Page 12, 17th January 1936

17th January 1936
Page 12
Page 12, 17th January 1936 — LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Locations: Rome, London, Bridport, Gloucester


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Our correspondents are urged to limit their letters to 300 words; otherwise they are liable to be shortened or omitted alto gether. Letters must bear a name and address (not necessarilyfor publication) or they will be ignored.—Editor. ITALY'S WAR-MINDEDNESS

SIR,-1 won't answer the astounding distortions of my thought, or comment on the absence of any refutation or attempt to understand on the part of the critics of my letter on Italy's warmindedness; but I ask to be allowed to utter a resolute protest against the accusation of being anti-Italian. The accusation assumes the identity of Italy and Fascism. Now I am anti-fascist just because I think that Fascism is the starkest negation of all the best Italian Catholic tradition (Manzoni, Gioberti, Rosmini, Fogazzaro, etc.), and because I think that Fascism is the starkest foe of Italy and has done, and is doing, to Italy harm unutterably out of proportion to its problematic benefits. To me freedom is an essential part of my religious faith and a consequence of my belief in the sacred character of personality and in the Incarnation. There can be substantial justice in Jews, freemasons and international financiers and there may be wrong in-under given respects—people' nominally Catholic. Fascism may be only a passing evil; I am sure it is; but it will never pass unless those who deem it an evil stand against it, with those who stand against it. I do not claim to judge those who think otherwise; but, as for myself— not alone in this place and in Italy—I feel it more Christian to stand with those who, in prison, in exile, or elsewhere, suffer from Fascism and its unjust war than with those who benefit by it, connive with it, and give it their blessing! 1 do not judge their conscience, but neither do I envy it.


Abbots Langley'.

SIR,—As a layman I am not competent to express an opinion on Fr. Flanagan's statement that if he were Mussolini's spiritual director he could not absolutely forbid him to invade Abyssinian terni• tories; hut 1 would like to ask him if the Italian action is justified in the light of the conditions necessary for a just war as laid down by the Church. One of these, I understand, is that all peaceful efforts must have been made to attain the end in view; but did not Italy flatly refuse to be bound by arbitration which was suggested? When the matter was decided against her by the League of Nations it was a foregone conclusion that she would not accept the verdict. How is warlike action then justified?

1 agree that Mussolini and the fascists have done much good for Italy and the world by exposing the old corrupt parliamentarianism and suppressing masonry, and therefore deeply deplore their militarist aggression. But did not the Holy Father practically allow us to pray "Scatter the nations that delight in war"? --and delight in war has been a characteristic of the Fascist regime (e.g,, the order that boys were to be made soldiers from six years of age). I agree they are not the only people exhibiting this trait in Europe to-day, but they cannot complain if, having staked their future on a war of aggression, they find the arbitrament of the sword goes against them.

LEO COLLIER. 33, Podsmead Road, Gloucester, SIR.—It was said of the Bourbons after 1815 that they had " learned nothing and forgotten nothing." But of certain of your correspondents one might say that they have learned nothing and forgotten everything. Or perhaps they prefer to repeat the slogan (taught irt all seriousness to the unfortunate children of Italy), " Mussolini is always right!" rather than admit that they themselves have been wrong.

The Pope condemned all war of aggression and set severe limits to war in selfdefence. Yet they extol Italy's attempted " civilisation " of Abyssinia by invasion. , In 1923 Italy advocated the admission of Abyssinia to the League of Nations, by which all nations were bound to respect Abyssinia's territorial integrity.

In 1925 Mussolini signed the Kellogg pact, renouncing war as an instrument of natiynal policy. In 1928 Italy signed a treaty with Abyssinia, pledging herself to submit all eventual disputes to arbitration.

No one can deny that these treaties have been broken. Yet we find Catholics, with access to information denied to their fellows in Italy, justifying their breaking.

They argue that Italy requires colonies for her surplus population; that Abyssinia has failed to abolish slavery; that the League is run by bolshevists, freemasons and Jews; that Italy is a " Catholic country."

These arguments are irrelevant, but we may as well dispose of them. In Italy's existing colonies, according to official figures, there is room for 300,000 colonists. Actual colonists number three or four thousand. Capital has been wanting (as it would be wanting for any development of Abyssinia), and that was one of the reasons why the Italian government refrained from pressing for mandates. Mandated territory meant expenditure, development beneficial to the native peoples; it is a new and sinister theory that it should mean primarily European exploitation.

Slavery. Slavery cannot be abolished by proclamation. but needs a radical change in the prevailing economy (you cannot turn a slave into a wage-labourer unless there is money to pay him). Lord Lugard himself has borne witness that the Negus was working to abolish slavery. and that his work was slowed down by the need to prepare for Italian aggression. The League has a permanent commission dealing with slavery, to which complaint could have been made.

Attacks on the League in the name of Catholicism are hardly worth answering. With all its defects the League is such an organ as was foreshadowed by Benedict XV, who also recommended the use of sanctions. Those who attack sanctions on the grounds that no nation has a clear conscience forget that there is a victim involved. The Abyssinians, a semiprimitive people, trusted in the word of the peoples of higher civilisation, trusted in the League to the extent of delaying even mobilisation till the eleventh hour.

" Italy is a Catholic nation. . " Is Catholic to be synonymous with perjurer? One remembers the immense bairn done to Catholicism in this country by exaggerated theories of the " mental reservation," of how Newman had to convince his public that Catholics were as honourable as Protestants. Is that slur to be justified?

Civilisation does not primarily mean factories and trains, but the prevalence of law over violence, of moral over material forces, an order based on respect and loyalty. It is fortunate few people carry their theories into practical private life, or we mighi find those who condone Italy's action in the dock for smash-and-grab raids, and no one would bail them out, for they profess a belief that the most solemn obligations can be broken with impunity. Such theories arc as subversive as any of those of Bolshevism. Just as the family is breaking down where there is no feeling for the sanctity of the marriage bond, as commerce breaks down where pledges are not honoured, if international obligations are, in the fascist phrase, to be " defined as scraps of paper," it will be an end of civilisation. One of the greatest gifts of ancient Rome to civilisation was the Law of Nations, with its maxim Porte sunt servanda.

On the one hand, there is a clear moral issue. On the other, pleas of political expediency. And these are counter to the very principles of Christianity. Abyssinia, say some, is unimportant compared to the danger of a European conflagration. There were Catholics who justified the nazi persecution of the Jews as for the good of Germany as a whole. One remembers how many Catholics maintained the guilt of Dreyfus against manifest proof for the sake of the prestige of the army officered by Catholics, leaving the cause of justice precisely to freemasons and Jews (if Christians follow the devil's banner, the angels must work as best they can with the rest). But there is an earlier precedent. Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas were not especially wicked men, but men who had formed the habit of reasoning in terms of political expediency instead of in terms of justice, and who were, one might say, caught out.


[This correspondence is now closed.— EDITOR.]

MR. LUNN REPLIES Sia,—Some little time before T became a Catholic a distinguished Catholic layman deplored in my presence the fact that Dr. Coulton had been allowed to create prejudice against the Church by featuring himself as a Protestant champion whom Catholics dared not meet in public debate. I know only too well from Protestant experience that this claim of Dr. Coulton's has done considerable harm to the Church not only in this country but also in the United States. I therefore readily agreed to the suggestion of my friends that I should, after my reception, do what I could to deprive Dr. Coulton of any further excuse for this assertion.

I have every sympathy with the eminent Catholics who have declined to debate with Dr. Coulton, for whereas no Catholic fears the case against Infallibility, and still less Dr. Coulton's presentment of that case, even the most ardent of controversialists may well shrink from the tedium of a debate with Dr. Coulton, Witness our published correspondence242 tedious pages, most of which have been written by Dr. Coulton, and thirteen appendices—a longish book to explain why Dr. Coulton does not wish to do a long book with me, a debate to prove why he is justified in not debating with me. Dr. Coulton must bear the responsibility, as he has already borne the entire cost, of foisting this tedious controversy on the public.

Dr. Coulton is not an ideal sparring partner. Where arguments fail he falls back upon vituperation. Of Mr. Belloc and Mr. Chesterton, for instance, he writes: " Yet each of them bawls at us from his ghetto. This is the badge of their tribe." He considers it " strictly relevant "—his own words—to introduce insulting references to his adversaries' profession in the course of an argument, and he is under the illusion that weak arguments may be supported by a parade of his academic distinctions.

Moreover it is tiresome to argue with a man who spends so much time in collecting facts that he has no leisure to co-ordinate the facts which he has collected. He has written a book on Papal Infallibility without discovering the vital distinction between the guarantee that IF the Pope speaks ex cathedra he will be protected from teaching error, and the kind of infallibility claimed for the Delphic oracle, which was bound to do its best to answer any question which might be put to it. In his book on Infallibility he points out quite correctly that the divine inspiration of the book of Tobit was only settled by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.

" But nothing could have been easier," he writes, " than for an infallible pope to tell Christendom once and for all which books could be relied upon and which could not for inerrancy."

It would be difficult to debate Papal Infallibility with a writer capable of so complete a misunderstanding of the doctrine under discussion.

