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

How to help Catholics in ‘mixed’ marriages

SIR – As the Catholic spouse of a “mixed” marriage (and I suspect like many others in similar positions), I am increasingly confused and vexed by the mixed messages coming from Vatican sources/senior hierarchy to the general public (Feature, July 6).

I would respectfully ask them to spare a thought when on occasion they are called to enlighten an expectant public on points of Catholic doctrine for the ordinary lay persons who are faced with a double whammy.

The first is that not all our bishops appear to a news-hungry world to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Second, a growing number of Catholics imbued by a relativist approach to Church doctrine appear as a kind of “fifth column” in our midst, emboldened by the seemingly contradictory messages coming from higher up, thus adding to the confusion. You see one’s difficulty here?

Evangelism can take many forms, but to be most effective it needs a secure doctrinal platform as a buffer against the misconceptions and uncertainties of modern living.

Brendan O’Leary

The task of balancing mercy and justice

SIR – Among examples of false teachings cited by John O’Sullivan (Letter, June 29) is the idea that “nobody goes to hell”.
When I became a Catholic in 1952 (long before Vatican II) I was taught by the learned Dominican instructing me that, while I had to believe in the existence of hell, I did not have to believe that there were any human souls there.

Mr O’Sullivan also ignores Origen’s teaching of the apokatastasis panton, the ultimate resurrection and salvation of everybody, something which I think the Church has never actually condemned.

In addition, I think it is dangerous to try to set limits to God’s mercy. Mr O’Sullivan might do well to look up and read a wonderful passage in Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics where he magnificently tackles the extremely difficult and almost impossible task of balancing God’s mercy and God’s justice.

Robert Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

Cocteau scoop

SIR – I recall the evening when my father, Michael, returned from Whitefriars Street, where he edited the Catholic Herald, to tell the family that on his lunchtime stroll he met Jean Cocteau painting his murals in the French Church off Leicester Square (Diary, July 6). What started as a hurried prayer became a journalistic coup.

The great artist was finishing his mural of the Crucifixion that was to surround the Tabernacle, and they fell into conversation, with Cocteau describing the scene he was painting. Although he was not a religious man, as he spoke his eyes moistened.

Francis Steegmuller’s biography of Cocteau (1986) describes how the French prostitutes of Soho, on the same occasion, clubbed together to provide a beautiful blue carpet to enhance the redecoration.

Steve de la Bédoyère
London SW17

Behind the curtain

SIR – Donato Tallo (Letter, July 13) laments the division of young Catholics into opposing camps, but he hardly helps the situation by lazy negative stereotyping of the camp with which he is not himself aligned.

It is not difficult to identify the origin of the current division in the Church: it is the claim made by many Catholic opinion-formers over the past half-century that the “pre-Vatican II Church” was all bad. Such a sweeping claim, denigrating by implication all the art, philosophy and personal sanctity of 19 centuries of the Church’s life, was bound to create a reaction.

Many young Catholics want to have a look behind the curtain which has been drawn over their patrimony. Some like some of the things they see there. Is there any harm in asking whether we, in the present, might not benefit from dusting off a few of these things for a closer examination?

The wise scribe, Christ tells us, is like a pater familias who brings out of his treasure things new and old (Matthew 13:52). There is a dangerous lack of balance in the attitude that says “life was worse before the Council” in order to close down the conversation. The question is not about bringing back some former era, as if that were possible. The question is about recovering the baby that was thrown out with the bath water.

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, Latin Mass Society, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

SIR – With reference to “Young Catholics must be united”, we might remind ourselves of John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Douay Rheims).

We are called by Christ to be agents of unity but we need to understand that if we first seek unity with the Lord, unity among our fellow humanity will follow. If we try to put the cart before the horse, so to speak, division is the fruit of our labour.

According to one survey, and they can be inaccurate but surely serve as a starting point, only 37 per cent of young people who favour Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form are said to follow Church teaching in its entirety. This is not a good result. Neither is it a matter of “liberal” versus “traditional”. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that there are to be no more “cafeteria” Catholics. Either we adhere to the whole of the teaching or we are not Catholic at all.

More than that, it is not, as some say, that the problems in the Church have arisen from the Second Vatican Council. Communion in the hand was not only not discussed but was never on the Vatican II agenda. The removal of altar rails was never authorised by the Vatican. Similarly, the New Rite was instigated by six Protestant ministers whose remit, like the “men from Zurich”, was to be neutral observers.

For further details on this and many other points, interested readers are directed to Hope for the World: to Unite All Things in Christ by His Eminence, Raymond Cardinal Burke.

Jozef Bubez
Burgess Hill, West Sussex

Canada memories

SIR – Congratulations to our fellow Catholics in Western Canada on their bicentenary (The Week Ahead, July 13).

We had the privilege of participating in the late Bishop Fergus O’Grady OMI’s Frontier Apostolate in the Diocese of Prince George in Northern British Columbia nearly 40 years ago. Apart from the fact that we met there, as did a lot of other couples, we had a chance to see, and take part in, the Church working in difficult conditions, particularly with the Native Indian people, whom the Oblate Fathers have worked long and hard to serve.

We are thankful to the OMIs, our fellow Frontier Apostles and the many other people we met and learned from in our time in British Columbia and we believe that we still benefit from it.

Patricia and Peter Newton
Heston, Middlesex