Hitler and the Devil

Thank you for the very insightful article “Vatican Exorcist: Hitler Knew the Devil” (Oct. 29 - Nov. 4).

The article reminded me that all of a person’s life consists of a struggle between the whispers of his conscience and the loud insistence of the world. Frequently, perhaps always, we cannot predict the consequences of our choices. In essence, each person lives in a spiritual arena where good, evil and indifference contest for his mind and will.

We are forced to puzzle over how Hitler derived his strange and hypnotic power to persuade, to control, to inspire blind loyalty. Somehow Hitler could reach the very worst in other people and make it seem noble, honorable, the acme of human aspirations. Like Satan, Hitler had powers of deception that could conquer the most rational of men and women.

Hitler was a shrewd manipulator, quick to spot a person’s weakest flaw. He used bribery, flattery and threat as they suited his purposes. Hitler wasn’t a devil or demon, but an extreme warning to us all of how low we can sink when we grow hard to the good of God and begin to worship this world’s temptations.

Matt Terranova

Hackensack, New Jersey

Kissinger Kiss-Off

Pope Benedict XVI may want to consider someone other than Henry Kissinger as a political adviser (Nov. 26 - Dec. 2: “Kissinger to Serve as Papal Adviser?”).

Kissinger’s advice resulted in “stay the course” in Vietnam, causing the death of millions of Vietnamese and 58,000 American solders. He is also an adviser to President Bush — advising him to stay the course in Iraq.

Result? The deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 3,000 American soldiers. Another 21,000 Americans have been wounded. All for the advice of “stay the course?”

Kissinger is all image and poor overall performance. Performance and results are what count. Pick someone else for political advice.

Samuel P. Di Muzio

St. Augustine, Florida

Editor’s note: The Vatican clarified Dec. 6 that, while Henry Kissinger met with the Holy Father last Sept. 28 and will speak to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences next spring, no ongoing advisory or consultancy relationship exists or is planned between the Vatican and Kissinger.

Safe-Environment Sanity

I’m happy to hear of the Catholic Medical Association’s stand (“Doctors Recommend Reform of Bishops’ Sex Abuse Prevention Plans,” Nov. 26 - Dec. 2). I’ve been researching the Virtus program and others like it because I was asked to teach the Virtus lesson to a kindergarten class. After months of research, I expressed my opposition to these programs.

As a parish elementary-youth director who is also a teacher and a parent, I felt I needed to protect not only my own children but also the children in our community. With the consent of our priest, I designed my own lesson and gave copies to all the other catechists. I used St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians — “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” — along with the Church’s teaching on baptism and Christ’s parable of the mustard seed. The theme was much as you wrote about: “Children, you are special and made in the image of God.” The words “private body parts” never had to come from my lips.

I’m so pleased. I will be happy to buy a bunch of Registers and put them on everyone’s desk, in the vestibule and social hall!

While the Virtus program is still in place in our parish, I haven’t given up the fight for Christ and what he would do if he were standing in front of the children.

Andrea Gleason

Richland, Michigan

No Room for Nuance

Regarding “Culture of Life Takes a Beating in Pennsylvania” by Paul Kengor (Commentary & Opinion, Nov. 19-25):

Why do you classify Senator-elect Bob Casey as pro-life?

While he may mouth certain pro-life positions, Casey certainly is not pro-life. You and organizations such as the National Right to Life Committee do pro-life supporters a disservice by claiming that Casey is pro-life. Such use dilutes the meaning of the term pro-life.

Why do you do it?

 John Murphy

Savannah, Georgia

Editor’s note: Kengor wrote that Casey “opposes abortion, but, unlike Santorum, is hardly an across-the-board champion for life. Especially worrisome is how Casey will vote for pro-life judges nominated by President George W. Bush.” Kengor spent the remainder of his column ruing Santorum’s loss to Casey and expressing the hope that, when life-issues votes come up in the Senate, Casey will decide to do the right thing for life.

Limbo Landing

Of course the Church does not change dogma, but limbo is not a dogma (“Finding Limbo,” Letters, Dec. 10-16).

As Register reader Stephen O’Brien admits in his first paragraph, limbo is a “theological deduction.” (Not all deductions become dogma; some remain on the level of working theory.) Both limbo and its current possible rejection come from the same impulse that resulted in development of the belief in baptism of desire — that is, the perception that the blanket condemnation of all non-Christians does not accord with the nature of a God who loves us so much that he became one of us and died for us.

Rejection of limbo is not denial of original sin any more than belief in baptism of desire is such a denial.

I have not read the article to which Mr. O’Brien refers, but in my view, the theory of limbo actually goes against some very basic Catholic dogma.

