True Beauty

I am writing to express my agreement with Tom and Caroline McDonald’s advice to the couple whose child faced reconstructive surgery or a life of disfigurement (“Cosmetic or Reconstructive?” Aug. 10). I cannot imagine how painful it must be to face the decision those parents face regarding their beloved child. But I do agree with the columnists that, while the parents love the child unconditionally and would like the world to do so, to see beyond her surface, the world does not always meet our hopes or expectations. Sad to say, but in this world, we sometimes don’t get a second chance, a deeper look beyond that first impression. Giving this child surgery to create an ordinary, normal appearance will not necessitate that the child conform to the current, questionable cultural standards of beauty. It will merely assure that she will be taken for who she is — without the stumbling block of an extreme appearance.

We wish the world was not this way, and in a truly Christian society, it would not be. There are good souls in the world who will see beyond the surface — but they are rare. Making an object lesson of our child won’t change that.

It does not mean that everyone in the world is superficial and unkind; it means that even good people have weaknesses. We need to be understanding of them and their internal “deformity,” as much as for the physically deformed child.

Jennifer Heath

Greenfield, Massachusetts

Catholic With a Small ‘C’

A survey of the Register’s archives (free to registered subscribers of the print edition) shows that four columns and one interview in the last two years have thrown more than 7,000 words at the proposition that William Shakespeare was a Catholic. There is no reason to object to research aimed at determining the truth of this proposition — until Shakespeare’s literary merit gets thrown overboard in the process. At least Joseph Pearce could say, in the July 27 interview, “In my next book, the follow-up volume to The Quest for Shakespeare, I will be looking for the solid and astounding evidence for the Bard’s Catholicism in the plots of his plays.”

Regarding a possible “code” used by Shakespeare (June 22, 2008), Father Andreas Kramarz, LC, claims “What makes a code a code is precisely that it cannot be easily detected.” Jennifer Roche had already shown (“Shakespeare’s Shadow Catholicism,” Feb. 5, 2006) following author Clare Asquith, “Sixteenth-century society at large reveled in such showmanship of skill and the dance of the intellect” as are found in riddles, puns and allegories. It seems arguable that Richard Topcliffe and other professional persecutors of the Church in England would have been as competent at detecting esoteric Catholic references as are turn of the 21st-century Catholics who enthuse about the prospect of being able to call the Bard one of their own.

A known Catholic, albeit one who lived 350 years after Shakespeare, provides us useful guidance in this matter. Flannery O’Connor wrote, “It is more than usual to find the attitude among Catholics that since we possess the Truth in the Church, we can use this Truth directly as an instrument of judgment on any discipline at any time without regard for the nature of that discipline itself.”

And Shakespeare would probably be able to span the centuries and grasp her judgment that, “The Catholic fiction writer, as fiction writer, will look for the will of God first in the laws and limitations of his art and will hope that if he obeys these, other blessings will be added to his work.”

If Shakespeare was not Catholic, he was manifestly catholic. That should be sufficient consolation for his readers.

John R. Traffas

Wichita, Kansas

Restoring the Family

Amen! Amen!

I applaud the timely and significant sentiments expressed in Jennifer Roback Morse’s article (“The New Civil Rights Movement”, July 13). I work with a nonprofit agency in South Carolina, which provides both adolescent pregnancy prevention and intervention services.

I have concluded, after years of work, that we must restore the African-American family. We must see it as a priority to do so. No longer can we hide behind the “alternative family unit” terminology, as our families disappear right in front of our eyes — resulting in havoc among our people. I am heartbroken by the demise of the African-American family.

I agree with every word of the article. I hope that abstinence education will become the new civil rights movement among African-Americans. If so, I want to be a part of the movement, in an effort to ensure the rebirth of the African-American family that includes both a mother and a father raising their children together; God’s intended plan all along.

Donna Dawkins

Spartanburg, South Carolina

Trusting Jesus

Regarding “Obama? Why Not?” (July 27), Mr. O’Neill’s letter illustrates why so many who claim to be Catholic reject magisterial teaching, especially regarding contraception, marriage and abortion.

Although the four predicted consequences of widespread use of contraception have all come true in an amazingly prophetic fashion after Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth) 40 years ago, we’re told that most self-described Catholics reject the teaching. As divorce, illegitimacy, infidelity, abortion, and STDs plague us, we refuse to accept any connection to the contraceptive mentality. We degraded the marital embrace (a privileged cooperation with God’s creative love) and reduced it to nothing more than mutual masturbation to feed our appetites — and are blind to the consequences.

Mr. O’Neill won’t accept an “authoritarian proclamation” against contraception by celibate clergy. Neither can many others accept such teachings. Many of Jesus’ disciples couldn’t accept “... this hard saying” and “went back to their former way of life” (John 6:60).

What item in the cafeteria line do we reject, yet tell ourselves we are still “good Catholics”? If we protest, are we not Protestants?

Mr. O’Neill follows his conscience, but one’s conscience must be properly formed. As the Catechism states, “The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings” (No. 1783).

It is never too late to humble oneself and accept the fullness of truth and become truly free. If Jesus is God, then the teaching authority he put in place, and protected from error, is trustworthy — even if it consists of celibate clergy. If we’ve strayed from the truth, it may be difficult to backtrack to the true, narrow path — but do we have any other choice?

Larry Butler

Phoenix, Arizona

Catholic Confusion

Your excellent coverage — in letters to the editor from June 8 through July 12 (six weeks) — on this subject “DNC Response: Democrats Are People of Faith” by John Kelly (May 25), contained 19 letters with approximately 5,440 words. Yet, confusion still reigns among many Catholics, and the presidential election is crowding us into the last three months.

The spin in most of the media, and some Catholic, “sophisticated” elite of academia and Congress distort the true meaning of the Catholic Church’s position on abortion — relative to other important issues. Yet, abortion is the greatest holocaust the world has ever witnessed. The Catholic vote is so important to stop it.

Clarity in the fog of debate is found in Pope John Paul II (the Great)’s living words. He explained the importance of being true to fundamental Church teachings:

“Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determin-ation.”(Christifideles Laici,The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World, No. 38).

Victor A. Fritz

Auburn, New York

Our Country’s Future

In response to “Obama, Abortion and Catholics” (July 13), I would anticipate a new president’s first official act would be to address the most important issue the country is facing — an issue that could potentially “define” his presidency. Which issue would Barack Obama first act upon if he is elected? Health care? The Iraq war? Perhaps the economy?

I think it will be none of the above. From what I have read, Obama’s first promised act as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. This would allow abortions to be performed all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason.

Do we want a president of death, whose first stroke of the pen would be to kill more children?

Obama’s vote against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act and his disagreement with the Supreme Court’s decision that outlawed partial-birth abortion demonstrate where his allegiance — and our country’s future — would lie under Obama.

Joe Marincel

Flower Mound, Texas


An article on Page 3 of the Aug. 10 issue incorrectly identified the provider of a photograph of Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life. The credit line should have read “Courtesy of Maggie Sweet.”

A June 29 article on the Books and Education page incorrectly stated that University of Chicago professor Herman Sinaiko secured funds to bring speakers to the university in conjunction with its Lumen Christi Institute. In fact, Sinaiko was impressed by Thomas Levergood’s ability to secure such funds. Levergood is a former student of Sinaiko’s and founder of the institute, which is a center of Catholic thought on the Chicago campus.