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

No need for pilgrims to go abroad

SIR – I essentially agree with the conclusions of your insightful feature on the boom in pilgrimage travel (Rest of the World news analysis, August 31), in that my personal experience suggests its recent rise in popularity is unlikely to reflect a quantitative revival in the faith. But it remains a vital and necessary qualitative boost to the individual’s spiritual quest.

Almost 20 years ago I was privileged to walk the Camino pilgrimage trail to the tomb of St James at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Although the culminating Pilgrim Mass at the cathedral and my devotions there were impressive and will always
remain with me, it is the many other features of walking the Way of St James which continue to resonate within my soul. In particular, the fellowship with the many other pilgrims I met, and probably the most wonderful experience of all: a simple Mass in Latin celebrated in a humble Romanesque church in a small hamlet by a priest from the monastery of Monte Cassino, assisted by two brothers.

Of course, closer to home, we have the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk. Every time I have gone on pilgrimage there – both as an Anglican and later as a Catholic – it seems like coming home. The typically English setting and big Norfolk skies remind me that this realm remains very much Our Lady’s Dowry.

Throughout my own spiritual pilgrimage – a quarter of a century before I entered the Catholic Church as a member of the Personal
Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – Our Lady seems to have had a huge impact on my spiritual life. Indeed, as an Anglican, my former parish priest was the (Anglican) Master of the Guardians of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and he encouraged us to refresh ourselves at the shrine. Even the holy water in our parish was drawn from the holy well at Walsingham.

Essentially, as Catholics, we need to be constantly reminded that one doesn’t need to go on pilgrimage to Spain, Portugal or Italy (though there’s nothing remotely wrong with these destinations). Within these islands there is a wonderful wealth of holy sites and pilgrim destinations linked to Our Lady, the Celtic saints and post-Reformation martyrs.

Richard Eddy
Bristol, Somerset

A way forward in tackling child abuse

SIR – “Christ offered some terrible words about judging others” says Ann Widdecombe (Comment, August 24).

Christ also said of a person tempted to harm children that “it would be better for him if a large millstone were tied around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:2).

One way forward in tackling the issue of abuse of minors is to avoid confusing penitence with an ability within the offender not to repeat the sin.

Forensic psychologists mostly agree that some paedophiles might stop offending, but they cannot be cured. It is therefore a responsibility of the Church to ensure that there is ongoing and long-term “safeguarding” of past offenders. If attendance at Mass is sought, this should be permitted only in a dedicated church under trained lay supervision.

In addition, the bishops must be alert to requests from priests from other denominations wishing to convert to Catholicism, and it should be mandatory that a previous offender is strictly monitored as I indicate, not only for protection of the children,
but also with the intention of preventing further offending.

Dr Eleanor Care
Barry, Vale of Glamorgan

We need lay leaders

SIR – This morning I attended what Damian Thompson referred to as a Mass parody (Charterhouse, August 17). It was a well-attended weekday Eucharistic service for a parish of small numbers but large in area. People cover large distances to attend. Most are of senior age, and would find it very difficult to travel to another parish church.

Our parish priest will be 85 years young in November, and we understand that when he ends his great service to two parishes in our area the diocese will be unable to provide a replacement.

I was fortunate some years ago to become the first lay leader in the parish. We now have five, all of whom are very devout
servants of the sacrament, who have fulfilled their training with total commitment.

The service this morning, as always, was held with total devotion to the Sacrament. Nothing else would be acceptable in our parish. The most important result was that several parishioners, who would not have otherwise, received the Blessed Sacrament.

It is easy for someone, situated in the centre of a large city, surrounded by services and the choice of churches within easy reach, to make light of Eucharistic services without a priest. However, for elderly people living in rural areas fighting to keep their parish community in existence, these services are essential and invaluable.

Peter McManus
Haltwhistle, Northumberland

Mainstream mission

SIR – Nicolas Ollivant (Letter, August 31) argues that ordinariate clergy should be put in charge of Catholic schools. Surely this would be detrimental to the central mission of the ordinariate, now eight years into its existence. Such clergy should instead occupy themselves by encouraging further groups to move from the C of E to the Catholic Church, specifically looking beyond the Anglo-Catholic wing towards mainstream and Evangelical Anglicanism.

This was the reason for the ordinariate. I suspect Pope Benedict envisaged that a lot more would have been achieved by this stage by the clergy who petitioned for its establishment.

W J Farren
Sevenoaks, Kent

Take back control

SIR – Even if someone hasn’t granted a Lasting Power of Attorney for their personal welfare, they can still make an advance statement of their wishes as to care and treatment in the event that they lose mental capacity, including any objection to the withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration (Letter, August 31).

To avoid criminal and civil liability for decisions made on their behalf, clinicians are then obliged under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (sections 4-5) to consider these statements – which, however, are not binding, unlike advance decisions to refuse treatment (under section 24).

Clinicians are, though, also required where practicable to consult anyone previously nominated by a patient for the purpose of advising on their beliefs and values. Again, this need not be a welfare attorney, or indeed relative.

It makes sense to ensure that anyone we would want to be consulted on this has a copy of our statement. Patients can also ask GPs to include this statement on their Summary Care Record.

Andrew Todd
Worthing, West Sussex

Mass is not a vehicle

SIR – In the correspondence concerning lay-led Communion services I feel sympathy both with the view of Damian Thompson (Charterhouse, August 17) and your correspondent Peter McManus (Letter, August 31).

I have first-hand experience in that these services happen regularly in my temporarily priest-less parish, which is a rural chapel-of-ease with a devoted, close-knit group anxious not to compromise their community.

I feel that there is deeper implication, however, concerning a changing view of the value of the Mass. We have become used to the almost universal reception of Communion at Mass. People seem to see the point of Mass as receiving Communion. The intrinsic value of the Mass is diminished and Mass becomes merely a vehicle for the confection of the Sacrament.

This springs from the changed emphases in the theology of the Mass accompanying the Novus Ordo. The sacrificial aspect is downplayed and the community meal aspect given prominence. So the faithful have come to value communion and community ahead of the Mass in itself and the obligation imposed by the Church to mark Sunday by attending.

Nicholas Hinde
Felsted, Essex

John Paul I’s gift

SIR – On my bookshelf I have a battered copy of Illustrissimi, a book of letters written by the future John Paul I to famous historical figures (Cover story, August 31). Whether discussing miniskirts with Maria Theresa or capitalism with Marconi, he has a rare gift for both amusing readers and casting Catholicism in a new light.

William Cooper
Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire