The following is a reply to the letter of February 20 from Joanna Nash (and 53 others) headed "Loyalty of young Catholics": My dear Miss Nash, one hardly knows If rhyme can match your searing prose, You and the stalwart fifty-three Deserve an answer — let us see What can be done. 1 disagree With what you seem to think or feel (I do think feeling is the key To your intemperate young zeal And thought is not your strong point — yet.) But don't despair. it may well come 'As will grey hairs, avoirdupois And even true compassion To those who live to middle age Who read the Gospels and who feel Their own flesh weak — from that construe The griefs that rend their brothers too.
They do not play a cynic's part Who speak the language of the heart They know of love, they know of lust (They know the difference too!) They trust Far more than You would understand In something far more grandly planned And something far more greatly meant Than this most revert( document.
The Everlasting Mercy" is The name they sometimes choose to give To this profound experience. Which brings the knowledge fresh to birth
That all the meaning of the earth Is Love — first, last and evermore. Dispute, opinion and pride. The sophistry of either side Not to the point — they're waste of
time Or printers ink -or scribblers rhyme!
PS I like the sentence where see "The Catholic majority Of young folk look toward the Pope."
I wish I could believe and hope. But all my jaunts about the scene Of pastoral endeavour keen Show evidence of different sort This re-inforces my desire For documents that are afire With faith, compassion, hope and love To tell the Good News from above. To gather back the scattered flock Not fright them further from the fold.
But I imagine you must see A vision quite unlike my own A Church of God that's small, hardline, Above the altar hangs the sign "Exclusive Brethren" ei Cie. (The mausoleum of Miss Nash And. also. of the fifty-three?) 55 Moscow Road, London. W2. Hannah Mylne How ironic that with the recent appointment to the See of Westminister of Dom Basil Hume a fellow Benedictine should see fit to write as he did in the Catholic Herald on the recent Vatican declaration on sexual ethics.
Fr Cowper (February 20) almost adds insult to injury when he states: "I wonder how many of your correspondents who have given it such fulsome support have actuatly looked at the document _properly?" May I say I have read it very carefully, as have many other people I know. Surely the time has come, and for that matter is long since past, when a clear re-statement.by the Church was necessary on sexual ethics in general and reasonable guidelines at least for the individual in particular.
We live in the most permissive age, and the moral state of the country seems to me to call for a quite unequivocal statement of what is right and wrong, and this includes an accepted norm of sexual behaviour in accordance with the teachings of the Church.
The Vatican, in this statement, has not in any way condemned the sinner, merely the sin or lapse of 'grace, and it is sad to see a Catholic priest showing such disloyalty to the Holy See.
Far from finding the document "an insult to thinking Catholics" I find it an encouragement and much prefer the views so well expressed in the following letter by Miss Joanna Nash (and 53 others).
(Wg Cdr) Kenneth Mackenzie (Retd) 4 Burntwood Lane, Caterham-on-the-Hill, Surrey.
Fr Fabian Cowper (February 20), as Chaplain at the University of York, should he passing on to the Catholic students the teaching of the Church. If he is not prepared to do that, then he should not be there.
We parents have a right to expect our priests to uphold the Vatican's declaration on sexual ethics. I am the mother of five young children. I try to advise them as best I can on how to keep God's law, especially in the matter of purity. I am not a theologian, but the Vatican's declaration made good common sense to me — thank God!
(Mrs) Mary Murphy St Joseph's School, 148a Borough High Street, London, SEI.
It was, I suppose, inevitable that a letter (February 20) from more 'than 50 young Catholics supporting the Holy Father in his recent statement on sexual ethics should have taken scond place to a letter from a university chaplain strongly criticising the statement and calling it illinformed and negative.
The voice of the ordinary loyal laity is too often regarded as
irrelevant; one suspects that the Forty Martyrs 'nay have received Si milar treatment from the fashionable Press in their own day!
However, Fr Fabian Cowries really cannot be allowed to get away with such inaccurate statements in his letter. The Pope's declaration deals not only with the ethics of the particular sexual matters it is discussing. but also with the positive measures which can and should be taken to foster a healthy Christian attitude to these things.
A quick reading shows that there are sections devoted to the duties of bishops (in instructing the faithful properly). to parents (M ensuring accurate and sensible instruction for the children. and positive personal example). and to the mass media (in using their influence wisely and with a sense of respon
sibility). Sound sex education, wise pastoral care based on a firm knowledge of Christian teaching, and the fostering of a healthy spiritual life are among the positive measures that this statement advocates.
To young people, it gives a factual statement of the Church's teaching which is perhaps not quite coy and prudish enough for Fr Cowper's sensibilities but which will strike a chord with the vast majority of young Catholics who have long been needing precisely this firm and challenging backing for their faith.
It provides a sound basis, too. for ecumenical opportunities — for it speaks out on those issues on which Christian parents and teachers of all denominations have been united in their concern.
It would be far more helpfurand positive to the young souls in his care if Fr Cowper would speak out in support of the united, unchanging voice of Christ's Church with the ringing loyalty and conviction which was so successful in drawing converts to the Faith — especially among intellectuals — in former days. If Fr Cowper honestly thinks that young people are going to be impressed with a university chaplain who demands that his Church keeps a "Beautiful and prolonged silence" on the issues which are facing their generation, then he is tragically and bitterly wrong.
