By ARtliBISHOP ROBERTS, S.J.
'THE stage has been reached where so many books are appearing about nuclear warfare that one is tempted not to read or to skip. But Jonathan Cape, introducing "A Matter of Life", is opening up avenues well worth exploring. The book might have been written to give effect to the suggestions of Sir Stephen King-Hall for alternatives to war.
For years past Sir Stephen has posed the world's number one problem-the development ol defensive weapons to the stage of universally destructive ones. The question, therefore, whether Might can ever he Right is out of date. Use Might as we have it now and you end Right and all the people who could be right.
Sir Stephen. as the descendant of a long line of military ancestors. and himself a naval officer. views the problem as a strategic one. If violence can no longer do its job of defence. find the alternative. Sir Stephen would have the Government give the same kind of attention to non-violent techniques of resistance as used to he given under conscription to military training or is now given to firefighters.
The book edited by Mrs. Urquhart is about such alternatives. The problem is as old as human nature. The Jew and the Christian are familiar with it through the Old and New Testaments. and through the story of the early Christians.
Striking The most striking modern application of the principle of cis il disobedience is in the Nuremberg Trials. There. an international tribunal condemned to death or to life imprisonment men who pleaded blind obedience as absolute justification of the crimes against humanity., That was Eichmann's defence, too.
The contributors to this symposium include David Bcn-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel; Lazaro Cardenas. ex-president of Mexico; Shinzo Hamel, mayor of Hiroshima: Kenneth Kaunda, president of the United National Independence Party of N. Rhodesia; Salvatori Quasimodo, Nobel prize winner; Sir Isaiah Berlin; Robert Bolt. the playwright: Sir Herbert Read; Bertrand Russell: Michael Scott; Albert Schweitzer; Norman Cousins; Danilo Dolci; Odd Nansen--and others to the number of 13.
The book reached me for review
about the same time as the official text of Pope John's encyclical "Pacem in Terris". It occurred to me that not only is the encyclical the first to be addressed to "Everyman" but it is also the first to reflect Eseryman. The encyclical is a panegyric for the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. That is what this book is about-the right to life, the right to think honestly. the right to discuss, the right of conscientious abstention from courses seen as immoral.
Many of us bishops would have liked to spend those two months of the first session of the Vatican Council discussing such problems. Many had petitioned the Holy See for a commission. preconciliar and extraconcilier. to brief the assembled bishops. That would have meant a confrontation of the best moralists (meaning much more than theologians) by experts of acknowledged competence, integrity and independence. That was not to be, and I am still trying to find out why.
Meanwhile. the task for which the universal, supra-national Catholic Church seemed the ideal Sponsor is being accomplished writers such as Mrs. Urquhart has assembled.
If only to avoid a real embarras de richesse. I may, perhaps, quote Kenneth Kaunda. Though he has always been an unwavering believer in nonviolence, he tells us that in September, 1961, he advised Pandit Nehru to expel the Portuguese from Goa, even by force. The apparent contradiction he tackles in his chapter, throwing. incidentally, light on the very pressing problems of Africa from which we cannot dissociate ourselves.
The influence of Gandhi is as apparent in Kenneth Kaunda as in Martin Luther Kingas Leadership of the Negroes in the United Slates. It seems to me a matter of prime importance that the principles underlying the policy of such leaders should be most carefully studied.
Consultant The other chapter to which I would draw special attention is the contribution of Odd Nansen. Ever since 1936, this Norwegian has been working unceasingly for refugees and victims of war in his own country and in Germany. He is special consultant to the Director-General of UNESCO on German problems. President of the Norwegian section of the World Movement for World Government, he was elected in 1960 as chairman of the executive committee for World Refugee Year.
This is not the first time that an Urquhart has contributed to the study of peace. Thy Agenda for the First Vatican Council about a century ago gives in full the proposition of David Urquhart, a Protestant diplomat, influential at the Foreign Office. A hundred years ahead of his time. he sketches the ideals of the United Nations with a declaration of human rights. He gives the name of "Academy" to what our petition called "Commission". but the purpose is exactly the same.
It was a war (the laranco-Prussian War) which prevented a century ago an ecumenical effort for peace which might have given the world the machinery of peace contributed by Christians in unison.