SURELY there is now a consensus among Catholics that the use of nuclear weapons against masses of unarmed civilians would be seriously immoral, as indeed follows from the well-known Vatican Council Declaration.
This is not, however, the only argument against the use of nuclear weapons or their possession.
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use against soldiers. Obviously, they would cause suffering of a particularly serious kind, including appalling mutilation and probably genetic defects on a wide scale. This cannot be consistent with the human dignity which we have no right to destroy or impugn. The same might be said of the majority of chemical and biological weapons possessed by modern armies.
In the case of nuclear weapons, the explosion is capable of annihilating a human body instantaneously. There would be no time to repent.
Catholic doctrine is quite clear that the primary purpose of states is the salvation of souls: the use of nuclear weapons therefore seems to be clearly contrary to the moral order.
The use of modern weapons is likely to result in psychiatric disorder, possibly on a massive scale, possibly becoming endemic in society. The acceptance of one offence to human dignity, including make more likely other offences to human dignity, including proably psychiatric abuse, pornography, prostitution and corrupt working conditions. The dignity of the sexual faculty is also impugned, even by the implication that harmful genetic effects of radiation may be allowed, although mutilated children are still, of course, of equal intrinsic value as persons.
It is a great responsibility even to write about the subject of human dignity, and I consider that the argument I gave in an earlier letter, that the possession of a nuclear weapon constitutes an unacceptable risk to the soul of the possessor is a more appropriate one. However, the mass effects of nuclear weapons are so serious that I believe it to be more correct now, than before, to make public these considerations. People should be consciously aware of the threat to their own dignity as persons. The decline in respect for human dignity is potentially the most dangerous threat to the human race which exists, in my opinion. We still do not fully understand what our destiny involves, yet clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His teaching are intimately linked with respect for that dignity.
George Redmond Surbiton
MEMBERS of the Nottingham Diocese Justice and Peace Commission congratulate Bishop Austin-Baker of Salisbury, and his colleagues, on their most excellent recent report The Church and the Bomb.
In expressing are warmest support, and solidarity in prayer, we have brought to their attention our own local deliberations on this
subject. In response to seven questions formulated by our own Catholic Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, we compiled and distributed a brief report, of which a copy has now been forwarded to Bishop Austin-Baker, with our best wishes, in extension of its original circulation.
We trust that Christians of different communions will Continue to give each other mutual support in this contentious matter.
Rev John Lally Chairman, Nottingham Justice and Peace Commission and 14 other signatories
If, in the process of school reorganisation, Catholic children are to be denied Catholic education when there are places in Catholic schools to take them, there is a prima facie case for a change in the provision for religious education in County schools. A legal provision must be made so that Catholic children can be taught their religion in school as of right, and not as a concession.
I would, however, urge that Catholic authorities try to work with other churches as far as possible so that the catechetics which is given is also acceptable to the parents of other children. I give such catechetics myself as the Catholic chaplain of a RCAnglican independent school. There is a big difference between this and the RE which I give in non-denominational classes in a County comprehensive school in which most of the children have no connection with any church.
Parents can demand their rights for their children in this case and the Church must by its very teaching recognise these rights. The teaching of Catholic children in their Faith must not go by default.
P J Rochford OSB Ampleforth Abbey.
N. Ireland influences
I WAS astonished to read the attack by Mr Des Keenan (November 26) on Catholic teachers in Northern Ireland. I have been a priest and teacher in an Irish Catholic school in Co Tyrone for 25 years. To be told that nuns, brothers and laypeople, were responsible for the present murders in Northern Ireland "by indoctrinating Irish children with lying anti-British propaganda" fills me with amazement and not a little anger.
I know this sweeping accusation to be untrue in my experience and knowledge of many schools and teachers. Quod gratis asserirur, gratis negatur.
On the contrary, if it were not for the moderating influence of the Catholic schools in Northern Ireland, the present situation would have been much worse, perhaps on the scale of the Lebanon.
The Catholic community here has been treated very cruelly by sectarian political policies that have resulted in 50-60 per cent unemployment of Catholics in many areas; this coupled with bad housing, internment, torture, uneven application of emergency laws by biased courts (all charges of ill-treatment have been documented), death by plastic bullets and much more deaths and injuries with no chance of justice. Yet forgiveness and brotherly love are the responses of the victims and there is very little sympathy with violence.
If only the British would cease to repress and try generosity and kindness, they would get a splendid response from a people whose true story has never been told by the media.The Irish Catholics deserve great praise for their faith in endurance.
Fr Denis Faul Co Tyrone SIR JOHN TILNEY'S proposals for solving the, Northern Ireland situation as contained in his letter of (November 19) would be utterly unacceptable to Nationalists and Unionists alike.
A referendum as Sir John envisages, would never be accepted by the Unionist majority. The result of such a move would clearly indicate the desire of the majority in the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone to be 'hived off' to the Republic.
Then in fairness one would have to consider the similar desire of the south of Co. Armagh, the city of Derry, part of Belfast and the Nationalist enclaves in Cos. Down, Derry and Antrim. This would leave a 'new' Northern Ireland of less than three Counties.
Just how the new and enlarged Republic would cope with all this entailed is beyond imagination!
The Unionists at the beginning of this century envisaged a partitioning of Ireland which would foresee the nine counties of Ulster province coming within their control.
