Sir: Matthew Parris has missed the point (‘Give me the Anglican option’, 15 April). He compares Rod Dreher’s suggestion that modern Christians emulate the Benedictines with the retreat into self-imposed exile of groups like ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Beni Isguen community.
The Benedictines did not withdraw from the world. They engaged with the fractured society of the Dark Ages, showing a better way through their schools, almsgiving and prayer. A number of recent books, including Tom Holland’s Millennium, have charted the astonishing role the monasteries played in dragging Europe out of barbarism. In Britain, the Church and its monastic orders set up many of the institutions on which our modern civilisation depends, from Parliament (which met in the Benedictine Westminster Abbey until Henry VIII cast the monks out), to our ancient universities and the first hospitals.
In today’s increasingly secular Britain, parents continue to vie to get their children into church schools. At Ampleforth, for example, the work of St Benedict is plain to see, not just in the monastery and school but in the range of projects directed from there in the local community.
The Church offers hope when it engages the world by offering the Gospel — in deed as well as word. Beguiling as Matthew’s argument is, Our Lord did not say: ‘Go out and be subsumed in whatever is going on.’
Julian Brazier MP
Support for Anglicanism
Sir: If the Anglican church is to retreat into a monastic minority (‘The Benedict option’, 15 April) its leaders will have failed us badly. There may be a decline in church attendance but there are some 30 million in this country who identify with Christianity and its values even if they only attend church for marriages and funerals. They may not believe in the Resurrection, but they respect the established church for its moral code and tolerance.