Mother Si, Father No
Thank you for the article defending Mother Angelica ["Bashing Mother Angelica," September 1994]. I feel sure you agree with me that Mother doesn't need defending--she does a pretty good job of defending herself! My personal opinion--it is pure jealousy. Here is a nun with a high school education, from a broken home, who has accomplished what was or is impossible for some bishops and priests to accomplish--most of whom have a string of letters after their names. What comes through loud and clear for me from EWTN is a deeper spirituality, something I have been unable to find in parish churches. I hunger and thirst for this spirituality which has been denied me.
Grace A. Tribur
St. Paul, Minnesota
Fr. Schroth's Problem
The article on Mother Angelica was right on the mark. Unlike Mr. Keating, I do have cable and am a regular EWTN watcher. In fact, were it not for EWTN, I would attach my television set behind my car and drag it down a well-peopled thoroughfare.
For years I made my living teaching music one-on-one. It did not take me long to become aware of two things: (1) my subject was easy to teach, since I knew it well, and (2) my students were hard to teach, since each required a unique formatting and presentation to learn the same things. To teach effectively I had to understand my student as well as I understood my subject.
Not only has Mother Angelica and her crew kept these concepts well in mind, they have employed them with imagination, style, and success. They know what they are teaching, whom they are teaching, and why they are teaching. They provide a wide variety of spiritual milk, spiritual steak, and everything in between.
Among the glad partakers are priests, religious, converts, the converting, the back-slidden, lapsed Catholics, Protestants, children, families, teens, and singles. No doubt some bishops tune in and frequently participate in what Fr. Raymond Schroth characterizes as EWTN's spiritual programming for idiots. I admit, however, that I have never seen anything on EWTN which might appeal to heterodox university theologians. Mother seems to have missed them altogether.
I take issue with Fr. Schroth's mention of the "hatred" he seems to see and hear on EWTN. I have watched a lot of its programs and never found any hate or meanspiritedness in the programming or the presenters. Perhaps the hatred Fr. Schroth senses is hatred not unlike those who despised God's prophets when they came with messages filled with unpleasant corrections and reproofs. Those who heard the prophets' words with a resentful, bad will were self-deceived into thinking the words were said in hate. But the source of the hatred was in the hearts of the recipients of the messages.
My suspicion is that what really bothers Fr. Schroth is not the inclusive range of EWTN's programming, which is diverse, or the formatting, which is varied, but the exclusiveness of its content: clear and consistent presentation of the authentic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, nothing more, nothing less.
His Slips, Our Slip
Someone sent me the NCR article on Mother Angelica, and I was irate. I wrote a postcard to Fr. Schroth, pointing out two incorrect statements about people seen on EWTN. Briege McKenna is not a Carmelite, but a Poor Clare. Fr. Kenneth Roberts is from England, not an Australian (I was sorry you let that slip by you). Then I told him I hoped that as a professor of journalism he would be more careful in checking his facts. My last sentence ran something like this: "The reason Mother Angelica is so popular is because most good Catholics are sick and tired of the pope bashing and ridicule that is coming from 'educated' Catholics who should know better. I was surprised to receive a postcard reply, thanking me for my comments, but no comments from him.
Sr. Mary Joachim Oberkoetter, OSB
Maria Monk Redivivus
Speaking to a friend about the Catholic faith, he told me a story which compels me to ask two questions, one of which will be helpful to many Catholics who are interested in apologetics. My friend said his father told him that he was called to a Catholic church in Los Angeles around 1938 to fix the plumbing. Upon entering the church, he was blindfolded and led downstairs. While working in the long corridor, he saw cells with half-starved men and, looking for a bathroom, discovered a room full of guns and ammunition.
Have you heard such a story and, more importantly, not believing it myself, how should one answer without offending anyone, especially someone who is sure his dad would not lie?
Editor's reply: I take it your friend's father never reported this incident to the police--or even to his Protestant pastor, who certainly would have reported it to the police. Which Los Angeles parish was it? There weren't too many in 1938, so it shouldn't be hard to track down. Although I was brought up in Southern California, I never saw a parish, at least not an old parish, in which one could be taken downstairs. Because of earthquakes, few buildings here have basements, and fewer still have basements with long corridors. So where is this mysterious church?
And what is the answer to the mystery of the silence of your friend's father? If he had stumbled across an arms cache hidden by the Nazis or by organized crime, wouldn't he have reported it to the police? So why did he remain silent about the "room full of guns and ammunition"? And, if he had a heart, why wouldn't he have done something to free those "half-starved men"?
Yes, we've heard stories like this before; they probably were old when Maria Monk wrote her silly and quite false book in the nineteenth century, the book that claimed that tunnels connected rectories to convents and that the tunnels were lined with the graves of children born from illicit unions between priests and nuns.
Your friend's father may have been influenced by such hoary stories, and perhaps his imagination, in his later years, played him false--or he may have been an outright liar. Either way, your friend will be offended, I suppose.
Filial loyalty is a fine virtue, but not when it comes at the expense of common sense. Let's face it: Your friend's father was either a liar or a crank--maybe both.
Just a thought for one of your back covers. How about a celebrity impersonation of Karl Marx? The quotation could go something like this: "Hi, my name is Karl Marx, and I invented godless communism. (Is it me or is it hot in here?) If only This Rock had been around in my day, the world might have been a different place. Lenin might have been an assistant manager in a tractor factory, and Stalin might have finished his seminary studies--and Gorby could have gotten a job driving the popemobile. So, up with the proletariat, send ice water, and subscribe to this magazine!"
Robert E. Brennan
Van Nuys, California
Undone by False Premise
As a physicist, I have learned from attempting to solve hundreds of problems that very often I am absolutely stumped. I cannot see any errors in my logic, even after going over and over the steps, yet my result is not correct. At that point I have to put the work aside and take a break, and when I return I begin again, starting with my very first premise.
More times than I wish to admit, it is my first assumption that is wrong, albeit all the remaining steps hold logically from the first incorrect premise. So it is with the letter written by Thomas M. Walton in the September 1994 issue regarding the assumed relativistic nature of morality. I am a slow, careful reader. I read the first sentence of his letter three times, and then I simply had to say, No, it is not true that the quality of moral actions is the sum total of the actions' effects. This is the lie that the world teaches. This is the principle of moral relativism.
Mr. Walton states that it is "simply not true" that the "morality of an action is determined by some quality innate in the action."
Relativism in morality is perhaps the most serious error of modern times. It is the lie of Satan mixed with bits of truth that leads us to destruction. We justify our lack of obedience by excusing ourselves with reasons that attempt to make us feel good or that appeal to our intellectual pride. But God's wisdom is given to the poor and outcast as well as to the intellectually rich. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, including wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, are not found in textbooks by certain modern theologians; they are free gifts to those who humbly seek them in prayer. Society's false wisdom rationalizes man's disobedience of God's moral law by stating that certain actions "hurt no one" or that the actions are qualified by circumstances.
Let us consider the Scripture passages Mr. Walton uses to defend moral relativism (Matt. 22:34-40, Rom. 13:10, Gal. 5:14). In each of these we are reminded that love is the greatest and first commandment. Does this justify disobedience? Do we love God by disobeying his commandments? Jesus reminds us in John 14:15, "If you love me you will keep my commandments." Mr. Walton should throw away his first, false premise and allow himself to be free to hear Jesus' voice.
Iowa City, Iowa
Pray for her Daughter
The article by David C. Morrison ["Out of the Closet and into Chastity," July/August 1994] is absolutely wonderful! I have already shared it with several people. Is it possible to buy reprints?
I am the mother of a declared lesbian, and I have steadfastly held to the Catholic position for the past nine years. It took me seven years to find some kind of peace. Part of my problem was that my family and friends that I confided in were not Catholic and couldn't understand why I was so "rigid." Mr. Morrison's article says it perfectly.
I must admit, though, that it was a failure when I shared it with my daughter, who lives in San Francisco. She is not interested in seeing any more articles like that. Please pray for her--and for me and my spiritual director. We are in the process of trying to start a Courage group here.
Verda L. Redman
Editor's reply: We're pleased you found the article useful, even if your daughter hasn't (yet). At least you planted a seed by sharing the article with her. You never know what will come of it. Unfortunately, we do not have reprints available, but, given the importance of Mr. Morrison's article, you and other readers are at liberty to make photocopies for private distribution (but not for resale), provided you give attribution to This Rock. We would be happy to see the article more widely disseminated, since there is so little defending and explaining the Church's position on homosexuality and homosexual acts. We'll keep you, your daughter, and your spiritual director in our prayers.
