Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: September 2014

September 2014

Special Insight into a Painful Period

I want to thank Jay Dunlap for his article on the controversy surrounding Legion of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel and the papacy (“Why the Popes Failed to Act,” June). As a former communications director for the Legion — and someone who lived through much of that controversy — Jay has special insight into and experience of that painful period.

Although I can’t vouch for everything in Jay’s story, I doubt there is much we would disagree about in terms of wishing we would have done a few things differently — especially with the hindsight of what we later learned. We shared some deeply challenging times. It was truly a blessing for me to work with Jay for several years; I know him as a terrific Catholic, husband, and father.

Who knew what, and when did they know it? We probably will never have a completely clear picture. I don’t believe our newly sainted Popes engaged in covering up or avoiding the truth. And I personally regret that the actions of our founder could in any way cast doubt upon the holiness of two Popes who did so much to serve the Church and evangelize the world.

Having spent several years in an intense process of renewal, much has changed in the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. I ask people to pray for us as we serve Christ and His Church.

Jim Fair

Director of Communications, Legion of Christ

Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Although Jay Dunlap attempts to answer the question of why the Popes did not act against Maciel and the Legion, the real question is why Dunlap did not follow the source of funding that allowed Maciel to buy the favors of so many Vatican insiders.

Richard Orareo

Senior Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry & Public Policy, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University

Wabash, Indiana

A Question of Historical Fact

In her review of my book The Early Church on Killing: A Comprehensive Sourcebook on War, Abortion, and Capital Punishment (May), Anne Barbeau Gardiner spends most of her time on the relatively few texts opposing abortion and much less on the much more numerous texts on killing in war. Moreover, she seems to imply that, on the topic of killing in war, there are two more or less equally valid summaries of what the extant texts tell us. In reality, it is a simple historical fact that every time Christian writers before Constantine talked about killing in war (and there are a significant number of such texts, not just a “few,” as Gardiner puts it), they said that Christians should not do it. There is no ambiguity or disagreement in the texts on this. It is also part of the historical record that, in the late third century, there is growing evidence of Christians in the Roman army. But that does not change the fact that, in all extant texts by Christian authors dealing with the topic, there is unanimity in rejecting Christian participation in killing during war. That is not a question of ethics or theology but of historical fact.

Ronald J. Sider

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania


Is it not also a fact that not many texts survive from those first three centuries, when the Church was under persecution? What looks like unanimity to us might only be the absence of sufficient documents. In The Early Church on Killing I do not recall any mention of Church synods or councils that condemned Christians for participating in war. From my Catholic perspective, individual texts (even patristic ones) do not have the authority of Church councils.

Hurd Baruch

Editor, The Chesterton Review

Tucson, Arizona

Not So Different After All

Much has been made about the apparent differences between Popes Benedict XVI and Francis. Everyone knows that, for Francis, evangelization is first and foremost. “Our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love.” Quintessential Francis, isn’t it? Yes — but these words were actually spoken by Benedict in his homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 2008. Maybe the two Pontiffs aren’t so different in what they were aiming at after all — maybe the difference is in their approach.

Benedict attempted, with his writing, to reach people through their minds, their reasoning. I suspect he will go down in Church history as the greatest teaching Pope ever, specifically for his encyclicals, books, and also the pronouncements of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith while he headed it, especially Dominus Iesus. Francis is appealing to people’s hearts through his gestures, which are recorded electronically and broadcast immediately all over the world. The picture of him kissing the head of a man so disfigured by disease as to be scarcely recognizable as human was one of a number, each worth a thousand words.

And perhaps these Popes were/are addressing different “audiences.” As recalled in “How Effective Is the ‘Francis Effect’?” (New Oxford Notes, May), Benedict was concerned that the Church might be reduced, under assault from the secular anti-Christian culture, to “small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intense struggle against evil and bring good into the world.” He placed great emphasis on true doctrine, and attempted to correct manifold abuses within the Church — distancing the fringes, but strengthening the “base” so that it might survive in a hostile world. Francis, on the other hand, does not want emphasis placed on doctrine or rules. He directs his appeals to the unchurched and those on the margins of faith, without asking of them either right belief or right conduct.