When it was realised that this would mean having to settle for a Catholic and Nationalist majority with a rising birthrate, the Unionists set about excluding the Counties of Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan.
With Northern Ireland now consisting of just six counties, a permanent Unionist majority of two to one was ensured. How this majority governed and how the minority suffered is now known to the entire free world.
The new Northern Ireland would satisfy neither the aspirations of the Unionists nor the vast majority of the Irish at home and abroad who aspire to the re-unification of their country and would see this as far away as ever. If it be true that partition never solved any country's problem, then surely that is so for Ireland.
As long as Britain is prepared to allow a situation to continue, whereby the Unionists hold the power of veto, there can be no discussion or dialogue on the ending of partition — that tragic and unrepresentative device which has resulted in so much rancour and bitterness, so many lives lost.
Yet the time will arrive when Britain will declare her intention of withdrawing from Northern Ireland and within a stated period.
This will allow all concerned the necessary time to plan for the future. A future in which the dream of a United Ireland in which the gifts of the Green and the Orange will combine and the "Irish Question" at last be resolved.
D F Hegarty Allen East Sussex.
FOLLOWING on Cotton College, Nov 26 it would have been surprising indeed to hear nothing of the counter-claim of St Edmund's College, Ware, to be England's oldest Catholic school. A gentleman's disagreement has existed between the two colleges since the publication of Bernard Ward's History of St Edmund's College in 1892, if not before.
The prior foundation of Standon Lordship, whence a school transferred to Hare Street in 1767 before moving to Old Hall in 1769, is not in dispute.
Cotton College's claim is to be the oldest Catholic secondary school continuously resident in this country. The schools at Standon Lordship and Old Hall, before the arrival of the Douay emigres, were preparatory schools "for the sons of the nobility and gentry in their tender age", as Bishop Milner puts it in his liferif Bishop Challoner.
Further, an advertisement for the "Old Hall Green Academy" in the Catholic Directory of 1793 itself states: "None admitted after the age of twelve".
Sedgley Park, the ancestor of Cotton, on the other hand, admitted boys aged ten for a full 7 years' course, after completing which they were known as 'stagers'. Challoner's aim was to provide a Douay-inEngland for those who could not afford to send their children abroad.
It was precisely because they saw this school as a new venture, likely to arouse Protestant antagonism, that the Catholic laity opposed Challoner so strongly over its foundation in 1763.
Rev Dominic Round Stoke-on-Trent.
Insights and charismas
YOUR CORRESPONDENT, Mr J Smith. Nov 12. encouraged a phenomenon which is familiar to me. Some years ago I met a vigorous evangelical Christian who was playing a prominent part in the life of an independent chapel in London. She had been until she went to university a devout practising Catholic educated at Catholic schools.
At university she found a lively evangelical community which gave her encouragement, teaching based on the Bible, a strong community and an active sense of mission.
After trying to combine her sacramental Catholic life with this vigorous community she came to abandon the first and, due to internal pressures and arguments, repudiate the Catholic community altogether. At the time of the Protestant reform which was in part a protest against the excessive sacramentalism of the Catholic community in the Middle Ages, the experiential component of Christian experience was stressed by the reformers.
This was the personal contact with God and the sense of his speaking through Scripture unmediated by priests. Today Catholics looking for greater content of experience for their faith in Christ sometimes find it within the Protestant communities.
If we look back behind the middle ages, we find this experiential aspect of the Christian life highly developed in the Communities taught by St Paul. He came to them not with arguments but with power of the Spirit so it is no accident that just when the Catholic community can accept the insights of its protestant brethren, and do ?not need to be defensive about its sacramental gifts, it is also experiencing a renewal of the experiential, charismatic dimension of the Christian life.
Such a renewal has great significance for ecumenism, for liturgy, and for the quality of Catholic life in our parishes.
Stephen Wright, OSB Ampleforth Abbey, York.
CHRISTOPHER Howse was right to suggest that an episcopal statement on the subject of in vitro fertilisation should not be long delayed. Earlier in the same article (Oct 8) however, he states that the Vatican might be wise to delay premature judgement.
In suggesting that the Church has up to now been cautious in her statements, he appears to have rather watered down both the utterances of Pope Pius XII and the submission of the Australian bishops.
Pope Pius XII, in his speech to the Fourth International Congress of Catholic Doctors, (Sept 29. 1949) rejected entirely artificial insemination whether the donor was the husband or not.
Further, two years later, in an address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives. he stated: "To reduce cohabitation and the conjugal act to a simple organic function for the transmission of seed would be converting the home, the sanctuary of the family, into a mere biological laboratory."
The Australian bishops, or more accurately, the Catholic bishops of Victoria, in their submission to the Committee to examine in vitro fertilisation (Aug 6, 1982), stated: "We have been forced to the conclusion that in vitro fertilisation is unacceptable" and ". . . the law itself could not condone in vitro fertilisation."
We must combat the "desacralisation" of the reproductive processes. I as a Catholic doctor who has listened to the voice of the Church on this subject, and knowing the immense joy of couples who for years having desired children, are now able to have their own child through IVF, nevertheless am unable to condone this kind of manipulation.
Conception must occur as a result of an act of sexual intercourse between husband and wife in an atmosphere of love; an act which is truly a physical expression of their ."unbreakable alliance of total mutual self-giving" (Pope John Paul II at York. May 31, 1982). We owe it to our children.
Dr M B Howitt Wilson Woking Surrey