Your article on how Francis Schaeffer's exhortation to his Evangelical friends points right to Rome ["Really There," July 1994] is more on target than you revealed. While Schaeffer died an Evangelical, his son, Frank (formerly "Franky") Schaeffer, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and is now one of its more prominent spokesmen. I believe that his journey to the true Church will not end until he arrives at Rome, but his conversion emphasizes that his father unwittingly demolished the foundations of his own Evangelical faith.
Frank Schaeffer now publishes a newspaper called The Christian Activist: A Journal of Orthodox Opinion. It is designed to gently entice other Christians into Eastern Orthodoxy and is sent free to subscribers. What a marvelous idea--we should adopt this technique, culling addresses from Evangelical address lists and publishing a newspaper deconstructing popular myths and planting seeds of the true faith. I believe that a few rays of light, even if brief, would do much to dispel the darkness of error and to disarm anti-Catholicism.
Bible Belt Prof Isolated
A recent article in This Rock reminds me of my daughter Anne's experiences as a graduate student at North Carolina State: a lonely little Roman in the Bible Belt. One day her teacher in an advanced course on Tudor and Stuart history was trying to make theological aspects of the period relevant. He asked if there were any Catholics in the class. My daughter raised her hand and found herself the only one. Scores of stern Protestant eyes swiveled in her direction. She wondered if they were about to drag her outside and burn her.
"Tell me, Ms. Miesel," asked the professor, "Do you lie awake at night worrying about transubstantiation?"
He tried another tack to break the tension. He asked if any students had at least attended a Catholic service. Several had. They denounced the Mass as "pomp," "idolatry," and "saint-worship." Finding the Puritan mind alive and well was a bit too much for the professor, a High Church Episcopalian. He quickly changed the subject.
I've equipped Anne and her sister, who lives in Chattanooga, with copies of your excellent Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth. The latter daughter has at least persuaded her Baptist co-workers that Catholics respect and read the Bible too.
Vineyard to Eucharist
My wife and I have returned to the Church after 14 years at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. While we continue to enjoy our wonderful friendships and occasional visits there, we are both very happy to be back home. Our time at the Vineyard was wonderful, and we return to the Church with a deep love of God's Word. But after four years of struggling with that still, small Voice, we left our children and almost all our friends to return to the Mass and the Eucharist. We've been back a year and are involved in the Eucharistic ministry, and I am playing in the music ministry at St. Bernadine of Siena in Woodland Hills, California.
Our children thought we were crazy at first. But after a year they realize that we are not worshiping Mary, have not filled our home or lawn with statues of anybody, and we continue to love the Lord Jesus with all our hearts. My secret, silent prayer is that someday they might follow, but I rest in the knowledge that they already have a relationship with Jesus where they are now.
I'll close by adding that I subscribed to This Rock for two years before we actually returned to the Church. You were very instrumental in the process. I devour every issue.
Canoga Park, California
More Hunt-ing Ammo
I wonder when Dave Hunt will give it up ["Hunt-ing the Whore of Babylon," September and October 1994]. Another new book from him in the same negative direction! The best arguments against him are not from Catholic sources (which is a good thing, since otherwise they might be disqualified by non-Catholic readers as biased), but from within the Reformed/Protestant camp itself. There are well-researched and soundly-argued books that refute Hunt: Last Days Madness, by Gary DeMar (American Vision); The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, by David Chilton (Dominion Press); Before Jerusalem Fell and The Beast of Revelation, both by Kenneth Gentry (Institute for Christian Economics).
Hunt knows these authors well--they've been giving him a hard time for quite a while now, but he just keeps on repeating the errors they have proven him to have. He just won't learn. Maybe some of your readers will find these books helpful.
Max S. Weremchuk
I disagree with Mr. Keating's explanation for not holding hands in church while praying the Our Father ["Letters," May 1994]. We are constantly told that our parish is our community and that we are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. We should reach out to one another during Mass to foster this feeling of community and unity. If we can't reach out to our fellow parishioners in love and acceptance, then how can we reach out to those outside our parish who need our help? It takes a bit of courage to decide to extend a hand to the stranger sitting next to us at Mass, but, once it is done, a real sense of community is felt by all.
