Letters to the Editor: December 1986
John Wauck’s review of the reissue of Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God (Sept.) stirred an appreciation I’ve had over the years not only for that book but for Caryll Houselander as well. I was happy you gave notice to the book. It has something of the perennial about it.
Most Rev. John S. Cummins
Bishop of Oakland
Appalled by Norman Lear
I was appalled that you should include and highlight on your cover an article (Sept.) by Norman Lear, father of All in the Family and Maude, and founder of the pro-abortion, humanist organization, People for the American Way. Lear has been a leader in the assault on Christian values in this country, and the inclusion of his article in your outstanding journal is both puzzling and tragic.
Your magazine demonstrates that one can be liberal on many social issues and yet traditional in matters of doctrine. You have continued the leftist, but orthodox and highly traditional, Catholicism personified by Dorothy Day. But now you are being tempted into being trendy. Please examine your direction. Do you really need to publish not only Lear but such liberal gurus as Henri J.M. Nouwen? If you continue down such a disappointing path, we shall be forced in conscience to cancel our subscription. As an institution chartered by the Holy See and dedicated to promoting Catholic truth, we could not allow our money or name to be in any way associated with a publication that is losing its Catholic soul.
Rev. Franklyn M. McAfee
President, Notre Dame Pontifical Catechetical Institute
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
We received long-distance phone calls from two other individuals who were also appalled that we printed Lear. They phoned to protest. We asked the callers if they had read Lear’s words. Neither one had. They said they would. We said that if they found any heresy or advocacy of immorality in his article to call us back immediately — collect. We have heard nothing more since. We challenge you to do likewise, for it is rather obvious from your letter that you, too, have not read Lear’s words.
If you would read Lear’s article, you would notice that he castigates network TV for “adding more sex here and more violence there — more mindlessness — in an effort to grab the jaded viewers’ attention quickly.” You would notice that he eloquently analyzes the decline of America’s morality in terms of America’s “quick-fix mentality” and obsession with “short-term results.” And you would realize that if anything is at the root of our abortion culture, it is the quick-fix mentality. How could a thoughtful Christian not be impressed?
Is Norman Lear “changing”? Maybe. Maybe not. Either you have not taken the full measure of the man or, what’s worse, you don’t believe in the possibility of a change of heart. You’d rather just condemn.
And then, you condemn the saintly Henri Nouwen for being a “liberal guru.” Well, where in our pages has Nouwen articulated heresy?
Of course, in her day, Dorothy Day was the ultimate “liberal guru.” She was condemned for everything from pacifism to pro-communism, even sedition. But now that John Cardinal O’Connor (a former military chaplain, no less) has raised the possibility that she be proposed to the Holy See for sainthood, the mindless accusers have fallen silent.
Since you consider yourself a pontifical Catholic, maybe you should take a cue from the Holy See. Before Vatican officials call a theologian on the carpet for dissident views, they first read his works and carefully consider what he has written from every possible angle.
Appalled by Ad for “Aids” Book
For the past year or so, having my name listed on the masthead as a contributing artist has been more a formality than a reflection of reality. I haven’t sent you my art because much of it seemed too liberal for your audience, and partly because I have become increasingly uncomfortable about being connected with the NOR. In the October issue, the ad from Ignatius Press, with its book The AIDS Cover-Up?, was the final straw. I must ask you to remove my name.
Ed. Note: As you wish. But, ahem…did you read the book? (Silly question.) By the way, the same ad has appeared in both America and Commonweal (on their back covers, no less). Are you too liberal for them as well?
The Economics of Dolorism
After reading L. Brent Bozell’s extremely rich article “Capitalist Self-seeking or Christian Self-denial?” (Oct.), I was overwhelmed again by the complexity and difficulty of defending capitalism to those immersed (and beautifully so) in the Catholic tradition. Bozell has produced an article that is, both positively and negatively, redolent of the traditional wisdom — and blind spots — of Catholic spirituality.
How odd to read an article on Catholicism and economic life without a single mention of Michael Novak. Novak’s work explaining the (again traditional) economic backwardness of Catholic cultures, primarily Latin American, simply has to be confronted honestly by writers of Bozell’s persuasion if they are to be taken as doing something other than sermonizing.
Bozell makes what I can only call an appeal to the economics of dolorism. He seems to say that that economic system is most Christian which presents the most opportunities for redemptive suffering.
I must protest against the predominantly Catholic acceptance of socialism’s “instrumentalizing” of the poor, as repeated by Bozell. The Left since Marx has instrumentalized poverty and the poor by making them the bearers of historical redemption. Bozell, and so many other leftish Christians, instrumentalize the poor by making them the vehicle for individual salvation, an opportunity for displaying mercy via “self-denial.” But people bitterly resent their material deprivation being made the occasion for another’s salvation.
Fred A. Slimp II
Internal Jewish Pressures
I was delighted to read your editorial (Nov.) about Tikkun magazine. I immediately felt honored — but also troubled about whether I and we can live up to the trust you expressed in us. I have great respect for the NOR — and I hope Tikkun can merit being put by you in your league.
Nor is this just a pro-forma worry. I am finding it very hard to find good writers who are willing to “come out” and express their Judaism clearly while analyzing contemporary reality. Quite apart from the external pressure toward assimilation, there is an incredibly powerful internal pressure within the Jewish world to be “intellectually respectable” — which often translates into not identifying with “outdated religious traditions.” Even many orthodox intellectuals separate their orthodox practice from their intellectual life — something much more possible within the Jewish world because there is no set of established beliefs that is a required part of orthodoxy.
Nevertheless, I think we will eventually succeed — primarily by following the NOR’s example of being up-front about our vision. In this, as in all things, I pray to God for guidance, and turn to the Torah for insight, but I am strengthened by your example. And your editorial both fortifies my resolve and concretely assists me — it makes me feel supported and not alone. God bless you, and your work.
I would like to make contact with anyone in the Albany, N.Y., area who subscribes to the NOR — for discussion of Catholic issues.
Matthew J. Delany
Albany, New York
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