Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: September 2008

September 2008

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

Regarding your New Oxford Note “The U.S. Catholic Church Is Sinking Fast — Part III” (May), you state that “we must look [to these new immigrants, mainly from Latin America] if we harbor any hope of restoring the vitality of the ‘pilgrim Church’ in the U.S.”

You sound like the U.S. bishops who believe that there will be some sort of Roman Catholic renaissance once the immigrants, legal and illegal, fill the pews. Don’t get your hopes up. The pernicious genius of America is to trivialize, relativize, and privatize religion. These new peoples will be thoroughly indoctrinated in the current American culture of radical individualism, onanistic narcissism, and hedonistic mass consumption of useless junk, whose real triune god is money, science, and technology. Once they’ve tasted this meal, they will never go back, if indeed they came from a practice of and belief in the Catholic faith. The template is the current crop of Catholics in the U.S. Just look at what they are about.

Paul R. Peters

Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Cross

Sherman, Connecticut

Unjustifiable Praise

Former Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke continues to be unjustifiably praised as a prolife champion (letter from Margaret Droessler, June). Yet he avoids publicly rebuking the persistently pro-abortion William Clay Jr., who represents the First Congressional District within his archdiocese.

According to data from the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, William Clay Sr. and William Clay Jr. have scandalously voted pro-abortion 169 times since 1973, and prolife just once. Since 2003, when Archbishop Burke was appointed, the younger Clay has had a near-perfect (17-1) pro-abortion voting record. If Archbishop Burke has been engaging in private conversations with Rep. Clay over the past four years as Droessler alleges, isn’t it about time he publicly rebuked this notorious public dissenter from Church teachings? A fortiori, perhaps he should excommunicate Rep. Clay, as Pope Benedict XVI advocated for recalcitrant Catholic legislators while en route to Brazil in May 2007.

In 1999, I conducted probably the most comprehensive analysis ever of abortions in U.S. Catholic dioceses. An article about the study, titled “The American (Abortion) Holocaust & Catholic Complicity,” was published in the September-October 2003 issue of Social Justice Review. There were an estimated 9,100 annual abortions in the Archdiocese of St. Louis; some 2,100 were procured by Catholics. Clearly, legalized abortion dwarfs any other problem in St. Louis and demands strong ecclesiastical action, which to date has not been forthcoming. Instead, Archbishop Burke apparently allows the Catholic congressman to scandalously follow in the footsteps of his father, by regularly voting to continue facilitating this mass human slaughter, with ecclesiastical impunity.

For over a decade, I have prepared and mailed detailed statistical reports, with incriminating documentation of Catholic support for the abortion holocaust, to all U.S. diocesan bishops, in the vain hope of provoking some remedial action. Alas, it has become painfully apparent that the bishops are more concerned with protecting their financial well-being than in ending legalized abortion.

Robert J. Kendra

NFP International

Putnam, Connecticut

The Best Bible?

Singling out one translation of the Bible is a risky proposition (The Editor Replies to Donley Kuendel, June). Word meanings change over time, and scholarship gives new insights. Recommending the Douay-Rheims Bible traps the reader in fifth-century scholarship and fifteenth-century language.

I have found the Jerusalem Bible (unfortunately out of print) a very readable translation, with copious footnotes. Pair that with the Jerome Biblical Commentary and you should be able to understand just about any passage. The New American Bible is also good in its earlier versions. (Later versions obscure biblical thought with feminist language.)

I do agree that the Douay-Rheims and Revised Standard Version Bibles are close to the literal Vulgate. Whether that makes them preferred is debatable.

William Stock

Northern Correctional Institution

Cincinnati, Ohio

No Injustice in Limbo

In regard to the article by Hurd Baruch (“On Freeing Children From Limbo,” April) and subsequent letters (June), many important factors have been neglected.

(1) Although limbo may have been “elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages,” as the Vatican’s International Theological Commission states, it nevertheless goes back at least to the Fathers of the Church. For example, even though he does not use the word “limbo,” St. Gregory Nazianzen wrote, “It will happen, I believe, that the children dying without baptism will never be admitted by the Just Judge to the glory of Heaven, nor condemned to suffer punishment since, though unsealed [by baptism], they are not wicked” (de Bapt., XVIII). Clearly, from this quote alone (and there are others like it found among the Fathers of the Church), the notion of limbo is an ancient tradition of the Church.

(2) The Code of Canon Law is very explicit in regard to the urgency of baptizing infants. Canon 867 states, “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks,” and “If the infant is in danger of death, it is to be baptized without any delay.” What is more, even the infant of a non-Catholic who is in danger of death is to be baptized immediately: “The infant of Catholic parents, in fact of non-Catholic parents also, who is in the danger of death (in periculo mortis) is licitly baptized even against the will of the parents” (can. 868; emphasis added). The Code also mentions that aborted babies, “if they are alive, are to be baptized, in so far as this is possible” (can. 871). Why worry about getting into an altercation, even a possible lawsuit, by baptizing some non-Catholic’s dying baby if there is no limbo? Why worry about baptizing aborted babies if there is such assurance they go straight to Heaven? Why is Hell so bent on abortion if all babies go straight to Heaven? Even the Catechism (#1261), after giving room for an option other than limbo, follows up immediately by saying, baptize! In other words, “the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry in to eternal beatitude” (#1257; italics added).

