Community of Believers

This letter to the editor of a Catholic Archdiocesan newspaper takes issue with the publishing of ‘letters to the editor,’ which express views contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church or in any other way promote disunity among believers. It suggests that the subject matter of those letters can be used to write and publish apologetic articles from which we can all grow in our common faith. It attempts to make the point that we Catholics need to learn and embrace the truth in its entirety and that the official newspaper of an Archdiocese should endeavor to help us grow in holiness so that we may live our earthly lives in accordance with the Will of God. To make its point it takes issue with an article published by a regular columnist of same paper, which also notes the disunity among the many contributors of ‘letters to the editor’. The columnist fails to make his point because he fails to acknowledge the primacy of the Church’s concern for the proclamation of the truth.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ~ Mission - a requirement of the Church's catholicity

849 The missionary mandate. "Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be 'the universal sacrament of salvation,' the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men":[339] "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age."[340]

850 The origin and purpose of mission. The Lord's missionary mandate is ultimately grounded in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity: "The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit."[341] The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love.[342]

851 Missionary motivation. It is from God's love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, "for the love of Christ urges us on."[343] Indeed, God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth";[344] that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.

May 15, 2001

Dear Editor,

I hope you don’t consider this letter to be hostile, because I am truly grateful to have an Archdiocesan newspaper. This letter is written with love. I know this letter is too lengthy to be published so I don’t expect you to do so. My objective will be served if you read it. After all it is a letter to the editor.

In an article titled “The ultimate litmus test for Catholic orthodoxy” (May 11, 2001) the author notes that the letters to the editor of this newspaper reveal people divided over many issues. The author deduces that the proclamation of the truth is not the first concern of the Church. He states that the ultimate litmus test for Catholic orthodoxy is parish communities of believers who actually cherish one another. He later references Jesus’ commandment to love one another as He has loved us. He further mentions that in the Acts of the Apostles we are presented with a Church that can’t help being on the move, creating communities of newly evangelized with leadership to guide them and recognizing all along what God has done through their ministry. Lastly we hear that Jesus is the “truth” and we too can become the truth in loving communities.

You might suspect that the reason I have written this letter is to rebuke the previously referred to article. Not so, I believe that the article intended to unite rather than divide us. Although I think that article falls short, I was actually prompted to write to you because of a letter to the editor in that same issue titled “Pope apologizes to Orthodox”. That letter consisted of one sentence. Because its nature was divisive, it doesn’t belong in a Catholic newspaper and won’t be repeated here. After reading it I thought, “enough is enough”. I have read so many letters to the editor that do not belong in a Catholic newspaper and have often thought of writing to this newspaper to express this opinion; but I always talked myself out of doing so. This time, however, I had to follow through. This was the last straw so to speak. So you can see that this is a letter of complaint about letters that do not belong in a Catholic newspaper; but I still insist that I write not out of hostility; but rather Charity.

I must refer again to the five declarations made in the article if I hope to make my point. First mentioned is that the letters to the editor reveal division over many issues. Second, that the proclamation of the truth is not the first concern of the Church. Third, that the love for each other that parish communities of believers demonstrate is the litmus test for Catholic orthodoxy because Jesus gave a new commandment: love one another.

Just what is a community of believers? Surely they must be united not divided in what they believe. Just how do members of the community come to know what to believe? The fourth declaration made is that the Apostles left newly evangelized communities with leadership to guide them. In a homily given at Knock Shrine on 30 September 1979, John Paul II said the following: “Christ has not left his followers without guidance in the task of understanding and living the Gospel. Before returning to his father, he promised to send his Holy Spirit to the Church: ‘But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all I have said to you (Jn 14:26). This same Spirit guides the successors of the Apostles, your bishops, united with the Bishop of Rome, to whom it was entrusted to preserve the faith and to ‘preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mk 16:15). Listen to their voices, for they bring you the word of the Lord”.

Just how do members of the community embrace the commandment of Jesus to love one another? Surely not without first embracing the greatest commandment: “And he said to him, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets’” (Mt 22:37-40). Love of neighbor cannot be separated from love of God.

Just how do members of the community come to love God? Surely they must come to know him. As Catholics we can do our best to know and love God by embracing all that the Catholic Church teaches. It does indeed proclaim the truth and the entirety of its proclamation is prerequisite for the community of believers to, as the fifth declaration makes, become the truth in loving communities. In fact, how can the community of believers come to know what God’s commandments are if the first concern of the Church is not to proclaim the truth?

All of the above has been said to support my point that we Catholics need to learn and embrace the truth in its entirety and that the official newspaper of an Archdiocese should endeavor to help us grow in holiness so that we may live our earthly lives in accordance with the Will of God.

Dissident opinions can only be useful if they are presented in articles written in apologetic form so that the holders of those opinions can be enlightened with the truth and hopefully come to be united with the community of believers.

So perhaps some thought should be given to refrain from publishing letters to the editor and instead utilize their subject matter to write constructive apologetic articles or essays from which we all can learn and be strengthened in our Faith.

Thank you for [name of newspaper].

Yours in Christ Jesus,
Fredi D’Alessio