Thresholds are for crossing The staff of Allen Hall — a clarification
From the Bishop in Hertfordshire
Sir, Whatever the merits or demerits of Fr Barrett's suggestions in his article on British seminaries (June 9), he makes some highly offensive remarks about past seminary staff members. Being a member of a seminary staff requires many qualities in addition to specialised knowledge of a particular discipline. As a former rector of Allen Hall I was privileged to work with outstandingly dedicated, gifted and generous staff. The same was true of the many staff I met in other seminaries. They deserve our appreciation and gratitude, not the hurtful innuendoes of Fr Barrett.
-F JAMES O'BRIEN St Alban's AL2 1AG Fr Barrett writes: In my column, I quoted certain remarks of exstudents from Allen Hall. These remarks have given offence to some former members of staff at the London seminary as well as to Bishop O'Brien. It was not the intention of the piece to impugn the dedication or professional standing of individual members of staff formerly based at Allen Hall. Moreover these views were not my views, for which reason I described them as "cynical". Where offence was given as a result of those remarks then this is clearly regrettable and I apologise to any staff members who felt offended. I continue to have the fullest confidence in the rector and staff of the seminary.
Disillusion with Amnesty International
From the Bishop of Aberdeen
Sir, I was appalled to read that Amnesty International has branded as "an unholy alliance" those states which have objected to the attempt by others to enshrine in international law as a "human right", the right of women to have a legal abortion. Among these nations, and mentioned first, was the Holy See.
Apart from the unjustified nature of the attack, the use of the words "an unholy alliance" is particularly inappropriate and offensive.
It is true that the positive law (man-made law) in some states permits abortion in various circumstances. In Britain it is not considered a criminal offence if certain conditions are fulfilled. In that sense these states provide "a legal right" to women. The positive law is always subject to a higher law, what is sometimes called the natural law, or, in a faith context, the divine law.
With reference to this higher law the great religions of the world, and those states whose laws are still built upon such foundations, regard the destruction of all innocent human life, whether prior to or after natural birth, as an offence. The child in the womb is already a member of the human family, and there are circumstances when its claim to damages can be vindicated in the civil courts. To claim as a "human right" the right to women to a legal abortion, serves a particular socio-political and philosophical position which is not shared by everyone. On the contrary many consider abortion as abhorrent. The Holy See is not alone in defending the rights of the unborn child as prior to any "rights" in positive law allowing women to have abortions.
Over many years I have admired and supported Amnesty International. On not a few occasions I have written, at the request of local officers, to defend those unjustly imprisoned and/or tortured. I had come to rely on the objectivity of Amnesty's judgements. I cannot be so sure in future, nor can I guarantee my continued unquestioning support. I suspect there will be many others, within a constituency which until the present time Amnesty International has been able to rely on, who will share these misgivings.
Yours faithfully + MARIO CONTI Aberdeen AB15 4XU
Handing the Cog
From Revd Andrew McIntosh Sir, A builder reversing a door on its hinges would speak of "handing" the door. is there a similar expression in journalism for the reversal of photographs?
In Charterhouse Chronicle you recently showed a photograph of Archbishop Coggan. We have all seen bishops — especially Anglican bishops — with the pastoral staff in the wrong (i.e. the right) hand, but the giveaway is the ChiRho on the stole. The Cog has been handed! In the issue of 16 June you give us Charles and Camilla, again "handed". His poppy is on the wrong lapel and his suit appears to be buttoned in the female manner. And can it be (same issue, page 7) that the priest was anointing Ann Widdecombe with his left thumb?
I write with fond goodwill as an Anglican reader with a particular appreciation for the columns of Brian Grindley and Alice Thomas Ellis.
Yours faithfully, ANDREW McINTOSH Maldon. Essex CM9 7JG
The martyrdom of St Peter
From Mr Oscar McCusker Sir, I refer to the article by Neville Kyrke-Smith entitled "Never Forget Why The Martyrs Died" which appeared in your newspaper (16 June 2000). This had been illustrated by a painting of the martyrdom of Saint Peter by Caravaggio who was shown being crucified upside down. it continuously surprises me that many Catholics do not understand the symbolism of this picture.
Given that the crucifixion of Christ is such a central feature of our faith I am still amazed at the number of educated Catholics who are ignorant about how this form of execution is carried out. The cause of death by crucifixion is asphyxiation. The victim on the cross raises himself by his arms in order to breathe. Gradually over a pried of time, due to fatigue, the victim is no longer able to support himself by his arms and then asphyxiates. This was how Christ died.
One cannot asphyxiate if one is crucified upside down. Being crucified in this way is the equivalent to being put to death by having a hangman's noose tied around your feet. Obviously Saint Peter could never have been martyred by being crucified in this way.
It is indeed richly ironic that the article in which Mr KyrkeSmith comments that "the martyrs are calling us to search for truth" is illustrated by a glaring untruth!
