Letters to the Editor: September 2004
Pets Denied Holy Communion
In the June issue I read the New Oxford Note about pets receiving Holy Communion at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford, part of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. I wrote to the Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut about your piece. Here is what he says: “The original article in The Wall Street Journal never claimed that the Eucharistic sacrament was administered to pets in Saint Francis Church, although if one reads the article sloppily, one could conclude that such is the practice. In fact, The Wall Street Journal printed a correction two days after the original article to clarify any wrong impression their writer may have given. On occasion pets do accompany their owners to services, but I assure you that the Eucharist is not administered to pets in Saint Francis Church, Stamford.”
John R. Caruso
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Contrary to the Episcopal Bishop, one would not need to read the article “sloppily” to conclude that pets receive Communion at St. Francis Episcopal. The article was titled “Purr Box Goes to Communion at St. Francis Episcopal.” The story says: “What drew [Mary] Wilkinson [the owner of Purr Box, a tiger cat] back into the fold [at St. Francis Episcopal] was a new monthly program the church introduced: Holy Communion for pets.”
The Episcopal Bishop says a “correction” was printed, but he doesn’t tell us what the correction said. So we had to track it down. It says that “parishioners receive Communion and their pets receive a special blessing.”
Why were we not aware of the correction? Because we don’t take The Wall Street Journal, and because an NOR reader sent us the original story as reprinted in the Arizona Republic and he did not send us any correction (if indeed one was printed).
The Journal story also mentioned All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale. We found a story on All Saints Episcopal in The Miami Herald (Aug. 9, 2003), where we learn that All Saints provides “doggie treats for Rover at communion time.” The story quotes the Rev. Roger Allee, associate priest at All Saints, as saying, “If they start getting boisterous [as in barking or hissing], don’t worry, they’re praising God as only they know how to do it.”
The story reports that the animal-people at All Saints “are convinced their pets enjoy the singing, the spiritual message [really?] and mixing with other parishioners and pets. After all, they believe their pets have souls. ‘Cats are persons — only they spell it purr-sons,’ quips member Barbara Slauson…. Don Hays…says he is convinced his pooch not only has a soul but will go to Heaven.”
If pets have souls, then they will stand before Christ on Judgment Day. If pets can go to Heaven, they can also go to Hell. And Christ said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (Jn. 6:54). So Episcopalians will have to face the issue of pets receiving Communion if they truly care about their pets’ eternal destiny.
Episcopalians aren’t “sexist” or “homophobic,” so how can they be “specieist”? Get ready, you Episcopalians, for the next stage of “inclusivity.”
St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology
Torquay, United Kingdom
Regarding your New Oxford Note on pets being given “Communion” in a certain Episcopal church in the U.S.: Sometimes at Sunday Mass I sit behind a small Pekinese asleep in his basket. I notice that, at the Consecration, he remains asleep, doesn’t even wag his tail. Only at the Sign of Peace does he awaken, yawn profoundly at his admirers, scratch behind his ear, and then go back to sleep. If this is a typical example of animal piety, it’s a pretty poor show.
I agree with many of your opinions and disagree a lot as well. I like your “cheek,” even though, as an Anglican, I’m on the receiving end of a lot of it. Each month I eagerly await the NOR, like a kid waiting for the next issue of Spider-Man to hit the newsstand.
20 Orchard St.
Staging Apparitions to Sellout Crowds?
I have been reading the letters regarding the pluses (June) and minuses (April) of the Medjugorje phenomenon with great interest. While never a “Mary chaser” as Jane Sears claims to have been, I never doubted Medjugorje until I recently came across an interview in an Australian Catholic newspaper featuring one of the three Medjugorje “seers,” Ivan Dragicevic. I was so taken aback by the utter triteness and banality of the man and his statements that I had to learn more about him. I looked up his name on the Web, and was astonished to behold the photograph of his wedding — to a glamorous and well-heeled former Miss Massachusetts — as well as a picture of his gorgeous new home in Medjugorje, one of the poorest regions in Europe. I have learned that after 23 years, he and two other “seers” are still encountering our Blessed Mother on a daily basis. All six seers (three succumbed to pressure and gave up their “apparitions”) are married and live in luxury by Balkan standards. And no wonder. Ivan still meets Mary at precisely the same time every evening, which enables him to stage the apparitions to sellout crowds in major hotels throughout the world.
