Text of Cardinal Ottaviani’s Speech on What Council Should Say on Modern Warfare

This is a translation of the speech delivered in Latin by Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, secretary of the Congregation of the Holy Office, during debate on chapter five of the schema on the Church in the modern world on Oct. 7.


In the schema of the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, very brief reference is made to methods to be employed to avoid war in controversies between nations. But in my humble opinion there must be an expansion on these methods by which peace can be preserved so that the ecumenical council may lead the way along the path of calmness.

We must set forth the aims of justice and charity which are needed to overcome wars.

They will be these:

  1. a) Civic and religious education of peoples will set the souls of the populace and of the rulers selected by them on the path of cooperation and toward a mutual honorable recognition and exchange of laws and services among the nations. [These must be] devoid of class or race struggle, or of the struggle of political or economic imperialism, all of which are the principal sources of wars.

  1. b) The spirit of fraternity must exist among peoples according to the principles of the Gospel, so that each nation is prepared to undergo sacrifices for the good of the community, of the whole human family, just as individuals in their own republic must always give something of their own to the common good.
  1. c) The obstructions of totalitarian governments are the primal springs from which wars flow.
  1. d) Men must have recourse as far as possible to arbitration.
  1. e) Men must give greater binding power to the decrees of international organizations set up for solving controversies, such as the International Court of Justice at The Hague, and the United Nations.

I find another deficiency in this schema concerning conflicts among nations. It is the omission of a description of the various kinds of destruction caused by the arms of nations or factions.

“War” considered in this way is a word too vague and broad. Those things which have some kind of kinship with war must be condemned as well. Such things are the stirring up of armed revolution which can lead to civil war; scattered or “guerrilla” warfare — a method of fighting especially employed by the communists to bring about the subjection of peoples to communism; subtle warlike acts which nations use against each other such as “sabotage” and acts of terrorism. We must not forget that communism initiates its wars — that is, its aggressions — under the guise of liberation. For, to communists, words assume a different meaning, more often than not a contrary meaning from that normally understood by the words themselves.

Furthermore, somewhere there should be a sharp reproof of war waged to impose a particular ideology.

As for the rest, according to the doctrine laid down by the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas in his tract De Regimine Principum (On the Government of Rulers, 1, 1c. 6), public spokesmen and the people themselves, when they clearly see that their own government is inviting slaughter and ruin for the people by a war of aggression, can and must overthrow that government by just means. Even in the Psalms we pray: “Scatter the nations who desire wars.”

Absolute care must be taken to remove particularly the prior causes of war by taking those remedies which Pius XII synthesized in five points in his outstanding Christmas radio message of 1941, while the last war was raging. In these points, the Supreme Pontiff marvelously elaborated the peaceful foundations for a new international order (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. XIX, page 16ff).

Finally, wars will be only a memory of the past if the words spoken recently by the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Paul VI in New York, and later in this very hall are fixed forever in the hearts of rulers and peoples alike.

The council should therefore give its vote to the creation of one world republic composed of all the nations of the world in which no longer would there be strife among various nations, but an entire world living in peace: the peace of Christ in the reign of Christ.

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