Letters to the Editor: January-February 1984
Standing Up for the Helpless
Juli Loesch’s article (“My Pilgrimage,” Nov.) reminded me of another, equally moving, statement by Erma Craven (an at-large director of the National Right to Life Committee). Appalled at the apparent complacency of the Left with respect to abortion, she wrote in 1981, “As a life-long liberal Democrat, it grieves me that it is my liberal compatriots who have violated what should be the prime directive for any liberal: to defend the powerless and to uphold the dignity of every human life, regardless of age, color, sex, condition of dependency or physical handicap.”
Juli Loesch is right: a consistent prolife stance must condemn both the presence of nuclear weapons and the use of abortion in our society (and indeed in our world). Thank you for standing up for the helpless.
John A. Pummell
Covenant Theological Seminary
St. Louis, Missouri
Perplexed & Disappointed
My wife and I were perplexed and disappointed by Robert Coles’s column “On Abortion” (Oct.): perplexed, because the essay consists of a series of images not bound together by any clear reasoning or point; disappointed, because, given the enormity and moral seriousness of the abortions perpetrated in the United States, we expected something displaying a more focused conviction.
Coles seems to want to bring out the relationship between abortion and other moral tragedies that “mankind visits upon itself,” such as the starvation and death of children in the poorer parts of the world. We can accept that abortion, like the starvation of poor children, is a manifestation of human greed, pride, sloth, and sinfulness. But here, it seems to us, the resemblance largely ends, and to imply otherwise is to obscure. In this country, abortion — that is, the intentional destruction of innocent, unborn children for the sake of expedience — has become widespread, mind you, not as a result of laws passed by elected legislatures, but rather as a consequence of a questionable decision by six Justices. The death and bloodshed could be stopped, and justly so, by means of the legal process. And this process could easily be carried out, if those who think that abortion is the taking of innocent life — as Coles seems to think — would only act politically, and with conviction, to save those lives.
Fifteen million children have so far been killed through legal abortions in the U.S. alone. Imagine that, near the end of the Second World War, a writer had written a piece about the Jewish holocaust, in which he implied, or seemed to imply, that the holocaust was just one of many unfortunate tragedies — “aspects of our utter sinfulness toward ourselves.” “The extermination of a Jew is an affront to the Lord,” he writes, “but I cannot forget the starving people I have seen in India, and I cannot forget the children bombed by Allied bombers…,” etc. As if these issues, although all serious, were comparable! Such an essay would deserve the censure it would no doubt receive. Coles’s column is similarly unhelpful, not because of what it states positively, but because of what it fails to say, given the context in which it is written.
It is more than unfortunate that, when the unborn children of our country could use, in the person of Professor Coles, an advocate for their very lives, what they get instead is apparent equivocation and confusion.
Michael and Ruth Pakaluk
State of Confusion
Robert Coles’s Harvard Diary is the column I turn to first when the NOR hits my doorstep. His column “On Abortion” (Oct.) reaffirmed my trust in his mind, spirit, and honesty, but I ached for his state of confusion in this matter.
I’m surprised that Coles is not more aware of the physical and emotional violence done by the act of killing and then aborting a child from the protection of the womb. Nancyjo Mann, founder of Woman Exploited by Abortion, in describing her second trimester abortion, said that she was never told that she would feel her baby fight for life for two and a half hours, and then deliver a dead baby girl in a labor room by herself. In 10 months her organization has attracted 10,000 members. Among her membership she finds women who cannot face the recurrent approach of the day their child was killed, women who cannot vacuum their homes because of the sound of the vacuum, women who are intently interested in children and yet cannot hold a baby, and women whose maternal instincts are so thwarted that they vacillate between being over-protective and abusive toward the children they have. Mann predicts that there will be an epidemic in emotional breakdowns among women in the next five years, and only women like her will know why: because they had an abortion.
Coles exposed his thoughts honestly, knowing the vulnerability of his mixed feelings. But we need clarity, not confusion, among professionals on this issue. I pray that in time physicians and lawmakers will unite in protecting the people they serve, and say unambiguously: “Abortion is not a cure. Abortion should not be legal.”
Science Presupposes Faith
I would like to comment on Frederick Butzen’s letter to the editor (Nov.), which tries to make Darwinian evolution somehow more believable.
To quote Butzen: “science does not involve faith.” I would hate to be advocating Darwinism and try to defend that statement, but looking past the volumes of faith required before even one simple conclusion can be drawn from Darwinism, I would like to look at the more established sciences.
In chemistry, for example, it takes a mountain of faith to believe a substantial change can be the result of a simple change in quantity. That is to say, by simply adding one proton to an already existing number of protons, we make a change in substance! How about physics? I don’t know about Butzen, but it takes a lot of faith for me to accept that the speed of light is independent of its source of motion. (Ask a few non-Euclidean mathematicians how much faith is required to believe the fifth postulate.) It turns out upon serious reflection that science must depend upon a certain amount of faith to establish its own existence because no science proves its own principles. Without this faith, science would not be able to advance any proof of anything at all.
Merle J. Farrier
Ill-Conceived & Trivial
The only disappointing feature in an otherwise splendid November issue was the ill-conceived and trivial nature of the letters to the editor. One can almost hear Screwtape saying, “Fairness demands that The Other Side be given equal space.” I subscribed to the NOR for spiritual nourishment, not to learn what The Other Side has to say about such topics as feminism, gay rights, experimental lifestyles, etc.
The shallow nature of Frederick Butzen’s criticism of S.L. Varnado’s excellent “Confessions of a Lapsed Evolutionist,” and Alan Gasser’s sophomoric attack on Dale Vree’s views, did not deserve editorial space.
