The Real Michael Rose
Here’s a case of mistaken identity that may be of interest to some readers of the NOR. This is a letter I sent to Inside the Vatican:
Dear Editor [of Inside the Vatican]:
Your June-July 2003 issue included a letter to the editor titled “Enraged” and signed “Michael Rose.” Unfortunately, many people — including some at Inside the Vatican — have mistaken me for the author of this letter, which is anti-Papal in content and wild-eyed in tone. The letter does not express my views in the least; nor is the letter written in a manner even remotely consistent with my style. To be sure, I am not the author of the letter.
I have written four books (Goodbye, Good Men; Priest; Ugly as Sin; and The Renovation Manipulation) as well as hundreds of articles dealing with a variety of topics of interest to Catholics all over the world. I am a Contributing Editor of the New Oxford Review and a news correspondent for The Catholic World Report. I do not need to write a letter to the editor of Inside the Vatican in order to express my views. It seems the only time I write letters to Catholic periodicals is to correct false or misleading information about myself or my work.
Michael S. Rose
But the case of mistaken identity doesn’t end there. For years now a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, permanently suspended by Bishop Donald Wuerl, has been publishing a small-circulation periodical called Thorns and Roses. Unfortunately, this suspended priest writes under the pseudonym “Michael Rose” (not Michael S. Rose), and his ideas and writing style are not consistent with mine. Nevertheless, there are those who confuse this pseudonymous author with me. I am not the Michael Rose who writes for Thorns and Roses.
I should also not be confused with Michael Rose, the Jamaican reggae star from Kingstown; or with General Michael Rose, former head of the U.N. “peacekeeping” forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina; or with Michael Rose the Canadian psychologist; or with Michael Rose, the lead singer in the British rock band Michael Rose and the Boyfriends; or with Michael Rose, the Montana state inmate now on Death Row who’s known as “The Spitter” for spitting in people’s faces; or with the Michael Rose readers may have gone to high school with.
Michael S. Rose
Catholics United for the Faith
Unconditional Love, Unconditional Salvation
Your New Oxford Note on the “Gospel of Inclusion” (June) hit a very big nail squarely on the head. Pentecostal Bishop Carlton Pearson’s “Gospel of Inclusion” is sewn from the same fabric as the “Gospel of Love,” now the core of Catholic pastoral practice in North America. As you point out, a God of unconditional love leads inevitably to a God of unconditional forgiveness (i.e., forgiveness without repentance), and unconditional forgiveness leads inevitably to unconditional salvation — that is, universal salvation.
In my view, almost all the crises afflicting the Church today can be traced to this eschatological impasse. Sexually offending priests have nothing to worry about since their place in Heaven is secure. Divorce, abortion, sin — why worry? The scandalous teaching of nothing much in our RCIA and CCD programs — who cares? It’s pointless to submit children to the rigors of catechesis when drawing pictures of Jesus is so much easier, though admittedly no more relevant to salvation than drawing pictures of trees. Evangelization is absurd, and worse, uncivil, since a love that’s truly unconditional loves all conditions of belief and unbelief, of good deeds and bad. And why privilege the presence of God in the Eucharist when “the world is sacrament”? Indeed, as you ask, why go to church at all?
The good fathers of the hierarchy need to decide if a Gospel of Love radically divorced from a Gospel of Truth is what they really wish for our future. Meantime, until they start imposing conditions on their use of “unconditional” — a word proclaimed in hundreds of homilies on any Sunday — the downward course of our Church is unconditionally clear.
American Life League
Leon Suprenant's Clericalist Mentality
The article on kneeling for Communion by Michael Forrest, titled “‘Friendly’ Fire Does the Most Damage in the Catholic Civil War” (May), is one of the most important you have published in recent years. It touches on two crucial matters in the arduous fight for the Faith in our time: The deliberate attack on the Real Presence and the ancillary problem of clericalist, false obedience.
The first eats away at the heart of the spiritual life of the Church: belief in and devotion to Christ sacramentally present among us. Since the advent of the practice of standing for the reception of Holy Communion, it became clear to many (usually ridiculed by the neo-Modernist establishment) as to what it really signified: an effort to desacralize our worship at its most devotional moment and thus erode belief in the Real Presence. Standing is a sign of respect only in certain, specific contexts: when the Church Militant stands to hear the proclamation of the Gospel or when somebody one wishes to honor enters the room; but not when standing in a cafeteria line or while waiting for a bus. Standing is not an intrinsically reverent posture the way most reasonable people would concede kneeling is. In any case, communicants today do not really stand for Communion; they walk up to Communion with a momentary (and usually mechanicabppause for reception. What this mode of reception truly evokes is the drive-through window at McDonald’s. The practice smacks of the mundane, the casual, the trivial. I think it was intended to be so (yes, I can hear the accusations of paranoia already from the gullible and the professional optimists). Oh, yes, there’s the phony argument about saving time (oh! to be so niggardly with Christ in the one communal hour most of us give Him once a week). I am convinced that this impoverishment is more detrimental to belief in the Real Presence than the objective irreverence of Communion in the hand.
