National Catholic Register



BY Father Kevin Christofferson

June 08-14, 2003 Issue | Posted 6/8/03 at 1:00 PM


Bill O'Reilly Booster

In your May 4-10 issue, you had yet another small but negative report concerning Bill O'Reilly (“O'Reilly Condemns Pope — Again”). You have rightly pointed out many times that the media likes to dwell on the negatives of the Catholic priesthood and, in particular, the sex-abuse scandal, despite the fact that only a tiny percentage of priests have been involved in this evil. Well, I think that you might be doing the same thing with regard to O'Reilly — that is, dwelling on the small percentage of what is negative about him.

Concerning the Pope, O'Reilly has been a disrespectful, crass bully and fails miserably to see the greatness and undoubted holiness of John Paul. Concerning other issues, O'Reilly is far from perfect, and he is sometimes disgracefully hot-tempered. But I believe that overall he has done great work.

There has been in recent years a revolution in the media. The snobby, secularist, rich liberals no longer have all the power. This is due in large part to Fox News in general and Bill O'Reilly in particular. He is a potent voice of ordinary, commonsense values. And he's not playing a role, either; these values are what he really holds. The power people in the media used to be able to ignore or scorn such values, but notice that this is not so easy for them to do anymore.

Through the years he's been on, O'Reilly has taken on or challenged the powerful with great effect: the corrupt Clinton administration, Jessie Jackson, the rap-music industry and other venal corruptors of children, the anti-God fanatics, the anti-Christian artists, the moral relativists, the historical revisionists. And with the pro-choicers he has achieved some real dialogue where there is otherwise hopeless and angry polarization.

Now I do not go to Bill O'Reilly for my theology; he is rather shallow in that regard. But for commonsense, morally decent reporting of the news, who is better? That's not a rhetorical question, either: Please tell me who you think is better at reporting the news in a fair and balanced and fearless manner than O'Reilly? Tell me and I'll seriously consider your suggestion. But I doubt you will be able to give me a name.


Sparks, Nevada

Editor's note: The way you've framed your question precludes its being answered in a fair and balanced way. As Bill O'Reilly himself often points out, he does not report the news: He comments on it.

Cutthroat Christianity?

I take issue with Angelo Matera's reference to “… our economy's obsession with cutthroat competition” (“The Pope and St. Joseph on Wall Street,” May 11-17). First, though, let me say that I do so with some reserve. Mr. Matera, as the former chief executive officer of your parent corporation, has done a service to the Church by his work with your excellent Catholic newspaper.

However, is the competition in our economy “cutthroat” — or is it simply the result of consumers being offered choices and those consumers exercising choice according to their preferences? And if so, what's wrong with that? What alternative might he propose?

For example, if the Register grows in circulation and other competitive newspapers diminish in circulation (or even go out of business), is that a “cutthroat” thing, or simply consumers exercising their preference? And isn't that a good thing? Or at least morally neutral? And could not the same thing be said about the holy Roman Catholic Church and, say, Gnosticism? Then again, Wal-Mart and Kmart; Toyota and Edsel?

By no means do I argue that our economy (or the “global economy” for that matter) is perfect. I doubt any economy will ever be perfect on this earth. At the same time, criticizing our economy's competitive nature, albeit one with “winners” and “losers,” seems misguided to me. The focus, at the end of the day, in any economy, needs to be on each individual's decisions and actions vis-‡-vis the economy, his community, his neighbors and his family.

Perhaps I missed Mr. Matera's point. One thing I do know is that I am proud our “economy” or society offers choices and the opportunity for newcomers, who offer a more satisfying product, to succeed.


Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Angelo Matera responds: Honest, hard competition is a good thing. “Ruthless” competition happens when money is placed above God and morality, and the desire to grow or maximize profits becomes an end in itself. This is what got investment and accounting firms, and dot-coms, in trouble during the Internet boom. It's the reason so many large companies use appeals to greed, sex, violence, fear and vanity to sell their products.

Our faith is not a purely private matter. Whether or not you favor more government intervention in the marketplace, all Catholics should speak up about the amorality that dominates American business culture today.

Choral Conspiracy?

Regarding “Hark! The Herald Daddy Sings” (Family Matters, April 27-May 3):

As a father of six, I used to enjoy singing in church. It seems to me that in the last several years all the songs have been put into a higher key. I'm not a musician, so am not familiar with how one would go about doing that. My suspicion is that it was done deliberately as part of the feminist movement. Even my wife has a hard time getting to the top notes most of the time. I've noticed that some of the leaders have to strain at times. It would be interesting to research this matter to see who made the decision to go this way.

If ever you want men to sing along without rupturing their throats, see if you can get this changed. Thank for your attention and may the good Lord bless you on your way.


Middletown, Nebraska

Materialism and The Matrix

I read with great interest “Into the Gnostic Wonderland” (April 6-12) by Father Alfonso Aguilar. While I appreciate the teaching on Gnosticism in general, I would stop short of using the movie The Matrix as a vehicle for this particular instruction. The movie is highly deceptive. By this I mean to say that almost any person of any particular religious stripe can read his or her particular religious tradition into it.

I would recommend that, for any serious discussion that has to do with this movie, one really ought to read Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard. Mr. Baudrillard is a contemporary French philosopher whose book was included in the opening scenes of The Matrix. One may remember that Neo took this book from a shelf in the movie and opened it to the last chapter. It was titled: “On Nihilism.”

Simulacra and Simulation is a work that attempts to describe postmodern materialism, and it consists of ponderous observations of the author regarding Western culture. There are quotes from the book that are in the movie itself (i.e., “welcome to the desert of the real”). In very general terms, Jean Baudrillard suggests that much of our culture (which has strong leanings toward a foundation in materialism) is based on simulations of reality that have no foundation in reality itself. He goes on to demonstrate how he believes that the “real” continually rears itself up against such simulations, thus forcing the simulation to reinvent itself over and over again. A very strong theme in The Matrix.

I do not wish to criticize Father Aguilar for the fine work he has done in outlining the system of Gnosticism, but I honestly think that the Matrix movie franchise is simply a dark commentary on a Western culture that is losing its soul to materialism, and nothing more.


Butte, Montana

The writer is pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Butte, Montana.