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

Memories of the Humanae Vitae furore

SIR – In last week’s Catholic Herald (July 20) Stephen Bullivant accurately and comprehensively describes the feelings and responses of Catholics in this country before and after the release of Humanae Vitae in 1968.

In my own family at the time, all not long married and with children, there was much debate. Personally, I was prepared to leave the Church had Paul VI’s encyclical given assent to artificial contraception.

And that is a point overlooked in much of the analysis of those days: the great number of Catholics – people who believed that the Church also had to make sense – who might very well have left the Church had the encyclical not insisted on upholding the traditional teaching. (Stephen Bullivant cites the clear words in Pope Pius XI’s Casti Connubii in 1930.)

Conversely, I, personally, never knew or heard of anyone leaving the Church specifically because of Humanae Vitae. Would the dissenters truly have wished their Church put itself in a state of moral contradiction? And what might that Church look like today? May I suggest a lot worse.

Francis Reilly
Orpington, Kent

The NHS has saved lives from day one

SIR – As the NHS celebrates 70 years, I would like to share a story concerning my great uncle, Dr Vincent Morgan-Jones, remembered recently at the funeral of his wife, Phyl. Vincent was a newly qualified doctor serving as a GP, having taken over the practice his father, David, had run in the Welsh mining village of Pontrhydyfen. In 1948, making his second home visit to the mother of a sick child, hoping to confirm that the child had recovered, he was disappointed to hear coughing as he entered the house. The mother of the child explained that the second child was now ill and she could not afford any medicine for this child as she had now run out of money looking after the first.

“Do not worry,” Vincent replied, “the National Health Service was established yesterday. Your child will recover.”

This story encapsulates – from the start – the great history of the NHS, a history into which my own daughter, Anastasia, studying medicine at the University of Birmingham, will shortly add her own distinct contribution.

Fr Simon Ellis
St Margaret Mary, Birmingham

A quiet innovation

SIR – The article by Simon Caldwell (Interview, July 13), presenting the conviction of Cardinal Arinze that the Eucharist cannot be shared with those who are not in communion with the Catholic Church, immediately reminded me of the visit prime minister Tony Blair paid to St John Paul II in 2003. He was said, at the time, to have received Holy Communion along with his Catholic spouse, Cherie, from the hands of the pope. It was not clear if the pope was responding to encouragement he had received from the bishops of England and Wales.

The generous “innovation” was officially neither confirmed nor denied, it is said, by the Vatican. However, if true, it provides the German bishops with a strong precedent and powerful backer for their wish to make an ecumenical gesture in particular cases on special occasions to Lutherans.

As Simon Caldwell recalls, 2003 was also the year in which the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia was published. Does that not seem ironic?

Tony Meehan
Aldridge, West Midlands

SIR – Jozef Bubez (Letter, July 20) quotes Pope Benedict XVI to argue that Catholics must adhere to whole of the teaching or we are not Catholic at all. He develops his argument by asking whether the removal of altar rails was authorised by Vatican II.

The general tone of his letter echoes Simon Caldwell’s interview with Cardinal Arinze (July 13) in which the cardinal states that “the Eucharistic celebration of the Mass is the celebration of the faith community, those who believe in Christ … Anybody who is not a member of that community does not fit in at all … If Protestants wish to receive Communion in Catholic Churches they should become Catholics.”

The Scripture used by Mr Bubez to support his view is John 14:15, “If you love me keep my commandments”. I would use the same text to make the point that Jesus took the Jews of his time back to the Ten Commandments given to Moses. He took the emphasis away from the 613 laws which had developed over time.

Would Jesus make the same point today? Would he place more emphasis on the Commandments and the Beatitudes, and less on the 1,752 canons in the Code of Canon Law (canons 1235-1239 treat of the construction of altars). Would he look at the Catholic Church today – His Mystical Body – and sadly comment: “This is not who I AM”?

In order to maintain some semblance of balance with the further reading recommended by Mr Bubez, I would recommend The Rites and Wrongs of Liturgy: Why Good Liturgy Matters by Thomas O’Loughlin, professor of historical theology at the University of Nottingham and president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain.

Margaret Morton
Thelwall, Cheshire

Atheists in hell

SIR – No one wants anyone any one to go to hell (Letter, July 20) but we have to remember that the existence of hell is taught throughout the New Testament and especially by Jesus Himself who made many references to hell, or Gehenna, which was the name given to the bonfire of rubbish in Jerusalem and is used an

Someone once said there are no atheists in hell; they all know it’s true. We do no one a service by denying its existence.Sadly Origen was wrong about a number of things and even thought Satan would be spared. Perhaps that’s why he was never canonised.

We would also do well by remembering the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which “affirms the existence of hell and its eternity” and has more on the subject for those who wish to explore further.

Lastly, as St Peter writes: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). It is not God’s wish that anyone goes to hell; we go by our neglect of the grace of God and His offer of forgiveness and love.

John Lovett
Aiskew, North Yorkshire

SIR – Further to Mr Nowell’s points about human souls in hell, we were taught at Cardinal Vaughan School in the early 1960s that the only people who could go to hell were Catholic priests.

Our teacher, himself a priest, hastened to add that he was not saying every Catholic priest automatically went to hell, but that only Catholic priests had sufficiently rigorous training and formation such that, if they did commit grave sins, they could thus be held to account.

This sobering thought increased our respect for and awe of the priesthood.

Robert Pellegrinetti
London NW5