I am a relatively recent subscriber to the Register, and I was happy to read in your April 8 issue an article by Colin Donovan, “There Is No Way to Justify Evil” (In Depth).
It was wonderful to read something so free of pap.
I read many Catholic publications, although some of them strike me as “Catholic in name only.” That is not true of the Register, of course. However, the Register has in Colin Donovan a writer who will say accurately what is not often heard from the pulpit these days — straightforward, orthodox commentary on traditional Catholic morality.
The great emphasis now, of course, is on evangelizing our separated brethren. But some of us believe an equal, if not greater emphasis, should be placed on catechizing uninformed Catholics, especially those born after Vatican II. The dearth of accurate catechesis since 1968 is no secret, even if things have improved a tad in the last decade.
Maybe parish priests are uncomfortable talking about issues like artificial contraception from the pulpit. Donovan has no problem talking about issues like this on EWTN’s Theology Roundtable (of which he is host).
I suspect his same candor would carry over in Register articles, and he would write in language everyone can understand.
Give Donovan more space to catechize Catholics who are uninformed largely through no fault of their own — and maybe his quiet courage will prompt the timid to speak up. His is a gold mine of knowledge, and the Register, on behalf of its readers, should make all of that more available.
Sharing the Blame
I read of Cardinal Arinze’s plans for the October Synod of Bishops (“Cardinal Francis Arinze Discusses October Synod,” Vatican, April 8) that will include deliberations on “re-evangelization of the West.”
This is an excellent undertaking, and I completely agree with the idea.
However, the tone of the various articles is that we Catholics, the laity, have gone astray and must change our ways.
Retailers don’t blame their customers if they don’t buy their products; if the dogs don’t like the dog food, you don’t blame the dogs; if people don’t like a movie or TV program, don’t blame the audience.
With fewer and fewer Catholic schools, the most education we get about our religion is at Mass. An estimate I read is that less than 5% of Catholics subscribe to a Catholic publication. But, for the past 60 years in eight states, I have never heard a sermon or homily on such various vitally important subjects as abortion, premarital sex, confession, the Real Presence/transubstantiation, prayer, explanation of Old Testament readings at Mass, many of which are undecipherable to the laity, and other key aspects of our religion.
When was the last time a priest explained the difficult language in an encyclical? When is the last time you heard a priest on your local radio or TV station, read him discussing the faith in your local paper or even heard of him meeting with a fallen-away Catholic?
Yes, they are busy, and we have fewer of them; but I submit our clergy and bishops are far more responsible for the status of the Church these days than are the laity, who have not been getting the word.
The editor responds: Cardinal Timothy Dolan shares your concerns, especially when it comes to morality. In an April 2 interview, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated: “I’m not afraid to admit that we have an internal catechetical challenge — a towering one — in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach. That’s a biggie. … We have gotten gun-shy ... in speaking with any amount of cogency on chastity and sexual morality.”
More Radio, Please!
Thank you for your well-placed article “EWTN Radio Network Celebrates 20 Years on Air” (page 2, April 8).
Mother Angelica is an unsung hero of the post-Vatican II Catholic world. Where would we (the body of Christ) be without the network of satellite TV and radio stations she generated? I am one of the millions whom she has catechized. Thank you to all the others who worked tirelessly behind the scenes and all the generous donors who have enabled the continuous broadcast of the truth, beauty and goodness of Catholicism over the airwaves in so many countries during these past three decades.
I’m a volunteer at Holy Family Radio in Grand Rapids, Mich., and am constantly looking for articles to link to in our newsletters that spell out the benefits local Catholic radio brings to individuals, families and parishes. These nonprofit lay apostolates need all the print promotion they can get as they attempt to build listenership and donor bases to fund operating expenses and grow the coverage areas.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Valerie Gamble (“NFP: Spreading the Word” letter, March 11 issue) and Jennifer Fulwiler (“Father, We’re Ready for That Homily on Contraception Now,” Feb. 22, NCRegister.com) are both correct in stating that contraception is wrong, but they seem to fall victim to a widespread misunderstanding about NFP; namely, that it should be popularized and taught as a legitimate practice for everyone.
Pope Paul VI, in the very encyclical (Humanae Vitae) in which he dogmatically proclaimed that contraception is an illicit means of regulating birth, and in which he pointed out the licitness of recourse to infertile periods, nevertheless set conditions on the legitimate use of NFP.
He says it may be used if “there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife or from external conditions” (16). Elsewhere in the encyclical, he speaks of “physical, economic, psychological and social conditions” and of the choice between “the deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family” and “the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being or even for an indeterminate period a new birth” (10).
This indicates that NFP is not a blanket solution for everyone.
While the medical and financial conditions for using NFP might be the same now as in 1968, the year of the encyclical, it is possibly true that, given today’s economic climate, more couples might qualify now under the financial conditions. But it is still apparent that NFP is not for everyone. Total abstinence would be necessary for many couples. It would appear that the couple would be wise not to decide for themselves, but should entrust the issue to a conscientious confessor or spiritual adviser.
New York, New York
Jennifer Fulwiler responds: You make an important point: Married couples should not think of using natural family planning as the default; rather, we should see openness to life as the default, and only turn to NFP when we’ve discerned that there are serious reasons to avoid pregnancy. The “NFP by default” mentality is an easy one to fall into, since we’re surrounded by a culture that takes it for granted that babies are burdens to be avoided. I also agree that a spiritual director can be of great assistance to couples as they navigate these issues. Especially in the cases where husbands and wives have different feelings about child spacing, the counsel of a mutually trusted third party can be invaluable.