18 April 2022

War is a vile thing

 I am not a pacifist. I accept ex animo the Teaching of the Church on the subject of the Just War. I also entertain the suspicion held by many others, that in present circumstances it is not easy to see that any war can easily fulfil all the necessary conditions for being a Just War. I am also aware that I am not infallible or even humanly sound in my judgements about prudential human affairs. I beg forgiveness of those of you who may have recently thought that, confronted with obvious Evil, I have been unable to condemn it as you feel I should. I am probably the one in the wrong.

More than two decades ago, I did rejoice when Prince Charles opened the 'Hermitage Rooms' in central London. A set of rooms in a former Royal Palace on the banks of the Thames had been sumptuously redecorated in the style of the Hermitage Gallery in St Petersburg, and those rooms were to hold rotating exhibitions of spectacular goodies from the Hermitage itself. The fixer who had made all this possible was Lord Rothschild, a notable and highly distiguished patron of the Arts in modern Britain. 

In that first year, how spectacular those loaned goodies were. I loved it all; and, not least, a display of medals struck on the orders of the Empress Catherine the Great

One of these commemorated the Annexation of the Crimea "without bloodshed" on 8 April 1783 ... which I suspect might just be 19 April in our Gregorian Calendar. The Empress herself added to the draft design the words "the Result Of Peace".

Perhaps the antecedents of this event were not quite so entirely pacific. In 1770, Russia had destroyed the Turkish fleet in the Battle of Chesme; an engagement, incidentally, in which a Scottish sailor called Samuel Greig had taken part. He had entered the Empress's service as a captain and was promoted Admiral; after his death in 1788, Catherine had a fine golden medal struck in his honour; I wonder if this victory merits being listed with all those other triumphs of Western Christian Arms against Ottoman expansionism, including Lepanto.

And in 1787, another gold medal had commemorated the triumphant visit by the Empress to her new possessions. She was accompanied by the foreign ambassadors, and by "Count Falkenstein". This gentleman was ... incognito ... the Emperor of Austria.

I wonder if, possibly, we might sleep more securely if we knew Russia to be a comfortable part of a harmoniously Western Catholic/Orthodox culture ... but, you will tell me, that fantasy can now be no more.

Sadly, those grand rotating exhibitions no longer travel from the Hermitage on the Neva to the Hermitage on the Thames. Since Catherine initiated her collections by buying up the Walpole collection of Old Masters, one could make a good case for a great deal of this stuff to be categorised as part of our English Art Heritage! Why should we need to travel to S Petersburg to look at it?



frjustin said...

It is possible to make a virtual tour of the Hermitage without actually going there.


Jhayes said...

In 2013, seventy paintings from the Walpole Collection were exhibited in their original setting at Walpole’s Houghton Hall, in Norfolk.

Here’s an article on the exhibition:


“Two years before the Walpole Collection was sold to Catherine the Great by Walpole's profligate grandson, the Third Earl of Orford, the British government had refused to purchase the art for the British nation. When rumours of the forthcoming sale became public, the subject was hotly debated: the radical Member of Parliament, John Wilkes, speechifying in the House of Commons, declared that the British Museum should acquire the collection not only for its intrinsic aesthetic value but for its standing as an example that would act as a didactic aid to the emerging artists of the British School. A newspaper account at the time of the sale declared that the sale dishonoured England. An early 19th century guide to the Hermitage indeed commented that England, having lost the Walpole collection, would never make up the opportunity to establish a National Gallery "worthy of its rank as a civilised nation"

Mary Kay said...

I am sorry to hear that you have been scolded (is that the correct word?) for suggesting that Russia might have a long-standing reason to exist as a country. I have not been able to side with Ukraine in this sad war. One of the reasons is that, here in my country, the Bidens, Clintons, Pelosis, et al, are dead set against Russia. Naturally, that makes me realize that there is something wrong with the picture. I have never been on the side of those characters in my life.
Perhaps Putin is not a virtuous hero, but he certainly has done some good things for Russia, whereas Zelenskyy has a very interesting if unsavory recent history. I don't know if my thoughts or instincts are correct. Fortunately, it is still (barely) legal in this country to hold an unpopular opinion, so I think I'm safe.
I wish you and yours a blessed Easter season!

vetusta ecclesia said...

