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BY Jim Cosgrove
Interpreting the Stem Cell Parable
In an attempt to justify President Bush's stem cell research decision, professor James Chu of Yale University (“Stem Cell Parable,” Oct. 7-13) proposed a parable of two sons, one of whom has his father murdered in order to inherit the father's wealth so that both sons can use the money for countless good deeds. He asks us to draw our own conclusions as to whether the “good” son should be allowed to inherit the wealth made possible by the “bad” son's evil deed.
If we agree to stop thinking at this point, then it certainly seems unreasonable to disinherit the good son. But instead let us continue to draw conclusions, as Professor Chu suggested. In the story, presumably both the bad son and the hired assassin will be punished for their crime.
Certainly, neither will be allowed to receive any part of the inheritance — that would be monstrous. And, of course, killing any person is a crime, and killing one's own father (for whatever reason) is a particularly heinous crime. Finally, we can be sure that society will do everything possible to prevent such a crime from ever happening again.
So how does the parable really square with the reality of embryonic stem cell research in this country? First, it is not a crime (according to the law) to kill children in the womb and then harvest their body parts. It is also not a crime to conceive “surplus” children in the laboratory, “discard” them, and extract their stem cells. Our laws do nothing to prevent these activities, because they refuse to recognize them as evil. The controversy is not over whether these deeds should be allowed, but whether they should be funded by our taxes. And it is not monstrous (by the president's logic) that the same people who committed them will be allowed to receive a share of the funding.
Why not profit from an evil that “has already been done”? We seem to be more and more comfortable with this idea. But remember that the evil is still being done with private funds, and we can't (or won't) stop it.
When researchers claim that the cell lines allowed by the president are tainted or have come to the end of their usefulness, and ask us why we can't pay for them to use other cell lines obtained through private research, what will we say? Will we tell them that what they propose to do is evil, or will we just say: “Why not let them, since the evil ‘has already been done’?”
Re: James Chu's “Stem Cell Parable,” Letters, Oct. 7-13: a difference from the parable is that the research involved parts of the human body. Dead bodies should be shown respect and only used with proper permission.
Bush and Catholics
I fear my comments quoted in your Oct. 14-21 issue (“Catholic Skipped for U.N. Job”) regarding the now scuttled nominiation of John Klink to the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration may be misunderstood.
I do believe Klink came under fire from anti-Catholic types precisely because he is a faithful Catholic. I do believe that many in pro-abortion circles would establish an unconstitutional religious test for political office. What I want to make clear is that this kind of opposition came from pro-abortion and population control groups and not from the Bush administration. The Bush administration has been very good in reaching out to faithful Catholics and for this should be applauded.
Faithful Catholics hope the Bush administration will still find good use for such a fine public servant as John Klink.
The writer is president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.
Three Cheers For Tim Drake
Tim Drake's story, “To Pray, to Act, to Fight: A Hero's Life” (Oct. 21-27) was exceptional writing and very uplifting as an excellent example of our faith truly in practice at the highest level.
Drake's writing is simply extraordinary in every way. Please commend him for me. And, on top of it all, he is a convert to our faith. What a gift he has been in strengthening our faith in so many ways.
I've told several friends that the Register is the best Catholic news resource they can find.
Praising Popular Piety
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera's expressions regarding piety being in harmony with liturgical life are long in coming.
Your article (“Cardinal: Popular Piety Important to Catholics' Faith,” Sept. 20-Oct. 6) regarding Cardinal Rivera's remarks points out the many problems we as lay people have in just praying quietly in Church. We constantly run into the positions of those theologians and pastors who have cast doubt on the popular piety practices mentioned by Cardinal Rivera. We who follow simple Catholic devotions are too often opposed as “politically incorrect.” We need to be holy; even this simple point has too many times been a point of contention.
I wish that all parishes could read the cardinal's remarks. Many many people will have renewed strength to express their love piously for the sacraments and the Eucharist. Thank you for your wonderful article.
To Whom Should We Pledge Allegiance?
One could agree with much of Eric Scheske's analysis of the symbolic meaning of the American flag in “Why It Is Necessary to Pledge Allegiance to the Flag” (Oct. 7-13) and yet lean toward just the opposite conclusion.
