Of Holiness, Baseball, AI, Feminism and Removing Rupnik

Letters 06.02.24

Letters to the editor offer a variety of opinions.
Letters to the editor offer a variety of opinions. (photo: NCRegister.com)

Habsburg Holiness

Having just attended the Blessed Emperor Karl Symposium in Dallas (for the second time), I was delighted to read Edward Pentin’s article, “‘The Habsburg Way’: Lessons for Today, From Openness to Life to How to Die Well” (April 22 at NCRegister.com; “Habsburg Offers Ways to Reclaim the Family,” World, May 5 issue).

But I read it a day too late to add context and history to the sensibilities of the commenters, who apparently never heard of Blessed Emperor Karl! In truth, we only learned a pale tale of World War I in school — and to despise the Habsburg name, as good, secular, liberal American history students should.

Since 2020, it’s become plain that everything we learned in school or media about history and events must be called into question and examined more closely. I only recently learned about the beatified young emperor, his valiant but hopeless quest for peace in World War I amidst lusting warmongers, and his horrific betrayal by the new-world secularists, including President Woodrow Wilson. The unknown story fascinated and nauseated me. How would the 20th century have looked if Blessed Karl had succeeded?

Please consider publishing an article detailing the history of Blessed Emperor Karl; his wife, the Servant of God Zita; and Pope Benedict XV in World War I. We deserve to know the greater context of what we were taught, so we can understand better the miserable condition Europe has been in since then and judge events for ourselves.

 Dorina Amendola 

 Waverly, Pennsylvania

Baseball ‘Blessed’ 

I am a member of Knights of Columbus Council 1990. I work at a university and noticed that a lot of Catholic students seem to be very lost, alienated, lonely and overwhelmed by chaotic influences that are currently taking place throughout the United States. 

Father Michael McGivney, having played baseball, as well as founding a baseball team and a fraternal organization, is an inspiring icon for young men and women to identify with; and with so many young men in university fraternities and on baseball teams, feeling lost for so many reasons and filling that void with alcohol, Father McGivney would be an ideal saint for young baseballers and fraternity members to reach out to during their time of need. For this reason, I’d like to humbly suggest that, once Father McGivney is sainted, which I feel will be soon, he should become the “patron saint to baseball players, fraternities and fraternity members” (among other things). 

 Jeffrey Luke Bramon 

 Redondo Beach, California

No to AI ‘Priest’

Your article (“Catholic Apostolate Pulls Plug on ‘Father Justin’ AI Priest” (page 6, May 5 issue) was truly apropos. An AI “priest” can only answer questions pertaining to facts (e.g., When did Pope Paul VI live?). On the other hand, only a real, flesh-and-blood priest can answer questions pertaining to the faith (a grace-induced “mystery”) the inquirer and the priest both share (e.g., What is the response to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae?).

 Spencer F. Stopa

 Mesa, Arizona


Feminism Symposium

Thank you for publishing on your website “The Reason of Mary Wollstonecraft: Championing Women and Their Moral Formation.” With all due respect to Carrie Gress, I find criticisms of much of her work to “ring true” with reason. I am extremely grateful that you are giving space in your publication for her critics to express their concerns for her scholarship. Many of the arguments made in Gress’ writings are made without sufficient support, while other scholars who agree with her general conclusions do a much better job at providing supportive arguments that logically lead to their conclusions. Perhaps Gress will be receptive to the charitable critiques presented by her critics so that she can grow and become a better scholar who can better evangelize others. Thank you so very much for including Erika Bachiochi’s piece on your website.

 Trevor Huster

 via email

 Remove the Mosaics

I write in response to the editorial in the Register’s April 21 print issue, “It’s Time to Remove Father Rupnik’s Art.” 

As a frequent priest pilgrim to Lourdes, and former tour guide to Rome and the Vatican, I feel drawn to respond to the issues that the debate over Father Rupnik’s art raises. Indeed, it is complicated on many levels. The article makes this very evident: the question of the quality of the art, the motivation and moral rectitude in question of the artist, the effect it may have on those who suffered in some way from abuse in any form, the financial implications upon the Sanctuary of Lourdes, etc. 

I would like to make the following comments, which relate to issues from the article:

1. If we are to judge the work of Father Rupnik on a purely artistic level, it would certainly not fare well when compared with other works on an international scale. Judged, however, in the context of the “Domaine” (as the Sanctuary is called), it is a stiff competition for mediocre and outright bad religious art. Perhaps the only venue that claims something of note is the Rosary Basilica, whose mosaics are of very high quality in craftsmanship. The designs themselves may not be to modern taste, but do represent the state of religious art in the late 19th and early 20th century. For the rest of the churches and chapels, it would be hard to label any as “notable,” either architecturally or decoratively. But people do not come to Lourdes for the art. The most beautiful and moving place is the Grotto itself, God’s handiwork!

2. The thorniest issue is the question attaching the moral failures of the artist to the work. As the article pointed out, Bernini, whose work by any standard is the achievement of genius, was not a person of impeccable moral rectitude in his early life. Should we remove the early works of Bernini from Rome? Rome would be all the poorer. Perhaps a better example would be Caravaggio. His work, like that of Bernini, is of great genius and innovation and moves even the agnostic observer with a religious “twinge.” Caravaggio, however, was a scoundrel his entire life, socially, sexually and financially. Should we remove his works? I am reminded of the comment of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who was criticized for collecting the works of Caravaggio, which, by some, were considered too prurient. He said, “Why should I be ashamed of great art simply because you have a dirty mind?” Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes suffered in the next generation by having underwear painted on the naked figures, and St. Peter’s itself has the gorgeous tombs of some randy popes.

3. The one thing I believe we need to acknowledge in the work of Father Rupnik is the ingenious way he incorporated the Luminous Mysteries into the existing architecture [of Lourdes] by placing them on the façade. Removal of the work would require an equivalent spatial replacement of significant expense. Contrary to what people may think, the sanctuary is not flush in cash and operates “hand to mouth.”

4. Then we must consider the sensitivity of those who directly or indirectly suffered from the abuse of Father Rupnik. This is not insignificant, but will it change with time? Do people viewing a work of Bernini now know of him as a murderer? Or do those transfixed by the gaze of Jesus in Caravaggio’s The Call of St. Matthew default to dismissing the art and artist because he was a pedophile? 

So, the question remains: What would I do? 

In the best of all worlds, I would remove the mosaics and store them away. Perhaps like the Maccabees, we could wait for a prophet to come later who would tell us what to do with them. If they are removed, they need to be replaced, but with the finest quality in craftsmanship and artistry. Where are those artists, and who will determine their moral credentials? I do not envy Bishop Jean-Marc Micas.

Msgr. Steven Otellini 

Pastor of Church of the Nativity

Menlo Park, California