After the revolution, the reckoning
SIR – The article by Fr Hugh Somerville Knapman (Feature, April 5), on the desirability of revisiting the question of the liturgical changes post-Vatican II, is representative of many such counsels in recent years which have largely gone unheeded. But we now know a great deal more about the procedure, the mindset and the ultimate aims of the so-called experts who drove and designed this experiment.
What is beyond dispute is that for motives discernible in its archive of engagement, it went far beyond what was voted for by the Council Fathers. What has also emerged is that it was in some instances based on flawed scholarship as well as an animus against the millennial liturgy that had nourished and indeed embedded itself in the Catholic culture and piety of five continents. What has been gained may be calculable. What has been lost is inestimable in cultural and devotional terms as well as traceable heritage.
The implementation of the changes was in many cases accompanied by the most ruthless, insensitive and iconoclastic destruction of the patrimony of centuries by ecclesiastics and surely represents another form of clericalism and abuse of power which has its
parallels elsewhere in our recent experience.
If the Church is at all concerned about truth, justice, and the serious questions raised by research and study of the post-conciliar liturgical protocols of implementation, there is a need for a profound and impartial re-examination of its modus operandi and terms of reference of this agenda of change, however inconvenient that may seem at the present time.
Fr Antony Conlon
Our Lady and St John, Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Did the clerical crisis begin in 1965?
SIR – Matthew Schmitz (Comment, April 19) suggests that Benedict XVI is right to ascribe the rise of sexual corruption within the clergy to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. But can we not also trace it to Vatican II’s decree Gaudium et Spes (1965), which denigrated “merely individualistic morality” and defined virtue as contributing “to the common good”? No longer was “purity” a worthy gift to God.
The new line was expressed well from the pulpit by Tom Wilkinson as Fr Matthew in the 1994 film Priest: “With all the suffering in the world, do you think God cares about what you do with your private parts?” Or words to that effect.
There followed the exodus of priests from the priesthood, many to marry; the widespread rejection of Humanae Vitae; and the promotion of liberation theology.
Piers Paul Read
Pay for Notre-Dame
SIR – We all realise that the restoration and rebuilding of Notre-Dame will be a huge task (Cover story, April 26).
Would it not be reasonable and an example of Christian generosity for the Vatican to make a very substantial financial contribution to the project?
The prayers of the Pope are important, of course, but surely the Vatican should be setting an example financially as well as encouraging the Church worldwide to contribute.
Without such a contribution, the situation would be rather embarrassing, surely?
SIR – I believe in a spiritual pro-life faith, which is different from abortion politics (Sohrab Ahmari, April 12). Pro-life should be all-inclusive and indivisible. I see two people within each unwanted pregnancy (the mother and baby-to-be). I do not choose one over the other – I clearly choose both.
I hate sin but not the sinner, I love my enemy and I treat others as I wish to be treated; political pro-life doesn’t. I will never break human life into pieces by choosing anti-abortion over the poor, for example. The dark social cloud (or matrix) over us is more a political game that cannot be won – never loving your enemy.
I love my Church with its social and moral policy; however, I wish we could change our judgmental attitudes. I wish we could be a balance to secularism and its polarising politics – not be a part of it all. Catholicism is known by so many of our discouraged youth as a faith of hate (we hate contraception, gays and abortion, for example). I wish we could walk humbly, speak justly and love God and all His children. I wish we would worship a God that is love, not simply laws.
We need standards, but I wish more for compassion, sympathy and understanding towards sinners, the needy and all those in crisis. I wish for a Church of life-style examples for sinners, not closed doors and excommunication talk due to our fears.
Lynchburg, Virginia, United States
A city spared
SIR – I was interested in Andrew M Brown’s article (Charterhouse, April 19) on Kraków, in which he describes the reasons Kraków was saved from destruction in the Second World War.
Searching for the Divine Mercy Novena, I came across an old leaflet on Divine Mercy. It mentions the promise of Jesus to St Faustina: “I shall preserve the cities and homes in which this picture [of Divine Mercy] shall be found.” And under the heading “Two Polish Cities Saved”, it says the following: “A most unusual aspect of the Mercy Message is the promise of physical protection contained in these words …
“One of the main reasons we are able to spread this message today is because of the indisputable proof God gave to this remarkable promise. He told St Faustina there was coming a new and more terrible war for the world, and that Poland would suffer much for its sins. But He would spare those cities where His picture of Mercy would be publicly venerated. Only in Kraków and Vilno was official ecclesiastical approval granted to spread the message and to display a copy of the picture for public veneration – before Poland was invaded by the Nazis in September 1939.
“Both Kraków (population 650,000) and Vilno (population 400,000) should have been destroyed, like Warsaw and every other major Polish city. Yet many eyewitnesses testify that, although both the Germans and the Russians invaded Poland and caused frightful destruction everywhere, particularly in Warsaw and the larger cities, these two were spared and suffered little or no damage.”
Hailsham, East Sussex
Waiting for heaven
SIR – Your letters page mentions purgatory (April 26), and Catholicism is surely right in postulating that some souls need a period of preparation for heaven. But that’s the limit of our knowledge.
Some have speculated that purgatory is a temporary hell with punishing fires; others have thought it a reflective state allowing time for character development. But is there only one kind of purgatory? Maybe there is a variety of states appropriate to the spiritual condition of various souls? We really do not know and have no means of knowing. All we know is that God wants us to pray for the souls there.
Stretford, Greater Manchester