On the international traditional Catholic newsblog, Rorate Caeli, there was a post titled “Chesterton: Is War Irrational — or is Pacifism Feverish?“.
One of my readers has asked for my comments on the post.
Firstly, let me just clear the ground, Rorate Caeli is an outstanding blog, and I highly recommend it for keeping the pulse on Catholic News. However, I must swiftly point out that the contributors to Rorate Caeli are human and fallible. In this particular case, both the contributor and the original author are very wrong.
In the first case, the contributor (NewCatholic) is attempting to use G K Chesterton’s rant against 1915 pacifists, essentially as a Call to Arms for modern-21st Century Catholics to support homicidal violence in the Middle East (and elsewhere no doubt). The contributor here visibly demonstrates what I have mentioned in previous posts – the strong tendency that exists among Traditional Catholics towards “justifiable homicide”. In Traditional Catholic circles the theory of a “Just War” after almost 15 centuries of inculcation, has for them become dogma. Those that suggest otherwise are anathema.
Traditionalists will point out that Just War theory was supported by Saints Ambrose (d.397), Augustine (d.430), St Thomas Aquinas (d.1274) and so on. There are even Traditionalists with whom the appeal to Scripture and the Divine Lawgiver would be lost on. There are even some Traditionalists that believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ would kill humans in war (if it were just). There is one thing common to these and all other Christians who hold similar ideas:
Their perception of reality is incongruous to historical fact. They are deluded.
The fact that Saints were deluded too, shouldn’t be too much of a shock either, since Canonisation is simply saying that the Saint is in heaven, not his/her works.
The contributor is doubly wrong in using this quote from G K Chesterton for advocating “Just War” on a Catholic blog, because they quote G K Chesterton writing an article on “May 29, 1915“. G K Chesterton became a Catholic in 1922. At the time of writing this article G K Chesterton was a heretic…
The contributor is triply wrong in using a quote from the Anglican G K Chesterton, because Pope St Pius X, who died from grief at the outset of World War One, both warned the world and condemned the onset of war. Pope St Pius X, the person the contributor should have quoted, said before the onset of World War One:
Truly we are passing through disastrous times, when we may well make our own the lamentation of the Prophet: “There is no truth, and there is no mercy, and there is no knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Yet in the midst of this tide of evil, the Virgin Most Merciful rises before our eyes like a rainbow, as the arbiter of peace between God and man.
In the second case, G K Chesterton, a man of great renown and later on in life of great holiness, he is a fallible human being, just like you or I. In the case of this particular rant, he is most certainly wrong on several counts. Let us assume for a moment that the Anglican G K Chesterton had written this article about me. I respond as follows:
Dear esteemed sir,
In response to your article in The Illustrated London News, May 29, 1915.
Your argument that Pacifism is morally wrong, is correct, if by Pacifism you mean doing nothing in the face of evil. Firstly, I am not a “Pacifist”. I am a Christian who believes that Christ Commanded us not to commit homicide. However, Christ did not Command us to do nothing in the face of evil. Christ showed us a way to confront the power of evil, with the power of Good. He showed us the Way to return good for evil done, and to be “obedient [to His Commands] unto death, even to the death of the cross” (cf. Phil 2:8).
Christ’s Way of returning Good for evil, is the only morally pure and right course of action. War, homicide, violence are condemned by the Messiah.
If now we talk about Gospel Non-Violence (having put away the notion of Pacifism), I can assure you sir, that I believe that Christ Commanded His followers (and His Church to teach all future generations) to “love one another, as [He] has loved [us]” (cf. Jn 13:34). I believe that His New Commandment is absolutely binding to all who claim to be His disciples, just as the Commandments of Old were (and still are) to the Jews. I believe that there are no exceptions, no clauses, no excuses, and I believe that the Church and her Saints were, and are, wrong in suggesting otherwise. I emphasise “suggesting“, because let me remind you, the Church has never infallibly proclaimed the Theory of a Just War to be Dogma.
There is no moderation in my position, because there is no moderation in Christ’s position (as born witness by Sacred Scripture and the first three centuries of Christianity). Just because there are few of us that hold such a fundamentalist position, does not undermine the fact that it is supported by the Fathers of the Church, the Apostles and God His-Incarnate-Self.
Since our salvation rests on the Saviour of Mankind, and since He showed us the Way to Eternal Life, please, esteemed sir, point out to me where Christ said that there is such a thing as “wars that are right and wars that are wrong”. Christ didn’t pronounce judgements and commandments about many things (such as those things that were already absolutely anathema at the time – like contraception, abortion, sodomy etc.), but he did pronounce judgements on killing, violence and harming others (things which were at the time considered justifiable). War is simply an extension of the killing, doing violence or harming of a single human being.
Since Christ did condemn the killing, doing violence or harming of a single human being, how do you sir, justify that doing it to hundreds, thousands, tens or hundred of thousands, or millions, can be right?
The Way of Christ is one of obedience. Obedience to His Law. Not to man’s. It is not easy, but the reward is Eternity.
Lastly – please pray for us dear Gilbert Chesterton, that we don’t use your words to send our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters off to war, to kill other peoples’ brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.