From Mr John Nolan Sir, In his article "Church of Power" (Oct. 26) Gerard Noel displays a very imperfect understanding of the relationship between Church and State since the time of Constantine. Christianity's status as the official religion of the Roman Empire have the Latin Church an infrastructure, based on Roman provincial administration, which enabled it to survive the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. Had this not happened there would have been no papacy and by definition no Catholic Church; the Latin-Rite Celtic church, far removed from Constantinople, would have been left to wither on the vine; the most likely outcome in the long term would have been a Western Europe, and by extension a New World, under the sway of Islam. Secondly it is quite misleading to suggest, as Mr Noel does, that Church and State in medieval Europe represented a unified entity with the state as "junior partner." At the end of the first millennium Western Europe was a violent and anarchic place; when Barbarian kings adopted Christianity they and their powerful vassals tended to moderate their conduct, particularly with regard to the conduct of warfare. However, medieval Christendom accepted the distinction between regular and religious, temporal and spiritual. Although there was considerable overlap. and occasional conflict (Henry II and Becket in England, and the Investiture Content in Germany, for example) the relationship was a symbiotic one since both sides recognised limits to their respective authority. The rise of more bureaucratically-efficient nation states in the early modern ever decreased rather than enhanced the independence and authority of Rome. Interestingly, attempts to create theocratic states such as Calvin's Geneva or Cromwell's England were confined to extreme Protestant groups and mercifully short-lived.
Thirdly, Mr Noel's contention that the French Revolution established freedom of conscience and freedom of religion is somewhat difficult to sustain if one looks at the actions of the revolutionaries S opposed to their rhetoric. The Protestants in France were granted civil rights by Louis before the events of 1789. Catholics in England, which does indeed have a state church, had to wait until 1829 for similar privileges.
Finally, the reason why October is no longer regarded as the month of Christ the King might well be because the Vatican 11 reform of the calendar moved the feast, established by Pius X1 as recently as 1925, to the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent and hence the month of November.
Yours faithfully, JOHN P NOLAN Grantham, Lincs.
Abortion and hatred
From Mrs. Dominica Roberts Sir, In spite of their abrasive (and in my opinion uncharitable and counter-productive) style, the UK LifeLeaguc are clearly correct in saying that the MAP and some other so-called "contraceptives" can act to end a human life and may, therefore, cause an early abortion.
However, I really do not think you should carry their advertisement calling abortion "the ultimate bate crime". As a Life counsellor for over 20 years I am convinced that the motives of those who are concerned in an abortion include misguided but well-meant sympathy, ignorance, blind panic, sometimes selfishness, possibly dislike of the idea of a baby, but nothing that could be called hatred.
The facts about abortion are quite bad enough without exaggerating the motives. We must show Christian love and understanding as well as practical help especially for the mothers concerned.
Yours faithfully DOMINICA ROBERTS [email protected]
Defenders of the faith
From Father G Dickinson Sir, I consider it urgent that our bishops take an honest and humble look at those issues which have, for almost half a century, seen our Church fall into public disunity and our members decrease at an alarming rate.
First, we need to bring to a halt the pitting of the Episcopal Conference against the See of Rome. The current dispute over Liturgiam Authenticam is an example of such false rivalry since Vatican 11 clearly stated that necessary liturgical adaptations were to be admitted by territorial authorities only with the approval of Rome (S'acmsanctum conedium 40 (1J). Vatican II it was clear that collegiality is essential to the nature of the Church but only under Papal authority: together with the Pope but never without him. Bishops have authority over the Church while the Pope has full and universal authority over the entire Church and every shepherd which he can always exercise unhindered (Lumen gentium 22).