I do hope you will publish this letter in order to inform your Catholic readers about this ageold fallacy.
Yours faithfully OSCAR McCUSKER Belfast BT 15 5DT
How to hear Russians singing in your Church
From Revd Fernley R Symons
Sir, May I use your columns to reach those without Internet access with some important information about an initiative intended to further East-West ecumenical relations?
Since 1998 a growing number of Catholic and Protestant churches throughout the UK has, experienced the professional singing of Russian Orthodox litu6 gical a capella music by the St Peterburg Vocal Ensemble Russicum. The six singers of the Ensemble will be embarking on their third British Autumn tour iq September and are anxious to make their presence known to as many churches as possible. Hitherto they have relied heavily on mail for their organisation and introductions. Russicum give recitals and they are increasingly keen to take part in Sunday worship wherever possible. all their recitals are free, and the Ensemble depends on local hospii tality and retiring collections to defray their rather heavy travel; costs. This means that they are happy to bring their music to small; village communities as they are to sing in major centres or make occasional broadcasts.
Any reader who would like to hear RUSSICUM should write of; telephone before the end of July for the nearest venues and dates. Invitations to sing at new venues during forthcoming tours may be passed on through me (Telephone/Fax: 0117 985 5450). Foi. those with Internet access a visit tct, www.ms.eme.ez/russieum will give much more information and point to a page where RUSS1CUM's singing can be heard.
Yours faithfully, FERNLEY R. SYMONS St Mary's Vicarage, Shirehampton, Bristol BS11 OBZ From Revd Clement Marshall Sir, Concerning your critique of On the Threshold (June 16), and its claim that "copies are not easy to obtain", there are copies in plenty in our Portsmouth Cathedral Centre from which I purchased a copy last week. I am currently reading it with undiminishing interest and pleasure; for its content and tone — which is more than 1 can say about The Catholic Herald which a parishioner gives me for a Catholic vetting each week.
The reading normally ends with its disposal in our local recycling container, after I have carefully retrieved Fr Rulheiser's invariably enlightening and uplifting article on the back page.
As to Ann Widdecombe and "where she should have stayed", I would say "yes" on the threshold at some place on the curve of the RCI A programme.
After Paul's Damascus Road conversion, he took off for a prolonged period of reflection on his encounter with the Lord and his Church.
It seems strangely at odds with this that some of our high-profile new Catholics can't wait, or are not allowed to wait, until the Chrism is dried on their neophyte foreheads before they are promoted as role-models of Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxis — particularly by your paper.
Yours faithfully, CLEMENT MARSHALL Fordingbridge, Hants SP6 1EG From Mr Graham 1Vloorhouse Sir, You are to be congratulated for publishing Dr Beatrice Leonard's brilliant expose of On the Threshold.
To understand where On the Threshold is coming from, you have to first understand that much of the catechetical establishment in this country is simply a professional liberal bureaucracy, and has been for 30 years. On the Threshold is just typical of the genre of material that one has come to expect from this nest of dissent.
Its underlying logic or raison d' 'Sire is not difficult to understand. You see, if you dissent from the faith of the Church you have a problem, for if the Church is guided by the Spirit and is indeed infallible in matters of faith and morals how can one logically dissent? The answer is that you have to weaken, dilute and blur the understanding of infallibility.
There are a number of more or less successful ways that professional dissenters do this. One can talk about "the Spirit of Vatican H" and thus avoid ever having to address the real Vatican H. You can talk about "the Mind of the Church", a wonderfully nebulous concept found nowhere in Sacred Scripture. Sacred Tradition or the authentic teachings of the Magisterium and which is simply shorthand for "the consensus of the liberal establishment" .You can of course misread the teachings of Vatican II regarding the status of non-Catholic Christian communions in a way which makes the Catholic Church seem just one
church among many. One nun of my acquaintance has taken this to its logical conclusion and no longer talks of "Catholics", we arc now "Christians of the Roman tradition!" lf we are only part of the Church, how can we possibly claim to be infallible? Then there is the well known Modernist ploy of treating every pronouncemenf as time-dated and therefore capable of revision. There is more recently the up-front, in-your-face sort of dissent that simply relies on the authority that surround' them as members of the catechetical establishment. Canon Humphreys' recent letter in your columns is an example of this' approach. We are simply told that the Church does not teach that "The Real Presence of Christ is real, not imaginary. The bread and wine are a mere disguise." Presumably this type of dissent does not expect you to have the wits to go away and read the Catechism for yourself! On the Threshold's attempt to portray everything as vague, indecisive; "broken" is all just part of this same dreary faithless picture. '
Ultimately of course, if the Church is not infallible there can be neither point to nor obligatiotr on anyone to either come into the Church or, once in, to stay in the Church, for the drunk at the end of the bar putting the world td' rights would have just as much claim to having the words of eter: nal life as the Church has.
Yours faithfully, GRAHAM MOORHOUSE, [email protected]