Thursday, July 17, 2008

Being Catholic in America part VIII - Just War

"War is always a defeat for humanity" and is contrary to Jesus' call to be peacemakers. The Christian always mourns the destruction and death which accompanies war, but the Church has recognized that in some cases the secular world must resort to war. In order to evaluate the involvement of Christians in these regrettable situations to help guide her children, the Church teaches a Just-War Doctrine, which the delineates the preconditions necessary for a war to have a just cause and for the actually fighting to be waged in a just manner.

The Catechism describes the Just- War Doctrine here, see specifically, articles 2307- 2317.

A country can only be said to have a just cause for going to war if all of the following conditions are met:

1 - The war must be a war of defense and the response must be proportionate to the initial attack to which one is responding.

2 - War must ALWAYS be the last resort. ALL other "diplomatic" options must be exhausted.(when has this ever been the case?)

3 - The country must have high likelihood of success in war.

4 - The use of weapons must not cause more suffering/evil than refraining from war would have caused.

Furthermore a legitimate authority must make the decision to go to war and civilians and non combatants must not be harmed. By "legitimate authority" the Church does mean the head of a country or nation-state, but an international authority. In other words, President Bush is not the legitimate authority here, the UN is the legitimate authority.

With this information in mind we can evaluate the recent war policies of our country. Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II have both condemned the Iraq war as being unjust. Why might that be?

Contrary to the misinformed opinion of some of people, Iraq had no role in the 9-11 attacks. In fact, for all his flaws, Saddam Hussein was an enemy of Al Qaeda, which had no presence in Iraq before the war. Therefore, our invasion was not a defensive response. We initiated the violence. Some will counter that the war is justified as pre-emptive strike against an imminent threat. However, Joseph Ratzinger has explained that the just war doctrine does NOT allow for a pre-emptive war. The Catechism does not allow for such a justification.

Furthermore, in attacking Iraq, President Bush ignored the recommendation of the legitimate authority, the UN, and hundreds of thousands of non-combatants have been injured in the war. The Archbishop of Baghdad has noted that daily life for the average Iraqi, specifically Iraqi Christians was safer, less chaotic, and more "normal" during the reign of Saddam Hussein than it is now. Despite the horrors and evils of the Hussein Regime, the argument could be made that the war and overthrowing the regime has produced more evils than leaving the regime in place.

Simply put, the Iraq war cannot be justified based on Catholic principles of peace and justice.

America's current policy of war does not support a consistent ethic of life which demands that we hold all life as sacred and priceless. Iraqi lives are just as important and sacred as American lives. We must remember that we are one Body in Christ, we are the Catholic (Universal) Church, not the American church.

IF we want to live out our universal call to holiness, if we want to be faithful Catholics in America we must not buy into this us (good guys) vs. them (bad guys) rhetoric. War is not the answer and is always a defeat for humanity. JP II taught "there can be no peace without mercy and forgiveness." War does not bring this. It only brings pain, death, suffering, hated, and a false,forced sense of closure. This is why the wars in the middle east, specifically between the Jews and Palestinians have continued and will continue. There can be no peace without mercy and forgiveness. We must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, not bomb them to smithereens.

May God grant us the grace to be witnesses to faith, hope, and love, witnesses to the peace which only Christ can offer, in a society that puts its open in armed weaponry and the strength of men.

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