Letters & Emails

Comments of the Week

Stoking the fire in the ‘intra-Catholic’ wars

SIR – How thoughtful of George Weigel (Cover story, November 27) not only to decry the “intra-Catholic wars”, but to give us such a vivid example of this sad phenomenon – in his own article. Catholics are divided into camps, and the ones with the temerity to disagree with him are not engaged or analysed, but thrown playground insults: “traditionalists’ ” ideas lead to “self-constructed catacombs”, thanks to them being “somewhat self-indulgent”; “progressives’ ” ideas lead to “the Church’s implosion”. Mr Weigel does not stoop to draw out these ideas, and his readers are left entirely in the dark as to what form they might take. To a truly tribal participant in the Church’s internecine conflict, of course, that doesn’t matter.

As Mr Weigel mentions, “progressives” and “traditionalists” share a sense of the radical nature of the Second Vatican Council and the reforms that followed it. This understanding is increasingly supported by the historical record, as more information comes to light: the recently published diaries of the Council peritus and member of the liturgical reform Consilium, Louis Bouyer, is only the latest example. If we are to address the problems of today, we must engage with this reality, and not start from inside a bubble of self-delusion.

Yours faithfully,
Joseph Shaw
Chairman of the Latin Mass Society,
London WC2

Lessons from Africa

SIR – The Holy Father has just concluded his successful first visit to Africa, and in the light of Alexander Lucie-Smith’s fine article on the African Church (Cover story, November 20) we can now ask ourselves: “What has Africa taught Francis?”

The article first drew attention to the joyful communitarian vigour of the Church in Africa, and even if Francis had heard about this before, it was good for him to see it for himself. Secondly, the article pointed out that this confident, youthful African Church also upholds traditional teaching with regard to marriage and the family; and surely anyone would have to be blinkered not to see the likelihood of a close connection between the two facts.

Here it is worth mentioning that, on the eve of the visit, the BBC’s included homosexuality as one of “the Pope’s five big issues in Africa”. As far as I could tell, it was not once publicly mentioned during the visit, and the subject seems not to be one to which most Africans give much attention. The article also suggests that, while it is important for the Pope to call on Christians and Muslims to recognise their common humanity, in conflict after conflict violence is first started far more often by one group than by the other. The Pope could hardly say this, but the point ought to come up as the Vatican discusses what the lessons of the visit have been.

Yours faithfully,
David Jowitt
Jos, Nigeria

Straining at gnats

SIR – Steve Knight’s letter (November 13) about singing in church differs from a letter written in AD 375 (letter CCVII) by St Basil the Great. Basil was replying to the clergy of Neocaesarea, who had written complaining about new practices, such as men and women espousing celibacy, going to live a life of prayer in desert places, and – more to the point – singing “psalms and a kind of music varying from the custom which has obtained among you”. Basil pointed out that such singing was common in his own church, and in the churches of Libyans, Thebans, Palestinians, Arabians, Phoenicians, Syrians, etc. In short, it was the Neocaesarians who were out of step in their objection to singing.

Furthermore, he added, authentic traditionalists would take care to observe other older customs, such as making supplications for one’s sins, avoiding oaths and lies, and approaching the altar only when reconciled with one’s brother; things, he implied, no longer observed in Neocaesarea. Basil added that, were this so, they should “beware lest, in your disputes about the mode of singing psalms, you are straining at the gnat and setting at naught the greatest of the commandments”.

Yours faithfully,
Fr Robert Miller
Sacred Heart, Tisbury, and All Saints, Wardour, Wiltshire

Escaping hell

SIR – Fr John Zuhlsdorf (Omnium gatherum, November 20) stated that when we die, and we are not in a state of grace, we will go to hell. He should have said that if we die in a state of mortal sin we will go to hell. That is traditional Catholic teaching – and even then we may hope and trust in the mercy of God, if we are truly repentant. Purgatory is the place for the vast numbers of us who, without the benefit of final confession, may die in venial sin, ie not in a state of grace, yet not deserving hell.

Heaven would indeed be very sparsely populated if all had to die in a perfect state of grace to gain admittance. Purgatory is the wonderful spiritual “safety net” where all in venial sin are purified, in order to reach that perfection, that state of grace rightly required to enter the Presence of God.

Yours faithfully,
Peter Siney
Birkenshaw, West Yorkshire

The army we need

SIR – It is right we should use human means to contest the rapid rise of ISIS, but human endeavour alone will not suffice (Eph 6:10-20). We need something greater – much, much greater.

This evil will only be overcome if we create a counter-movement – a movement for good. We need people with love in their hearts to rise up, right across the globe, to establish a universal movement of prayer, regardless of faith or creed.

Such a prayer army would produce results; remember the success of Lepanto thanks to St Pius V.

Yours faithfully,
Calum MacFarlane-Barrow
Craig Lodge Family House of Prayer,
Dalmally, Argyll and Bute

End the mayhem

SIR – If the Church moved the feast of Christmas to a weekend in January, it would effectively separate this beautiful and holy day from the mayhem and materialistic over-indulgent festival it has gradually become. Imagine how magical that day could be.

Yours faithfully,
Stephen Cotter

Thwarted genius

SIR – How can Richard Ingrams (Notebook, November 21) support the otherwise wonderful Brian Sewell in condemning women for not having been great artists, musicians, etc, when for centuries they were deprived of the means of so being?

While boys were sent for their apprenticeships to the ateliers of great masters, or learning music in the great choirs or orchestras of Europe, girls were being married off and having babies, or sent into domestic service. Be fair!

Yours faithfully,
Deborah Jones
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire