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The Dominion. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1915. SHOULD THE CLERGY FIGHT?

A cablegram which we . published in yesterday's issue stated that the qiiestion of- clergymen taking, an active part in the war by joining the fighting line is at present being discussed in Britain. i The bishops appear to have decided that clergymen ought not to enlist, and we are tdld that "the majority of eminent correspondents" who have written to The Times on tho subjecrsupporl this' attitude. One cannot suppose that the bishops hold that it would be actually wicked for a clergyman to fight for his country, for that would be equivalent to setting up one -standard of morality for the clergy and another for the laity. The prohibition is probably based on considerations of expediency and the fitness of things; but even from this point of view there is a strong "other side" to the question. The controversy arose out of the desire of a number of young parsons of the Anglican Church to enlist in Lord Kitchener's new army. It became necessary for the higher ecclesiastical authorities to-make a pronouncement on the subject, and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Db. Davidson) declared that to beoome an actual combatant in the army "is incompatible with tho position of one who has-sought and received Holy Orders." .Ho holds that the clergy have a calling of a quite specific kind, and "throughout tho whole history of the Church authoritative expression has been given to the paramount obligations of that calling." This line of reasoning is not altogether convincing, and the Arohbishop is on firmer ground when he contends that the clergy should refrain from • joining the fighting lines because they can serve their country better .in other ways. The younger and stronger men can -share the brunt of the oampaign as chaplains of the Army and _ Navy, while for the others thero is very special work at home in a great, national crisis like' the present. At' a time when "in every congregation and in every home the hearts of men and women will be open in a unique degree, and when guidance both spiritual and temporal will bo sought and welcomed, the opportunities of helpful service to an experienced parish priest may probably lie' greater than any that we have known." This argument carries conviction. The clergy are in much the same position as the doctors. A young doctor might be anxious to join tho combatants, but, generally speaking, could be more usefully eraployed in looking aftsr tho sick and wounded. The question which tho doctor, or clergyman, or any other good citizen should put to himself is this: "How can I .be of the greatest uk to my country in this su« j}ie»c crisis of its history V-

As a matter of fact, a great many clergy of various denoniinations aro at present taking part in the struggle in the actual fighting lines. Only a few days ago a cablegram was published in The Dominion stating that a young New Zealand clergyman, Lieutenant M'Lean, has been awarded the Military Cross for his services at Ypres. He has been twico wounded, &nd has had many .thrilling cxpe-ricnces. Another recent cablegram described liow a p&rfcy of French colonial troops commanded by a» priesb-captain annihilalcd a ! body of Germans. This brave pnesfc ! did not consider that his duties .as a soldier were incompatible wi'th Ins sacred calling, for after the fight was over he celebrated Mass, ana exhorted his hearers to ' pray for those German gunners just exterminated." The French clergy are not exempt from mihtary-_' duty. Hrfti'dreds of them are serving as ordinary soldiers in tho Array. Maurice Barres, the eminent French writer, pays a glowing tnbute to these gallant soldier-priests. When the time oomes (says M. Barree) to recount the ' deeds of this war of de? liveranco, the priests will wish to tell how the religious soul of France was.delivered. And ivo shall listen to them with prodigious interest. Do not tall us only of the chaplains who aie authorised I to exercise their ministry with the arni- [ ios, we shall say to them; tell us also about' the curates, the monks, the ecclesiastics of every order, ivho ml M> ea with' the ranks; for one of the chief characteristics, and one, of the most striking beauties of ouff armies of 1914 has been the appearance m their midst of the 6oldier-priest. It ia hardly necess&ry to state tnat in drawing attention to the unoßteiitafcious heroism of the clergy who have joined the fighting lines M. Barres docs not for a moment desire to belittle the work of the chaplains. Ear from it. Men of tie right stamp have been chosen tor this work, and they have won the conndence of the troops. Thev are cheerfully bearing their full share of the hardships of the war. They under--Stand Tommy Atkins , and Tommy \tkins understands them. Their ministrations are thoroughly appreciated. One of the chaplains tells us that on the battlefield there is hardly any need for a compulsory parade service; the men have only to hear that a service is to oe held ' and they crowd to it. An ofneer describes a Communion service which was held in brack darkness excepting for two candles on a packing case which served as an altar. A tin mug was used as a ohalioe. The soldiers, grimed with battle, and each carrying his rifle, knelt in a circle round the' light. The chaplains are doing splendid work. Dr. W. P. Paterson, Professor of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, challenges the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement . that the position, and duties of a combatant are not compatible with a clergyman's calling. Dr, Paterson admits that the'clergy should confine_ themselves normally to their spiritual functions; but he contends with much force that "there are exceptional cases in which responsibility is laid upon each individual m the exercise of his Christian liberty to decide in what manner he can best discharge his duty to his country m view of the needs of the time and of his own special Capacities of service." Dr. Paterson is of opinion that it is also arguable that- the Christian fuinister who faces death along with his fellow soldiers may commend tho Christian' message with unique power to those who come within 1 - the range of his influence: This is just what competent observers declare that the soldier-priests are doing. There are some wars in which it should be impossible for a clergyman to take part as a combatant, but if there ever was a fame when "he that hath no sword" should "sell his .garment and buy one, that time is the present. Sir Oliver Lodge does not in any way exaggerate the position when he asserts that "this war. is a veritable crusade waged against tho powers of evil, against a policy of lies, and of engineered and intentional brutality. Britain and her.Allies are ighting in tho cause of civilisation and for the protection of smaller nations against a great bullying Power, which has placed its boot on, the face of Europe, and recognises no law but' that which its own might imposes. In this war against man oppression and German kultur" it may not be the positive duty of the clergy to shoulder the rifle, but Dn. Paterson is right when he. says that those clergymen who feel that they can best serve their country a-s soldiers do not betray a higher trust when they join the fignting line.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/DOM19150227.2.11

Bibliographic details

The Dominion. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1915. SHOULD THE CLERGY FIGHT?, Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2396, 27 February 1915

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1,251

The Dominion. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1915. SHOULD THE CLERGY FIGHT? Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2396, 27 February 1915

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