Perhaps the Popes’ apparently contrary motions are really complementary: Benedict concentrated on building a sturdy ark for the remnant who are taking heed; they will shelter in the ark when the storm rages. On the other hand, Francis’s talks and interviews are informing the many uncommitted others where they can obtain a life-preserver when they feel the waters rising.

Lucia Bartoli

Johnson State Prison

Fallbrook, California

The Ghost of Pontius Pilate

Joseph E. Kincaid, M.D., is spot-on with his comments on ethics and the CEO of Ascension Health, Dr. Anthony Tersigni, when he says that Dr. Tersigni “has washed his hands of any guilt that might be incurred by signing on with the Affordable Care Act” (“My Catholic Hospital’s Cooperation with Evil,” June). Dr. Tersigni then has the temerity to suggest that the Catholic Medical Association is the one guilty of spreading scandal, and is perhaps guilty of sinful acts!

The truth is the truth, and if it causes a scandal, then that scandal is on the head of the one who initiated the controversy (e.g., Tersigni). I pray that Dr. Kincaid and his likeminded colleagues will prevail. Those of us who support life and wish to preserve our Catholic institutions, and prevent them from cooperating with evil, need to make our voices heard — in this case, directly to Ascension Health.

Janice Hicks

Veritas Center, Franciscan University

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

The administration of the local Catholic hospital where Dr. Joseph E. Kincaid serves on staff has embraced and enacted policies that violate Catholic moral principles. Yet his article is silent as to the action of the Catholic bishop who has jurisdiction over the hospital. At the very least, the bishop could affect the “branding” of the hospital with a public declaration that the hospital can no longer legitimately call itself Catholic. The silence is deafening.

Earl J. Hinson

28-16 Tomisuhara, Yokkaichi Mie, 510-8016

Indiantown, Florida


To Lucia Bartoli

I would like to apologize for any confusion about the two CEOs involved in this story. Dr. Tersigni is the CEO of the entire, vast Ascension Health organization. The major question I have for Dr. Tersigni and Ascension Health is why they did not seek an injunction against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, as did over 300 other entities. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty keeps close track of the plaintiffs, and Ascension Health is nowhere to be found. Much stress and anguish could have been avoided with an injunction.

Anyone who wants to contact Ascension Health may send correspondence to: Ascension Health System, P.O. Box 45998, St. Louis, MO 63145

The other CEO, who warned members of the local Catholic Medical Association that they would be spreading scandal and heading for grave sin, was the CEO of my local Catholic hospital. He was the one who tried to “wash his hands of any guilt” incurred by signing on with ACA. I would like for him to remain unnamed because most of the members of the CMA are still in active practice. I do not want them to suffer any repercussions. Incidentally, this CEO has resigned as of September 2014.

To Janice Hicks

The bishops in my state seem to have a rather disengaged attitude toward ACA’s contraception mandate. It is hard to find vigorous statements from any of them addressed to Catholic hospitals or to the general public about the evils of the contraception mandate and the ethics involved in cooperating with an accommodator. My bishop, however, was very approachable when I met with him and his staff. My hospital also let me know that they had met with the bishop on various occasions and discussed various topics, such as Ascension Health’s strategy and “moral analysis.” I assume that the “moral analysis” included the 12-page thesis from Dan O’Brien, Ascension Health’s senior vice president of ethics, discernment, and church relations. Dr. O’Brien’s summary states, “A non-exempt religious employer that decides to sign form 700 and to avail itself of the accommodation for its plans does not cooperate in the wrongdoing of the principal agents of the mandated contraceptive coverage.” In other words, its hands have been washed of any guilt. Is there any doubt why my bishop might be uncertain about the moral culpability involved with signing on with an accommodator?