I am interested in those who fought for foreign monarchs. My ? times grandfather ( I have not the documents to hand), having fought with Wellington in the Peninsular War, remained in Portugal at the service of their king. Having fought in the subsequent civil war he wrote and published a history of it in both English and Portuguese. He refused an offer to be promoted to General in Portugal on the grounds of his oath to his king at home. His son received a barony in the peerage of Portugal. I wonder if I can claim it!

armyarty said...

My memory might be faulty, but I think that it was Helmuth Von Moltke who said that War forms part of the Natural Order of things, instituted by God. There is another quote attributed to many people, that You might not be interested in war, but war might be interested in you.

Just war theory is all so pie in the sky.

There will be war and rumors of war.

Venite Adoremus said...

Mary Kay, can you give some examples of those good things that Putin has done for Russia? And what unsavoury facts from Zelenskyy's recent history do you have in mind, specifically? Staying with and leading his people in the struggle against bloodthirsty invaders instead of running away, perhaps? As to American Democrats opposing Putin, would you extend the same reasoning to Americans opposing Hitler or Stalin? Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
This Easter season I wish you that the veil may be removed from your heart.

coradcorloquitur said...

The one fact (and there may be others) that we need to know who Mr. Zelensky is (while never doubting that Putin is no saint) is that George Soros endorses him and ostensibly his government. Putin may be a monster, but anyone promoted by that crinkly devil incarnate cannot but be evil himself. A case of "being between the Devil and the deep, blue sea," but undoubtedly we should feel for the suffering Ukranians, especially for those brethren of "the Household of the Faith" (as Scripture prescribes): the numerous Byzantine Catholics. Oremus.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear father. I can't imagine who would do what they can to prevent hundreds of millions of Christians in Russia from having a peaceful coexistence with hundreds of millions of Christians in America.

America's CIA interference/involvement in The Ukraine began in the 1950s as I recall, Zelenksy was a comedian who was elected for his post after America, which has a history of doing these things, deprived that sad county of its democratically leader.

JFK was assassinated shortly after his famous public speech at American University in which he called for America and Russia to stop testing nukes and form a friendship.

Image what could have happened with America's then manufacturing capability and Russia's natural resources.

Yes, some very powerful people were completely against that sort of peace

Matthew F Kluk said...


frjustin said...

The view of our fellow Catholics in Ukraine has been stated by their Major Archbishop, His Beatitude Sviatoslav (in Ukrainian https://t.co/D6oOyFMa6F):
"Although there is a war, unjust, cruel, bloody, deadly, but spring in Ukraine in its arms warms our land. And we, in hope of God, of His power, of His protection and support, defend our land."

And from the Ukrainian Catholic laity, in English:
"At this point, it is impossible to continue not noticing the satanic nature of the Kremlin regime," and "the blatant paganism of the statements of the Moscow patriarch." (Open Letter of the Senate and the Rectorate of Ukrainian Catholic University to the Christian Communities of the World)


jmav said...

What is remarkable throughout this crisis is that some professed Christians have displayed an inability to put aside ideology when faced with a war that is just about as clear-as-day from a moral perspective as they come. Sans emotionality, just in the light of reason, Russia's invasion clearly fails to satisfy either 'jus ad bellum' or, with its multiple atrocities, 'jus in bello'; its prospective war aims, if achieved, would likely not serve 'jus post bellum' either. Ukraine is fighting for a just cause, at the very least, in self-defense. This ascendancy of ideology speaks to the miserable death of charity in the hearts of these people. It is a secondary tragedy of this time of profound suffering. These brothers and sisters need our prayers too, as Venite indicated.

jmav said...

