Mass Confusion

Regarding “The ‘New’ Liturgy at Age 40: What Happened to the Vatican II Mass?” (Dec. 7-13):

I was perplexed by comments made by Capuchin Father Edward Foley of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, regarding sermons 40 years ago compared to today. He said, “Back then they gave sermons, so it could be on somebody'd moral agenda, it could have been on a current dogma, it could have been catechetical; it didn't have to have any connection with the liturgy. That'd radically different.”

Father Foley is absolutely correct when he'd says it'd “radically different.” However, his implication is that it is radically better. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The argument is that the Novus Ordo Mass — with its greater emphasis on homiletic connections to Scripture — has been an improvement. I'm afraid Catholics today, by and large, do not understand Sacred Scripture any more than they did 40 years ago, and I would argue they understand less. Why? Because the thousands of poorly formed priests in our sanctuaries today are more likely to misinterpret the Mass readings than give us a true account of their meaning. This is compounded by the problem of poor translations.

Sermons 40 years ago could have been about “somebody'd moral agenda,” but that agenda was the moral teaching of the Church. That is radically different than the immoral agenda pushed by numerous dissenting priests who use the pulpit to sow dissent from Catholic teaching and disciplinary practices.

As a revert (I returned to the Church six years ago) I was someone who wanted desperately to learn the faith, doctrinally and morally. Before long, I was discouraged by the complete absence of any discussion of the beautiful doctrinal and moral truths of our Holy Catholic Church. I had to re-learn my faith from publishers, and that is a minefield requiring guidance by an orthodox spiritual director.

I long to hear good sermons. I long to hear dynamic and forceful preachers teach the faith from the pulpit. I long to hear one priest, just one, mention the possibility that some of us may end up in hell because we will die with unrepented mortal sin on our souls.

Even if Father Foley were correct that today Catholics are more “biblically conversant” than 40 years ago, there is little evidence that Catholics today have a greater knowledge of Church teachings and a desire to grow in holiness. I think the opposite is true. We are dumber and weaker in our faith today precisely because no one is teaching us. Give me dogmatic sermons over poor interpretations of Sacred Scripture any day.

Ken Skuba Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania

Old Mass, New Mass

I thoroughly enjoy every edition of the Register. I read each one cover to cover!

With respect to “The ‘New’ Liturgy at Age 40: What Happened to the Vatican II Mass?” by Ellen Rossini (Dec. 7-13), I am concerned about the implication that one Mass is qualitatively better than the other. I fear this conclusion is all too frequently the product of selective memory or historical revisionism. My life spans both the pre-Vatican II and the post-Vatican II eras, and I would like to offer the following observations.

I could be wrong, but I suspect the reason the priest had his back turned to the people was that, in those days, there was a greater sensitivity to the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Because the tabernacle was located at the center of the altar, the priest was necessarily put in the position of either turning his back to the people or turning his back to Jesus.

To suggest Roman Catholics went to Mass for centuries without ever understanding what was happening is just plain silly. Virtually every Catholic carried a missal, which had the Latin on one side of the page and the English translation on the other side.

One obvious advantage of the Latin Mass seems to be continually overlooked. For those of us who travel, Latin made it possible for us to participate in the prayers of the Mass anywhere in the world. Now we must speak the vernacular (local language) or be sidelined, unable to participate. I know this might come as a surprise to many in the “American rite,” but there are actually places in the world where English is not the local language.

While I do not necessarily advocate returning to the Latin Mass, I think the Second Vatican Council had sound reasons for retaining some Latin.

Jerome R. Bishop

Voice of the What?

The three priests who issued a letter to their parish might have suspicions about the Voice of the Faithful movement based mainly on the movement's doctrinal ambiguity, but there is an even greater danger in its aim to completely “restructure” the Church (“‘A Pastoral Letter From Your Priests,’” Commentary, Dec. 7-13).

