Good Luck, Tom!

Regarding “The Register and Me” (Aug. 9): It is with such joy and sadness I read this news! Benedictine (and all of Kansas) will benefit from the arrival of the Hoopeses, while Circle Media will be at a loss to replace both of them.

Tom’s commitment to the Register has given a strength and clarity unmatched in Catholic publishing. I am confident that his replacement will be excellent, but am doubtful he will have his wit and humor!

God bless Tom, April and family as they make the change from East Coast life to the Midwest!

Rachel Watkins

Elkton, Maryland

John Adams at Mass?

The well-meaning column “John Adams at Mass” (June 28), appearing, ironically enough, on the In Depth page of the Register, relies upon some misreported history when it speaks of how John Adams was “so struck by the Mass that he was moved to write of it in letters to his wife as well as in his journal.”

Your columnist apparently depended solely upon a quite secondary source — the well-regarded but evidently not Catholic historian David McCullough. 

McCullough had written in his Adams biography that Adams attended afternoon Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia in 1774 with George Washington. But there is no indication at all in either Adams’ diary or in his letter to Abigail that this was a Mass or that he understood the service as such. For one thing, afternoon Masses were nonexistent in the Church of the time; for another, Adams writes disparagingly of the congregation as “poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood; their Pater Nosters and Ave Marias ...”  This was evidently not a Mass, but a vespers or compline service, with choir and organ, and incorporating the Rosary. Adams liked the music and the “good discourse.”

In short, while relying on a non-Catholic’s (McCullough’s) incorrect extrapolation from another non-Catholic’s (Adams’) uninformed and superficial perspective, your columnist nevertheless attempts an otherwise solid point as to the efficacy of the Mass in drawing us closer to God. But his point ought to have been based upon a fuller understanding of the Mass as sacrifice and some historical accuracy — and not upon a stretch as to the impact on Adams’ mind of devotional services which were not the Eucharist.

Charles Molineaux
 McLean, Virginia

Response from Dominick Hankle: Thank you for your comments in regard to my column. You are correct: I used only one source. The commentary itself makes clear that my information comes from the book by David McCullough.

You also correctly note that Adams makes some negative comments regarding the use of the Rosary and Latin in the context of worship. I suspect he was a man of his time, when Roman Catholicism in the United States was not well looked upon. However, the point of the column was simply to demonstrate that, even within the context of his prejudiced time, he was struck by a Catholic means of worship and artwork.

It is in my humble opinion that, if such an anti-Catholic atmosphere as this period in the United States could produce these sentiments, how much more important proper liturgy is today. I think that perhaps some license is acceptable, given the essay was simply a reflection on the reading of one popular book in comparison to its HBO miniseries counterpart that the average person may have read and watched.

‘Higher Pay Grade’ Reading

When the president and the Pope met in a closed-door session during the G8 Summit (“Pope to President,” July 26), the Pope gave the president a copy of his new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), and the instruction on bioethics issued last year. The president said, “I will have some reading to do on the plane.”

Maybe the president will be ready for that “higher pay grade” answer to the question “When does life begin?”

The Pope may have opened the door that could bring the country together.

Ed Smetana

Arlington Heights, Illinois

Legion of Mary

I would like to call your attention to an error in your July 12 edition. In your interview “The Pope and the President,” Carl Anderson is identified as the head of the largest lay Catholic organization in the world. It goes on to say that the Knights of Columbus has 1.75 million members.

In reality, the largest lay organization of the Catholic Church is the Legion of Mary, with more than 3 million active members. These lay Catholics attend a meeting and do two hours of assigned apostolic work each week. Many more millions are auxiliary (praying) members. Their handbook is printed in more than 90 languages, and after the Bible, it is the most read of any other book. The organization is active in 175 countries.

The Legion of Mary was started less than 90 years ago (1921). Its spread throughout the whole world is nothing less than miraculous. Three of its members are in the beatification process. Its founder, Frank Duff, was one of the few lay people present at the Second Vatican Council, where he received a moving ovation from the world’s bishops.

Belonging to the praesidium of the Legion of Mary enables ordinary Catholics to do extraordinary things for God and the salvation of the world. It allows us a beautiful way to share our greatest treasure: our Catholic faith!

I just wanted to set the record straight.

Lida Wurtenberger

Legion of Mary, St. Joseph Parish

Shawnee, Kansas

Grace to Not Sin

John Heard’s successful struggle with his homosexuality (“Engaging the Same-Sex Attracted,” Aug. 9) should be encouraging to all — gays and straights — who may be discouraged with the way God created them. While God created each of us with different and varying degrees of desires and urges, he offers us the help (grace) to control those desires and urges. For many, the struggle is extremely difficult, and for others it is easier. However, we can never sin and use the excuse, “I’m not to blame. This is the way God created me.”

John Heard’s story is living proof that the battle against sin can be won — by taking advantage of God’s grace.

 Hap Corbett

Staples, Minnesota

‘Gay Gene’ Myth?

Regarding “Scientists Outing ‘Gay Gene’ Myth” (July 26): There is a significant danger that readers may be misled by the article. Psychologists and psychiatrists have been arguing for years with geneticists and physical scientists over the cause of homosexuality. Both sides can provide strong evidence, but neither side has conclusive proof. Physical scientists can point to the fact that many homosexual people have common physical characteristics that tend to occur repetitively, despite different ethnic backgrounds, countries of origin, etc.

To imply that there is no evidence of a physical cause of homosexuality does a disservice to the many scientists and medical professionals researching this phenomenon and may lead Catholics and others to totally erroneous conclusions.

James M. Dempsey
Walnut Creek, California

Volunteering Virtues

I liked your article about stay-at-home moms and volunteering: “Gone Helpin’” (June 28). I am a wholehearted volunteer, and I am not ashamed of it. Here are some things I’d like to point out beyond the wonderful support you gave to our creativeness as women and moms:

I have much more energy for my family when I am “allowed” the time to volunteer. It energizes me and gives me a sense of success. My five children are old enough to do their fair share — and should. It teaches them responsibility. It is even nice to hear them argue that their friends have Xbox, unlimited cell phones, computers, etc. and we don’t. That gives me reinforcement that I am being a good parent.

Deanna Sporleder

Maryville, Missouri

I would like to respectfully disagree with the opinion expressed by Tom McDonald. It appears that the writer is saying that his wife is spending her energies doing “good works” and is trying to give her family whatever energy she has left.

I believe that this is quite the opposite of what we are supposed to do. We need to give our primary focus to our primary task, which is the upbringing of our children and care for the household. While this can, of course, be shared by both the husband and wife, this has to be balanced with the sense of sacrifice we are called to within our vocation as parents. I believe this point was downplayed or ignored by the author(s) of this column.

Steve Chechet

Laurel, Montana

Response from the McDonalds: We would wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Chechet about what our primary task is: the upbringing of children and the care of the household. In fact, a careful reading of the column referenced indicates exactly that. Rather than downplaying or ignoring it, our column includes this very point: “Our first obligation is to our families, and, if the family suffers because of our volunteer work, that is a good clue that it isn’t in God’s plan for us.” So, we believe there really is no disagreement here at all!


In “Scientists Outing ‘Gay Gene’ Myth” (July 26), Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons was quoted as saying that men with same-sex attraction demonstrate “weakness in male confidence” resulting from “deficient bonding” with the father. Fitzgibbons should have been quoted as saying: Men with same-sex attraction demonstrate “weakness in male confidence” resulting from “deficient bonding” with the father, especially in boys with gender identity disorder. Same-sex attraction also arises from a “lack of healthy bonding with same-sex peers in early childhood and adolescence.”