From the Founder President of the Family Education Trust:
Sir, We note with concern that a number of Catholic Children's Societies support the Children Are Unbeatable Alliance which seeks to criminalise parents who judge a smack on the leg or bottom to be appropriate corrective chastisement for certain misdemeanours.
The real issue here is not "violence" against children since a smack on the bottom of a naughty child is clearly quite different from criminal assault. It is that antismacking legislation opens the door to massive control of the family by agents of the state.
The children's rights movement is actively undermining the rights and authority of parents and the autonomy of the family. Organisations in the Alliance such as Barnados, Save the Children and the NSPCC wish not only to intervene between parents and children where reasonable punishment is concerned, they also actively support the repeal of Section 28, the adoption of children by homosexual couples and the free, confidential, provision of contraceptives
to underage children.
The supermarket chain Safeway, though an original supporter of the
Alliance on the simple smacking
issue in its own creches, has withdrawn its support because "the debate has grown more contentious and is now embracing issues which were not envisaged when we decided to join" [my italics].
Although we trust that Catholic organisations believe they are acting in the best interests of children in joining the Alliance, they are, in effect, supporting the systematic abolition of parents as the prime and foremost educators of their children which is inherent in the children's rights movement, We hope that they will see the further implications of the activities of the Alliance, as Safeway has done, and publicly withdraw their support.
Yours faithfully, VALERIE RICHES Oxford, 0X2
Perils of Vaticanology
From the Catholic chaplain to the University of Sussex:
Sir, I don't object to Gerard Noel's musings about the likely identity of our next Bishop in Arundel and Brighton, (CH Sept 1): Vaticanology, like any other genre of fiction, can have a certain charm. But what I du object to is the notion that underlies his hypothetical "scenario", namely, that appointments to the non-metropolitan sees in this country are some sort of chess move in a larger game.
I am sure that our new bishop will be welcomed warmly by our clergy and parishioners, whoever he may be. But we need him this autumn. not next, and we need him to be chosen for his pastoral skills and vision in the present, rather than his possible future usefulness in some other place. I am glad to say that there are currently signs of consultation regarding the choice of our future leader in the diocese, but one is left wondering whether a selection process focussed on Rome is really more likely to provide us with the leader that we need than some adaptation of the ancient custom of election, rooted in the diocese itself.
Yours faithfully, ROBERT ESDAILE Brighton, East Sussex
For a non-partisan peace
From the Director of ('afod: Sir, I welcome the coverage given to the appalling war in Sri Lanka in your August 25 edition titled "Cafod attacks Sri Lankan government".
I would however point out that I signed a joint agency letter to Mr Kofi Annan and the letter raised concerns about the behaviour of both sides of the conflict. In our letter to the United Nations Secretary General, about the conduct of the war, we referred to the "context in which human rights abuse is likely to occur, leading to even greater brutality — including the use of torture and `disappearances', by all the parties in the combat zones and throughout the island".
The International Working Group is a network of agencies with active concern for the suffering caused by the on-going conflict in Sri Lanka. Cafod also actively supports assistance to refugees and those displaced by the fighting. Our present focus is to try and get the both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army to respect the various international conventions, such as the
Geneva Conventions, in pursuing their military objectives. It is therefore being extremely partisan for the Sri Lanka High Commission in London to say that these concerns "are made by interested parties to blackmail the government" as stated in your article. We would simply reiterate that many civilians' lives are being sacrificed in a struggle in which lip service is paid to the normal international protocols of behaviour for those engaged in armed struggles. No solution can be found to the separatist aims of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) unless both sides show basic humanity. Whatever happens in Sri Lanka, the inescapable reality is that both Tamil and Sinhalese will have to live side by side, as they have done for many centuries. The creation of an anonymous area or independent st ate of Tamil Elam, is not going to change this reality. Surely it is not beyond the capability of politicians to construct a constitutional settlement which mirrors this reality.
The flourishing 50s
From Mrs Sylvia Johnson: Sir, I always read your leader with great interest, but this week I was astonished to see your claim that when Pope John XXIII was elected in 1958, it was "at a time of post-war materialism which had led to a serious decline in Church life".
Nothing could be further from the truth. I was a Catholic adult at that time and I remember very well that Catholic churches were packed. not only for Sunday Mass but also for Rosary, sermon and Benediction; seminaries were crowded, as were novitiates of the religious orders; the lay organisations in every parish were thriving; only a small minority of Catholic school-leavers lapsed — it was described as the "the leakage", (in sharp contrast to the 90 per cent now which can only be described as a haemorrhage), and well instructed converts were flocking into the Church of the 50s.
I could go on but, together with Church records of any country in the world, this is enough to show that the allegation that the Catholic Church was in decline in the 1950s is simply not true.
Sadly, the Church worldwide is in serious decline now. The reasons for this undoubted decline may not do Pope John XXIII much credit, but truth must be faced, not altered to protect people, even future saints. That would be propaganda, not truth.
Llandullas, North Wales
Primacy and ecumenism
From Mr Patrick McGrath: Sir, I think we du our Church no favours in pronouncing primacy over all other churches when we know that we can learn so much from some of our "separated brethren". Why start polemics on such a subject when we can recognise true Christians in other denominations?
In the Mass, we say the Creed in professing our faith in 'The catholic church", not "the Catholic Church" and, indeed frequently repeat this same formula in the canon of the Mass. This is not — as many people, including many priests, think it is — a typographical error, but the wisdom of the Church, going back long before the Second Vatican Council and long before any one person in the Vatican brought up the subject.
I believe that a certain American priest was excommunicated back in the 1930s for saying that there was no salvation outside the Catholic Church. It's about time we looked up to and reverenced the sanctity of so many Christians outside the Catholic Church and became less introverted.
Yours sincerely, PATRICK MCGRAIH London NW3
From Dr Jeremy Blacken:
Sir, Thank you for printing the report of Cardinal Ratzinger's timely document reminding us that the Catholic Church must never be regarded as if it were merely a "sister church" on a level with numerous man-made communities which describe themselves as "churches".
Pretending otherwise is not charitable or helpful. It will only confuse our separated brethren and even lead Catholics, who have not been very well instructed, away.
Yours faithfully, JEREMY BLACKETr London Ni
Call to charity
From Mr D J Taylor:
Sir, After pages of depressing reports and letters (CH Sept I ) of conflicts within the Church, I was so glad you let Ronald Rolheiser have the last word: "A new legalism is replacing the old, and it parallels perfectly the old in its lack of compassion, Catholicity, depth, and nuance ... just like the old, it echoes the personality of the persons who are adjudicating."
What an indictment of us: Catholic in the letter and not the spirit of Christ's law, a Body of Christ in which the left hand doesn't attempt to understand what the right hand is doing!
As members of the Body of Christ with diverse talents, we need to recognise our corresponding weaknesses and listen to each other in a spirit of love.
Yours faithfully D J TAYLOR Malvern Link, Worcester