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Archive for May, 2011

1/9/2011

Commonweal Magazine
475 Riverside Drive
Room 405
New York, NY

Re: Why I Do Not Subscribe To Commonweal

Dear Mr. XXXX:

Normally, when I receive junk mail it goes straight from the post office box to the trash can. But not this time. When I saw Commonweal written on the upper left hand side of the envelope, I had to open it and read. Ah! There was Mark Shields testifying that your magazine disseminates Catholic truth on all the great matters of our time. The very same message persuaded me to subscribe about 25 years ago, give or take. I cancelled about ten years ago, thoroughly disappointed.

You may or may not care why I cancelled, but I felt compelled to write and let you know why. It has to do with your claims about my Faith. (I hope you do not throw me out like a piece of junk mail before reading all the way to the end.)

To understand what I think of CWL, you must first know a little about me. I guess you would label me a cradle Catholic. I was instructed in the Faith by St. Joe’s Nuns for eight years, starting in the 1950s, then by the Christian Brothers for four more. I watched from the sidewalk as JFK drove by during his campaign, waving to the crowds, and waving back; and I also remember seeing groups of nuns, dressed in black habit standing not far away, also waving, smiling, and crying tears of joy.

It was during JFK’s run that I first saw folk’s hatred towards Catholics. Then the point was further driven home when I saw “The Cardinal”, a film made in the early 1960s. Other odd things came to my attention. I was curious as to why a well-known female celebrity would say that she left the Faith because being Catholic was like driving a Conestoga wagon across the country, when you could fly instead. These events, as well as many others, made me think that the Catholic Church was somehow “second class”, and that Catholic contributions to America were vastly underappreciated.

I did not take much notice to the changes wrought by the Vatican Council; I was too busy getting an education, eventually marrying and building a family, to pay attention. I just went along with the outward changes that I saw as a layman, not being a “professional Catholic”. I was trusting of my Church, and unsuspecting of hidden motives, if any.

It dawned on me much later that the changes went far deeper than changes in the Mass and other interactions with the laity. Perhaps it was a reaction to the harsh times following WWII, the wars and societal upheavals, I could not say for sure. It seemed to me that the Church made many dramatic, fundamental changes in order to assimilate, to be more accepted in modern America. However, in order to achieve that goal, the American Church had to give up something in return. In my opinion, the Church gave up believing in Jesus Christ.

No longer did the Church say, “How do the Words of Christ invest Catholic Tradition, and what can Catholics teach the modern world?” Rather, the Church, by its express actions and/or by its silence implied, “How can the modern world invest Catholic Tradition, and teach Catholics how to readily conform, if Catholics wish to succeed in attaining political power and all the benefits derived there from?”

You may think I am heavy-handed in making such a blanket claim, but I look to the consequences that devout lay members must abide. Therefore, I do make a distinction between folks who have remained true to the traditional teachings of the Church, and those who have deemed it necessary to liberalize, or worse, radicalize the teachings of the Church. If you deny Christ and His Words, it does not matter if you deny Him in little ways or big ways, or once in awhile or most of the time; it is still denial. God knows your heart.

So, who do I think is a liberal or radical Catholic? As to those labels, it may be a matter of degree, that is, how far you have gone in your anti-Catholic or non-Catholic positions. Let us just say that a liberal/radical Catholic (LRC) may be many things. The LRC may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing: a person who convinces others that he is Catholic in all outward appearances, yet acts entirely different when not in the public eye. It may be a person who has been improperly trained in traditional Catholic Faith, or worse, rejects Catholic teaching outright; who, consequently, has cultivated a theologically unsound and unreasoned basis for his life decisions. (Does anyone remember St. Augustine’s notion that faith and reason go hand-in-hand?)

An LRC is often someone who denies that sin exists, denies that there is a judgment day, and denies that there is a natural law imposed on us by God, who is the Creator of all things and the absolute “Word”. An LRC believes that if God truly exists, God keeps a balance sheet of his earthly actions, so that as long as he has achieved a positive “net heavenly value” when he dies, he gets a pass to Heaven. Thus, an LRC will justify his continued taking of human life in abortion, or enabling it to happen like a Ted Kennedy, if he continues to do enough “good works” to offset his unconfessed abortion actions or other grave sins. An LRC believes that Christ preached and practiced moral relativity, just like he practices. All you have to do is spin the words to make it so.

