Last updated 15 June 2012
In addition to the letters published in
this week’s issue of the The Tablet you can find more correspondence here, available free.
On the dismissal of Bishop Morris of Toowoomba
In his note of 11 December 2009 following upon his meeting with Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba on 4 June 2009, Pope Benedict wrote "that in fact there was no process, but a fraternal dialogue and an appeal to his conscience to freely renounce his office as diocesan bishop" (Dear Holy Father...Yours Devotedly, The Tablet, 9 June).
Prior to the fraternal dialogue, there was a process of sorts. In April 2007, the Holy See sent Archbishop Chaput to conduct a visitation of Bishop Morris's diocese. Morris never saw the report, and claims never to have been appraised its contents. There then followed four Vatican requests or demands for Morris's resignation prior to the Holy Father's "fraternal dialogue". The process was neither fair, transparent nor consistent. It was premised on Morris's resignation and ran for one year and nine months before the Pope met Morris.
On or after 4 June 2009, the Pope decided that the 2006 Advent Pastoral Letter was the hanging offence. Benedict identified two theological errors: "The letter says one could even start ordaining women to overcome the priest shortage." "He says furthermore that even ministers of other communities (Anglicans, etc.) could help out in the Catholic Church."
With all respect, Benedict's summary of Morris's position is far too simplistic. This is what Morris wrote:
"Given our deeply held belief in the primacy of Eucharist for the identity, continuity and life of each parish community, we may well need to be much more open towards other options of ensuring that Eucharist may be celebrated. Several responses have been discussed internationally, nationally and locally:
• ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by their local parish community
• welcoming former priests, married or single back to active ministry
• ordaining women, married or single
• recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders
"While we continue to reflect carefully on these options we remain committed to actively promoting vocations to the current celibate male priesthood and open to inviting priests from overseas."
As soon as the local media started asking Morris in January 2007 if he would take these courses of action, he consistently replied that he would only do what Rome approved. Ultimately in early January 2008, he even published a clarification of his pastoral letter on the diocesan website saying: "Unfortunately some people seem to have interpreted (my pastoral letter) as suggesting that I was personally initiating options that are contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church. As a bishop I cannot and would not do that and I indicated this in the local media at the time."
In his own minutes from a curial meeting of three cardinals with Morris on 19 January 2008, Cardinal Re wrote: "To sum it up briefly: to present these questions as topics for public discussion is to separate yourself from the teaching of the Catholic Church." It seems the Pope agrees.Fr Frank Brennan SJ, Canberra, Australia
Denial of communion for remarried divorcees is a 'gift'?
I am scandalised by Pope Benedict's suggestion (The Tablet, 9 June) that, having been deprived of the sacraments, the divorced and remarried should then be encouraged to regard their suffering of this loss as a gift to edify the rest of us. Suffering, even when willingly embraced, is never a good thing, never a gift. Faithful Christians, for example, will encounter suffering when, in following the Gospel of love they endeavour to practice the Beatitudes. Such suffering is an inevitable consequence when broken people strive to follow the way of Christ in an equally broken world
The Eucharist, on the other hand, is not merely a gift, it is an uncovenanted bonus awarded by Christ to his pilgrim Church.
This Church from top to bottom is made up of fallen people, limping their way painfully to eternity. The eucharistic bonus is not a reward for being good and getting it right, it is sustenance, healing medicine, for those of us (surely all of us) who are struggling, broken, and getting it wrong.
Paradoxically, our qualification for this bonus is our very unworthiness and we universally declare that mystery of our faith (Lord I am not worthy) immediately before we present ourselves at the altar. Totally unworthy, and therefore utterly deserving, whether we are single, married, remarried or celibate, of the body broken and the blood poured out, for everyone, so that sins may be forgiven. Edward Butler, Derrydruel, Upper County Donegal
Accountability and the hierarchy
In the UK and Australasia no legal principle is established more firmly than that good faith is to be presumed, rather than impropriety; that commercial transactions are based on the hypothesis of honesty, not of fraud; that the basis of legal transactions is trust, not mistrust.
