26 September 2022

How wrong can it be to kill Catholics when so many people enjoy doing it?

So the chattering classes are full of grief about the death of their heroine Hilary Mantel. I'm not a historian: but I've not heard well of Mantel's imagined Tudor period. The thought occurs to me that the key to understanding her 'history' might be to see it as an expression of her own need to justify her own loss of the Catholic Faith. Why else should anybody hate S Thomas More ... and his religion?

I have been reading (and have commended recently to you) A Murderous Midsummer by Mark Stoyle. It was published by Yale University Press. And I now also mention and commend The Women are up to something, by Benjamin J. B. Lipscomb. This book was published by Oxford University Press.

Time was, when the universities of Yale and Oxford, and their presses, were regarded as really pretty decent. Yet these two books seem not to have been promoted at all along Oxford's Broad Street, where one expects to find ... er ... bookshops. (By the way, Waterstones, which bought Foyles not long ago, now own Blackwells.)

Go into Backwells, and you will see books galore, with books relating to Oxford itself exactly where nomadic tourists with bulging wallets are going to see them, massed just inside the entrances. But Lipscomb ... his book you will not find. Why? It tells the story of four most distinguished Oxford (women) philosophers, and their profound contributions to Moral Philosophy. The title of this book is taken from the reaction of a male don upon hearing that the brilliant (and profoundly Catholic) moral philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe intended to oppose a motion in Convocation to confer an honorary degree upon President Truman. 

Rightly, she deemed it an outrage for the University to honour a war criminal who sanctioned the obliteration of two Japanese cities (incidentally, with large civilian and Catholic populations).

Stoyle's book recounted the massacres, in what we apparently now call the Early Modern period, unleashed upon the Catholic populations of South West England because of their defence of their Faith. I do not get the impresson that Stoyle is a Catholic; but he writes sympathetically. Interestingly, he establishes that the the peasants of Devon and Cornwall rebelled because of their Faith. This is significant and important, because there has been a tendency among some historians to argue that the "real" reasons for the genocide in the South West were social and economic.

A couple, then, of rather 'unwoke' volumes ... for which even academic booksellers appear unwilling to put in a good word.

But I bet you'd have little difficulty filling a wheelbarrow with Mantel.

The difference is that Stoyle treats sympathetically of Catholic populations ruthlessly murdered. 

(BTW 1: only three dons supported Anscombe's motion; one of them was Margaret Hubbard, my and my wife's Mods tutor; possibly the cleverest person I have ever met.

BTW 2: I published a piece about the Truman episode as recently as March 18 this year)


Greyman 82 said...

President Truman was no war criminal. He was a courageous leader of the free world. He had the strength of character to make the difficult, painful decision to drop the atom bombs on Japan. Had the allied invasion of the Japanese home islands gone ahead, the war would have lasted for at least another year and hundreds of thousands of more deaths would have occurred, both Japanese civilians and servicemen on both sides.

Banshee said...

The Japanese government openly and repeatedly declared that every single one of their citizens, including babies, were soldiers. They made all their citizens wear various uniforms during working hours or while in public. (This is when most Japanese women began wearing panties/knickers instead of shifts and loincloths, because kimono underwear did not work with their designated uniform.)

They also declared, and made serious plans to enforce, the deaths in battle or suicide of every single Japanese citizen, and demonstrated the workability of their plans on Okinawa and other islands.

So I don't know what you wanted the Allies to do.

frjustin said...

A native of Nagasaki, Kimota, who works for the Nagasaki Prefecture Convention and Tourism Association has a lengthy article on Truman as a war criminal posted on September 16, 2022. He writes:

"During his presidency, President Truman was fully aware of the terrible impact of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In his memoirs, The White House Diary, Truman stated,'I am uneasy because of the deaths and injuries that this bomb caused. I wish I could have prevented it from being dropped.'

Truman believed that the bombing was required to end World War II. Truman stated in his memoirs that he believed the atomic bomb would work.

