Father G. Burke Lisks (June 15) if Inany local groups arc actually fleeting and discussing the documents issued in preparation for the National Pastoral Congress. In my experience, the answer is unfortunately in the negative, indeed, many Catholics still seem to be quite unaware of the Congress.
Existing channels of communication have had to be used to disseminate information about the congress — channels which in the past have not always been noted for their efficiency. Although diocesan co-ordinators have been specially appointed to help in preparations for the congress, and are generally hard at work, discussion papers and other Leaflets still appear to be subject to delays and stoppages at diocesan. deanery and parish level. This is sad — especially in view of the lead shown by the bishops when they announced the congress in their pastoral letters early this year, Perhaps it is up to us lay people (who do. after all, form the great majority of the church) to stir things into action. Anyone interested shoulgl find out from their clergy what activity is already taking place in their parish. take their part in what is going on — and politely follow up the official lines of communication if information is not reaching their parish.
It has always been intended that the many Catholics who are not members of Catholic societies and organisations. or who are — for one reason or another — on the fringes of parish life, should have a part to play in the congress. I strongly encourage interested people to set up their own discussion groups. with or without the encouragement of their clergy. I hope that in so doing they can involve people who are not readers of the Catholic newspitpers, and thus help also in spreading news of the congress, All the literature produced so far can be obtained from the Congress Office (26 Hope Street, Liverpool, LI • 9BX — a complete list of published material is also available). Groups should later send up their findings, opinions and recommendations to their diocesan co-ordiantor, or, if he is not known, to the Congress Office. Discussion groups are not necessarily expected to tackle every discussion paper.
At last we lay people have an invitation to take our rightful part in weighing .up our church and deciding how it ought to develop. We must take up that invitation and not lose a precious opportunity for whatever reason, There are ten months left before the congress — early action is imperat is C.
Philip E. Duffy The Master of the Music, Liserpoca Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool L3 5TQ.
The more I read about the NPC, the more I feel that Mrs Nicole Hall's suggestion to the hierarchy that they cull the whole thing off (June 29) makes great sense.
I've just read the draft working document for the 1980 Rome Synod. where 130 or so bishops, men of considerable learning. will preparedly discuss just one complex subject over many days. We expect 2,000 delegates. of almost certainly lesser average standards of erudition and preparation, to 'debate' a wide range of complex subjects in three days flat, and their votes to be regarded as the mind of contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales!
If the Congress goes ahead on this basis. it will be as credible. and it's effect as lasting, as the annual flimflam of our party political conferences. The Church deserves to he better served than this if it wants true pastoral consultation.
The Congress is vastly too big, is proposing to attempt far too much in far too short a time, and will achieve less real, honest, true. consultation than can be achieved by reading the correspondence columns of the Catholic press.
The latter course costs about 60p per bishop per week, under £1,000 for the whole hierarchy for a year. The real costs of the Congress make the mind boggle, if every last gallon of petrol burned up attending group, parish, deanery and diocesan preparation meetings is taken into account, plus the travel, accommodation and subsistence costs of 2,000 delegates, plus all the postage, secretarial and stationery costs, and so on. It runs into hundreds of thousands.
His Holiness, who will in the end take the decisions when all the fine Nk.ords have been said, is calling for aid for the boat people. At least their suffering and need is more evident, more demonstrable than the 'suffering' of the progressive enthusiasts whose pressure causes a not visibly or obviously enthusiastic hierarchy to call the congress. Your Eminence. your Graces and Lordships, please let the boat people have the money.
J. C. L. Inman Barrow, Suffolk.
I am fed up with people who pay lip service to Christ and His teachings — especially Catholics, as I happen to be one — and who, in reality, support and subscribe to the worldly standards which He came to refute. Examples range from nuns who keep battery hens to so-called Christians who pay vast sums for worldly possessions, when the earth is dying from our misuse, and the poor of the earth are dispossessed and dying from our neglect.
No one cares a hoot what 1 think or say. but I would like you to print this so that I can be put on record as having said it! It seems to me to be a vital issue in the, vi.orld and in the Church today — and should be given top priority at our forthcoming "Pastoral Congress". But, of course, it won't be!
Peggy Bunt Seaford. Sussex.
Mrs Nicole Hall (June 29) fears that a National Pastoral Congress may impede still further a return to the seemingly doubtful days of PreVatican 11 when objections to "fundamental Catholic beliefwere never voiced publicly from inside the Church.
She may be right. but a National Pastoral Congress is not a National Pastoral Council. more's the pity.
If the delegates to the Pastoral Councils in Holland and at Detroit were speaking the truth as they sae it, whs is she afraid? Is it because a National Pastoral Council discusses and passes tor rejects) resolutions and has the machinery to sec that its decisions are implemented? A Congress can be little more than a talking shop.
Mrs Hall says that recent opinion polls show that rank-and-file Catholics have aims and attitudes in "stark contrast" to those held by the (she believes) "unelected and unrepresentative" National Conference of Priests.
Would she please tell us who organised these polls and how their samples were taken. The National Conference of Priests consists of four delegates from each diocese, all elected by their fellow priests from their respective "ordination year groups".
It is about the only truly representative national body which the Catholic Church has in this country.
As for the debate at the Westminster National Conference Centre about the proposals in "A Time for Building", this was organised by "Pro Fide" and therefore largely supported by its followers. The results were a foregone conclusion.
Pope John XXIII gave us Vatican II which opened the windows. If we want to continue to breathe fresh air we had better make sure no one shuts them.
Julie M. Roberts (Mrs) New Malden, Surrey.