Letters & Emails

Comments of the week

How to avoid being a liturgy extremist

SIR – The cover story “The kids are old rite” (September 1) seems to make a rigid division of Catholics into two categories, progressives versus traditionalists. Such rigidity is unhelpful. I am 67 and grew up first with the Old Rite, but accepted the liturgical changes when they came.

However, I never made the mistake of going to extremes and supporting one of the sides exclusively, and I am capable of valuing old and new liturgies. The progressives threw out the baby with the bathwater, rejecting perfectly good books and hymns, while the traditionalists were resistant to harmless and even helpful changes, such as altar girls and Communion in the hand.

A balanced approach is necessary, one that discerns critically and thoughtfully and values the good in the old and the new. My short period in seminary showed me that there were so-called progressives who were deeply intolerant of traditionalists and showed them no respect whatsoever. Once when we were discussing liturgy I objected that there were ordinary Catholics who liked the old ways. A progressive responded with “They’ll get what they are given,” and no one thought such arrogant disrespect to be worthy of comment or criticism. Too many of the progressives drew their inspiration not from truly Catholic traditions but from conventional liberalism. Yet the more extreme forms of traditionalism arose, probably, out of fear of change canonised as Christian thought.

Balance is needed, along with universal tolerance and respect by all participants in this debate.

Francis Beswick
Stretford, Greater Manchester


Deterring abuse

SIR – The sacramental seal of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is absolute, and if a priest were to break that seal then his excommunication from the Church would almost certainly follow. However, my understanding is that, if the penitent has no intention of ceasing to commit the mortal sin he/she has confessed, then that absolution given by the priest is nullified.

In my younger days, we were taught about the requirement of “a firm purpose of amendment” when making our Confession, but those words do not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope St John Paul II in 1992. Section 1463 of the Catechism states in part: “Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted.”

Would it not be a deterrent to those whose penitence is not sincere if the Church published a reminder about the potential for not being absolved if the sin was particularly grave (which must surely be the case in respect of paedophiles committing acts against children)? This might then deter acts of abuse in future and provide an opportunity for a return to the Church.

Joseph Fleming
By email


A Blessed family

SIR – I was delighted to read your article on Richard Herst (Blessed of the week, August 25). Not only is my birthday on the same day as his martyrdom, but I know I am a direct descendant, too. My aunt, who was a nun, had the family tree going back to 1628. Unfortunately when she died it was burnt.

Herst can also be spelt Hurst (like my name), Hirst or Hearst. I have the family tree, like many of my close and distant relatives, going back to a grandfather, George Hurst, who was born in 1703. The remaining connection to 1628 is frustratingly lost.

I have written to all the priests around Broughton and had much help with looking at many Catholic archives, including the Talbot Library. Hurst is a very popular Lancashire name, but I feel sure there must be someone out there with the missing connection. I have been searching for years and would be so grateful if you would publish my letter, along with my email address ([email protected]), in case someone can help.

Tina Belderbos (née Hurst)
By email


Virtually at Mass

SIR – Dr Elisabetta Canetta (Feature, September 1) envisages a world in which our holograms go to work while we stay at home. How long before youngsters use this new technology to “attend” Sunday Mass while staying curled up in bed?

Nathan Adams
By email