Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: September 2000

September 2000

Not New York

In his article on the priest shortage (June), Larry Carstens makes the assertion that “Dioceses headed by bishops with a reputation for robust orthodoxy now have full seminaries and an abundance of seminarians.” Carstens cites four dioceses as examples, including “New York under Cardinal O’Connor.” As a Catholic who has worshiped in New York City for the past twenty years, I can assure you that Carstens’s claim about the vocations picture in the Archdiocese of New York is not even close to being accurate.

In September 2000, the Archdiocese of New York will have, at the most, 25 seminarians enrolled in the final four years of preparation for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York. Assuming no attrition at all among these men over the next four years (a highly unlikely assumption), the Archdiocese can average at the very most approximately six ordinations a year through the year 2004. The St. John Neumann residence, the Archdiocese’s college-level house of formation, will take an entering class of eight men in September 2000. All of the entering candidates at the Neumann residence are a minimum of eight years from ordination.

Given that the Archdiocese of New York has 411 parishes and 2,400,000 registered Catholics and, by the late Cardinal O’Connor’s estimate, another 500,000 to 700,000 undocumented aliens who are Catholic and in need of spiritual care, there is simply no conceivable way that the Archdiocese of New York can be described as having an “abundance of seminarians.”

In 1999 the Archdiocese ordained two men, in May 2000 it ordained five men, and in May 2001 it will, if all goes well, ordain four men. The loss of clergy during even this short time frame due to death, illness, and retirement is, and will continue to be, many times greater than the replacement rate. The trend is inexorable. And with many members of the Archdiocese’s large ordination classes of the 1950s now in their 70s, the gap will rapidly widen in the next few years. The median age of clergy in the Archdiocese is close to 65.

Notwithstanding the late Cardinal O’Connor’s many skills and virtues as head of this incredibly complex Archdiocese, he was simply not able to stem the precipitous decline in priestly vocations in New York over the last fifteen years that has also afflicted so many other U.S. dioceses. And as of this date, the number of seminarians “in the pipeline” here in New York provides no credible evidence that the trend is reversing.

Steve Schwarz

Muhlenberg College

Jersey City, New Jersey


As a subscriber for over 10 years, I must say that, unfortunately, the NOR has become petty, as seen, for example, in recent arguments about receiving the Host on the tongue or the hand, when we should kneel during Mass, whether or not there should be conversation before and after Mass, whether or not clergy should be addressed by their first names. Frankly, I no longer read the NOR cover to cover because I’m bored with those types of discussions.

Focus on the fundamental issues that impact orthodoxy — not on tangential matter.

Warren Montgomery

American Life League

Luquillo, Puerto Rico

Supplementing the Seminary

In recent years so much has changed in the Church that I’m left with a rather empty feeling. Some of the things which trouble me are liturgical dance, control of the liturgy by the laity, the liturgical drama ministry, the donut ministry, leaving Mass early, and the muzzling of priests who would preach against abortion. Also, why is the Tabernacle removed from the center point of the church? Why is the altar overrun with lay Eucharistic ministers? Why are the Communion lines long and the Confession lines short?

The reason for all this is, I think, to protect the collection basket. Pastors are under pressure to pay the bills and send money to the diocese, and therefore they must keep the congregation happy — and entertained. Offending a parishioner is verboten. Above all, priests must not tell the laity that they could go to Hell for committing a mortal sin.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I herewith order subscriptions for four newly ordained priests. Reading the NOR may give them courage, as well as some information that I’m afraid they were not taught in the seminary.

Michael T. Burke

Wellington, Florida

From a Letter to the Legionaries of Christ

I received an appeal on behalf of the Legionaries of Christ in the mail, shortly after receiving a telephone solicitation. Before my marriage in 1990 I contributed regularly to the Legionaries. Since that time, my ability has not equaled my will to do so, but in the last year or two even my willingness has decreased sharply. This is due exclusively to the policy of the National Catholic Register, which is now controlled by the Legionaries, of refusing to accept advertisements for New Oxford Review and, in so doing, effectively aligning itself with liberal Catholic publications such as America, Commonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter, which also refuse NOR’s ads. Until such time as the Register reverses its current policy with respect to NOR, or at least discusses in its pages the reasons for its policy followed by an open forum in which readers may respond, I shall contribute nothing to the work of the Legionaries.

