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Source: Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 2, No. 3. (Summer, 1968) © World Wisdom, Inc.


As a Roman Catholic myself I have much sympathy with the letter from Miss Lois Lang-Sims (in the Winter, 1968, issue of your journal) regarding recent changes in the Roman Catholic Church, but there are a few comments I would like to make.

Firstly, in common with Miss Lang-Sims and many other Catholics, I regret the change from Latin to the vernacular for the Mass, as much of the original beauty has inevitably been lost; but this has not invalidated the main purpose of the service, nor, incidentally, does it affect the validity of the priesthood. All the prec­ious sacraments of the Church, including the mysterious "Presence" in the Eucharist, are still there and available to all the faithful. To suggest, as she does, that the English translation of the Mass is "unbelievably shoddy" is surely exaggerating her case; it is true that the beauty of the service depends, rather more than previously perhaps, on the way the priest conducts it, but, even now, it is possible to be deeply moved by the sheer beauty of the service. It should also be mentioned that the High Mass is still sung in Latin.

Secondly, some of her statements are surprising if not actually misleading. For example, I have consulted a number of Catholic friends and we have none of us at any time seen any need for "many communicants" to "have to leave the church (or get themselves walked over) immediately after returning from the altar." One may regret the changes she mentions, but there is still adequate time between the end of the Communion and the final prayer and end of the service. Again, although a few "progressives" may disapprove of the "Adoration of Our Lady," we feel that among most of the faithful there is still very great devotion to Our Lady; there is also, in general, still great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

Thirdly, although the forces of evil are at work, as in all traditions at the present time, we must not forget the promise of Our Lord to Peter when, speaking of this Church, he said: "... the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"; surely we must believe this promise? The tone of Miss Lang-Sims's letter seems to imply that all is lost; but the "progressives" though they are very vocal, do not rule the Church, and this is shown by the very recent statements of Pope Paul, at the service on 30th June last which marked the beginning of his sixth year as Pontiff.

On that occasion the Pope criticised those Roman Catholics who showed a "passion for change and novelty" and he stated quite emphatically that the tradi­tional doctrines of the Church still stand. Among other things, he said "We believe in the infallibility enjoyed by the successor of Peter when he teaches ex cathedra as pastor and teacher of all the faithful. We believe that Mary is the Mother who remained ever a virgin... and that by reason of this singular election she was in consideration of the merits of her son... preserved from all stain of original sin. We believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord (in the Eucharist) is a true, real and substantial presence..." (from The Times of July 1st). Finally, in a special message to priests, he reaffirmed the importance of the celibacy of the priesthood.

London, 11.7.68.