Limbo is defined as a place of natural happiness, but separated from God. This contradicts the most basic Christian belief, that God created us for union with him. Separation from God is an unnatural state, and cannot be “happy.” As St. Augustine said, we are created for God, and our hearts cannot rest until they rest in him. In short, there is no such thing as a purely natural happiness, even on earth and in time, let alone in eternity.

Also, there are indications in Scripture and Catholic tradition that unbaptized children can be admitted to heaven. Remember what Our Lord said of the (unbaptized) children that his disciples tried to keep from him: “the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

Also, in both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, the babies of Bethlehem massacred on Herod’s orders are referred to as the “holy innocents” and are considered saints (meaning that they are definitely in heaven). They even have their own feast day!

Theresa Graham

Seattle

Heroism and Cowardice

Mark Shea does an eloquent, comprehensive job of responding to those who defend the use of torture or play Clintonesque word games about the meaning of the term (“Mark Shea responds,” Letters, Dec. 3). I think one more thing needs to be added.

A lot has been said about American heroism since 9-11. The firemen and police officers who rushed into the towers heedless of the risk to themselves in order to save others, and the young people who have gone to the far side of the globe, sometimes multiple times, to risk life and limb, are some of the finest examples of heroism this country has seen.

But it needs be said that there has also been a good deal of cowardice on the part of Americans since 9-11 as well. For it is cowardly to cast aside any possibility for innocents caught up in wartime dragnets to appeal judicially for their cases to be examined, to cast aside a thousand years of habeas corpus protections and basic concerns for the individual so we can feel a little bit safer. And it is profoundly cowardly to say that we must use methods that debase and degrade humanity in order to protect ourselves.

Mark Gronceski

Warren, Ohio

Limbo Will Last

The Nov. 26 - Dec. 2 commentary on Limbo by Father James Gilhooley (“How long Will Limbo be in Limbo?”) was poorly written. A reader could well conclude that Pope Benedict will soon infallibly proclaim that all unbaptized infants are now in heaven with God based on something Vatican II said. Nothing could be farther from the truth!

No one, while living on this earth, will ever know the fate of such infants. All the Church can do is speculate on their fate. Limbo was such a speculation and is not a doctrine of the faith.

There are two de fide (dogmatically defined) doctrines that cannot be gotten around on the difficult question of infants dying without baptism after the proclamation of the Gospel. First of all, souls that depart this life in the state of original sin are denied the beatific vision and, secondly, the only way original sin may be remitted is through baptism of water, blood or desire.

There have been other theories besides limbo pertaining to this question and, as far as the children of Christian parents go, an implicit desire for the baptism of their children should be enough to ensure the salvation of unbaptized infants. However, only God knows for sure what really happens to them.

As far as Vatican II goes, this was a purely pastoral council. It defined no new doctrine nor did it overturn any previously defined doctrine. The statement that salvation is not denied to those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church is nothing new and was taught by St. Thomas Aquinas. This statement has nothing to do with limbo since it could not apply to infants who lack cognition. 

Finally, even if Pope Benedict proclaims a new theory on this question, he cannot depose the theory of limbo. This theory will always have standing in Catholic theology. God can and does dispense grace and forgive sins outside the sacramental system, so it is theoretically possible for him to remit original sin directly in the case of unbaptized infants or noble pagans.

That is my theory on the question.

 

Paul A. Trouve

Montague, New Jersey

Republican or Bust

The Nov. 19-25 front-page article “Catholic Voters Abandon Republicans” and the editorial “What Now?” are somewhat troubling. Some of your writers and the editor seem to be taking a position in the middle of the road rather than presenting the traditional Catholic position. This was not the case when I first subscribed to your newspaper two years ago.

You did not make it clear that 55% of Catholics who voted for the Democratic Party not only abandoned the Republican Party, but they also abandoned the Catholic Church and its teachings. If you call yourself a Catholic and are in communion with the Church, your primary focus has to be the dignity of life.

Instead, both the front-page article and your editorial make apologies and provide some specious rationale as to why Catholics voted this way. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, along with most U.S. bishops, have warned Catholics that actions that attack the dignity of life are intrinsically evil and there is no justification for supporting any individual or organization that enables such actions.

Since the Democratic Party is predominantly for abortion, euthanasia, cloning and embryonic stem-cell research, while the Republican Party is predominantly for life, it is not too difficult if you’re are a loyal Catholic to figure where you should place your vote.

Catholics should understand that, if they don’t follow the teaching of the Church and essentially are no longer in communion with the Church, it is scandalous to continue to claim they are Catholic.

Thomas J. Magner

Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

San Antonio, Texas