Intrigued when I found out he was about to stage such a visit near my home, I e-mailed the local organizer to indicate that I would attend. Soon I received not one but three reminders that not one but two “voluntary” collections would be taken up during the event. I never went.
Ever since then, I have read everything that I could on Medjugorje. Nothing has been as scintillating as a series of essays I discovered on the Web: “Medjugorje, The Facts and Logic” (unitypublishing.com/Apparitions/BrianA.htmb~ True, many people have repented of their sins and discovered Christ at Medjugorje, but this only proves that our Lord can make good come out of evil. I am sure that there are apparitions going on in Medjugorje (and wherever the seers travebp— but they are certainly not divine. When a Croatian friend in the U.S. asked Ivan if he really was seeing Mary, he replied, as he puffed on his cigarette, “I’m seeing something.”
Are We to Have No Heroes?
The article by Edward O’Neill, “Scott Hahn’s Novelties,” stretched from page 23 to 35. He should have stopped at the first paragraph. The rest of the article was picky-picky-picky.
Scott Hahn has made me a better — far better — Catholic than I was before listening to and reading him.
Are we to have no heroes?
God bless Scott Hahn for his influence in my life!
Michael L. Noonan
Thank you for Edward O’Neill’s extremely enlightening article, “Scott Hahn’s Novelties.” Such clarity, such an astute report, and with abundant charity.
I recall Hahn’s interview with Marcus Grodi on Journey Home, EWTN (April 5, 2004): Hahn applauded his own discovery of corresponding Scriptures, Isaiah 22:19-23 and Matthew 16:13-20 (see 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A). While he did concede that the Catholic Church had already associated these two passages, his surprise was expressed in his usual dramatic and, may I add, juvenile way: “What is this? Lectionary lottery?” I find that his comments lack substance for spiritual nourishment.
During the interview he never missed the opportunity to applaud and promote his own writings. Even his last comment included his imminent “Living Water Scriptural Voyage” to Alaska, where the waters “gush out.” If Hahn were truly scripturally savvy, he should have come across these verses, “for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5) and “these six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look…” (Prov. 6:16-17).
Hahn would never have been able to bag such financial deposits before Vatican II. The Church would never have tolerated his antics and novelties. It seems apparent that Hahn endeavors to take advantage of those with poor scriptural understanding, mostly the young.
Message to the Franciscan University of Steubenville and to St. Joseph Communications: Spare us his unholy hogwash.
Oak Park, Illinois
Scott Hahn’s theory of the fourth cup is fascinating and may possibly even be true. But Hahn is dangerously, disastrously off base in arguing that the role of the Holy Spirit is properly symbolized by femininity. To so argue is to relegate to insignificance the most central biblical and liturgical imagery associated with the Holy Spirit. I refer to the imagery of male potency and seminal moisture which are the constant way the Church has expressed her understanding of the working of the Holy Spirit for 2,000 years.
St. Luke relates the words of the angel Gabriel that Christ would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. This concept of the masculine power of the Holy Spirit is dramatized most notably by the Roman rite in its Easter Eve blessing of the baptismal waters during which the priest plunges a candle into the waters of the baptismal font. These waters are symbolic of the amniotic fluid of the fecund womb of the Church. Yes, to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a candle is just a candle, but not in this case.
In the traditional liturgies of the Church the seminal, quintessentially masculine image of dew pouring down from above appears in the consecration anaphora as well as in the propers of Masses dedicated to the Holy Spirit. This imagery of dew, I might add, originated in the Old Testament where, in Isaiah in particular, it is associated with the longed-for coming of the Lord as Savior.
