VON Weizsaecker joins Ciano at the Vatican. It can scarcely be doubted that the German appointment of this experienced diplomat from the heart of the German Foreign Office has for its main object the exploitation in Axis interest of the international moral prestige of the Holy See. It is characteristrc of German realism that while the Nazis persecute the Church at home and in occupied territories they are thoroughly alive to the importance of the Papacy at the present time. Among the United Nations, only President Roosevelt—and that in a somewhat personal capacity—has shiosnp winiaomn an understanding of this The fact is that Protestant coun tries—and Germany with its many Catholic parts is far less Protestant in this matter than ourselves or the Uni fed Sta tes—find it extremely difficult to understand the Holy See and the motives which govern its diplomatic action. For this reason they may find it difficult to counter the influeace of men like Ciano and von Weizsaecker. The Holy See's outlook is, first and foremost, spiritual, and this, if we may so put it, gives it a candour and simplicity contrasting with the Chancelleries of the world. There is. for example. a certain continuity between the action of the Holy See in its dealings with the Nations and the action of the priest in his dealings with penitents in the confessional. The priest in the confessional is very accustomed to deal with sinners. He has a great faith in the grace of God whose agent he has been made. He looks to the future rather than to the past. He prefers to search for the potentialities of good rather than to dwell on the all too evident manifestations of evils. When the penitent asks for absolution, he does not say: "Ah, my son, this is all very well; you're coming to me now you're in a fix. Your motives are clearly very mixed. Come again in a year's time, and if you are then of the same mind we shall see." On the contrary. so long as he sees any signs of repentance. any hope of a purpose of amendment, he is ready to give God a chance of clearing the way to a healthier future.
A Spiritual Atmosphere MO doubt there is an obvious and " essential difference between the administration of a sacrament and the help that the Holy See may be able to give to a divided world. But the comparison is suggestive. The Holy See is not•so likely to dwell on the sins of the past as we are, aid it is rather more interested in the evidence that is obtainable about the prospects of the future for the spiritual and temporal welfare of men. How much the Pope himself, for example, deplores the prolongation of the miseries of the war and how much he fears the results to the whole world of such a prolongation has been made amply clear. This ecrtaioly does not mean, as the Vatican Radio has more than once stated, that the Holy See wants peace at any price. But we cannot lump to the conclusion that the Vatican envisages proper conditions for peace in the same manner as the rival belligerents. The Holy See would probably risk a good 'deal more for the sake of peace than we should, just 'as the priest is prepared to risk a good deal more to administer absolution than are public opinion or even a court of
law. And who can say that the Vatican outlook is not the sounder in the long run!
And it is into this atmosphere of greater hope and greater trust in God that clever Axis representatives seek to work. They will not find it at all possible to persuade the Holy See that black is anything but black. but the promises and plans they can make on the spot will at least be listened to and taken into some consideration if they suggest any hope at all for stricken roan. It may be doubtful how far we on our sidc are tmined to find the right methods of countering such specious argument, but what is infinitely more important is the danger that we are unable to present any sufficiently coherent picture of the kind of world (and particularly the kind of Europe) that will be shaped by Great Britain. the United States and Soviet Russia. It is. not merely a question of frontiers, nor of economic arrangements: It is also a question of moral tone. religious tradition, the values of life that will be uppermost. It is also a question of the mode of guaranteeing future peace and settlement. Few changes would pay the United Nations better to-day than the sending to the Vatican of absolutely first-rate d iplomatic missions guided by an inner understanding of the very special nature of this spiritual centre of international relations.
MEANWHILE as the war goes on, .L'A • with a probable intensification of the diplomatic and propaganda battles that will ace ornpany its bitterest phases, we Catholics must be prepared for an increasing misunderstandin? of the position of the Holy See, with consequent repercussions on ourselves. And the more informed and thoughtful sections of the country realise the true position, the angrier will he the denunciations in others. Moreover we have lost the bulwark of the late Cardinal, whose outstanding courage and patriotism (perfectly reconcilable as they were with reverence and love for the Holy Father) blunted the edge of any ill-informed attack. Last week the Tribune, an extremely intelligentlyedited paper with considerable influence among the Left-intelligentsia, went ou. of its way to reprint a bitter attack on the Pope from the American New Republic. The writer was the " liberal " and anti-clerical Italian exile, Gaetano Salvemini. By an ingenious juxtaposition of small and generally exceptional points the writer has been able to build up a specious ease of the Pope's alleged Fascism. Underlining acts of courtesy and paternal affection and stressing the necessary close relations between the Papacy and the country with which it is geographically surrounded and from whose sons so many churchmen have been called to their vocation, the writer is able to ignore the great stream of Papal policy which, while it always seeks to make the best of whatever good it can find anywhere and mores any people. is steadfastly opposed to every intrusion of Caesar into God's domain. And this domain includes the personal, family and vocational life of the human person, however exalted or however humble. It is almost amusing to compare this Christian intransigence with the way in which the best Conservatives and Liberals in this country suddenly find little or nothing wrong with the totalitarian philosophy and practice of our Soviet Ally ! But this article in Tribune will certainly not be the last attack on a spiritual institution which genuinely stands above national and class differences and which, in so doing, is inevitably critical of a good deal in all national and class causes.
