From Revd. Bernard J. Davenport Sir, I have just read Fr Rolheiser's article (12 March), in which he defines a sacrament as "anything that visibly, tangibly, makes present or prolongs a saving action of God". It is difficult not to conclude that Fr Rolheiser's column is indeed "The Last Word" — in utter theological rubbish.
I suspect he is a popular contributor to The Catholic Herald, as his writings often appeal to the devotional and the emotional, but the effect on devotion and emotion can be disastrous, if the underlying philosophy/theology is erroneous. Surely his article on the sacraments totally undermines the Church's teaching on the nature of the sacraments; and as for his consoling remarks on hell— that it is "alienation, arrogant self-willed aloneness, the opposite of community, non-family" — well!!! How can this be reconciled with Our Lord's pretty clear, though less comforting, teaching on the subject?
When we can't tell the difference between a definition and a description; when we invent our own definitions and make words mean what we arbitrarily say they mean, that may well suit the "We Are Church" lobby, but how disastrous for Faith and Reason!
I follow with interest the correspondence in your columns about the notion of Holy Communion as "special bread" or "holy bread", not at all uncommon, it would seem, in our Catholic schools today. It is not always easy to convince seven and eight year olds in these schools that in Holy Communion you receive, not bread however holy, but Jesus himself — "in disguise", as one of your correspondents put it rather beautifully, that is, under the appearances of bread and wine. Years ago when I read Brusselman's famous "golden book" on the Eucharist, the last word on the subject in our schools at the time — perhaps it still is? — I was quite horrified. A book on sex education that mentions sex no more than the "golden book" mentions the Eucharist would be laughed out of court! Numerous complaints from parents, teachers and priests make it clear that for a long time there has been something seriously amiss with the teaching of Religious Education in many Catholic schools. If other subjects were taught no more effectively, would not the authorities be tempted to close down such schools or entrust them to the private sector? A scandal just waiting to happen?
Yours faithfully; BERNARD J DAVENPORT Amersham, Bucks.