Incarnation Insights

Carl Olson’s Spirit & Life column “Quick! When Did Jesus Come Into Being?” (Jan. 7) makes some very important distinctions with respect to the Incarnation. However, I question the validity of his opening “attention-getter” question and answer.

If you ask me, “Does Carl Olson write for the National Catholic Register?” I immediately answer Yes. By that I mean that a unique person by that name does, in fact, write for the Register. I am not talking about his body or his soul, but about his whole person. Just so, when we ask any question about Jesus Christ, we are talking about the person Jesus Christ — not about his body or his soul or his human nature or his name.

This distinction is critical in the case of the Incarnation. Many people seem not to understand that the doctrine of the Incarnation involves the hypostatic union of a human nature and a divine nature in the one divine person of Jesus Christ. I have encountered Catholics who believed that Christ had a human person or persona and were surprised to learn that that was a heretical position.

We could have some interesting discussions about whether the name of Jesus came into being at the Incarnation or had existed from all eternity and was only revealed to us at the Annunciation, but that is not the important point. What is important is that the person Jesus Christ is one and the same as the person of the Son, the Eternal Word of God — who has, in fact, existed from all eternity. Mr. Olson makes this point later in his column. Likewise, we pray in the creeds that we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.

In addition, Mr. Olson writes about “... Jesus, a man from Nazareth, [who] came into being when Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.” While it is true that his human body and human soul were created and came into being, this particular phrasing seems to play into the erroneous distinction some scholars try to draw between “the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.”

Again, I emphasize that the distinctions Mr. Olson is making between the eternal nature of the Word and the created human nature assumed by Christ are correct and need to be emphasized. My only quarrel is with his opening question and his apparent use of the name of Jesus with respect to only the human nature of Jesus.

Robert J. Charlesworth

Burlington, Vermont

Carl Olson clarifies: Mr. Charlesworth’s kind letter makes many excellent comments, none of which, I think, contradicts the point of my column. And I wholeheartedly agree with his statement: “What is important is that the person Jesus Christ is one and the same as the person of the Son, the Eternal Word of God — who has, in fact, existed from all eternity.” Indeed. But — and this is an important “but” — the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, did not walk the earth as the man Jesus Christ until the Incarnation. In the words of the Catechism, “The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity” (No. 470). This is not to create a heretical or misleading chasm between the human and divine natures of the Person of Jesus Christ, but to rightly make the distinction between those two natures — and then to recognize, as Mr. Charlesworth notes, that they are united in a single Person. In reality, this emphasizes even more the incredible mystery of the Incarnation, which was not the act of a god descending to earth in the appearance of a human, but the decision of a loving God to fully assume human nature and truly become man: the man Jesus Christ.

Of Saddam and Salvation

Relevant to “Tragic and Sad,” your editorial on the execution of Saddam Hussein (Jan. 14):

I had mixed feelings about the news of Saddam’s death by hanging. It was news that challenged my very core Catholic Christian beliefs.

While fighting in Desert Storm after Saddam invaded Kuwait, one of my two brothers-in-law who served was permanently disabled. He now lives under the constant care of his family. To look at him in his wheelchair, unable to feed or dress himself — and to know that he’s there in large part because of the actions of Saddam Hussein — makes me want to feel good about the image of Hussein dangling from the end of a rope.

At the same time, I feel a touch of sadness. Shortly after his death sentence was upheld, Hussein expressed a very Christian sentiment. According to an Associated Press news article, he said in a letter:

“I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair, and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking. I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us. Remember that God has enabled you to become an example of love, forgiveness and brotherly coexistence.”

Was Hussein simply trying to elevate his own image and salvage some good for his own legacy by offering such a message? Perhaps. It’s hard to imagine a man who was so egocentric his entire life to suddenly begin espousing charity.

On the other hand, what if, in the many months he spent alone in prison, he had his own conversion experience? Oh, I know it’s a long shot, and I would have more faith in the authenticity of his statement had he also given a message of repentance for the evil he did. Yet maybe that was truly the best he could do.

In any case, accounts of the execution reveal that he went to the gallows carrying the Quran. One question that I have is: Did anyone ever share the Gospel of Christ with him? Did anyone ever try?

David Jackson

Hillsboro, Oregon

Congressional Qualifiers

The Religion News Service article “New Congress Brings With It Religious Firsts” (Dec. 24, 2006 - Jan. 6, 2007) neglects to inform your readers of several qualifying facts.

First of all, it fails to point out the number of pro-abortion Catholics in relation to pro-life Catholics elected. Two-thirds of all Catholic members will be Democrats, but what will be the ratio of pro-aborts to pro-lifers within that group? You might find that pro-abortion Catholic Democrats outnumber pro-life Catholic Democrats.

The article also makes a point that, in Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey defeated Republican Rick Santorum for the U.S. Senate. Sen. Santorum is probably the most pro-life Catholic in the entire Congress. Meanwhile Sen. Casey says he is pro-life but, in the next breath, he says that he will not vote for any pro-life nominees to the Supreme Court. Will he vote for any pro-life legislation?

The point is: You must rely upon your Catholic morals, religious beliefs and Church traditions in addition to your intelligence when you read these articles lest you fall prey to the notion that all you need to elect are Catholics — any Catholics.

Dr. John D. Wolski

Elm Grove, Wisconsin


A Better Register

I am a subscriber. I just wanted to say that the paper’s new design is great. It’s very classy and easy on the eyes, too. The color reproductions of photos and graphics are spectacular and the new layout is excellent.

Congratulations on a job well done.

Joe Giza

Baltimore, Maryland

Why Embolden Our Foe?

Notwithstanding the editor’s note following the letter from Samuel P. Di Muzio (“Kissinger Kiss-Off,” Dec. 17-23), I feel compelled to respond to Mr. Di Muzio’s take on the Iraq situation.

I am very grateful that George W. Bush is our president since my major concern is the safety of my children and grandchildren. Thankfully, they and all children and grandchildren in our country have not been killed or wounded as a result of terrorist attacks. I attribute that to our current policies.

I wonder what Mr. Di Muzio thinks about the nearly 3,000 innocent people killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Would there be no further attacks? And just how should we respond to these terrorists who wish to kill all who do not subscribe to their way of life?

The majority of the Democratic leadership strongly agreed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and needed to be taken out. They were informed about, and agreed with, the actions taken. I believe we would have been more successful in Iraq at this point had the Democratic leadership pushed for unity regarding this war, as our country has done in the majority of past wars. Disagreement can take place in a way that doesn’t embolden our enemy.

Ed Lodi

Campbell, California


We apologize for an advertisement placed in our Jan. 14 edition by a dissenting homosexual organization at DePaul University. The small ad, headlined “Call for Conference Presentations, Panels and Workshops,” made it through when our ad reviewer mistook the sponsoring organization for a group that is faithful to the Church’s teaching on ministry to homosexual persons. Readers who are interested in an authentically Catholic approach to homosexual ministry can find it at the website of Courage:

Also, in “Ford and Catholics” (Jan. 14), we reported on Gerald R. Ford’s “Dec. 27 death.” For the record, the former president died during the evening on Dec. 26.