replies on Lewisham
Some people are asking why I did not join in the anti-racist march led by the Mayor and the Bishop of Southwark at Lewisham last Saturday week. Particularly for those who feel let down that the Catholic presence on that occasion was not more evident, this question deserves a reply.
The morning demonstration was non-provocative. Thank God it turned out to be peaceful also, although obviously this was something that could not be guaranteed beforehand. But the peacefulness of it was not my main concern, I had been led to expect that the march would, in fact, include Left-wing extremists committed to violence and I recoiled at the prospect of marching with men who were known to have every intention of going on to cause a violent confrontation in the afternoon, especially as it might appear that I was in some way leading them.
This thought worried me greatly, and I am sure it kept many others, apart from myself, away from 1,ewisham that morning. I need hardly add that it must have worried the Bishop of Southwark and the majority of those with him, especially the organisers of the march, who were totally opposed in this respect to the violent minority and would wish to be completely disassociated from it.
I am told that before the march set out the local Communist Party distributed a positive statement condemning the use of violence and I commend it for this. No doubt the statement had a restraining influence but, as events proved, this plea fell on deaf ears as far as some extremists were concerned.
It was reported in the Press the following day that most of the clashes in the afternoon involved people who had taken part in the morning march. If this is
correct, there would seem to have been some justification for my fears, Last year I led several groups of my former diocese from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square in a march for peace. Although in no sense a political demonstration, it will have included people of widely differing political views and beliefs or of non-belief. We must indeed unite to oppose the evil of racism.
There are other things we should oppose too, and violence must surely come somewhere at the top of the list, In fact, the issue that has been highlighted by the events at Lewisham is not so much racism as violence. Naturally I emphasised both these points in my sermon at a special Mass I offered in Lewisham the following day.
There is a final point I must add. Having declined, rightly or wrongly, to take part in the demonstration myself, I would hate in explaining my attitude to belittle in any way the witness of those who with the highest motives and in a spirit of peace did go on the march.
For this reason I have been reluctant to say anything hitherto, and do so now only under pressure, I wrote to the Bishop of Southwark before the event to thank him for his initiative, and I would like publicly to renew my thanks to him and to thank also all those, including Catholics, who joined with him in a courageous and peaceful witness against racism on that day.
Some will be quick to misunderstand and criticise. I do not wish to be numbered among them. And I hope my own decision, which was not made easily, can be taken as a protest against violence.
MICHAEL BOWEN Archbishop of Southwark Archbishop's House, Southwark, London, SE1.
Poland's shrine packed
Last year I had the happiness of being present with about a quarter of a million others at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Surely the pilgrims to the National Shrine of Our Lady in Poland can only be rivalled in numbers by those who go to Lourdes.
1 was witness to the devotion shown at innumerable Masses, to Communions received at an altar rail where place were filled without stopping throughout the day, and to long queues at 30 confessionals, and I reflected that the day was only the Sunday half way between the two great feast days of Our Lady celebrated there. while most of the Polish hierarchy were in Philadelphia after the Eucharistic Congress.
I have just heard from the family who were my hosts in Poland how they have completed again their nine days' pilgrim walk to Czestochowa, At churches and cathedrals and student chaplaincies last year I saw evidence of such pilgrim walks from all parts. It was therefore surprising to see in your front page paragraph that such a well-known place was spelt in a Germanised form as Tschenstochau. Doubtless your paragraph derives from a German Catholic source.
Edward S. Worrall Editor, London Recusant Enfield, Middlesex.
No word till report published
I feel I ought to write to you regarding recent correspondence Ott the Taylor Committee report. In defence of Bishop Emery, it ought to be pointed out that it is extremely difficult even for a bishop to make comments on a report that has not yet been publisheel. I would suggest that everybody interested in the management and government of schools should await the publication of the report• sstich is scheduled for September 20. I feel certain there will be more in the report than merely the representation of interested groups on managing and governing boards.
Name and address supplied.
Catholics should care for graves
A picture in your issue of August 5 of damage caused by vandals in St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, prompts me to ask what purpose is being served by these large gravestones and memorial tablets.
Surely a Catholic is more likely than most to believe that true glory is attained in the hereafter, not in this life'? One can still respect the memory of the dead without the need to erect an ostentatious nmn u men t,
How many readers tidy the graves of relatives who died, say, before 1850, if indeed they know e here they are? Could not cemeteries be reorganised when bodies have rested for 150 years. the stones and remains re-sited and land used again?
Are there any figures on the present acreage covered by cemeteries and the annual rate • of increase of this area?
When vie are constantly being warned that there w ill soon not be enough room for us to live in comfort on this earth, is it not time for Catholics to give a lead and seek more modest resting places for themselves?
(Mrs) A. M. Capoecii Hampshire.
As the Archbishop of
Southwark's Chaplain to the West Indian community in South London, I was very interested in your account of the Lewisham National Front march on August 13, the various reactions to it, and the issues of Church and social policy it raised.
Your report criticises Archbishop
Bowen and the Catholic parishes of Lewisham for not being more positively involved in the peaceful counter-demonstration in the mosning, I agree whole-heartedly with your report that the Christian community in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, must be unequivocally opposed to all manifestations of racialism.
