LETTERS The Editor of The Tablet 1 King Street Cloisters, Clifton Walk, London W6 0GY Fax 020 8748 1550 Email firstname.lastname@example.org All correspondence, including email, must give a full postal address and contact telephone number. The Editor reserves the right to shorten letters.
A pastoral Pope? If Robert Mickens is anywhere near the mark with his list of likely candidates to succeed Pope Benedict (“Conclave contenders”, 31 December 2011), the Church faces a bleak future. Only one of the eight cardinals he names has ever worked as a parish priest. Can we assume that the remaining seven have never listened to the story of a single mother or talked personally to a girl with an abortion in her past, sat at the bedside of dying sinners, heard the pleas of a divorced parishioner barred from the sacrament, felt the anger of women who see themselves as scorned by their Church, discovered the desperation of jobless, debt-laden families, observed the dismay of an elderly person when told their church will have to close?
Is it not time that a significant period of hands-on pastoral experience is required as an essential condition for higher ecclesiastical office? Gerard Loughran Newcastle upon Tyne
Just-war theory – how tenable? Tina Beattie (“Unconscionable and unjustifiable”, 31 December 2011) tells us – on what evidence it is not clear – that “only a small minority of Catholics remains robustly committed to defending the just-war doctrine”, and that “no humanitarian can afford to support war today”. Certainly one would hope that no Catholic would support going to war until all other means have been exhausted, but she fails to answer the age-old pacifist dilemma of how to act when that point is reached. Should we ignore the threats and actions of those who would do us or others harm – from Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia in the recent past to future possible threats such as Iran or North Korea whatever the consequences: or are we content for the dirty work to be done by non-Catholics, enabling our hands to be kept clean – hardly a noble position? William Furness Glastonbury, Somerset
Tina Beattie may well be right about the shift in church thinking, but the just-war approach still has much to offer. It was never meant to be a means of legitimising war. The only “lawful authority”, in just-war terms, entitled to authorise military action today is the Security Council of the United Nations .The only exception is in a situation of immediate self-defence and only then until the Security Council has taken charge. The charter, signed in 1945, says that before any military action is agreed upon, all non-violent ways of settling disputes must have been explored and found wanting. This is no surprise. After all, the first aim of the United Nations is “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. Unhappily, the Security Council has been turned into an
The United Nations Security Council: the first aim of the UN is ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. Photo: CNS
instrument for legitimising wars either already active or pre-planned. The Libyan regimechange air war is the latest example of this process. Bruce Kent Movement for the Abolition of War, London N4
Pope Benedict XV may have been “a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avert the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences”, but he was singularly unsuccessful in both ambitions. Sadly, the example of Hitler is relevant and in an imperfect world there have to be less than ideal solutions.
It is arguable that, for instance, Franklin Roosevelt’s creation of the United Nations, Jean Monnet’s vision of Franco-German amity, President Kennedy’s Nuclear Test Ban treaty or even 40 years of political/military containment of the USSR, which broke the back of the Soviet economy leading to the dissolution of the USSR and its empire, did more for world peace than the pious exhortations of unworldly religious leaders. Tina Beattie might even consider what would have happened in Libya in 2011 had Nato not intervened. The management of international affairs is a subtle and sophisticated art, which is why we have many politicians but few statesmen. Fine principles are all very well, but as the late Sir Isaiah Berlin commented: “The task of the wise was to undo the mistakes of the good.” (Professor) John Kentleton University of Liverpool
The Church in the high street Abbot Christopher Jamison (31 December 2011) writes on the potential for the Catholic Church setting up shops offering youth employment opportunities. I have long thought that the Catholic Church in the UK has huge potential for much wider encouragement with social enterprise. It has the built assets required, often situated in excellent trading positions for maximum impact – a nationwide network of buildings – churches and church halls which are often woefully underutilised. How many churches are now occupied only for a few hours one day a week? How many Catholic schools, despite various government initiatives, are in use for only eight hours a day on 192 days a year? It has access to skilled and experienced lay volunteers who could be galvanised into putting Catholic Social Teaching into practice within a structured environment. This is a huge opportunity for making a real difference, as the Church did in the recessions in the last two centuries. This is the way to evangelisation and engaging the young. (Dr) Martin Price Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan
In the footsteps of Mary Gratitude is due to Abigail Frymann for all the information she has given on the Israeli tourist office’s “Mary Trail” (“Checkpoints and churches”, 26 November 2011). But the tourist office’s appropriate point of beginning would surely be the Church of St Anne, in Jerusalem, between St Stephen’s Gate (or the Lions’ Gate) and the beginning of the Via Dolorosa. The fine Crusader church is built on the site traditionally associated with the house of Joachim and Anna, and so the place where Mary was conceived immaculate. This shrine has been entrusted to the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) since the time of their founder, Cardinal Lavigerie. In the grounds lie the remains of the probatic pool where Jesus cured the paralytic. This is not connected with Mary, but is well worth a visit. (Archbishop) Michael L. Fitzgerald Embassy of the Holy See, Cairo, Egypt
The heart’s a wonder So Romanticism is alive and well at The Tablet. Having noted dutifully the themes in Archbishop Nichols’ Tablet lecture (“Formation of the human heart”, 29 October 2011), I nevertheless succumbed to a growing curiosity arising from his attribution of amazing qualities to the human heart. The archbishop, along with Pope Benedict, seems convinced that it can be “formed”, “nurtured”, “tutored” and “transformed”. It can also be “fashioned into a listening heart”, and can even talk – which explains how “heart speaks unto heart”. Accordingly, this conversational ability enables the human heart “to enter into a profound communication with God’s heart” and even “God opens his heart to us”. We should not be surprised, therefore, that the archbishop also believes it can actually see – “may we keep the eyes of our heart upon this little baby” (Christmas message, 17/24 December 2011).
Talking, listening, learning, seeing – truly a remarkable organ. The truth is, of course, that since Harvey in the seventeenth century we know that the heart is a pump. It is not
7 January 2012 | THE TABLET | 15