As for the clericalist mentality exhibited by Leon Suprenant of Catholics United for the Faith — a good, decent, and loyal Catholic if there ever was one, and one with whom I have enjoyed charitable epistolary exchanges — I lament, as does Forrest, the very harmful myopia of those who confuse loyalty to the Church with clericalist mindlessness. The Pope has not mandated standing for Communion — he has only, regrettably, accepted it. But even if he had done so, such would be a prudential judgment that would require a loyal Catholic’s careful attention but would not bind his conscience (as a doctrinal matter would) if all indicates the judgment to be detrimental to the Faith. In former times, absentee bishops and multiple benefices plagued the Church in Europe with full knowledge of the pope — and they remained abuses that nevertheless did not justify the splintering of Christendom as Luther seems to have concluded. What touches the laity’s appreciation of and intimate contact with their Eucharistic Savior is infinitely more important than juridical matters. And in the face of massive apostasy (for what else can one call the fact that two-thirds of American “Catholics” hold to heretical notions of the Eucharist?), Suprenant can only counsel blind obedience! I regret to say that this goes beyond irresponsibility for a Catholic leader; it is frankly the grave error of turning the qualified virtue (see Aquinas and other Church Fathers on this) of obedience into a dogma of faith.
Yes, Forrest is right. Suprenant’s cast of mind and words not only aid the enemy (as honestly recognized by Richard McBrien) but demoralize the orthodox faithful in their life-and-death struggle for the Faith — a struggle where they are woefully outnumbered by the heretics and the indifferent. Thus, the position of Catholics United for the Faith — to which I once belonged as founder of an early chapter — is hardly one that unites Catholics in the fight for the Faith. Sadly, it is rather a failure in apostolic courage and authentic loyalty to the one, true Church.
Dr. Robert Carballo
(formerly Busan, Korea)
Leon Suprenant Clarifies His Position
Michael Forrest’s article (“‘Friendly’ Fire Does the Most Damage in the Catholic Civil War,” May) is an extended critique of a column I wrote for the National Catholic Register earlier this year. In that column, I attempted to set forth the Church’s current norms regarding the reception of Holy Communion, and in particular I discussed standing as the normative posture for receiving Communion in the U.S.
Forrest interpreted my presentation as an attack on those who kneel for Communion, which certainly was not my intention. Therefore, I’d like to offer NOR readers a brief clarification.
My organization, Catholics United for the Faith (CUF), has always emphasized the need for obedience to legitimate exercises of authority in the Church. Accordingly, CUF has always encouraged fidelity to liturgical norms on the part of clergy and laity alike. Fidelity to such norms does not imply that such norms can’t be changed or improved upon in the future. There are fine organizations that advocate liturgical reforms which they believe would foster a more reverent celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in keeping with the mandate of the Second Vatican Council. Individuals, too, have the right to respectfully bring their concerns in this area to their bishop and to appropriate Vatican agencies.
My column, however, did not contain my personal views as to what the norm should be, nor did it advocate changing the current norm. Rather, my focus was how the lay faithful could best follow the norm as it currently exists.
The U.S. adaptation to the General Instruction to the Roman Missal (GIRM) in this matter has the full approval (“recognitio”) of the Vatican. And while Forrest and others may understandably question the relative importance of a uniform posture for receiving Communion, the GIRM does call upon episcopal conferences to decide upon a normative posture for receiving Communion and explicitly provides that standing is one of the legitimate options.
The same U.S. adaptation that makes standing the normative posture for receiving Communion in the U.S. also provides that no one should be denied Communion because he or she kneels. In response to reports of pastors who have refused to give Communion to kneeling communicants, the Holy See has emphatically intervened, noting that the denial of Communion in such instances is a serious violation of canon law and an egregious infringement upon the faithful’s right to the Sacrament.
Taking the U.S. adaptation at face value, there’s an undeniable tension. On the one hand, it permits the faithful to continue to kneel for Communion, and he or she who kneels is not to be considered some sort of liturgical outlaw. On the other hand, it not only provides that standing is the “norm,” but it also states that instances of communicants kneeling “should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.”
In light of this Vatican-approved norm that expresses the manifest desire of our shepherds, I encouraged the faithful to stand for Communion out of obedience. I admit that “obedience” does have juridical overtones, and if Forrest or anyone else inferred from this statement that I was accusing those who still kneel for Communion of disobedience or sin, I sincerely apologize. That surely was not my intention. Those who as a matter of conscience receive Communion kneeling to express their reverence for the Lord in accordance with a centuries-old tradition are in the Church’s good graces. Indeed, subsequent to my column, the Vatican affirmed that those who kneel to receive Communion are not to be accused of disobedience.
What I meant by “obedience” is the virtue of humble submission to the Church, recognizing that fidelity to legitimate Church authority is a very practical way of expressing the Lord’s sovereignty in our lives, because in hearing the successors of the Apostles, we are hearing Him (Lk. 10:16). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, the faithful are to “receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms” (no. 87).
It is outrageous that those who piously kneel for Communion have been singled out for persecution while serious and pervasive deviations from liturgical norms are tolerated and even encouraged in some places. Such a double standard further fuels a deep-seated cynicism where at times “defending the faith” can be set in opposition to seemingly inexpedient, “wimpy” virtues such as meekness (Mt. 5:5), child-likeness (Mt. 18:3), humility (Mt. 11:29), and, yes, obedience. But deep down, we know it has to be a “both/and” proposition, as our Lord continues to tell His followers that, when among wolves, we need to be both “wise as serpents” and “innocent as doves” (Mt. 10:16).