Despite the fact that the United States won the war, President Truman is not considered a war criminal. Using the atomic bombs was the right thing to do, and he was correct in doing so."

Banshee said...

The homefront Japanese uniforms were made of Japanese hempcloth, which initially was a big boon to the fading traditional hempcloth industry. But it is not as comfortable a material as cotton in any way, and those who survived the war took a great dislike to hempcloth. This came up on some Japanese cloth websites... And it explained a lot.

The anime industry is mostly peopled by the descendants of pro-Western, anti-war Japanese who got treated nastily in WWII, so obviously they tend to regard the atomic bombs as something of a blessing in disguise. Firebombings in Tokyo are the real terror image, although this shifts around.

Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki is a graphic novel of life in the Japanese Army, by a one-armed manga artist who only escaped the ordered suicide charge of his entire unit because he was in the hospital with his drawing arm gone.

The Inugami Clan is a famous Japanese mystery novel from the post-war years, which hinges on the fear of many Japanese soldiers who survived that their repatriation would cause shame and punishment for their entire families, from some kind of surviving Japanese government or their local mayors. So they didn't go home or use their real names until they were finally convinced that they could do so.

Marc in Eugene said...

I only relatively late in life (am now 65) came to see that, whatever potential miseries Mr Truman's bombs may have averted, their use was extraordinarily immoral, and much of this conversatio I owe to EA's witness. I pray that certain public persons have a similar conversion, even at such a late date in their lives, with respect to their opinions about aspects of human sexuality, the role of women in ecclesiastical life et cetera.

Marc in Eugene said...

I see that there is another book about those four 'Metaphysical Animals', by Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachel Wiseman, published this year. I have the Lipscomb unread but tend to be suspicious of what Amazon calls 'vibrant portraits': perhaps 'MA' is actually a good read, though.

Puzzled! said...

What about thee Roman Churh's massacre of the Cathars all over France and many other examples of persecution in otheer lands.
Yours jAMES fINCH.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I have declined to enable an offered comment, two lines long, in which the writer crams in FIVE typos.

I have expressed before my view of people who dash off their important views before racing off, presumably, to spread their wisdom in other sites.

My view is unchanged: if your time is so amazingly valuable, save some more of it by not bothering to read my blog.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

The church didn't "massacre" them, it administered justice. These people were child-murdering, anarchical filth, much like the later Anabaptists in Muenster. As even the anti-catholic bigot, Henry Charles Lea admitted, in his History Of The Inquisition, the forces of orthodoxy were those of progress, because the Cathars had surrendered their sovereignty, as human beings, over nature. These people well and truly deserved death. I suspect those indoctrinated in liberslism realise that because of their inherently selfish and anti-social inclinations, that a just society would destroy them, and hence their uncomfortable feelings wrt "the" Inquisition.


John Patrick said...

Regarding Hilary Mantel, a quote from her Wikipedia entry concerning her views on the Church:

"[the] real cliché, the sense of guilt. You grow up believing that you're wrong and bad. And for me, because I took what I was told really seriously, it bred a very intense habit of introspection and self-examination and a terrible severity with myself. So that nothing was ever good enough. It's like installing a policeman, and one moreover who keeps changing the law."

It seems so many people back then got the part of Christianity that tells us that we are all sinners, but seem to miss out on the mercy of God and our salvation through Christ's sacrifice. So sad.

Of course the modern Church solves this by downplaying sin and telling us that God loves us as we are and that we don't need to change. If only she had been born about 20 years later.

John Vasc said...

If you were taught by the great Classical scholar Margaret Hubbard, you were indeed blessed, Father H.
However, the utter shock of non-combattant civilians - even of the scientists involved - at the very fact of the existence of nuclear destructive powers and their use under any circumstances arguably distorted postwar academic reactions and judgements on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (as also Hamburg, Cologne, Dresden, Nuremberg etc). Even the most morally acute of minds cannot measure and counterbalance and know the assessment of risk that occupied the Allied military leaders at the time. Even in hindsight, one can plausibly claim that more human lives were saved than lost, given the much bloodier course the prolonged war would have taken in the Pacific.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Mr Vasc

I believe that there are things which are intrinsice mala. I believe, moreover, that this is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

That's an attempt to justify doing evil - in the form of mass murder - so that good can result.


frjustin said...

Whether the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was intrinsically evil is something of a quaestio disputata. The biographer of Pope John Paul II contends that it was not:

"The constraints on the bombing of cities set by the just war tradition of moral reasoning had been breached long before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; far more Japanese died in the spring 1945 fire-bombings of Tokyo and other cities than at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. And it seems difficult, if not impossible, to vindicate Hiroshima and Nagasaki on classic just war grounds without relativizing moral norms in the kind of ethical calculus John Paul II rejected in his 1993 encyclical, Veritatis Splendor.

Does that make Harry Truman a moral monster, the equivalent of Stalin, Hitler, and the Japanese militarists who killed millions of innocent Chinese in a war that began in 1937? No, it does not. Truman authorized the use of the atomic bombs thinking, rightly, that doing so would save American and Japanese lives by shocking Japan into surrender.

It was a terrible choice, what Secretary of War Henry Stimson called “our least abhorrent choice.” Given the available options, it was the correct choice."


Moritz Gruber said...

>>Even in hindsight, one can plausibly claim that more human lives were saved than lost ...

The question is, can the damage of an atomic bomb be justified as collateral damage via the "actions with double-effect path", assuming that enemy machinery, infrastructure and soldiers are things you can legitimately bomb? - Well, it is not for me to decide here, though I have a fancy that the military distinction between a tactical and a "strategic" nuclear weapon is of importance here.

Be that as it may, the information President Truman had, the morality of the mere possession of strategic nuclear weapons (well... they might be helpful against an asteroid, right?), the morality of tactical nuclear weapons, etc.: The point is that granting more human lives were saved than lost does not make the thing moral. It might, at most, be a helpful thing-to-additionally-consider if it were moral on other grounds.

For starters, the human lives would not have been lost. As for the Americans, they would have been spent, as it were, heroically for a worthy purpose. The praises of the invaders of the Japanese islands would have been sung through all history - as we do in fact sing the praises of the (probably easier) invaders of normandy through all history (so far, and I venture to say we will go on). As for the Japanese, well, people tend to care less about the enemy, but they would have worthily defended their homeland and, hopefully, remembered with the same piety with which Hector was remembered by the Romans descended from Trojans, and General Lee is remembered by the American Southerners (both of which, certainly the latter, having fought for the wrong cause). And with this I am merely describing they mundane "paths of glory", as they have been called. Our true home is in Heaven in any case.

Contrast that with a sentence such as "We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction." Wow.

I'll be provocative, though in the second derivative; say, to put it like this: I am at least able to understand a man who says: "There are things worth three hundred thousand dead heroes of my own side. And not to sound like either Lord Voldemort or Sauron's Mouth [*] is among them." [*Who were, of course, told of later, and arguably in the impression of such things.]


And it needn't have been these millions of casualties, anyway. How many hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been hindered by not insisting on unconditional surrender, but by, e. g., granting the Japanese the one thing they demanded for most, and eventually would get even with the bombs: that the Allied leave the Emperor physically unharmed? The "unconditional surrender" did of course not help with the Germans, either.

And obviously, even if a threat of annihilation were a legitimate means of war, why destroy Nagasaki before the Japanese even had the time to actually study the Hiroshima ground zero and assess whether their enemies do have so powerful weapons?

Moritz Gruber said...

Dear frjustin,

while I tend to agree that the choice, at least the choice concerning Hiroshima (I'd like to distinguish it from Nagasaki), doesn't make President Truman into a moral monster,

1. The undisputed fact that there have been unjust bombings before, and on a large scale, in this same war does not allow unjust bombings.

2. If the bombing of at least Hiroshima (I'm pretty sure not Nagasaki), was admissible in just war theory, then it may have been the correct choice. Now Mr. Weigel says himself right in the quoted article that this seems "difficult, if not impossible". Now let me draw the logical conclusion from that (as I am hesitant about doing judgments in the concrete, and prefer to be agnostic in that).

