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Due to space constraints, please keep correspondence below 250 words, longer letters may be published online
The Pope, the Bible and the death penalty
SIR – Greg Whelan (Letter, September 14) claims to be “mystified” by the widespread concern about Pope Francis’s reversal of the teaching of the Church on the subject of the death penalty.
He reminds us that the Church has “changed its mind” about the best punishment for various offences. However this is hardly the matter at issue. The crimes he mentions, such as fornication, are still condemned by the Church as grave sins. What Pope Francis appears to be claiming is the discovery of a new grave sin, that of using the death penalty, even when it might be considered most appropriate.
The penal code found in the Old Testament was in force only for a specific group of people for a specific period of time. Other times and circumstances require other legal solutions. It is preserved for us in Scripture, however, because it teaches us about the seriousness of the crimes it condemns and the importance of the search for justice. Among other things, as St Paul reiterates (Romans 13:4), it makes clear that the death penalty can rightly be used.
Perhaps we live in such a blessed age that it is no longer necessary. If so, we should be glad, but not imagine God erred when he included the death penalty in the Bible’s judicial system.
I give thanks for my big family
SIR – Patrick Mitchell’s letter, (August 17) as a personal response to the availability of artificial contraception was interesting. It presumably represents the mindset of most Catholics, as he says, judging by the almost total absence of large families in parish pews.
In 1968 I was a non-Catholic child in a large family, which was becoming unusual in the general population. Despite the poverty we experienced on my father’s low wage, and in semi-itinerant, insecure circumstances, my life was, and always will be, greatly enriched by my siblings.
Marriage is essentially a free choice, which naturally includes the possibility of children. The horrific abortion numbers are evidence that freely available artificial contraception does not always preclude conception.
Men who are not prepared to take responsibility for all children conceived within marriage need either to delay union or not enter into it. Unfortunately chastity and self-control, once fostered and expected both in the Church and in wider society, are undervalued, little fostered and little practised now. Disagreements over Humanae Vitae may abound, but perhaps we can all agree that time has proved it prophetic.
Ages of Sacred Heart
SIR – Once again the Sacred Heart has come up trumps in England, South America and France. More than 300 years ago St Claude la Colombière (confessor of St Margaret-Mary) was preaching Revelations in the Chapel Royal of St James’s to the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary of Modena), while a short walk away Catholics were being executed at Tyburn as victims of the Popish Plot.
Today near Tyburn the beautiful shrine of our martyrs houses a community of Benedictine nuns, founded by the French mystic Mother Adele Garnier to adore the Sacred Heart in the Blessed Sacrament. In turn this has inspired a new community of Tyburn Monks of Colombian origin (Feature, September 7). Like the nuns, their mission is contemplative. Like the Sacred Heart, they are evangelists.
My thoughts turn to the first half of the 20th century, which was spiritually dominated for Catholics by the Sacred Heart missionary Fr Mateo Crawley-Boevey (1875-1960), an Anglo-Peruvian priest commissioned by the pope to promote the family enthronement of the Sacred Heart. Jesus, King of Love (1946 and still available) is the vade mecum of his inspired writing. Externals have changed, but the essentials remain: the profound reign of Jesus in our hearts and the social reign of Jesus to sanctify our world.
Are we entering a new age of the Sacred Heart? To quote Joanna Bogle, writing at catholicherald.co.uk about the National Eucharistic Congress, Adoremus: “We have humbly entrusted our future to the Lord who holds all in His Heart.”
Steve de la Bédoyère
A voice unheard
SIR – The near silence, especially from churches, on the sustained undermining of the institutions of marriage and the family is extraordinary.
The Government now proposes to relax further marriage’s binding nature by removing the time bar for “no fault” divorce. This follows the recent redefinition of the term “marriage” from being a relationship between man and woman to include relationships between men and between women. Rarely are the interests and natural rights of children mentioned. Where is their voice? Who is speaking for them?
Mark van der Lande
SIR – As I have reached that age when my title has changed to “professional mourner”, I was pleasantly surprised, at a recent funeral for a friend of mine, to find that her husband had compiled a potted history of her life and achievements and inserted it in the order of service.
How often are we compelled to listen (for 35 minutes is my record to date) to a eulogy by one of the family, who is obviously upset and totally unused to public speaking from a pulpit? Any tributes can be paid, for as long as you like, at the wake.
Parish priests should make a note of this as it detracts from the Mass.
Temple Balsall, West Midlands
SIR – I fully agree with Nicholas Hinde (Letter, September 21). It is amazing the number of people who turn up late for Mass on a regular basis and go to Holy Communion without any preparation – people who, after having received Holy Communion, go about the church lighting candles or touching statues. This is nothing to do with Communion and can wait until after Mass.
I think the custom that has crept into the Mass of giving a blessing to those not receiving Holy Communion should be stopped, as it makes the queue longer and adds to the time of distribution. Everybody gets a blessing at the end of Mass anyway.
Minority of one?
SIR – Peter D Williams advises us (at Catholicherald.co.uk) that Catholics should only marry other Catholics. I would like to ask Mr Williams to give us some advice on how to meet the opposite sex in a moribund parish where the social club is men-only. The parish priest doesn’t want to know you and never organises any social events or anything else.
That has been my experience of the Catholic Church. It looks as if my belief that marriage is a sacrament puts me in a minority of one.