Our nation does indeed hold common beliefs as a society, but many of these beliefs flatly contradict the Catholic faith. Most Americans believe, for example, that there is a fundamental right to abortion in at least the early stages of human life, that purveyors of pornography have a fundamental right to produce and disseminate their product, that American foreign policy should have as one of its goals to goad Third World countries into making contraception and sterilization a routine part of their cultures, and that American corporations are within their rights to pay low wages to workers in poor countries.
This reality raises some disturbing questions: Should we as Catholics pledge allegiance to a flag that stands for common beliefs such as these? Should we as Catholics be willing to kill other human beings in defense of such rights as the right to abortion? Is Scheske underestimating the degree to which faithful American Catholics should feel estranged by what our country and its flag have in fact come to stand for over the last few decades?
In short, just what sort of allegiance to our country in its present state is compatible with fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church?
I do not claim to have indisputable answers to these questions, but I am fairly certain that the questions themselves need to be discussed and prayed about more than they have been.
ALFRED J. FREDDOSO
Notre Dame, Indiana
BY Jim Cosgrove
Edward Halpin's letter in the Nov. 3-9 Register contains an error regarding one of history's famous quotations. In his letter on Father Coughlin, Mr. Halpin quotes “Aeron” as the author of the words “power corrupts.” It may reflect my own ignorance but I find no reference to Mr. Aeron. I wondered whether or not that was a typo and that Mr. Halpin was really referring to Lord John Acton, a liberal Catholic in England who was opposed to papal infallibility and expressed it thus: “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Editor's note: Indeed, it was a typo.
Nonprofit Tax Amendment
The proposed nonprofit tax amendment on the recent Colorado ballot (“Colorado's Nonprofit Tax Plan Would Drain Church,” Nov. 3-9), would have forced churches, charities and non-profit organizations to pay their “fair share” of taxes as a “social duty.”
Three years ago, I wrote in The Tablet (Brooklyn, N.Y.) about the death penalty. My hypothesis at the time was that for 2000 years the Church has condoned the execution of murderers, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church also condones it, and that it takes $60-70,000, depending on the state, to subsidize and support one prisoner for one year in prison for life. Who was going to pay for this?
The answer to that question was silence and mass indifference to the plight of the taxpayer, with the attitude that as long as the bishops were held exempt, the other guy could be burdened with the payments.
We heard again and again the socio-moral pronouncements of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on such issues as allowing and subsidizing illegal immigration etc., and suggesting more socioeconomic giveaways at taxpayers'expense.
Now the bishops, and Protestant clergy of like persuasion, have opened the door to where they will be forced to put their money where their mouth is.
However, this nonprofit tax amendment is a twoway street! Taxation without representation is tyranny, we are told! If churches are not exempt from taxation then they should have the civil right to speak out from the pulpits, without the deterrent of separation of Church and state.
This amendment would also make both Catholics and Protestant bishops more cautious in their pronouncements that would involve taxation.
Editor's note: The Colorado tax measure was defeated.
Young Adults Want Substance
In October of last year, I joined the Young Adult Fellowship of Holy Family parish in Glendale, Calif. I met the woman who would become my wife in that group, and last April, I was asked to direct the group (along with one other member). When I assumed the leadership position, our numbers were declining, and the average weekly attendance was about six or seven people. Since then, membership has increased dramatically. We now have about 12 or 13 people who come on a regular basis, others who come semi-regularly, and one or two new people each week. As I write—no joke—the phone just rang from another interested person. Whether you'd call it the action of the Holy Spirit, or the result of our recent aggressive, “high profile” activities in the parish (or both), no one can deny that ours is a very successful—though still modest—young adult fellowship. So I feel justified to offer some comment on the article in your Nov. 16 issue, “At Long Last, Young Adults get Serious Attention.”
