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Bad History, Bad Logic

Carol Iannone’s piece on Inherit the Wind (February) was long overdue. Besides being false to history, the film version takes liberties with logic. This speech delivered by the Darrow/Drummond character in the film is a classic instance of the argument from the slippery slope:

Can't you understand that if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you can make it a crime to read about it? And soon you may ban books and newspapers? And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man? If you can do the one, you can do the other.

This may count as the longest string of non sequiturs ever assembled in peacetime (or at least presented on the American screen).

Gan Matthews
Norman, OK

The Pope and Evolution

Thank you for your documentation of Pope John Paul II’s “Theories of Evolution” address (March) . It is most refreshing to have the Pope’s actual statement rather than the media spin-doctoring that followed the Popes address.

While the Pope is correct in stating that “the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis,” the word “evolution” has so many different meanings that the Popes statement can become a source of confusion and misunderstanding. Evolution is a fact when referring to minor variations in the colors of moths and the sizes of finch beaks (microevolution); a theory when referring to the inference that all organisms have been linked in the past by common ancestors (common descent); and a grand metaphysical scheme when it claims that the entire living world is the product of blind natural forces.

Unfortunately, the grand metaphysical meaning is the one being promoted under the guise of science in the biology classroom. The National Association of Biology Teachers define evolution as “an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural process.” The popular tenth-grade text Biology, by K. Miller and J. Levine (Prentice Hall, 1993), informs students that “evolution works without either plan or purpose,” and that evolution “is random and undirected.” Such statements are not justified on scientific grounds and illustrate that evolution is not taught as science, but as Darwinian philosophy, whose purpose is to replace the otherwise obvious design of organisms. All theists and scientists should unite in correcting this abuse in the science classroom.

John Wiester
American Scientific Affiliation
Science Education Commission
Buellton, CA

I have been somewhat puzzled by the amount of ink used concerning John Paul’s comments on evolution. Few Catholics have been concerned that the Universe is some ten billion years old and that life has been evolving on Earth for some few billion years. The issue of religious concern, of course, is the origin of man.

Like much of the modern intellectual landscape, the problem of religion and evolution can be traced to the Reformation. Luther stated that all revelation necessary for salvation had to be found in Scripture. Catholics, of course, believe that the Church teaches that which is necessary for salvation.

The unnecessary polarization between biology and religion was caused by the polemics of early Darwin supporters. They gleefully taught that since science “proved” the Bible wrong then the Christian faith was in vain. As one would expect, pious Christians rejected this formulation and the concept of evolution.

William M. Selenke
Cincinnati, OH

I read with interest the address given by John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. It is refreshing to hear a member of the community of faith discuss a matter from the world of science with such insight. The division that has existed between the two communities has contributed to the alienation of many honorable people. More importantly, it has created in individuals a painful bifurcation of loyalties at their very core. Perhaps such a discussion will assure all that honest insights are honorable and may be part of a greater truth.

David P. Henrie, M.D.
Delta, UT

One does not need to be “more Catholic than the Pope” to be disappointed in Pope John Paul’s address on evolution. The Popes key statement that “new knowledge leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis” reflects the guilt complex cast by the Galileo episode upon the Catholic psyche. This timidity begets a naive trust in scientists freedom from bias in their discoveries and in their interpretations of findings. Alas, recent decades show increasing examples of data manipulation or fraudulent reporting in medical and scientific journals.

The Popes dictum, “A theory’s validity depends on whether or not it can be verified,” is the absolute truth. The recent discoveries in genetics and molecular biology are dismantling the theory of evolution instead of confirming it. Despite recent neo-Darwinian attempts at revision and invention, evolution is farther from factual proof today than in 1859 when Darwin popularized it.

It is difficult for Catholics without study of the literature on both sides to appreciate what a battle for mind (and soul) rages over this issue. Nor do they perceive why the theory of naturalistic, atheistic evolution the only genuine kind is a menace to the Faith. Modern exegetes who demythologize Genesis encourage this complacency . . . .  

The Church for centuries never  acknowledged any truth in evolution, as Father Peter Fehlner recounts in the Roman journal Christ to the World Vol. XXXIII, 1988, Nos. 1-3. Evolutionist Teilhard de Chardin succeeded in muddying the waters. But is Pope John Paul teetering on the brink? . . . 

Catholics may have joined the publicized ridicule of “creation science,” but their Protestant brethren have done their homework in demonstrating how untenable evolution really is. Their public seminars, college campus debates, and videos are convincing stuff. These activities are done by qualified scientists, many of them converts from the evolution brotherhood . . . . 

William L. Drake, Jr., M.D. 
St. Louis, MO

The Truth About Homosexuality

Elizabeth Moberly (“Homosexuality and Truth,” March) criticizes Father John Harvey’s book The Truth About Homosexuality for saying the homosexual orientation itself is objectively disordered, because this blurs the distinction between conditions and behavior. But Dr. Moberly fails to realize that tendencies that lead to disordered or evil acts must for that reason themselves be judged as harmful and disordered in that person. It is well recognized, for example, that habits are good or bad according to the kinds of acts, good or bad, they incite and facilitate. Though not sinful themselves unless freely chosen, such tendencies mislead and ease their possessor into acts that are immoral. These tendencies, such as orientation, must be judged harmful, detrimental, to the person having them; that is, such an orientation itself is objectively disordered in that person . . . .

Jerome F. Treacy, S.J.
Clarkston, MI

It concerns me that Elizabeth Moberly’s article implies that gay activists have no respect for the truth. She does not desire to be called bigoted, but does not hesitate to imply that gay activists are basically dishonest.

Two of her major arguments have been totally disproven by the use of nonclinical samples of homosexuals. Starting with Evelyn Hookers pioneering study published in the Journal of Projective Techniques in 1956, there have been numerous studies of homosexuals from nonclinical samples showing homosexuals can be just as well-adjusted as heterosexuals. Likewise, the belief that homosexuality results from pathological parenting is derived from clinical samples. Bell and Weinberg, in their landmark study at the Kinsey Institute, basically disproved all of Dr. Moberlys theories of homosexual origin. Pathological parenting is the cause of neuroticism, not homosexuality.

There have been numerous follow-up studies of the effectiveness of psychotherapy in changing homosexual orientation which show that ones basic inward orientation is completely unchangeable. Irving Bieber admitted to me, and “ex-gay” leaders have admitted to others, that while “ex-gays” may come to practice heterosexuality, their inner orientations do not change. I can learn to write with my left hand, but my basic orientation is still right-handed.

It is not conclusively proven that homosexuality is genetically determined. However, as the great sex researcher John Money says, even if homosexuality is learned, it would be permanently learned, just as our native language is permanently learned. Neither homosexual desire nor native language can be unlearned.

The gay activist agenda, as well as the American Psychiatric Association decision in 1973 removing homosexuality from the list of psychiatric disorders, are decidedly more consistent with sound scientific evidence than are Dr. Moberlys views.

Dan Wagle
Decatur, GA

A fundamental problem with Elizabeth Moberly’s essay lies in the difficulty of defining what it means to be “homosexual.” The physical ability to experience sexual pleasure with partners of either gender is a reality for a biologically normal human being. Whether or not one will act on that capacity or even experience homosexual desires is primarily a matter of culture. In ancient Sparta, virtually all males engaged in sex with other men, and heterosexual activity was looked on with such distaste that women would dress as boys for their wedding night. Surely Dr. Moberly is not ready to suggest that all Spartan men were mentally ill.

If the twin studies that Dr. Moberly cites undercut the idea of homosexual behavior as genetic in origin, they also seem to refute her thesis that a propensity to engage in homosexual activity necessarily originates in some serious familial dysfunction. Identical twins raised in the same family would not be expected to experience extreme traumatic differences in nurture . . . .

In American society, particularly among the upper classes, people are frequently open about homosexuality as a choice. Witness the increasing popularity of being “gay for the duration,” or of the idea of being “sexually fluid.” Certainly some homosexual behavior is compulsive and may indicate emotional illness, but this is also true of compulsive adultery or compulsive pornography use among heterosexuals.

