Seasonal holiday commitments prevented my responding earlier to your editorial comments concerning the imprisonment of the Czech signatories of "Charter 77" and the likely response of the Berlin Conference (Conference of European Catholics as we arc now known) of which I am proud to be the one English Presidium member.
In an international organisation with members coming from widely different societies and economic systems there are bound to be differences of opinions if for no other reason than we are all subjected to different pressures and influenced by the limitations of the media within our environment.
This was indeed the situation when the six member nations of the Warsaw Pact marched into Czechoslavokia in an act of aggression which I likened to Hitler's invasion of the same nation so many years before. At that time the International Standing Committee of the 'conference' had a long and passionate debate on the issue without reaching any agreement. Almost all the Western European Catholics shared my criticism of the action and equally so almost all the Eastern European Catholics (priests and laymen alike) supported the invasion as a 'necessary act in the containment of the status quo'.
Time has not given me reason to alter my opinion as to the immorality or necessity of that intervention and the subsequent destruction of the Dubcek government. I am confident that the Helsinki Agreement as it relates to human rights would have been upheld in both the spirit and the letter had Dubeek survived.
I hope you will permit me to say that I equally believe that a socialist society would also have survived and that anyone who believed that the 'Prague Spring' heralded the end of communism in Czechoslavakia was as ill-advised as the perpetrators of the egression at that time and that their hopes. so openly expressed, was the only logical excuse for the intervention.
Finally, may I say this I am totally confident that any English participator in the Conference of European Catholics will give absolute support to the cause of human rights and to those people who may suffer in their honest attempts to speak out for such a noble cause. Why clsc should we travel so far and so often to meet our fellow catholics in Eastern Europe if we did not believe in human rights. What value is world peace without justice. Why else do we stiffer the suspicions and criticisms of our own Catholic colleagues in this country. Why else would we respectfully and silently tolerate the implied condemnation by some of our own Bishops if we do not believe that there is an obligation on each one of us to continue our dialogue with our brothers in Eastern Europe.
Wm.T, Risby Member of the Presidium and Standing Committee of the Conference of European Catholics.