SIR – We the undersigned are writing to express our burning anxiety at the Vatican’s treaty with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the light of the China Tribunal’s findings into forced organ harvesting.
The Tribunal was commissioned by the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse – a group of lawyers, academics, medical professionals and human rights advocates – and chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.
It found that Beijing’s government is conducting a state-run programme of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience and detailed acts of torture committed in the course of the programme including:
Killing prisoners by the removal of organs, lethal injection and “organ harvesting under the pretext of brain death”;
Widespread accounts of rape and torture, including harrowingly graphic stories of sexual violence and prisoners being “shocked” with electric rods, with one woman “shocked until [she went] blind”;
The use of the so-called “tiger chair”, a torture device, on Uighur prisoners.
In his submitted evidence, leading human rights lawyer Edward Fitzgerald CBE QC said the treatment of Falun Gong in China could meet the legal definition of genocide.
The Tribunal concluded that such acts constituted crimes against humanity and said it was certain beyond reasonable doubt that they had occurred.
This damning finding echoes that of the US Congressional Executive Committee in 2018 that the mass arbitrary internment of as many as one million or more Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in ‘‘political re-education’’ camps in western China may be the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority population since World War II, and may constitute crimes against humanity.
Despite these recent and present human rights abuses, some Vatican representatives have shamed their office and their Christian profession in their responses to concerns about the Holy See’s 22nd September 2018 provisional agreement with the PRC. In 2018, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the head of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, asserted that the Chinese government had “accomplished the reform of the organ donation system” and even went on to claim that “those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese”.
We note that the text of the treaty has been kept so secret that not even Cardinal Zen has actually seen a copy of the agreement. That in itself is a scandal.
The case for opposing the Vatican’s deal with Xi Jinping’s government, which also harasses and detains leading Catholic clergy and destroys Catholic shrines and churches which refuse to join the official “Patriotic Church”, was already formidably strong. Now, it is unarguable. The time has come for the Vatican to rescind its treaty with the PRC and by so doing stand in forthright solidarity with all victims of totalitarian oppression.
John M Barrie
Joanna Bogle DSG
Prof. Philip Booth
Deacon Nick Donnelly
Fr Timothy Finigan
Dr Paul Keeley
Prof. David Paton
Fr David Palmer
Dr Joseph Shaw
Peter D. Williams By email
Is Communion in the hand safer?
SIR – In light of the news of the continuing coronavirus epidemic and measures responding to that from bishops around the country (Cover story, March 6), I would like to note the following.
At celebrations of the Extraordinary Form (the Traditional Mass) it is not permitted to distribute the Host in the hand. Should the suspension of distribution on the tongue be necessary for the safety of the public, there would be no Communion of the faithful at celebrations of the Extraordinary Form.
This is not a matter of legalism. The Extraordinary Form places great emphasis on the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament in all its ceremonies and texts, and reception in the hand in this context would be not just incongruous but a cause of distress to the faithful. The overwhelming majority of Catholics attached to the ancient Mass would rather make an Act of Spiritual Communion.
There seems, however, to be no objective medical foundation for the claim that reception in the hand is safer than reception on the tongue. The office of Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, notes, following consultation with specialists, that with regard to the danger of passing on infection by a minister inadvertently touching communicants in turn, “done properly, the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand poses a more or less equal risk”.
There is also the danger of a communicant infecting his own Host from his own hands, which is entirely avoided by the method of receiving on the tongue.
Joseph Shaw Chairman, Latin Mass Society, London WC2
SIR – The answer to Fr Raymond de Souza’s question, Why didn’t Pius call Vatican II? (March 6), is that in the chaotic post-war situation in the Church and the world Pope Pius XII did not believe that the bishops would produce a satisfactory outcome.
Most people have never heard of the nun Mother Pascalina Lehnert, whose story is revealed in a book through her friendship with a young America priest, Fr Charles Theodore Murr, in The Godmother: Madre Pascalina, a Feminine Tour de Force. She served as Pope Pius XII’s housekeeper and secretary from his period as apostolic nuncio to Bavaria in 1917 until his death as pope in 1958.
In an interview with Catholic World Report, Fr Murr said that she had told him: “This was not John XXIII opening a window. This is nonsense. For four or five years, Pope Pius XII prepared the Second Vatican Council. And then he put it all away one day, and I asked him why he decided not to go ahead with these plans.”
Fr Murr continued: “He told her that the bishops of the world were not sufficiently mature to take it on. And it was all tabled.
I think that’s exactly what happened; he was right. They really made a mess of it…
“So in a lot of ways, that was exactly correct: they were not mature enough.”
Dr Michael Straiton Cuddington, Buckinghamshire
The true Boss
SIR – Your correspondent Brian Dive (February 21) laments that our bishops only have a “performance appraisal” and meet the “boss” once every five years at their ad limina visits to Rome. By contrast Cardinal Sarah, in his book The Day Is Now Far Spent (in the chapter on the crisis of the priesthood) says that the problem is that bishops often fail in their duty to be a model of the life of prayer in their dioceses but instead are lost in secondary and profane pursuits.
After all, their true “Boss” is available at every moment of the day and night to guide them, and “performance appraisal” in the form of an examination of conscience is also a daily possibility, especially in the sacrament of Confession.