Must Be Based On Positive Justice
Re-reading The Pope's Five Peace Points
IN a hard, bitter and long-drawn-out war there must occur from time to time a general drawing towards peace on the part of the peoples engaged in the struggle. In both the last war and in this one there has been a kind of rhythmic undercurrent of war and peace feeling. In the last war the governments never allowed the feeling for peace to grow, even when the Pope made himself its leader. and the war continued until Germany gave in. Whether this was wise and in the true interests of Europe is a disputed point. All that can safely be said is that the consequences of a negotiated peace would have had to be disastrous indeed in order to have proved worse than the consequences of complete victory. With the prospect of a long winter, with an apparent temporary stalemate in the military operations and with • the evidence of continental diplomatic activities as well as the beginning of a settled political term in the United States. one senses a slight undercurrent of peace feeling. History and future generations inheriting the European shambles will not forgive us if we are not at least sufficiently honest with ourselves to study the position. We as Catholics can do this with the greater confidence in that in Christian teaching and the Pope's five peace points we have a very sure guide to what would be right and what would be wrong.
THE FIFTH POINT LETEl' us recall those Papal peace points. The first was " the right to and freedom of all nations, both big and small, powerful and weak." The second : " freedom from the heavy slavery of armaments." The third : " in creating or reconstituting international institutions the experience of the past should be kept in mind." The fourth : " for a better order in Europe attention must be given to the true needs and just demands of nations and peoples." The fifth we will quote in full, since it evidently governs the rest, and, as it were, prevents petty disputes as to their correct interpretation. The Pope said: " Fifthly, rules, even though they are the best that can be obtained, will not be perfect, and they will be doomed to failure, unless those who govern the destinies of peoples, and the peoples themselves, become permeated with the spirit of goodwill and thirst and hunger for justice and universal love, which is the final aim of Christian idealism." Let us in the first place, then, try and candidly analyse what this Christian " thirst and hunger for justice and universal love " really implies. And in doing this we shall not trust ourselves but appeal to an essay on justice by that great Catholic poet and diplomat, Paul Claude].
NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE JUSTICE CAUDEL distinguishes between negative and positive justice. The precept of negative justice, he tells us, is laid down in the Gospel : " Do not unto others what you would not that they should do unto you." This involves a double command. The first is not to deprive another of what is his, nor to injure him. The second is to return to him what we owe him. Claudel then points out that this negative justice " is an insufficient basis for the relations of men among themselves; these latter in fact consist essentially in the aid which they lend ono another. in the positive good which they do to one another, and not in the evil which they don't do." And. in a fine sentence, he tells us that " the cause of so much stump oratory is the confusion between the idea of Justice and the idea of Justness." It is pretty clear that the Holy Father's phrase : " thirst and hunger for justice and universal love " covers a good deal more than negative justice. What, then, is the precept of positive justice? It is: " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind . . and thy neighbour as thyself." " The .motive for positive justice towards men," Claude' writes, " is no longer the mere idea of the debt which binds us in regard to certain of them, but the idea of what is due in the sense of what is wanting. The debt is passive, the duty is active. .. . The measure of my justice towards other men will therefore not be the measure of my obligation, .but of my strength. . . . Justice, then, rightly understood, is not a negative principle, a principle of death constraining to render to every man his due and so be quit of all obligation towards him. It is a principle of life and action."
DEFEAT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS TOUGH all this is very elementary, springing from two of the best-known and most often quoted precepts of Our Lord, the requirements of positive justice are strangely overlooked, not only in public life but in private life. We are apt to feel that all justice is satisfied when we have paid our debts and, in doing so, selfrighteously cut ourselves off from our neighbour. This idea of justice, as Claude! says, " far from tying men together separates them instead, and far from creating obligations extinguishes them." It is in fact the political doctrine of liberalism. It is not then surprising to find that in international relations the idea of positive justice is scarcely recognised at all. Even when the League of. Nations was founded, under the virtual compulsion of the disastrous effects of mere. negative separating justice as between nations, it sought in every possible way to guard against the dangers of any possible change, any possible action whereby nations might actively serve one another in changing circumstances for the common good. The League simply petrified a certain international order and division, and within terms of this sacrosanct order oversaw the discharge of the precepts of negative justice. It was the justice of the Scribes and Pharisees specially condemned by Christ, and in fact the give and take of the more fluid and. at least. humanly varying preLeague relations were better than this dead legalism. How true all this is can be learnt by the story of contemporary ideological movements. False as Communism, Socialism and Fascism may be, their growth has been a proof that man is never content with death, " a dead justice," as Claude] calls it, but always seeks to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven which is closed to those whose " justice does not abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees," And when men ceased to believe in the real Kingdom of Heaven, they rushed to build themselves a substitute one, riding roughshod over the inhuman endeavour to separate man from man and nation from nation by a process of contracting and discharging debts.
WHAT IS "WANTING" TO OTHERS WE may take it, then, that this problem of peace depends for its solution on the readiness of the great nations to understand that the only order that will work is a dynamic order, a living order, an order of active duty an_d not passive debt. So long as nations and peoples can think onlyof their rights, whether rights to what others possess or rights to retain what others need, and so long as they fail to understand that the health and even life of any society depend upon a constant adaptation of one part to another and of the parts to the whole body, there can be no peace, even though war may cease. What is true of the supernatural order, of the order of grace, is equally true of the natural order, for God created all things, visible as well as invisible. And there is only one practical way of applying this lesson. It is to begin by attending to ourselves and our duties rather than concentrating on the sins and failures of others. After all, we were the great possessing Power. the Power which tried to establish the reign of negative justice whereby our Christian obligations were considered sufficiently discharged so long as we paid our debts and kept our word fo our less happily situated neighbours, the Power which was responsible for the establishment of the legalistic League. During that period we not only felt satisfied in our bodies, but— and this was far more dangerous—we felt satisfied in our souls because we could not see what more was demanded of us, any more than did the Scribes and the Pharisees. Well, it has not worked, and it could not have worked, for we were dependent on a principle of separation, of division, of individualism, of death. Life has gradually been stirring in others, an ugly, distorted, frightening, scandalising life. And that life, too, is doomed to death, for it is the life of an abortion. Between us all there is only one chance, the chance that we can co-operate again in a principle of life and action. " We must," in Claudel's words, " aid our neighbour according to our strength to fulfil this duty which he has of being our brother in one sole Father."
" ACCORDING TO OUR STRENGTH" .THE tragedy of the situation is that our best opportunity is past. .THE measure of our strength is very far from being what it was, and we are faced by forces (for whose growth we are certainly partly responsible) which not only threaten our existence but also any world order but that of brute force. What, then, is our practical duty? Surely it is to take up those five peace points of the Pope (points which, we are told, deeply impressed the British Government) and in the spirit of the fifth point—" the spirit of goodwill and thirst and hunger for justice and universal love "—publicly adopt these points as ours, proclaiming our resolution to use our strength to put them into effect. The maintenance of our strength against the threat of forces which at present seem more dangerous than was the abuse of our position in the past, we declare, now has only one purpose, and that purpose is to co-operate with others, the moment they are ready to do so, in the common duty of Christian justice. We have indeed time and again proclaimed " the right to life and freedom of all nations," but we are now prepared to help practically in the establishment of nations " according to the true needs and just demands of nations and peoples," making " reparation, which cannot be found by means of the sword or by selfish arbitration, but by justice and reciprocal equality." We are prepared to make the grand gesture of abolishing " the heavy slavery of armaments" instead of maintaining ad infinitum that disastrous suspicion of others that is based upon an attention confined to the defence of what we consider our rights. our wealth, our influence, our moral case. We are prepared to collaborate " in creating or reconstituting international institutions " whose object is not the permanent establishment of our preponderant position, but a living, changing, dynamic order that aims at least at realising in some rough way " the spirit of goodwill and thirst and hunger for justice and universal love, which is the final aim of Christian idealism." There is our programme. There are our war and peace aims. There is the sole object of the maintenance through the horrors of war of our strength. The moment others are ready to agree, the war may cease.