A more realistic view of homosexuality lies in recognizing it as a general human possibility not fundamentally different from other forms of sexual activity. This need not imply that it is socially desirable, just that it does not reflect an intrinsically alien status or orientation.

Judy TefftIdaho
Falls, ID

Elizabeth Moberly’s article left much to be desired in the truth department. Several of the key assertions were not supported by solid evidence. She claims, for example, that the decision of the board of the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 to change the classification of homosexuality was a direct result of pressure by the National Gay Task Force and not of scientific findings. This unsupported statement is an insult to the integrity of the APA and the intelligence of First Things readers. Why would a respected and strong professional organization such as the APA give in to such pressure?

Dr. Moberly also asserts that the findings of John Boswell in his book Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe have been dismissed by “serious historians” and that “neither accuracy nor logic is much the point of [the] book.” Having read Boswell’s book, I found the evidence in his extensive footnotes most impressive and certainly not to be dismissed so cavalierly, even if the work––like many historical writings––is flawed.

Most contrary to truth, however, may be Dr. Moberly’s unsupported assertion that “the disruption of the father-son bond is what results in homosexuality.” This is an astoundingly sweeping statement. Many homosexual men (she never mentions women) assert that their relationship with their fathers involved a strong and supportive bond and that they cannot recall any childhood trauma following which they realized their homosexuality. While it is true that the causes of homosexuality are not yet fully clear, there are probably a variety of them, and the possibility still exists that one of them may be genetic, Dr. Moberlys dismissals notwithstanding . . . .

Richard J. Zimmerman
Honolulu, HI

Elizabeth Moberly replies:

The relation between the homosexual condition and homosexual behavior referred to by Father Treacy is crucially important, but perhaps not adequately understood. Developmentally, a male homosexual is like a young boy who is still looking for his fathers love. There is nothing deviant or pathological about a boy needing his fathers love. It is a normal developmental need. However, this need was never intended to be fulfilled sexually . That is the crucial distinction.

If a young boys father is absent or emotionally unavailable or hostile, that boys need for masculine bonding and affirmation will remain unfulfilled. When this need carries over into adult life, it becomes eroticized, and the man now seeks homosexual relationships in order to fulfill this unmet childhood need. Alternately, a male therapist can help to resolve the pain and emptiness of the past, and to fulfill unmet needs in healthy, nonsexual ways.

The homosexual condition is essentially the boys unmet need for his fathers love. This need is normal and valid, and is certainly not “objectively disordered.” The tragedy of sin is that so often it distorts something that is inherently good.

In answer to Dan Wagle, I do not say that gay activists have no respect for the truth. However, I believe that they are often misinformed, and that they should be better informed.

I agree with Mr. Wagle that in many respects homosexuals are as well adjusted as heterosexuals. Homosexual people have made many valuable contributions to society, and we should not lose sight of that fact. However, homosexuals have been emotionally wounded in a way that heterosexuals have not. That is the crucial point, and it relates to a breakdown in early bonding with the parent of the same sex ( not the parent of the opposite sex, as traditionally assumed). My own work in this area was originally developed from a nonclinical sample, though clinical data have repeatedly confirmed this understanding.

I further agree with Mr. Wagle that conventional psychotherapy for homosexuals was relatively ineffective. Some approaches––such as aversion therapy––were not merely ineffective but inhumane. During the years that I worked in homosexual ministry, I repeatedly denounced aversion therapy for homosexuals as both ineffective and unethical.

However, Mr. Wagle seems unaware that Irving Bieber does not have the last word in treatment paradigms for homosexuals. The recent attempt by certain professionals to resurrect a 1960s approach to homosexual therapy is misguided. There are no shortcuts to heterosexuality, and it is vital to base therapy on the understanding that same-sex love is an inherent reparative drive. If Mr. Wagle himself does not wish to change, that is his decision. However, I challenge him to respect the right of other homosexuals to choose differently.

It is true, as Judy Tefft suggests, that identical twins raised in the same family may not usually experience “extreme traumatic differences in nurture.” However, identical twins do necessarily face a special problem: Each twin needs to be able to identify himself (or herself) as a unique individual in the close presence of another individual who is genetically identical. Thus, identical twins face a challenge that is not experienced by ordinary siblings, or even by fraternal twins.