In recent months the relationship between the hospital and the accommodator has been greatly clarified. The best example is the amici curiae brief filed by 67 Catholic theologians and ethicists in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor in their successful attempt to obtain an injunction against the contraception mandate. There was unanimous agreement among the 67 that signing the accommodator forms created a bond or agreement with the accommodator that did not relieve the ethical entities of material and formal cooperation, but that the form of cooperation would be determined by all the relationships between the institution and the accommodator. Scandal could also be part of the cooperation.

So Ascension Health did not walk away with clean hands. The amount of dirt on its hands would depend on all the arrangements between Ascension Health, ACA, and the accommodator.

Fr. Ian Boyd, C.S.B.

South Orange, New Jersey

A Total Consecration

Thank you for the gift of your publication and the scholarship fund that makes it possible. I am especially grateful for the May issue after having read Frederick W. Marks’s article “Marian Misconceptions.”

I attest that, prior to my arrest and imprisonment, I was a lukewarm Catholic. Though my mother maintains a strong devotion to Mary, praying the family rosary was for me an obligation, not an act of love for God. I believe that this lukewarm state amplified my sinful and criminal actions, until I was incarcerated.

After my conversion and return to the Church, I could not even remember how to pray the Hail Mary! Lying on my bed, I prayed that Mary would show me that I was not forsaken by restoring this prayer to me. She did. No flash of light or bolt of recognition, just a peaceful awareness of each word of the Hail Mary.

In August 2008 I made a total consecration of myself to Jesus through Mary, following the method of St. Louis de Montfort. Since then my spiritual maturity has blossomed. It is impossible for me to grasp the work of grace in my life from the hands of my Lady, Mother, and Queen. Her patronage has given rise in me to an inexpressible love for the Trinity and the Person of Jesus.

To add a small token to Dr. Marks’s article, everything about Mary leads us to Jesus. The more I ask her intercession, meditate on her role in salvation history, contemplate her sorrows, and share in the virtues she practiced, the more I understand God’s will in my life. This discernment is a special gift she offers to all who receive her, as is her mission: “Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye” (Jn. 2:5). Without the gift of discernment, it would be impossible to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

The illogical assertion that Mary could not sin is contrary to Scripture. Adam and Eve were created without the stain of sin and without sin. Our first parents, however, did indeed sin. Mary, conceived without the stain of sin or without sin, still had free will. She simply, and wondrously, experienced life as Adam and Eve did. She could have sinned as they did, yet she did not. It is impossible to love God as much as she did and be able to sin. The choice to love was hers, and she remained committed to it.

Grace does not make us do anything. Grace, instead, empowers us to do what is right. I thank Jesus every day for the grace of giving me His mother, and I thank Him every day that I acted on this grace to be totally consecrated to Him through Mary.

Thank you, Dr. Marks, for your beautiful and insightful words about our Great Lady. Thank you, NOR, for my scholarship subscription. And thank you, donors, who make the scholarship fund a reality!

Kay Fisher

Newton, Iowa

Investigating Chesterton

Chene Richard Heady has provided a fine overview of Chesterton’s achievements as a writer in his review of Ian Ker’s G.K. Chesterton: A Biography (June). Heady’s response to Ker’s dismissal of the literary value of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, and his defense of these remarkable works, is especially welcome. He might have said more about the context of the Father Brown stories in the history of detective fiction, and of their significance as examples of what Chesterton calls “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.”

It is sometimes forgotten that the Father Brown stories were published in the golden age of detective fiction and have always been recognized as masterpieces in that particular genre. It was not for nothing that Chesterton joined Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and other writers of equal distinction as a member of the Detection Club, and that he was their unanimous choice as president. The stories also play an important part in Chesterton’s spiritual biography. The first Father Brown story, “The Blue Cross,” was published in September 1910 in Storyteller magazine, some 12 years before Chesterton was received into full communion with the Catholic Church. At the time, he would have described himself as an Anglican, or an Anglo-Catholic. And yet his priest-detective was unmistakably a Roman Catholic priest. It is as though Chesterton’s imagination had been converted to the Catholic faith several years ahead of his intellect. It might be said that it took Father Brown 12 years to convert the author who invented him.

