WH II F. appreciating the sympathy Fr. Michael O'Dwyer expresses in his letter last week about my article (May 8) on the demise of Burns and Oates, I cannot accept his analysis.
He seems to attribute the 'failure' to the firm's taking up what, for want of a better label, might be called a 'progressive' stance, and to consider this short-sighted and done for 'enlightened self-interest.' But there is in fact no other option in practical or moral terms if one is to continue to publish theology that appears to be in accordance with the mind of the Church as expressed in the Council.
His specific criticisms, whose target swings from Burns and Oates to me personally to a certain bookshop (thereby neatly illustrating my thesis that the firm suffered from a blurred image), are all debatable points requiring more space than is available here. But briefly:
'Dealing in anti-papal literature.' Presumably On Human Life,' whose purpose was to try to show that dissent from the encyclical (we were hardly alone in that) was compatible with remaining Catholic. This in my view was not being antipapal but rather serving the long-term interests of the Church, but I feel we shall have to agree to differ on this point.
A certain letter to The Times (six years ago!) as a contribution to the birth control debate then at its height in the Church: if there were no grounds then for criticising the 'constant teaching of the popes' (see Noonan), why was the Commission called?
Attacks on Pope Paul and 'death of God' theology: we published none that I recall.
The Dutch Catechism: Yes! we were right. Both on grounds of long-term policy and in terms of results.
More serious is that underlying his criticisms seems to be a view of the Church that I hope I am not alone in finding worrying: one in which books are 'banned,' discussions of practical moral issues are taken as personal attacks. and personal statements are to he kept off the shelves of bookshops if they dissent from rigid orthodoxy.
Is this really the sort of Church the Council delineated? It is not the one we thought we were publishing for, nor one to which our new customers would confess allegiance.
Paul Burns London, S.W.I 3.
"pR. MICHAEL O'DWYER's L letter (May 15) is a shame. If Fr. Michael thinks that success smiles only on the goodies he has understood nothing of the Passion of Christ.
Burns and Oates were too good for this country, where most of the Catholics are not concerned with the changes in our Church and where money is rather spent on I.V., cigarettes, etc., than on religious or spiritual books.
B. and 0. had the finest display of books one could imagine to be a guide to the Catholics keen to know more of their religion and also of other Christian churches.
Their departure from the scene is a tragedy, and I am most sad because of it.
Marjorie Collier Shortlands, Kent.
FR. MICHAEL O'DWYER (May 15) accuses Burns and Oates of publishing "antipapal" books. If he makes this accusation seriously, he should have the courage to name these books and their authors. If not. he should avoid cowardly generalities.
Anthony Milner, Lecturer in Music K ing's College, University of London, Strand, W.C.2.
I MISSED Maureen Vincent's article of April 24 which has inspired in some readers fulminations against Mr. Keating's defence of vulgarity. But writing as one who has a small place in the—if I may put it this way—apostolic succession of CATHOLIC HERALD critics, may I remind the Savonarolas (May 8) that life is a vulgar business. (The word, by the way. means "In common or ordinary reckoning . . ." O.E.D.)
Mr. John S. Browne is upset by "Up Pompeii!" and "Steptoe and Son" because of, among other things, their "sexually biased plots." But life, alas for Mr. Browne, is a sexually biased business.
The talent of Mr. Francis Howerd ("Frankie," very properly, would insist upon his dignity as a private person being recognised) never was more delicately employed than when cajoling us into laughing at lechery, as he does in "Up Pompeii!" Dear Frankie! Micky never was so splendidly taken—"Quieeeet there! Dirty miiiinds, that what you've got!"
As for "Steptoe,"pere et fils, Shakespeare would have loved and (old plagiarist that he was) probably pinched them. What opportunities, what magnificent Cockney scope, the series offers to the more than adequate Mr. Corbett and Mr. Brambell (the latter, by the way, a Dublin "fella.")