In a family with children of different ages, the nurturing environment may be fairly similar, but this does not cover individual circumstances and reactions. For instance, if a parent dies or divorces, a younger child is likely to be more deeply traumatized by this than an older child. Even where the marital bond is intact, a child may react negatively if a parent is emotionally unavailable or hostile.

Where family structure is fragile, children may not have adequate opportunities for bonding and identification. Thus, in adult life, it is hardly surprising that men from such backgrounds should continue to seek masculine bonding and affirmation through homosexual encounters. However, therapy is far more effective than sex for meeting the needs of emotional woundedness.

In response to Richard J. Zimmerman, a detailed discussion of the political pressures behind the 1973 decision of the APA may be found in Dr. Charles Socarides article “Sexual Politics and Scientific Logic: The Issue of Homosexuality,” published in the Journal of Psychohistory (Winter 1992). Subsidiary materials may be found in Homosexuality: A Symbolic Confusion by Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse (Crossroad/Seabury, 1979) and Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth by Jeffrey Satinover (Baker, 1996).

The work of John Boswell may be interesting, but unfortunately it is seriously flawed, because his central hypothesis is completely mistaken. The Eastern Orthodox “sacrament of brotherhood” was never intended to sanction gay marriage, and it is a distortion of theology, history, canon law, and liturgics to claim otherwise.

Disruption of the child’s bond with the same-sex parent is what results in homosexuality. Thus, the father-son bond is crucial for the male homosexual, and the mother-daughter bond is crucial for the lesbian.

Finally, it is hardly surprising that some gay activists are reluctant to admit to difficulties in early bonding, since this would be “politically incorrect” for them. What has always amazed me is the large number of homosexual men (in therapy or not) who can readily identify difficulties with an absent or neglectful or hostile father. With others, the recognition may develop after further exploration of their family background. However, identifying trauma is not an end in itself. The good news is that a same-sex therapist can focus on same-sex developmental issues, in order to resolve issues with the father and to help the client build a more secure masculine identity. When therapy focuses on the affirmation and strengthening of gender identity, without any premature pressures towards heterosexual relating, then genuine change and growth are possible.

The Sources of Religious Freedom

I very much disagree with a major claim in John H. Garvey’s “The Real Reason for Religious Freedom” (March) . Garvey writes: “It is possible to imagine a society of skeptics insisting on a free exercise clause, but the idea is far-fetched.”

I would like to ask him, or anyone who agrees with this, whether they actually know of anyone whom they would class as a “skeptic” (excluding those in thrall to some totalitarian political ideology) who would not insist on such a clause in our law?

I really doubt that you could come up with many “skeptics” opposed to the free exercise of religion, but you could certainly find plenty of “true believers,” such as the Muslims of Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc., who would be and are opposed to the free exercise of religionother than their own, that is.

Support of “religious freedom,” and of liberty of conscience more generally, does not arise from belief or nonbelief in any supreme being, or even in a nontheistic religion, such as Buddhism. It arises from the love of human liberty, and from a dislike for tyranny (whatever its rationale) . . . .

Mr. Garvey goes on to say, “Sometimes religious believers and nonbelievers are treated alike, but sometimes the law protects only religious believers . . . . The only convincing explanation for such a rule is that the law thinks religion is a good thing.”

The reason for this rule has nothing to do with whether “the law,” or those who wrote it, think that “religion is a good thing.” The reason is that they think and “skeptics” like myself continue to believe, today that liberty, including religious liberty, is a good thing. This will perforce involve special protections for the expression of “religious beliefs,” thereby creating the legal asymmetry, which Mr. Garvey remarks on, between believers and nonbelievers.

The right of people to believe whatever they choose, or what their conscience demands of them, is merely the logical converse of the right to believe in nothing at all. They are the same freedom, and quite indivisible.

