Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine September-October 2010
SRE FOR A HEDONIST SOCIETY
Dear Father Editor,
Thank you for printing the article by Antonia Tully, "Pro-Life Education for Children", in the May/June edition of Faith magazine. The "This is my Body" programme sounds like an excellent resource for Catholics who take their children's education seriously and want to promote a healthy understanding of the great gift of sexuality. I am convinced that if such programmes are augmented by the vision presented by the Theology of the Body such as that put forward in "Called to Love" by Carl Anderson and Father Jose Granados, then Catholic children will not only be better able to resist the false attractions of the Culture of Death and the nihilistic philosophies of modern youth culture, they will also go on to live more complete and happier lives.
With this said, I would like to raise a few concerns about the suitability of such programmes for contemporary schooling. There will be undoubted benefits in using schemes like "This is my Body" for home schooling and in schools which have a strong Catholic ethos and excellent links with parents but I doubt their effectiveness outside of this context if used in isolation. I am referring to Catholic schools which do not regard the Church's social and moral teaching as pillars of education, and those which include a significant number of children from families which are nominally Catholic, non-Catholic, broken, lacking in child supervision or neglectful.
Many children are brought up on a diet of sexually explicit and violent material through the media - how can we possibly hope to provide a positive message under such a bombardment? How do we uphold our view on fatherhood in relation to the Almighty Father if a child comes from a broken home? How do we promote respect for women as mothers and wives if a child sees their own mother let down by a series of men?
Here are some telling statistics from the Channel 4 Teen Sex Survey, which confirm the recent Home Office one you surveyed in you March editorial:
• 58\% of all 14- to 17-year-olds have viewed pornography online, on mobile phones, in magazines, movies or on TV
• 40\% of all 14- to 17-year-olds are sexually active
• 20\% of those surveyed had their first sexual experience at 13 or under
• 1 in ten 17-year-olds has had sex with a stranger (one night stand)
• Just 6\% of teens would wait until marriage before having sex
Many if not most schools are faced with the need to deal with a majority of pupils who have suffered the consequences of assaults on a holistic understanding of human sexuality. They need the resources to challenge effectively the potency of implied, overt and pornographic references to sex in popular culture if children are to have any chance of realising their full potential. Also methods of healing those suffering from the consequences of such exposure need to be integrated into SRE if it is really to address the issue.
I would therefore hope that future Catholic SRE programmes would develop a three-fold strategy to this important aspect of Christian Education: A vision of human sexuality founded on the teaching of the Church, a means to help children combat the conflicting messages of modern society and a recognition of the need for healing in many of those under their care.
Might I also take this opportunity to thank you for the excellent Road from Regensburg article exploring the nature of the media attack on the Pope.
Beverley Close, Fforestfach, Swansea
A KEY PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE ISSUE
Dear Father Editor,
The possible harmful pastoral consequences of a new scientific theory should not have any bearing on whether it is accepted by the Church. New scientific theories, when proven indisputably, must be acknowledged. Galileo's bombshell that the earth is not the axis around which the universe revolves but a mere satellite of the sun must have disturbed Catholic minds at that time and the Fathers of the Church must have seriously considered its effect on the good of souls, their prime duty. In this case science was right and its findings had to be accommodated.
Darwin's theory of evolution, on the other hand, now 160 years old, is still by no means proven and its effect on souls has been, and continues to be, horrendous! It is the mainstay of atheistic communism in that it conveniently edges God out of the Creation process and thus out of existence altogether. This theory (conceived by an atheist) has been in great part responsible for the slaughter of millions, body and soul. Has any other idea by a scientist had anywhere near such appalling fruits? Nuclear bombs do not kill souls. Why flirt with such a thing?
Dom Aldhelm and many others do not think that evolution in some form is incompatible with faith; maybe not but it weakens it disastrously! It helps massively the great current heresy, "When I understand it, I will believe it"; "Credo ut intelligam" back to front. Even simple ordinary folk today put reason before faith, unlike before the "enlightenment" when theology was accepted as the "queen of sciences" and science its handmaid.
If, when Jesus fed the 5,000, He had said, "This will take a little time, lunch will be ready in about half an hour", He would still have demonstrated that He was the almighty God, but not quite so almighty as when performing the miracle instantly. All of Jesus' miracles were rapid; I think that the miracle of creation was similarly rapid. Gradual evolution by introducing a long time frame into the process insidiously erodes our perception of God as almighty.
The mere suggestion that a rational explanation of creation is possible, and indeed probable in the future, is enough to destroy the tender shoots of faith in immature souls and has done so on a vast scale and not just in atheistic regimes. Therefore wriggling out of that now discredited part of evolution (natural selection) but still clinging on to a general belief in a still not proven theory is still to be responsible for weakening the Faith. A more subtle, sophisticated but still speculative theory on the subject might satisfy certain academics, but it is lost on the millions in the pews.
