Page 9, 31st July 1981

31st July 1981
Page 9
Page 9, 31st July 1981 — Barbara Ward and her Sword of the Spirit
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Barbara Ward and her Sword of the Spirit

FR HERBERT KELDANY looks at the role played by Barbara Ward (abo■e), who died just recently, in the formation of the Sword of the Spirit, a sword which was to turn into a ploughshare.

THE SWORD of the Spirit. a turning point on the road to Unity, was launched by a handful of layfolk led by Barbara Ward on August I. 1940.

When the vigorous Archbishop of Westminster. Arthur Hinsles. set up the movement he called The Sword of the Spirit. he had in mind a spiritual campaign. Yet he appointed as its organising secretary a young woman of twenty-five Barbara Ward, not long down from Oxford. She was beginning a brilliant career as an assistant editor of The Economist, and had worked, in Arnold Toynbee's monitoring unit of the Ministry of Information. She also helped Christopher Dawson edit

The Dublin Review. .

There had been of course, much discussion about war aims ever since the failure of Chamberlain in Prague. The Cardinal had for at least a year been thinking of making a statement, before the fall of France precipitated matters.

lie had been struck by some articles on British foreign policy by A. C. F. Beales. a lecturer at King's College. London, who had written a History of Peace. So he wrote to him:

"and suggested that I and John Eppstein, and anyone I cared to co-opt, should draft a statement of Catholic principles for Peace settlement that His Eminence 'night later issue officially".

John Eppstein had just published his Catholic Tradition of the Law of Nations, but in the event did not join the group formed by Beaks.

This included R. R. Stokes, MP. Donald Attwater, Vincent Connolly, and several priests, among them Fr John Murray, S.J. who was editing The Month.

They submitted their first draft to the Cardinal as he was preparing his famous broadcast of December 10. 1939. which he called the Sword of the Spirit.

The Cardinal's words were widely reproduced. His key words were characteristic:

There must be no compromise on first principles of right and wrong. no compromise between Christianity and the rival brands of anti-Christian tyranny".

After the Dunkirk evacuation, Dawson, at the instance of Barbara Ward, some members of the Plater Club and Manya Harrari, wrote to the Cardinal proposing a public move.

The terms of the Cardinal's reflects the traumatic time and provides the lille-deed of the "Sword" movement.

"The ,fundamental rightness of our cause must be clearly kept before the gaze of all. The god of radicalism, rampant nationalism and state supremacy can never cease to war against the Peace of Christ. By a sincere crusade of penance and prayer. an intelligent study of events and a strenuous defence of our country's cause, we shall do our share to secure the triumph of justice and truth. I strongly commend this essential campaign . . ."

The rousing call was followed by Douglas Woodruff. of the Tablet. ■.‘ho made the point that the fall of France had given a new role to the Catholics of Britain. since by sharing the religion of the Continent they could he a connecting and reconciling element.

The allies in Britain took the point and backed the 7Sword", thus defusing attempts to exaggerate affinities with "the Latin Block.

In retrospect many of those who saw the need of the "Sword" were historians, several were converts, and though a Catholic, Barbara Ward owed something of her fire to her Quaker father. Though it did not set out to be ecumenical. indeed the word was scarcely used, the "Sword" soon gained wide support among all Christians, especially at the local level, It is worth noting that the Cardinal's Cross, a plain piece of plastic, was distributed from Westminster about this time, with the following words attached:

'I have had a small Cross designed .. . with The words Pledge of Victory on the reverse. I wish all Catholic members of the forces to wear this to remind themselves of the spiritual nature of this struggle."

Though a natural ecumenist Dawson was not a good public speaker. but he found in Barbara Ward a most effective aide.

She travelled the country in blacked out trains and became the Joan of .Arc of the "Swore. So did Beaks and others.

They did so well that they met with opposition. When their literature was widely spread they were dubbed "an unpaid department of' the Ministry of Informationbut they retorted "our crusade is something else. the war is an incident in our crusade-. Then the cry of "indifferentism" was raised and limits put on cooperation with other Christians, but the initiative was maintained, despite these failures of nerve, during the worst years of the war: With the death of Cardinal Hinsley and the coming of peace a new era opened and the "Swordturned into ploughshare and became the Catholic Institute for International Relations.




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