after Hitler took power. A curious guest asks the question, “By the way, where was Hitler born?” “At Versailles,” was the instant retort from Lady Astor.
David J. Peterson
Research Professor of Slavic Studies, Rice University
I was taken aback by Terry Scambray’s review of Bruce S. Thornton’s Wages of Appeasement. I have read the book. Both it and the review are written from a neoconservative perspective, which in my estimation is inappropriate for an independent and orthodox Catholic publication.
Thornton offers three examples of what he calls appeasement in politics: Greek acquiescence to Phillip of Macedonia’s conquests, Great Britain’s acquiescence to Hitler’s imperialism before World War II (the Munich agreement), and contemporary American unwillingness to engage in a war with Iran. Scambray concurs.
We shall leave Phillip of Macedonia aside. The neocon perspective is evident in that both the author and the reviewer put an equation mark between Hitler’s appetite for Germany’s weaker neighbors to the east and contemporary Iran’s unwillingness to surrender its nuclear potential to foreign control. Apples and oranges, but neocons love to mix them and sell them as representing the same species of fruit.
It is too often forgotten — Thornton and Scambray contribute to that forgetfulness — that Germany started World War II in order to enlarge German Lebensraum in the east. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939, and its secret clause dividing Central and Eastern Europe between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, enabled Hitler to attack Poland on September 1, 1939. Hitler knew that within days the Soviets would attack Poland from the east and the two totalitarian armies would meet on the corpse of Poland and divide her bounty between themselves. This happened in late 1939. The Nazi-Soviet friendship lasted until June 1941, when Hitler attacked Soviet-occupied Polish lands in an attempt to gain even more territory.
The 1939-1941 friendship of two murderous regimes, Nazi and Soviet, has little in common with the contemporary situation in the Middle East.
No less an important example of the neocon perspective in both the book and the review is the treatment of the Versailles Treaty. Both the reviewer and the book’s author invoke the standard anti-Catholic view of the Versailles agreement. Thornton opines that Germans thought the provisions of the Treaty to be “dishonorable” to them, and he calls the Treaty incoherent and traceable to “the naïve notion of human nature promoted by the Enlightenment.” Scambray dismissively mentions President Woodrow Wilson’s idealism regarding “the displaced minorities of Europe.” Neither writer seems to notice the most important provision of the Treaty (and President Wilson’s First Point): the reconstitution of Poland, the Catholic anchor in Eastern Europe and one of the largest European states before the partitions. Poland also had the largest Jewish population in Europe, offering hospitality to Jews as they were consecutively expelled from Western European countries in the Middle Ages. Cannibalized in the late 18th century by Protestant Prussia (its attempts to uproot Polish Catholicism lasted for generations and peaked in Bismarck’s Kulturkampf), Orthodox Russia (historically, one of the greatest foes of Roman and Byzantine Catholicism), and Catholic Austria (which saw in the partitions of Poland an opportunity to grab Galicia), Poland ceased to exist as a political body but not as a national one. Four times the size of the Czech Republic, Hungary, or Serbia, and seven or eight times the size of the smaller Eastern European nations such as Slovakia, Croatia, or Lithuania, Poland played a stabilizing role in Eastern Europe for centuries, keeping Turks, Tatars, and Muscovites at bay. Most Western historians conveniently bypass these segments of European history, perhaps because the partitions of Poland violated the Treaty of Westphalia and thus were an embarrassment to those who claimed that European civilization is superior to those that developed on other continents. “No wise or honest man,” wrote Edmund Burke, “can approve of [the partition of Poland], or can contemplate it without prognosticating great mischief from it to all countries at some future time.” The Versailles Treaty reversed that shameful event in European history by reconstituting Catholic Poland as a sovereign state. Neither Thornton nor Scambray seems to pay any attention to this monumental change in European history.