Dr. Coulton has repeatedly committed himself by public statements to accept a challenge from a Catholic provided that the Catholic conformed to canon 1325.

looked at this canon and discovered that Dr. Caution had misunderstood its intention. The episcopal licence, which it mentions, must be obtained by a Catholic debater in verbal debates. and not, as Dr. Coulton imagines, in written debates. Canon 1385 governs written debates and imposes upon the Catholic the duty of submitting his writings to the censor. Dr. Coulton, after recovering from his mortification at being put right on this point, professed himself ready to debate in accordance with canon 1385 subject to a characteristic amendment. He insisted that my letters should he submitted as written to the censor.

I do not think that the censor would have modified the normal procedure to gratify Dr. Coulton, and, be that as it may. I was determined not to provide Dr. Coulton with the least excuse for believing that the Church had officially accepted his challenge. To deprive him, however, of any reasonable excuse for evading the consequences of his rash and public challenges, I offered to submit my letters before despatching them to Father D'Arcy. I was under the impression that Father D'Arcy was in the United States, so I awaited Dr. Coulton's reply before asking Father D'Arcy whether he would help me with these letters as he has—with great kindness—helped me in other work.

Dr. Coulton's controversial standards may be gauged from his attempt in his letter to you to suggest that Father D'Arcy had repudiated Dr. Coulton's proposals and my own. And this in spite of Father D'Arcy's plain warning conveyed in the following unmistakable terms :

" You have been trying to dictate to me what I must reply in answer to some matter between Mr. Arnold Lunn and yourself. . . . You have no right that I know of to take my silence as serving what you wish or intend to think. If you are an honest man you will say that 'I wrote a long letter to Fr. M. C. D'Arcy, and in answer he said that he was too busy at the time to attend to such letters.' You may add that he showed what he had already declared, his unwillingness to have a correspondence or discuss with me until I ceased to write offensively and abusively of his friends.'

"Lastly, in your last letter my eye was caught by these words of yours that I 'egged on this converted journalist (Mr. Arnold Lunn)

to attack' you. The unworthy sneer in the words 'converted journalist' discredits you in the eyes of gentlemen and is an example of the offensiveness which makes me unwilling to exchange letters with you. But did I egg on Mi. Lunn? If I remember rightly 1 warned him that he would be wasting his time arguing with you, and I told him that though he was far better trained in philosophy and theology than you that you would side-track him and make the discussion personal and profitless. My warning I fear may have been justified."

Dr. Coulton's letter to you contains yet another example of his odd methods. Those who choose to compare my story of the Beda theologian with Dr. Coulton's version will know what value is to be attached to Dr. Coulton's statement that he is using an author's " own words."

And as his letter to you suppresses vital facts I am grateful to you for this opportunity for making clear that i had satisfied not only the letter but the spirit of the conditions which Dr. Coulton had laid down in advance for his acceptance of a challenge from a Catholic debater. The letter of his conditions for reasons given; the spirit, for though no episcopal licence k necessary for a written debate, the Catholic bishop whom Dr. Coulton attempted to inveigle into our controversy, while declining to allow Dr. Coulton to debate in his diocese, invited me to speak for him at a public meeting, and stated in a letter which his Lordship allows me to quote that I could reassert on his authority his confidence in my ability to enter successfully into controversy with Dr. Coulton on Papal Infallibility.

It is interesting to note that this stern critic of Roman censorship has threatened to hand me over to the secular arm if I repeat a certain criticism of his religious professions. Dr. Coulton, after parading for years his Protestant passion for free discussion, has rapidly retreated from the arena at the first sight of an opponent ready to accept his challenge, and covered his undignified retreat with the threat of a libel action.

ARNOLD LUNN. Palace Hotel des Alpes, Miirren.

January 6, 1936.

[This correspondence is now closed.— Eririoa.]

DISTRESSED AREAS AND THE SOUTH SIR,—By drawing attention to the fate of some of those who " come south" from the depressed areas in search of work you have done a considerable Service.

My own experience goes far to confirm your fears. Some months ago an editorial in The Illustrated Carpenter and Builder drew attention to the fact that some ex-miners from Wales were working as labourers on speculative housing near London at the rate of 6d. (sixpence) per hour: but this scandalous underpayment is not confined to a few " jerry-builders," since instances come to my notice very frequently. For example, a very well-known firm of contractors, engaged in constructing an arterial road near London, posted a notice on the job. which read, " I and W only," and meant that only Irish and Welsh labourers were required. The wages paid to them varied from 8d. to 10d. per hour; and it is significant that the trade-union rate for labourers in that district is Is. 4d. per hour.

