Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

FAITH Magazine March – April 2011


Dear Father Editor,

Many thanks for your September issue on the Primacy of Christ. In Richard Conrad's piece, "Christ's Primacy in Creation as Resource for the New Evangelisation", he states that "The concept of a transferred punishment is alive and well (if not always expressed bluntly) despite having little (I should say no) basis in Scripture, Liturgy or Tradition".

I agree that this is a topic that is very often misunderstood. For many people whom I know, this "substitution" theory is the only way they have heard the central mystery of Christianity explained. I was wondering if Faith magazine could examine the reason for Christ's suffering. Why it was so brutal? Was Christ's bloody death demanded by God as reparation for sin? This is the crucial question, but an answer could also look at the problem that suffering presents to the modern mindset. You could look at wider questions like the value of suffering in Christian spirituality, and the role of the devil in Christ's own suffering.

You could explore for us how the suffering of Christ is not because God demanded punishment, but because Man rejected the Messiah. No matter whether they do this with deliberate malice or through ignorance and weakness because "they know not what they do", the effect was to crucify the Lord.

Yours faithfully
Luke O'Sullivan
Beverley Close, Fforestfach, Swansea

Dear Father Editor,

Thank you for inviting me to respond to Mr. O'Sullivan's letter. He points out that "for many people" the "substitution" theory is the only way they have heard the Redemption explained, and he urges us to explain why "Christ's suffering... was so brutal."

Mr. O'Sullivan is right to say "the suffering of Christ is not because God demanded punishment, but because Man rejected the Messiah." Christ's Crucifixion is the "exemplar" of human wickedness and weakness: it brings together cruelty, fear of truth, fear of standing by our friends, the sacrifice of justice to expediency, and many other faults - and shows that human sin is ultimately the rejection of God.

Christ's Blood is the Blood of the new and eternal Covenant. God-become-man endured what humanity threw at Him, not with anger or retaliation, but with forgiveness. Hence Our Lord's Passion is God's final and irrevocable Pledge of Loyalty towards us, come what may. Mysteriously, we can resist; but when Jesus opened His arms on the Cross it was an expression of love that was made with enough power to draw all ages to Himself (cf. John 12:32) - "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (II Cor. 5:18-19).

Having committed Himself to His Sacrifice by instituting the Holy Eucharist, that is, having entered upon His Passion, Jesus could say, about God the Father, "Henceforth you know him and have seen him" (John 14:7). Christ Crucified is the Revelation of God, the Father's Word spoken with an eloquence that cannot be surpassed, an eloquence that powerfully draws our response.

That is why Christ's Sacrifice is the channel of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who is symbolised by the Blood-and-Water, that is, the living water, as Jesus had predicted (John 7:37-39, cf. 4:10). If the Holy Spirit is the Divine Love in Person, He fittingly comes through the great revelation of God's Love. And He comes to replace our hatred and pride by love, to conform us to Christ, to re-form us as the Father's beloved children, destined to inherit a share in Christ's glory (cf. Rom. 8:17).

Jesus' "journey" through suffering and death to Resurrection is the pattern and the power for our journey - both our journey through death to a share in Christ's Resurrection, and (in a more subtle way) our dying to sin and rising to the new life of grace (cf. Rom. 6:2-11) which is a journey often only completed in Purgatory where we "joy to undergo the shadow of Thy Cross sublime." The Holy Spirit, sent into the world for the forgiveness of sins through Christ's Death and Resurrection, is the Paraclete, the "Friend for the campaign", who leads us on this journey.

So Christ's suffering reveals the "Love of God" even more than it reveals the "sin of man. In this dread act" their "strength is tried; and victory remains with Love." True, we cannot fathom Christ's pain, nor His love, nor the power of His Sacrifice. We need a whole range of ways if we are to begin to explore this Mystery, and Scripture, Liturgy and Tradition offer us a whole range of ways. But it seems to me that, if we want a "core" around which to build our understanding of the Redemption, we cannot do better than to start with Jesus' own teaching as recorded by St. John, and see the Cross as the revelation of God's love, a revelation powerful enough to bring us the re-creating Love it reveals, a revelation that is applied to us in the Sacraments and especially in the HolyEucharist.

Yours faithfully
Richard Conrad, O.P.
Blackfriars, Oxford


Dear Father Editor,

Many of us sympathise with Fr Andrew Byrne's critical comments about "unbalanced conclusions" in his review of The new CTS Catholic Bible {Faith, Nov/Dec 2010, pp 21/22) -in particular the authorship of St. John's Gospel.

After years preparing forensic reports for international courts (and being cross-examined under oath), I have the greatest respect for the factual quality of St. John's Gospel.

To me, the narratives in that gospel indicate a writer who focused on facts, either experienced by himself or obtained by searching for and interviewing eye witnesses. Also, his omissions indicate a writer who restrained himself from describing any event where witnesses were not available to him. These are rare qualities in any writer.

I am familiar with the works of Fr Brown, C K Barrett etc who assume the Fourth Gospel is non-factual and written 60-70 years after the crucifixion. Against such works, I believe there is much objective evidence, and would be happy to make this available to interested readers.

Yours faithfully
John Leonard
Totnes Walk, London


Dear Father Editor,

Jane Vitale is concerned at "how much homosexuality gets coverage in your magazine" (January/February 2011) and suggests you should not make it your "main focus". Over a twelve month period your coverage amounted to approximately 2.65\% of your print output; hardly a "main focus", and since the subject relates both to Faith and Morals and to Faith and Reason it is surely entirely within your remit.

"Horror and Hope" {Faith March/April 2010) along with "Contextualising abuse reporting" {Faith May/June 2010) and the ensuing correspondence, drawing on events as far back as the 1970s, contributed to the breaking of the taboo on reasoned challenge to a Lobby intolerant of any questioning of its assumptions. This Lobby had brought about the closure of Faith-based Adoption agencies, aggravating the crisis in placing children for adoption, and was poised to put on the Statute Book laws which would have imposed its own opinions on Faith-based schools and anyone else who disagreed.

Pope Benedict confirmed the importance of "contextualising". In his Christmas greeting to the College of Cardinals. {L'Osservatore Romano 22-29 December 2010). He said that to resist the destructive forces currently at work in the Church and the World we must put them in the context of their ideological foundations. He too referred back to the 1970s and the "fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos", lie recalled, "It was maintained - even within the realm of Catholic theology - that there was no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself". Daphne McLeod’s experience {Faith January/ February 2011) shows the practical outcomes of this drift with the young being misled even within the Church by attempts to set aside Judeo-Christian history scripture tradition andteaching.

This topic has never been nor could be Faith magazine's "main focus" but it is not peripheral and the era when a fractional and manipulative minority could demand those who differ from it remain silent are over.

Yours faithfully
Kenneth Kavanagh
Byron Crescent, Bedford


Dear Father Editor,

I understand that sub-atomic particles (all of them or only some?) have given life-spans. Who tells a given particle that its time for existence is now at an end?!

Yours faithfully
Damian Goldie
Church Hill, Totland Bay

Faith Magazine