Comments of the week

Letters should include a genuine postal or email address, phone number and the style or title of the writer. Email: [email protected]

Due to space constraints, please keep correspondence below 250 words, longer letters may be published online

Leave marriage registration to the state

SIR – I have to disagree with Bishop Peter Doyle regarding his concern over the Supreme Court decision to allow mixed-sex civil partnerships (see World News, page 9). Sadly the historic Christian understanding of marriage as movingly expressed by Bishop Doyle no longer reflects the legal concepts of marriage in Britain or Europe. With easy divorce and same-sex relationships, it is only the use of the same word which unites Catholic and legal “marriage”, while “civil partnership” more accurately reflects todays legal reality.

Rather than opposing the legalisation of civil partnerships, perhaps the Church should embrace them and get itself out of the legal registration of marriage altogether, especially since at some point there is likely to be a legal challenge to the Church under equality legislation.

A civil partnership only requires a visit to a register office and the signing of the register in front of witnesses with no exchange of vows or declarations being required because it is a legal event, nothing more. Maybe that is how the Church should approach marriage in future, with the couple being required to get a civil partnership to protect their legal status while going to church for the real marriage.

Neil Addison (barrister)

Young Catholics back Humanae Vitae

SIR – It has been suggested that Catholic teaching on contraception has failed to “engage with social change” (Letter, June 22). Yet one must not confuse being unfashionable with being untrue.

Living out chastity is counter-cultural and difficult, but rewarding for relationships. It reminds us how the person to whom we are attracted is not a thing to be used, but an equal to be loved, honoured and treated with reverence. The philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe rightly observed that “in this contraceptive day”, however, sex becomes seen as “no more than a sort of extreme kiss, which it might be rather rude to refuse”.

At the heart of chastity is the simple yet revolutionary idea that we are made for love, and our sexuality has been given to us in order to fulfil this call. Hence, as Pope Francis puts it, “The image of God is the married couple”. Sex can never be truly casual, because it is so inherently filled with meaning – namely, the mutual love of the couple and openness to new life. That is why respecting the integrity of the sexual act matters. It is in allowing sex to convey its full meaning that we can give oneself to one’s spouse completely in love.

As young, lay Catholics living in Britain who find this teaching on sexuality beautiful and prophetic, we therefore wish to affirm the relevance of Humanae Vitae for our generation – and indeed for generations to come.

Michael and Elizabeth Wee, and 179 other signatories
By email

SIR – This might horrify your correspondent (Letter, June 22), but most of the young Catholics I know side with the “462 celibate males” who fully endorse the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae. It might make her shudder but they tend to embrace orthodoxy and dogma in an age of relativism. Alas, I pen this at the ripe old age of 40, so maybe, like the 462 celibate males, I am in her view disqualified from an opinion.

John Gramstadt
By email

My advice, age 95

SIR – It is years since I last wrote to the Catholic Herald, but now, at the age of 95, it came into my mind to put forward three thoughts relating to the state of the Church, worldwide.

1) There is insufficient knowledge of the truths and practices of the Church in the minds of large numbers of those who at least attend Sunday Mass – sometimes. Bring back the teaching of the catechism in its simple form such as was the case years ago.

2) When I was young the Mass was in Latin and going into church for Mass carried with it a sense of other-worldliness – set apart from everyday parlance. Nowadays many people travel abroad, and it was once the case that wherever you went, if you could find a Catholic church you were immediately at one with those around you and understood everything. Bring back the Latin Mass!

3) In those days we received the Eucharist with due reverence and in a special way, unlike ordinary daily life. Today, the file up to the altar to receive in the hand is hasty and lacks reverence. Bring back the days of kneeling to receive.

This is not just nostalgia, but presents ways of encouraging real respect for the wonder that is the Mass.

Christine Roe
Southwick, West Sussex

A Bill to back belief

SIR – Can I add a postscript to the article by Andrew Tennenborn (Feature, June 1) and Andrew Jeremy’s letter (June 8), where they mention my advocacy of reasonable accommodation of religious belief?

Although it is indeed not my idea as such and owes much to the Canadian experience (see chapter 12 of my book Christians and the State), it is high time that Parliament debated this. A Bill already exists in draft form to give effect to this concept, ready to be taken on by an MP or Peer. Will any Catholic in Parliament rise to the challenge and sponsor it?

John Duddington
Editor, Law & Justice, Worcester

Death and taxes

SIR – I was disturbed to read that the Irish government is planning to force Catholic-owned institutions to act against Catholic beliefs on the grounds that they are “publicly funded” (Feature, June 22). Publicly funded institutions are not paid out of the pocket of the the Taoiseach, Dáil or government, and in a truly tolerant, diverse society they would not be treated as if they are in the pocket of the government either.

The government is happy to fund abortion by taking tax and social insurance from Catholics and others who are revolted by abortion.
They should at least have the decency to do it in a way that doesn’t infringe our human rights and dignity.

David Houlton
Letterkenny, Co Donegal

A poet’s sanctuary

SIR – Dan Hitchens’s excellent and informative article on the proposed Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst College (Britain news analysis, June 22) mentions inter alia that the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was “another visitor to the area”. However, the Jesuit was much more than simply a visitor in that, after completing his novitiate, Hopkins studied philosophy at St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, for three years (1870-1873).

In 1878, he returned to Stonyhurst for three months to coach boys in the classics at the college itself, and from 1882 to 1884 taught that subject at Stonyhurst before his departure for Dublin. As his letters, journals and the poem “Ribblesdale” testify, Hopkins was much inspired by the Lancashire countryside and
particularly the River Hodder.

Fr Stewart Foster
Archivist, Diocese of Brentwood,Brentwood, Essex