Letters 02.02.20

Readers respond to Register articles.

(photo: Register Files)

Holy Woman

Thanks for your coverage of the recently beatified Brother James Miller and other exemplary Catholic Americans (“Sanctity in the USA: Holy Americans,” Jan. 5-18 issue).

Also worthy of their distinguished company is a lady who died heroically in St. Louis just over a year ago. She could eventually be canonized as the first American woman martyr.

On Nov. 19, 2018, a middle-aged man walked into a Catholic religious goods store and noted that only three people were there — all women. He herded them at gunpoint back into a secluded corner of the store and insisted that they submit to acts of sexual abuse. Two of the distraught women complied with this brute’s demands. Then he came to his third intended victim, who, according to friends, had probably come to purchase some materials for her rosary-making apostolate.

This was Jamie Schmidt, 53, a quiet housewife and mother.

There was nothing obviously extraordinary about this lady, but now she did something very extraordinary.

She, too, was ordered to submit to sexual abuse. But Mrs. Schmidt, with the barrel of a loaded gun pointed at her head, quietly refused to allow her purity, her personal dignity and her marriage covenant to be outraged. 

She looked the man straight in the eye and said, “In the name of God, I will not!” Enraged by this unexpected point-blank refusal, her assailant responded with a point-blank shot that felled her on the spot. 

She died in the hospital that night whispering the words of the Our Father. (The man accused of this shocking murder is now behind bars awaiting trial.)

I had the privilege of concelebrating Jamie’s funeral Mass and spoke afterward to friends who testified to the quiet holiness of her life.

Survived by her husband, Greg (a Knight of Columbus), and three children, she was loved by all as modest, calm, cheerful, devoted to Our Lady, active in organizing retreats in her parish (St. Anthony of Padua in High Ridge, Missouri), and blessed with musical and artistic talents that she used to beautify her church and its worship.

The similarities between Jamie Schmidts death and that of St. Maria Goretti, who was canonized for sacrificing her life rather than commit a sin of impurity, are clear.

         Father Brian W. Harrison, OS

         St. Louis, Missouri

 

Urgent Riddle

In “Pope Francis’ 2020” (Vatican, Jan. 19 issue), several pending papal initiatives are summarized. Among these, the new Curial constitution likely will “place a new super-dicastery for evangelization [and not mentioned, also the Secretariat of State] above the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” And another will be a “global educational pact” to advance a “total reality” of openness that heals a “vertical rift between man and the Absolute.”

In the first instance, do the recent China and Abu Dhabi agreements, and Amazonia (pachamama, plus the surely contagious dilution of altar Christus ordination) synod, expose the imperfect template?

If so, then can we generally expect the current generation of Catholics (and slices of the magisterium) to be discounted — in favor of some more ambulatory future consensus attributed to the Holy Spirit?

How would such a possible ideology of expendability differ, exactly, from Marxist predispositions?

And, second, by the “vertical rift between man and the Absolute,” do we mean our lost distinction between Creator and creature, or, instead, do we signal and intend a flattening derivative of “inverted pyramid” collegiality, this to muddle even further the vertical distinction? The concrete over the allegedly abstract?

In day-to-day proclamation and omission, is the “Absolute” something other than the singular Incarnation (the concrete universal!) of the self-disclosing and Triune God?

Is the new “absolute” a vague (and even contradicting) praxis detached from awkward dogma, as with the apparent setting aside (never an overt denial) of moral absolutes integral to the “total” Catholic social teaching, e.g., Veritatis Splendor?

In our globally-disrupted times, is the “new humanism” of global “Human Fraternity” still to involve the unifying/dynamic tension between solidarity and subsidiarity, with neither quarantined from or dissolved into the other? Likewise the interrelated but distinct human ecology and natural ecology, now already morphed into an “integral ecology”? 

And who, exactly, are the ghostwriters of the “new mentality through education” of the young? The pulpit time sharing with oracles from United Nations NGOs? Which Catholic educators are to be left out?

Truly jump-starting a New Evangelization in a post-Christian world is admittedly a daunting and urgent riddle — even in the very relevant writings of recent popes before 2013. So, today, how best to at least not throw the baby out with the bathwater?

         Peter D. Beaulieu

         Shoreline, Washington

 

The New Paganism

Upon reading and rereading the interview by Solène Tadié of professor Chantal Delsol (“Post-Christendom and the Return of Paganism in the West,” NCRegister.com, Jan. 8), I decided to send you this email.

I can agree only partially with professor Delsol’s position. My main criticism is that we are not going back to paganism.

Returning to paganism would mean going back to Cicero, Plato, Socrates, Aeschylus, The Iliad, The Aeneid, Greek philosophy, Caesar, Pericles, the cult of heroes, statues like the Venus de Milo, and the cult of beauty.

Unsurprisingly, we are not going back to anything of that sort. Indeed, we are not going back at all; we are instead going — if I can be allowed to exaggerate a bit — toward a new world along the lines of the one painted by Japanese Kafkaesque artist Tetsuya Ishida.

It is important to note that in comparison with the current situation, as described by Delsol, both paganism and Christianity seem to fall on the same side of the roof — just think of humanism, liberal arts, classics, Antigone, natural law.

If this is basically correct, it would be of the utmost importance because history would be split by the appearing of modern machinery and digital technology — a very recent development — rather than by the paganism-Christianity divide.

Current disenchantment certainly disenchants Christianity, but it would do the same to pagan culture, myths and traditions; it dissolves away even local folklore, old customs and popular songs.

Why should it respect paganism? Present-day organization and technology, regulation of the utmost minutiae of our lives, along with derailed globalization, are all unfriendly to Christianity because they are also unfriendly to the ordinary man, pagan and Christian alike.

I also think Delsol is wrong on myths. As for fairytales, myths and legends, I would personally prefer Tolkien’s; besides being very literary, it is also more realistic.

What she considers to be current myths would hardly be considered a myth if compared to classical, pagan myths — not to mention the role they performed in culture, ethics and society.

Something must be pointed out as well concerning the supposedly universal need for purpose and meaning.

One of the features of Generation Z (or the equivalent Spanish, French, Portuguese, etc.) is that, for the first time in history, they feel comfortable living meaningless, purposeless lives — what would have been incredible for pagans.

I hope I have not been too bold, as I am a professor of constitutional law with no expertise on these topics. I very much rely on my little piece “Please, God, Bring Back Those Good, Old Pagans” (Mercator.net, July 9, 2019) and, above all, in C.S. Lewis’ inaugural lecture De Descriptione Temporum.

         Antonio-Carlos Pereira Menaut

         Santiago de Compostela, Spain

 

Corrections

In “Standing for the Unborn, State by State” (Nation, Jan. 19 issue), we listed the incorrect date for West Coast Walk for Life. It is Jan. 25. Look for on-the-ground coverage of the walk in our next issue.

In “Planned Parenthood Hunkers Down on Abortion” (Jan. 5 issue, front page), the Register misspelled the name of Penny Nance, president of the pro-life Concerned Women for America.

The Register regrets the errors.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.

Representing the Holy Spirit that descended “like a dove” and hovered over Jesus when he was baptized.

Bishop Burbidge: The Pandemic is Our ‘Pentecost Moment’

This “21st century Pentecost moment” brought on by the pandemic, Bishop Michael Burbidge said, has underscored the need for good communication in the Church across all forms of media, in order to invite people into the fullness of the Gospel.