(3) Fr. Albert J. Herbert, in his book Saints Who Raised the Dead (TAN Books), indicates that around eleven saints raised little babies from the dead in order to have them baptized. Among them was St. Joan of Arc, who raised a child already turned somewhat black from being dead for some days. The child came to life, was baptized, and then died again. Other saints listed in the book include Hilary of Poitiers, Colette, Frances of Rome, Philip Neri, Francis Xavier, and Gerard Majella. Why did God do this if there is no limbo and all infants go straight to Heaven?

(4) We have the superhuman efforts of missionaries seeking to baptize every infant possible. St. Jean de Brebeuf summed it up when he declared that he would “go to the ends of the world to baptize a single savage.” When St. Anthony Daniel was being shot with arrows and clubbed to death, he noticed a brave of his company dying who had not yet been baptized. He used all his remaining strength to move toward him in order to baptize him. He did not leave him to “baptism of desire,” but rather made certain of his baptism by water, as our Lord commanded. These saints displayed a remarkable sense of urgency in seeking the baptism of each and every person, both children and adults, regardless of their own safety. We should ask ourselves what drove them to this. Was it not the Holy Spirit?

(5) We must admit that there is no injustice with limbo. Limbo has always been considered merciful — most fathers, doctors, and saints considered the only other option to be Hell itself. Such punishment would indeed be along the lines of injustice. We must recognize that we are all beggars, and no one has a right to Heaven or to grace (cf. Catechism, #2007). If a man gives to one beggar rather than to another, he does not violate justice. And here we arrive at the modern problem with limbo: We have lost the sense of sin. When we recognize the evil of sin, then we will see that it can have disastrous effects on our children and the generations that follow — effects that reach beyond this life. This behooves us to take responsibility for seeking the conversion and baptism of the nations (cf. Mt. 28:19) instead of making God responsible for it all, when, in fact, He has given us the remedy in baptism. This means the Church has the remedy! And she does not bar children from this Sacrament, as the Code of Canon Law indicates. Rather, it is the sins of the parents and the loss of the sense of sin that are often visited upon the children. Is not the current vocations crisis at least in part brought on by the sins of our parents’ generation — i.e., indulgence in contraception and sterilization? Think of all the damage done to children by divorce, drugs, pornography, etc. It seems to me that this is “the serious pastoral problem” that needs to be addressed — not limbo.

Neither the Catechism nor the recent International Theological Commission’s report on children dying without baptism dismisses limbo as a reality, because it simply cannot be done. At the end of the day, all we can really do is entrust unbaptized babies to the mercy of God, because God Himself left the matter grey, if for no other reason than to encourage us all the more to fulfill His commandment: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).

Fr. Sean Kopczynski, C.P.M.

Iron Mountain, Michigan

Locating Limbo

The predicament regarding limbo (article by Hurd Baruch, April; letters, June) is due to thinking of Heaven in binary terms — either you’re fully in or you’re fully out. But St. Thomas Aquinas has told us what should be obvious (Summa Theologiae, IaIIae, Q5, A2), that in Heaven the beatific vision is the same for all. The enjoyment of or participation in the beatific vision, however, is not the same for all, but is greater for those who are “better disposed” for that enjoyment. This is the key to the problem of limbo. In Heaven, participation in the beatific vision is conditioned by practice in God’s “system of love” while on earth. I expect that part of that participation is the memory of how we served God on earth, and how that service was incorporated into His infinite goodness.

At death we all go through a “particular judgment.” Those adults who lack formal baptism, but who unknowingly sought Jesus in dedicating themselves to “the law that God places in the hearts of everyone,” in their particular judgment will receive a “green card” for residency in Heaven. The green card signifies “baptism of desire” and gives residency, whereas baptism of water confers “the mark of baptism,” which is citizenship.

In the particular judgment, aborted or unbaptized infants, through no fault of their own, have neither citizenship nor practice to offer. Because of this void they will receive the “natural bliss” of feeling and responding to God’s infinite love, but without a supernatural knowledge of all His infinite perfections. In other words, original sin, for them, is not a thing that blocks Heaven, but a deprivation that prevents a fully supernatural comprehension of the beatific vision.

One can imagine Heaven to be like a wedding feast. Tables closest to the main table will be those relatives (the baptized) whose entire lives were intertwined in the closest manner with Christ. Next will be the relatives and close friends (green carders) who spent their lives in following Christ in one way or another. In successively distant tables will be those who followed Christ less and less fervently. More distant will be those who only vaguely understand the festivities, but nevertheless share in their joy.

If God has made us all for Himself, our souls will not rest until they rest in Him. Therefore, limbo as a state of “natural happiness” outside of Heaven for eternity is illogical. The idea of limbo as a state of “natural happiness” in Hell — a place with no love — for eternity is likewise illogical. So is the assumption of a third place, neither Heaven nor Hell, of eternal “natural bliss.” Therefore, we can speculate that limbo is a part of Heaven, where God’s love is felt and returned, even though comprehension of the beatific vision is limited to a natural, not supernatural, capacity.

