Natural Energies Are Okay
I’m a faithful reader of This Rock, and I agree with 99 percent of what I read in its pages. But there’s one issue about which I think you are consistently misrepresenting the facts, which was briefly discussed most recently in “Quick Questions” (May-June 2004).
The question involved a woman employed as a massage therapist who, as part of her practice, relied on knowledge of energy fields in the patient’s body to effect healing. You responded that theories of “inner energy that must be manipulated for healing to occur” was a “New Age idea that must be rejected.” That’s simply not true.
Western medicine views the functioning of the human body biomechanically, but in the East it has long been considered to work—at least in part—due to a kind of electromagnetics. This is a working scientific theory in large parts of the world that are by no means technologically backwards, and as a scientific theory it has nothing at all to do with “the soul” per se. While various Eastern religions and philosophies do mistake these energies for the human soul, that doesn’t discount their existence any more than a religion of crazy brain worshipers would discount the existence of the brain.
Likewise, the New Age movement’s propensity for hijacking valid concepts and ideas (as well as invalid ones) that can then be twisted to gain followers is well known and regrettable, but that doesn’t mean that just because New Agers believe in something, Catholics can’t. After all, we would then have to abandon belief in angels and prayerful meditation.
Front Royal, Virginia
Editor’s reply: Whether a healing technique involving bodily “energies” is problematic depends on the way the energies are conceived and the evidence that such energies exist. There are natural energies in our body—e.g., the electrical energy in the nervous system. If natural energies are in question, then the technique is not automatically problematic. But if it postulates natural energies for which no evidence exists, then it involves the scientific equivalent of superstition. On the other hand, if the energies in question are thought to be supernatural, then the technique involves superstition in the proper sense and thus violates the first commandment (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2111).
Life Begins at Ensoulment
I found James Kidd’s article “X Marks the Spot” (May-June 2004) disappointing on several counts. He concedes to the opposition the term pro-choice as a definitive category when “choice” itself is so ill-defined. More descriptive is the term “pro-right to abort,” which would still exclude those who consider ownership of another person as a valid choice, such as the movement toward “pro-choice to enslave.”
And to confine oneself to the term fetus (which may be translated from the Latin as “little one”) yields to the popular depersonalization of the subject matter that the phrases “pre-born infant” and “unborn child” attempt to reject. Were we to admit “baby, infant, child” so as to include only air-breathers, we would still have the exclusive option of “pre-born person.”
The inability of the spiritually blind to find an “x” that ultimately distinguishes the fetus from the newborn is easily ignored by that camp, just as are all the scientific impossibilities that holders of evolutionism must embrace.
The one question that every person must answer, if only within the privacy of his own mind, is “When did you begin?” The pronouns I and you speak only of a person—that is, an individual being of rational nature, the “I” or the “you” that is what no other being is and possesses that which no other being possesses.
And, since every responder to the question admits that he was conceived and that there is no other personal event prior to that conception, the answer must be “At my conception.”
Finally, the answer “never” to the question of the beginning of life applies only to God, the Uncreated Creator. The life seen in species of plants and animals may be seen as being one, but the individual life of the human person can be recognized as such only at the moment of conception, when the Creator infuses a new soul within the fertilized (yet “lifeless”) ovum. The parental contributions to the new person have no individual life, nor do they each constitute “half a life.”
The new life begins at ensoulment, and that is evidenced by the first cell division, which is a power attributable only to a human person.
Thus established, personhood closes the argument.
Fr. Paul Schloeder
James Kidd replies: Although I agree with much of what Fr. Schloeder says, his arguments, if presented in an abortion discussion, would be not only ineffective but counterproductive.
As I said in my article, I call my opponents “pro-choice” because that is what they ask to be called. If we refuse them this basic courtesy, then we have no right to complain when they insist on calling us “anti-choice.”
The rest of Fr. Schloeder’s letter consists of arguments that, instead of getting to the crux of the matter, bog down in the definitions of terms. For instance, the “personhood” argument hinges on one’s definition of personhood, which can be as broad or as narrow as one likes. We can make it so broad that it includes chickens, or we can make it so narrow that certain segments of the population are excluded. But if we spend our time quarrelling over the definition of a “person,” we’ll never get to the heart of the matter.
Moreover, if we argue that abortion is wrong because God has infused a soul into a fetus, then we’ll spend all our time combating the charge that we’re “imposing our religion on everybody else.” This is nonsense, of course, but since we don’t need to bring religion into the debate, it’s best not to.