Edmund Weinmann
Huntington, NY

I was surprised to see John Garvey’s article published in First Things because it rests upon the anti-Catholic revisionist myth that seventeenth-century English Protestants were the greatest developers of religious freedom and toleration, largely in “protest against the Catholic Church’s claim” to mediate between God and man. That assertion is wrong for two reasons. First, seventeenth-century Protestants never had the broad sympathy for “toleration” that Mr. Garvey assumes; rather, intolerance even of other Protestant sects was the rule until intra-Protestant compromise became necessary in the face of two kings in a row who converted to Rome. Second, it continues the false Whig historiography that maligns the real progenitors of seventeenth-century English toleration, the Catholic kings, Charles II and James II.

English Protestants spent the first sixty years of the seventeenth century in an unrelenting struggle for control of the “English Church” that pitted Puritan against Laudite, Roundhead against Cavalier, Presbyterian against Independent, and everyone against the Quakers. It was only in 1660, after repeated proroguing of Parliament, civil war, regicide, and the Commonwealth Interregnum, that the Nonconformists reluctantly accepted continued rule of the “Church of England” by the king. Yet even then there was no toleration. When Charles proposed tolerance for both Nonconformists and Catholics in 1663, Parliament rejected the proposal out of hand. Instead, the Anglicans, led by Locke’s patron Shaftesbury and employing agents provocateur like Titus Oates, spent the next twenty-five years persecuting Catholics (Oliver Plunkett was martyred in 1681) and trying to prevent Charles’ openly Catholic brother James from succeeding to the throne.

Charles and James were the true proponents of toleration in seventeenth-century England, not Milton and Locke as Mr. Garvey wrongly supposes. One of their greatest supporters, in fact, was William Penn, whose Pennsylvania colony (chartered by Charles) was the only “tolerant” colony since Protestants displaced Maryland’s tolerant Catholic proprietors in the aftermath of the English Civil War. Charles efforts at toleration in England, though, were so viciously opposed in Parliament that Charles even concealed his own conversion to the Catholic religion until he lay on his deathbed in 1685. James, bluffer and more courageous than his brother, went forward with a Declaration of Indulgence, proclaiming toleration for Catholics and Nonconformists alike during his short three-year reign (1685-88), and seemed to get away with it until his Catholic second wife gave birth to a Catholic male heir.

The birth of baby James was the efficient cause of the “Glorious Revolution of 1688,” because it trumped his Protestant half-sister Mary’s right of succession. The Anglican ascendancy recognized that if the baby reigned as James III, three Anglican Church “heads” in a row (and four out of the eight successors to Henry VIII) would have acknowledged papal primacy. The bankruptcy of “Anglicanism” would be manifest. So the Anglicans, supposedly king’s men, threw loyalty aside and turned instead to treason and revolution and forced James II to flee to France.

Throughout the seventeenth century, the Protestants were interested in only so much tolerance as was necessary to forge a majority in Parliament. Milton never favored real toleration. Rather, in 1673, as part of the general effort to raise an alarm about Catholic sympathizers, Milton wrote a treatise with a telling name: “Of True Religion, Haeresie, Schism, and the Growth of Papacy.” Likewise, Locke wrote the document Mr. Garvey cites, the Letter on Toleration, only after the Glorious Revolution. By then, the birth of baby James had forced the Anglicans to “save what they could” by offering toleration to their former enemies the Nonconformists, and thus blocking James bid for their loyalty through the Declaration of Indulgence. Indeed, Locke accompanied William and Mary on their invasion of England that first produced her father James’ overthrow and then that vile document, the English Bill of Rights, which declares: “It is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant Kingdom to be governed by a popish prince, or by a king or queen, marrying a papist.” So much for seventeenth-century English Protestant tolerance! . . .

David J. Ritchie
Watchung, NJ

John H. Garvey replies:

Edmund Weinmann maintains that human liberty is a good thing, and that we should protect religious liberty because it is an instance of that larger freedom. The principal difficulty with this argument is that it is hard to defend the major premise. If there were a general right to human liberty I should be as free to practice law as I am to practice religion, or as free to drive a car as I am to speak. But we let the government license lawyers and drivers for the simple reason that we do not esteem those activities as highly as we do religion and speech. The real problem that an argument for religious liberty must solve is explaining what is special about religious liberty. That is what I have tried to do.