The ancients lived in hard times, in which one could be executed for relatively minor offenses. Modern attitudes are soft, in which there is seen to be no offense that would invite capital punishment. In the hard view, only a few are saved; in the soft view, only a few are lost. The “soft” version I present here has a logical consistency with God’s infinite love, since it does not locate limbo in Hell, where there is no love and therefore no possibility of “eternal bliss.” It is somewhat compatible with the “hard” view, since it preserves limbo as a state of only “natural” happiness. It does not “do away with” original sin; it does require an interpretation of “unless a man be born of water and the Spirit” to mean that one cannot enter fully, with full participation (e.g., “citizenship”) in the Kingdom of Heaven. It primarily conflicts with the “you’re 100 percent in or you’re 100 percent out” attitude regarding Heaven that was the apparent attitude proclaimed by the Council of Lyons and the Council of Florence. However, the Catholic Catechism (1910), in its section on Limbus Infantium, says that a literal interpretation of these pronouncements means nothing more than exclusion from the beatific vision, and does not rule out a state of perfect natural happiness. I believe, therefore, that the Church can eliminate the need for a separate limbo by incorporating it into Heaven as described above.

Ed Heitzman

Pennington, New Jersey

No Need for Limbo

First of all, I must say that I do not believe in limbo — I do not think it is necessary. Secondly, I include as “unbaptized persons” all good people who would desire baptism if they realized the need for it. This includes those who have attained the use of reason and those who have not. Those who have not include aborted babies and zygotes conceived in a Petri dish.

Those who have an implicit desire for baptism can only be known by Jesus, who, as God, can and does judge such human persons. Jesus does not hold their inability and/or invincible ignorance against them. Jesus certainly does judge and condemn the actions of those who abort the little ones, or conceive them in Petri dishes and discard them. But, in justice, Jesus cannot condemn the innocent human fruit of this sinful behavior.

God wills the salvation of all humans. Can you imagine Jesus, who is God, penalizing human persons who never had a chance to serve or reject Him by leaving them in limbo? I believe that Jesus grants as a free gift eternal salvation and happiness to all such infant persons. (Perhaps their presence in Heaven may tarnish the happiness of the parents and doctors who asked for and received forgiveness from Jesus for their sinful actions.)

In no way does this oppose the teaching of Jesus and His Church that formal baptism is necessary for those who have been preached to and realize its necessity for their salvation.

There are formal members of the Mystical Body, and they can be statistically counted from baptismal records. But there are informal members of the Mystical Body, about whom only Jesus knows. We will meet them in Heaven. There is no need for limbo!

Fr. Terence M. Tobin, O.F.M. Conv.

Mwinilunga, Zambia

Regarding Hurd Baruch’s thought-provoking article on limbo (April) and the ensuing letters (June), I offer what I was taught in Catholic grade school in the 1950s by staunchly orthodox nuns: Limbo was the condition of the souls of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, St. Joseph, and all other good people who died prior to Christ’s redemptive act. They could not enjoy the beatific vision until the human race had been reconciled to God by Christ’s passion and death. Once this had been accomplished, there was no further need for limbo.

As for the question of the fate of unbaptized infants, Baruch and letter-writer Hank Hassell mention baptism of desire as something of which an infant is incapable since he has not attained the age of reason. While this is certainly true of a living infant, I was taught that at the moment of death an infant’s soul is capable of expressing this desire. This difference of opinion stems from a failure to distinguish between earthly time and eternity, which, being timeless, renders meaningless the concept of “age of reason.” At an unbaptized infant’s death, the soul’s intellectual capacity is no longer constrained by the biological age of the infant, and the soul is thus able to desire union with God (this applies as well to deceased unbaptized mentally handicapped persons of any age). To reject the idea that the soul of an infant can indeed desire baptism leads inexorably to the conclusion that even a baptized deceased infant is incapable of appreciating the beatific vision or understanding that he is in Heaven, since he has not attained the age of reason (try telling that to the Holy Innocents!). I sincerely believe that God would not consign an infant or a mentally handicapped person to an eternity bereft of a full comprehension of the inimitable joys of the beatific vision in Heaven.

Regina McKeever

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I have never seen any official Church doctrine (as opposed to any number of theological conjectures) regarding some “natural happiness in limbo” for eternity. The four last things are death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell — no limbo. The counsel I received, pre-Vatican II, is that innocent victims who die without the benefit of Christian baptism will probably be given a suitable test just as all the Angels received and we men receive as the sine qua non of our earthly existence. Agonizing over these innocents in this way strikes me as overly sentimental, which is un-Christian. Praying for relief from the yoke of unlimited legal abortion-on-demand and striving for personal holiness — a call we all receive according to St. Paul — would seem to be far more constructive.

Lee Kochel

Wheaton, Illinois

Trapped Souls

The Church teaches that human life begins and is ensouled by God at the moment of conception. Medical technology now permits the freezing and storage of ensouled human embryos for eventual thawing and implantation in the female womb. But some embryos may remain frozen indefinitely. What is the status of the soul during this suspended state, when the body is neither fully alive nor fully dead? Is the soul “trapped” within the frozen embryo? Does this mean that the freezing of embryos is a morally reprehensible mortal sin? Is there any Church teaching on this issue?

Robert Clark

Wilmington, Delaware

Sign of the Loss

Referencing Ginger Hutton’s article “On Retreat With Sister Rupp” (June), I offer a few humble comments.

The making of the sign of the cross is a singularly Roman Catholic practice (perhaps with the exception of the Orthodox, although their practice is somewhat different). This sacramental commemorates the cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, and at the same time underscores our faith in the Trinitarian God. Catholics make the sign of the cross when passing by a church edifice, before and after any prayer, including the Holy Rosary, when entering a church, when genuflecting, and so on. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — Tridentine, that is — the sign of the cross is made no less than forty times. A traditional sermonizing priest starts and ends with the sign of the cross. Most everything we Catholics do is prefaced and concluded with this venerable gesture.

