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

Young Catholics are left to sink or swim

SIR – Your cover cartoon of March 23 spoke volumes. It showed a cleric at a meeting designed for seven young people, where five of the seats were empty. In a linked article, Professor Stephen Bullivant surveyed the sharp decline in church-going by those in their teens and twenties, across a range of European countries. He used figures collected in 2014-16.

I am aged 85, but my wife and I now have 15 grandchildren. I can only speak for England, and my impression is that the Catholic Church puts a big effort into the spiritual development of children up to the moment of their Confirmation. After that it leaves them, perhaps to swim on, but in many cases to sink under the pressures of a very secular society. The official Church mostly fails to see that teenagers and young adults have their own specific spiritual needs. Can your readers suggest how to meet these?

The worldwide scandal caused by the sexual abuse of children and young people by clergy and its attempted cover-up is the background to a decline in religious practice by the young. I suggest that the Church as a whole should show its repentance for the harm done. It should do so positively, by making reparation for the failures of those who should have known better.

By a happy coincidence, in the same edition of the Herald Pastor Iuventus wrote about Grief to Grace (grieftograceuk.org). This charity provides healing programmes for the victims of sexual abuse. The programmes bring together the insights of both psychology and spiritual healing. The whole Catholic community, with its reserve funds, grant-making trusts and even jumble sales, should support this much-needed work of healing.

Lord Hylton
House of Lords, London SW1

Who should rule on Communion?

SIR – Is it just possible that, rather than being evasive on Communion for Protestant spouses (News, April 27), Archbishop Ladaria and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at least, are applying Apostolos Suos, the 1998 apostolic letter on the theological and juridical nature of episcopal conferences?

Conferences can teach doctrinally only in the case of unanimity (n 22) arrived at in plenary session (n 23), in which case the conference pronouncement is reduced to an administrative convenience since each bishop is still teaching with apostolic authority within his own diocese (and not as a subsidiary to any national conference). “[T]he competence of individual diocesan bishops remains intact; and neither the conference nor its president may act in the name of all the bishops unless each and every bishop has given his consent” (n 20).

Where unanimity is lacking, and since even a majority of the conference cannot issue a declaration as authentic teaching, then the only path for apparent novelty is “the recognitio of the Apostolic See, which will not give it if the majority requesting it is not substantial” (n 22).

Is it this threshold recognition which has been (decisively) withheld? Instead – in the most favourable interpretation friendly to the hermeneutics of continuity – the fractured German hierarchy, with its adventuresome leadership, has been invited to stew in its own juice without a Holy See letterhead.

The dissenting bishops (meaning those courageous seven signatory bishops affirming Catholic truth, plus six others in the voting minority for a reported total of 13) need only remain steadfast, perhaps even adding to their numbers those other bishops who until this new moment probably have been intimidated by the ecclesial power-structures-that-be in Germany.

Peter D Beaulieu
Shoreline, Washington State, US

Mistaken identity

SIR – Matthew Schmitz (Comment, May 11) rightly characterises the Austrian monastery of Heiligenkreuz as “vibrant”. However he also calls it “traditional”, which my friends in that community would query (they prefer the word “normal”). With currently over a hundred monks it would be strange if there were not differences of perspectiveat their abbey.

The monks fear your readers may get the wrong idea. Catholicism is itself a tradition and so all that is Catholic is by definition “traditional”; however, they understand that there is also a code in the Anglo-sphere which could lead to confusion.

Another source of possible mistaken identity is that Heiligenkreuz celebrates Mass in Latin – but not what is sometimes called (in English) the “Latin Mass”. Instead they use the Novus Ordo Missae, in Latin.

Sebastian Cody
London W1

Perpetual May

SIR – Tim Stanley’s exhilarating article on “the day Britain turned to Mary” (Cover story, May 4) leads me to rejoice at how well Our Lady is answering the plea made by Blessed Newman in his sermon, “The Second Spring”, preached in the Chapel of St George and St Patrick at Oscott College, Sutton Coldfield, on July 13, 1852.

In this month of May we should continue to make that plea of Newman’s. He prayed: “It is time for thy Visitation. Arise, Mary, and go forth in thy strength into that north country, which once was thine own, and take possession of a land that knows thee not … till our year is one perpetual May.”

Fr Michael Murphy
Cork, Republic of Ireland

Skating on the Tiber

SIR – Thank you for publishing Jonathan Luxmoore’s excellent article (Feature, May 4) on Cardinal Manning’s wife, Caroline Sargent. However, it should be noted that Manning was created a cardinal not in 1874 but in the consistory of March 15, 1875, one of 11 prelates given the red hat on that occasion.

Mention is also made of Cardinal Thomas Weld, the cardinal “dei sette sacramenti” (“of the seven sacraments”) as he was known in Rome, and who on occasion took his grandchildren skating on the frozen River Tiber. Not only was his daughter Mary Lucy buried in his titular church of San Marcello al Corso (in 1831), he was too (in 1837). He rests in a side chapel on the right-hand side of the nave next to his daughter and her husband.

Fr Stewart Foster
Brentwood, Essex

St Benedict beckons

SIR – I read with great interest Ann Widdecombe’s article (Charterhouse, April 20) on monastic vocations at Buckfast Abbey, and the response from Ruth Yendell on the letters page (May 4), because I have just launched St Benedict South-West, an initiative to raise interest in Benedictine spirituality here in the south-west of England. It is aimed at families and individuals who want to deepen their faith and prayer life, and see something in Benedictine life which speaks to them.

My wife and I are oblates at Buckfast Abbey, and we hope that this initiative will introduce families, including of course young men, to the possibility of a vocation, whether as an oblate or a monk. We welcome enquiries via our website, stbenedict.co.uk.

Mackenzie Robinson
Ivybridge, Devon