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A Protestant Education

Thank you for the fine article by Jason Byassee and L. Gregory Jones (“Methodists & Microcredit,” November 2009), which demonstrated wonderfully the similarities between grassroots capitalism and a charismatic call to build holy faith communities. Although the article concentrated on the links between the Methodist faith experience and the workings of Muhammad Yunus’ microfinance operations in Bangladesh, it could easily have drawn parallels between microfinance and Catholic social teaching as well. Messrs. Byassee and Jones describe how Mr. Yunus’ Grameen Bank used the social pressure of small groups in lieu of collateral and made loans to poor villagers possible. As the authors describe it, Mr. Yunus organizes village women into groups and requires each group to take responsibility for each member’s loan payments. If any one individual falls behind on her payments, the entire group risks losing access to credit. Using the groups as a tool, Grameen can keep its default rates down without requiring collateral for its loans. This made it possible and affordable for the first time for a bank to lend money to poor villagers in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Joseph G. Cosby, Esq.
Falls Church, Virginia

In response to “Methodists and Microcredit,” by Jason Byassee and L. Gregory Jones of Duke University, and as a former United Methodist clergyman who has returned to Roman Catholicism, I am struck by the creativity of Byassee and Jones’ theological analysis. That a secular Islamic banker would have so much to “teach” mainline Protestants is a testimony to American theological education! I am thankful for Byassee and Jones’ commitment to the poor, but I am concerned that the same conflation of eternal salvation and Marxist-influenced liberation that marks much of mainline Protestant theological education is yet again espoused by these two faithful, historically orthodox Methodist theologians.

In contrast to bifurcation between soteriology and economic empowerment (i.e., microloans do not guarantee salvation per se), the actual words of Jesus are that the poor are blessed (Luke 6:20). In contrast to mainline Protestant ecclesiology, in which societal class largely determines denominational leadership, I invite Byassee and Jones to explore in greater detail the robust ecclesiologies of Catholicism and Pentecostalism, two expressions of Christian community in which, at their best, no distinction is drawn between “the Church of the poor” and the supposed “normative Church” that drives Nissan Altimas, enjoys 401(k)s, and teaches at top-ten research universities such as Duke. In fact, I invite Byassee and Jones, two men whom I consider to be dear friends (having studies at Duke Divinity School), to join me in the celebration of the Mass at my home parish, St. Mary Our Lady of Grace. Our Franciscan Friars”one Anglo, one African American (head pastor), and one Latino”serve a diverse community that includes the homeless, the elderly who ride public transit, and wealthy local business leaders. Our priests have ensured that no distinction exists between the “Church of the poor” and the “normative Church of the affluent.”

Dr. Robert King
St. Petersburg, Florida

Jason Byassee and L. Gregory Jones reply:

Rob King misreads us in several directions in just a few lines. We do not even offer hints that would allow the rather bizarre conclusion that microcredit “guarantees” salvation. We suggest no “distinction” between “the Church of the poor” and the “normative Church of the affluent,” and we are puzzled by the letter’s suggestion that we need instruction in ecclesiology.

There is no sympathy with Marxism in our article. On the contrary, Yunus’ genius is that he has shown the poor to be a worthy credit risk for those who want to make money”that is, for capitalists. He is harnessing the power of the market to help poor people. There is therefore no reason for those on either aisle of American politics or any faction of the much-fractured Church in the United States to object. On the contrary, they ought to go and do likewise. And yes, secular Muslims can teach Christians, and for that insight we happily rest on Augustine and Aquinas.

We are, however, grateful for his suggestion on what carmaker to patronize.

The Case Against Casey

I was disappointed to read Maura Casey’s indulgent article on gambling in your November 2009 issue (“Gambling with Lives”). Ordinarily, even when I disagree with the author’s stance, I enjoy each and every First Things contribution for its intellectual engagement, much as one can enjoy a good fencing bout even while disliking one of the sportsmen. Casey’s article exhibited annoyingly poor form, however, and I’m surprised this essay made it through the First Things filter.

Casey makes the same nonsensical argument we hear from all who would blame the object of a sin for the sin itself. The final straw for my patience was her ridiculous and, frankly, insulting claim that “when corporations spend millions to design machines that keep patrons gambling indefinitely, when is it time to acknowledge that the machines, not the people, are the problem?” This is ludicrous.

Is a human being really that incapable of knowing himself and availing himself of grace to avoid sin? It seems Casey seeks to replace religion with increased government restrictions in the equation to eliminate evil.