It is true that the resurrected Poland was wobbly and weak, as one might expect after a century of political nonexistence, with sustenance sucked out of her by the occupying powers. In 1923, in a preface to the English translation of Zygmunt Krasinski’s Undivine Comedy, G.K. Chesterton remarked that “Poland was surrounded and is still surrounded by savages.” Elsewhere, Chesterton said that if the aggressiveness of Germans were not separated from the aggressiveness of Russians by Poland, Europe would be continually in a state of agitation, with uprisings and wars erupting incessantly.
It is puzzling to me that Catholic intellectuals in the U.S. seem to look at Poland the way Chamberlain looked at Czechoslovakia: as “a far-away country…of whom we know nothing.” If it were not for the Polish Catholic priests serving humbly and anonymously in so many parishes in Ireland, Germany, Great Britain, France, and elsewhere, Europe today would edge even more closely to being a de-Christianized territory.
From the standpoint of Catholic history, the Versailles Treaty was a step in the right direction. Yet Thornton and Scambray treat it as a step leading to the appeasement of Hitler and his chauvinistic German ideology. This interpretation is as anti-Catholic as could be. It is regrettable that a book based on frail documentation is promoted by a review that further misreads the causes of events in European history.
Ewa M. Thompson
The Joyful Noiseletter
TERRY SCAMBRAY REPLIES:
I thank David J. Peterson for his compliments on my review. That Western cowardice and fear fertilized the soil in which Nazi aggression would thrive is by now abundantly clear, as he points out.
However, Mr. Peterson appears to believe that the roots of World War II lay in the unfair demands placed on Germany at Versailles. This is a view that Bruce Thornton categorically refutes. Though a faction of European politicians did show up at Versailles to exact revenge on Germany, as Mr. Peterson writes, it nonetheless remains true that Germany was not unduly punished for her aggression that caused World War I.
Ewa Thompson accuses Thornton and me of being neocons who confuse apples with oranges, meaning, I suppose, that we have ignored the great good that could have come out of President Wilson’s declaration of “self-determination.” Though neoconservatism is not an ideology I am wedded to, I take it that Prof. Thompson thinks of neocons as individuals who advocate an intrusive American foreign policy. Yet she praises a policy promoted by the Progressive President Wilson that would cast doubt on the borders of many European countries, not to mention territorial borders throughout the world, his targets being the French, Dutch, and British empires. Such a policy would surely out-neocon any neocon I can think of! As Wilson’s own Secretary of State Robert Lansing put it, “Self-determination is a phrase loaded with dynamite. It will raise hopes that can never be realized. What misery it will cause.”
Who would have enforced Wilson’s policy? The Walloons? The Catalans? America, of course, would be first up for the task.
Yes, Poland was, by an accident of geography, a threat that Germany and Russia each wished to defang. The relations and conflicts between these countries are long, tortured, and complicated. What “Catholic intellectuals in the U.S.” can necessarily do about such a history and set of circumstances is questionable, however much support Catholics or the U.S. may offer to Poland.
Certainly President Obama’s retreat on NATO’s Eastern European missile-defense system is not designed to enhance Poland’s security, a point on which I hope Prof. Thompson agrees. And, of course, this is a system courageously promoted by President George W. Bush, a neocon, not to mention President Reagan, whose policies freed more people than anyone in history, including, most prominently, those enslaved in Eastern Europe. Talk about “self-determination.”
Prof. Thompson’s recounting of the proud history of Poland is important and bears repeating; for this history includes magnificent and profoundly courageous exploits that have rescued the West on various occasions, including the defeat of Islam at the Battle of Vienna in 1683; the Battle of Monte Cassino, in which Polish troops bailed out the Allies; and the Solidarity movement, which caused the first fissure in the Iron Curtain.
I thank Mr. Peterson and Prof. Thompson for their ardent and informed responses, however much I may disagree with some of their respective conclusions.
