Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: November 2004

November 2004

Why No E-Mail?

I wish you had (or it you have it would post it at the front) an email address and that for each writer who so wishes you would have a can be reached at joedoakes@telus.vet or whatever).

I am reading Grant’s memoirs and am tickled in his writing about the Army of the Potomac and the war in northern Virginia it is always Ox Ford. I lack a picture of oxen fording in Berkeley.

JAM [name and city withheld at Editor's discretion]


We’ve been waiting and waiting for someone to ask why letters to the Editor cannot be submitted via e-mail — at least that’s what we think JAM is asking. This is the first one we’ve gotten (and we’ve printed it exactly as received). So, finally, we get to reply.

We do have two e-mail addresses, but those addresses are a closely guarded secret. Our experience with e-mail (primarily, long ago, when we used to accept e-mail at our website) is this: E-mails are too often incoherent, garbled, and/or off-the-wall (as in the one from JAM above, who is obviously an e-mail junkie). They are often written off-the-cuff — with great haste, ill-conceived and ill-considered — and then the “send” button is pushed, and it’s left to us to figure out what in the world is being asserted. In our book, e-mail is worse than junk mail, because at least junk mail is coherent. Moreover, because e-mail is so cheap and easy — and gobs of people will take advantage of what’s cheap and easy — e-mail is a monumental time-waster for us.

There’s a saying: You get what you pay for. Our twist on that is this: If you’re not willing to carefully craft a letter — which may involve sleeping on it, correcting the spelling and grammar and organization as best you can, and revising it — and get an envelope and a stamp and take it to the mailbox (or to the fax machine), then we really don’t want to see your random and ramshackle thoughts.

Yes, we occasionally get off-the-wall letters and faxes, but at least they tend to be intelligible.

Step Over This Line…

I have to hand it to you. The latest NOR (Sept.) really lives up to the ads, especially your string of New Oxford Notes where you take on the neolibs and the neocons, from Our Sunday Visitor Inc. to George Weigel and Avery Dulles. When anyone asks me about the NOR, I tell him that the Editor has clearly drawn his line in the sand.

By the way, the NOR’s hilarious review (Feb. 2004) of Deal Hudson’s navel-gazing book is enjoying a second life at various sites on the Internet.

Christopher Check

Rockford, Illinois

Where, oh Where, Is Father Stravinskas?

Of great interest to me in your September issue was the New Oxford Note, “More Trouble in Dodge City.” It solved for me the mystery of the disappearance of Fr. Peter Stravinskas, after 17 years as Editor, from The Catholic Answer — which publication, by the way, gave no explanation for his vanishing.

It was difficult for me to believe that such concealment could occur from Our Sunday Visitor Inc., the publisher of The Catholic Answer. Accordingly, I have written to the publisher and canceled my subscription to The Catholic Answer. And I wrote another letter to Fr. Stravinskas and applied for a charter subscription to his new publication, The Catholic Response (5401 S. 33rd St., Omaha NE 68107).

Major Francis Church (USA Ret.)

Parkside, Pennsylvania

In Defense of Ave Maria University

In the course of the past several months, Catholics have been bombarded with articles warning them of the impending disaster taking place at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla. Some of them target Tom Monaghan; others attack Fr. Joseph Fessio (once Chancellor, now Provost) and Nick Healy (President).

I would like to make a few comments. As soon as a great work for the Church is being started, experience has taught me that inevitably criticisms will be launched from all sides. It seems to be a sad characteristic of some Catholics that they find particular relish and perhaps unauthentic moral justification by attacking one another. We only need recall how St. Jerome was pilloried for his admirable translation of the Old Testament into Latin. He was so vilified that had it not been for the support of two saintly women, Paula and her daughter Eustochium, he would have thrown in the towel. Then he had to “excuse” himself for giving one half of the human race (women) a preference over the other. St. Teresa’s Foundations makes at times depressing reading; this angelic being was constantly the butt of every conceivable criticism that came from the very persons from whom she could have expected help. Mother Angelica confided to me that the greatest obstacles to her work came from some bishops! This is the price that every Catholic who wants to do great work for the Church will have to pay.

