I have read attentively your editorial on the Catholic Church and Taiwan ("The Vatican and moral relativism," Feb. 4, page 8). In my capacity as Charge d'Affaires, a.i., of the Apostolic Nunciature in China (Embassy of the Holy See), I would like to draw your attention to some of your statements in the said editorial which can give rise to misunderstanding to your readers.
1. The Catholic Church indeed, following the Word of God contained in the Sacred Scriptures, teaches that premarital sex is sinful and all its believers are therefore called upon to avoid it. Therefore, the Church invites its faithful, both men and women, to abide by its teaching. It is not a "fundamentalist approach" of the Church or its institutions, rather it is to fulfill the Will of God towards the human sexuality, which is good and holy and is destined to a specific purpose.
2. Your editorial says: "Hardliners in the Catholic Church are absolutely hostile to women controlling their own sex lives free of Church interference."
May I kindly remind you that there are no "hardliners" in the Church. The Church interprets the Will of God expressed in the Bible. It is the duty of the Church to remind its faithful what is good and what is evil. The Church is never "hostile to women," rather following the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, she has always worked for the betterment of women in the society and in the Church. That is why the Holy See participates to speak for women in the international conferences on population like that of Beijing, Cairo, etc.
Therefore if you read well the entire encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, you will understand better as to why the Pope speaks about "love of God" and "love of neighbor" in his first encyclical, because God is Love and from that assertion each Christian or non-Christian should derive his or her strength for daily living.
3. I am hurt and surprised when you say: "Throughout this country's history, the Catholic establishment has worked on the margins, lacking the personnel to make a substantial mark on the community."
This assertion, I dare say, is not true. In spite of the lack of personnel as well as of its own small number of adherents, since the beginning of the arrival of the Catholic Church in Taiwan in the 1850s, she has always worked for the general welfare of the Taiwanese society and its people. You may get information on this by interviewing any of the Catholic Church's bishops in Taiwan or its secretariat office in Taipei, and thus know more about the philanthropic activities of the Church in the country.
4. Further, your editorial says: "In the new millennium, the Vatican's lack of enthusiasm for Taiwanese and its willingness to dump Taipei for Beijing is merely an extension of its desire to regain its footing in the `real' China."
When you say "Vatican," I think you are speaking about the Holy See, since the diplomatic relations are always with the Holy See and not with the Vatican, since the Vatican City is only an independent country like any other in the world. It is with the Holy See that countries establish diplomatic relations. The Holy See is first and foremost a religious entity. So it is guided in its actions by religious reasons. She has always shown and continues to show its enthusiasm and friendship with the Republic of China.
The Head of the Holy See is the Pope, presently Benedict XVI, who like his predecessors is anxious to have a dialogue with China, not only for the good of Catholics alone or of the Catholic Church, but also for the good of the entire world, including Taiwan. The Holy See has made it very clear, a number of times, that it will not abandon Taiwan but will find a suitable measure to have its representative always in Taiwan according to international law, even if one day she has to make a hard decision to establish diplomatic relations with China.
5. You may rest assure, Sir, that if the last 2,000 years the Holy See's (Vatican, as you say) moral authority has not corroded, it may still withstand the future generations.
6. For the Pope, and indeed for the Church, it is important to uphold her opposition to moral relativism and it has nothing to do you're your [sic] "Zhongnanhai."
7. The Holy See (Vatican, as you say) has never, thanks be to God, had to hold on to "yuan" or any other currency in the world to further its mission assigned to her by its Divine Founder.
Thank you for your understanding.
Charge d'Affaires, a.i.,
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