Comment Opinion & Features

Letters: We can’t let our musical standards fall


We can’t let our musical standards fall

SIR – May I warmly endorse your leading article memorialising the achievements of Sir Stephen Cleobury and Colin Mawby, both lately deceased former Masters of Music at Westminster Cathedral?

I had three sons in succession as choristers at the Cathedral under Stephen and two of his distinguished successors; like most chorister-parents, I found my life immeasurably enriched by the experience. The Catholic Herald published a letter of mine defending the appointment of Stephen against those who objected that he was not a Catholic, although the appointing committee considered him the best candidate.

I was partly inspired to offer my sons as choristers after hearing the superb recordings of Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae and Benjamin Britten’s Missa Brevis (written for the choir) under their then conductor George Malcolm (scholar and later Honorary Fellow of my college, Balliol) and, more than once, the Easter Vidi aquam, matchlessly sung in a packed Cathedral by the choir under Colin Mawby. It was a great privilege to be involved for 13 years in this vital part of the Church’s continuing act of liturgical worship, something for which only the very highest standards are high enough.

The Cathedral Choir School was strongly supported through difficult times by Cardinal Hume in his day; and the choir’s singing was enthusiastically praised by St John Paul II when he came to the Cathedral. Would it not be a “poor” Church indeed that could fail to support such an institution, heart and soul?

Dr Carl Schmidt
Witney, Oxfordshire

Mandatory reporting can prevent abuse

SIR – Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith dismisses a leading abuse lawyer’s perception that the Seal of Confession protects abusers (Cover story, November 20).

He does so on the grounds that absolution only takes effect after “true repentance and a firm purpose of amendment”.

Whatever the implications for absolution, very few abuse convictions result from perpetrators taking their Confessional obligations seriously and informing the authorities. Most result from victims/survivors’ disclosures decades after their abuse during which much more abuse has occurred.

All abuse of minors is horrific and occurs throughout society. Focusing on the scale of clerical abuse in religious bodies which recognise Confession around the world, it is massive. Even the Vatican recognises that “in the last 50 years somewhere between 1.5 per cent and 5 per cent of the Catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases”.

We saw the reality of these statistics in the well-documented endemic abuse in Ireland, indeed in the nigh-on half-century of abuse in plain sight at St Benedict’s/Ealing Abbey which IICSA has exposed (Britain news analysis, November 1).

Such a scale and longevity suggest that those confessing abuse, whether or they resolve not to abuse again and whether or not they receive absolution, often re-offend.

Paul VI was warned about recidivist abuse in 1963. We have had Nolan and Cumberlege. And IICSA’s sobering reports have given us an idea of how such abuse has continued, in some cases unabated.

The already damaged victims deserve that no stone be left unturned in bringing perpetrators to justice and preventing future abuse. This can better be achieved with mandatory reporting without any exemption for the Confessional.

Phil Johnson
Chairman, Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS), London WC1

‘Parroting’ myth

SIR – I have heard the myth that unjustly condemned the kind of catechetical education received by my parents, and Fr Dominic Allain alludes to it in his Diary of a City Priest (November 15).

According to that myth, my parents’ generation were taught to recite from the Catechism “parrot fashion” without understanding its contents. My mother could disprove that myth.

She was taught to understand and to memorise the contents of the Catechism. She could both recite and explain its questions and answers. This education

prepared her for life and continued to serve her well. No person who knew her could say that she had been taught her religion poorly, but ideology often trumps fact and evidence. My mother’s religious knowledge and understanding exceeded that which was given to my generation.

The latest edition of A Catechism of Christian Doctrine (often called the Penny Catechism) is published by the Catholic Truth Society. The Church’s present crisis would not be so great if the proven method of catechesis had not been abandoned.

P Whitney
Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Moveable feasts

SIR – Fr Dominic Allain is only half-right in his introduction to last week’s Diary of a City Priest (November 29). The Collect for the First Sunday of Advent in the 1962 Missal (the Extraordinary Form) does indeed read Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam. In fact, the Collects for the second and fourth Sundays of Advent in the older Missal also begin with the rallying cry of Excita, as does the Collect for Ember Friday. Moreover, a pleasing spiritual harmony between the end of one liturgical year and the start of the next is created by the Collect for the Last Sunday after Pentecost, which implores Excita, quaesumus, Domine: “Rouse/Stir up, we pray, O Lord …”

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the 1970/2008 Missal (the Ordinary Form). In the post-conciliar reforms, the three Excita Advent Sunday Collects were moved to Advent weekdays, where far fewer of the faithful will regularly hear them. The Collect for the Last Sunday after Pentecost has also been shifted to weekdays, displaced by the movement of the feast of Christ the King.

I would invite readers to look at the relevant texts, and perhaps come to their own conclusions about why the post-Vatican II liturgical reformers might have sdisplaced this set of Advent prayers, previously used for at least 12 centuries in the Roman Rite. They might consider whether this was a prudent or responsible thing to do, and whether this act was really required by the Second Vatican Council itself.

Matthew Hazell

Money matters

SIR – Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala offers an incredible witness of faith in your cover story of November 29. Those of us living in wealthy nations must surely help our brothers and sisters in countries like South Sudan which lack basic amenities.

As I read in the same issue about the Holy See’s financial affairs, I couldn’t help wondering: wouldn’t the $200 million reportedly used to speculate on the London property market have been better spent on building Church schools and hospitals in Bishop Kussala’s homeland?

Wendy Carlson
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania