CATHOLICS AND WAR—MURDER IN IRELAND—CO-OPERATION AND DIS TRIBUTION — AN EX-SERVICEMAN, NOW ON THE RATES, EXPLAINS RECRUITING SLUMP
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"REFUSE TO BEAR ARMS?"
SIR,—However valid may be the reasons recently expressed for refusing to serve in the event of war, they all have this in common, that they demand the pri, ate judgment of the individual concerning the morality of the reasons for which the war is undertaken, and these are generally complex and never made known to the public. May I therefore suggest a more radical principle on which to act?
The question of the justice of a war belongs to moral theology. It involves professional knowledge both of principles and of their application, and this is the business of moral theologians.
The national delegates to the League of Nations are mere laymen and politicians, and as such are no more capable of judging the morality of war than of performing a surgical operation, cooking their own dinner, or doing anything else demanding high technical skill. Even had they the knowledge, they have no divine commission to decide moral questions. The very idea is a farce. One may as well place a stage parson on the bridge of a battleship. Politicians can do no more than weigh the material expediency.
The only authority capable of judging the morality of a war is the Holy See. Since the League refuses absolutely to submit its findings to this authority, it by this very fact acts regardless of the morality of a war, and this in spite of the indubitable fact that there are sinister forces at work whose lust for wealth and power will only be satisfied at the expense of torrents of human blood.
A Catholic has the right, some may think the duty, to refuse to have any part, except in the case of invasion, in that which is done with total disregard of all moral guarantee. It needs courage to refuse, but no more courage than to serve, and if Catholics throughout Europe acted on this principle, a new branch of Catholic Action would come into being which would not rest until it had compelled the powers to act-0, admirabile miraculum! —as rational beings, by seeking guidance from the only super-national and impartial moral authority in the world.
But for such refusal to be entirely free from the errors of private judgment, and practical on a wide scale, it should be done with the guidance of the bishops in each country, since these are the custodians of the moral law, until combined action had brought the powers to submit their case to the Holy See.
SIR,—The practical question raised by Mr. Collier and Mr. Ouwerkerk "What can we do" to resist unjust war now while we are still at peace should not go unanswered.
I should suggest the formation of a Catholic League to oppose unjust war. There are already many societies in existence pledged to resist war—for example, the No More War League. Since, however, .hey take their stand upon the principle that all war, or at any rate all war that is not class war, is wrong, the Catholic cannot join them, however great his sympathy with their practical purpose.
Why not form a No More Unjust War League which could be joined not only by Catholics but by all who believe that another war between the civilised powers is sheer race suicide and therefore necessarily unjust, but who cannot subscribe to a false principle?
Such a league could collaborate with the pacifist societies in organising active opposition to war and the rearmament which must pave the way for it, while maintaining its distinct platform.
During the agitation for women's suffrage, St. Joan's Alliance co-operated with suffrage societies whose principles or methods were unacceptable to Catholics. The No More Unjust War League could adopt the same policy. But, unlike St. Joan's Alliance it should not be exclusively Catholic. We need the collaboration of non-Catholics whose attitude is not that of the Quakers.
The league would enrol the names of any who without condemning war as always and intrinsically immoral were prepared to pledge themselves to conscientious opposition to any war the government might declare against another power (except as part of a joint police measure undertaken by a League of Nations sufficiently inclusive to represent the judgment of the world—not a Franco-Russian-British alliance camouflaged under that name). It would prepare and distribute literature setting out the traditional teaching of the grounds which render war unjust and their applicability under present conditions. And it would organise where possible • public meetings, either by itself or in collaboration with other bodies. It would also be well advised to do what • it could to bring before the public such books as The Church and War, by Fr. Stratmann, 0.P., or the book on the same topic lately published by Mr. Eppstein.
E. I. WATICIN. St. Mary's,
SIR,—There are two sorts of defensive war with which we may be faced. Firstly, there are national wars, entered upon to defend national rights, territory or honour. There is much to be said for the view that such wars, as between nations having a common culture and being (at least nominally) Christian, or at all events not actively hostile to Christianity, can never be justified under modern conditions, since the certain evil which will accompany them must outweigh any possible good which might result.
