Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: September 2005

September 2005

Connecting the Dots

Regarding your New Oxford Note (June) on The Catholic Periodical and Literature Index (CPLI), which refuses to index The Wanderer and recently eliminated the NOR from its titles indexed: I find it interesting that the “Chair” of the CPLI is employed by the library of the infamous St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif. A look at the index of Michael S. Rose’s Goodbye, Good Men shows that the Seminary is mentioned four times in the book, and not favorably. It appears to be the sort of institution that would take “offense” at much of what is printed in The Wanderer and the NOR.

Diane Toler

Lt. Col. U.S. Army (Ret.)

Glenmoore, Pennsylvania

Archbishop Pilarczyk

I read with much interest, but also sadness, the article “Wrestler Priests & Lapdog Editors” by Michael S. Rose (June), a scathing indictment of the sex-abuse scandals in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, supposedly well known but not acknowledged by Archbishop Pilarczyk.

Then I read in Our Sunday Visitor (July 3) an article by Thomas Szyszkiewicz stating that “The Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts of men throughout the country, according to Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyck [sic] of Cincinnati.” He quotes the Archbishop, “I believe there is a move of God among Catholic men and that the Holy Spirit has placed a hunger in the hearts of many men to go deeper into their Catholic faith.” This is the same man who was the subject of the article by Michael S. Rose.

How are we to reconcile the reporting in the NOR and Our Sunday Visitor if they appear to reveal opposite sides of the same man? I have been impressed for many years with the defense of our Catholic Faith as expressed in the NOR, and I can only believe that Our Sunday Visitor has goofed again.

Ralph Piaskowski

Prof. Emeritus of Military History Colonel, USAR (Ret.)

Sun City, Arizona


You must understand that Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) is essentially a house organ for the bishops. The Chairman of the Board of OSV is a bishop. OSV is basically the equivalent of Pravda, the organ of the Soviet Communist Party, which is not to say that Pravda didn’t have some interesting things in it. But you cannot rely on OSV if you really want to know what’s going on in the Church.


I’ve never known the NOR to sidestep controversy. To the contrary, in my long-time reading of your magazine, I’ve found that touchy topics are encountered head-on, forcefully, and fearlessly.

One would think that the NOR would enlighten the many puzzled readers about the totally unexpected, out-of-character action of Pope Benedict XVI in appointing to fill his former position as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the ultra-liberal, far-Left Archbishop William Levada.

This appointment, as the NOR would be the first to realize, makes a dog’s breakfast out of your sincere and uplifting editorial about our new Pope (June).

If the NOR doesn’t step up to the plate on this one, I shall stop believing in Santa Claus, among a few other things.

O.M. Ostlund Jr.

Altoona, Pennsylvania


We too are dismayed by the appointment of Levada. As Archbishop of San Francisco, he lived right across the Bay from Berkeley. We’ve followed him, and we’re definitely not impressed. He is not an ultra-liberal, just another wimpy moderate. We’re tempted to call him a careerist and an opportunist, but we really don’t know that. He may be a sincere wimpy moderate. Our only hope is that Benedict knows him better than you or we know him. But as of now, this bodes ill for the Benedict papacy. For more, see our New Oxford Notes “Automatic Forgiveness” and “Benedict the Moderate?” in this issue.

People Now Take Evil for Granted

Your May issue is full of material on a common theme: the banality of evil. By this I mean that evil has become so common that people take it for granted.

The Supreme Court of the U.S. and the parliaments of Europe have legalized abortion and protect the abortionists. It is probably true today that Jewish and Russian mothers have killed more of their own babies than Hitler and Stalin ever did.

We thought Dr. Josef Mengele was bad with his Nazi experiments on prisoners. Today, we have the governments of California and New Jersey appropriating billions for fetal stem-cell research, creating embryos in laboratories and dismembering them at will. How fiendish!

We have the acceptance by our courts of sodomy, an abomination punished by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, followed by judicial fiat in Massachusetts requiring the recognition of “gay marriage.”

