SIR – Your article on Zika (News Focus, February 5) raises some important issues, not least your welcome emphasis on the importance of good public health measures. The same mosquito that spreads Zika spreads dengue and chikungunya fever, and we are highly unlikely to see it take hold in the UK. Hype from some sources about the very small risk here obscures the fact that the burden of these diseases falls mostly on the poorest countries, even with sexual transmission now appearing in the US and Europe.
The oft-rehearsed rhetoric about abortion laws in affected countries risks obscuring the issues you highlight further. Whether one sees abortion as never, sometimes or always permissible, equating it with a prevention measure is simplistic and comes too late. Our most prominent answer to reducing child death and malformation from German measles is vaccination, not abortion. So why is abortion hailed as an answer here? It doesn’t seem to me to stack up from any public health analysis of how to handle Zika.
Even though a vaccine for Zika is not exactly near, there are numerous other control strategies governments could and should select before we leap to abortion. Previous mosquito eradication schemes in South America have had an impact, as recent articles in both Science and New Scientist have highlighted.
What we need is effective public health action with the World Health Organisation getting its act together faster than its woefully slow response to Ebola. Our duty is solidarity to prevent avoidable disease. On public health grounds alone, abortion is not a convincing public health answer to a preventable disease, whatever you think of the morality of it.
Yours faithfully, Jim McManus Director of Public Health, Hertfordshire County Council, Hertford
Catholics for Brexit
SIR – Fr Ashley Beck writes that “You cannot be a faithful Catholic and a Eurosceptic” (Letter, February 5). This statement is both erroneous and politically naïve. He also fails to understand the fundamental distinction between Europe and the European Union.
The concept of Europe refers to the historic civilisation which has developed over the centuries within that continent and is distinguished by its Christian heritage, the viability of its independent nations and communities, the quality of its culture and the cultivation of its traditions of freedom and democracy. The Catholic Church has played a vital and crucial role in the formation, nature and defence of European civilisation.
The European Union, on the contrary, is a recent development which is alien to European traditions and culture: it is bureaucratic; increasingly centralised; financially incompetent (its accounts have not been properly signed off for 20 years) and expensive (it costs Britain almost £10 billion each year in contributions); is intrusive in the affairs of the member states; and lacks democratic accountability. Furthermore, it pursues a secularist agenda which is increasingly hostile to Christian values and ethics.
It is absurd and an insult to suggest that those who challenge the hegemony of the EU are not faithful Catholics. There are many thousands of Catholics who will vote “no” in the forthcoming referendum and by doing so will remain faithful to their Catholic values and traditions and to the freedom and independence of the UK.
Yours faithfully, John Owen By email
SIR – I applaud the sentiment that Europeans are called to leave behind once and for all the rivalries of history which often turned the continent into a theatre of devastating wars.
Nato has provided security in Western Europe for 60 years. Whether the EU in its present form will aid or hinder this is debatable, especially when one sees how little of substance has been produced after such efforts by the Prime Minister recently.
You may recall the controversy about the omission of any reference to God or to the Christian faith in the draft constitutional treaty of the European Union agreed in 2004, about which the Catholic Church made strong representations. It therefore suggests to me that it is indeed possible to be both a faithful Catholic and a Eurosceptic.
Bearing in mind that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in this country, I think the bishops are right to be circumspect in their advice regarding the referendum. It is ultimately up to each individual to weigh all the evidence before deciding how to cast their vote.
However, tensions induced by the migrant and ongoing financial crises may lead to the disintegration of the EU, as presently
Yours faithfully, Stuart Blackie Teddington, Middlesex
SIR – We hope the bishops will ignore Fr Beck’s suggestion that they urge Catholics to vote “Yes” in the referendum. To issue such a call would bring them and the Church into disrepute for unwarranted interference in politics.
We look to the bishops for guidance on matters within their area of responsibility, such as Communion for those in an objective state of grave sin or support for persecuted Christians. Encouraging people to work in cooperation is one thing; to associate that with a particular and disputed form of political structure is quite another.
Some of the post-war leaders in European cooperation may have had ambitions to re-establish a Christian Europe but it has long been clear that that is not the ambition of the EU – which, for example, is willing to admit Turkey, a large Muslim nation. We assert the right of faithful Catholics to be Eurosceptic and vote “No”.
Yours faithfully, Paul and Audrey Edwards Reigate, Surrey
A model priest
SIR – It was good to see the photograph of Aid to the Church in Need representatives presenting the episcopal insignia of Mgr Richard Rutt, who died in 2011, to a cardinal and priest of the Korean Church (Catholic Life, January 29). Mgr Rutt was a former Anglican bishop in Taejon who returned to England in 1974 to make way for a Korean bishop. He served as suffragan to Bishop Graham Leonard as Bishop of St Germans, then as Bishop of Leicester before becoming a Catholic in 1994. He was a gifted linguist, with Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Cornish among his accomplishments, and he published books about Korean poetry and culture, including a CTS booklet about the Korean martyrs. In 1973 he was appointed CBE for his services to Korea and he received an honorary D Litt from the Confucian University, Seoul.
As a Catholic priest he was made an honorary canon of Plymouth Cathedral in 2001 and a Prelate of Honour in 2009. He was a man of many talents, including writing the definitive work on the history of hand knitting, and his deep spirituality affected many. May his influence for good in Korea and elsewhere continue to make itself felt.
Yours faithfully, Canon Kenneth Noakes St Catherine’s,