• Oxfam and us • Apartheid • The Representative
HE decision of Oxfam to 1 support birth control projects obviously faces its Catholic supporters with a dilemma. Are they to continue contributing to an organisation which finances measures conflicting with traditional Catholic teaching or should they withhold their help?
The argument that Catholics can continue their support because only 5 per cent of Oxfam's money will be used for contraceptive propaganda is, in our view, specious. The decision involves principles which the amount of money concerned does not affect.
There are two factors which must be taken into account. The first is that most of Oxfam's directors, organisers and contributors are almost certainly Christians of other denominations who believe that contraception does not conflict with the doctrines of Christianity, Their freedom to believe this — and to act on this belief — cannot be questioned. The second factor is the arrangement by which Catholic supporters of 0 am can specify that their contributions must not be used for birth control projects. This provision gives an assurance to Catholics that they will not be directly supporting such programmes.
The issue then resolves itself to the question of whether a Catholic should not finance contraceptive programmes indirectly by voluntarily subscribing money to an organisation which finances them.
The answer is, of course, one for the individual conscience. Oxfam's own expectation that there will be some drop in Catholic support is probably well judged.
But the absence of any general ruling from the Bishops and the provision for earmarking sub
scriptions so that they will not be used for contraceptive propaganda will probably leave most Catholics secure in their decision to continue support of an organisation which is doing so much good.
THE report of the British Council of Churches on South Africa is a courageous document. It raises a Christian voice against the evil practices associated with that country's official policy of apartheid. It takes its stand on the belief that to deprive a man of his basic human rights because of his colour is tin-Christian.
This is very welcome, and only the committeed racialist will disagree. When it comes to the practical steps which the Council suggests should be taken, opinions may differ.
It must, of course. be stressed that the Council's suggestions are not designed to bring the South African Government to its knees. They are aimed at ensuring that no one in Britain stands to make money out of apartheid. This is why the measures proposed are all either directly or indirectly economic.
Whether the measures themselves are feasible is open to question. It is difficult, for instance, to see what practical effect a tax on emigrants to South Africa would have—since it could he easily offset by a subsidy on arrival— except to make sure the emigrant knew about it.
Some people may go even further to say that it is not the Church's duty to put forward specific proposals at all. For them, the function of the Churches is to pronounce in general terms on the ethics of the principles involved. After that it would be
up to individual Christians to take whatever practical steps suggested themselves.
The Council, in its report, says that it took this into account and decided it was a Christian duty to make positive proposals. By doing so, it certainly avoided the objection that it produced nothing but hot air.
But it is debatable whether a Church organisation of this kind should allow itself to be influenced by such criticism. To put forward practical ideas as an indication of the sort of action Christians should aim for in their political, economic or cultural associations is one thing: to put them up as specific proposals is another. The danger in the latter case is that many people, even good Christians, may dismiss the whole excellent report as unfeasible because they disagree with it on one or two specific proposals. Or they may now decide to do nothing more about the proposals in the report on the understanding that they have been put forward on a higher level.
If the report is to have the effect it deserves it should be seen as a beginning not an end. It is now up to Christians, individually and in groups, to take up its proposals and, if they approve, seek action on them through political, trade union, professional, trade and all the other channels open to them.
Apartheid is not going to be defeated by the passing of resolutions or the issue of reports. It will take a long, patient arousal of moral opinion among men of goodwill to lead to effective action at Government level.
HE action of the Prefect of Rome in banning the presentation of Rolf Hochhuth's play The Representative is not the kind of thing which appeals to an English sense of freedom and fair play.
One of the most satisfactory aspects of its performance in this country was that. except for one or two very minor incidents, it was produced without any of the brawls and riots which marked its production in other countries, much to its box-office advantage. In Rome, of course, things are different because of the provisions of the Lateran Pact, signed just over 36 years ago. Some of its clauses bind the State to protect Rome's 'sacred character' and to protect the Popes, past and present, from insult. The Prefect was acting within the letter of the law in banning the play.
Fortunately, there is no suggestion that the Vatican was behind the ban. It would be unfortunate if the impression were given that the Church's authorities are so afraid of the play that they are determined that it will not be staged in Italy.
The question of whether Pope Pius XII was right or wrong about the Jews has been dealt with in these columns before. Briefly. our view is that the weight of evidence is against the factual side of Hochhiiih's thesis and, in any case, the Pope, on the evidence of all those who knew him well, was entirely innocent of the motives of cowardice, avarice and insensitivity which Hochhuth attributes to him.
She Representative is not. therefore, a play to be swept away out of view. It raises a moral problem which goes far beyond the specific issue of Pius XII and the Jews the extent to which a Christian should be prepared to go in order to exemplify the Christian life.
At a time when consideration, of politics. economics. social shine and the rest arc being used to blur moral considerations, anythini which reminds its of the proper hierarchy is to be welcomed, nous swept under the carpet.