A CORRESPONDENT in this newspaper's Letters Page of April 28, desiring that some of our priests he allowed to take wives, takes me solemnly to task for not having "some commitment to Fr Hastings himself." Alas. But I still somehow think that one can seriously approve of married clergy without reference to Fr Hastings and without being pompus and tetchy about it.
For the fact remains that Fr Hastings' threat (March 31) to get married if his views did not prevail and pretty sharpishly at that was funny and deserved to be treated as "a bit of a joke." I find myself forced to laugh at Fr Hastings even if only pour pest, d'en pleurer.
To quote the Sunday Times (a thing I seldom do): "We have been guided by an overriding axiom: that in a free society the law should be changed, not broken."
And this demonstrating priest is threatening a breach of the law and an act of contempt, and he cannot claim that, as in Thomas More's case, there is a great principle or issue of conscience at stake.
But some people seem to look for controversy and an engineered sense of outrage within the Church to patience and a measure of obedience.
Yet there are issues of policy at stake, and one of them was put to me by the late Cardinal Heenan seven years ago. (I know his name does not impress the modish angries.) But he said, talking about the turmoil within the clergy: "It is becoming an absolute scandal, The laity are not going to be impressed by these good men discussing themselves."
Could not the inexorable approach to marriage for certain categories of clergy be made quietly and rationally and without the high drama that so easily turns to farce? The answer is "No."
But another letter really made me grieve; no source could have been, to me, more unexpected. Bishop Alan Clark of East Anglia wrote: "I regret that the Catholic Herald should find the unhappy situation at Cromer newsworthy."
You may recall that the new parish priest at Cromer has turned his happy parish upside down in the pursuit of what he considers best.
It is an unhappy situation. But is public silence the answer? Is it best to leave the parishioners who are unhappy quite unreported? Have we no duty to face such a real and
relevant crisis and share it and report it?
If the Bishop means that we are dabbling in things that do not concern us, then he should say so. And Fleet Street would then have the most effective anti-Catholic story since well, never mind.
It is right and it is conventional to dislike the Press. They are a necessary nuisance. So when a situation goes sour or a decision proves unwise, it is an ordinary, conventional, reflex thing to blame the Press.
But I would have been ashamed of the Catholic Herald if they had refused the story when it was offered. And does the bishop not heed the new and more understanding relationship between the Church here and the Mass Media? And what will he say on May 7, which is the Sunday set aside by the Pope to foster that relationship?
Proud church in a proud street
ONE of the proudest streets in London is Kingsway. It connects the frontiers of Bloomsbury with the Overseas Services of the BBC, which are inmured in that fine, mad monument to nothing in particular which is Bush House.
The street was pushed through a warren of old houses, churches and streets and opened by Edward VII in 1905. In it is the church of St Anselm and St Cecilia, which is a quietfronted church, flush with the rest of the rather dull and halfhearted bombast of this early masterpiece of the LCC.
For the 12.30 weekday Mass the other day it was more than hall' full. And if you have any feeling for its period, you will
be pleasantly surprised. It is Edwardian, but rich without being vulgar. crowded without being cluttered, expensive without being ostentatious. So there is a fine arching roof high over the sanctuary. The tabernacle, floodlit, stands on a stone shelf jutting from the carved reredos of the former high altar. It is a very successful adaptation to the new usage.
More than that, it has that quality of prayerfulness which makes some buildings numinous and which has nothing whatsoever to do with the lighting or design and which I am quite unable to define and which is probably a subjective reaction anyway.
It is the descendant of the chapel of the Royal Sardinian Embassy. The Kings of Sar dinia were of the House of Savoy, and they became the Kings of Italy. Like the Bavarians, Spanish and Portuguese, they had their private chapels which in effect were Mass centres sheltered by diplomatic immunity in the 18th century.
This chapel, in a part of Lincoln's Inn Fields which has been "improved" out of ex istence, was once served by seven chaplains. It was once burnt accidentally, though there was a convenient mob at hand, celebrating the victory of Quiberun Bay, to loot it.
It was the first victim of the Gordon Riots in 1780 which
were really a rebellion of despair against the Establishment, though anti Catholic in form. But the Sacrament and the vessels were saved.
Dr Arne, who wrote "Rule Britannia," wrote two Masses for it. He was described as "not a very exact Catholic". He either conformed to the State Church or died with the Last Sacraments. I have read of both ends.
A Mgr Gioacchino Pecci said Mass here. He was Papal Nuncio in Brussels and, as you know, later reigned to a prodigious age as Leo XIII. Bishop Challoner, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, author of "The Garden of the Soul" and a thoroughly good and sensible man, buried in Westminster Cathedral, used this chapel.
The British Government forbade him to preach there on the superficially reasonable
grounds that His Sardinian Majesty's subjects did not require sermons in English.
He occasionally used to say Mass in a pub called "The Ship" close by. It is still there, with the bishop's name on its wall. At a time when Catholics
were barely. tolerated, he used to teach in a private room there.
Everyone had a mug of beer in front of them as a cover. Bishop Challoner did not drink his. The Bishop's beer was devoutly finished after he had gone.
