Page 5, 21st February 1975

21st February 1975
Page 5
Page 5, 21st February 1975 — Commission on Racial Justice missed pitfalls

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Commission on Racial Justice missed pitfalls

I read with great interest your front-page article and editorial comment of February 7 on the problems of the Justice and Peace Commission.

Richard Dowden's feelings must be echoed by many other commission workers, particularly when he touches on the ambivalent status of the commissions.

They are advisory bodies, but what haispens to their advice is a rather hit-and-miss affair. They are authorities in their respective fields, but their power to speak out on relevant issues can be severely limited. The Racial Justice Com mission, however, seems to have avoided some of the pitfalls; I am not claiming dynamic results in race relations for our four-year-old Commission, but I think that our way of working has at least not frustrated any influence we might have had. The Commission consists of 14 active members and three full-time workers who meet quarterly. Both members and workers participate in policymaking, and the former do a considerable amount of Commission work themselves.

The workers come to the Commission members for support and advice rather than "permissions," which speeds up work and cuts out lengthy consultation.

Important policy issues are discussed as they arise with the vice-chairman or chairman, and any Commission member who might have relevant experience. Thus the need for majority consensus on every matter is eliminated.

Obviously there are dis agreements. Some members would prefer us to concentrate on opposing immigration completely, as a way of forcing Britain to deal with the unjust causes of immigration. Some would prefer us to concentrate on improved conditions for black people here.

But we have been able to avoid paralysing deadlocks (a) because there is sufficient agreement on basic ideology to allow room for variations; and (b) because on the principle that "no is an expert," there is ample scope for all members to make their own special contribution to the work.

I personally feel that our Commission (and therefore this country's Catholic Church?) hasn't made more than a feeble cry so far in the national racial justice struggle. With many of our schools still

not integrated. with our loud silence on racism in industry, and our non-involvement with the often Catholic migrant worker groups (Filipinos. Italians, Spanish, Portuguese), we have hardly begun to make the special contribution we were set up for.

Our comittees should be

pushing us to work harder and faster on the jobs they are employing us to do — rather than set us up and consider the job done.

Barbara M. Hughes Education Fieldworker, Catholic Committee for Racial Justice of the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales Oo Community & Race . Relations Unit, British Council of Churches, 10 Eaton Gate, London S.W.I.

The whole trouble with the Justice and Peace Commission is that its terms of reference are built on only a partial understanding of what really constitutes Catholic social action.

Obviously, palpable and specific acts of injustice against human dignity — whether perpetrated by the Right in, say, Spain, South Africa and Rhodesia or by the Left in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic States — are the concern of all, and the Commission would be right to arouse both Catholic and national opinion on such matters.

It is when Catholic commissions and committees in this country purport to "educate" the Catholic community about the socio-political conditions in South Africa and Rhodesia, that one feels an intense irritation at being told what is the correct Catholic "line" — especially when so often injustices on the Right are highlighted at the expense of injustices on the Left.

There is no such thing as an instant Catholic or Christian answer to the evolving sociopolitical situations in South Africa and Rhodesia; there is no such animal as the "correct Catholic opinion" on the morality of Rhodesian sanctions or arms for South Africa.

It is therefore not surprising that Catholics as a body, and quite legitimately, have different ideas about the solution of the South African and Rhodesian problems.

Christian social action and justice will more readily achieve their aims by acting as a patient leaven rather than as agitation in countries where time's groundswell towards greater freedom and justice exists to a far greater degree than in any Communist regimes.

D. G. Galvin Meadow Bank, The Common, Wonersh, Guildford, Surrey.

After weeks of planning and preparation. (English Martyrs) our parish Justice and Peace Group became official, and pledge cards were signed on February 6. Some 12 hours later I read the Catholic Herald.

Mr Dowden might feel better now, but I wonder how much irreparable harm he has done at "grass roots" parish level, (Miss) Geraldine Holden Secretary, English Martyr's Justice and Peace Group 9 Saxon House, Carlton Road, Whalley Range, Manchester.

It is a • waste of time for appeals to give the many Commissions "teeth". For too long they have had such teeth FALSE ONES, Daniel Allen-Griffiths 58 Harrow Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham.

I am beginning to get so fed up with what seems to me to be a constant belly-aching over various dissatisfactions with (within) the Church. No doubt it will be said that this is all very necessary but what about the forgetting of all the immeasurable good and endless selfless work and care offered and poured out to all its members?

How lovely and how refreshing it would be to listen to and read a little more about these things, and of the gratitude we feel for all that is done for us within the beauty and the dedicated life of the Church and Faith, and of our loyalty.

This surely is felt very deeply. in spite of criticism and it satisfaction, for it must be remembered that Love is there and at the very centre of the Rock, and Love is our reason for living.

Rosa George 7 Hampstead Lodge, Bell Street, St Marylebone, London, NWI. 1 write to protest most vigorously about the false, arrogant and uncharitable comments in your editorial headed "Bishops. and Commissions" (February 14), You refer to the critics of the National Commissions as "the mindless but not always ineffective opposition of certain notorious pressure groups who try to make out that the Commissions are stuffed with dangerous Modernists."

I suppose one shouldn't be too surprised at such statements from a newspaper so obviously biased politically to the Left. The same tactics are used by the Left all over the world. In short — those not agreeing with them are branded as Fascists.

What right have you to label good and sincere fellowCatholics as "mindless" for the simple reason that they happen to disagree with you and others of like mind?

I think it scandalous that such statements should be made by any newspaper editor, but when a Catholic editor stoops to such low levels it is indeed time for change. A change of editorship.

(Mrs) J. F. Donovan "Moorfield," Moor Lane, Burley-in-Wharfedale, Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

I can understand the concern over the Justice and, Peace Commission. However, in the diocese of Shrewsbury, we cannot even get an inquiry into' the activities of the Dincessen Commission on Education. Their activities on the Wirral have led to, I understand: 1 — Children passing for academic education and yet not receiving it.

2 — Parents having to pay for education that was previously paid for by the local authorities.

3 — Catholic children occupying previously condemned buildings.

4 — Comprehensive schools having split sites or being too small to give a good chance to such schools.

Rumour and suspicion abound. Appeals for a full enquiry are not even answered.

I make two points: I — Surely we should see that justice is being obtained within the Church first.

2 — The more the hierarchy concern themselves with temporal matters, the more their spiritual authority will be undermined.

Unfortunately the present state of affairs is leading more and more Catholics to withdraw financial support from the dioceses.

8 Mellowcroft Drive, West Kirby, Merseyside.

Isn't it about time we had an editorial on a subject which I would have thought was a positive obligation on a Christian newspaper — the extremely high wage demands made by certain trade unions recently?

Not many people have any doubts about the injustice of these demands and the harm they are doing to the country. Another unpleasant aspect of them is the blackmail involved in the strike threats. As a commuter and victim of the signalmen's strikes I feel particularly bitter about this too. I don't think this is a just strike.

These are all moral matters, and of deepest concern to the country. There is a crying need for leadership and a voice which speaks out. Douglas Darcy, D Phil 7 Granville Road, Sevenoaks, Kent. A. G. Baker

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