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Both sides suffer from ‘bad history’
SIR – It was a relief to learn that Michael Maslinski had his complaint upheld about the BBC’s documentary Elizabeth I’s Secret Agents and its suggestion that Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators had received “God’s blessing” for their murderous enterprise from Fr John Gerard, his 10-times great uncle (Feature, May 18).
Unfortunately, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation period is replete with such “bad history”. English Catholics have suffered from it rather more of course, having been as it were on the losing side. The Elizabethan courtier and man about town Sir John Harington summed it up succinctly: “Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason? – For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”
Happily, this has come to be well understood by responsible historians. As Christopher Haigh (a non-Catholic historian) put it: “Since the Protestants won in the end, we were taught how they got their victory,” but after describing how the “Protestant” version came, in the course of time, to be regarded as untenable, he continued: “So, the English Reformation was rescued from the Protestants. But now – if I may put it so – it needs to be rescued from the Catholics.”
Bad history is one thing but selectivity and seeing things from our own perspective is a very human failing and will doubtless
always be with us. As the psychologist Robert Thouless famously put it: “I am firm. You are obstinate. He is pig-headed.”
Skelton, North Yorkshire
Dull preachers need to raise their game
SIR – I went to a couple of mid-week Masses recently and was dismayed to find so few people in the church, not even close to double figures.
I am 71 this month and was probably the youngest participating in the liturgy on each occasion, and it made me question why our churches are emptying so rapidly. I then recalled a newsletter that I had recently picked up and perhaps found the answer to my question.
A priest had been writing about the Mass and went on to say that no matter how boring the celebrant was, we should always remember that the important thing was to be present and to partake fully in the sacrifice. Of course the priest writing the article was right, but at the same time he was also acknowledging that there is a communication problem in some instances.
The priesthood is a vocation but it is also a job and should be undertaken professionally by those charged with the responsibility of bringing Our Lord to the wider community wherever we live.
Before retirement I had worked for more than 50 years and I can imagine that if I had not done my best I would have been out of work. I can’t help but think that if we had more priests with even 10 per cent of what Billy Graham had we would have standing room only.
In seminaries, is the subject of public speaking and voice projection taught in addition to theology?
Alfie: a doctor’s view
SIR – It is bound to be distressing to the doctors and nurses of the children’s hospital who treated the very ill child Alfie Evans to be aware of the catalogue of misunderstandings in the case (News, May 4).
It might be helpful to those who make poorly informed statements to read the court transcript: the judge gave leave for this to be published.
Alfie had been in hospital since December 2016 having been admitted with epileptic seizures. He was extensively investigated and numerous opinions concluded that he had a rare brain degeneration and all investigations indicated there was no available treatment.
Little Alfie was entirely unable to communicate. He was blind and unresponsive: his only response to any stimuli was by seizures, which proved difficult to control. It was not possible to judge if Alfie also suffered discomfort. It is so understandable and commendable that his parents were unable to relinquish hope. The conclusion was that only palliation, not treatment, could be offered.
The view of the court was that Alfie might not survive a burdensome air ambulance journey to Italy. His anticonvulsant treatment, which is, in itself, of limited effect, may be compromised in travel.
The court concluded that Alfie would be disadvantaged in moving him away from the specialised Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Alder Hey, and that he should receive palliative care at that hospital. Palliative care meant not providing intensive therapy.
The medical profession does not have the gift to treat all conditions and create the heavenly kingdom. It was not possible to stop Alfie’s seizures and investigations showed that his brain was beyond recovery. Perfect healing is oneness with God.
Dr Eleanor Care
Barry, Vale Of Glamorgan
SIR – The German bishops might look to the common-sense practice of the Eastern Churches, Catholic or Orthodox, regarding Communion. During Holy Mass, in addition to the Consecration, bread is often blessed and afterwards distributed at the church door as people leave.
The loaves are often presented by the family for whose intention the Mass is celebrated, particularly at a Mass for the dead. Thus even Muslims who are present receive a blessing.
As for “Protestantising” the Catholic Church, married priests are a tradition of the Church, still maintained among Eastern Catholics and Orthodox, and once existing in the West, viz St Hilarion of Poitiers, a married bishop who is officially a Doctor of the Latin Church and was a married bishop, visiting Rome with his wife and daughter. The first pope, St Peter, was married, according to the Gospels.
There is no tradition of women priests anywhere.
Zouk Mikael, Lebanon
SIR – I find it depressing that hoary old myths about life in the pre-conciliar Church are still being propagated. In a letter published in your issue of May 11 Anton Joseph says: “Perhaps some of your readers will recall the time when daily Communion was not only discouraged, but also the confessor would decide how often a penitent might be permitted to receive it.” No, they won’t, because it never happened.
I was brought up in the 1940s and 50s (I made my first Holy Communion in 1941), and we were always encouraged to go to Mass and Holy Communion as often as we could, daily if at all possible. The same practice was invariably recommended by our confessors (fortnightly confession was the norm in those days).
Nobody I know was ever “rationed” by his confessor in the way that Dr Joseph asserts.