Truth compels me to declare an interest: From time to time over the last three years I have written book reviews for NOR. Beyond this, I have been an enthusiastic reader, subscriber, and proponent of New Oxford Review ever since it originated in February 1977. NOR has among its Contributing Editors a host of intelligent orthodox Catholics, some “cradle Catholics,” some converts, and some (like myself) “reverts,” and has played a great role in attracting people to, or back to, the Faith. It has also not hesitated to identify clearly — and “name names” among — the anti-magisterial, anti-papal, and dissenting elements in American Catholicism, from the episcopate on downward (fishes, it is said, rot from the head first). This may explain why America, Commonweal, and the Reporter refuse NOR’s ads. But it does not explain why the Register, an ostensibly orthodox publication, refuses NOR’s ads. Perhaps the Register deems respectability — meaning respectability in the eyes of the dissenting nomenklatura — to be as important as orthodoxy. If so, the Register is playing a sap’s game, for so long as it remains orthodox it will never be respectable — unless it limits itself to the provision of spiritual bromides while appealing to those who are always chasing the latest Marian apparition and at the same time being strongly prolife (a critical issue, of course), but failing clearly to controvert dissent and identify dissenters. If NOR’s hard-hitting ads are simply fantasies, the equivalent of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza tilting at windmills, then publishing them is the best way to discredit them, but if the fictional “Fr. Bozo” of these ads, with his “clown Masses,” his denigration of orthodox teaching, his friendliness to “same-sex couples,” his advocacy of priestesses, and his hostility to the actual teachings of Vatican II is in fact based on a reality that is widespread in contemporary American Catholicism, then NOR is doing apostolic service to Christ and His Church by identifying the disease and exposing it to the light of day; and the cries of outrage and indignation with which these ads have been greeted implies that the right ox is being gored.

A journal such as the Register has a critical role to play in what Msgr. George Kelly termed “the battle for the American Catholic Church,” but to see a fighter willingly fight with one hand tied behind his back and hopping on one leg, while it may inspire amazement, does not lead to optimism about the outcome of his antics.

Prof. William J. Tighe

Allentown, Pennsylvania


We very much appreciate the spontaneous willingness of Prof. Tighe (and so many others) to write letters on our behalf in regard to the banning of our trademark ads by the Register (and other periodicals). We feel it appropriate to add that we have not published Tighe’s letter because we want to urge our readers not to donate to the Legionaries — or to not subscribe to the Register or other periodicals that are boycotting our ads. We have never urged our readers to cancel a subscription or refuse to give a donation because of the ad imbroglio. Whether or not our readers wish to donate to the Legionaries — or subscribe to any of the periodicals that have banned our ads — is, from our point of view, entirely up to them.

Curiously, Tighe, as an NOR subscriber, has been receiving numerous solicitations from the Legionaries, because the Legionaries have been repeatedly renting our mailing list (by our records, seven times since the banning of our ads by the Register in Feb. 1997). And even though the Register has refused our ads, we’ve continued to rent our mailing list to the Register (four times since the banning). We are willing to continue to rent our mailing list to the Legionaries and the Register, and of course we continue to welcome ads for the Legionaries and the Register in our pages. Likewise, we continue to be willing to rent our mailing list to Our Sunday Visitor and its sister periodicals — which have also refused our trademark ads — and to carry their ads in our pages. Indeed, just recently we rented our mailing list to one of those sister periodicals.

Stafford, Virginia

The Full Truth

I read Joseph Collison’s outstanding article “Abortion in America: Legal & Unsafe” (June), and had to write to congratulate him. Too infrequently do even principled men proclaim the full truth about abortion in print, or perhaps the real problem is that too infrequently do periodicals have the fortitude to allow accurate presentations to be seen in their pages. Either way, Collison’s essay is brilliant.

Judie Brown

West Bend, Wisconsin

Mortimer Adler

In your January issue there appeared an article by Paul Vitz entitled “Why Are People Atheists?” In it he said that the highly regarded American philosopher Mortimer Adler “remains among the vast company of the religiously uncommitted.” In your March issue I wrote a letter pointing out that in 1984 Adler was baptized in the Episcopal Church. I did not know then that last December Adler had been received into the Catholic Church. Hallelujah!

Tom Tuttle

Norfolk, Virginia

"Partial-Birth" & Convicted Killers

There is growing opposition to capital punishment because it’s considered “cruel and unusual.” Yes, shooting, hanging, electrocuting, gassing, and injecting poison are all quite brutal. Obviously, we need to change the procedure. We should follow a proven and approved medical procedure which is performed far more often than executions and about which we hear no complaints from single-issue capital-punishment foes.

The convicted killer should be told he is free to leave jail, but must crawl out of his cell backwards. When only the top of his head remains in the cell, he is then stopped and the back of his head is opened with a pair of scissors and his brains are sucked out (no painkiller need be given). This procedure was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, so it is clearly not “cruel and unusual.”

Since only the back of his head and his brain would be affected, the rest of his body parts could be made available for sale. This should interest older people whose body parts are wearing out. Indeed, they could get the better body parts via Medicare.

Jerry Harwood

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