National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
January 25, 2008


Magisterial fulminations

Your end-of-the-year account of the Jewish-Catholic Advent program in St. Louis “moved outside” because of a rabbi’s involvement in an ordination ceremony for women (NCR, Dec. 28) continues the sad saga of the righteousness that would stop any further Catholic cooperation with the Jewish congregations even in the interests of the needy. What is needed today is a greater appreciation of quiet diversity, whether in St. Louis or Saudi Arabia, rather than the thunder of magisterial fulminations.

Venice, Fla.

Tolstoy’s prediction

While I wholeheartedly support John L. Allen Jr. (NCR, Dec. 28) in his call for a more reasonable standard for judging the success of the ecumenical movement, I think we deceive ourselves if we assume that the times of schismatic division in the Catholic church are behind us. To focus only on healing the existing breaches with Protestant denominations is to ignore the brewing storms both within the U.S. church and between American Catholics and Rome. The growing cleavage between these factions increases the likelihood the faithful may again attempt to take back its church. We have begun to see signs that this day is drawing nearer.

In The Kingdom of God is Within You, Leo Tolstoy predicted a coming time of Christian public opinion as the eradicator of the need for ecclesiastical and governmental rule. The inevitable discovery and acceptance by all peoples and religions that violence only begets violence will expose the insidious link between violence and all the governments and religious institutions that depend upon the military for their continued existence. On that day the ecumenical standard of success will be defined as the living practice of Christ’s message among all people of good will, regardless of their belief or non-belief.

Pittsford, N.Y.

A firm connection to faith

I am one of the young adults interviewed for “The Odyssey Years” story (NCR, Dec. 28). I feel compelled to explain that the subheadline phrase “tenuously connected to their faith” has been troubling me, as I consider myself connected to my Catholic faith and seek always to recognize, foster and reverence Christ as the center of my life. My own odyssey years have been a vocation journey that leads me deeper into the heart of the church, especially though the grace of the Eucharist and the gift of Christian community. I know that I am not alone as a young adult Catholic who feels this way, as I’m blessed by many friends and mentors in faith.

I have found a wonderful community at the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Pittsburgh, a place to attend daily Mass, to join in faith sharing and discussion groups, and to study. I reflected often during the Christmas season how we are given the example of several holy journeys inspired by God -- the journey of Mary to Elizabeth to visit her and to bring her the good news, that of the wise men, and the holy family’s journey to Bethlehem and Egypt. I turned my prayers to those reading the article and to all young adults and have been praying that we, young and old alike, would be open to God’s call for each one of us, and that our souls would continually be drawn to God throughout the journey of our lives.


Bottled water

What really gets to me about this anti-bottled water campaign (NCR, Jan. 11) is that bottled water in smaller formats comprises less than 10 percent of the beverage industry. Most other beverages, such as carbonated soft drinks, juices and power drinks, not only mostly contain filtered water but also have high quantities of sugar, which contributes to obesity, diabetes and other adverse health conditions. At no time do any of these organizations or groups say anything about these dangerous poisons that are being foisted on our society. This makes me wonder why somebody would condemn a pure healthy beverage such as water but say absolutely nothing about unhealthy beverages?

I have tried to contact the Inside the Bottle Campaign people many times, but got no response. This leads me to believe that their eco-extremism is truly one-sided and mired in the hypocrisy that we are being subjected to daily. This is why the consumer has such a tough time trying to make a sensible choice. The amount of litter being perpetuated by these companies, of course, is obscene, but to center this issue on one particular beverage and not others is truly being unfair.

Bowen Island, British Columbia

The new Mass

What a rich selection of reader opinions you carried recently covering Fr. Peter Phan, the Dutch strategy, liturgy reform, and women priests. I need to take exception with the two letters denigrating the Novus Ordo liturgy (NCR, Jan. 11). In expressing their preference for the Tridentine rite, two individuals wrote that since the time of the inception of the Novus Ordo, “more Catholics have left the church” and “the reform has driven away millions.” Do they seriously believe that it is the Vatican II-inspired Mass that has driven millions of Catholics away? Are they unable to transcend that one issue to explore the multiple and profound reasons Catholics have left?

After Pope Benedict assumed his throne, he uttered something to this effect: Why are young people willing to drive a goodly distance to party all night but are unwilling to drive a much shorter distance to attend Mass? I thought Benedict was going to look for the real reasons. I was wrong. Benedict also said, “It’s almost as if they don’t need us anymore.” I thought for once the hierarchy might look within itself for answers to the problems that assail our church. I was wrong again. The Vatican response to the ills besetting our church has been to bring back the Latin Mass, change the responses at Mass to more accurately reflect the “original” Latin, suggest we all learn our prayers in Latin so we can pray together. It is much easier for us to seriously consider solutions such as Fr. Phan’s theology and the Dutch strategy.

Green Bay, Wis.

* * *

I had to re-read Thomas Rotella’s letter (NCR, Jan. 11) to finally understand what he was saying. It is his contention that the new Mass is responsible for everything from people leaving the church in great numbers to disbelief in the Real Presence and no concept of mortal sin. But the claim that really caught my attention was that among the evils inflicted on the church by the new Mass is “homosexual predators have become legion.” Can someone please explain to me the connection between the new Mass and “homosexual predators”? Is it something devious and devilish in one of the eucharistic prayers? Or perhaps it is that dreaded greeting of peace?

This is one of the most contrived arguments against any doctrine or practice of the church I have heard in a long time. I grew up with the Tridentine rite, learned all the Latin prayers required of Mass servers, practiced endlessly on how to move the book several times with great reverence, etc. Then I was exposed to the “new” Mass as part of my seminary training during the middle and late 1960s. I would never go back to the “old” Mass. If the Novus Ordo is celebrated well, it needs no defense, as Mr. Rotella suggests. And as Pope Benedict XVI recently reiterated, it is the ordinary way the Mass is to be celebrated.

Minneapolis, Kan.


In Colman McCarthy’s article “The missing multitudes at the Wall,” he projects a great misunderstanding of the Vietnam War (NCR, Dec. 14). What we attempted in Vietnam was noble in intent. We attempted to help the people of South Vietnam have better lives with more freedom. Lyndon Johnson and his cronies tried to win the war on the cheap, just as the Bush crowd has done in Iraq. However badly it failed, do not put down the effort those lives made for a better Vietnam. During the war many more civilians were killed by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces deliberately than were killed by our forces accidentally. When the North conquered the South, it was done because our Congress had cut off the logistic support we promised while China and the Soviet Union continued to supply the North, not because the people wanted the North Vietnamese Army to win. I believe that if the war had been prosecuted with a plan and with decisiveness at the top level, there would be a prosperous South Vietnam today that would be developing a real democracy as has happened in South Korea. I am a Vietnam veteran and proud of what we tried to do.

Opelika, Ala.

Women preaching

Your hope that women wanting to be ordained may “drag the church into the 21st century” is much too optimistic (NCR, Dec. 7). An examination of what some pastors have done to male deacons illustrates that these pastors do not get it. In the past months, I have attended Mass in two churches, in the diocese of Albany, N.Y., and the diocese of Charleston, S.C. The liturgy and preaching were done by priests from India and Pakistan who do not speak understandable English. The parishioners sat and waited for the sermon to end. I suggested to the chancellor of one of these sites that the priest should say Mass but not preach.

In the second church, a deacon sat silent as the priest preached and was not understood. He told me he did not preach as “his turn” was only on the first Sunday. A pastor told me it was his church and he would decide who preached and when.

The altar area seems to be manned by the current male holders and wresting control from these “old boys” seems impossible. Good luck, ladies, I am with you.

Hilton Head, S.C.

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National Catholic Reporter, January 25, 2008