National Catholic Register


Letters To The Editor

BY John Lilly

February 4-10, 2007 Issue | Posted 1/30/07 at 11:00 AM


Setting Seasons Straight

Regarding “Basics of Catholic Living” (Dec. 24 - Jan. 6):

You incorrectly describe the end of the Church’s liturgical season of Christmas. You state: “Season 2: Christmas season lasts until Epiphany Sunday in January.”

This is incorrect. The Christmas season ends with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord in January. The Baptism is the end of Christmas, not the Epiphany.

You also state: “Season 3: Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday.”

Nonsense! Lent ends with the evening Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening (sundown). Then begins the Sacred Triduum.

Brother Anthony, O.S.F.

Fargo, North Dakota

Editor’s note: We stand corrected. We would only point out that Brother Anthony’s final statement is ambiguous and, thus, subject to misunderstanding. It could be read as meaning that Holy Week starts after the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday — when, in fact, Lent ends and the Sacred Triduum begins when that Mass begins.

Muslims and Me

I read Mark Shea’s column on Islam, “Monotheism 101” (Jan. 14), with interest. Not just because of the Holy Father’s recent trip to Turkey, nor because of the prominence of things Muslim in the news, nor because I happen to work in Dearborn, Mich., which boasts the highest concentration of Muslims in the United States — but also because I have been feeling an apostolic calling to be ready to evangelize Muslims. I have been studying the apologetic and ecumenical bridges between our two faiths.

I agree wholeheartedly with Shea’s general underpinning that “there are good people in bad churches and bad people in good churches.” In other words, we cannot make the leap to judging individuals based on their religious affiliation. Further, “the natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts, and its authority extends to all men” (Catechism, No. 1956).

My question, rather, is one of origin. Mark and I both describe an individual’s ad astra quest for God. What is the ex astra source of the Muslim religion? Did the God we know establish both faiths?

I’m not asking whether Muhammad picked up some elements of the Christian faith; the Catechism says so. I am asking whether the God of the Catholic Church broke into history again with a decisive divine revelation. Did God the Father decide to establish the Muslim faith some 600 years after Christ?

If it’s true that God the Father did not will the Muslim religion into existence, what did? There are certainly many possibilities, both psychological and spiritual.

Regardless, Catholics have an apostolic mandate to fervently engage all those around them, both within the Church and without. Let us invite everyone to a fuller participation in the life of Christ.

Michael Lambert
Westchester, New York

‘Fortress’ vs. ‘Open Door’

Mark Shea addresses an interesting question — one that, in the end, devolves to the doctrine of “No salvation outside the Church” (“Monotheism 101,” Indepth, Jan. 14).

Perhaps in reaction to a “fortress” mentality, there seems to be a current “open-door” mentality. This believes salvation will be granted to all. Mark’s points are good, but he still needs to reconcile and explain how they fit with previous magisterial statements.

While it may be believed that a fortress mentality of the past may have resulted in a turning inward, it is very hard not to come to the conclusion that today’s open-door mentality has resulted, with disastrous consequences, in a loss of the urgency to obey Jesus in carrying out the great commission. (“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” — Mark 16:15.)

Why send missions when everyone will be saved anyway? That indifferentism is well established among the clergy, as well as the faithful, is hard to deny.

It seems to me that the argument, one way or the other, comes down to speculating on the final judgment of others — something I think we’ve been told not to do. I read that in a Good Book somewhere.

Mark Gross

Boise, Idaho

Baptism Bailout

Regarding “Limbo Landing” (Letters, Dec. 17-23):

Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, both doctors of the Church, had something to say on this subject, and it would go against Ms. Graham’s view that “the theory of limbo actually goes against some very basic Catholic dogma.” St. Augustine was especially rigorous about the fate of unbaptized infants: Baptism, he insisted, is necessary for salvation.

And, of course, we have Jesus’ own words on this. “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5).

Marginalizing this clear teaching from the Lord in this post-modern, Godless age is unwise. The point is, parents should demand of their pastors that their babies be baptized as soon as possible rather than waiting a month or two for the parish sacramental bureaucracy to act. If the pastor is negligent or afraid of the parish sacramental formation bureaucracy, then parents should knock down the bishop’s door, demanding that he do his duty by them and their babies.

James B. Coffey

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Unbaptized Infants

I read with interest the letter “On Unbaptized Innocents” by Register reader Ann Gray, along with your reply (Dec. 24 - Jan. 6). You cite No. 1261 of the Catechism and No. 99 from John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. I should point out that the English translation of the latter does not correspond to the Latin text that has appeared in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, an official Vatican periodical.

Instead of assuring women who have had abortions that their child is “living in the Lord,” the Latin text simply tells mothers of aborted babies: “You can, however, entrust your child to the same Father and His mercy with hope.” (Infantem autem vestrum potestis Eidem Patri Eiusque misericordiae cum spe committere.) It seems that some editing was done to the text before it appeared in the Acta.

A few years ago, I wrote to the Vatican secretary of state about this matter. In June 2004, I received a kind letter from Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the substitute for the first section (General Affairs) of the secretary of state. Archbishop Sandri wrote: “In thanking you for the care with which you have studied this Papal document, I am happy to confirm that the definitive and official text is the one published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. It is this version which must be considered normative.”

I should further note that the other vernacular translations posted on the Vatican website correspond to the English text you cited in your reply to Ann Gray. I am hoping that these translations will eventually be changed to correspond to the normative text of the Acta. Women who have lost children to abortion or miscarriage can entrust their children to the Father and his mercy with hope. This corresponds to the teaching of Catechism No. 1261 and the official text of Evangelium Vitae, No. 99.

Robert Fastiggi

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

Sacred Heart Major Seminary

Detroit, Michigan

Two Wars at Once

Father Michael Lyons accuses the Register of “insulting double talk” and of being “an agent of spin” for the Bush administration, and casts aspersions on your commendable pro-life record (“War and Life,” Letters, Jan. 14). I can’t seem to make much sense of his reasoning.

It was clear that your statement about our military was a tribute and an expression of gratitude to our troops in Iraq — not a kowtow to the administration. I cannot comprehend how anyone could twist it otherwise. Even if the war were completely unjustified (a claim that cannot be substantiated), some good will come of it. It is hard to believe that Father Lyons denies this, saying that the only effect of this war has been death. Can God no longer bring good out of tragedy?

I’d also like to point out that, aside from any questionable judgments about the Iraqi war, here at home we are facing a far more abhorrent situation: the aggressive escalation of the slaughter of innocent lives on a scale that dwarfs any conflict in our history. Further, this attack from hell finds a great many Catholics leading the charge, betraying both their faith and the very future of mankind. I hope that Father Lyons is proportionally as vocal on this issue as he is on the Iraqi situation.

Vince Brandolini

Salem, New Jersey


The Jan. 28 front-page graphic “March For Life Attendance” probably underestimated the headcount in Washington Jan. 22. No official tally exists, as the U.S. Park Police no longer keep records on this annual event. But, according to a spokeswoman for the March for Life, approximately 200,000 people participated this year. That’s twice the size of the estimate we gave, and the spokeswoman says it’s based on comparisons with crowd sizes in past years.