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

England’s other forgotten Catholic queen

SIR – Following Bonnie Lander Johnson’s feature on Henrietta Maria (March 16), may we hope for a similarly inspiring vignette of our other forgotten Stuart Catholic queen – and Henrietta Maria’s daughter-in-law – Mary of Modena?

When she died in 1718, after many years of exile and widowhood, the pope ordered prayers for her soul, while recommending fervently her intercession.

Beyond her spousal duty of maintaining her husband, James II, on the narrow road of virtue, Mary provided him with the Catholic heir he needed. Her personal chaplain as Duchess of York was St Claude de la Colombière SJ, late of the Visitation Convent of Paray-le-Monial, where he received the confidences of St Margaret Mary about the Sacred Heart apparitions with which she was favoured.

In this way the Chapel Royal of St James in London became the first place worldwide where devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus according to St Margaret Mary was preached.

Alas, St Claude was arrested and imprisoned during the so-called “Popish Plot” – with which he had no connection. He returned to France through the offices of the French ambassador, his health broken and soon to die.

I sometimes think of these things when visiting the beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart near the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Westminster Cathedral nearby.

Steve de la Bédoyère
London SW17

The sad decline of Britain’s retreat centres

SIR – I am very disturbed that so many retreat centres have been closed. I was especially upset at the closure of the Franciscan centre at Pantasaph Friary in North Wales. I have been given to understand that more than 1,400 people used the centre last year alone. Why would it be necessary, since all the practical arrangements were made by lay people and only a token number of friars were needed?

If the call of religious orders is to evangelise, how can they fulfil their vocation if they cannot contact people at a deeper level?

If funding is a problem, an additional £5 on the fee would surely help and benefactors are always willing to subscribe. The Superiors should think again.

Valerie Gawith
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Twisting the truth

SIR – I enjoyed Patrick West’s review (March 9) of the book Truth: A User’s Guide by Hector Macdonald.

For years now in talking to friends and acquaintances I have asked “What is truth?”, remembering those words of Pilate to Jesus.

When two people are in conversation and one says, for example, “She said this and I said that,” who is in fact being truthful? Recently in the 40 Days for Life prayer and witness, including offering help to expectant mothers entering and leaving abortion clinics, our opponents were telling the local clergy that we were harassing women, chasing them up the street and calling them murderers. Priests struggled to know whether this was true or not, and this untruth was, and is, a hindrance to the help and support we might otherwise get from the clergy.

Also, it is easy for television reports to mislead people regarding the truth, for example reporting on stem-cell research and not telling viewers/listeners that there is, on the one hand, human embryonic research that destroys innocent life, and, on the other, adult stem-cell research which is completely ethical.

Programmes continually mislead on all kinds of issues. It’s not so much what they say but, sadly, what they don’t say.

Paul Botto

Boxing clever

SIR – It’s such a pity that Pope Francis’s call for consultation between the bishops/clergy and the laity is simply being ignored. Pope John XXIII’s Second Vatican Council also called for consultation, but these days ecclesial parish councils are rare.

One simple, cheap, efficient and effective way for the clergy to consult the faithful is for “suggestion boxes” to be put up in every church. Their presence can be publicised in the Sunday newsletter, and their use promoted by the priest. It is important, I think, that anonymity be allowed, because people may feel that their concern/suggestion is petty or embarrassing.

May I urge readers to ask their parish priest to set up such a box in their church? My attempts have so far been unsuccessful, but I will not give up.

Virginia Bell
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

Clergy can’t do it all

SIR – I am delighted my letter on celibacy provoked a little positive debate. May I add a few considerations in response to Ann Farmer (Letter, March 16).

I don’t “damn celibacy with faint praise”; I only take issue with compulsory celibacy for the priesthood. I agree with Fr Ronald Rolheiser (The Last Word, March 2): there are serious negative consequences. He spoke in the strongest possible terms of its being an “emotional crucifixion”, saying “it goes against the deepest, innate, God-given instincts”. Hardly “faint praise”.

He also quotes the well-known text from Genesis that “It is not good for man to be alone.” The context for this, of course, is the creation of Adam’s wife and helpmate, Eve.

Another clarification: I don’t suggest replacing the “benign dictatorship” of the clergy with the dictatorship of the laity. I suggest pastoral teams, led by the clergy, multiplying the availability of people to preach the Gospel. This task is the mission of all the baptised; they just need leadership to enable them to do this. Just think of the power of such fervent teams in Evangelical churches. The married pastor isn’t expected to do it all.

JG McCann
By email

Kenny for president

SIR – Mary Kenny (Comment, March 16) suggests that, while some people, after leading a quiet, conformist earlier life, suddenly start behaving “like rebellious adolescents” in later life, there are others who follow the opposite trajectory.

I have observed this too, and I would like to propose that, coming under the latter heading, the much-mellowed Mary Kenny might make a good president, and then a good ex-president, of the Irish Republic.

David Jowitt
Jos, Nigeria

Gaelic temptations

SIR – We have had the Scottish Gaelic (Letter, January 26) and the Irish Gaelic (February 9) versions of the Vulgate’s et ne nos inducas in tentationem; there remains only the Manx Gaelic version. The Gaelic verb lig/leig can also mean “leave”, so it could be translated back into English as “Do not leave us in time of trial/temptation”.

But does this help? Better to stick with the original Greek – and that alone – in the current debate.

Fr Raymond Hickey OSA
Jos, Nigeria