Father Brown is also a symbol of the Church, and that Church is “catholic” in every sense of the word. Perhaps that is why Father Brown is found in such widely different geographical settings — in his native England, of course, but also in France, Italy, South America, and even, and most improbably, in Chicago, where he serves as a prison chaplain.

In keeping with Chesterton’s liberal anarchism, Father Brown never cooperates with the modern state. He never hands criminals over to the police. In only one of the stories, “The Quick One,” does he even call upon the police for help. Far more typical of his behavior is what he does at the end of “The Invisible Man,” where he treats the criminal in the following way: “Father Brown walked those snow-covered hills under the stars for many hours with a murderer, and what they said to each other will never be known.”

In a word, the Father Brown stories are parables about divine mercy; and Chesterton, always a sacramental writer, presents Father Brown as a minister of the Church, which is the great sacrament of that mercy. Take, for example, one of the later stories, “The Chief Mourner of Marne,” in which Father Brown explains his role as someone who ministers to those who commit unpardonable sins:

“‘But, hang it all,’ cried Mallow, ‘you don’t expect us to be able to pardon a vile thing like this?’

“‘No,’ said the priest; ‘but we have to be able to pardon it.’

“He stood up abruptly and looked round at them.

“‘We have to touch such men, not with a bargepole, but with a benediction,’ he said. ‘We have to say that word that will save them from hell. We alone are left to deliver them from despair when your human charity deserts them. Go on your own primrose path pardoning all your favourite vices and being generous to your fashionable crimes, and leave us in the darkness, vampires of the night, to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon. Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; mean as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came.'”

This is eloquence! And, as Chesterton has Father Brown say on another occasion, this is also good theology. Heady’s review of Ker’s Chesterton biography is titled “The Many Identities of GKC.” One of those identities might well be described as that of a gentle pardoner. Chesterton has a good deal in common with Father Brown.

Richard J.T. Clark

Wrightsville, Georgia

Chene Richard Heady’s reviews of books by and about G.K. Chesterton have been insightful. Both his review of the 36th volume in the Ignatius Press series of Chesterton’s Collected Works (Sept. 2012) and his review of Ian Ker’s Chesterton biography (June) show his depth of understanding and appreciation of his subject. Heady rightly comments that Chesterton has “slowly begun to accumulate a major author’s scholarly apparatus,” as seen in an academic journal such as The Chesterton Review, which is devoted exclusively to his works, and by recognition of literary critics such as Harold Bloom.

What Heady fails to mention, however, is that GKC is also coming into his own among “the common man,” the group he wrote for and championed. This is thanks, no doubt, to the serious, persistent work of Dale Ahlquist (who, like Chesterton, is a convert to Catholicism) in forming the American Chesterton Society (ACS), and the revival in interest in Chesterton societies, of which there are now 70 in this country and others in Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America, and even the Sandwich Islands. These small groups of academics and non-academics meet periodically to investigate the wisdom of Chesterton and introduce others to him. Readers who might shy away from a professional journal might find ACS’s publication, Gilbert magazine, more to their interest. It offers discussions of Chesterton’s thinking on various subjects pertaining to today’s culture, along with film and book reviews. The societies’ annual conference, held this summer at the University of St. Mary of the Lake (a.k.a. Mundelein Seminary), gives voice both to serious Chesterton scholars and fellow travelers. Its famous banquet celebrates Chesterton’s humor, something often forgotten by reviewers and critics.

