CatholicScout Responds: Chesterton: Is War Irrational — or is Pacifism Feverish?

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.

Yours Sincerely,
CatholicScout.


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.

Are Abortion and Capital Punishment equally bad? – Q&As on Gospel Nonviolence 4

Woman caught in Adultery, condemned to death, Jesus forgives.

A good friend asked:

Do you think that abortion and capital punishment are equally bad? I think that capital punishment, if we could not properly imprison a dangerous criminal, would be justified.

Okay, this is a sticky question, so first let’s set some precedents.

  • Firstly, God is creator and He loves His creation infinitely.
    Nothing that His creation does can reduce, or change that love.
    So God loves the unborn child, just as much as He loves the serial-murderer.
  • Secondly, God is infinitely just, and being the Creator knows His creation perfectly, hence He knows what is perfectly good for His creation. Those things that are perfectly good for us, His creations, are the Laws. Prefigured in the Old Testament Laws, and confirmed and clarified by God Himself in the incarnate Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity – our Divine Redeemer Jesus Christ – and recorded in the New Testament.
  • Thirdly, God in His infinite Love created us free. However, if we do something which is bad for us, that has consequences.

Having set those principles, let’s break the question down.

  • The subject of Abortion is a human being incapable of defending itself. That human being did not originate from itself, or by pure human means, but by a singular act of Love by the Divine Creator.
  • The subject of Capital Punishment is a human being incapable of defending itself. That human being did not originate from itself, or by pure human means, but also by a singular act of Love by the Divine Creator.

Okay, onwards.

  • The action of Abortion, is the killing of that human being by other human beings (directly or indirectly).
  • The action of Capital Punishment, is the killing of that human being by other human beings (directly or indirectly).

The difference between Abortion and Capital Punishment, is that some people think that the victim of abortion is not guilty of wrongdoing and therefore does not warrant the death sentence. These same people think that the victim of Capital Punishment is guilty of wrongdoing and therefore does warrant the death sentence.

The problem for these people, is that it is impossible to reconcile this opinion, with the actual Gospel records. According to the Old Law, adultery was a crime punishable by Capital Punishment, death. Christ was presented with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, and Christ did not cast a stone.
He also taught His disciples (not just His Apostles), to do the same.

The question is then, what would Jesus do? What would Jesus do with a maniacal serial killer?
He’d shoot him in the head. He’d inject him with salt solution. He’d pull the lever to electrocute him.
Sound like the Lamb of God to you? Sound like Someone who is described as All Loving? Does it remotely sound like the God that we adore or would want to adore?

Not to me.

Infanticide is a horrendous crime, and made all the worse to us because we perceive the innocence of the child.
Homicide is a horrendous crime, but sometimes the horror of that to us, is mitigated, because we perceive it as “just” or “the right thing to do”.

Those perceptions are not the same to the Author of Life. By His living example He murdered no one, not even those who “deserved” to die. He is the Way, not our perceptions, nor what the world tells us is “the right thing to do”.

He never gives up hope.

Do I think that abortion and capital punishment are equally bad? I think homicide is always and in every case an unjustifiable and grave evil. The perpetrator of the crime, be it a medical professional, or the government by proxy, are always and equally guilty of that crime, regardless of motives.

The excuse of “if we could not properly imprison a dangerous criminal” is untenable. There is always a way to imprison or deal with a dangerous criminal in a way which does not involve homicide. Just ask yourself “what would Jesus do?” and then if your fresh out of inspirations go ask Him yourself in Adoration. The one place, where He Who Is, shows the whole world, Who is the most vulnerable – “will you kill this man Lord?”.

My position is just that of the Gospels. It is very, very, very hard for me, fallen human being, to accept and comply with this position. But by God’s grace, I can use my intellect and will to consent to this.

Despite, the difficulty, I do.

Please listen to the following audio files for outstanding responses to classic Questions and Answers regarding Gospel Non-Violence:

  1. Cleansing of The Temple
  2. What if Someone Is Going to Kill your Wife or Children?
  3. Just War/Just Revolution Theory
  4. Violence in the Old Testament
  5. Christians in the Military/Police
  6. Surely this Is a Purist Gospel?
  7. What about Hitler?
  8. Buy a Sword? Luke 22:35-38

Gospel Nonviolence is pacifist liberalism? – Q&As on Gospel Nonviolence 1

This begins a series of Questions and Answers on Gospel Nonviolence.

Questions in this series are ones that I have personally received, and I supply my answer to them. Father Emmanuel McCarthy (Fr.ECM) of the Centre for Christian Nonviolence, also, from time to time, gives his own response, often giving a deeper explanations (and answers the questions if I cannot!).

If you have a question about Gospel Nonviolence, please feel free to ask it in the Comment box at the bottom. I will endeavour to answer it (or have it answered).

Christ and the Good Thief - Titian

“If you are correct about all this Non-Violence stuff, why is it that it has only really resurged in the last century? Why is the Gospel Non-Violence movement so small? Why is it often associated with extreme liberalism with all it’s errors (modernism, relativism etc)? Why is it not making a bigger impact?”

CatholicScout’s responses to the questions:

  1. Why is it that [Gospel Nonviolence] has only really resurged in the last century? Good question, perhaps because this last century has seen more people killed in war than all the previous centuries put together. Perhaps because the nature of modern communications makes it less easy to control information. Perhaps also because in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, people started to question things more.
  2. Why is it that the Gospel Nonviolence movement is so small?
    Hitherto, the nonviolent love of Jesus of friends and enemies, has not been preached. What you don’t know, you can’t follow. Inform yourself by listening to the following retreat (or you can download Retreat on the Lamb of God here) on the Lamb of God:
    The Lamb: The Mystery of Gods Suffering Servant The Lamb: To Be Adored and Imitated The Mind of the Lamb The Lamb Who Glorifies God The Church: A Fold of Lambs The Love That Is Lamb-Like The Lamb in a Jungle The Means of the Lamb The Lamb Who Is Rich in Mercy The Security of the Lamb The Trustworthy Lamb The Mystery of the Oneness in the Lamb: Baptism The Lambs Lamb: Mary The Lamb of Forgiving Love The Lamb of Serving Love The Resurrected Lamb
  3. Why is it often associated with extreme liberalism with all it’s errors (modernism, relativism etc)?
    Fr.ECM‘s response: Gospel Nonviolence is not liberalism or conservatism, extreme or otherwise. I seldom just use the word “nonviolence.” I always try to make sure people know I am talking about Gospel Nonviolence or Jesus’ Nonviolent Way of Love, etc. The reason is, nonviolence as a word is open to indefinite meaning and interpretation. In Christianity, nonviolence is the adjective and love (agape) is the noun. Nonviolent Christlike love should be a redundancy but it is not because Christians have been kept in the dark by Church leaders that nonviolent love is the only form of Christlike love, as non-adulterous love is the only form of Christlike love, that is love model on the person of Jesus, the new commandment.
    CatholicScout’s response: I think that Gospel Nonviolence, is not associated with extreme liberalism (and all it’s errors). I think that Pacifism is associated with extreme liberalism, and also that bizarre revolutionary version of Pacifism which is very angry and loud about it. That Pacifism and Revolutionarism (as I will call it) is definitely associated with extreme liberalism (and all it’s errors), because it is an error. If anyone actually listens to what is involved with Gospel Nonviolence, they will quickly learn it’s not something “liberal”, or easy to follow and that only those who are truly convinced that this is the Truth follow it. Those people are neither liberal, nor conservative, as Fr.ECM puts it.
    To those that point a finger towards notable proponents of Gospel Nonviolence, who do not have a spotless Theological track record (such as Martin Luther King Jr, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen etc), just remember that people who practice Jesus’ way of nonviolent Love, are not infallible, not indefectable (see my post on indefectibility) and not impeccable. They are human beings like you and I (and the Pope, I may add…). The objective is not to look at their track record, rather the track record of the Person they are attempting to follow. Follow Christ.
  4. Why is it not making a bigger impact? Good question, probably because the Devil has been hard at work, sowing cockle, eating up seeds, and people are not enduring sound doctrine.