Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: September 2011

September 2011

The Best Yet?

The June issue of the NOR was the best I have read in years, from the glory of Andrew Seddon’s response to atheists to Alice von Hil­debrand’s encouragement of reverence, plus W. Michael Westbrook’s description of conscience and Carl Sundell’s reminders of C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft. I will be out there pushing the NOR!

George D. Lavid

Wichita, Kansas

Long Live the New Media

I have a different view from the NOR on the demise of the old mainstream media (“How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Internet,” New Oxford Note, June). Instead of lamenting it, I celebrate it.

I don’t long for the days when “fatherly anchor figures” like Cron­kite, Jennings, Brokaw, and Rather at ABC, CBS, and NBC, coupled with magazines like Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and newspapers like The New York Times and the Washington Post, had a virtual monopoly on what news was fit for the American public to hear and how it was presented. This is because, overall, the post-World War II mainstream media was liberal to its core and hostile to traditional faith.

Among many other things, it was this media, under its own volition, that kept the public in the dark about Jack Kennedy’s sexual escapades. It also muted any criticism when Alfred Kinsey launched his destructive “sex education” in the schools. And more recently, it is the liberal media that bends over backwards to lend the aura of legitimacy to perverse movements like that of the radical homosexuals.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out that the mainstream media tried its utmost to bury stories like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress and John Edwards’s love affair while he was running for vice president on the Democratic ticket.

The media’s agenda is clear. It’s to elect and protect liberal figures when at all possible.

And I find it odd that the NOR relied so much on the view of James Fallows on this matter. Fallows is a card-carrying media insider. Of course he bemoans competition from the Internet as it breaks the stranglehold he and his fellow elitists had on information flow. It’s an understatement to say the man has a vested interest in keeping things the way they were.

I want facts and the news unfiltered by those who think they are my betters. The day of the new media — the Internet and talk radio — may seem chaotic to some, but overall it is delivering more reliable information to society. The process has begun and it will not be reversed.

Peter Skurkiss

Stow, Ohio

Feeling the Pain of Notre Dame

I can feel T. Gavin King’s pain (letter, June). I did not attend Notre Dame, but I did graduate from a small Catholic college, St. Michael’s, located in Winooski Park, Vermont. The year was 1960 and the college was staunchly Catholic. It was, at the time, all male, and most of my classmates, like myself, were veterans of the Korean conflict. The college was run by the Society of St. Edmund (SSE), and priests wearing traditional cassocks could be found on campus every day of the week. The curriculum was what you would expect to find in a Catholic college then, and students had to work hard to pass courses and graduate. Every classroom had a crucifix on the wall, and students were expected to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. The college was pretty much a “stand alone” institution with no obligations to the federal government. The ACLU was not a threat.

But the years passed and the college slowly sank into the morass of secularism. I received a promotional piece in the mail recently, which was nicely done but which had no indication by word or symbol that the college was Roman Catholic. I heard a while back that one of the deans, a female, was a free-love advocate, and another, a homosexual, was pushing that lifestyle on campus. As far as I can see, the truly Catholic college I remember is now Catholic in name only.

The priests of SSE took traditional vows and put a lot of sweat equity into getting the college started and moving forward. Whatever possessed them to let control of the college get away from them is baffling. I suppose the lure of easy government money presented itself, and the powers-that-be could not resist taking it with the understanding that St. Michael’s would downgrade its emphasis on Catholicity and open its enrollment and faculty to anyone who came down the pike, whether agnostic, atheist, or secular humanist.

Yes, the college today has a number of impressive buildings and a fancy curriculum financed in part by government grants. But what about its original mission to inculcate young Catholics in the fundamentals of their religion and prepare them for life’s challenges in a godless world?

This pathetic situation can be turned around when the college decides to refuse government money and renew its focus on the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

David A. Carey

Homosassa, Florida

Missing the Point on Predatory Acts

In the New Oxford Note “The Fall of an American Idol” (Apr.), the NOR took an uncalled-for swipe at Deal Hudson, the former publisher of Crisis magazine. He was referred to, in the same breath as Legion of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, as a “predator.” In a subsequent letter to the editor (June), Maura Butler protested that it is radically unfair to put Hudson in the same class as Maciel, and to refer to him as a predator.

The editor’s reply (June) to Mrs. Butler’s letter was odd in its incompleteness, especially since the NOR is usually very careful and fair in making distinctions. The reply went: “Forgiveness is imperative, yes; but we fail to see how a public and/or private confession of a predatory act could render said act somehow not predatory, or remove the status of victimhood from those who were harmed.”