Archbishop Bowen, like the mayor and councillors of Lewisham, wanted the National Front march to be banned. He also called for special prayers to be said for racial harmony. The Deptford parish had a special Mass at 12 noon on the day of the demonstrations for this intention.
In general, the parishes took the view that the best policy was to encourage the people to keep off the streets and let the trouble pass by. Most of the people of Lewisham — certainly the black population — seemed to agree with them, because the High Street, one of the busiest shopping centres in South-East London, was almost deserted for the day.
The trouble. when it came in the afternoon, was between two violent groups of people, mainly from outside the borough, with the police trying to keep them apart. Nevertheless, the Catholics were not entirely without witness. Being an official representative of the Church among the black community, I judged it my business to take part in the peaceful demonstration in the morning. This was the one led by the Mayor of Lewisham and the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, Dr Stockwood. I was with a small group of Catholic West Indians and others representing the South-West London Catholic Caribbean Council.
The morning demonstration gathered together a lot of very different sorts of groups. There was a large contingent from the Christian Churches of Lewisham; there were also delegations from the Communist Party, other revolutionary bodies and two homosexual groups.
We were questioned about the company we were keeping. We took the same view as your report — that in non-violent opposition to racialism, we could afford to mix with all corners.
(Fr) Charles Walker Wandsworth, London, SW18.
Congratulations to the Catholic Herald for its coverage of the
events at Lewisham, and its courage to be so frank in its criticism of the Catholic response to the National Front march.
We were both present at Lewisham. It was obvious that the
events of that day, and especially the policies and at tivities of the National Front, should raise many crucial questions for the Catholic Church in England, especially with regard to the nature of its ministry in the future.
The Church, in large cities such as London, finds itself living through a completely new ex perience. How do we convince people of God's presence and reconcil ing love in cities and suburbs bedevilled by economic decay and racial conflict, including organised political opposition to black immigrants?
It is essential that we apply ourselves to such questions. Otherwise we risk being seriously disabled, in our structures and pastoral practice, by an exclusive preoccupation with the salvation of our own Church members. The choice is between a cosy "us and God" situation, and the Church as the servant of the Word in the world.
hour preaching of the Word is to he genuine, it must be based on our active involvement in such affairs as Lewisham.
For the past 10 years, the National Front as an organised political party, has openly preached a doctrine of hatred and racial inequality. The Church has failed to make public comment on these policies.
There are striking parallels between the rise of National Socialism in Germany and the
growth of the National Front in Britain. The Christian Churches in Germany failed to evaluate National Socialism in the full light Of the gospel, and remained, in Bonhoeffer's words, "dispensers of cheap grace".
The question we must now lace in England is: How seriously do we accept our mission of reconciliation? Are we prepared to make the necessary efforts both in our Pastoral activity and our theological reflection, to become a liberating force in the lives of all men and women?
If the Church accepts the present challenge and can become actively involved, perhaps then fewer people would find it necessary to resort to mindless violence in their stand against the National Front. Surely the Lewisham event demanded a Martin Luther King type of nonviolent, counter-demonstration by all the Christians of South London? (Fr) Oliver McTernan (Fr) Brelfne Walker, CSSP Islington,
Congratulations on your excellent reporting of the Lewisham troubles. And many thanks for your forthright commentary upon the way we as Christians should be thinking and going.
Please keep up with this honest
straight-from-the-shoulder approach, this is the sort of lead we all need, to make us more aware of our Christian ideals.
(Mrs) C. Plowright.
Faith and light
Your article of August 12 on Faith and Light and on the value of the mentally handicapped in the life of the community and the encouraging work of the Holy Father to the Faith and Light pilgrimage to Rome is a reminder of what we could he doing in helping the handicapped themselves to reach maturity as Christians.
This is particularly important in helping them to share in the Mass and to receive Communion, Many parents take it for granted that their children never receive Communion when in fact it would be possible. They may not be able to express their faith in words but they can speak with their own kind of language.
With their parents and priests to guide them and the community of the parish to support them, many of those who are now without Communion could be receiving their Lord regularly and though some might have the minds of Children they can achieve a spiritual adulthood that can put the rest of us to shame.
(Fr) Frank Glanfleld Luton, Bedfordshire.
pay for abortions?
Here in Britain we are free to decide upon our own beliefs. or so we are led to believe. However, it seems, for all we have free choice in these decisions, we are not able to carry them out.
As abortion is legal in this country we are forced to support it, whether we believe it to be right or wrong.
The National Health Service will very freely pay to take life in this way, but when it comes to paying out for nursing staff and life-saving equipment they are less eager, and this may cause even more lives to be lost, I am at present too young to work, and therefore I am free to disagree with the law about abortion, however, when it comes to the time for me to start work, I, like every other taxpayer in this country, will be forced to support abortions.
Because abortions are carried out on the National Health all taxpayers are contributing to the performance of these murders. Where is our free choice? Why should we be forced to support something which we believe to he wrong?
Judy Pears Coventry.