SIR – I fear my friend Matthew Schmitz has taken a sledgehammer to crush an egg (Comment, February 21). He is certainly correct that IVF treatment is against Catholic teaching, and thus the failure of the Orbán government to implement a part of Catholic teaching, albeit a very significant part, belies the belief of many in the liberal West that he is a theocrat.
The Hungarian constitution states that the nation of Hungary is a Christian nation, built on the heritage of its first Christian king, St Stephen. At the very centre of the magnificent Hungarian parliament building in Budapest sits the crown of St Stephen, placed there by Viktor Orbán to symbolise both where true authority lies and from where it comes.
Hungary is the first (and still the only) nation on earth that has a specific governmental ministry, now elevated to a position within the PM’s office, dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians throughout the world. Within weeks of meeting various patriarchs from Iraq and Syria in 2016, Orbán formed the State Secretariat for Persecuted Christians.
Through its “Hungary Helps” programme, the small nation of Hungary has done more than almost all larger governments per capita to aid Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and other countries where they are facing persecution. Hungary’s policy on migration specifically aims to help people stay in their own countries through this aid programme. The right of a sovereign nation not only to control its own borders, but also to preserve its national character and culture, which is most certainly a Christian culture, is not antithetical to Christianity.
When criticising the decisions of some of the governments of the former Soviet bloc it is necessary to have a certain humility, especially when that criticism concerns places where Christian democracy is a half-remembered dream. Orbán’s authentic, yet imperfect, attempt to rebuild a Christian democracy on the ruins of a demonic and atheistic communist system will never meet the standards of a perfect Christian state; such a thing does not exist. But given the spiritual wasteland that is much of Western Europe, an imperfect Christianity is still Christianity.
Fr Benedict Kiely
Down’s syndrome: a painful indifference
SIR – As the former medical director of the Lejeune Clinic for children with Down’s syndrome, it was a joy to assist parents and their lovely children. Many of the mothers had persisted with their pregnancy knowing the diagnosis before birth, but they had been made to feel that they were under an expectation to have an abortion. This was often repeated at each antenatal visit by different midwives. Some had also been given outdated information about Down’s syndrome.
I recall one case in particular. She was a middle-aged professional woman who had been deserted by her partner. She had repeatedly stated her wish to continue with her pregnancy. She said the lowest point was when the paediatrician asked if she would want the baby resuscitated. In the event, the delivery went well and the baby was in good health.
My colleagues and I approached the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) offering to hold a joint meeting to update them on the current outlook for persons with Down’s. I further suggested that a form be attached to the woman’s antenatal notes stating her wish regarding the continuation of her pregnancy after a single discussion with a senior health professional.
Neither suggestion was taken up. I reluctantly came to the conclusion that the RCOG was indifferent to the needs of these women.
Dr A P Cole
SIR – Reading the Diary of a City Priest column dated January 24, I fully concurred with Fr Dominic Allain when he wrote: “I realised I apparently get easier and richer insight while in the shower than when sitting at a desk or even praying.” This is my experience too.
Adding to this, he refers to St Gregory of Nyssa’s use of the image of a stone thrown into a pool and the ripples spreading to the furthest edge. I often apply this comparison to explain why there is a need for a general judgment. Now I may give it a wider application to the link between mind, body or spirit.
Father’s guess as to the etymology of the term “trichotomism” was less fortunate: my Concise Oxford Dictionary speaks of “trichotomy” instead and defines the term as “division” (especially sharply defined) into three (from the Greek treis), especially of the human nature into body, soul and spirit.
French does not know the word “trichoter”; tricoter is the correct term for knitting. Furthermore, the tomy (pace the old manual) derives from the Greek “temno” – “tomos”.
Fr Henri Peeters MHM
SIR – I have just read with interest Simon Caldwell’s article about the icon of Our Lady of Walsingham that was recently blessed by the Pope (Britain news analysis, February 21).
I was fortunate to be able to go to Lancaster Cathedral a fortnight ago for the Dowry tour, and what a tremendous day it was.
I wonder if some of the faithful are aware that they are being encouraged to make their own personal dedication through the use of the booklet 33 Days to Morning Glory. Some parishes in Wigan, where I live, are using the booklet as part of their personal preparation for Marian consecration.
I understand that as many as 80,000 free copies were made available nationally and that all now have been snapped up. My parish handed out more than 100 last weekend and all were gratefully received. The booklet can be downloaded via Google.
Wigan, Greater Manchester
SIR – Bishop Robert Barron (Comment, February 28) describes a discussion between Pope Francis and US bishops from Region XI about the meaning of “synodality”. The Holy Father explained that a synod is “not a parliament” and that the true protagonist at such gatherings is the Holy Spirit, rather than the bishops.
The trouble is that, in practice, synods do resemble parliaments. Bishops are regional representatives, blocks of like-minded people form coalitions and motions that win a majority of votes are carried forward.
Advocates of “synodality” point out that these gatherings offer a space in which contentious matters (such as women deacons) may be freely discussed. But the downside is that synods, by their nature, solidify and deepen divisions.
If anyone doubts this, just look at the Eastern Orthodox Church. In 2016, the Ecumenical Patriarch hosted the “pan-Orthodox” Holy and Great Council in Crete. It was boycotted by the Russian Orthodox Church, which later cut ties with Constantinople.
Given this, why is the Catholic Church so keen to move towards a synodal model?
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