CHRISTIANITY AND COMMUNISM
• LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
[Correspondents are requested to keep their letters as brief as is reasonably possible. The most suitable length is that of one of our " News of the Week " paragraphs. Signed letters are given a preference over those Learing,a pseudonym, and the latter must be accompanied by the name and address of the author, which will be treated as confidential.—Ed. THE SPECTATOR.] [To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—I am loath to intrude again upon your space, but may I be permitted to make clear my views to Lord Clonmore and Mr. A. I. Muntz ? My letter, if not explicitly, at any rate by inference, denied that those responsible today for the spiritual guidance of Christians have the right to speak for the Christian ideal as opposed to the Communist one. I do not hold this view simply because, as Mr. Muntz says, " priests have often been venal and corrupt " but because the teachings of those counted to be amongst the righteous members of the priesthood are, in my opinion, in direct conflict with Holy Writ. Although
am a Conservative and a supporter of Democracy, I refuse to believe that either Lenin, the Mexican Republic or the Spanish Socialists overthrew Christianity. They overthrew clerical materialism. Father D'Arey's article is an admirable exposition of Christianity as it is in theory. Revolutions have exposed what it is in practice.
Let Inc give two examples only of Christianity in practice-- - the first with regard to the inspiration of all Christian thought and action, namely, the Bible, and the second with regard to that Service which all Christians hold most sacred—the Holy Eucharist.
The subjoined examples of the priesthood's attitude towards the Bible are well authenticated and can he easily verified :
POPE Plus X : " If a Catholic has obtained the Bible inadver- tently he should at once throw it into the fire."—Catholic Faille, p. 10.
- CARDINAL WISEMAN : " The prohibition of the reading of the Scriptures is the stronghold of the Church's unity. Let the faithful but read the Scriptures and the Government of the Church will tumble to pieces."—The Use of the Bible, pp. 11 and 12.
POPE CLEMENT XI condemned liberty of Conscience and excommunicated all readers of the Bible.
THE SECRET COUNCIL OF CHIERI (Jesuits) : " Then the Bible, that serpent which with head erect and eyes flashing fire threatens us with its venom while it trails along the ground, shall be changed again into a rod as soon as we are able to seize it . . . for three centuries past this cruel asp has left us no repose. You well know with what folds it entwines us and with what fangs it gnaws us."— The Secret Plan in the Library of the British Museum. • POPE Pius VII, in a letter to Ignatius, Archbishop of Quest), Primate of Poland, dated June 29th, 1816, alarmed at the progress of the Bible Society in that country, thus writes " We have been truly shocked at this most crafty device, by which the very founda- tions of religion are undermined."
Why do Christian priests systematically suppress the Bible in this manner ? Father D'Arey says : " The primary office of the Church is to ensure that its members can learn Christ and practise His Commandments." If the Christ of the Gospels and the Christ of the priests (to which presumably he refers) are one and the same Person, surely the priests need not be at such pains to suppress the Book in which His own teaching and the revelations of God which inspired that teaching appear. What would Christ Himself have said of this suppression of the means of " learning " Him ?
The answer is, to'my untutored mind, because the religious edifice of Christianity today is not built upon a foundation of Biblical Truth, but upon, and of, the rubble of religious edifices long since discredited and demolished. Priests would not be human if they did not, in this manner, attempt to discourage study of the volume which points the accusing linger at them.
Secondly, as regards the Holy Eucharist. I have before me extracts from an authoritative work, The Explanation of the Holy Mass, by Father von Cochem. Let me say at once that I respect, both his and his followers' sincerity in helieVing, as they do, all that it contains. Even when he affirms that
none of the following practices may be omitted by the priest without sin, when celebrating Mass, I respect the sincerity of his belief. He says ;
" The priest signs himself with the sign of the cross sixteen times. He turns to the people six times. He kisses the altar eight times. He lifts his eyes to heaven eleven times. He strikes his breast ten times. He kneels down ten times. He folds his hands together twenty-four times. He bows his head twenty-one-times. He bows his shoulders seven times. He bows himself loVe eight times. He blesses the altar with the sign of the cross thirty-one times. Ho lays his two hands flat on the altar twenty-nine times. He prays with outstretched hands fourteen times. He prays with hands folded thirty-six times. He puts his hands folded on the altar seven times. He puts his left hand alone on the altar nine time. He lays the left hand on the breast eleven times. He lifts both hands to heaven eight times. He prays secretly eleven times. He prays aloud thirteen times. He covers and uncovers the chalice ten times. He goes to and fro twenty times."
Ignorant heretic though I may be, I cannot help but think that had .Christ, who certainly instituted none of them, and condemned those who " think that they shall be heard for
their much speaking," would have been intensely angry had He caught His Disciples performing what it seems to me are no more than spell-binding tricks. Possibly my understanding is at fault, but they appear to me to be no more than the twentieth-century equivalent of those Pharisaical observances, meticulously carried . out, as to ceremonies, dress and ritual, which Christ anathematised- the vain repetition of prayers, the vain show of praying in the market places, the tithing of mint and anise, the washing of cups, the broad phylacteries, &c., while weightier matters, such as the wanton slaughter of human beings and the appropriation of vast treasure by the Church, are overlooked.
Too vividly, perhaps, I picture the scene when, a few days after the Crucifixion, Christ appeared to the Disciples. But suppose that He had, on that occasion, found Peter, clad in all the magnificence of modern vestments, performing such ceremonies as those described before a high altar sur- mounted by life-sized graVen images of Himself and His mother. Suppose that He had found an imperishable wafer
substituted for the perishable bread which He had so recently given,. and Peter alone partaking of it, whilst the other Disciples, denied any participation, prostrated themselves at the far end of the room. That His anger would have been extreme seems to me to be no frivolous or unwarrantable assumption.
Further, I believe that Christ would Himself have joined as energetically in the destruction of graven images, described today as Red vandalism, as He did in overturning the money- Changers' tables, for He invariably upheld the Old Testament as the Truth. In this particular matter, by the way, it may be noted that the JewS, haVing been cured_ of polytheism and idolatry by the Babylonian Captivity,. never attempted to make graven images in Christ's time.
' I repeat that I am , ready to be corrected for what others may think are jaundiced views of the Christian Faith. I should like to hear their opinions and let the public decide the issue. Surely before we attempt to argue about the respective merits of Christianity and Communism we must
be sure what, in the light of Holy Writ and not of sacerdotal or monastic tradition, the Christian ideal really is: As to whether the Vatican supported the Abyssinian cam- paign, the public must decide for itself. Lord ClOnnaore will not deny, however, that tanks were used as altars on which the Holy Eucharist was celebrated or that a " Miraculous " Madonna was despatched to the front prestunably to inspirit the Italian troops and lend sanctity to their venture, for reports and pictures of these happenings
were published in the leading newspapers throughout 'this country. As regards my sources of information about Spain, I refer him to the following :—International Affairs, September ; Time and Tide, August 8th, 22nd and 28th ; Fortnightly Review, September and October ; Foreign Affairs, July and October ; The Times, August 20th ; Current History, May.