Leon J. Suprenant, Jr., President
Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation
Proof That God Never Abandons His Church
Reading Francis Altiere’s article (“Why I Attend the Traditional Latin Mass,” June) was a sheer joy. That someone such as he who was raised in the post-Vatican II period, and was therefore deprived of the splendor that the older generation has experienced in the liturgy, shows that God never abandons His Church and that the glorious heritage of our beloved Church is not dead. The combination of truth and beauty speaks a language that can only come from above. That a young man such as Altiere has perceived this bodes well for the future.
The greatness of the Tridentine Latin Mass is that we hear the same words as were heard by St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis de Sales, St. Don Bosco, and the Curé of Ars. These golden words can be an antidote to the weakness of our faith.
Alice von Hildebrand
New Rochelle, New York
A Nerve Has Been Struck
Jim Borman’s letter (May) focused on why it is so necessary for each and every bishop of the Church to act positively to protect the innocent unborn. Every bishop would be surprised by the response he’d receive from the flock for doing so, and the blessings he may receive for defending the truth.
More generally, Michael Rose continues to be the target for innuendo and ad hominem attacks. A nerve has been struck by Rose, and one has to wonder why so many people are so angry at him. I am reminded of the wise comment our dearly departed Spiritual Director, Fr. Denis O’Brien, once made: “Anger is a sure sign of an aching conscience.” Let us pray for those who experience so much pain when exposed to the truth.
The Church is steeped in problems because we live in a culture that has apparently tantalized so many members of the hierarchy with the sweet smell of tolerance. It is my prayer that more and more Catholics will read the NOR and contemplate not only what is bad, but how to go about healing what is sadly misguided or simply downright cowardly. And as the inspired philosophy professor D.Q. McInerny recently wrote in the Fraternal Order of St. Peter monthly newsletter: “We have been living through a period of patterned misattention and pronounced negligence of duty on the part of those in the Church who have been entrusted, in St. Thomas’s words, ‘with the care of the community.’ The sordid activities that have been revealed in recent months did not well up out of nowhere. The ground was prepared for them. The scene was set for them, and, in a certain respect, the scenario for the dark drama was actually written out beforehand. These actions were the all but inevitable effects of a whole complex of causes which have been operative within the Church for many years. We have been witnessing a monumental failure, on the part of those in authority, to preserve, protect and defend the integrity of the faith, especially in its moral teachings. It is perfectly understandable that a Catholic should be profoundly shocked and scandalized by recent events in the Church in this country. But no Catholic who has the least glimmering of what has been happening in the Church over the past few decades, particularly in our colleges and seminaries, could honestly claim to be much surprised at what has transpired. You reap what you sow, and much very bad seed has been sown in the Church in the years since the Second Vatican Council. And now we reap the whirlwind.”
Oremus pro invicem!
Judie Brown, President
Baffled by Ron Belgau's Story
Ron Belgau’s article “Sodom & the City of God” (June) purports to be a criticism of the term “fag” as a reference for male homosexuals. But Belgau went much further than that particular issue and in the end left me more baffled than when I started.
Yes, the hypocrisy of most Christians, even most Catholics, is astounding. While most of us are steeped in sins — even sexual sins — we still see the homosexual as more in need of redemption. I understand the disgust Belgau (a chaste homosexuabpfeels toward supposed Christians who want to pick the sliver from his eye while ignoring the planks in their own. I share that disgust, especially when the plank is worn as a badge of honor in those souls who brag about their sexual exploits, their vasectomies, their serial adultery, etc.
One thing that baffled me is Belgau’s complaint of the lack of role models for chaste homosexuals. Has Belgau never heard of the many saints who lived chaste lives, who sacrificed their very lives for their virginity, or who turned away from lives of decadence, lust, and sex? Homosexuals seem to be very self-absorbed in their lusts. Even a chaste homosexual such as Belgau is so consumed with his sexuality that he cannot find role models outside his fixation. No other group of people seems to have this problem. Non-homosexual men and women both find numerous role models in saints of the opposite sex. People of all races and ethnicities find role models in the saints who are of various races and ethnicities. But a chaste homosexual cannot find a role model who didn’t openly declare his lusts for other men, as if none of the saints in Heaven had to contend with lustful temptations.
Belgau asks how one would reply to a query about one’s son’s marriage prospects. Would I feel more comfortable saying that my son and his girlfriend have moved in together but have no marriage plans or that my son is a chaste homosexual and will not marry? I would not be comfortable with either — but I understand Belgau’s point that many people, myself included, would be at least a little more comfortable with the former. But consider that in the first arrangement I would also be expressing remorse that my son is living a sinful life yet am hopeful that he might repent later. In the second case, I must publicly identify my son as being psychologically deficient and under constant and extreme pressure from the homosexual culture (it’s not a “subculture” anymore) to be open, proud, and accepting of his homosexuality. Furthermore, the very culture of which he is a part will deride him unmercifully for remaining chaste and not giving in to his “gift” of homosexuality (whatever that may mean). In this second case, I have no hope that my son will ever really be normal.
This is one reason why normal people — and that is what heterosexuals are, normal people — are so disturbed by homosexuals, whether they act upon their lusts or not. Homosexuality is so abnormal — queer, to use another term — that the very thought of what they actually do or desire disgusts even the most hardened heterosexual sinner.
The Church calls upon homosexuals to lead chaste lives, but that message is seldom heard. Indeed, many bishops write letters, hold forums, sponsor organizations, and take great care to ensure that all homosexuals know the Church is here for them. I even hear an occasional reference from the pulpit about caring for the needs and dignity of homosexuals. But how many organizations do the bishops sponsor to help heterosexuals remain chaste? How many souls will be damned because bishops and priests neglected to inform them of the imperative to lead chaste lives and be pure in thought, word, and deed?