Father Charles Hagan seems to hold the view that young adults are “turned off” by solid doctrine, and the answer is to “soft-pedal” the rules and to “hit these people with a series of things they need to get married—birth certificates, workshops. …” With all due respect, I think Father Hagan is wrong. You do not serve young Catholics seeking guidance in their faith by jettisoning the “why” and focusing exclusively on the “how,” especially with regards to sexuality and the sacrament of matrimony. Should a pastor say to every starry-eyed couple who comes through the rectory door, “Yes, come in, here's how you get married…”? Any good pastor will answer that question with “No.” The Bride of Christ should not be made into a “marriage factory” for all who apply, including those couples who have no intention of taking their faith seriously, or they will be seeking annulments or divorces later. It's much better to turn some people off than to deny all of them the true doctrine and solid Church teaching they will need to really follow Christ, persevere in marriage, and uphold their Catholic faith in a culture that subverts it in so many ways.
I will not deny that some people are turned off by sound doctrine; Jesus, too, lost some people with some strong statements. But what the critics usually bypass is the fact that there is a lot of traffic in both directions. Solid doctrine, well presented, attracts most people, especially among young adults; “nice Catholicism” may draw some in the door, but they won't retain their respect for leaders who are anxious to avoid offending anyone. It's those who fear offending young people who are losing their allegiance. (Do you know that the largest number of converts to evangelical Protestant, i.e. “Bible Christian” sects are former Catholics?) Even people I've known who live together before marriage have respect for those who lovingly tell them that what they're doing is wrong. Our Young Adult Fellowship continues to flourish, not because we try to please everyone, but because we present the Catholic faith in all its beauty and integrity.
North Hollywood, California
BY Jim Cosgrove
My name is Michael Ross. I am a condemned man on Connecticut's death row. When most people think of death row inmates, I'm the one that they think of. I'm the worst of the worst, a man who has raped and murdered eight women, assaulted several others, and stalked and frightened many more. When I am finally executed, the vast majority of the people of this state will celebrate my death. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can see the hundreds of people who will gather outside the prison gates on the night of my execution. I can see them waving placards, drinking and rejoicing, and I can hear their cheers as my death is officially announced.
I have lived here on Connecticut's death row for over eight-and-a-half-years. I live in an eight-by-ten foot unpainted concrete cell for 23-hours-a-day—24-hours-a-day on weekends. I come out for an hour of“recreation”five days a week. The only other times that I leave my cell is for a 15-minute shower five days a week, or for an occasional visit (30 minutes, through glass, on a telephone). My meals are brought to my cell in a Styrofoam box three times a day. I live in a single cell—and since I can only talk to the two people on either side of my cell—I quite often feel alone.
One of the results of this almost total isolation is that, after a while, a person is forced to look at himself. I'm not talking about the cursory, superficial manner in which most people look at themselves, but rather a quite painful, unrelenting search of one's very soul.
Many inmates in prison, and many of those on death row, are able to lie convincingly to themselves, to see themselves as basically good people who are the innocent victims of a corrupt judicial system or of an unfair and uncaring society in general. Sometimes it is very difficult to honestly see ourselves as we truly are, and much easier to blame others as justification for our actions. I know this to be true because for years this is exactly what I did. During this period I was angry—very angry—at everyone and everything except for the one person I should have been angry with—me. It took a very long time—years in fact— for that anger to subside, to accept who I was and what I had become, and even longer before I was ready and willing to accept responsibility for my actions.
Mypersonaltransformation…allowedmy humanity to awaken, giving me back something that I thought I had lost forever…. Now that my mind was clear, I began to see—really see. It was like a spotlight shining down on me, burning away the mist, exposing every shadow of my being. I saw things as they really were; things I didn't like; things that brought great anguish.
Yet it is … reconciliation that I yearn for the most: Reconciliation with the spirit of my victims; reconciliation with the families and friends of my victims; and finally, reconciliation with myself and my God. This will be the final part of my transformation—and undoubtedly the most difficult part…. I have gone through quite a transformation since the day I first set foot on death row—most of it alone.
There is a group of people who firmly believe in this concept of reconciliation—victim-offender reconciliation and of the offender's reconciliation with society. They stand up for their beliefs and actively promote reformation and reconciliation. For more information about this group contact: Pat Bane, director; Murder Victims'Families For Reconciliation, PO Box 205, Atlantic, VA 23303-0208. Or call her at (801) 824-0948. And please tell her Michael Ross sent you.
