Is Britain Isolated ?
Sig,-In the correspondence in The Times which you so usefully brought to the notice of your readers last week, and which was the occasion of the article in the I ablet by Dom Aelred Cirahani to which you refer in your editorial leader this week, the Bishop of Winchester stated that the falling off in me-operation between the Christian Communions was due "to a deliberate withdrawal of late by the authorities of the Church of Rome in this country." If this is true, and no Catholic contribution to the columns of the Times has challenged the statement, it is a melancholy sign.
You write: " We have emerged from the times when intelligent men -we are not referring to those who always insist on living in an age that is dead and gone-were absorbed in the bitter polemics between Catholics and Protestants; we have emerged too from that state of siege in which the Church found itself when facing the assaults of the socalled progressive and enlightened thought."
The fact is that by and large the Church here in Britain, and to a very large extent also in America, has not emerged from those times and something of the psychology of them is discernible in the letter which Bishop Andrew Beck, A.A., contributed to the Times correspondence and may accowat for the absence of any other letter from our "authorities.'
It would seem that this country is a long way behind " the mind of the Church " in respect to the questions you raise in your leader if the present practice on the Continent can be relied to reflect that mind. Does the average parish priest feel that the Anglican parson and the Baptist minister are his allies in the work of saving souls from the allengulfing Materialism around them rather than his " rivals " or the -enemy?" Have the realities of the position in 1949 so impressed us that when it is a question of an ultimately secularised school or one in which Christianity is the basis of education we feel at once that, no matter what their reactions, other Christian communions are our hest allies rather than the self-interest or integrity of political parties and bend our best endeavours in propaganda and persuasion to securing their, perhaps belated, cooperation?
When the question of the "confessional school " arose recently in Western Germany, Christians, Catholics and Protestants', spoke out with one, even if unavailing, voice. We are lucky if all Catholics speak with one voice. There were Protestants at the Bochum Catholic Rally. And they will participate officially next year for the discussion of common problems. Your own columns bear constant witness to the measure of active and fruitful co-operation between Catholics and other denominations on the Continent.
More Anglican clergymen have been over in person to study on the spot Abbe Michonneau's " Missionary Parish " than English priests. The Anglicans are already adopting some of his methods and those specialised techniques of the Mission de Paris and the Mission de France. There is evidence, too, that High Anglicans are more practically intereeted than we ourselves in those modern permissions and dispensations so freely allowed by the Holy See to French, Belgian. Dutch and German Bishops in respect of evening Mess and the Eucharistic fast. These permissions and dispensations adapted to the special needs of the modern industrial parish and the social and economic realities of our times are not grudgingly given to the bishops who ask for them.
Indeed in many respects " Catholicism Today " in this country is isolated from the great movements and the general practical mind of the living Church on the Continent no matter how perfect its formal submission and its Roman conformism. Only last week the Sacred Congregation Propaganda Fide carried an article in its news service, which you yourself reported. which stated in regard to Islam and the Communist menace in the Near East:
"Islam is a mystery that should keep us from having too exalted an opinion of ourselves and too lowly an opinion of the grace of God. We must keep in mind that among Mussulmans one encounters, at times, a very lively religious sentiment, a great longing for grace and a tendency toward union with God, more sincere than we are willing to admit. Many a pious Mussulman sees better than many Occidentals do what a danger to religion is contained in Communism today. The possibility of a ' common front for God ' does not seem to be excluded a priori."
And on the matter which you yourself raised specifically: the question of saying the Lord's Prayer together with other Christians, the Pope himself would seem to have given a lead. In an Exhortatio on the subject of Palestine and the fate of the Holy Places the Holy Father specifically widens his appeal from those bishops in communion with Rome to whom the letter is addressed to embrace " all who glory in the name of Christian." The Pope then asks them to "pray with as." Had those to whom the Holy Father was appealing been present would he have required them to retire to a separate oratory to offer up
their prayers with him? No one who reads the Pope's many addresses to his mixed audiences can have any doubt that, in this, as in so many other departments of the life of the Church: social question. liturgy, modern training of the clergy, the Pope is ahead and giving the lead and encouragement.
The invitation of the new Archbishop of Paris to the Archbishop of Canterbury to be present at ans installation cannot be laughed off as Gallic wit or ignorance. it is a sien of a new spirit abroad on the continent which recognises the real enemy of our troubled times. Godless Materialism, and sees the issue as the Pope himself put it. not for or against Rome, but " For or against God."
PETF.R IGNATIUs POWER.
Ste,-May we. two Catholic laymen who have campaigned together for the extension of Catholic interests for the past 20 years, plead for action which the present interest in the correspondence in The Times (Continued at foot of next column) on "Catholicism Today " renders particularly opportune? The danger is that nothing may he done. and the opportunity to demonstrate that the Church of Christ is concerned with the well-being of the nation as a whole will pass.
Even to the many who, in out view wrongly, deprecate the Malines conversations which have now passed into history, the fact that many then not merely longed for Christian Unity but came not only to respect but even to love the Catholic and Roman Church, because of them should cause a change of outlook on such matters. Cardinal Mercier and other Catholic prelates from the Continent may not have had the intimate knowledge which we have in this country of the strange medley of views which still persist in the Anglican Church, but their demonstration of Christian zeal and love brought about a great reward.
We know of the countless pitfalls, the bitter disillusionment and other disappointments that may come to many of our separated Brethren if some similar conference is called at this time. None the less. we are all enriched by the experience gained in the past. To take no action might give the false impression that English Catholics today were not merely ultramontane in outlook (a charge which many of us would admit readily) but that we, possessing all things, have failed to invite those who hunger for the fullness of Truth share the "celestial banquet " which is the Divinely-founded Catholic Church.
A. R. Boecirs HAM. CYRII (t AS4CY. •
SIR,-We all welcome the mutual courtesy of Catholics and nonCatholics which has been shown in The Times correspondence columns on the subject of religious reunion. At the same time we have to remember that charity to our neighbour is not limited to avoiding ridicule and wounding remarks. It consists sometimes in giving our neighbour the full Truth which his immortal soul needs. This was admirably done by Bishop Beck's clear statement on the question of reunion.
I am afraid, however, that some of our Anglican brethren may misunderstand Dom Cary Elwes' sympathetic letter. They may imagine that they can delay individual acceptance of the Church's divine authority, while they await some kind of corporate reunion in a supposedly more liberal atmosphere. Such an attitude. from the Catholic point of view, is theologically and morally indefensible.
Htcii Mt KAY, 0.F.M.. D.D.
The Friary, East Bergholt, Colchester, Essex.