Letters & Emails

Comments of the week

Letters should include a genuine postal or email address, phone number and the style or title of the writer. Email: [email protected]

Due to space constraints, please keep correspondence below 250 words, longer letters may be published online

Non-Catholic Communion is not so rare

SIR – Far be it from me to argue with a distinguished canon lawyer, but I wonder is Ed Condon entirely accurate in considering reception of the Eucharist by a non-Catholic as a rare event?

In his review at catholicherald.co.uk of the German bishops’ proposal to extend the reception of the Eucharist to the Protestant party in a mixed marriage, he writes that such Communion is rare and restricted to “danger of death” or comparable “grave necessity” by the Code of Canon Law.

Pope St John Paul has written: “It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments” (Ut Unum Sint par 46, 1995). He does not appear to be limiting the concession to danger of death.

I served as summer replacement in the European parish in Luxembourg for many years. On my first Sunday, I was approached by a member of the Anglican parish who courteously told me that the archbishop of Luxembourg had given them permission during the summer months to receive at a Catholic Mass, since they would be without the nourishment of the Lord’s Body for a considerable time (a month or more). During this time a lay reader conducted the Morning Prayer service in the Convict (Seminary) Chapel which the archdiocese had put at their disposal.

Fr Brendan McConvery CSsR
Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Compulsory celibacy and dynamic leaders

SIR – I strongly identified with Fr Ronald Rolheiser’s article, “Celibacy revisited” (The Last Word, March 2). It could almost have been my own story; but with a different ending. I was a Franciscan friar for 40 years, a priest for 33 years. In 1995 I left to marry; I was 58. I am convinced that compulsory celibacy is a huge barrier to dynamic leadership in the Church.

I’m sure Fr Ronald’s experience is mirrored by that of most priests. His searing honesty in sharing the challenge of compulsory celibacy is brilliant. It can be compared to “sweating blood”, an “emotional crucifixion”. He even writes that “it goes against some of the deepest, innate, God-given instincts and energies within you”; and “it is not good for man to be alone”.

He bravely attempts to counter this massive negativity with very genuine positive benefits. The result? Perhaps a draw: powerful arguments for and against.

This massive suffering endured by the clergy could be ended by the Pope with a simple stroke of a pen. Freely chosen celibacy would still be an option. Why not simply remove the “compulsory” bit? Why continue to put the heroic servants of the community through this unnecessary purgatory?

It goes without saying that being married and raising a family is also an immense commitment. The difference is that marriage is a completely free choice. There would be, of course, massive pastoral implications of such a move. The way forward would be to replace the benign dictatorship of the clergy, and seriously involve the laity in pastoral teams with real power and responsibility.

JG McCann
By email

The mark of failure

SIR – It was with some relief that I read Quentin de la Bédoyère’sarticle (Science and Faith, February 23) and realised that my wife was not alone in being swayed to vote for the party with the more attractive leaders, and hence Liberals and the Lib Dems – with the odd exception. Their numbers in Parliament, however, did not bear evidence of the influence of their leaders’ good looks.

My relief did not, however, make up for the disappointment at other claims made in the article: the relationship between good looks and success and the fact that attractive candidates won twice as many seats in a Canadian federal election.

Other features such as accents and voice, too, seem to make people more endearing. But what is of even greater concern is the finding that individuals with good looks tend to hold more right-wing views. This report, however, needs further study.

In particular this article looked at features contributing to success. It is reasonable to work on the basis that there are features related to failure and in not being particularly attractive to others. Viewed with a retrospectroscope, did I see certain features in
individuals I met on death row and those charged with grievous bodily harm? My medical background does not give me sufficient knowledge of psychology to go into this in great detail.

Indeed, the role of certain genes has been implicated in aggressive violent behaviour and murders. Do those with a given genotype (genetic make-up) display an identifiable phenotype (physical make-up)? Perhaps there could be clues in those exhibiting nonconformity with expected sexual behaviour, both among the laity and the clergy.

There appears to be literature illustrating the advantages of certain characteristics. There is perhaps room for the investigation of features displayed by the less successful and whose behaviour does not conform to the expectations of the broader society.

Dr Anton E Joseph
Wallington, Surrey

Hijab not a ‘choice’

SIR – Mary Kenny notes (Comment, February 16) that many MPs wore a head-covering on World Hijab Day “to support Muslim women in their choice of apparel”.

“Choice” is a strange word to use in this context, as in most Muslim countries (and indeed in parts of Britain) women have no choice about whether to wear the hijab. Indeed, if they refuse to wear it they risk anything from physical punishment to ostracism from their families
and community.

One wonders what the MPs were trying to achieve with this gesture. It could hardly have been to show solidarity with hijab-wearing women, since wearing a hijab is a sign of conformity, not bravery.

It would have been more to the point if the MPs had expressed solidarity with the courageous women in Iran who have publicly torn off their
hijabs in protest at having to wear them; or with women in Algeria who have risked retribution by daring to wear a swimsuit on the beach.

Gillian Quill
Leeds, West Yorkshire

Himmler newsflash

SIR – General Dempsey, a friend of my father’s, was commander of the British Second Army at the time Himmler was captured. The general disliked intensely being disturbed in the evening when he was off duty. So it was with some trepidation that a young subaltern rang him up, apologising profusely for the imposition, and told him of Himmler’s capture.

“Good,” said the general and put the telephone down.

Shortly afterwards Himmler took his life with a cyanide capsule. The poor subaltern then had to call the general again with more apologies to tell him.

“Good,” he said, and promptly put the telephone down.

Simon Matthews
By email