St. Francis, Wisconsin
Vatican II Fault Lines
Arthur C. Sippo, in his response to M.T. Melvin (letters, Mar.), overlooks a fatal flaw of Vatican II when he contends that there is no link between the Council and the erosion of Catholic moral values that occurred afterward. The Council’s very call for openness dramatically silenced Catholic teaching on sexual morality. In the blink of an eye, orthodox Catholic moral doctrine was no longer taught in seminaries, in schools, or from the pulpit. It is not surprising that mainstream Catholics now share the same attitudes as their secular neighbors on such issues as artificial birth control, cohabitation, homosexuality, and pornography. Vatican II should have included a strong defense of the timeless Catholic teachings in the area of sexual morality.
La Mesa, California
Arthur C. Sippo’s reply to the excellent and indisputable evidence presented by M.T. Melvin exposing the extent of the catastrophe known as Vatican II indicates that Dr. Sippo harbors a unique, if somewhat surreal, historical sense. One has to respect Sippo’s total loyalty to Vatican II’s merits, few as those are. The historian must traverse the landscape of bombed-out ruins; the landscape left by Vatican II resembles an endless wasteland. It is futile to claim that the present state of the Church is an inevitable result of the rise of secularism, agnosticism, libertinism, and materialist ideologies.
By the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, agnosticism and atheism, materialism, and open hostility toward Christian revelation were evident. Modern freemasonry was organized in the early 18th century; the cult of scientism appeared. A widespread breakdown of respect for Christian morality was epidemic. When the revolutionary period (1789-1848) ended, demagogic bloodthirsty ideologies sprang up. Yet the Church regained lost ground. Worldwide evangelization was renewed. Pope Leo XIII initiated a neo-Thomist impulse. Pope St. Pius X knew that the Church could easily withstand challenges from outside her walls, but it was the subversion from within that was the most dangerous enemy: the so-called modernist heresy. In his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907) he dealt the modernists a massive blow, but he did not have the time to wipe them out in toto. The modernists went underground; they emerged flush with victory at Vatican II, using ambiguity, misinterpretation, venomous propaganda, and all the tools of the anti-Christian ideologies to bring the Church to her present state.
Yet Sippo blandly asserts that all is well and we need only continue to wait for a miraculous metamorphosis of the catastrophe of Vatican II into a universal, glorious dénouement. Mr. Melvin presents Dr. Sippo with solid, documented, objective evidence of the catastrophe, but Sippo says that history works in another mysterious way. Is it possible that he is a neo-Hegelian who believes that what he thinks is real and rational?
Sippo goes on to counsel us that we should joyfully accept the widespread dissolution of 1,600 years of the unity and sacrosanct traditions of the Church. It is galling to read Sippo’s vacuous remark that the Council’s call for the retention of Latin in the liturgy was “reactionary” when one considers the absurd experimentation assented to by harebrained bishops in the new vernacular Mass. Then he tells us that phenomenology, personalism, and all of the rest of the modernist excuses for philosophy will help us to strengthen the faith. Is that so? Dr. Sippo’s conception of philosophy is as mottled as his knowledge of the function of the liturgy.
It is imperative that a total historical reconsideration of the period 1958-2012 begin with the Church before the crisis of belief worsens. We are in the most dangerous moment in the history of Christianity because the enemy is inside the citadel. Silence in the face of this enormity is treason toward God.
Cal Samra, Editor
ARTHUR C. SIPPO REPLIES:
I am utterly amazed at the vituperate hatred some people harbor for the Second Vatican Council. Despite the fact that it was an ecumenical council of the Church attended by 2,500 Catholic bishops — six times more than were present at Trent — disaffected laymen want to pretend that it was “hijacked” by “modernists” and essentially destroyed Catholic tradition. Apparently, none of these poor souls has any faith in the Holy Spirit’s superintendence of the Church. I wouldn’t be surprised if few, or any, of these people have actually read the Council documents.
