SIR – Nicolas Bellord (Letter, March 13) asks me: “Do we want spiritual leaders or bureaucrats?” I would say that we need some spiritual leaders, certainly; bureaucrats are not so good.
I do not see, though, how my view that bishops need more guidance and support from a “boss” is inconsistent with the desire that bishops should be spiritual leaders (or, indeed, with the desire that they should have a prayer life, and should go to Confession).
Priests are not made less “spiritual” – or less attentive to the true “Boss” – by the fact that they owe an account of their ministry to their bishops. The responsibilities that bishops have are extraordinarily taxing. Why should they be without proper support and direction in exercising those responsibilities?
SIR –To prevent viral contamination I wash my hands before driving out and wear gloves which I wash and dry each night. Our parish priest has provided antiseptic gel in the porch of the church for us to anoint our hands. At Communion he gently drops the Host into our outstretched palms from a distance, ensuring he will not touch them.
I would like to assure the chairman of the Latin Mass Society (Letter, March 13) that he need not fear a lack of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament in receiving it in the hand. It is a moment of profound joy at looking at Our Lord in the miraculous way he has chosen to enter our hearts and be present with us till the end of time. This joy is so strong, that were Joseph Shaw to attend many celebrations in the Ordinary Form, he would see people who come devotedly every day in many parishes. Those who choose to do so may receive it on the tongue.
Being 85, all I pray for is that the ban on the over-70s leaving our houses will not entail criminal proceedings if we go to Mass. We may, if lucky, have the Blessed Sacrament brought to us by Eucharistic ministers (of which I used to be one). This, like being a reader at Mass, is a wonderful spiritual privilege brought by Vatican II.
SIR – I have written before about how outward gestures can aid inner reverence (Letter, December 7, 2018). Having read Joseph Shaw’s letter last week, however, I would like to defend the practice of receiving in the hand.
The wonder of the Incarnation is precisely that our Lord placed himself in our hands, in a protective embrace as a child, and in a sorrowful embrace as he was taken down from the Cross. The Last Supper marks the moment when the Creator of the Universe delivers himself into the hands of sinners, in order to redeem them.
When we look at what has been placed in our palm, we realise that we are no mere bystanders at a memorial, but active participants in the mystery of salvation. The Lord has been delivered into our hands too, and his sacrifice is for us, and because of us.
Our incarnate Lord is not a God who says “do not presume to touch me”. There is nothing irreverent about the Lord placing himself in our hands.
SIR – Thank you to Stephen Clarke of Manila for his thought-provoking letter (February 28). It highlights two significant blessings we take for granted here in the UK: interconnecting public transport links, and healthcare available for all, free at the point of delivery.
For many people living and working in Manila, several hours must be added to the working day to allow for commuting through the congested streets. There is no discernible public transport link between the capital’s main airport (Ninoy Aquino International Airport or NAIA) and any other district of Manila (or even between its four terminals). The traveller must set aside hours simply to reach NAIA from any other part of the metropolis.
I can fully imagine the man described by Mr Clarke, who previously had a good home until his late wife became ill and hospital bills were charged. From my lovely Filipina wife I am aware that the cost of hospital admission and treatment is a heavy and sometimes crippling debt for many Filipino families. Thankfully with our National Health Service, nobody should be rendered homeless due to the cost of medical treatment in the UK.
Conversely I have witnessed vibrant Catholic faith in Manila, with churches typically offering between 9 and 11 Masses every Sunday.
SIR – We wish to thank you for publishing the timely article on the much debated issue of Relationships and Sex Education (Feature, February 21). We have been privileged to have been involved in the writing, development and piloting of the materials of the curriculum “A Fertile Heart: Giving and Receiving Creative Love”.
As Catholic teachers with many years’ experience in both primary and secondary schools, we are confident that our curriculum will help schools meet many of the challenges as well as opportunities presented by the new statutory requirements across England which will inevitably be replicated in other parts of the UK.
The programme fertileheart.org.uk, a new moral formation curriculum designed by Panda Press Publishing, encourages children and their teachers to explore and reflect on life’s big questions together, and to explore the deeper meaning of human ecology so as to make better choices. As parents of adult children, we wish that such a rich resource had been available in their day.
In the face of the many confusing and conflicting messages that crowd the media, we believe “A Fertile Heart” is sorely needed; it will provide children with richer truths and more effective intellectual tools that will help them to thrive.
SIR – Harry Mount (Diary, March 13) notes that a long line of ascerbic satirists have made their way to the Catholic Church. “There is surely a connection,” he writes, “between minds that attack humbug and hypocrisy and minds that seek eternal truth.” Or perhaps it is because satirists are, at heart, moralists, and they are drawn to the firm moral teachings of the Church.
Newark, New Jersey
SIR – Charles Coulombe (Heretic of the Week, March 13) is right to point to President Eisenhower’s preference for golf over the practice of American civic religion. Happily, things changed when Catholic boy John Kennedy took over. As Arthur Schlesinger put it: “This administration is going to do for sex what the previous one did for golf.”
Professor John Rist
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