Sir, — Occasionally I have noticed in the Catholic press a wish for Catholics to be free to attend non-Catholic services beyond the courtesy occasions for which general permission has been given. With the week of prayer for Christian unity coming up may 1 make some comments?
(a) There was a time when such attendance implied complete unity in belief, but today if a non-Catholic comes to Mass or any other service he may truly wish to pray with us as fellow Christians without in the least implying that he accepts certain of our dogmas. A Catholic may equally wish to pray with friends at Evensong or some other service whilst it is well and thoroughly understood what his beliefs are. Catholics who have had Permission for this in the nest often say how warmly received it is when they are present: "It was good to see you here.Surely the time has come for adult Catholics to be free in this matter? It would help if there were not so many regulations and permissions, and if we were encouraged instead to ask advice about particular occasions, and to weigh it carefully.
(b) No doubt the best joint action is co-operation in Christian social justice, yet I do think experience of each other's official worship gives a better insight into each other's life and doctrine than any amount of ecumenical "talk". Also better than specially arranged joint services, though there is a need for these too.
(c) The bishops' directive reads "ft is recommended that, in addition to the fervent observance of the Octave in our churches, on one night during the Octave all Christians should gather in some suitable hall for joint prayer and talks from Christians of different denominations".
I would have thought that "sorne suitable hall" was intended for occasions when any particular Church would be too small for the expected gathering, but I learned lately that the bishops really did mean that joint services should be on neutral ground unless special permission is given. No doubt this permission is given readily in some places, but not others.
Would it not be simple to alter the text to "some suitable Church or hall". so that during the present decade we do not build up a reputation for having some bigoted taboo about buildings, and then spend another decade undoing the minor and unnecessary damage? Why do we first apologise for our sins against unity and then go on committing more (rather silly) ones? The proper place for joint Christian prayer is surely a Christian church if possible, no matter which.
J. D. Mattison Cambridgeshire
Sir, — The letter from a parent (December 31) about little children at Mass shows a disturbing lack of understanding. She admits that to keep a child of 5 silent and still for an hour was "miserable for us", so what must it be like for a child. It is against the nature of a normal healthy child of five or under to sit still and silent for more than a few minutes, and to associate Mass attendance with punishment is not conducive to a love of churchgoing,
C. M. Cheke Sir,—Hurrah for the courageous Mrs. Dyckhoff! Who does benefit, I wonder, from the presence of protesting babies at Mass? Not the parents, engaged throughout in half-hearted attempts to subdue them; certainly not the rest of us watching them spanked or played with. It's unfair to the children who've been taught control, and downright cruel to the bored or distressed little ones forced to stick it out.
I am incredulous when letters appear in the CATHOLIC HERALD discussing whether the liturgy should be in English or Latin, silent or vocal. Alt I hope for is the chance to offer even one prayer, any way at all; and I mean PRAY, not say.
Mrs. Stephanie Moffat Clacton-on-Sea
Sir,—One cannot expect any healthy infant subjected to three-quarters of an hour or more of totally incomprehensible ceremony to be other than restive. The truth is that Mass is only for those able to under
stand what is going on. The
best Catholic educational opinion (e.g. Verite et Vie) considers that no good is done, even to the child, by taking it to Mass before at least the age of 5.
If creches were established in parishes babies would be looked after and Mum and Dad would still be able to attend Mass together. This institution is a lone-established and smoothly working part of arrangements in non-conformist churches.
Last year a petition bearing 100 Catholic signatures, some of them eminent. was sent to our bishops asking them to support the idea of creches. They did not consider it necessary to take action, but if more people of Mrs. Dyckhoff's way of thinking wrote to them, no doubt they would.
One cannot help thinking that Family and Social Action, whose energetic programme for 1966 you outlined in your columns recently, is ideally suited to pioneer this necessary parish service.
Gareth Edwards London N3.
Sir, — Thank you for an excellent article by Fr. Gregory Baum (December 31). He mentioned the decrees on the Pastoral Office of the Bishops and the Ministry of Priests in which diocesan councils are proposed : the purpose of the councils beine to foster dialogue between Bishop and the people on one hand and between Bishop and representative priests elected by the clergy on the other.
One hopes that these good ideas will be extended until the laity one day have a voice by right in the executive councils of the Church. It is exceedingly difficult to see why decisions about such things as size and type of schools, sociological aspects of parish organisation and so on should be made exclusively by the clerical members of the People of God.
I would like to ask two oueslions. Is the lay council. suggested by the Vatican Decree, to be of representatives elected by the laity? if not, why not?
Michael Brown Bristol 6.