It is very difficult for heterosexuals to keep sexual purity today. Indeed, the message today is that sexual purity is a thing of the past, an outmoded concept. I have personally heard priests say that masturbation is not a mortal sin — and might not even be a venial sin. I have heard priests teach that the purpose of marriage is only the happiness of the couple, and that in some cases contraception may very well be morally necessary (in fact, failing to use “the pill” might sometimes be a mortal sin!). Moreover, I don’t hear priests talk about divorce and “remarriage,” fornication, immoral movies and TV shows, occasions of sin, etc. Even when the readings at Mass specifically speak of such issues, priests gloss over or ignore sexual sins and will frequently, according to my personal observations, talk about spousal abuse by husbands to the exclusion of nearly all else. One would think that the Church is infested with wife-beaters who, nonetheless, are as sexually pure as newborn babes in arms.
Finally, groups such as Courage give me an uneasy feeling. I admit that I am not the sharpest blade in the rack, but I have never understood why one who is struggling with a particular temptation would surround himself with others who suffer from the very same temptation. It is beyond my powers of reason to understand how a group of homosexuals can “support one another” to avoid sins of the flesh, as well as sins of thought, when it is clear that each and every person being sought out for support is likewise tempted by the same evils. Please pardon my bluntness, but is it truly wise for a homosexual to talk to another homosexual about the desire to sodomize his neighbor? Would it not be better to surround oneself with normal friends and holy people — and pray a lot? After all, I myself have a number of charming and physically beautiful women friends, but we don’t need to “support one another” in order to refrain from adultery or even the temptation to commit adultery.
Daniel A. Peck
Enriched & Enraged
As a long-time subscriber (pre-dating the magazine’s formal commitment to Roman Catholicism), I have in turn been enriched, educated, enraged, and edified by the articles and editorials that have appeared in the NOR over the decades. One may not ask for more from a publication!
And this latest issue (June) constitutes yet another compilation of superb articles and editorial commentary that impels me at long last to offer some financial assistance to your continuing apostolate. The pieces by Rose, Collins, Altiere, and Belgau (whose approach to the difficult question of how orthodox Catholics ought to respond to persons afflicted with same-sex attraction disorders is simply the most thoughtful and thought-provoking I have yet encountered!) are terrific!
As an avid reader of serious Catholic periodicals, I do not always concur with your seemingly intemperate judgments regarding figures such as Fr. Neuhaus, but neither do I regard your willingness to engage your peers in serious debate over serious matters as beyond the pale. Orthodoxy — and charity, for that matter ? does not preclude vigorous debate among friends and brothers.
Leonard Wood Grotenrath Jr.
Not Really Newspapers
Have you considered that the reason some Catholic publications such as the National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor have attacked Michael Rose’s book Goodbye, Good Men is because of embarrassment — or even guilt? Where were those purveyors of Catholic news when our precious priesthood was being undermined at “pink palace” seminaries under the supervision of suspect bishops?
James L. Cardinal
Feminist Influence On the Bishops
I was gratified to read Sheryl Temaat’s article in your May issue deploring the U.S. bishops’ advocacy of divorce. Mrs. Temaat correctly blames feminist influence for this nonsense.
Thirty-some years ago, when the no-fault craze was sweeping the nation, I argued against it before a committee of the Minnesota legislature. Arguing in favor was — you guessed it — the lawyer/lobbyist for the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. I wrote to the Vatican in protest, but — with heads buried in holy sand — they never responded.
My arguments may have delayed that phase of the divorce racket one year, but the abominable law prevailed the following year. Predictably, and to lawyers’ delight, the divorce rate skyrocketed, as it did throughout the nation after passage of similar legislation. Some years later the same lobbyist admitted privately to me that his employers were on the wrong side of that issue.
The only flaw I noted in Mrs. Temaat’s article is that she seems to buy into the argument that all or most physical violence in marriage is of the man-on-woman variety. The hard data on domestic violence is voluminous, too extensive to report here. Murray Straus, Richard Gelles, and Suzanne Steinmetz conducted a now classic study, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in American Families. It indicated men and women initiate domestic violence at about the same rate, although men receive somewhat fewer injuries. In his book Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, former NOW board member Warren Farrell provides a bibliography of studies going back a quarter century, many by feminist scholars, establishing beyond a doubt that domestic violence is an equal opportunity problem. Martin Fiebert of the California State University system has compiled a similar bibliography of 117 studies.
Keep your wonderful magazine going. Since my bitter divorce, it’s my only link to the Church.
Forest Lake, Minnesota
Pellegrini Doesn't Know What He's Talking About
I have lived and worked in Korea or in the proximity of Koreans since July 1995. I have engaged in translating Catholic texts from Latin or English into Korean. I nearly got an Indult Mass off the ground there, but the Trad-friendly bishop died before we could do it. In short, I have a lot of experience in Korea and with Catholics in Korea. Raymond Pellegrini simply does not know what he’s talking about in his article on the Church in Korea (June).
Korea was once an orthodox wonderland. However, the European, American, and Indian missionaries have helped them take the same path toward perdition that we ourselves have taken. Furthermore, the best and the brightest Korean seminarians are sent to Germany, France, and America to learn the latest in “faithful dissent,” guaranteeing that the Church in Korea will be just as fouled up — if not more fouled up — as the Church is here. The only remotely orthodox seminary remaining in Korea is in Daegu.
