Why I will not leave the Church
SIR – I was received into the Church, as a convert, in 1980, was ordained deacon in Southwark archdiocese in 1989 and am now retired in Essex. Recent revelations and events have left me dismayed and wondering where the Church that I love is heading. Should I leave?
In August 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury named more than 300 clergy in a report which found that more than 1,000 children had been abused. Extrapolating that across the whole of the United States would mean that maybe some 15,000 clergy might have been guilty of such abuse. Of course I know that such extrapolations are bound to be inaccurate but, in the absence of more grand jury investigations, they’re the best guide we have. Across the world we’re probably talking of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of such clergy.
What can we do about it? Well, we cannot change the past, obviously. But we can deal with the aftermath. Until now the Church authorities have proved themselves unwilling or – at best – incapable of doing so. The recent clerical abuse summit has produced some fine words but, as far as I can judge it, no concrete action (Cover story, March 1).
So, please, let us immediately institute an inviolable policy of reporting all clerical abuse allegations to the civil authorities – ie the police – who, let’s face it, are better equipped than Church authorities at investigating such matters. If the clergyman pleads guilty, or is found guilty, then he should be sacked. Immediately. No second chance. For surely this is a sin that cries to heaven.
So, should I leave? No. I am with Peter, who said: “Lord, whom shall I go to?”
Deacon Alan Bryan
Archbishop Laud was a friend of Rome
SIR – Archbishop Laud was not the “firm Protestant” Robert Ian Williams (Letter, February 22) thinks. The year after becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, he invited an old student friend, Dom Leander, to spend almost three years in England with the approval of Pope Urban VIII. His long report was well received in Rome, including the suggestion that the pope should send an accredited agent to England “relating to the reconciliation of moderate Papists and moderate Protestants”.
Urban VIII appointed Gregorio Panzani, who kept a fascinating diary of his contacts in Church and state. He concluded that the best way forward was to “choose moderate men deputies on both sides, to draw up the differences in as small a compass as they could, and confer about them”. Only three bishops were “violently against the See of Rome”. Another go-between was the Franciscan, Christopher Davenport, who had published a commentary on the 39 Articles endeavouring to show that they were consistent with Catholic doctrine.
When the Civil War broke out Laud was beheaded for “corresponding with Rome” and “treating with the Pope’s men in England”. When it ended, a detailed unity plan was devised with the approval of Pope Alexander VII. It was hoped the Puritans would be satisfied with complete religious freedom, and not oppose it. But it was not to be.
Bernini immortalised its failure with his flamboyant memorial to Alexander VII in St Peter’s, commissioned by the pope himself, where Alexander’s angry disappointment is expressed by the allegorical figure of Truth stamping her left foot on England.
Fr Michael Rear
Pick and mix faith
SIR – May I be permitted to make a few points regarding Ruth Yendell’s letter (March 1)? I do not take issue with her response as such but I fear, on my reading of the letter to which she was replying, she has not grasped a central point your original correspondent was trying to make. Namely, that we accept the primacy of the Pope and the Magisterium in all matters or we do not. Alternatively, we pick and choose those to our liking and personal taste. This is what leads to the divisions alluded to in the first letter of Tim Ryan and indeed your own leading article of February 15.
I do not think his letter was saying the issues he raised were the only ones to be addressed, merely that they dominate the pages of most Catholic publications to the virtual exclusion of the points Ruth Yendell eloquently makes.
Surely there is an inference to be made here as to what ordinary Catholics are rightly or wrongly concerned with.
Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire
SIR – The Pope’s “reflection points” on dealing with sexual abuse (Cover story, March 1) suffer from a fundamental flaw in failing to distinguish between conduct which involves a prima facie breach of secular law and that involving a prima facie breach of Canon Law.
In the cases of the former, the only possible response can be to turn the matter over at once to the police while maintaining the presumption of innocence. There is no place for the kind of vague statements by Church authorities such as “credibly accused” (US news analysis, March 1). If no prosecution results or if, following one, the cleric is found innocent, then, unless there is a successful civil action the matter can then go back to the Church authorities if there is a possible breach of Canon Law. If there is no such breach, the case is closed.
However, where, for instance, bishops go on “fact-finding missions to sex-tourism destinations” (Vatican news analysis, March 1) there may well be no breach of secular law but there appears to be a breach of Canon 285, among others, which provides that clerics are to “refrain from things unbecoming to their clerical state”. This is for the Church to deal with.
As they stand the Pope’s reflection points give the impression that the Church is operating a parallel jurisdiction to that of the State, when, for example, Reflection 4 refers to “procedures for examination of the charges” and other matters. This idea is surely the source of a great deal of the trouble here.
Editor, Law and Justice, the Christian Law Review,
Envy of the world
SIR – Harry Mount’s review of two seriously biased books on “fee-paying schools” (Books, March 1) does the cause of Catholic education little good.
They assume that it is the right of the state to provide and have a monopoly of education for the entire nation, which is surely “Enlightenment” nonsense. The view of the Church has always been that parents are the prime educators of their children and should be free to choose schools. The UK is lucky enough to have a whole series of independent schools which are the envy of the world.
It would certainly not be “fair” to anyone to abolish them. If the state is prepared to subsidise excellent schools, so much the better.
Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire