Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: November 2013

November 2013

Unity & Forgiveness

What I liked best about Alice von Hildebrand’s article “Unity & Procreation” (Sept.) was the emphasis on the “delight” aspect of spousal love, in this case her analysis of that type of love in the relationship of Jacob and Rachel.

Most of us readily acknowledge the “delight love” in the courtship stage of spousal love. It would be odd — would it not? — if a suitor were to announce, “I am in love with you, but primarily because I see that you are a very needy person, and I want to shower you with agapic love to help you.”

Later, in marriage, however, some couples sadly come to regard each other as obstacle courses and/or beneficiaries only of agapic love. In “marriages of convenience” this is understandable, but where delight love in the unique preciousness of the other was part of the grace of desire for union, it is tragic. Every Christian love must include agapic, donation love, of course, but I attribute absence of delight love after years of marriage to non-forgiveness.

The unique preciousness of the other has become hidden from sight because of the overlay of negative images coming from all the sins and character defects that one has experienced over time.

When marital love has been renewed, it is wonderful to see how a couple who seemed to be barely tolerating each other, albeit exercising helpful Christian love, begins to smile at each other, frequently with cherishing, tender amusement.

I have been a teacher of the books of Dietrich von Hildebrand and the writings of Alice von Hildebrand for decades. I teach the von Hildebrand concept that children are the love of a couple made visible. In a renewed marriage, the overflow of the delight love will usually be seen in parental joy in the physical features and personality traits of the children. “You’re just like your father/mother” will become a positive statement rather than a negative one.

From my own experience of renewal of a marriage that seemed like an obstacle course for many years, I say to any readers who might have need of such encouragement: Try unconditional forgiveness. You’ll like it.

Ronda Chervin

Professor of Philosophy, Holy Apostles College & Seminary

Cromwell, Connecticut

One is not surprised to find Alice von Hildebrand carrying the topic of the unitive and procreative nature of the nuptial estate all the way back to its fountainhead — namely in ontology, which is to say, in the mind of God. Her handling of the Jacob and Rachel story is exquisite. Dr. von Hildebrand is a vox clamantis in deserto.

Thomas Howard

Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, Retired

Manchester, Massachusetts

Greeley: More than a Mere Maverick

While praying for God’s mercy and the repose of Fr. Andrew Greeley’s soul, the mannered practice of not speaking ill of the dead needs a pause as long as the damage Greeley did to the Church continues to be ignored by those who praise his legacy. John P. Gawlak’s letter “Farewell to a Maverick Priest” (Sept.) seems oblivious to that harm.

Greeley boasted about his courage in criticizing his Church, but the substance of his argument was exemplified in the adolescent understanding of morality expressed by former New York governor Mario Cuomo, whom Greeley idolized, cited in the preceding letter in the same issue. To Cuomo and Greeley, right and wrong fundamentally exist by consensus of the enlightened, who presume to speak for “the people.” Moral propositions are culturally or sociologically validated, and opposition to what is generally valued or accepted by the sophisticated and well-educated is thought of as small-minded. Greeley expressed mockery for pro-lifers, but no politician who facilitated the crushing of skulls of the preborn, from Cuomo to Clinton to Obama, incurred the slightest rebuke from the “maverick.” Instead, he maintained that it was a mortal sin to vote for Republicans.

Greeley’s “Catholic imagination” left little room for recognizing a universal capacity to absorb a priori knowledge of the natural law — something sociology, a dubious pseudo-science, does not recognize — but preferred to focus on self-justifying motivations of moral intent. In his universe, only conservatives were capable of self-deception and the sin of pride. Sexual sins existed essentially by way of hypocrisy. If you preached the reality of illicit sex and failed to exercise chastity, you were a hypocrite. If Greeley had a more developed moral imagination, a more Catholic imagination, he would have known that hypocrisy is not moral failure, of which we are all guilty. Hypocrisy involves presupposing a standard of rational objective morality as a basis for condemning those who openly profess the existence of rational objective morality. Hypocrisy is generally practiced by those quick to form the accusation.

History since World War II has been marked by a reactive intellectual tendency to avoid learning lessons from cataclysmic evil, such as how personal sins can be molded into a collective evil force, instead preferring to interpret evil as impersonally systemic, “structural,” or accidents of a material mind determined only by neurons. All of God’s children, including scholars, have a desire to deny their sins. Modern theology, and its adherents, has long been contaminated by such false understandings and the downplaying of sin. The false pastoralism of recent decades has adapted itself to self-help psychobabble wars against guilt. Shriveled confession lines reflect this ecclesial moral cowardice.

