Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

FAITH Magazine March-April 2010


Dear Father Editor,

Your editorial in the January-February 2010 issue seems a little exaggerated. I fully agree that it is desirable to have more believing Catholics and who are experts in their fields involved in the media. But I was not aware of that debate and imagine that few people now remember it: attacks on the Church in the media are so normal that they are not really "news".

What I did see was Ann Widdecombe speaking about the Ten Commandments (an hour long programme on Channel 4, on 7 Feb 2010). She was first class. She put her case (that the Commandments, having guided society for three thousand years, are still fully relevant today) convincingly, while at the same time letting the "opponents" have their say. She referred to the debate you mentioned and, with lighthearted humility, admitted her side had been defeated, but then she showed two interviews of Prof Hitchens and Stephen Fry she had made immediately after the debate and the two atheists seemed rather pathetic to me. Fry said he did not want to accept commands from anyone: what about the command of driving on the left hand side of the road? She also talked to an attractive and liberated scripturescholar who rejected the existence of Moses and the Exodus. Widdecombe let her speak and the scholar's views sounded ridiculous. We also heard a female psychologist rejecting the Commandment "Thou shalt not covet", defending the modern consumerist society. It was a wonderfully counterproductive interview (perhaps especially applicable to our present moment of general indebtedness). And then there was an interview with a Cambridge historian who pointed out how English law, going back to the days of King Alfred the Great, is solidly based on the Commandments. Widdecombe may not be a theological or philosophical expert but she is a woman of faith and such witnesses are also needed and very effective.

May I also thank you for publishing, in your previous issue, William Oddie's piece on Conrad Black. I have not had personal contact with Lord Black, but admire the improvements introduced by him (or I assume they were due to his influence) in the Daily Telegraph, Spectator and Catholic Herald. I was astonished in the months of his trial to see him vilified by some sectors of the media, with virtually no recognition of his positive contributions. I wondered to what extent those attacks were due to his being so open in his aim to give a stronger role in journalism to believers, both Catholics and from other faith backgrounds.

Yours faithfully
Fr Andrew Byrne
Leopold Road,
London W5

Dear Father Editor,

Thank you for your first-rate editorial about the London Debate, Why We Lost and What We Must Learn, in the January issue of Faith.

May I offer a piece of ammunition for anyone in the future finding themselves in the position of Ann Widdecombe or Archbishop Onaiyekan. I quote from a letter from the economist and member of the Bloomsbury group John Maynard Keynes written in 1934. "Our generation -yours and mine.... owed a great deal to our fathers' religion. And the young ... who are brought up without it will never get so much out of life. They're trivial: like dogs in their lusts. We had the best of both worlds. We destroyed Christianity yet had its benefits." One hardly knows which to be most astonished by: the author's almost prophetic prescience or his frivolity. What did he think life would be like when the last traces of Christianity had been wiped out of the public domain? The quotation is from the Introductionto Vol 2 of Robert Skidelsby's three-volume biography of Keynes.

May I also make three suggestions:

1. that, if possible, your 'Recent Relevant Articles' be published in book form by the CTS; 2. that our bishops be urged to form a panel of highly qualified men and women for handling any future incidents of this sort (they should not only be well informed but well used to debating), and also for seeing in a more general way that the Catholic case is properly presented or defended in the media: one thinks for instance of men like Professors Peter Hodgson and John Haldane or Father Aidan Nichols); 3. that we turn the tables with a detailed examination of the record of modern atheism, a sort of true 'black legend'.

For instance, the Church has been in the world for just over 2,000 years, modern atheism, as a major social and political force, for just over 200. Yet the number of people tortured and unjustly put to death by atheists of one breed or another during two centuries must exceed the victims of misguided ecclesiastics during two millennia by millions. It is also the deepest hypocrisy for any supporter or promoter of the sexual revolution to express shock or disapproval at clerical misdemeanours. By eroticising the whole culture in a way unknown to previous history they are partly responsible for them.

All this, of course must be done in the right spirit. We are to love and pray for our opponents, as well as rejoicing when they ill-treat us. But this has never prevented the Church from defending herself against unjust attack.

Yours faithfully
Philip Trower
Stansted Bury, Ware, Herts

Dear Father Editor,

The Jan/Feb 2010 edition of Faith is excellent - thank you. Your editorial about the "debate we lost" provoked me to consider "what I would liked to have said".