We have a conspiracy of silence of Catholic bishops in the face of the sexual revolution and open refusal of so-called Catholic theologians to accept the authority of Humanae Vitae, not to mention the cover-up of homosexuality among the clergy.

In our invasion of Iraq at least 100,000 people have been killed. Who cares? We have the editors of Crisis calling for more imperialist adventures.

In the face of these ongoing catastrophes, the great majority of mankind goes about their daily lives as if nothing were happening. They have lost the capacity for indignation and horror.

We also have a nominally prolife President who says America is not ready to accept a reversal of Roe v. Wade. So let the slaughter of the innocent continue. When will we be ready? Again, there is no sense of horror or urgency. To the contrary, the U.S. government still funds Planned Parenthood.

Doesn’t anyone hear Satan cackling?

Juan J. Ryan

New Providence, New Jersey

Keep Your Mouth Shut

As I went through the June issue, the topics included Pope Benedict XVI, the Iraq War, and Ave Maria University, and I realized that you are so right on some things and so wrong on others. You are 100 percent correct on Benedict, questionable on Iraq, and on Ave Maria — biased?

One thing is clear. You always seem to have an obstinate self-confidence that you are always right and delight in pointing out errors in logic of anyone who disagrees with you (as you will do to me), a kind of pride perhaps you are unaware of.

While I rejoice with you over God’s choice of Benedict, I disagree with you on the war in Iraq. Whether the war was entered into for a reason you agree with or not is irrelevant to the fact that we must support our troops committed to serving in it. Anything we say or do here in criticism is exploited there to the detriment of our mission — to strike a blow at terrorism in the world and to free the people of Iraq. A case in point is Newsweek’s harping on the unsubstantiated flushing of a Koran down a toilet that resulted in Muslim uprisings all over the globe and the retaliation and increased hatred unleashed against the U.S. That kind of out-of-family disagreement during a war only adds fuel to the fire of hatred and evil perpetrated onto our troops. If you disagree with the war, fine; just keep your mouth shut in public for the sake of our troops. Though I admire you, you do not have a privileged insight into the will of God. Many things in life appear to be wrong but somehow come out right. The will of God is inscrutable.

When I enlisted in the Army in World War II out of the seminary, my parents and friends saw it as a terrible error. As it turned out, God’s will prevailed and it was an ordeal that brought God into my life never to depart. No matter why we entered the war in Iraq, no one can question the good that is now resulting since we did so. No matter how it turns out (and it will be to the good if you can keep quiet), it will be immensely better than before. The terrible evil that Hussein and his cohorts believe in and still practice is evidence for all to see. Our soldiers are there to remove it. If, as you say, we have bumbled into Iraq for the wrong reasons, it still is an opportunity to do good. Look at the half-full glass of history.

Even though the Church said the Iraq War is not right — wrong or right we are at war. So do us a favor: Talk about Benedict (hooray!), keep it buttoned on Iraq, and give us a little peaceful hiatus on Ave Maria University.

Charles N. Valenti

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Keep Your Mouth Open

I am a Protestant, a conservative Congregational clergyman, and a retired Army Chaplain. I continue to read and enjoy your conservative, traditional Catholic views.

As for Michael Sexton’s letter (June), he says we should not criticize the war in Iraq. But it is always appropriate to examine governmental policies, whether during peace or wartime.

Sexton also says Gen. Giap of North Viet Nam was ready to quit after the Tet Offensive of 1968. Having recently written the only existing biography of Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap to appear in English (Victory at any Cost: The Genius of Viet Nam’s General Vo Nguyen Giap [Brassey’s, 1997], since translated into Chinese, French, and Portuguese, chosen by History Book Club, and nominated for a Pulitzer), I maintain that Sexton is off-base to suggest Giap was ready to quit after Tet 68. My interviews with him indicate he would never have quit. And we were nowhere near victory at that time.

