Page 5, 21st November 1975

21st November 1975
Page 5
Page 5, 21st November 1975 — Questions for St John-Stevas

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Questions for St John-Stevas

Norman St John-Stevas said in his article of November 7: "We should never forget that the lot of the majority of mankind throughout the ages has been poverty, famine and want. and that it is only because of the advances made by entrepreneurial capitalism that at last we have the chance to escape from this dreadful treadmill,"

Mr St John-Stevas should not forget that a valuable contribution has been made to our material progress by state-run and statedominated (by means of shareholdings) industries and he should also not forget that the face of British capitalism would be a lot more unacceptable than it is were it not for the efforts over the years of the British trade union movement.

The latter may have its warts, but I shudder to think what this country would be like today had it only been moulded by those of the same political persuasion as Mr St JohnSt eves.

I am sure that as a Catholic he would agree with me that in the eyes of God all men are equal and have an equal chance of salvation, But it also follows as a corollary that all men should be given by the state an equal chance of leading a full and worthwhile life and that the state should not give a flying start to a certain privileged minority by devoting an unfair share of the nation's resourCeS to their education.

Mr St John-Stevas was recently due (although he later withdrew) to speak to parents of children at the King Edward's Foundation Schools in Birmingham, and so lend his considerable authority to a group of parents who arc trying to preserve a privileged position for their own children, at state expense.

I hope that one of the reasons he withdrew was that he would have caused considerable embarrassment to Catholics in the city as all the Catholic grammar schools have agreed to reorganise on comprehensive lines.

Under the previous selective system in the city my eldest daughter (who is now at university) attended one or the King Edward's Schools and received an excellent education. But I cannot now go into some of the other schools in the city (as I frequently do as an official of a teachers professional organisation) without a strong feeling of guilt when I compare the facilities available at the King Edward's schools with those available to most of the other children in the city.

I was a teacher representative on a City of Birmingham working party which worked through the summer holidays of 1972 to draw up a plan to reorganise the city's schools on a "consortium" basis, so that there could be some fairly rapid sharing of resources between adjacent schools as well as extra help for the seriously disadvantaged.

Mr St John-Stevas and Mrs Thatcher — who at that time were in charge at the Department of Education and Science — seriously mutilated the ,plan. with the result that we still lack in Birmingham a System run by the state which is fair to all children.

We are now moving in the right direction, and were it not for the considerable uncertainty created in the minds of teachers and the general public by Mr St John-Stevas and his political colleagues, we should have rescued many more

children from the. treadmill of a very narrow inner-city urban existence by developing their potential b., the full.

Peter W. Jones Head of Science, St John Wall School, Handsworth. Birmingham.

Mr St John-Stevas entitles his ar. tide of November 14 the late Cardinal Heenan "Pastor and friend." But the only evidence he produces in support of the claim to friendship is that the Cardinal once said to him in the course of an "acrimonious correspondence" arising out of Mr Si John-Stevas' abrasive public attack on Pope Paul on the issue of Ilimanae Vitae: "I have it great affection for you."

Such a statement. corning from a great Christian, means hardly anything as far as friendship goes.

As for the face-to-face interview, we already knew about that, because Mr Si John-Stevas told us about it at the time. boasting that he gave at least as good as he got. Mr St John-Stevas claims that the Cardinal modified "the rigours" of the encyclical by "pastoral concern and charity." This is false. All the pastoral concern and charity are in the encyclical itself.

,J. A. Riley

6 South Avenue, Leigh.


BPAS and honesty

Whether or not I am coy, as suggested by your correspondent Martin Mears (November 14), he is certainly being unduly modest. For in his letter asking about the British Pregnancy Advisory Service fees to its doctors, Mr Mears omits to mention that he is now the solicitor acting for Michael Litchfield (co-author of "Babies for Burning") in libel actions with the Sunday Times (initiated through Mr Mears' office) and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (initiated by BPAS).

In this context it is particularly interesting that Mr Mears is asking, through your columns, for information that may he of use in his client's defence to the attion brought by BPAS.

Given these circumstances I am sure it will be understood by readers why, at this time. I do not intend to supply the details requested. Of course. if Mr Mears' client is entitled to this information, he will no doubt receive it in the course of the proceedings.

As for Ci. F. Walker's defamatory accusation, in the same issue, that BPAS hiss "been flaunting the law and operating a policy of abortion on demand," it is interesting to note that he has made the allegation through your columns and not to the police.

It would seem reasonable, if he has evidence that BPAS has behaved in a criminal manner, for him to consider it his duty to take that evidence to the appropriate authorities: if he does not have such evidence, then he should not make libellous statements.

Diane Munday

Public Relations Officer, British Pregnancy Ads isory Service Please do no) ices up the photograph of Norman St JohnStevas as Miss Eileen Austin suggests (October 31), or omit the column as Mr Daintith recommends (November 14).

1 think both correspondents would be less prejudiced against Mr St John-Stevas if they considered his many other talents, apart from his political career. He is a man of exceptional academic genius, having taught at the Universities of Oxford. Cambridge and London. and having been a visiting professor at ITarvard.

He is a barrister, a broadcaster, a patron of' the Arts and the author of many hooks notably a definitive biography of Walter Bagehot.

A few years figo I had the pleasure of chairing a political meeting at which he was guest speaker. and I was completely captivated by his charm, his intellectual prowess, his flamboyant personality, his strikingly handsome appearance — and those eyes!! (Miss) Ann O'Brien 16 Brooke Street.

London WI.

PS: May we order autographed copies of the photograph?

School invitation

St Austin's Catholic Boys' School at Charlton has extended an invitation to anyone interested to visit the school any Thursday morning between now and January 12.

Mr John Edwards, who took up his appointment as headmaster in September. believes that "open evenings" are artificial. Parents and the public in general should come and visit the school and see for themselves the high standards achieved in a friendly hut well disciplined atmosphere.

J. F. Edwards

I I eadmaster St Austin's Catholic Secondary Boys' School, Charlton, London, SE?.

Choice of a successor

With regard to the late Cardinal's successor, you quote Archbishop Heim as saying: "Those who receive moat support (from bishops, priests, laity) will be presented to the Holy Father for his final choice."

This, I think, is sad — for it will invariably mean that names which are already well known will be the only ones to be forwarded on to the holy See.

Some such names have come to the fore because promoted by individual bishops — whose choice (let us face it) is not always wise or happy. Others have sought prominence by striving to hit the headlines frequently.

May it not be that the admirable choice might be sonic humble priest, almost unknown, who has the qualities already quoted as essential for a leader, plus THE quality — the ability to delegate?

am sure all conscientious Catholics will be praying that the holy Spirit will be allowed a say in

this matter. Paul Johnson 14 Averie Grove,

London, SW16.

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