Mr St John-Stevan (March 5) is not very well informed on Plater College not on the facts of the case he chose to dwell on at such length last week. May I be permitted to help him?
Plater College, properly the Catholic Workers' College, is not a constituent part of Oxford University, though it presents candidates for Oxford University Diploma examinations. It is the only Catholic college in the long-term residential group of seven colleges, which constitute a somewhat specialised field.
It caters for adult men and women who have worked for their living, having been deprived by economic or cultural circumstances of opportunities of completing a normal secondary education. It aims to equip its students to take an active part in public life and to bear effective witness to Catholic principles.
The Catholic body has recently subscribed or promised to find some £250,000 to modernise and expand the premises, to which the Department of Education has added a like sum in accordance with national policy.
The bulk of the running costs conic from student awards in the way of national scale fees, etc, or in the case of overseas students, from missionary funds and from CAFOD. There is also a grant-inaid from the Department to supplement what cannot he raised in this way.
The college has thus apositive duty to safeguard the Catholic moral view. But the excesses of the liberal challenge to Christian moral principles cannot be countered if our own institutions, set up to equip people to combat them, are to be given over to the opposition as of right.
Mr St .JOhn-Itevas implies that they must be because they are largely supported by public funds. But the State grant aids education, voluntary-aided andpublic, unselectively yet remains logically uncommitted, in our present free society, to the ethical stance taken by the different authorities involved.
It is odd that a Conservative should want to change that, and odder — as well as more threatening — to think that a similar case could be made by him on Catholic schools generally.
The present troubles at the college have more than one cause. But the principle at issue is crystal clear. It is that no component part of the college, in this case the student body, can demand an un
qualified right to invite speakers on to college premises who are likely to wish to advocate or justify objectively immoral conduct. This is not because our people are not mature enough to make right judgments, but because it is not feasible to prevent, in a close academic environment like Oxford, it being widely inferred and interpreted as the provision of a platform by Plater College for causes which conflict with Catholic beliefs publicly recognised as such.
The fact that refusal to a homosexual society's speakers precipitated the present unrest is fortuitous. There may not be societies, but there are certainly professionally qualified individuals, who go round offering lectures on therapeutic adultery. Must a Catholic college admit them too?
The college's views on homosexuals are the same as those of the Church. It is that they have the same status before God as heterosexuals, and the same duty to refrain from what is wrong.
I will not follow Mr St JohnStevas into speculation on spiritual bullies: he sounds as though he may be more expert than me in this field. But I will say that there are plenty of bullies among the so-called liberals, for whom wellorchestrated exploitation of newspaper imprecision in reporting has been a revelation in this case.
Mr St John-Stevas has inverted the general line taken by those who have criticised Mr Kirwan's unfortunate and quite uncharacteristic analogy. He chooses to speak up for sufferers from leprosy, expressing similar sentiments to ours at the college.
Others have been indignant that the Gay Society has been compared with them! Clearly some of Mr Kirwan's critics are somewhat confused in their motivations.
I don't much care for the politician preacher revealed in the second half of Mr St John-Stevas's artick, but I do care that, without proper investigation from the source, he chose to launch an attack intended to damage a Catholic college which, from all available evidence, he has never recognised before.
H. J. Dodson Secretary, Plater College 40 Jack Straws Lane,
Mr St John-Stevas takes exception to the exclusion of the Oxford Students Gay Society from addressing Plater College. lie makes much play with the propriety of using the term "leper".
Can we, just for once, try to rid our minds of can't? In modern usage "gay" have come to mean "homosexual". in a sense which in
eludes the practice of sodomy. How many of his fellow-Catholics does Mr St John-Stcvas hope to persuade that a Catholic college should invite within its walls advocates (and, presumably, practitioners) of a vice which, in the words of the Catechism, "cries to Heaven for vengeance"?
Am I alone in viewing Mr St-John Stevas's views with revulsion?
W. P. McKechniet
6 College Street, St Andrews, Fife.
Could Mr St John-Stevas have misunderstood Mr Kirwan? Mr Kirwan is a man of compassion, and a practical Christian.
He would be the first to help any man suffering from leprosy. He would hind up his wounds and treat him as a brother, but he would not wish to help to spread leprosy. (Dr) J. M. Clubb Hulmwood,
Foxcombe Road, Boars Hill, Oxford.
Mr St John-Stevas ill-serves the cause of truth and justice in his spiteful personal attack of March 5 on Mr J. R. Kirwan — a man renowned for his love and service to the Catholic Church.
Your columnist describes the Oxford Students' Gay Society as "one concerned with. homosexual rights". It is, however. basic to Catholic philosophy that "error has no rights".
It is. of course, also fundamental to Catholic theology that homosexuals. as sons of God, created in their Father's Image, have the same human rights as the rest of Adam's progeny. These rights do not. however, include preaching a false gospel in a Catholic college.
It would be interesting to know whether Mr St John-Stevas would expect the Principal of Plater College to permit the student body to be addressed by militant abortionists, by contraceptives salesmen. or by spokesmen advocating atheism. Or indeed whether he would advocate that Young Conservative seminars invite Communist propagandists to lecture them.
For did not the "One whom he is pledged to serve" Himself declare "A house divided against itself shall fall"?
Indeed. Mr Kirwan used strong language. In these days of muted values and pluralistic "truth", strong language is called for. But let us recall that Our Lord was averse to neither strong words nor strong action when the occasion demanded. Do we forget that he denounced the Pharisees as a "brood of vipers"? That he threw out of the Temple those who plied their wares in his Father's House?
Let us keep to the truth. Mr Kirwan did not hold up lepers as "objects of horror and revulsion". It is their sores he finds repulsive. Towards the leper himself I am sure that Mr Kirwan's charity would be no less than that of your pontificating pluralist.
In conclusion, I am sure I am not alone in finding it strange that one who is self-proclaimed as a defender of freedom would deny that right to those who defend the Faith of their fathers.
K. P. Platt
172 St Andrews Road, Coulsdon, Surrey.