WITH the National Pastoral Congress opening ie Liverpool on May 2 no better time could be chosen by the Catholic Information Office to publish selections from the correspondence which followed The Church 2000 and A Time for Building — the twO reports of the Joint Working Party on Pastoral Strategy. . Linder the title Responses in booklet Form, the correspondence compiled and selected by Rev. David Miles Board shows reactions from groups and individuals that predictably demonstrate the polarisation between the two views of the church which he labels 'conservationist and 'furtherance' groups,
The 'Briefing' leaflet accompanying the booklet prints a few of the documents sent in response to Time for Building and these are mainly contributions of the national commissionseagencies and societies and one individual.
You would expect the Catholic National Commissions to reflect or at least show some respect for the recommendations of Vatican II decrees. The Laity Commission with its constructive criticism does this with great credit. The Social Welfare Commission, on the other hand, demonstrates woeful ignorance of or lack of feeling for the Vatican decree on the Apostolate of the Laity by its insistence that the Good Samaritan must be a trained or professional social worker.
One might try to be understanding of that idea had the Commission not gone On to warn against wasting resources on groupe, most of whom are, we know, attempting to give neighbourhood or community support.
To my knowledge groups do not ask for resources but would welcome encouragement. And was it just coincidence that made Christ choose two highly trained officials to pass the injured rruen on the other side of the road?
The Commission should re-read the section of the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity labelled 'Group Apostolate' to see how contradictory their stand is.
Whilst this plethora of words and opinions was being sorted out tragedy was stalking that great Apostle of humanity, Archbishop Romero of San Salvador. We can learn much from that heroic Martyrdom that throws light on the use of apostolic grouping in the mission of thc Church.
In his shared pastoral of 1978 he stressed the priority of evangelisation in the work of the Church and that this involves acceptance of the word of God which in turn brings 'awareness and demands: — "This is what the Church has been doing in its pastoral work: gathering men around the word of God and the Eucharist. We cannot give up the right to do this. It is a duty demanded of us by the very nature of the Church. To this level of pastoral work belong our attempts to set up and encourage basic ecciesial communities. These are the organised communities which arise around the word of God, a word which brings men together, makes them aware, and makes demands upon them. and around the Eucharist and the other sacramental signs to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, celebrating at the same time our human effort to open ourselves to the gift of a greater humanity."
Of these basic ecelesial communities Paul VI said: "They spring from the need to live the life of the Church ever more intensely, or from the desire and search for a human dimension which it i hard for larger ecclesial communities to offer "These communities are places of evangelisation, for the benefit of larger communities, especially local churches, and a hope for the universal Church" (Frongelii Numiandi. .58). These communities have to be maintained and strengthened because they are the vital cells of the Church. They embody the whole concept ol' the Church and its unique mission.
The pastors and the helpers must take care that this identity and mission be maintained in all its purity and autonomy so that they are not confused with other organisations and, above all, are not manipulated by them."
John Mitchinson Kent.
IT IS hoped that the National Pastoral Congress will pass a resolution strongly supporting Pope John Paul's pronouncements on contraception and abortion.
The Congress will show its pastoral character by boldly upholding the Leaching of the Supreme Pastor on these Major issues. While not belittling the usefulness of the published items on the agenda, it is clear that mattere of life or death are more important.
The NPC offers a unique opportunity of showing our solidarity with the Pope in his fearless defence of life. The suggested resolution could exercise an enormous influence for good in end beyond this country.
The Pope needs our support. To be mute on these matters at a time when manipulating dissent strives to silence the Church would seriously lessen the National Pastoral Congress's credibility.
Rev P Bailey London, SW2 A RECENT communication from Christian Concern for the Mentally Handicapped highlights the problem facing parents when of necessity they have to face the question of the provision of life-time care for their children. The letter cites the case of parents who were asked by the director of the home in which their daughter had been placed for permission either to be put on the pill" or for a hysterectomy to be performed.
To help parents, the Baptist communities of Aberystwyth and Reading, assisted by Christian Concern are opening residential homes to care for mentally handicapped people throughout life. They hope to have the support of other Christian bodies in their area.
As far as specifically Catholic institutions are concerned, the position has effectively remained static since the war — some have closed and most are for one sex only. The homes of the Sons of Divine Providence are only for children in their late teens whilst those of L'Arehe and the Elizabeth Fiteroy Homes fire in the broad sense "Christian" rather than exclusively "Catholic-.
Whilst no-one would wish to denigrate the motives of the people who organise and support the Handicapped Childrens' Pilgrimage Trust, the existence or this Trust has diverted attention from the necessity, if we are to be a concerned Church, of establishing at least one home in each diocese for the handicapped.
Perhaps the National Pastoral Congress may direct some energy in this direction.
A LI Fernee Kent.