SIR – In the opening paragraph of his article “The root of the abuse crisis” (August 31), Christopher Altieri asks the question: “How did we get here?” The abuse within the Church has horrified us all, from the lay faithful to the faithful bishops, including the Pope.
Much is being done to bring about transparency, accountability, justice and healing. The questions “Who? What? Where? When?” cleanse the Church’s wound. Other questions: how do we prevent this from happening again? How do we deal with abusers and bring healing to the abused? Bring hope.
But what about the question, How did we get here? Altieri says that “the underlying problem is (a lust for) power”. He is right; but is that the root of the issue? I do not think so. Writing as an abuse victim myself, disclosure about abuse within the Church did not shock me; the scale of it did. I reflected upon the apparent paradox that the Church is holy though her individual members are not.
We, the laity, being fully engaged in the world, imagine that the call to holiness is reserved for priests and bishops. We choose to forget the personal call to holiness and the fact that the least of
our acts done in charity lifts the whole Church, whereas every sin brings down the Church. If we strive for holiness, we shall be more likely to have good and holy priests and bishops … after all, God calls his priests and bishops from our families. Name and address withheld
Making sacrifices for the poor of Pakistan
SIR – In the desperate situation facing Christians in Pakistan at the moment, it came as a surprise to read in a recent edition (November 9) a half-page advertisement for a well-known Catholic mission charity inspired by the co-patron saint of the missions – St Thérèse – whose “Little Way” involves quite ordinary Catholics stretching their meagre resources to help in mission lands.
This organisation finances 18 primary schools – almost single-handed – in the most rural and nomadic parts of Pakistan. Even with this help the practical and
financial situation can only allow these schools to be open for four months of the year.
Whatever the possible motives of those in Pakistan seeking a reversal of the judgment freeing Asia Bibi from the death penalty for supposed blasphemy because of lack of evidence (leading article, November 9), it is surely just to recognise that Bibi’s co-religionists in a far country, often with a spirit of real sacrifice, are providing a real education for the poorest children of their country.
Let us learn tolerance from and for each other.
Steve de la Bédoyère London SW17
The joys of High Mass
SIR – Harry Mount’s article, “Latin: the language of remembrance” (Charterhouse, November 16) took me back to a youthful visit to Vienna where I witnessed a Beethoven Mass being performed in the cathedral, then proceeded down the road to another church and heard a Handel Mass. I have also witnessed a High Mass in Brompton Oratory.
However, one must talk about like for like. As a 10-year-old boarder at a convent I bought a daily missal so that I might understand each morning what the priest seemed to be hastening through, mostly inaudibly, during Low Mass.
With the advent of the vernacular Mass, even in my 80s, I have the privilege of reading aloud the stirring Acts of the Apostles in the weeks after Easter, the fascinating stories of Joseph and his brothers, the bravery of the Maccabees, or the wonderful wisdom of St Paul and Ecclesiasticus.
Here the joy is not the sound of words but the meaning lying behind them, not gathered second-hand by following them in translation, but by drawing out by nuance of voice the power in those words to stir the heart and spirit of those sharing them in the pews without benefit of a missal.
Similarly, there is the joy of administering the chalice or receiving Communion in the hand, where we can venerate Christ lying there before we take and eat as the Apostles did at the Last Supper.
Last autumn, for the first time since Vatican II, I attended a Low Mass again – it was an experience I never want to repeat because none of the above joys was there. I had no missal so the priest’s mumbling meant nothing.
Latin means much to me. My father, who took a double first in classics and law, helped me revise for my A-levels, and in turn I taught Latin to my youngest son at primary school, before he switched to a prep school to pass a scholarship exam to public school. Alas, unlike father and son, I never learnt Greek.
Elizabeth Price Linton, Kent
I am therefore I think
SIR – Might I add to the helpful adjustments of Descartes’s bulwark against scepticism, Cogito ergo sum (Letters, November 2 and November 9)?
Blessed John Henry Newman suggested dropping the “ergo”.
“I am” is not an inferred conclusion from self-consciousness, but intrinsic to it. It’s an “aspect” of our most fundamental and un-mediated “act of intuition”. Similarly, we cannot help having “faith [in] our certainty of [external] things, … the truth is borne in upon our mind.”
Or, as Fr Edward Holloway wrote, “The basis of self-awareness is the … implicit assertion that ‘I am’.” And such “self-consciousness is always defined, for perfect intelligibility, unto ‘some other’.” I exist in an environment. Where Newman dropped the ergo, Holloway reversed the maxim, making: “I am therefore I think”.
Fr Hugh MacKenzie St James’s, Spanish Place, London W1
SIR – I enjoyed Michael White’s description of Alfred Bruneau’s rarely performed and utterly extravagant Requiem (Music, November 16). Over the centuries, settings of the Requiem Mass have drifted further and further from their liturgical origins, becoming a spectacular musical genre in their own right. At the last count, there were more than 2,000 Requiem compositions in existence.
While I enjoy an over-the-top Requiem as much as the next listener, I do hope that composers will one day return to the original Requiem spirit.
Miriam Thomas Cardiff
A captive audience
SIR – Andrew M Brown (Diary, November 16) is right to be concerned that mass tourism poses a threat to Rome’s hallowed relics. But, seen from another point of view, the boom in tourists is a wonderful opportunity for the Catholic Church.
Every years hundreds of thousands of people who might never have encountered Catholicism are heading to the geographical heart of our faith (not forgetting Jerusalem). As a Church, we should be looking for new ways not only present factual information but also to give tourists a powerful experience of the faith.
All paths lead to Rome. With a little initiative, we could win thousands of new converts.
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