A Holy Year General Amnesty?
By Miehael de la Bedoyere
IN his Christmas Allocution the
Holy Father said : " Let an end be pot to the last remnant of those extraordinary laws which have nothing to do with common crimes deserving just punishment, and which, long years after the cessation of hostilities, causes so many families and individuals a feeling of exasperation against a society in which they are made to softer."
The reference would seem to be in particular to the " purges " in which the dominant post-war parties in invaded countries revenged themselves for public and private wrongs on those who took a different line of policy during the war. We do not deny, and have never denied. that a numher were genuinely guilty of the sordid Crimes of the betrayal of their compatriots for personal profit, yhile others exploited the position for unpatriotic motives. Such crimes were punishable after fair trial. But today no one doubts that vcry many fundamentally innocent people were punished, and sometimes killed, after summary trials brought into operation through motives quite as sordid and mean as those which actuated many of the really guilty. We were glad to see that France, even before the Holy Father's words, had decreed a measure of amnesty. though this clearly falls short of what is needed if a truly Christian spirit of love and forgiveness is to wipe out the brutality and bestiality of those passionate months. And it is intolerable that today, so many years after the events, fresh trials and punishments should he instituted, whether in France or in Belgium. for the mistakes of those distant days.
The world of men. brutalised by totalitarianism and war, cries out for reconciliation and charity, and if any genuine criminals profit by a thoroughgoing amnesty, it will be a very small price to pay for the blessing to the rest and to all of us of such a Christian spirit.
War Trials T these " purges.' hideous as
they are. will probably have less serious consequences for the future of mankind than the trials which the victors have staged in order to punish the crimes and alleged crimes of the vanquished.
The " purges " were internal to individual countries. and no doubt the sense of common love for the country will in course of time cause the evil deeds to be no more than an unhappy historical memory for another generation. Very different will he the case of the war trials which posterity will tend to magnify rather than diminish so that they will remain a potent cause of international hatred and desire for revenge. Moreover. the nature and conduct of these trials are bound to affect the whole conception of international justice in 'elation to war in a way far different from what the vie tors professed to expect when they
instituted them. So far from furthering the cause of-Joutlavong unjust war, they are likely to make war an even more desperate and brutal thing since the responsible political leaders and soldiers on either side will now realise that military defeat means personal trial and condemnation, to be avoided at any cost to the ordinary soldiers arid citizen% of both sides.
The fact is that despite the show of impartial justice and indeed the sincere belief of many involved that the cause of international order was being fuilhered, these war trials against the Germans and the Japanese were a reversion to the preChristian (and now post-Christian) law of brute retaliation and utter destruction of the defeated. They Implicitly denied the Christian teaching of the common lot of men who all share a fallen state and all hope together for redemption by grace. This teaching does not of course deny the just role of human justice— on the contrary; but it does bind men to the most scrupulous administration of a truly impartial and wellunderstood justice always clearly based on the moral law, a justice which so far from taking advantage of human chances and misfortunes allows generously for them, just as It will always prefer the escape of the suspected criminal to the condemnation of the just man.
Lord Hankey's Evidence QOAIE readers who have often come across similar sentiments in these columns and may feel that this matter is the private fad of an always critical newspaper, will do well to consult a recently published book, Politics. Trials and Errors (Penin-Hand, 8s. 60, written by no less a person than the Right Hon. Lord Macy, a Minister of the Crown with Cabinet rank at the beginning of the war and Secretary to British Cabinets for twenty years.
In this book they will find a far more vigorous condemnation of the whole allied policy towards defeated Germany, of Unconditional Surrender and of the War Trials in Germany arid Japan than anything they have read in these columns. Moreover. Lord Hankey, having made the closest factual study of the whole business, with the help of his own exceptiooal information is in a postion to analyse in detail what led up i to this policy, how it was carried through. and what its consequences must be. For our part, we can only argue a priori on general considerations.
Norway and Japan NATURALLY there is no space here even to report all that Lord Hankey has to say. But we rosy mention one or two points of special interest. Thus, Lord Hankey studies with the greatest care the case against the German generals in connection with the aggression against Norway, and shows by reference to evidence of Allied intentions and actions that both sides were running parallel in hostility against that key neutral country, the Allies themselves winning the battle of aggressiop by a short head in mining Norwegian waters. Yet no action of the Allies was allowed in evidence at the trials of German generals, who were professionally bound to take the necessary measures to defend themselves against Allied intentions, just as the Allied command had to take similar measures against German intentions.
