Page 6, 7th July 1939

7th July 1939
Page 6
Page 6, 7th July 1939 — CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION The Catholic Position

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Organisations: Horne Office


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SIR,—Mr Dingle is wrong when he says that " in Catholic countries the phenomenon (of conscientious objection to war) is unknown." France, the militarist nation par ea-rellence, is usually reckoned a " Catholic " country. At this moment Catholic conscientious objectors are suffering in French jails. Particulars can be had from the War Resisters' International.

Pius XI spoke of modern war as " murder," " mass murder," "suicide," " monstrous crime " (April 2, 1934). Yet a Catholic priest of Stoke-on-Trent asks " Why is it wrong to kill civilians in war?" Fortunately, there is another Christian voice in Stoke-on-Trent—that of the Archdeacon, who, after refusing to allow his church school to be used for a recruiting meeting, said: "I believe the Church has suffered gravely in the minds of the people through having allowed itself to be used as a recruiting agency in the Great War. So far as my influence goes, I am determined to prevent it making the same mistake again " (Daily Express, July 1, 1939).

In a perplexing matter the following things would seem to be clear: 1. God commands us to love our enemies, not to seek revenge, and to forgive injuries unto " seventy times seven."

2. This rules out, for Christians, the idea of war, except in very special circumstances, and then subject to the observance of certain conditions.

3. Conscription has been explicitly denounced by the Popes (Leo XIII and Benedict XV); therefore, every Catholic has a right to refuse compulsory service.

4. The words of the late Holy Father, of Cardinals Faulhaber and Verdier, and of the Archbishop of Cincinnati, are sufficient to justify any Catholic in abstaining from all participation in modern war.

5. But: in the absence of any authoritative pronouncement to the contrary, the military profession is in itself still a legitimate profession for Christians.

It is a matter for the individual conscience and each side should refrain from denouncing the other as heretics. All can at least unite in prayer for peace. Each can say with St. John Fisher: "Not that I condemn any other men's conscience. Their conscience may save them; and mine must save me."

Perhaps the most useful thing that all can do is to urge upon their hierarchies the need for a new pronouncement, papal or conciliar, on the Christian and the problem of war. Such a pronouncement has been forecast. by Cardinal Faulhaber, who has said that moral theology must take account of new facts.

But will it come too late?

M. G. S. Sevan.a. 3, Cecile Park, Crouch Hill, N.A.


SIR,—May one who was once a soldier make an observation about the letter of his fellow layman, Mr Dingle, and another about Father Gosling's?

Whether Mr Dingle likes it or not, " the state of affairs is now altered," and "nothing but harm can arise " from trying to ignore or suppress that fact; there are increasing numbers of Catholic conscientious objectors, even in what are called Catholic countries. Quite apart from these "radicals," if The Church has any teaching at all on war, then there is a Catholic point of view on it, just as there is a Quaker one. That many, perhaps most, Catholics know and apparently care nothing about that point of • view does not get rid of its existence.

To answer Father Gosling's question, "Why is it wrong to kill civilians in warfare?" requires, I submit, a discussion that is beyond the scope of a newspaper correspondence. We should have for example, to consider what constitutes a civilian and a non-combatant, which is not so easy as it looks (noncombatant and civilian are not synonymous: a military doctor is a soldier—he is also a non-combatant). We should have to consider what makes the killing of fighting soldiers in warfare morally lawful; and that would raise the question of the grounds of legitimacy of killing " enemies " who are in fact unwilling conscripts. And so on. It is easy enough to accept the assumption that " it is right (i.e. justifiable) to kill soldiers in warfare," but before we could get any further we should have to know a lot more about the thing we were assuming.


Number of C.O.s

Sin, Your correspondent. Reginald .1. Dingle, has been misinformed about the number of Catholic Conscientious Objectors during the last war. To my knowledge (which is limited) there were eleven, who were imprisoned and were afterwards released to work on the Horne Office scheme. Also, one died whilst in prison, and another was sent to France and sentenced to death. Those, whom I knew personally, were also conscientious Catholics and saintly men.

Can any of your correspondents show that a pronouncement has been made by the Church against conscientous objection to military service? It could not be on the grounds of disobedience to the law, because there is a conscience clause, which surely a Catholic has the right to use.

The Cur6 D'Ars, though conscripted, decided to desert " whether because of his own good Faith, or, etc., . . he had never believed his conscience was chargeable."



Sre,—As "N. B. G." is on faulty translation, we take his hint, and protest against that wretched " in bad faith," i.e, "dishonest," " lying," for the good French " de mauvaise foi."

And against the silly " emphasis " for " emphase," which means " pomposity."

And against " respectable " for French " respectable," meaning " venerable " or " honourable."

And against " brutal " for the mild iniquity of the French "brutal." As against " malice" for mild " malice."

The frequent use of " beau," " belie " in religious and moral writing in French is absurdly translated into English by " beautiful action," " beautiful bearing " for " belle prestence," etc., " beau " having so many meanings, " impressive," " noble," etc. As I heard an earnest poor Parisian concierge who, having an hour off his slavery, went and saw a public execution, "ce fut si beau "—right over

Continued at foot of next column.

wrong, justice done, moral support.

And has " morale " become a consecrated mistake in English for " moral "? And " forte " for " fort "? And the unhappy " most amiable "? As Mgr. Hickey tried to plead, there is " loveworthy " to hand.

N. C. D.

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