Instead, let’s start with something everyone agrees on: that infanticide is murder. Then the question is: Why is abortion not murder? What is x?
“Cooperation” Falls Short of the Mark
In reference to the article on headship in marriage in last month’s issue (“Wives Be Subject to Your Husbands,” July-August 2004):
The author, Fr. Ray Ryland, gives some Scripture references dealing with the relationship of wives and husbands. One of those speaks of each partner being subject to the other. But the other verses describe how this is to be lived out in the role of husband and wife, and they are different. The author repeats the timeless teaching of the Church that the husband is to serve his wife sacrificially and be willing to die for her if necessary. His subjection to his wife is sacrificial, selfless, and serving in nature.
The author described the wife’s role of subjection as loving “cooperation.” But, historically, when popes and saints have taught on this subject, they have much more often (always?) described the wife’s role as loving obedience to her husband. Christ is calling both husband and wife to extreme lives of sacrifice, and I think “cooperation” falls short of the mark of obedience, which is the word the Church has used in describing the wife’s role. This was reflected in the marital vows that wives took until only a few decades ago.
It is all too often true that men have abused their position as head of the house and not cherished their wives. But it is seldom addressed that it also happens that the wife abuses her position by not obeying her husband.
Through its saints, fathers, and popes the Church has taught that wives are to be obedient to their husbands. Here are a few examples from Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubii:
“Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that ‘order of love,’ as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: ‘Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church.’
“This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty that fully belongs to the woman . . . nor does it bid her obey her husband’s every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors. . . . But it forbids that exaggerated liberty that cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body that is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. . . .
“These, then, are the elements that compose the blessing of conjugal faith: unity, chastity, charity, honorable noble obedience” (CC 26–29).
Fr. Ryland Is Ambiguous at Best
Fr. Ray Ryland’s article “Wives Be Subject to Your Husbands” (July-August 2004) is a typical “in the spirit of Vatican II” article: It avoids the issue and is ambiguous; nay, it even leads to heresy. The only part I agree with is his statement that the last verses of Colossians 3:12–21 are controversial. They are controversial because the priests do understand what they mean; but they avoid them because they are embarrassed by the word of God.
Now for the ambiguity. The issue at hand can be shown best by an example: A woman wants to work. Her husband forbids her and commands her to stay home and keep house. Does she have to obey? The traditional Catholic teaching (and biblical teaching) is that yes, she must obey. What is your view on this, Fr. Ryland? We can’t tell from your article. Therefore, what is the purpose of your article?
Second, Fr. Ryland’s views can lead to heresy. Christ’s threefold office includes kingship. From Fr. Ryland’s article, it would not be illogical to conclude that the Church does not always have to obey Christ. According to the article, the head-body relationship shows that Christ “depends” on the Church and that the leadership of Christ involves “loving consultation” between the spouses. Suppose I choose to disobey just a tiny rule. Will I be “consulted” about my opinion on Judgment Day?
Finally Fr. Ryland neglects many other biblical verses—starting with Genesis 3:16, and including 1 Timothy 2:10–15, 1 Corinthians 14:34–35, Titus 2:4–5 (the word used is obedient; tough to twist that one), 1 Peter 3:1, 5–6, and also the rest of Ephesians 5:33 (let a woman “fear” her husband). Not to mention all of Catholic Tradition. I would love to see Fr. Ryland attempt to square away his novel teachings with the early Fathers.
As far as Ephesians 5:21 goes, this is directed to Christians in general. The Douay-Rheims version has it like this: “Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father: Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.” (Note the colon after “Father.”)
In closing, let me propose my own teaching based on Tradition: If anyone states that a wife does not have to obey her husband, let him be anathema. May he suffer the curse of Isaiah 3:12.
Fr. Ryland replies: Mr. DePrisco seems not to understand what headship and leadership mean. He poses a hypothetical situation: A wife wants to work, a husband says no; she must stay at home and “keep house.” He asks rhetorically, “Does she have to obey?” As far as Mr. DePrisco is concerned, the case is closed.
This would be an exercise of dictatorship, not headship. I have known of marriages in which the wife never speaks in the presence of her husband unless she receives a sign of permission from him. Perhaps Mr. DePrisco would regard this as an ideal marriage. What would he make of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her“?