This reply misses the point. The complaint against the NOR’s slamming Hudson in these terms isn’t a defense of his past actions; it is a call for basic fairness and charity in not reducing him to and identifying him with his admitted and confessed sin. The New Oxford Note didn’t say he was guilty of a predatory act; it called him a predator in the same breath as one whose sins (in this context) far out­­numbered Hudson’s, and who never made any attempt at public reparation. If Hudson has made public reparation and has demonstrated not only the regret a sane person does when he recognizes the true nature of his sin, but has gone about trying to make good in many ways, then he deserves at the very least not to have his name further dragged through the mud unfairly and be lumped in with the likes of Maciel.

Think what each of us could still be called if we were reduced to our most embarrassing sin, regardless of our attempts to set things right, and lumped in with the very personification for that sin.

Stephen Phelan

Front Royal, Virginia

Why They Remain

Anne Barbeau Gardiner’s review of Mary Henold’s Catholic and Feminist (June) brings into focus a growing problem in the Church. One has only to view the many YouTube videos produced by the Womenpriests movement to see how these feminists, while pretending to say Mass, often orchestrate “on the spot” liturgical innovations. In these videos one can usually find a rather sheepish looking male co-conspirator (a male priest or deacon) standing off to the side, while the happy-clappy congregation erupts in Las Vegas-style applause.

Gardiner asks, “So why did Catholic feminists remain inside the Catholic Church?” That question calls to mind Malachi Martin’s comments about a conversation he had with Augustin Cardinal Bea during Vatican II. In an interview with Bernard Janzen, Fr. Martin claims that an emotionally upset Cardinal Bea came to him and said that he had just overheard theologians Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx agree that they would not leave the Church like the Protestants did during the Reformation but that they would stay and work to change it from within.

The feminists, unfortunately, aren’t going anywhere either. They are hoping for an eventual ground­swell of support from Catholic laity, perhaps buoyed by disgust over the clergy sex-abuse crises.

As a working Philadelphia journalist, one of my many assignments over the years was to profile the staff of a local Catholic Worker House. Impressed by the friendliness of the staff and by their genuine concern for the neighborhood poor, I eventually became a “friend” of the house, often visiting for Wednesday night potluck supper. Prior to dinner, there was a table liturgy. In some cases, a real Catholic priest would preside at these Masses, but very often there would be a woman celebrant. Not all of the women who celebrated had been “ordained,” but many in fact were “sympathizers” or “friends” of the Women­priests movement.

While I had respect for the priest who would place a standing crucifix and candlesticks on the table, the women who celebrated did no such thing. They were more concerned with ensuring that “relevant” tracks for the liturgy were programmed on the CD player. They often used glassware rather than a chalice, and pita bread rather than a Host. (Anyone, legitimately ordained or not, with a remnant of respect for tradition, can take the time to buy a bag of unconsecrated hosts at a Catholic gift shop, but these women were apparently not interested.) They often employed Matthew Fox-inspired language: “She/He” or “Mother God” for God, and politically inspired prayers.

While I had genuine affection for the Worker staff, I had to bite my tongue when they defended the right of women to be ordained, or the right of anyone who felt called to celebrate the liturgy each Wednesday. Sometimes I wondered how this “priesthood of the people” concept, with its vague Marxist roots, would have struck Dorothy Day were she to suddenly re-emerge. Day, while she was alive, had a particular love for the liturgy, especially as celebrated by the Eastern rites, so it is highly unlikely that she would have gone along with the idea that anyone can celebrate Mass in whatever novelty appealed to them just because they were “led by the Spirit.”

Do I think that Catholic Worker houses, at least in Philadelphia, have moved far beyond the vision Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin planned for them? I do.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the Catholic memorial service for the head of the Philadelphia Catholic Worker house where I was often a visitor. Conducted in the chapel of one of the Catholic colleges on Philadel­phia’s Main Line, the Vesper service was cleverly annotated with guitar songs and ad-hoc pleas from feminists for “justice in the Church.” Intimidated by the heavy political bent, I refrained from going up and having my say, which, oddly enough, would have been something that the deceased woman whose life we were celebrating would have wanted me to do. I regretted my silence even more at the reception afterwards, when I sat beside a smartly manicured, well-dressed woman with amazing hair who announced that she was a Sister of Saint Joseph. While we never specifically mentioned the issue of women’s ordination, when I spotted the microscopic gold cross pin on her lapel, I got an eerie, intuitive sense of her views on the subject.

Thom Nickels

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A Bulwark Against Irreverence?

Alice von Hildebrand (article, June) writes that irreverence “is spreading through modern society like a cancer. It is metastasizing and has infected virtually every facet of our everyday life.” I don’t think the situation is as dire as that. There is some hope, at least in the Boy Scouts. Boy Scout law includes: “A scout is…reverent.” There are an estimated 4.5 million Boy Scouts in the U.S.