Chesterton’s ideas are also reaching the public via The Apostle of Common Sense, a weekly EWTN program in which Ahlquist presents Chesterton’s thoughts in a straightforward manner with the help of John “Chuck” Chalberg, who portrays GKC. Perhaps the very user-friendly ACS website is the most creative and friendly voice of Chesterton’s thoughts. Here both the neophyte and seasoned affectionate can find short, comprehensive summaries of major Chestertonian themes, such as feminism and pacifism, plus a reading list for beginners who wonder where to begin in Chesterton’s vast collection of writings.

One day, both scholars and non-scholars alike will celebrate when we are officially able to append “Saint” before Chesterton’s name. It will, no doubt, be due in large part to ACS and Ahlquist’s diligence in promoting Chesterton as the “Saint of Common Sense for the Common Man.”

Michael Healy

Steubenville, Ohio

Inaccurate & Unfair

As Atlanta is my home archdiocese, I feel compelled to reply to the improper characterization of Archbishop Wilton Gregory as “America’s Own Bling Bishop” (The News You May Have Missed, June). Although I do not know Archbishop Gregory personally (due to my incarcerated status), everything I have read about him indicates that he is widely considered — not only in Atlanta but in his previous diocese in Illinois — to be a wonderful shepherd and steward. The implication of the news item was that, flush with $15 million, Gregory went on a “lavish” spending spree for his own indulgence. Left unsaid, however, was the reason Gregory was seeking a new residence in the first place: The cathedral parish’s planning committee had asked him to sell his residence to the cathedral for use as a new rectory so that the cathedral — landlocked in an affluent urban neighborhood — could use the land where its old rectory sits in order to expand its facilities. Such are the problems faced by a vibrant, growing archdiocese led by a dynamic archbishop!

First, Gregory did not purchase his new residence without consultation from and approval of interested parties in the archdiocese, including the finance committee. Second, the controversial new residence was not appreciably different from his previous residence, in which Atlanta’s archbishops have lived for years. Finally, after accounting for the proceeds from the sale of his previous residence, the new residence only required an additional half million dollars or so.

That archdiocesan spokeswoman Patricia Chivers chose to cite the “gathering of the nuns” as an example of the types of events that Gregory, as leader of a major metropolitan archdiocese, is expected to host is unfortunate — as if the nuns were otherwise scattered! — but her point is valid. Little more than one-tenth of the 6,300-square-foot residence was actually living quarters; the majority of it was to be used for social functions necessary in the operation of the archdiocese.

Nevertheless, Archbishop Gregory exercised great humility in once again consulting with all interested parties, accepting full responsibility for the decision, and — even though a significant number of those consulted continued to support the purchase — deciding to sell the property. By his actions, Gregory modeled to his flock the admonition to “avoid even the appearance of evil.” Criticisms of the new residence, however, were under thought and overblown, and to compare Gregory to Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Germany’s “Bishop of Bling,” is inaccurate and unfair.

Christopher Hummel

Bowling Green, Missouri

A Divided Heart

I would like to thank Alice von Hildebrand for her remarks further illuminating the love of Jacob for Rachel (“In Defense of Jacob,” June). Her description of Jacob as a “martyr of polygamy” strikes me as fundamentally valid — though she is certainly partisan on Jacob’s behalf. She is indeed, as she says, “Jacob’s advocate,” giving him the full “credit of love,” interpreting his behavior in the highest possible light, for which I am sure he will thank her when they meet in Heaven (God willing), as she herself hopes.

Perhaps I was too glib in stating in my letter (Jan.-Feb), in response to von Hildebrand’s earlier article (Sept. 2013), that Jacob was “happy” to sleep first with Rachel’s maid, Bilhah, and then with Leah’s maid, Zilpah. Jacob was tricked into marriage with Leah, lovingly married Rachel (and I agree would have preferred monogamy with her), and acquiesced to a liaison with the latter’s maid to give Rachel offspring by proxy and alleviate her misery — all this I can follow with Dr. von Hildebrand’s “martyr of polygamy” interpretation. But I do find it harder to interpret sleeping with Leah’s maid in so elevated a fashion. Leah was clearly ahead in the fecundity department, so this act doesn’t seem to have been necessary to relieve utter misery, as was the case with Rachel. So, I have a lingering question about that — though I’m willing to give ol’ Jacob the benefit of the doubt.