Perhaps the Church should restore all three of the Masses formerly celebrated each year on Annunciation Day. In this way, all three of the principal persons would each receive due recognition for their role in this event: Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Holy Spirit by whose power Christ was conceived.
Helen Dietz, President
Scott Hahn Replies To Edward O'Neill
I thank Edward O’Neill for taking time to review a sampling of my works in the June issue of the NOR. I could not hope for kinder words to be spoken of me than those he used at the beginning and end of his article. He echoes my own thoughts when he tells readers not to accept my ideas uncritically.
O’Neill does bring up many good and intelligent questions, which would require (as he acknowledges) book-length responses. I hope to live long enough to satisfy his every request. In the meantime, I’d like to clarify a few misimpressions he gives your readers:
In questioning the orthodoxy of my ideas, he neglects to point out that all of my books bear the nihil obstat and imprimatur and were reviewed and endorsed by distinguished theologians and biblical scholars, including cardinals and bishops.
O’Neill also suggests that my ideas haven’t been tested or presented to my academic peers. This simply isn’t true. I “test” these ideas daily — in the classes I teach at Franciscan University and at several Pontifical universities and seminaries, in lectures I’ve delivered at Oxford, Princeton, the Society for Biblical Literature, the Mariological Society of America, and most recently, the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. My academic peers also have easy access to my doctoral dissertation and my scholarly articles recently placed in Catholic Biblical Quarterly, the Journal of Biblical Literature, and other journals. I feel privileged, too, to have some of my most distinguished peers as fellows of my St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and contributors to the Center’s academic journal, Letter & Spirit.
O’Neill seems, however, to be entirely unfamiliar with my scholarly work. I do not fault him for this, as I have no illusions about my own importance. But I do wish he had bothered to glance at some of these books and papers before faulting me for not having written them. It would have added a measure of balance to his very long critique. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much to suggest that he’d read my dissertation or reviewed the sources I provide in the footnotes to my books. When he does, he’ll find that my ideas are hardly as novel or original as he gives me credit for. I am the proverbial midget standing on the shoulders of giants.
O’Neill has done me a great kindness in paying close attention to a few of my works. I hope that he and I may continue this conversation, long into the future, in the context of scholarship and friendship.
Scott Hahn, Ph.D.
EDWARD O'NEILL RESPONDS:
I appreciate Scott Hahn’s gracious response to my article. I hope that he will now choose to address the substantive points that I raised. I appreciate the imprimaturs carried by his works, as well as the endorsements from prominent individuals that are sported on his books’ dust jackets. Unfortunately, imprimaturs are not what they once were, and endorsements from prominent individuals rarely apply to every point in a book.
I am glad to hear that Hahn has recently placed several articles in scholarly journals. It is unclear to me from his response whether these articles have yet appeared. I have not seen them, but I look forward to doing so. It is a positive sign that he is beginning to interact with the academic community via peer-reviewed journals. This will carry his engagement of the scholarly world to a level considerably beyond that of having written a dissertation, read a few papers, and engaged in classroom discussions with students.
It is to be hoped that Hahn will use the peer-review process to explore the ideas I brought up, which are likely those toward which his peers would be most skeptical (e.g., Adam expected to fight a dragon, Shem is Melchizedek, the vinegar sponge was “the fourth cup,” the Millennium ended two millennia ago, the Holy Spirit is “bridal-maternal”).
While his recent initiative addresses one of my main concerns, it does not address my other concern, namely, that these off-the-wall ideas have been published in popular works that are broadcast and mass marketed directly to theologically untrained laity. While Hahn can cite lone individuals here and there who seem to support aspects of his speculative system, the presentation of the points of this system to the theologically untrained — often in ways difficult to distinguish from established facts — is fundamentally out of keeping with the comportment demanded of a Catholic biblical scholar.
It is my hope that, while Hahn engages the academic community with his ideas, he will simultaneously refrain from broadcasting and publishing his speculations to the masses. He can do more good, which is to say that he can further enhance the great good he has already done, by staying on safe ground with the public and reserving the speculation for his peers.