In the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, much of the foregoing has been deliberately eliminated in an attempt to mimic our Protestant brethren, or has simply been forgotten. Case in point, a homilizing priest no longer starts and ends with the sign of the cross. So it is not surprising that Sr. Rupp did not begin and end her conferences with “In the name of the Father….” My suspicion, however, is that, in her case, this omission is more premeditated than forgotten. From Mrs. Hutton’s article, it is evident that Sr. Rupp believes in a lot of non-Catholic ideas, and disbelieves much of what Catholics believe. On the other hand, perhaps it is merciful that she starts her mumbo-jumbo retreats without the sign of the cross.

Andrew S. Erdélyi

Merrick, New York


I truly enjoyed your New Oxford Note “On Reunion Between East & West” (June), primarily because your usage of one word, “reunion,” completely redirects the dialogue of unity normally in operation between orthodox Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. When I used the term “reunion” in previous American Byzantine Catholic Research Center (ABCRC) newsletters, I was attacked because some of the Roman Catholic readers considered the expression to be an affront to their interpreted position of unilateral primacy and understood it to be territorially invasive.

As a practicing faithful in the Eastern Catholic Church, and knowing as I do the “inner feelings” of both Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, I was overjoyed to witness the NOR using the word that best explains that we all pray together in “sister Churches” of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, despite our ill-serving separation. The NOR expresses a worthwhile objective that is meaningful to Roman Catholics and most pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ, who founded the One Church.

I know from my long experi­ence of working and praying with Fr. Andrei Urusov of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as with many Eastern Catholic priests and faithful, that they are extremely pleased when an orthodox Roman Catholic article is 80 percent acceptable to them. The Orthodox never expect a 100 percent perfect article (only God is perfect), and your New Oxford Note will surely approach 99.6 percent purity for them.

Some learned Orthodox faithful will locate the other 0.4 percent in the passage quoting Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger that, although there is an “objective bond between the Church of Rome and Orthodox Churches,” Ratzinger “is careful to stress that the phrase ‘sister Churches’ cannot be applied to the Catholic Church: ‘The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Universal Church is not sister but mother of all the particular Church­es.'” The word “mother” belongs to the one who originally bears the offspring, and may also refer to she who “mothers” her offspring after birth. The Orthodox are fully aware that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church was conceived in Jerusalem long before Rome was a particular offspring in the One Church. Historical ownership belongs to our Blessed Mother as the Mother of the One Church, not even to the locations of Jerusalem or Rome. The Orthodox know that and will take the NOR and Ratzinger’s statement with “love and forgiveness” simply because the centuries of the second millennium are filled with such unilateral Roman interpretations.

If Rome had properly “mothered” my particular apostolic USA Rusyn Catholic Church, we would not have decreased from a high in 1965 of 316,947 faithful with 265 priests, married and celibate, to our 2006 total of 99,288 Rusyn faithful and a near-vacant seminary. As a result, I join the Orthodox in opposition to the potential interpretation concerning the “mother” Church, but find full agreement with Cardinal Ratzinger’s interpretation of “sister Churches.”

With the love and understanding that permeates my “in the middle” status as a Byzantine Rusyn Catholic, among the sister Church­es within the particular Orthodox Churches of the East, the sister Churches within the particular Eastern Catholic Churches, and the sister Churches within the particular Roman Catholic Churches of the West, I am fully aware that the need for a reunion is urgent, not because we are separated by unilateral interpretations, but because we are in apostolic need of one another.

Joseph P. Bonchonsky

Mount Shasta, California

The Difficulties of Reunion

I write in regard to your New Oxford Note “On Reunion Between East & West” (June). There should be no illusions as to the difficulties and dangers attendant in such efforts. I write as one who has spent three years as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and six years as a Byzantine Ruthe­nian Catholic, before becoming a very happy Roman Catholic.

The situation should be illuminated with an examination of Byzantine Catholicism, consisting of those Christians oriented toward the Byzantine tradition who are already in the Catholic Church. True, they have a solemn liturgical and sacramental tradition that can only be the envy of any faithful Roman Catholic. And, true, there are no dissenters to speak of railing for priestesses or homosexual unions.

But there is dissent of a different kind. In light of Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the Second Vatican Council’s “Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches,” many Byzantine Catholics now appear to believe that they have a mandate to purify their churches to such an extent that they have a right to reject any infallible Church teachings that are considered Roman in their theological genesis, for this would contaminate the Byzantine purity they are allegedly entitled to.

So, one will find no shortage of Byzantine Catholics who say that dogmas such as the filioque, indulgences, universal papal supremacy, and papal infallibility must be abolished or, at best, relegated to a theological opinion that Roman Catholics may hold as long as it has no binding authority on Byzantine Catholics. There are important distinctions to be observed here. In Etsi Pastoralis (1742), Pope Benedict XIV said that while Byzantine Catholics may omit the filioque in worship, they still have a dogmatic obligation to affirm it as part of their Catholic faith.

