By JOHN M TODD
NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE. Edited by Walter Stein. Foreword by Archbishop Roberts. (The Merlin Press, 12s. 6d.).
I the heart of this hook of
seven chapters lie the two contributions of Miss G. E. M. Anscombe, Lecturer in Philosophy at Somerville College, Oxford and of Dr. R. A. Markus, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Liverpool.
Their chapters are "War and Murder" and ''Conscience and Deterrence". In the former Miss Anscombe argues with implacable logic and with scrupulous concern for truth and for the moral absolute as understood by men generally and clarified by the Old and New Testaments and the Church. She establishes the duty of states to use violence to maintain order, the nature of murder, and the aense in which the killing of a man is sometimes murder, sometimes not.
DR. MARKUS takes on the argument exactly at the point where Miss Anscombe leaves off (a triumph for the editor this-I say with envy) and we are taken with the same logic, stripped of the emotive language so often employed in arguments about crucial issues, to the point where the manufacture, possession and use of nuclear bombs are clearly immoral and the Christian must do what he can to make this judgment public.
The rest of the book is concerned with setting out and discussing information and other arguments relevant to the subject.
Dr. Geach discusses the argument that conscience need not decide on this matter till war breaks out, or that anyhow one must trust another authority. Roger Smith provides documentation from Pius XII and others. Walter Stein intro duces and winds up, as Editor. Archbishop Roberts recommends the book as a whole in a foreword.
THE authors disavow absolute pacifism and Miss Anscombe shows convincingly how its "idealism" can sometimes undermine all rational argument about morals. Every moral judgment demands a detailed attention to a particular situation-and there is no pretence that this detailed application can be achieved in any simpliste or merely dogmatic fashion.
Dr. Markus reminds us of the conviction of Aquinas that in matters of morals "everything is contingent and variable". Miss Ans. comhe reminds us, via Dr. Johnson, that there are many situations really difficult to judge twilight cannot properly he said to be either day or night. But this does not mean that day and night cannot be distinguished from each other and that there is not much more of both than of twilight, and that the majority of human situations are not patient of moral judgments reached by rational argument which is convincing. The authors of this book by their argu
ments place the nuclear bomb well • beyond the twilight borderland where moral decisions are really difficult.
THE contributors to this book, then, are no "counsellors of perfection" but rather interpreters, with a careful and traditional caste of mind, of man's traditional moral sense, of the teaching of the Bible and the Church. May their book be widely read both by those who must make their personal decisions, and by our teachers and Bishops, in this country and others!
The authors express their desire for an authoritative decision. Yet, as they record, an important body of Catholic Bishops has issued an unconditional rejection of all use of nuclear bombs-the whole body of Bishops in France. But the Ruler of France has acted in a directly contrary fashion. And individual Bishops elsewhere have spoken in a contrary sense, using arguments certainly refuted by the present book. It is a perennial failing of the human mind, in Christians, as well as others, to be so pre-occupied with detail and so concerned with what is thought to be expedient, that it becomes unable in particular cases to say what any man coming fresh to the matter is sure to say : "This is wrong-whatever the cost I cannot do it".
The great virtue of this book is that the authors are qualified and able to set out the detailed arguments which support the good impulse of every man who looks with his conscience at the proposal to make and store and be willing to threaten the use of weapons which in any future war would bring death in an indiscriminate way that must be called murder.