SIR,—Concerning Mr. Cameron's comments (January 7) on my letter, I would like to point out that the question of "who is the aggressor" is of paramount importance. for if the U.S. were an unjust aggressor, its present action in Vietnam would be morally untenable.
The use of napalm in bornbing Vietcong hideouts and sources of supplies is one more horrible consequence of the war and distasteful to the Christian conscience. But regret of its use does not reflect on the morality of its use. If it were true that the harm done to noncombatants in such bombing (or any bombing) was greater than the good achieved. then it would clearly be wrong. But is such the case? The examples in Vietnam of indiscriminate bombing or wanton destruction of the homes of the innocent are few, and those known have been justly and publically condemned. Torture of prisoners, of course, can never be justified.
Mr. Cameron's disappointment at my views is exceeded only by my own at his. While the Christian conscience must be sensitive to violence, it is not contrary to Christian morality to repel force with force. True, the past and present government of South Vietnam leaves much to be desired, but let them at least have the opportunity to evolve their own form of government, free from the straitjacket which North Vietnam seeks to impose by force, How Christians can sit by while one or more nation fails into the Red Chinese orbit is beyond my comprehension. The six years which I recently spent in Southeast Asia (and to which I will be returning) gave me an opportunity to see what China is up to in Asia. It's not a very pretty picture and for those of us who have to live a stone's throw from Mao's China, it's rather uncomfortable.
As I see it, the true solution in South Vietnam, and in all of Asia, must begin in the realm of economics. Communism is an effect, not a cause, and as long as there are empty bellies there will be communists, ready to ride into power as champions of the just grievances of the peasants. It remains for us to steal a bit of this fire from the communists, They should not have (as unfortunately they often do) a monopoly on battling for the cause of the downtrodden.
Mr. Cameron's remarks and the whole Vietnam controversy makes me recall Garrett Mattingly's summation of the battle with the Spanish Armada, It was a struggle, he said, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. Which side was which depended, of course, on where one stood.
Rev. Nicholas P. Cushner, SJ. London, S.W.19 Sir,--This is such a jaded old hobby horse that one hesitates to raise it. Over the years numerous correspondents have lamented the failure of Catholics to rise to world situations— spiritually or materially.
One thinks of those dreadful people who take up valuable space in your columns to complain that Catholics are not participating in Christian Aid Week or the Church Unity Octave. The lack of support from other readers shows how out of step these correspondents are.
We have recently had another example. Sunday, December 19, was to be observed by Christians in this country as a Day of Prayer for Rhodesia. Some tentative inquiries locally showed me that this did not happen in the Catholic churches. Yet this Day had the backing of Cardinal Heenan and was given ample coverage in the CATHOLIC HERAI.D.
Recently parishes have been ordered to pray for a successful outcome to the Council, ordered to take up second collections for various causes (Catholic schools etc.). It would have been encouraging (though a retrograde step, of course) if parishes had been ordered to pray on December 19.
1 have no doubt that some churches did undertake this prayer (the Bidding Prayers would have been an ideal place). However, it does seem that it will take several generations before Catholics show that they have emerged from the penal times to play a part in the world of Schema 13.
Perhaps someone can explain the persistence of so many of us in this insularity. Bernard Tucker Roch dale, Lancs.
Sir,—"Christmas Bells from behind the Sandbags", written by Mr. Maier Asher and published in the CATHOLIC HERALD at Christmas, was a very interesting, though to my mind a somewhat misleading article.
I have been in the sand-trade for a very long time, 1 started, as a child. building sand-castles along the beaches. Even before 1 had mastered the intricacies of English spelling, 1 sent to my father my first telegram: "Sand me urgently a hundred pounds." During the last war, in the African Desert. I ate more sand than you, Sir. with all respect, have eaten Christmas puddings. As a student I wrote an essay "On the Influence of Georges Sand." And Sandy Shaw is my favourite pop-singer.
Therefore, Sir, I may state with some authority, that sandbags are as characteristic of Israel as penguins are of Italy or lemon-trees of Sweden. You can. of course, find both sand and bags in the Holy Land. In fact, the glittering long stretches of sand along the Red, the Med and the Dead Seas attract hundreds of thousands of the sun-worshipping pagans of our times. And practically every Israeli housewife has not one but two bags: one for shopping, the other for complaints. But the twain rarely meet.
The two dozen sandbags on the borders of Jerusalem. to which your article referred (three of them have in fact been removed recently, because they leaked) were more of a relic of the past than a characteristic of the present.
