Letters to the Editor: September 2007
In regard to the article by Thaddeus J. Kozinski, “The Gnostic Traditionalist” (June), and with all due respect to “The Editor Replies” (June) concerning the same, I would like to express my gratitude to Kozinski for his article. What follows is my poor effort to affirm certain of his observations.
During the turbulent years following the close of the Second Vatican Council, many were the Catholic souls who found the “changes” to be unsettling. Council documents were subjected to misinterpretation, misquotation, and distortion. The “spirit” of the Council inspired liturgical innovations, accompanied by the junking of statues, missals, chalices, vestments, and every material reminder of a supposedly bygone age.
In my zealous youth I visited parish after parish in order to rescue any semblance of the tradition being discarded. One particular incident, among the many, is worthy of mention. On this particular occasion, I knocked on a convent door and was greeted by a buxom, rather brash woman, dressed in lay clothes, who identified herself as Sister Joan. When I asked her whether she might have articles such as books to be discarded, she heaved a sigh of relief and invited me in. She began taking beautiful sacred artwork off the walls, grabbing statues, crucifixes, vestments, and books. She placed them in the middle of the floor and proceeded on, enlisting the aid of other women whom I assumed were nuns, though their manner of dress did not reveal that fact.
In between one of my many trips to the car with the spiritual treasures, an elderly nun, dressed in full habit, appeared carrying a beautiful statue of St. Joseph. She approached with the dignity that becomes a true Spouse of Christ and gently placed the statue in my arms. “I prayed so hard that you would come,” she said. She told me that the things now given me were destined for the dump. I had arrived the day before said tragedy. The kindly nun then told me to care for her statue of St. Joseph. “He has been the man of this house. Please take care of him.” Such were the “fruits” of the “spirit” of Vatican II.
Seeking the last vestiges of spiritual normalcy, countless souls began the “Mass” migration. From parish to parish, priest to retired priest, souls flocked to those who would say the Tridentine Latin Mass. Initially, those who refused to imbibe the liturgical aberrations, and the oft-blatant abuse of all things holy, were isolated factions without leadership. Eventually, outspoken critics offered orthodox-sounding explanations as to why the visible Church had apparently lost her way, and in time fragmented traditionalists found solace in the leadership of such organizations as the Society of St. Pius X and the sedevacantists (those who believe the papal throne is vacant).
It was a common trait among those who distanced themselves from all things spiritually abhorrent to believe themselves enlightened, blessed by God, whose inability to deceive or be deceived was lost to them as they reveled in their extraordinary ability to keep the Faith when everyone else was apparently losing theirs.
Some forty years later, there still exist groups and sects of individuals calling themselves traditionalist Catholics. Some believe they are the Catholic Church — or what’s left of her — and some believe they are much wiser and learned in matters of the Faith than those who seem content with the state of the Catholic Church as she stands today.
Their resemblance to the first wave of disgruntled Catholics preceding the Council is striking, though today’s traditionalists are far more sophisticated. They thank God that they are not like the rest as they read stories of the latest abuse or scandal in any one of the many publications available for their traditionalist reading pleasure. They check the latest traditionalist blogs on the Internet, keeping abreast of the current traditionalist news stories, oftentimes arguing among themselves as to the correctness of the traditionalist mantra. For all their efforts to be orthodox, they negate the necessity of being obedient to authority, primarily papal. If they do admit to the necessity of authority, they believe they are within their rights to interpret as they will, to take it or leave it.
They attend any Latin Mass provided by any group with no qualms, for their justification lies in the errant conviction that the Latin Mass is the end in itself and not a means to the end.
They are free, by virtue of private interpretation, to decide what — and who — is truly Catholic; to live the life of an independent Catholic, owing no allegiance to any particular authority or group; coming and going as they please, all the while believing that the servant is above the Master when it comes to deciding where and what His Church should be. They believe, as their post-conciliar predecessors did, that they are enlightened — the difference being that they have acquired knowledge from all manner of sources, interpreting for themselves what to believe and what to discard. They are more organized, building their own churches and facilities, complete with a clerical presence.
Presently, the visible Catholic Church presents to the world the face of division, torn as she is by both modernists and numerous traditionalist factions. Both, though diametrically opposed, contribute to the pain of our divine Lord when they succeed in causing disunity and schism in the Mystical Body of Christ.
As the years have passed, both traditionalists and modernists continue to thrive, strong in their convictions and self-will. In the meantime, our divine Lord remains in our Tabernacles, silent and forgotten. Little thought is given to the fact that all this time, and for the past centuries, He has allowed Himself to be the victim of our liturgical whims. He has allowed Himself to be a Prisoner of Love, trapped as He is in countless little chapels and churches not in union with His vicar on earth.
When will we finally realize that from the very beginning of His time among us, we have sought to change, destroy, modify, and distort Christ’s Truths to satisfy our convictions, be they traditional or modern? It is with a humble heart that I confess to almost thirty years of staunch sedevacantist beliefs.
Through much prayer and the study of Church history, and by the mercy of God, I am grateful to gaze once again upon the face of my Mother Church. True, she suffers; sometimes I can barely recognize her for all that her children have done to her. But she lives, and I will never again leave her side. I will not abandon her to those who would destroy her character, nor will I cease to be her advocate when her children fight among themselves as to what they think is in her best interests.
Recently, I attended Mass in a distant city. The music was far from edifying; the altar girls did nothing for me; I didn’t care for the church’s interior or the general lack of respect that is so apparent in many Catholic churches today. But then it’s never been about my likes and dislikes. It’s about our Lord and His presence in the Tabernacles throughout the world. I am there because He is there. He endured the Cross for my salvation, and now, as in ages past, He endures the folly of His wayward flock with the same Love that nailed Him to the Cross.
I place my trust in His Church because she is His, not man’s. Those who are truly enlightened in these times are those who kneel before His eucharistic presence and make reparation for the disunity and turmoil we have caused, however good our intentions.
American Life League, Inc.
White Salmon, Washington
As a friend and (much older) colleague, and a contributor to The Latin Mass magazine myself, let me ask you: What exactly is this “gnostic attitude” you detect in traditionalists? Your attempt to define it (NOR, June) lacks clarity. Your working definition of gnosticism is both elusive and amorphous.
To begin with, departing from the dictionary, you define gnosticism as “the attitude that leads one to believe that he possesses an irrefutable insight into the truth of matters of great importance, whether natural or supernatural,” with one’s mere conviction of the matter being the ultimate source of authority. This ad hoc definition ignores the crucial distinction between an excessive claim for the primacy of conscience and gnosticism, and thus the distinction between the “private judgment” of the Protestants (falsely attributed to traditionalists by erring critics) and gnosticism (which you now attribute to traditionalists). Private judgment and gnosticism are, of course, two very different things. The Protestant who engages in private judgment is not a gnostic who thinks he is saved by his special knowledge. On the contrary, the Protestant mentality is precisely that which de-emphasizes sure knowledge of theological truth in favor of a blind fiducial faith. The whole Enlightenment project, in fact, involved the elimination of certain theological knowledge in favor of an immanentist and subjective religious sentiment.
In any case, sedevacantists aside (those who believe that the papal throne is vacant) — and I argue that they are not traditionalists at all — there is not a single Roman Catholic traditionalist with whom I associate who fits your definition. On the contrary, Roman Catholic traditionalism rests simply on what the Church, not any traditionalist, has defined or passed down, as well as statements of the obvious about our situation. There is no “private judgment,” much less gnosticism, involved in being a traditionalist. Rather, the traditionalist position is founded on manifestly true propositions: the traditional Mass was never prohibited; dialogue and ecumenism are not doctrines but practices, which are open to criticism as prudential judgments; Vatican II did not (and could not) require Catholics to adopt any new doctrines; and, finally, the liturgical changes since Vatican II have been harmful, as you yourself admit. There is not a whiff of “gnosticism” in these statements of the obvious, every one of which has found confirmation in admissions by popes or Vatican cardinals, especially those of the former Cardinal Ratzinger concerning the new liturgy. (Concerning ecumenism, to take a little-known example, in Redemptor Hominis John Paul II acknowledged the fears of those who express the opinion that “the first ecumenical endeavours have brought negative results…[and] are harmful to the cause of the Gospel, are leading to a further rupture in the Church, are causing confusion of ideas in questions of faith and morals and are ending up with a specific indifferentism,” and the Pope allowed that “It is perhaps a good thing that the spokesmen for these opinions should express their fears” [#6; italics added]).