Greeley accommodated these trends. In the manner of a politician covering himself both ways, Greeley sometimes walked a line between determinism and accountability, but his one-sided interpretations of irresponsibility and malice made his thought unconvincing.

Most learn as early as childhood to be skeptical of the boastful, but Greeley avoided scrutiny because he could be as pandering as a politician, invoking giggles from immature minds who mistake sarcasm for confident intelligence. Some of his silliest moments came when he argued how dumb the Church was for rejecting contraception because she had no capacity to hide under beds to make sure Catholics were not using it.

Greeley’s pastoral sense was “informed” by disinformation, gathered from the social manipulations of infinite subjectivity that constitutes the unscientific practice of opinion polling. He never knew enough about real science to know that when there is no control of data, there is no science. His junk science ordered his pastoral urgency, always intent on “correcting” the Church, insisting that she needs to change and accommodate “the people” because they supposedly find the Mass boring and don’t want to be told what to do sexually. Such facts as the high divorce rate among contraceptivites and the relatively low divorce rate among non-contraceptivites never impressed the unrelenting statistician.

Greeley expressed laments over homosexuals in the seminaries, but I know of no apologies for his own soft-pedaling of the sexual revolution and his indifference to all the murderous harm it has done to countless lives and souls. I know of no apology for his reducing to sociological caricatures those brave souls who absorb insult and spittle for praying rosaries outside abortion mills.

It is never enough to shrug off Catholic dissidents, to just be amused by their eccentric style, without reflection on the harm they do. How many young people become cynical by witnessing false prophets with Roman collars having their day, unopposed? How many lose the desire to learn Catholic truth after witnessing priests treat it condescendingly? At our final accounting, how will bishops, priests, religious, and laymen be able to explain away our tolerance for assaults on the faith that directly led to killing and self-destructive behavior as a matter of disagreeing while not wanting to seem disagreeable? May God have mercy on Fr. Andrew Greeley’s soul.

Fr. George Ryan, C.S.P.

American Life League

Port Richmond, New York

A False Prophetess for the Third Millennium

Regarding the New Oxford Note “Discerning the Spirits of Deception” (Sept.): The world is full of false prophets and prophetesses. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church (TEC), is clearly one of them. Tragically, she has deceived many folks in TEC, whom she has led astray with her “new age” gospel of so-called tolerance, diversity, and pansexuality.

Ironically, Ms. Jefferts Schori does not practice what she preaches about tolerance — it’s her way or the highway! She is incredibly hostile and intolerant toward Episcopal bishops and priests who still believe that God intended marriage to be a lifelong covenant between one woman and one man. In fact, there is no room in TEC’s “big tent” for conservative clergy members. The Presiding Prophetess regards them all as narrow-minded bigots. Consequently, they are not welcomed in the Episcopal Church of the Third Millennium.

I know this from personal experience as a clergy spouse. My husband was an Episcopal priest for 16 years. His conscience, however, would not allow him to remain in TEC, so he renounced his priestly vows and was confirmed in the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil.

Episcopalians would do well to read and ponder Jeremiah 29:8-9, which states: “Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you…for it is a lie which they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.”

JoAnn L. Fuir

Alderson, West Virginia

Graphic Images: Mandatory

I have watched Monica Migliorino Miller over the years and paid very close attention to her insights, her war with the culture that detests what she does in defense of life, and her heroic persistence. So reading her article “Graphic Images: An Apologia” (Sept.) was a blessing to me in many ways.

Dr. Miller has analyzed each and every one of the ethical thorns that are tossed at pro-life Americans who know that the graphic picture, if used appropriately, can change minds and touch hearts hardened by the 40-year war against the preborn. Like Dr. Miller, I believe that the prudent use of graphic images is not only acceptable but mandatory. We live in a society that contemplates the “word” abortion and immediately, for the most part, thinks it’s legal, it’s a woman’s decision, and it’s political. Few consider that aborting a child in utero is the very same as shooting a child in a schoolyard. But there is no difference.

Miller refers to the fact that some say the pictures hurt the feelings of mothers who have aborted their children. But while the pictures of aborted babies may offend the mother who has aborted her child, the reality is that the child in the picture never had a chance to be offended because he was murdered.

Judie Brown, President

Stafford, Virginia

I agree with Monica Migliorino Miller: Graphic images of aborted babies should be shown. How else can the horror of the procedure be made clear? In this case, words are not enough to describe what happens in the process or the outcome of murdering unborn babies.