If a couple facing the issue Mr. DePrisco poses came to me for counsel, I would begin by asking questions. Has the wife earnestly prayed to discern whether God is leading her to work outside the home? Has the husband also prayed for God to show him how to respond to his wife’s wish? Have they prayed together about this? Have they calmly discussed the pros and cons of the wife’s working outside the home? Suppose the couple can say honestly that they have worked together to arrive at a decision, and still have come to opposite conclusions. Then, I think, the husband as head of the family has to make the final decision. I would remind the wife that in her marriage vows she joined with God in the bestowal of headship on her husband.
Mr. DePrisco quotes Ephesians 5:33, which in his translation states that a wife must “fear” her husband. Does he not know it’s impossible to love someone you fear? The Greek verb phobetai means “reverential fear,” the kind of fear we should feel in the presence of a mystery of God. Modern translations much more accurately translate this verb as “respect.”
I can find nothing in the article that could even suggest Mr. DePrisco’s logically (“not illogically”) concluding that the Church does not always have to obey Christ.
Raring to Go
Just two weeks ago I told Msgr. Robert Sheeran, president of Seton Hall University, that it was my fear of having to learn Greek and Hebrew that kept me from pursuing an advanced degree in biblical studies. Jimmy Akin’s Brass Tacks article (“The Original Languages,” July-August 2004) has left me feeling encouraged and raring to go. I can’t wait to read next month’s promised concrete recommendations in taking on and (hopefully) conquering my fear of biblical languages. Thank you!
Short Hills, New Jersey
I’ve been a longtime fan of Jimmy Akin’s writing, particularly his “Brass Tacks” column. His writing is, to borrow a word from your letter column instructions, pithy: to the point, as long as it needs to be, no longer. But for once he’s written an article that’s really just too short. The article “The Need to Renew Masculine Spirituality” in your July-August 2004 issue was fantastic. Years ago, I had read Mark Shea’s insightful piece in Our Sunday Visitor on “masculine and feminine” spiritualities, which Mr. Akin quoted at the beginning of his article. Mr. Akin’s drawing out the lessons even further was a fascinating and enlightening read. I want to hear more from him on this topic. He really should consider writing a book. And I fully agree that it’s what the Church is in need of right now.
via the Internet
Original Languages, Unoriginal Thinking
Catholic apologetics does not need more apologists who can read ancient languages. Catholic apologetics needs more local support to reach all Catholics with the basics of Catholic teaching and the fundamentals of Protestant attacks of Catholic beliefs.
We as a Church have stopped teaching our religion to the laity. We do not lose members because they cannot read Koine Greek or Vulgate Latin. We lose members because they have not read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There are parish priests who have not read the Catechism. You cannot teach what you do not know.
Reading Beginning Apologetics will turn anyone into a halfway decent apologist, capable of holding his own in most situations. It would be helpful if apologetics were supported at the parish level.
The object is to defend the faith. Most of the people to whom the average Catholic will be called on to defend the faith are of average intelligence and limited in knowledge of Scripture.
Wars are won by the best-trained, best-equipped soldiers, not by the smartest field marshals. We need to train all Catholics to defend the faith against Fundamentalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc., not against Greek and Aramaic scholars. The chances of the typical Catholic getting into a discussion around the water cooler or at a child’s baseball game that requires knowledge of Koine Greek are nil.
I do not believe that any Catholic who knows and understands his Catechism runs off to join a cult. I do not believe that any Catholic who knows the fallacies of Protestant teachings will leave the Catholic Church. I do not believe that Ph.D-level arguments work on high-school-level minds.
We need to promote grassroots-level apologetics and Catechism studies in the local churches.
Word from the Average Lay Catholic
After many years I deliberated whether I should renew my subscription. Your articles don’t seem so practical anymore. They aren’t geared to the average lay Catholic. I think you need some new features.
Please Send Materials to Prison
Jesus once said, “I was in prison, and you visited me.” Donating Catholic reading materials could be seen as a way of visiting prison inmates.
Once a person is convicted of a felony in California, he is sent to North Kern State Prison in Delano. He is there for an average of four months being processed. Afterward, he is sent to one of the other prisons in California. On average, there are 5,000 inmates at North Kern, 4,000 of whom are in this four-month process. Thirty percent of these, on average, are Catholic.
There is an ongoing need for Catholic reading materials (Catholic newspapers, magazines, spiritual paperback books, and especially Catholic Bibles). Rosaries and holy cards are also wanted. These items can be either new or used. If you would like to assist Catholic inmates by donating such materials, please call me at the prison: (661) 721-2345 ext. 6861. Please send materials via the U.S. Postal Service only.
North Kern State Prison
2737 W. Cecil Avenue
Delano, CA 93216-0567