Your contention that the “traditionalist narrative” — a collection of statements of the obvious — is presented as de fide by traditionalist spokesmen is a caricature not supported by evidence. You quote nothing, but offer only vague impressions, perhaps drawn from things you have overhead some careless person or persons utter in the basement after Mass. I am not aware of any traditionalist publication or manifesto that has ever argued that one is not a true Catholic if one does not accept what you call the “traditionalist narrative.” And what do you mean by this “narrative”? Apparently, not what I mean. Where can one find this “narrative”? Unless you can show us, your charge rests on thin air.
Next, you shift your definition from “irrefutable certainty” about matters of great importance to the mentality “no salvation outside of us.” Quote me one non-sedevacantist source in support of your claim that such an attitude characterizes any segment of the movement. Name one recognized leader or organization in the traditionalist movement that has taken such a line. There isn’t one. Knowing this — admitting it, in fact — you rather conveniently argue that this “gnostic attitude” is hidden in the breasts of traditionalists, but can be drawn out by “a good theological dialectician.” You allude vaguely to unknown traditionalists who express disapproval of attendance at the Novus Ordo Mass, from which you conclude (without providing evidence) that this disapproval is rooted in a hidden conviction of the Novus Ordo‘s invalidity, as opposed to some other, more benign, motive that is not “gnostic” — for example, a simple aversion to the banality of the vernacular liturgy and rubrics as such, an aversion the Vatican itself is now quite willing to accommodate by declaring that Catholics have always had the right to adhere exclusively to the Traditional Mass. Of course, Cardinal Ratzinger himself called the New Mass a “banal, on-the-spot product.” Have we then, according to you, a “gnostic traditionalist” Pope? Or is this not simply a statement of the obvious? And what is “gnostic” about assiduously avoiding the banal in the sacred liturgy, when banality eats away at one’s faith in the divine mysteries?
Shifting ground again, you argue that “gnostic traditionalism” is a “choice-consciousness” arising from a “choice for tradition” that is unnatural, but has been imposed upon traditionalists by the actions of Church authorities who have promoted novelties in the Church. But how can a “choice” forced upon us by Church leaders be “gnostic,” especially when that choice is not for some secret gnosis — the real object of the gnostic heresy, which you fail to mention — but for what has always been there in plain sight: the inherited traditions of the Church? Where is the “gnosis” in simply adhering to what the Church herself, even in the midst of this crisis, allows us to adhere to?
You even argue that making the right choice — the choice to persevere in Tradition — is “gnostic” simply because it is a choice. The logic of the argument “choice = gnosis” is far from apparent. You say this “choice” is “gnostic” because it is not a childlike and humble reception of Tradition. Where is your proof for that charge? What traditionalist does not understand that he is merely receiving what has been handed down to him, not something that has been validated and actuated by his “choice”? Your suggestion that traditionalism runs the risk of becoming part of America’s “apotheosis of the idiosyncratic” smacks of pure intellectual condescension. It is this sort of thing that doubtless prompted the Editor of the NOR to note that, perhaps, it is you who are “puffed up” (NOR, June).
Moreover, where is there a “choice” at all — in the Enlightenment sense you ascribe to traditionalists, that of selecting some perceived good from a shelf — in simply remaining what one always was and what one’s ancestors were, precisely as Church law permits? Here you are playing word games with no mooring in the existential and juridical reality of the situation. Your “choice-consciousness” notion is exceedingly vague.
