IR,—In view of the recently-published comment of Archbishop Beck on the acceptability of the comprehensive system, I would like to express my deep concern at the great mistake Britain is in danger of making.
The comprehensive system has many attractions in theory, but they are nearly all in theory. Far from eliminating invidious "class" distinctions and providing genuinely equal opportunity. in America it has created even deeper distinctions between the haves and the have-nots.
Sir,– -I have read with distress the review of Margaret Trouncer's new novel Passion of Peter Abelard in your issue of July 30.
The life-long and tragic love of Heloise and Abelard has awakened terror and pity ever since the Middle Ages. The greatness of those lovers is as evident as their human failings. Has Miss Trouncer not represented this'? I hope to find she has, but the review does not in that case do her justice.
Can the famous tragedy he reduced to "a sad and sorry story", a "romance", an "affaire" between "a highly-intelligent and lonely teenager" and a "ruffian", whose letters "are nasty lengths of whincry"? And can Abelard be dismissed as a "slightly heretical" scholar who has "read too much — and more than a few lines is too much — of St. Jerome"? These seem to be the opinions o the reviewer.
St. Jerome is a Father of the Church, Abelard one of the greatest philosophers of the medieval schools. and Heloise the most learned woman of her time and an heroic soul. Which of us is worthy to cast the first stone?
Hope Muntz, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
Sir,—No one would deny that Peter Abelard bad unpleasant traits of character; or wish to excuse his seduction of Heloise. But Mary Vaughan, before dismissing him as a "ruffian" and his letters as "whinery", might do well to ac
quaint herself with the picture of Abclard given by Peter the Venerable, the much-revered Abbot of Cluny and friend of Heloise; or that in Heloise et Abilard by Professor Etienne Gilson.
There is certainly much to be said in support of Gogarty's criticism (quoted by Mary Vaughan) of a certain attitude in the Church; but the accusation of "hating women" has no relevance to Abelard who wrote a number of lengthy dissertations eulogising the feminine sex.
Elizabeth Hamilton London, W.8,
Sir,—We are grateful to Fr, Walsh for the courtesy of his response to our letter; but we feel bound to express our reservations about his arguments.
It seems unsatisfactory to select as a touchstone, to judge whether or not a person is "ecumenical", just two from the multitudes of qualities and activities commended by the Decree on Ecumenism. This is still more dubious when it blurs that distinction, made by the decree, between ecumenical activity and work for conversion or reconciliation.
If the term "patrons of the ecumenical movement" is to be understood in a variety of senses, as Fr. Walsh suggests, we fear this will serve only to multiply misunderstandings among Christians with but a doubtful benefit to compensate.
Finally, the formula "bishops' directive equals will of God" however qualified, is an unfortunate expression of the truth of episcopal authority in any circumstances. It is doubly so in a document which may be expected to attract the attention of nonCatholic Christians. The widespread impression that "Catholics have to believe whatever they are told" can only be strengthened by such an inaccuracy.
But clearly Fr. Walsh and outselves will have to agree to differ on these points, trusting that the future advance of the ecumenical movement will lessen the divergence of our views.
H. J. S. Heywood, Chairman, U.C.S. Christian Unity Executive.
Sir,—On reading your editorial, "From Evolution to Revolution?" (July 30), 1 scrutinised the title of your paper, almost expecting it to have become "The Political Herald for Some Catholics". The wide open field for Catholic balanced reporting seems to have become fenced inside a political arena with the gauntlet already thrown down.
am not clear what you were really defending, for I cannot see how any religion is served by the discussion of the personal race between two nominees of a single party.
I cannot see what faith has to do with the finance of economic chestnuts, even though they have been too lung roasting.
Neither can I see what morals are equated with "the aggressively modern, magnetic personality who is to capture the nation's imagination".
In these challenging times where moral freedom is undefined and social ethics undelineated it would seem wise for Catholic journalism to release itself from the tyranny of politics.
Sir, — Archbishop Murphy of Cardiff is reported in your issue July 16 as having spoken in favour of the National Health Service. A few years ago, the Irish Bishops declared that a somewhat similar scheme, then proposed by the Irish Minister of Health, was contrary to the principles of Catholic ethics.
Will someone kindly clarify the position?
S. A. McSwiney, M.D., F.R.C.S.I., Eastbourne.
Economically, of course, Americans (with the exception of the Negroes and the "poor whites" in the South) are relatively affluent by British standards; but there are some things you cannot buy with money, and it is precisely the lack of these things which ruins the education system.
