(Say a little prayer for me folks. I went to go to Mass today and, after getting dizzy and tingly on the way, pulled into a parking lot hoping it would pass. Eventually, I just turned back for home. I have been limping along since Christmas, not terrible, but not quite right – and every time I make a sudden move, I seem to relapse. Come tomorrow, I am going to live my normal routine as if all is well – until it actually is or I am flat on my back. So send those prayers up!
Meantime, I have this wonderful piece by Padraig Caughey which is incredibly timely. Padraig is the publisher and chief moderator of the wonderful Mother of God Forum which I link to at right. Run from his home country, the Forum gets visitors and commenters for serious Christian discussion from around the world. A good Irishman, Padraig has become an online friend and confidant – one of those people with whom, when I disagree, I take a good hard look at my position to see if I’ve got it right.)
By Padraig Caughey
The Catholic and War.
An enduring criticism of Catholics and Catholicism since the time of the Reformation is that Catholics have to kind of hang up their brains in the cloakroom before entering the Church (so to speak). That being a Catholic stifles and real thought and turns us into clones of what the Popes and the Vatican tells us what to do. Or as they used to call us at the time of the Reformation (and occasionally since) we are , ‘Pope heads’ having sold our brains for admission to the Church. One not so far off example of this was seen during the election campaign of John F Kennedy when opponents suggested handing the keys of the Oval Office would be to turn the White House into an ante room of the Vatican.
A good random example of the freedom encouraged in Catholic teaching is in Dietary restrictions. The Catholic Church has none really to speak off. Look at other Faiths and again and again you find the Faithful followers being nailed to the door by dietary law after dietary law. This Freedom , this open door to me is nowhere more apparent , nor wise than in the Catholic Church’s teaching on the use of force.
Anger is a desire for revenge. Anger is the passion (emotion) by which a man reacts to evil, real or apparent, and seeks vindication of his rights, that is, justice. By itself the passion is neither moral or immoral, but becomes so by reason or its being ordered or disordered – that is, reasonable according to the circumstances. An ordered anger is directed to a legitimate object, and, with an appropriate degree of vehemence. An inordinate anger is directed either to an illegitimate object, or, with an unreasonable vehemence. As St. Thomas Aquinas notes, vice may be by defect, as well as excess. So, the presence of evil should provoke a righteous anger, which if absent constitutes a sinful insensibility. Consider the just anger of the Lord to the presence in the Temple of the money-changers and the action He took (John 2:13-17). Provoked by this offense against His Father, Jesus formed whips and drove them from the Temple. Righteous anger, and the acts which flow from it, intend the correction of vice (both for the good of the individual sinner and the common good), the restoring of the order of justice disturbed by sin, and the restraint of further evil. On the other hand, unjust anger seeks to do evil to another for its own sake, the harm to body or soul that it entails. While one may desire, and employ, physical force for the sake of correction, restraint of evil and restoring justice, even if it entails injury and death, one may never desire it for its own sake. To desire some slight injury for an evil motive would be venially sinful. To desire grave injury or death would be gravely sinful. A Christian may never, of course, desire the damnation of the evil doer. Charity requires that we will the good, especially the ultimate good, salvation, for every human being. Unfortunately, the entertainment media often promotes an image of anger and vengeance which is closer to blood lust than to justice.
Peace – the Work of Justice and the Tranquility of Order (2304-6)
Whether it is justice within society, or the interior justice of holiness, peace is its fruit. Righteous anger, and the means it employs, should not knowingly produce less justice and less peace than existed before evil intervened. Human prudence, however, is fallible. It cannot necessarily predict the ploys of the adversary, both human and demonic. In addition, fallen human nature is inclined to sin, and thus prone to respond with excess to provocation. Thus, even virtue and a well-formed conscience can fail to produce the desired result of justice and peace. Great restraint must be shown, therefore, in the use of violence to achieve justice. In addition to the efforts of those who work assiduously for peace, “the peacemakers”, society needs the example of those who renounce violence altogether. Their “witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death” should serve to restrain the use of even justified force. Such conscientious objection is a valuable service to society. As the Catechism makes clear, it must be accompanied by the willingness to serve in other capacities (cf. 2311), however.
Just War (2307-17)
All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. Despite this admonition of the Church, it sometimes becomes necessary to use force to obtain the end of justice. This is the right, and the duty, of those who have responsibilities for others, such as civil leaders and police forces. While individuals may renounce all violence those who must preserve justice may not do so, though it should be the last resort, “once all peace efforts have failed.” [Cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 79, 4] As with all moral acts the use of force to obtain justice must comply with three conditions to be morally good. First, the act must be good in itself. The use of force to obtain justice is morally licit in itself. Second, it must be done with a good intention, which as noted earlier must be to correct vice, to restore justice or to restrain evil, and not to inflict evil for its own sake. Thirdly, it must be appropriate in the circumstances. An act which may otherwise be good and well motivated can be sinful by reason of imprudent judgment and execution. In this regard Just War doctrine gives certain conditions for the legitimate exercise of force, all of which must be met: “1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; 2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; 3. there must be serious prospects of success; 4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition” [CCC 2309]. The responsibility for determining whether these conditions are met belongs to “the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.” The Church’s role consists in enunciating clearly the principles, in forming the consciences of men and in insisting on the moral exercise of just war. The Church greatly respects those who have dedicated their lives to the defense of their nation. “If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace. [Cf. Gaudium et spes 79, 5]” However, she cautions combatants that not everything is licit in war. Actions which are forbidden, and which constitute morally unlawful orders that may not be followed, include:
– attacks against, and mistreatment of, non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners; – genocide, whether of a people, nation or ethnic minorities; – indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants. Given the modern means of warfare, especially nuclear, biological and chemical, these crimes against humanity must be especially guarded against. In the end it is not enough to wage war to achieve justice without treating the underlying causes. “Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war” [CCC 2317]. The Church has no illusions that true justice and peace can be attained before the Coming of the Lord. It is the duty of men of good will to work towards it, nonetheless. In the words of the spiritual dictum, we should work as if everything depended upon our efforts, and pray as if everything depended upon God.
There are two rocks between which we must sail if we are to pass in safety in considering the Catholic and War. One rock is the rock of Doctrinaire Pacifism, which is itself a heresy and goes against Catholic teaching. The other rock is an out and out militarism of the ,’My country right or wrong’ variety that sees violence as a first line solution to all the world’s problems. That seeks to place itself outside the moral safety of self defense.
But between these two rocks lie a whole Universe of moral choice. The Religious for instance living out his spiritual life in the fullness of the Evangelical counsels may see violence as a response he, in his monastery may never wish to take. The father of a family faced by groups that seek to take the lives of his wife and children may well take another course.
What I suggest it that there are no moral absolutes in our response to the needs of our times. We need to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in this as all things.