I suggest therefore that, since an unproven theory is doing such terrible damage to souls, the Faith Movement should play down evolution until proof (intermediate fossils please) is forthcoming, or better still, abandon it altogether. Priest/scientists have an enormous responsibility to get this one right.
Seymour Drive, Torquay
Mr Allen captures an approach that is present, we think, beyond the Creationist movement. It can also be discerned in the thought of influential Catholic thinkers who accept much of modern science including evolution but only on the condition that this knowledge is not permitted to challenge the traditional Catholic metaphysical vision (see our next editorial).
At the heart of the idea of evolution is the fact that all physical things are intelligibly connected across time. Mr Allen implies that this latter insight "conveniently edges God out of the Creation process" and that "a long time frame" precludes its immediate creation by God. But this flows from a philosophy of science that is, unwittingly, akin to that which has accompanied the rise of atheism, namely the position that intelligibly relating things across time and space removes the need for a transcendent creator of those relationships. One of the most popular and influential of such philosophies of science has been nominalism which denies the ontological reality of the natural relationships between things.
To try to find gaps in the cosmic web (woven without seam) in order to introduce the creator God is to play the game on an atheistic philosophical field and is thus a massive hostage to fortune.
The vision proposed by this magazine implies that it is those dimensions within Indo-Greco-Catholic metaphysics which deny the thoroughgoing overall intelligibility and inter-relativity of the physical being of the universe which have been the seed of modern (nominalistic) individualism and agnosticism. It is such false philosophies of science that have been behind the Marxist, and the secularist, use of evolution. How tragic for our Church if, in the name of fighting atheism, we continue to foster some of its key presumptions.
NEWMAN AND CONSCIENCE
Dear Father Editor,
Thank you very much for Fr. Tolhurst's article on Newman and the Magisterium, providing as it does a much needed clarification of our great and holy cardinal's teaching on conscience.
The only thing all too many Catholics seem to know about it are his unfortunate throw-away lines in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk about drinking first to conscience and afterwards to the Pope. One realises the point he was trying to get across.
Not everything a Pope or Bishop says has in all circumstances to be obeyed.
But his words were bound to be misunderstood in Rome, as well as distorting his teaching in a way that for generations has allowed Catholics anxious to challenge the magisterium on some point of faith and morals to claim that they have Newman on their side. Newman would have been horrified if he could have forseen the use his 'verbal aside' would be put to.
The essence of the matter is surely this. If a man's conscience, after due inquiry under the influence of grace, tells him the Catholic Church is what it claims to be he is not abandoning the use of his conscience when he subjects it to the direction of the magisterium (papal or collegial) in matters of faith and moral. In this case conscience and the voice of the magisterium have become one. It is like a perfect marriage. Should anyone feel inclined to toast the two parties it should surely be simultaneously; the magisterium as the voice of Christ, conscience for having recognised the fact.
Stansted Bury, Ware, Herts
We would add Newman's actual words from the "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk": "Unless a man is able to say to himself, as in the Presence of God, that he must not, and dare not, act upon the Papal injunction, he is bound to obey it, and would commit a great sin in disobeying it." See our last Truth Will Set You Free for other relevant quotes.
FOYERS FOR BRITAIN?
Dear Father Editor,
Joanna Bogle's conclusion in her book review of Martin Blake's "Marthe Robin and the Foyers of Charity", that it would be rather good to have one in Britain, is absolutely correct. In 1979 I met this French mystic, Marthe Robin, who died in 1981. It was by pure chance or providence. I had my wallet stolen, including my passport, on the Paris— Marseilles train. Left with very little, a priest, who lived near Valence, took care of me.
He persisted in encouraging me to make a Foyer retreat at Chateauneuf de Galaure. It was on that retreat that I was introduced to Marthe in her farmhouse, a mile or two away.
The retreat was a week of almost absolute silence, with four conferences each day giving an overview of Church teaching. Our Lady had revealed to Marthe that an unevangelised France of the future would need such contemplative schools of catechesis.
Prior to 1979 my main concern was justice and peace, liberation theology and all the horizontal realities of the Church. It was the conference on spiritual warfare, by Fr. Finet the co-founder of the Foyers that underlined for me what had been lacking in my theological training. Marthe Robin was an icon to that spiritual reality. Favoured with extraordinary and miraculous gifts she battled with the Evil One until her final hours. For fifty years she had no food or drink, no sleep, was blind, absolutely handicapped, never leaving her tiny cot of a bed.
Her only sustenance was to receive-the Body of Christ once each week. Then for a few days she would enter into sharing the mystical passion of our Saviour, with our Lady. Amidst the horrors of the twentieth century, she was a scientific contradiction, but blessed with stigmatisation.
Her life influenced many people who were encouraged to begin many renewal movements and many new ecclesiastical communities in the later part of the twentieth century. For me, by the grace of God, I hope one day to thank in glory the thief on the Paris-Marseilles train who caused me to encounter the Foyers and their founders.
Fr Michael Kelly
St Martin de Porres, Wakefield, Yorkshire