Within living memory, this would not have been very much of an issue in Western countries. Britain, in particular, was conscious of a pride in offering true religious freedom, and of having fought a major world war in part to see that freedom upheld and sustained. It was not an absolute freedom.
Earlier in the spring of this year, the former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, mounted an attack on the Vatican, and the formal structure of the Catholic Church. She said that it had become “a primary global carrier of the toxic virus of misogyny” and “a bastion of patronising platitudes to which Pope Francis has added his own quota”. If the Vatican is a nest of misogynists, some of them were probably muttering subsequently that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned: Mary had been rebuffed by the Vatican in her efforts to contribute to a Rome conference on the status of women in the church.
Behind the war against the Church, from Nero to Kim Yong-un, is the perennial and more complex problem of the relationship between the Church and the State, an unresolved two-thousand year saga of loss and gain. Turning from that vast topic, I focus on the experiences of persecuted Catholics which reveal the methods used by various States to attack, control or even destroy the Church.
Fr Matthew Pittam is a priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. His book Building the Kingdom in the Classroom: A school Chaplain’s diary has caused considerable interest as a frank and fascinating account of life in a modern Catholic secondary school. FAITH magazine had difficulty catching up with him as he is a busy man – but it was well worth it.