It is ludicrous to maintain that Vatican II’s openness to change was responsible for the tide of secularity that is swamping our world and corrupting our people. As I stated in my reply to M.T. Melvin, that tide was already well underway before the Council was convened. The advances in liturgy, theology, ecclesiology, ecumenism, and human rights that the Council affirmed were necessary for the Church to fulfill her mission. All of the Popes from John XXIII onward have known and affirmed this. They have tried to forge ahead and advance into the future. It is time for true Catholics to follow their lead and actually listen to what the Popes have been teaching, instead of longing for a return to “the good old days” that were not actually that good.
Vatican II made no change to the traditional Catholic teaching on sexual mores. In fact, Pope Paul VI reserved that to himself and, as a result, wrote Humanae Vitae, which strongly defended the traditional teaching against artificial contraception, using modern philosophic techniques (e.g., personalism). This was a clear case of perennial doctrine being affirmed in the modern idiom. As we all know, Humanae Vitae was not well received because the modern world did not want to accept its conclusions.
Sadly, prelates and clergy whose job it was to defend Church teaching failed to do so, and there has been lamentable laxity in Catholic discipline in the hierarchy and in the grassroots. Pope Paul prophetically warned of the consequences of the severing of the unitive and procreative aspects of human sexuality. He was right, and public morals have suffered greatly, just as he predicted. The Pope tried to hold a hard line against the tide of sexual liberalism but, sadly, he failed.
It seems that those who do not like Vatican II have not learned from this failure. They think that if the Church had just pretended that everything was “just fine” in the 1950s, the Church (and in fact the entire world) would have rejected modernity. As the lesson of Humanae Vitae has made clear, social change is very powerful, and the Pope, like King Canute, may not be able to command the waves to stop. It was far more practical to act like Noah and build up the Barque of St. Peter to help the Catholic people weather the storm.
Had the Catholic Church not made attempts to adapt herself to the modern world, our liturgy, our doctrine, and our practice would have become increasingly out of touch and even more people would have left the Church. Everyone who has lived through the past 50 years knows that all is not well in the Church. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise. But it is even more foolish to think that sticking our heads in the sand and presuming that if the Church only acted like we were still in living 1958 things would be O.K.
The Church has faced many crises in the past 500 years. Contrary to Suozzi’s allegations, the Church did not respond to social change by stagnating. As it became clear that the monarchies and empires of the past were giving rise to secular democratic states, the Church adapted herself to the situation by no longer recognizing secular marriages as sacramental and demanding that weddings be celebrated in the Church. She began to develop the diplomatic corps and the concordats in order to guarantee the right of Catholics to practice their faith in secular or non-Catholic confessional states. To counter Kantianism, Idealism, Gallicanism, and Febronianism, Pope Leo XIII advocated a return to Scholastic methods in philosophy. The “neo-Thomisms” that resulted were not truly faithful to St. Thomas. They initially followed St. Cajetan’s seriously flawed interpretations on nature and grace, along with a lamentable tendency toward empiricism. Schools of alleged “Thomism” created rigid schemas in theology and morality that ignored alternative views from other Catholic schools of thought and remained largely uninformed by the history of doctrine. Attempts by scholars to study the Bible, the Church Fathers, and the actual history of theology were often condemned because they did not conform to the conclusions of the neo-Thomists, who in reality were a modern school themselves that had only recently come on the scene. And Jansenism with its excessive rigorism has presented an ongoing threat for over 300 years that still infects ultra-traditionalist circles today.
The allegation of “modernism” was levied against anyone who did not conform to the narrow and overly rigorous views rampant in the Roman curia. Many people were questioning received teaching, but some of them were orthodox and others were not. To label everyone who asks questions a modernist was a thinly veiled attempt to repress new ideas. Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical Pascendi was not a “massive blow” to anyone. Published at a time of crisis, the general principles in Pascendi helped to control excesses in Catholic academia, but we are in a different situation now and the encyclical is not as relevant as it once was. Rigidity and resistance to all attempts at change is not the direction the Holy Spirit is leading the Church.
