Letters & Emails

Comments of the week

Multiculturalism is essentially unstable

SIR – Fr Edmund Waldstein’s thoughtful and temperate article on Mrs Merkel and the Pope (Cover story, September 22) shows the need for reflection on multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism and globalisation, whether we like it or not, now exist. Multiculturalism is plainly preferable to civil war and to persecution of ethnic and religious minorities. But what is it? We are invited to think that a multicultural society is one in which there are several sub-societies with cultures that differ from one another. But every society of necessity has a culture of its own which is expressed in its laws and its practices in education and medicine. A multicultural society is one with sub-societies that differ in culture not only from one another but from the whole.

Although multiculturalism is better than war or persecution, it is essentially unstable: there will always be friction between the society as a whole and those sub-societies whose culture is different. Perhaps that was not recognised by Jacques Maritain or by European and North American statesmen after 1945; it is important to recognise it now. Otherwise advocates of multiculturalism, without realising it, will be working not for peace, tolerance and goodwill, but for a society with a single culture in which the vital principles and practices of former sub-societies have “dwindled”, as the liberal philosopher Bernard Williams put it, “into private tastes”.

William Charlton
West Woodburn, Hexham


Was Jeremy Corbyn just being blessed?

SIR – Members of the congregation at Mass who do not want to receive Holy Communion may, nevertheless, join the Communion queue in order to receive a blessing from the celebrant. They show the celebrant they want a blessing by crossing their arms over their chests. At a funeral Mass, when non-Catholics can be expected to be present, the celebrant will explain this practice, and invite people to come forward for a blessing.

Your News Focus of September 15 quotes anonymous sources who saw Jeremy Corbyn “in the Communion queue” at a funeral Mass. The article does not mention the probability that if Mr Corbyn was in the queue, it was to receive a blessing, rather than Communion.

It is a pity that the sources did not see what happened when Mr Corbyn got to the front of the queue. A report of him receiving a blessing would have added to his reputation as a respectful and intelligent politician.

Robert Pellegrinetti
By email


I was wrong on Alpha

SIR – I recently had a spell in hospital where I was given a copy of the Catholic Herald of September 15. I found it intelligent, refreshing and concentrating on what for me was most important in Christian faith.

One letter, however, elicits a few words of reply: that of Fr David Palmer, who offered a critical view of the Alpha course. I am a High Anglican priest who spent a good deal of his ministry ignoring Alpha because it wasn’t his tradition. I had to eat humble pie.

The reason is this: the course is largely a series of personal stories and encounters, many from the life experiences of the presenter and author Nicky Gumbel, but not entirely. These personal stories grapple deeply with faith. I have looked at other alternatives, from all sides. They all get bogged down in dogma.

Watching on DVD these encounters with God, participants are often drawn into their own encounter as they discuss these stories. I realised that I have spent too much time trying to teach the “right” position, and not enough in leaving it to God to work his miracle. I have witnessed its success in many countries, I have seen people come to faith. What more can we ask?

These people are already in our care, attending our Church course. But they need a meeting with the living God, and that’s got nothing to do with my cleverness. God is using this course. Please give it a try.

Fr Robert Hampson
Heston, Greater London

sir –Fr David Palmer is right in saying that we should abandon the Anglican Evangelical Alpha Course and, moreover, develop our own Catholic programme and promote that.

We need to be wary of anything that the Church of England does, given that nothing it has done in recent years has done anything to draw people to it – in fact, apparently, just the opposite.

Peter Newton
Heston, Greater London


Teach extreme awe

SIR –In her comments on the idea of encouraging Catholics to receive the Blessed Sacrament more frequently by presenting the Host as some sort of “communal meal”, Ruth Yendell (Letter, September 15) raises much-needed issues about the nature of the sacrament: such a policy has helped lead to a failure to afford the proper respect for and worship of the Eucharist.

We no longer kneel in worship to receive it, and now take it in our hands rather than directly from the minister who administers it into our mouths, often a lay person. These changes were due to the Holy Eucharist being regarded in a less reverential way, more as some sort of food rather than an object calling for extreme awe and adoration.

We must return to acknowledging that the Blessed Sacrament contains the Real Presence of Jesus. I have found a considerable lack of awareness of the full nature of the Eucharist, even among my fellow Catholics; largely, I suspect, because we are seldom if ever reminded of the fact that Our Lord is present in “a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity.

In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man” (Compendium Encyclopedia of the Catholic Church, 282). This reveals the true “unfathomable richness of this sacrament” (op cit, 275).

The Church should return to concentrating its guidance to the faithful on this complete and divine aspect, for it is essential for us to adore, worship and glorify the Holy Eucharist, in addition to being clearly aware of the dread implications of taking Holy Communion when not in a state of grace.

John O’Sullivan
Abingdon, Oxon


A piece of cake

SIR – Greg Warren (Letter, September 22) criticises you for saying that the Epiphany on January 6 coincides with Twelfth Night. While Twelfth Night is observed abroad on January 5, as in Spain, it has been the English custom for the Epiphany also to be called Twelfth Night for at least 400 years.

Samuel Pepys wrote on January 6, 1665: “At night home, being Twelfth Night, and there chose my piece of cake.”

Leigh Hatts
London SE1