One of my Byzantine Catholic priests said in a homily that Nicaea II was the last ecumenical council, and that any Roman Catholics who dare claim that councils such as Florence, Trent, and Vatican I were ecumenical councils are wrong. When I later pointed out that his understanding of an ecumenical council was at odds with Eastern Catholic canon law, he said he did not care what canon law said, as it was to be dismissed as a tainted, Romanized code that did not sufficiently respect Byzantine tradition. He is far from alone in such views. During one coffee-hour discussion, this same priest also explained that when Byzantine Catholics come to truly understand their faith, they will realize just how little they have in common with Roman Catholics.

This is the situation among Byzantines who are already Catholic. When they dissent from Church teaching, their Catholicism seems to consist of a willingness to be in communion with Roman Catholics who are viewed as being mired in questionable or outright false doctrinal ideas.

As for the Eastern Orthodox, they are Byzantine-oriented believers who consider the errors of Roman Catholicism to be such grave heresies that there can be no communion until Rome renounces her errors and returns to true Orthodoxy.

All Roman Catholics interested in Orthodox reunion need to start paying attention to the deplorable situation in our Byzantine Catholic churches. As a faithful Catholic, I was, in effect, forced to leave and transfer rites to become Roman Catholic in order to have an environment where I could affirm and uphold the immutable fullness of the Catholic faith.

The NOR has commendably championed a traditionalist understanding of ecumenism with regard to Protestants — namely, that any true unity must consist of non-Catholics returning to the fullness of the Catholic faith. While Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches are qualitatively superior to Protestant communities, I beseech you to not be beguiled by their apostolicity, to hold them to the same demands as Protestants for unity, and to eschew all temptation toward irenicism. Otherwise, you may gain Catholics who are allies against some heresies but promoters of others.

Robert Barnett

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Conversion, Not Reunion

Since its publication last November, your defense of Joseph P. Bonchonsky’s guest column “With God in Russia” has relied primarily on modernist pronouncements. Your June New Oxford Note “On Reunion Between East & West” is no different, for, ignoring the first 19 centuries of Church teaching, you rely on the quotations of popes, priests, and prelates over only the past 12 years. These pronouncements are totally unconvincing to any true traditional Catholic, because they contradict what the Church taught, always and everywhere, prior to Vatican II.

The concept that the Orthodox are merely “a detached ‘piece’ of the Church,” as suggested by Philip Trower, and that only “reunion” is necessary to re-enter the Church, is modernist nonsense. One is either inside the Church or one is outside the Church. And if you are outside the Church, you must convert to the true Faith in order to enter inside.

Yes, the Orthodox are closer to Catholicism than Protestants. And yes, it would be wonderful if they could be “reunited” with the Church. But the reality is that they are in schism, they are outside the Church, and they are in jeopardy of their immortal souls. And all the pronouncements of John Paul II, Fr. Aidan Nichols, Cardinal Ratzinger, and Cardinal Levada, no matter how many times you invoke them, will not change these simple facts.

As I have already stated (letter, Jan.), the Orthodox will one day be converted — converted, not reunited — to Catholicism, and once again become members of the True Church. This incontrovertible promise was given to us by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. But, as she also made clear on that occasion, this conversion will only take place when the pope, together with his bishops, consecrates Russia to her Immaculate Heart. So, if your question of “how we are to proceed” is a serious one, the answer is simple: Pray to the Virgin that the pope’s heart will be given to see the absolute necessity, and the urgency, of this consecration.

Willard King

Escondido, California

'The People's Devotion'

In response to Andrew J. McCauley’s letter (June) regarding Pope John Paul II, I would like to correct an erroneous assumption. McCauley writes that “in view of the fact that it is believed that the Blessed Virgin herself gave the Rosary to St. Dominic, it would not seem to be a prudential act to alter it by adding to a prayer that probably originated in Heaven.” In research for my just-published book To Jesus Through Mary: A Family Manual of the Rosary and the Mysteries, I found that the formula of decades of Paters and Aves was established in the early centuries almost simultaneously by clergy and laity as a form of popular devotion and greeting, well before St. Dom­inic’s time. St. Dominic is credited with blending his teachings on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the decades of the Paters. The three original sets of mysteries, based on the preaching of St. Dominic, were officially recognized by Pope St. Pius V in 1569. There is no definitive information as to when the Aves and Paters were joined together in the “Rosary,” a name that means “bouquet.”

The Rosary has been evolving ever since the time of the Apostles. Any objective observer, when listing the mysteries prior to 2002, realized that many important aspects of Jesus’ public life were missing from the list. Pope John Paul II did the Church a great service by officially proclaiming the Luminous Mysteries. The formula for the Rosary is still modified in different geographical areas and by various religious orders. It is a great disservice to Pope John Paul II and the Church to perpetuate the myth that the Rosary as we know it was personally designed and delivered by our Blessed Mother to one particular individual. It did not happen that way.

The Rosary began as and continues to be a “people’s devotion” aimed at the praise and glory of our Lord through His Blessed Mother. Pope John Paul II, by adding the Luminous Mysteries, has allowed the people to more fully meditate on the life and death of Jesus, the beginnings of the Church, and Mary’s role in salvation history. We all owe the Pope a debt of gratitude for furthering the work of St. Dominic and Pope St. Pius V.

Peggy Olds

Willowbrook, Illinois

In his letter (June), Andrew J. McCauley makes two statements that deserve response. First, he says, “In his book Theology of the Body, [Pope John Paul II] said conjugal relations would not be morally appropriate if the unitive or affectionate aspect was absent, seemingly leading him to assert that a man could commit ‘adultery of the heart’ in regard to his own wife.”