Mr. Weinmann observes that there have been, and are still, societies where people believe in God but where religious freedom is denied to those who dont practice the established religion. This is unfortunately true. It nevertheless does not, as I think Mr. Weinmann supposes, afford an empirical disproof of my argument. I do not assert that we would be better off if we ran the state along religious lines. Quite the contrary. I believe that religious people are better off if the state leaves them alone. I only say that we ought to take seriously the reasons that some (though alas not all) religious people have given for wanting to be left alone.

I am not sure that David J. Ritchie and I have any serious disagreement about the facts of life in seventeenth-century England. It is perfectly true that the Anglicans (including Shaftesbury) persecuted Catholics and tried to prevent James from taking the throne because of his faith. It is also true that they forced him off it, against their own patriotic principles, for religious reasons. I do not deny that Locke and Milton had their anti-Catholic prejudices. (These are evident in their writings.) I even concede that Charles II, and more persistently James II, made efforts in the direction of toleration (though it may be a mistake to describe Charles as a closet Catholic; I had thought he was reconciled to the Church only on his deathbed).

I have some quarrel with the tone of Mr. Ritchies account of these facts. It is more simple than life. Mr. Ritchie makes the period sound like a contest between Catholics and Protestants. He says too little about Protestant Dissenters, for whose support both Anglicans and Catholics were striving. And he clearly sees the struggle as one between good and bad guys: the English Bill of Rights is a “vile document,” my account, which pays some tribute to Locke and Milton, resurrects an “anti-Catholic revisionist myth,” James II was “bluff . . . and . . . courageous.”

But I don’t want to dwell on these differences. My chief defense is this. In the passages Mr. Ritchie most objects to I defend several ideas asserted by Protestant thinkers during this period (that coercion is religiously futile, that revelation is progressive). It is no condemnation of these ideas to say that Locke and Milton applied them too narrowly in the circumstances of their own lives. A century later Thomas Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. It is no condemnation of this idea to observe that Jefferson did not apply it to his own slaves. (Nor would I describe our Constitution as a “vile document” though it does, alas, contain the fugitive slave clause, the three-fifths compromise, and protection of the international slave trade.)

What Jews Believe

There are surveys, and there are surveys. The symposium “What Do American Jews Believe?” in Commentary magazine, as described in “The Fragmented Faith of American Jews” (February) , is nothing less than a joke.

Rabbi Clifford E. Librach says it is “not an entirely representative group”; this is surely a major understatement. Of the forty-seven contributors, fifteen are Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis–––although not one rabbi from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which has rapidly multiplied in the past several decades because of its high birthrate––twenty-five are professors of and writers on Judaism and/or officers of Jewish institutions, and the rest include a professor of history, a lawyer, and a film critic. But where are the acclaimed Jewish authors, industrialists, scientists, and philosophers who have done so much to invigorate America today? Where are the Norman Mailers and Susan Sontags?

Those surveyed were very circumspect as to what they said. I understand that Commentary is read also by many non-Jews, and American Jews like to present a facade of common purpose despite their divisiveness. But when the intermarriage rate in the U.S. exceeds 50 percent, then the time for bromides is over.

Here are some of the critical issues Jews confront, issues never mentioned in the seventy-thousand-word symposium. Agnosticism and atheism are higher proportionately among educated and intellectual Jews than among their Christian counterparts. Many Jews are uncomfortable with the Hebrew Bible, particularly the harsh passages, and are attracted to New Testament teachings on love and to Buddhism. There has been a dramatic decline of the paramount Torah commandment of Ahavat Yisrael (loving a fellow Jew). The enchantment of Israel is fading among many mainstream Jews. Long gone are the exhilarating days after the Six-Day War of 1967. Now we behold an Israel shrinking in size and in vision, wanting to be the Singapore, not the Switzerland, of the Middle East. And then there is the fanaticism, xenophobia, and obscurantism of the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jews––which perhaps is the reason none of them was invited to participate in the symposium.

