The betrayal of the Church in China
SIR – Your leader, “East of Eden” (May 3), expresses timely if overly respectful doubt about current Vatican policy in China. I have never trusted China on any point since 1949 when, as a member of the Labour League of Youth, I cut out articles from the Manchester Guardian explaining Mao’s rise to power. I wish I still had them to quote here.
As editor of the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Mirror in 1986, I wrote a brief illustrated biographical memoir of Cardinal Mindszenty, “The Valiant Shepherd”. I quoted the cardinal: “The history of Bolshevism … shows that the Church cannot make any conciliatory gesture expecting that the regime will in turn abandon its persecution of religion. That persecution follows from the essence and the internal nature of its ideology.”
Fiercely loyal to the pope, ACN founder Fr Werenfried van Straaten would not allow me to criticise Pope Paul for displacing Mindszenty from his Esztergom see in the terms I first drafted, but he did allow me to write that “Pope Paul was an honourable man, honouring an agreement with men who embodied dishonour”. I apply that description to the Chinese leadership today. Communism never changes. We always betray those whom we entrust to its promises. I remember a brilliant leader in your columns when Stuart Reid was briefly editor in the mid-1970s, titled “Casaroli Stew”, invoking Solzhenitsyn’s authority to chide Rome for its woeful Ostpolitik.
Oh, Rome, Rome; so quick to teach, so slow to learn! So where lies hope for Catholics in China? Or for any religious believers? Communism is the snow of a single winter on the Chinese mountain. The party will fall. There is a notable existential hurdle in front of it this year as its power-span reaches 70 years, its grim pinnacles Tibet, the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square. No one suggests the Chinese are less intelligent than the Russians, where communism toppled after 70 years.
I give credit to China in that despite its regime the nation has drawn huge numbers from poverty, if at an unsustainable ecological cost. I trust and have hope in China, and in the Chinese, while deploring its current but assuredly transient political system. But I do not trust the Vatican.
Why are there so many poor people?
SIR – I sympathise with your correspondent Derek McMillan’s sentiments and I too feel for the many poor people to whom he refers in his letter, “Poor Parisians” (April 26). It prompts the question though: why are there so many poor people? It is deplorable; so many have too much money but so many do not have enough for the basics of life. And yet it doesn’t make headline news. The Christian community should be talking very loudly about it but let’s not delude ourselves: Christ’s commandments can be difficult for lovers of money.
The donations for the restoration of Notre-Dame are staggering, but such a magnificent building – a work of art, designed and crafted with God-given talents, which lifts the soul and transcends our earthly feelings – should be restored.
St Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, instructs: “Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.” Love of our neighbour is of paramount importance, but we need not forsake our Christian heritage.
SIR – Fr Anthony Conlon (Letter, May 3) mourns the Vatican II changes in the liturgy. Others of us grieve over the later alterations to the language used. The Entrance Antiphon for the May 3 Feast of Ss Philip and James is a sad example of this. It used to read: “God chose these holy men for their unfeigned love, and gave them eternal glory, alleluia.” The revised version reads: “These are the holy men whom God chose in his own perfect love, to them he gave eternal glory, alleluia” The whole sense is altered by changing the love from that of the men to that of God, but the word “unfeigned”
I first saw this when I was choosing the words to put on my husband’s gravestone. So lovely did I think it was that I wanted to put “Remembered with unfeigned love” on it. The monument mason sent me a preliminary check-up which read: “Remembered with unfained love.” Amused, I wrote back illustrating the different words by saying: “Fain would I love with unfeigned love.” This has been my constant prayer since, so I was deeply saddened, two days ago, to notice the loss of that unusual and expressive word in the liturgy. Had my husband died last year I would not have thought of such a tribute to him.
SIR – I don’t know if Philip Goddard (Letter, April 19) is a Celtic fan. Nevertheless, I do hope that he watched (on BBC News) the eloquent and moving eulogy given by Archie Macpherson in memory of the late Billy McNeill at the latter’s Requiem Mass in the beautiful St Aloysius’ Church in Glasgow on May 3. As Celtic’s five remaining Lisbon Lions age gracefully towards heavenly glories that should surpass even those won against Inter Milan in 1967, perhaps it might be timely (as well as appropriate) for the Bishop of Motherwell to review his recent guidelines on funeral eulogies within his diocese.
A word on St John
SIR – Reading Bishop David McGough’s The Word This Week is always a good way to prepare for Sunday Mass because of its insight into the Proper of the Mass. His article for the Second Sunday of Easter (April 26) was no exception. However, modern scholarship is of the view that it is unlikely that the Book of Revelation was written by St John the Evangelist for several reasons. Indeed, very little is known of John of Patmos.
Wrong sort of history
SIR – Sir Roger Scruton should be thankful he was not also a Catholic (Charterhouse, May 3). I was course leader for a BA History of Art, Design and Film course when I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse: to retire early. Only later did I find out the post was wanted for the formation of a more politically left-wing cultural history course, for which my specialist interest in late 20th-century Church art and architecture was considered not just irrelevant but antipathetic.
Paul D Waller
SIR – Quentin de la Bédoyère clearly doesn’t suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear of long words). If he is ever thinking of moving, I know just the place for him.