As for being concerned about the feelings of children exposed to graphic images, parents should use common sense and not bring kids to marches and other pro-life events where graphic images are likely to be shown. As for women who have had abortions, seeing graphic images that are a reminder of what they have done to their own unborn child is undoubtedly painful, but perhaps they might offer up their distress as a form of reparation.

Barbara Morris

Escondido, California

Monica Migliorino Miller’s article is probably the most well-written and informative article on the subject I have ever read. While graphic abortion images may not be appropriate and effective in every context, they certainly are appropriate and effective in front of abortion centers. How can I assert this? I have spoken directly with women who have told me that those “horrible pictures” were the reason they canceled their abortion appointments. If we know that graphic abortion images can save lives when women see them in front of abortion clinics, then we should not be afraid to use them. The crucifix itself is a graphic image of death that we embrace because it represents what saves us.

Robert Pokalsky

Penfield, New York

It seems to me that the outstanding problem in the dispute over the use of graphic images is the vindictive and often unreasonably fierce opposition put forth by those who would not have the pictures shown, whom I refer to as iconoclasts. In my experience, these pro-life iconoclasts will go to greater lengths than pro-abortionists would in an effort to prevent the pictures from being shown.

In 2011 my good friend was elected president of the Lex Vitae Society, the pro-life student club at Ave Maria School of Law. However, he was removed from that position by the school administration after fostering the display of such pictures outside the local Planned Parenthood. Numerous students attacked him on Facebook, by e-mail, and in person. The local 40 Days for Life coordinator, who was connected with the diocesan pro-life office, complained to the bishop about him. These iconoclasts made my friend’s life miserable in a way that Planned Parenthood never did.

40 Days for Life is another organization that apparently attempts to prevent the showing of graphic abortion pictures. In Naples, Florida, not even the local Planned Parenthood attempted to disrupt the praying of the rosary outside its facility by shouting in people’s faces — as was done by the 40 Days for Life demonstrators. They acted like they owned the sidewalks. Those who would prevent the showing of the pictures are willing to do a great many unkind things to their fellow pro-lifers in order to prevent the pictures from being shown, but they are not willing to discuss the matter or listen to anyone who disagrees with them.

Christopher Hummel

Bowling Green, Maryland

Sterner Stuff

It grieves me that Gerald Gelazela (letter, Sept.) seems emotionally distraught because of my musings on Catholic doctrine regarding social justice (letter, June). It was never my intention to cause that. I had thought that since the gentleman subscribes to Ayn Rand’s obviously Darwinian and Malthusian philosophy, he would receive a critique of his beliefs with equanimity. After all, in the society envisioned by the famous author, where the fittest survive and prosper according to their contributions, its members should be made of sterner stuff.

I enclose a contribution to your publication to offset the loss of income due to Mr. Gelazela’s cancelation of his subscription.

Crescente Villahermosa

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Looks Like Scapegoating

I read J.R. Dunworth’s letter (Sept.) with great interest. He raises an important issue when he wonders whether the victims of homicide would have made their peace with the Lord “if they’d been allowed to live a little longer.” He suggests that their killing had cost not just their physical lives but “maybe their immortal souls as well.”

This looks plausible at first glance but will not stand scrutiny. True, our eternal destiny depends on the state of our soul at the moment of death, but this is why our Lord gives us so many stern warnings about being vigilant, awake, sober, and prepared to face our personal judgment at any time. We should never presume on His mercy and imagine that we will have the leisure to repent. Rather, we should make an act of contrition and resolve to be shriven just as soon as we know we have committed a serious sin. In Matthew 24:36-51, Jesus says that those making merry before the Deluge and before the destruction of Sodom were suddenly “swept away.” They died in their sins. In Luke 12:20 as well, the rich man who said to his soul, “eat, drink, be merry,” was suddenly cut off in his sleep: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you.” A sudden death could happen by heart attack, car accident, drowning, or homicide. Perhaps in none of these cases would we have the time or presence of mind to repent. Hence, a killer is not responsible for his victim’s perdition. No one is damned except by his own free will.

It seems to me that those who are killing immortal souls in our society are the ones in schools and the media who won’t allow young people to learn about God and morality, and who instead let pornography inundate them. Why should we be surprised when the young find no meaning or purpose in life and turn to drugs and violence when they are taught, due to the established religion of atheism in the schools, that “chance” governs all?