Staunch Catholics of the old sort ought to visit "The Ship" after the 12.30 at St AnseIm's. It could be a sort of grateful pilgrimage for the Bishop and for the many innkeepers who gave shelter to the Mass and for a potboy called Archer from his pub who became a most eloquent priest and Vicar-General of London District. All of which would make a better excuse than any except that you arc thirsty.
Demo with a difference
LAST Sunday about a thousand Christians walked in London from the site of Newgate Gaol to the Tyburn Convent. This was the annual Tyburn Walk. It is an extraordinary experience still.
I used to do it as a child and cannot remember all the details. I last did it when I was about 12 years old walking in the shelter of my father. Last Sunday, singing the Credo in the street between the convent and Hyde Park, it was suddenly, for me, profoundly disturbing but in a good way.
The walk is run by the Guild of Ransom. We gathered outside the Church of St Sepulchre which used to stand in front of the gaol. The Old Bailey across the road now makes a good stand-in as our monument to misery and inhumanity,
St Sepulchre's was locked. I made the pious ejaculation to myself, "Bloody Protestants," which was justified by their discourtesy or poyery of imagination. We set off walking behind a large plain wooden processional cross. There was a tall bishop, and four abreast the others followed, a wellmarshalled and totally silent demo.
We were an ordinary lot if you discount a prevalence of nuns. Not many priests. One or two far-out zealots. Far less outlandish than the antiWindscale lot I'd seen the day before, more of a mixture of class and ages and not so much of that plastic clothing which has become the latest form of environmental polution. We stopped in the noble cad de-sae outside St Etheldreda's in Ely Place and fired off a rosary. Then on down the decayed great shopping streets of London.
We stopped outside St Patrick's in Soho Square, which looked very umbrian, and sang a couple of hymns.
At Kingsway some young men tried to jeer, but you can't jeer fruitfully at silent people who look back at you as if you were silly. A tipsy man in a taxi shouted: "Up Spurs" perhaps the most sacred thing he could think of.
An educated man asked: "What are you demonstrating against this time?" (Well, there is a lot of it about.) I said: "Titus Oates," in my talkingduring-Mass voice, but it didn't seem to satisfy him.
In Oxford Street I was caught for a time between a pair of flagging nuns and a thrusting wheel-chair, My feet were killing me and for a while I thought of hurdles for the wrong reasons.
And then we went past the Tyburn marker and sang the Credo and knelt for Benediction in the Bayswater Road.
There is a danger that the Tyburn Walk might dwindle away. That would be a tragedy. It is not triumphalist or sentimental. It is a sober and honourable and effective affir mation. IL is completely unembarrassing.
It ought to be publicised, even on the day, from every pulpit in London. There ought to be an ecumenical prayer in St Sepulchre's first. St Etheldreda's and St Patrick's ought to greet the procession not only with open doors but with their choirs singing and their relics enthroned outside.
It should he made one of the people's great, national annual Christian occasions in London. It took two hours at a prisoner's pace,
THE Hibernian Society in Charleston, South Carolina, has been accused of racial discrimination by the Vicar-General of the diocese, who is a Fr Thomas R. Duffy. This does not mean that they exclude Ulstermen.
This benevolent society, 350 strong, sponsors the local St Patrick's Day Parade. And a somewhat complex situation has arisen. A former president of the society hurled the accusation back respectfully into Fr Duffy's teeth.
He is Mr Carl Pulkinen, of Finnish extraction, who said: "I'm a Protestant and we've had Jewish members for over 100 years. We have 30 Jewish members now."
Someone then asked him if blacks would be considered for membership on their merits if they asked to join. Mr Pulkinen said: "I would think so." The mayor of Charleston, Mr Joseph P. R. Riley, Jr., broke with tradition and could not march because there were no blacks. His Honour is a Catholic.
St Patrick's Day in the United States is the chief of the ethnic festivals, Almost everyone of the other groups has their own,
The Latins have Columbus Day, and various others march down Main Streets in the ribbon and furbeloes of the Old Country. But St Patrick's Day had almost lost its ethnic quality; even the blacks used to wear shamrock in New York and tolerate the Creme de menthe in their beer.
But in the South, the Catholics held a somewhat dif
ficult position. They used to be despised. The Ku Klux Klan
was against Catholics as well as against negroes, but not quite so keenly.
Always excepting the State of Louisiana and the City of St
Louis, they were regarded.as pretty inferior and unreliable lot.
At that time the Catholics were every bit as racially intolerant as the others. When was in the United States, in one Southern parish, the white boys set upon the blacks who attended the same church and jostled them after Mass for coming up to Communion at the same time.
I know this could not happen now but, goodness, the parish priest was cross when I telephoned from Washington to ask what had happened.
And anyway, the nearest thing to a Poet Laureate that the Confederacy (the Southern States in the war between the States) had was a priest, Fr Abram J. Ryan (1839-1886), who was a military chaplain with the Southern troops.
After their defeat, he wrote a threnody for their battle flag, a valedictory to The Lost Cause, which the injured South took to its heart. Fr Ryan wrote: Furl that Banner for 'as weary, Round its staff, 'tis drooping dreary, Furl it,fold it, it is best .
He said he got his inspiration for this from the Gregorian Chant.