With rclerence to the publication of extracts from a letter from myself as assistant secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission to Mr George Bull, its chairman (February 7) I would like to make it clear that this was a private letter and not intended for publication.
John Ryan's cartoon was less than just in that the differences reflected in the letter are concerned with ideology and method rather than personality. Richard Dowden, Assistant Secretary. Commission for
International Justice and Peace,
44 Grays Inn Road,
Before controversy egins rage over Mr Richard Dowden's letter (February 7) to the Justice and Peace Cornmission's chairman concerning the failings of the Commission hitherto. I would like to register, on behalf of the Executive Committee of Pax Christi in England, our profound sense of indebtedness to the full-time staff of the Commission for their untiring efforts.
How far the Commission has failed to live up to its promise, and for what reasons, is no doubt a matter of debate. What cannot be doubted, and should be put on record, is the fact that these failings are not to be placed at the door of the full-time staff, who have worked with a sense of urgency and commitment to peace and justice for which they have had very little recognition, and which puts to shame the great mass of Catholics, at all levels of authority in the Church, who have allowed this small group of dedicated people to shoulder a burden which ought to have been shared much more widely.
In justice to them, it is now up to all of us to examine, as a matter of conscience, the root causes of the disquiet that Mr Dowden has voiced and to put things right. We in Fax Christi sincerely hope that we can do Our part in this work of "agonising reappraisal" and that others will resolve likewise to turn the present situation to good account.
Brian Wicker National Chairman, Pax Christi (British Section) Pax Christi Centre, Blackfriars Hall, Southampton Road, London, NW5.
As one who, at "grass-roots level" made the Justice and Peace Pledge in June 1973, and as chairman of a successful parochial group, I take great exception to parts of your letter (February 7). Namely: You refer to the 1973 campaign as a "disaster". How can a campaign be described as such when it inspires the formation of commissions at diocesan level and enthusiastic groups at parochial and school level? Are these results too insignificant for the notice of the national commissions or has there been too little feed-back? We would be delighted to supply you with details Of our projects and successes, small though they may appear. 2 — You say that the work of the secretariat has been "immeasurable" but that it is financially embarrassed. A charge of 10p for the excellent
material you supply for prayers, vigils etc would be willingly supplied if requested. Should you doubt the generous response of Catholics see the letter from Kathleen Bull (coworker with Mother Teresa) on page 5. February 7. 3 — You say that the cam paign was of a "vague and unspecific nature." This, to my mind, was both its strength and its appeal. The term "justice and peace" can be applied to any sphere of life, be it personal, local, national or international. It is this wide perspective which enables groups in every area to act as they sec fit. Whether it be lobbying MPs on abortion, euthanasia, education, housing, race relations etc, the provision of help and support to the local poor and needy, or the collection and distribution of money, medicines and materials for overseas — the scope is tremendous. We need the present freedom to act effectively.
4 — As to your internal quarrels and those with the Hierarchy, I am not in a position to comment on or refute your remarks but would, in all humility, suggest that you settle these grievances privately with those concerned, and not cause distress and disillusionment to the lay people who provide the hulk of "Catholic Herald" readers.
We are the ones who are working and praying for justice and peace at all levels, and a letter such as yours on the front page can do nothing but harm. Small wonder that John Ryan took full advantage of it for his cartoon and this is Peace Sunday! (Mrs.) Mary Lochery Chairman, St. Augustines (Manchester) Justice and Peace Group 10, Blair Road, Whalley Range, Manchester 16.
I would question the import of your editorial entitled "Commissions need teeth" (February 7).
In the first place, do we really need Commissions? These have been the bane of the Church since Vatican IL They in no way bring the individual Catholic any nearer to his or her Father in God. On the contrary, in my experience. they are further away than ever. If a bishop requires advice I am sure there are plenty of laity to furnish it, otherwise fellow bishops, privately, might supply the need. Let the bishops rule their sees as they are divinely appointed to do, and eschew collectivity.
To speak of a "democratic" Church. as though Catholics were an amalgam in "management" is a mis-nomer. The Catholic Church is nothing if it is not an authoritative Church. Authority descends from above, though if there should be ambiguity at the top, things are certainly in a bad way.
Your editorial speaks of Christ as being "a revolutionary who camel to change the world . . " Our Lord was not a revolutionary. He was a King, and kings are not usually revolutionaries. Who said so? Two of His enemies. Pilate testifying to His earthly kingship, and his chef lieutenant, the centurion, as to His heavenly kingship. Probably that is why a good number of soldiers being fed up with revolutions and militancy turn to ordination and sanity. In our days, for the first time in history.
Christianity is being equated with violence in the interest of "good world order." This is a lie, and has the brand of the origin of all lies — the Father of
Lies. Our Lord came for the conversion of each individual soul. If He had wished to revolutionise things politically He could have had a few legions of angels to have helped Him, as He told us.
James Goldsbury 75 Bingham Road, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottingham.
Some care needs to be taken before we embark on the process of giving the commissions teeth. Teeth are for biting with.