Indeed, by the time one adds up the attitudinal descriptions “irrefutable certainty,” “no salvation outside of us,” and — the catch-all — “choice-consciousness,” what member of the traditionalist movement does not fall under your critical gaze? And, since you report that as part of the process of recognizing “a large deformation in my spiritual consciousness and to begin the process of healing” you decided to attend a local Novus Ordo Mass, what are we to conclude but that you have implicitly indicted the whole traditionalist movement, qua movement, as being in need of a Novus Ordo “cure” for the same spiritual “deformation” that afflicted you, until you achieved insight into your parlous condition?
Adding to the confusion, you argue that “choice-consciousness has infected the entire Church” and that, accordingly, the gnostic smoke of Satan is “in both lungs of the Church, both the traditional one and the non-traditional one.” So, if one “chooses” Tradition, one is a gnostic, whereas if one “chooses” the Novus Ordo, one is a gnostic.
Your solution to this dilemma? Do not choose at all, but rather simply “receive” Tradition in childlike humility. But given that, according to your own argument, we are forced to choose one “lung” or the other due to the actions of churchmen, how does one receive Tradition without choosing to receive it? You offer no answer, except to say that you personally feel more at ease now that you attend a Novus Ordo Mass. But how does this amount to the childlike reception of Tradition, when the Mass you choose to attend is not the traditional one and, as you yourself say, is not what God wanted (even if it is valid)? Your entire argument dissolves into an ineffable sentiment about what one must do to avoid being a “gnostic traditionalist.”
And here, finally, you yourself succumb to the very thing you ascribe to traditionalists: a gnostic judgment on the Church. By what authority do you declare that the Church now has a traditional lung and a non-traditional lung — a claim that implicitly denies the Church’s indefectibility and plays right into the hands of the sedevacantists? Whence comes this insight into the malign alteration of the very constitution of the Church? How is your judgment any less “gnostic” than the opinions you imagine are held by traditionalists?
In the midst of all the diffuse argumentation, however, there is one solid point that is not the basic one you are trying to make: that a few imprudent members of the traditionalist movement — primarily the sedevacantists, who, again, are not traditionalists in my view — have succumbed to a kind of Pharisaical pride, or have committed the error of private judgment, offering reckless conclusions that are beyond their competence and what the evidence supports. Granted. But that is an old problem of which we are all well aware. And anyone who has any real experience with the movement (as opposed to knowledge of some anecdotes) knows that the problem is confined to a few oddballs; it certainly does not afflict the generality of traditionalists or their leaders or publications, such as The Remnant.
But as for your grand thesis of a “gnostic traditionalism” that threatens the whole movement and tempts all traditionalists simply because they belong to the movement as a manifestation of “choice-consciousness,” this is supported, when all is said and done, by nothing — except, irony of ironies, your own “gnostic” attachment to a concept you believe you have discovered.
Consider, therefore, what an insult (however unintended) your article is to all the faithful Catholics who have labored and prayed for decades for a restoration of Tradition. Consider whether you are a Johnny-come-lately who arrantly proposes to diagnose the spiritual “deformation” of Catholics who were keeping the Faith for themselves and their families while you were still in diapers. Consider, in short, taking the prescription you offer to others: “a Socratic step back” — from your own thinking.
Who, then, has fallen victim to pride, no doubt without even realizing it? The Editor of the NOR, I think, has the right answer.
Christopher A. Ferrara
West Caldwell, New Jersey
Thank you so much for publishing the entire article by Thaddeus Kozinski. He is absolutely correct in his assessment of the “choice-consciousness” that not only afflicts traditionalist Catholics but also defines the very nature of those who pride themselves on being traditionalist Catholics.
I speak from personal experience. Our children are being brought up in this exclusivist, elitist “consciousness” and therefore lack any real experience or knowledge of the universality that is the real Catholic Church. It is this “choice-consciousness” elitism that constitutes a spiritually and psychologically “schismatic mentality” that can lead to real schism.