Jacob Mendlovic
Toronto, Canada

Non-Orthodox Christians in Ukraine

I enjoyed Joseph R. Gregory’s article, “Ukraine: Christians in Conflict” (March) . It was both informative and well-written. It has a major flaw, however. My criticism is that Mr. Gregory focuses on the Church in the Ukrainian capitol of Kiev and projects it upon the whole of Ukraine. He fails to mention an important part of the intra-Christian battle going on in western Ukraine involving a long-standing religious force so frightening to the Communists that they murdered its bishops, took its married priests families hostage, and forced it at gunpoint to declare itself defunct in 1946: the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church. This Church was forced to exist underground after that time, and it persevered despite persecution, torture, and death. Many of its faithful opted for the safe route and joined the Communist-backed Orthodox churches. The Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church resurfaced officially when the walls came tumbling down at the turn of the decade. Now, it, too, is struggling to recover not only the recognition it had for the 350 years prior to 1946, but, more importantly, its rightful property, which was seized by the Communists and turned over to the state and to the Orthodox churches.

Often derided by the Orthodox as “uniates,” the Byzantine Catholic Church was that part of the Catholic Church established in Constantinople which was introduced to Ukraine by Saints Cyril and Methodius in a.d. 988. Technically speaking, Prince Volodymyr and Princess Olga were baptized Catholic. Sometime after the Eastern (or Byzantine) Schism with Rome in 1064, the Ukrainian Byzantine Church also broke away. This became what is today known as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In 1596, the Union of Brest joined the western portion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to Rome and it thus became the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church––to the bitter hostility of the Orthodox.

The Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church is a unique entity within the Catholic Church, because it is its own “Rite,” and as a Rite, it exists as a nationalistic entity. Without its Ukrainian language and Ukrainian customs and traditions, it does not exist as “Ukrainian.” Hence, its growth (or evangelistic outreach) is limited to its own country. This puts the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church in as much competition for the nations faithful as the Orthodox churches. These now disparate churches originated historically as one church in Ukraine and are, in that sense, equals in their struggle for growth.

To do an article about Christianity in Ukraine properly, then, one cannot dismiss the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church. To simply lose it in “the more than seventy religious sects” noted in the article betrays an ignorance that I would never expect from First Things . If Mr. Gregory meant to do an article solely on the infighting among the Orthodox churches, the title of his article would have done better indicating something to that effect. If First Things titled the article, now you know better.

W. George Dragan
Saylorsburg, PA

The Editors reply:

The title of the article was provided by the editors, not Mr. Gregory. We stand corrected.

In Defense of Catholic Charities

In his discussion of Catholic Charities (While We’re At It, March), Richard John Neuhaus conflates two distinct points. In a pivotal sentence, he writes, “Catholic Charities and similar Protestant and Jewish organizations have become wedded to business as usual, which is mainly the business of receiving billions in public funds to be partner to government at all levels.”

I do not write to object to Father Neuhaus’ in-the-family challenge to Catholic Charities for “maintaining the status quo.” The status quo of our societys social policy is unacceptable. It ought to be changed. If––for sake of argument––Catholic Charities is helping to maintain that status quo, it should be challenged. Fr. Neuhaus’ comments on that point merit careful consideration.

I address here, however, the separate objection to government involvement in the arena of social justice, an objection that, as I understand it, promotes principle (conservative principle?) over people. In Fr. Neuhaus’ own geographic backyard, Catholic Charities in the diocese of Rockville Centre facilitates thousands of individual volunteers in approximately one hundred separate parish communities on Long Island in their work with tens of thousands of neighbors in need of jobs, medical care, legal aid, food, and other necessities. If this is not an ideal expression of the “communal association” that Fr. Neuhaus encourages, it is at least an attempt––and a good attempt––at reaching that goal.

What do these community volunteers do when working with an AIDS-infected neighbor? St. Peter’s approach––“I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you”––worked because he backed it up with a miracle. In our work-a-day volunteer lives we need not only to expect miracles but also to take seriously the question from the letter of St. James: “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” On Long Island, Catholic Charities also operates a funded AIDS day-care center. Plainly, it is not possible to recreate that service in every community in which a Catholic Charities volunteer works. A community volunteer who ignores the funded resource would fail to satisfy his or her biblical mandate to care for the sick.

