Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict
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Friday, 22 August 2014

Pope Francis and Just War Doctrine

I had a conversation with Barona this morning and we discussed among other things the just war theory. We talked about the situation in the middle east and the application of the just war theory at the beginning of the Iraq conflict and in face of the refugee crisis we are seeing now. We also discussed the misinterpretations of the various media of papal pronouncements in this area. He made a point that it was in fact a theory. As is my custom in such cases, I went to the catechism to research this. This is what I found.
2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
The weakness of this doctrine over the centuries has always been this last sentence. The judgement of those who would plunge us into a war is suspect at the best of times. Who would trust the judgement of  George Bush over that of Pope St. John Paul II when he told us unequivocally that the Iraq war was unjust? This was unheard of, that a reigning pontiff would pronounce upon the justness of a war before the first shot was fired. It also points to a serious attempt on the part of recent popes to rectify this enormous defect in the just war doctrine by pointing out precisely where the prudential judgement of those who would start a war is lacking.

This is the sense in which Pope Francis' recent remarks on the refugee crisis in Iraq ought to be understood. He is not making some grand change in Catholic doctrine as some pundits would have it. Nothing has changed in the doctrine as stated in the catechism. However, Pope Francis is taking seriously his responsibility to point out those situations where the judgement of those who would engage in war is made suspect by vested interests, ideology and moral blindness.
2246 It is a part of the Church's mission "to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances."
So it would seem that the just war doctrine is to be believed by the faithful as is the right and duty of the pope to pass moral judgement over the kings of men in the application of that doctrine.

4 comments:

Freyr said...

The catechism speaks of "legitimate defense by military force" and the judgement belongs to "those who have responsibility for the common good"... fallible human beings who have some difficulty recognizing the will of God anywhere, much less in a war.

"In order to speak of a “just war” I must recognize the will of God in that conflict, not trust in international law, which is created by agreement among national positive laws." Massimo Cacciari

Barona said...

Examples of Just War are in the Old Testament; The Siege of Vienna in 1683 is a more contemporary example...

Lawrence and Susan Fox said...

I think it was demonstrated that the Iraq War that President George W. Bush fought was legitimate by the Just War Theory of the Catholic Church.

What Pope Saint John Paul II rightfully saw was the DANGER to the Christian Communities in Iraq. I honestly think he had private revelation on the matter.

But he is the pope that taught us to vote for the lesser of two evils (Gospel of LIfe). Lately in America, that's all I vote for -- the lesser of two evils (Communist vs. Polytheist was our last choice for US President. I picked the Polytheist.) So even though Saddam Hussein was an evil, he was the lesser of two evils if you consider ISIS as the alternative. However, who besides the pope had that kind of vision? Islam and the way that war is now visited on innocent civilians has changed the whole game. I think we need new thought on this matter. What do you do when 3,000 Americans are killed in New York City? You guys in Toronto aren't that far away. And it isn't a nation that attacked us. It was a religious movement -- jihadist Islam. Is there a non-jihadist Muslim? They are ominously silent, if so.

However, at Mass the other day, I learned to be grateful for the child beheadings because there is apparently a change of heart occurring among Muslims, who now can read the Bible online. There are conversions. And the blood of the martyrs feeds such things. But I am not saying this myself. I am only reporting what was said at Mass. Myself, I think the internet should be enough to open their eyes. After all, there were a lot of beheadings that forced Christianity out of Northern Africa, and now entirely out of the Middle East. And it seems like it never came back.

However, when I meet the young saints in heaven some day maybe they'll convince me otherwise? Who knows. God bless you. Susan Fox www.christsfaithfulwitness.com

Freyr said...

See the following link for the relevant quotes from Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger:
http://torontocatholicwitness.blogspot.ca/2014/06/how-wars-end.html