Finally, as for the New Mass, I am not entirely comfortable with Kozinski’s remarks that it “is God-pleasing in itself.” However, I have personal knowledge of holy religious who keep their faith while being obliged by obedience to their rule to attend the New Mass daily.
Kozinski goes to great lengths to create a straw man, the “gnostic traditionalist.” He says, “There is no other alternative but to accept the one, post-conciliar Church, and to think there is some escape from that, as many traditionalists do, is to adopt a gnostic stance.” Baloney. Kozinski’s gnostic watchdog is barking up the wrong tree.
Kozinski’s article reads much truer if one goes through it and lines out every use of “traditional Catholic” and pencils in instead “neo-Catholic.”
Kozinski is right to berate us traditionalists for being “holier than thou.” But we traditionalists are lepers, are taboo. Before throwing the book at us, he might do well to remember what persecution does to people.
Church attendance has slumped dramatically, and the seminaries have been invaded by lavender mafias. In the battle we are waging, there’s no room for the faint of heart.
Mme. Paul Bernard
I write in puzzled reply to Dr. Thaddeus J. Kozinski’s bizarre, contradictory, and nasty article.
Kozinski oddly notes that “the novel ethos and weird consciousness that pervaded the whole Vatican II event” (p. 28) happened through “the indefectible protection of the Holy Ghost” (p. 28). Really?
One is further told that the New Mass (which he attends), though “defective and revolutionary in genesis and effect, is God-pleasing in itself…” (p. 30). This is amazing and almost contradictory.
Joseph A. Settanni
There is a great deal one could say in reference to Thaddeus Kozinski’s tome on “The Gnostic Traditionalist” and the Editor’s erudite observations. A long time ago, under the tutelage of Prof. Dianne Irving, I learned all about Gnosticism, and I am somewhat appalled by Kozinski’s apparent lack of comprehension. One of Prof. Irving’s most basic teachings is this: In philosophy (as distinct from theology), “Gnosticism” means a “dialectic of, or strife between, opposites or contraries” that ultimately eventuates in the necessity for a “secret knowledge” or “gnosis.” In Gnosticism these “opposites” that are in strife are essentially part of the larger pantheistic whole. It is difficult for the Western mind to grasp this, but relatively native to an Eastern mind. For example, Aristotle’s “principle of non-contradiction” that grounds Western logic states that different things cannot be in the same place at the same time in the same manner, etc. Thus “up” is not “down,” “black” is not “white,” “good” is not “bad,” etc. However, in most Eastern logics (with pantheistic Gnostic elements), “up” is “down” — opposites or contraries are merely parts of the same larger whole, and thus the “same.” (See the writings of the ancient Gnostic Heraclitus.)
In theology the emphasis on genuine Tradition versus phony post-Vatican II contentions (good vs. bad) is most apparent, or at least it should be. But Kozinski’s attempt to apply the “bad” to traditionalist Catholics who love the Tridentine Mass (I happen to be one of them) really got me going! How, in the name of God, can it be schismatic to attend a Mass approved by my bishop, celebrated in Latin, and filled with reverence for God and Christ? If anything, such an experience is the expression of the fullness of what it means to be a Catholic!
I feel a great sadness for Kozinski and his train of thought. I will pray that he see the amazing power, the holiness of all that is Catholic, in the Tridentine Mass, and that he will come to join the rest of us in waiting with baited breath as the Vatican works tirelessly to bring the Society of St. Pius X into union with the rest of the Catholic Church.
Contra Kozinski, my “logic and ethos” pines for the rare times when I can be in the presence of a Fraternal Society of St. Peter priest or an Institute of Christ the King priest to hear the Tridentine Mass. As a matter of fact, one of the most joyful experiences of my life occurred on June 3 when my 10th grandchild was baptized in the Tridentine Rite at St. Francis de Sales parish in St. Louis, Mo. — a parish frequented by my favorite Archbishop, Raymond Burke — at an oratory of the Institute of Christ the King.
