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Religion: The Bishops on the Crisis

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The bishops of both the Roman Catholic and the Episcopal Churches in the U.S. spoke out solemnly last week on the world crisis—responding to the fact that, as the Catholic statement put it, “Once again in our time the alarm bell is ringing in the night.” Both statements were remarkably similar in content. Both offered a powerful endorsement of the United Nations− certainly the strongest yet given by the Catholic Church in the U.S.—and in consequence they also provided a powerful moral boost to the crucial work of U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold (see FOREIGN NEWS). Both statements also contained support for President Eisenhower’s handling of the crisis.

Peace With Justice. Said the Roman Catholic bishops: “Every possible means consistent with Divine law and human dignity must be employed … to avoid the final arbitrament of nuclear warfare. It has been the hope of mankind that a means adequate to the necessity might be found in the concert of the United Nations. This is neither the time nor the place to … pass judgment on its achievements . . . The fact remains that it offers the only present promise we have for sustained peace in our time: peace with any approximation of justice . . . Worthy of highest praise are [the U.S. Government’s] efforts, rising above considerations of party and politics, to bring the problems before the tribunal of the nations . . . Our President, indeed, has set a pattern of vigorous leadership, and has emphasized many of the points which have been dwelt upon by Pope Pius XII.”

Said the Episcopal bishops: “Remember that in the Christian tradition, government, while it can be abused, is a divine ordinance . . . With all its inadequacies and imperfections, we believe that Christians are called to give their fullest support to the United Nations, the only semblance of world government we possess . . . We can support President Eisenhower and the decision of our Church tak en in convention after convention pledging full support to the United Nations.”

Peace Without Despair. Other points made by the Episcopal bishops: Christians must keep the present “precarious alliance” of the free world together with “the deepest understanding and sympathy . . . We believe that unilateral action is dangerous and to be avoided, but let us face honestly, for example, what the United States would be tempted to do if our interest in the Panama Canal Zone were threatened.” Christians must pray “for the men who have the decisions to make, for the people who will pay for these decisions with their lives . . . Pray regularly; pray with all your heart.”

Other points made by the Catholic bishops: “We echo [Pope Pius’] burning reproof of those who have dared to unleash the hounds of war . . . With him we plead for a renewal of that basic sanity among men and nations which will establish peace upon its only enduring foundations of justice and charity. With him we urge upon the world not the counsels of despair which would describe the situation as beyond salvation . . . Foremost, inevitably, in our thinking are the heroic people of Hungary. For centuries they have been a bastion of Christendom against the outer perils . . . Now again they have received the full brunt of a calculated fury and have written a matchless chapter in the annals of freedom.”

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