Lest you accuse me, Sir, of not appreciating the symbolic nature of your contributor's poetic description — bells v. sandbags—let me assure you, that nothing connected with sand can escape my attention. It is for me like the Bug-eyed Great Black Jungle Butterfly for a lepidopterist. Unfortunately, even in the symbolic sense, his description lacks the sort of insight which is characteristic of leading lepidopterists as well as of sound experts on Israel.
Though adjectives like "hostile" and "smouldering" — to quote only two from the article—do tend to stick to descriptions of the IsraeliArab border just as "ageless" does to Marlene Dietrich, I may assure you, that they are less justified. Britain at Christmas time—with scores of dead on the roads—is an infinitely more dangerous place. Yet few Britons would agree that "Christmas Bells from behind the Roadblocks" is a true description of the Christmas spirit of these Isles.
To pick out the two dozen (minus three) sandbags on the Jerusalem border is about as accurate a portrayal of Israel, as the celebrated description given by the English tourist, who—on his first morning in Paris—was served by a waiter who happened to limp and to be a redhead : "Dear Mary," he wrote to his wife. "all Frenchmen limp and have hair like our Irish neighbour."
The truth is that, in a world where wars have unfortunately never stopped, Israel is now entering its tenth year of undisturbed peace: peace on its earth and peace in the hearts of its people. The joy of living, in freedom, after nearly two thousand years of persecu tion, is written on the races of the people you meet in the streets of Jerusalem, of Tel Aviv, of Haifa, in the new immigrants' settlements and in the kibbutzim — peaceful joy which engulfs the foreign visitor like a heap of warm sand, on a sunny afternoon, on a Mediterranean beach.
Ralph Anderson, London. W.I.
Sre,--For the fourth year running a great open air rally is to be held in Trafalgar Square for half an hour at 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 23, being the Sunday within the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Hitherto the rally has been under the auspices of the Conference to Promote Prayer for Unity. This year the Conference has asked the recently formed Westminster Christian Council to take over the responsibility, and this the Council has thought it right to undertake. Anglicans, 'Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Presbyterians and Free Churchmen will be taking part, and the singing will be led by a choir and band of the Salvation Army.
The rally is an event which in previous years has been given considerable publicity and has really managed to catch the popular imagination. It has shown people that ordinary Christians of every tradition care enough about unity to turn up in considerable numbers in Trafalgar Square on a Sunday afternoon in January.
The rally is an act of witness, a sign to the people of this century that Christians are increasingly determined to put an end to their divisions. And indeed the tide of concern for
Christian renewal-into-unity has never flowed more strongly than now.
The rally is a call to prayer —and to the commitment that goes with it. Therefore. those who attend the rally are invited to go on in pilgrimage down Whitehall to Westminster Abbey and to join in shortened Evensong at 4 p.m. at which the Dean of Westminster will preach, in succeeding years it is hoped to go on to the Methodist Central Hall, to Westminster Cathedral, and possibly to other centres. Westminster Abbey is chosen this year because of the occurrence of the 900th Anniversary of its dedication.
The Westminster Christian Council gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance given to it by the Conference to Promote Prayer for Unity, and asks for the continued support and encouragement of Christians of all traditions in this venture, that the pioneering work of the last three years may be consolidated and extended. Congregations of all traditions, within reasonable reach of central London, are urged to send contingents to take part.
Eric S. Abbot, Dean of Westminster Maurice Barnett, Minister, Methodist Central Hall John Miller Scott, Minister, Crown Court Church, Church of Scotland G. A. Tomlinson, Administrator, Westminster Cathedral
Sir,—In view of the new abortion bill due to be read in the House of Commons, one wonders how many Catholics, and especially practising Catholics, know the Church's teaching on this particular subject?
As a member of an adult Catholic Action group who have made it their business to discuss this question, and on whose behalf I write, we find ourselves singularly ignorant and at variance on many points, and there must surely be many others similarly uncertain of the Church's teaching in this respect.
So much has already been published and the Bill, if it is passed, is bound to have so many repercussions and will doubtless be so broadly interpreted in many cases, that the time has surely come for the laiety to be enlightened as to the Church's teaching on this most vital subject—and where better than from the pulpit?
Jane Eyre London, N.W.1 Sir,—If, as your correspondent suggests, it is the duty of all Catholic Members of Parliament to oppose any change in the law of abortion on the grounds of the inviolability of human life, can anyone tell me why it is not equally important that Catholics, as a body, should he seen to speak out on every possible occasion against war, against the possession of nuclear weapons which have an almost infinite potential for destroying human life, or, as a less controversial subject, against death and mutilation on the roads?
Mrs. Doreen Tanner Romford, Essex