Pro-Lifers Need Not Apply

“States Flex Pro-Life Muscles” (June 19) notes: “Right now, only four of the nine Supreme Court justices are reliably pro-life.”

And who appointed two of the solidly pro-abortion justices? As Douglas Kmiec found out, it’s a mistake to think that you could be pro-life and work for Obama.

Don Schenk

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Abortifacient Contraception

Your article “Contraception Crisis” (June 5) cites data from the Guttmacher Institute (a group allied with Planned Parenthood) claiming that an astonishingly high percentage of Catholic women use contraception during their fertile years. The article discusses the Church’s efforts to address this question, but omitted altogether is what I believe is the most salient aspect of the issue: Most birth-control pharmaceuticals and devices, although labeled as contraceptives, sometimes cause early abortions.

For example, oral contraception known as the pill is the most widely used form of birth control. It works in three ways: 1) It may suppress ovulation, 2) it may prevent fertilization of a released egg, and 3) should both these actions fail, the pill may prevent the attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus (implantation). This third action is what makes the pill an abortion-causing drug.

International Pharmacists for Life estimates that among the 10 million oral contraception users in the U.S., there are between 600,000 and 3 million early abortions annually caused by these medications.

Add in the abortions caused by the intrauterine device Depo-Provera, Norplant and the increasingly popular Plan B “morning after” pill, and you find that there are up to 10 times more pre-birth deaths caused by various substances labeled as birth control as there are deaths from surgical abortion.

Unfortunately, there is widespread ignorance among Catholics about the various ramifications of contraception use.

While couples may have been told in pre-Cana sessions that birth-control use is sinful, it is much less likely that they have been instructed about the abortifacient action of the most commonly used contraceptives.

Charles O. Coudert

Sherborn, Massachusetts

Pro-Family Life

To counter the “Contraception Crisis” (June 5), there is value in having the Church develop a family-life apostolate. Pope Paul VI encourages this form of the apostolate, telling us: “It is married couples themselves who become apostles and guides to other married couples” (Humanae Vitae, 26).

In his theology of the body, Blessed Pope John Paul II defines two sacraments in marriage: the sacrament of creation and the sacrament of redemption. The sacrament of redemption, which contraception forfeits, requires periodic continence for regulation of birth. And he tells us “above all” this is a means of obtaining grace for “the remission of sins.”

Spouses can use this grace to nurture truth and love in their marriage and family life. They can participate in an apostolate, sharing knowledge of the sacrament of redemption with others. And, in the silence of grace, their marriage can serve to heal the wounds of contraception and restore Christ in the marriage and family life of our troubled world.

Ruth Kavanaugh

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Altar Rail’s Importance

Regarding the article “Altar Rail Returning to Use” (, July 2):

I commend any and all initiatives to bring back the altar rail.

The altar railing became better known as the Communion rail in the Middle Ages when the faithful more widely began to receive Communion kneeling. This organic development grew out of a pressing sense of reverence and humility toward the Eucharist.

The altar rail was removed after Vatican II by liturgical theorists who felt that it separated the activity of the clergy from the passivity of the laity. Its removal was meant to form a single integrated or unified space that would remove the focus from the priest and redistribute it equally upon each member of the assembly.

Unfortunately, the priest was no longer seen as an intermediary between God and man, but rather as the “presider” who must now face the people rather than, together with the whole congregation, face the altar of sacrifice — as was the case in the traditional Latin Mass.

Pope Benedict XVI argues in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy that this “turning of the priest toward the people no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above [but] has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle.”

At the moment of Communion, one can almost visualize the rail as a long table, existing alongside of and in front of the altar of sacrifice — a table where the people of God can come to share in the banquet of Our Lord as if present at his Last Supper — a table where one can, at the same time, feel present at Our Lord’s passion; as if one were actually kneeling before Our Lord on Calvary, ready to receive him and share in his sacrifice.

How awesome!

The removal of Communion rails caused great pain for many in the Church. It disoriented many people, who, with real justification — especially in light of the recent and overwhelming loss of faith in the Eucharist as the Real Presence — feared that the very heart of Catholic belief had been compromised.

Since the Mass culminates in the sharing of Communion, the Communion rail should be seen again as it once was: as a place of the highest importance for the faithful. From an authentically Catholic standpoint, the ancient architectural feature should return for the greater salvation of souls.

Paul Kokoski

Hamilton, Ontario

Variety of Voices

The following is not a condemnation of the editorial staff previous to EWTN’s takeover. And although I have subscribed to the Register for the past five years and have always found the articles to be both timely and informative, I have also noticed a change in the varied columnists now contributing.

While it took me a few hours previously to read the paper completely, I now must put it down and put off the completion of my reading for another day. There are scant articles that I find I now do not skip over.

Contributors such as Bill Donohue (“John Jay Study Undermined by Its Own Data”), Patrick Reilly (“Catholic Identity Can Protect Religious Liberty”) and Donald DeMarco (“On the Importance of Laughter”) and their articles I find extremely well written and gripping of my attention — leaving me with a thirst for more from the authors.

You are to be congratulated in the manner in which you are transforming the Register. Kudos all around.

I should add that I always pass on my issues to others of the faith and take pleasure in knowing that I have been responsible for quite a few others subscribing to your wonderful paper.

Guy A. De Gagné

Pismo Beach, California

Authoritative Dr. Ray

Regarding “Trouble at Home and School” (July 3): Your “Family Matters” articles are always instructive and inspiring, but this current childrearing scenario particularly teaches parents how to be tougher than any smart, strong-willed child.

I assume that your preschool son, the fast-on-his-feet Andrew, must have been under the age of 5 when your disciplinary determination taught him to “respect […] authority.”

 Kathleen Rose Bamberger

Austin, Texas

U.S. Flag in Church

I disagree with the suggestion that the American flag be placed in the vestibule of the church instead of the sanctuary (“Why Do Catholics …?” July 3, page B1). In our church, the pastor placed a gurgling waterfall sculpture by the edge of the sanctuary. If a water sculpture is acceptable, so should the American flag.

My son, Joe, was killed in Iraq in 2004. When the pastor told me that the American flag could not be draped on the casket during the funeral Mass, I called the chancery office. Permission was granted by the archbishop to keep the flag on the casket during Mass.

Joseph P. Nolan

Waterbury, Connecticut