MANY of Vietnam's best Catholics feel that, while the Buddhists are wrong in the crisis they are currently agitating, President Ngo Dinh Diem is not entirely right. And as he is a Catholic, his mistakes are unfairly imputed to the Church.
Buddhists are wrong in alleging that they have been persecuted for their religion; in leading their followers into demonstrations in defiance of the law; in threatening a civil disobedience campaign to a degree just short of rebellion, especially when their country is under attack from Communist aggressors.
But many Catholics feel that President Ngo Dinh Diem should have carried out his duty of defending the state and public order with morc tact and less severity.
No doubt the harsh tread-nem was meted out by subordinates without his knowledge. but even after he came to know of it he was slow to do anything to salve the hurt. He has now made several public gestures of conciliation and reassurance, but their effect has been weakened by the bitterness of a speech recently made by his sister-in-law.
Catholics here recognise the great debt they owe the President for his courageous lead against the Communist menace, and that it would be a grievous state of affairs if the enemy took over South Vietnam.
But they feel that the best way for Ngo Dinh Diem to take the steam out of the Buddhist agitation (and not all Buddhists are involved) would be to relax restrictions on civil liberties and to introduce reforms for which there is strong popular support.