It should be noted that there are those who believe that no matter how atrocious a husband’s behavior toward his wife is, there can be no such thing as marital rape. That unpleasant subject has been dealt with by many moral theologians, and the Pope also teaches against it. To be specific, in Gratissimam Sane, his 1994 “Letter to Families,” John Paul wrote, “In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm in a responsible way the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant. The logic of the total gift of self to the other involves a potential openness to procreation: in this way the marriage is called to even greater fulfillment as a family. Certainly the mutual gift of husband and wife does not have the begetting of children as its only end, but is in itself a mutual communion of love and life. The intimate truth of this gift must always be safeguarded. ‘Intimate’ is not here synonymous with ‘subjective.’ Rather, it means essentially in conformity with the objective truth of the man and woman who give themselves. The person can never be considered a means to an end; above all never a means of ‘pleasure.’ The person is and must be nothing other than the end of every act. Only then does the action correspond to the true dignity of the person” (#12; italics in originab~

The third to last sentence could have been improved if it had read “only a means of pleasure.” Certainly the Pope knows that even saintly couples can approach the marriage bed with anticipation of the pleasure God built into the marriage act. But his point is that spouses may not treat each other as objects to be used for one purpose or another but are to treat each other as the person to whom each has given himself in the covenant of marriage.

This can be carried to unrealistic levels. I have seen treatments that make it appear that spouses should review a checklist of proper attitudes before engaging in the marital act. Such approaches deserve the “pious grandparents” question: “Do you think that your holy grandparents had all of that on their minds when they begot your parents?” Of course not; some of these concepts weren’t being discussed even 50 years ago. My approach is this: “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.” In the context of this discussion I emphasize “at least implicitly.” That idea was first published in 1967 and is spelled out more completely in my book Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius, 2005).

McCauley also considers Pope John Paul II to have acted imprudently in issuing a fourth set of mysteries to the traditional Rosary. On the contrary, it is the conviction of those who have researched the history of the Rosary that its origin goes back well before St. Dominic. I have provided a summary of this history in my Rosary booklet, The Seven Day Rosary, which can be viewed online at www.NFPandmore.org, in the “Spiritual Resources” section. This takes nothing away from the great accomplishment of St. Dominic in defeating the Albigensian heresy by getting people to pray the Angelic Salutation, the first part of the Hail Mary. Every time they prayed it, they were acknowledging that the Son of God took on our human flesh — and that it is good. Isidore O’Brien, O.F.M., put it this way: “Probably what St. Dominic did was this: at the command of the Blessed Virgin he urged the people to recite often and fervently the salutation which the Archangel Gabriel uttered to Mary” (The Drama of the Rosary, St. Anthony Guild Press, 1948).

Further, the U.S. bishops in 1973 encouraged the development of alternative meditations on the Rosary. I took them seriously, developed a different set of mysteries for each day of the week, and published it in 1993 in my Rosary booklet referenced above.

John F. Kippley

Cincinnati, Ohio

John Paul's Bad Bishops

In regard to the beatification of Pope John Paul II, you are right, of course, that the final determination is up to the proper authorities in the Vatican (Editor’s Note, May). The Church is not a democratic institution. But does this mean that the laity, who have seen and are suffering from the effects of the pontificate of John Paul II, can make no suggestion or offer their side of the story?

Most of the members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints were appointed by John Paul, and they too have observed him closely, but they have little appreciation of the ground-level effect of his pontificate, especially the bishops he appointed. The “Decree Concerning Reform” from the Council of Trent says, regarding the responsibility of popes in regard to their bishops, “Our Lord Jesus Christ will require at his hand the blood of the sheep of Christ that perish through the evil government of shepherds who are negligent and forgetful of their office.”

Sandor Balogh

East Greenbush, New York


Regarding the probable sainting of Pope John Paul II (letters, May), a few comments: You, the editors, cite Pope Benedict XVI as a witness to John Paul’s holiness. I judge no one, but under his reign, the Church, which is as much mine as any pope’s, has continued on a downward spiral that shows no sign of relenting under the current Pope. Under their pontificates, the disgusting and abominable crime of rape by priests and bishops of innocent children and young men went unchecked. Where, I ask, was the outrage — the utter outrage — that should have been expressed by the Pope and all other priests, down to the last one? It was their responsibility to take drastic action on this most serious issue, but words were all we got. How can John Paul II even be considered for sainthood? God have mercy on his soul, for his responsibility before God was enormous.

The Church is currently undergoing her ascent at Calvary. Just as our Lord was unrecognizable as a man due to his beating, the current state of our beloved Church is almost unrecognizable as His Church. I take great comfort in knowing that our Lady will one day restore the Church to the beauty that was once hers.

Steven McCallan

West Groton, Massachusetts

Spider & the Fly

When I read the title of the article by Charles Molineaux (June), “Why the Church Should Not Oppose Extending Statutes of Limitation” (for those who were sexually abused by priests), I was surprised, then angry. However, when I realized that the author of the article was a lawyer, I was reminded of the story, “come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.” The fly went in and provided an excellent meal for the spider.

If a bishop were to succumb to Molineaux’s puerile proposal, he would be guilty of a grievous offense against the Church. A prudent bishop would not compromise the security of the Church under the pretense of “doing the right thing.” The result of such irrational behavior would be a payout by the Church of another billion dollars or more, knowing, at the same time, that over 60 percent of the money paid out would be retained by lawyers, who suffered no injury.

