SIR – I am sure that most informed Catholics are aware of the agreement reached between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of bishops and the regularisation of the status of the state-controlled Patriotic Catholic Association.
The “underground” Church, which has remained loyal to the authority of the Pope since 1955 and has been a source of martyrs and witnesses to the faith, is now at a loss to understand this new modus vivendi. If the Holy See is now accepting the communist government’s nominations to vacant sees then we have to ask: what concessions were given by the communists in return? The Pope has the right to veto candidates but cannot nominate his own bishops.
Surely this is a return to the time when the secular state, such as the Holy Roman Empire or Franco’s Spain, had the right to nominate candidates for episcopal consecration. This time the Church is allowing an anti-Christian, totalitarian state which seeks to destroy any alternative source of authority into running the Catholic Church in China. We are now in the position where the ability to speak out as a critique of the regime will be eliminated.
When communism falls in China, as it will eventually, the Catholic Church will be seen as a pliant pawn of a brutal regime which was guilty of crimes against humanity – against the peoples of that vast prison-camp empire where the Laogai camp system held so many innocents.
The evil of communist China should not be appeased. Have we learned nothing of the failure of the Ostpolitik policies of the 1960s-1980s, when communist regimes in central and eastern Europe were appeased and the infiltration and persecution of the Church continued unabated? Communism can never be appeased. It is an evil ideology whose victims both in China and elsewhere are numbered in the hundreds of millions.
Andrew Gray Edinburgh
Bolsheviks did not end Romanov rule
SIR – Tim Stanley (Comment, December 14) makes a common but important mistake when he says that, had he been alive and Russian in 1917, he’d “have been a Bolshevik too” because of the oppressions and injustices of Romanov rule. But the Bolsheviks did not overthrow the Tsar. Russia’s February Revolution, which led to the abdication of Nicholas II, was a liberal democratic revolution.
The resulting Provisional Government worked hard to create constitutional rule and held what were then the world’s largest-ever free elections for a constituent assembly, despite being in the midst of war and upheaval.
The Bolsheviks overthrew not the Tsars but Russia’s first (and perhaps only) democratic state, by means of an armed putsch in Petrograd. They falsely celebrated this cynical palace coup as a second “October revolution”. They then suppressed and dispersed the constituent assembly by armed force, and began their long reign of blood and hatred, including the massacre of priests and the murder of the Imperial Family.
People shouldn’t joke about this, in my view, nor give Lenin’s violent atheists the benefit of any doubt.
Peter Hitchens London W8
Augustine said it first
SIR – Subsequent to Descartes writing Je pense, donc je suis, his attention was drawn to Chapter 26 of Book XI of St Augustine’s City of God. In that chapter, headed “The partial image of the Trinity in human nature”, St Augustine preceded Descartes by well over a millennium in asserting that the mind makes us aware of our existence. Descartes, in a letter of 1644, acknowledged his satisfaction that his thoughts were in line with such a holy and excellent person.
St Augustine, however, takes the matter much further in saying that we come to love our existence and our knowledge thereof (which perhaps answers Nigel Stanbridge’s letter of November 2), and having established the existence of love we can begin to apprehend the Trinity. Fr Hugh MacKenzie (Letter, November 23) mentions Blessed John Henry Newman. Is the apprehension of a partial image of the Trinity Newman’s “aboriginal conscience”?
Nicolas Bellord Horsted Keynes, West Sussex
SIR – Last month, the UN’s Human Rights Committee issued its newly adopted interpretation (termed a “General Comment”) of the right to life as enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Member states are now advised that they must “provide safe, legal and effective access to abortion” where (for example) a pregnancy would cause the mother substantial pain or suffering, and should not introduce barriers through the “exercise of conscientious objection”, or regulate abortion in a manner “contrary to their duty to ensure that women and girls do not have to undertake unsafe abortions” (emphasis added).
By focusing on the mother’s life in a way which excludes that of the unborn child, the committee’s interpretation loses sight of the essential recognition, preserved in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”.
Andrew Todd Worthing, West Sussex
Too many vigils
SIR – I seem to remember that when vigil Masses were introduced, it was for the benefit of people who had to work on Sunday. They are now popular and well attended – so much so that they take precedence over whatever feast falls on the Saturday no matter how important.
Last month the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a first-class feast and a holy day of obligation in many countries, fell on a Saturday; and yet because of the vigil Mass on Saturday evening we did not have a Mass for the feast in our parish or the three neighbouring parishes. This has also occurred on other feast days.
I don’t think that this was an intended consequence of the vigil Masses. I would have thought that one or even two vigil Masses per deanery would be sufficient to meet this need.
In my sizeable and well-attended parish, our only Christmas Mass is at 5 pm on December 24. Apparently saying a Mass on Christmas Eve at five o’clock counts as one of the three Masses a priest is allowed to say on Christmas Day. Forgive me if I do not understand this.
Ann Parry Sheffield
SIR – Another reason for the world ignoring the work of women Religious (December 14) may be that broadcast and news media, as well as feminists, dislike the sight of women who really are feminists – women who go out of their way to be as unlike men as possible.
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