Suffice it to say that, at the end of the day, what we Catholics need is greater reverence, a profound fear of the Lord, a commitment to know the Lord, and to love and serve Him in love with all the beauty a Tridentine Latin Mass conveys.
Also, thanks for writing such an amazing opinion of quasi-Catholic Sean Hannity and Fox News priest Fr. Jonathan Morris, L.C. (New Oxford Notes, June, p. 18). As someone who has contacted Fr. Morris a few times to ask critical questions about his various Catholic views, I am always affirmed when I see the NOR doing the same thing. Thank God for your publication — you made my month once again!
Judie Brown, President
I Had No Idea
I want to thank you for exposing the Legionaries of Christ. If I did not subscribe to the NOR, I would not have known anything about them or about Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries, who was disciplined by the Holy See for pederasty. And thank you for letting us know about Fr. Jonathan Morrison of Fox News (New Oxford Notes, June); I had no idea he was connected to the Legionaries.
And thank you for unmasking Scott Hahn. Last but not least, thank you for giving us the heads-up on Deal Hudson.
Stephanie C. Hart
Redwood City, California
I find it odd that so many readers have canceled their subscriptions because the NOR has opposed the war on Iraq. Not only have two Popes condemned the war as unjust, but it is a preventive war, which of course qualifies it as immoral. Additional facts, such as Iraq’s lack of weapons of mass destruction, only further prove the folly of the war on Iraq. Why do so many have such difficulty with this issue? Enclosed is a check to make up for some of your lost subscribers.
The NOR has been steadily going in the right direction from ineffectual conservatism to Catholic traditionalism. Your position on the clear immorality of the war on Iraq is both courageous and patriotic, not to mention truly Catholic. Your vision on the doctrinal and liturgical nightmare inflicted on the faithful since Vatican II by the liberals is clear and vital.
Is Immigration Prolife?
I am in full agreement with the Rev. Kenneth G. Davis’s article “Is Immigration Prolife?” (June) — as far as it goes. Certainly, poor, oppressed people should be allowed to migrate. But there is more to this issue than Fr. Davis admits. I’ll just list a few important points:
1. When my father came to America from Italy in the 1930s with his parents, and when my maternal grandparents arrived as children from Croatia and Slovenia in the 1910s, they observed all the expensive and cumbersome immigration laws that existed at the time. They worked hard, received no welfare, learned the language via immersion (the quick, sure, and cheap way), waited until they were citizens before they voted, voted with English-language ballots, and took English-language drivers-license exams. They loved America and wholeheartedly embraced our society.
2. Memories are short these days. I recall, about a year ago, many “spontaneous” demonstrations by legal and illegal Mexicans, spewing hatred for America, ranting that they would soon take over the southwestern U.S. and give it back to Mexico.
3. The defunct “immigration reform” bill is not charity or compassion. Rather, it is another step to the ultimate goal of a one-world government, with an intermediary step of creating an E.U.-style government in North America. It has everything to do with capitalism run amok (something our good popes have warned against), bringing about the loss of national sovereignty (in complete contradiction to the Catholic social principle of subsidiarity), all in order to make it easier for rich manufacturers and merchants to get even richer.
4. The Catholic Church has historically been the social-services provider in Christendom. With the usurpation of this role by government in modern times, the poor have been badly served. Yet, the Church in the U.S. continues to allow the government to erode the Church’s social services (witness the Church’s ongoing meek withdrawal from adoption services). Is the Church willing to minister to these immigrants? Will she provide this service with charity, which is an act of the will, something voluntary? Or will the Church rely on government money, obtained through coercion, not through charity?
5. Given the inroads Protestants have made among Catholics in both the U.S. and Latin America, I cannot see Mexican immigrants reviving our sad U.S. Church in the long run. I would encourage Fr. Davis to drive over to an Assemblies of God church on any given Sunday. As he is introduced to the members of the congregation, he will note that most of the people will have Irish, Italian, and Spanish surnames. A majority of the members of these churches are ex-Catholics.