Paula R. Ferraro
Editor's reply: I simply don't think that authentic community is fostered by having strangers hold hands for thirty seconds. Yes, we should "reach out to our fellow parishioners in love and acceptance," but I've always taken that metaphorically; I've never thought it meant I had to be a hand-holder.
Does it take "a bit of courage to extend a hand to the stranger sitting next to us at Mass"? I don't think so, since I do so at each Mass during the sign of peace. I don't think it takes any courage at all to allow oneself to be bullied into holding hands while praying. I think the courage arises when you say, "Thank you, but I don't hold hands when I pray."
Why should we force people to hold hands during the Our Father when that custom does not come from Catholic (or Protestant!) tradition, when it undermines the significance of the immediately-following sign of peace, and when it is an unnatural custom? Shaking hands is natural for adults in our culture; holding hands with strangers is not.
If I can summarize my opposition to the practice, I would make three points: (1) the practice is a novelty and doesn't fit the liturgy; (2) by its nature it leaves many who don't want to hold hands with the feeling they have been bullied into doing something they find meaningless or awkward; and (3) it really doesn't do anything to foster community, since community is not fostered by such artificial action. (I call it artificial because, unlike shaking hands in greeting, no one in our culture--or any culture I know of--goes around holding hands with adult strangers.) You're free to disagree with me on this, but I think your proper concern for openness to others has overpowered your appreciation of the real defects in the practice.
The Problem Was Race
I want to thank all of you who work on the presentations on the tapes, the writers of the pamphlets and books, and the entire staff. As a result of your work I have had the courage to come back to the Church after 24 years of being away. The tragedy of being away was in part a result of my ignorance. I left because the priest did not believe in interracial marriages and did not want to marry us for this reason. My husband's Methodist background was never the issue.
For years I went to churches of any type, as long as we felt welcomed as a mixed family. Sad to say, at times it was not easy. Recently we moved, and I found a small charismatic prayer group in a local parish. I joined and found them loving and welcoming. Through this group I picked up every magazine, pamphlet, and piece of paper that came my way. One day I came across information on you.
I have ordered several tapes, books, and now a video. I have to say that all you have offered has played a large part in giving me courage to go back and say, "This is enough." Life has changed in this country racially, and your information has given me and now my husband a truth that he just cannot deny. He became very much a Fundamentalist in his views, but I was not in agreement with him because of my background.
After much reading and sharing with my family, my son, who just turned 18, independently has completed the RCIA program and has received his First Communion and confirmation, just one week before leaving for college. Now my husband, with help through a new priest in my parish, has committed to becoming a Catholic. There have been many other inputs in this walk, but yours has been foundational.
Karen E. Shields-Wright
Stop Sending Propaganda
I decided that it was time that I dropped you a line. I hope that it doesn't fall on deaf ears, but I fear that it will.
For some time now my wife and I have received your magazine and various newsletters. Unbeknownst to you, my wife and I would probably be considered "anti-Catholic" by your standards. Many years ago my wife left the Catholic Church when she was presented with the truth about the gospel and about Jesus Christ. Not only that, but she was frustrated with the truth about our relationship to God through Christ, which Catholics do not understand. Some anonymous member of her family signed us up for your publication, hoping to "bring her back to the truth," I suppose. But this will never happen, since she has found, as have I, that, ultimately, it's not about church, but about Jesus Christ. But we know that the Catholic Church was not founded by Jesus but by the Roman authority. Of course, you think we're crazy, but that's okay.
I know this letter will not be taken seriously. I'm sure that all of you will write it off as just another letter from another anti-Catholic "wacko." Anway, please stop sending us your propaganda. It shows how afraid and intimidated you are by Evangelicals.
James A. Deskins
Editor's reply: Actually, I think what you call our "propaganda" shows how concerned we are that Evangelicals embrace theological and historical truth, such as the truth that the Catholic Church existed long before "Roman authority" legalized it in the fourth century. (I take it you have not yet read John Henry Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine; it would disabuse you of the notion that the Catholic Church was a late arrival.) Your basic mistake, I think, is in positing a conflict between Christ and his Church. In fact, the two must go together, but you're willing to accept only one of them. Too bad.