From the January 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard
One, Father Bernard Vaughan, of the Roman Catholic Church in England, has been setting about his congregation with the jaw-bone of an ass. The jaw-bone was the reverend father’s own. The oily priest has been ass enough to attempt to answer the question: Why does not God stop this war? and he had better have kept his jaw-bone engaged upon the comparatively un-asinine occupation of chewing thistles. He couldn’t have made such a mess of thistles, and thistles couldn’t have made such a mess of him, however they may have revolted his belly.
The thesis of this detestable churchman’s onslaught, delivered at his church in Farln-st, W., on December 12th, is thus given by the “Daily Chronicle” (December 13th):
Why does not God stop this war? If he were Almighty and All-loving he would have done so long ago.
The preacher spoke of this question as “a sample of the blasphemies sent by post” A sample of the bogey-man's correspondence it well may be, for without doubt thousands of the earnest befogged are daily propounding to themselves that riddle—hourly trying, and failing, to reconcile the idea of an All-loving Almighty with the hard, stern fact of world-wide war, and it would be strange indeed if some of these seekers after light did not take their enquiry direct to those who know all about God and his ways and his motives, not to speak of his love that passeth all understanding, and his strap-oil that sur-passeth his love. That the Holy Joe should publicly try his fist at such a reconciliation may be taken as symptomatic of his consciousness of the wide harbouring of this and kindred “blasphemies,” whether they find expression through the post or not.
It has been the custom among the aristocratic plunderers, we are told, to shove the fool of the family in the Church. The idea, of course, is that of all fields of roguery the Church offers the easiest opportunity. There, where the very choicest mugs foregather, a child could work the oracle. As a matter of fact children sometimes do, though the infant prodigy is now more often to be found practicing “practical Christianity” in the trenches as the more manly way of bringing to fulfilment the Scriptural prophecy: “A little child shall bleed them.” Anyway, it did not need any superman to invent the answer to the riddle which the reverend father made “revelation ” to his flock, though perhaps only divine inspiration enabled him to cut his coat in such true and exact knowledge of his sheepskin. He answered the whydiddle thus :
God did not stop the war because, being Almighty, He could draw good out of it, and, being All-loving, He did so.
You see how beautifully plain it is. Military experts who have explained in the columns of the seven-times daily Press every military move long before it didn’t come off, the prophets who prophesied all sorts of happenings from “Constantinople in a week” to “war babies by the million ’ (and they didn’t mean Group 1), the blusterers who were going to “dig them [the German fleet] out like rats’ and “fetch” us if we didn’t go—all these have draped their words in obfuscation. One hardly knew what they meant. But the priest is clear as claret. God, being Almighty, could draw good out of war, and being All-loving, he does so. Of course, being Almighty, He could draw good out of peace, but it would be rank blasphemy against heaven and treason against the realm to suggest that he should find it in his tender, loving heart to do so. That, the corollary of the reverend gent’s tale, we can all understand, without doubt.
Nevertheless, not all truths are pleasant, however clearly they may be presented, and in times like the present, when so many thousands of mothers and widows and sisters are more than a little bit impatient under the process of being put through the mangle of war in order that good (for somebody) may be drawn from their sufferings, it would not ill-become the servant of All-loving God to make some excusably hypocritical concession to public opinion. None can resist the power of conviction attaching to the reverend gentleman’s illustration, which I give as reported in the “Daily Chronicle” :
By the way of illustration Father Vaughan told the story of'a young cavalry officer who, before going into the trenches—where he was blown to pieces—wrote to a friend, saying: “If I am killed, tell my mother not to worry, because, but for this war she would never have met me in Heaven. This war has brought me back to my own self, and I have made it all right in the confessional."
If that instance were multiplied ten thousand times, continued the preacher, they could see how good was drawn out of the physical evil of the war.
The dullest can comprehend that if ten thousand young cavalry officers are going to meet their mothers in Heaven who would otherwise never have done so, the war was jolly well worthwhile. That the All-loving Almighty should find more acceptable one of His lambs who happens to be returned to him in pieces is also only in accordance with human ideas. We also know that the road to Heaven is broadened to those who traverse it with feet and hands soaked with the blood of their fellows slain in battle—the All-loving would see to that. But it would have been interesting to have been informed whether the ten thousand cavalry officers who have to thank the war for the opportunity of meeting their very fond mammas in Heaven, would not have done so because but for the war they would have lived for ever, or because the devil was finding work for their idle hands to do before the All-loving busied them with butchery. If the latter, a class whose sons so regularly go to hell except they find salvation in homicide are worth all the sacrifice the workers are making.
The all-abounding love and wisdom of God are not things patent to the untrained eye of the man in the street. But, luckily, our reverend fathers are always alive to these matters. Here is light and leading from Daddy Vaughan:
Personally, I feel that it would take eternity to thank God for not having stopped this war as He might have done. If it had been deferred for ten years, my beloved country would hare been a Mongolian desert. . . . Our dear island home, with its cathedrals, minsters, and abbeys would have been utterly destroyed; we should have had nothing left us but “our eyes to weep with."
But a “but” saved us from the dismal plight of having nothing left to weep with but our eyes, to say nothing of the destruction of our cathedrals, minsters, and abbeys, and perchance also the slums, prisons, lunatic asylums, work-houses, mansions, broad-acred, well-wooded and watered ancestral domains concerning which the war poster asks Bill Higgins, ‘Isn’t this worth fighting for? ” The preacher proceeded :
But God, being Almighty and wise, and loving, has spared us the horrors of Belgium and Poland and the despair of the Armenians.
The wisdom and the love of God, the priest thus shows, are not revealed alone in the fact of what He has saved us from: they are revealed even more forceably in what, evidently for our worthy sakes, he has put upon Belgium, Poland, and Armenia. There’s love for you; verily it passeth all understanding!
See how Father Vaughan flattens out the man who asks the fool question: “Can you deny that Christianity has been proved by this war to be a ghastly failure?” He replies :
Christianity has not failed, because it has not been used. If Christianity had been used and recognised, there would have been no war at all.
So it is seen what a good thing Christianity would have robbed us of had it been “used and recognised.” If it will take all eternity to thank God for the war, surely it will also take some time to thank Him for rendering futile the efforts of His (don’t forget the capitals, Mr. Printer) clergy to get Christianity “used and recognised.”
Meanwhile, eternity is a long time; and a job that is going [to] last for eternity ought to be got on with. Would it be out of place to suggest that the reverend gentleman go out into the highways and bye-ways and call upon the multitude to thank God for the war? One interested spectator would be.