Volunteer Choirs Rate

I have to disagree with Webster Young’s implication in “Silence Surely Beats Sacred Muzak” (April 8) and in his response to a letter to the editor, “Hunger for Sacred Music” (May 6) on the subject that paying for live musicians will enhance the quality of music at Mass. I have sung with both professional and volunteer church choirs, and the volunteer choirs have done as much to feed the congregation’s hunger for great sacred music as the professional ones.

As I learned in Dartington, England, from the great early music singer Emma Kirkby, repertoire choice provides nine-tenths of the audience’s enjoyment, because at least you can always say, “What a lovely piece of music,” even if the performance was less than perfect.

One need only listen to paid cantors sing bad music badly week after week at Mass to conclude that paying money for music does not make it sacred or even any good at all. There is no reason why volunteer choirs cannot learn to sing Gregorian chants, which are simple unison melodies without very high or very low notes.

Particularly with the assistance of an organ, volunteer choirs can tackle relatively complex sacred anthems. All it takes is the courage of music directors and pastors to stress the beautiful over the familiar.

 Katharine Santos

Garden City, New York

Church Supersedes Desire

Regarding “Ordaining Relativism” in the May 13 issue of the Register: 

I could not agree more with Father Dwight Longenecker’s convincing thesis that neither women nor homosexuals should be ordained to the priesthood.

Leaving relativism, political correctness and victimhood aside, in 1994, Pope John Paul II proclaimed in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone) that the Catholic Church did not have the authority to ordain women. Since the male priest stands in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), with the Church as his bride (paralleling the male-female bond in marriage), to ordain women or homosexuals to the priesthood would in no way “fit,” for lack of a better term.

The more important tragedy is that in this age of relativism, political correctness, and victimhood, if a woman “feels” called to the priesthood, a consensus exists among some that this should be sufficient reason for her to be allowed to study for and be granted holy orders. Many Catholics still just don’t “get it.”

Key issues like the teaching authority of the magisterium given to the Church by Christ himself don’t seem crucial to the discussion. “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

Apparently some Catholics’ desire for the priesthood is more important to them than these foundational words of Christ himself given to the apostles when he established his Church.

 Jim Connolly

Tampa Florida

Silence Speaks Volumes

In the article by Christine Williams (May 6), “Mass Should Be Less Rushed, Cardinal Danneels Says” on Cardinal Godfried Danneels’ lecture at Boston College, the cardinal is said to have remarked that “The current length of the Mass makes the liturgy an ‘unstoppable succession of words’ with little time for reflection.”

At Mass, our reflection should be on the miracle that is there taking place. We are miraculously made present on Calvary as Our Lord offers himself in sacrifice for our redemption. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the cross. It is not a “representation” of that sacrifice, but a “re-presentation.” The past and the present become one. We are there at the foot of the cross. As we are taught in the Catechism (No. 1104): “Christian liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them present. The Paschal mystery is celebrated, not repeated.”

It would be good if at certain moments during the Mass we could have pauses, silence, for reflection. I hope that this can be brought to happen.

Charles J. Scheve
Towson, Maryland

Theologian Fell Short

Regarding “Origen: An Exemplary Witness to Christian Faith” (May 6):

Unfortunately, this paean to an otherwise prominent theologian of the early Church left out one very important aspect of Origen’s theological career. The heresy of apokatastasis is attributed to Origen based upon his theological work, De Principiis. It is perhaps the reason why he is not called “Saint” Origen.

Apokatastasis, a complex heterodox doctrine of the early Church, is known today as the doctrine of universal salvation, a heterodox belief to which many people, including too many Catholics, adhere in this post-modernist world.

James B. Coffey

Albuquerque, New Mexico

It’s Called Catholicism

Relevant to “Politicians and Communion” (May 20):

According to Time magazine, Giuliani has “decided that the reign of social conservatives is coming to an end. ‘He understands that there are a lot of Republicans out there who are sick of everyone kowtowing to the single-issue extremists,’ said one veteran Republican observer in Washington. ‘He’s breaking from the pack.’”

This might mean the end of the pro-life plank in the Republican Party platform, leaving pro-lifers no one to vote for in national elections.

I am proud to be a Catholic single-issue pro-life voter today.

I would be one of those single-issue extremists if I were in Germany in the time of the Nazis, when priests, Jews, Gypsies, Polish people, homosexuals and the handicapped were deemed, “life unworthy of life,” and sent to the gas chambers.

I would be a single issue extremist if I lived during the mid-1800s when the Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott Decision stating that blacks were property and enslaved them.

It’s called respect for human life, Rudy. It’s called Catholicism.

Leticia Velasquez

East Moriches, New York

Enough Pius-Bashing

Regarding “Venerating Pius XII” (May 20):

On May 8, 2007, members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously to recommend that Pope Benedict XVI formerly declare Pope Pius XII “Venerable.” Hopefully this recognition that Pope Pius XII lived the Christian virtues in a heroic manner will bring an end to the controversy over whether he did enough in defense of the Jews and other victims of the Nazis. The 30 cardinals and bishops — from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Japan and the United States — studied six volumes of documents comprising more than 3,000 pages.

However, soon after the announcement, Abraham Foxman, National Anti-Defamation League director and a Holocaust survivor, urged Pope Benedict XVI to suspend the action taken by the Vatican Congregation regarding Pius XII’s “heroic virtues” until all Pius XII documents in the Vatican Archives are made available.

Ever since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, every pope, from John XXIII to Benedict XVI, noted his sanctity. In fact, in his first Christmas message, John XXIII said his predecessor was worthy of canonization and called him, “Supreme doctor, light of holy mother Church, lover of the divine law.” Pope John Paul II, at the start of his 1987 visit to the United States, defended Pius XII during a meeting with Jewish leaders, recalling “how deeply he felt about the tragedy of the Jewish people, and how hard and effectively he worked to assist them during the Second World War.”

It was Pope Pius XII who authorized false baptismal certificates to save Jewish lives. He also distributed visas for Jews to enter other countries, and ordered the superiors of convents and monasteries to open their doors and hide Jews and other victims of the Nazis and fascists. Angelo Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) who also distributed many certificates, stated that all he was doing was following the Pope’s directives.

Almost 50 years have passed since Roncalli, then apostolic nuncio in Istanbul, wrote in his Diary about an audience with Pius XII on Oct. 10, 1941. He declared that the Pope’s statements were “prudent.”

It is interesting to note that when news of Pius XIIs death on Oct. 9, 1958, was flashed around the world, an editorial, “Fighter for Peace,” in the Los Angeles Examiner expressed the sentiments of Catholics and non-Catholics, and declared that this “fighter for peace was the pope of peace. Of those mourning the Popes death, Jews — who credited him with being one of their greatest benefactors — were in the forefront.

Did Pope Pius XII help the Jews? Indeed he did. Nor can one claim he was “silent.” Rather one must speak of his “prudence.” In his Christmas radio messages of ‘41, ‘42, and ‘43 following this audience, Pope Pius XII denounced theories that attribute rights to “a particular race.” He revealed that “hundreds of thousands of people, through no fault of theirs, sometimes only because of nationality or race, were destined to die.”

Sister Margherita Marchione

Religious Teachers Filippini

Morristown, New Jersey

Editor’s note: Sister Margherita is the author of several books on Pope Pius XII, including Did Pope Pius XII Help the Jews? (Paulist Press, 2007).