Can Ostriches Be Masons?
If John P. Edwards ["Letters," August 1990] thinks American Masonry is nothing but a fraternal organization like Rotary, Lions, or Kiwanis, he has his head in the sand. Throughout our history American Masonry has been viciously anti-Catholic. A new book called The Deadly Deception, by Jim Shaw and Tom McKenney (both Protestants), will open anyone's eyes to what Masonry really is.
John V. Blazevic
The Word from on High
Since all Masonic associations profess the same beliefs, we have only to refer to the Declaration on Masonic Associations published by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope John Paul II, and signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Jerome Hamer on November 26, 1983.
The document reads in part: "The Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church, and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion."
John R. Bresnahan
If it is true, as John P. Edwards states, that "there are Knights of Columbus who are also Masons," then they should be expelled from the order.
I know of no Masons in my own council. If I were to encounter one, I would either successfully effect his expulsion or resign from the Knights.
Edmond J. Micucci
Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania
Masons Dancing on Pins?
The 1981 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, referred to by John P. Edwards, far from seeming "to limit condemnation to specific situations or organizations," was actually stating that a previous letter, sent to Cardinal John Krol in 1974, was being falsely interpreted.
The Church still maintains (as do Masonic documents) that Freemasonry is a non-Christian religion, and no Mason may receive Communion (see the revised edition of Christianity and American Freemasonry by William J. Whalen, published by Our Sunday Visitor in 1987).
It's true that there are Catholic Masons who justify belonging to both organizations by refusing to take their Masonic oaths seriously, but the Church still maintains you can't profess allegiance to two different religions.
Another point. In "Quick Questions" [August 1990] you answer the question, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" You quote Mortimer Adler in The Angels and Us, who writes, "if it ever entered the mind of a frivolous angel to dance on the head of a pin, its whimsical impulse would have to be exercised in a solitary fashion."
I prefer the answer given by Thomas Aquinas in his Treatises on Separate Substances: Angels don't dance.
As "separate substances" or disembodied intellects they are present in a particular location only in the sense that God is present everywhere, by their influence. We really mean that an angel acts on a particular location when we say the angel is at that spot.
In regard to Mr. Adler's theory, a Thomist would reply that angels are never whimsical (not that it's bad for humans to be whimsical, but angels aren't).
If they wanted to create a movement that might be described as "dancing," they could all be present on the head of that pin. It would be up to them how much space their individual influences would occupy, no matter how infinitesimally small, because they aren't really there (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Is Schenk a Fundamentalist?
Don Schenk intended his response ["Letters," September 1990] to my article "The Sign of the Cross" [July 1990] to be helpful to Fundamentalists, but instead he adopted their misguided biblical hermeneutic.
In citing Ezekiel 9:4 as scriptural warrant for the believer marking the sign of the cross on this forehead, Mr. Schenk unwittingly agreed with Fundamentalists that only those facts that are "proven" by scriptural reference are to be believed. In this method of biblical interpretation, all knowledge--history, science, theology--must be filtered through what John Calvin described as "the spectacles of the Scriptures," and anything not explicitly mentioned in Scripture must be rejected.
Catholics are to believe the Bible and to interpret it literally when the Bible demands a literal interpretation. But Catholics recognize that the Bible does not contain exhaustive truth. Even the Fundamentalist is forced to admit this fact, as demonstrated by his acceptance of the triune nature of God and the principle of sola scriptura, neither doctrine being explicitly contained in Scripture.
The Catholic is careful to be a biblical Christian and, at the same time, not be straitjacketed by the narrow method of interpretation that marks Fundamentalism.
Building Strong Marriages
This type of apologetic work has been needed in the Church for a long time. My wife is a Southern Baptist, and I am a Catholic. I have sat and talked with her minister and other teachers of their church for hours, and I have used information from This Rock. Please send me your catalogue.
Plaistow, New Hampshire
Is Lady Di No Lady?
You express some skepticism about Tony Alamo's claim to have made clothing for King George VI. Well, I'm even more skeptical about his claim to have made clothing for the Prince of Wales, because the last Prince of Wales died centuries ago. Ask any Welshman (or woman).
Perhaps he's referring to the Sassenach pretender, weird Charlie Mountbatten. If Tony Alamo is stupid enough to believe what he publishes, I suppose he's stupid enough to believe that an uncouth Saxon barbarian is the rightful Prince of Wales.
Help for the Scrupulous
I can empathize completely with the anonymous correspondent in the July issue who wrote about the agonies of scrupulosity, being also subject to bouts of this mental torture. Help is available.
I would strongly recommend that the writer subscribe to the bulletin published by Scrupulous Anonymous. It is published monthly and contains articles on scrupulosity and a question-and- answer section. The bulletin is free, but donations are appreciated. Write to Liguori Publications, Department SA, Liguori, Missouri 63057.
Name withheld by request
You're Fair, Smith Wasn't
Your magazine's treatment of the LDS Church has been very fair. I have seen the videotape of your debate called "A Catholic/Mormon Dialogue," and I thought it very accurately pointed out the differences between Catholicism and Mormonism. (By the way, I am a Protestant.)
It amazes me to read Mormon official Gary Coleman ["Letters," October 1990] accusing This Rock of "tearing down the ideals held by others" and calling it "a publication [filled with] ridicule and disdain for teaching practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Joseph Smith said "all the churches were wrong . . . all their creeds were an abomination in his [Jesus'] sight that those professors were all corrupt" (Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith History, 1:19). By attacking the creeds, Smith was attacking all the Church Fathers and saying they were wrong.
El Toro, California
Joys of Missionary Work
I cannot praise you enough for the work you are doing. I must admit, as an American missionary priest, I wonder where the American priest apologists are?
I had a wonderful experience recently. One of the little girls in the orphanage came into my office and gave me a card she had made herself. I gave her much satisfaction by telling her how lovely it was. Then she simply put her arms around my stomach (at least as far as she could reach!) and laid her little head against me.
She stayed that way for a few seconds, then she sighed and said she loved me more than anyone else in the world. I hugged her back and could hardly speak. That is how God must feel sometimes.
Raymond A. Brennan, C.SS.R.
Pattaya City, Thailand
She's Right That You're Wrong
This is in reply to your reply to Jacqueline Marie Kahoun's letter in the August 1990 issue. I agree with her totally, and I find your answer very hard to believe that you think these two Masses [Tridentine and Novus Ordo] are so much alike.
While I sympathize with those who request the Tridentine Mass (and they should be granted their request), the impression that has been given our people is that the use of Latin in the Church means the Tridentine Mass. This is not so. I still cherish my Father Lasance New Roman Missal, given to me in 1938. Any similarity of this missal and its Masses to the New Order Mass is purely coincidental.
Peter J. Carr
Brookside, New Jersey
You're Flip, not Infallible
Your magazine isn't what I thought it was. You stated the Novus Ordo Mass is the same as the Tridentine Mass. If you can be wrong about that, you can be wrong about much more. I wanted to learn how to defend and evangelize my faith, but your style is just too flip and cute.
Carol Ann Cook
Voorhees, New Jersey
The Problem Is What's Missing
I wrote to you earlier regarding your article "Off the Deep End" [March 1990]. In that letter I cited three sources to demonstrate why the Novus Ordo Mass is invalid: the Council of Trent, Quo Primum by Pope St. Pius V, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
Judging by the succeeding issues of This Rock, I was not alone in my objections to the Novus Ordo. Your support of the Novus Ordo appears to be summarized in your reply to the letter of Jacqueline Kahoun, namely that most of the prayers of the New Mass are taken directly from the Old Mass. In that you are absolutely correct. The Novus Ordo is invalid not because of what is included, but because of what is excluded.
Peter J. Esser
Port Washington, Wisconsin
Editor’s reply: We can make an end run around the considerations brought up in the foregoing letters, each of which has been truncated due to space limitations. To compare the New Mass and the Old line for line, to check glosses in various documents, to verify translations--all that is important and can point to a conclusion (or conclusions), but a thin magazine hardly has pages enough. Here's a shortcut: the Church's infallibility.
Consider that every licitly consecrated bishop in the world (yes, including Marcel Lefebvre) affirms the Novus Ordo is valid--every single bishop, all the official teachers of the Church, every successor to the apostles. In so affirming they exercise the ordinary magisterium of the Church. If they affirm falsely, our Lord is proved a liar: The gates of hell have prevailed, the Church is not indefectible, and the ordinary magisterium is not infallible.
In short, if they're wrong, we have no logical grounds to believe the Holy Spirit guides the Church in this or any other matter. But such a conclusion is impossible. Result: the Novus Ordo must be valid.
I Read from Back to Front
In response to your back cover, a resounding "Amen!" I can't think of another lay apostolate more worthy of support, both prayerful and financial.
Mrs. Dan Burmeister
Robert Young Likes It Too
I subscribe to your magazine and really enjoy it. I've been a little disappointed in some issues because you have left out "The Fathers Know Best" articles. I find this a constructive, practical tool in dealing with our separated brethren.
San Diego, California
Editor’s reply: We'd like to run "The Fathers Know Best" each issue, but it will have to appear irregularly until we have more pages.
It's Too Funny to Cry
My Catholicism seems to be showing. An anonymous donor (I think I know who) had the enclosed anti-Catholic literature catalogue sent to me. You may already have seen this nonsense, but, if not, you will surely be as amused as I was. I suppose I should be outraged and grieved, but hilarity is the only response I can muster.
San Francisco, California
Jack Chick, Call a Bondsman
Here is some Jack Chick anti-Catholic hate literature. My wife and I are both in Denver jails, serving lengthy jail terms for rescue efforts, and I suppose whoever sent this did so in response to some publicity which mentioned our Catholicism. The senders are cowardly hate-mongers who seem to display five or six of the characteristics God says he hates in Proverbs 6:16.
Evangelizing Behind Bars
Your magazine has been a Godsend for me personally, for our Catholic community, and for our separated brothers who are genuinely interested in true dialogue. Several issues I've received I've already passed on to others, and they've done the same.