The legal system would break down were it to require honesty and good faith to be proven every time. People would walk away from commerce. Economic activity - and the economy with it - would atrophy.
Catholics try to give priests, bishops, and cardinals credit for integrity of purpose, and goodness of motive. We don't assume that they all molest people; or that all of them are consumed with ambition for advancement in the ranks of the hierarchy at the expense of proclaiming the Gospel; or that they all wilfully misread its message as saving the 99 and telling the lost one to go to hell; or that they all are hell-bent on ensuring that any would-be Catherine of Siena will not get a look-in this time round.
Some reciprocity from Rome would go a long way towards helping Catholics regain some vestige of respect for those in the Roman "establishment" - an institution built on a shameful lack of accountability, and every bit as riddled with moral hazard as the international financial system.
Now Cardinal Schönborn ("Decision time on Priests' Initiative", The Tablet, 2 June) has acted out of conviction that the gay parish councillor, whom he refused to dismiss, "is on the way to following Christ".
We can only pray that this rare (among the "princes" of the Church) outbreak of insight is contagious, and that it infects Rome - quickly.Tony Molloy QC, Papakura, New Zealand
Much criticism has appeared over the last few years of the Roman Curia, and the press are taking a certain delight in the revelations of the Pope's butler. While these criticisms should not be ignored, it should be remembered that the Church is much deeper, much wider, much higher than the Roman Curia and is not imprisoned in canonical structures. If St Catherine of Siena had given in to depression there would probably be no Roman Pontiff in Rome today. Von Balthasar, quoting Dante, reminds us that the beauty of the Church consists entirely in its humility and obscurity, and not at all in its structures.Fr Andrew M Walls OSM, Dundee
Imperilled Christians in Syria
What David Blair says about Syria's President Assad and his regime (The Tablet, 9 June) may well be true, but it is also one-sided. The rebel forces too have committed atrocities, spurred on by al-Qaida and Salafi extremists among them. The real reason why Assad is hated by most Arabs is because he belongs to the Alawite Shi'ite minority and not to Islam's Sunni majority.(Dr) Joseph Seferta, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
And what about the hapless Christians caught in between? They have actually been much better treated by Syria's Ba'ath regime than the indigenous Christians in other parts of the region. In a letter from Hamidiah to the website Catholic Culture.org, Mgr. Philippe Clos denounces the one-sided coverage of the Syrian conflict by the Western media. He states that his area is occupied by rebel forces who have killed one priest and expelled all Christians along with their clergy from the area, adding that the rebels "are heavily-armed and bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and Qatar".
Growing support for call to action
How very encouraging that 80 per cent of the letters published in response to the priests' Call to Action (The Tablet, Letters, 9 June) are so positively supportive. Many of us, loyal and "fully paid up" members of the Church, have been quietly despairing of the backward-looking direction of our hierarchical Church in recent years. Most of us know that we do not have a public voice to address these concerns. Now we have a group of priests - recognised public, clerical leaders of parish communities, which religious and other lay people are not - who are willing to be that voice. It was disappointing that Fr. Gerard Brogan (The Tablet, Letters, 16 June) interprets their action as a lack of commitment to ascetism and contemplation. My guess is that these priests contemplated and prayed much before taking this courageous step.
In Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 last Friday, Sr Gemma Simmonds was questioned about Rome's action in relation to LCWM in America. She spoke of her hope that the leaders will be respectfully listened to when they are in Rome. One hopes and prays that this will be the case, too, for our priests' Call to Action. The numerous committed priests, laity, religious and even bishops who lament the Church's structural turning back to pre-Vatican II attitudes and practice are indeed legion (Fr Edward Butler, The Tablet, Letters, 16 June) and are people who have a deep love of Church. We long to see the "freedom of the children of God" celebrated and engaged in the Church's ministry and mission to the world. Over-emphasis on rules and regulations stultifies this freedom.Sr Regina McGarry OP, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Sunday feast-days are easier to celebrate
Paul Waddington (The Tablet, 2 June) is concerned that the significance and awareness of these great feasts of the Epiphany and Ascension has been diminished by their transfer to the nearest Sunday. On the contrary, I welcomed this decision when it was made as it means that they can now be celebrated when far more people will be present than would be at a weekday Mass on the traditional dates. It is now the responsibility that those arranging the liturgy ensure that significance and awareness of these feasts are well and truly emphasised on these Sundays.Anne Holt, Wendover, Buckinghamshire
The Queen has nothing to apologise for
I find Fr Ashley Beck's tirade against the Diamond Jubilee (The Tablet, 26 May) disingenuous at best and verging on offensive at worst. He does not ask that the British Crown apologise for the martydoms of the numerous Protestants put to death under Mary Tudor, only for the martyrdoms of Catholics. I remind him that it was the Pope of the time who politicised the issue of religion by excommunicating Elizabeth I. Until that point, she and her government were relatively tolerant of differing views - for the time at least.
Apologies now for events of several hundred years ago do nothing to bring back those who died untimely or suffered indirectly from the situation. I doubt whether they do anything to heal lingering wounds left by such wrongs. Maybe we should all learn to grow up, learn from the past and stop bearing grudges - what a wonderful legacy of the Jubilee that would be!
Fr Beck also forgets - something I would expect any priest to know - that the true privilege is to be born into a loving and stable family, and to be allowed the time to grow at our own pace into our adult roles. I know few 25-year-olds who could take on what our Queen did, and few people of any age who have demonstrated such an unwavering and steadfast dedication to that adult role.
Instead of churlishly objecting to the Diamond Jubilee on historical grounds, Fr Beck should be proud that our Head of State is a woman of quiet, unselfconscious faith, who views her role not as an opportunity for profiteering but as a position of service.Rachel M Wright, by email
I was surprised to read in Robert Micken's article about the VatiLeaks scandal (The Tablet, 9 June) Pope Benedict's remark that "the Holy Father John Paul II decided in an infallible and irrevocable way that the Church does not have the right to ordain women to the priesthood".
How are we supposed to know whether or not a papal pronouncement is infallible? When Humanae Vitae appeared in 1968, our learned and orthodox parish priest told us that although we should follow its teaching, it was not an infallible pronouncement.
Is there a list, available to the faithful, of all the infallible pronouncements made since the doctrine was declared in 1870? If there is, we could then work out which papal pronouncements weren't infallible. Mick Duggan, Banstead, Surrey
Pope Benedict holds that his predecessor made an infallible declaration on the question of women priests (The Tablet, 9 June). I confess this momentous step in the history of the Church passed me by. I hope very much that the Pope will list for us the other infallible declarations made by his predecessor, along with any that he has made himself, for there seems little point in an infallible declaration that is recognised as such only within the walls of the Vatican.(Dr) Michael Hoskin, Cambridge
I was delighted to read in The Tablet (2nd June) that the bishops of England and Wales have decided to include aspects of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body in the coming updated version of the Religious Education Curriculum Directory.Frank J Pycroft, Upper Holloway, London
Those of us who are aware of the full text of The Theology of the Body, know that this text will allow very full discussion of the pope's views of sex. I trust that our teachers of religion will be trained to the high degree which will be essential if they are to reveal fully the uplifting teaching about sex and sexuality of the previous pope.
Let there be iPads
When I first saw an iPad in action it seemed ideal for dimly lit village churches where there is no electricity and the budget allows no generator: the text itself could be illuminated and instantly adjusted to suit failing eyesight.
Unfortunately, Universalis does not cover African languages and my own budget was for charity. Still, it was very tempting.
Thankfully the bishops of New Zealand iPad ban has no jurisdiction here (The Tablet, Notebook, 9 June). So maybe some day I'll succumb!(Fr) Michael Walsh OSA, St Thomas Catholic Church, Zing, Nigeria
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