Page 6, 28th October 1938

28th October 1938
Page 6
Page 6, 28th October 1938 — THE EDITOR

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When Catholics Should Fight

SIR,-T have been interested in the letters in your paper concerning the justification of war, I think this is a problem which must be set every young man of military age and at a time of national emergency.

We have a duty of loving peace and working for it, at the same time we must " situate " peace in its proper place in our theological vision of the universe, i.e., with the eye of faith.

The question today is how can we know if war is just? I maintain that in modern times, the overwhelming majority of the populace cannot know. Wireless, news papers and interested propaganda form the opinion of the man-in-the-street. Edu cated people who have cultivated a certain " European " sense, who are sufficiently masters of their own political preferences, i.e., not too biased " Fascists," " Reds," etc., can know roughly : all our statesmen and diplomats are presumably in this cate gory and are responsible to God for the directions they give to the nation. Catho lics, of course, have if they are in a posi tion to know, a very great responsibility; the mass, however, of the faithful cannot judge, and if they are involved in an unjust aggression, they do not realise it and are acting in good faith.

In practice, what each of us ought to do individually is not a problematic matter.

We have a clear duty of obedience as a citizen to the authorities placed over us. About that there is no question, and on the outbreak of war, that principle must govern our action. Patriotism is a virtue having its due place in the moral virtues. Against these clear principles it is not enough to set up our fears and suspicions that the war may be unjust. No country ever goes to war telling its citizens that the cause is unjust; and propaganda and mass hysteria are powerful. If however we are in a real position to judge, and this case is rare I suppose, and we are convinced seriously that our state is entering upon an unjust aggression, then we should stand out as " conscientious objectors."

However, there are many more difficulties. War is a loathsome thing. There can in theory and no doubt there have been in history sonic holy wars. Rut even in a holy war there is supposedly something " out of joint " in the relations of men, and certainly some antecedent evil that has brought about the war.

There is for some the horror of killing another man. However, if, as a soldier. it

were necessary to kill another, the outward physical act would look like homicide and it would have the same nauseating aspects.

But as a moral act it would be something quite different, killing an enemy soldier is not primarily a killing but an accomplish ment of soldierly duty. A thoroughly un pleasant duty but a sad necessity. As an individual fighting for the social collectivity one would really be in much the same position, as if, as an individual, one were attacked by a dangerous lunatic or a criminal, i.e., one would kill him if there was no other way of saving one's life. Perhaps it is needful to stress our social responsibilities, our duties towards others, and towards the State. We are never mere individuals. We have social duties towards the Church and the State, and there are definite virtues governing the exercise of those duties. Our Lord did not tell the soldiers to take up another profession, He bade them exercise their profession law fully. A soldier never (or should never) kill an enemy soldier as an individual but as a part of the enemy force. It is a " thing " which he fights, not the man in front of him. It would be thoroughly wrong to take pleasure in the killing. It is a horrid necessity attached to a soldier's duty.

Filially to make peace there must be good will on both sides. If all really willed peace and determined to work for it, then we should have it. But the acquisition of peace is only partly in our power. So long as there is not that good will in all countries with which we have contacts, there cannot be peace.

In England there is no doubt a genuine desire for and love of peace (which is quite compatible with a demand for bigger fight

ing forces). There is no necessary connection between disarmament and peace, a point which many " pacifists " fail to understand. Disarmament may in fact be a grave sin of imprudence in those who rule us in certain circumstances. Working

for peace means something much deeper than a desire for disarmament. Those who rule have a strict obligation to see that we can defend ourselves against those who would use brute force to get what they want (usually material wants!).


36, Marlborough Road, Ipswich.


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