I look forward each month to the articulate and inspired writing of such persons as Sheldon Vanauken, Robert Coles, and James Hitchcock, to name three of our favorites.
David L. Smith
Battle Lines Shifting
One day before the October New Oxford Review arrived, I had already heard the rumor that the NOR was becoming Roman Catholic. Now the news comes. Wonderful.
Welcome to the Ark! We badly need strong mind-hands like yours; heretics have drilled many holes in the hull of the unsinkable ship. She’s a dotty old dowager, frumpy and battered, with leaks aplenty. Compared to the scrubbed and smiling people in the trim little evangelical boats following in the Ark’s wake (though they think they sail by their own steam), this old Ark is a messy tub indeed, unhandleable but by the Divine Steersman. Thus, Boccaccio’s unanswerable argument for the divine backing of the Church: no merely human institution that bad could ever survive for a few years, much less many centuries.
So, again a large and hearty Welcome Aboard! And now — let’s get on with the struggle. The Church will be one and the world will be won, if more good people keep popping up and joining hands on both sides of the Reformational wall. Battle lines are shifting fundamentally, and clarifying: mere Christianity vs. Christianity-and-water, rather than Proddies vs. Papists. Welcome into the Major Weapons Room; let us slaughter the infidelities together, allied to our formerly-thought enemies and now-only-confused-friends, the evangelicals. We need them too, and we’ll not have union till we have caught up with their personal Christ as fully as they must catch up with our cosmic Christ. The NOR is helping to prove that. Welcome in!
Prof. Peter Kreeft
Dept. of Philosophy, Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
I regret your decision (announced in the Oct. issue) to reconstitute New Oxford Review as a Roman Catholic periodical. I must ask you to remove my name from its list of Contributing Editors.
I am an heir of the Reformation. It is not simply that I have read Fox’s Book of Martyrs. It is, rather, that I am convinced that, in the Reformation, something crucial happened, a giant step forward for the Church universal.
I appreciate all that is positive about the Roman Communion. Rome is an anchor to windward which keeps the Church universal from being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. Still, I think something more is needed: the witness of the Reformation. I am an Episcopalian because the Anglican Communion appreciates the heritage of the Church whose custodian Rome is but also clearly and unambiguously claims the witness of the Reformation as its own. You have given that up, and in that I cannot follow you.
And so farewell, New Oxford Review! I wish you well in your new incarnation. I hope, though, that a new Anglican review will rise up to take your place, to speak the word of the whole Christian witness, both the tradition of Rome and the moral grandeur of the Reformation.
Prof. Erazim Kohák
Dept. of Philosophy, Boston University
Congratulations on becoming Roman Catholic (Oct.). We rejoice that you have answered the bell! We promise Carmelite prayers — always. Your Review is tops.
Mother Therese & Community
Discalced Carmelite Nuns
The Luxury of Infighting
The news of the New Oxford Review’s becoming Roman Catholic (Oct.) was hardly surprising, and I’m sure I join many other Catholics in welcoming you aboard. With the NOR, the intellectual strength of orthodox Catholicism shall be reinforced, as well as Catholic evangelical strength — with such men as singer/composer John Michael Talbot (another convert) and his radical Franciscan community in Arkansas.
Many non-Catholic readers might well be wondering just what is going on. As one who has taken the long journey from a Baptist background to Roman Catholicism, I sympathize with those who could be feeling a sense of undeserved encroachment, even threat. I only wish to respond by relating my conviction about my own choice.
It could well be true that during the troubled era of the Protestant Reformation, Christendom had the luxury of taking part in fratricidal infighting over doctrine and religious practice: much of the Western world shared the same view of the universe, with God’s and man’s places firmly established within it. While there may be grounds on which we could argue that the 16th century was also somewhat secularized in various ways (and by absolute standards), it was nothing like the heathen society in which we live today. Christopher Derrick’s likening of our modern society (complete with abortion on demand and “punk” rock, with all its cultic implications) with that of the later Roman Empire, with its moral degeneracy and mystery cults, is all too apt. At least in the former ages the vast majority of men could (A) admit the existence of God and (B) accept their need of His favor; all else became a matter of how to deal with these two basic “givens.” No wonder men could afford to debate details.
Things are different now. The two preceding assumptions are no longer basic in the hearts and minds of men. What has taken place is no less than a sort of spiritual devolution.
It is going to be increasingly crucial for all followers of Christ to come together in the coming years as a great unifying force for Him in a dying world. We no longer have that “luxury” of permanently sustained discord. The stakes are too high. After all, a “house divided against itself” is not exactly the best witness for those who should be known by their love for each other. Not only does the Body of Christ need a return to orthodoxy, it must be a stubborn orthodoxy (at least as stubborn as the opposing forces), and we are not likely to find a more stubborn orthodoxy than that treasured by the Spirit through Rome! Although this is the very thing that turns many away from the Catholic Church, it is exactly what we need. (Notice the quickening deaths of those denominations that have endeavored “enlightenment” through moral laxity and theological compromise.) Not since the first centuries of the Church have we needed to speak with a universal voice more than today.
Tracy Lee Simmons
As one who became an evangelical after leaving the Roman Church, I’m sorry you have made the reverse journey.
Satan always wins when we mistake the commandments of men for the commandments of God.
I hope the love of our Lord Jesus Christ will always be with you.
Rt. Rev. Henry A. Felisone Jr.
Church of the Peaceful Promise
Floral Park, New York
I was delighted with the news that the NOR has become Roman Catholic (Oct.). As one convert to another, I offer congratulations and felicitations.
I enclose a small offering against your moving and other expenses.
St. Louis, Missouri
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