Michael Ross, no. 127404 Northern Correctional Institution Somers, Connecticut
Ordinarily I consider it inappropriate for an author to reply to his reviewers, but Robert Moser's charge that my book The Immigration Mystique: America's False Conscience is“anti-Catholic”and that I have“disdain for the Catholic Church”must be answered. I am Roman Catholic; and if Dr. Moser is unable to recognize a co-religionist when he reads him, perhaps that is because he has come to think of his Church as simply another social service agency, and its teachings as indistinguishable from the Democratic Party.
Interestingly, Dr. Moser does not refer to my remarks on Thomism and its displacement in the American Church in particular by the modern Catholic left. In the Thomistic view our obligations are to those connected to us by nature, to friends rather than strangers, and to one's country rather than to the world.
As I say in my book, the immigration crisis is a serious temptation to the Churches—not just to the Catholic Church—to confuse the worldly with the otherworldly. Undoubtedly, the fact that immigrationismhasbecomeafalsereligion—indeedan idol—goes far to account for this confusion; and nowhere has immigrationism been made more an object of idolatry than in the American Church's refugee and immigrant services departments, where Dr. Moser resides. Thus Moser's opinions in respect of immigrants do not surprise me. His inability to recognize Catholic argument when he meets it, however, disappoints.
I could answer his charge regarding my own lapses in logic. This being a letter in defense of my faith, and not of my book, I won't.
Chilton Williamson Jr.Kemmerer, Wyoming
Gabriel Meyer's article on the most famous radio orator in history was most interesting. My father used to set aside Sunday afternoon to listen to Father Coughlin. Unfortunately, his rise to fame proved Aeron's maxim that power corrupts.
However it is worth noting that when Father Coughlin was silenced by his bishop he lived up to his vow of obedience in the capacity of a parish priest for 37 years until he died in 1979. Many liberals who were opposed to any form of censorship applauded his retirement but asked“why did it take so long?“
Would an activist accept the authority of a bishop in today's climate?
Edward Halpin Park Ridge, Ill.
BY Jim Cosgrove
I want to thank you for publishing Father Peter Liuzzi's review of Homosexuality-Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice by Father Gerald Coleman, S.S. (May 12). The reviewer identifies extremists who, on the one side, only condemn homosexuality and, on the other side, who only see it as sacrosanct and beyond the reaches of the Magesterium and traditional morality.
Father Liuzzi noted that the foreword to the book by Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony points out Gabriel Marceau's distinction between puzzle and mystery. If homosexuality is seen as a problem, we're likely to come up with overly neat solutions. But if it's seen as one of the mysteries of life, easy answers are not admissible.
Thanks, Cardinal Mahony, for the admonishment on better thinking. Thanks to the Register for publishing Father Liuzzi's review.
Mack Manning Chicago, Illinois
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony recently was quoted as calling St. Vibiana's the “worst or second worst” cathedral in the world. Eager to swing the wrecking ball on his cathedral, the cardinal has gone out of his way to disparage a church built at great sacrifice by the Catholics of Los Angeles and their neighbors of other faiths.
As the battle over the cathedral escalates we are told by the cardinal's supporters that the cathedral is unworthy of preservation because it is not an example of great architecture, but only a copy of a church in Spain. Since 1876, when St. Vibiana's was erected, numerous larger and more beautiful buildings have been constructed in the city. Yet that does not diminish the importance of St. Vibiana's or its unique role in the development of Los Angeles. Jesuit Father Michael Engh of Loyola Marymount University, who is president of the Los Angeles City Historical Society, tells us in his 1992 book Frontier Faiths that the construction of St. Vibiana's was made possible by hundreds of contributions from all segments of society: rich and poor, Catholics, Protestants and Jews. When completed, the baroque cathedral stood in grand contrast to the city's humble adobe and frame structures. Architecturally speaking, St. Vibiana's began the transformation of Los Angeles from an unsophisticated pueblo to a cosmopolitan city with a variety of architectural styles.
If the cathedral has grown dingy and unattractive in recent years, it is not because it lacks architectural merit or historical significance. It is because Cardinal Mahony has neglected to provide proper maintenance. The cardinal and his supporters have amassed $45 million in commitments to replace St. Vibiana's. But could not a small fraction of that money have been raised over the years to keep the present cathedral safe and attractive? The last time St. Vibiana's underwent major renovation was 25 years ago, simply to bring it into conformity with liturgical fashions of that time. Since then, it appears that the cathedral has been allowed to deteriorate in anticipation of the day when it could be knocked down.