But there is another type of war which might occur in the future. This is a war of defence against a militantly anti-Christian state seeking to exterminate Christianity and Christian culture and to substitute a different scale of values—materialistic, racial or what not. If a foreign invader were to threaten us with an ultimatum: "Unless you renounce your religion and nand over your children to be brought up by us as atheists we will endeavour to kill both you and them by poison gas"—how should a good Christian respond?
With some diffidence, therefore, I make the following suggestions: (a) No Catholic could possibly be jus tified, under modern conditions of warfare, in fighting against another Christian state (using this term in a broad cultural sense rather than in a strictly theological one) for any purely national cause, however justifiable in itself. Whatever the result, such a war would gravely endanger the common culture which both nations ought to value more highly than any accidental differences between them.
(b) It would be the duty of a Catholic to resist by force any state which endeavoured to wipe out Christianity in his country and to impose an anti-Christian culture upon it. In prosecuting such a war he could never use deliberately and intentionally unjust means, such as the terrorising and slaughter of non-combatants. He would not, however, be necessarily debarred from attacking the enemy's hos tile activities behind the fighting line, even though by doing so he would unavoidably inflict suffering on innocent people.
J. L. RUSSELL.
22, Museum Road, Oxford.
MURDER MOST FOUL
SIR,—Though we all deplore the shocking murder of Admiral Somerville, a protest is necessary regarding Mr. Wynne Rushton's grossly unfair generalisation concerning the Irish people. Child violation and murder, for instance, are almost as common in England as they are rare in Ireland. Are we thereby "all tarred with the same brush"? Do we form protest societies and generally get ourselves into a ferment because lonely shopkeepers are occasionally murdered, to say nothing of the frequent murders arising out of the inevitable matrimonial triangle?
It is true that political murder is practically non-existent in England, but the history of the two countries, though so closely connected, is totally different. England's treatment of Ireland during the past three centuries has sown a weed of distrust in Irishmen's hearts which will take more than 20 years of freedom to eradicate. . . .
The foregoing is not put forward to extenuate or palliate a crime which was as stupid as it was foul, but as a plea that some effort should be made to understand the root causes of such an unhappy state of affairs.
A friend who recently toured Ireland with a donkey and cart came back so enthusiastic about the country and its people that he suggested it should be part of an Englishman's education to tour Ireland in a similar manner.
SIR,—While not wishing to occupy the space necessary to assess the Irish contribution to Catholicism in the form of good works as well as faith in England, Scotland, France, Canada, U.S.A., Argentine, Australia, China, the Philippine Islands, Straits Settlement, South, East and West Africa, and even in Ireland, in recent years, I must express my honest Irish horror at the ignorance of contemporary Ireland, the Morning Post outlook, betrayed in your current issue by Mr. Rushton.
To start with a side-issue. Dublin is a cleaner city—and has been since three years after the evacuation of the British garrison—than London or any of the large English cities.
And on the main point—the murder sneer. I deplore murder. But is there not something understandable about a clean, honest-to-God murder actuated by no personal motive of gain or unnatural passion, but by real—though admittedly mistaken— devotion to an ideal? It reads like a Greek tragedy. But the "trunk" variety—and I do ask Mr. Rushton to make a fifty years' study in comparative statistics—has not even a plot for a sordid farce.
G. M. F.
Stn,—Mr. Hoban rightly considers it "most prejudiced and unfair" to "hold up . . . . the most violent elements of the Irish as samples of the whole." But has Mr. Hoban ever tried to describe the Irish race, even in the compass of a good-sized book, much less in that of a newspaper article? In such an article the writer is bound to pick out those features which seem to him the most prominent, and having done so, he has no room left for anything else.
Different onlookers are struck by different characteristics, and they are all inclined to forget those which have not impressed them. So, for my part, I would say that the Irish are charming, hottempered, kind, and possessed of a glorious sense of humour; their women are gracious, their "educated" folk really cultured; and if they were not held together in some extraordinary way by the Catholic Church I doubt if they would ever agree amongst themselves for any length of time!
I have never been to Ireland, but by living among, and continually meet
ing, Irish people, I have learnt far more about them than I would have done in a few weeks' holiday spent in their "native haunts." For, though he may leave his country, the Irishman worthy of the name never loses his nationality.
SIR,—Mr. Powys Evans rather evades the point. I maintain—and your correspondent has not yet disproved the statement —that co-operative societies make it possible for masses of the people to acquire capital through economic distribution. Further that they make that capital remunerative by establishing productive enterprises to supply their members with the necessaries of life.
The 71million members are members because of their own free will they choose to be so. Reference to government reports and the press shows that these societies raise the standard of living. Instead of £20,000,000 going at the end of the year to swell the dividend of multiple concerns it is returned to members in proportion to their purchases after interest has been paid on the members' capital and decent wages paid to employees. These societies enable even poor people to have something behind them in a very real sense. Speculation on co-operative shares is entirely eliminated.
Does your correspondent maintain that it would be better to have nothing at all than even a 1/5,000th share in co-operative enterprise? Does he believe with the communist that the people should have no private property?
About Mr. Belloc's book, might I respectfully say that while Mr. Belloc is theorising, co-operative societies are in fact restoring private property.
THE SLUMP IN RECRUITING
SIR,—Your article under the above heading constrains me to ask how much of the decline in the numbers of volunteer recruits for our defensive services is due to the shabby treatment meted out to the one-time heroes of " '14—'18 "?
Many of us, too old for work and suffering from our disabilities, are now left to the tender mercies of the P.A.C. Too late we realise that if we had "swung the lead" when first discharged we should have received higher pensions. Does this encourage us to tell our sons that their duty is to defend our King and country? We have nothing to lose, we own nothing, every farthing is taken into consideration, and the cheese-paring tactics employed are, heartbreaking.
We do not require half of those socalled social services, neither do our children require to remain at school, until -1.5, years of age, yet these things are forged' upon us, and we must go in rags, and our children suffer from malnutrition.
Who but an imbecile can support the theory that it is more important, to spend £14 14s. 8d. per head per year on education and allow but E7 16s. for the child's food, clothing and housing? Yet these are the published figures.
I am not a Catholic, but am a regular reader of your paper, and would like to hear if any other reader can support my theory.
MICHAEL AND ST. THOMAS
SIR,—It would be churlish not to reply to so genial a challenge as Michael 11's.
He ingeniously suggests that our Lord's statement about his mission implies the existence of sin, for "why should anyone give testimony to the truth, if the truth had not been denied or contradicted?" But there are many possible reasons. Even if no false history had been written, teachers would still be needed to teach children the true facts. Again, facts known only to a few are often made the subject of public testimony or proclamation even when they are not in dispute.
The voice from heaven that bore witness on the Mount of Transfiguration spoke, not to infidels but to three chosen apostles, whose leader had just professed his faith in the truth thus confirmed; and the Transfiguration itself was testimony to the same truth. The pregnancy of Elizabeth was mentioned as evidence of God's power to Mary, in whom was no falsity or disbelief.
And in general men stand in relation to supernatural truths much as little children do to those of human reason; and it was this fact of created nature, and not sin, that made revelation necessary. And while the faith necessary to assent to those truths is an inward power given direct by God, man is so constituted that he needs an exterior presentation of them as the object of faith's assent. The Church and her teachings now provide this presentation, but they go back to the primary fact of the Incarnation. This was the primary and supreme witness to the nature and designs of God (which are the subject matter of revelation), for it rendered visible in the external world God himself carrying out his plans. These facts about man's relation to supernatural truths apply to human nature in general and not only to fallen human nature. It seems, therefore, that there would at least have been room for an Incarnation to bear witness to them even if the Fall had not taken place.
It is, of course, true that the coming of lies into the world gave a different.turn to the witnessing, just as the existence of sin in general gave the Incarnation its actual character of a mission of redemption. But, this is not denied by those who think that God would have become Incarnate in any case. n•nong whom I now plainly number myself.