Thomas Ellis criticising Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool, in the interests of fairness we invited readers to send us their views. The response was overwhelming. The selection below is as representative as possible. Some have been edited for reasons of space. Our thanks to all correspondents
THE LAST STRAW
As READERS of the Catholic Herald for many years, we have been in turn amazed, amused and annoyed at the views expressed by Alice Thomas Ellis but have not previously written to protest.
However, her recent tirade against Archbishop Worlock was quite the last straw. To wait until a very good pastor is dead and buried before she unleashed her vitriolic tirade is, to say the least, very unChristia.n.
To refer to just one point in her article she rubbishes the achievements of Archbishop Worlock and Bishop Sheppard in bringing peace and religious tolerance to a divided city. Perhaps she is not old enough to remember Liverpool pre-Vatican II? There was intense hatred and bigotry the Orange parades in July, for example, when we were warned to keep indoors to avoid conflict. We were not allowed to enter non-Catholic churches under any circumstances. Mixed marriages were considered to be (in the words of the Catechism) "unlawful and pernicious". If one did get a dispensation, the wedding took place in a side chapel or sacristy as a friend told me recently: "we were in and out in ten minutes quicker than a registry office wedding".
Is this the type of Catholicism that Alice Thomas Ellis yearns to return? Was not the good Pope John XXIII right in opening the windows to let in some light on a Church which was becoming as rigid and rule-bound as the organised religion which Jesus attacked in His day? While being secure in our own faith, can we not appreciate the good in others, maybe even learn from them and give them the opportunity of sharing and learning from us?
And could she not give Archbishop Worlock the credit for acting as his conscience dictated, even if it did not agree with her own views?
Mary and Bill O'Neill Welwyn Garden City, Herts
THE NEED FOR ANSWERS ALICE THOMAS Ellis is to be thanked for raising three important questions. These deserve serious debate:
1. Access to Bishops are our Bishops becoming remote? Are they so surrounded by officials that only official bodies can easily approach them? Are ordinary Catholics being diverted?
2. Ecumenism are we altering or diluting Catholic doctrine in order to reach agreement with our separated brethren? If so, this is false ecumenism. it will eventually undermine our own Catholic faith.
3. Loss of faith Vatican H has given us the magnificent new Catechism of the Catholic Church. This in turn gives us the true spirit of Vatican II. It should be the basis of all catethesis in schools, parishes and dioceses. Is it?
Lionel Gracey Sunningdale, Berks
MISPLACED BLAME JUST WHO IS this Alice Thomas Ellis? I am in the evening of my life, but I have never read in any Catholic paper or magazine anything so vile and vicious about a recently deceased Archbishop.
Blaming Archbishop Worlock, a good and saintly man, for those who leave or for lack of vocations is just nonsense. He brought hope and consolation to those broken by life; Alice Thomas Ellis brings sheer nastiness, spite and bitterness.
Denis McCarthy Guildford, Surrey
THE VIEWS OF MANY THE CRITICISM aimed at Alice Thomas Ellis by Bishop Sheppard and Mgr Furnival is an injustice which needs
rectifying. To accuse her of being ignorant of what is going on is to conveniently ignore the many letters of protest for years in the Catholic press and elsewhere of disillusioned Catholics, unhappy at the way the Church has developed in this country under the guidance of Archbishop Worlock, Cardinal Hume and other progressive Bishops.
Alice Thomas Ellis is simply reflecting these views and has been doing so in the Catholic Herald for years.
The policies pursued by our Bishops in the UK for many years on issues such as ecumenism, Catholic education, Church reorderings, feminism, morals, traditional devotions and respect for the Eucharist, and the vital role of Our Lady in these times, has had the effect of alienating many orthodox Catholics loyal to the teachings of the Holy Father and the Magisterium.
In the pursuit of misguided theology and political correctness some leading Bishops have tolerated too many "grey areas", allowing the definitive teachings contained in the new Catechism to become clouded, thereby causing distress and confusion amongst the faithful.
No matter how uncomfortable it is, the facts speak for themselves. Church attendances are declining and the worst example of this is Liverpool, a former Catholic stronghold now wallowing at the bottom of the attendance league despite the Catholic population remaining fairly stable for years.
Jim Dolan Liverpool
RHYME OR REASON? THERE WAS once a writer called Ellis
Whose vocation in life was to tell us How wicked we were, and of truth unaware, In thinking God's in us when hell is.
(And one question:) If she omitted condemnation Disapproval, contumacion, Would aught else be left save punctuation?
Gerard W Hughes s..7 Birmingham WE NEED AM!
As ALWAYS, Alice Thomas Ellis has hit the nail on the head. I cannot speak for Liverpool though one has to ask why in such a Catholic city the Mass attendances have dropped so dramatically. The progressive nature of the late Archbishop is known and is reflected in churches throughout the country.
As a convert of 40 years, I am appalled by the degradation of the Mass. Not only have the Latin and ritual disappeared, but reverence too. Many Masses appear to be rather noisy parties.
A ritual which was once universal now varies from church to church according to the incumbent, and the discipline of the Church so supportive to both laity and clergy has long gone.
In trying to be "with it" and "all to all men", the Church has thrown out the baby with the bathwater. We need more like Alice Thomas Ellis to speak for those of us who have not her gift of the pen.
Miss PAD Ellison Bishopston, Swansea
A NEED FOR RESPECT "MY WAR against Worlock" must mark the all-time nadir of Catholic journalism since the Catholic Herald was first published.
Whatever personal views a Catholic might hold about a Bishop of the Catholic Church, he/she is bound by faith and love to accept the divine element of his ordination to a position of leadership within the Church of our time, and accord him the respect and reverence every Catholic Bishop has the right to expect in life and death. Alice Thomas Ellis has fallen sadly short of this duty.
Archbishop Worlock was very special, by all accounts a Bishop of great insight and wisdom, infinitely patient and gentle, a truly holy man whose reputation will remain undented by Alice Thomas Ellis's disgraceful invective against him. One can only hope that one day she will find the humility to apologise to all of us who are hurt by her attack on the Archbishop.
In closing, may I remind Alice Thomas Ellis that the Second Vatican Council was a gathering of the Bishops of the Universal Church presided over by two Popes working in tandem with the Holy Spirit.
To describe the world's Catholic Bishops in Council as "supposed shepherds" who "turned into an unbecoming mixture of sheep and wolf, racing off in pursuit of error" only betrays the miserable poverty of Alice Thomas Ellis's own much flaunted Catholicism.
This article provides all the evidence one needs to understand why the writer was sent away "with a flea in my ear" when she tried to contact Archbishop Warlock in the past.
Maya Frenz St Leger London W14
ALARM FOR LIVERPOOL TILE RECORD of Mass attendance in Liverpool is dismal and alarming, as is the disastrous drop in the number of vocations and conversions. Once it was an inspiring Catholic city but now it is bottom of the list.
The sorry state of education in our schools has worried parents. Protests about Weaving the Web and Here I Am have been brushed aside. Those in authority have made no attempt to answer criticisms.
We need some plain speaking if the situation is to improve. It is useless pretending that "more of the same" will see us through.
Ruth Read Surbiton, Surrey
A NEED FOR CHANGE
I DON'T KNOW how old Alice Thomas Ellis is, but I am 60
and when young had 20 years as an altar boy. I am no revolutionary. However, I regard Vatican II as an overdue gale blowing through the Church and I am more than happy with it's effects in the areas of ecumenism and the liturgy. At a recent Tridentine Mass I felt like a stranger.
This today is the orthodoxy supported by Archbishop Worlock and the late Cardinal Suenens also. Which part of the Church's history would the lady like to settle for? The recent past perhaps, of illtreatment and sexual molestation in institutions, or the Middle Ages when "error had no rights" and high placed members of the Church murdered people (God's children, mark you) of other beliefs.
I am not sure if Ellis is for real! If not, she is a great wind-up merchant. If so, a rather sad and embittered person who indulges in the sour grapes of wanting Catholics today to labour under the totally autocratic regime of yesteryear, when thinking yourself was completely off-side.
The Church has to mature arid grow; they used to say "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater", Ellis wants to keep the bath water and probably drown the baby in it.
Francis .7 Bradshaw
Heaton Moor, Stockport
WHERE'S THE CHARM'? I DO FEEL whatever our views whether for an avant garde Church alive as a running river or of ATE's persuasion for a stagnant pool, we must treat each other with charity, always bearing in mind our Heavenly Father loves us all and "there are many mansions" and equally more than one means of worship.
The Church cannot be expected to stay locked into Victorian attitudes solely, when there are young people who enjoy more lively approaches to worship: this is just a question of taste, not theology.