How did we get this far? Without going into every conceivable climatic political and social event that affected America since 1950, I believe that the Church mirrored those events within its own walls. It came to believe in and endorse many of those secular changes, even if they were contrary to traditional Catholic teaching. And worst of all, the Church came to live some of them. A few well-known examples follow.

In the 1970s, many Christian ministers and politicians championed the Supreme Court ruling on abortion, and their Catholic counterparts went along or remained silent. I wondered: how could Catholic priests and Protestant ministers, steeped in the theology of Christ, change their positions on basic moral issues, such as taking the life of the unborn in abortion? Did the Words of Christ somehow change? If the taking of life was against God’s will before the SC ruling, how could it be acceptable after, theologically speaking? Did it happen simply due to political expediency? How could rank and file Catholics practice/enable abortion themselves, and still claim to be true Catholics? Did the average Catholic solidify his or her pathway to Heaven by aborting an unborn baby?

Over the decades, I have seen men and women devalue marriage and family, extolling the “virtues” of a single life, unencumbered and irresponsible sex, and abortion on demand. God has disappeared from the daily discourse: from every social activity, public school, and public institution, and from families too busy “being all they can be”. Freethinkers and atheists abound. Belief in something akin to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs replaced Christian beliefs as a personal moral foundation. They say Catholic opinions regarding such notions reflect the average American’s opinions. Where and when did Catholic instruction fail?

God forbid if you voiced your disagreeable (meaning traditional, antiquated Catholic) opinions in public, and that your morals were built upon your religious beliefs. You were likely pressured into silence, or branded as hateful and bigoted.

A new crop of pseudo-theologians was born. They claimed the most outlandish things in order to get a PhD and get published. All the apostles were men; therefore, Christ and his followers must have been gay. Christ kissed Mary Magdalene on the cheek; therefore, she must have been his wife, and they had children. Thus, Christ did not die on the cross, and he never resurrected. Paul spoke of submissive wives; therefore, he must have been a misogynist. On and on we read or listened to this claptrap, instead of hearing Christ’s salvific message.

Along came the sex scandals. We learned that quite a few priests were preoccupied, having sex with each other in their seminaries or doing it with kids. There went preaching the truth of the Gospel at Sunday Mass and instructing the children in the Catechism at school. We also learned that nuns turned towards the feminist/humanistic movements for guidance, rejecting the Church’s basic teachings and their Orders in the process. Catholic schools and hospitals lost their Catholic identities.

What did most bishops do? They sat on their comfortable, fat rear-ends and did nothing for 40 years, acting like the three monkeys personified. Nary a peep from the priests in their Sunday sermons. As a result, the Church must now deal with new generations of laity that are as ignorant and/or in denial of the Faith as its current crop of bishops, priests, and nuns.

But worst of all, the Church has yet to see that all they had hoped to achieve with their collective apostasy has failed.

Now we come to the heart of the matter. What did Commonweal do?

Since I subscribed to CWL about the year 1985 and cancelled 15 years later, I do not know what was in its pages before or after. However, in my opinion, CWL catered to the LRC I described above during the time I was a subscriber. IMO, CWL encouraged and/or endorsed the conversion of Catholicism to meet the new secular, liberal changes I mentioned.

Taken as a whole, I did not believe CWL honestly portrayed Catholic teaching, or courageously defended Catholic teaching when it butted heads with the status quo.

What CWL advertised back then, and still does now to lure people in is false. You say you want to promote the truth from a Catholic perspective, but what you really mean is that you wish to promote a specific kind of truth, which is liberal, political, and secular; and in many respects contrary to the moral traditions of the Catholic Church.

I wonder if anyone at Commonweal ever personally dealt with a public dilemma like John the Baptist did, and had the guts to respond like him, to speak out forcibly on behalf of the Faith. Think about the Cuomo situation and ask yourself, “Doesn’t this look a little like Herod Antipas and Herodias? Wasn’t John beheaded for speaking out?” Would CWL every think to write such a comparison, and encourage its readers to speak out?

I never found an article in your magazine that started out with something like, “What did Christ mean when he said, ‘The greatest commandment is to love God above all things, and the second is to love one another as you would love yourself?’”

I never read something like, “It follows that if you love God above all things, then you would accept Christ’s words and follow his commands, and resist the temptations of a secular society, and fight against it.”

I never read something like, “It follows that if you love yourself and you would never rationally take your own life, then you would not abort a growing baby in the womb, since that would deny the baby what God has given you in life.”

I wonder what Commonweal hopes to gain. There was a time when being liberal in the Church meant to fight for Christian values in society. That fight would be waged against the secular right and secular left, if the Church perceived that government, business, or anyone else was in grave error. Now to be a liberal Catholic means that you are a subservient lackey of the Democratic Party. How times have changed!

I was never taught to believe in a liberal or conservative Church. I believe in and affirm the words in the Apostle’s Creed, that there is one universal and apostolic Church, united in Christ. If Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, there can be only one meaning behind His Words, not a liberal meaning or a conservative meaning. Christ’s Words have been the basis for Catholic beliefs for 2,000 years and is fixed and unchanging. Christ’s Words either unite us or divide us. Let’s not pretend what Christ said and what we are.

I think of Commonweal like the fallen angels, and I must walk away from it.

In the current climate of disunity, it is hard for me to trust many of the bishops, priests, and nuns. I admit to being cynical of American church authority. I do not financially support specific activities of the American Church, if it supports organizations that are anti-Catholic in mission, values, and operation.

I’m not saying that I’m perfect, far from it. Nor am I saying that we should blindly follow Church practices, especially if they err in regard to faith and morals. We should be critical of wrongdoing in the Church, and seek to get it back on track. There are many different, acceptable ways of getting things done without compromising faith and morals.

However, if you think I would support something like transferring existing Vatican authority on issues of any kind to a group of spineless, liberal American bishops who have ruined the American Church over 40 years, well, you must be hallucinating. Moreover, if the folks in the Vatican are not doing their job, then they should be booted out too.

I never thought in life that I would come to distrust my Church leaders; or see the Words of Christ twisted by secular, malformed Catholic elites, in order to gain some kind of personal or political advantage.

What has liberal arrogance wrought upon the Church? I pray it will not be its downfall. Care to guess whom I think started the ball rolling?

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Introduction. It was 1957 or 1958. I was sitting in the last row of class with my arms draped over the back, somewhat cocky, and wondering if they really dipped the pigtails in the inkwells. There would be no chance of that now, Sr. Mary Joseph hovered over us like a hawk on a search and destroy mission, brandishing a pointer that must have been six feet long.  At least my 7-year-old eyes saw it that way. “Master Raymond, sit up straight, arms front and hands folded!”

“Pay attention everyone. One day, if someone comes to you and asks, ‘What are you?’ You will say, ‘I am a Roman Catholic!’  Not just Catholic, but Roman Catholic. Do you understand?”

“Yes Sister Mary”, we responded in unison. I clearly remember thinking, “What’s the fuss? Why should I have to say anything like that? Who cares?”

Okay, it’s now fifty-three years later and I ‘m beginning to understand. To be clear, I am shouting out to the world, happily, not angrily:

I AM A ROMAN CATHOLIC, NOT AN AMERICAN CATHOLIC, OR A LIBERAL OR CONSERVATIVE CATHOLIC, AND I AM GOING TO SPEAK MY MIND!

First things first. I wish to say to my fellow Catholics, if you truly do not believe the Words of Christ, as handed down within the Church, why do you stay in the Church and pretend, putting up a front. Whom do you think you are kidding?

Ah but you say: “I do believe, just like you. My faith and moral beliefs come from the Roman Catholic Church! But, I can think for myself and know the Words of Christ for myself! I do not need some far away authority telling me what to think and do!” We will see if this makes sense.

Second things, just as important as the first. The purpose of this blog is to discuss the issues without sermonizing, and all the pettifogging and pretense, in simple language, from a faith and morals perspective. I wonder if readers will have the courage to speak their version of the truth from a faith and morals perspective. Any issue is worth discussing, as long as it highlights some real dilemma, and not done in a profane manner.

But, but ,but—One question must always be answered if you wish to debate: What is the theological basis for your viewpoint-above all other justifications. I do not care if your religious viewpoint is Catholic or some other Religion, give me the proof chapter and verse, or in “reasoned application of the Words of Christ”. It must be in your own words, other than a Biblical quote, and not some psychobabble plagiarized from Joe Blow. If you are nonreligious, give me your philosophical basis, same thing-chapter and verse, and reasoned application of same. WARNING: “Because…” is not good enough!

No one’s trying to convert anyone here. However, you must risk telling the truth in your heart in order to be heard on this blog. Otherwise, you will be deemed to be: A Fraidy-Cat!

I sincerely hope that you are entertained.

Raymond Nicholas

PS:  Matthew 10:16 Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.

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