Cecil B. Currey

Lutz, Florida

Just War Doctrine Is Basically Irrelevant

I consider myself a loyal and orthodox Catholic, but I strongly disagree with your assertion that the war in Iraq is “unjust.”

Going to war is a political decision. National leaders who make decisions on war and peace must consider many difficult-to-quantify factors. No one, not even the leaders of the Catholic Church, can devise a formula that properly weighs the countless factors involved in the decision-making process to permit a judgment to be made about the “justness” of a war.

The situation at the beginning of World War II illustrates the problem. Germany was unquestionably treated unfairly in the Versailles Treaty that ended World War I, so Hitler argued that he had a right to rebuild the German Army and to remilitarize the Rhineland in violation of that Treaty. However, if France and England had taken forceful military action to prevent Hitler from acting early on, World War II might never have happened. And France and England certainly had provocation. Not only did Hitler violate the Treaty, he even told people he had bigger plans. But would a war initiated by France and England at that point have been a “just” war? Probably not, but it might have been the proper decision. (Actually, in retrospect, their decision not to attack Germany at that time might have been immoral.) However, the whole matter is academic speculation. France and England made a political decision not to challenge Germany at that point, and Hitler concluded they were so weak and gutless he could go ahead with his plans. How would things have worked out if France and England had challenged Germany in the mid-1930s? Who knows? The point is political leaders have massive problems to deal with when considering war, and whether the war is going to be judged “just” or “unjust” according to some legalistic formula of the Catholic Church is not and should not be a serious consideration.

The fact that the Vatican has judged the Iraq War to be “unjust” is irrelevant to me. The Vatican is merely reflecting the views of European Leftists.

Henry Borger

Laurel, Maryland

I Would Have Fought for Germany in World War II

Your easy dismissal of the necessity of the war in Iraq is wrong. The fight in Fallujah in 2004 was essentially the same as Tours (732), Lepanto (1571), Vienna (1683), and Budapest (1686); that is, Western Civilization was turning its back on an expansionist, pernicious Eastern ideology.

In your reply to Larry Carstens’s letter defending the war in Iraq (June), you say, given his premises, that he would have fought for Hitler. I myself would have fought in the German Armed Forces in World War II. The main target of the Wehrmacht was Soviet Russia. Russian Bolshevism was and is the most anti-religious, vile idea to ever stalk this planet.

Harold Day

Wimauma, Florida

The Widespread Ignorance Of the American People About Terrorism

Despite my differences with you about the war in Iraq, I retain my great respect and gratitude for all the good things the NOR has done and still does. However, your response to my June letter (“The Iraq War Was Just”) was wanting. With all due respect, it seemed reminiscent of what you said in an earlier issue about a talk-show host who can’t answer a caller’s arguments, so he simply hangs up.

(1)  Comparing Catholics who support Bush with supporters of Hitler is a bit like comparing Catholics who supported Constantine with supporters of Nero. Obviously, when Caesar is opposed to Christ, we should side with Christ against Caesar.

(2)  You grossly misrepresent the facts by describing Hitler as a “baptized Catholic.” Hitler was an “ex-Catholic” to put it mildly, who vehemently hated the Catholic Church and all she stood for. As you may know, the largest group of victims of the Nazi Holocaust besides the Jews was Catholic clergy and religious. Pius XII may not have called Hitler’s war an “unjust war,” but he clearly condemned Nazism.