In a society that celebrates those who kill hundreds or even thousands of babies in the womb, it looks to me like scapegoating to turn with so much wrath on those who have killed maybe one adult, often when they were in their 20s and high on drugs, to torture them with solitary confinement for 20 or 30 years, and then to regard it as condign punishment to execute them as well. If we look at the big picture — their upbringing, the society that produced them, the torture they’ve endured in prison — it seems to me that they are often, in Shakespeare’s phrase, “more sinned against than sinning.”

Anne Barbeau Gardiner

Brewster, New York

Kicked to the Curb

I am a permanent deacon who was forced to retire before my time. I, and others, believe that I was kicked to the curb because I fulfilled my God-given duty to preach about the abomination of homosexual acts, Hell, Purgatory, and Vatican-approved apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary (which modernists call superstition instead of supernaturab~ When I served my Lord as a deacon, my pastors always gave me the duties I loved: visiting the hurt, the sick, the shut-ins, the lonely, and the ignored. These aforementioned preaching topics, and parish members, were not priorities to my pastors, who appeared only to want to offer the Mass and then disappear.

Once, after a parishioner died and left the parish with over a million dollars in land, my pastor decided that we needed a new church. But he underestimated the construction costs, so he called me into his office and said, “I want you to interview our best people.”

“Who would that be?” I asked.

“Those who have the money,” he replied.

It dismays me that some Catholics object to the term “Catholic Christians.” But as an aged, retired, and now homebound deacon who attends Mass only when his health allows, and who is barely able to stumble to get medicine and scant groceries, I ask: Are you more Christian than my only visitor these days, a Protestant?

(Name Withheld)

Bolingbrook, Illinois

Flimsy Evidence, False Accusations

The New Oxford Note “Dances With Wolves, Vatican Edition” (Sept.) quotes Italian journalist Sandro Magister’s campaign against Msgr. Battista Ricca, whom Pope Francis appointed as his personal representative to the Vatican bank, accusing him of being a homosexual. Also subject to criticism is Robert Moynihan, who has published Magister’s articles in Inside the Vatican, but who has the guts to criticize Magister for his mistakes regarding Ricca. All of this in spite of the fact that Pope Francis himself has stated that the accusations against Ricca are false.

In essence, what Magister is committing, and the NOR is repeating, is calumny against a priest, Msgr. Ricca, who is being attacked based on the evidence of only one witness — Archbishop Januasz Bolonek, currently papal nuncio to Bulgaria. It is well known, at least in Vatican circles, that Archbishop Bolonek has quite a bad reputation himself: The Polish Communist Secret Police Archives have him listed as someone who for several years was an agent cooperating with the Polish communist secret services, including when he was working in the Vatican. It must have been based on good evidence because Archbishop Bolonek was assigned to a rather unimportant post in Bulgaria where the Church is very small and his influence would not cause much harm. It does not appear that Bolonek is a reliable witness — especially not as the sole witness to Msgr. Ricca’s alleged behavior while in Uruguay. I am sure that Pope Francis knows better than Magister what goes on in Uruguay, right next door to Argentina, and he would have certainly checked on the ground before confirming Msgr. Ricca in his new post.

It is a known fact that Sandro Magister was not happy with Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation or the election of Pope Francis. He has a right to that opinion — I would have preferred that Benedict stay on too — but Magister has gone out of his way to write falsely critical articles about Pope Francis, especially after the new Holy Father dared to refute his supposed findings on Msgr. Ricca. For example, Magister has sharply criticized Francis’s decision to order the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate not to celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass without prior approval, stating that this is an attempt to oppose Summorum Pontificum. This too is a false accusation because while Benedict’s motu proprio allows priests to freely celebrate the Tridentine Mass, it does not allow religious orders that did not do so previously to force the Tridentine Mass exclusively on the entire order, as the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have done. Apparently, Magister is not a journalist who checks his facts well, which raises a cloud of suspicion as to whether he has the facts right in the Ricca case.

Magister has also attacked Francis for placing Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, a young Italian journalist, on the committee to investigate the Vatican’s financial institutions for irregularities because she had links with journalists involved in the Vatileaks scandal. Maybe Magister doesn’t understand that Pope Francis wants transparency, that maybe he believes that Vatileaks was a wake-up call for the Church. Chaouqui is not necessarily a journalist out to get the Vatican, but might be one who wants the best for the Church and who can honestly help determine the sources of corruption within Vatican institutions. Also, putting her in this position will prevent her from leaking information because she would be looked to as a source. It is a brilliant move by the Pope, but Magister is too shallow or too angry to understand that.

