Abortion/Breast-Cancer Link

We write about the coverage of the abortion/breast cancer, which you published on page one of your Nov. 23-29 edition (“A First: Abortion Pay-out over Breast Cancer”). Andrew Walther did an excellent job and we also applaud the placement on page one.

The Register continues its excellent work year after year. It is a blessing for our nation and the Church.

Mr. Walther did not mention the name of the lawyer who carried on for four long years: his name is Joseph Stanton, and he was assisted in the last days by a new graduate from Ave Maria Law School, Adam Frey. Stanton is a single practitioner and a member of the Pro-Life Union and a longtime “lawyer for life.” In this matter, he was opposed by two large law firms. He deserves our thanks and recognition!

Kathleen Sobocinski

Oreland, Pennsylvania

The writer is President of the Pro-Life Union of Southeast Pennsylvania.

Missionary Territory?

Just a note in response to Peter Wolfgang's commentary “Attention, Peter Stein-fels: You Got It Wrong” (Nov. 23-29).

I petition: How much more subjective could Mr. Wolfgang be while appraising the general pulse and health of the Church within a given region (Connecticut)? As he speaks of various charismatic renewal projects and other renewal venues such as Regnum Christi, noting that a large proportion of such participation is that of young adult Catholics, I still question, out of all baptized and confirmed young adults within the Catholic population, just how many partake in such movements? I will submit to you that, of all Catholics under age 30, it is probably well under 10% and is hardly representative of a new trend.

And how does Mr. Wolfgang explain this phenomenon? In a 2000 survey of all 173 American dioceses, on the basis of their ratio of recent ordinandi and seminarians to total Catholic population within the respective diocese, Connecticut's Metropolitan See, the Archdiocese of Hartford, achieved a ratio of 1:371,479 — a rank of 173, that is, dead last of all of the nation's dioceses. By contrast, the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., with a ratio of 1 new priest or seminarian for every 2,173 Catholics, ranks second among all U.S. dioceses, while the Diocese of Fargo, N.D., with 1 new priest or seminarian for every 2,025 Catholics, ranks first.

For certain, the vibrancy of Catholic culture is very aptly measured by young-adult participation in religious vocations, and the overall receptivity to and promotion of the priestly calling by a local hierarchy. Furthermore, none of the Catholic colleges of the state has accepted the mandatum. If Connecticut is anything, it is once again missionary territory, where Sunday-morning participation at the state's popular Native American gaming casinos by far outdoes that at Mass. While I credit Mr. Wolfgang for his own personal conversion to Catholic orthodoxy, as well as his willingness to publicly take on a legend of dissent such as Peter Steinfels — with his latest exercise in triteness in this new book of his — such an endeavor is hardly achieved with success with a chronicle of rose-colored embellishments.

Keep in mind that Steinfels' conduit, Father Richard McBrien at the University of Notre Dame, is and always was a “native son” and remains a priest in “good standing” of the Archdiocese of Hartford. His imprint upon the local Church, as well as this nation, continues to be unmistakable. For him to witness dissent, all Mr. Wolfgang need do is look again into his backyard — though hopefully next time, he will address it head on.


via e-mail

Peter Wolfgang responds: Like Steinfels, Jeffrey Jackson cites irrefutable facts to support conclusions that, upon closer inspection, do not necessarily follow. Yes, only a minority of Connecticut Catholics “under the age of 30” are involved in renewal movements. But that fact does not take into account someone like me, a dissenter for most of my 20s who, even after embracing the fullness of the faith, still is not affiliated with any “renewal movement.” In its recent editorial “Dissent's Demise” (Sept. 21-27), the Register made reference to young Catholics who “had all left the Church to one degree or another after taking doctrine-free CCD classes as children. They returned after discovering the beauty and truth of the faith on their own.” That's me. And there's a lot more where I came from.

Yes, Father Richard McBrien is, alas, a priest in good standing with the Archdiocese of Hartford. But our archdiocesan newspaper ceased syndication of his column about a decade ago and left him scrambling to find another distributor. This decision was applauded by Catholics my age and lamented by my parents' generation.

Yes, a recent survey showed that Hartford would eventually be dead last in the nation's priest-to-layman ratio — if present trends continue. Many of us who grew up with those “doctrine-free CCD classes” returned to the Church after we were married but with a lot of children in tow. Stay tuned.

Yes, the Catholic colleges of Connecticut have yet to accept the mandatum. But that fact does not take into account the young former students (and current teachers) I've spoken to at those schools who are scandalized by this. The editorial, again: Dissent “has no future because hypocrisy and dishonesty are the sins the new generation of Catholics most disdain. The younger generation will either leave the faith definitively or embrace it robustly — they won't attempt to do both.”

In his recent interview with Raymond Arroyo, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger reminded us that the Holy Spirit usually shapes history through minorities, not mass movements. The current minority status of young, faithful Catholics is no impediment to the pivotal role we could play in helping to bring about a new springtime for the Church.

New Evangelization in the Mall

You had two articles in recent months reporting on the success people have been having with shopping-mall evangelization. Groups would get permission from the mall owners and then set up tables with local parish bulletins, Mass schedules, contact information for priests and so on. Both articles commented on the number of people who approached their tables looking for information. Their success seems to come from going out in the community and providing the truth in a non-threatening manner.

We have all read about Mel Gibson's forthcoming film The Passion of Christ, which will be released on Ash Wednesday. With all the pre-publicity the film has generated, large numbers of people will be seeing it. Whether they love it or hate it, many will exit the film with questions, comments, doubts and reactions. What a great time for those moviegoers to encounter a table full of Catholic information!


New Market, Maryland

Editor's note: Some materials that might be good to pass out: The guides we have printed on our back page throughout Advent. Print out multiple copies by downloading them at: www.ncregister.com. Click on “How to Be a Catholic: Guides for Catholic Living.”