Granted a tradition of culture in a family or group, the system works well, or rather does not work badly; but in the immigrant and post-immigrant populations of the big industrial cities the educational standards are persistently low.
My university serves just such a population, and it is pathetic to see the kind of material which it is supposed to provide with "higher education". Our diocesan Bishop Wright has only this week warned against producing a nation of "trained barbarians".
A college degree is increasingly a requisite for all but the most menial jobs in America; yet despite the relatively low standard required for a bachelor's degree and the even lower standard required for the associateship provided by the junior colleges, so many fail to reach the required
Ite, missy est ...
Sir,—Would anyone regret its passing if lw, missy est were cut out altogether? Surely the last blessing is sufficient indication that the Mass has ended.
London, S.W.7, Sir,—In your issue of July 23. a self-styled "medical scientist' once again puts forward the so-called "liberal" view of the contraceptive debate under the guise of a hook review. This would not he especially objectionable if i.t were not for the combination of innuendo and downright mis statement about the work of others in this field.
I quote: "the motivation behind much Catholic Marriage Guidance seems to be to persuade married people to give up contraceptives", What your writer means by "much Catholic Marriage Guidance" is in some doubt but as all your readers must know very well the major Catholic Marriage (iuidance effort in this country at present is conducted by the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, and the statement quoted above is a complete travesty of the work of the Council.
In the first place. medical advice forms no more than half the work of the C.M.A.C., and secondly. no member of the Council whom 1 have met during a long association with it, is remotely interested in persuading anybody to take any course of action: counsel and persuasion are quite different, The paragraph concerned continues by implying that there is some doubt about the present teaching of the Church on contraception and equates the wilful disregard of the Church's teaching in this respect with the situation of the un-baptised baby. The same technique is repeated in the next paragraph. where the work of thoughtful and carefully trained Marriage Guidance Counsellors is equated with the sort of "do-gooders" who fight so hard for Puritan Sunday Observance.
This level of debate may be acceptable in undergraduate debating societies. but it can hardly he regarded as a serious and responsible contribution on a matter of such grave import as this.
In common with all protagonists of the "liberal" view Mr. Towers cannot complete his article without an attack upon Dr Marshall. Like others of greater eminence, he confines his attack to unsubstantiated assertions about the technical difficulty of recording basal body temperature. and implies, without actually stating so, that other methods of family limitation are (a) easier and (b) more effective.
Nowhere does he offer any sound factual information to contradict Dr. Marshall's assertions. but, what is much worse. like so many authors peddling the same wares, he ignores the really serious difficulty in the practice of the infertile period. which is the degree of continence demanded of the couple.
This is the real problem and it is to this problem that we would be well-advised to turn our attention. because. whatever new pronouncements may he forthcoming on the subject of contraception. there is little doubt that a great many people are due to be disanno:nted when their faith in the efficacy of other methods is found to he semewhat exaggerated.
There arc many of its who would share your writer's wish that the Church's teaching in this matter may he subjected to some modification. It would he traeic if we allowed this very reasonable wish to hind us to the fact that the Church's teaching has not /et been chanced and that. if it is, the result will not produce a panacea for the serious problems of family life which face use at present.
1. S. Hughes, Huddersfield.
Sir,—In Dr. Bernard Towers' review (July 23) of recent hooks on marriage. it seems evident that he has adopted the jargon of the South Bank. witness the phrase "The existential significance , of sexual relations in depth", whatever that may mean.
Your reviewer seems to think standard for entrance or graduation that there is a serious unemployment problem for this reason alone.
Universities like North-Eastern arc presently experimenting with emergency schemes aimed at bringing young people up to college standard by remedial tuition.
There is a good deal at attractive idealism in American education, but in practice it has not produced results. Is there any reason to assume that an econom'cally less affluent Britain can make the same system work against the basic facts of human nature?
I suggest, with all respect to Archbishop Beck, that the "undemocratic" methods of our predecessors in education had more wisdom and kindness in them than we arc prepared to admit. (Prof.) John Pinnington, Duquesne University,
Sir.—In reply to Mr. W. J. Morgan (July 23) the case against the grammar schools is not so much that the existence of separate schools is destructive of social unity but that it prevents the full education of many of our children.
