Letters & Emails

Comments of the week

Christians must give Freud a fair hearing

SIR – Mary Kenny (September 1) admits that the “fierce salvo” against Freud that is the “gigantic book” by Dr Frederick Crews may be “overstated” (putting it mildly).

That Freud’s anti-Christianity is undeniable does not make his researches and theorisings “peculiar” per se – and I write as one who has studied him with a qualified professor-analyst. What is significant here is that Freud grew up in a non-practising and highly humanistic Jewish family in a narrowly Catholic and very corrupt Vienna where he experienced discrimination: a seminal moment was when the young Sigmund witnessed his father being spat on in the street.

One cause of his current demonisation is undoubtedly his aetiology of (male) homosexuality, which he regards as a state of arrested psychic development.

As to his own sexual conduct being “unethical”, Freud’s family life was close and to all appearances exemplary; however, this may refer to his and his pupil Jung’s falling out over a patient, Sabina Spielrein, who came between them, it seems, emotionally as well as professionally.

Mary Kenny is welcome to prefer Jung (I did myself once) – always assuming she has given both a fair hearing – but without Freud there would have been no Jung or Jungian school. And for those inclined to dismiss Freud without a hearing, may I recommend beginning with his – to me at least ever-fascinating – The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.

Anna Rist (Mrs)

The Thomas More of breakfast television

SIR – In an age when politicians are adept at avoiding moral opinions that deviate from popular attitudes, I found it both refreshing and courageous to hear Jacob Rees-Mogg voice his views about abortion in a recent television interview. There was no sense of compromise in his statement nor did he seem to cast any doubts about his respect for the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Considering some have suggested he would be a suitable candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party, uncompromising opinions might be regarded as political suicide.

However, I feel he must be congratulated for his honesty and integrity. I am reminded of Norfolk in the film A Man for All Seasons, whose words to Thomas More encourage him to “join us, we’re all doing it”.

It would have been so easy for Rees-Mogg to have followed this policy and acquired the approval of the many. It seems he did not.

Fr Bill Bergin
St Teresa’s Church, Newarthill, North Lanarkshire

Saving Holy Name

SIR – Catherine Pepinster is quite wrong to say that the “Diocese of Salford planned to demolish Holy Name [Manchester] in the 1990s” (Arts & Books, August 18). That threat came from the Jesuits who had announced its closure. This process was halted by grant offers from English Heritage, and the determination of one priest kept it open. Happily the Jesuits have now returned, while Fr Ray Matus, who saved the church in 1993, now ministers from St Chad’s, Cheetham Hill.

Dr Roderick O’Donnell
By email

Editor’s note: Catherine Pepinster has asked us to point out that the diocese did not wish to be involved with the church and had wanted it closed at that time, according to the Holy Name’s own leaflet on the history of the church.

Creation theory

SIR – Jan Mackenzie (Letter, September 1) is probably right that the Genesis creation story is tacitly rejecting contemporary Eastern conceptions of two co-equal and antagonistic original principles (as well as, I suggest, a vaguely “Platonic” notion that matter is intrinsically inferior). But the goodness of creation affirmed by the sacred text is ontological, not moral, goodness. And so it is understood to have beauty because it pleases God, who “sees that it is good” – affirms and approves what he has given being. As Aquinas held, the basis of the pulchrum, “the beautiful”, is being.

Now, to confuse the moral with the ontological leads to mistakenly equating the ethical with the aesthetic. But while moral virtue may be a higher kind of goodness than beauty, it is also a different kind. As the OED defines it, moral means “[pertaining] to the distinction between right and wrong, or good and evil, in relation to the actions, volitions or character of responsible beings; ethical”. The Bible does not mention an angelic creation prior to man; so the “priestly” writer of Genesis 1:25 is describing as “good” a world that contained no “responsible beings” (unless we were to interpret the problematic “serpent” of Gen 3:1ff as such a being).

Dr Carl Schmidt
Newland Mill, Oxfordshire

Abandon Alpha

SIR – With the news of the continuing decline of Christianity in the UK (Home News, September 8), and the catastrophic decline of the Church of England in particular, can anyone tell me why the Catholic Church is still pushing the Anglican Evangelical Alpha course? It hasn’t saved the Church of England, and it won’t save the Catholic Church. It also has the problem of not holding to Catholic ecclesiology, sacramentology or soteriology.

Is there no one in the English-speaking Catholic world who has the ability to put together a course or programme that is actually Catholic and could be promoted as the Alpha course currently is?

Fr David Palmer
By email

From meal to Mass

In the second paragraph of Matthew Schmitz’s fascinating article “The kids are old rite” (Cover story, September 1), he writes: “Liberals have reason to be glad: Francis has shown that he is sympathetic to their desire for a liturgy that feels more like a communal meal than an ancient sacrifice.”

Would it help if we remembered that the original Last Supper was both “a communal meal” and “an ancient sacrifice”? These two should not be put in opposition.

The Passover meal was the greatest religious act of the Jewish year, and it was ancient, going back to their deliverance from Egypt. It was also ritualistic, full of symbolism, and it followed a strict form. In relation to the coming of the Messiah, it was prophetic, too. Yet, at the same time, it was a family meal, to which the “stranger”, or “neighbour”, should be invited.

It is also worth remembering that the Jews had a huge reverence for God, a combination of fear and love which abounds throughout the Old Testament stories and events.

It seems to me that we could learn a lot from better understanding the Jewish roots of our liturgy – the worship which would have formed all 12 Apostles, until the coming of the Messiah led to its transformation to a greater sacrifice and an even more significant communal meal.

Ruth Yendell (Miss)
By email