Praise God that the bishop of Syracuse has made NFP promotion and education a priority in his diocese (“Natural Family Planning Makes Marriages Happier, Couples Say,” April 27-May 3).

Such emphasis on the teachings of Humanae Vitae[on Human Life], Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical on the regulation of birth, is the appropriate response to the recent clergy sex-abuse scandals.

The Church has lately been experiencing the price of more than 30 years of nearly universal dissent from Church teaching. Keep an eye on the Diocese of Syracuse. If they truly are focusing on NFP promotion, and not just to the engaged but to the entire diocese, there will be many blessings showered upon that diocese: increased priestly vocations, conversions and Mass attendance.

Pray to God that more dioceses follow suit and begin to get this house in order.


Oceanside, California

Two Wrongs: Who's Right?

I guess Father Raymond J. de Souza's argument in “Rising Up From Flanders Fields” (April 20-26) eludes me. He comments that “in the light of the current war, the lessons of the past do not determine current political positions, but they do give a sense of how the debate is framed.”

True, but in the end, the upshot of Father de Souza's comments, aside from underscoring the true point that heroism can be exhibited in war, merely underscore the truism that one's position in life often has something to say about the genesis of one's moral judgments. To draw some further conclusion — and that seems to be the operative subtext of the article — is to commit the genetic fallacy, viz., that it is fallacious to infer from an account of how one arrived at a belief some conclusion about the truth or falsity of that belief.

Those of us who were skeptical that the Iraqi war satisfied the just-war criteria are not about to immediately relativize the Pope's judgments by regarding them as some sort of outgrowth of the European experience about war in the 20th century. That would denigrate the conviction that the Pope is moved by the Holy Spirit. There have been bad popes, obviously, but with JPII we do not have a bad pope, and there is every sign that he has his wits about him.

To return to the point: Are we to infer that, because one's position in life often has something to say about what one thinks, there is no objective fact of the matter about application of just-war criteria? One could analogously argue that, because some American Catholics reject Humanae Vitae for various sociological or historic reasons, the encyclical has no truth value. Quite a leap.

Finally, it is worth pondering, in this context, the Pauline principle that one ought not do something wrong in order to bring about good. I will be the first to recognize that great good may come out of the American involvement in Iraq.

But the verdict is still out and it is not clear that its upshot, at the price of many dead persons, will not be to further inflame ill will between Muslims and Christians — something the Pope warned about.

BRIAN SIMBOLI, PHD Bethelehem, Pennsylvania

Operation Iraqi Mess?

I recently read “Arming the Troops with Faith” (March 23-29). As an end to Operation Iraqi Freedom [is now] in sight, we should take time to reflect on what we have done for the Iraqi and American people.

For both Iraqis and Americans, we have disarmed a potential threat in Saddam Hussein, a dictator who did little to take care of his people and failed to obey rules enforced by the United Nations. I support all our troops involved in the conflict and hope they return home quickly and safely.

Although something clearly needed to be done, did the United States do the right thing by acting without U.N. consent? U.S. citizens are split on the issue, but President Bush's approval rating has gone up because of the quick strike on Iraq. Sure, the initial strikes were quick, but how long will the rebuilding take? It has been estimated that it will cost the country $2 billion for every month we have troops in Iraq.

One has to question destroying a country that has done nothing to the United States and then using taxpayer money to rebuild the country. That $2 billion could have certainly been used to help our struggling economy. For those who believe this war will bring us out of our recession, let me assure you: This is not your grandfather's war. The primary concern of this war is not to seek and destroy but to rebuild. This may sound like a great thing, but what about all the civilians killed during the initial strikes?

We call it Operation Iraqi Freedom, but so far more Iraqis have been killed than Allied forces. Keeping all this in mind, more should have been done to come to a peaceful resolution to ensure Iraqi freedom.

Tony Monaghan

Dubuque, Iowa

Catholic Church, We Love You

This letter is in response to the letter titled “Popetown Pot” (April 20-26). I would just like to say that the impression the writer has given is very sad indeed.

Catholics — real Catholics — do respect and love the Church. There are many people out there, it is true, who claim to be Catholic but aren't. Those are the people who do not respect the Church. That is why the Church has organizations for all ages to teach the truths of the Church. From such places as these, one learns to respect the Holy Father and the Church as a whole.

We cannot expect that everyone in every religion will accept us (and we must pray that someday they do), but to say that the members of the Catholic Church as a whole — the Mystical Body of Christ — do not respect our Church is viciously untrue.


Brampton, Ontario

Gnostic Gnashing

Thank you for the insightful, two-part commentary on “Gnosticism and the Struggle for the World's Soul” by Legionary of Christ Father Alfonso Aguilar (March 30-April 5 and April 6-12). In the case of the Harry Potter books, however, I believe that J.K. Rowling passes all three of Father's test questions to discern whether her books are “rooted in a Gnostic or in a Christian worldview.”

First, Father Aguilar says we must ask the question: “Is God the only supreme good power or is there another evil force of the same rank?” To answer this, he suggests that Lord Voldemort is a sort of “demiurge” with godlike attributes. Some heretical philosophies of the early Church taught the “demiurge” was a “bad” God who created the physical world (presumed to be evil). Their “good” God dwelt only in the realm of the spiritual. But Voldemort has no such godlike rank or power to create. He is merely an evil wizard, representative of Satan.

Second, regarding the view of man, one of the questions is: Does man's salvation come from a gratuitous gift of God (grace) or from “secret knowledge” acquired by training (gnosis)? A typical example of God's grace may be found in the second Harry Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets. In order to overcome evil (the monstrous Basilisk), Professor Dumbledore's phoenix (a Christ figure) comes to Harry's rescue. Without the phoenix, Harry was powerless. Harry called for help, and God answered. When Harry is mortally wounded, it is the tears of the phoenix (Christ) that restore his life. There was nothing esoteric about it. Each of the four existing books contains similar traditional Christ figures and similar examples of God's grace.

Third, on whether the books reflect a dualistic view of creation, the question posed was: “Is creation good and real or evil and illusory?” On this issue, many critics of Harry Potter accuse the author of contempt for the “real world” of the Muggles and for Muggles themselves. Although prejudice may be found in many characters, there is no prejudice against Muggles in Professor Dumbledore (who is the standard of good values). Also, the Harry Potter books strongly oppose the false dichotomy of the materialist worldview. Rowling illustrates that there is more to “reality” than the physical world you can see, not that the world is bad or an illusion.

Harry Potter books are not a substitute for instruction by the Church, but they can inspire and reinforce the reader's desire to follow the Christian faith.

Robert Trexler

Amherst, Massachusetts