From Mr James Carty SIR – John Martin Robinson (Comment, July 8) is aiming at the wrong target when he claims that the Church in England and Wales is top heavy, with too many bishops and dioceses. With fewer bishops and their administrations, he believes we could keep churches open, improve the calibre of parsh clergy and stem the flight from the pews.
In the past, the posts of diocesan treasurer, bishop’s secretary and other administrative positions were held by priests. Many of these priests worked in parishes and were not separately renumerated for their administrative work. With the shortage of priests it has become necessary to employ lay people to fill these posts. They need to be paid a competitive salary.
The problem with the Church is not excessive expenditure but an inadequate income. The average contribution of an adult per week is between two and three pounds. In contrast, Anglicans are advised to give five per cent of their net income to the Church. The late Cardinal Heenan gave similar advice when he suggested that single Catholics should donate five per cent of their income and married people two-anda-half per cent.
If English and Welsh Catholics donated to the Church as generously as do the American and German Catholics, then there would be more than a sufficient income to do all the good things that Dr Robinson desires.
Yours faithfully, JAMES CARTY Twickenham, Middx From Fr Stewart Foster SIR – While it is not for me to comment, in an official capacity, on Dr Robinson’s article, there are one or two historical points that require clarification.
Of the original (1850) dioceses, Beverley, which covered the whole of Yorkshire, was divided in 1878 to form two new dioceses, viz Leeds and Middlesborough, whereas in the third paragraph of the article it is stated that Beverley was “later Leeds”.
Essex was detached from Westminster to form a new diocese (of Essex) on March 22 1917 (not 1911) and was erected as the Diocese of Brentwood on July 20 1917.
The Diocese of Menevia was erected on May 12 1898, having been the Vicariate of Wales since March 4 1895. The Archdiocese of Cardiff was erected on February 7 1916, having hitherto (since 1896) been known as the Diocese of Newport, ie after the division that had created the Vicariate of Wales the year before, and (from 1850 to 1896) as the Diocese of Newport and Menevia. In other words, although the Diocese of Menevia became a suffragan of the newly-erected Archdiocese of Cardiff in 1916, Menevia itself (and before it the Vicariate of Wales) had existed for 21 years.
Yours faithfully, STEWART FOSTER Archivist, Diocese of Brentwood London E7 From Mr Gordon O’Brien SIR – I read with great interest Dr Robinson’s article proposing a reduction in the number of dioceses in England and Wales. For some time I have been convinced that a similar approach would be beneficial to the Church in Ireland. Of priests, we will need more, but of bishops, fewer and (dare I say it) better would be a significant step on the road to renewal.
Yours faithfully, GORDON O’BRIEN Glasnevin, Republic of Ireland