A few of our non-Catholic inmates are occasionally attending Mass as a result of what they've read in This Rock and our consequent dialogue. We don't have a flood for now, but at least more people are finally realizing that we are fellow Christians, and some are having a bit of an idea that we may have the best Way in town.
John R. Kidwell
Debate: Cure for Drowsiness
Congratulations to Gerry Matatics for a fine presentation at the debate at St. Matthias Church [in Bala-Cynwyd, Pennsylvania].
These debates are a great way for Catholics and non-Catholics to learn about our faith, especially concerning the nature of Sacred Tradition versus man-made tradition and what is meant by infallibility versus impeccability.
These seem to be points of misunderstanding for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The debate forum, if done civilly and charitably, is perhaps the most effective tool for such learning. I didn't notice anyone dozing off that night!
Time to Get off our Rear Ends
We live in a time when it would be difficult to get a precise census on all those seeking to tear apart our faith. Many of those seeking to do so still bear the label Catholic.
You have focused on a particularly important faction. From the anti-Catholic ranks may come many more St. Pauls. Our Church may indeed be renewed by converts to the faith.
Despite the varied attacks on our faith, the defense is the same in all cases. One line of defense is solid instruction in the Catholic faith. The most important line is prayer. We must take the initiative on that. No one can do it for us.
If You Want to Read It All
When your magazine arrives I drop everything and read it from cover to cover. Still not satisfied, I read it again so points made are assimilated and I can repeat them. Your magazine is both educational and entertaining.
I'm fascinated by the early Church Fathers and find William Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers [available from This Rock; see Mini-Catalogue] invaluable. Are there complete works of Tertullian, Origen, Ignatius, and the others? I would like to see a book with the complete writings, though Jurgens at present fits the bill.
Harbor City, California
Editor’s reply: If you're thinking big, get these: Ante-Nicene Fathers (10 volumes, $149.95), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1 (14 volumes, $189.50), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2 (14 volumes, $189.50). Much of Tertullian's writing, some of Origen's, and all of Ignatius' will be found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers. These sets are available through Christian Book Distributors, P.O. Box 3687, Peabody, Massachusetts 01961-3687, a Protestant house which carries much Catholics can use. (Caution: There is Protestant bias in the footnotes.)
Planting Seeds Down Under
By your sending to me these good items (cassette tapes, flyers, and magazines) you have helped arm me with some valuable spiritual ammunition. When I am asked questions about the Catholic faith, I will have some answers. Already, at this early stage, I can see seeds being planted. I am thankful for the part which you have played in sending me good Catholic literature and tapes (faith comes through hearing).
Not as Awful as Anticipated
Recently a dear friend gave me four back issue of This Rock. My first thought was, "Oh, great--another Catholic magazine." Generally, the Catholic magazines I have read or taken have fallen into three groups.
In one group the viewpoint is that everything other than the rising of the sun is a potential conspiracy against the Church. Another group of publications tends to be well-written but over the heads of many readers. The third group seems to want to tell us how the National League of Lesbian Nuns, or some organization of equal worth, is attempting to undermine the faith. It is usually implied that we should be grateful that these nuts are wasting their time in attempting to reform us.
Consequently I thought This Rock would just be another publication that would fit into one of the three categories. Was I ever wrong! I read the first issue and couldn't put it down until I had finished it. Within two days I had read all four issues.
I think you have a publication which is neither elitist nor hysterical. You also seem to steer clear of the fads and trends that confuse and upset many Catholics today. In short, your magazine seems to simply tell the truth--without arrogance, extremes, or apologies to those who might be offended by it.
Protestant Baptisms Invalid?
In the "Quick Questions" for August you are asked whether lay people can ordinarily baptize, and you rightly answered "No," because the proper ministers of the sacrament are bishops and priests. However, in cases of necessity, any lay person, even a heretic or schismatic, can baptize, provided "he does so with the intention to do what the Church does."
But what does the Church do?
If anyone takes the position that, through baptism, people become obliged to faith alone and not to obeying all of the teachings of the Church, let him be anathema! Is this what Protestants do? Since the provision--to do what the Church does--can hardly be expected of a heretic or schismatic, I have no doubt that the Church, in her love for the salvation of souls, will supply what is lacking in the Protestants' intent, until such time as the baptized person can perfect what is undoubtedly imperfect.
But to what extent is this solicitousness of the Church brought to the attention of Protestants--that their baptisms lack validity because their intent is not to be rooted in the teachings of the Catholic Church? I make bold to state, None!
Emil J. Bodart
Merion Station, Pennsylvania
Editor’s reply: Baptism when conferred by most Protestants is valid. You can disbelieve in the Catholic faith and still intend to do what the Church does. Converts from Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, and Methodism, for example, usually aren't re-baptized conditionally. They just make a profession of faith. Another point: Deacons also are ordinary ministers of baptism.
Omaha: First SAC, Now Us
Just a note to thank you for all you have done for me. I learned so much, and I believe I have a stronger conviction that my Catholic faith is the true faith in the Church that Jesus founded. Your seminar that was given in Omaha earlier this year was great. I enjoy learning from learned men through debate (Gerry Matatics vs. John Warwick Montgomery) and through discourse (Patrick Madrid and Mark Brumley).
Richard D. Benak, Sr.