Page 5, 17th March 1950

17th March 1950
Page 5

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Use could be justified only if aimed at supreme target


IF the H-bomb is as hugely destructive as most scientists think it 4 will be. it will be against God's law to use it except in extraordinary circumstances, three Catholic moralists have agreed in

separate pronouncements.

Writing in The Sign . Fr. Francis Connell, C.SS.R., Dean of the School of Sacred Theology of the Catholic University of America, says : " Would it ever he lawful to use the H-bomb on a military target in the vicinity of a large city, when it could he foreseen that many thousands—perhaps even hundreds of thousands — of non combatants would be killed or severely wounded?

"The answer is: No, unless the target is one of supreme importance, such as the only factory in which the enemy is making his own superbombs. or the building in which all the war lords of the enemy are assembled.

" The destruction of such objectives would be of supreme value towards winning the war, and hence might he sufficiently important to justify the concomitant and indirect harm to so many civilians.

" But apart from such extraordinsly cases, it is difficult to see how it would he permissible to attack even a lawful military target with the 11-bomb, if many thousands of noncombatants would in consequence suffer death or grave injury."

War potential

Addressing a group of professional men. teachers and students at Marymount College, Salina, the Rev. Dr. George Schulte, of Loras College, said:

" If we are able to deliver the bombs on the targets with reasonable precision so that damage is done mainly to combatant personnel and property, broadly defined as having war potential. then their use may be considered ethical, " If our ability to control the bombs becomes so limited that we destroy the legitimate targets only by the entire surrounding area, the damage to the innocent might easily cease to he incidental and become disproportionate to the military advantage secured ; in that case the attack could not be morally permited."

Fr. Richard Gindem editor of The Priest magaeine, speaking in Pittsburgh, said that the new bombs represent an extension in obliteration bombing so radical that " if current reports are true, we must coin a new word --munclicide—to cover the Concept of a planet totally blasted by our own human efforts.

" Certainly God's law forbids total warfare, taken as including infants, old folks. the sick and their attendants, together with the host of civilians that are incontrovertibly neutral as far as the war effort is concerned.

" Under no circumstances have we —or the State—the authority directly to kill an innocent person."

Both Fr. Connell and Fr. Schulte made it clear that the H-bomb in itself is just another weapon. like the rifle or the cannon, and that the principles as to its use arc the same as always. The bomb is not immoral in itself.

Proper warning

"But the new element is whether or not the bomb's destruction can be controlled."

Fr. Connell said that the H-bomb might be lawfully used in the vicinity of a large city if the civilians were given a proper warning that the attack was to come. This warning would have to name the city, or at least a few • cities, that were to undergo the attack ; a general warning would not be enough, Fr. Connell said that moralists would have no quarrel with President Truman's decision to go ahead with the manufacture of 11-bombs since there is a possibility that they may be lawfully used. The fact that they are being made may actually be a deterrent to war, he pointed out.

Fr. Schulte said that the proposal to attack the Communists before they attack is morally wrong. A war of aggression can be sanctioned only when all other means of preserving peace have failed. Even admitting that the restoration of civil and religious liberties to millions of people would be a great good, it is hard to see, he said. how the risk of a horrible atomic conflict could be justified.

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