SIR – I would like to endorse the comments made by Dr Holly Ordway (Letter, April 12) on the subject of the Confession crisis.
I now live in Antwerp, Belgium, where, due to a shortage of priests and perhaps lack of penitents, Confession is normally available only on request. Until two years ago the cathedral only provided Confession during Holy Week, but now it offers it most weekdays for 30 minutes before the 4pm Mass. Regular scheduled Confession is only available in St James’s Church every Saturday for two hours – in Dutch, English and French.
In a cathedral with so many visitors it should be possible to offer Confession in multiple languages each day, and hope to attract those visitors who are inspired by what they have seen. However, with only three priests in the cathedral they lack time and resources for this.
The situation in the US is much better. In Chicago, St Peter’s in the Loop provides Confession 10 hours per weekday and four hours on Saturdays. People just drop in and know they can speak with a priest. This is just a dream in most European countries.
It seems strange to see how many people go to Communion on Sunday in Antwerp and yet are unlikely to have been to a recent Confession due to lack of availability.
Eamon McAleavey Antwerp, Belgium
Clericalism and the liturgical revolution
SIR – In his letter (April 12) Jack Robbins criticises me for giving “prominence to undue criticism of the reformed Mass”. Actually, a careful reading will show that most criticism was of the process of the reform made by those involved in it, or by Council Fathers, rather than of the Mass itself. My own “undue criticism” can only be in daring to question whether the new Mass, as received and celebrated, measures up to what the Council mandated of any liturgical reform in its name.
However, I do appreciate Mr Robbins’s closing exhortation that “priests and people [concentrate] on celebrating the current Form of Holy Mass in a truly sacred, dignified, reverent and beautiful manner”. Presuming he means the Ordinary Form (as the Extraordinary Form is also “current”), I can only agree; and he may, perhaps, be heartened to know that this is exactly what I try to do, as do many others I know. If only priests and people had more universally and consistently tried to do this from the outset, rather than so many using the 1969 missal as a mere template for their own idiosyncratic creations, not a few of which I was subjected to in my youth, then we might not need to be raising so many questions about Paul VI’s missal now.
Mindful of how many priests did, and still do, change elements of the Mass according to their own lights, I can only wonder if the Church’s current bête noire, clericalism, has been fully and accurately identified.
Fr Hugh Somerville Knapman OSB St Elizabeth’s, Scarisbrick, Lancashire
SIR – It is reported that “hundreds of millions” have been donated for the restoration of Notre-Dame. It is a good thing there are no poor Parisians who need the money.
Derek McMillan Durrington, West Sussex
SIR – In the aftermath of this terrible fire and the deep distress it has caused, one can only hope that people will recognise that it was the Catholic Faith that held Europe together, and that this tragedy may bring many back, especially in France, eldest daughter of the Church.
Sue Mawson Gurnard, Isle of Wight
Life in purgatory
SIR – Stephen A Clark (Letter, April 5) has done an excellent job in summarising the very long and detailed pamphlet “A Soul in Hell” which was granted the imprimatur which guarantees that the text is free from doctrinal error.
As the New Testament alone contains more than 20 references to the eternal torments of hell, it would be very foolish and sinful to deny that hell exists.
Having said that, I have an open mind on the authenticity of the pamphlet (Letter, April 12) even though I have no problem with its contents. I note, however, that it does cover some issues first raised by St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae.
It is not only hell that we should be concerned about when one considers that many of us (if we are lucky) are likely to spend a very long time in purgatory. For example, at Fatima, Our Lady was asked by Lucia about the fate of two girls from the village who had recently died. One of the girls, Amelia, had died aged around 18 or 19. Our Lady told Lucia that Amelia “will be in purgatory until the end of the world”. A sobering thought for everyone.
Michael Hernon Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
My 30-year wait
SIR – It was a pleasure to read the article by Jack Payne (Diary, April 19), and to know that in spite of the current agonies our Catholic Church is passing through, in spite of the internal conflicts that plague her, a British 17-year-old has this Easter confidently found in her his home.
I have a special reason for being cheered to learn that GK Chesterton played an important part in Jack’s conversion. For I too, in 1959, at the age of 17, warmed to Chesterton. Thanks to him I too wanted to become a Catholic. Here was a thinking man of the 20th century who had discovered Christ and His Church, and with wit and panache assailed anti-Christian progressivism. Already fashionable in his day, the latter was rampant in the 1950s and it remains so in our own time.
Unlike Jack, however, I did not at 17 have the courage to do what I knew I ought to do. A university chaplain, an Anglican, of whom I was in awe, persuaded me that it was “not necessary” for a Christian to be a Catholic. Lazily I accepted his advice. Only 30 years later did I see that ‘‘it” was indeed necessary. Then at last I acted accordingly.
With Easter joy we congratulate Jack.
David Jowitt Jos, Nigeria
SIR – The caption to your photograph of the sanctuary of Pugin’s church, St Thomas of Canterbury (Image of the Week, April 12), gives a rather misleading and incomplete picture of the architect’s taste and abilities. The church is certainly not “complete”: the sanctuary’s present furnishings are modernistic, utilitarian and poverty-stricken and must bear little relation to Pugin’s original designs.
Pugin’s patroness forbade him to build one of his favourite installations, a rood screen, and ordered the removal of the one he had (disobediently!) begun to install.
The church was damaged in the Second World War, and the East Window is obviously a later replacement. But were Pugin’s altar, tabernacle and other sanctuary furnishings destroyed by enemy action? If not, what was their fate? Do they still exist?