THE GIRAUD PLAN CENERAL Giraud's plan for the progressive restoration of a constitutional French authority should meet with the approval of all who claim to take democracy seriously. Its chief interest lies in two points. In the first place it underlines the truth that both the creation and the restoration of democracy must be a slow and controlled process, having little indeed in common with any attempt on the part of a section of the people to arrogate to itself exclusive democratic pretensions, lust because it finds it convenient to make use of democratic slogans. Whatever the appearances that is the way of establishing totalitarianism and tyranny with controlled piebiscites and the rest of the mockery of true constitutionalism. in the second place it fully answers the attacks on men and groups dubbed Fascist just because they realised the inadequacy of past administrations claiming to be republican or democratic and the utter impossibility of adapting regular peacetime processes of government to emergencies. Some of these people may indeed be reactionaries in a bad sense. but the majority of them are simply ex.perienced realists -Who put good government and stable values before their own demagogic interests.
The stability of a renewed France will depend upon the good sense of the French people, the quality of their leadership and the wisdom of the Powers who have to deal with her and help her in this difficult phase. At the present. moment all these are still unknown quantities. But General Giraud and his advisers have at least ensured a proper machinery within which such factors van have a chance of counting, whereas some others appear to have been doing their best to establish their own position before France has a chance of emerging again as people. Whatand fully represented What Giraud is doing for France may well prove the best precedent in the end for the restoration of sound .government in countries where the change-over will be far more drastic, and we think that many present-day critics of the old democracy in Germany and Italy would find themselves in sympathy with a controlled process of change such as Giraud has suggested for the special circumstances of his own country,.
CHRISTIANITY IN LORDS AND COMMONS THOUGH it excited too little in terest, by far the most important contribution to a debate on post-war international relations in the Lords last week was made by the Bishop of Chichester. Dr. Bell pointed out to the planners that the fundamental issue was not the nature and details of the plans for a proper International Authority, but the ensuring of a moral standard or accepted common ethos within which any such Authority could be made to work. And the Bishop reminded their Lordships of the fifth of the Papal peace points, which he quoted in full. He suggested that these " pregnant and significant words" mtght conceivably be implemented by some relationship between the International Authority and the " living religions of the world which agree in worshipping a Sovereign Creator," but he stressed the need rather than the means of fulfilling it. " I hope that the whole notion of some spiritual and moral authority which the nations ought to acknowledge will not be ruled out of all consideration as it was ruled out twenty-four years ago." This indeed is what matters, and it is no good augury for the future that it is so rarely referred to in public.
On the same day in the Commons, Mr. Stokes, in the Budget debate, also had occasion to quote authoritative Christian words. Dealing with the way in which a false understanding of money can obstruct the creation and distribution of God's wealth, he said that the situation could not be better summed up than in the last point of the 1940 Joint Letter of the Christian leaders: " It is essential that the natural resources of the earth`should be used as God's gift to the human race." And he added: "Not as God's gift to the British Empire or the United Nations or the Tory Party, but for the benefit of all mankind."
Our Christian politicians and publicists will not go wrong if they imitate these examples, and take every occasion to remind the country of the mind of the Church which always goes to the root of the matter.
CHURCH BELLS AGAIN!
Ereasons were ASTER this year will be rung in so with Sundays and feasts from
the military again with the church hells, and then onwards. The long ban, for which
never made clear—nerhaps because they could not be—did not survive the fantastic debate in the House of Lords which was fully reported in our columns.
Commonsense will not permit us to welcome the restoration of the old order as a sign of the victory that one day will be rung in with the bells of the country. We are at a hard moment of the war and for the present it is difficult to discern any signs of the end. But it was the same in 1918, and there are some who think that the strained enemy will collapse suddenly and unexpectedly. It will do us no harm to indulge in such hopes when the bells of Easter ring. and it will do us much good to pray more fervently than ever that it may be so.
NE of the biggest advertisers of contraceptives, Messrs. Constantine and Jackson, is planning an advertising campaign to be conducted on " ethical grounds." The idea is to get round the refusal of the national press to print contraceptive advertisements. The campaign, it proudly informs us, is to be " on a scale never before attempted."
This information reaches us after news of the Government's disinterestedness in applying its restriction of waste of valuable and rapidly dwindling stocks of rubber to contraceptive articles. And both items of news come at a time when the nation faces the certainty that its population will be halved in a short numher rf veers unless the present precipitous decline in the birth-rate is arrested.
Comment is superfluous.