National Catholic Register


Letters to the Editor

BY John Lilly

January 14-20, 2007 Issue | Posted 1/10/07 at 11:00 AM


A Movie or a Mugging? 

I am profoundly disappointed to read the accolades provided by your paper to the recent movie The Nativity Story. I was especially disturbed by Steven Greydanus’ review, “At Last, a ‘Shepherds and Wise Men’ Feature” (Nov. 26 - Dec. 2).

What I see in your paper regarding this movie is very dangerous. For example, your reviewer says that this movie does not affirm the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception or the Blessed Mother’s perpetual virginity; yet he al--so argues that the movie does not contradict these doctrines.

He contradicts himself when he later provides a content advisory warning of “somewhat intense childbirth scenes.” It is impossible to argue that these “somewhat intense childbirth scenes” are not a direct denial of the virgin birth.

While the Church has never declared the exact manner in which Christ was born to the Blessed Mother, it is quite clear that a difficult and painful birth is not consistent with Catholic teaching and a direct denial of doctrine of the faith.

I think there is enough blasphemy committed against the Blessed Mother without us Catholics supporting it by endorsing this film in words or with money spent purchasing a ticket.

I sincerely hope that Catholics will avoid this film now and for the Advents to come.

Lynne Thomas

Georgetown, Texas

Steven Greydanus responds:

Pope Paul VI endorsed Jesus of Nazareth — which also depicts Mary experiencing labor pains — to crowds in St. Peter’s Square when it debuted on Italian TV. The Nativity Story was praised at its Vatican premiere by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Pope Benedict’s secretary of state) and supported by U.S. Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Both films may fairly be critiqued, and it is fair to note that they both depart from the strong Catholic tradition of Mary’s painless childbirth.

But is it prudent to so readily dismiss the judgment of Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Bertone, both of whom said that this departure does not amount to “blasphemy” or undo the positive value of a generally praiseworthy film? For a more detailed discussion, please see

Christmas Chaos

Regarding “Christmas Makes a Comeback” (Dec. 24 - Jan. 6):

Has Christmas indeed made a “comeback,” as your feature story implies — or have we merely triumphed in reasserting our desire to embrace all the trappings of Christmas while ignoring the deepest meaning of it? I cannot help but wonder if the “battle to restore Christmas” to the department stores is a worthy engagement.

Should the checkout counter be included as part of the “front line” in the “war on Christmas?”

For countless years Christians have lamented the “isms” that have come to dominate the Christmas celebration — commercialism, consumerism, materialism. But where do we choose to focus our energies when we perceive an affront to our Christian sensitivities? We tally up our victories and losses regarding publicly displayed crèches.

We cringe when we hear our sacred hymns selectively edited to avoid “offending” non-Christian ears, and we circle our spiritual wagons around the battlefields of Wal-Mart, Macy’s and Home Depot to demand our right to a “Merry Christmas” greeting as we spend thousands of dollars on Play Stations, X-Boxes and other “necessities.”

Sadly, it appears that, this year as in years past, we rejected the opportunity to offer the gold of our hearts to the One deserving of it. Instead, we ran headlong toward the false glimmer of “fool’s gold” on sale for 50% off. But hey, at least we got a “Merry Christmas” out of it.

So it appears Christmas has indeed made a comeback. Perhaps an appropriate subtitle to your feature story would have been “Be Careful What You Wish For.”

Stuart Atias

Levittown, New York

Whither Fathers?

Tim Drake’s article “The Father Factor — Crime on the Increase in ‘Dad-Free’ Zones” and your editorial “The Rules” (Dec. 17-23) pointed out that fatherless homes are incubators for male crime and other social pathologies: poverty, poor education, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, abortion and suicide. The decline in marriage and faith were offered as reasons for the decline of two-parent families, but why the decline in marriage and faith?

Society’s acceptance and encouragement of premarital sex and its inevitable result — pregnancy — is a major factor in the number of single-parent families and the decline of marriage. Planned Parenthood’s philosophy is that premarital sex, even for teens and preteens, is normal and healthy, as long as contraceptives are used.

But they frequently fail or are improperly used, and the federal government’s funding of teen sex ($3.9 billion to Planned Parenthood since 1987) has eliminated a major reason for marriage: love expressed through sex to reproduce the likeness of the beloved.

Children who are encouraged to engage in premarital sex have no time for growing in faith and religion.

To reduce poverty, crime and the number of single-parent families, society has to reaffirm that premarital sex is not to be accepted as a substitute for marriage. A huge step in that direction would be for the government to stop funding and promoting teen sex.

It is a disaster for individuals, families and society.

John Naughton

Silver Spring, Maryland

War and Life

The editor’s note appended to Michael Stone’s letter (“Iraq Now,” Dec. 24 - Jan. 6) strengthens the point of the letter while trying to neutralize it.

“Regardless of the merits of the original invasion,” the note says, “the Iraq war did become a focus of violence by al Qaeda terrorists who otherwise would have focused on civilian targets.” The National Catholic Register to which I have subscribed for a decade is above such insulting double talk.

There would be no “otherwise” were there not a war. There would be no targeting of civilians if the American troops had not invaded Iraq.

There would be no troops to give their lives in place of civilians if the troops weren’t there to incite the targeting in the first place.

Instead of serving, wittingly or unwittingly, as an agent of spin for the warmongering Bush administration, the otherwise pro-life Register would do well to call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

This “preventive war,” rejected by two popes, has only prevented life from going forward for 3,000 American soldiers and 655,000 Iraqis.

Father Michael Lyons

Ganado, Texas

Puzzling Pronouncements

It was with some interest that I read the letter from Mr. Michael Stone regarding the current situation in Iraq (“Iraq Now,” Dec. 24 - Jan. 6). My interest was further piqued when I noted that he specifically wrote as a diocesan official rather as a private individual.

It is unfortunate that international intelligence communities do not have access to the same resources that Mr. Stone has.

Apparently he is able to state without qualification a number of things that are presently not known with this kind of certainty to anyone else, such as the pre-invasion existence of banned weapons systems or the presence of terrorist personnel.

Also, Mr. Stone is strangely absolute when he insists that there were “no legitimate moral grounds” for the invasion.

Unless he also rejects the “moral grounds” for Desert Storm some years ago, one is left wondering how Iraq’s violations of the terms of surrender of that conflict do not constitute at least some sort of legitimate justification. It is generally understood that, when the losing party in a conflict does not abide by the surrender terms it agreed to, it risks a renewal of hostilities.

Lastly, when you state that the Iraqi conflict is keeping al Qaeda occupied over there, that’s merely a statement of the obvious. It follows that, if al Qaeda has limited resources (which it does), it is equally obvious that their fighting over there makes it more difficult for them to do violence over here. This is both logical and it appears to be borne out by our own immediate experience. Mr. Stone doesn’t even seem to argue the point.

What he does object to is the mere mentioning of this fact. And this, far and away, is the most disturbing part of Mr. Stone’s letter. He objects to the mentioning of something that is true simply because it isn’t convenient to certain political ends, and he specifically raises this objection as an officer of the Church. One might reasonably infer that he does so to give his views added weight and credibility.

 Vince Brandolini

Salem, New Jersey

Blog Booster

In response to Jennifer Heath’s letter, “Beware Blog Banter” (Dec. 24 - Jan. 6):

Please don’t diss one of my lifelines. While I agree that blogging and the Internet can be overused to the detriment of in-person relationships, not all of us are so fortunate. There are many people who are isolated their current circumstances in life, such as caretakers of the infirm, people living in small towns, the newly relocated and so on. This is especially true of single, childless people.

Through the Internet, I have made friends whom I now consider as close as a brother or a sister. We have never met face to face and likely never will, thanks to geography. I have supported them emotionally and spiritually and they have done the same for me. I have also been encouraged by reading blogs, especially those that allow comments, to find that I am not the only person who feels the way I do about specific situations.

I don’t doubt that some overdo blogging. But others use work, computer games, hobbies and even church activities to avoid family time. Please don’t blame one avenue of communication without looking at the larger picture into which it fits.

Anna Abell

Sheffield Lake, Ohio