Casey makes a strong case for how easy it is to become a gambling addict and the quick destruction of one’s life that ensues. But perhaps the missing brakes she seeks to provide to those speeding toward addiction are not government restrictions on slot machines and new casinos but greater moral integrity in our culture. Perhaps the marketing schemes and consumerism people find themselves so susceptible to and powerless against stem from a culture that has left behind its cult and now wonders why it is being overtaken by the Enemy.

Alycia Nielsen
Greenville, South Carolina

Those Who Chant, Teach

I was distressed to learn, from David P. Goldman’s article “Sacred Music, Sacred Time” in your November edition, that “musicologists have proved that the ‘ancient chant’ promulgated in the nineteenth century by the Benedictines of Solesmes was, in fact, their own invention rather than a historical reconstruction.” My distress arises from the fact that this collection of chant has been accepted by the Catholic Church as its official songbook (called the Graduale Romanum ) and is published by those same nefarious monks of Solesmes who so led us astray. How will we ever break this news to the Holy Father?

Beth Svendsen
Winfield, Illinois

David P. Goldman is right that the issue is the treatment of time. Music is the only art that makes an independent construction of time: A musical work presents a version of the passage of time that is at once an artistic construction and an analogy to our experience of time. In the context of the sacred, it is important to recognize how music can represent temporal things beyond the here and now.

Goldman is right as well that music cannot represent eternity directly but only intimate it by representing higher orders of time. His analysis proceeds on the theory that there are two separate levels of temporal activity, the lower level of pulse and respiration and the higher level of “plastic time of tonal events.” He cites as an example a choral prelude of J.S. Bach in which two clearly separate temporal levels exist side by side, a quick-moving figure and a slower-moving hymn-tune melody. He says that “the sense of the sacred arises from . . . the juxtaposition of the two temporal frameworks.” I would contend, however, that in this work a greater sense of the sacred derives from the fact that the higher level is characterized by a hymn tune, easily recognizable as a sacred component in the combination. Nevertheless, both these levels proceed with metric regularity”not the most effective way to intimate eternity.

Thus I would propose that there is sacred music that makes a more direct intimation of eternity, but on the level of pulse: Gregorian chant. Chant is metrically irregular and thus does not depict the passage of everyday time; rather, its rhythmic processes prescind from the regularly metrical to create an intimation of eternity. Chant intimates eternity in other ways as well: its more melismatic genres slow the pronunciation of the text down so much as to create the impression of nearly halting the passage of time. All of the present examples, including Goldman’s, are examples of the way music can depict temporal experience: The most metrical music depicts the familiar experience of the regular passage of time, but the irregular rhythms of chant propose another dimension of time that we do not otherwise easily experience; they suggest the state of eternity, in which time has been surpassed by an eternal present.

Goldman asserts that music associated with the liturgy”even Gregorian chant, which he wrongly sees as a fabrication”is not necessarily any more sacred than the pastor’s trousers. But this is to overlook an entire tradition of the interpretation of the chant. Pius X established a contrasting principle: “The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration, and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes” ( motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini ”). The chant is intimately linked to the liturgy, and its distinctive musical style is fundamentally sacred.

William Mahrt
Stanford University

David P. Goldman replies:

Benedict XVI asserts that the religious music of the great classical composers communicates an inherent sense of the sacred. The pope has the same view of some secular music. After a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Vatican on October 29, Benedict said the work reminded him of the words of Isaiah: “On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” The love for classical music evinced by people of so many cultures supports the pope’s perception. In China alone, some sixty million young people study classical music. Why the Western classical style is able to convey a sense of the sacred across boundaries of culture and confession was the starting point of my inquiry.

Other kinds of liturgical music, as I wrote, assist the devotions of adherents of particular religions but have small interest for others. For example: Traditional chazzanut (Eastern Europe Jewish liturgical chant) inspires me in the synagogue, but I do not think it has great aesthetic value outside the context of Hebrew liturgy. Many Catholics love Gregorian chant for the same reason, but I do not think it communicates quite the sense of the sacred to non-Catholics as does the music of Bach and Mozart. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Confucians, and Buddhists can hear Bach and Mozart (or Josquin and Palestrina) with equal joy, but they never will hear church or synagogue chant the same way.

I did not say that Gregorian chant as such is a “fabrication” but, rather, that the Benedictine monks of the Solesmes monastery concocted a new style of chant rather than”as they believed”recreating an Ur-chant that preceded the multiplicity of styles evident in the corpus of medieval manuscripts. That is the unanimous conclusion of modern musicologists (the standard monograph is Katherine Bergeron’s 1998 Decadent Enchantments: The Revival of Gregorian Chant at Solesmes ). The evidence is conclusive that the monks misapplied to chant the philological method that identified a primeval Aryan language preceding the many Indo-European tongues. In reality, medieval chant embraced a kaleidoscope of styles that varied widely by region and period.

The fact that the Solesmes style is new rather than ancient does not make it any less appropriate for liturgy. But it is a dicey thing to invent a past that never existed. Solesmes suffered from the inventive nostalgia of the Romantic movement in general, and its method has parallels in the faux-medieval poetry of Tieck and Novalis, the philology of the Grimm brothers, and the music dramas of Wagner. By the same token, some nineteenth-century Jewish scholars claimed that Ashkenazi synagogue chant derived from the Temple at Jerusalem. That is almost certainly wrong, but it does not detract from the functionality of synagogue chant for liturgy.

Dr. Mahrt’s view that the metrical irregularity of Gregorian chant conveys a sense of eternity does not persuade me; I find it hard to reconcile with the New Age enthusiasm for the genre. As the Wikipedia entry on “New Age Music” observes, “it is used by listeners for yoga, massage, meditation, and reading as a method of stress management . . . and is often associated with environmentalism and New Age spirituality . . . . Connected to the creation of New Age music is the resurgence of interest in Gregorian chant during the second half of the twentieth century.” New Agers pushed a couple of chant albums to the top of the pop charts during the 1990s.

The fact that very un-Christian New Agers have adopted Gregorian chant for purposes quite different from those of the Church does not make it any less appropriate for liturgy. Still, one doesn’t encounter New Agers meditating to Mozart’s Requiem. The classical style does not soothe and cannot be mistaken for an aid to meditation; on the contrary, it forcefully disrupts our naïve perception of time and drives us to reconsider the rhythms of pulse and respiration from a higher vantage point”what St. Augustine called the eternal numbers of the mind.

It is noteworthy that arguments summoned to support the pope’s view would be cause for so much contention among Catholics. For the past thirty years, Benedict has advocated the use of the orchestral Mass in liturgy, a tradition that disappeared in most of the Catholic world, although not in southern Germany. Benedict XVI is a radical reformer in this regard, reaching back to a long-abandoned eighteenth-century practice. Orchestral Masses were heard in the Vatican at his instance for the first time in two centuries. The chant revival of the early nineteenth century should be understood in light of what it replaced: namely, the Church music of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, and others, which the Church discouraged and sometimes prohibited as too “operatic” and prospectively secular in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

The tradition of ecclesiastical music that Benedict proposes to revive never quite disappeared from the European Church but, with few exceptions (all associated with immigrant communities), never took root in the American Church. Whether the American Church might undertake such a musical reform is a difficult question. To perceive the inherently sacred in the religious music of classical composers, the congregation requires musical preparation. During the childhood of J.S. Bach, for example, universal education was instituted in Saxony, including mandatory instruction in four-part singing. A congregation that can sing chorales in four parts can make sense of the metrical transformations in a Bach chorale setting; not so a congregation used to popular music. That is why I conjectured that China, with its enormous commitment to classical music, might become the venue for the next great revival of sacred music in the classical style. This is a moot point, in any event. Catholics will have to decide what music best serves liturgy. Music theory can provide only the analytical tools that might help inform that decision.

ECT on Mary

Your well-written article on the Blessed Virgin Mary in November 2009 (“Do Whatever He Tells You,” subtitled “A Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together”) offers a very good start for further dialogue on the subject of our most holy Mother in Christ. Though many good points were made on both sides, for the purpose of stimulating a deeper engagement, I note here two serious weaknesses: one in the section titled “A Catholic Word to Evangelicals,” on the meaning of Sacred Tradition; the other as an important omission in “An Evangelical Word to Catholics,” on the concept of merit.

The weakness on the Catholic side stems from a failure to define the most basic element of Church teaching: Sacred Tradition. Given the erudition of your article, I presume your avoidance of this “stumbling block” for Evangelicals is intentional. But Sacred Tradition is like the proverbial elephant in the living room. One cannot avoid it and then talk profitably about Mary. On the other hand, when Sacred Tradition is understood and accepted, it opens the whole field of Catholic teaching and practice, including everything to do with Mary. Indeed, when the meaning of Sacred Tradition is grasped, one understands that the Church founded by Jesus Christ, which is both visible and invisible like Christ, is a living marvel consisting of an astonishing supernatural union of the living God and human beings. It is truly the Mystical Body of Christ, with Mary, the Mother of Christ, as our spiritual Mother.

