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

Bishop Barron: gentle yet devastating

SIR – I must challenge two points made by Jack Carrigan (Books, March 30) in his otherwise helpful review of the book-length interview of Bishop Robert Barron. The first, that he is “the evangelist who won’t upset people” is not possible. Anyone who has peeked at his Word on Fire YouTube channel will know that he offers his insights on everything from doctrine to pop culture with clarity and truth. He articulates the mind of the Church with a logic and reason that would make Aquinas proud.

It is because Bishop Barron deploys reason so effectively that he is vulnerable to accusations of being “too nice”. However, in a world where polemics and hyperbole seem to dominate religious and political discussion, Barron’s style is counter-cultural: gentle yet devastatingly truthful.

The second point I wish to challenge is the idea that the good bishop “avoids the subject of hell”. I have used his Word on Fire YouTube clips several times in catechesis and teaching, in order to explain that the existence of hell is a reality. The bishop believes in hell and so, he emphasises with urgency, a renewed focus on heaven.

I and many others are grateful to Bishop Barron for being a shepherd to us in these times of confusion on such matters, and we are anticipating his talks at the forthcoming Eucharistic Congress in Liverpool with great excitement.

Bernadette Eakin
Ledbury, Herefordshire

It is not enough to be cultural Catholic

SIR – To the woman taken in adultery, Jesus said, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). We know nothing of her subsequent history but we may speculate that her meeting with Jesus changed her life: she met love instead of legal
condemnation. Love gave her a chance, which legalism denied.

The Pharisees (Feature, April 6) were bound by the Law, and as St Paul explains in Romans, the Law condemns us. Love forgives us, but challenges us to allow ourselves to be transformed. If we do not allow this, we remain under condemnation. Love is not soft: it is strong and challenging.

Jesus clearly condemns adultery, but his Church surely needs to reveal his face to poor sinners, in order to give them the will to let themselves be transformed.

St John Paul II said that it was not enough to be a “cultural Catholic”; it was necessary to have a personal encounter with Our Lord. Does the Catholic Church facilitate this personal encounter? Thank God for the times when it does, but woe betide us when it doesn’t.

Life in the Spirit seminars in every parish? Just one example.

Margaret Thomas
Llandysul, Ceredigion

Other sheep

SIR – My favourite mug in daily use is from Interchurch Families. On it are these words spoken by John Paul II in York in 1982: “You live in your marriage the hopes and difficulties of the path to Christian unity.”

It may not be generally realised that those who most suffer from the ban on the non-Catholic spouse receiving the Eucharist (Cover story, April 13) is when that spouse is an ardent Christian who sees in the Eucharist as deep a union with Christ as baptism and marriage bring about between a couple. (Yes, such people do exist outside the Catholic Church.) Do they attend church together – or do they go each to their own church each week? (In marriage speak, a separate bedroom situation.)

Dare I say it – perhaps the Protestant denominations have it right in opening their communion table to any who wish to receive and are communicant members in their own churches. “Other sheep have I not of this fold” are words in this week’s Gospel shared by the Church of England. Perhaps in these words are the consolation – sheep of other flocks can be loved enough by the Lord for Him to wish them to be “one fold and one shepherd”.

Musing on these words, in “pastoral speak” is any shepherd, purporting to act in Christ’s name, really right in turning away a hungry sheep owned by the same landlord but who usually grazes in another field?

Deeper still is the question for the Vatican: has the time come to cease to view other denominations as heretics, but rather both sides as sufferers of a past rift deeply in need of healing to obey Our Lord’s stated wishes in the above paragraph?

Elizabeth Price
Linton, Kent

It’s all Greek

SIR –Has Fr Raymond Hickey (Letter, March 30) forgotten that Greek is the root of the “temptation” row, peirasmos, meaning both “test” and “temptation”? And that unfortunately the Scripture translations in popular Latin that St Jerome later revised at Pope Damasus’s request always translated peirasmos in both senses by temptatio?

This troubled the conservative North African Christians. In their pure Latin, tentatio could only meant “temptation”. So Tertullian in Carthage urged that ne nos inducas in temptationem should be taken to mean “do not allow us to be led into temptation”.

St Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, went further. He actually replaced the phrase in the prayer (Pope Francis might approve) with Tertullian’s formula et ne nos patiaris induci in tentationem.

St Augustine, later at Hippo, preferred to replace inducas with inferas, “bring” or “put us to”, as being closer to the Greek (not that St Augustine liked Greek much). But he also mentions that many people were still using the Tertullian/Cyprian/Pope Francis formula.

Meanwhile, in Greek, St Cyril of Jerusalem took peirasmos to mean “test” here. But Greek distinguishes between here-and-now commands and general requests. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew is entirely here-and-now. St Cyprian
reminded his hearers that “do not put us to the test” was not a general request, referring them to James 1:2-3.

As I said, Greek is the root of this problem.

Tom McIntyre
Frome, Somerset

God walks with us

SIR – I felt greatly moved by Caroline Wyatt’s touching article on how, despite herchronic illness, her faith, like that of the other people she mentions, remains unshaken (Notebook, April 13).

It is easy to lose one’s faith and question the very existence of God when serious illness or tragedy visits us. But it is precisely in times like these that we should seek comfort in the Lord’s own words: “Be not afraid, I am with you.”

Mercifully, I am not suffering from any serious illness, but my wife of 60 years is; and yet she endures her suffering with a quiet dignity brought about no doubt by her faith.

In times of crisis, let us all remember that we are not alone; God walks with us.

Mervyn Maciel
Sutton, Surrey