Thursday, 4 August 2011

...."the British Governement hereby requires you to report for active service in a war zone as from....."

If a letter commanding you to report for active service landed in your postbox how would you react? I suspect that, not many of us would run around punching the air and giving high fives to all and sundry.

I guess we would sit down and have a strong cup of tea drink before breaking the news to one's wife or husband.
War. Away from home for months, maybe years. Facing untold hardships and, every day, staring death in the face....gulp! Have another strong drink.

But could we or would we turn down the Government's request to become part of the military? Most Catholics hold hard to the belief that the legitimate protection of innocent lives is a matter that must be accepted even if it entails the killing of one's fellow man. "Thou shalt not kill" works both ways; wrong to wantonly murder and wrong to allow wanton murder to take place, even if it does mean taking lives in the process.
Conscientious objectors (COs) traditionally but not exclusively, come from the ranks of Quakers and homosexuals (and sometimes people of a faith that is subject to utter persecution such as the Jews in the last war).
This is a most selfish stance to take. It allows your neighbour to offer the ultimate sacrifice while you stay at home tucked up in a warm bed.
Belloc had a good way of encapsulating the CO position when he wrote:

"Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
but Roaring Bill, who killed him,
thought it right"

For those whose beliefs just will not permit them to take up arms there is always the Ambulance or Medical Corps or any one of several dozen non combatant roles. Many medals for gallantry have been won by homosexuals and others in these positions. But I have no time for the full on COs who refuse to play even a passive role.

Today I speculate on how many men and women, upon being sent conscription papers, would play the CO card. I suspect that the numbers electing for a year or two in jail rather than a year or two facing enemy fire, would be a great deal higher than at times of previous call-ups.

We do suffer from a malaise of moral decay that will, in the event of war, produce an abundance of those who will not fight and claim that their conscience prevents them from doing so.
It would be interesting to do a research survey to try to discover just how many of those serving Queen and country also believe in God. I suspect that the majority do. I also believe that the majority of those wishing to shirk their duty are non believers. I cannot prove those points, just a personal belief.

I hope that the time never comes when the point is capable of being proved.


  1. I would think the reaction to a call up would be dependent upon the threat. A direct threat to hearth and home such as Britain faced in 1940 is far different than the wars of choice we seem to be presented with today.

    If I were being asked to kill to protect my family from a direct threat then I'm in. If, on the other hand, I was ordered to pick up a gun and go to Libya to shoot at someone that I don't think is a threat then I would be forced to object, based on a well formed conscience developed through adherence to my Catholic faith.

    If this would make me a conscience objector or less than patriotic in the eyes of some then so be it. Just war is permissible - unjust war is murder.

  2. I'll agree with Catawissa. Part of the problem is what kind of war you're being conscripted into. I can hardly imagine that I would have relished the idea of fighting for Germany during WWII. Now, if the USA were invated (perhaps by an irate Canada) I'd gladly grab the M-16 and go off to protect the country. As Catawissa points out, it needs to be a just war.

  3. I’m not sure of the reason behind this post by the blog owner; it is highly unlikely that national conscription will be introduced. Yet, after reading it three times I have the feeling that conscientious objection is being linked to the ‘malaise of moral decay’; if so, I totally disagree as the Church holds to the moral supremacy of an informed conscience (CCC 1795-1796) and we would do well to remember that all early Christians were conscientious objectors and were roundly condemned for being so by the Roman authorities.

    As the two previous commentators have mentioned, the type of aggression is important i.e. invasion of one’s homeland or invasion by the UK/US of Iraq. War is not something in which to enter lightly.

    In ascertaining whether or not a war is ‘just’ the Church (CCC 2308) lays down definite conditions - all of which must be fulfilled at the same time - and only when these have been met can a State impose the obligations necessary for national defence (2309). Certainly, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan would not fulfil these criteria.The Catechism states:

    The strict conditions for legitimate defence by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

    - the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

    - all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

    - there must be serious prospects of success;

    - the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.