The Vatican’s volte-face on Martin Luther
SIR – As a Catholic I have found the writings of Flannery O’Connor to be helpful in many ways when bad things happen in the Church. As she once said: “The only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.”
Having said that, one piece of news recently did make me ashamed of what can sometimes be done supposedly in the name of the Church. This relates to the Vatican’s recent issuing of a stamp to commemorate the nailing by Martin Luther of the 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral 500 years ago. The stamp depicts Christ Crucified. But instead of the traditional picture of Mary, the Mother of God, and St John at the foot of the Cross, there are two substitutes, namely the two heresiarchs, Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. This is quite staggering and clearly blasphemous.
If that were not enough, there is an article by the Jesuit Fr Pani in a recent issue of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Pope’s “unofficial” voice, that states that Luther was in no way a heretic, but an authentic “reformer”. If this is so, then he has been unjustly persecuted for 500 years and must surely be rehabilitated and even canonised perhaps.
The problem, of course, is that Fr Pani has to explain why his great predecessors in the Jesuit order, for example St Ignatius Loyola, St Peter Canisius, St Peter Faber and St Robert Bellarmine, fought so heroically against the Lutheran heresy in the 16th century; and why on the 400th anniversary in 1917, La Civiltà Cattolica itself published an article censuring Luther as an apostate, a rebel and a blasphemer.
My only consolation in all of this is that ironically the events of 2017 stated above constitute in fact a very good argument for the truth of Catholicism. Hilaire Belloc expressed it very well when he described the Catholic Church as “an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight”.
Bingley, West Yorkshire
Guy Fawkes wasn’t like an Islamist
SIR – The concluding episode of BBC Two’s recent Elizabeth I’s Secret Agents gave the impression that Guy Fawkes and his accomplices were terrorists.
Fawkes et al, in common with most Catholics after the Elizabethan persecution, were hoping that James I, the son of Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, would be less severe. Disabused of this hope, a tiny minority turned not to terrorism, but to plotting the murder of James (and incidentally a great many others) in the naïve hope that his successor would be more lenient.
The Gunpowder Plotters were not martyrs but would-be murderers; Fawkes had no intention of blowing himself up, and even jumped off the scaffold to avoid evisceration and quartering, thus committing suicide. This would debar him from sainthood, and indeed no relics of the conspirators were rescued from their places of death, no shrines maintained, and no Cause for sainthood has ever been launched, let alone completed.
It is not surprising that they should be viewed through the lens of present-day Islamist terrorism – as religiously motivated proto-terrorists – but the programme’s historical slant also gave a sly nod to the claim that Catholics, in adhering to the sanctity of life and traditional marriage, are religious extremists.
Ann Farmer (Mrs)
Woodford Green, Essex
SIR – Your review of A Revolution of Feeling (Books, November 10) that apparently commences with a chapter on “A History of Emotions” betrays no admission that the very concept of emotions as we now understand them emerged out of the thinking of 19th-century Scotland.
This is all explained in Thomas Dixon’s 2008 Cambridge monograph: “From Passions to Emotions: the Creation of a Secular Psychological Category”. The concept of our being in thrall to some dark subconscious drives so that we cannot be held accountable for our actions appalled moral philosophers at the time. Prior to this, we spoke of our passions, which we were responsible for keeping under control.
In so much of the soft sciences we often find what we assume to be there, rather than what is there, and there is a trickle of intellectuals who conclude that this concept of our emotions is both wrong and harmful. Certainly we will not rid ourselves of the snowflake generation so long as they can hide behind this subterfuge with all its ramifications.
No food, no people
SIR – Fifty years ago much was written about the impossibility of feeding the then expected rise in the human population. Fortunately along came the green revolution with dwarfed hybrid crops, synthetic fertilisers, improved irrigation and crop protection materials. We now harvest 2,700 million tonnes of cereals (dominant global food source) from roughly the same area that then yielded 600 million tonnes.
Both Philip Jenkins (Cover story, November 3) and your report on Prince William (Home news, November 10) refer to expectations of a doubling of Africa’s population. Both seem to suggest that the implicit expansion of Africa’s food supply beyond its current parlous state will be easy.
Bearing in mind the Vatican’s disapproval of synthetic fertilisers, crop protection chemicals and GM crops it is hard to see how this can happen in a Catholic way. Without the food, and even without the conjectured climate change, there will not be the people.
Dr Michael Hughes
SIR – I was interested to read your article on the 300th anniversary of the founding of English Freemasonry (News Focus, November 10). I myself am a former Freemason in La Droit Humain, a French branch of which allows women to be initiated. I converted to Catholicism more than five years ago and left the lodge to be received into the Church. I only left as I felt it was a requirement of the Church, though I never saw anything anti-Catholic in my time there.
The other women masons I knew had no issue with Catholicism, and the initiation rites and lodge meetings are almost exclusively based on Bible stories. Perhaps this branch of the masons could be exempt from the Catholic ban?
Corinna Bruce (Miss)
Millennials in power
SIR – Sebastian Kurz is about to become the planet’s youngest head of government (Feature, November 10). It’s interesting that the first Millennial world leader is a Catholic (albeit a flawed one). Could he be followed by others, forming an unexpected new generation of European Catholic statesman?
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