In his excellent article on the Christmas Truce of 1914 on the Western Front in World War I (In Depth, Dec. 25-Jan. 7 issue), in describing the cessation of fighting between the British and the Germans, Thomas J. Craughwell remarks, “Yet, for some reason, only in a few places did the French participate.” Actually, the reason is not hard to find. Unlike Britain, France was invaded by Germany. Most French soldiers accepted without question that they were fighting and dying for their homeland — “mort pour la France” had a special meaning for them. Also, many German soldiers looked down on French culture as inferior. There was a distance between the two armies that even Christmas could not close, even for a few hours. In North Africa, too, during the Second World War, there was a mutual respect between the British and German armies that did not exist between other armies at war.
Where Credit Is Due …
President Donald Trump may be the most pro-life president this country ever had. At Jan. 27’s March for Life in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway (“‘Life Is Winning’” page 2, Feb. 19 issue) made the unprecedented move of attending the rally in person to address the crowd. They are the highest-ranking officials to attend in the history of the march.
At the following Sunday’s Mass, the homily barely mentioned (let alone praised) the pro-life march. Instead, what we heard was condemnation for the ban on immigration. If the clergy are going to choose to make political statements from the pulpit, how about giving Trump credit for supporting the perennial Church teaching on the most fundamental of human rights?
The ban on immigration is temporary. After the immigrants are vetted, they will be allowed into the United States to start their new lives. Abortion is permanent. There is no new life.
It was good to see that the Pope gave an apostolic blessing to all the marchers. Is the Church finally waking up, or is this just a symbolic gesture? If it is not just a symbolic gesture, then the Pope should give marching orders for all churches to begin preaching against abortion.
I do believe that if it were not for a very committed pro-life laity, the Church’s stance on abortion would be wishy-washy, as it seems to be with so many social issues. The Church at one time swam against the tide. Now too many of our bishops and priests swim with the tide, to the detriment of the Church.
Jackson, New Jersey
Pertinent to Mark Brumley’s commentary, “Is Holy Communion for Saints, Sinners, or Both?” (In Depth, Jan. 22-Feb. 4): This is an excellent article regarding our understanding of the Eucharist and Pope Francis’ exhortation regarding holy Communion as “medicine and nourishment.” I believe the Pope intends to find aggressive new ways to offer the Eucharistic Christ to more people. How? As one for instance, when someone wants to become a Catholic, these days we often say, “Welcome! Come and take our fine RCIA classes; you will be eligible to fully participate in the Mass and receive holy Communion.” Instead, I think we should be able to develop criteria allowing many who want to become Catholic ways to receive the Eucharist as “medicine and nourishment” in the beginning of the RCIA process. We must find ways to encourage Communion for us sinners who want to join the Church, as well as for us perfect already-Catholics. As St. Paul says: “Christ lives in me.” He lives in all of us; the earlier opportunity to receive Communion would help strengthen an individual’s understanding of Christ in us and aid development of his or her Catholic faith. As Brumley writes, the Eucharist “heals repentant sinners.” We must find ways to give the Eucharist more chances to do so.
Bella Vista, Arizona
Beyond the Dubia
We learn from Edward Pentin’s interviews (“Church Leaders Respond to the Dubia,” Vatican, Dec. 25-Jan. 7 issue) the moral defects of those who “persist in seeing only white and black, when, rather, one ought to discern in the flow of life.” But, what then of: “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’” (Matthew 3:57)? The Holy Father teaches clearly (black and white) against the spectrum of gender theory; for example, the fashionable poster child of grayness. He defends traditional marriage vs. all pretended inventions. Such binary steadfastness assures us that “the Holy Spirit has been working in the Church since the Second Vatican Council” (and even before: the “hermeneutics of continuity,” yes?). But when the authors of the dubia (and others) await the same binary clarity — no contradiction between truth and pastoral practice — they are regarded indirectly as in “bad spirit” and afflicted by “psychological defects that foster division.” What chance, then, for a proposed debate done in “calmness and respect”? Behind the dubia, and outside of the five points listed, is a sixth point also in play? Wage earners in Germany who do not check the Catholic box on their federal income tax forms are banished as “apostates” and automatically excommunicated. Active Church membership is at rock bottom. Civil and second marriages (without declarations of nullity) are up. Is some exit strategy from this unusual circumstance what is hinted, for exercising Footnote 351 (access to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried)?
If so, then here are three options: Option 1: Engage the fraternal collegiality of the entire universal Church (or at least a synod) to help with a local solution, such as Footnote 351. But this square circle is not rolling along so well, a bit like Winston Churchill’s “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Option 2: Accuse respondents for dialogue of “committing sin and heresy” and invite them to resign. (Metastasize the tax penalty!) Been there, done that. In the 16th century, half of Germany resigned from the Church, initially for false advertising in the sale of indulgences — a minor abuse compared to the current conundrum. Yet another “footnote” in history was Martin Luther’s support for Philip of Hesse’s bigamy, another complicated case. Option 3: Rise to the occasion and become the flagship of the New Evangelization. Remove the indefensible penalty for apostasy (apart from the Church tax itself); persevere through the loss of face, and clearly reaffirm the inseparable doctrinal and pastoral aspects of indissoluble marriage.
The “I do” of the laity in marriage is a fact, like the unity of the Church. The words create a new reality and are not to be morphed by Church-state complexities and synodal editorial license into a Kantian or Hegelian “ideal.”
Peter D. Beaulieu
In Defense of Esolen
I was shocked — but, unfortunately, not surprised — to read of the attacks on Anthony Esolen (“The Esolen Affair,” page one, Dec. 25 issue). Esolen is a great scholar whose writings I read with pleasure, and I’ve often thought how rich a learning experience it would be to be a student of his. The students, faculty and administration of Providence College should be ashamed of themselves. I believe it was no coincidence that this story closely followed Deacon Steven D. Greydanus’ insightful article in the previous issue (“We Need to Talk About Cartoon Parents,” Arts & Entertainment, Dec. 11 issue). The “Junior Knows Best” school of filmmaking probably had its origins in The Jazz Singer, but really only gained momentum in the 1960s. As a college student, I witnessed firsthand how quickly we slid down the slippery slope from giving students a voice (which at my alma mater took the form of a public debate over the firing of a popular professor) to allowing them to bully and intimidate the faculty and administration into giving them everything they wanted — from “gender studies” to “trigger warnings” to courses that mirror only their own feelings and opinions. Their accusations against Esolen sound exactly like Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” speech: a list of slogans designed to smear their opponents and shut down discussion. In short, these students need to grow up and realize that they have a lot to learn — and to be grateful they have such an amazing professor. Also, thank you so much for the two excellent articles regarding Amoris Laetitia by Father Raymond J. de Souza and Msgr. Charles Pope (Jan. 8). They have done more to clarify this contentious issue than all the oceans of ink spilled so far.
Anne G. Burns
Cos Cob, Connecticut