Comments of the week

Don’t jump to conclusions on Medjugorje

SIR – A few points regarding the letter on Medjugorje from DP Collins (June 2). First, he speaks of Our Lady as having “appeared” there since 1981. But this is to presume that she is actually appearing, which is far from certain, despite the latest information regarding Medjugorje in the report from the Cardinal Ruini Commission.

Fr Salvatore Perrella, a member of this commission, was interviewed recently and said that the “commission did not make a definitive pronouncement”. The commission is, in fact, just an advisory body. And Fr Perrella further noted that the facts about Medjugorje are so complex “that the Pontiff is free to conduct a further investigation”. So that is the context in which Pope Francis’s negative words about Medjugorje have to be understood.

In any event, regardless of the number of bishops or cardinals who have been to Medjugorje, or the number of lay people, or the alleged good fruits – some of which are genuine – these things do not determine the actual process of discernment. Likewise with regard to the private views of Pope John Paul II.

Ultimately, it is not a question of thinking that it is impossible that all these people could be deceived – numerous examples from history show that such a thing is actually very possible – but rather of acknowledging that human machinations, or even diabolical ones, may be at the root of Medjugorje.

Yours faithfully,
Donal Anthony Foley
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Nationalism: the bane of Orthodoxy

SIR – Fr Thomas Reese SJ has recently argued that the Orthodox are largely not interested in reunion with Catholics. Now aged 91, I have lived in Lebanon since 1954, and in 1957 obtained a decree signed by Cardinal Tisserand transferring me to the Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch; so I am no stranger to the question.

The real problem for the Orthodox lies in ethnicity and nationalist disputes between them. In Jerusalem there has always been tension between the Hellenic Greek hierarchy and the Arab faithful. A Palestinian Orthodox priest friend of mine told me that the bishops in Palestine would not ordain a celibate man as priest for fear that it might be the thin end of the wedge for Arabs becoming bishops.

Recently there was anger in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch when Jerusalem appointed a bishop for the Gulf, in Antiochian territory. It was only in 1901 that the Orthodox of Antioch obtained an Arab patriarch.

Some years ago the Greek Melkite Catholics suggested unity with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, the resultant Church being in communion with both Rome and Constantinople as in the 17th century. The Orthodox bishops of Antioch were grateful for the suggestion, but said that their relations with the Church of Greece were still too delicate to allow such a thing.

It should be remembered that Cardinal Umberto’s excommunication of Patriarch Cerularius (the occasion of the so-called Great Schism) was invalid on two counts; he had no authority to excommunicate, and as the Pope had just died before his arrival he was no longer legate. Here in Lebanon intercommunion at the level of the ordinary faithful is common.

One might remember the faces of the bishops of Greece when the Pope visited Athens at the invitation of the government. This contrasted with the reception given to the Pope in Romania, where he was enthroned at liturgical celebrations. This was no doubt the result of the Melkite Catholic bishop in Venezuela putting his cathedral at the disposal of the Romanian Patriarch when he was visiting his flock in the country and was publicly received by all the Catholic bishops.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia pose another problem for the two Orthodox Churches involved. Obviously the Orthodox must settle their own differences before communion with Rome is possible. We must pray that they may do so.

With the Armenian Church, relations between Catholics and the four Orthodox patriarchates are much easier. (Armenians are not in communion with Constantinople and have a very distinct and beautiful liturgy.) This is because Armenians are simply Armenian ethnically and there is no problem between the four non-Catholic Patriarchates: visits between Rome and Etchmiadzin have been occasions of liturgical splendour.

I was honoured there with a long reception by the Patriarch of Antelias, an imposing figure and polyglot of immense and wide learning.

Yours faithfully,
Kenneth Mortimer
By email

Our bishops’ silence

SIR – May I beg space to lend my heartfelt support for the views so clearly expressed by John de Waal (Comment of the Week) and by Pastor Iuventus, on May 26, regarding the ongoing tragedy of widespread and increasing destruction of unborn life in our country.

I wonder how many of your readers will share my distress and frustration at the deafening silence from the bishops of England and Wales on this matter in their recent letter. The previous letter (2013) did at least contain a mention of the threat to the unborn. Sadly, this seems to have been quietly dropped, even though there is a strengthening movement among certain MPs to remove all limitations on abortion right up to birth.

As a pro-life activist, I also find it distressing that, even among our Catholic clergy there are some who remain somewhat reluctant to give a clear lead on this matter.

Yours faithfully,
Damien Paul Hickman
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Ways of the Devil

SIR – It was interesting to read two views on the Devil in your June 9 issue. In the Best of the Catholic Blogosphere we were told how Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, in his website column, referred to a Harvard lecture by the scholar Leszek Kołakowski, in which he spoke of the Devil not as a symbol of the darkness in our hearts but as the spiritual being whom Jesus called “the father of lies”.

Then in World News we read how, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the Jesuit superior general, Fr Arturo Sosa, said: “We have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil. Social conditioning can also express this figure, since there are people who act (in an evil way) because they are in an environment where it is difficult to act to the contrary.”

So who is right? Kołakowski or Fr Sosa? I’ll settle for the comment by the French poet Charles Baudelaire: “My dear brothers, never forget when you hear the Enlightenment praised that the Devil’s cleverest ploy is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist.”

Yours faithfully,
Kevin Heneghan
St Helens, Lancashire