Letters 07.26.15

Perfect Timing

Regarding “Shroud of Turin Inspires Conversion” (April 19 issue) by Joseph Pronechen: perfect timing for a world suffering from so much that is wrong. The Bible speaks God’s truth but leaves much to faith — not as a test, but out of necessity. Even if the Bible explained in scientific terms how God performed his biblical feats, readers would still be confounded by unknown, unfamiliar words.

“Things” are not a reality for us until they have been discovered and given names like stem cells, cloning, “Big Bang” or nuclear reaction. These “things” were a reality in biblical times, but were undiscovered and unnamed. New knowledge and revelations broaden the “range of reason.”

Our God, who created heaven and earth, could be many things, for we don’t know all that is found in the universe — or do we? One of man’s discoveries is the atom, a unit regarded as a source of nuclear energy.

The word “radiant” was used in Exodus to describe the face of Moses after he talked with God, who arrived on the mountaintop amid noise, smoke and fire. There were warnings to keep even animals at a safe distance — no one can see God and live. Holy people are depicted with halos. 

Christ’s transfiguration — when his face shone like the sun — happened after Christ first spoke to the apostles about his forthcoming passion. If God’s purpose was to verify the Father and Son’s relationship to the apostles, why weren’t all of them present — and was the “illumination” necessary to their belief?

So regarding Christ’s resurrection and the Shroud of Turin: Today, science knows the high energy of ultraviolet light gives rise to certain photo-chemical reactions. This characteristic is exploited to produce impressions on fabrics. Photo-chemistry includes natural photosynthesis in plants — God’s handiwork. Regarding transubstantiation at Mass: The bread and wine of Communion are elements that can be transformed into other elements by radioactive decay or by nuclear reactions.

Christ knew it when he said, “This is my Body; this is my Blood” — and he knew it when he raised Lazarus from the dead. I believe it’s how God, the Giver of Life, created all things, including man.

“Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lion of the tribe of Judah, Root of David, has conquered.” He left his tortured image on his burial shroud as proof of his great love for us. The world needs to know it.

         Ruth Ruhl LaMusga

         Chico, California


Exalted Imagery?

Thank you for your May 31 issue “In Person” interview with Walt Heyer (“Refuting Transgender ‘Delusion’”) as well as your story on restorative therapy (“Reparative Therapy Attacked”).

I am reminded, however, that the Catholic media uses the same imagery as the secular media. In fact, the front page of Section B was just such a case. Take a look at the students used for the “Chastity on Campus” story. The man is relatively tall, fairly handsome and has an athletic build. The woman is blond with, to put it bluntly, all the right curves. They may look “average,” but not if you are a college-age man who does not have an attractive build.

In addition, the man and woman seem to have a mutual respect for and interest in each other.

Some men and women of that age are painfully awkward around members of the opposite sex. Consequently, both will be chaste but not necessarily pure. In fact, they are more likely to have an “escapist” aspect in dealing with their sexuality. They may even come to see it as a curse because, like homosexuals, they have a desire they are not able to employ appropriately. This is true for me, so when the Catholic media advertises the “beautiful people” as the ideal Catholics, it tells me that we don’t really matter.

True, there are plenty of stories about L’Arche, families with disabled children and the like, but they are never told from the point of view of the person who is deformed and/or disabled. We don’t want to be trite examples of God’s love, while attention then shifts back to the beautiful people.

I would love to see more “In Person” stories like Mr. Heyer’s. There need to be stories about how young men with homosexual tendencies are staying celibate and diverting their sexual energy toward acts of transcendent love. There need to be stories about those who have autism, mental illness, unattractive bodies and/or other similar crosses that keep them from experiencing an intimate love that tells them they are truly valued — and not just from an “arm’s length” distance.

There is a rich harvest of souls to be had if the Catholic media would stop being like everyone else.