That the Church in Korea is said to have been founded by a Korean in 1784 was politically motivated. The historical fact is that the Church in Korea was founded in the late 16th century. The Koreans’ post-colonial hatred of Japan prevents the so-called proto-Catholics such as Julia Ota from being counted among the “real Catholics” in Korea. It’s a shame, since the story of 16th-century Korean Catholics is just as compelling as the 18th-century ones.
Myungdong Cathedral is most certainly not the only gothic structure in the country. It’s an easy mistake to make since most Catholic churches look like they belong in Blade Runner or some other dystopian movie. The fact remains that the Protestants make more Catholic-like structures, as the Catholics are busy copying the worst of post-modern European architecture. One of the most impressive Gothic churches in Seoul is the Presbyterian church in Yeoksam-dong, Kangnam-gu, not far from the Renaissance Hotel. It puts the Catholics to shame. I urge Pellegrini to take a trip to Busan and look at the Namchun, Woo-l-dong, and Jwa-dong parishes. Hideous! Then go to Daeshin-dong, just down the hill from the Maryknoll hospital and look at the Greek Orthodox parish. Now that’s a decent structure. While you’re in that neighborhood, finish walking down the hill, turn left, and behind the old American Consulate, there is the Catholic Busan Cathedral. If you see a parking garage, you’re there — the sanctuary/gymnasium is above the garage. Mass is in English, Tagalog, and Konglish. Have a good time fighting back the nausea.
I cannot write a complete critique of Pellegrini’s article since it would require an entire article in itself. Kneeling was once the norm in Korea as elsewhere, Communion on the tongue was done away with by force, and altar girls dominate the sanctuary just as they do here in the U.S. Unorthodox books line the shelves of Catholic bookstores. As matter of fact, recently I had to ask the Daughters of St. Paul to pull a book by Matthew Fox off the shelves. I imagine that it’s back on the shelves, just as the books by Bertrand Russell and Nietzsche are back on the shelves after I asked them to be removed three years ago. Trying to get them to translate orthodox books is even more difficult than getting them to remove unorthodox books. Koreans really have no sensus Catholicus and it shows in every external manifestation imaginable.
To make my prolonged rant mercifully shorter, let me just say that in my eight years of experience in Korea and with Koreans, the only time I saw the same Church that Pellegrini did was during my first few months in Korea when I didn’t know any better. But I had the good sense to keep my naivety and ignorance to myself.
Pellegrini makes the comment in reference to Japan: “Japan…spiritual emptiness.” That is an outstanding example of ignorance and Catholic bigotry!
Louis J. Mihalyi
Newland, North Carolina
In the June issue, Philip Lehpamer claims in a letter that in my article about the age of the Earth (Aprib| I did not treat evolution “adequately.” Specifically, Lehpamer claims that when I discussed the probabilities about the origin of life, I ignored “selection” (presumably natural selection), and considered only chance.
Lehpamer’s claim is unfounded in the context of my discussion. He overlooks the fact that natural selection (of the type considered by Darwin) cannot influence the origin of the first living cell. Only after life already exists does natural selection come into play by seeing to it that certain advantages are passed on to successive generations.
In a discussion of the origin of life (such as I was considering), it is logically consistent to focus only on chance.
Dermott J. Mullan
The letter sent by Lehpamer about Mullan’s article seems incorrect. Lehpamer wrote: “evolution depends on the concepts of selection, symbiosis, and other mechanisms and it is these along with chance that make evolution a workable idea. When selection and chance are both factored into the mathematical modeling, there is more than enough time for evolution to have impacted life on earth.”
His error is in his using the idea of chance. There is no such thing as “chance” in the real universe; God knows all possible actions, even if we do not. If a tree in the forest falls on a hiker, this seems to be chance to us men. To God the event is known and therefore not chance. Evolution is a nonexistent phenomenon; God guides all events in the universe, therefore the phenomenon ought to be named “eduction” — led out. Led out of nothing by God. God is still leading out into existence new species and other changes. There are many changes in everything but not by chance — ever.
John C. Morris, M.D.
I Am Not a Fundamentalist
In his article “Fundamentalists Inside the Catholic Church…: How Old Is the Earth?” (Aprib| Dermott Mullan has drawn the wrong conclusion in portraying me as a fundamentalist and I reject his misrepresentation.
The term “fundamentalism” has come to have various meanings and is now used mostly in pejorative dismissal of others. Mullan focuses on a narrow definition of fundamentalism as a critique of natural science, but this is not the original and principal meaning of the word. Fundamentalism is more properly defined as a literal interpretation of the Bible without regard to historical or literary context, sacred Tradition, or the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The non-Catholic scholars who wrote The Fundamentals did not have a Magisterium to defer to. Their attempt to find doctrinal authority solely within Scripture was inherently flawed as it lacked an authority outside of Scripture such as that divinely instituted in the Catholic Church.
The Church teaches that every passage in the Bible has a literal sense, and that the proper sense of the term “literal” is the meaning intended to be conveyed by the sacred Writer. As the 1994 Catechism declares, the truth conveyed by the sacred Writer may be given in various forms, one of which is the literal, obvious sense. There are other senses such as the figurative sense, and more than one sense may be employed in some passages. A loyal Catholic who defers to Tradition and the Magisterium cannot without gross misrepresentation be labeled a fundamentalist.