A second essential point: The very doubt of the Catholic view of Sacred Tradition that is at the core of Protestantism, can be profitably brought to awareness. Saying this is not meant to be offensive; it is simply to hold this great doubt to the light. (“The truth shall set you free.”) The obstacles I am referring to for Protestants undoubtedly center on those teachings within Sacred Tradition not found in the Bible, and on the infallibility of the Church’s Magisterium”the pope and (only) those bishops united with the pope”in teaching the Christian Faith and Morals.

Br. Anthony Josemaria Pasquale
Haverhill, Massachusetts

A few reflections on the Mother of God in her blessed virginal motherhood!

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is a necessary understanding of who Mary is in her motherhood of the child Jesus.

For a woman to become a mother, a father is absolutely necessary. In the time of the Old Testament, a woman had to be a virgin to be accepted into the house of the husband-to-be. Recall the story of Joseph.

Scripture tells us that Mary’s deliverance of the child was in fact virginal, yet she gave birth to a son.

This is one aspect of her virginity. We understand by this that she “did not know man.”

To be able to give birth, there first had to be a father. Holy Scripture tells us that she was “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.

Thus she is the bride of the Holy Spirit. She was so selected for all eternity.

She is regarded as the new Eve. For God to fulfill his promise, as Eve was immaculately created from the rib of Adam, so, for Mary to be the spouse of the Holy Spirit, she necessarily needed to be pure”a virgin”for him to accept her. She had to be a spiritual virgin as well as a physical virgin. For how could the Holy Spirit unite with sin?

Mary gave her nature”both physical and, in some degree, spiritual”to her son, for that nature was a sinless nature, “like men in all things, except sin.” As God, Jesus was sinless, but he became man in every sense. All men inherit the sin of Adam in their conception and their nature. Jesus did not, for his mother was necessarily sinless, immaculate at his conception.

As for Mary’s perpetual virginity, one need only refer to God’s forbiddance of adultery.

How could the spouse of the Holy Spirit “know another man”? It would be adultery of the most grievous nature.

One cannot imagine St. Joseph committing adultery against God.

He fully understood that Mary is the Queen Mother of his Lord, the Davidic King come into the world to save him as promised.

Can you imagine?

Donald O’Rourke
Manchester, New Hampshire

The Evangelical scholars writing in “Do Whatever He Tells You” refer to their confession as “a worldwide renewal movement within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Jesus came to build one Church. Because there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of varying interpretations of Sacred Scripture giving birth to almost as many competing non-Catholic sects within the Christian family, it is impossible for them collectively to be referred to as “one” of anything, much less the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, of which there is one and only one. By what logic do the Evangelicals place themselves “within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church,” born on the day of Pentecost and the only Christian Church to have existed from that day to this?

The Evangelical scholars euphemistically refer to the revolt from Catholicism of Martin Luther as a “renewal” and as “the Reformation.” They “embrace [that] movement, with its principles of the normative authority of Holy Scripture and justification by faith alone,” a doctrine that cannot be found in Scripture. From whom did Martin Luther, an anti-Semitic Augustinian monk who violated his vows to God, receive the authority to remove seven books from the Christian canon of Scripture; to add “alone” to the theology of his misinterpretation of St. Paul’s teaching about faith, which is unbiblical; to declare Holy Scripture his Bible; and to reject the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church?

The Protestant interpretation of Romans 3:28, etc. declares that it is faith alone that saves us. The words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew, 25:31“46 state the opposite. Where contradictions exist between the words of Paul and the words of Jesus Christ, do Protestants prefer Paul or Jesus?

Our brothers and sisters in Christ have offered their suggestions about where to go “from here.” I have another suggestion. It would be well for all the parties to retire to a quiet, secluded place and reread Dominus Iesus .

Ferde Rombola
Beverly, Massachusetts

In the Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together on the Blessed Virgin Mary (November), the Evangelicals raise these key issues: How does the development of doctrine occur, and how is doctrinal deviation checked? Catholics have a well-defined method, with the pope making the final decision in keeping with Jesus’ promise against the gates of hell. Evangelicals, with their openness to biblical interpretations, have no such method, only hoping, as their own statement shows, that their acceptances of the nonbiblical Trinity and Personhood of Christ are correct.

