Page 6, 25th November 1938

25th November 1938
Page 6
Page 6, 25th November 1938 — THE CHURCH AND WAR Immoral Means

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Soo—Your leader of November 18 on The Church and War is, 1 think, liable to cause misunderstanding, inasmuch as it confuses two quite distinct though connected problems: (1) the general problem of the moral permissibility of modern war, which Mr. Attwater had discussed in his article, and which is still matter of controversy; and (2) the particular problem of the moral permissibility of bombing civil populations &recta intentione, which I had discussed in my review, and which, as you

agree, is not matter of controversy. Will you permit me, therefore, to set down a few facts?

First with regard to the subject of my review;

(1) We are agreed that the bombing of civil populations directa intentione is wicked.

(2) If we take into account (a) the fact that the Holy Father has protested; (h) the authority of the official Vatican newspaper, which declared (June 10) that the protestations of the world were justified " by the fact that the centres bombed have no military interest (c) the testimony of Catholic eyewitnesses,

ft is difficult to avoid the conclusion that such directa intentione bombings have in fact taken place. (In particular, the Vatican does not act, or write, without grave reason or on false or insufficient evidence.)

(3) The war which General Franco is waging may or may not be justified or necessary : I was not discussing that question. But it is the fact that (a) the Nationalist cause has been identified with the Church; (b) in pursuit of the Nationalist cause these means, which we agree to be wicked. have been employed.

(4) The identification of the Nationalist cause with the Church means that in people's minds those means also will be identified with the Church, unless the contrary is strongly stated.

(5) It is the fact that the contrary has not been strongly stated by those who have adopted this attitude towards the war.

(6) Hence a scandal (in the theological sense of the word), the effect of which is indeed difficult to estimate, though some of its effects are already all too apparent, That is all I was concerned to say.

There remains the quite different problem, dealt with by Mr. Attwater in his article (with which I am in complete agreement). And as there is still, I think, a substantial misunderstanding here also, may I say just this. To ask " What would have happened in September?" is, besides being more like utilitarianism than Catholicism,

to miss the point of the difficulty. What caused some of us the deepest distress of mind at one stage of the crisis was precisely this: that we felt that never perhaps in history had there been a situation in which war seemed likely to be not only more justified but more necessary, more a duty. BUT, we had to consider also that it would not be left to us to arrange our war: that we should have to take the war as arranged by others, and that that war as arranged by others would among other things include, eisentially, those means which you in your leader agree to be immoral. As Catholics, we knew that the end cannot justify the means. The only points, therefore, on which there could be dispute, were these:

(1) whether war will in fact include those means; (2) whether those means are in fact immoral.

But you will note that, since you yourself adopt, with regard to (2), the same attitude as we, viz., that they are immoral, the only point left to discuss is whether such means will in fact be used. And there are, not only the plans made in this country towards the end of the last war, but also the testimony of military experts of various nationalities with regard to the next war, to assure us that they certainly will.

That is the dilemma which faced us, then; and I think it is unfair to paint what you call the Christian pacifist position as a refusal to face hard facts. It is precisely when hard facts are faced that the dilemma arises. The end does not justify the means; we may not do evil that good may come: that is the principle to which in the crisis We had to cling. We cannot take active part in a war which essentially includes evil means, however much we may think it right and necessary in a given case to fight a war which should be free of evil means. (There are, of course, many other considerations which have to be taken into account; but I have kept rigidly to that one in order, if possible, to ensure that we have the real problem before us, and not a number of pseudo problems.) One last point. You speak of " Fr. Vann's view that unless the Catholics follow his lead " . . . etc. I cannot but think that here too, unintentionally no doubt, you have been unfair. The point of what I wrote about the bombing of civil populations was, precisely, that it was NOT my lead that was in question, but that of the Pope. I may be wrong in thinking it to be the Pope's lead (though I have weighty authorities for so thinking; I am far from being the first to say what I said, as I trust

I am far from being the last); but whether

I am wrong or not, I cannot be justly represented as boosting some invention of my own, as my own, and in those terms.


Laotian, Stamford.

[Does it necessarily follow that, because immoral means may be used in war—or are in fact used—the war as a whole is rendered tinjust, i.e., "murder," to use Fr. Vann's expression? Surely if that were the case the Iloly Father would not eonfiee himself to iliplematie protests against the use of immoral means, but protest against the war itself.—terroa.]

Wars, Old and New

Sue—Do you not think that the great " war-puzzle " of today is largely due to the fact that we have not yet defined the

terms of the discussion? If indeed war weans, and means exclusively, all the ter (Continued at foot of next column)

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