Page 5, 25th June 1971

25th June 1971
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Page 5, 25th June 1971 — A conflict of views over

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Locations: London, Surrey


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A conflict of views over

conscience and priesthood

WITH reference to Mr. Stevas' article on the Fr. Allan case, I should like to make a few v points. One could hardly call Fr. Allan "one of England's outstanding pastors." He only came into prominence over the "Humanae Vitae" controversy. With regard to this affair, how can one talk about a "brave stand for the right of conscience" when the attitude taken was to criticise the firm teaching of the Catholic Church reiterated by Pope Paul?

Of course the defection of Fr. Allan is a blow to the exwill take heed and action expressed by Mr. St. John

treme section of the so-called while there is still time. If Stevas that the Church is a progressive movement. Real they do not it will not be a democracy and not a theorenewal in the Church must question of reform in the cracy. and that it is the cornstart within the Church's fold Church but collapse and munity who confer the priest

and remain within it. It must revolution." hood; consequently, a return to "progress" always in accord This revolution, if it comes the lay state cancels out the with the Church's God-given -which God forbid — will sacerdotal powers. In fact, authority and the constant probably come from the "once a priest, always a lay teaching of the magisteriurn. priests of the United States. man." Mr. Stevas suggests that the Many, if not most, priests find This article should give Church as a community celibacy the best state of life in great encouragement to our

delegates the functions of which to exercise their non-Catholic friends to remain Priesthood to individuals and ministry. firmly entrenched in their bethat the community can But at the same time they see lief in private judgment, rather withdraw its authority from great harm being done by the than in an Infallible Church. that individual who then present law of the Church: the (Mrs.) Noreen White

returns automatically to the lay loss of so many good priests, London, S.W.I9. state.

HE "Conscience and the priesthood" article by Norman St. John-Stevas in your 18th June issue makes sad reading.


I. writes (June 18) of Kenneth Allan's decision to leave the priesthood: "His decision will have been a con, scientious one. taken aftet communing with God in the depths."

There is nothing new in this so many more who stay. with view. It is no more than a consequent harm to the souls

repetition in modern jargon of in their care, the imthe 16th century Protestant poverishment of the Church views repudiated by the Coun. through the hick of the witness cil of Trent (Sess. 23). to holy family life which marThe primacy of individual ried priests could give in

conscience over the teaching of practice and married Christ expressed in the theologians could back up by niagisterium ultimately ends up theory.

in loss of faith and the break (Fr.) Brian Godden up of that sense of community Luton, Bedfordshire.

so beloved of Mr. Stevas. This is shown up well in this instance by the unhappy defection of Fr. Allan who has followed the "new" theology to its sad but logical conclusion, Many will now see this con

elusion where there will no Ever since Vatican II I have longer be any objective cerderived inspiration and conterrifies in religion other than solation from the concept of

those of the individual the priesthood of the laity: but

"infallible" conscience. I have never ceased to hold and (Fr.) M. Clifton believe the "traditional" view

Purley. Surrey of the sacrificial priesthood. Surely no other view is possible? Priests are not Civil Servants. How would we have fared at the Reformation if St. John Fisher and all our priestmartyrs had decided that they merely exercised a function which could be relinquished at will? 1ORMAN ST. JOHN

I. writes (June 18) of Kenneth Allan's decision to leave the priesthood: "His decision will have been a con, scientious one. taken aftet communing with God in the depths."

Now I do not know Kenneth Allan and I do not for a moment wish to question the truth of these words. But why cannot we leave the judgment to God in these cases?

Why not just recognise that in some cases the priest concerned has made a wise decision after much prayer and counselling, while in other cases there is an element of dereliction of duty and a failure in perseverance? It is not for us to say which applies in any particular case.

It seems to me just as silly to extol all these men as heroes of conscience as it is to stigmatise them all as Judases.

/ think that when this sort of thing happens, certain rules should be observed. It is only natural for a priest to wish to explain his actions to the people he has served. But this should not be done from the pulpit. which is surely meant to be used for proclaiming the Word of God.

Also, it would be better to avoid such occasions as a First Holy Communion Day, which the children have a right to make their great day. Again, it is inhuman of the Church authorities to expect a laicised priest to leave the area in which he is known.

At such a time he will need the support of good friends and fellow-Catholics, and he will often need to remain in the place where he is known. Why should we treat the faithful as so simple and so easily scandalised? They have got to get used to such departures from the priesthood, and indeed they are already Used to them.

Where I agree with Norman is in his last paragraph, where he says: "The Church is bleeding away because of an insistence on adhering to one form of ministry only . . . I hope that this autumn's synod

In my opinion, Norman St.

John-Stevas grossly exaggerates the position When he declares that "the Church is bleeding away," Father Allan is no more typical of our English priests than was Father Charles Davis. But even if this gloomy prognosis is justified the Church in this or any country will be healthier spiritually with a handful of priests working in the tradition of the Curd of Ars than it will be with an army of married "ministers of religion" who do not believe that the real function of the priest is to be alter Christusanother Christ. Brian Wallace Teddington, Middlesex.

you R contributor, Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas, has gone too far this time in his article of June 18 on Fr. Kenneth Allan. And you, sir, must be censured for publishing his highly individualistic views. In this instance silence would appear to be the best form of charity; we should come to bury Fr. Allan, not to praise him.

But characteristically Mr. St. John-Stevas must go out of his way to salute Fr. Allan for his "brave stand" in breaking his solemn vows and rebelling against lawful authority, not only now, but at the time of Hunianae Vitae.

Those who think otherwise of Fr. Allan's decisions he dismisses as motivated by "parochial spite." Presumably, then, one must never censure any rebellious action; rather we must strive to rehabilitate such martyrs of conscience as Arius and Nestorius, Henry VIII, Luther, Loisy, Joseph McCabe and the rest.

More serious, however, than this phoney charity is the view

I ADMIRE Norman St. John-1 Stevas. Al least he makes no bones about his Catholicism, whatsoever the occasion. I enjoy his wit and ironic smile. I was however suprised to learn after 30 years of pastoral priesthood that the former parish priest of Coulsdon had by his courage "protected" my freedom to counsel according to my conscience. This is a freedom I have always exercised and it had never even occurred to me that it was threatened nor that I needed protection. (Fr.) Denis Toplass Henley-on-Thames, Oxon.

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