Bishops who feel great compassion — and they should — toward those who have suffered from sexual abuse by the clergy but who do not have access to the courts because of statutes of limitation can deal justly with these victims without waiving their rights under the statute. They can go into the homes of these individuals, get down on their knees, beg forgiveness for those who were responsible, and help those victims to become reconciled with the Church. These children of God need love far more than they need money. They should be helped to realize that the crimes committed against them were committed by morally depraved men who were unworthy of the priesthood, not by the Church. When their true dignity has been restored, the cause of justice will have been served.

James J. Clauss

Dunmore, Pennsylvania

As a fellow Catholic lawyer, I am utterly dumbfounded by Charles Molineaux’s naïveté (article, June) regarding the Church and her invocation of statutes of limitation. I do not know Molineaux or his history, but my strong hunch is that he is not a trial lawyer. It is one thing for the Church, sua sponte, to hold herself to a higher standard, but it is another thing entirely for the Church to acquiesce to an arbitrary negation of longstanding statutes of limitation that apply to all litigants. The statutes of limitation can be changed to address future wrongdoings, but it creates an extremely dangerous precedent to do so ex post facto, thereby opening doors that, according to existing law, are permanently shut.

Molineaux’s article also fails to address a critical function of statutes of limitation, which is to bar stale lawsuits because memories have faded; evidence has been lost, destroyed, or discarded; witnesses have died or cannot be located; etc. Moreover, a growing number of molestation cases based on “repressed memories” have ultimately proven to be wholesale fabrications — see, for example, the notorious prosecution of the Amiraults in Massachusetts in the 1980s.

The Church should spare no expense or effort to heal those molested, to report offending priests to the civil authorities, and to remove them from the priesthood. At the same time, however, there is absolutely no reason the Church should willingly submit to the jurisdiction of a court of law if the applicable statute of limitation has run out. To do so is only to guarantee that the trial lawyers get rich at the expense of their clients and the Church.

Joseph T. Leone, Esq.

Brooklyn, Wisconsin

In response to Charles Molin­eaux’s argument that the Church should not oppose extending statutes of limitation, I can only shake my head in bewilderment. Why not waive other pragmatic, antiquated, practical devices like retaining legal counsel, making use of the rules of evidence, or using the rules of procedure? Why mount any defense to any claims? Perhaps the Church should simply sulk into court and pay whatever the plaintiffs request. Better yet, perhaps the Church should simply pay the amounts requested in the complaints without even taking advantage of the antiquated court system. Esto consentiens adversario tuo cito, dum es in via cum eo (“Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court,” Mt. 5:25).

James P. Harrington

Butte, Montana


I certainly agree with Mr. Clauss’s last paragraph: the bishops can deal justly, can go into the homes of victims and beg forgiveness. The problem, of course, is that this seems to have very rarely happened. Perhaps the recent example of Pope Benedict XVI, during his trip to the U.S., will provide some encouragement to the bishops to emerge from under their desks. Clauss seems to be primarily concerned about the “security of the Church” and the potential “payout…of another billion.” This is the wrong focus — the same focus on financial exposure that led some bishops to behave as they did when their focus ought to have been on justice and the salvation of souls.

Many of us find lawyers distasteful (there is a reason for all the lawyer jokes); the quite separate question of the contingent fee arrangement (prohibited in England, by the way) is for another day.

Mr. Leone seems to agree that the Church should be held to a higher standard than other institutions — but only sua sponte (on her own motion). Does this mean as the local bishop, in a sort of ex gratia gesture, might from time to time, or case by case, determine? Condescending clericalism continues! This is both a credulous and depreciated expectation indeed. The Church is held to a higher standard, as the continuation of Christ in the world. The sad fact is that the bishops have only been brought to account, somewhat, via the secular justice system, flawed as it may be. And in that system they have behaved shamefully — stonewalling and asserting embarrassing defenses. As trial lawyers know, but the public may not understand, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff/victim to establish his case, and the passage of time favors the defendant.

Incidentally, while Leone’s letter speaks darkly but vaguely of a “growing number” of phony cases, he cites absolutely nothing in support; he mentions only the Salem-like travesty of the prosecution of daycare managers in the 1980s in Massachusetts — hardly comparable. The overall statistics seem to be otherwise, and many clerical abuse-and-cover-up cases are apparently not reported at all, for the same reasons that abuse is reported late.

The reductio ad absurdum series of rhetorical questions from Mr. Harrington is too silly to warrant a response, other than to say that, having already shot themselves in the foot, the lobbying bishops ought to at least remain silent in the discussion on extending statutes of limitation rather than demonstrate yet again their extreme concern for institutional assets.

Oremus, for the Church we love.

The Pope Has the Power to Rein in Bad Bishops

I was impressed by Charles Molineaux’s argument for extending statutes of limitation (article, June). No doubt some bishops covered up their role in the abuse scandal and got away with it because of statutes of limitation, and, sadly, some bishops may still be at work in the institutional Church instead of behind bars.

Even so, I am not one who favors extending statutes of limitation for alleged crimes of the clergy. The enemies of the Church are many and would use the extensions to completely destroy local churches. Many souls would be vulnerable and lost in the process. Many would apply the extensions only to churchmen accused of crimes. Such a targeting of the Church would be unjust and would foster a lynch-mob mentality toward the Church.

The Church has the power to deal with this problem from within. The Pope can exercise his authority (granted by Christ and reinforced in canon law) to rein in wayward bishops and strip them of their authority. It is said that the Roman Pontiff is not to be confused with a CEO of a corporation, able to hire and fire at will, that the Pope is virtually powerless to impose ecclesiastical penalties on wayward bishops. Nonsense!

Canon 1442 reads, “The Roman Pontiff is the supreme judge for the entire Catholic world; he tries cases either personally or through the ordinary tribunals of the Apostolic See or through judges delegated by himself.” Clearly, the Pope has supreme legislative and juridical authority in all matters affecting the Church; such authority is granted to him by Jesus Christ (cf. Mt. 16:19).

There is a growing sentiment among the laity that the Pope can and should do more. The perception that he does too little is what gives rise to dangerous ideas like extending statutes of limitation for the Church. However, the Pope should take action against bishops not out of fear of secular retaliation but out of love for God who designated the Pope as supreme shepherd of His flock on earth.

Ken Skuba

Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania

Not a Single Red Cent

Recently my pastor asked us to donate monies to help fix the church’s organ. I gave a resounding “No” to that. Why? My bishop, Leo­nard P. Blair of Toledo, engaged in political subterfuge and hired high-priced lobbyists to prevent a strong law from being codified in Ohio that would have protected children from sexual predators and assisted those who were victimized to finally receive justice. He continues to arrogantly move priests from parish to parish without making any effort to certify, via documentation, to parishioners that the new man is safe to have around children and vulnerable adults.

Bishop Blair continues to keep attorneys on retainer whose job it is to protect the hierarchy and the institution at the expense of the people. All this has been done with monies donated in good faith by the same people. Money is fungible, especially donated money. Until my bishop is willing to be completely transparent about where all of the donated monies go, my parish will not receive one penny for anything — including fixing the church’s organ.

Mike Drabik

Toledo, Ohio

Just Another Front

Regarding your New Oxford Note “Blaming the Victim — Again” (June), there is no dispute concerning the crimes mentioned. However, I do have a problem with SNAP (Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests).

Considering how horrible the acts committed were, why have so few, if any, of the priests and bishops charged by SNAP gone to trial? Bringing them to trial and causing them to testify under oath could have been very damaging to these evil-doing priests. Instead, SNAP and others sought financial settlements, which were painless for those who committed the crimes. Is it any wonder that many of us consider SNAP to be just another front for the trial lawyers?

George J. Nick

Highland Park, New Jersey

A Voice from the Pen

Having spent the past 20 years of my life in the penal system, I have experienced the ins and outs of all the pressures associated with being a prisoner, so please allow me to remark on some of the topics in recent issues.

When I read the letter (Feb.) from my fellow inmate who complained about sodomites in prison and the unpleasantness he experiences from being confined with these impious reprobates, I thought, Why is this guy so obsessed with this branch of humanity? Those who are new to the prison life may be astonished by the reprehensible behavior they witness and feel like the Pharisee who bangs his chest and exclaims, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous….” In no way am I defending these perverts — or any of the other factions who need to repent — it is just that we need to take the log out of our own eye before we can see the speck in our neighbors’.

We in “the pokey” must realize that this is not a monastic community, and we must be on guard against all the affronts to our dignity we are likely to witness. The penal system is the spawning ground for all types of despicable and nefarious behavior, which eventually seeps into the fabric of free society and is then given nice-sounding names like “alternative lifestyles,” “the gift of trans­gen­derism,” and so forth. This is a place where vice becomes virtue and virtue becomes vice, or what Nietzsche calls the “transvaluation of virtue.” Snitching or ratting on others is a most egregious act because it dishonors evil.

This is the place where (im)moral standards are based on the populace’s values, desires, and cowardly behavior, so it is not surprising that an ex-priest, sentenced to jail for sodomy (“The Pastoral Problem of Priests in Prison,” New Oxford Note, Aprib| is isolated and targeted — he once represented the authority that many in jail (and society) oppose. He becomes an easy object of reproach because he is by his lonesome and has no protection racket to hide behind. He is thus vulnerable to the inmate who needs to establish some bravado or make a name for himself.

For those of you who are reading this in prison — and I know there are more than a few, based on the letters in April and May — your sentence may be the dark night of your soul or the opportunity to lift high the cross and pray that the time you do here in “the joint” can be merited as a form of divine penance or as a purgatory here on earth to be credited to your soul prior to bodily death. Sanctify your day each morning by asking God to remove the obstacles of the working of grace in your soul, and keep your body a spiritual edifice built on the Rock of Christ, with your foundation in humility, and the twin pillars of faith and hope supporting the cupola of charity. Let the door that leads in and out of your edifice swing on the four hinges of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance (the four cardinal virtues).

I was most fortunate that zealous and pious priests and sisters found me here and nurtured me toward the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion, and ten years later, the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The penitentiary is a paradox, a mystery that we will not be able to completely understand until we see the Author of Divine Providence face to face.

Kevin J. McNamara

Somers, Connecticut

You May Also Enjoy

Frank W. Creel (1942-2010)

A dedicated and tireless orthodox Catholic, he gave freely of his time and talents to further the work of the NOR, even into the last weeks of his life.

Fra Angelica

At the dawn of history, men and women affirmed their humanity by making pictures —…

The Archbishop Strikes Again

Once in a great while we’ve been able to present an editorial that lives on…