Page 7, 12th January 2001

12th January 2001
Page 7
Page 7, 12th January 2001 — Reflections on being savaged by Dr Ker
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Reflections on being savaged by Dr Ker

Sir, Gosh! It is, I suppose, something of an honour to be savaged by the pen of such an eminent Newman scholar as Ian Ker.

I have to admit that when I read my own review in print. I gasped on seeing the headlines that had been provided for it; "Making fun of Anglicans: Sean Finnegan wonders whether it was a good idea to reprint Newman's tirade against the C of E" because that is not what I was trying to say at all.

It is not surprising that a reader should have assumed that this was my drift, though to say that I was ignorant of both text and author was a little unfair. In fact, I explicitly state that it is necessary that the book be republished; I praise the edition and notes (though not the production), and state that I believe the book to be worth buying.

My opinion, from which the headline is misderived, I gave only "diffidently", and it was to the effect that I should have preferred some other of Newman's books to be published as the first of this new series, and that because of the situation of our present day, when Christianity in general is under much attack; I do not believe that the Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics will themselves do much to foster good relations with Anglicans, among whom undoubtedly would be many purchasers of these reprints.

Dr Ker thinks that it shows, besides the significance of the book in itself, "a sense of humour" on the part of the publishers to print it first; maybe we just find different things funny.

Regarding the specific charges made by Dr Ker, I do admit and regret that I used the term "Anglicanism" loosely, but it should have been very apparent from the rest of the review that I am perfectly aware that the book is addressed to Protestant prejudice and not the Church of England per se.

I cannot claim to have read every word — or even every book — that Newman wrote, and so must accept from a scholar of the stature of Dr Ker that satire is not, after all, unusual among the works of Newman but, scratch my head as I might, I cannot think of another book that employs it throughout in quite this way.

At least we can agree that the work itself is a masterpiece of satire, and that Dr Nash's introduction and notes are splendid. But when I compare it to some others of Newman's works, such as the Essay on the Development of Doctrine, or the Idea of a University,I cannot bring myself to think of it as his "best written book".

Yours faithfully, SEAN A. FINNEGAN [email protected]

Fr Barrett under fire

From Bishop Hugh Lindsay Sir, Like M M Williams (Jan 5), I am disappointed with your "Doubts and Queries" feature. Its weekly claim that, "Father Richard Barrett answers readers' questions", led me to expect objective, factual and complete answers. We rarely get them, if ever. Father devotes much space to spraying his personal betes-noires with the grapeshot of derision. Like a Catholic version of Anglican David Jenkins, he today irreverently calls the 'relics of Martyrs placed beneath a (Roman) fixed altar' in a college devoted to the English Martyrs, (Can 1237/2) 'a box of dead bones'.

Today's query, "are there norms for sacred places?", is not answered. A third-hand claim that one church, "is never open for prayer during the day", leads to the Church law (Can 937) which prescribes reasonable access to church for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament but which, unlike Father Barrett, recognises that there may be "a grave reason to the contrary" (Can 937). He too readily dismisses some grave reasons; each case is different. A priest is obliged to take full account of the circumstances in his area so that he will properly safeguard the Blessed Sacrament (Can 938) and valuables in his church; and nowadays defend it against arson when nearby Catholic churches have been recently burned down.

The reply is not objective; regular targets which have little or no connection with it, like pre-1980 priests, post-ordination courses, lawful liturgical re-ordering, multipurpose Churches and parish priests unable to open churches all day, are attacked at some length. It is often not factual: for example, the post ordination courses our priests attended in what he dubs, "a reeducation camp in Lancashire" didn't tell them to start "dismantling sacred spaces". Nor did they.

Finally, today's reply is incomplete. It neither gives nor explains the norm for sacred places:




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