Dressed and Blessed

Regarding “Modesty Rocks!” (Oct. 3-9): I'm really pleased to see so many teen-agers and parents concerned about the appropriateness of the fashionable clothing of our day. I also think Theresa Kuhar is wise in asking her kids if the clothing they want would be appropriate for Mass before they consider buying it. However, regarding this standard, I have had a growing concern about the kind of apparel I have seen worn at church lately. I would like to remind everyone that a modest outfit by no means makes it appropriate for Mass. I don't see anything wrong with my baggy tie-dye shirts and sweats, but I certainly would be embarrassed to be seen wearing them at Mass.

I think we would do well to keep in mind that one way to help keep the Mass holy in the eyes of the young is to maintain a higher-than-daily standard of appearance as well as attitude when it comes to being in the presence of God and receiving holy Communion under his roof.


Ventura, California

Musical Mediocrity

I'm writing to support the letter from Mr. John Peacock of Fremont, Calif., titled “The Silence of the Singers” (Oct. 24-30). I spent 11 years in music ministry in the letter-writer's hometown, during which I waged a constant assault on mediocrity, with mixed results.

I agree with Mr. Peacock that liturgical-music publishers, including Oregon Catholic Press, are part of the problem. Their neutering of well-known lyrics (not only of traditional hymns but also of contemporary favorites) is an affront to our worship. However, they've established something of a stranglehold on our hymnals because they're successfully targeting a market with low standards and low commitment — the performers (both within the choir loft and out of it) and also church administrators who expend resources sparingly and haphazardly.

In the Protestant churches I grew up in, the entire congregation sang hymns in four-part harmony. This was possible because all four voice parts were printed in the hymnal, and the congregants could either read the music or follow the strong singers among their neighbors. While I was in graduate school, I visited a Mennonite church where the same practice was followed, to great effect. (In Catholic churches today, however, it's rare to find even a choir that can sing four independent parts.)

On an eternal scale, of course, all our efforts are mediocre. But deliberate mediocrity — repeatedly giving less than our best effort — is maddening, especially in an area that so centrally affects our quality of worship.


Burke, Virginia

Let States Have Final Say

I greatly appreciated the tone and analysis in your editorial titled “Judge Casey: Pro-Life, Pro-Law?” (Sept. 5-11). In addition to the evil of abortion itself, there are a number of reasons why Roe v. Wade is wrong. One of them is that judicial review is itself not enshrined in the Constitution. Another is that the 10th Amendment assigns matters of morality to the jurisdiction of state governments, an idea that corresponds to the Catholic teaching of subsidiarity: Keep the power distributed as widely as possible so that no one corrupt human being can wield absolute authority.

I have great personal qualms as to whether the federal partial-birth abortion ban would help or hurt the pro-life cause. It would certainly hurt the cause of subsidiarity, as it yet again increases the power of the federal government beyond constitutional limits. Our political goal at the federal level must be nothing more nor less than to overturn Roe and set back the tide of judicial activism. Otherwise, abortion should be a state-by-state issue.

Your editorial notes that “Catholics might be tempted to fight ‘bad guy’ tyrannical judges with ‘good guy’ tyrannical judges who ignore the law and do what they please.” The same principle applies to fighting “bad guy” congressmen who try to expand the federal government beyond constitutional limits with “good guys” who do the same thing.

I pray every day for the day when every form of abortion is illegal in the United States of America, but I also pray that is achieved through proper legislation at the state level.


Fredericksburg, Virginia

Mutilating Morality

I read with interest “Self-Expression Through Mutilation” (Sept. 5-11).

There is one type of body modification (mutilation, really) that is approved by overwhelming majorities in this country and in Western Europe, is spreading around the globe and is endorsed wholeheartedly by the medical establishment: tubal ligations and vasectomies. One could go even further and point to hormonal contraceptives — they chemically modify the body.

It would seem the evil tentacles of contraceptives have a far-flung reach.


Midland, Michigan