On Hitchens and Graham Greene

John Nicholson writes: Re. “Climate denier Ian Plimer takes on the people’s Pope” (yesterday). It was unfortunate that Margot Saville, in her search for anti-Catholic protagonists, included Graham Greene and Christopher Hitchens. From the time of his conversion in the ’20s till his death Greene hardly expressed an explicit diversion from the Church’s teaching. On more than one occasion, he said: “My argument is with God.” I would suggest Saville read The Heart of the Matter, The End of the Affair, A Burnt-Out Case, his autobiographical writings, his letters, his interviews. When Pope Paul VI told him how much he appreciated The Heart of the Matter Greene said: “But the Holy Office has condemned it.” The Pope replied: “You will find that parts of any book you write will offend some Catholics. And you shouldn’t bother about it.”

As for Hitchens: As the eminent scholar Simon Leys observed: “Bashing an elderly (86) nun under an obscene label (The Missionary Position) does not seem to be a particularly brave or stylish thing to do.” Hitchens really isn’t worth talking about, but in the quote Saville used, why wasn’t she warned (by herself or others) about  the condemnatory, inexcusable use of the word “dwarf”?

Chris O’ Regan writes: I’m sure Ian Plimer’s book about climate science was awful, and I don’t want to read it, but surely there’s enough in it to fill a column on it without trying to fit in Graham Greene, Mother Theresa, or war-apologist Christopher Hitchens?

The Catholic Church isn’t for everyone (or me), but I’ll say this much for it: it’s consistent. The Catholic Church was consistently opposed to the 2003 Iraq War, for instance, unlike Hitchens, who started his career calling Henry Kissinger a war criminal and ended it on the same side as Kissinger on the necessity for war. The Catholic Church has also had a consistent anti-capitalist theme running through its encyclicals, such as the over-100-years-old Rerum Novarum, which I’m sure Margot Saville read before she breezily declared Laudato Si to be the “only progressive encyclical” in the entire history of Catholicism. For those who don’t want to read Rerum Novarum, I recommend reading Richard Seymour’s Unhitched on the hypocrisies of a man, Hitchens, who built a career excoriating other people as frauds or phonies.

Why we need vaccination

Jock Webb writes: Re. “On vaccination” (yesterday). Ignaz Amrein, were you in class with someone who had polio? Did you get measles? Did your parents shudder at the word diphtheria? Have you seen a child die of whooping cough? My parents watched all these things. I had classmates with polio. You are not compelled to vaccinate, just to refrain form risking the life of other people’s kids. What do you think removed the diseases which once terrorised the world? What removed smallpox? Magic?

Thank goodness the grown-ups are in charge

Peter Adams writes: Re. “No trace of Abbott’s hysterical machismo in Turnbull’s measured Paris response” (yesterday). It is somewhat comforting to know that there is a grown-up in charge of the place now …

Peter Fray

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