The task facing the commissions — the task facing the Church at large, really — is to, persuade people that they will live fuller lives if the energy locked up in them is released in unselfish ways. That generous, perhaps volatile. spirits like Mr Dowden should become impatient is to be expected, if not hoped for. That generous, perhaps cautious, spirits like some of Mr Dowden's colleagues, should be tentative, is fortunate, if not necessary.
In any system, whether it is the human body or the body of Christ there are forces for conservation and forces for change ebbing and flowing in an uneasy equilibrium.
My sympathy is with Mr Bull whose job it is to enable the jostling influences in the Justice and Peace Commission to issue in a clear and enlivening stimulus to the rest of us. His difficulty may be, as you suggest, that the bishops do not listen to him. Perhaps, though, this deafness is more apparent than real since people seem to get the government they deserve.
At any rate the delicacy and complexity of the relationships we are talking about call for gentleness and patience. 1 hope, therefore, you will think again about wanting to give the cornmissions teeth. In fact, you might give a lead in finding peaceful metaphors for the continuing debate in the Church — forever reforming herself.
F. P. Hart "Chalgrove", Horseshoe Lane, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants.
I was distressed to read the criticism of the Justice and Peace Commission (February 7). How long must we continue to find scapegoats for our own reluctance to follow the teaching of Christ?
The Justice and Peace Commission has given us leadership and inspiration. But how many parish priestsaossed their commitment campaign into the waste-paper basket? And how
many parishioners failed to respond to their call to -give
prayer, study, time and money to the hungry, the thirsty and the naked. How many parishes didn't have time to organise their beautiful vigil for justice and peace? How many of us have actually written to our MPs on the lines they suggested?
To "abandon attempts to educate the Catholic community at grass roots until resources are adequate," is a policy of unbelievable negativism. Money will never make the seed of the spirit more fertile. It is the ground that must be fertile. The World Food Conference gave great publicity to the fact that there are now 460 million people who have not enough food to maintain the fibre of their bodies. Any Christian who has not reacted positively to this need is unworthy of the name.
What practical steps can we take? I can only say what we have done in response to the leadership of the Commission. .500 commitment cards were distributed to parishioners; 100
prayer cards were taken by Anglicans, the Lenten Vigil was adapted and used for a most moving and relevant service involving Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists and. United Reform Church; we have sought and received advice and information promptly from the Commission when we have contacted them.
Finally, after a public meeting led by Bishop Mahon and Mr Erik Pearse, we approached our Mayor and asked her to call a meeting of all the churches and organisations in our borough. At this meeting, which was extremely well attended. a steering committee was formed to launch a campaign called "Save Our World," in which local people will not only be exhorted to feel better by eating less, and getting more exercise (thus saving fuel), hut also to get together in street social evenings to encourage caring and involvement and a new sense of purpose in our lives.
We believe that this is the first step towards changing the priorities of our own society, without which justice foi the developing world will for ever be impossible.
If the Commission's campaign has been a disaster, it is we, not they, who are to blame. (Mrs) Sheila Keefe 5 Little Gaynes Gardens, Upminster, Essex.
Congratulations on your leading article "Commissions Need Teeth" (February 7). May I repeat what I consider to be the heart of it by quoting this from it: "The Church will return to the rigid hierarchy that it has been for too long and communication will be possible in one direction only — from the top down. In a society whose basic cultural model is democratic, the number of practising Catholics is likely to diminish even faster".
Can it be that history is repeating itself in this matter of communication? Was it not the failure in communications on the part of Christian teachers to realise what was happening during the Renaissance that brought about the onslaught of scientific thinking on the Christian philosophy of life? Is it not the failure also to realise these days that the basic cultural model in society today is democracy? It is true that as an ocracy it may pass in the far distant future, but it will remain deeply entrenched for many an age because of the evil effects of the Industrial Revolution.
On the other hand, the glorious truths of the Christian Faith are as young and everlasting as the day they were revealed, but they can remain hidden unless new lines of communication are given to a perplexed and sadly confused age.
Christopher Dawson sums this up in the following quotation from his book "Christianity and the New Age," page 66, published in 1931. "The Western mind has turned away. from the contemplation of the' absolute and eternal to the knowledge of the particular and the contingent. It has made man the measure of all things and has sought to emancipate human life from its dependence on the supernatural.
"Instead ot the whole intellectual and social order being subordinated to spiritual principles, every activity has declared its independence, and we see politics, economics, science, and art organising themselves as autonomous kingdoms which owe no allegiance to any higher power." (Canon) Alfred Winsborough 31 West Drive,
Cheers for Mr Young (January 31)! Why on earth should we be cold-blooded murderers of the English tongue in our own land? What possible value an there be in a standard version of English when it leads to the sheer insensitivity with which we are now assailed.
If it is fitting that a "creed spoken by the whole congregation at Mass should be in the plural" (I quote from the catholic Information Office hand-out) are we to expect that in Latin Masses in the future the congregation will be invited to join in by the priests intoning the Credimus?
And are we to rewrite the words of Gerontius to "Firmly we believe one truly?"
Really we are being vexed almost intolerably.
P. L. Daniel 37 Somerset Road, Meadvale, Redhill, Surrey.