National Catholic Register


Letters 03.15.2009

BY The Editors

March 15-21, 2009 Issue | Posted 3/6/09 at 1:37 PM


Spiritual Stimulus

Regarding “Obama Picks a Crisis” (March 8): Obama has an economic stimulus package. We have a spiritual stimulus package. If we use it, victory is inevitable. I propose that everyone (who is physically able) fast from unnecessary amenities: a new car (the old clunker will last another year), movies, electronic toys, restaurants, etc. Keep as much currency out of circulation as possible. Remember: “It’s the economy, Stupid?”? If Obama wants us to help him with the economic recovery, we want something in return: Do not sign FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act); stop funding Planned Parenthood; re-instate the Mexico City Policy — and more.

We will not become ill or die if we sacrifice a few pleasures for a relatively short time. We have the numbers. Do we have faith in God’s promise? If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.

Peter J. Hahn

Hampshire, Illinois

Life’s ‘Story’

I enjoyed Eleanor Bourg Donlon’s article in the March 1 issue (“The Abortion Story”). She accurately described the status of the pro-life movement’s failed effort to fight the abortion issue. Her corrective recommendations clearly point out the reasons for the failure. These recommendations show how the battle lines were drawn up by those who do not value life. And, those who draw the lines know best how to defend them. Also, those who value life are addressing their cause on a single battle front, whereas those who do not value life are using many fronts from which to attack.

Abortion is treated as one element of the broader cultural picture by those who do not value life. It is lost among the glitter of the trappings that surround the personal expression of “all that woman can be.” It is lost in the knowledge that a woman does not always have to be a mother. It is lost in the fact that sexual intimacy is not just a marriage thing. It is lost in the acceptance that a man has no rights after the initial contact. It is lost in the succeeding effort to remove God from the public square.

Ms. Donlon is correct when she advises, “More importantly … write about men and women instead.”

I would go further and include writing about motherhood, family, God in the human creative process, and the value of human life that far exceeds any other life form on Earth because of its image and likeness.

We must bring life’s purpose back into the consciousness of all humans. I suggest that we all listen to the admonition of Peter when he sought to interfere with God’s plan outlined by Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 16:23.

 Richard Irwin

Wolcott, CT

Extremely Insightful

Donald De Marco’s column (“When Ethics Hits the Wall,” Feb. 22) regarding the ethical dilemma of frozen embryos was extremely insightful and a much-needed clarification on the issue of embryo adoption. As he noted, Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of the Person) states that abandoned frozen embryos “represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved.”

However, I believe there may be a moral resolution. These frozen embryos have been subjected to an injustice. The resolution exists in the principle of double effect, a principle according to which an action may be performed that will cause two effects, one good, the other evil, as long as the evil effect is indirectly caused by the action and is not the means to the good effect. Since it is immoral for these embryos to have been frozen in the first place, it would be morally licit to “thaw them” — in other words, to release them from this unjust condition. This is the object of the action. The foreseen but indirect consequence of this otherwise good action is the death of the embryos. 

Furthermore, DeMarco is correct: Embryo adoption is not morally licit. I have been a pro-life leader for more than 30 years and would love to see all these embryos grow and develop, as is their right. However, embryo adoption is a violation of the marital/sacramental meaning of the body. Within marriage, the bodies of spouses belong to one another. This conjugal exclusivity includes their reproductive powers — as such powers are part of one’s embodied personal self-gift. Embryo adoption, in which the wife will permit her body to be used to gestate a baby outside of the conjugal communion, is a violation of the meaning of marriage.

Nursing an orphaned child at the breast is not a fit analogy, as Germain Grisez offers. The action of nursing is post-conjugal, post-partum activity and is not, in the same way, constitutive of the conjugal/sacramental sign that speaks the meaning of marriage.

Monica Migliorino Miller, Ph.D.
Associate professor of sacred Theology
Madonna University, Livonia, Michigan

Fallen-Away After School

Regarding the letter “‘Assessing’ School Faith” (Feb. 15), Kelly Schiffiano believes Catholic schools should be assessed by what kind of Catholic education they are offering their students. I agree.

My only son attended Catholic schools and colleges because we — his parents — desired that he receive a firm foundation in the Catholic faith. We practiced our faith at home but didn’t feel qualified as teachers.

What happened to our son? After college and once he was settled in dentistry, he fell in love with and married a lovely Baptist girl. Yes, outside of the Catholic Church. Our objections were useless.

What happened to the “firm foundation”? Was the Catholic faith really taught to our son?

After 25 years of marriage and seven children — none baptized Catholic — his wife divorced him. Shortly thereafter, my husband died. His last words were: “Jesus and Mary, I love you; save souls.” Maybe he meant our son’s soul.

In January 2009, my son gave me the shock of my life. He said, “I don’t believe in God, in the Bible, or any of that so-called Christian religion.”

Yes, I’ve been praying for my son’s return to the Church since the day of his marriage. So, the shock left me immediately after I said, “Jesus help you.”

Is this an extremely rare case with my son? Or do other parents of fallen-away Catholic-educated students have similar stories to relate? A praying mom would really like to know.

Mary M. Doering

Fort Madison, Iowa

No More Abstraction

I worshipped Christ as a spiritual abstraction until I was called by the Spirit into the Church at Easter in 2000. That’s why I was so powerfully touched by the quote in “The Importance of Mary at Christmas” (Dec. 21) from Coventry Pattmore: “Our only Saviour from an abstract Christ.”

Today, I worship God as all true worshippers are asked to by the real Christ: “in spirit and truth.” For I now know that God is a spiritual reality. The book I wrote to explain how this change came about in me and can also come about in others was providentially advertised in that same issue.

Harry W. Miller

Bowling Green, Kentucky

Adequate Explication?

Once again, Mark Shea’s understanding of Christian, and specifically Catholic, doctrine is shown to be woefully deficient. Does he really think that this is an adequate explication of the basis for our judgment by God: “All the stuff you did out of love for your neighbor — even the boring stuff and even the boring neighbor — is what makes the difference between eternal happiness and everlasting loss of the life of God” (“4 Last Things: Judgment,” Nov. 16)?

It appears as if he searched the index of the Catechism for references, such as the quote from St. John of the Cross, without any effort to put them in context. Doesn’t the Church teach that our baptism and belief in as well as faithfulness to Christ are necessary for our salvation?

This sort of shoddy, thoughtless commentary is damaging to the faith and doesn’t belong in a Catholic newspaper.

Ed Fisher

Frederick, Maryland

Response from Mark Shea: I’m sorry Mr. Fisher disliked my restatement of the basic lesson of the parable of the sheep and the goats. However, he will need to take it up with a Higher Authority than myself. It was, after all, Our Lord who said, “Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of my brethren, you did it to me.”

As to the question of baptism and faith, of course the Church teaches (following Our Lord) that salvation comes through baptism and faith in him.

However, I was not writing about everything, but about one thing. A baptized person who has made a profession of faith can still end up in hell.

An unbaptized person who loves and is as faithful as he or she knows how to be to the light they have received is, our faith assures us, still capable of paradise, as the unbaptized Good Thief was.

Given that I have 800 words to work with, I opted to make the point the Catechism makes: that in the evening of our lives we will be judged on our love. I neither say nor imply that we are capable of showing the love of God apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. Still less do I suggest that baptism or faith in Christ is unnecessary to salvation, any more than the parable of the sheep and the goat does (despite the fact that is about the judgment of “the nation” who, by their own profession, do not know Jesus).

I simply point out what our Tradition says: Where charity and love abound, God is there.


House Republican leader John Boehner’s name was misspelled in a recent issue. The Register regrets the error.