(3)  If you will consider the evidence (as it seems, with all due respect, you are unwilling to do), as documented and substantiated in the books by Youssef Bodansky and Jayna Davis, the American cause against Hussein was not a preventive war but a defensive war no less justified than the armed response to Pearl Harbor, regardless of what President Bush or the 9/11 Commission may say. Hussein was sponsoring terrorism against the U.S. (not just Israebpsince at least the early 1990s (or Gulf War I); and his denials are about as reliable as the denials of Elizabeth I with regard to the raids on Spanish shipping by the English “Sea Dogs” of the latter 1500s. The facts not reported in the media are that Iraqi intelligence operatives were deeply involved with al-Qaeda since at least the early 1990s, met several times with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the Philippines, and had a series of high-level liaisons with bin Laden’s thugs in Taliban Afghanistan. Even the 9/11 Commission grudgingly admitted the increasing frequency of the liaisons up to September 2001 in their report, even as they denied the conclusiveness of the evidence. If you are going to claim that the Iraq War is unjust (something Pope John Paul II never did publicly), it behooves you to either prove where the facts documented by Bodansky and Davis are unreliable, or argue that the armed response to Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was equally unjust. All facts considered, the morality of World War II and Gulf War II is precisely the same.

(4)  You asked if Satan could love anything more than Catholics killing Catholics in the name of Caesar. I would argue that he could. While I know of no Chaldean Catholics who are involved in the so-called “insurgency” attacking American troops (and blowing up Iraqi civilians and shooting police recruits in the back of the head), the main business of Satan is deception. I think he loves the widespread ignorance of the American people about the secretive terrorist forces that have been plotting against them since the early 1990s: Ignorance which is fostered and preserved by a biased, selective liberal news media, and several high-ranking politicians with a lot of influence and a vested interest in making President Bush look bad.

(5)  As for Cardinal Ratzinger, you might want to consider this (from his letter to Cardinal McCarrick last year): “Not all issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive holy Communion…. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty….”

Larry A. Carstens

Castaic, California


Taking your points one-by-one:

(1)  In you original letter (June), you approvingly quote Sen. Rick Santorum that “political, not religious, leaders” make the decision when a war is just, based on their “prudential judgment.” Ah, but all political leaders, going by their prudential judgments, regard their wars as just. Given what you say, Mr. Carstens, you would have fought for Nero and Hitler or any political leader. You say, “Obviously, when Caesar is opposed to Christ, we should side with Christ,” but you could never side with Christ because the political leader (Caesar) makes the decision when war is justified.

(2)  That Hitler was an “ex-Catholic” is irrelevant because you say that political leaders (“ex-Catholic,” Catholic, or whatever) make the decision when war is justified.

(3)  You claim that the U.S. war against Hussein was a “defensive war no less justified than the armed response to Pearl Harbor.” Hey, Japan attacked us. Hussein never attacked us, nor did he have the capability to do so. When the authoritative 9/11 Commission said Hussein had no “collaborative operations relationship” with al-Qaeda, you pooh-pooh it. So you revert to conspiracy theorists. Youssef Bodansky in his book The Secret History of the Iraq War claims that Hussein transferred and hid his WMDs in Syria. Not even President Bush claims that. And Jayna Davis in her book The Third Terrorist claims that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were not just two right-wing fanatics, but stooges of crafty Middle Eastern terrorists. Really now?

And yes, Pope John Paul II did assert that the war on Iraq was unjust. One criterion of a Just War is that it must be a “last resort.” Only four days before the U.S. war on Iraq began, the Pope (once again) appealed to the Just War doctrine of “last resort,” adding that “there is still time to negotiate.” Ipso facto, the war was unjust. Bush invoked his own “doctrine” of preventive war for invading Iraq. But the Pope condemned the “doctrine” of preventive war in his 2002 Christmas message. Why? Because preventive war is not a morally legitimate grounds for war in Just War doctrine. The Pope gave two solid reasons why the war was unjust.

(4)  We never said that Catholics are involved in the insurgency. What we said was this: “There are some 600,000 Catholics in Iraq…. Their President…said that resisting the U.S. invasion was a just cause. According to you, Mr. Carstens, the Iraqi Catholics should follow their President, and American Catholics should follow their President. So we have Catholics killing Catholics all in the name of Caesar. Is there anything Satan could love more?” You claim that political, not religious, leaders decide when a war is justified. In which case, Iraqi Catholics had to support Hussein and U.S. Catholics had to support Bush. You are presupposing that all wars are just — and on both sides.

