From Mr Sean Hayes, Diocesan Surveyor of Portsmouth diocese SIR – In your April 30 edition you carried a piece about the restoration of St Mary’s, Monmouth. The article claims for St Mary’s the distinction of being the oldest post-Reformation Catholic church to be built as a place of public worship in Britain. While not wishing to deny St Mary’s any honour, since it dates from 1793, I fear that St Thomas of Canterbury, Newport, on the Isle of Wight, has a better claim to that distinction. St Thomas’s was built in 1791 as a public chapel immediately after the Second Relief Act of that year and was registered for public worship (as the Act required) on April 17 1792, the first public Mass being celebrated the following day. It was built on the generosity of Elizabeth Heneage and other donors, including Maria FitzHerbert, wife of the then Prince Regent and member of the family of the Hampshire martyr, St Swithun Wells.
St Mary’s, Monmouth, looks to be a fine church that has clearly been beautifully restored, a quality that it shares with St Thomas’s, Newport, which relied not on a screen of cottages to avoid drawing hostile attention to it but on its being built in the neo-classical style of many Nonconformist Protestant chapels of the time. It is certainly worth a visit.
Yours faithfully, SEAN HAYES Portsmouth, Hampshire
A thin creation
From Mr Denis Pethebridge SIR – Some of the correspondence about the compatibility of Darwinism and Christian doctrine has failed to break through the glass floor between physical science and metaphysics.
The former gives us increasing knowledge of the beautiful interactions of process and structure; but the latter considers why process and structure exist at all – or, indeed, purpose, morality and (above all) love: the things that give meaning to reality and lead us towards God. The mystery of creation should be considered at this level. Some “creationists” spread creation rather thin.
Moreover, there is a confusion about the very term “Darwinism”. It now often seems to mean merely the acceptance of evolution – but surely Darwin’s special contribution was the hypothesis that evolution was essentially powered by natural selection. I understand that this hypothesis is now increasingly doubted in scientific circles.