Page 1, 3rd November 1967

3rd November 1967
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Page 7
Page 1, 3rd November 1967 — Students agree 'war is immoral'

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Locations: Durham, Oxford


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Students agree 'war is immoral'

From Our Special Correspondent

WAR is immoral but it does not necessarily follow that those who participate or the methods used are immoral. This was the conclusion of a conference on "The Morality of Modern Warfare" organised by the Catholic Students Union at Bradford University Last weekend.

Mr. Neville Brown, Defence Correspondent of the New Statesman. and Lecturer on International Politics at Birmingham University provided the factual backcloth for the conference, with an analysis of the nuclear arms race between America and Russia since 1953.

He gave a statistical account of their respective achievements in their arms and space programmes exploding the myth of an imbalance in favour of Russia. He asserted it was Russia rather than the Americans who were "closing the gap".

The prospect of even a limited nuclear war was so frightful that it would have to be the last resort after all other possible solutions had failed.

Cdr. Molleneux, secretary of the Conference of Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament which is linked with the British Council of Churches, posed the question "How does all this fit in with Sermon on the Mount?"


The possession of these weapons was justified he said, because of the "realities of our present day life," because of

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the gap between our technological development and our politico-moral ideologies. He analysed these four propositions: 1, Christian pacifism as an individual thing, when it occurred, should be accepted; 2, Nuclear pacifism, again on and individual level, shall be acceptable; 3, the principles of "just war" doctrine, may not necessarily be violated by nuclear conflict; and the dictum 'necessity knows no laws' is, from a moral point of view, totally unacceptable.

The conclusion arrived at was that politically speaking we needed a negotiated balanced disarmament, with an internationally accepted standard of law, value and order, with the necessary means'to uphold it.

Mr, Walter Stein, Lecturer in Philosophy and Literature at Leeds University, the third speaker, questioned the reality of the just war.

He criticised the absolute pacifist position based on the Evangelical counsels, and he drew a clear distinction between precept and counsel.

The precept being a universally applicable rule, e.g. Thou Shalt Do No Murder, whereas the counsels were directive situational laws, not absolute in themselves.

Fr. Giles Hibbit, 0.P., Lecturer in Theology at Blackfriars, Oxford, called for the working out of principles in a

live situation rather than the blanket imposition of an abstract principle on all given situations.

He asserted that absolute pacifism was indefensible, but it is the positive Christian obligation to negotiate, with force as a last resort. He could see no reason against selective pacifism, e.g. the American position in Vietnam.

He accepted the just war principle but feared that, in the name of justice, there had been many misapplications.

Aggression was not merely of the military nature, economic imperialism was equally aggression, which we have the right and the duty to resist.

Fr. B. McMahon, former Lecturer in Dogmatic Theology, Ushaw College, Durham, made a clear distinction between traditional and scriptural teaching of the Church about war.

Quoting Karl Rahmer, Fr. McMahon said that it was not the decisive role of the Church to set up models which, if faithfully immitated by the individual, would save him.

The Church and moral theology have the function of recalling the principles of right thinking so that the individual Christian could live with guidance in a concrete situation and grow to maturity in the use of his conscience.

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