Susan Sherwin

Munhall, Pennsylvania

The Military Training Ground

One of the crucial issues in the debate about the effects of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (“A History of Homosexuality in the U.S. Military,” letter, June) is being overlooked. In the 1950s the Armed Forces integrated. This meant that not only did the white soldiers, sailors, and Marines fight alongside their black counterparts, it also meant that their families lived side-by-side in on-post or on-base housing. This eased the path for desegregation in wider society over the following decades.

With the advent of openly same-sex couples on military posts, there comes the problem of housing, medical care, and other dependent benefits. Certainly a same-sex couple coming from a state that accepts such unions as “marriage” will expect to receive the same benefits that married heterosexual couples receive.

What to do then with a heterosexual cohabiting couple from a non-progressive state who see the homosexual couple getting benefits that they don’t? Why should the heterosexual couple not say, “But we’re ‘committed,’ just not ‘married.’ Why can’t we get those same benefits?”

I believe that the long-range goal of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is not to allow openly homosexual individuals to serve in the Armed Forces, but is, rather, to force the acceptance of such relationships on the American public through the back door of military service.

Jane Kodack

Greensboro, North Carolina


I guess you could call me a homophobe. What I fear about homosexuality is the endangerment of the eternal salvation of souls. Hell is for real, and Hell is for keeps. Oh, how apologists for liberal morality wring their hands and sob great crocodile tears at the “unloving response,” “judgmentalism,” and “homophobia” of those who hold fast to the unchanging word of God. But how unloving is it to tell the truth that could save a soul from eternal damnation? How judgmental is it when we use our God-given grace to separate good from evil? How homophobic is it when we speak the words of Holy Scripture, which state with glaring clarity: “Do not err…sodomites…will not possess the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10)?

The real social disease isn’t homophobia, it’s theophobia, the fear of God, religion, and morality. And theo­phobia’s on a roll right now.

Rick Bohler

Jacksonville, Florida

At Mass, Christ Creates Community

St. Leonard of Port Maurice writes in The Hidden Treasure: Holy Mass that there are various ways to fully participate in the Mass. Not all of these require the participants to recite the prayers aloud with the congregation or even follow along with the priest in a missal. In fact, a person can devoutly hear Mass without reciting the prayers of the Mass at all. To those who are accustomed to the Novus Ordo Mass it may come as a surprise that a person may partake in the liturgy in silence. But it is not so difficult to understand if we think about the purpose of the liturgy.

The liturgy of the Mass should dispose the faithful to adore and thank God as well as ask God for blessings and make reparation for sins against Him. In the first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, we are preparing ourselves for our encounter with Christ. We cleanse ourselves of any stain as we confess our faults and listen to Christ as He speaks to us. Our participation at this point involves reflecting on our sins and listening to the Scriptures proclaimed and explained.

In the second part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we physically encounter Christ. This part must be devoted just to Christ. This is a time for silence, not handshakes, speaking to one another, or speaking aloud at all. The atmosphere, music, and prayers should help us focus only on Christ.

Examine the liturgies you have attended. Do they enhance your experience of Christ? If the Eucharist is the focal point of the Mass, and receiving Christ is the highest point of our week, then why do some liturgies divert our attention from Him, for example, by calling on us to stand when we should kneel, and shake hands when we should give our full attention to what is taking place at the altar? The congregation should keep silence once the Mass of the Faithful or Offertory prayers begin, and the silence should continue until the end of the Mass.

Those who believe that the Mass should foster a sense of community by interacting with others have forgotten Him from whom our unity proceeds. A sense of community comes through our encounter with Christ, and truly occurs when we receive Him in Holy Communion. Christ makes us one. If some outward sign is necessary, it should be confined in a very limited way to the beginning of Mass.

We might think we do not have the theological knowledge to determine what constitutes a bad liturgy. This is not so. We can ask ourselves whether a liturgy heightened our awareness of Christ by allowing us to reflect on Him with the least amount of distraction. The closer a liturgy comes to this ideal, the better it is, for such a liturgy prepares us for the contemplation of His glory in Heaven.

Frank Weidenfeller

Omaha, Nebraska

A Unifying Spiritual Theme

Regarding my novel, The Stig­matist, which Mary McWay Seaman concluded was a “well-written thriller” (review, Jul.-Aug.), NOR readers might be interested to know that there are two overarching themes, a spiritual and a worldly one. The latter is based on the premise that the Marian visions at Garabandal in the 1960s were genuine (an issue not yet resolved by the Church); thus, at some point in the future, we will each be shown a vision by God of how He views our life. Obviously, to have any chance of persuading us to make amendment, the visions have to be grim in some cases, but I treat them as occasions of God’s grace. My labor was to use my imagination to develop that starting point into an unbroken scenario of events. Not events which must necessarily occur, but ones which realistically could occur — even nuclear war — as the opportunity for conversion is rejected due to the intransigence, venality, hubris, and other vices of mankind.

