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BY Jim Cosgrove
The Rediscovery of Tim Drake
I have just read “The Rediscovery of Jesus” in the Dec. 24-30 Register. It makes me again mourn the transience of newspaper articles. This article should be a bedrock of formation classes for adults. Your Tim Drake has a genius for choosing, organizing and writing the very difficult combination of hard evidence within an inspirational message.
I have long admired and learned from Drake's interviews, but this article proves he can do far more than collect information and facts. He can weave them together with inspiration in a very readable and understandable writing style. I hope you will print more of his articles.
DOROTHY T. SAMUEL Saint Cloud, Minnesota
Editor's note: Though both the letter-writer and Tim Drake live in the same city, they have never met, and Mr. Drake assures us that no money changed hands in repayment for this letter.
Engage What Culture?
Upon reading Allen O'Donnell's letter (“So, What Next?” Dec. 17-23) and his question to you, “Why should a Catholic layman engage the culture?” something occurred to me. Because we are Catholics who represent a counter-culture in that we do not subscribe to the current mores of the culture in which we reside, perhaps the challenge is a bit different than merely engaging the culture.
The culture reflects a belief system contrary to Catholic teaching. And the Church, speaking as Christ speaks, calls us to be in the world but not of it. Thus it seems that perhaps the better question is: How can each of us have a positive effect on those around us with whom we may have influence, opportunity to witness or occasion to share the truth embodied in the Church and her immortal wisdom?
It is difficult to define “the culture” and subsequently take steps to challenge it; “the culture” is such a vague term. But it is not difficult to personally seek the courage and wisdom from the Lord Himself to make a difference one person at a time. Every single reader can do that if only he remembers that we are called to humbly make ourselves totally Christ's. Through Him, each one of us can affect others, and then the culture will be converted, soul by soul.
JUDIE BROWN Stafford, Virginia
The writer is president of American Life League.
Home School For Adults
I was very interested in the story about Vincentian Father Oscar Lukefahr and the Catholic Home Study Service (Inperson: “In Case You Missed CCD ...” Dec. 31-Jan. 6).
I am a member of the Society of Sts. Francis Xavier and Thérèse, which works with the Catholic Home Study Service to evangelize the American South. Members mail brochures, prepared by Father Lukefahr, to people in southern states where most of the recipients will not be Catholic. They contain a brief introduction to Jesus Christ and his Church and an invitation to enroll in the Catholic Home Study Service's basic correspondence course.
During the past 10 years more than 8,200 people have taken Catholic Home Study Service courses because they received our brochures and many of them have entered the Church.
The brochures and mailing lists are provided free to the Society's members and there are no membership fees or dues. The only cost is a postcard-rate stamp and the few minutes a day it takes to address a card and pray for the addressee. Anyone who wants to become personally involved in the Church's work of evangelization can get further information by writing to: The Society of Sts. Francis Xavier and Thérèse 216-32 Rockaway Point Blvd.
Breezy Point, NY 11697-1127
MARTIN W. HELGESEN Malverne, New York
Too Young to Vote for Bush
I'm just a teen-ager—too young to vote—but when I read the letter “Another Vote for Gore” I thought it was very upsetting. First of all, I'll agree that many Catholics (including me) don't like the fact that George W. visited an anti-Catholic school and supports the death penalty.
However, let me point out that not only did Al Gore support the death penalty, but he went on to say that it was all right to execute a woman, who is on death row, that is pregnant. Also, why do you think that the environment plan that Al Gore had is more important than Bush's plan to stop partial-birth abortion? I for one think that saving innocent babies’ lives is more important than saving trees.
Though George W. Bush may have some faults (like all of us do) I think that he will be a great leader for our country.
MARY DECRANE Greenwood, Indiana
A Democrat for Bush
As a retired County Democratic Chairman and former delegate to a National Democratic Convention, in 1972, I feel qualified to speak authoritatively on the voting responsibilities of Catholics, regardless of party affiliation.
First of all, as a practicing Catholic I must, in conscience, follow the basic philosophy of the Catholic Church, and its bishops, in my daily life, which includes voting.
My decision to vote the Republican ticket in the recent Presidential election was determined by my analysis of the Democratic and Republican platforms. There is no way that I, as a Catholic, nor any other Catholic, in good conscience, could vote for Al Gore's platform of killing human beings still in the womb by abortion on demand, and promoting and supporting worldwide financial support for Planned Parenthood's phony agenda of indirectly promoting business for their abortion mills by encouraging promiscuous sexual activity beginning in grade schools with distribution of various questionable and many times harmful birth control devices.
By the way, when will your paper enlighten us on the standing of the self-proclaimed “Catholics” in Congress, like Ted Kennedy, Leahy and others who vote against the official doctrine of the Catholic church?
GEORGE WEIDNER Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
Out of Line
Having subscribed to the Register for several years we have found the paper to be one of high standards and full of interesting useful information. The pro-life page was especially informative. We were very pleased with our subscription until recent issues when several items raised the question of whether those high standards are dropping.
The letter, “Another Vote for Gore” (Dec. 31-Jan. 6), was a harsh, caustic diatribe against Catholics who voted for Bush. It was an insulting letter that did not receive any editorial comment, even to advise the author that the Register demands civility and charity in its published letters.
JOHN AND CAROLYN NAUGHTON Silver Spring, Maryland
Editor's note: Our letters section became a lively forum for opinions about the election in the past month. On second look, the referenced letter's tone is the kind we will avoid in the future. Below, find readers’ response to that letter.
On another note: We have not abandoned the coverage you used to find on the Culture of Life page. The same articles about life issues are now featured on the news pages and front page, while the back page is devoted to features of help to families.
Drawing the Line
Mr. Szymanowski's letter “Another Vote for Gore” attempted to defend voting for a pro-abortion candidate by, among other things, citing the rejection of “single-issue voting” by Catholic Democrats. A candidate for political office—Democrat or Republican—disqualifies himself as a person for whom a Catholic can vote if he or she advocates the moral evil of abortion.
Even if this candidate espouses a variety of programs that are in accord with the Church's social teaching, a Catholic with a well-formed conscience will not vote for him given his advocacy of abortion.
Fortunately we have Church documents that address this issue. The 1974 document “Declaration on Procured Abortion” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states that we cannot take part in a campaign for laws that favor abortion or vote for them (No. 22). Since our elected representatives establish laws in the U.S., this provision clearly precludes Catholics from voting for politicians who support abortion.
In Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II states that the right to life is paramount because it is the right on which all others are based and cannot be regained once it's lost. The Holy Father also states that in politics and government today, the inalienable right to life “is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people—even if it's in the majority. This is the sinister result of relativism which reigns unopposed” (No. 22).
If this most basic of human rights is denied, a candidate's position on welfare, preferential option for the poor or any other issue is moot.
With regard to the death penalty, both candidates in the presidential election support capital punishment—so this argument is also moot.
Even if that were not the case, the death penalty and abortion are not on equal footing in terms of Catholic moral teaching. Abortion is the murder of an innocent person and therefore intrinsically evil. The Church has always taught that it is the right and responsibility of the legitimate temporal authority to execute capital criminals to protect society if no other means of defense is sufficient. The Holy Father has not changed this teaching, but he's asked that the death penalty not be used when society can be protected by other bloodless means. Morally, capital punishment and abortion are not the same act.
Every Catholic should read Evangelium Vitae and all members of the clergy should continuously preach its message. If we want 50% of Catholics in the U.S. to stop voting for pro-abortion candidates, then we need better catechesis of the laity. Every vote cast for a pro-abortion candidate is a vote for the culture of death. We're reaping what we have sown.
KATHLEEN M. HUNT Falls Church, Virginia
Sorry to prolong this, but I can't let Mary Morch's snippy comments (Letters, Dec. 31-Jan.
6) about my previously published views on the awfulness of contemporary church architecture go unanswered.
“Churches today are designed for people, community, seeing and being with your fellow human beings and recognizing Christ in them,” Ms. Morch writes. Whenever I hear Catholics use that kind of jargon, I unholster my rosary. This is the kind of emotional cant employed to depict those of us who reject the ugly, depressing post-conciliar churches as mean-spirited and anti-human—and therefore the kind of people who can safely be ignored.
Surely Ms. Morch can't possibly believe that Catholics didn't engage in charitable works until the statues were removed, the tabernacle hustled away, and the altars stripped? That's not the life my family lives, nor many faithful Catholics today, and in generations past. On second thought, she probably does believe it. People like this are capable of convincing themselves of any oddball thing that advances their agenda.
It is a fallacy to suggest that today's churches are empty because past generations of church architects failed to appreciate “community.” There are many reasons why the Church is in dire straits, first among them the failure of the American church to teach its people what it means to be an authentically faithful Catholic. What's the point of filling hideous churchatoriums up with Catholics who have little idea what their faith is, much less any real commitment to living up to its demands?
The parable of the widow's mite comes to mind. The numbers of American Catholics who dissent from Church dogma on abortion, contraception, premarital sex, the Real Presence and other core teachings are scandalous. The notion that this can be remedied by newfangled church design is ridiculous. One suspects that the Mary Morches of the world don't see this as a crisis in need of remedy at all.
Ms. Morch says I appear to “need continued conversion.” I plead guilty; who doesn't? But if by “conversion” she means throwing in with the self-love hootenanny that obtains at many American parishes, I shall remain a hidebound heathen, so to speak, and do so in very good company. The “community” didn't save me from sin; Jesus Christ did. Would that he today rescue us from our co-religionists who seek to supplant the Catholic faith with an ersatz substitute.
ROD DREHER Brooklyn, New York
BY Jim Cosgrove
Power of Prayer
A few comments on the article “Prayer From Strangers Good For Heart Patients” (Nov. 14-20):
Four years ago I almost died from a sudden, severe illness. During one of my lowest points I was nearly deluged with cards and calls from family, friends and acquaintances, some of whom I hadn't seen in years. Nearly all of them said they were praying for me (not just thinking of me).
While I wanted to recover, my primary prayer during that time was for the strength to face what was to happen.
I got well and, with daily thanks to God, have remained healthy. Since then I've often told people that the prayers of others played a big part in my recovery.
But after reading that article it dawned [on me] how we often equate successful prayer only with recovery. Had I died, the prayers of those concerned about me wouldn't have been wasted. God's answer to them would have been to give me the courage to face the end, I'm convinced.
We all need prayers daily, just as we need to pray daily for others, regardless of our situation. It seems diabolical that some medical professionals did an experiment with the lives of their patients to seek proof for prayer. We should never forget that prayer works, always, even if the answer we get isn't what we wanted.
Jim Rygelski St. Louis
Championing Humanae Vitae
I always enjoy the interviews which appear on the front page of the Register. But the interview with Steve Wood (Nov. 14-20) was especially interesting. Your interviewer did a great job of capturing the spirit that Steve brings to his newfound mission as a convert to the Catholic faith.
The Promise Keepers movement, which appeared in 1993, certainly helped to jump-start men's movements among Christians in this country. In my parish, we found the PK book helpful when a men's group started. But once we finished the book, the problem was: What should we read next? Steve Wood's book on Christian fatherhood was the answer. Here we found ideas which were specifically Catholic in tone. The book contains a wealth of references to papal teaching on family life, and would be profitable for any young man preparing for marriage.
A particularly striking aspect of Steve's book is the frank and open admission that a Catholic father needs to be pro-life according to the teachings of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae. This is a remarkable turn of events. In the 31 years since Humanae Vitae was issued, I have attended about 2,000 Masses in many different dioceses, but I have never once heard a public proclamation of the teachings in that encyclical. It's not as if the topic was an obscure one, of interest only to theologians. On the contrary, the teaching has an impact on every family in every parish. It is totally inexplicable to me that such an important teaching of the Church has never been the subject of even a single homily [I have heard].
But with Steve Wood's arrival, the winds of change have started to blow. Since many priests and deacons are apparently reluctant to proclaim Church teaching in public, it seems that God is using a former Presbyterian minister to do the proclaiming. Steve Wood promulgates the teaching of Humanae Vitae, including encouragement to use the sacraments of penance and Eucharist, in exactly the way that Pope Paul VI recommended in 1968.
In our men's group, when the teaching on Humanae Vitae came up, the reaction was amazing. Some of the men confessed with regret that they had taken action in past years which had cut off the possibility of having further children. Their reaction to Steve Wood's words was pointed: Why were we never told about this teaching before?
Dermott J. Mullan Elkton, Maryland
BY Jim Cosgrove
Only Serious Concerns Justify NFP
If all married couples stopped using artificial birth control and started using natural family planning (“They're Throwing the Pill Away. But Why?,” Oct. 17-23), at least they'd not be using these heinous, often abortifacient devices. But what this article and others fail to mention is that NFP is only allowed for serious reasons. Humanae Vitae details these reasons, which include severe health problems and serious financial situations (not being able to afford college costs is not a valid reason!).
As the expert quoted in the article stated, NFP, when used correctly, is “quite effective.” Unfortunately, NFP users can also have the contraceptive mentality. Because they are “open” to having children does not mean that they will willingly accept every child God would send them if they did not use NFP. To be blunt, NFP should not be used for any old reason or to space children beyond what nature provides as a normal spacing for most women (two to three years). Perhaps I would be a bit more encouraged if your recent articles on NFP mentioned that these couples had or were expecting their second, third, fourth or even fifth child.
I was amazed to find, in an article titled “Faith and Family Planning” (Oct. 17-23), [apparent] enthusiasm that an organization called GIFT (for God-Intended Fertility Technique) is planning to give “kits” to newly wed couples concerning family planning. The implication is that family planning is somehow a “natural” part of marriage. I can only conclude that the writer of the article has lost sight of the primary end of marriage.
From the beginning, God's plan for married couples is to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). … The Church reiterated this teaching in Vatican II in no uncertain terms: “Marriage and married love are by their character ordained to the procreation and bringing up of children” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 50).
These words make it clear that, no matter how much our culture would like to obscure the issue, the primary end of marriage is to have children.
To be sure, there is a well-known phrase that often appears in discussions of this sort: “responsible parenthood.” But in order to avoid the common mistake of jumping to an uncritical interpretation of this phrase, it is worthwhile to read how Pope Paul VI defines the phrase. He gives two definitions. The first is noteworthy because it is rarely (if ever) cited: “Those are considered to exercise responsible parenthood who prudently and generously decide to have a large family” (Humanae Vitae, No. 10). Even though this definition reflects precisely the idea that children are a blessing from God, it is rare to come across this definition in contemporary discussions of marriage.
Much more commonly cited is the second definition of Pope Paul VI: “those … exercise responsible parenthood … who for serious reasons … choose to have no more children for the time being or even for an indeterminate period” (Humanae Vitae, No. 10). The words “for serious reasons” are significant. Because marriage is primarily about having children, a decision to have no children for a period of time must be regarded as a particularly serious event in the marriage.
There is no denying that, in the lives of many couples, periods of time may occasionally arise when “serious” reasons (as defined by the Pope) do arise. During such periods, NFP becomes an appropriate topic for discussion. But such periods should be entered into with a sense of regret, and with a hope that the serious reasons will be short-lived, so that the couple can soon return to their natural state of openness to the “outstanding gift of marriage": children. In this natural state of marriage, the topic of family planning (natural or otherwise) need not arise.
Newlyweds are in an ideal position to enjoy this natural state. I cannot understand why the National Catholic Register contains an article that encourages a couple to enter marriage with plans to limit the greatest blessing of family life. The secular culture in which we live does enough of that. Why can the Register not break the mold and encourage newlyweds to be open to having a large family?
Dermott J. Mullan
Eye of the Beholder?
The thing to remember about the Brooklyn Museum of Art's “Sensation” exhibit is that it's not only not art, but it's anti-art (“'Desecration’ Is Not Art, Catholic Protesters Insist,” Oct. 10-16).
For centuries we understood that, as St. Thomas Aquinas put it, “beauty” was the mind's appreciation of the goodness of God's creation, and that the decorative arts provided us with a reminder of that goodness in their wholeness, proper proportion and clarity. Art ennobled, because to appreciate art you had to understand that creation was good and, therefore, God was good. Art could also be used to symbolize virtue and encourage us to live as God intended us to. Art could even lead us to pray, if the contemplation of creation's beauty led us to contemplate the Creator.
If earlier artists argued with their patrons about art, at least both artist and patron agreed about what art was. That's why Brooklyn set up its art museum, whose 1893 lease states that its purpose is to serve the public and the city's schoolchildren. And Mayor Giuliani argues (correctly) that a show like “Sensation” violates the terms of the muse-um's lease. … [T]he same people who argue that you shouldn't be allowed to display our Lady in a manger scene at Christmas are now arguing that the taxpayers have to pay for “Sensation” because the government should promote art.
Conscience in Connecticut
In reference to your editorial “Conscience in California” (Oct. 24-30), I would like to point out that the state of Connecticut, where more than 40% of the population is Catholic — it's second only to Rhode Island — signed into law an act requiring health insurers to cover prescription birth control. This happened on June 3, at the hand of our Catholic governor. The vote was overwhelmingly anti-Catholic. Of the 145 votes in the House, only 20% voted against this bill. In the Senate, only one of the 18 members voted “against.” It deeply saddens me that there are a large percentage of Catholics who do not understand the true beauty and benefits of our Church's teachings.
North Haven, Connecticut
Joys of Adoption
We loved all the coverage in the Oct. 24-30 Register on adoption throughout our country. Many years ago, after our natural child (now 26 years old) was born, we chose to adopt. At the time, the main argument for abortion was “so many unwanted children.” [But] there are no unwanted children — only uncaring parents.
In 1996, our state had no child abandonment laws on the books. We tried in vain to adopt an 11-year-old girl who had been lost in the system for eight years. Unable by law to sever parental rights, she was never free to find a loving family. In 1997, with the help of state Sen. Bill Armistead, we lobbied, we called, we begged 54 senators, the whole House of Representatives. We finally received the governor's backing if he ever received the bill.
In 1997-98, Alabama's Child Abandonment Law was passed and signed. On that date, we were asked to attend the ceremony, but chose instead at that time to kneel before our Lord at our Catholic church. To him was the glory of that day!
This year, we finalized the adoption of three more children, ages 12 (twin girls) and 14. Now, as a result of the new law, more than 500 children are free to be adopted; they're just waiting for families. Once again, we take a public stance to reach families for these little gifts from heaven. In our work and in our hearts, may we give glory, praise and honor to God.