I am not so familiar with St. Paul as Mr. Wyman seems to he, and I do not think him "old hat." So much so that I would hesitate to drag in his authority in support of views he might think puerile. There are more ways of killing a lascivious cat than making self-righteous noises at it. It can be laughed to death. That is what Mr. Howerd, Mr. Corbett and Mr. Brambell are up to.
If I may say so, I hope you will keep Mr. Keating writing for you said us. Writing as one of the paper's former drama critics. my heart goes out to a man who has to cover everything from the World Cup to "Coronation Street"—and does it in such an honest, sane. discerning and readable way.
W. J. Igoe Loughton, Essex.
Written in rage
-11 T. PRESCOTT'S letter of "• May 8 is, in my opinion, stuff and nonsense. It accuses Fr. Lewis Donnelly (April 24) of being arrogant when he was merely quoting and supporting the policy held by the Church Council regarding racialism in sport.
And the remark about not being responsible to "a baying mob of Communist sympathisers" is just too infantile to be true. So the Archbishop of Canterbury and other eminent leaders in all sections of society are. because of their firm pronouncements on the evils of apartheid, all Communists! I can only conclude, for the sake of the writer, that the letter was written in a moment of rage.
(Bro.) John Hegarty London, S.W.19.
No time for plastic politics
THE Labour Party, in its proposed advertising campaign, shows clearly what it thinks of us: a mindless mass, incapable of understanding political argument. to be bought with a cheap chortle at the expense of Opposition members.
Perhaps this approach results from the lowering of the voting age.
Whatever the reason — and let us not pretend that the Conservative Party works on any higher level—we do not want to play plastic politics. If we support the major parties we asassent to their methods. The alternative is to refuse to join in the game.
If your readers, like myself, • are offended at being treated like backward children, then perhaps they will do two things: I, refuse to vote; 2, send me a letter stating this intention. Otherwise we will find ourselves inundated with party political free gift vouchers by the next election.
(Rev.) Colin Hodgctts Christian Action, 104-5 Newgate Street, London, E.C.4.
YOUR correspondent Mr. G. A. Cole (May 1) raises a very important question : How to vote in view of the violently anti-Christian legislation recently pushed through Parliament? No doubt more will follow when the demons of "progress" judge the time opportune.
It is a great pity that Catholics do not realise the very considerable power that lies within their hands, particularly as it seems that the coming election will be a close run race. If we as Christians cared more about the sights of others (be they the unborn, the handicapped, the aged or wives no longer wanted by their husbands), than for our own political prejudices, then we could influence the composition of Parliament decisively.
This can be illustrated clearly enough. In July, 1969, Mr. St. John-Stevas introduced his Bill to reform the present legislation on abortion. His attempt failed, but only by 12 votes (199 Ayes to 210 Noes). Seven of those voting against the proposed reform have a Parliamentary majority of 2 per cent. or less. These and others such as Mr. David Steel (Abortion), with 4.9 per cent.. and Mr. E. Brooks (Sterilisation) with 4.0 per cent., are very vulnerable to a boycott by Catholic voters P. J. Braley Braintree, Essex.
THE recent appeal by
Archbishop Dwyer for a stand by us Christians against the evils of abortion and divorce, now being promoted in this country as social remedies, is underlined by several news items (Daily Telegraph, April 30).
Alongside the sad report of a Catholic gynaecologist driven to suicide by worry over the Abortion Act are pleas for easier abortion at a "health congress." The latter report also included a statement that nearly all London adoption societies had closed their lists to people wishing to adopt children!
On another page I read that the Catholics of Rhodesia are taking a firm stand against the evil of apartheid. They are prepared to close permanently 820 schools, 43 hospitals, 88 dispensaries and 23 orphanages in protest.
Would it be too much for the Catholic doctors and nurses (and other denominations if they would join) to stage a oneday strike in protest against the Abortion Act?
A. C. Fasnacht Kendal, Westmorland.