Blessed be Mary

From Mr O.W.H. Clark

Whence comes this frothy, shame-ridden, breast-beating about Anglican devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary [ND comment, June]?

When, in recent years, has the Church of England as such shewn disregard, disrespect, coldness, negativity, etc to the person of Blessed May, ever-virgin, Theotokos? The BCP provides no less than five holy days for her commemoration, and occasional local overspills on Mothering Sunday or Advent 4 are not unknown. Common Worship also provides five such occasions, including now 15 August. Certainly there are members of the clergy and laity who give less than its due to the honoured place of the Mother of God but, equally certainly, there are those who have gone too far in the opposite direction.

The new report deserves sympathetic reading, but for members of the CofE it will necessarily be considered not just in the context of a revisited theology of hope and grace, but in the light of Canon A5, which insists that the doctrine of the CofE is not just ‘consonant with’ but ‘grounded in’ the holy Scriptures.

It is perfectly proper and reasonable for the scripturally reformed CofE to see Roman Catholic dogmatic assertions of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption as ‘problems’ and ‘sticking points’ that are ‘communion-dividing’. That is what they honestly are, and are likely so to remain unless ‘grounded in holy Scriptures’ can be satisfactorily demonstrated. None of this precludes open and frank discussion in love and humility; indeed, it makes it more urgent.

Pious opinion and personal devotion need ever to be distinguished from dogmatic pronouncements. The Virgin Mother of God, who ever prays for me and all the children of her Son, is an inextinguishable light of the Scriptures, whom I see most clearly and most nearly when in her arms she enfolds, inseparably, her Son.

Oswald Clark

5 Seaview Road, Highcliffe, Christchurch, Dorset BH23 5QJ

Scriptural consistency

From the Chancellor of Malta Cathedral

One need not be a supporter of those so trenchantly judged and condemned in June’s letters by the Chaplain in Kiev to question his reasoning and exegesis.

The criterion of being ‘above reproach’ presupposes an enviable confidence in those who apply it. It may be the effect of southern climes that prompts my envy of such certainty, but I do also recollect that even the Pharisees could find no one ‘without sin [to] throw the first stone.’

Then too, whatever St Paul meant in writing to Timothy, it is hard to make Mr Frais’ understanding chime with Our Lord’s treatment of St Peter. The ‘restored’ Apostle was called to ‘strengthen his brethren’ and heavier responsibilities were laid upon him beside the Sea of Galilee [John 21].

At the risk of sounding naïve, I wonder, therefore, if we may not assume the consistency of holy Scripture, and leave fanciful interpretations to the revisionists.

Tom Mendel

Chancellor’s Lodge, Independence Square, Valletta, Malta

Without shame

From Mr J.T. Sutcliffe

The Church of England is certainly a church [pace ND June], and for my money highly recommended precisely by its refusal to engage in fruitless definition such as is so appealing to Pope Benedict XV (as he should be numbered, if we are going to exclude Antipopes from the line, as we should). The interpretation of the Gospel and the response of individuals to the spirit of God within them, which is really the only continuing and reliable prompt for any belief, require as much variety as seems appropriate in any age.

There really is no reason to regard anything relating to the person of Jesus and his ministry in the world as settled permanently, because human beings change gradually over the aeons and so, evidently, does our understanding of God and of ourselves. To attribute value to the authority of clergy, or even of the theological intelligentsia, is not encouraged by the record of history.

Those who want a church that believes in single-mindedness – and who are plainly so attracted by the new Pope – should try their luck in his house. It is likely that those responsible for New Directions, at least, will be given a welcome there. Valete.

Tom Sutcliffe

12 Polworth Road, Streatham,

London SW16 2EU

But will they write?

From Mr I. Looker

I’m just enquiring about the subheading ‘serving Evangelicals and Catholics’. In this month’s edition I couldn’t find any articles by evangelicals, which seemed a pity. I realize evangelicals are somewhat in the position of lodgers in a catholic household, but a few more column-inches would be appreciated. Not all your readership see Pope Benedict in quite the same way as your articles portrayed him, nor would we necessarily share the views expressed about Mary. We need one or two more contributors from the ‘enthusiast’ wing of the church.

Ian Looker

The inter-galactic church

From Fr B. Williams

A recent episode of the new Doctor Who series was set in and around an obviously Catholic Anglican church in Cardiff. Does anyone know which one it is? I could, of course, be mistaken. The church may now be in the grip of New Church of England pseudo-catholicism. Can a fellow reader shed some light?

Brian Williams

Sneyd Vicarage, Hamil Road, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 1AP

Non sequitor

From Mr P. Morrow

I welcome Fr Jonathan Frais’ letter, and its clarity that, even if a celibate priest, such as Fr Jeffrey John, seeks high(er) office, he should be debarred, because he once was not celibate, and so is not ‘beyond reproach’.

It nicely asks implicitly who you think reads this marginal periodical? I’ve written six letters to you. Three of them have been published. The three that haven’t have referred to the gayness of a large proportion of your readers (some of whom have propositioned me).

Patrick Morrow

Westcott House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge CB5 8BP