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Due to space constraints, please keep correspondence below 250 words, longer letters may be published online
Will Mary’s story be given justice?
SIR – I read with interest Jonathan Wright’s review (July 20) of the new film Mary, Queen of Scots. I myself have researched for a long time all the available and credible letters and documents relating to the period. I hope the film will reveal the unscrupulous and venal character of Elizabeth’s principal ministers, Cecil and Walsingham.
These men stopped at nothing to incriminate Mary in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth. This was to make sure that a Catholic would not accede to the throne after Elizabeth. In order to do this they employed spies and informers, hired lackeys who were willing to lie and perjure themselves for their paymasters. Confessions were obtained through torture and letters were forged to incriminate Mary in the notorious Babington plot.
The verdict of treason was based on a forged postscript to a reply to Babington which included Mary’s agreement to “the dispatch of the usurping competitor”.
Mary denied to the end that she had ever written such words. I hope that the film will bring out the real reason why Mary was executed and will include the Earl of Kent’s assertion to Mary: “Your life will be the death of our religion, your death will be its life.”
Also, when her hairless head was held up after the axe had done its job: “Such be the end of the Gospel’s enemies.”
I hope the film will include Mary’s final words, holding crucifix and rosary: “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum.”
I look forward to Mary, Queen of Scots with some trepidation that it will be a colourful drama but poor history.
Marie Stuart Society,
The sad rejection of ‘Humanae Vitae’
SIR – I wrote a letter to the Catholic Herald in the late 1960s or early 1970s (which was published – I have a copy somewhere) expressing surprise and dismay at the erosion of belief in the doctrine of the infallibility of the Church.
It seemed – and it still seems – to be limited to one or two ex cathedra pronouncements which have been made over the years, in the views of most members of the Church including the clergy.
Very few seem to consider that infallible teaching includes not just matters of faith but also morals. Humanae Vitae is a reiteration of a moral teaching of the Church which had and has always been held as being true.
Perhaps greater emphasis should be made on the fact that the Holy Spirit guarantees the truth of Catholic moral teaching. I wonder what is currently being taught in our seminaries and Catholic schools in this respect.
SIR – I noticed a certain absence of bishops from Stephen Bullivant’s comprehensive and sympathetic article about Humanae Vitae (Cover story, July 20), though he mentions divisions among them regarding the reception of Humanae Vitae and our grace-filled duty to accept it as a binding element of Church teaching.
But “lack of conviction” or no, bishops are surely first in line to implement papal teaching anyway – see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 892 – and support the pope in his difficult and sometimes misunderstood task of mediating the will of God.
July 1968 was a choice moment to implement dialogue between the hierarchies and the laity to provide a way forward without dividing the Church. Nor should we necessarily blame the silence on a diffident episcopate.
Shortly after my father Michael, editor of Search Newsletter, published a very critical article on Humanae Vitae, he received a letter from Cardinal Heenan suggesting a private meeting at Archbishop’s House regarding the issue. He was advised by an in-law to ignore the cardinal’s letter.
What if he had responded positively? If all laity, clergy and episcopate got together to thrash out a united response based on the papal duty to teach the faith, how different could the post-Humanae Vitae years have been.
Surely it is not too late to develop such a dialogue.
Steve de la Bédoyère
SIR – Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae: “But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree.” How right he was. Contraception is freely available in the UK, and alongside it there are 500 abortions daily. But it doe not end there, with numerous forms of contraception that can also act as early abortions.
The rejection of Humanae Vitae by so many Catholics is a disaster. Much more has resulted from this rejection of God’s natural law: promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases and the collapse of family life.
The silence from our priests and bishops, with the exception of a few, is deafening. The disregard for the natural act of love has spread to the practice of IVF, where probably as many human lives as abortion are lost, or given up for experimentation, or frozen in limbo.
St Thomas More, when accused of his guilt by his silence, said: “Not so, silence means agreement.” So is that it? No wonder we hardly ever hear a prayer for all those human beings lost through contraceptive abortion and IVF methods, while the Sunday bidding prayers often mention the latest terrorist attack or natural disaster in our country and across the world.
SIR – In your balanced leading article on declining priestly ordinations (July 27), you only refer to England and Wales, plus a passing reference to Northern Ireland, but you fail to mention Scotland, where the shortage of priests is severe.
The problem in our Diocese of Galloway has been slightly eased by the ordination of an ordinariate priest who recently helped out for a couple of Sundays while our parish priest had a well-deserved holiday.
However, one significant aspect of the problem, which went unmentioned, is the fact that all our priests are all getting older; I suspect that the average age is over 50.
Also, with many priests having to look after more than one parish, the pressure of work puts them under greater stress.
A plea for silence
SIR – I would like to suggest to every priest and parishioner that before and after every Mass we all observe complete silence.
In this way, we will feel God’s glorious presence, and we will be fully attentive to Him. We will come to know Him more and more each day. It will be a blissful experience, and our churches will be the happiest places on earth.
This is an opportunity never to be missed, and we will have a great yearning for God like never before, and we will always attend Mass out of pure love for God.
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