Next, Holy Mass must recover its sense of the sacred worship of the Divine Majesty. This has been lost as mimes and dances are performed and the "performers" applauded. Meanwhile the altar is frequently used as a school display board and a work desk for Father with the placing of spectacles, hymn books and Bulletins. The lectern is used for all sorts of notices and appeals and even the Word of God in the psalm replaced with the world of man (nonsaiptural hymns)— so that people can sing — another indication of Mass as being for our pleasure rather than Divine Worship. No winder the Eucharistic action is no longer seen as central to Catholic life. Indeed, our bishops need to establish our faithfulness to Vatican D's declaration that Gregorian Chant be given pride of place in the Mass (SC 116) upheld by the 1974 letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship on the minimum repertoire of Plain chant, which came with Jubilate Deo as a personal gift from Paul VI.
The misrepresentation of the "sense of the faithful" also needs to be corrected, for it is now being seen as "judge" over papal teaching, whereas Vatican II was clear that Papal definitions are irreformabIe by their very nature and not by consent of the Church (Lumen Gentium 25).
Finally in regards to morality, the subjectivism prevalent today has been nurtured by the loss of pastoral sensitivity in favour of pastoral sentimentality, the former being sensitive application of moral teaching, the latter being non-application of such teaching in order not to hurt feelings. If emotions alone are tended to, the soul gets damaged.
I myself am not without faults. Following the scandal of clerical paedophilia I have wrongly abandoned clerical dress because its message to the un-Churched is not longer one of holiness, but if Christ's Church is to recover, from disunity and decline rather then respect the Roman See, worship of God rather than man and clear moral standards are required. It is for the Bishops to ensure this occurs. They can no longer be moderates between positions (itself damaging) but defenders of the Faith.
Yours faithfully, G DICKINSON Newcastle upon Tyne Being a priest From Dr Rosalind Maskell Sir, Floreat Pastor Inventus. He seems unafraid to tell your readers what it really feels like to be a priest in the Catholic Church of today, and to open our eyes to outdated and pernicious practices which persist in some places. I found it almost incredible that there are parishes where candidates for Confirmation are expected to write down their sins on paper and watch them publicly burned. Have these catechists no children or grandchildren of their own'? Would they subject them to this unwise, and certainly uncharitable (in the true sense of the word), practice? If the young are to develop a habit of regular Confession they will only do so if their parents return to it. For this to happen the positive, rather than the negative, aspects of the Sacrament must be emphasised.
Yours faithfully, ROSALIND MASKELL Rowlands Castle, Hampshire
Perils of Christians
From Mr John Chater Sir, The horrific massacre of worshipping Christians in St Dominic's church, Bahawalpur, provides further evidence that the current international war, is being waged not against so vague a target as terrorism, but rather against an enraged and expan sionist Islam.
Of course, the liberal consensus here is that any such assertion connotes racism and that, at all costs, the conflict must not be personalised to the extent that one creed or another bears the brunt of direct accusation. Regrettably, such timidity prevents the problem being identified honestly. We in the West must, at some stage, accept the fact that we face an increasingly totalitarian and violent manifestation of Islam which, for theological more than political reasons, objects to our chosen way of life. We cannot propitiate our sensibilities by pretending that this animosity is felt only by a minority of lunatics, as this is demonstrably untrue.
In many respects, fundamentalist Islam, as propagated in the Muslim-theocracies, may well be to the 21st century what Soviet Union communism was to the 20th. It certainly shares the hallmarks of being militant, expansionist, and violently opposed to dissent. It would be both unfortunate and dangerous if today's politicians and intellectuals copied
many of their 20th century
contemporaries and, for reasons of political sensitivity or ideology, refused to condemn a series of theocratic regimes which are proving to be literally murderous.
JOHN CHATER [email protected]
Memorials by artists
From Harriet Frazer Sir, I write regarding the excellent article by Anthony Symondson in last month's Charterhouse Chronicle, "The quiet revolution in a graveyard near you". I would be most grateful if you would print our correct telephone number: 01728 688934.
We would be pleased to send anyone interested a copy of our free illustrated leaflet, which explains how we can help with the commissioning of well designed, hand carved memorial. It also describes the educational work of The Memorial Arts Charity.
Yours faithfully, HARRIET FRAZER Memorials by Artists Tunbridge Wells TN1 2ED