Bishop Michael Browne on War Sacrifice
The following letter from the Most. Rev. Michael Browne was read out in all the churches of the dioceses of Galway, Kilmacduagh, and Kilfenora on 13th Dececmber, 1942:
My Dearly Beloved in Christ,
The pressing needs of the existing situation urge me to address you on the duties of Catholics in the present crisis.
‘Though shalt love thy neighbour’ is, next to the love of God, the greatest commandment of our religion. It binds us to help all men, but in a special and particular way it binds us to love those of our nation. With them we form one family, one community. At all times it is a duty of conscience for every Christian to co-operate with his fellow-countrymen in promoting the peace, welfare and security of their common fatherland.
On that peace and welfare their happiness as well as his own depends; therefore love for them will make him ever attentive to his public social duties.
But in times of war these duties are of particular urgency and importance. Then the nation is confronted with new and terrible dangers. It then becomes the solemn duty of all to obey loyally and fully the instructions of legitimate authority for the maintenance of peace and order, for the production of the necessaries of life, for the fair distribution of supplies and for the protection of public health.
Those who refuse at such a time to obey the regulations of legitimate authority incur a heavy responsibility before God and are guilty of grevious sin if they do serious injury to an individual or to the public in general. It is not for the private citizen to refuse obedience to regulations of legitimate authority on the ground that he is not satisfied as to their wisdom or necessity. That would mean anarchy. Obedience may involve some sacrifice of comfort, convenience or profit, but such sacrifices are very small, indeed, in comparison with the terrible evils which would result if national life became disorganised.
The safeguarding of public health against disease, the production of the necessaries of life by increased tillage, the fair distribution of these necessaries through the rationing system — these are paramount needs of the moment; they cannot be secured without the co-operation of all. Whoever has Christian charity in his heart will give that co-operation fully, gladly and without complaint.
But most important of all our temporal needs is the preservation of our country from being involved in actual warfare by invasion or otherwise. We have been wonderfully preserved so far by the mercy of God, and we should not relax the fervour of our prayers to God and His Blessed Mother for their special protection. The war is entering on its most crucial phase, and dreadful, desperate deeds will be done before this gigantic conflict is ended. Therefore we should not grow over-confident and relax our prayers and our efforts.
Next to the mercy of God we must rely for our safety on our own efforts, on our prudence and vigilance. What would be thought of a man who left his wife and children, his home and property without protection, without even bolts or bars on the doors? That, if there were envious, wicked men around, he was tempting them. Such men would think twice before attacking a house that is well guarded and defended.
So it is with a nation. Unthinking persons sometimes say that is useless for Ireland to defend herself since she has not the numbers or weapons of a great power. It is quite true that we could not resist a great power which employed against us all its resources. But great powers have need for their resources elsewhere. The question an intending invader would put himself is what force he would require to conquer our land. If he could do it with a small force, he might easily be tempted. But if he knew that he would require a considerable force and would encounter a determined and tenacious resistance, then he would think twice and decide that it was not worth the cost. Next to the protection of God and the intercession of His Blessed Mother, what is saving this country is the general realisation abroad that it would be defended with the utmost determination.
The enthusiastic enrolment of large numbers in the Local Defence Force has proved that determination. Every man who joins this Force is doing all he can to strengthen his country’s defence; his absence means that Ireland’s man-power and spirit are not as strong as they could be. Therefore, it is the duty of all men who love their country and its people, of all who want to save their homes and children from the horrors of war, to swell the ranks of the authorised, legitimate and trained defenders.
Parents should remember that no class in town or country is exempt from this common duty. It would be much better for the health and character of young men to spend their leisure time at exercises which will make them vigorous and disciplined men, than to spend it lounging at street corners and cross-roads. It cannot but be demoralising for young men if, through selfishness or fear, they neglect their clear duty.
At the present time there is great and immediate need for all Catholics to show forth their faith and virtue in good works. They are bound by their profession to practice justice, patriotism and charity at all times, but especially now, when the welfare and safety of the country depends on the unselfish co-operation of all. Where a price is fixed by lawful authority for an article, this legal price is the just price, and those who charge more commit a sin of injustice.
Charity means service. There are opportunities of service for every age and sex in the Local Defence and Security Forces, in the Red Cross and Knights of Malta Societies. I would remind all Catholics that in voluntary public service they will find the most effective means of fulfilling their obligations of charity and patriotism and they will show that their religion is real and practical. They can rest assured that God who gave our fathers strength to endure for faith and fatherland will also give us abundant grace and strength to defend faithfully what has been so hardly won — if we but ask Him humbly and strive to do our part.
Yours faithfully in Christ,
Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh,
Administrator Apostolic of Kilfenora.