Similar examples abound, but let me get more personal: I am a volunteer with Catholic Charities on Long Island, and a lawyer. For several years, I have worked with other lawyers on a Volunteer Lawyers Initiative, in which several hundred volunteer lawyers work directly with people in the hundred-or-so Long Island “communal associations” active within Catholic Charities. The initiative is good and will be made better through the ongoing efforts of many volunteers.

I would not be true to my perception of social justice, however, if I did not also admit that the Volunteer Lawyers Initiative is a drop in the bucket. If each of two hundred lawyers devotes fifty hours a year to the Volunteer Lawyers Initiative, as a group they will contribute ten thousand hours a year. In the early 1990s, the New York State Bar Association studied the extent of pro bono legal services in New York and the extent of the need for such services. In several lengthy studies, it reported that New York lawyers devote approximately two million hours a year to volunteer work (broadly defined), and that this contribution barely scratches the surface of the need. Volunteer efforts are absolutely necessary, but they are not enough.

How a conscientious person wrestles with this dilemma remains a difficult personal decision. In good conscience and somewhat against my personal inclinations, I must conclude that government, properly understood, can be an effective partner in satisfying legitimate need and must be involved. I want my partner to be accountable (lets not maintain the status quo), but, without that partner, I cannot effectively do work that I know needs to be done.

In the interest of full disclosure, I report that I am also on the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. I am writing in my personal capacity and not as a representative of Catholic Charities.

Joseph Valentine
Munsey Park, NY

Better to Be Ignored

As a long-time reader of FT, I have often been disappointed at the lack of attention to affairs of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I would rather you completely ignored us rather than publish an item like that in the While We’re At It section of your February issue. I am referring to the piece, apparently picked up from an obscure on-line magazine, about a merger between the LDS Church, the Catholic Church, and Microsoft. It was one of the weakest attempts at satire I have ever seen. I’m not even sure which institution was being satirized. The thing that concerned me most was that you seemed to be publishing it with a straight face. Such a piece can only make my church look ridiculous. I want your readers to know more about my church, but such flippant, puerile satire is the last thing we need.

Gordon Cummings
Concord, CA

Choosing What?

I congratulate Wendy D. Shalit for her excellent deconstruction of HBO’s silly, pro-abortion propaganda film, If These Walls Could Talk (“A Tale of Three Pregnancies,” March) . Actress Demi Moore had the audacity to suggest that the film “lets people make up their own minds about abortion.”

In discussing the film, actress Sissy Spacek added that “pro-choice is not pro-abortion.” For some strange reason, this is always the end of the discussion. After assuring sympathetic journalists that they do not favor abortion, pro-choicers never explain why they find abortion unpleasant or morally problematic . . . .

Abortion (and now euthanasia) are the only issues on which Americans, especially Catholics, can take a “pro-choice” position. Would Americans who claimed to be “pro-choice” on the death penalty, wearing fur, using animals for medical experiments, racial discrimination, owning assault weapons, drug abuse, prostitution, hunting baby humpback whales, and teen smoking be taken seriously by anyone? . . . I think that what pro-abortionists really want are a right to a clear conscience and a good nights sleep.

Dimitri A. Cavalli
Bronx, NY

An Unmerited Endorsement

Shame on Richard John Neuhaus for his ringing endorsement of Jo Ann Kay McNamaras Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia (While Were At It, April) . McNamaras narrative is “ambitious and energetic,” as he comments, but it is also informed by party-line feminist theory which casts all women as victims and males as misogynists. McNamara tells us (rather presumptuously) in her introduction that “like Voltaire, I am a secular humanist”; it is this ideology that dictates her narrative, an ideology in direct conflict with that of the women themselves. McNamaras purpose is simple, and common, unfortunately, to most feminist history today: to provide yet another example of the injustices women have suffered at the hands of men and Christianity. The true purpose of the book is not to document the traditional leadership of women in the Church, as Father Neuhaus intimates, but rather to document their conflicts with the hierarchy. The title Sisters in Arms tells all: it is an ahistorical metaphor that McNamara concocted to set an antagonistic tone for her narrative . . . .

Patricia Ranft
Department of History
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, MI

(Editors note: See M. S. Leachs review of Sisters in Arms in this issue.)

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