There should be no dispute from any atheist or humanist about the past and present vast "force for good of the Catholic Church in the whole world". I will briefly list: the option for the poor, 2,000 years of welfare services, schooling, hospitals and charitable works, and all these often against the vengeful opposition of secular forces.

The Catholic Church supports and supported proper justice for everyone, worker's rights, women's rights, honest and responsible leadership in government and commerce, the successful promotion of social mobility and a long history of opposition to tyrants (causing many Catholic martyrs). As Pope John Paul II pointed out, these characteristics contributed to the development of modern democracy, as they did in recent times in Eastern Europe.

Yours faithfully

Philip Audley-Charles
York Way,
London N7

Dear Father Editor,

I thought your editorial comments on that disastrous debate were very good. The lack of preparation was disgraceful. A crash course at The Catholic Evidence Guild would have been helpful.

It would have been a good idea to ask our opponents if they had read the Vatican Year Book for 2009. Catholic institutions world wide could have been quoted; so many thousand hospitals, schools, leprosaria, etc. etc. etc., double the number from non-catholic Christian churches. A world wide mainly free welfare state!

Yours faithfully
James Allen
Seymour Drive,


One interesting initiative that has emerged following the debate is at www.catholicvoices.org.uk, headed by Lord Brennan, Austin Ivereigh, Jack Valero and Kathleen Griffin, under the banner of the Catholic Union. It intends "to create a bureau of well-informed Catholic speakers able to articulate with conviction the Church's positions on major contentious issues in the quick-fire environments of media interviews and public debates".


Dear Father Editor,

Your November editorial on the Primacy of Christ was reinforced for me by a Little Sisters of the Poor Christmas card which contained this quotation from John Henry Newman's Discourse 17, 'The Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son':

"He once had meant to come on earth in heavenly glory, but we sinned;
and then He could not safely visit us,
except with a shrouded radiance and a bedimmed Majesty,
for He was God.
So He came Himself in weakness, not in power."

Now that, to me, sounds pure 'Scotist' (if that's the right word).

Yours faithfully
Frank Swarbrick
Garstang Road,


In Fr Nesbitt's article "The Christ-Centred Vision of Creation", in last November's issue, he pointed out that Newman "found the Scotist perspective to be truest to the Greek Fathers he studied so closely" {Discourses to Mixed Congregations 32,1-2, and 358), and that in The Development of Christian Doctrine Newman says that "the Incarnation 'establishes in the very idea of Christianity the sacramental principle as its characteristic' because: 'It is our Lord's intention in the Incarnation to make us what He is Himself.' It also teaches us 'that matter is an essential part of us, and, as well as mind, is capable of sanctification'" (Chapter 7, ss.1).


Dear Father Editor,

Many things in nature, particularly in sub-atomic reality, have given life-spans. Though these can be stated in terms of man's way of measuring time, the laws of nature stipulating them obviously do not refer to man's units of time. The times which the laws stipulate, and when each period of time has run its course, are the preserve of God.

Yours faithfully
 Damian Goldie
Church Hill,
Totland Bay


Dear Father Editor,

As the Children's Schools and Families Bill 2009/2010 hurtles towards Royal Assent via the debating of committee stage amendments, there is a great deal at stake for home schoolers in particular and liberty in general.

Despite a massively negative consultation on the subject last autumn, and the contrary assurances to parliament by the Education Secretary, Ed Balls, local authorities are to be given a duty to monitor the education of all home-schooled children. If that happens, failure to meet standards could lead to demands to attend some formal schooling, and failure to register could become a criminal offence, with inspectors able to enter family homes and interrogate children without parents or other adults being present.

This is a further step down a certain path, and home-educating families will likely be joined shortly by the rest of us in Gordon Brown's real plan for "hard working families" - an intrusive national home-life surveillance programme, fresh territory for Gordon's "equality" Stasi to sexualise and corrupt.

How has it come to this? How has the State come to amass such power that it now feels free to assault the most fundamental relationship of all, that between parent and child? In the Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn asks how Russia came to the point where innocent people could be dragged out of their houses in the middle of the night. The answer was simple: "Because we did not love freedom enough". The past 12 years of socialist "government" have removed many of Britain's historic freedoms, grabbing powers with unparalleled potential for domination and control. We are nearly a dictatorship of political bureaucracy over a society levelled economically and socially. Natural human institutions like families, churches and nations have no place in this brave new world.

Yours faithfully
Giles Rowe
Fernside Road, London SW12

[Ed: see Truth Will Set You Free, p.25]

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