It is high time that the government took action to prevent this exploitation of distress—if only for the sakes of the unfortunates who are thus reduced to virtual slavery. And there are other reasons for action. At this present the building industry is enjoying good times. but signs are not wanting to show that, with the decline (already beginning) in the demand for small houses, the present phenomenal prosperity will soon depart. The industry will then be faced with an immense burden of unemployment, owing to the large number of " dilutees," who will au be out of work; and the effect of such a burden may well prevent the industry from recuperating or from profiting to the full from the present abundance of work.

For such poor wages as 6d., 8d., and 10d. are bound to reflect adversely on the present wage-level of the industry with the result that after this present boom—if not before it—operatives will find themselves working for some such starvation wages and unable to make any provision for evil days.

It seems plain that the present encouragement of transference is, at its best, merely postponing any attempt to solve the problem of the depressed areas at the expense of involving other (now prosperous) industries in the ruin.


10 High Holborn, London, W.C.I.


SIR,—I think it should be pointed out, with reference to your paragraph relative to Mgr. Geisler. Bishop of Bressanone, in the Catholic Herald of January 3, that his Excellency, in common with the twohundred-thousand-odd German-speaking Tyrolese under Italian rule is, of course, now an Italian subject, although born an Austrian.

Brixen is the official German name of this ancient episcopal see, Bressanone being the name coined by the Italians after the transfer of the South Tyrol. In point of fact, its traditional name is still used by all Tyrolese, save for fascists and Italian officials from the interior.

This incident will have come as no surprise to those who know the South Tyrol, for the devoted Tyrolese clergy have ever since 1923 undergone ruthless attacks from the local Fascist officials. Priest after priest has been exiled and imprisoned, and only recently a priest in a village near Bozen was beaten-up by fascists.

Twelve years of fascist tyranny have taught the Tyrolese something of the pleasures in store for Abyssinia in the name of "civilisation"!


27, Sackville Street, W.I.

BRITISH IMPERIALISM Suss—As a Catholic " imperialistic" Englishman I wish to protest against the half-veiled sneers of some of your correspondents at the colonising history of my country. It is not true that British trade has followed the flag, but mainly the reverse, as any literate person should know if he has heard of India and Australia. As an Englishman I rejoice to think we have done our job before it was discovered that " superior peoples " have the right to impose their "civilisation " on " backward" ones. If that had been our mentality Ireland would still be under " tuition." To compare the Elizabethan plunderings with the present fascist programme is as malevolent and mendacious as attempting to justify the Boer war with a comparison to the conquest of Peru. As a Catholic I have been taught that it is a sin to lie, to defame my neighbour, to steal his goods, to kill or injure him or his servants. The Italian people are no more to blame for all that is being done in their name than we and our ancestors were for the terrors of Elizabeth and Cromwell. There are apparently subtle moves to link Catholicism to Fascism and make the Church a bureau of the fascist grand counciL SHIPPER.


SIR,—The writer of Notes and Cornments, in drawing our attention to Mr. St. John Ervine, Dr. Coulton, and " those who have tilted valiantly against the Merrie England myth," admits that these have " exaggerated 'the other way."

Many will consider this a very temperate statement, and, in point of fact, what appears to be an indication of our lost sense of hilarity is sometimes to be found in the works of even the stoutest champions of the anti-medimvaI-merriment school of thought. Dr. Coulton, for example, tells us that Jack of Saint Albans, painter-royal (temp. Ed. 11), " danced on a table before the king and made him laugh beyond measure," and received from the king fifty shillings " to help himself, his wife and his children." I do not know whether this is the same John of St. Albans that carved the censing angels at Westminster, but anyWay his dancing act seems to suggest that a XIVth-century feast could be a very much more hilarious affair than, say, a XXsh-century Royal Academy banquet.

Those who think, with Mr. Ervine, that Mr. Chesterton and Mr. Belloc " know little or nothing about it," forget that these two writers are poets as well as essayists. And odd beings such as poets, artists, laymonks, campaigning soldiers (and Shakespeare's rustics) are constantly reminding us that merriment is not necessarily dependent upon a heavy purse and four meals a day. •


St. Catherine's Cottage, Bridport.

THE NEWSPAPER PRESS SIR,—Is it true that the " primary puns pose for which newspapers have come into existence is to influence public opinion"? Heaven help us! I thought that at least the source of the turbid stream was pure, i.e., that it was to disseminate information about current affairs. If not, then indeed there is nothing to be said for newspapers. Influence public opinion, indeed! If they would only leave us alone Alston M. Motor-sm.

COMPULSORY VOTING SIR,—With reference to the cartoon in the current issue, there is an old saying that you can take a horse to the water but you cannot make it wash its neck. All the while the ballot is secret it is impossible to make voting compulsory. People can be forced to go to the polls, but they cannot be prevented from spoiling their ballotpapers.


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