Now in a huff because the Los Angeles Conservancy and others oppose his plan, the cardinal announces that if he can't level St. Vibiana's and build a huge cathedral-conference complex on the site, he will take this $45 million project to a more appreciative community in the San Fernando or San Gabriel valleys. All this has taught us much more about Cardinal Mahony and the city's political leadership than it has about St. Vibiana's.
J.L. Nichols Desert Hot Springs, California
This comes as an embarrassing confession of my gross oversightedness in taking the Register's‘new look’ for granted. The format is super! The color photos add realism and attractiveness to your pages. The “news in brief” is a real eye catcher. I really like the “Pope's week” section. Creating that feature was a stroke of genius. The whole publication has a freshness and appeal to it. Whoever you hired to do the job sure knew what he/she was doing.
I can see the art of printing has come a long way since the time of the linotype machine and platen press. I would bet much of the layout, editing, etc., etc., is done on or with a computer and peripherals. The finished work (look) is top drawer quality from the word “Go.”
Aubert Lemrise Peru, Illinois
The following is an open letter to the coalition that calls itself “We Are Church” :
Popular opinion has never been the basis for teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When you conduct sociological research, or cite those who do, as a basis for faith and morals, you fail to consider that there are millions of Americans today who classify themselves as “Catholics,” but who have neither in-depth knowledge nor any interest to find out what the Catholic Church actually teaches. They get most of their information on the Church from sources— like the secular news industry—that are alien to and biased against the Church. Many depend on the Church to get married or to bury a departed relative, or attend Mass only on Christmas or Easter. But that's where it ends. Perhaps the majority of Catholics polled would favor the radical changes you seek, but the majority of these same respondents also (according to similar research) accept egregious doctrinal errors—that the Eucharist is a symbol, not Christ's body, for example. Many, if not most, of the Catholics whose opinions you cite follow such patterns of behavior. To present them as “the Church” is not representative. If, however, research focused on those Catholics who regularly attend Mass, the numbers might be reversed.
It would appear you do not consider Scripture, tradition or the saints of the Church worthy of consultation or consideration. I ask you to consider that Christ never conducted referendums of crowds as a basis for doctrine, and neither did Ss. Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas or any of Christ's vicars, from St. Peter to John Paul II, or any of the saints, martyrs or confessors.
Those Churches—like the mainline Protestant bodies—which have already taken the route along which you seek to lead the Catholic Church are in dismal shape today. The few religious bodies who are gaining ground today are not the liberalized mainline bodies with their “at your convenience” watered-down Gospel, but rather those groups who are strict on their followers and challenging to society—for example, evangelical Protestant groups, Mormons, and Roman Catholics. Churches gain when they challenge popular culture; they self-destruct when they imitate it.
You are not the Church. You are a comparatively small part of it, and I would humbly ask you to consider in your hearts if you truly are even that. The Church is the majority of confessing Christians throughout history, beginning at Pentecost and continuing despite numerous persecutions and corruptions to the present day. The Church is the Body of Christ spread out over every country on the planet. It also includes a large “cloud of witnesses” in Heaven. And for you to claim on behalf of American Catholics in the 1990s—or for those in Western Europe who have conducted similar referendums— that you are the Church is, frankly, myopic and arrogant.
Larry Carstens Arleta, California
Space editing of Father Peter Stravinskas’ recent reflections on the movie Priest (June 18) led, the author notes, to an unfortunate distortion of his views, which has alarmed some readers. In the original text Father Stravinskas made it clear that “in no way do I wish any reader to assume that that I am diminishing the significance of the homosexual ‘ acting out’ in the priesthood; the teaching and discipline of the Church are clear—celibacy obviates any kind of genital activity [heterosexual or homosexual]. However, that was not the main point of the film, just the hook on which to hang the real centerpiece….”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Apparently some pastors and at least one bishop believe it so important to change the “posture” of the laity during Mass they will break the law of the Church to accomplish it.
