AY I be permitted a mild comment on the triumphalism of Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (December 13). It would be unwise to regard a television entertainment programme as a significant medium for theological instruction, But since it has been so regarded in some quarters. I venture, with great respect, to submit one or two considerations.
It would appear to be an understatement to say that the encyclical does not set out to say what is right or wrong for each individual in all circumstances. Was not this the crucial question posed to the "Holy See and awaited with so much impatience? And the answer when it came was quite unambiguous. Together with abortion and sterilisation, contraception is stated to be inadmissible on any pretext, even on the plea of the lesser evil, as being intrinsically wrong.
It was precisely the clarity of the answer which sparked off the explosive controversy which followed.
Another point is that the primacy of conscience has never been doubted but is much misunderstood. Conscience is obviously primary in the sense that a man sins who acts against his moral judgment and that if he is coerced into doing so, he suffers persecution. But conscience is always subject to the law of God and, to a Catholic, the Church is the authentic interpreter of that law and the Church's teaching is primary in the formation of his conscience. Further, if he proposes to disobey that teaching, expressed solemnly, as in flumanae Vitae, the onus prohandl is on him.
As the American Bishops (whom your contributor does not mention) point out, quoting Newman. he must be able to declare before God that he must not, he dare not, obey the Papal injunction. That is, of course, he must be convinced that the Pope is commanding him to commit sin. It would be hard to prove that Paul VI is enjoining sin on anybody. Rather he is urging all of us to abstain from actions which the Church has always regarded as sinful.
Granted the possibility, even after the publication of Humanae Vitae, of an erroneous conscience, the first duty of a confessor would seem to be to correct the error. If that fails, I presume that any blessing would take the form of a prayer for light. It could hardly be a condonation of what the Pope has declared to be intrinsically wrong.
Ronald Flaxman Banstead, Surrey.
YOUR admirable leading article (Dec. 13) emphasised the two main points in the Cardinal's broadcast — the primacy of conscience and the obligation of a Catholic to inform his conscience by the teaching of the magisterium.
Mr. Norman St. JohnStevas. however, claims too much in suggesting that he has spoken with the same voice as the Cardinal. This is very far from true. The Cardinal and the bishops of England and Wales support Pope Paul's Encyclical and, in particular, have stated more than once that contraceptive intercourse is not in itself a good thing. Using technical terms the Encyclical calls it "intrinsically evil".
Mr. St. John-Stevas, on the other hand, rejected the Encyclical and described its language as cruel.
Westminster Priest (Name and address supplied)
I READ with interest Des-amond Fennell's remarks (Dec. 13) on "The Trinity Ban." As a graduate of University College, Dublin, I do not understand why it should be regarded as having a
Catholic atmosphere. • It is true most of the students and staff there are Catholic at present. It would be interesting, however, to see how the Catholic Hierarchy would react if University College received an influx of a large number of non-Catholics, and Trinity College a similar invasion of Catholics.
Finally, what has Vatican II to say about non-Catholic Universities. Very little: no ban, for example. It does say:
"That even at Universities that are not Catholic, there should be associations and university centres under Catholic auspices in which priests, religious and laity . should give . . spiritual and intellec tual assistance to the youth of the university." I do not think this has happened yet in Trinity College.
Catlin! 0 Dalaig Leopardstown.