More important than the worldly events, which Seaman noted in some detail, are the spiritual ones. She was right to express the caveat that my imagination has extended to what Pope Benedict XVI might do and say under the extraordinary circumstances postulated — but let it also be said that I treat him with great reverence, and the words I dare to put in his mouth resonate because they so closely approach thoughts that he has already publicly expressed. Beyond that, the book is suffused with mystical and dogmatic elements of Cath­olic theology. The title of the book is not The Visions but The Stig­matist, and what the main character does and says affects everything. I think readers would find him both believable and holy, though he is no clone of Padre Pio. The unifying spiritual theme I bring out through him is the struggle that occurs when an individual is determined to serve God in his own way — and not in the way God is leading him.

Hurd Baruch

Tucson, Arizona

Ed. Note:

The Stigmatist can be purchased through Amazon.com or at www.TheStigmatist.com.

John P. Fraunces

Havertown, Pennsylvania

Readers' Perspectives on the Social-Justice Question

In his reply to Michael Harga­don’s letter about the conservative objections to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (June), the associate editor wrote that “Benedict was actually calling for a reform of the United Nations and existing world financial bodies…. The reformed international body should work ‘to bring about…disarmament, food security and peace…to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration.'”

The concepts expressed by the Holy Father appear to be impossible to achieve even partially. The failures of the existing political and economic institutions are not caused by the institutions themselves but by the men and women who exercise power within them. It is the fallen nature of sinful man that has “wreaked havoc” on the global economy. The Holy Father should help us understand how the concentration of power into any world political or economic institution can reduce the effects of original sin in man’s nature or make him more inclined to do God’s work on earth. Judging by history, it would seem that the opposite is true: The greater the concentration of power, the less restraint there is on human concupiscence, greed, and cruelty. We can examine the ancient Prussian or Roman empires, or the 20th-century despotisms of Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, to see the folly of global power in the hands of any one man or group of elites.

There seems to be no need for this super-national reformed United Nations to bring about disarmament. The Western democracies have already done so, even in the face of an unprecedented proliferation of armed rogue states and terrorist groups. The environmental lobby is a well-funded special-interest group that advocates a mass transfer of wealth from the developed to the developing nations, thus causing a dramatic decline in the present-day standard of living for the people of Western Europe and the United States. It does not protect the environment because it permits pollution in the developing countries so that their cost of production is less than in our over-regulated, environmentally strangled industries. The regulation of migration by this reformed United Nations would bring an end to the present-day national states in Europe and America. The U.S. would become Balkanized with various states speaking different languages with different cultures and value systems. If history is any guide, this will also lead to civil war and the impoverishment of everyone involved.

I believe that Mr. Hargadon has understated the case against the worldwide social engineering found in the Holy Father’s encyclical.

Charles E. Oliver

Columbus, Georgia

In response to Henry Borger’s letter on Catholic social teaching and the editor’s reply (June), I agree with the editor that we must give faithful assent to the Church’s moral teachings. But I also agree with Mr. Borger that aspects of economics lie outside the moral realm. Economics is a value-free science, yet the use of wealth is not.

The Church’s moral teachings on economics seem to center on justice and the relief of the poor: what belongs to the individual and how to increase wealth. The current trend is to reduce ownership for some and distribute it forcibly to others. This has not always been the case in Catholic economic thought. In fact, many in the Austrian School of Economics and other free-market advocates acknowledge — often grudgingly — their intellectual debt to the churchmen of the Late Scholastic period. One could argue that free-market principles were derived from Catholic moral teaching: man’s right to the things he produces and the freedom to exchange them.

So how can two such radically opposed economic systems both claim to be Catholic? One, or both, of them is applied incorrectly.

Here’s the dilemma the Church should be addressing: Allowing a free market will increase the real wealth of citizens generally. (Of course the government should protect against fraud and ensure contract compliance.) The market raises people out of poverty, but it creates a consumer society, an addiction to material things. The Church needs to support justice — the freedom to own and to trade — while warning against the abuse of wealth. It seems to me that we need to focus on voluntary compassion in helping others and on the true wealth of spiritual over material goods. Simply taking from A and giving to B hurts both the creation of wealth and the knowledge of its pitfalls.

Gretchen Yanz

Fairbault, Minnesota

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21). I agree with Henry Borger and Michael Hargadon’s negative judgments regarding “social justice” (letters, June), for I too experience the nausea induced by the careless use of the term.

First, the word justice should not be a government or a Church tool; it is a virtue by which the individual gives due to God and neighbor. Second, I question the extensive emphasis of Church authority on the earthly well-being of the world’s population and, in particular cases, the total neglect of parishioners who have to search high and low for a priest who emphasizes spirituality without bringing in extraneous worldly concerns. Christ miraculously fed a hungry crowd not simply to satisfy earthly hunger but to ignite an awareness of, and bring fulfillment to, spiritual longing.

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