Thoughts on ‘the Speech’

It seems that the old Islamic double-standard is raising its ugly head (“Conflagration,” Sept. 24-30). Muslim clerics, political leaders and two-bit terrorists the world over can rant for hours against Christians, outlaw the freedom of Christians in their countries to openly worship, and even randomly murder Christians without so much as a yawn from the Muslim community. But the moment Pope Benedict XVI makes some matter-of-fact observations about historical fact to his former university colleagues in Bavaria, every Muslim leader vigorously comes out to condemn him.

Where were the Muslim leaders on Sept. 2, when al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn (aka “Azzam the American”) gave a blistering speech calling Christianity a “hollow shell of a religion,” an “empty faith,” and saying the Bible was an “outright fabrication”? Where are the Muslim leaders today now that adherents of their “religion of peace” have attacked five Christian churches in Gaza?

The historical facts behind the 14th-century document quoted by the Pope are that:

— The Koran spends an inordinate amount of space exhorting violence,

— During its first 800 years, Islam was spread by the sword, and

— Islam is still being spread by violence today; witness the Muslim aggression that sparked the Darfur crisis.

We should keep Pope Benedict XVI in our prayers — and commend him for starting a dialogue based on fact rather than political correctness.


Patrick S. Simons

Laguna Hills, California

Imagine if the Pope had used a quote labeling Judaism “evil” and “inhumane” and then, by way of an “apology,” declared that he did not share those opinions and was sorry that his remarks caused offense to Jews.

Would that have been acceptable?

John Dirlik

Montreal, Quebec

Consistent Priestly Chastity

A note of theological precision needs to be brought to bear on a comment by Father Jason Gray in the Sept. 3 news article “Florida Bishop Excommunicates ‘Rent-a-Priest.’”

Father Gray rather imprecisely states near the end of the article that “celibacy is part of the discipline and legal tradition of the Latin rite, though a pope could change this tradition.” The imprecision here is that celibacy is just part of the “discipline and legal tradition” when, in fact, it is part of the spiritual, moral and, most importantly, the sacramental tradition of the Church as well. At stake here, I believe, is an authentic development of doctrine — that celibacy is as intrinsic to holy orders as is conjugal intimacy to matrimony. This is the reason why it is not likely the Pope is going to change this tradition.

I also believe the logic of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body leads one to the conclusion that celibacy is not just a discipline or legal tradition for the priest any more than conjugal sexuality is for those in matrimony. Celibate chastity is the intrinsic state of living relationship for those who are ordained for the exclusive service of the Kingdom.

Cardinal Newman, when he discussed the development of doctrine, reminded us that something new didn’t emerge; rather, the Church perceived and received the doctrine as it became more fully that which it already is. I believe that, given the apostolic origins of priestly chastity — which, throughout the history of the Church has always been required in some form, even if poorly observed — it is an authentic development of doctrine as well as a source of renewal for priests in our day.

Fr. Phillip W. De Vous

Divine Mercy Parish

Bellevue, Kentucky

Vital Vocalization

I was pleased to read Tom McFeely’s article “Voice of the Un-Faithful” in the Sept. 10-16 Register.

Recently, after giving a talk, I was approached by a faithful Catholic layman who asked me about Voice of the Faithful. He said he thought he might join the organization. He was surprised and embarrassed when I explained that the organization regularly promotes such dissenting speakers as Father Charles Curran and Paul Lakeland. This gentleman was taking what he’d heard from the secular media at face value. This is why getting the truth out about Voice of the Faithful is of the utmost importance.

As Catholics United for the Faith’s tract on Voice of the Faithful states: “The laity’s participation in the life of the Church must be characterized by a spirit of ecclesial communion, reflecting our mutual dependence as brothers and sisters in Christ. Ecclesial communion is fostered when clergy and laity understand their roles as being complementary, not adversarial.”

We at Catholics United for the Faith are the first to admit that lay participation is vital. However, the Church is not a democracy. It is not appropriate for a group of laymen to attempt to change the Church’s teachings to align with what they believe is the “majority opinion.”

Thank you for the informative article. For more information on Voice of the Faithful, visit

Mike Sullivan

Catholics United for the Faith

Steubenville, Ohio


Anecdotal Arguments

I was quite disappointed in the quality of the column “Exploding Myths About Illegal Aliens” by Thomas Roach (Commentary & Opinion, Sept. 3-9).

Mr. Roach does not cite one study or a single authority. Instead he tries to “explode” myths by stating different myths. For example, he states that most employers do not know their employees are illegal.