This same absence of a method pertains to the chasm that separates Evangelicals from Catholics on the issue of the Mother of Jesus. No matter what the commission’s thirteen representatives of Evangelicalism decide, individual Evangelicals will be free to accept or reject the Immaculate Conception and/or the bodily Assumption of Mary. Even if the thirteen heads recognize that Mary’s birth and departure from earth are in accordance with what was planned for Adam and Eve, they cannot speak for all Evangelicals. The heads may agree; the bodies may not follow. The dialogue is endless, and it could easily be contradicted by later Evangelical heads.

Frederick A. Costello
Herndon, Virginia

The latest ECT document on the Blessed Virgin Mary exposes Marian theology as a confused exercise in anachronistic wish fulfillment. She needs redemption like any other human, yet she doesn’t need redemption; she cannot play a role in salvation, yet she plays a role in salvation; it must be biblical, yet it must jive with tradition; it’s not about our differences but about our misunderstandings. It all just makes you want to pray to St. Ockham of Razor and thank him for the simplicity and perspicuity of the biblical plan of salvation.

Roger Pattenaude
Windsor, Ontario

In commenting on the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Evangelical authors of “Do Whatever He Tells You: A Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together” state: “Evangelicals find unnecessary and unbiblical the notion that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception.”

I am not a biblical scholar, but I recall hearing an insight once from a former Evangelical exegete, Dr. Scott Hahn, that persuaded me that this controversial teaching is, in fact, solidly grounded in Sacred Scripture.

The text Hahn was commenting on is one that the Evangelical authors of this article specifically mention within their list of “suggestions”: Genesis 3:15, often referred to as the “Proto-evangelium” or “Earliest Gospel.” The Catholic contributors also mention it without elaboration in their “Word to Evangelicals.” It is rendered as follows in the Revised Standard Version: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This passage speaks of a sovereign act of God, by which he, through his unmerited grace, chooses to put “enmity” between a certain unnamed woman and the devil. The woman who fulfills this divine directive must be free of original sin, since those born with original sin on their souls are not in a natural position of “enmity” with Satan. They lack the sanctifying grace that brings them into friendship with God.

From a Catholic perspective, in the post-Fall world, only Mary”immaculately conceived”has met this necessary and strict criterion.

Rev. Raymond N. Suriani
Westerly, Rhode Island

What a beautiful endeavor is the article “Do Whatever He Tells You,” regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, written by Evangelicals and Catholics Together. I applaud the ecumenical effort of looking honestly at both one’s own position and that of the other.

As a person of Protestant background now in the Catholic camp, I would like to offer some suggestions for bridging the gap between Evangelicals and Catholics in relation to Mary.

To both groups, I would like to say: Look with eyes of wonderment at the treasure of Mary. For Evangelicals, dare to enter the realm of the mystical. For Catholics, gaze anew on the gift of Mary.

Mary will be more than happy to reveal herself to you if sincerely asked. She will come to be your Mother in almost shocking lowliness. The Queen of Heaven does not insist on your homage to her; rather, she humbles herself to serve you in your spiritual journey toward her Son.

Lita A. Johnson
Kenosha, Wisconsin

The most noticeable aspect, for me, of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement on Mary was the contrast between the difficulty on the part of the Catholics to adequately explain and describe the richness and depth of Marian theology in a few short pages and the efficient way in which the Evangelicals ticked off their objections to the perpetual virginity, Immaculate Conception, bodily assumption, and invocation of Mary. That is not to say that the brotherly tone of all the statements did not come through; it was probably as charitable a presentation of these diverse perspectives as is possible.

But the parsimony of the critique by Evangelicals of what they consider “unnecessary and unbiblical” Marian doctrines spoke clearly to me: They don’t know her.

It is not enough for me merely to respect Mary or to love and honor her in a chilly-sounding “biblically precise and theologically robust” way. (I try to imagine my husband telling me that he only wants to love me in a biblically precise and theologically robust way.) Mary is my mother! I love her! In learning through Catholic teaching to know and love Mary and to let her love me, I have opened my heart more fully to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In seeking to understand God’s special role for Mary in the plan of salvation, I find that I have become more tender toward the people around me. A new warmth and gentleness has become part of my walk of faith, a distinctly feminine quality that I did not know before.