I welcome any Mexican to the U.S. who is seeking a better life for himself and his family, who loves America, is willing to swear loyalty to her, who is eager to learn English, work, obey our laws, and live a life of Catholic morality.
Diane L. Toler
The article by Fr. Davis gives an excellent summary of why Catholics should favor immigration. But there is another side to this dilemma.
I would take issue, gently, with Fr. Davis’s stance on a few of the more important aspects of this knotty problem. While conceding that the presence of millions of non-documented persons places a burden on many communities, he fails to mention that a very large percentage of the prison population, mostly male, are members of this same group. Nor did he mention the havoc raised in many neighborhoods by Latino gangs who terrorize whole communities, in Los Angeles and other cities in the Southwest.
As for the idea that these immigrants pour huge amounts of money into the treasuries of certain states, by paying state, federal, and social security taxes, taxes the imagination. The last thing these folks want to do is make the authorities aware of their presence in our fair land by submitting tax forms and other documents.
Yes, our President has met with the Mexican President to emphasize the need for co-operation in securing our border, but one might as well believe in the Easter Bunny. Mexican authorities are glad for the rush to vacate their country. They are ecstatic at the prospect of more American dollars being sent home by these hard-working people. They must have been extremely amused by the apparent helplessness of our government to stem the rising tide of arrivals of Mexican nationals.
It is very important to remember that, unlike black Americans, bigotry against Mexican Americans is still not being fully addressed.
Amnesty should continue to be part of our approach when attempting to solve our immigration problems with Mexico. The contributions hard-working Mexican Americans make to our society easily wipe out any so-called free benefits that legal or non-legal immigrants may obtain through local, state, and federal programs.
Unlike some other Americans, many Mexican Americans are good people who possess a deep faith in Almighty God. Therefore, they deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. In addition, we should double or triple the number of immigrants allowed in on an annual basis from Mexico.
We must not forget that it is only with great difficulty and through hard work at low-paying jobs few Americans want that many Mexicans eventually become citizens of the U.S. It is truly a blessing that so many Mexicans seek the opportunities the U.S. offers.
Yes, Fr. Davis, I recall my immigration very well. It was legal. I had to go to the American Embassy for an interview and also pass a physical test before I could come over here.
Immigrants are those who have come here legally. All others are illegal lawbreakers. Illegal immigrants are a fifth column for the American Trojan horse. The best way to reunify those families is for them to go back where they came from. For them to stay in the U.S. illegally is a conspiracy to ruin this country.
Kearny, New Jersey
Evolutionism, Not Evolution
In his letter (June) Philip Lehpamer quotes me correctly as saying, “Evolutionism as worldview purports to explain all reality as sheer matter,” in my review of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (March). But then he says immediately thereafter that “it is philosophical materialism, not evolution, that believes reality is based solely on matter,” and presumes to correct me when he says, “To confuse materialism and evolution is a mistake….”
Perhaps Lehpamer does not realize that when one adds the suffix “ism” to the word evolution, one is no longer speaking of the scientific theory, but of the materialist philosophy disingenuously drawn from it. I was not attacking the science of evolution but the atheistic philosophy called evolutionism.
Anne Barbeau Gardiner
Brewster, New York
Not What the Church Intended
In his June letter on Natural Family Planning, Emil J. Bodart says “‘love-making’ is for ‘baby-making’….” Then sex would be proscribed for couples past the age of childbearing, couples proven to be infertile, and couples expecting a child. Clearly this is not what the Church, in her wisdom, intended.
Bronx, New York
Young Catholics Yearn for the Transcendental
I am a 29-year-old convert to Catholicism. While still a Protestant, I studied Catholic doctrine and history and became convinced of its truth well before I ever attended a Mass. Within the past two years, while on vacation, I have attended four Masses (at parishes “A” and “B”) in the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado. Had one of these Masses been my first brush with the Church, I am sure that I would have never cared to investigate Catholicism further — much less consider converting.