On what basis is this statement made? The author does not tell us.

We are expected to blindly believe all statements — even those that fly in the face of common sense and our experiences.

Additionally, the author claims that illegal immigrants do not receive welfare because there is a law against that. In other words, while illegal immigrants are breaking the law on immigration, they are abiding by the law on welfare. This is a silly statement. They may not receive welfare, but not for the reason the author states.

This issue is no doubt important. I would like to understand it better. But poorly edited articles written by partisan players (the author is an immigration lawyer) that are devoid of any facts add fuel to the fire. They are not helpful.

Vince Freeh

Holly Spring, North Carolina

Editor’s note: Thomas Roach wrote to point out the five most common myths he has personally observed in his 23 years as a West Coast immigration lawyer, not to formulate a policy recommendation on immigration.


What Ms. Meir Said

Former Vatican Ambassador Raymond Flynn makes an eloquent appeal for “the voice of Catholics [to] be raised in the civic arena once again,” for peace in the Middle East (“Catholics Must Unite Behind the Pope for Peace,” Commentary & Opinion, Aug. 6-12).

However, upon closer reading, I was confused by his message, since his only two specific “by name” exhortations indict Israeli military actions. There is no reciprocal admonishment of Hezbollah to stop their rocket attacks on innocent lives in Israel.

Further, in the lead-up to present hostilities, Israel had “given way to the weak” — the point he attributes to the Holy Father — when it completed its earlier departure from southern Lebanon and recent withdrawal from Gaza. For the peacemakers, implementing a sincere and abiding ceasefire followed by securing a comprehensive and lasting peace is an imperative for both sides.

Since this conflict began, I have contemplated former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir’s words to Anwar Sadat before peace negotiations after the 1973 war: “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.”

The same is true today. This is not a war the Israelis wanted, desired or sought. But after being repeatedly attacked through rockets, kidnapping and cross-border incursions, the Israelis are now exercising the universally accepted right of self-defense that is legally embodied in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and morally defensible in Christian Just War (jus in bello) theory.

col. Chris J. Krisinger

United States Air Force

Burke, Virginia

When Words Wilt

I deeply appreciated Prof. DeMarco’s comments about language (“‘Inclusive’ Is the New ‘Exclusive,’” Commentary & Opinion, Aug. 27 - Sept. 2). Words truly construct our grasp of reality; confusion and sometimes chaos reigns when we have experiences that elude our language. There’s an old saying: “Call everything by its right name.”

Language separates us from the animal world. Animals certainly communicate, and they clearly observe, learn and even imitate what they see. Their world, however, is grounded in instincts and emotions. They exist in a purely practical world regulated by association and routine, lacking abstract concepts. By language, humans create a social world, a social conscience, defining norms, values and identity. When the use of language deteriorates, our grasp of reality slips away from us. How we define the world largely determines how we act in the world.

Totalitarian governments always tinker with language. The Soviets gave us “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat.”  The Nazis were even worse. Concentration camp entrances displayed the sign “Work Makes Us Free.”

We clearly have language problems and conceptual confusions in our culture today. Abortion is called “termination.” A process is being ended, but no abortion advocate, not even the Supreme Court, can define what a fetus is or when it becomes human and thus is entitled to rights. Modern science, in general, refrains from any clear-cut definition of life.

Paradoxically, we probably live today in one of the most verbose societies that has ever existed. Television and radio talk shows abound. But much of today’s talking does not reflect ideas — only feelings and emotions, which frequently resist direct translation into words. We’ve forgotten that feelings aren’t facts.

I wish St. Thomas Aquinas were alive today. I wonder how our world would react to his saying, “Against a fact no argument exists.” I wonder how many people would even understand what that means.

Matt Tenanova

Hackensack, New Jersey

Do-It-Yourself TV

I was very glad to see Steven Greydanus give thumbs-up to Pinky and the Brain: Volume One (Video Picks & Passes, Aug. 20-27). This is a great DVD set for parents and homeschoolers doing “cartoons without cable,” which I have advocated in my Amazon reviews and at

The idea is simple. Many viewers are alienated by current TV fare and have opted to cut the cable. Instead, schedule one cartoon a day or a week on DVD as if it’s on cable. Mix in other great cartoons like “Garfield and Friends” or “Ducktales,” add the occasional classic film or retro TV show — and voila! — custom, family-friendly viewing.

Gord Wilson

Bellingham, Washington