Another most interesting case is that of Shigemitsu, Japanese Ambassador in London between 1938 and 1941, a man universally known to be highly honourable, a lover of peace and a well-wisher to this country and the West. He has been condemned to seven years' imprisonment, apparently largely because of Russian susceptibilities, on the ground that, having become Japanese Foreign Minister during the war, he participated in waging an aggressive war. He was also condemned for failing in his duty to prevent breaches of the laws of war. Lord Harkey has not the slightest difficulty in disposing of both lighthearted charges against a good man of the type Japan today badly needs.
We are glad indeed to have the support of a person of Lord Hankey's stature. experience and sense of responsibility for our conviction from the beginning that nothing but harm could come from victor-conducted trials on the basis of a largely ex-post-facto law, in which evidence was only admissible in so far as it favoured the victors, the whole carried through in concert with Soviet Russia, against which there were ample prima fade evidences of even greater guilt on all the counts.
The Remedy WE said above that these trials were likely to poison with ever greater venom international relations for the tuture. Yet probably the Germans and the Japanese realise that in the crude and brutal atmosphere of modern warfare (for which many of their own leaders have a heavy responsibility), the holding of such trials, even by victors with such high moral pretensions, was not surpris ing. Therefore there may still be time to repair the mistake.
The Pope has called for general amnesty in Holy Year. What an act of wise statesmanship it would be if Britain, France and America, in conjunction with all other willing victor Powers. took this opportunity of wiping the slate clean as an act of Christian mercy. Such a gesture would mean more for the future peace of the world than all the conferences and plans which waste the time and energy of the little men who struggle so vainly against the tide of Godlessness abroad and at home.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
THE Archbishop of York has
commented on the recent Times correspondence on "Catholicism Today" in his diocesan magazine. One can discern in his words, we think, a certain melting in the attitude of one of the " nervous hierarchs," as an Anglican correspondent described them in the correspondence itself. The Archbishop lecognises. more formally than he has ever done before, if we are not mistaken, that "millions of Roman Catholics " are devoted to Our Lord and steadfast and courageous in their resistance to those who would dethrone Him. In view of the widespread prejudice still existing against Catholicism. these words mark a hopeful public advance. We, too, should recognise the devotion of Our Lord and the defence of His law which is most certainly characteristic of many of our separated brethren, though alas it cannershe doubted that many more remain today Christian in name rather than Christian in effective deed.
The Archbishop, naturally enough, prides himself on the " spiritual freedom " of the Established Church (by which he really means the dogmatic and organisational freedom), and insists on the Anglican inability to accept the close authority exercised by the Catholic Church.
In regard to this it seems to us that both sides can fairly and squarely examine the " fruits " of the two approaches and consider how far it is precisely Catholic authority in dogma and organisation which accounts for the world-wide and inflexible Catholic resistance, not only to the tyrant, but to that modernist corruption which in the long run so much weakens the individual Christian's resistance to specious political pretexts and excuses. If indeed such authority is largely accountable for the phenomenon, one will surely be induced to examine again most carefully the Catholic grounds for their belief that such authority does derive from the Archbishop's own declared test, " an appeal to the Scriptures."
THE Educational Secretary of
the Oxford University Appointments Committee, in his warning of the lamentable effects of the underpayment of teachers, has publicly underlined the very strong points made in a long letter in our columns last week by Mr.
Raymond Garlick. •
The combination of sentiments of false equalitarianism which is part of the general socialist mentality together with the inevitable secondary effects of inflation has created a situation that must prove little short of disastrous to future education in the country. if the teaching profession is to raise or even maintain its standard the expenses of a full teacher's training and the teacher's need for a life of some cultural amplitude and status have to be provided for in a salary substantially higher than even that of the best paid manual labourer. The situation, we may add, tends to fall with particular weight on many Catholic teachers, whether in the publie schools or the State schools. By and large, Catholic teachers will have larger families, and in many cases special sacrifices are expected of them because they arc devoting themselves to a cause spiritually vital and carried through under special financial difficulties.
When considering the apparent advances made under the policy of the Welfare State, it is well to remember the very many ways in which we are sacrificing the future for the benefit of the politically
strongest at the present time. In general we are sacrificing the greater part of what a middle class can give of permanent value to the country, and among this middle class it is the teachers, perhaps. who are suffering most in proportion to their social va 1 ue.