Letter: Vision that drew me from atheism

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The Independent Online
Sir: Bryan Appleyard ("Catholicism made us what we are", 19 September) perpetuates the false image of a Church besieged, paranoid about its place in the world and defending "absolutism" against the ravages of liberal relativism. It is not the vision of Christianity which drew me from atheism to Catholicism some 10 years ago.

Anyone attending any of the Christian churches today, or at any time in history, would realise that the real logical consequence of believing in a God who became incarnate is that life is not as simple as "absolutists" make out.

The Gospels do present clear values, and insights on life and life in Christ. However the reality of Incarnation is that their application in any given age or culture needs to be discerned, through prayer, as faith, both individual and that of the Church as a community, develops.

Even current "absolutes", like marriage and clerical celibacy, have seen theological and canonical developments over the centuries. Much of the celebrated "philosophical genius" owes more to Aristotle than the Gospels and was rejected in Aquinas's own time as irredeemably pagan.

All Christian denominations have their "liberal" and "conservative" wings.

Christianity is really about a praying, living, growing community, united in that life and growth by a common belief in a God who not only died for us, but also rose again to new life. It is this latter mystery which is the real distinction between Christianity and a purely secular understanding of life.

CATHERINE SHELLY

London SE5

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