I wish to thank Mullan for stating that I wrote “a well-written criticism of Darwinian evolution.” However, I really addressed what is wrong with evolution per se, of which the Darwinian concept is a modern version. Punctuated equilibrium is another version. Evolution per se is all about the natural gaining of truly new, “higher” genetic information not possessed by one’s ancestors — and this has been shown to be impossible. Mullan deserves praise for his courage in openly opposing biological evolution, for this places him in opposition to the strongly pro-evolutionist stance of the 80 members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (whose members include the famous atheist Stephen Hawking).
I am surprised, however, that his article did not mention that my book also examined what is wrong with the idea of Progressive Creation. According to this concept, God created matter and energy and intervened periodically over long ages of time to produce the variety of life forms in the Universe. Those who reject evolution but believe that the Universe is billions of years old, such as Mullan, are driven unavoidably to accept the concept of Progressive Creation (PC), and I submit that PC clashes with Catholic Tradition on several points.
Mullan’s article suggests that long ages be accepted as a “given” and claims that “the first cell could not have come into existence by chance [after billions of years]: It requires the intervention of an Intelligent Designer.” On the contrary, the first cell required an act of Special Creation early in the Creation events, not in a supposed act of intervention billions of years later. Modern scholarship has established that the author(s) of Genesis 1-11 fully intended to give an accurate account of the descent of man from Adam and Eve. It follows that the genealogies in the Bible are reliable (despite Cainan being in contention) and so it follows that Adam and Eve must have been specially created less than 10,000 years ago. According to a literal, obvious reading of Genesis, before the creation of Eve, Adam was called by God to name all the beasts of the earth — therefore he must have seen and named the dinosaurs less than 10,000 years ago; the dinosaurs could not have perished mysteriously 65 million years ago as most long-age theorists hold.
Mullan’s article cites the 1909 ruling of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) on yom allowing the improper sense of a certain space of time, but the same ruling stated that a 24-hour natural day is the proper sense of yom, so let us not forget that the long-held belief in a 24-hour day is still permitted by the Church. It is known that the most specific Hebrew term for singular day (yom) was used in the opening passages of Genesis, despite the plural form being available. Moreover, it is generally accepted that the Hebrew word yom preceded by an ordinal number always refers to a 24-hour day. So what actually constitutes the exegetical case for a longer period of time — as distinct from theories mainly based on physics? It is not enough simply to imply that the PBC ruling alone validates the case. How can “day” be a symbolic term the very first time it is used in the Bible?
Progressive Creationists do not inform us on their belief about what happened on Earth during the supposed 4,999,990,000 years before mankind came into existence (let alone an earlier 10 to 15 billion years while the Universe was supposedly forming). With evolution out of contention, nothing much could have been happening other than entropy having its inevitable bad effects! So why not allow the Creator to create things rapidly, as Isaiah 45 indicates: “I am the Lord God…[who] made the earth and created man upon it…[who] stretched out the heavens…[who] formed the earth…[who] formed it to be inhabited.” God did not make things in the Universe with the appearance of age; that idea arose from mistaken conclusions drawn by modern scientists/scholars who regard the idea of eons of time as a given.
Look again at the rapid creative actions of our gracious Creator/Redeemer. He acted rapidly on many occasions in bringing the dead to life, curing the sick, and turning water into wine. So why not consider the strong possibility that He rapidly implemented the Creation? Indeed, in whom do we trust — the trustworthy Creator who cannot deceive, who was present at the Creation events, who ensured that a partial account of Creation was revealed to the sacred Writers, and who was present on Calvary paying the dreadful ransom of torture and death for fallen man — or do we believe modern fallible human beings who were not there at Creation and can reach incorrect conclusions?
Another aspect which Progressive Creationists seem to misunderstand is the Catholic doctrine of Secondary Causes (praised in the Catechism). Biosystems have to be brought into existence rapidly — almost concurrently — so that true interdependence can then begin to function. The idea of various life forms being created at long intervals of time apart doesn’t make sense — plum trees need bees to be around fairly quickly! Thus, interventionist scenarios over eons of time do not truly accord with the reality of Secondary Causes, in which God creates life forms and then lets them run their way without constant tinkering, notwithstanding His use of miracles whenever He sees fit.
Mullan distorts a key directive of Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus: “carefully observe the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine — not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity permits.” It follows from this teaching that the onus of proof is definitely upon the person who contends that another sense is superior to the literal, obvious sense. To satisfy this requirement, Mullan has to:
– Succeed in overturning the long-held belief that the Creation days were 24 hours each. It’s not enough simply to cite various scientific arguments as supposedly providing irrefutable proof that the meaning of each Creation day cannot be 24 hours. There are powerful arguments in exegesis which must be addressed, and theological reality is superior to physics.
– Show where is the clue given by the sacred Writer that the Genesis Creation account was intended to be understood completely differently from its literal and obvious meaning.
– Show that the Fathers were wrong in holding their unanimous, or near-unanimous, Origins views. Leo XIII insisted that we must believe what the Fathers unanimously believed — and none of the Fathers, including Augustine, thought that the days of Creation were longer than 24 hours each. (Origen was not canonized a saint and technically is not properly regarded as a Church Father.)
– Show that the Fathers and later Church scholars were wrong in holding that the work of Creation formally ceased at the end of the Creation events (which rules out interventionist creation of truly new life forms afterwards).
