A weakened China will seek scapegoats
SIR – The leading article in your July 5 issue emphasises something that is too often overlooked or downplayed in discussions of China in both the secular and religious press. That is that, while it may have embraced Western capitalism, it is ruled by the Communist Party, with an avowed atheist as its president.
It seems as though the Vatican is only too willing to throw brave “underground” Catholic clergy and lay people under the bus in order to score a diplomatic coup with the regime (perhaps Pope Francis is eyeing an eventual trip to China).
This will be a decision the Church will come to regret. If the US-China trade war escalates to the point where China’s economy is seriously disrupted, its unemployment greatly rises and the people become restless, the communist leadership will look for a bogeyman, and I will not be surprised if they brand Catholics as being among the “enemies of the people”, whether “patriotic” or not.
If the Church will not stand beside its loyal members now, when the communists are comparatively benign, how can Chinese Catholics believe it will stand with them when the real persecution begins?
St Louis, Missouri
Fact and fiction about More and Cromwell
SIR – Melanie McDonagh (Charterhouse, July 12) notes that Hilary Mantel’s portrayal of Thomas More is “pure fiction”, and as an antidote she recommends a lecture by Cambridge history professor Richard Rex, who “offers a thorough-going demolition of Ms Mantel’s claim to veracity in her treatment of Thomas More”.
Mantel’s books are works of fiction, but her fictionalised Thomas More is in tune with the new liberal fascism which tramples on conscience, refuses to tolerate “intolerance” and values diversity as long as it is not diversity of opinion – free speech for themselves, “hate speech” for lesser mortals.
Ironically, Henry VIII’s Great Matter was his marriage to Anne Boleyn, whereas much of our current controversy involves Christians of all denominations refusing to agree with or indeed sufficiently praise same-sex marriage.
GK Chesterton regarded the Reformation as a revolt of the rich, a description which accurately describes the new cultural reformation sweeping through the West, stifling debate and even criminalising dissent as “hate crime”.
Ms McDonagh will no doubt be proved correct in predicting that the concluding volume of Mantel’s trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, “will probably merit a third Booker prize for its author”. Sadly, the reading public has never had such a poor understanding of history, and consequently Mantel’s books are very popular; but that only shows that Thomas More – a character now reflected in the less saintly person of Thomas Cromwell – is as compelling as ever. If the public resorts to genuine history books to find out more about Cromwell they will discover the truth, and it will leave them wanting less of Cromwell and more of More.
Woodford Green, Essex
A different order
SIR – I really enjoyed your cover story (July 5) on religious orders and the mention of the lay Dominicans in the article.
I belong to the Order of Franciscan Secular (the OFS, formerly the Third Order of Saint Francis) and wondered if you might mention the OFS, perhaps in a story about the Franciscan family.
We are one of the earliest lay orders, started in 1221 when the first Rule was compiled by Cardinal Hugolino in the spirit of St Francis. Pope Nicholas IV re-issued the Rule in 1289; his version lasted for 600 years until Pope Leo XIII adapted it for modern requirements in 1883.
The most recent change to the Rule was made by Pope Paul VI in 1978. It was around this time that our name was changed to OFS. In this way the title of Third was dropped, as was the First, the Friars Minor, and the Second, the Poor Clares, as there is no status implied; we are all one in the true spirit of Francis.
We welcome all who are interested to our meetings. If the visitor’s interest is sustained, they continue on the path towards becoming an enquirer and then towards admission as a candidate, and then to their profession as a brother or sister of the OFS. This period, a time of study and formation, lasts about two to three years. Profession takes place at a Holy Mass when candidates make a life-long promise to live by the Rule of the OFS.
John Vivian OFS
St Anthony Fraternity Solent, Fareham, Hampshire
Where is our pride?
SIR – As a Chaldean Catholic born in Iraq, I found Fr Benedict Kiely’s article (Comment, July 12) on Iraq’s Christians both accurate and sad.
I too tend to believe that if the Pope visits Iraq in 2020, he may well preside over a wake. Even though we have a dynamic Patriarch in the person of Cardinal Louis Sako, there is only so much he can do. America’s inadequate support is disappointing, as is the attitude of most of the Christian leaders in the West.
Archbishop Warda is right about “political correctness” and the fear of being labelled “Islamophobic” dominating our society. To which we may add “multiculturalism”.
In such an atmosphere, Christians seem to have lost the passion of showing pride in their faith and in helping their own. The passion that Muslims take in their religion frankly puts us to shame. We are living in a post-Christian culture, unfortunately.
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Life without priests
SIR – Sohrab Ahmari’s cover story (May 24) about why we need priests brought to mind historical research by Fr Cathaldus Giblin OFM. By 1611, according to Fr Giblin, the decline of Catholicism in Scotland was occurring not because of conversions to Protestantism but because of the shortage of priests. This led the Irish Friars Minor to launch a mission to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, where the Gaelic language was understood by the Scots.
Despite setbacks, the mission was well received and many subsequently returned to Catholicism. On the isle of Eigg in August 1625, for instance, Fr Cornelius Ward reconciled an 80-year-old lady who recalled Mass being celebrated many years before on the island and the surrounding isles.
Fear and loathing
SIR – You ask what is stopping Pope Francis going to Moscow (Leading article, July 12). The answer is simple: the Patriarchate of Moscow. Russian Orthodox leaders have long been implacably hostile towards Catholicism, while maintaining ecumenical ties for the sake of expediency. The Patriarchate is likely to fear that it has much to lose, and little to gain, from hosting the world’s most charismatic religious leader.