What is your opinion on this? I see some reference for and against war. Anyone care to share their input?
Our parish sends rosaries and prayer books over to Iraq very frequently. The Catholic chaplains (read: priests) state that they don't have enough priests to effectively minister to all the Catholics in the military. There are about 15 soldiers from our parish in the sandbox right now.
If war can be avoided, then it must be avoided. If not, then it is permissible to fight.
The Church has unequivocally taught for millennia the Jus Ad Bellum, Just wars exist.
But at the same time, the Church has sought to limit State employed violence to a minimum and eradicate it if possible from private relationships.
So for example, while acknowledging a private person's RIGHT to defend himself or his family from a murderer, the Church teaches that it's never permissible for a private person to kill someone who is NOT an immediate threat to their lives. (i.e. no vigilante justice).
Ideally we ought to forgive and forget, or be martyrs, or flee from evil-doers. If we seek to avoid trouble but trouble comes to us, then we can fight back...but again, with maximum restraint...we can't go out and kill the troublemakers' whole clan.
Since at least the 400's and St Augustine's time when Christians began to run the state machinery and thus had chief responsibility for the common good, lay men and prelates have grappled with the thorny issues of how to maintain tranquility in the state (tranquilitas ordinis) with a minimum of physical violence.
Thus, among other things, war was heavily regulated..... in 900 or thereabouts, the Church proclaimed the "Peace of God" in Europe, where in since most kingdoms were either ancient Christian ones or newly converted ones, it was considered to be unseemly for one Christian king to fight a war against another.... since all were 'brothers' a peaceful settling of disputes was sought.
Naturally the 'peace' didn't last as someone always broke faith. So they rolled out the "truce of God" in around 950. This acknowledged that some bad guys will ruin the tranquilitas ordinis and essentially gave all his neighbors lee way to gang up to control the evil-doer and released the bad guys' own troops from their oaths of alligiance to him, since a criminal was seen as not having rights to be obeyed.
All this seemed to point to stability in Europe leading up to the year 1000.
But then the Moslems started invading the Eastern Empire around 1050 after a couple decade long truce... and the question again was made to Christians....what ought we do in the face of an unjust aggressor who will not negotiate a peaceful settlement?
From the Crusades to the present the Church has grappled with these concepts.... for example, MAD was considered immoral as it would doom the innocent to die with the guilty.
In the tradition of banning the "cry of havoc" (on pain of death, of course), the Church sought to ban the intentional targetting of old men, women and children, the wanton destruction of non-military targets, etc etc. things we take for granted in warfare actually have Catholic roots in the Just war tradition.
Throughout the history of thinkers of course you have some stupid ones. For example, at one point Bishops (though not the Church as a whole) sought to ban the use of the crossbow as unfair and thus immoral.... one could easily see a clergyman from noble stock being shocked that a commoner of no noble blood dispatching a mounted and armored knight with a cross bow bolt at 100 yards.... very unfair indeed.
Kind of like dispatching a $400,000 uparmored HUMVEE with a $25 RPG.
In the 1980's some clergy and bishops in the US came out in favor of unilateral nuclear disarmament so as to give the Soviet's "good example". But then their reasoning was more political and theological.
In the ramp up to the Gulf wars, many theologians and bishops decried any action against Saddam, advancing many dubious theories as to why any US action - even with the blessing of the UN - were 'illegal and immoral'.
Like the nobleman's clergyman though, their "reasoning" was more political than theological and thus, more a question of contingent opinion than binding on the conscience to obey.
In 2002 and 2003, for example Pope John Paul II mentioned the coming war with Iraq on about 2 dozen occasions but NEVER went longer than a couple sentences and even then never said that the war would unequivocally be immoral.
He did say the "use of modern weaponry (defined elsewhere in Vatican documents as Nuclear, biological and chemical) is always immoral as they inflict death and destruction on the innocent along with the guilty".
So had we nuked Iraq from orbit, carpet bombed all Iraqi cities to rubble, and then dropped bugs and chemicals to salt their earth.... it would have been immoral,.
But SINCE WE DIDN'T DO THAT.... the argument against the war falls apart.
He was trying to call for a diplomatic solution on one hand - however far fetched that was as a solution - and to limit by precluding certain tactics the damage on the other.
The usual suspects on the American and European Left who happen to be Catholic (Largely in name only, not theologically or morally) took what little he said about Iraq and conflated it to mean "the Pope is against Bush and therefore everything that happens post 2003 is categorically immoral and so a Catholic must be against the US foreign policy when it comes to the use of military assets....until such time as we get one of our guys elected when it will magically become OK".
There used to be a very useful website called "catholic just war" but its gone now.
Some pertinent points from the Catechism:
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.
2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.
However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."
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.
In other words.... Moral theologians, bishops, and editorialists aren't responsible for the common good, hence they're not the ones vested with authority to make the prudential judgment on whether it's practical to go to war or not.
And when they make noise against a proposed war by basing their arguments on presuppositions of contingent matters such as tactics, they err.
Now, a moral theologian and bishop could say - justly so - that 'in a given scenario where country A makes a demand on country B which is IMPOSSIBLE to reply to given time restraints, then there is no just cause for war."
Or they could say "the use of nuclear weapons on population centers is immoral."
But proclaiming that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was catgorically immoral is a whole nuther question.
In the ramp up to the invasion many bishops claimed any invasion would be immoral since IN THEIR MINDS the threat of Iraq's belligerance wasn't sufficiently grave or lasting. And most of the time they went on to presuppose that the "shock and awe" campaign would certainly involve US use of nukes, or INDISCRIMINATE carpet bombing of cities, unleashing an environmental disaster of biblical proportions, killing millions immediately and millions from starvation afterwards, and lead necessarily to world war 3.
Given all those suppositions, their angst and anger was reasonable. But those suppositions themselves had to be proven to be realistic. Once you point out that the invasion didn't involve WMDs, starvation, indiscriminate targetting, and the uprising of the whole Muslim world in a world war... their pre-invasion rhetoric and moral argument that it was 'unjust' falls apart.
Some then switched the goal posts by proclaiming that Just Wars can only be defensive ones....
Not so fast though... since Popes and prelates have praised the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers for generations who were involved in the Allies OFFENSIVE campaign in liberating Europe. Polish soldiers fighting IN ITALY against Germany were 1000 miles from their homeland. I don't see how any definition can square their engagement around Monte Casino as "defensive", especially as they were assaulting a defensive line...
Or the great naval battle of LePanto fought in the 1500's.... off the coast of Greece... again it was an offensive campaign, a pre-emptive attack of the Turkish fleet at anchor - to get them before they sailed out to get us.... and that battle was universally understood for 400 years as a Just war.
Finally, as has been said, the Church does have a military diocese - chaplains serve in all the armed forces, often near the front line in harms way... on a practical level many parishes offer up prayers every sunday for the safety and victory of our armed forces personnel. Service men and women have received ovations on occasion at Mass for their service.
I think by and large most Catholics support the military and understand that the anti-war rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. At the same time, we don't invest ultimate hope in military efforts but in evangelization efforts - winning the hearts and minds after liberating the bodies.
Force of arms is sometimes necessary to maintain or protect the 'tranquilitas ordinis' of civilization from wolves, but at best it is just a stalling tactic and needs the missionaries and martyrs to steal the thunder of the enemy and convert them into friends and family.