And the logical conclusion is that a war measure not allowed by just war theory is not the correct one, period.

It may well have been the case that the bomb spared millions, or tens of millions, of American and Japanese lives, as Mr. Weigel claims. In which case, - I rest technically agnostic and only assume as hypothesis what Mr. Weigel himself seems to assume, and certainly holds likely, to with that the bombing was indeed indefensible under just war theory -, then the correct choice would simply have been to have these additional millions or tens of millions of dead people.

"The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse." (St. John Henry Newman, Apologia V)

Fr. Michael LaRue said...

G.E.M. Anscombe is my hero, and has been ever since I read "Mr. Truman's Degree" (found here: https://projectintegrity.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/mr_trumans_degree.pdf).

"For men to choose to kill the innocent as a means to their ends is always murder, and murder is is one of the worst of human actions. ...with Hiroshima and Nagasaki we are not confronted with a borderline case. In the bombing of these cities it was certainly decided to kill the innocent as a means to an end. And a very large number of them, all at once, without warning, without the interstices of escape or the chance to take shelter, which existed even in the area bombings of the German cities."

I ask myself why did "Conservatives" so easily caved on abortion, or why one cannot make a reasonable argument on the question of sexual morality. The answer lies here. We accepted moral relativism when we dropped the A-Bomb on civilian populations. Oh, we decided there may be moral "ideals" but impossible to live up to in the "real world". A friend of mine argued with me recently that, as his father was serving in the Pacific, he would likely not be here, and therefore the bomb was somehow justified. As for me, if the price of my existence were my approval of the murder of children, Japanese or otherwise, I should prefer not to exist. Happily I don't believe in that kind of cruel God.

I shall now have to look up Margaret Hubbard.

Banshee said...

Yup, better to have enabled a giant Jonestown; and to have let babies be slaughtered by their mothers, mothers by their husbands or fathers-in-law or neighbors, and the survivors have gutted themselves and twisted in pain for hours or days before succumbing. That is gentle mercy.

Let there be a country of bones instead of survivors, but let our consciences be totally happy about it. Yeah.

coradcorloquitur said...

That any intelligent, orthodox Catholic would twist his intellect into a pretzel to defend the atrocity of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki---commanded by a nasty American president, member of the anti-Christian masonic sect, who showed his contempt for the Papacy and, hence, for Catholics by addressing His Holiness Pope Pius XII as "Mr. Pacelli"---is repulsive and beyond comprehension. For me, the only way to understand that position is as a consequence of the Americanist heresy condemned by Pope Leo XIII: my country is always right, no matter what, in a phrase. That Mr. Weigel defends the war criminal Harry Truman is no surprise: he has spent the last four decades or so defending the auto-demolition of the Catholic Church at the hands of Modernists by posing as a moderate, "orthodox" defender of the conciliar "experiment." He has been proven by well-informed analysts as a self-serving opportunist. I love and respect the United States--my country---but not as a blind zealot. The falsely patriotic "My country, right or wrong" is an immoral, corrupt piety. There is much to admire and love about the USA, my country, but the abomination of bombing innocent civilians in the two (would not ONE have served this evil plan?)Japanese cities with the largest concentration of our Catholic brothers and sisters (a mere coincidence?) on the pretext that the action MIGHT have saved many more lives (an unproven conjecture) or averted a Japanese mass suicide is clearly not one of them.

coradcorloquitur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

“The dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima,” Archbishop Sheen said, “blotted out boundaries. There was no longer a boundary between the military and the civilian, between the helper and the helped, between the wounded and the nurse and the doctor, and the living and the dead. For even the living who escaped the bomb were already half-dead. So we broke down boundaries and limits and from that time on the world has said we want no one limiting me. … The key moral question comes down to the principle that the end does not justify the means. A noble intention to end the war does not make immoral acts moral. The same is true in the moral life more generally.”