The truth is that the teachings of the Church on Mary have to be lived to be understood. I know they will take a lifetime and more for me to fully apprehend. My prayer is that everyone will open his or her heart to Mary and experience the superabundant generosity of God’s love through the Marian doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Dorothy Bliss
Cambridge, Minnesota

The Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, “Do Whatever He Tells You: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian Faith and Life” (November), presented very balanced and well-thought-out opinions from both Evangelicals and Catholics. As an Evangelical, I have to admit that I have never fully understood the Marian teaching in Roman Catholic theology; nor have I tried to seek a greater understanding of Mary. The mysterious claims of apparitions of Mary at Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe have occasionally caught my attention: hence, the mystique behind Mary. Deep inside, however, I admit that I have secretly held Marian teaching in slight contempt, simply because it seems as if Mary’s humanity should be so obvious to us as Christians.

We regard her as a person not without sin; therefore, the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is unnatural to the Evangelical mind. I have read and heard many Catholics address her as the Blessed Virgin Mary. To address her as such gives us Evangelicals a funny feeling inside because the concept of her being so blessed would almost stand on the verge of idolatry. That is why Evangelicals do not even go there. We ask ourselves, “Is Mary really that blessed that she should deserve the title the Blessed Virgin Mary? And why Mary, and not Peter, Paul, James, and John?” Sure, Mary was blessed to give birth to Jesus, the Christ, but she was still only a human being.

As Evangelicals, we have always been taught that the only mediator and intercessor between humans and God is Jesus Christ himself. I have no trouble with Mary’s virgin birth. In fact, Mary’s virginal concept is an orthodox doctrine that Evangelicals cherish. It is actually seen as a bellwether test of orthodoxy, and it is usually included in many of our statements of beliefs. This doctrine of Mary’s virgin birth is not on the forefront of the Evangelical mind, however. Should it be?

Rev. Kevin Sam
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

I am myself a Catholic. By Catholic standards, I have no great devotion to Mary. Perhaps because my mother and most of her family were Protestants, I feel quite allergic to Mariolatry. Yes, Mariolatry does occur among some Catholics. So you might expect me to receive your Statement with some sympathy”especially the part entitled “An Evangelical Word to Catholics.”

But if your statement represents Evangelical thinking on this subject, then Evangelicals need to think some more. According to you, “disputed questions . . . represent postbiblical developments in Catholic teaching.” According to you, it’s all the fault of the Catholics.

But you elsewhere admit that Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin all accepted certain Catholic notions, such as “the ever-virgin character of Mary,” which you yourselves reject. This indicates that the problem involves post-Reformation developments in Protestantism as well as postbiblical developments in Catholicism.

According to you, “Protestant neglect of Mary [is] born of a conviction that the Catholic portrait of Mary exceeds its biblical warrants.” Again, according to you, it’s all the fault of the Catholics; Protestants have nothing whatever to blame themselves for.

Some Catholics really do take Marian devotion too far. But that does not entitle Protestants to “neglect” or deliberately slight the Mother of God, in defiance of Scripture’s declaration that “all generations shall call [her] blessed.” You allegedly Bible-believing Evangelicals might at least call her “Blessed Mary” or “the Blessed Mother” once in a while.

The fact is, there have been excesses on both sides. Can’t you admit that much?

In your “Word to Catholics,” you don’t seriously criticize what Catholics do wrong; you merely quibble with what Catholics do right. You seem to be making up reasons to excuse yourselves from having to do what Catholics have to do. Would you quibble with Christ? Then why do you quibble with Christ’s Church?

So I suggest you stop quibbling. Stop rending the Body of Christ with your self-important “private judgment.” That’s the only real ecumenism there can be.

Roderic L. Notzon
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Foggy Bottum

In Joseph Bottum’s lovely piece on Irving Kristol (“The Public Square,” November 2009), he wrote:

The stars whom Irving launched into important careers are too numerous to mention. Jeane Kirkpatrick, later Reagan’s Ambassador to the United Nations, sounded in the Public Interest the tone of strategic optimism that helped persuade a generation that the Cold War was winnable. Coming from the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party, Kirkpatrick was part of another migration to the conservative movement. Again, this infusion of new talent, this “neo-conservatism,” made Reagan’s Republicans the party of American strategic superiority.

I’m afraid the magazine he has in mind is neither Irving’s Public Interest (which covered domestic politics and for which Jeane Kirkpatrick never wrote), nor his National Interest (which she did write for, but not, I think, until the 1990s), but probably Commentary (where her “Dictatorships and Double Standards” appeared, among other pieces).

Adam Keiper
Arlington, Virginia