I had not realised that Cardinal Hume listened only to left wing political views until Ronald Butt insinuated as much in The Times, and Norman St John-Stevas repeated the allegation in last week's Catholic Herald,
If however, the distinction between moral issues and political issues which Mr St John-Stevas makes in his article truly reflects Conservative Catholic opinion, the Cardinal is well advised to do so.
Consider Mr St. John-Stevas's list — the right to life, abortion, euthanasia, religious education, nuclear disarmament, arms sales, race relations. It is not at all clear to me that the last three arc less purely moral issues than the rest.
If. as he suggests, these three stark moral issues are championed by the political left and not by the political right, then the political right is, to that extent, morally insensitive and unChristian.
This is a view I have long held secretly. I never expected a Conservative and Catholic politician to provide me with evidence for it.
Stuart Mason Oxford Thank you for providing the opportunity for a Catholic debate on race fin your Letters Page and in Norman St John-Stevas's article of January 27). It's lung overdue.
Mr St John-Stevas's main complaint is that the bishops, and Car dinal Hume in particular, are getting a very biased view on race relations from the Catholic Commission for Racial Justice.
He finds our latest statement "intemperate", "provocative" and "bizarre", and our advice "less than objective".
Speaking not for Cardinal Hume or any bishop, but as someone who has worked for the commission for the last four years, may I say how unjustified these accusations are? * About our statement on Judge McKinnon: Mr St John-Stevas thinks it right, apparently, to honour our promises of admission to British passport holders. but not to defend their and other coloured citizens' right to freedom from public abuse and hostility.
In his summing-up, Judge McKinnon seemed to me (as to the working-class black people I meet every day, to more than 100 Labour MPs, and to many black lawyers) to be condoning racial abuse, and supporting the activities of a party known to propagate racial hatred. What else does "I wish you well" in that context mean?
If so many people understood him this way. it's hardly provocative and bizarre for the CCRJ to say so. Maybe it was our call for the judge's resignation that was so ob
jectionable. But recent events have shown that public opinion is not prepared to tolerate this kind of contemptuous statement: witness the resignation of the chairman of British Leyland. and the sacking, in America of Earl Butz for similar remarks.
The CCRJ could hardly have timed its statement better. I would
have thought. I hope that we shall continue to add our voice to those who want justice for ethnic minorities to be seen to be done.
As I said, however, the main accusation is that our views are un
representative, that we're not giving the bishops an objective picture of race. The only objectivity, surely, is the Gospel of Christ, and it is our central task to interpret the racial situation in the light of the Gospel Message, rather than inform the bishops of current party policies on race and immigration.
If we fail in our task, it is to the Christian community that we must apologise, not to Conservative politicians who can't get a hearing at Archhisop's House.
At the moment, I feel that the biggest apology is due to our fellow black Christians who, many of them, feel that no political party — and no traditional Church, for that matter — represents their interests. The Gospel Message required, surely, that we give them a welcome in our churches, schools and institutions, yet Mr Seneviratne (Letters Page January 27) must be in a tiny minority of coloured people prominent in Catholic affairs.
Are the rest simply touchy and over-sensitive, as he suggests? I don't think so, and I hope the commission will go on speaking out on behalf of coloured minorities and promoting their views. If that's provocation, long may it continue.
Barbara Kentish Newcastle upon Tyne_ Nearly all of us will share Mr St John-Stevas's concern (January 27) that subsidiary advice-tendering bodies should not be regarded as authorised to speak officially for the Church.
Nevertheless, his finelydeveloped sense of irony must have temporarily deserted him if he did not recall that 10 years ago. in the matter of contraception, he was arguing strenuously that the authentic teaching of the Church should be set aside in favour of advice from just such a body. James McGibbon Twickenham The reactions of MPs to Judge McKinnon's remarks can hardly be seen as setting a moral example. As you noted so percipiently in your leader (January 13) members of the House of Commons were divided along party political lines over the issue.
Mr St John Stevas laments that Catholic MPs have no channel of communication with the bishops. But do members of other political parties fare any better?
Recently, in a letter to The Times, Mr St John Stevas suggested that Cardinal Hume, Archbishop Dwyer and other members of the Catholic hierarchy should "consult the one body of Catholics who are actually elected . . . namely the Catholic Members of Parliament of all parties."
Yet Mr Si John Stevas was not elected as a Catholic member for Chelmsford but as a member of the Conservative Party, His election to Parliament is no foundation on which to claim to represent Roman Catholic opinions.
Dr E. R. Turton Oxford
Norman St-John Stevas writes, 'Cardinal Heenan was a consummate politician, and hence steered clear of most public political issues.' (January 27). Since a Cardinal's main task IS not as a politician hut as a spiritual leader, I suggest that when the demands of spiritual leadership clash with those of political prudence, it is his job to speak out for what is right.
Christ was no politician. He alienated both his own politicians (Pharisee and Saducee), and the Romans to the extent that they cooperated in putting him to death. As regards the composition of the commissions which advise the hierarchy. I suggest that the maintenance of a political balance is irrelevant.
Those advising the hierarchy should he capable of studying the moral implications of political questions without being swayed by party allegiance.
Those who disagree with the conclusions of the hierarchy need to argue their case in relation to Christ's teaching, rather than imply that the hierarchy have been illadvised or mis-informed.
Rnsemary Waddington Coventry