The wise man of Greece, Socrates, already knew that when people run out of arguments, they turn to insults. Being a veteran in the classroom, I can testify that when a relativistic or atheistic student of mine was intellectually “cornered,” he usually hurled insults at me. That Nick Healy has actually been aspersed with offensive words such as “double speak,” “transparent lies,” “chicanery,” “plundering assets” (though not in the NOR) speaks volumes for the un-Catholic attitude of those who attack him. Such offensive words are the last defense of those who run out of valid arguments. This is not a good sign — to disagree can be legitimate; to insult never is. I have known Nick Healy for some 16 years, and have been profoundly impressed by his integrity and selflessness. I am both grieved and shocked by what has been written about him. I protest in the name of justice. The same applies to both Tom Monaghan and Fr. Fessio. One only need compare the tone of Fr. Fessio’s objective article in The Catholic World Report with those published in The Wanderer, the NOR (Sept.), and on the Internet to come to the conclusion that bitterness, resentment, and rancor render a person incapable of judging a situation with fairness.

On the other hand, Nick Healy’s noble acceptance of these public humiliations should impress every fair-minded person.

Alice von Hildebrand

New Rochelle, New York

I Could Scream

I was very pleased to see the letter on certain of our bishops titled “‘Please Have the Decency to Resign'” from Dennis Sliva (Sept.). I read the letter following the Mass on EWTN; there I heard a very strong statement from the priest at the end of his sermon saying, “finally, I beg you, I plead with you, pray for our bishops; the devil has a good hold on many of them!”

Thank you for your stand in reporting the truth about our Holy Roman Catholic Church. I can appreciate your magazine more than many others because I often hear that everything is just fine; all we need do is love God and be good to other people. I am so tired of hearing this — even at Mass — that I could scream.

Miss Eileen Devine

We Need More Scott Hahns

I spent 20 years in academe as a graduate student, professor, and administrator and I couldn’t help but cringe when I read Edward O’Neill’s very clever hatchet job on Scott Hahn (June). As a recent convert (2002), an avid reader of Catholic works and Scripture, and proud to be in the school of the likes of Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Bruskewitz, and Bishop Curtiss, I applaud what Prof. Hahn has brought to the laity. No other popular author since Bishop Sheen has had such an effect on the day-to-day Catholics.

A few more Scott Hahns couldn’t hurt the sagging fortunes of our Holy Mother Church!

Walter H. Bruning

Orchard Park, New York

No We Don't

Just a short note to say how happy I was to read (letters, Sept.) that there are other people who don’t think Scott Hahn is the saint that he — it seems to me — pretends to be. He has made a fortune by becoming a Catholic. If Dr. Hahn is the only hero Michael Noonan has (letter, Sept.), he is in deep trouble.

Vivian Kane

New York, New York

Dante Is Out to Lunch

Regarding Anne Barbeau Gardiner’s guest column (Sept.), “Why Does Dante Consider Sodomy Worse Than Homicide & Suicide?“:

Dante was a literary artist. Gardiner treats his Inferno as a work of theology.

Dante places real people in his imagined circles of Hell, including his friend Brunetto Latini. Such quaint and presumptive crudity might seem to cast a shadow of doubt on the subtlety of any of his spiritual discernments.

The condemnatory tone of Gardiner’s piece is darkly relentless. I wonder, when I see so many young men today — some scared and bewildered and uncomfortable in their orientation and their desires — how I can identify them with these inhabitants of the seventh circle of Hell, these practitioners of “damnable vice” that exceeds even murder and suicide in its wickedness?

I hope that the diminished capacity or lessened culpability springing from their confused timidity and from approval by their culture will land them, not in the seventh circle of a medieval poet’s imagined Hell, but rather in another, purgative place where they will join the rest of us sinners in finally getting ourselves straightened out.

Dan Mattimore

Fullerton, California

Understand Homosexuals?

Regarding your New Oxford Note, “Always Our Neighbors” (Sept.): You critiqued David Morrison, who says he wants us Catholics to “understand” homosexuals. But who wants to understand them? Even John Cardinal O’Connor said he couldn’t understand them. And why should he? The only way to truly understand them is to do what they do.

Yes, God may have created homosexuals, but God says in Isaiah 45:7: “I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Proverbs 16:4 says, “The Lord hath made all things for himself: the wicked also for the evil day.” If God created homosexuals, He nonetheless commanded the Jews to put them to death (Lev. 18:22; 20:13).

So do we really need to “understand” homosexuals the way they want to be understood?