Voice of the Faithful would arrogate to themselves the privilege of interviewing candidates for bishoprics and approving their appointments outside the norms of canon law, seemingly usurping the traditional roles of the congregations in Rome and of the Pope himself. In other words, the Voice of the Faithful would be running the Church in this country. Its animus against bishops is based on exaggerated generalizations and unwarranted accusations that would be hard to prove even under civil law. It even claims some sort of gnostic insight to what Christ's will would be insofar as restructuring the Church.

All this might very well be academic as the bishops themselves move forward in establishing policy and lay-review boards to prevent future occurrences of abuse. So much media attention was given to the problem that I dare say cases will be very rare in the future. The Voice of the Faithful movement, like reactionary movements of the past, might already be growing in irrelevancy, as I believe most Catholics by now want to put all this behind us.

Lawrence Petrus Rocky River, Ohio


Your editorial “The Renewal Is Under Way” (Dec. 7-13) focuses on an optimistic view of the direction of the Church in America. Although you speak admirably concerning the laity, you fail to mention a serious obstacle to renewal: the lack of Catholic education of the laity through the homily concerning critical topics of birth control, abortion, homosexuality and chastity before marriage.

We live in a culture of death. We are daily bombarded by the media with a lifestyle contrary to Catholic teachings. Yet the laity is at the mercy of the media because the majority of bishops and priests do not preach about these topics. Having lived in four dioceses in 15 years and never hearing a homily on any of these issues during Sunday Mass, I can understand why the Catholic laity are silent on these issues, why as many Catholics as Protestants choose abortion, why the vast majority of Catholic spouses contracept and why many [couples] live together outside of marriage.

It is troubling to see our religious leaders speak out so bravely on a national level when they do nothing on the local level to promote true Catholic identity. Is it any wonder public opinion is not with our bishops and priests on these issues? Perhaps some dissent from Catholic teaching and others fear the pews will be emptied once the faithful hear the true message.

But to really change the culture of death, our religious leaders are going to have to fulfill the true calling of their vocation and become the leaders of Catholic renewal. Anything less spells disaster.

Michael Aiello, M.D. Canton, Ohio

The writer is a past president of the Catholic Medical Association.

Morning-After Misery

The looming possibility of women being able to buy the “morning-after pill” over the counter rather than by prescription is just another example of the hostility of our culture toward life, especially the most vulnerable of all life, the unborn.

One of the ways the Plan B pill works is by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting to the wall of the uterus. If human life does not begin at the moment of conception, when all of the DNA needed to create a complete human being is fully present and beginning to work, when does it begin? Women need to know that when taking the “morning-after pill,” one of the possibilities of the way it works is by preventing their newly created child from thriving by not allowing it to implant properly in the uterus.

Andrew Achziger Greeley, Colorado

Choose Something

At last, good news! The National Organization for Women and the “abortion-rights” people have finally given up on being “pro-choice.” The U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and the president have chosen. They chose to outlaw partial-birth abortion — the killing of partially born children. Now the pro-choice people are against that choice.

To choose is a transitive verb, meaning it carries an object. It is idiotic to be pro-choice unless one says what is being chosen or chosen against. I (we) must be pro-choice something. When it comes to the unborn child, one is either pro-choice life or pro-choice death.

Consider this family situation: The father is an alcoholic, the mother is syphilitic. One child is deaf, one child mentally retarded, another child is deaf and one child is born dead. The mother with syphilis is pregnant again. Question: Should she have an abortion? Choose life or death. If you choose the abortion, then you have just aborted Beethoven.

Father Patrick J. O'Doherty Queen of Peace Church Ocala, Florida


A quotation in Thomas Szyskiewicz's article about Archbishop-designate Raymond Burke of St. Louis in the Dec. 21-28 issue was wrongly attributed to the archbishop. It said Archbishop Burke, when he was bishop of LaCrosse, Wis., told Wisconsin state Sen. Julie Lassa, who supports legal abortion, that she could not call herself Catholic and to refrain from receiving the Eucharist. Bishop Burke did not make this statement. The Register and author apologize for the error.

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, April 17, 2014.

Recalling the Unlikely Ginsburg-Scalia Friendship

Justice Antonin Scalia’s love of debate was one of the things that drew him to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman with whom he disagreed on many things, including many aspects of the law.