I wonder, however, if there isn’t a difference between men and women when it comes to “enduring” (my quote marks) the marital act, in obedience, as a “subtle form of torture.” I agree that obeying an order to sleep with someone I did not love would initially (as Dr. von Hildebrand argues was the case with Jacob and his wives’ maids), on the personal and spiritual level, be a subtle form of torture — but would the actual experience have been the same? Would it have been “nothing short of cruelty,” nothing but “a painful duty,” and “nothing short of heroic”? While a woman may experience the act as repulsive and disgusting with a man she does not want or love, a man can’t have that attitude and still be able to perform his marital “duty.” He has to actively encourage a more positive attitude in order to accomplish the act at all, physically speaking.

Moreover, it is quite evident (and Dr. von Hildebrand brings this out wonderfully) that Jacob was a very good and sensitive man, very attuned to the needs of others, deeply trying to make others happy. But doesn’t that mean that he in fact would not have approached Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah like a “bull toward a cow,” that he would not have regarded either himself or the lady in question as a “pure means”? That would have been indeed a disgusting insult to each of the three — to approach and to treat them like a horse or a dog. Therefore, given Jacob’s genuine concern for others, and his sacrificial service to the happiness of others (especially the women of his household), I think that not only the duty of procreation, or just the positive interest necessary for the man to physically accomplish the sexual act, but also some genuine positive personal attitudes, some concern for the other, some love, would have motivated him. He was evidently that kind of guy.

Thus, in the end, while genuinely in full betrothed love with Rachel and preferring her alone, his heart may have been a bit more divided than Dr. von Hildebrand admits. And I think that when I meet Jacob in Heaven (God willing), he will humbly acknowledge this — in all the beauty of humility. Of course, if I’m wrong, then I hope I will have the humility to admit it — as I stand before Jacob and Alice!

Timothy Haugh

New York, New York

I do not understand Alice von Hildebrand’s claim that Jacob’s circumstances show the importance of union over procreation in marital love because there is neither union nor monogamous procreation in the story.

Maybe Jacob was a victim of circumstances, a man without any choice about his own actions. Is love found in compulsion or duress? In hindsight, today’s polygamists — the serial divorcers — probably feel as he did. What else could they do? They loved each woman. They too are “monogamists at heart,” only loving one woman at a time. Are these loves the self-giving kind that seeks the good of the other, or only the natural attraction of man toward woman?

Jacob did what Rachel said she wanted him to do: fecundate her maid. Is this the love that seeks the good of the other? Is this love the total gift of self? I think we may ask fairly whether the procedures involved in surrogate motherhood and in vitro fertilization are in the same spirit. It seems more as though one party is using the other, or even that several parties are using others, for their own ends. Jacob may well have been trying to make Rachel happy, as von Hildebrand argues. That is not the same as seeking what is best for her. This situation seems to throw in sharp relief the problematic idea that children are something to be gotten when and how anyone likes, in opposition to the idea that children are gifts from God. If the children born to Rachel’s maid had been girls, would Rachel have offered another servant to Jacob who could bear the vital sons?

It seems to me that Jacob, in lying with other women, does not, by doing so, demonstrate true love for Rachel. To me, his actions do not show him to be a monogamist at heart, but only illustrate the evils of polygamy.

Thomas Moore

North Tonawanda, New York


I will grant Dr. Healy’s point that Jacob could not help but experience “physical pleasure” when embracing Bilhah and Zilpah. But then what are we to make of, say, Louis XIII who, for political reasons, married Anne of Austria, whom he did not love and whose bed he refused to share, knowing full well that in so doing he was depriving himself of the pleasure to which Dr. Healy refers? Louis XIII did not want to experience a pleasure cut off from the love from which it should blossom.