In all the welter of opinion offered in this controversy two facts stand out clear from the research done in Stockholm under controlled conditions. Briefly. in a comprehens've system: (1) there is no dilution of academic standards: (2) a substantially greater number of young people stay on at school voluntarily beyond the compulsory leaving age. T. Halsall,
Institute of Education,
that the only declaration we need from the Church is the command to love God and our neighbour. On that command indeed hang the law and the prophets but the latter have their place.
Conscience, being the practical moral judgment of the intellect cannot act without enlightenment; and that is inter alia, what the Church is for. If she disavows her commission to teach clearly what is involved in Christian faith and morality the salt will indeed have lost its savour.
Dr. Towers seems to have been unduly affected by the remark of a colleague regarding a Catholic mother's letter describing her difficulties — "while there is one Catholic mother left who can write as this lady does. then the Church of Rome stands condemned etc. etc.".
That is good Marble Arch stuff and I should have thought that any Catholic might have pointed out that the Church is not responsible for human sexuality, with all its problems inside and outside marriage, nor can the Church bless sexual perversion in order to ease personal difficulties. Even if she did, they would still remain perversions.
Further, fidelity to Christian faith and morality has always involved discomfort sometimes acute suffering and on occasions. martyrdom. Loving God and one's neighbour is linked with the daily carrying of a cross. Why should marriage exempt us from the universal obligation?
Some of us were even moved towards conversion by the Church's firm stand on sexual morality in contrast to the surrender to popular pressure of the separated churches.
Dr. Towers appears to demand for married people that autonomy in thought and action against which the Pope recently warned us. The snatching of that autonomy was the sin of our first parents.
Ronald Flasman, Banstead, Surrey.
Sir, -I am a missionary on
leave in these islands for the past few weeks and I have a grouse. I have said Mass in several dioceses in England and Ireland and have been little short of appalled at the varying shades of vernacular in use and at the variety of the rubrics.
I find I have to be briefed anew from diocese to diocese on what to say in Latin, what in English. where to stand, what to omit. Local parish priests insist on their own interpretation of the Ritus Servandus. It is all so distressing and, I believe unnecessary!
Perhaps, in all the fever to implement the Constitution, the Bishops paid too little attention to the sad effect of intemperate change on the reverence which should surround the Church's worship. Festina lente should surely have been the watchword here.
"Let all things be done becomingly and according to order" — the oft-quoted apostolic injunction, would also seem to have been overlooked. It is too late to talk of what should have been done. It is not too late for our bishops to resolve that recent history shalt not repeat itself. I have two suggestions: I. Please, Reverendissimi Patres, begin to speak with one voice. Spare the faithful the scandal of the "babel" of procedures that obtain today. And may I extend that iota voce request to the Lenten Regulations? In some dioceses, I hear, there was full Lenten Fast and in neighbouring dioceses the Fast was confined to Ash Wednesday and the last three days of Holy Week.
2. Please see to it that a uniform, readable translation of the Latin is available to priests and faithful alike before going on to a new stage. "the dignity due to Divine Worship surely deserves that modicum of preparation.
In the diocese of my missionary labours our Bishop showed a shrewd common sense by initiating the vernacular liturgy only after the schools and parishes had been provided with a uniform version of the vernacular right from the beginning of Mass up to arid including the Prayer of the Faithful (Bidding Prayers). This meant that the people were' prepared for the change-over by adequate instruction and rehearsal, and secondly that there was no avoidable commingling of the Latin and vernacular in the Liturgy of the Word.
I'm not unaware that there must he "teething troubles" and "growing pa'ns" in effecting changes such .as the t.iturgy is at present undergoing. I believe. however, that a great deal of the present confusion is avoidable.
Sir,—Your report of July 21, on the Pope's recent speech concerning authority, does not include a point included in other reports i have read. This is that while the authority of the Church was indeed a service. it was one to which Christ entrusted the keys, not a servile instrument but the sign of ruling that was the power of the Kingdom of God; and that it was a service responsible only before God.
This seems to me to constitute a necessary enlargement upon, if not correction to, a statement that appeared not long ago in your paper, as having been made by Abbot Butler, namely, that the Church was a servant not a dictator: a statement which appears to me liable to he misleading and perhaps to involve a certain watering down of the Faith.
.1. M. Crouches London, S.W.3.
The Pope's recent speeches on authority arc discussed in an editorial on Page 4.—Editor.