Viewpoint: Young Catholics should not be encouraged to join the Army

 Catherine Hand, from Tideswell in Derbyshire writes:

“I do not think it right that the Army should be allowed to come to a careers evening in our school,” I said as a governor of our local Catholic comprehensive school.  Amazement, surprise and incomprehension greeted me.

My assertion that I did not think that a career which trained people to kill was suitable for a Christian, someone who tried in their own life to follow Christ’s teaching and example, mystified my fellow governors.

Five hundred years ago, the Catholic Church condoned the Inquisition and the often brutal execution of heretics.  Now we are ashamed of that history, although those actions were sanctioned by canon law.  Now we have the Just War doctrine, but I wonder if, in years to come, that will be regarded as an equally poor excuse for war as we would consider sixteenth century canon law as an excuse for torture.

Modern warfare makes it well-nigh impossible even to adhere to the demands of the Just War doctrine; for example in all wars since the First World War more civilians than military personnel have been killed in conflicts, something the doctrine says is impermissible.  The requirement that wars should be defensive rather than aggressive is also hard to apply with a clear conscience to the wars Britain has engaged in in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite what the politicians tell us. 

Quite apart from doctrine, we have the example of Jesus, who lived under a cruel occupation and was unjustly condemned to an appalling death, and who yet refused to react violently, and told Peter to ‘put up your sword’.  How can we read the Sermon on the Mount, and then manufacture weapons of slaughter and send young men out to use them indiscriminately?

It may never be possible to prevent nations going to war, but the only hope for this will come from people refusing to fight, and stating their reasons for doing so, backed up, one hopes, by the whole Christian Church, and by those of other faiths.  To act against the mainstream of patriotism, security and public opinion requires huge courage, but has been done in the past, not least by our own Padley Martyrs.

The bravery of our soldiers is undeniable.  They need chaplains such as those recently appointed from this diocese, also courageous men, to be with them in difficult times.  I would hope, though, that these chaplains would also be there to encourage them to question what they are doing, and if their consciences cause them to refuse to fight, to support them.

By definition, the winning side in any war has to be the one that kills more children, more women and more men than its opponent: ‘They make a desert and they call it peace’.  Do we really believe that might is right?

Harry Patch said:  “War is only legalised murder; disagreements should be settled round a table, do not go to war.”

Every Sunday, every day, we pray for peace.  Do we really act in such a way as to bring it about?

(Note from editor) For some reason this story was published in trh J&P section as well - where more readers have added comments.

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