West Babylon, New York
Dale Price’s “Putting Catholic Men on Ritalin” is so true. This is exactly what one should expect when the liturgical prayers in the Mass, approved by our bishops, have been “politically corrected.” Here are a couple of examples: “Peace to his people on earth” in place of “to men of good will,” and “we have this bread to offer, which…human hands have made” in place of the Latin “the work of man.”
There are many examples where the word “man” has been replaced with “all.” The traditional “Man does not live by bread alone” is rendered “One does not….” Whenever the politically incorrect “man” or “men” appears in the Old Testament readings, the epistles, and the Gospels with negative adjectives (e.g., “evil,” “cruel”) there has been no P.C. alteration.
Some of our priests add “women” to “men,” but never add “women” to “men” when the text refers to evil or sin.
Ulysses de St. Germain
Lies, Libel & Sin
I have been a very satisfied reader of the NOR for about two years. Never have I had the experience of reading something in your pages that I strongly disagreed with, let alone that I found offensive — until this June, namely, your New Oxford Note, “A Morally Squalid Man Besotted With Ideology?”
That you felt it necessary to defend a man (Victor Grossman) who turned his back on America to join up with her enemies in Communist East Germany was mildly irritating. That you characterize America as the aggressor in the war against global Communism also irked me. You did say some positive things, such as describing how you and he risked your lives by criticizing the government in a public place in East Berlin, although you didn’t mention the risk.
The East German government was one of the most oppressive in history, imposed on Germany against everyone else’s will by the Soviets. You may recall the shootings at the Wall, which your friend so nicely (blindly) defends as a means of preventing war.
What was more bizarre, and more offensive, was your spending almost half the piece trying to define the useless epithet “neoconservative.” This boiled down to former Trotskyite Jews who hold a grudge of some sort. Apparently these people hold some kind of power over our current President. Now, that is a besotted ideology!
As a conservative, I have not yet seen any better use of the term “neoconservative” than that it serves the enemies of conservative principles well as a term of abuse, which they attempt to use in a “divide and conquer” strategy. Somehow you also credit such people with the Vietnam War.
This was silly, and might possibly have prompted me to write. But now we get to the morally squalid, blindly ideological, and irresponsible falsehood that prompted this letter.
You say, after insulting President Bush by labeling him the pawn of the ex-Trotskyite Jews, that he is leading America in a war against Islam (“aggressive U.S. foreign policy against…the Muslim world”). That is a lie. It is the lie the terrorists promote in order to foment war. That you should promulgate such a lie is highly shocking and offensive. It is also, may I remind you, a sin.
It is highly unlikely that many radical Muslims read the NOR. But those who promote their agenda, however indirectly, are supporting them. Words should not be used so carelessly.
In the same issue, there were letters commenting on the failings of our current Pope. Surprisingly, Pope John Paul’s support of Saddam Hussein, and his apparent preference for mass graves and torture chambers over America’s leading a just war enforcing U.N. resolutions (in spite of the obstruction of a few members of the anachronistic Security Councib| was not mentioned. I think it may be John Paul’s greatest failing.
I hope that you will not feel compelled to libel our President and our country in the future. Your magazine does a great service. Don’t let the Devil sabotage it.
Maybe I’m overreacting to this, but our world is saturated in disinformation these days, and it is especially disturbing when a source you trust goes astray.
Cortland, New York
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Boy, are you overreacting! You speak of “disinformation,” but your letter is a textbook example of disinformation.
We never defended Gross-man’s decision to turn his back on America. We never characterized America as the aggressor in the war against global Communism. What we said was that the ex-Trotskyite neocons “supported an aggressive foreign policy against Communism,” which no one would deny.
If you think the East German government was “one of the most oppressive in history,” let me just say that I was not in the least bit risking my life by criticizing that government. Grossman never defended the shootings at the Wall (to me), and I doubt he would have.
The neoconservatives early on called themselves “neoconservatives.” If you’d ask Pat Buchanan, he would tell you that the neocons have “divided and conquered” the conservative movement. We never said the neocons gave us the Vietnam War.
As for President Bush being a “pawn” of ex-Trotskyite neocons, what we said was: “whether the neocons are following Bush or Bush is following the neocons — or some combination thereof….” We left the question open.
You quote us as saying that Bush is pursuing an “aggressive U.S. foreign policy against…the Muslim world.” You call that a lie. What we actually said is that the ex-Trotskyite neocons are.
You say Pope John Paul “supports Saddam Hussein” and has an “apparent preference for mass graves and torture chambers.” And you speak of lies.
Those Scourging Scenes
E. Christian Brugger’s article on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (June) defends the scourging scenes as not excessively violent, but true to history. To strengthen his case, he could have pointed out that Simon of Cyrene was forced to help Jesus carry His cross because Jesus was too weak to do it due to the savage scourgings. Also, Jesus died rather quickly on the cross, surprising even Pilate (Mk. 15:44), which could be due to the earlier brutal scourgings. Thus Gibson’s portrayal of Jesus’ scourgings may well be most faithful to historical reality.
Fr. Jerome F. Treacy, S.J.
Milford, NJ 08822
A Terrific Online Newsletter
One of the best-kept secrets in the Catholic Church is a gold mine of an online newsletter published by the Catholic Educator’s Resource Center. Thoroughly orthodox and put out bi-weekly for the past four years by British Columbian J. Fraser Field, it carries a rich range of essays, interviews, and book excerpts on hot-button issues in the Church and society. To have a look and subscribe to the newsletter, go to catholiceducation.org/updates/latest.htm. Subscriptions are free but donations are welcomed to support publication. Recent articles include Chapter 5 of J. Budziszewski’s How to Stay Christian in College, and “The Outlook for Christian Culture,” Chapter 1 of Christopher Dawson’s The Historic Reality of Christian Culture. NOR readers will find this newsletter a terrific resource.
"Please Have the Decency to Resign"
The NOR represents one of the very few voices in Catholic journalism, let alone the general media, that have maintained credibility in the disaster known as the American Catholic Church.
I suggest that most laymen know that the root problem is — and has always been — the men who are the bishops. They personally are the problem. Most discussions of the disaster dance around this obvious point. Blame is heaped on Vatican II, homosexuals, the culture in general, “old Roman cardinals,” and innumerable other causes. As in most things in life, it really comes down to the people who are supposed to do the job.
Can anyone imagine what the American Church could have accomplished over the past thirty years if U.S. bishops would have simply done their job? How many aborted babies and broken marriages could have been saved? We know that hundreds of millions (probably billions) of dollars have been spent trying to offer some modicum of compensation to victims of sexual abuse. Imagine what wonderful joy and happiness that money could have produced.
I suggest that a consensus could be obtained in many dioceses for the following statement: “You, Bishop X, are personally the problem. You are an inept and incompetent administrator. Respect shown is strictly for the office, not you personally. You hold office as an aberration in a Church built by high-caliber, hard-working, holy men. Obviously your appointment as a bishop was a mistake. You are but a token shadow of what a successor to the Apostles should be. To be blunt, you are a farce. Please have the decency to resign and go away.”
Dennis W. Sliva
I Need Guidance
I am a subscriber and supporter of the NOR. I, like you, am deeply concerned about the state of the Catholic Church. I live out on the east coast near New York City, which, like Berkeley, is a bastion of liberalism.
I am constantly complaining to anyone who will listen that the Church no longer teaches about sin, Hell, or moral standards. I am told by priest, family, and friends that if a priest speaks the truth, as written in the Bible, the parishioners will complain and, more importantly, stop making their tithes to the church. So all I hear from the pulpit is “Jesus loves you.”
I desperately want a fuller life with Christ in a traditional Catholic sense. I need guidance. Can someone please help me with the following:
1. websites that I can go to for information;
2. Church-related organizations and charities I can become involved in;
3. charities, parishes, missions, etc., that I can send my tithe to;
4. organizations where I can find like-minded people for fellowship.
Erik C. Peterson
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