This isn't a duel between Vova and Volodya. It's not a sporting match where you boost "your side" and jeer the opposing "players." Nor is it a thing of trifling moral import or great obscurity on which one can reasonably keep neutral. If your intention is to justify Russia's invasion through some tenuous guilt by association with George Soros, my word, that is unconscionable. Even if you were just muddying the waters to make it seem oh-so-hopelessly ambiguous, perhaps with the implication that we shouldn't be too enthusiastic or active in our support of Ukraine's organized effort to resist aggression (yes, including their government, whatever its merits or demerits), that too is truly regrettable.

Your "feeling" for Ukrainian Catholics, coupled with the innuendo that perhaps we daren't put out our necks too far to assist in their defense, brings to mind the words of the Catholic Epistle of James: "And if a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food: And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit? So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself."

By all means, pray for peace, a peace based in the restoration of justice. But also use your voice to speak clearly on behalf of those who need defense against a war waged in the very spirit of Antichrist, which profanes even the Christian religion by twisting it to support conquest and slaughter, lawlessness and brutish domination.

coradcorloquitur said...

To state the fact that the Zelensky government has the endorsement of George Soros is neither to justify Russia's aggression nor to peddle "guilt by association"---it is a simple statement of truth. To assume that the true statement about the Soros malevolent connection to Ukraine is to justify Russian brutality is not only a ridiculous breach of logic (a non-sequitur) but an assumption that borders on the sin of slander. But to gloss over the immense danger that the Soros world-wide, frenetic activities pose to what is left of the Christian West (and to all of us who bear the noble name of Christian) and make this tragic conflict a simplistic "either or" dilemma is what is truly "unconscionable." Let us pray that in our moral outrage over Russian cruelty in the invasion of Ukraine we are not blinded to what could turn out to be catastrophic future developments not just for the suffering Ukranians but for all humanity.

Vidi_Aquam said...

@ VeniteAdoremus Allow me to defend the cause of Mary Kay, clearly a very sensible and right-headed person. (It is an irony to me as a colonial, that such people seem to be as rare as fabergé eggs in the UK these days. I was raised to believe that Americans were stupid, and that the Empire produced inherently more capable people, something of which I now repent!) Some worthy things done by Mr Putin: he stopped the ravage of his country by foreign powers that had proceeded through the 90s; he tolerates the oligarchs, but keeps them away from political power, unlike in Ukraine; recently he correctly predicted the sanctions that the West would impose on Russia and foiled the plot through building up of gold reserves and the gas-for-rubles scheme, meaning that the West is only hurting itself in sanctioning his homeland. A brilliant thing done in the interest of his own people! Markets can't afford to lie, the ruble is thriving and Putin is triumphing while the west self-destructs. Zelensky, although being elected with a peace-mandate, has steadfastly refused to implement the Minsk accords, steadfastly refused to approach peace through diplomacy and is covered in the blood of his own people. I do not know if Mary Kay was referring to these unsavory things, or perhaps to his relations with Neo-Nazis, but I myself do not need more - he is an untrammeled disaster for his country.

frjustin said...

"I wonder if this victory merits being listed with all those other triumphs of Western Christian Arms against Ottoman expansionism, including Lepanto."

In an irony of history, the Orthodox Times for April 22 reports: As the fighting in Mariupol, the “City of Our Lady", as it is called, continues between Ukrainians and Russians, Islamist Chechens fighting alongside the Russians are taking pictures in the ruins of the city, shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

According to a video that the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov “uploaded” to his personal Telegram account, the Islamist fighters pose on the battlefield, while the ruins of Mariupol are behind them, holding flags and shouting “Allahu Akbar”....

Characteristically, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Yaroslav Trofimov, commenting on this video, said “To the chants of Allahu Akbar, the city once founded by Greeks fleeing the Ottoman Empire was “liberated” of its inhabitants by Putin’s Chechen militias. What a twist of history”.