Louis XIII had a great love for a beautiful, pious young woman who loved him in return but who, convinced that she had a religious vocation, entered a monastery. She was instrumental in convincing the king that it was his duty to live with his wife and produce an heir to the throne. He obeyed, and Anne gave birth to Le Roi Soleil, Louis XIV.

The question that should be examined is whether there are pleasures we do not want to experience. A very liberal doctor once told me that a woman, while being raped, must necessarily feel pleasure. I was shocked and horrified. It is clear that the psychological horror of being shamefully abused should make one loathe any physical satisfaction that might be linked to it. If any of the nuns brutally abused by soldiers (as happened in Vienna when the Russians invaded the Austrian capitabpwere given the choice of experiencing pleasure or suffering, they would choose suffering.

This is an important question that deserves to be examined. I leave it to people more competent than I am to do so. But I am personally convinced that there is such a thing as “hateful” pleasures. Pleasure should be baptized, and only then does it become a pleasure worthy of persons, and not merely a pleasure we share with animals. In other words, a baptized pleasure is no longer simply “subjectively satisfying”; it becomes a beneficial good and worthy of our gratitude.

George Koenig

St. Francis, Wisconsin

Better Served by a More Recent Vintage

I was intrigued by Mitchell Kalpakgian’s article “The Virtue of Anger & the Sin of Wrath” (June). The concept of “righteous anger” is an interesting one, and I have often meditated on why it is often mistaken for one of the seven deadly sins. Kalpakgian makes a valiant attempt to differentiate righteous anger from its counterpart, wrath. I was disappointed, however, with his examples from literature, none of which seem to be exemplary models of righteous anger.

It so happens that I am rereading The Odyssey. Kalpakgian’s choice of a pre-Christian hero is odd to begin with, especially considering that what the ancient Greeks considered to be heroic is often at odds with Christian doctrine. The slaughter, trickery, thievery, and adultery in which Odysseus participates comes across as rather shocking.

That said, there can be little doubt that Odysseus has reasons to be moved to anger upon finding what has been going on in his house while he’s struggled to return home. But how righteous is the anger of a man who, apart from the sins he commits on his travels, has been gone from home well beyond the time in which he would be considered legally dead? Not to mention the action that follows his anger — no mere turning over the tables of the moneychangers for Odysseus. And I can’t imagine Christ saying what Odysseus’s goddess, Athena, says to him: “As for those Suitors who are wasting your fortune, I can already see them staining your broad floors with their own blood and brains.”

Prospero from Shakespeare’s Tempest, too, is a bit of a stretch. Yes, he rails against his daughter and his servant Caliban, but it is disturbing how he keeps Caliban in his service when he knows Caliban has a rapist’s heart. His daughter is the one who needs to display some anger against her father. It is also difficult to give too much credit to Prospero’s anger over the loss of his dukedom, considering how he himself admits his complicity in his own overthrow by his brother: “The government I cast upon my brother / And to my state grew stranger, being transported / And rapt in secret studies.” King Lear is closer to the mark, but it is difficult to sympathize too much with his anger considering, again, how he puts himself into his reduced condition.

If we are going to use Shakespearean characters as a model, I would probably have chosen Hamlet. His bedchamber scene with Gertrude seems to me a clearer example of righteous anger from a character with whom it’s easier to sympathize. And at least in Hamlet’s case, the voice from beyond (his father’s ghost) demands restraint with Gertrude, though his demands for Claudius’s death are more problematic.

To be honest, I would have preferred examples from literature of a more recent vintage. The anger Cecilia and Robbie have against Briony in Ian McEwan’s Atonement comes to mind. Or the fits of rage of the father in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road would also fit the bill. If we must have works that have stood the test of time, there’s always the wide selection from Dickens or Hardy that would be appropriate.

In the end, as is often the case when literature is under discussion, I suppose much falls to the reader’s taste. Still, Kalpakgian’s literary judgment here, if not his argument, seems rather poor.

