COMMENT OF THE WEEK
Cardinal Martini’s warning for the synod
SIR – Ahead of the October synod, where Communion for the divorced and remarried is likely to be debated, it is worth recalling the words of Carlo Maria Martini, who wrote: “Jesus did not say: Take my Gospel and adapt it as you see fit so that each people may use and consume it! This is a serious danger today especially in our own Europe, where the claim has been made, in the name of progress – of course! – that Christianity must be reduced to permissiveness” (Once More from Emmaus).
The Mercy of God means that any sin can be forgiven, as God’s love is greater than our sins. However, we must offer to God our contrite hearts and the will of repentance. If that is missing, the person will lack the necessary “state of grace” in which Holy Communion can be validly received. The Eucharist is a Sacrament of the Living and as such nourishes and augments the living life of grace in us. If that grace is missing in the communicant, he will not benefit in any way from participating in Holy Communion.
I hope the Fathers who attend the October synod will be honest about it, instead of reducing our faith to permissiveness.
SIR – As you state in your September 11 issue, the photograph of a drowned Syrian toddler sparked a huge public sympathy for Middle Eastern refugees. There is, however, an unpleasant side that we should be aware of. East European countries in particular are wary that the vast majority of the refugees are Muslims who could create problems similar to those created in western Europe. Furthermore, many of these asylum seekers are in fact economic migrants who will add a huge strain on our already struggling public services. Finally, and most disturbingly, ISIS has succeeded in planting terrorists among these people. A year ago, they chose the Libyan coast as the point of departure and they have been publicly bragging about their success ever since.
Dr Joseph Seferta
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Why Hitler sulked
SIR – Jack Carrigan’s review of Wehrmacht Priests (Books, September 11) mentions that the 1933 concordat between Germany and the Holy See “unwittingly gave legitimacy to” the Nazi regime. That may have been the popular perception in terms of collateral damage but Rome was under no illusions. A British diplomat asked Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII) whether Hitler would respect the concordat. Pacelli replied: “Absolutely not. We can only hope that he will not violate all the clauses at the same time.” And in fact, Hitler immediately began persecuting Catholics at every turn, so much so that the Holy See sent 50 protests to the government. Despite the official protests, the Nazi persecution increased, in education, in the press and with the imprisonment of priests.
This is why the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (“With Burning Sorrow”) issued in March 1937 infuriated Hitler so much that he refused to see or speak to anyone for three days. The Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, secretly composed the first draft. Printed copies were brought to the nuncio who passed these on to the Bishop of Berlin, and had them distributed by secret couriers to all the German prelates.
The language was clear and explicit: Hitler was deceiving the Germans and the international community. The encyclical affirmed that the Nazi leader was perfidious, untrustworthy, dangerous and determined to take the place of God, not least by usurping parental rights. The Jewish communities were elated since the letter presented the strongest condemnation of racism.
Carrigan highlights the courage of Blessed Clemens Augustus von Galen, and rightly so, for such was his reputation for fearless anti-Nazi rhetoric, the RAF “bombed” German cities with hundreds of thousands of copies of the great bishop’s sermons. One of the directors of propaganda in the British War Office recalled that his sermons provided the War Office with the most powerful anti-Hitler propaganda. The BBC sent out transmissions specifically targeting the 40 million German-speaking Catholics. Day after day, radio broadcasts from London drove home the point of Hitler’s hatred of Catholicism. The bishop’s sermons were like “manna from heaven” in the propaganda war, it was said.
Edmund P Adamus
Director for marriage and family life, Westminster, London SW1
SIR – Referring to his review of Woody Allen’s Irrational Man (Cinema, September 11) , I should like to correct Fr Kevin O’Donnell’s misreading of Jean-Paul Sartre.
Actually, Sartre did not say “hell is other people”, even in French. It was a realisation by a character in a play, consigned to Hell and awaiting the torturer, that there was ‘‘no need for the rack, hell is other people’’. Three people in a mirrorless room for all eternity, with no one character recognising the subjectivity of the other. To change and grow, one has to be seen by the other, as Fr O’Donnell recognises.
I invite him to read Huis Clos and repent.
A normal Requiem
SIR – I was pleased to read Fr Timothy Buckley’s letter (September 4) clarifying that the song by Cilla Black used at her Requiem Mass was played not at, but after, Holy Communion. I gathered from Damian Thompson’s Charterhouse column (August 28) that he did not actually see the service on television and gained his impression of it from the subsequent reporting, which inevitably focused on its more newsworthy aspects. By chance I did see it, and I thought it was a wonderful “advertisement” for Catholicism (not, of course, that that was its purpose – but it was nevertheless a rare opportunity for evangelisation by broadcast liturgy).
I can reassure Dr Thompson that it was in almost every way a “normal” Catholic funeral, and the few times it was perhaps unusual it was handled with great care and sensitivity. As such it was quite thrilling to see it broadcast to the nation, and I regret the ungracious tone of both the Charterhouse article and the letter from Mr Adamus (September 4).
I bow to no one in my admiration of the former Cardinal Ratzinger, but I would suggest that the applause at the funeral was not “because of some human achievement”. It was rather an expression of the love and joy which at any Requiem Mass mingle with the sorrow and grief of those present. I am very grateful to the clergy who concelebrated the service.
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