Page 7, 29th September 2000

29th September 2000
Page 7
Page 7, 29th September 2000 — LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Locations: York, Rome, Hiroshima, London, Durham


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Continuing worries about Icons

Cardinal Biffi offers 'poisoned fodder'

From Prof Sir Michael Dummett

Sir, Catholics should deplore the attempt by the Archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Biffi, to reduce our religion from a path towards salvation for all men to a component of a national culture (Report, Sept 22), astoundingly supported in his speech against admitting Muslim immigrants to Italy by Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State, whose post has no especial concern with Italian politics or culture.

Cardinal Biffi asks how the Italian government will cope with Friday as a holiday. How, before the war, when Italy still had a substantial Jewish minority, did it cope with Saturday as a holiday? Leaders of the Church should grasp that nowadays all countries must relinquish the fantasy of a population uniform in culture, race and religion.

None can found its identity upon any one religion or racial composition without inflicting injustice on religious or racial minorities. Our leaders ought to be encouraging Christians to live in amity with others, not stirring up prejudice against newcomers. The hungry sheep look up and are not fed; they are given poisoned fodder.

Yours faithfully.


Double effect?

From Dom Alberic Stacpoole

Sir, I write as the case of the conjoined Siamese Sisters awaits a hearing before the House of Lords. Sharing heart and lungs, both will not survive, but one might be saved at the others expense.

Earlier this month, on the Today programme, Sue MacGregor interviewed the Archbishop of Westminster, who had not prepared himself by reading in on all the legal evidence, but claimed the authority of years as Co-Chair of ARCIC.

He sounded tired, and offhand. He reiterated the Vatican/Ravenna principle: "Ethically, one cannot take life to save a life" — are not ethics to do with philosophy, as moral theology is to do with deduction from Revelation? Anyway, that does not address the crisis.

As to Siamese twins, there are these circumstances; shared bodymembers, so shared life; severed members, so saved lives; shared members that will not sustain double life. The last forces the decision, which falls into the principle expressed as "conflict of duty" / "conflict of evils". That calls on a complex practical principle (evoked once by Cardinal Heenan), nicely put in Clough's Decalogue: "Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive/ Officiously to keep alive".

By deciding to save Jodie's life absolutely and for a full future, one incidentally and secondarily decrees that Mary is not saved. It is a common dilemma in common living, which at humble levels housewives juggle with. Monserrat's Cruel Sea had the same principle operative — to go for the U Boat with depth charges, or to save those critically in the water, ie sinking already and subject to just those depth charges (which, by bitter judgement, prevailed). Hiroshima/Nagasaki operated the same principle — whose lives lost, and how many.

Sue MacGregor went for the soft option of kindness-to-all, letting off the Archbishop. If the parents prevail and both daughters die, none will be blamed — except eventually by God.

Yours faithfully, AJ STACPOOLE,OSB Ampleforth Abbey, York.

Nuclear energy? No thanks

From Mr Peter Cuming

Sir, Your Faith and Science correspondent must not corrupt Herald readers.

Whatever the truth about current energy difficulties, we should not be misled into thinking the nuclear option is a handy and appropriate escape route. His nuclear energy option is vastly energy-intensive to build and, above all, simply far too risky and dirty to contemplate. It is evident that this realisation is leading prudent governments elsewhere to explore other options. The best option is to conserve energy followed by investment in "renewables" such as wind, tidal, wave, photovoltaic and other solar sources.

Whatever strategy is chosen it would seem likely that some 3040% of power will have come from some fossil fuel and options such as stored hydro power to cover the "peakiness" of demand. Oil should eventually be kept mainly for transport and as a raw material rather than a source of heating for buildings and the fuel for power stations.

Prophets of doom during the 1970's oil crisis foresaw oil at dizzy prices and running out soon. They were wrong. The real crisis ,is that third-world industrialisation and urbanization is expanding the demand for fuel and the planet is warming up generally.

Oil is still too cheap and is too precious to be used frivolously. Parishes, for example, should stop planning new church heating for a use that is only relevant for 23% of the time and instead encourage parishioners to wear more clothes in the winter.

How many parish churches have bicycle facilities? Bishops should discourage long distance pilgrimages and promote destinations closer to home in order that less aircraft fuel burns up the ozone layer. Maybe the Pope should use "conference callsand Internet links to have a dialogue with his bishops.

Centralisation of Church government is now also challengeable on energy grounds. No Mr Hodgson. your plea for greenhouse-gas-free nuclear power is an unconvincing way of seeking to perpetuate unsustainable lifestyles; Christians should promote the salvation of the planet in every sense.

Waiting for governments to do the right thing is folly. Surprisingly, energy management is susceptible to individual regulations far more than Peter Hodgson would have us believe.

Yours faithfully, PETER CUMING London NW5.

The true view

From Mr Stephen Draper

Sir, I was pleased to read Fr Ian Ker's article on Dominus lesus. It corrected a lot of false ideas for me and I am sure it did for others too). I cannot help wondering why the secular priests, the radio and the TV do not approach people like Fr Ker for comment when documents like this emerge from Rome instead of going to people who do not accept Catholic teaching like Lavinia Byrne, Michael Walsh. etc. Is it because they don't want people to hear the true Catholic view on things?

Yours faithfully, STEPHEN DRAPER Bath, Somerset.

Wordly hymn tunes

Sir, Brian Brindley ("So, why should the devil have all the best tunes?" 22 September) could add the favourite Marian hymn, "Hail Queen of Heaven", to his list of Catholic hymn tunes with wordly origins.

The words were written by Doctor John Lingard, Vice President of Ushaw College before becoming missionary rector at St Mary's, Hornby, when he died in 1852. The tune, Stella, was written by Mr Hemy, Music Master at Ushaw. It came from a lugubrious folk-song, which he had heard being sung one evening by his fellow drinkers at The Board Inn, which may still be found near the Catholic Church at Stella, outside Blaydon, Co Durham.

Yours faithfully, + HUGH LINDSAY Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria.

Receiving EWTN

From Mr A J Pollock

Sir, Those wanting to receive EWTN television will be pleased to know that the equipment to receive it can now be purchased for £189 and installed for £60 — a total cost of £249. EWTN is 24 hours a day and is completely free so there are no costs after the installation. Their supplier is CATHSAT Ltd P.O. Box 19687 London, SE119 2YR (Tel & Fax 02087711051 e-mail cathsat @ This month besides the magnificent coverage of the World Youth Day in Rome with 2 and a half million young people I have enjoyed the films and discussions on the life of Padre Pio.

Yours faithfully, A.J. POLLOCK London SE6.0

Sir, The letter that you published from the National Adviser for RE and Catechesis of the Bishops' Conference criticises my review of the new RE programme, Icons, but does not even attempt to refute a single one of the charges that I bring against Icons. Canon Humfrey merely repeats the same line that we have had for 35 years from the English catachetical establishment: that. though clearly important doctrines are missing from the course, it will all come out in the wash and by some strange means the children will pick up the doctrines of the faith without being actually taught them.

Canon Humfrey states that the whole of the faith cannot be taught in one year. Of course that is true. I deliberately restricted my comments to those parts of the faith that Icons claims to teach in the first year of secondary school, such as the Church, Holy Mass, and the sacrament of Baptism, the Holy Eucharist and Penance. I pointed out that there are important things completely omitted like original sin, the Creation, the Fall, the Ten Commandments, Our Lord's institution of the Sacraments, the actual words of the sacraments, the fact that we all have an inunortal soul (a word that never even appears in Icons), that the Church is the mystical body of Christ and is infallible etc., etc. I also pointed out that the Holy Father himself had specifically ordered that young people were to be taught these doctrines.

Canon Humfrey says that children will have learned some things before secondary school. Let us hope so. However, none of the specific points that I mention are covered in Here I Am the book that primary schools are ordered to

use by the catechetical experts. It is very deficient on points of Catholic doctrine.

Finally, the letter states that Icons "enjoys the unanimous support of the Bishops' Conference". That was the very point on which my article concluded. I wonder how many of the Bishops have actually read Irons and how many will state categorically that they are completely satisfied if all that English Catholics of the age of 12 know about Holy Mass, the Sacraments, the nature of the Church, Our Blessed Lady, Creation and sin, is what is contained in Icons.

Yours etc., ERIC HESTER Bolton, Lancashire. BL1 5HS

From Mr Stephen Lowe Sir, I must applaud the measured tone of your leading article this week on the dangers of ignoring people. The concern many parents, priests and teachers have been expressing about the RE in Catholic schools for years now has been totally ignored with the result that the Church in this country is shrinking to vanishing point.

The letter on the same page from Canon Peter Humfrey, National Advisor for RE, shows that even now the Catechetical Establishment are determined to continue with ICONS in spite of the fact that Eric Hester's brilliant analysis of it showed that it is quite unsuitable for Catholic schools. None of Mr Hester's very damaging criticisms were answered by Canon Humfrey, who has just resorted to rhetoric instead.

For example, Canon Humfrey claims Mr Hester saw "only a frag ment" of ICONS and that "deeper studies of theological issues" will come after. Now Mr Hester discussed both the teacher's and the student's books for the whole of the first year, a third of the Scheme, which is a good deal more than a fragment. Hopefully "deeper theological issues" will be studied later but that is not the matter under discussion. Mr Hester pointed out that these 11 and 12 year olds are not given basic information such as the fact that they have immortal souls, that there was a Fall, or that we have all been redeemed.

The first part of any scheme should include such teaching about the foundations of our faith, even if we could rely on the children being well funned in their primary schools.

But as a glance at them will show, none of the approved RE schemes for primary schools such as Here I Am cover these doctrines either, so senior schools will have to start from scratch if they are to get anywhere.

Obviously we cannot rely on the Catechetical Establishment to teach our children the truths of the Faith so we must take action ourselves. I suggest we each borrow a copy of ICONS from our local Catholic Senior School and if, after examining it, we are not perfectly happy with it, we must not stay quiet, we must protest. Children are vulnerable and cannot protect themselves so we most protect them from error by protesting to Heads, Parish Priests, Bishops and even Rome. At the same time we should, demand that the children in this country are taught Religion according to The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Yours faithfully, STEPHEN LOWE Chester.

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