It is because of my respect for Mr St John-Stevas that his article of October 21 disappointed me — too many irrelevancies and unsupported remarks. Why should the Church fail because the .president of the hierarchy is the Archbishop of Birmingham rather than Cardinal Hume, who with Benedictine modesty regards himself as a new boy" to episcopacy and prefers, for the moment, to "sit in" and let the experienced Archbishop 'Dwyer carry on?.
In some countries, such as America, the chairman of the National hierarchy is chosen irrespective of "dignity" and reelected annually — quite a good system.
I am quite at a loss to know what is meant by Cardinal Hume's supposedly allowing "developments to proceed from the bottom up." As regards the "need for prac tical Christianity" — helping the poor, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless — I thought our various religious orders and lay societies .like SVP, Catholic Housing Association, were doing just that. No doubt the need is for more active support from us all. Now the liturgy! When are we going to be spared that? Is the Tridentine Mass really barred? The Latin Mass seems available whenever asked for and is regular in some churches.
Anyhow, why should the old habit of a priest muttering prayers and scripture readings in a dead language, accompanied by a little boy muttering heaven knows what, be preferable to our English Mass, in which all take part as a Christian community?
Mr St John-Stevas calls the latter
"ugly. vulgar, misleading. "• Whose opinion is that? After all, the word vulgar, from the latin ridges, "for the people," might be just right —
Mass "for the people". No doubt the Lnglish version is not perfect — you can't please everybody all the time.
Perhaps the Tridentine Mass itself was a mistake — clamping on the Church the medieval garb of Latin uniformity at a time when the nations of the world were clamouring for national identity. The Protestants stole a march on us, producing in Germany that masterpiece the Lutheran Bible and in England the Authorised Version and the Book of Common Prayer — models of fine language. To reach the real point; if, as Mr St John-Stevas insists, the Church is "failing" it is perhaps because God is "failing" to keep pace with public opinion.
Our Church is committed to proclaiming objective, unchanging truths and moral standards, in a world drifting in a sea of relative changing "values" with opinion polls and ballot boxes as its oracles and the "rights" of the individual loudly proclaimed.
Many of our people can't help being infected by this all-pervading heresy — hence the empty church pews and the popularity of new cults, Maharishi and others.
That paragraph was the best part of Mr St John Stevas' article. It's nothing new. St Paul foresaw it all (2 Tim: IV 3). Perhaps Mr St JohnStevas' next article will be more helpful.
D. H. Bridgeman
Winchester, Hampshire. following graffito: "Keep Britain Irish."
Not even my best friends would accuse me of being pro-Irish. But let us have fair play. Let us admit honour where honour is due. Let us face the facts.
The mainstream of English speaking Catholicism is Gaelic, not Anglo-Saxon. In America, this stream has beer) enriched with a good dose of German, Italian and mid-European piety. 1 applaud the efforts of those who seek to bong back the riches of England's former Catholic life into the modern Catholic mainstream. I abhor antiquarian attitudes such as would seek to impose this antique graft on a Church which does not really feel any need for it. Wc may admire the past; but do not let us live in it. The demands we have to meet are those of the present and of the future.
(Fr) John Rooney, MHM Mill Hill,
The effrontery of the assessment, by Mr St John-Stevas (October 21), of the reaction of the Catholic laity to Cardinal Hume after the completion of his first year as Archbishop of Westminster is indeed astonishing. This remarkable piece Of analysis has the "unassuming"
I was not a little puzzled at what seemed an illogical train of thought at the recent National Conference of Priests, where those present could suggest the eventual ordination of suitable married men, and yet reject the possible use of increasing numbers of the clergy who have married and have families.
Surely this is being unrealistic? Here are competent, fully-trained men who, for personal reasons and according to their own consciences. sought and obtained secularisation from the Church in order to accept the further sacrament of marriage, who are nonetheless always priests, sacramentally, even if the Church's present legislation does not allow them to be so ministerially.
It seems to me to he hiding one's head in the sand not to admit their presence and prerogatives. Perhaps It is due to a strongly entrenched traditional view that Holy Orders and marriage in the same person are incompatible. But are they intrinsically. and in "God's sight" so?
And are not married laymen called to holiness'? Or does their state of being married make them less susceptible of receiving God's gifts? And even if it did, the priestly power to consecrate and administer the sacraments is hot dependent on the holiness or not of the one ordained. • I fail to see the reason why the priests at the National Conference could turn down the services of their fellow-priests, now married, and yet think of ordaining other married men. Was it that they felt "threatened" or insecure in their own celibacy? Or does a certain hidden but very real "elitist" mentality obtain among them?
Perhaps some of those present would like to explain why the National Conference of Priests refuses to recognise the inherent ability and worth of their fellow priests who have married?
A puzzled (non-priest) reader Name and address supplied.
title; "Opportunities missed by the Catholic Church in England."
Mr St John-Stevas informs us that hopes were raised for a new era for the Church in England by the appointment of Dom Basil Hume as Archbishop of Westminster, but that "Yet a year later, doubts are beginning to set in". Mr St JohnStevas is not the spokesman of the Catholic laity in England, although thc tone of his article could inspire uneasy doubts as to whether he is quite clear on that point. I have not heard of anyone who shares the doubts of Mr St JohnStevas concerning the efficacy of the first year's work of Cardinal Hume at Westminster. I have heard numerous tributes paid to the many examples given by the Cardinal of humility, friendliness, and sympathy for the under-privileged. They have often been described as "a fine example of Christian witness."
The truth is, of course, that if the day ever dawns when the Catholic laity have to select a spokesman from their ranks, the claims of Mr St John-Stevas will, no doubt, be considered. It is no use worrying about hypothetical problems, however. It is enough to know that we are destined to be enlightened, this week, by an article "in greater depth" from the pen of Mr St JohnSte was.
It is my humble view that this gentleman is perhaps better suited to the assessment of politicians than of prelates. It is true, of course. that he sometimes refers, with whimsical reverence. to the leader of the Opposition as the "Blessed Margaret."
He should. perhaps, restrict himself to the furtherance of her canonisation cause, in the hope that the British voters will acclaim their belief in her sanctity at the next General Election.
Molly Donovan I ondon SW17.
Housing a vocation
My congratulations to your paper for publishing such a fine report on housing. However, I feel it is time the Goverment awoke to the fact that housing is a national issue, and drastic measures must be taken to get our people housed. A £460,000 motor car is national news, hut thousands of people without homes is stale and hopeless news. Your paper has shown the situation — so the barriers must now be overcome.
Large huilding societies are sitting on vast reserves for safety measures, invested well: pressure must come about for this to be released, and people must he encouraged and shown how to buy their own houses.
The stumbling block is the finding of the deposit, legal fees, etc. This can, and must he overcome by help from local councils for people who have been on housing lists for, say, over two years. Also a scheme could be considered giving £2 for every f I saved up to £1,000. Legal fees should be simplified and possibly cut. 1 was on the housing committee of a borough council for two years, and felt frustrated and handcuffed because there was so little time, when the maintenance, etc. was attended to, for the real housing problems, such as council houses for the young married with an option to buy, or to consider mobile homes as a temporary measure. Surely the time has come for the situation to be solved, and we, who are comfortably housed, try to shout for the others simply to have a home.
As chairman of the Catholic Building Society, I can say we are trying, with a fine, willing team, to do our best, but more awareness is needed. Housing is a vocation, not a speculation. (Hon Mrs) N. Byrne London, N4.