– Show that the Church got the overall package of Origins beliefs wrong for 1,850 years until the time of Darwin, and that Catholics were misled during all those years.
Mullan faces a formidable task, for once a teaching is declared true in Catholic Tradition, it cannot be overturned. There is no getting away from the fact that the Catholic Church (e.g., Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis) officially teaches that Genesis is a historical account of things which truly occurred and that it should not be distorted by revisionist attempts at rewriting history to suit fallible modern scientific theories.
As for proof of eons of time and the consequent revision of Genesis, to what authority do we defer when specialist scientists disagree? Mullan suggests that the scientific Big Bang/long-age view is irrefutably proven, but other competent scientists do not agree (e.g., Halton Arp, the non-Creationist who strongly opposes Big Bang theory; John Woodmorappe, who wrote The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods, concerning the limitations of isotopic-based dates; various physicists associated with the Kolbe Center). Since objective truth is not determined by majority opinion, then the minority who reject Big Bang theory should not be brushed aside, and genuine counter-induction should be welcomed by all who are seeking the truth. If scientific arguments end up in conflict with objective truth known from Tradition — à la evolution beliefs — then the conclusions that flow from those arguments are likely to be unreliable.
The very integrity of Genesis is at stake in the Origins debate, and with it the future of Catholicism. How many more young attendees of Catholic schools will drift away from the practice of the Catholic Faith after being fed a poor form of Religious Education often reinforced by either Evolution or Progressive Creation? Let us re-evangelize anew by proclaiming far and wide the truth of God’s Revelation, especially with regard to Special Creation. In this way, let us hope to inspire renewed devotion to Jesus Christ, our awesome and gracious Creator/Redeemer.
Gerard J. Keane
Are Catholic Defenders Of Special Creation "Fundamentalists"?
The purpose of this letter is to set the record straight concerning the Kolbe Center and the literal historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11 in response to Dermott Mullan’s article “Fundamentalists Inside the Catholic Church…: How Old Is the Earth?” (Aprib~ The Kolbe Center was founded in 2000 to provide a forum for Roman Catholic theologians, philosophers, and natural scientists who believe in special creation — the idea that God created the different kinds of living things by divine fiat less than 10,000 years ago. We also hold that the literal historical interpretation of Genesis 1-11 offers a much better explanation of the facts of Scripture, Tradition, and natural science than the non-literal, non-historical interpretation of Genesis that is now in fashion in most Catholic centers of education.
Mullan rightly takes a dim view of fundamentalism, defined as a literary interpretation of the Bible without regard to historical or literal context, sacred Tradition, or the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. However, it strongly implies that anyone who believes in a literal historical interpretation of Genesis and a (relatively) young earth is ipso facto a “fundamentalist.” The argument rests upon the hermeneutic principle laid down in Providentissimus Deus that the literal and obvious sense of Scripture must be adhered to unless reason dictates or necessity requires that it be abandoned in favor of a purely figurative interpretation. From this principle, it is argued that all literal historical interpretations of Genesis are “fundamentalist” since natural science has provided “irrefutable proof” that the earth and the universe are billions of years old.
To proffer our literal interpretation as insensitive to common sense, historical context, and literary genre is to grossly miscast us as one-dimensional fundamentalists in defiance of the Church’s teaching. The Kolbe Center is nothing if not Leonine in its biblical literalism and obedience to the Magisterium.
Mullan quotes Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis (HG), para. 38, to the effect that the way in which Genesis contains history is to be determined by exegetes. However, the Pope’s words have been heavily and poorly edited, transposed, and misquoted. Here is the actual passage of HG from the Vatican website: “Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies [PCBS]. This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people.”
The words Mullan quoted, “It has clearly laid down…,” do not appear in HG. If intended as a paraphrase of “this letter, in fact, clearly points out…,” it misleads by omitting the fact that the Pope is citing the PCBS letter, implying that these are his own words. Mullan’s quotation continues as follows: “that the first eleven chapters of Genesis do pertain to history in the true sense.”
Why no ellipsis to indicate that the Pope’s exception clauses were omitted? Why replace the Pope’s use of the indefinite article with the definite article? Mullan’s quotation continues: “However, it is not right to judge them by modern standards of historical composition….” This passage is certainly not in Humani Generis — the words “right,” “standards,” and “composition” don’t appear anywhere therein. But the phrase does appear in a fundamentalist commentary on HG by David Holloway, a contemporary English vicar. Why it’s here, masquerading as a direct quotation from the encyclical, is answerable only by the author. Indeed, a complete rewrite of the Pope’s thoughts appears in this section, presented as direct quotations. What can be said positively of a theological approach that quotes a comment on the papal encyclicals as if it were the Pope’s words verbatim? It’s painful to point out such a cavalier treatment of a papal encyclical in an article published by a periodical self-styled as traditional and orthodox Catholic; one would hope to focus on content and not on correcting citation errors.
This section isn’t anomalous but characteristic of most of the support references. The article says that “obviously” the Pope’s approach to Genesis in HG is “quite different” from young-earth believers. “Obviously”? Really? In the authentic version of HG, the Pope “deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament.” But this sentence was not cited in the article. The specific purpose of the HG reference to the PCBS letter is to point this out (although this is not mentioned in Mullan’s article). Even the PCBS letter, which is not part of the deposit of faith, supports the Bible as true history, subject to refinement by ongoing research (such as is now underway at the Kolbe Center). So we ask: Is reading “a day” and thinking “a day” an excessively free interpretation of Genesis?
Mullan notes that Lateran IV and Vatican I don’t mention a creation date or the days until Adam’s creation. But why should the councils take action if there was no need of a creation date for salvific definition or heretical suppression? Genesis plainly says Adam was created on the sixth day. Is it the role of councils to sanction every word of the Bible by repetition or infer what common sense can approximately compute from the succession of the patriarchs? If so, all the globe’s libraries couldn’t hold the volume of verbiage produced — just look at Canon Law!
Mullan claims that Providentissimus Deus says certain truths about the material world can be established by scientists with “irrefutable evidence.” As we have come to expect by now, Providentissimus Deus does not use the phrase “irrefutable evidence” or either word separately. Mark this as “source unknown.”
In reality, it is quite impossible for natural science to produce irrefutable proof of the nature of creation and the age of the universe, first, because, as God reminded Job, we were not there when He created the universe; second, because we cannot be at all sure that the uniformitarian principle — which states that all presently observed natural processes have always been in operation exactly as they are today — is true; and, finally, because even the so-called laws that govern the present-day universe are subject to change in light of new evidence.
The indemonstrable uniformitarian principle underlies most if not all of the alleged “irrefutable proofs” for long ages since the beginning of creation. However, Mullan states that the physical (aging) processes that Adam and Eve experienced prior to the Fall were different from the physical processes that we now experience in the post-Fall world. Since this is so, might not physical process in the earth and in the stars also have varied since the beginning of creation? In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul (another exegete with a penchant for the literal historical interpretation of Genesis) teaches that not only humans beings but all creation is made subject to decay by Original Sin and groans in expectation of the revelation of the children of God.
Although St. Paul’s words do not mean that the Second Law of Thermodynamics did not come into force until after the Fall — a false view that some evolutionists like to attribute to defenders of special creation — they do indicate that God allowed decay to accelerate throughout the universe in some way as a result of the Fall. Indeed, there are many phenomena, such as polonium radiohalos, decay of the earth’s magnetic field, and helium retention in zircons from deep earth cores, that are impossible to explain within a gigayear framework using the uniformitarian principle. Moreover, the experimental work of sedimentologist Guy Berthault has demonstrated that the earth’s fossil bearing rocks could have been laid down in a relatively short period of time, a mere fraction of the hundreds of millions of years generally assigned to the formation of the fossil record. His work alone would be sufficient to demolish any claims to “irrefutable proof” of an age for the earth of hundreds of millions of years.
Besides citing “irrefutable proof” in the form of widely accepted interpretations of data among physicists, Mullan argues that God would not have deceived mankind by creating a world with an appearance of age that it did not really possess. In this connection, there is mention that Adam and Eve would not have “aged” as we experience aging, prior to the Fall. While a true statement, this begs the question of whether Adam and Eve were created with the appearance of age. No evidence is offered that our first parents were not created fully mature and with an appearance of age that they did not actually possess. Furthermore, the argument is drawn that the irreducible complexity of living things refutes Darwinian evolution through natural selection, but what is not drawn is the logical conclusion that the prototypes of the various kinds of living things must have been created irreducibly complex, fully functioning, with an appearance of age that they did not actually possess.
It is a crowning irony that defenders of special creation are accused of misrepresenting God as a deceiver who gives things a false appearance of age when God Himself has told us in His own words that He created the heavens and earth and all they contain in six days. Number 2056 of the Catechism teaches that “The word ‘Decalogue’ means literally ‘ten words.’ God revealed these ‘ten words’ to his people on the holy mountain. They were written ‘with the finger of God,’ unlike the other commandments written by Moses. They are pre-eminently the words of God” (emphasis added).
In these words written “with the finger of God,” God tells Moses and the Hebrews that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested.” Thus, no one can accuse God of deceiving us if the world is full of a number of things that look much older than they really are!
Mullan reports with alarm that the First International Catholic Family Conference on Creation had a speaker promoting earth as the center of the universe; but no physics experiment has ever detected whether the earth is stationary (at the center) or in motion, without making metaphysical presumptions about the structure and dynamics of the rest of the universe. According to astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle: “We know that the difference between a heliocentric theory and a geocentric theory is one of relative motion only, and that such a difference has no physical significance.” The current relativistic view of the science majority is not heliocentricity but that there is no center, because any point may be taken as central: acentricity. The sense of Revelation is that the earth is the focus of physical creation, this sense being eloquently upheld by St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine during the Galileo “affair” and continuing within the teaching of the common Magisterium to this very day.
In regard to a presentation on evidence for a young earth and a young universe at Kolbe’s First International Catholic Conference on Creation, claims are made that it contains 15 points based on cosmic data, but that none forces a young-earth conclusion. All of us at the Kolbe Center would agree that no creation event is provable from natural sources, but all the evidence cited in the above-mentioned talk either favors a young earth or excludes the possibility of cosmic gigayears.
In conclusion, like Dr. Mullan, the Kolbe Center would also teach children that scientists have access to truths about the world that God created. In fact, they have a unique access to natural truths by virtue of their God-given talent and profession. But that access implies a responsibility to teach innocent children (and adults) which can be abused and misused by ignoring the primary source of truth — the precious words of Truth taught by Holy Mother Church. By blindly following the interpretation of facts offered by secular modernists, Catholic natural scientists may unwittingly advance an anti-Christian agenda.
Hugh Owen, Director
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