Light Of e Shop Determine Our Political i mews
By Douglas Jerrold
NLY on the very short view is the present crisis provoked by dictatorial arrogance. It is fundamentally a crisis provoked by the failure of the Christian Churches. Since 1918 the Western World has been worshipping false gods, and seeking to justify them by giving them abstract names with pleasantly ethical connotations — such names as liberty,
Such critics forget that what matters about a principle is not the personal character of those who advocate it but its own intrinsic merits. Chastity does not cease to he a virtue because a murderer or a
thief is faithful to his wife. Self-determination, if it be a wise and a just prin ciple, does not cease to be wise and just because it is advocated by Mussolini. Indeed, the successful poacher may well make the best gamekeeper, and the gamekeeper's previous record dots not in any case absolve previously law-abiding people from keeping the game laws.
Why, then, is there a widespread feeling of uneasiness about the application of this principle to Czechoslovakia? The answer is simple enough. We are uneasy because we have at last been brought to realise that the principle of self-determination is, in fact, neither necessarily just or necessarily wise. In other words, it is not a principle at all, but a practical expedient useful if it serves a useful end, just if it serves a just end, but in itself neither the one nor the other.
Decent and Christian people all over Western Europe are at this moment pro foundly disillusioned. They do not feel very strongly one way or the other over the Sudeten Deutsch, but they find themselves, in the persons of their governments, made to look ridiculous in the face of the whole world. They are forced either to concede everything to Herr Hitler or to recant everything they have been saying for years about the intrinsic merits of this alleged principle of self-determination.
As Christians we know well enough that an individual has no right to self-determine himself into a murderer, a bank robber or a persecutor. The rights of the individual are relative only to the end that he seeks. It must follow that no racial or geographical group can claim to self-determine its actions without reference to the nature of these actions and their effect on others. From this it follows equally clearly that no self-determined group can acquire, from the mere fact of being a " self-determined state," any rights absolute in all circumstances, and in no circumstances can they acquire the right to do wrong. These fundamental principles are clearly deducible, in my submission, from the teaching of the Church, and should therefore have been made the starting point of all Catholic thinking on international affairs since 1917, when it became apparent that a new international order of one kind or another ,must result from the Great War.
Peace Treaties Today, twenty-one years later, many people will rejoin that the controversies which have ranged round the Peace Treaties, their interpretation and their moral validity, are so bitter that Catholics have been very wise in refraining from any pronouncement on them. We must remember, however, that for at least a decade in those countries which it is now fashionable to call the democracies, and for some years in Italy and Spain as well,
international affairs were not acutely controversial, and that in so far as public opinion was at all excited, it was a public opinion definitely favourable to treaty revision. It is thus very far from certain that Catholic action in these matters would have led to disunity, and not even certain that it would have been without practical effect.
What however is beyond question is that such action would have prevented the growth of that entirely baseless public opinion which has by now grown up on these matters, and which has, in these last difficult days, received such a shock of dis illusion. In particular it would have been impossible for the British people to forget that wise and just government is not a luxury reserved for the British people but a necessity for all men everywhere. So long as it was prudent or necessary to leave the destinies of Europe in the hands of the Victors of 1918 it was essential that they should so exercise their power as to ensure wise and just government, both by refusing their assistance, let alone their favour, to any government which failed in its duty, and by persistently and contin
uously working for the removal of treaty injustices. This essential policy was not, however, pursued.
It is really extraordinary to reflect today that this principle of self-determination, greeted with derisive laughter when it appears in the political armoury of Germany and Italy, was for so many years regarded as so axiomatic that anyone who, like the present writer, ventured to challenge it, has been regarded for over a decade as a lunatic at the best, and, at the
worst, a deserter to the fascist camp. 1 can only say to my liberal friends: pullet haec opprobia vobis et diet poutisse et non potuisse ref elli."
It is true that during the past two years the Golden Calf of self-determination has been pushed into the background, and another false god—the rule of law—has been put forward in its place. This idol appeared first of all to justify the League's coercion of Italy, and won, in that cause, a wide measure of sympathy. Catholics did not all remember that it is possible to be right for the wrong reasons. The French had fought a longer and infinitely more bloody campaign in Morocco with the full approval of the League, the Riffs not being a nation-state, and we had ourselves fought a number of campaigns on the Western frontier in similar circumstances. These things may have been right or wrong, but their rightness or wrongness did not and could never be made dependent upon membership or nonmembership of a League of Nations. The rights of Moors, Abyssinians and Pathans are in the natural order and not in the gift of politicians. The same is true of the rights of the governments of the frontier provinces, such as the hinterland, of Morocco and of Libya and of the NorthWest frontier of our Indian empire.
Abyssinia was certainly a difficult case, but the principle invoked was as certainly a bad one. How had the Catholic world has since learnt, for it has been the principle of " the rule of law," of the rights conferred by the bare fact of legality, that has provided the backbone of the case for
the Valencia government. it has been
the failure to challenge this false principle at the start which has made the task of Catholics trying to convince their fellowcountrymen of the justice of General Franco's cause so extremely difficult, Yet Catholic teaching is as clear on this question of the rule of law as on the question of self-determination. The one derives from the heresy of the natural goodness of man, the other from the heresy of the
natural virtue of governments. Both are denial of the truth proclaimed by Innocent III that there is room for only one supreme
authority in the affairs of men; that authority must be the law of God.
A Legacy of Scepticism It is strange how much we talk about democracy and how little we think about it. We never appear to realise that in a democracy such as ours a false principle is a disease which must ultimately ruin the whole body politic. However attractive and easy an argument may be, and how ever worthy the cause for which it is employed (and it is certainly arguable that the case of the League Powers against Italy over Abyssinia was worthy), it will nevertheless, if it be unsound in itself, prove ultimately disastrous because, once employed, it cannot be thrown away when the need for it is past. If it is thrown away, as self-determination was thrown away until we were persuaded in the interests of peace to pick it up again, the result is a widespread disillusion resulting in a
paralysing scepticism. It was scepticism which led to the destruction of the old Russian and German regimes. The disastrous consequences to the Church of Christ and the liberties of men is a matter of history.
It is here that I foresee the chief evil of the present crisis. As I write, the issue is not clear, but in any event, and however it be resolved, it will leave a legacy of scepticism which is full of danger to Western European Christianity. The world has seen principles long asserted by those esteemed the wisest of their statesmen made ridiculous, and others hastily abandoned with hardly a word of explanation. The action has been necessary: the principles were false: a war, and it may yet come, which must involve the invasion of Central Europe by the armies of Moscow in order to prevent some misguided and misgoverned Germans from joining the main body of the unhappy German people, could only be a tragedy and its consequences could never be anything but evil
in the long run. The fact remains that the conscience of many people has received a shock, the full extent of which may not be apparent yet but will inevitably appear.
Three Principles In this grave moment British Catholics, I believe, can do great service to their country and their Faith by urging a new and wiser approach to international problems. I suggest that the approach be
simple and explicit. What is best for the cause of religious liberty, by which I mean freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, and freedom to propagate the Christian Faith? That would lead its to three main conclusions.
Firstly: we must never again he placed in such a position where our will can only be expressed as a voice sheltered behind the forces of militant anti-clericalism, and positive atheism. We must therefore rebuild our fleet. Given the mastery of the sea, the world must pay some attention to us, even if we stand alone.
Secondly: we must insist, so long as we continue to act as guarantors of France, on the closing of the FrancoSpanish frontier unless and until all Christian Churches in Spanish territory are publicly restored to their full rights by the governments of Barcelona and Valencia.
Thirdly: we must let it be known that in any conflict which may arise between Germany and Russia our sympathies and assistance will be withheld from either side so long as full and unfettered religious liberties (with such political liberties as are necessary to this end) are withheld from the nationals of these rrHE Secretary of the Converts' Aid Society, I F. W. Chambers, K.S.G., 20, Holmes Road, Twickenham, wishes to convey the Society's very grateful thanks for the following anonymous contributions :-5s., Anonymous; £10, lt.C.M.; 10s., sineereembe; Niton. Undercliff ; 5s., Osterley; 2s., Minehead; 2s. 6d., G.C.S., Liverpool; Si., Anonymous; ,a5, 11.G.; 2s. Preston; 2s. 6d., Anonymous; 10s., C.M., Newcastle; 7s., Thorpe Bay; 5s., A Priest— Richmond; 41, W.1; 41, Streatham; 5s,, "Very Near," An Aberdonian,