From Mr Philip Daniel KCSG. KCHS
Sir, Gerry Noel (March 16) is not being strictly honest. His piece was headed "Why the Latin Patriarch's Defence of Holy War is so wrong". David Hirst and others pointed out that to say that the violent counter responses had at least led to the last Barak-Arafat talks is not the same thing as saying that intifada (uprising) is the right way and is certainly not preaching jihad (holy war). Now Gerry says that Patriarch Beltritti's attitude to Hilarion Capucci up to 30 years ago was the significant feature of his "personal view".
I certainly have no room for Capucci's misdeeds but the Latin Patriarch has no shadow of disciplinary responsibility over prelates of another rite, and he is not, as David mistakenly says: "the Papal representative". If Capucci deceived anyone it was the Apostolic Delegate, who interceded for him. To call Capucci Beltritti's protégé is a canard. The main criticism made of Beltritti as Patriarch is that he was notably stand-offish to the other Catholic ordinaries, including the Custos, preferring to treat only with the heads of the nonCatholic Christian denominations as co-equals and cold shouldering his co-religionists.
An example: when I accompanied a predecessor of David as Lieutenancy Secretary I was "carpeted" by the Patriarch's then Vicar-General because we had given a direct goodwill contribution (at the request of the English Commissary to the Holy Land), to the Custos; and closely quizzed as to whether my French colleagues led by a distinguished French General had visited the Greek Catholic cathedral (Capuccrs) "habited", which in the VG's view would have been a direct insult to His Beatitude!
It is alarming to find Mgr Sabbah accused of favouring Holy War. The Israelis, as you report, have recently prevented his pastoral visits to two Catholic West Bank parishes. His style is vastly different from his predecessor. He has notably brought together all the Catholic ordinaries of six Rites, together with the Custos on a regular basis; as well as rallying all the heads of the other Christian denominations for collective representation in a manner never seen since the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate in 1847.
My personal experience of the Holy Land now goes back to the King David Hotel bombing.
Yours faithfully, PHILIP DANIEL Redhill, Surrey.
Slice off the altar?
From Mr Philip Fowke
Sir, My great grandfather, Henry Clutton, was closely associated with Westminster Cathedral and was commissioned by Cardinal Manning to design a building in the French Gothic manner. In the event, Francis Bentley, who worked in his practice, produced the successful design, but the story of the creation of the Cathedral has always been of interest to my family.
I was delighted, therefore, to read that Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor is proposing to look into the possibilities of moving the high altar forward by two feet. I have always hoped to see the altar brought back into use, and the Cardinal's plan is to be applauded. Might I suggest, however, that a simpler solution would be to reduce the depth of the altar by two feet? In this way the altar would not have to be moved at all.
Yours faithfully PHILIP FOWKE London E3 5AH
Add half a century
From Mrs Brenda Love
Sir, Re my letter published recently in The Catholic Herald (March 2), I should like to point out that I have been a member of the Guide Association for 70 years not 20 as stated!
Yours faithfully, BRENDA LOVE Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
A disgusting argument
From Father Bryan Storey
Sir, Apropos your leading article last week "Cloning:a corrupt committee", I read an article by Bishop Richard Harries recently in which he supported human cloning by terminating the life of embryos because some Christians have from time to time thought human life begins after the fusion of sperm and ovum and because many embryos die naturally.That such reasoning should be accorded respectability is as disgusting as it is outrageous.
Yours faithfully, BRYAN STOREY, Tintagel PL34 OAQ
Children of no account
From Mr Antony Porter
Sir, It is thought-provoking to discover that Britain's road traffic laws currently do not recognise the life of a child until it has taken its first breath and that consequently the death of an unborn baby in a road accident cannot be taken as a separate offence. A driver who injures a pregnant woman and causes her to lose her child will therefore simply be charged with "careless driving" and will either be fined an average of £250 or ordered to perform a few days' "community service". There have evidently been several such cases in recent years. Thus in one case last year a drunk driver who drove through a red traffic light, colliding with a pregnant woman and killing her unborn baby of 36 weeks, was sentenced to 120 hours community service. The infant, posthumously named Thomas, was born dead three hours after the crash.
Yours faithfully, ANTONY PORTER Catholic Roadwatch, London W7.
Little green men, out
From Ms Philippa Toomey
Sir, Unlike Mr Stratford Caldecon I was present at the meeting of The Keys and was disturbed to note both a lack of charity and a worrying turn towards conspiracy theories.
Any group which concerns itself with the undue influence of homosexuals, feminists, Communists, Jews, little green men or Opus Del is, in the end, heading for disaster. Lynette Burrows is a powerful voice in the defence of the faith and I would be sorry to see her going down this road.
Yours faithfully, PHILIPPA TOOMEY Highbury, London Nl.
Is Tony Blair a Christian leader?
From Mr Paul Hornsby Sir, I have the greatest respect for Lord Longford's charity. His ability to see good in the most unlikely places is remarkable . His views on Mr Blair's Christian credentials (March 2) are apparently shared by others among the great and the good. The Times, the following day, carried an article placing Mr Blair, as a Christian, first among the moral leaders of the country.
The debates in the House of Lords to which Frank Longford refers were all sparked by the legislative programme of Mr Blair's administration — a programme which fails to recognise in any tangible way the value of marriage, which places little value on human life and in which the end is said to justify the means. These tendencies were associated in the last century with governments from the extremes of the political spectrum, not those which profess to seek the centre ground. A consequence of Lord Longford's approbation will be confusion in the minds of the public about what Christians believe. If Mr Blair, allegedly a Christian, a moral leader, surrounded by Christian Socialists in the cabinet, encourages the use of human embryos in research, then for many people this will be seen as a reflection of Christian values. I doubt this is what Lord Longford is seeking. So I respectfully suggest that he ceases to comment on the religious beliefs and the sincerity with which they are held of any and all practising politicians.
Yours faithfully PAUL HORNS B Y West Bridgford Nottingham NG2 5HZ
From Mr Brian Teahan
Sir, Frank Longford cites the , presence of five Christian socialists_; in the cabinet as evidence that our . new cardinal's perception of a ! decline in Christianity in this country is mistaken. The religiosity of the Prime Minister in particular is . emphasised. I confess 1 am puzzled how Lord Longford can square his point of view with the series of attacks on Christian values perpetrated by this Government since coming to power. We must surely judge a government by its actions rather that its rhetoric: on this count this must arguably be one of the most actively anti-Christian governments of the democratic era.
Lord Longford rightly praises the courage of some members of the House of Lords in defending Christian values. The irony is that in the examples he cites — embryo research, the morning after pill — that defence has been against policies vigorously promoted by the Government.
The Cardinal was right to speak out in defence of Christianity. I trust he, Lord Longford and the Christian members of the House of Lords will continue to do so.
Yours faithfully, BRIAN TEAHAN Sheffield.