When everyone else seems to have lots to say, it can sometimes he valuable to shut up and say nothing. We felt like this about the main item in your recent correspondence pages until we read Fr Francis Hegarty's remarks in his letter of February 27.
We whooped with delight and want to support his plea that the Church get on with the job of preaching the Gospel — a task in which we are constantly encouraged by the words and example of the Pope and the urgent demands of the people.
Much of our time is spent with young people in schools, youth clubs, retreats and discussion days. We sec hunger in their faces, a hunger which haunts us. a hunger for the knowledge of God. for contact with Him, for His friendship, for His help. Our Lord hinted at a similar problem among his contemporaries when he said: "Blest are those who know their need of God".
How many times have we seen youngsters begin a session anxious to discuss (and possibly dismiss) the Church's teaching on sexual behaviour, only to find themselves instead coming to grips with and accepting their own sinfulness and need for grace through Christ and his Church.
We are priests. and we are glad that we can in some way guide them in a growing understanding of themselves and our world. We would fail them miserably if we allowed them only to deal with God's gifts, and to forget God Himself! "We arc ambassadors for Christ .. crying out: Be reconciled with God."
It is surely the task of the whole Church to suggest a vision of living to youngsters which brings them to reach out for grace, to open their hearts and minds so that the saving power of Christ can touch them and heal them.
Do we do this by words of hope, by the generosity of our example, by the joy ot our loyalty to Christ and to each other? Or by making sex our most obvious topic of conversation, and a consuming interest in the legality of its varieties an indication of Catholic priorities?
Let's produce the best voice of the Church for those around us in need — the voice which tells the Good News. Let's offer people bread, not stones.
Fr J. Gerard Burke, Director of Vocations Promotion, Diocese of Westminster.
Fr Barry Ffrench,
Director of Youth Work, Diocese of Westminster.
am quite sure that it is Fr Fabian Cowper, 0SI3 (February 20) who, if he has read the recent Vatican declaration on sexual mores, has failed to understand it. Comparing his letter with the document, the latter is quite above his head.
What is an "insult and a scandal" is that a man with such views should have got himself installed as Catl.olic chaplain at a university. By publicising him at least you let us know what is going on. And very interesting it is too.
Don't put your daughter in at York, Mrs Worthington!
J. A. Riley 6 South Avenue, Leigh, Lancashire.
It appears that the tone of my letter of February 20 on the Vatican declaration has caused offence to some people. I should like to apologise to those who were affected by it in this way. And I should add that the views expressed were my own and that I was not writing on behalf of anyone else. The main point of the letter was to remind readers that a genuine plurality does exist in the Church at this moment on these matters. The great variety of letters in this newspaper and elsewhere only reflect this, The first principles of moral theology are in the process of being thrashed out here and now.
The discussion will no doubt go on for some time. We have to allow it to continue even though, in one respect, it would be more convenient for us all if it could be ended quite simply. (Fr) Fabian Cowper, OSB Catholic Chaplaincy, University of York.
We write with reference to the letters (February 27)
criticising Fr Fabian Cowper's stand with regard to the Vatican declaration on sexual ethics. As some of the "young souls" in Fr Cowper's care, we would like to correct the misapprehensions of some of your correspondents, Both Mr Martin Couche, and Mrs Mary Murphy seem to consider that the function of a university chaplain is simply to declare Church doctrine. On the contrary, we would consider that the role of a chaplain was to encourage people to come to an understanding of their Faith rooted in their own personal experience of God.
Most Catholic students at university are well acquainted with the teachings of the Church. But if this is all that students — or any of the laity for that matter — are ever to know, then their faith will remain something superficial, imposed from above rather than being an integral part of their lives.
It is this deeper understanding and assimilation of Faith which Fr Cowper is fostering among the students here.
In answer to Mr G. P. Walker's plea that Fr Cowper give his students a "closely reason.:d analysis" of the Vatican declaration, we would like to point out that he, and all those students interested in this matter. did in fact analyse the document very carefully in a series of discussions.
Finally, Mr Couche inaccurately states that Fr Cowper wishes the Church to keep silent on such important issues. In fact, he was distinguishing between the Holy Office which issued this declaration, and the Church consisting of all the faithful, which was not consulted, and has a right to be heard_ At York, in encouraging the students to think about their religion, and speak their minds, Fr Cowper is ensuring that the rest of the Church does not keep silent.
And may we also assure Mr Couche that. contrary to his opinion, we are greatly impressed with the way in which Fr Cowper fulfils his role as chaplain. He has made an invaluable contribution to the lives of many people, and has helped us towards a more mature understanding of our faith.
Mirian A. Purcell President of Catholic Society (and 58 others). The Catholic Chaplaincy,
It is possible that the way in which Joanna Nash (February 20) and her supporters defended the Vatican statement on sexual problems was not ideal: the general tone was perhaps a little too rigid.
But has Hannah Mylne (February 27) proved herself so superior by expressing an opposing viewpoint in a patronising and smug manner, in very bad verse and by completely omitting logical arguments in support of her claim?
P. Glover 12 Lambs Conduit Passage, London, WCI.
Long poetry is not for me. I just support the Holy See.
Tim Finigan (One of the 53 whose names you didn't print with Joanne Nash's letter of February 20.) 7 Bingham Road,
Addiscombe, Croydon, Surrey.
1 am surprised that Martin Prendergast (February 27) thinks that Miss Joanna Nash and her friends will be put out by not seeing the Pope's signature at the end of the declaration on sexual ethics.
I am sure they were quite happy to read (Para 13) that: At the audience granted on November, 7, 1975 ... Pope Paul VI approved this declaration 'on certain questions concerning sexual ethics', confirmed it. and ordered its publication."
Surely many Catholics young and old who arc simply trying, in spite of all the surrounding confusion, to love God more deeply by endeavouring to follow the life of His Son, will welcome guidance from the Church whether actually signed by the Pope or not.
I cannot pretend to understand what Mr Prendergast means by the declaration "playing games with Scripture": the Scripture references in the Document seemed pretty clear to me.
Can Mr Prendergast or Fr Cowper (February 20) enlighten us by quoting one reference from the Gospels which condones or in any way recommends the practices referred to, namely sexual intercourse outside marriage, homosexual acts or masturbation?
(Miss) Mary. P. Hum 2 Lodge Close, Fetcham, Leatherhead, Surrey.
A lot of the discussion in recent weeks about the Vatican's writings on sexual ethics seems to me cornpletely to miss the point. The Church is concerned with preserving the integrity of sexual love for all generations. Whether this generation likes it or not, this love is concerned with procreation, and as soon as this element is left out, the "exaltation of sex" for its own sake is inevitable, so that "love" expressed in un• natural acts, such as homosexuality, lesbianism, or masturbation, can be considered as uplifting to the spirit as that experienced between man and woman in their natural state.
No wonder our young are confused! They see those, on the one hand, busy smothering "new" life (birth control and abortion), and those on the other hand, who devote their energies to prolonging "old" life (resusceators, etc).
The world is fast losing its respect for human life and dignity and it's
the Pope's business to remind Catholics of their responsibilities in these matters.
Respect and concern for the old. the sick, the handicapped, the poor make a caricature of charity if they are unrelated to a reverence for life itself, just as all the deviations and fornications discussed and practised today make a caricature of sexual love.
Human nature today is no different in its capacity for love than it has ever been, or ever will be; it is merely seeking to justify an unhealthy pre-occupation with the flesh and at the same time turning its back on its responsibilities to future generations. These are thestones we are offering our youth: one can only hope their natural idealism will see the flaws.
J. Cole 2 Norwich Road, Chichester, West Sussex.
Those who criticise or oppose statements of the moral doctrine of the Chuich, besides failing in the reverence and obedience due to ecclesiastical authority, tail also to understand the meaning of Our Lord's injunction: "Love one another as 1 have loved you."
The Cross shows to us the power and extent of Our Lord's love for us. If we are to attain to that perfection of love this demands a life-long generous, self-sacrificing, at times heroic, effort. In demanding this of us, and assuring us that with his grace we can attain to it. Our Lord reveals to us our potentialities: and in seeking to fulfil those potentialities lies true human greatness. This alone makes life on earth worth living.
As Christ's disciples we are called to issue that same challenge to all. And it is no kindness to anyone we deal with to belittle his God-given potentialities and omit to reveal them to him, in the name of "compassion."
One feels that too many of us, in an active life of "compassionate service", give too little of that life to prayer and penance, especially to the prayer of compassion with Christ, sharing in his Passion insofar as he gives us individually to share it. And so we fall back on the secular humanist "compassion" — a sham substitute for genuine charity.
How unkind to the morally weak and sinful to fail to show to them what they can become by the grace of Christ.
(Fr) Edward Chamberlain, OFM Franciscan Friary, Marine Hill, Clevedon, Avon.
It would seem that if the recent Vatican declaration has roused the Catholic population from its slumbers, then it has served its purpose. But there is little point in reiterating ad nauseam the pros and cons of the document's very existence.
"Sexual ethics" has till now been a rarely used phrase on the lips of modern man. Amid the jargon or sociology. psychology and the like, "sexuality" appears to have been a relatively adequate term for a fundamental human element.
Yet it is an indifferent. descriptive term, in itself non-controversial, and as well applied to any of God's animals as to the specifically human. "Sexual ethics," on the other hand. finds its definition solely in human experience; it presupposes a moral sense and raises questions concerning behavioural standards and values.
It is to our disadvantage therefore, that we have become so preo..:cupied with "sexuality" as tio have been nothing less than shocked at the mention or "sexual ethics."
But neither emotional assertions of loyalty to the Pope, nor outright rejection of the document as insulting and scandalous can be really constructive.
Now...that the initial hubbub is (hopefully) dying down, might we not view the declaration in the light of its central tenet, which in the final analysis few Christians could dispute: that the "unbridled exaltation of sex" is detrimental to human dignity, and that Christian life requires an ethical basis for the placing of human sexuality in its perspective as an element of the
Sensitivity and vision (to adapt the words of Miss Nash in her letter of February 20) must be translated into the practical Christian context of understanding, discretion and sympathetic judgment —• to be practised alike by bishops and clergy in their pastoral ministry, and by her laity in the interactions of their day-to-day lives.
In this way soMe positive application might he made of what many people consider to he an essentially negative statement. On such a foundation. perhaps consensus /Welborn becomes a reality.
(Miss) Theresa Sallnow (Student) Bowland College, University of Lancaster.
This correspondence is now closed — Editor.