Church’s Irrefutable Truth

The Church has been the focal point of much media attention over these past few weeks, since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. News organizations from around the globe have flocked to Rome and have set up camp on St. Peter’s steps, and rightly so. One reporter commented that behind her stood St. Peter’s Basilica, the seat of power of the Catholic Church.

But is the Catholic Church a mere human fabrication, another player on the world stage, an important governing body? Throughout its 2,000-year history, the Catholic Church has always held the belief — not the thought, the belief — that it was and continues to be the mystical bride of Christ, governed by the Holy Spirit. That’s either the boldest lie in the history of humanity or the irrefutable truth — there’s really no in between.

How does one decide one way or another? Perhaps the words of British historian Lord Macaulay, often quoted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, might help in this area: "After considerable study, and with some admitted regret as a Protestant, I must confess that I consider the Roman Catholic Church to be of Divine origin, because no mere human institution run with such knavish imbecility could have survived two weeks."

Let’s be clear on one thing: The Church is sinless. Her members are not. This means that the Church of today, as it was 2,000 years ago, is primarily concerned with the spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ and in helping us grow closer to God through faith, reason and the sacraments.

This mission hasn’t changed since the days of St. Peter, and no power, either human or supernatural — not even the unfortunate follies and scandals — will be able to cause the wheels to fall off, as observed by Lord Macaulay.

So is the papacy a powerful position to be lustfully coveted? Think again. Dissected and scrutinized, the next pontiff will have a tremendous responsibility. Borrowing from Plato, former Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau once said that those who desire power are unworthy of it.

The same is true of the papacy. The important leadership role might seem glamorous to those who worship fame, fortune, power and pleasure, but the pope’s job will be to boldly and unabashedly evangelize the world and proclaim the Gospel of Christ, an increasingly countercultural message in our age. Will his message be well received by everyone in the world? Probably not. Jesus’ message wasn’t in his day.

Cam Johnson

Milton, Ontario


God’s Way, Not Man’s

I found the article "Three-Parent Embryo Modifying Future Generations" (In Depth, Jan. 27 issue) very disturbing. This issue, as described in the article, is another notch in the rifle of the mighty evil one. When will man ever realize that love, truth and beauty are all mankind is really looking for? It will only be found doing things God’s way, not man’s.

Sure, we should try to improve on what was perhaps perceived as imperfection. Isn’t that why God gave us intelligence? The temptation to be in control was the issue Adam and Eve did not overcome — and look where we ended up: hardly in control of much of anything, except perhaps our attitude. To monkey with life will lead this entire nation to perdition, where, unfortunately, this nation seems headed.

However, there is great hope, in spite of Time magazine’s tricky article (so well-articulated by Pia De Solenni in the same issue), because more and more of the electorate are standing up to the reality that life is precious, and creating or altering it in a lab defies what God has in mind. I go into this because we were greeted with a child who has Down syndrome 38 years ago. What a doll she is! Her mother, who passed recently, all but devoted her life to this young lady, and a young lady she is. Like many people with Down syndrome, she is a delight, independent and full of love and life — and very much a part of our family. To think of altering who she is in any way would be to miss what is God’s foundation for life, love, truth and beauty.

John Therrien

Kirkland, Washington


Episcopal Naiveté

Regarding "The Question of Gun Ownership," (Nation, Feb. 24 issue): I have the greatest respect for all Catholic bishops and for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but I am almost embarrassed to comment that the above article suggests a certain naïveté on the part of the bishops — at least Bishops Blaire, Wester and Rhoades, who were mentioned in the article — on the subject of gun control as it is now being debated.

I am not commenting on the issue of arms trafficking throughout the world, but only on gun ownership by citizens of the United States.

I assume that the bishops are fully aware that gun ownership by law-abiding U.S. citizens is neither illegal nor immoral, and I assume further that their real interest is in reducing violence, which is also the interest of nearly all U.S. citizens, whether or not they own guns.

Finally, I assume that the bishops hold the mistaken belief that the gun-control proposals of the current administration will reduce gun-related violence.

This is simply naive, for many reasons, such as: Those who commit crimes using guns are criminals. By definition, criminals do not follow the law, so laws relating to gun control have no impact on them.

By definition, no law can prevent criminals from obtaining guns illegally. Mass murders are not committed by "normal" citizens who happen to own guns, but by persons whose sense of morality has become so disordered that they are able to justify murder as an acceptable expression of their emotions. And those planning mass murder will not worry about legal limits on the magazine capacity of their weapons (since they can easily reload if they so choose).

But these points are only the face of the issue. The real and nefarious heart of "gun control," as now proposed, is that it is being used politically to screen and distract attention from the real issues of the day: tax-funded abortion, restriction of religious freedom and governmental financial mismanagement.

Gun control is widely publicized in the media, largely for the purpose of suggesting that the current administration is concerned about the future of children.

Yet there is silence about the fact that the same "caring" administration actively encourages the daily killing of thousands of unborn children under the pretense of "health care" for women.

I fear that the bishops have fallen heavily for this cheap, diversionary trick played by clever, secular political and media strategists.

Worse, the gun-control issue — clearly not a matter of Church law or morality — has the potential of dividing the Catholic population and creating animosity against the bishops, all for no significant purpose. Bishops supporting meaningless gun-control measures are splitting the faithful and directing energy (such as this letter) toward a foolish debate and away from the really important issues of the day. In my opinion, some bishops, with eyes wide open, have fallen into a classic trap of relevancy worthy of the prince of darkness himself.

What to do? The bishops have very little credibility in the area of gun technology but lots in the areas of behavior and morality. If they seek to reduce gun violence, they should first focus on reducing violence of all kinds — and let the secular authorities worry about the mechanics of gun ownership. Let Caesar be Caesar and the bishops be shepherds. Violence against children is the same, whether it’s at the hands of a deranged shooter or a licensed abortionist — murder is murder.

Why don’t the bishops make that point? What are the causes of violent behavior and desensitization to murder? Caesar does not want to address this, but certainly the bishops can and should.

Guns are only instruments — like the forceps of the abortionist. Neither are evil in themselves — evil in their use resides in the mind of the user. The bishops can surely speak with real authority on that topic, and rather than risk dividing and weakening the Church, they will unite and strengthen it.

In conclusion, my prayers are with the USCCB, as is my concern that their critical and essential leadership of the Church is not derailed by a clever political gimmick fostered by a decidedly anti-Catholic administration.

Gregory J. Maier

Potomac, Maryland


Pius XII’s Legacy

Relevant to your recommendation of The Pope’s Jews by Gordon Thomas (Jan. 5,

No fewer than four Jewish authors who have researched Pope Pius XII’s role during the Holocaust and who have written books on it support the belief that the late pope was certainly not silent!

One book was by Pinchas Lapide: Three Popes and the Jews, in which Lapide credits Pius XII with saving more than 860,000 Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Joseph Litchen, who was director of Intercultural Affairs of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, wrote in his book Pius XII and the Jews that the initial accusation of silence against Pius XII was based "on deliberate distortion."

The Vatican and the Jewish Question by Leon Poliakov stated the following: "During the Hitler terror, the clergy acted unceasingly to give humane help ... [and] it is certain that secret instructions were sent out by the Vatican, urging the ... churches to intervene on behalf of Jews."

Lastly, in one of the most powerful eulogies on the occasion of Pius XII’s death, then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said: "During the 10 years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims."

It is important to remember that, in any writing of history, one should always be mindful not to do violence to historical truth.

Thomas E. Dennelly

Sayville, New York