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Priests’ combat is spiritual

by
03 October 2014

October 2nd, 1914.

THE Bishop of Birmingham [Henry Russell Wakefield], writing to the Times, has defended the position taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the question whether a priest should be allowed to serve as a combatant in the war. His Grace maintained that a priest's vows pledge him to a different kind of service, and the Bishop of Birmingham, following his Grace's lead, reminded his clergy that unless they might be called upon as military chaplains, their duty is to stay with their people at home. Dr Paterson, the Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh University, not, however, disputing the right of the Archbishop and the Bishop to issue disciplinary orders to their clergy, challenges them to say how it offends against Catholic authority that a priest should bear arms. He even goes so far as to quote a saying of our Lord, which, he argues, justifies such action. The Bishop of Birmingham's rejoinder to the Scottish Professor seems to us to meet his argument from Holy Scripture. Everyone, we suppose, could imagine circumstances in which even a priest might lawfully join the combatant ranks, but such circumstances would be utterly exceptional, and, in the present case, they have not yet arisen, and, we hope, will not arise. Clearly, the first consideration with a priest must be the nature of his vows, which are so explicit that there is no possible misunderstanding of them. His business is to lead in the spiritual combat with the powers of evil that assail the Church and the souls of men and women; and the faithful discharge of his duty in that capacity should be enough, and more than enough, to employ all his energy.

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