Opinion & Features

Letters & emails

Francis was quite clear on ‘diversity’

SIR – The comments made by Pope Francis in his Dubai statement about God willing a diversity of religions probably caused theologians to raise their eyes to heaven: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings” (Overlooked story, March 15).

When questioned about this, the Pope’s answer was very clear: he said that the diversity of religions is only the permissive will of God. The sentence says that as God wills the diversity of sexes, colour, race and language, so God wills the diversity of religions. There is an evident comparison between the diversity of religions and the diversity of sexes.

With this direct comparison, the sentence can be understood or interpreted erroneously. The diversity of sexes is not the permissive will of God but is positively willed by God. The diversity of the sexes is not a matter of God’s permissive will. But when we mention both of these phrases in the same sentence, then the diversity of religions is interpreted as positively willed by God. The statement therefore leads to doubt.

For readers who may not be familiar with the distinction between the permissive and positive will of God, here are some examples of other things that God allows through his permissive will. God allowed or permitted Adam’s sin and all its consequences; and even when we personally sin, in some sense God permits this or tolerates this. But God does not positively will our sin. He permits it in view of the infinitely meritorious
sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, and because he does not want to destroy our freedom.

The context makes clear that the Pope couldn’t have meant permissive will when referring to diversity of religions; although he obviously meant positive will when referring to diversity of races and sexes. Naturally the media doesn’t understand the difference and so there erupted a volcano of nonsense.

The Vatican should make it a rule that theologians should vet what Pope Francis writes as he does have a habit of writing and saying things in a theologically unclear and confusing manner.

Brian McKenna
Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire

Why are we lagging on abuse?

SIR – Anyone who wants to find out what’s gone wrong in the Catholic Church and why our churches are emptying, need look only at the website of the English bishops.

There can be seen, and has been for the last fortnight or so, the heading: “Vatican announces concrete commitments and initiatives to protect children”.

I first became a headteacher of a Catholic school in 1975. Child protection measures were already clear and strong. I knew that any suspicion of child abuse had to be investigated while the teacher, or other person concerned, was suspended. I knew that if I did not follow the procedures properly, and especially if I tried to pass on a suspect teacher to another school, I would be sacked.

The police had to be informed, but even if the police felt there was insufficient evidence to convict, a teacher could still be dismissed. All teachers concerned had to be reported to the Department of Education in London and were put on List 99, meaning they could never again be employed in schools.

More than 40 years later, the Catholic Church is still in the process of deciding what to do.

Eric Hester
Bolton, Lancashire

Let’s join forces

SIR – I am a 95-year-old Catholic Englishman who converted from the Church of England 79 years ago and who loves both communities deeply.

With Christianity being attacked from many sources, I suggest that Catholics and Anglicans draw closer together, though full union may still be a distant hope.

My suggestion is that in England, at least, Catholics and Anglicans share their resources as far as presently possible. I suggest that diocese and parish boundaries be redrawn so as to coincide, and that the churches and cathedrals be shared together with their ecclesiastical titles. The latter already happens in a few cases – Liverpool and Southwark, for example.

Of course each community would have its own Eucharist, but as far as possible there would be ecumenical witness and worship.

I hope such an arrangement might encourage members of both communities to feel that they were fellow members of a particular parish or diocese.

In politics, people may be members of the same constituency even though of different political parties. In Ireland and elsewhere there is no
difficulty having two bishops with the same titles. There are two Archbishops of Armagh, for example, and two of Dublin.

Francis Bailey
Killiney, Co Dublin

NFP’s rebirth

SIR – In his excellent, broadly based, almost detached article on abortion and pro-life issues in Ireland (Feature, March 15), Ben Conroy did not mention the starting of a new child, without whom there is no abortion. It so happens that around about the same time – the early 1960s – two relevant things happened: John Rock promoted the Pill and John and Mary Billings publicised the ovulation method of family planning.

If it is not a truly human behaviour for a loving couple to refrain for several successive and recognisable days in each month, then there is no future for natural family planning (NFP). However, it is noticeable that websites teaching up-to-date NFP are increasingly run by non-religious promoters. Examples are NFPTA and the more daring Fertility Friday.

Effective modern NFP should perhaps have a place among new generation pro-lifers.

Dr Marie Arnall
Windermere, Cumbria

An absolution for all

SIR – As the number of penitents going to Confession slows to a dribble, the Church does nothing. Is everyone aware that in 1973 the Vatican approved “general absolution” but added so many riders as to make it a non-starter? Could this not be revisited?

Those nearing sainthood could still use the Confession box, but the vast numbers who do not go are being starved of a sacrament.

Brian Murray
Temple Balsall, West Midlands

Laud’s not there

SIR – I have been visiting the Shrine at Walsingham for over 60 years and can inform Robert Williams (Letter, March 15) that there has never been a statue of Archbishop Laud in the Anglican Shrine.

There is, however, one of King Charles I in an alcove on the staircase leading to the Orthodox Chapel.

I might add that this is the second time this mistake has been made in the Herald.

David Stokes
Birmingham, West Midlands