Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: September 1997

September 1997

That Pebble in Your Shoe

I feel compelled to remonstrate with recent letter-writers who say they are canceling or not renewing their subscriptions because of the NOR’s message or the way in which it is delivered.

It is not always beneficial to subscribe to magazines whose views are assuredly in harmony with our own, or whose contributors always write sweetly and gently. Sometimes it does us good to follow arguments with which we disagree, and which may be presented acerbically or arrogantly or intolerantly. Why? Because we’re made to think. We’re made to examine our beliefs, sometimes cherished beliefs, sometimes agonizingly arrived at. If our beliefs are well founded, then the NOR’s trenchant presentation of opposing views will not budge us. But by being moved to think and think again, we may want to modify our beliefs and even come around someday to an opposite view. I know I have.

To me, the NOR is like that small pebble in my shoe as I walk along: It makes me uncomfortably alert. And, frankly, I’m the better for it.

Bruce M. Bogin

Penn State University

Noailhac, France

I Refuse

You continue to have some excellent articles, such as “Why the Younger Generation May Be Lost to the Church” by Marian Crowe (June). Although I am 42 and no longer a young adult, I am not “churched” anymore, probably for reasons like those ascribed to young adults by Crowe. I refuse to support the Church, or any branch thereof, so long as the Catholic intelligentsia continues to display an ironical detachment stemming from its prevailing lack of belief in orthodox Christianity.

Marc Meinzer

St. Albert's Priory

Cleveland, Ohio

Ed. Note: Yes, there is always the treason of the intelligentsia. But the fate of orthodoxy doesn’t depend on any intelligentsia. Plus, there is an impressive alternative Catholic intelligentsia headed by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger. This is no time to quit. Join them in the fight for orthodoxy, not only for the sake of the Church, but for your soul.

Fairchild, Wisconsin

No Loss

Here is $19 to cover Harold Isbell’s canceled subscription (letter, June). Isbell supports his position by quoting Cardinal Mahony’s protest against “harsh judgment” in the Church. Ah, but a great many people may well be in for a big surprise on Judgment Day when they find that God’s judgment will be harsh — especially, I fear, on those shepherds who are supposed to be leading their flocks and calling their people to repentance instead of preaching “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.”

Jerome Kavaney

Houston, Texas

Coming to Terms with Poland

Fr. Raymond Gawronski is right in saying that the belittling of the concepts of masculinity and fatherhood is among the principal reasons for opposition to Pope John Paul II among some in the Church (“Why They Hate John Paul II,” June). I recall that when Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope, Catholics and non-Catholics alike remarked on how manly he looked, and how he differed in that regard from previous popes. Yet I’ve never observed on his face that sexual awareness and pride so often seen on the faces of public men and women. He has always been superbly masculine without being “sexy.”

One more reason for this disdain should be mentioned. Fr. Gawronski deals with it briefly, but it has to be hammered at because it is so prevalent and so often goes unnoticed. It is that Wojtyla is Polish. Certain leading Catholics in this country have never come to terms with Poland and Poles as legitimate partners in the Catholic enterprise, nor with the fact that the Polish experience has unique ingredients from which they could learn a great deal. And the abysmal ignorance of the history, literature, and geography of Poland is perpetuated by school textbooks and general trends in American scholarship.

For those of us conversant with Polish realities, the constant misspelling of the name of Polish cities and people is most annoying. Who would tolerate references to “Manchister” or “Manchattan,” “Churchkill” or “Cambpell”? Yet the nonchalance with which information about Poland is processed remains unchanged. To pick a few examples from a recent article in an orthodox Catholic periodical (not the NOR): Who cares whether it’s Lgnica or Legnica, Gniezmo or Gniezno, Wilkanovicz or Wilkanowicz? Not the editor, apparently. The message conveyed is: Polish localities and persons are insignificant. All too many American Catholics, including some orthodox Catholics, would gladly consign the Polish area of Europe to oblivion. Unless this matter of coming to terms with central Europe and its Catholicism is given serious attention, major segments of the American Catholic establishment will continue to belittle Pope John Paul II, and many American Catholic intellectuals will continue to think in isolation from the thought and practice of what remains perhaps the most vibrant Catholic culture in the world.

Ewa M. Thompson

State College, Pennsylvania

Desecration on Campus

It’s no secret that the values and faith of Christians are under attack at our universities.

