SIR,—Your report (January 29) suggests general opposition on the part of sisters to a real modernisqtion of religious habits. I believe many sisters, especially those who think deeply about the role of active orders in the church and who understand something of modern conditions and needs, will welcome a change of dress such as that pioneered by the American Ursulines.
The religious dress bears public witness to Christ and to the state of complete dedication and unreserved discipleship. One might well look at a mixed gathering or nuns and wonder if this witness in the mid20th century is not swallowed up in the eccentricities of their garb. In the minds of many their dress is a medieval hang over which encourages the view that religion is irrelevant. At the same time we are acquainted with the neat and simple uniforms of various services.
Every Sister knows the practical value and protection afforded by a religious habit. No one wants to dispense with it. Many of us feel that the spirit or our foundresses would be seen today in an ordinary dress or suit with a crucifix or emblem to distinguish hand a small veil. Surely off-the-peg clothes are in better conformity with holy poverty, and would allow the necessary variation for difficult ages and sizes.
Sisters who have already made a change of style will confirm that what once seemed a drastic step
Sir,—Parish priests are increasingly taking to heart the teaching of Pope John XXIII, of blessed memory, about the rjght to information about public affairs (Pacem in Terris, para. 12 of C.T.S. edilimit. Here and there one hears of parishes where details of the parish accounts are read from the pulpit, posted on the notice board, and even published in the newsletter.
This is the time of the year these accounts are prepared and as I am starting a study of parish finance I write to ask if those of your readers who live in 'enlightened parishes where this informa tion is disclosed or, for that matter, the parish clergy themselves — could send me copies of the accounts for 1964. in any-account I may prepare for publication, no parish will be identified without the permission of its parish priest A. E. C. W. Spencer, Cavendish Square College, II CavencEsh Square.
Sir, The Vatican Commission (CU., February 5) are to be congratulated for condemning the immoral and harmful films that are being exposed to the public — to younger people mostly or to those with immature minds.
I could not help smiling at the naivete of Mr. Leonard Samson, the publicity director of "The Servant" who comments: "Because it depicts immoral people doesn't make it an Immoral film", The thought behind that one is that you can picturise the lowest depravity but provided you don't take sides, no harm is done.
Or at Mr. Michael Deeley, associate producer of "Tom Jones", who said: " `Tom Jones' was treated with enormous fun, just as the book was." 11 occurs to me that the only way some types of people could ever he impressed by sin is by regarding it as fun. It seems to me that more of us are led astray by a laugh---with its undertones—than ever they are by, a serious gesture. To give the public what it believes it wants always seems to be tied up with commercial exploitation. Unless some positive and immovahle standards arc establithed in films. TV and the press the running decline of morals is not going to he halted. The sense of responsibility that the country and the world is crying nut for is not likely to he established by a series of cheap laughs or by depicting dirt in all its multifarious aspects,
Donald G. Warr, Wicken, Cambs.
(ARTIcLE: Page 4) soon falls into proportion. Few of these Sisters, if any, are willing to return to starched trimmings. After a year in short dress a religious habit in the present sense of the word would not be wanted back. Nor would the change seem so drastic if it was gradually introduced, Leaving the Sisters confined to the convent in long skirts if they wished,
If Sisters want to think the habit makes the nun let them, but why must it be a 19th century one-or earlier? Lastly, it seems as if those who diligently observe a superiors' slightest command arc unwilling to obey the repeated requests from a higher authority, the Pope himse"F
Because of our customs with regard to publicity I must ask you not to publish my address.
Sister Mary Florence
Sir, — May I seriously suggest that if anyone's concupiscence is aroused by the sight or thought of a religious dressed in a simple calflength skirt, wearing nylons (longwearing and therefore more in the spirit of poverty than wool), and trim low-heeled court shoes, he should seek the advice not only of his confessor hut of a psychiatrist'?
If the Church is to make a genuine impact today, she needs to streamline herself in many ways( not least as regards this cogent issue of religious habits:(1) Many nonCatholics are repelled by the (to them) fantastically archaic garb worn by so many Orders, and one often hears the question: "What are they in aid of? They hardly seem like women".
(2) Many young Catholic women would, I am certain, enter religion if only habits were brought upondate. Most women today simply cannot contemplate—even if they feel a call to the religious life passing that life swaddled in serge and starch and old-fashioned, uncomfortable underwear: the religious life offers many other opportunities of sanctification by mortification.
(Mrs.) Marie Trevett, London, S.W.7.
Sir,—It is inconceivable that anyone can question the wisdom of retaining the normal religious halsit. Such a thing as knee-length skirts could only result in a swift decline in the respect hitherto accorded to religious. Also what would happen if such a change was adopted as a religious advanced in years or in a young nun whose natural figure was such that the "new look" made her appear ridiculous? Are our hard-worked religious to waste their precious time in making the continual adjustments which would become necessary?
The replies to the two questions put by L'Osservatore della Domenico surely are (I) It is ,tot the habit which makes the nun, hut, as with a sacrament, it is an outward sign of an inward grace: (2) There is not a different modesty for nuns as for other women; but what is allowable for a woman in the world may be quite reprehensihle, by reason of her vows, for a nun.
(Miss) Gertrude Webster, Steyning. Susex.
Sir,—It is sad to see letters in the Catholic press from people who have missed the point of the liturgical changes.
Instead of seeing the reduction in the length of fasting before receiving Holy Communion as a sign of decadence, Malcolm Dodwell (February 5) should sec it as another in the series of steps taken by the Popes since the time or Pius X to make it as easy as possible for the faithful to receive Holy Communion every day, The whole object of the liturgical renewal is to 'mike Mass and Holy Communion the basis of everyone's spiritual life as is made quite clear in the introduction to the Liturgical Constitution, It is just by removing all unnecessary hindrances to full and frequent participation in the Paschal banquet that the Church is, in Mr. Dorlwell's words, "encouraging her memhers to practise their religion". The present attitude of indifferentism towards the'Faith and each other tn which your correspondent refers has grown up during a time when difficulties were put in the way of the faithful participating in the Mass properly and in their receiving Holy Communion. The Bishops appreciate the situation which has grown up as well as the difficulties which beset people trying to lead a good Catholic life.
Consequently, by removing every possible obstacle, they are bringing them as close as possible to the fount of Life and Grace wh:ch will give them all the help needed to live a fully Christian life with alt the attributes which Mr. Dociwell mentions
Donald Cadhy. London, E.9.
Sin—You report that the phrase "And with you" in the English Rite of Low Mass has come in for frequent criticism. This is true, but is the criticism justified? Some people object that it is a mistranslation: others that it is too abrupt. But the best authorities assure us that "your spirit" here is just a liebraism meaning "yourself" (cf. Jungmann, Mass of the Roman Rite, Vol. I, p. 363); and is "And with you" any more abrupt than the greeting to which it responds? No one so far has asked that the celebrant be made to say -The Lord be with your spirit".
(Prof.) H. P. Finherg University of Leicester.
Sir,—Mr, L. G. Owens (January 22) asks whether you "see no harm in a prominent Catholic publicising the fact that he was unconvinced by the natural law argument against, say, homosexuality or abortion", The answer surely is that though in this particular case harm m:ght be done by someone's using his freedom of expression, greater harm would certainly be done, in general, by depriving Someone of his power to exercise freedom of expression.
Every man should he allowed to express his views which authority, if it does not agree with them. should fight with hatter arguments and not with censorship. As we do not yet enjoy freedom of expression we must sign ourselves.