I am very sorry that Messrs. Melvin, Koenig, and Suozzi are unhappy with the state of the Catholic Church in the modern world. For the record, so am I. But they are far too anxious to blame Vatican II and are not facing the fact that modernity has been on a rampage since the Protestant so-called Reformation. Vernacular liturgies, respect for the human right of religious freedom, and new theological methods were ideas whose time had come. They could not stem the tide of modern secularism, but they have helped to provide a safe haven for Catholic believers in a troubled world. Our efforts at evangelization in the Third World have borne much fruit and the membership of the Catholic Church has doubled in size since the 1960s. So the news is not all bad.
It is time to stop longing for the fleshpots of the 1950s. God has led His people into the wilderness of modernity and all is not peachy. The Catholic Church is collectively undergoing the purgative trials of the dark night of the soul. It is counterproductive to long for the consolations of the Church in a bygone time of illumination. We must traverse the wilderness to a new unitive synthesis. As difficult as it may, this is the spiritual way of our Catholic heritage, and we need to embrace it and keep moving forward.
James J. Harris
San Diego, California
Abortion, Ethics & Double-Effect
Kudos to Dr. Joseph E. Kincaid for his excellent, reasoned article “On the Ethical Treatment of Rape Victims” (Mar.). And bravo to him for his longtime service as executive vice-president of Right to Life of Michigan and founder of Kalamazoo Right to Life and Kalamazoo Birthright. He is a rare physician. Let us pray that the Lord will raise many more like him.
Ironically, about the same time Dr. Kincaid’s article appeared in the NOR, Harold W. Beu, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister in Kalamazoo, Michigan, argued in a prominent guest column in the Kalamazoo Gazette that “the government can indeed force religious people to do things that go against their faith when the public good is being challenged.” Beu supports a government mandate requiring religious institutions to pay for contraceptive insurance coverage, even though it violates their conscience.
But one man’s “public good” is another man’s “public bad.” No doubt, Beu is a devout believer in the separation of church and state, and would cry bloody murder if religious folks tried to influence government in any way. But it’s perfectly O.K. with him if government interferes with the lives, beliefs, and religious institutions of religious folks. Hitler, Stalin, and many of history’s secular tyrants had a similar view and interfered aplenty in the lives of religious folks and their institutions, even wiping out many of them.
Beu, who wrote in the same guest column of his admiration for a Catholic priest-instructor at the seminary he attended who boasted that he was an atheist, has no problem joining that coven in Kalamazoo which for years has been beating the drums for taxpayer-subsidized abortion, taxpayer-subsidized contraception, taxpayer-subsidized assisted suicide, etc., etc. For this reason, we need to hear sane voices like Dr. Kincaid’s.
W. Patrick Cunningham
San Antonio, Texas
Joseph E. Kincaid’s article “On the Ethical Treatment of Rape Victims” has a noble title but it fell far short of a serious consideration of rape victims’ moral rights. It is not my intent to criticize Dr. Kincaid; rather, I congratulate him on his commendable efforts. However, a more balanced statement of the relevant moral issues, based on Catholic teaching, is in order.
Dr. Kincaid quotes Directive 45 of the U.S. bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives,” which starts out well but eventually expresses a false conclusion. It reads, “Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted” (emphasis added). The horrendous moral error lies in the next statement, which is demonstrably false in its conclusion: “Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo” (emphasis added).
No! There cannot be a “termination of pregnancy” before pregnancy has occurred! A woman is not pregnant until the fertilized egg is implanted in her womb. Proof: in vitro fertilization of a woman’s egg does not make her pregnant. The woman is not pregnant until after the next step of returning the egg to her body by implanting it in her womb. Thus, even if Plan B does prevent implantation by affecting the woman’s womb, that action is not an abortion, nor does it directly cause the death of the viable zygote.
Because the death of the zygote is only indirectly caused by preventing its implantation in the womb, that allows a valid appeal to the principle of double effect. It is here that Dr. Kincaid’s article runs off the rails. Given a valid appeal to the principle of double effect, the next moral fact we must consider is whether an innocent victim of rape loses her God-given right not to be forcibly impregnated. Do realize that a false moral evaluation — forcing this woman to accept a pregnancy that is not morally required by God — is as serious an evil act as was the original act of rape itself.
The right of the innocent victim of rape not to have a pregnancy forced upon her against her will is the balancing factor to the indirect death of a viable human life.
It is irritating and insulting that Dr. Kincaid sows confusion by introducing an extremely low pregnancy rate following rapes based on such irrelevant factors as the raped woman was already pregnant, uses birth control, is sterilized, pre-menstrual, or post-menstrual. A rape victim in any of those categories doesn’t need to consider using Plan B; she already knows pregnancy is improbable. But even if she were still concerned enough to want Plan B, the improbability that a viable fertilized egg is present balances out the improbability of pregnancy. A low probability of pregnancy simply drops out of the equation of moral evaluation. The relevant pregnancy rate is that rate involving only women with the same category of factors as the rape victim that we are discussing: a normally fertile, healthy woman.
On the subject of reasonable doubt and moral certainty, Dr. Kincaid uses equally sloppy and defective reasoning. Moralists teach us that it is never moral to act with a doubtful conscience. Any action that our conscience does not definitely identify as sinless must not be performed. But, being fallibly human, we can never be absolutely morally certain about anything in our ordinary, everyday lives. There is always some tiny element of doubt in every human evaluation of morality. The valid moral principle that allows us to eliminate that unavoidable tiny moral doubt is a rule that favors liberty. The principle in favor of liberty is a tool that enables us to remove (but not to ignore) that tiny residual doubt, and thus we may be certain that the act is morally permissible. This principle can’t remove a fertilized egg, nor does it allow us to ignore any reasonable doubt that a human life is not present, even if that doubt is small. Therefore, if there is a reasonable possibility that a viable fertilized egg might be present, even a small possibility, the moral evaluation is made on the assumption that a viable fertilized egg is present.
Apart from the immorality of artificial birth control in itself, using Plan B as a method of birth control would be gravely immoral.
In response to the great need of the innocent new life, this victim of rape may choose to accept implantation of the fertilized egg in her womb. It is this woman’s right as a human being, and even more so as a Christian, if such she be, to be given an invitation from Christ to voluntarily save the life of one of the very least of His brethren. On behalf of that helpless new life, we must gently remind this traumatized rape victim of her right and invitation to voluntarily rise to an incredibly courageous and generous act of love. But that is her morally free choice.
JOSEPH E. KINCAID REPLIES:
Many thanks to Cal Samra for his letter of accolades. I share with him the prayer that future generations of physicians will be pro-life. May the Hippocratic Oath remain as relevant as it was in the fifth century B.C., and may Christian medical ethics continue to guide physicians for centuries to come.
Thanks also to James J. Harris for his thorough review of my article. Some of his concerns, such as the low rate of pregnancies resulting from rape, are matters of opinion and perspective. The gravest concern I have is with his statement that new life does not begin at fertilization but starts at implantation. A few years ago, there was an overwhelming consensus that new life begins at fertilization, which was considered synonymous with conception. Recently, there has been an insidious campaign to move conception from fertilization to implantation. Prominent groups behind this move include the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
One reason for such a change would be that if such items as Plan B, intrauterine devices, and certain birth control pills were considered contraceptives rather than abortifacients, then our resistance to them would be weakened. In fact, there would have been little reason to write my article if Plan B were truly only a contraceptive.
Several lines of evidence point to fertilization as a much more pivotal and determining event than implantation for a new life. The egg will only live for 12 to 24 hours and the sperm for up to seven days unless fertilization takes place. After fertilization, the new life has a life expectancy of about 78 years. Also, the egg and sperm each contains only one-half of the amount of chromosomes necessary for human life, and it is only at fertilization that the full number of 46 chromosomes is present. Some evidence suggests that the fertilized egg determines where and how to imbed in the uterine wall. So fertilization clearly wins out over implantation as the decisive event.
I am also disturbed that Mr. Harris uses in vitro fertilization (IVF) as his example of why he believes new life begins at implantation rather than fertilization. Most people do not appreciate the immorality of IVF. The evil of IVF is well covered in Directives 40 and 41 of the U.S. bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.”
Directive 40 reads: “Heterologous fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception by the use of gametes coming from at least one donor other than the spouses) is prohibited because it is contrary to the covenant of marriage, the unity of the spouses, and the dignity proper to parents and the child.”
Directive 41 reads: “Homologous artificial fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception using the gametes of the two spouses joined in marriage) is prohibited when it separates procreation from the marital act in its unitive significance (e.g., any technique used to achieve extracorporeal conception).”
The most precious gift in life is life itself, and I extended this gift to the new life at the time of fertilization (conception).
Our belief in the sanctity of unborn life is most severely tested with the “hard cases” of rape. The difference between the rape victim’s child and the child of the loving couple is not the outer appearance or the inner anatomy or the genetic makeup but the circumstances of conception. The violence of abortion does not wash away the violence of the rape but only compounds the trauma.
The Burr in the Blanket
Thank you for the in-depth review of the translation into English of the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal (“Liturgical Winners & Losers,” New Oxford Note, Mar.). There is one hero in the battle for more beautiful and accurate translations whose contributions are often overlooked. In the early 1990s, when the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEBpwas grinding out what they hoped would be the third edition texts, an organization named Credo, made up mostly of priests and a few diehard laymen, put together an ad hoc group of Latinists to critique the revisions. The priest-coordinator, and my hero-nominee, was Fr. Jerry Pokorsky of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. I was privileged to be one of the translator-critics, though my modest efforts were directed more toward the theology implicit in the new collects than the authenticity of the Latin-to-English morph. I understand that Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, was the source of the “leaked” texts.
My studies revealed to me, and ultimately to the small group of bishops who voted against the ICEL’s translations, that the new collects were rife with semi-Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite phrasings. The hundreds of animadversions sent under separate cover by the protesting bishops, many based on our group’s work, were the burr in the blanket that likely led to the Vatican’s dismantling of the ICEL in its then-current form, and the wholesale rejection of the texts proposed. Erie, Pennsylvania, Bishop Donald Trautman’s group of liturgists, apparently startled by the appearance of so many footnoted objections, paid us all a left-handed compliment when he referred to us as a “semi-scholarly” group.
Fr. Pokorsky was the central force in the effort, constantly encouraging and pushing us toward incredibly short deadlines set by the bishops’ conference. I don’t think he wants or would accept any honors, but he deserves the unanimous thanks of the entire English-speaking Church.
Farewell to the Reaper
I read with interest the New Oxford Note “Where Have All the Students Gone?” (Mar.) about the school closings in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I am a 1975 graduate of St. Hubert High School for Girls, one of the four high schools (along with 24 grade schools) that had been slated for closure this June by the archdiocesan blue-ribbon commission. Thanks to a “Save Our Schools” campaign that netted $12 million, it was announced on February 24 that my alma mater, along with each of the other three high schools and 18 of the 24 grade schools, was spared from closure. Archbishop Charles Chaput also announced that an independent foundation would be created to raise $100 million for the schools over the next five years.
There is a long history of Catholic education in Philadelphia and the surrounding regions, and the faithful would not allow so many schools to close without a fight. It was heartening to see how many Catholics (and non-Catholics) rallied to save these schools. It goes to show how important Catholic education is to the people of Philadelphia.
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