As regards ATE's character assassination on Archbishop Worlockl God forgive her for she does not know what she does! Christians should love and trust each other even when our views diverge. Those of us who are old enough to remember the bigotry that used to exist between Christian denominations thank God for the Ecumenical movement which Archbishop Worlock and David Shepherd embodied so well. Let there be no in-fighting, just soul-searching and all in the name of love. Jesus came to preach love and repentance, not back-biting and intolerance!
Mrs Patricia Warren Chesham, Bucks
CHANGE THE STANDPOINT! IF THE CHURCH is a living body of people (and you must accept that it is), then it speaks in the present and not
through the past. The postwar Church was still protective in mood, mothering and encouraging of private devotion.
The climate of the 60s brought new openness and confidence. Pope John XXIII called the Vatican Council to discern and respond to that new period, and guided by the Spirit (you have to accept that too) published the key documents which were the vision statements for the future. For us who went to study in Liverpool as the Council closed, it was a most memorable period. We were able to learn from some of the.most gifted and commit ted of Christian leaders. That people of such calibre and witness should be dismissed as misguided is absurd.
A great deal has happened since then. The impact of movements world wide continue to extend our grasp of what it is to be part of the Church in the modern world. As we sway with these currents, they challenge our thinking and raise our consciousness to new levels. As a people, I feel we have grown a great deal over the last 30 years, especially in our awareness of others and in an awareness of ourselves in community Rather than balk at new ideas, I prefer to seek out the new, to look for new ideas both sacred and secular and to hear new wisdom and I invariably find that wisdom in very committed, forward-looking people.
Alice Thomas Ellis, our Church needs you and people of your talent to be at its leading edge, not at the back with the cobwebs. How about a new standpoint?
Rita Price Maclesfield, Cheshire
A MUCH-NEEDED APOLOGY I WAS PLEASED to read in the Times that an apology had been issued by the Catholic Herald in respect of the article by Alice Thomas Ellis, and I commend you for your speed in acknowledging that a serious error of judgment had been made.
I can only wish that from this incident might come a clearer vision for the Herald of its role within the Catholic community, a role which is free of gratuitous, ill-informed and bitter attacks of such a correspondent as has given rise to the present matter and rather one which genuinely reflects the broad middle ground of the Church in this country. Paul C Hamill sy
WHAT ABOUT THE YOUNG? I HAVE JUST read Alice Thomas Ellis's article. How to reply? I am a great granny, and it is a great sorrow to see my grandchildren not even baptised. For what reason was there a Council? As all the Prelates taking part were childless, they didn't seem to realise that what was needed was a plan of life for the future generations.
How should the young be taught? How can one mature their faith?
All that seems to me to have happened is the loss of literally thousands of priests and nuns. I remember Corpus Christi processions through the local streets. The wonderful missions given by priests in our parish yearly. Benediction. Fasting. It seems now that nobody really cares. Can you, anybody, explain or help a very sad great granny? Name and address withheld
IT'S HARDER TO LOVE BY WHOSE AUTHORITY does Alice Thomas Ellis presume to write on behalf of "ordinary Catholics"? She most certainly does not speak for me, nor for anyone else I know. It is so easy to call to arms, to march like Christian soldiers into the battle, to fight the good fight, etc. and so hard to follow the precepts of Jesus to "love your neighbout". Let us build bridges, not walls.
I feel so angry at her article that I could go on indefinitely, however she demonstrated one thing: what a truly wise man the late Archbishop Worlock was to avoid a confrontation with such a bigoted, narrow-minded termagant.
Mrs SM Callaway Lang/and, Swansea
IN HIS LETTER defending Alice Thomas Ellis and Mother Angelica (Catholic Herald, 3 May), Roger Barber quotes the words "ad horninem" and says that no one has ever proved their case by resorting to vituperative argumentation.
In the same issue, Alice Thomas Ellis writes a diatribe which is vituperative from start to finish, attacking not only a now dead Archbishop of Liverpool, but every one of the Bishops who assembled in Council at Vatican II.
Thank God that our Cardinal does not indulge in such calumny or in such unfair attacks "ad horninem". Might Alice Thomas Ellis remember that other saying: "In necessitatibus, UNITAS, in dubiis, LIBERTAS, in omnibus, CARITAS". May she be forgiven by the One who judges justly, and may you, the editor, be forgiven for not resisting the temptation to follow in the wake of our vicious tabloid newipapers by setting up Alice Thomas Ellis to mislead the simple and be an Aunt Sally to draw you a larger number of readers.
Sr Patricia England OP Dominican Sisters, London W5