As I understand it, the general norm is to kneel for the consecration. In the United States, it has been our custom to kneel at the “Holy, Holy, Holy” and remain kneeling thereafter, except for the Our Father. The Church has allowed the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (not individual bishops, priests, or parish liturgical councils) to modify these postures but only in accord with the purpose and meaning of each part of the Mass and the sensibilities of the people.
At the latest bishops' conference, a motion to change the posture was defeated. It is not clear to me whether the motion entailed standing during the consecration. In any case, I have attended more than a few Masses recently where the congregation, under instructions from the priest, stood during the entire Liturgy of the Eucharist, including the consecration. At one parish, they stood at the consecration but knelt during part of an R.C.I.A. ceremony!
This appears to be in open defiance of the Church's rule. But even more important, to my mind, is the apparent change in the belief of those who so desire this “reform.” They apparently no longer believe in the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which has been defined de fide and for all time by the Church at the Council of Trent and alluded to as “remaining intact” by Vatican II.
In a culture that prides itself on kneeling to no man or thing, but only to God, standing, where once we knelt, indicates that we no longer believe that Christ becomes present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, when, and only when, the words of consecration are spoken.
Some liturgical experts will say (and I have heard them say it) that Christ is present as much in the Liturgy of the Word and in the assembly of the faithful as in the consecrated host. And that I submit is the new doctrine they are trying to have the people learn through the posture change. Others seem to say that it is not the words of consecration that effect the substantial change but the entire Liturgy of the Eucharist, of which the “Institution Narrative” is only a part.
Both of these ideas are contrary to the teaching of the Church. Paragraph 1376 of the Catechism, quoting the Council of Trent, reads: “… by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the body of Christ our Lord.…” Also paragraph 1377: “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration.…” Also, paragraph 1374, quoting Pope Paul VI's Mysterium Fidei: “This presence is called ‘real’—by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.
How could anyone brought up in our culture remain standing when this occurs? Would we remain standing if Christ were to appear in our midst in such a way that we could see and hear and touch Him?
Oak Park, Illinois
The petition that a coalition of dissenting Catholic organizations is circulating (“Catholic Reformers Launch Petition Drive,” the Register, June 9) is sad in its narrowness. All of the demands are for power in the Church or for changing doctrines and disciplines related to sex. In earlier centuries, Christian disputes were about the Incarnation, the Trinity, Grace, and other issues involving God. Now the main concerns of dissenters are organizational power and their sex lives. They want the Church to permit contraception, divorce and remarriage, premarital sex, homosexual intercourse, etc. One might wonder why laymen, most of whom have no desire to become priests, are concerned with abolishing the requirement of celibacy. I suspect that in many cases it is because celibacy is, among other things, a witness that people can control their sexual appetites. People can choose to refrain from satisfying their sexual desires. People who don't want to refrain from satisfying their sexual desires would prefer that that witness be less noticeable. Similarly, I suspect that the reason many heterosexuals support the legitimization of homosexual intercourse is that if homosexual intercourse is legitimized, anything goes, including whatever they might want to do.
Malverne, New York
The reason Ralph Reed's “subtle shift” on the abortion “issue” (“Ralph Reed's Gambit,” the Register, May 19) caused such a brouhaha among pro-life people was not because the pro-life movement is opposed to using legal efforts as well as moral persuasion to ban all abortion. Rather, it is the implication, implicit in Mr. Reed's omission of a human life amendment from his proposed platform language, that the pro-life movement no longer has abolishing abortion as its ultimate goal.
The pro-life movement does not exist to legislate and regulate the wholesale murder of innocent children. It exists to eliminate it. A human life amendment, if drafted to uphold the personhood of the preborn child, would preclude a “states rights” approach and direct the states to give total protection to every innocent baby from fertilization on.
Although a human life amendment may not currently have the support needed to pass in Congress, it is precisely because the pro-life movement, Ralph Reed case in point, has stopped asking for it. Out of sight, out of mind. Just like 1.5 million babies a year.