(5)  Cardinal Ratzinger opposed the war on Iraq but he never said (and we never said) that a Catholic who supports the war on Iraq should be denied Communion. Yes, there may be a “legitimate diversity” among Catholics about waging war, but only within the confines of Just War doctrine. Cardinal Ratzinger said that “the concept of preventive war does not appear in the Catechism” under Just War doctrine, and that’s why Cardinal Ratzinger opposed the war.

If, as you say, Satan is deceiving the American people about secretive terrorist forces, and if you’re so gung-ho for this war, why don’t you join the Army or the Marines? You’re an able-bodied young man. You’re not a chickenhawk, are you? With all due respect, put your body where your mouth is.

The Downing Street Memo

I’m sorry about your loss of subscribers because of your position on the attack on Iraq, but I’m not surprised. It’s the same down here among the “Catholic” patriots, more disciples of Caesar than of Christ, as you say in your reply to the letter from Larry Carstens (June).

But my approach in dealing with those who assume the Santorum position — that only the President was in a position to apply “prudential judgment” to decide on war — is to accept that standard for the sake of debate and to ask whether the war was justified under their own criteria. I never get a satisfactory answer.

We were told that the reason for the attack was Saddam’s possession of the famous “weapons of mass destruction” ready for use against us and others in the Middle East, and that Iraq was involved with al-Qaeda and had a part in the 9/11 attack. In the immediate aftermath of the attack we were told that evidence of these things would be forthcoming in due course. It never was forthcoming and is now conceded to have been without foundation from the beginning by the Bush Administration itself. The finger of guilt is pointed at inept intelligence, but recent disclosures from Britain even cast doubt on that and indicate that war was long intended for policy reasons — a desire to assert U.S. hegemony in the region. The highly respected Times of London (May 1, 2005) reported on July 23, 2002 (eight months before the invasion of Iraq) that Tony Blair and senior ministers and advisors had a meeting on Downing Street. According to the minutes of the now-famous Downing Street Memo: “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” We all know what it means to “fix” a prizefight or a jury, and the policy was to invade Iraq regardless. Needless to say, this is not a reason for war, not under Catholic doctrine.

The Bush Administration, in a classic bait and switch (seldom challenged in the “mainstream” media), now asserts that the real justification for the attack was to bring “democracy” to Iraq — and beyond. Not a reason for war under Catholic doctrine either.

What I find amazing is that those Catholics like your letter-writing critics blithely ignore these failures in their own case for “prudential judgment.” I find that intellectually and morally dishonest.

Albert Regan Doyle

Sanibel, Florida

Vatican II Was Pastoral, Not Dogmatic

Gregory Roden (letter, May) takes Helen Smart (letter, Feb.) to task for allegedly claiming that Vatican II was “not directly dogmatic, but disciplinary and pastoral.” But Cardinal Ratzinger stated in 1988: “It [Vatican II] defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain as a merely pastoral council.”

Elsewhere, Roden calls the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre schismatic. For the most part, that’s not correct. According to Msgr. Perl of the Vatican, the laity “may attend [Lefebvrite] Masses,” as long as their action constitutes “reverence and devotion…, not because they refuse submission to the Roman Pontiff….”

In another letter, Dan Mattimore defends vernacular Mass by calling Latin a “dead language.” That is one reason why many Catholics prefer the Latin Mass. Latin’s “death” protects it from corruptions and impromptu comments that occur in living languages.

More generally, regarding your letters section this year, I find it astonishing that so many of your readers are politically blinded by neoconservative imperialism; it impairs their ability to conform to the Church’s Just War doctrine, which so clearly exposes the sinful nature of our country’s predatory attack on Iraq. I hope they will revert to orthodox Catholicism, after having been so charitably and patiently instructed by the Editor’s knockout replies to those letters.

