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

A real-life Holy Communion dilemma

SIR – When is it appropriate for a non-Catholic to be admitted to Holy Communion? Some correspondents (Letter March 23), in their zeal for the Church’s rules, end up being stricter than the Church. I believe that we should not go beyond the prudent and pastorally sensitive provisions of the Directory on Ecumenism (it’s available for all to read on the website of the Holy See). But neither should we ignore those provisions. After all, when the Church makes special arrangements, those
arrangements are intended to benefit somebody. Aren’t they?

Jack and Jill had attended both their parish churches together every Sunday of their married lives, he Catholic, she Anglican. Jack had been following our course for lay ministers of Holy Communion before he became gravely ill. They had always respected the rules. But in the hospice, after Jack had made his confession and received the sacrament of the sick, it was time for Viaticum. Tell me now, dear reader, was I meant to offer the best and sweetest Gift to them both together, to their great contentment and holy joy? Was it right and fitting to do that? What do you think?

Fr Bob Eccles OP
Blackfriars, Cambridge

Not your average noblewoman

SIR – Bonnie Lander Johnson’s article (Feature, March 16) about Queen Henrietta Maria’s partial revival of Catholicism in Britain in the 17th century as consort of Charles I was very interesting, but Ms Johnson should not assume that today all readers would be aware that she was the daughter of the French king Henry IV, who Catholicised the French Bourbons (“Paris is worth a Mass”), and of Marie de Medici. Henrietta Maria was also the sister of King Louis XIII, the aunt of Louis XIV, and the great-great-grandmother of Louis XV.

Because of sectarian differences, her marriage to Charles I was by written contract, not ceremony, and when the Duke of Buckingham came to Paris to collect her, she was effectively given away by the illustrious prime minister, Cardinal Richelieu, at a festivity of astonishing opulence at the Palais du Luxembourg. Henrietta Maria was far from the average fervently Catholic French noblewoman that she appears to be in Ms Johnson’s otherwise excellent piece.

Lord Black of Crossharbour
Toronto, Canada

Faulty thinking

SIR – Reading the latest letter (March 30) from JG McCann on the burden of priestly celibacy I think once again of how susceptible we are to “the grass is always greener” thinking.

I have been known to lament the lack of time to pray or serve God in more noteworthy ways due to all my responsibilities as a married woman and mother. I have even thought of the lives of religious Sisters with a twinge of jealousy.

When my children were younger and more demanding I often wished for time off from family life. Then I would spend time with divorced friends who spoke of the ache in their hearts when they were separated from their children due to co-parenting arrangements. I found that stopped me in my tracks from wishing I could escape my kids for a while.

Priests are not alone in making sacrifices in the name of their vocation. When I have my “grass is greener” moments I try to recognise the fault lies with my thinking, not the teaching or discipline of the Church.

Samantha Duggan
Guildford, Surrey

The Shroud’s secrets

SIR – Fr Dwight Longenecker (Charterhouse, March 30) affirms his belief that the Turin Shroud is genuine. He will be heartened to learn that evidence is now clear beyond all reasonable doubt that the Shroud is indeed the burial cloth of Christ. Carbon 14 tests, carried out in 1988 at laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona, which dated the Shroud between 1260 and 1380 AD, are now known to be flawed, as the tiny samples tested were taken from cloth which had been used by Poor Clare nuns to make repairs after a fire in the chapel at Chambéry in France, where it was then being kept by the House of Savoy. It was moved to Turin in 1578.

In his book The Truth about the Shroud of Turin (2010), Robert Wilcox recorded a meeting with former NASA scientist Ralph Graeber, who had developed an interest in the Shroud and said: “To space-age scientists, it is quite obvious that the images were formed by radiation processes.” The linen, he added, was “scorched” – a term also used by other Shroud experts.

In February 2014, the Daily Telegraph’s science correspondent reported that a study by an Italian team indicated that a powerful earthquake in Jerusalem about 33 AD, 8.2 on the Richter scale and also recorded in Matthew 28:32, could have released neutron particles that imprinted an X-ray-like image on to the linen burial cloth. The earthquake was later confirmed by layers of silt found in the nearby Dead Sea.

More recently, in 2017, researchers at the Italian Institute of Crystallography claimed that they had found very small particles called nanoparticles attached to the fibres of the Shroud. They had a peculiar structure, size and distribution, not typical of the blood from a normal healthy person but from one who, before dying, had been subjected to severe torture, as the particles showed high levels of substances called creatinine and ferritin, corresponding with that found in victims who have suffered multiple torture traumas.

Studies of the Shroud to discover details of Christ’s sufferings, first made by French surgeon Pierre Barbet in his ground-breaking A Doctor at Calvary (1949), have since been confirmed or updated by world-renowned forensic pathologist Dr Frederick Zugibe in The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry (2005). This book, however, is not for the squeamish. The crowning with thorns, for example, caused trigeminal neuralgia, said by a professor of neurosurgery to be “the worst pain that man is heir to”.

Kevin Heneghan
St Helens, Lancashire

Feast not fast

SIR – Charles Coulombe (Charterhouse, March 16) seems to think the word “collation” derives from the word “cloister”. It does not. It derives from the Latin conferre, albeit the past participle of that word. It therefore means a bringing together, and in the case of food a few small delicacies. Once shut off from the eyes of the faithful, those within the cloister (Latin claustrum) could easily ignore the the word “small”.

Eugene O’Neale

Asia’s outlier

SIR – Your lead article of March 30 states: “Today, 10 per cent of South Koreans are Catholic – the highest percentage of any Asian country except the Philippines.” In fact, the Asian country with the highest percentage of Catholics is East Timor, which is 97 per cent Catholic.

Eric Salvatore Giunta
Tallahassee, Florida, United States