The Register's May 19 editorial defending Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed's promotion of a revised pro-life plank for the Republican party (“Ralph Reed's Gambit”) missed the point. Some leaders of the pro-life movement are simply off track. Instead of focusing on eliminating all abortion—through a principled, persuasive strategy—some of these leaders have all but given up efforts to push a human life amendment or human life statute through Congress. One need not look any further than the past session of Congress. Although a bill which would have banned abortion, HR 1625, was introduced by Rep. Bob Dornan and a few others, only a handful of national pro-life groups even bothered to mobilize support for it (namely American Life League and March for Life). Instead, most national groups focused on a bill which would have restricted the use of a rarely-used abortion technique … and even this bill had an exception in it. If this is the best we can do with the supposed “most pro-life Congress since Roe v. Wade,” then it's a sad commentary on the pro-life movement.
Yes, the battle over the Republican plank is exposing division in the pro-life movement. We need to decide—we either stop the political compromise with babies'lives or continue trying to win kudos from political elites while 4,500 babies die every day.
Last April, New York Gov. George Pataki announced he would lead the charge to strip the pro-life plank from the Republican Party platform at the National Convention in August. Ray Kerrison, premier columnist of the New York Post, (April 21) suggested Pataki check out the fate of presidential hopefuls Sen. Arlen Specter and Gov. Pete Wilson, as well as the overwhelming majority in both Senate and House outlawing partial-birth abortions. “Only a presidential veto keeps this crime on the books.”
Kerrison's column added a statistic I found devastating: “Every year, 1.5 million unborn babies are destroyed in the womb. Since legalizing abortion in 1973, more than 30 million American babies have been snuffed out before birth.” The overwhelming vote in Congress (which included both pro-choice Democrats and Republicans) banning full-term abortions indicates “this mass slaughter is beginning to trouble the national conscience.”
There is another aspect that deserves consideration. Jesuit Father Robert Brungs, a St. Louis physicist and theologian, made a stunning observation that is relevant here: “The loss of 25 million potential Social Security contributors through abortion, although it is protected as a private act, will have an enormous public effect down the road in a few years” (St. Louis Mo., You See Lights Breaking Upon Us, p. 37, ITEST Press, 1989).
Is this why Social Security and Medicare are facing bankruptcy?
Sister Thomas More Bertels, O.S.F.
I am not typically an outspoken person, but “We Are Church Comes Stateside” (the Register, June 16) sure upset me.
The fact that it was printed is commendable (it should wake people up), but the fact that this type of movement is occurring is not acceptable!
It is incredible how liberals use statistics to paint an illusion so that the “average American” will feel obliged to support their agenda. I wish people would wake up and realize that statistics can be manipulated to say anything.
I am affiliated with a religious order and have been involved with many others on different occasions. Any rule or constitution I have ever read included a vow of obedience. This would apply not only to one's superior, but to the Church and the Magesterium as well. According to Canon Law, the laity is also bound to obey the teachings of the Magesterium.
To have a Catholic sister carrying the banner for this movement brings shame to everybody who is “truly Catholic.” Somebody in the hierarchy should officially warn her, and if no response is observed, place the sister and/or her religious house under interdict.
We need somebody to follow the lead of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and stop this movement in its tracks. If that means excommunicating everyone that signs that petition, so be it! The “weeds” must be removed if the “flowers” are to survive. Church Doctrine is not a product of popular opinion!
Where is all this going to stop? If this was not such a serious subject, I would never be able to keep myself from laughing! But in reality I am on the verge of crying. Remember Our Lord's warning about “wolves in sheeps'clothing”?
BY Jim Cosgrove
CARDINAL LEO SUENENS
In your important obituary of Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens “Remembering Cardinal Leo Suenens,” May 19), you neglected to sufficiently highlight the cardinal's important and long-standing participation in and support of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. This was for him a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit and a joy. Flowing from his personal openness to the Holy Spirit, the cardinal first championed the recovery of charisms for the Church today in the debates of Vatican II.
Then, through his experience of fledgling charismatic prayer groups in the U.S., the cardinal became active in and pastored the movement in such a way as to insure its rootednesss in the Church. His book, A New Pentecost?, was key, as was his invitation to leaders in the movement to bring the fledgling international office to Belgium where it remained for several years until its subsequent move to Rome, where it exists to this day.
