From Mr Eric Hester Sir, In his column The Last Word (December 29) Fr Ronald Rolheiser does well to quote from IS Eliot's great poem Four Quartets. However, the interpretation he gives of the lines he quotes is egregious and Eliot cannot be harnessed to support Fr Rolheiser's ideas.
We are used to clerics nowadays having the motto "Don't mention sin" but it is bizarre to quote a passage and deliberately to omit the first four lines. This is what Eliot actually wrote before the lines which Fr Rolheiser picks out to start his version: The dove descending breaks the air With flame of incandescent terror Of which the tongues declare The one discharge from sin and error Once we look at these lines we can see at once that they refer not to Advent, as Fr Rolheiser states, but to Pentecost. There could hardly be more obvious references to Whit Sunday, even if Eliot himself, in letters to John Hayward had not told us explicitly that this was his intention.
Then Fr Rolheiser says; "Hence the fire inside us is not necessarily a sign that we are doing nothing
"Anything which is discordant with the holiness of the place is forbidden" (Can 1210), although an Ordinary may permit certain other uses which "are not contrary to the sacred character of the place".
Can we now expect objective, factual and complete answers to serious questions?
Yours faithfully, + HUGH LINDSAY Grange-over-Sans, Cumbria.
An unexpected reader
Front Mr John Weston Sir, Fr Barrett is glad to welcome Anglican readers on board. I am a member of the Plymouth Brethren and a regular reader of The Catholic Herald.
In this age of so much wishy washy Christian thinking, it is so encouraging to hear of the firm stand you and your contributors take over matters so fundamental to our faith. May I add, not just yourselves, but the Pope himself who is fearless in defending our wrong, that we have missed the boat somewhere, are sinful, are over-sexed or are too greedy for our own good. What Eliot suggests that this is the normal order of things, God's doing." It is difficult to imagine a more perverse reading of these lines. Eliot says that there are the two fires — the fire of the Holy Ghost ("the dove descending") and the fires of Purgatory. Of course, Purgatory, like sin, is not often mentioned by modern clerics. Eliot had no such inhibitions. In his discussion of this part of Four Quartets, Eliot specifically refers to Purgatory in a letter to John Hayward: "the effect of the whole to be Purgatorial ..." Eliot actually refers to the end of Dante's Purgatoria. Any readers interested in the poem will find very useful Professor Helen Gardner's book The Composition of Four Quartets.
Eliot specifically repudiated modernism in religion. He was aware of "sin and error" and never attempted to minimise them.
Yours faithfully, ERIC HESTER Bolton, Lancs.
From CanonTimothy Russ Sir, Fr Ronald Rolheiser writes biblical and historic faith.
Yours faithfully, JOHN WESTON [email protected]
In praise of Bush
From Mr Andrew O'Brien
Sir, I was surprised and saddened to read Mary Kenny's denigration of President elect George Bush in The Catholic Herald. One did not expect her to ape the biased attitude of so much of the British media which was blatantly obvious during the Presidential elections. For her information not only did George Bush graduate from the prestigious Harvard Business School but he succeeded in getting better grades than Al Gore at Yale University.
At least the anti-abortion movement right across the international spectrum will have breathed a sigh of relief that the next President of the United States will not be so overtly in favour of abortion, including barbaric partial-birth abortion right up to birth which that "Faith by definition is not certitude", but that could read in such a way as to throw doubt on faith.
Certitude belongs to many things which are not matters of faith. I am for example certain that I am sitting here and that I can see. I am certain, because I believe others, that there was a man called Churchill and another called Napoleon. By the assent to the evidence. I open myself up to the wider world in which I find myself. Rather similarly. one can achieve certainty about Jesus Christ or about the teaching of the Church. So there is one substance, there are two processions, three persons and four relationships in God.
The gift of faith entails assent to doctrine and dogma of course but it necessarily involves the person more deeply. There is the light in the mind which flows from God's gift of his love. Here too there is certitude, the greatest. "Faith", wrote Lonergan "is the eye of love". It enables discernment of God's revelation. Faith is, one might say, full of certitude, but what is never certain is the adequacy of our response to the gift of God's love.
Yours faithfully, TIMOTHY RUSS Great Missendan, Bucks.
happens under Bill Clinton and more than likely would have continued under an Al Gore Presidency.
Yours faithfully ANDREW O'BRIEN [email protected]
Young African bishops
From Mr D.A.N.O'Riley Sir, Sir Harold Hood (Nov 240 mentioned three bishops, who were younger than Fr McMahon upon appointment. Another, Bishop Francis Mostyn was born in 1860 and consecrated as Vicar Apostolic of Wales in 1895 and became Bishop of Menevia in 1898. In the same issue Abbot• Jabale is called Britain's first African bishop. Bishop Arthur Doubleday ( Brentwood 19201951) was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in 1895.
Yours faithfully D.A.N. O'R1LEY [email protected]