Don’t turn confessors into state agents
SIR – Stephen Spear (Letter, February 7) should reflect on the complementary paramountcy of short-term prevention of specific crimes and long-term improvement of general moral ethos throughout society. Removing the absolute confidentiality of the Seal of Confession would turn the confessor into a state agent for the physical enforcement of the former, at the expense of God’s effective agency of the latter.
Reporting on a penitent’s confession of child abuse would most likely produce only a physically prevented repetition of the crime, and no more than a grudgingly fear-driven conformity, on the part of one person, but would close the door to any thorough change of heart on his/her, or any other penitent’s part, for which complete freedom of will is so indispensable that not even God Himself can make material force the ultimate motivation to repentance.
Moreover, just as by-passing the rule of law to exact retribution is to reduce justice to no more than power, so by-passing the confidentiality of the Seal of Confession reduces all affirmation of information obtained in its privacy to mere subsequently retractable assertion.
Bishops need more guidance from above
SIR – Gregory Vine is right to point out that the only thing resembling a “performance appraisal” that bishops currently undergo is the ad limina visit.
I discuss ad limina visits in my new book Accountability and Leadership in the Catholic Church: What Needs to Be Improved.
Here, I would simply ask how many organisations have leaders who see their “boss” once every five years for a short meeting one-to-one, or a longer meeting, in a group with their peers?
How much would the “boss”, in such a situation, be able to provide detailed counsel and direction?
How hard is Latin?
SIR – I enjoyed Richard Ingrams’s article, “The perils of Latin” (Charterhouse, February 7). I wish I had learned Latin at school. Unfortunately, at my local comprehensive school Latin wasn’t an option.
At sixth-form college I did do Classical Studies at A-level (purely in the English language) and loved Homer, Herodotus and Virgil, the epics and heroes, the architecture and the wonderful finds at Knossos on Crete, etc.
Then at Cambridge, in the 1980s, I read Theology and Religious Studies. It was compulsory to take a paper in either New Testament Greek or Hebrew. The tutor freely admitted that those students who had already studied Latin would find it easier. Yikes! I chose the Greek – deciding that both would be double Dutch to me, but at least Greek reads in the familiar left to right. Yes, I found it a challenge but the joy of reading the Bible in Greek was exhilarating.
I would love to know some Latin, which I’m sure would be useful for numerous reasons: knowing the origin of words and guessing at unknown words; going to Latin Mass; reading inscriptions on tombs and monuments, etc. On television Inspector Morse was always making good use of his Latin.
My Mum would also love to know Latin. She bought a Teach Yourself Latin book in her 60s and would recite lessons down the telephone to me: “amo, amas, amat …” Some 20 years later, she is still working her way through the book (admittedly it’s been very stop-start). Although Mum hasn’t finished the book she did do a lovely painting for me several years ago, when I had my own horse … It hangs in the kitchen and always makes me smile at the thought of my little mother learning Latin.
Maybe she’ll pass the book on to me when she finally finishes it. Come on now, Mother, “Amo, amas, amat …”
SIR – Richard Ingrams hopes that “When you learn that each verb like amo has different forms for different tenses … and that nouns come in three varieties, masculine, feminine and neuter … you will have seen quite enough to put you off Latin for good.”
Since French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese and modern Greek (to name but a few) have a similar structure to Latin in this respect, would I be correct in assuming that he hopes we will likewise be put off learning these languages too?
SIR – I was delighted to be mentioned by my friend Richard Ingrams in his brilliant piece on the uselessness of his classical education. I couldn’t help noticing that the writers he mentioned – Evelyn Waugh and Boris Johnson, as well as Richard himself – write lucid, funny, error-free prose. Maybe that has nothing to do with their classical educations; and maybe not.
SIR – Your cover story of February 7 presumes that a majority of Catholics vote Democrat. This may be true in certain areas but is decidedly inaccurate in others.
I live on the “Left Coast” but I and all of my friends are staunch conservatives. We are tired of being overlooked and continually propagandised by the American press. We will definitely be voting for life – ie Donald Trump.
PS: I speak Spanish and am not against legal immigration.
Santa Ana, California, United States
SIR – I was a little puzzled by your recent assessment of the scene in the United States. You cited some Catholic writers and news people. I don’t think they understand the thoughts of the average Catholic. Trying to ignore a lot of what we hear from the Jesuit universities, Notre Dame and others, many of us take a much different view.
I voted for Donald Trump and have never regretted it.
We live in a complicated world, but solutions that have brought down so many countries in Europe should make us aware of the results that those countries are now burdened with. Much as we wince at some of Trump’s tweets, his take on keeping us a safe and free people voices the thoughts and hopes of many Catholics as well. Many of us Catholics appreciate our president.
Parkman, Ohio, United States
SIR – As a stalwart upholder of Catholic orthodoxy and critic of Protestantism, perhaps I may be permitted a final word on my recent exchange with Robert Ian Williams (Letter, February 14) over the origins of Anglicanism.
If the words of Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer can only be interpreted in a Puritan way, why did Pope Benedict XVI permit over 95 per cent of Cranmer’s words to be incorporated into the Mass Rite of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham? I didn’t realise that Pope Benedict was a dangerous liberal.
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