Istvan Varkonyi

Los Angeles, California

Mark Shea's Flame Wars

Mark Shea’s “Pavlovian” response to Edward O’Neill’s criticism of Scott Hahn doesn’t surprise me (“Rushing to Judgment…,” New Oxford Notes, Sept.).

Shea has never met an opposing point of view that he couldn’t misrepresent or ignore on his blog. Nor has he ever met a spokesman for an opposing opinion whom he couldn’t attack or prevaricate about.

I speak from personal experience as someone who contributes regularly on Catholic blogs. For two years, Shea obsessively followed me from blog to blog, making personal attacks and non sequiturs so he could start flame wars that he obviously hoped would get me banned. He often attacked me on his own blogs without provocation.

Yet Shea remains popular in Catholic blogdom because he’s perceived as an effective, entertaining, theologically correct apologist. Such support says nothing good about Catholic blogdom.

If Mark Shea’s behavior sets the standard for Catholic apologists, then Jack Chick is the Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarch of Sevastopol.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Miami, Florida

Who May Enjoy Freedom?

The September issue contains two New Oxford Notes that do a good job of defining “freedom” (“George ‘Humpty Dumpty’ Weigel” and “Can You Be Two-Thirds Free & One-Third Slave?“), except that neither addresses the question of who may enjoy freedom.

The unborn child certainly does not enjoy freedom in an abortion! Equal protection under the law must frequently curtail the freedom of one individual or group in order to guarantee the freedom of another. In other words, freedom must be prioritized. This seems to invoke the concept of “virtue.”

Thomas F. Brands

Pullman, Michigan


You are absolutely right that the unborn child does not enjoy freedom in an abortion. Without the right to life there cannot be freedom in any sense. Freedom is the ability to choose between (what we Christians regard as) right and wrong. One big problem is that America has defined freedom to include the right to abort. The freedom to abort is now “prioritized.” To prioritize the life of unborn children would indeed be virtue, but America now regards that as a violation of freedom. It’s freedom or virtue, and we Christians are at a terrible disadvantage because America is “the land of the free,” not the land of the virtuous.

The Rosary Is "Active Participation"

In her article (Jul.-Aug.), Alice von Hildebrand, as is customary, presents in clear terms a response if not a rebuttal to a Crisis article written by George Sim Johnston on the Second Vatican Council. It is appalling to realize how Johnston and his ilk are still trying to defend the results of a Council which has only brought devastation to the Church. It seems as if they are living in a dream world.

I have one point to expand on in regard to the phrase translated as “active participation,” as used in the Council’s document on the liturgy. By the time of the Council, the most likely meaning — and one that most of the signing Council Fathers were aware of — is the one that Pope Pius XII gave in Mediator Dei (#108). In it the Holy Father took for granted that not all were capable of the same understanding of the Mass. He subsequently explained that the faithful can “recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them.” One of these prayers is the Rosary, which von Hildebrand seems not to regard as fitting. But any of these exercises in piety is better than the current Mass, which is fashioned “in the mold of a liberal Protestant service,” as von Hildebrand correctly describes it.

Hernan R. Baquerizo

Excommunicate the Neo-Modernists

In reading your Letters to the Editor, it appears that many of your readers almost go ballistic over any criticism of Pope John Paul II. But their anger should be tempered by the fact that what is wrong with the Church today is the result of his stewardship. He has been Pope 26 years now, almost the longest reign in Church history. Much of what the Church is today happened during his pontificate.

He has made some disturbing appointments that may or may not affect the future of the Church. He appointed two liberal bishops as his secretaries, who, I understand, have quite a bit of influence over him.

It would seem he is caught between two goals: He wants to move the Church “forward” and at the same time maintain the integrity of the Magisterium. As laudable as these goals are, the results have been disastrous.

The media treats the Pope with benign disdain. Now his trips are only given marginal notice, where once the papers were full of those events. The last time the media got excited about a visit was when he went to Cuba, and that was only due to the media’s love affair with Fidel. I think the media has written the Pope off as a minor influence in world affairs; their interest now is preparing his obituary.

It is somewhat ironic that this Pope excommunicated the late Archbishop Lefebvre. Here was a bishop trying to stave off the neo-modernists with their iconoclastic ways, and “they” got him on the grounds he disobeyed the Pope.

In any event, it shows John Paul can crack down on conservatives, but will let the neo-modernists thumb their noses at him without protest. Why doesn’t he excommunicate them when they disobey his directives?

Paul F. Scheckel

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