Letters & Emails

Comments of the week

Two encyclicals that changed the world

SIR – Your leading article commemorating the 50th anniversary of Populorum Progressio (March 31) suggests that it, and not Humanae Vitae, changed the world thanks to Blessed Pope Paul VI’s great insight that “authentic development … must safeguard human dignity”.

I don’t dispute that, but it is Benedict XVI who provides the key to understanding the intrinsic link between the two encyclicals. For he states in Caritas in Veritate: “Openness to life is at the centre of true development.” And because Benedict speaks powerfully of marriage and family underpinning the essential economic wellbeing of nations, he echoes the central message of Humanae Vitae by reminding us that “Problems associated with population growth are a very important aspect of authentic development, since it concerns the inalienable values of life and the family.”

In her concern for “man’s authentic development”, he says, “the Church urges him to have full respect for human values in the exercise of his sexuality”. And then in the same paragraph, he drives home the key point echoed by Paul VI in 1967, that the best resource for progress is humans. “Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource” because, he argues, a declining birth rate “narrows the ‘brain pool’ upon which nations
can draw for their needs”.

Yours faithfully,
Edmund P Adamus
Professional adviser to the episcopal vicar for education/schools commissioner, Diocese of Portsmouth, Hampshire

Let’s pray for a clear reply to the dubia

SIR – Sister Mairead Murphy (Letter, March 31) is quite right: Matthew 16:19 should be a significant text for the ongoing debates around Amoris Laetitia. Or rather, it would be if we had any clear idea that Peter intends to “loose” anything at all – and if so, what, when, and to what extent.

At present, answers to those questions diverge depending on which diocese, bishops’ conference or even curial dicastery one happens to ask. This is why all Catholics, regardless of where they stand on the various issues, should pray for clear answers to the dubia.

After all, Our Lord’s words at Caesarea Philippi were not: “… and whatever certain ‘close-to-Peter’ media sources let it be known that you are amenable to your footnotes being interpreted as implying the possibility, in certain impossible-to-specify-in-advance situations, of loosing on earth … shall be loosed in heaven”.

Yours faithfully,
Stephen Bullivant (Professor)
St Mary’s University, Twickenham

Demographic death

SIR – Dennis Sewell’s timely article (Cover story, March 17) on the lack of a new European generation appeared on almost the same day as President Erdoğan of Turkey was calling on Turkish citizens living in and beyond the Netherlands to have five children per family. If realised, that would spell the death of even such residual Christianity as persists in Europe.

As now quite senior citizens, my husband and I emerged from a period for which marriage was still the norm and couples quite commonly had several children (the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh produced four).

But this was based on an assumption that the bearer of children would devote multiple years to their rearing, subordinating to this other ambitions. The development (entirely desirable) of women’s higher and further education, backed by contraception and that in turn by abortion – regarded as a “lifestyle choice” as though it involved only the chooser – have combined to change radically that assumption. And along with that, economic circumstances for couples have mutated to make it almost a necessity to have two incomes in order to afford – and importantly to house – a family.

This is more especially the case in a society where consumer spending is constantly encouraged for what is conceived as an overriding good: that is, the tax take; but in the ongoing situation that all political parties feel electorally constrained to rule out a significant increase in what is arguably the fairest form of contribution, that based on income.

This then is the bind we are in: we demand, for example, improved schools and NHS but can barely maintain their present unsatisfactory level at the cost of accepting to clutter our lives with time, space and income-demanding volumes of “consumer goods”. And although these can often be profitably recycled, in the end it is to the dumps (or the oceans or the ozone layer) that they must go.

In any event – and whatever the possible effects of Brexit – it behoves Christian families to rear children even if it means the relative austerity of forgoing some at least of the plethora of fashionable toys, gadgets and clothes they and their children are seduced into regarding as indispensable sources of wellbeing.

Happily, attendance at Mass can bring occasional and heartening evidence that generous-sized families still exist, formed by parents who have “chosen the better part”.

Yours faithfully,
Anna Rist (Mrs)

The true outcasts

SIR – As I understand it, nuncio Charles Brown was appointed by Pope Benedict as his representative in Ireland (Cover story, March 31). Now there is a new Pope with new priorities.

Any suggestion of entitlement to position, victimisation, conspiracy, ownership must be rejected. The great majority of people never get to meet an ambassador or nuncio, and their lives are far removed from the privileges of such positions. Ireland is not necessarily the centre of the world, or Albania the edge of the world.

During the past few years we have seen the banning of certain clergy from ministry and what looks like the refusal of bishops to meet representatives of the Association of Catholic Priests, which is said to have a thousand members. There appears indeed to be a practice of making outcasts.

Yours faithfully,
Sean Macken
Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Too little love

SIR – Harry Benson’s interesting and informative article (Feature, March 24) on the truth about sustaining relationships is helpful.

Yet many find that they are unable to bridge their growing apart because of our limited ability to be sincere in our love. No wonder Jesus so firmly puts the first Commandment first. We simply have to let God take over our lives more and more because we are unable to love enough. Where the Bensons succeeded, that somehow happened.

Instead of the growing tendency to believe that current instability is inevitable, we need more clearly to see how we can improve in our ability to love more deeply.

Yours faithfully,
Fr Bryan Storey
St Paul the Apostle, Tintagel, Cornwall