         Francis Jacobson

         Bainbridge Island, Washington


Eliminating Justice

Re: your March 22 issue editorial “National Catholic Journals: ‘Capital Punishment Must End,’” which states:

“Pope St. John Paul II amended the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church to include a de facto prohibition against capital punishment.” This statement is incorrect and misleading.

Pope John II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae states (56): “... the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender, except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2267) states: “... the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. ... Today ... the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’”

Both Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism of the Catholic Church state the need for capital punishment as a last resort to protect innocent life from an unjust aggressor. Thus, given what both sources say, it is false to state that there is a “de facto prohibition against capital punishment” in the Catechism. I am concerned about the powerful “social justice” lobby in the Church, on this issue and others (such as illegal immigration) that drive Catholic leaders to disregard teachings of the Catholic Church. All Catholic “social justice” policies must abide by the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church.

Catholic editors, bishops and the Pope have no right to negate the teachings of the Catholic Church. These teachings come from God. These individuals support eliminating the only way to preserve the lives of innocent people, e.g. those who are targets for murder, at the command of an incarcerated individual. For the families of these targeted people, how do the Catholic editors, bishops and the Pope explain their involvement in the deaths of these people at the hands of an unjust aggressor? Capital punishment must be available only in the “very rare, if practically non-existent” cases, “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” Prohibiting capital punishment eliminates the justice of self-defense.

         Michael P. Smyth

         Finksburg, Maryland


Matrimony vs. Marriage

I recently read your article titled, “Why Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Is Impossible for Catholics” (May 17 issue). Could someone please address the difference between “matrimony” and “marriage”?

As I see it, matrimony is a Church sacrament recognizing a union between man and wife, as blessed by the Holy Trinity (I’m sure it’s more nuanced than that). The Catholic Church has the right, via the First Amendment, to choose to whom it grants this sacrament. Fine. No problems with that, even if I personally disagree with the moral logic behind it.

But marriage is a legal contract between two people that inherently grants certain benefits, such as the sharing of disability benefits and hospital-visitation rights. Heterosexual couples that wish to enjoy these benefits should not be barred from doing so solely on religious grounds. 

What is the Church’s rationale behind opposing secular same-sex marriages? The separation of church and state prevents (or, at least, should prevent) the encroachment of religious doctrine into the civil and social laws of the United States. Just as the First Amendment protects the freedom to practice religion, it also protects the right to not practice religion.

I am unaware of any gay-marriage bill currently on the books or on the floor of a state legislature that would require religious organizations to perform same-sex marriages. Justice Antonin Scalia has posited that religious officiators may be stripped of their state-licensed powers if they fail to comply with gay-marriage laws, but I find that argument unconvincing.

The powers of the Lord and those of the state of California, Mississippi or anywhere in America should not be conflated or equivocated. Churches, synagogues and mosques can still facilitate the religious aspect of whatever marriage ceremony they wish, to whomever they wish, while all legal benefits can be conferred and sanctioned by the state and the state alone.

The First Amendment is under attack, indeed. Let’s just be clear on who is having their rights denied.

         Joseph Hildula

         San Francisco, California


The editor replies: The late Cardinal Francis George succinctly summed up why the Church cares about all marriages, not simply the marriages blessed by a priest: “It might be good to put aside any religious teaching and any state laws and start from scratch, from nature itself, when talking about marriage. Marriage existed before Christ called together his first disciples 2,000 years ago and well before the United States of America was formed [236] years ago. Neither Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature. Marriage exists because human nature comes in two complementary sexes: male and female. The sexual union of a man and woman is called the marital act because the two become physically one in a way that is impossible between two men or two women. Whatever a homosexual union might be or represent, it is not physically marital. Gender is inextricably bound up with physical sexual identity; and ‘gender-free marriage’ is a contradiction in terms, like a square circle” (“Reflections on Chicago Values,” July 29, 2012). Until recently, this was the universal definition of marriage by state or by religion.