The cardinal was also influential in establishing the theological basis of the Charismatic Renewal through a series called the Malines Documents. In number IV, entitled “Renewal and the Powers of Darkness,” the cardinal wrote: “the Renewal is a precious grace which is offered to the Church and can powerfully contribute to the spiritual rebirth that the world so urgently needs.”
In 1992, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal celebrated its 25th anniversary. The cardinal was not able to be with us in person but a videotape was made and shown during the National Charismatic Renewal Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa. He encouraged us to open ourselves fully to the power of God, stressing that today more than ever before, the world needs the witness of people open to the Spirit.
Thank you, Cardinal Suenens, for your years of service to the Lord and to His Church, and thank you for your support to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Locust Grove, Virginia
If the President's Medicare Board of Trustees report is correct in predicting that Medicare will be bankrupt in five to seven years, one would think that responsible Church leaders would insist on solutions now. It will do no one any good in the future if these funds are not available. The administration's solution, so far, has been to criticize Republican ideas as “draconian cuts.” But they haven't come up with any ideas to save the program.
Much has been written regarding the President's veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Act. It would also be interesting to see a list of Catholic Senators and Congressmen who voted against this legislation. Church hierarchy must speak out on both of these issues!
Cle Elum, Washington
How disappointed I was to read Father Richard McBrien's comments (“Father McBrien Criticizes Silly Season in the Church,” Nation, May 12). When he said, “even a conservative Pope, unless he wants to preside over a wreckage, is going to adopt a whole new style of leadership,” in reference to John Paul II, I felt compelled to write. Though Father McBrien may ridicule Bishop Bruskewitz and Archbishop Curtiss, almost every Catholic I know, and many Catholics I have conversed with over the Internet, have great admiration for the actions both have taken to prevent further dissension from the Church.
It seems unjust to allow our priestsóthe only men capable of turning bread into our precious Eucharistóto cater to dissenting parishioners with pagan attitudes who typically don't even believe in the Real Presence. I hope that Bishop Bruskewitz will become one of many that will tighten their ships, allowing our priests to serve our spiritual needs without being ridiculed and persecuted by members of their own parish for believing in the true faith.
I respect David Blankenhorn's efforts to make fatherhood a more profound concept to society (“Without Fathers, Children Remain Children,” Q & A, May 5). However, when he asserts that unwed mothers should be stigmatized, I fervently disagree. It is the stigmatization of these unwed mothers that led to illegal abortions many years ago. Right now we are dealing with 1.5 million abortions a year in the United States. The worst thing that we could do is give women more reasons to kill their unborn.
Though I agree that fatherhood is extremely necessary for a child's upbringing, I do not feel it is wise to assume that children from fatherless homes will be as damaged as Blankenhorn describes. It is dangerous to assume anything about them. There are many adults who grew up in a fatherless environment who would feel insulted by such a rigid analysis. I'm also sure that there are many adults who grew up with fathers who could fit the same kind of negative description that Blankenhorn used for the illegitimate children.
The key to solving the illegitimacy crisis is simply bringing our sons and daughters back to the Church—back to the truth. We must be examples of devotion and help our children discover the true meaning of sexuality and the beauty of marriage. They must also learn to leave judgment of others up to God.
Valerie Terzi Manhattan, Kansas
I thank Lisa Pevtzow for her thoughtful article ( “catholic Schools Help Students Rediscover Jesus’ Jewish Roots,” May 5).
On the whole, Pevtzow's comments are balanced, and in agreement with the Vatican II guidelines (1974-75). I simply point out the following: Jews do not refer to Hebrew Scriptures as “the Old Testament” since Jews do not accept Jesus as God and do not accept Christian Scriptures as “authoritative.” Nor are Hebrew Scriptures constructed in the same way that the Catholic-Eastern Orthodox Scriptures are: the language is, obviously, Hebrew; the texts are divided into the Torah (the Five Books of Moses; the Prophets (subdivisions—major and minor); and Writings (which include “books” as Psalms, etc.) Nor are certain celebrations which are included in today's Jewish communities “biblical” (i.e., they were not practiced in the first century)i.e., bar/bat mitzvah; Purim etc. However, that Jesus received the basic Jewish education that he did can be traced to laws making elementary education a requirement for all Jewish communities.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina