Germany’s Church tax is not the problem
SIR – Dr Seferta’s suggestions for the German Church (Letter, August 18) deserve to be considered according to their intrinsic merits, but we cannot see that they address the fundamental problems.
Whatever one thinks of the Church tax in principle, it is a progressive tax levied in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The rich pay according to their means and the poorest pay nothing. So we doubt whether many of the opters-out can seriously plead poverty.
As for married priests and women deacons, German Lutheran clergy have, of course, been marrying for five centuries, while women began entering the ministry in the 1920s and by 2013 made up 58 per cent of ministerial students, so Dr Seferta might expect the Lutheran Church to be in relatively good shape. In reality, it is in a desperate plight, suffering even more resignations than the Catholic Church while barely four per cent of its nominal members regularly attend a service.
A better starting point for a vision of renewal might be Tim Stanley’s cover story in the same issue, practically all of which is just as relevant to Germany as to Britain.
Alan and Franziska Norman
Want to change Britain? Then join us
SIR – Those who read with interest Tim Stanley’s article “Britain needs uncompromising Catholics” (Cover story, August 18) may want also to be aware of some of the many initiatives within the Church which have been taken to help Catholics engage in public and political life in this country.
For some years the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has run a scheme entitled Faith in Politics which supports each year a number of parliamentary interns. These men and women are young graduates who are assigned to various Catholic organisations engaged in public life and to Catholic MPs and peers. They are enabled to relate their faith to what is being done by the men and women with whom they are working and are also given spiritual and intellectual formation.
The intellectual formation has taken the form of academic study of Catholic social teaching – strangely the phrase doesn’t appear in Mr Stanley’s piece – to deepen their understanding of the faith. Catholic social teaching is not a Catholic “gloss” on economic or political theory, but a branch of moral theology and what the Church teaches in this field is part of the “Magisterium”, teachings which all Catholics should know and follow.
Up to this year the academic teaching for this has been provided by Heythrop College, and from this autumn it will form part of a brand new “bespoke” postgraduate certificate in Catholic social teaching being launched by St Mary’s University. This will include both the interns and other students, and in the next academic year will comprise two modules covering the basic principles and history of social teaching, and some of the ways in which the Church applies these principles.
It is hoped that this programme will lead to a full Master’s degree. The programme will be the first “face-to-face” taught course dedicated to Catholic social teaching in Britain and Ireland. If people want to “go out and change Britain”, to quote your front cover, they should enrol in the programme.
One group which the Church expects to have a specialist knowledge of Catholic social teaching is the community of permanent deacons in our dioceses. One of the Church’s key documents about deacons says that they are called to “transform the world according to the Christian order”, so we hope that deacons too will be
interested in our new course.
Teaching starts on September 19. If readers would like to know more, they should go to stmarys.ac.uk or email me on [email protected]
Fr Ashley Beck
Senior lecturer in pastoral ministry, St Mary’s University, Twickenham
SIR – I broadly agree with Tim Stanley. Unfortunately his penultimate paragraph – “have as many babies as possible” – has the distinct sense of ideology taking over individual reality, even humanity.
My own mother, a Catholic, had 11 children and died before the age of 45. I personally know a Catholic family with four boys and four girls; the parents sleep on bunkbeds in a room the size of a shoebox. The children turn up everywhere, even at children’s parties, in their school uniform – their best clothes.
In a country plagued by a lack of affordable housing and low salaries, Catholics, as everyone else, have to give priority to achievable practicality over everything else.
Maria Thompson (Mrs)
SIR – I see a leading Dominican wants to rein in the Pope (Home news, August 25).Yet Pope Francis reins in himself. He is the first pope in my lifetime widely, publicly and frequently to speak off the cuff. So he is often speaking in a non-infallible way. His predecessors did not do this nearly so much.
Fr Bryan Storey
St Paul the Apostle, Tintagel, Cornwall
The world’s goodness
SIR – In his letter (August 18), Dr Carl Schmidt says that when God looked at creation and saw that it was good, this does not refer to a moral goodness. However, I was taught that these words did refer to a moral goodness. The writer of Genesis makes it clear that the world was created morally good and was denying other religions that saw at the heart of their belief the idea that the whole of creation was divided into equal and balanced forces of good and evil, neither being able to overcome the other.
Market Deeping, Lincolnshire
SIR – Mary Kenny (August 18) is of course perfectly entitled to find the film A Ghost Story maddeningly boring, depressing and banal.
Personally, I thought it was the best film I have seen this year, along with Manchester by the Sea (which also starred Casey Affleck). The film is unusual in that it is seen entirely from the point of view of the ghost, and it transmits a tremendously moving sense of sadness and melancholy. It is also extremely beautiful, with its long-held shots filmed in the old “Academy ratio”.
I think Mary Kenny should give it another shot, without any expectation of seeing a fast-moving action movie.
A Catholic flavour
SIR – Massimo Faggioli’s Notebook (August 25) prompts the question: what is the most Catholic favour of ice cream? Not vanilla, surely. Perhaps tutti frutti?