Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine September - October 2007
FAITH AND FRUIT
Dear Father Editor
As grandparents now, we remember only too clearly the advent of Humanae Vitae (HV) in 1968. We had always accepted the Church’s teaching on family planning and we were puzzled that it became necessary for Paul VI to reiterate it.
I remember hanging nappies on the washing line, waiting for the announcement in the news, wondering what we would do if the Pope denied what we had always believed to be Christ’s teaching.
Our biggest shock was the reaction of the clergy who, instead of supporting HV, told us it was not infallible.
I once met with and discussed HV with Archbishop Roberts who looked amazed when I told him we accepted it. So many kind-hearted and compassionate priests tried to change our minds, even to the extent of giving us an article penned by the Canadian Bishops refuting it.
We found that we seemed to be one of the few who had actually read the encyclical, which we did over and over again – it made such sense. Our Catholic friends rejected it without even having looked at it.
We were isolated and even found ourselves asking priests their views on HV before Confession – if they were wrong on that they could be wrong on other things. It was a very difficult and lonely time and of course the discovery of the Billings method of family planning has revolutionised married life for young Catholics now. The rhythm method was utterly unreliable.
Two more sons later, we were introduced to the Faith movement and at long last we found ourselves surrounded by young enthusiastic orthodox priests who were obedient to the Pope. The joy and relief of this was indescribable and we can only say that everything the Pope predicted about the effect on life, morals and families by the non-acceptance of the Encyclical has come true.
Our hardships have born fruit in sons and grand-children who are all practising their Faith, which is all we have ever wanted.
Maureen Findlay-Wilson (Mrs.)
LITURGICAL REALITY CHECK
Dear Father Editor
I was pleased to see Fr Conlon’s letter (July/Aug) about Dom Philippe Jobert’s article in the previous issue of Faith, having been considerably bewildered myself by the burden of Fr Philippe’s song.
He may be right about mercy as the key to the Council, although the documents show me no more emphasis on mercy than I had been taught in the ordinary way before Vatican II. Be that as it may, his assertion that the revised form of the Mass is the ultimate expression of the Mystery of Mercy is a mystery of another kind.
He says himself that “there are few material modifications that distinguish the new rite from the old”, which is true if one looks at the Council Fathers’ decisions, rather than at what happened in most places when the Revolution took over. However, Fr Philippe’s epitome of liturgically-conveyed mercy centres on the vernacular Mass facing the people.
Ye t the Council said nothing at all about facing the people, and its permission (not requirement) for use of the vernacular included the expectation that Latin and the musical treasury of the Church would also continue in use as a normal part of parish life.
So, is Fr Philippe’s presumed epitome of mercy via the Council really a product of the Council, or does it come from “the spirit of Vatican II” with which the revolutionaries speedily obscured the actual Council?
Also, the Mass always means the same, is the same reality, in any rite so how can each version of the Roman Rite have different meanings, as Fr Philippe suggests? The only way I see the new rite, to a greater degree than the old, reminding people of their need for divine mercy is in their desperation for rescue from the shambles so often made of it.
Fr Philippe obviously appreciates the beautiful liturgy at Solesmes, but seems to share the misapprehension of so many bishops, priests and liturgists that the laity, poor things, cannot cope beyond the level of nursery rhyme hymns and play school prayers. This unconscious condescension effectively cuts us off from the liturgical riches of the Church.
The vision of millions of the faithful thrilled to bits with vernacular Mass facing the people smacks of wishful thinking in the face of widespread liturgical deformation and the continuous decline in Mass attendance.
Susan Carson-Rowland (Mrs)
CHURCH TEACHING AND THE NECESSITY OF BAPTISM
Dear Father Editor
James Tolhurst claims that “it would now seem entirely reasonable” to tell the parents of infants who die without baptism that “their unbaptised children are now in heaven” (Other Angles, Faith, July/August 2007). To do this however would seem to me to be somewhat irresponsible. There is nothing in the study by International Theological Commission (ITC) that justifies such a statement. The whole report is indeed written in an optimistic tone and tries its best to move away from the Augustinian and Scholastic solutions to the problem of infants who died without baptism. Still, it clearly states in its conclusions: “We emphasise that... [there] are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge”. He even acknowledges in his article that the ITC only claim we have“grounds for hope”.
Of course, we want and need to show the utmost compassion to grieving parents who find themselves in such a tragic situation. As Faith Magazine has stressed in other contexts, compassion is inseparable from truth. The ITC says we cannot say for certain that unbaptised infants enjoy the beatific vision, so unequivocally to assert that they do would seem imprudent. Would it not be better to continue with the practice of entrusting these children, “with prayerful hope”, “to the mercy of God” (as we do in the funeral rite established for them) rather than putting forward our own presumptuous speculations on their fate?
Fr. Tolhurst also seems confused about the status of limbo in Catholic tradition. He claims that “reducing limbo to a theological hypothesis” enhances the importance of baptism. That may be so, but limbo was never anything more than a theological hypothesis in the first place, albeit a very popular one with a strong place in the hearts of the faithful.
At a time when prayer for the dead has declined and the funerals of non-practising Catholics can more closely resemble a canonisation than a requiem, I would recommend teaching those relevant truths which we do know for certain. “There is much that simply has not been revealed to us” the ITC observes. But also there is much that has – let us focus on how we can compassionately explain these revealed truths to the parents of infants who die without baptism. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Dear Father Editor,
Concerning the correspondence on Infallibility and “outside the Church no salvation” (Jan./Feb. 2007), I should like to suggest the following thoughts:
A straight line is the shortest way between two points. Sancta Mater is the straight line that leads most directly towards our eternal goal – the Vision of God and communion with His very life. It is also the only route – the Direct Line – that goes all the way to the final goal.
Other lines may converge with this pre-eminent Direct Line, before the goal is reached but do not go all the way to the final destination. These lines may be envisaged as either the life paths of individuals or the paths of other religious and philosophical traditions towards God. Convergence with the Direct Line may occur either in this life or after death because development can continue after our life here is over.
A person treading the Direct Line – Sancta Mater – may be very far from the final goal – most of us are. We may be further away than many who are walking on the other lines that have not yet converged with this Line.
On whatever line any one happens to be, the all-important matter is to be walking in the right direction. Then, those not on the Direct Line will eventually converge with it, although often not until after death. On all the lines, even on the Direct Line, some may be walking in the wrong direction. These will distance themselves ever further from the goal.
The direction in which we are walking – whether towards our goal or away from it – depends on prayer. As St. Alphonsus Liguori said: “He who prays is saved. He who does not pray, is damned”.
FAMILIES OF NAZARETH
Dear Father Editor
It was good to see the reference made recently to the “Families of Nazareth” movement as listed in the Faith Online section – July/August 2007.
The short item outlining what the Movement is all about together with the relevant links indicated that there is a lack of information on the Movement’s activities ‘this side of the Atlantic’. Certainly web-based information is an issue for people wanting to find out more or even become involved in Families of Nazareth in Great Britain. However, there are some chaplains around the country who lead and support groups, one of these being Fr. Denis Sarsfield – a Westminster priest at Westminster Cathedral – who can supply any reader with more detail on local groups at least in the South of the country. His email is either
Director, Department for Pastoral Affairs
Diocese of Westminster