Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine January – February 2011
THE GATHERING STORM
Dear Father Editor,
Thank you for the July issue of Faith and its splendid editorial ("Budding Hopes and Sudden Storms: Newman's Beatification and Rage against the Church").
Speaking about the contemporary lack of faith you say that it is not clear what is going to come of it. For examples of what is coming of it I would refer to the Christian Legal Concern website. For instance one Duke Amachree has recently discovered that it is dangerous to say "God Bless" to a stranger.
Fr Aldhelm Cameron-Brown OSB
Prinknash Abbey, Gloucestershire
FOCUSING MORE UPON SCIENCE AND RELIGION
Dear Father Editor,
I have just read most of the latest articles in your November-December magazine. I'll be copying some of them to send to some priest and philosopher friends who I think would most appreciate them. I was delighted to read that this unity is coming about through the best Catholic thought, especially for our grandchildren who are subjected to the prevalent influences.
I am so glad, too, that the Pope made such an impression on the British Isles. I agree that he is just the right leader for these difficult times.
Now if you'll permit me some critical comment: I am discouraged to see how much homosexuality gets coverage in your magazine. True, the sexual revolution has caused the waters to become very muddied. And because it is so complicated an issue, it might be better to exclude it from your main focus. Otherwise, I fear that serious readers will simply write you off without grasping the true significance of your main work.
As your magazine goes a long way to clarify one very big problem, that is gift enough.
Pocatello, Idaho, USA
"GIVING SCANDAL": STILL A RELEVANT CONCEPT?
Dear Father Editor,
Thank you for William Oddie's September column. It, in effect, gives the lie to Archbishop Longley's attack on those of us who pray outside the Church of Our Lady and St Gregory during the five o'clock Masses for "lesbian and gay Catholics" every first and third Sunday. The Archbishop's words were published in the 11th December 2010 edition of The Tablet. They include some inaccuracies which need correcting.
First, our prayer vigil is not a protest. We are praying in reparation for any sacrileges that might be taking place.
Secondly, the practising nature of numerous of the congregation's relationships is in the public forum, as Dr Oddie's above-mentioned column shows. Westminster diocese seems to be nullifying standard Catholic practise concerning those whose public lifestyle is in objective and serious contradiction of Christianity. Archbishop Longley dismissively tells us that "The Church does not, as it were, have a moral means testing".
He says he doesn't know whether any of us "have made attempts to meet the people who are going to these Masses". In fact we have met many of them. Some of us have been down to the Social Hour which follows every Mass where we have received kind hospitality. I would like to put it on record here that most of them are very friendly and perfectly honest about their homosexual lifestyles, introducing us to their partners and emphasising that they are in sexual relationships. So we are not "making any assumptions" about them.
Of course there are chaste homosexuals in the Church who do live chaste lives and they need our respect and support. From my personal friendships and numerous phone calls I have received I know that many, perhaps the vast majority, would never ask for or attend any Mass arranged especially for homosexuals. They go to Mass in their own parish and only receive Holy Communion if they are in a state of Grace, like the rest of us. They are very concerned about the Soho Masses where everyone receives Holy Communion in spite of openly admitting they are in and intend to stay in homosexual relationships.
I do feel the official turning of a blind eye to the reality is not in any sense compassionate or pastoral. These Catholics need and deserve proper guidance, especially the young ones who have not received good religious instruction. I cannot forget the poor young man who said to me, "There is no need to worry about us Daphne, if it were still wrong these Masses would not have been especially arranged for us."
Fife Way, Great Bookham, Surrey
THE PROTESTANT VIEW OF SACRIFICE
Dear Father Editor,
In his article Priesthood in the New Testament Father Vickers leaves me at something of a loose end at the point where he says: "It is no surprise that at the Reformation the Protestants rejected both the Mass and the priesthood ..." (July/August 2010).
The question is why did the Protestants abjure the idea of Eucharistic Sacrifice? The most obvious explanation is that given by Richard Bennett and Michael de Semlyen in John Henry Newman: Becoming Rome's First Ecumenical Saint (Dorchester House Publications): "Nor can it be called a sacrifice because it [Scripture] consistently insists that the Sacrifice is once and for all and, therefore, unrepeatable. The unique oneness of Christ's sacrifice is in this very fact, that it was one offering once made. The concept 'once' is deemed so important that it is asserted seven times by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament."
Now, this explanation is, at face value, compelling. However, there is a refutation which, surprisingly, the Church has never offered. The identity of the Sacrifice of the Mass with that of Calvary requires an identity of the Last Supper with both and requires us to isolate the quintessence of Christ's Priesthood.
"Do this in commemoration of me" easily establishes that Jesus commanded His Apostles to do identically the same thing as He had done in pronouncing the words "This is my body given for you" and "This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
The clue lies in the word "covenant" (Hebrew: b'rit). In the Bible a covenant is by definition always sworn, and where there is no oath there is no covenant. By the words of institution Jesus was not predicting His own death as an event which would happen to Him. He was, in the quintessence of priesthood, swearing a promissory oath reinforcing His decision sacrificially to die on His own terms. Hours later He was under arrest, and dead within less than twenty-four hours. The swearing of the oath and its fulfilment are mutually identical, the latter assured by the fact of the former, because Jesus was incapable of perjury.
It should be clear that, though a man may risk his life in a cause of sufficient importance, he sins gravely if he directly wills his own death as he goes in harm's way to give effect to that decision, and commits an egregious blasphemy if he promises on the Divine Name to do so. Unless he happens also to be God. Such an awesome oath is not something a man may safely swear on his own initiative, hence the need for sacramental ordination. When a validly ordained priest pronounces the words of institution, it is not the death of Christ which is repeated, but the oath by which He swore to die. The priest and the people implicate themselves in Christ's oath, and lawfully only by reason of His divinity and the validity of the priest's ordination.
It follows that, when we go to Mass, we effectively stake our eternal salvation on the profession that Jesus is God, telling heaven that if He is not, then the true God may cast both Him and us into hell on the Last Day.
Balfour Road, Brighton