Page 5, 27th June 1969

27th June 1969
Page 5
Page 5, 27th June 1969 — Scant regard for authority

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Locations: Manchester, Rome


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Scant regard for authority

IN your issue of April 11 you stated in large headlines: "Pope warns of 'schismatic ferment'." In fact, on Holy Thursday the Pope said in an address :

"How can it be a Church, that is a united people, when a ferment practically of schism divides and subdivides it, breaks it into groups attached more than anything else, to arbitrary and basically selfish autonomy disguised as Christian pluralism or freedom of conscience?"

But in your issue of May 30 Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas wrote : "The twentieth century reformers are also determined to remain within the Church and not to be separated from Rome. This makes talk of a 'schism' within the Church not only unwise but also quite out of accord with the facts."

Mr. St. John-Stevas must be singularly well-informed to chide the Holy Father thus. The reformers say that they do not want a schism, but they can't have it both ways. They

are pushing their views forward with scant regard for the teaching authority of the Church : how otherwise could the Pope speak of "schismatic ferment"?

Fr. John Clarkson, S.C.J. Redbourn, Herts.

MRS. SAVILLE (June 13) is right in thinking that I could profitably spend more time reading the Gospels. Who couldn't? Nine children, the eldest eighteen, make this difficult. However, I have had time for elementary theology.

It/ is presumptuous to say that the Holy Ghost moves in this way or that. The Holy Ghost is essentially invisible and moves in a mysterious way. We cannot see the Holy Ghost at work as Our Lord was seen at work. This is as much as we can say.

Thus it is presumptuous to say that someone "has received the Spirit's full blast" when he is voicing his own opinion. For we simply do not know. "Thinking for ourselves" is Protestantism. Nothing else. Belloc, a man one might say superbly equipped to "think for himself," wrote thus, when he was explaining why he accepted the Faith: "I need hardly say it—save that so many modern readers do not know what the Church is, nor the nature of adherence to her doctrine— any chance words in this poor essay are wholly subject to authority. If I misstate a point in theological argument, I accept its correction at once at the hands of authority."

If only Mr. St. John-Stevas could take this attitude. As it is, we all find much to admire in his work. But I doubt if he really wants "yes-men" among his readers. We prefer to be his friends, claiming the privilege (and the right) of telling him (if necessary severely) when we think he does harm.

Elizabeth Rayneau (Mrs.) Manchester, 16.

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