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Letters & emails

Newman’s message to a Church in crisis

SIR – The news that Blessed John Henry Newman is to be canonised is wonderful. What that holy man would have us to heed at this critical time for the Church is to be found in his sermon on Jeroboam. There he contrasts the responses of Jeroboam and David to God’s promise to place the kingdom in the hands of each.

Jeroboam chose to regard the promise as giving him the right to grab the kingdom from Solomon. David chose to wait for God to fulfil his promise in his own way and in his own time. David did that even when he had King Saul at his mercy.

Newman lived what he had preached in that sermon, deeply conscious of the call of the Bible for us to “wait on the Lord”. He did so when deciding whether or not to join the Roman Catholic Church; and also when he was under suspicion from his superiors, both as an Anglican and a Catholic. His trust in God was absolute, believing, as he said in that sermon, “what [God] had promised He was able to perform”.

In his sermon, Newman said, “though Almighty God promised [Jeroboam] the kingdom, he did not tell him to gain it for himself … Jeroboam ought to have waited patiently God’s time; this would have been the part of true faith.”

Newman went on to say, “But it had always been, as on this occasion, the sin of the Israelites to outrun God’s providence, and even when they chose to pursue His ends, to wish to work them out in their own way. They never would ‘be still and know that He was God’, wait His word and follow his guidance … and thought they had found a better way.” Jeroboam failed to gain the kingdom.

Of David, Newman said, “David inherited this patient faith and through it obtained the promise”, becoming King David.

The era in which we live shows a preference for instant decision-making, encouraged to do so by technology. The Catholic Church should avoid being drawn into that attitude. The Church’s approach to the problems of the day should be exactly that of King David, rather than that of Jeroboam. God’s will must be paramount for the Church, even if it becomes unpopular when it decides to “wait on the Lord”. A St John Henry Newman would have it so.

Fr Michael G Murphy
Bishopstown, Co Cork, Ireland

James II was not the last Catholic king

SIR – I must respectfully correct Richard Eddy’s statement (Letter, February 8) that “James II was the last Catholic monarch of this realm”. James III, his 13-year-old son, was proclaimed King James III of England, VIII of Scotland on the day of his father’s death. He was recognised as such by Louis XIV of France, and Spain, Modena and the papacy pledged their support to the succession. James was proclaimed the rightful king of England by all the French ambassadors to the courts of Europe.

Like his father, James III – known as the Old Pretender – was a religiously tolerant king, though a devout Catholic himself. Sadly, the persecution of Catholics in England, together with the 1702 Act of Attainder, prevented the return of perhaps the finest, most gracious of monarchs. His son, Charles III, began life in the same mould, but the failure of the ’45 rebellion broke his heart and he never recovered from the loss of so many loyal men who had rallied to the Stuart cause, at the bloody hands of “Butcher” Cumberland at and after Culloden.

Catholics who believed in the divine right of kings, could never accept that the Elector of Hanover and his successors had any claim to the crown of this realm. Although in England it is still the case that a Catholic cannot become Sovereign, happily this is not the case in Scotland.

On the death of Charles, his brother Benedict became the Cardinal King Henry IX. He never relinquished his royal status and made it clear that only he was entitled to be called King of England, and after him, his heirs by legitimate succession.

The tombs of James II, James III, Charles III and Henry IX are to be found at St Peter’s in Rome. Modest marble tablets refer to the three princes for the last time by the titles that they claimed and were entitled to.

Michael A Thorndyke
Colinsburgh, Fife, Scotland

SIR – Contrary to your correspondent Richard Eddy’s assertion, King Charles I was no real martyr. Desperate to regain his throne in 1647, he made a secret deal with the Scots to establish Presbyterianism in England.

Indeed, the High Church Anglicans were for dignified worship, but history records that Archbishop Laud and others were firm Protestants, and rejected the Mass, transubstantiation and the intercession of the saints. In doing so they were loyal to the 39 Articles of Religion.

Only extreme Puritans wrongly suspected them of secret Romanism. Indeed, the most principled of High Church Anglicans could not even reach a union with the Eastern Orthodox over these very points.

Requiem Masses and the intercession of the saints and of the Blessed Virgin Mary were introduced into the Church of England by Anglo-Catholicism, which emerged in the 19th century. This belief was held only by a minority within Anglicanism and never by the mainstream.

Robert Ian Williams
By email

Faith and fashion

SIR – What a terrific article by Matthew Schmitz headed “The peril of polite Catholics” (Cover story, February 8). This is rife among my fellow Catholics today. The faith that was taught to me by my father (my mother died three weeks after my birth) and by our parish priest and local nuns bears no resemblance to the sad, watery Catholic faith of today.

It is a rarity to find my fellow Catholics willing to stand up for the most basic of Catholic values: that is, marriage between man and woman, and disagreement with same-sex marriage, which under God’s laws isn’t marriage at all.

My wife and I were, within our immediate and extended family, the only ones to say we couldn’t attend a close family second wedding after divorce, because of our belief that it was not a real marriage.

The rest of the family were glad and willing to attend, seemingly not having a clue that they were rejecting one of the most fundamental laws of God. I suppose this comes back to Matthew Schmitz’s “perils of polite Catholics”: they dislike being reminded that they still profess an unfashionable faith.

Paul Botto
Cardiff, Wales

Indecent proposals

SIR – When a man joins a seminary or gets ordained he signs up to a life of celibacy. He has thus said “no” in advance to any sexual proposal whatsoever.

It follows that any person making an indecent proposition to a seminarian, or indeed any clergyman, is committing an act of sexual harassment.

For this reason, the fact that sex in a seminary or between clergymen was consensual is irrelevant: whoever suggested it is a harasser in the “workplace” and should be fired.

Henry von Blumenthal
Lameschmillen, Luxembourg