Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine May-June 2007
STRADDLING THE DIVIDE OVER INTELLIGENT DESIGN
Dear Father Editor,
I agree with you that “the totality of interacting things”, as Father Stanley Jaki likes to call the universe, (along with your Editorial comment, March/April 2007) is the first and best reason for believing in the existence of a Creator. It is a reason closely linked, surely, to the argument from contingent to necessary being, which has always seemed to me just a grander way of saying “things can’t make themselves”.
As for the Intelligent Design people, I don’t see why their suggestion that some things manifest the Creator’s intelligence or ingenuity more than others is so apparently popular. But in so far as it goes, the idea seems to me true. It is the same with human artefacts. To make a sofa requires a lesser degree of intelligence or inventiveness than to make a mincing machine or a mincing machine than a car. But it would not be impossible for one man to have invented all three. As for the Creator, if he likes to make things simple and complex in that unpopular thing an hierarchical order, how does this diminish the evidence for his existence?
In our household we have a Fido who makes nonsense of all forms of atheism not just by the complexity of her body but by her beauty and loveableness.
The inability to give a satisfactory reason for the existence of beauty, goodness and love seems to me the weakest point of all forms of atheism. As for the social consequences, they fill me with dread.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: We thank Mr Trower for this helpful contribution to this important debate. We would accept the traditional insight into degrees of being. Whether a stone or an electron being attracted to a proton is intrinsically less wonderful than the eye or the bacterial flagellum is less clear. The basic and wonderful pattern of their interacting being, immediately under the Mind of God, is the same. Differences of degree alone are not easily consistent with the ID argument, which posits a difference in kind between stones and flagella, analogous indeed (in their argumentation) to the difference between naturally produced things and artificially produced things.
RESPONDING TO THE SORS THREAT TO CATHOLIC EDUCATION
Dear Father Editor,
As one who has been a subscriber to Faith since the early days of the 1970s, I must congratulate you on keeping up the very high standard. The January/February edition contained a number of deep and weighty articles worthy of study.
However, the smaller sections are good, too, and it is about one of these that I wish to make a point. No one could disagree with the arguments of Fr James Tolhurst who demonstrates “that Catholic education is not divisive.” However, the situation that Catholic education is facing in England is even worse than Fr Tolhurst outlines. He says, “As Catholics we contribute to the cost of school building and maintenance and in return we have a majority on the governing body of the school. This guarantees the Catholic ethos of the school and its majority Catholic membership.” I am afraid that this is not longer true.
As well as the direct attacks on our schools by this government that Fr Tolhurst mentions, there has also been undermining of the powers of school governors. Catholic governors no longer control the curriculum in maintained schools; we have a national curriculum. They no longer control their own admissions and, for instance, are forced to take in non‑Catholics to satisfy a number imposed by the government. Soon some Catholic schools may literally have to hold a lottery to allocate places, as is already happening in the state sector. The right to appoint teachers has been under threat for some time, since the government, under the guise of “Diversity and Equality” in practice forbids any real attempt to appoint teachers who pay even lip service to Catholic morality.
The “Sexual Orientations Regulations” currently being pushed through parliament could mean that teaching that homosexual practises are “ a sin crying out to heaven”, rather than a human right, becomes a criminal offence. To my mind, this is even worse than Catholic adoption agencies losing government money by not giving innocent children into the hands of homosexuals.
We need strong action. What I suggest is this: if these regulations are approved – and it looks as if they will be since the government has the necessary control – then the Catholic bishops should act. On one particular day, every Catholic bishop in England and Wales (and Scotland for that matter) should go into a secondary school in his diocese and teach a group of senior pupils the Church’s clear teaching about homosexual acts. This would challenge the government to arrest them all or to accept that Catholic schools were not going to be forced to teach that which is evil. It might be uncomfortable to be in prison, but not so uncomfortable as being at the bottom of the sea with a millstone round one’s neck.
A RALLYING CALL
Dear Father Editor,
From the government of the day downwards the Church in England is treated with contempt, whilst an omniscient media finds her clergy paedophiles or a laughing stock. Meanwhile an increasingly elderly laity finds refuge in the parish church and the company of their ilk. This is no way to keep the Faith.
No one is too old to stand up and be counted. The running though has to be made by the younger generation, few may they happen to be in numbers.
May they receive the grace to hold their heads high and focus upon the only intelligible goal in the circumstances: the conversion of England. More power to your movement’s elbow.
FALSE DISCONTINUITIES IN ISLAM AND PROTESTANTISM
Dear Father Editor,
Father Lynch’s exploration of the points of contact between Protestantism and Islam and their common rejection of Catholicism (Jan/ Feb 07) is congruent with my own. The dynamic of Islam in collision with Christendom seems to be connected to the root cause of divisions among Christians themselves. A common theme which Protestantism shares with Islam, and with the medieval Christian anti-Semitism which Vatican II and Pope John Paul II discarded and condemned, is the belief in the divine repudiation of a faithless people.
The credibility of Islam depends on the cogency of the accusation that the Christians and the Jews have falsified their scriptures, so that those they have today are not as originally given. Similarly, the Protestant battlecry was that Rome had falsified the faith and become thereby the seat of the Antichrist. The belief of Islam and of prominent versions of Christianity is that God has cast aside His once chosen, but now unfaithful, people and started anew with another, in
Bat Ye’or writes that after the Muslims arrived in the Byzantine Empire they re-interpreted the anti- Jewish laws of the Empire within an Islamic conception and imposed them on both Jews and Christians. As they were prescribed in the Qur’an they became the infallible word of Allah, and no longer just that of St. Augustine or St. Ambrose, or St. John Chrysostom.
It seems that if we are to heal the divisions among Christians, we could well start by mending our relations with the Jews. The pronouncements of Pope John Paul II are very clear: the Jewish people have most certainly not been cast away by God, even in unbelief. He continues to keep faith with them, for He is that kind of God. He is not a God of replacement.
Because He is that kind of God, we must be unshakeably confident that He will forever preserve the Jews as an identifiable people before Him, and will forever maintain the stability of the Throne of David as the locus in law of their national sovereignty. At that point the case for Islam or Protestantism begins to be starkly unconvincing.
As a post-script it is worth noting that the ‘Islamification’ of Byzantium involved a crucial and tragic support for the schism of 1054 between the Eastern and the Western Churches. The schism was virtually repaired on 8 June 1439 at the Council of Florence, with the support of 22 of the 23 Eastern Bishops present, and of Byzantine Emperor John VIII Palaeologos, whose father Pope Benedict famously quoted last year at Regensburg and whose brother and successor was to die as the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453.
The Imperial populace and civil authorities besides the Emperor rejected the Union of Florence, and the new Sultan duly obliged them by appointing as Ecumenical Patriarch Gennadios II, who was hostile to the Union and repudiated it. The legacy of protest is with us to this day.
WOMAN BISHOPS AND CREEDAL BELIEF
Dear Father Editor,
There was recently a very extensive independent survey of the doctrinal and moral opinions of the Church of England’s clergy. It found the women to be disbelievers or doubters by 26% “in God the Father Who created the world”(!), by a whopping 67% “that Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin”, by 35% “that Jesus Christ died to take away the sins of the world”, by 47% “that Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead”, by 61% “that Jesus Christ is the only way by which we can be saved”, by 26% “that the Holy Spirit is a Person Who empowers Christians today”, and by 30% “that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are all equally God”.
These shocking figures render utterly pointless any dialogue with the Church of England as such, though not with certain parts of it, nor with strongly Anglo-Catholic or Evangelical provinces of the Anglican Communion abroad. But they are only to be expected, since belief that a woman can indeed be ‘in Persona Christi’ necessitates a Christology falling short of Chalcedonian catholicity (that Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine), and thus a general departure from the teaching of the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople as expressed in the Creed. And belief that a woman can stand in the Apostolic Succession renders it impossible to retain the previously undisputed Apostolic
Of course, not all Anglicans hold anything like our understanding of ordained ministry. We are well used to such Evangelicals, sharing with them the doctrinal and moral essentials of classical Christianity, a commitment to the Augustinian patrimony of the West, recent remarkable joint statements on justification, and much common work for the sanctity of life, Biblical standards of sexual morality, social justice, environmental responsibility and world peace. Many (though not all) Evangelicals, Anglican and otherwise, have accepted women presbyters for reasons with which we do not agree, but which we can understand, and which do not purport to be the Catholic view on this matter. Often, it is just because the mighty priestesses lobby has successfully secured, over recent decades, the abolition of all previously existing patterns of women’s ministry.
An Evangelical woman presbyter, since she does not have an ‘Icon Christi’ understanding of her ministry, is not compromised in her Chalcedonian, and thus also her Niceno-Constantinopolitan, orthodoxy. Nor does she see herself as standing in an Apostolic Succession ultimately inseparable from the Apostolic Canon and its Apostolic kerygma. However, it is most unlikely that many women, or even any woman, raised to the purple in the Church of England would be from its Evangelical wing.
There is growing pressure within the Church of England to create a situation in which the episcopal “team” in each diocese always included both sexes, with women accounting for half of all bishops at any given time. In view of the above figures, and considering that the view of an Anglican bishop is always regarded by the BBC and others as the last word on any religious question, this is a matter of the utmost general concern, as well as a particular worry for parliamentarians, since the essentials of classical, historic, mainstream Christianity are in fact the constitutional basis of the British State (as well as the founding principles of all three political traditions), itself a Union of nations called into being by the Gospel, so that the baptismal covenant is the fundamental charter of each of them. A blocking amendment to this effect should be put down in both Houses whenever a Draft Bishops (Ordination of Women) Measure comes before Parliament, and should be supported by all Christian parliamentarians, whatever their views on the ordination of women per se. We must all lobby our MPs, and as many peers as possible, to that effect, starting immediately.