At Sunday Mass at parish A, the priest altered the penitential rite into an ambiguous statement that was something other than a public acknowledgment of personal sin. The priest regularly inserted extraneous language into the liturgy and subtly changed words and phrases. By putting his personal touches on the liturgy, the priest hindered our ability to pray the Mass because he shifted the focus from God to himself. In the Gospel reading taken from Matthew, Jesus describes the General Judgment, during which the king will separate the sheep from the goats at the end of time. While the priest discussed at length the importance of being nice to one another, he did not address the concept of divine Judgment and its eternal consequences. At least no one was made to feel uncomfortable.
Despite my misgivings about the liturgy at parish A, I attended daily Mass there later that week on the feast of St. Cecilia. I hoped that a smaller audience would temper the temptation to “spice up” the liturgy. I was wrong. A different priest celebrated Mass that day. He was younger and had an effeminate, flamboyant demeanor. His voice was sing-song, and his gestures during the liturgy were exaggerated and overly dramatic. It was as if he were playing the part of a priest on Broadway. Whether intended or not, the effect of his “performance” was to draw attention to himself and away from Christ in the Eucharist. During his brief homily, the priest informed the handful of communicants that he had “learned” about St. Cecilia by listening to National Public Radio (NPR) that morning before Mass. His NPR-steeped homily did not mention Christ or allude to the day’s Mass readings. My experience at parish A was so demoralizing that I vowed to go anywhere else but there the next time I was in town.
During my next visit, I attended the Pentecost Sunday Mass at parish B — the only alternative in town. I arrived a couple of minutes early to the sounds of an aging band, replete with electric guitar and conga drums, performing with gusto on a stage near the altar. I knelt and tried to steal a moment’s prayer before the entrance antiphon, but the band launched into a rousing rendition of the Doobie Brothers’ “Jesus Is Just Alright.” They gyrated and grooved with the music, just as the Doobies did in the 1970s. Unable to concentrate, I soon abandoned my attempt to pray; I noticed that the other communicants were sitting quietly in their pews, knowing better than to bother trying to pray amid the cacophony. Now, I am not such a crank as to begrudge the Doobie Brothers, but I never expected (or hoped) to hear their songs covered at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. After the readings, the priest abandoned the ambo for a “talk-show host” style homily, during which he invited audience participation. Throughout the liturgy, the band lustily performed all the responsorial psalms and antiphons, and the priest and the band clapped during the Gloria. One woman in the band made big, exaggerated claps, urging the reluctant congregation to clap along. It occurred to me on more than one occasion that I felt like I was in a coffee house. In the vestibule, there was an ironic photograph of the priest posing with Pope Benedict XVI.
Despite my disenchantment with parish B, I attended daily Mass later that week on the feast of the Visitation. A different, elderly priest celebrated this time. In his homily, he claimed that the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon made provisions for the ordination of deaconesses. The priest explained that it is up to individual faith communities to assess whether their needs require the services of a deaconess.
The tone of the Masses I attended in the Diocese of Pueblo did not comport with the proposition that communicants were about to receive the actual Body and Blood of Christ — our Redeemer and Creator of the universe. Under circumstances such as these, it is not surprising that a large percentage of the Catholics who still bother to attend Mass do not believe in or understand the Real Presence. I blame the priest for allowing — if not creating — this atmosphere. They have the misguided notion that casual, innovative liturgies, and banal, feel-good homilies appeal to people — especially to younger Catholics. As a young Catholic, I can say that they repel young people and drive them from the Church. I was shocked at how few young families I saw at the four Masses I attended. The vast majority of the parishioners were middle-aged or older. The ratio of young people to old was certainly not at replacement level.
My generation can find casualness and irreverence anywhere in modern secular society. We attend Mass for a repose from it and for a much-needed dose of the transcendental. Fawning attempts to accommodate the Zeitgeist do not keep kids Catholic or create converts — much less inspire would-be martyrs. Thank God the Real Presence in the Eucharist is an objective fact, because Mass felt anything but transcendent during my visits to this city in the Diocese of Pueblo.
Ocean Spring, Mississippi
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