Pamela Haines

Kenneth City, Florida


Of course, no one can always use the examples that others prefer or expect because we all draw from different sources and bring individual sensibilities to the books we read. I still like and prefer my examples to the ones recommended to replace them.

John J. McCartney Jr.

Chicago, Illinois

A No-Holds-Barred Exposition

F. Douglas Kneibert’s article “A Call to Arms” (June) needs to be read by all Catholics who are working to defend the teachings of our Church militant. It is a no-holds-barred exposition of what we evangelizers need to understand and do in order to spread our cherished faith.

Michael Ezzo


F. Douglas Kneibert’s article about bringing the Church militant back into action is right on target.

As I see it, the main focus should be in the political arena. As is well known, Barack Obama won the Catholic vote in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. Bad voting by Catholics, bad laws, and bad court decisions have created a huge problem in America that needs to be addressed directly. I believe there should be sign-up sheets in parishes and schools on which Catholics can pledge to live Catholic morality and to vote pro-life at the ballot box. Prior to elections, bishops, priests, and other Catholic leaders should publicly declare their own intentions to vote pro-life. Pro-life voting should be proclaimed as essential for the good of the faith.

A drastic change in the voting habits of Catholics is crucial for successful evangelization and for victory in the culture wars. A 70 percent pro-life Catholic voting bloc would improve the cultural landscape in a hurry.


After reading the New Oxford Notes “The German Question” (Apribpand “False Mercy & the Integrity of Marriage” (May), I find it disturbing to see Walter Cardinal Kasper (who should know better) pressing for admission to Holy Communion of divorced-and-remarried Catholics who have not been granted an annulment — i.e., when it has not been determined that their first marriages were invalid. Yes, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, but He told her, “Go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). If the Church were to permit remarriage after a consummated marriage (while the first spouse is still living), how could that be reconciled with these words of Jesus: “Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9)?

Ed. Note: For a deeper look at what Cardinal Kasper said that has been causing so much consternation in the Catholic world, see Stephen J. Kovacs’s review of Kasper’s Gospel of the Family in this issue.

An "Open Letter to Mozilla Employees"

Your New Oxford Note “The High Cost of Free Speech” (June) mentions Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who resigned after his employees organized a boycott of the company after they discovered that Eich had donated to California’s Prop 8 in 2008. A group called Americans for Truth about Homosexuality sent the following “open letter” to Mozilla employees:

“This letter is addressed to those who agitated against Brendan Eich’s promotion to Mozilla’s CEO. Considering that he was the business’s cofounder and the provider of your livelihood, right order would have required you to resign in protest, but that would have taken the courage of your convictions, which was apparently in short supply at the time.

“The issue: Eich’s donating $1000 to Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, which is what marriage has generally been throughout the ages and ever should be. Same-sex ‘marriage’ is an absurdity (Pope Francis calls it anthropological regression) which even ‘gays’ joked about in the ’70s. Proposition 8 was the people’s initiative opposing institutionalizing a man’s using another man as a woman, and a woman’s using another woman as a man. This has neither the support of nature, morality, normality, even health. Three hundred twenty-five thousand men having sex with men (MSM) have died of HIV/AIDS since 1980. Of the 1.2 million HIV/AIDS victims in the U.S., 532,000 are MSM — 2% of the population. The malady is now spreading fastest among MSM 13 to 29. What’s ‘marriage’ going to do for this?

“What the media doesn’t know and the ‘gay’ community won’t admit (the American Psychiatric Association’s non-scientific pronouncement notwithstanding), ‘gay’ activists are forcing on this country an adaptation to earlier trauma and/or emotional deprivation. Instead of focusing on the source of such, thereby gaining understanding leading to freedom, they are using politics and media to make it the norm. From this: Spare us, O, Lord.”

Americans for Truth about Homosexuality can be reached at:

P.O. Box 5522, Naperville, IL 60567-5522; phone: 630-546-4439; fax: 630-839-0799; www.americansfortruth.org

Rosaries from the East

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