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Revaluation of Vatican II The honour of seeing my name in The Tablet beside the names of such eminent theologians as Jean-Marie R. Tillard and Hermann J. Pottmeyer did not lessen the shock I felt while reading the latest issue (Books, 11 June). I could not believe what I was reading when I saw Gavin D’Costa’s review of the collection of book reviews published in the two last decades or so by Agostino Marchetto on the historiog- raphy of Vatican II. Those who have read the five-volume History of Vatican II edited by the late Giuseppe Alberigo and Marchetto’s collection know that Gavin D’Costa’s evaluation is greatly off the mark, and for many reasons. No one (except ideologised Catholic bloggers) regards Marchetto’s contribution as import - ant for the historiographical and theological debate on Vatican II – and this is not about being a “liberal” or a “conservative” Catholic. There are serious historians, theologians and journalists dedicated to following the debate on Vatican II, with different views. As the fiftieth anniversary of the council approaches, it is very unfortunate that the revi- sionism advocated by Marchetto has been offered to the readers of The Tablet thanks to a book review that clearly is not aware of the issues at stake nor of their interpreters. (Dr) Massimo Faggioli Department of Theology, University of St Thomas, St Paul, Minnesota, USA

Has Gavin D’Costa read the five-volume History of Vatican II edited by the late Giuseppe Alberigo? If he has, should he not have indicated to readers of The Tabletto what extent he regards Archbishop Marchetto’s excori ating (and, in my judgement, almost entirely unwarranted) criticisms of it as jus- tified? If he has not, should he not have declined the invitation to review Marchetto’s book? (Professor) Nicholas Lash Cambridge

Caritas’ Catholic identity Fr Peter Henriot SJ (Letters, 11 June), taking inspiration from the bishops’ synod of 1971, suggests the starting point of any evaluation of Catholic identity in the work of Caritas Internationalis (CI) should be its action on behalf of justice and the transformation of soci- ety. The Magisterium’s position regarding the nature of charitable activity has evolved over the last 30 years, as Fr Henriot earlier elab- orated in his review of the 2005 papal encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“For the love of justice”, The Tablet, 11 February 2006). Here the Pope clarifies the relationship

between works aiming at the just ordering of society (iustitia) and organised charitable activ- ity (caritas). In terms of which takes priority in the context of Catholic social action,

18 | THE TABLET | 18 June 2011

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Pope Benedict signing his encyclical Deus Caritas Est: ‘Perhaps the Vatican’s intended reform of Caritas Internationalis hopes to reassert the primacy of caritas over iustitia’

Benedict clarifies: “the formation of just structures is not directly the duty of the Church, but belongs to the world of politics, the sphere of the autonomous use of reason. The Church has an indirect duty here, in that she is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces with- out which just

structures are neither

established nor prove effective in the long run.” The starting point of any evaluation of a char-

itable organisation’s Catholic identity is whether its activities reawaken the spiritual energy without which effective justice cannot flourish. This is the genuine hallmark of eccle- sial charity but one that is in danger of being overlooked when a charitable organisation becomes fixated wholly and exclusively on activ- ities solely promoting justice. Perhaps the Vatican’s intended reform of CI hopes to re - adjust this focus and reassert the primacy of caritas over iustitia. Christ’s message is clear: the world will be changed, the Kingdom will come, not as a con- sequence of direct political action but through spiritual ferment. Hal Broadbent London W1

Ritual impurity? The latest edict from the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (The Church in the World, 11 June) has banned girls as altar servers at the Tridentine (Latin) Mass. This renewed Vatican prejudice against the presence of young girls at the altar of God only serves to re inforce the unjust traditional taboos of the ritual impurity of women and girls. When Jesus rebuked his disciples and ordered them to “Suffer the little children to come to me”, it was most likely that his men minders too were banning girls rather than boys from gaining access to him. Brendan Butler Malahide, Co. Dublin

Whatever one may think of the reasons advanced for not allowing women to be priests, the fact that female altar servers have been permitted for nearly 20 years makes it clear that church authorities accept that there are no persuasive theological arguments to the contrary. So what is supposed to jus- tify this exclusion? Limp reliance on the rubrics of 1962 will simply not do, given the subse- quent edict of 1994. Nor can this be a matter of personal preference: I may not like all sorts of things about the way Mass is celebrated, nor indeed necessarily warm to some of the people who share Mass with me, but if the Gospel means anything I have no choice in conscience but to transcend my particular preju dices. Exclusion, within the context of the supreme act of Christian communion, on anything less than absolute theological neces- sity is utterly counter to the spirit of the Eucharist. Despite all that, there are, ironically, grounds to give thanks for this quite unnecessary and unwarranted piece of discrimination against women and girls, since it serves to bring into the light of day the presence within our Church of the wolf of underlying misogyny, dressed up where possible in the sheep’s cloth- ing (which has slipped here) of unconvincing theological reasoning. Richard Brooke Oxford

The worldwide Church may not yet feel free to acknowledge the gifts of women in very vis- ible ways. Surely, however,

it could stop

excluding them from roles from which they are not at present debarred, such as deacon and cardinal. (Lord) Hylton House of Lords, London SW1

A Mass in Vilnius As a 12-year-old schoolgirl, I was prepared for the introduction of Communion in the hand. It was explained to us that this was in keep- ing with the Last Supper, in keeping with the traditions of the Early Church and in keep- ing with the dignity of the human being. Last week in a church in Vilnius, Lithuania, I was deliberately excluded from the central sacrament of the Church. I put out my hand to receive the Eucharist. When I realised that the priest was going to refuse me, my first reaction was confusion. It went through my head to open my mouth but as it is over 30 years since I have received the host on my tongue and as it was something I had done for only a few years as a child, I had to stop to think. There was no time for that, however, as the priest had already judged me and decided that I was unworthy. Interestingly, he had made this decision just minutes after he himself had dropped a host on the floor. As

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