THE Sword of the Spirit
movement, founded by Cardinal Hinsley in 1940 as part of Pope Pius Xll's "Five Peace Points" later split into two organisations — the Africa Centre and the Catholic Institute of International Affairs.
For a time both were accommodated in the Africa Centre building in Covent Garden, London, John Biggs-Davison was the first chairman of the Africa Centre and I followed him for a three-year stint in 1961-64.
Later the CIIR moved to other premises and, unlike the Africa Centre — which kept a low profile, concentrated on cultural subjects and tried to avoid political controversy — it appeared to glory in the most radical forms of political dispute. It opposed Dr Caetano's visit to Britain, publicised Fr Hastings' alleged massacre at Wiriyamu, and supported Bishop Lamont's unbridled attacks on the Rhodesian Government and security forces while apparently overlooking for as long as possible the atrocities of the ZANU and ZAPU guerrillas. The CUR publish a series of "Comment" pamphlets which take a stand quite reasonably in favour of the Third World and of closing the gap between developed and developing countries, Unfortunately it often goes much further than is required to the extent of its partnership with the radical Left and its arguments become undermined by bias. I.et me quote a few examples: On Angola: "The MPLA, which tends towards Marxism" "A month later, in March, there was a third major insurrection, led by UPA forces from Zaire . . ., the northern rebels also attacked European civilians . . . it has been estimated that some 300 were killed . . Whether the UPA actually gave orders for these massacres is debatable."
In fact, European men and women were tied to stakes and fed into the local sawmill. Later, the MPLA leader admitted these atrocities in an interview with a French newspaper.
On Rhodesia: "The conflict between Church and State in Rhodesia has intensified over the past two years. Among the most important issues at stake is the treatment of the black population in the rural areas. Early in 1973 several Church leaders received reports of violent measures taken against black civilians.
"These included the closure of stores, grinding mills, schools, and hospitals; the destruction of crops and livestock, the imposition of communal fines and the indiscriminate use of force by members of the security forces against black civilians." Nothing is said about the guerrillas who forced a woman to cook and eat her husband's ears and lips or the school teacher who was bludgeoned to death in front of his class.
There have of course been general condemnations of violence on both sides by the
CIIR, but it concentrates on long accounts of the misdeeds of the security forces. It was not until missionaries were murdered in cold blond that the CUR rushed into print when it "joined Bishop Lamont in calling on nationalist leaders to condemn all such atrocities."
On Brazil: An attack on the present government headed "Repression". Of course there is repression, but Brazil is trying to achieve an economic miracle as did England in the last century, and was there not repression in the England of those days'?
On the Brazilian Parliament, "Comment" says: "These parliamentary forms are the
merest sham . , the civilian politicians of ARENA have one main function only and that is to serve as support and political fig-leaf for the military will".
I can think of many politicians in Eastern Europe who would fit this description — but "Comment" has yet to speak of them.
On Chile: A virtual assumption that in fact President Allende ran a democratic rather than a Communist regime. Certainly it would seem that as far as the CIIR is concerned he was preferable to his successor.
On the Lebanon: "The Maronites on their own do not form a, convincing national group. Hard as it may be for them, there is probably no way they can survive in the long term other than through loss of corporate political power and the recognition that they constitute a minority inside a predominantly Muslim, Arab world." An encouragement for a beleaguered Christian minority!
It is a simple fact that the CIIR has not over the last Few years produced any statement at all about the denial of human rights in the USSR. It did not even seize the obvious chance of doing so when the Helsinki conference was discussing "detente" and the relaxation of restrictions.
This omission is all the more unacceptable because many of those singled out for persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe are Christians. Why was not a CIIR "Comment" issued in 1973 when 70-year-old Fr Kurti was executed by firing squad for secretly baptising a child in Lushnje, South Albania? Why was it silent when Fr Michael Luckyi was hanged by the Soviet police in Dronovyo, West Ukraine, for celebrating Mass in 1975?
Why was nothing said last year when a young woman teacher, Niiole Sadunaite, was sent to a prison camp in Lithuania for her Christian activities? Why has tlIcre been this persistent silence about the continued abuse of psychiatry in the USSR?
It is simply not good enough to make the claim that there is no point in speaking out since it would have no effect: all the
evidence is to the contrary. Solzenhitsyn and Sakharov have both said repeatedly that pressure from the West does have an influence, and it has been pointed out that it is Sakharov's support in the West that has given him the comparative immunity from danger that he enjoys in Russia today. Nor can the CUR plead difficulty in obtaining material: both the inter-denominational Centre for the Study of Religion and Communism run by the Rev Michael Bourdeaux, and the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need founded by Fr Werenfried van Straaten succeed in unearthing a great deal of information about what is going on behind the Iron Curtain.
It was Aid to the Church in Need which took on the responsibility of producing a pamplet ("Buried Alive", March, 1972) about conditions in Soviet mental hospitals and which has arranged for information to be circulated in the West about the trials in Lithuania of Catholics associated with the underground publication "Chronicle of the Catholic Church".
Why did the CIIR not take an interest in these things and offer the support and help of its financial resources and publicity machine for the more widespread distribution of this important material? Cardinal Heenan said in 1973: "Christians should perhaps learn from their Jewish brethren never to allow those living in freedom to forget the victims of persecution.
''H ungary and Czechoslovakia are no longer in the news, but their citizens arc still suffering from Soviet oppression. Priests, nuns and apostolic laymen are still forbidden to do God's work .
"To regard dialogue with the Marxists as if it were a purely academic exercise is ingenuous and dangerous. We who live in freedom must not rest while men and women of any religion are persecuted." This was a message which hit home forcibly as far as many Catholics in Britain were concerned, and in recent years there has been a renewed in !crest in the plight of those of many faiths and political beliefs suffering for their convictions in Communist-dominated countries.
In December, 1975, a public meeting was organised by young Catholics together with other Christians and a Jewish group in I.ondon, to protest about the persecution of minorities in the USSR. It was chaired by Bishop Mahon, President of the Justice and Peace Commission.
Last year saw a huge turn-out at a "Crusade of Crosses" event organised at Aylesford to pray for the persecuted Catholics of Eastern Europe. But still the CIIR — the semi-official body which receives a grant from the National Catholic Fund maintains a deafening silence on the whole issue.
It is right that Catholics should ask about the political bias of the Cl I R — especially at a time when the laity are supposed to be having a greater say in the running of Church affairs and the use of Church resources.
Does this organisation, which takes such a persistently Leftwing approach on political affairs, deserve to he supported from the National Catholic Fund? Surely it should exist purely as a private political organisation, putting across its point of view as any other political organisation does, without being subsidised by people who really seek to give their money to further the cause of the Catholic Church?
And should it not be urged to stress, when it makes a political statement, that it does so as a private organisation and not with the authority of the Church in this country? The word "Catholic" in its title is misleading, and one wonders how many of the faithful know that some of the money they donate for Church purposes is diverted to this type of propaganda?
Patrick Wall, MP
Mr Wall is Conservative MP for Haltemprice