Recently a Penn State art student set up a “sculpture” on campus. The Daily Collegian (Penn State’s daily paper) described it as a “three-dimensional grotto with a statue of the Virgin Mary emerging from a bloody vagina.” One of the campus’s Catholic chaplains sprang into action, protesting that the display was extremely offensive. The so-called art was taken down after five days because of his efforts. Although this display was offensive and even pornographic, the University administration did not discipline or even criticize the exhibitor or the teacher for whom the sculpture was a class project. While claiming to be sensitive to Christian concerns (after numerous complaints were received nationally), Penn State concurrently allowed the same artist to display a piece entitled “Twenty-Five Years of Virginity,” which was a 5’x5′ matrix of female panties with crosses attached to their crotches, a novel representation of the symbol of Christianity. This display was accompanied by a “First Communion dress” which included tags labeled “stations,” a play on a Catholic Lenten devotion, describing in prose how the artist had been stifled in her formative years by growing up Catholic. This came as news to Catholics who have fond memories of their childhood, especially their First Communion.

Penn State’s response to all of this was to publish guidelines which are, in the words of a Visual Arts Department administrator, “intentionally ambiguous,” so as to avoid censoring any artist or violating academic freedom. One can be sure that if the “art” had attacked a figure like Martin Luther King Jr. in such a grotesque manner, the University would be entertaining charges of “racial insensitivity” and “ethnic intimidation,” or would at least be issuing official statements condemning the racists who put it up. That is, if such “art” had been allowed to see the light of day, which is highly unlikely. Are anti-Catholic bigotry and gross attacks on Our Lady an intolerance that Penn State will tolerate? We Christians wonder how it is that religious symbols cannot be allowed on University property — but the desecration of the same symbols can be exhibited.

Gary L. Morella

Newland, North Carolina

The Idle Rich in the Vatican

Your repetitious editorial appeals to maintain — indeed, reinforce — orthodoxy are becoming a bore, especially when combined with your genuflection toward such arch-conservatives as Bishop Bruskewitz.

Then there are your articles, like the one by Fr. Giles Dimock about the need for beautiful churches (June). He uses far too many quotations from Scripture, and, of course, he covers up the fact that the oversized, overdecorated, and extremely expensive churches were built mainly at the time when the faithful were living in extreme poverty, as was the case in Italy, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Mexico, etc.

A recent example of an outrageously expensive, vast cathedral is in the Ivory Coast, where more than half the people have a lower standard of living than my dogs. My dogs have clean water, excellent medical/veterinary care, proper housing, and nutrition based on scientific principles, but the majority of people in the Ivory Coast do not. Yet money was conned out of the poor there — assisted by a corrupt government — to build and maintain that structure, to support priests, and via “Peter’s pence” to enable the idle rich to live in comfort in the Vatican.

My subscription is hereby canceled.

Louis J. Mihalyi

Oakland, California

Dominicans & The Reserved Sacrament

In regard to the excellent article by Giles Dimock, O.P., on beautiful churches and the reserved Sacrament (June): Your readers may be interested in knowing that, according to William Hood in Fra Angelico at San Marco (1993), it was the Dominicans who began the practice of giving prominence to the reserved Sacrament: “Even as early as the thirteenth century, when the Eucharist was usually kept in a tabernacle set into a side wall somewhere in the altar, the Dominicans kept it on or above the altar itself…. Thus however ubiquitous it may have been by Fra Angelico’s day, for him and his brethren the reserved sacrament was a…characteristically Dominican focus….”

Basil Cole, O.P.

Crescent City, California

Awesome Hole

Regarding the exchange between David Stolinsky and James Hanink on crime and self-defense (May): As a lawyer with nearly three decades in the criminal justice system, most of that representing those accused of various crimes, I am firmly convinced that at the personal level, fighting violent crime by shooting back is both responsible and moral. (This means defending oneself with violence or the imminent threat of it. Self-defense doesn’t in Catholic moral theology or in most Common Law jurisdictions give the householder the right to “blow away” an intruder at any time of the day or night.) Shooting back is not risk-free, but it improves the odds of self-preservation and, when it effects the capture or killing of the wrongdoer, it prevents the infliction of further violence on other members of society. Violent criminals seldom limit their predations to one victim. Success breeds the confidence to do it again — and again and again.

Handguns for defensive purposes are, well, handy. But a word of caution: Effective, safe, prudent, and moral use of a handgun requires expending considerable effort to develop and maintain an acceptable skill level. That skill is more easily acquired with a reliable, and cheaper, pump shotgun with an open choke. The shotgun has other advantages. Light target loads are deadly in close encounters, but less likely than a rifle or pistol bullet to cause serious injury to occupants of an adjoining dwelling. Most importantly, the distinctive sound of a shell being pumped from the magazine into the chamber, and the awesome hole in the business end of the barrel, will sober and deter all but the most determined and crazed of assailants.

Mario di Solenni

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