SIR – I first had the privilege of meeting the present Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev Philip North, 20-odd years ago when he was the very effective Anglican shrine priest at Walsingham. Even then it was obvious that his undoubted skills and spirituality would propel him up the ecclesiastical ladder of the Church of England, although he was always a convinced traditional Anglo-Catholic.
It is telling that, not for the first time, Bishop North has been forced to decline a bishopric – this time of Sheffield – because of his principled opposition to women priests (Leading article, March 17). His honourable withdrawal in the face of appalling opposition demonstrates that the official position that the Church of England recognises – of two “integrities”, both in favour of and opposed to women’s ordination – is a liberal fiction, and those of a more Catholic conviction will always now be marginalised and treated as second-class citizens.
Even vocal but eminently reasonable women priests in the Diocese of Sheffield acknowledged that they were forgoing a superb and energetic force for the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by not appointing Bishop North.
As Mgr Andrew Burnham (who was previously my Anglo-Catholic ecclesiastical shepherd as the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet) comments at catholicherald.co.uk, surely this is clear confirmation that the Church of England has declared that all true Catholic believers ought to find a secure and authentic religious home.
This is the clearest message since the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England that those who have always sought to maintain an orthodox and Catholic witness in that church have no future in that denomination any more.
As a enthusiastic member of the “first wave” of former Anglicans who embraced the Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in 2011, I look forward to being joined by those newly disillusioned but faithful Catholic souls.
Yours faithfully, Richard Eddy Bristol
Religious life can be alien to millenials
SIR – With reference to the article “End the Exodus” (Leading article, February 3), quoting Pope Francis’s observation that “many vocations could be saved by patient and wise ‘spiritual direction’ ”, I would like to expand on this and suggest a more holistic, integrated approach which would include the psychological and emotional dimensions of human growth and development.
Today’s young people wishing to enter religious life very often come from broken families, are immersed in a culture where happiness is sought through drink and drugs, and relationships are forged and conversations held through computers and mobile phones rather than face-to-face.
Relationships in community and long-term commitment would be alien to them. They live in a different and secular world and these life situations impact not only on spirituality, but on the whole person. Our spiritual journey is directly connected with, and influenced by, our human journey, and vice versa.
Spiritual accompaniment is therefore not enough to sustain a vocation. Young Religious need to be helped to develop a strong personal, spiritual and emotional foundation from which they can respond fully to their calling.
In order to grow in our spiritual life, we need to understand our process – how and why we function as we do and where we need to grow and change. If we don’t remove inner obstacles, our spiritual life will be blocked.
Therefore, to help young Religious to respond fully to their calling, we need more holistically trained facilitators in our communities. Guiding and nurturing others in their personal and spiritual life is a delicate, challenging and sacred task. It is one that requires a thorough understanding of the psychological and emotional processes and how they contribute to and detract from true spiritual development.
To guide others, we must first know ourselves. It is virtually impossible to understand the psychological, emotional and spiritual processes of others until we understand something of our own processes.
Knowing ourselves, knowing how and why we function the way we do, why we feel the emotions we feel and how to change what needs to be changed in order to grow, gives us a secure base from which to support others with the necessary compassion and caring, when charged with nurturing their spiritual and personal growth.
Yours faithfully, Fr Len Kofler Director, Institute of St Anselm, Cliftonville, Kent
Let Francis loose
SIR – I have followed with great interest the articles and letters regarding Communion for the divorced, Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia and the famous (or infamous) dubia.
Recently we celebrated the feast of the Chair of St Peter. The last words of the Gospel for that day were instructive to this discussion. Jesus says to Peter: “Whatever you bind on earth, will be considered bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be considered loosed in heaven.”
Our cardinals, bishops and priests are particularly good at reminding us, the laity, of the truth of the first part of this saying of Jesus. But how often do we hear them mention the last part of these important words?
Now that Pope Francis has considered allowing our divorced sisters and brothers to receive Communion, we are bombarded with all the reasons why this cannot happen, with quotes from this pope or that theologian why this cannot be.
Pope Francis is the successor of Peter. Therefore if he wishes to do some “loosing” on this problem, he has the authority of Jesus to do so. And certainly our brothers and sisters have every right to be loosed from the bond that prevents them receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. So why this commotion?
Holy Communion is not a reward for the good and faithful; it is food for our journey. Food and nourishment for all God’s people. So if Pope Francis wants to do some more “loosing”, to demonstrate God’s love, tenderness and mercy for his people, I say “bring it on”.
We, the children of God, are bound enough by man-made rules, so let the Holy Spirit loose. Thank God we have a Pope who is doing so.
Yours faithfully, Sister Mairead Murphy East Preston, West Sussex
SIR – Fr Zuhlsdorf’s views (Omnium Gatherum, March 17) on the transfer of the Epiphany and the Ascension to the nearest Sunday must strike a chord with many Catholics.
I go to my local Anglican church or St Philip’s Anglican Cathedral in Birmingham, where both feasts are celebrated on the prescribed day with full solemnity. To move them to the nearest Sunday makes no sense at all.
The Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries wanted religion and its practice rooted in Scripture. Our hierarchy, it seems, thinks differently.
Yours faithfully, HJ Cettler Solihull, West Midlands