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LETTERS


Speaking truth to power Last week’s letters (24 September) regarding the role of the army chaplain in the Baha Musa case raise important issues about chaplains and other professional officers in the armed forces. I speak from personal experience as I was the Command Legal Adviser for the 1st (UK) Armoured Division during the Iraq War. In March 2003, I intervened to prevent the mistreatment of prisoners in the interroga- tion facility in Um Qsar. Although I was unable to prevent the mistreatment immediately, I reported the matter to the General Officer Commanding. I was then forced to run the gauntlet of some fairly unpleasant behaviour and was silenced by the Ministry of Defence when a meeting was arranged with the International Committee of the Red Cross to discuss my concerns, in case the “wrong”view was put forward. This would be particularly daunting for a young officer. Commanding officers will often try to sack those who speak out. I have known chaplains and other professional officers who have been sacked for carrying out their professional duties and, if this happens, it often means that their career in the armed forces is at an end (as their annual report reflects the fact that they were sacked, which is fatal on operations and very damaging in any other posting). The army does nothing to help and expects the individual to go through an arcane and protracted grievance procedure, which can take years and for which you get no legal assistance. In the meantime, you are often parked in a convenient desk-bound job and deemed “unsuitable” for working in the wider army. Say nothing, and you could proceed all the way to the top. Speak out, and your career could well be over. Hence, no doubt, why a doctor is facing the General Medical Council and a priest walked on the other side of the road. There is no excuse for professional officers not to speak out and there is no excuse for those who turned a blind eye to Baha Musa and other prisoners. Their reward will be a blemish-free career and promotion. In my own case, it was the beginning of my road to ordination as an Anglican priest. I would be grateful for your prayers on 8 October. (Lieut. Col.) Nicholas Mercer Gillingham, Dorset


The English exception I was interested to read of Frank Capocci’s experi ence of Mass in Italian (Letters, 24 September). A priest friend from London, vis- iting us last week, asked how the French text of the Mass compared with the recently introduced English text. Reading through and comparing the Collects and Prefaces for Sundays, and the Eucharistic Prayers, it was clear that the French texts followed the form of old International Commission on English in the Liturgy translation. Apart from “And


18 | THE TABLET | 1 October 2011


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Music is another source of sadness. Often we no longer sing the “Gloria”, or “Holy Holy Holy”, as the music permitted is difficult, and not suitable for congregational singing. Some of the Mass settings have been revised but, like the translation, the words do not flow and nor do the tunes any more. Kay O’Reilly Whangarei, New Zealand


Baha Mousa, pictured with his wife and two children, was beaten to death by British military guards in Iraq in 2003. A Catholic army chaplain, Fr Peter Madden, has been criticised for failing to report evidence of abuse. Photo: Reuters


with your spirit”, the French Missal is a good equivalent of the Missal used until last month in most of the English-speaking world. Those for whom Christ shed his blood are described in French as la multitude where the definite article makes multitude all-encompassing and inclusive rather than restrictive and limiting. Is the English language being singled out for special consideration by the Congregation for Divine Worship or should we in France prendre garde? Robin Houghton Molieres-sur-l’Alberte, Ladern, France


Rosemary Boyle (Letters, 17 September) does not “mind mirroring what our brothers and sisters say in France, Germany and elsewhere”. In French, just before going to the altar, the communicant says Seigneur, je ne suis pas digne de te recevoir, and is confident that the word of the Lord will be sufficient to ensure je serai guéri. Neither “roof ” nor “soul”, and I am not aware of any intention to alter these texts. Incidentally, in French, we presume to address the Almighty in the familiar tu, where the new English translation seems to try to recreate a Victorian father figure, with whom relations are distant and – literally – awful. Cliodhna Dempsey Edinburgh


In New Zealand we have been using the new translation for almost a year, and I can assure you that we have not “got used to it”. I support all Bishop Colin Campbell writes (“Did the ‘first cab off the rank’ go into top gear?”, 17 September). At first we were uncomfortable with the wording but prepared to try. Our bishops promoted the translation as “New Words, Deeper Meaning”. As time passed, it became clear that the clumsy wording in fact was taking all joy and unity in our Mass away. Our feelings are now anger and frustration. Many of us have stopped making the responses altogether, or loudly use the old ones.


The substitution of the word “chalice” for “cup” in the Eucharistic Prayer has already been noted. The unconscious vulgarity of this change, at the most dramatic moment in the whole liturgy, is horrifying, as though the dig- nity of the word “cup” were not upheld by the hands that held it and passed it round, and to “improve” on this is to make of another good word a genteelism which betrays the mentality of the translator – and three times! It confirms all that we now know, thanks to The Tablet’s preparatory articles, about the process whereby this translation was arrived at. (Dom) Sebastian Moore OSB Downside Abbey, Somerset


Marginalisation of prison chaplains A recent mailing from Prison Chaplaincy HQ sets out clinically the much reduced brief and influence of the senior Catholic chaplain. Effectively he is an outsider given very lim- ited scope to contribute to the work of prison chaplaincy. The mailing also includes a year planner under the banner of the Ministry of Justice. Hitherto this publication, setting out prisoners’ entitlements, included a spe- cific section for Roman Catholic practice. This year’s lists seven religions: among them Pagan and Christian. No mention of the Church of England; Catholics appear only in a minuscule footnote: “RC holidays of obligation are this year transferred to Sundays” (untrue). The description of Christian belief and practice is bland and generic and in no way expresses Catholic belief and practice. So the trend is clearly to a generic Christian service. And the staffing levels remain in the hands of the governor/director of each jail. The offi- cial line tempts a cash-strapped governor to say: one generic Christian chaplain suffices. Some years ago in HMP Lowdham Grange, a multi-faith room was designated for the use of all. It was to have no altar, no picture or artefact of any particular faith or Church. As RC chaplain I was fortunate to have, without charge, the help of Pete Weatherby, a much respected barrister well versed in prison law. Our quest to secure at least an altar and some religious symbols and pictures went through all available channels right up to the point of a judicial review. The then director, a man widely regarded as ruthless and uncomprom - ising, eventually suggested a compromise. The altar and artefacts remain, providing for


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