So is the newspaper which so wrongly seeks to elevate his views above those of the Catholics of the younger generation who actually know what they are talking about and who are the real life-blood of the Church.
Martin Couche 91 0a London Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey.
Fr Fabian Cowper (Februery 20) says "I write with feeling ..." May I observe without rancour that he write's with little else.
Terms like "inadequate . . . flat contradiction . . pathetically ill informed archaic to put it mildly
. . . dogmatic . . . highly selective and sometimes erroneous . . .
curious view ... lip-service . arbitrary statements from on high ...
Indignation is heady wine, even for those "trying to live out our Christian lives in a responsible, thoughtful and prayerful way."
Would Fr Cowper consider giving us, and perhaps the students of York University, a closely reasoned analysis of the "recent Vatican declaration"?
I think it was Arnold Lunn who said that feelings, which have led so many people into the wrong bed are not likely to lead anyone to the right conclusions.
G. P. Walker 2 Montagu Crescent,
The Church seems to me to be more concerned with sex than with preaching the Gospel. I use the word "Church," of course, to mean the people of God.
Particularly, in this case, those people responsible for the reports, articles and letters which have appeared in the Catholic Herald since a Roman Congregation issued a declaration on certain questions concerning sexual ethics.
A few weeks before this declaration was issued, Pope Paul wrote a warm and pastorally concerned letter on Evangelisation in the Modern World. In this he clearly outlined the situation today and made positive suggestions encouraging each member of the people of God to be an evangelises.
A necessarily brief summary of this long document appeared on the front page of the Catholic Herald: since then, no comments, no reports. no articles. no letters.
Obviously no one should underest innate the importance of questions about sexual ethics, but please could we have a sense of proportion? Preaching the Gospel is also important, and some evidence of this needs to he seen.
(Fr) Francis Hegarty 111 Gower Street, London. WC1.
I am afraid Miss Nash and her 53 friends (February 20) have got things wrong about the recent Vatican declaration on sexual ethics.
Much as I am sure Miss Nash would like to have seen Pope Paul's signature at thc foot of the document. I'm afraid she won't. This makes me wonder whether Miss Nash has actually read the declaration, footnotes. signatures, and all'?
Surely she would have seen whose declaration it is; certainly, it is not the Holy Father's. It is therefore grossly confusing to suggest 'that this document enjoys a status in the tradition of Caste Connubii and Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul did not sign the recent declaration: it remains a document of a Vatican department — no more, no less.
II is therefore dangerous to go on to speak of "the Pope's sensitive and visionary document". Neither does it help to clarify the role of papal authority in the faithful handing on of what we have received, in terms of inspired fatherhood.
There is, as Fr Fabian Cowper points out on the same page, such a thing as consensus fidelium. The reason why many of us cannot welcome the Vatican's declaration as being an authentic element of theological investigation is because it compromises the ground of theology, namely, human and Chris tian experience.
The declaration plays games with Scripture. and not very clever games at that. It treats the sexual experience of faithful Christians as of being insignificant in the development of a total theology of sexuality. It appears to have gained nothing from the involvement of many firm Christians in areas of sexual counselling.
To those of us whose theology has developed through experience continually lived against the Gospel backdrop, reflected upon, shared and celebrated, the declaration comes as a symbol of the theological aridity which is, unhappily, to he expected when theology is attempted in Curial contexts.
We must have ideals, but let them he authentically developed and not harshly imposed. In the words of the new Archbishop of Westminster: "You must be sensitive to what love is. and in the context of love describe the role or sexuality".
The face of love which I have been privileged to see in the lives and relationships of friends, young and old. heterosexual arid homosexual, leads me to some appreciation of basic human goodness. the basic value of sexuality in the emotional development of the individual, and thus his or her growing into the fullness of humanity which is ultimately of Christ. I do not see such affirmations in the recent document.
Sorry. Miss Nash. Right-wing laments will not do, neither will witch-hunts. The best we can do is to seek forgiveness that such a document could appear from an ofFicial quarter of our Church,
1 fear that such action will not help the one suicide which has come to my attention in recent days, at least in some way attributable to the misguided nature of the Vatican's declaration. Neither will it help those other individuals whose personal responsibility is "safely abrogated by such 'documents, Those of us who reject the declaration will continue to work towards a realistic vision of humanity which incorporates sexual reality, rather than suppresses it. Perhaps, then, we Christians will have offered some service to contemporary society. its neuroses, its hang-ups about sex. This can start only with positive acceptance and consequent consecration — not with initial, total rejection.
Martin Pendergast 54 Forest Court.
Holden Avenue, London, N12.
A vociferous tornado of abusive condemnation weighs strongly in favour of the value of any statement that may have occasioned it. This is especially true if a gentle breeze of grateful relief is also moving over the troubled scene. The tornado will fade out: the gentle breeze will hold, and often reappear. Dominic Devas, OFM Franciscan Friary.
Bute Street, Liverpool,