Where Christianity Can Lead
Statements Of Catholic 'Pacifists'
WE must apologise for returning so often to this subject of the Catholic attitude to modern warfare. On this occasion it is not our fault. Mr. Attwater, of the Pax Society, has given us in another column his considered views on the matter which we felt bound to print, first, because he informed us that his views had been misrepresented in the CATHOLIC HERALD and, secondly, because this is one of those big questions where the practical application to modern life of Catholic moral teaching appears not to be so clear and determined as to make differences of opinion impossible.
But even more important than Mr. Attwater's article is a review in the current number of the Dominican Blackfriars, where a priest, Fr. Vann, 0.P., makes the following challenging statement: " When in spite of the protests of the Holy See this coupling of Christianity and murder is boosted by Catholics, clergy, publicists, apologists, then indeed the Church is faced with a scandal. the effect of which may have to be measured in decades or centuries. a scandal of the twentieth century comparable with the loss of the masses :n the nineteenth."
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS PRIMARY TODAY
To deal with Fr. Vann's words first. Let us welcome h. Vann's insistence upon the fact that the attitude of Catholics today to international questions, war, economics is going to be ths deciding factor as to the Church's effect during the next decade and century. That is profoundly true, and it cannot be too often repeated. Those who imagine that so long as Catholics preserve the integrity of dogma and her formal moral teaching about divorce, birth-control and the like, she will be untouchable, are making a profound mistake. At any given time the Church is judged by the world (whether rightly or wrongly) upon those matters which are at the time of special importance tc the world and about which the world itself is asking questions. And today if Christianity is to have any effect upon the world it will be in so far as Christianity gives the world the true lead ii politics and sociology as they relate to morals or right conduct. If the Church does this, the world will not today find such very great difficulty in accepting her dogmatic and her moral teaching as the latter applies to personal and family conduct. Indeed everything is conspiring to make the world see the Church's reason about these things; but the world wants to know what the Church has to say about the conduct of nations, the legitimacy of war, poverty and injustice in economic life and the like,
THE SEE OF PETER
In defending their views both writers find it very hard to account for the action of the Church as such, as distinguished from that of Catholics, Mr. Attwater asks the very obvious question: " Those who look to the See of Peter for ultimate guidance (and they arc not Roman Catholics only) may well ask : Why, if these things are not so, has the Pope not said so?' He cannot answer the question. He quotes the words of Pius XI : " Any nation so mad as to contemplate war would be guilty of monstrous murder and almost certainly of suicide." But are there any responsible " Catholics, clergy, publicists, apologists," to use Fr. Vann's phrase, who disagree with the Pope about this? One does not have to be a pacifist to accept them, for the Holy Father is evidently referring to the use of war as a deliberate instrument of policy, in other words, aggressive war, not defensive war. And certainly the mass of " clergy, publicists and apologists " are agreed about the iniquity of aggressive war.
The Popes, too, have taken every conceivable opportunity to pray and preach for peace—just, constructive peace, not the mere temporary respite from conflict—and no one, we may be sure, has suffered more in his heart from the thought of present wars and the possibilities of future wars than the present Holy Father. But has the Pope directly or indirectly condemned all modern warfare as unjust? Has he let it be known that it is grievous sin for a Christian to participate in war as it is a sin for him to murder an unborn child—to use Mr. Attwater's analogy? If Mr. Attwater's views were correct it is hard to see how the Church could avoid saying so without betraying her duty.
Fr. Vann speaks of the " Pope's protests," and the context shows that he is referring to the protests of the Holy See in regard to the bombardment of open towns in Spain. Again we know of no " clergy, publicists or apologists " who defend the bombardment of open towns, though many find it harder and harder to define an open town in modern warfare. It would seem to be easier to distinguish between a military objective and a non-military objective. Nor, in fact, was the Papal diplomatic protest against the bombing o open towns, 'ant against the " bombings directed against the civil popula tion." The Nationalists denied, as a question of fact, that their bombings were directed against the civil population, and the subsequent British investigation went to show that the great majority of the raids were directed against objectives of military importance.
WHO IS OUT OF STEP ?
On the basis of this protest against a method of warfare which is condemned, as far as we know, by all Catholic apologists and publicists, Fr. Vann writes that " when, in spite
of the protests of the Holy See, this coupling of Christianity and murder is boosted by Catholics, clergy, publicists, apologists, then indeed is the Church faced with a scandal ... etc." We would ask him how he is able to account for the fact that the Holy See is content with one or two diplomatic protests against an excess which all good Catholics realise to be such when, according to him, the combatants or those responsible for them are engaged in murder? Or, to put it otherwise, how can he suggest that " just as Rerum Novarum remained a dead letter for want of Catholic support, so the voice of the present Pope has been drowned by the din of propaganda irreconcilable with it "? It is Fr. Vann and Mr. Attwater who have gone far beyond the Pope's lead, not the " clergy, publicists and apologists " who have lagged behind it.
It may be Fr. Vann's view that, unless the Catholics follow his lead, the Church is going to create a scandal which it will take a century to eradicate, but he can hardly expect us to agree with him so long as this is clearly not the mind of the Church.
Not only this, but it is most certainly the practical teaching of the Hierarchy—and it is implicit in all the Pope has said and done in this connection—that Catholic citizens should play their full national part in any war so long as it is not evidently unjust, and it is to our spiritual leaders, the Bishops themselves, that the Catholic will look for guidance if the question should arise, Fr, Vann and Mr. Attwater may refuse to accept this view, but they can scarcely deny that it is the attitude of the Church from the Pope downwards. Mr. Attwater quotes the Archbishop of Cincinnati as a pacifist leader, but the Archbishop's authority is limited to his own diocese, a diocese set in the United States, a country which, it may well be argued, can almost certainly keep out of war so long as it entertains no aggressive intentions. Because of their strength, wealth and geographical situation, American Catholics may well be justified in being conscientious objectors. Our position, as recent history has amply demonstrated, is very different.
WHY THE CHURCH CANNOT
We should have thought that it was sufficiently obvious at this date why the Church cannot condemn war, as Fr. Vann and Mr. Attwater would wish her to condemn it. What would have happened at the end of September? Let us recall once again Mr. Chamberlain's words: " I am myself a man of peace to the depths of my soul. Armed conflict between nations is a nightmare to me." Could Catholics be held in conscience to go further than this in love of peace and hatred of war? Could they have been expected to exert themselves more to avoid war than did the Prime Minister? But Mr. Chamberlain went on : But if I were convinced that any nation had made up its mind to dominate the world by fear of its force, I should feel that it must be resisted." Do Fr. Vann and Mr. Attwater seriously contend that the Church could bind the faithful in conscience not to resist when a nation makes up its mind to dominate the world by fear of its force? Yet if war is murder, as they contend, they would have to. Have they not in fact reduced themselves to an absurdity, and in doing so shown up the fallacies that must lie somewhere in their arguments?
As we have said before, we believe that it would be a great help to Christians in general in the present state of doubt about the legitimacy or otherwise of different acts that seem to be rendered necessary by modern warfare if the Holy Father were in an encyclical to provide guidance, and we think that this is a thing to pray for, but it is surely time that Catholic pacifists should cease to suggest that unless their own views are generally accepted the Church will prove a scandal to the world, or, still worse, to imply that theirs is the orthodox Papal teaching.