I have yet to see a positive article on Pope Francis by Magister since the Ricca affair. Is it possible that all sense of objectivity has left him? Is the NOR simply reprinting the rantings of a once good journalist who has now become a personal enemy of Pope Francis? The NOR has to be careful what it prints, especially with regard to accusing a priest of sexual misconduct without any proof or attacking a journalist like Robert Moynihan, who is a great example of honest journalism for the good of the Church. If the NOR continues down this road, it would be a sad fate for a once brilliant Catholic periodical.

Thomas Zabiega, M.D.


First, it’s important to note that Sandro Magister had no “campaign” against Msgr. Ricca, nor did he accuse him of being a homosexual. Magister, one of the most well-respected and seasoned Vatican journalists, was reporting facts that he had gathered during the course of investigating a story. It wasn’t Magister, but various South American bishops, who complained about Ricca’s past service in the diplomatic corps, including his various scandalous relationships with men. Magister did his homework; the Pope evidently did not.

Dr. Zabiega accuses Magister and the NOR of calumny against Msgr. Ricca because the priest, Zabiega says, was “attacked on the evidence of only one witness — Archbishop Januasz Bolonek.” Using that logic, Zabiega himself would be guilty of calumny since he “attacks” Bolonek based on the evidence of only one source: the Polish Communist Secret Police Archives — not often looked to as a font of reliable information. And, if Bolonek is indeed guilty as Zabiega claims, why would Pope Francis allow Bolonek to continue in his post as papal nuncio to Bulgaria? Because it’s a “rather unimportant post” and “his influence could not cause much harm”? That doesn’t sound too convincing. In any case, Magister’s evidence does not come from one source alone, as Zabiega claims. His evidence comes from sources in both Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago as well as from sources inside the Vatican. Some of the facts in the Ricca case also came to light in El País, the leading daily newspaper of Montevideo, Uruguay. Further, Zabiega’s claim that “Pope Francis knows better than Magister what goes on in Uruguay” because Uruguay is right next door to the Pope’s home turf of Argentina is pure speculation and wishful thinking. The Holy Father is the first to admit that he is “a bit naïve,” as he did in his interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro, published this September in Jesuit magazines around the world.

Zabiega seems to believe that Magister has no right to criticize any decision made by Pope Francis — not the Holy Father’s appointments of Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui or Msgr. Ricca, not his censure of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. Zabiega calls Magister’s opinion pieces “falsely critical,” mainly, it seems, because Zabiega disagrees with Magister’s assessment. But if we were to use Zabiega’s own logic, we might say: We’re sure that Sandro Magister knows better than Thomas Zabiega what goes on at the Vatican because Magister lives right next door to the Vatican. Zabiega is perfectly entitled to his opinion about the prudence of the Pope’s decisions, but so is Magister.

And then, after “attacking” Magister (to use Zabiega’s terminology), he scolds the NOR for “attacking” Robert Moynihan, publisher and editor of Inside the Vatican — a “false accusation” (again, to use Zabiega’s term) if there ever was one. The NOR has long respected the work of both Magister and Moynihan. We wholeheartedly concur that Moynihan is “a great example of honest journalism for the good of the Church.” Yet we still believe, as we stated in “Dances With Wolves, Vatican Edition,” that Moynihan’s advice to “look beyond the facts” is wanting. In that New Oxford Note, we wrote, “The days of trusting what’s going on deep behind the scenes in chanceries and in the Roman curia are over…. Transparency is what’s needed, not blind trust in some broken bureaucracy.”

It is instructive to note here that Moynihan did not dispute the “facts” reported by Magister on Msgr. Ricca’s background, as Zabiega does; Moynihan merely called into question the motivations of those in the Vatican who brought the issue to light only after the appointment had been made. Moynihan suggested that the anti-Ricca campaign was being engineered by those who do not want to see the Vatican bank reformed — and he does so without presenting any evidence to give credence to this claim. Might it be true? Yes. But as Moynihan presents it in his own writing, it’s pure speculation, which isn’t entirely out of place in an opinion column. (Notice that Moynihan does not accuse Magister of orchestrating a “campaign” against Ricca; he accuses unnamed behind-the-scenes Vatican personalities of doing so.)

And finally, just because Zabiega can’t recall reading any “positive” articles by Magister on Pope Francis after the Ricca affair doesn’t mean there aren’t any. See, for example, “When Bergoglio Defeated the Liberation Theologians” (L’Espresso, Oct. 1) and “The Jesuit Who Humiliated the Generals,” about the new book Bergoglio’s List (L’Espresso, Sept. 27). In both articles Magister writes approvingly, if not glowingly, of the former Cardinal Bergoglio, giving him credit where credit is due.

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