Michael Ezzo

Yokkaichi, Japan

The First Mass Versus the New Vernacular Mass

I used to think the Mass was a re-presentation of the Sacrifice on Calvary. But Dan Mattimore’s letter (May) extolling the new vernacular Mass and comparing it to the Last Supper convinced me otherwise. Yet he is still too soft on those who would, in his words, “encrust” our liturgies with formalities not present when our Lord first broke bread.

The First Mass (the Last Supper) was not richly decorated with opulent, felt banners. Nothing screams, in Mattimore’s words, “the ‘old wine’ of religion” like felt. Such decadence is fit only for the Temple of Baal.

Other innovations seeped in: Musical instruments should be limited to lutes and lyres. Pews must be replaced with cushions. Women should only be present to refill the wooden bowls of the men eating dinner during Mass.

Neither the Tridentine nor the new vernacular Mass is concelebrated with 12 bishops. We must make every priest a bishop, and they must be of Hebrew blood and have beards.

The most heinous “encrustation” is the reading of the synoptic Gospels, the eldest of which wasn’t written until A.D. 60, and was not read at the Last Supper or at early Masses. Only the most Latin-loving reactionary can support reciting the Gospel of St. John, which dates to A.D. 90.

We as the People of God must do our part. I am contributing by not showering before Mass — but my wife will wash and perfume my feet.

Matthew W. Gaul

Cohoes, New York

I cannot imagine Jesus going around the table at the Last Supper and having those big-men Apostles putting out their tongues to receive the bread. Old-fashioned Catholics need to catch the Spirit of Vatican II.


St. Cloud, Minnesota


We deeply appreciate the straightforward truth we find in the NOR. We also look forward to the craftsmanship with which your ideas are conveyed.

Joe & Teresa Lester

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Those Raffle Tickets

If it weren’t for the NOR, I would not have known about the goings-on of the Legionaries of Christ, and I would have kept on buying those raffle tickets from the Legionaries.

Stephanie C. Hart

Redwood City, California

A Letter to Fr. Joseph Fessio

Dear Fr. Fessio:

I was extremely disappointed to learn that Ignatius Press has banned the NOR’s ads in The Catholic World Report and Homiletic & Pastoral Review, in addition to pulling Ignatius’s ads and list rentals from the NOR, and refusing to rent mailing lists to the NOR, all because of the Ave Maria University controversy. You seem to be punishing the NOR for providing a forum for both sides to air their views. You may have been offended that the NOR appeared to support the side you opposed; however, Ignatius has plenty of outlets in which you may give more weight to your own side.

I am still stewing it over, and have not yet decided whether to boycott Ignatius, but I am certainly leaning that way. I would be glad to hear your side of the story; however, no matter how unfair you might have considered the NOR to be, everyone has the right to his opinion. It’s most disturbing to see the tiny NOR abused in this way for nothing but speaking its mind, which after all is what it does best and what gives it its appeal to its readers and its value to the Church. To punish the NOR is to punish its readers and supporters, which in large part are also Ignatius’s readers and supporters. (I have scores of Ignatius titles on my bookshelf, not to mention the artwork I purchased from Ignatius adorning my walls.)

Again, this is highly disappointing and unbecoming. I strongly urge you to reconsider these destructive and apparently vengeful and spiteful decisions.

Mark W. Johnson

Glendora, California

Just a Rich Buffoon

On June 4, 2005, the Archdiocese of Atlanta held its 10th Eucharistic Conference. It was a powerful, Spirit-filled experience for 20,000 faith-filled Catholics.

Tom Monaghan was one of the speakers. He spoke for about one hour and never mentioned Jesus. He did mention himself. His most memorable statement, spoken with great verve, was: “I can say a Hail Mary in 11 seconds.”

I listened to that man for one hour. Ave Maria University in Florida has little to do with Catholic higher education and almost everything to do with Tom Monaghan’s ego. Monaghan is just a rich buffoon.

James A. Dirr

Atlanta, Georgia

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