Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

War Drums

CRISIS Magazine

October 10, 2002

**********************************************

Dear Friend,

First things first: I want to thank all of you for your support over the past few days as news of the sniper in the Washington, D.C. area has been unfolding. Life here has mostly continued as usual, but there's still a feeling of helplessness in the face of this fear. How, after all, do you protect yourself from a killer who shoots from 300 yards away?

I admit, it's really hard to hear my daughter, Hannah (who's in middle school herself) ask me if it's safe for her to go to school. I've reassured her as best I can but we're all still a little uneasy. Let's pray for the victims and their families.

As you can guess, the "Beltway Killer" isn't the only cause for anxiety here in the nation's capitol. The increasing talk of war with Iraq is a concern for many Americans, especially those who aren't sure where to turn for guidance in this very delicate situation. For Catholics, the situation is made more complex by having many respected Church leaders weigh in on different sides of the issue.

The Vatican has come out against war in the Middle East, and their UN observer, Archbishop Renato Martino, has called an attack on Iraq "unilateralism, pure and simple," a move that raises serious moral and legal problems.

Bishop Wilton Gregory and the Administrative Committee of the USCCB agreed with Martino. In his letter to President Bush last month, Gregory reiterated that he found it "difficult to justify extending the war on terrorism to Iraq, absent clear and adequate evidence of Iraqi involvement in the attacks of September 11th or of an imminent attack of a grave nature." The letter goes on to question the legitimacy of war on Iraq based on some of the principles of the Just War theory, and states that any action taken by the United States against Iraq should first be sanctioned by the UN Security Council.

Needless to say, this is a difficult issue. Do these statements constitute the final word on this matter for Catholics? Can faithful Catholics disagree and still remain in good standing with their conscience and the Church? How do we balance these conflicting interests?

For Catholics who are still trying to make up their minds, we wanted to open a discussion on the issue to help us all make an informed decision. First, however, a couple clarifications need to be made.

First, if you're worried about the bishops' insistence that the UN must approve a strike against Iraq, don't be. It's certainly prudential for the US to seek the judgment of other nations in our actions, but whether the UN finally approves has little bearing on the just nature of the war. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and other Just War theorists certainly didn't have the United Nations -- or any one-world-government schema -- in mind when they laid forth the basic principles for determining whether a war is just.

And really, it seems pretty ridiculous to trust the UN to be an authority in matters of ethics or morals. After all, this is the same group that has long been a supporter of family planning, population control, and other such anti-Catholic positions. The Church has never sought their advice on these issues, so trusting them now to determine whether this war is "just" is nonsensical.

But this brings me to another concern: If the bishops tell us that the US should seek UN approval in a war on Iraq, or that this war is unjust, isn't it our responsibility as faithful Catholics to agree with them?

No.

Now, I know what you're thinking -- no one has been louder than me in insisting that we must be faithful and respectful to the hierarchy of the Church. After all, isn't that why I dislike Voice of the Faithful, because they pose a challenge to the Church's teachings?

This is certainly true. We must always be respectful of the hierarchy, and we are bound by the Church's moral judgments. It's the bishops' job to teach, and it's our job as lay Catholics to listen. However, this issue of Just War is a prudential judgment on which Catholics can disagree and still remain in perfectly good standing with the Church.

Let me explain what I mean by a "prudential judgment." A quick way of defining it is applying right reason or moral imperatives to everyday situations. The Church and its leaders are always indispensable in helping us form our moral framework for making these kinds of decisions. Sometimes, the decision is clear: Abortion, for example, is a direct affront to the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life. There can be no room for debate on how we as Catholics must act, given this truth.

However, other problems allow for more diversity of opinion. In the case of war with Iraq, Catholics have a grave responsibility to consider the facts carefully, and with respect for the Church's teaching. But the Church ISN'T unilaterally opposed to war. If it were, we wouldn't have a Just War theory at all. And here's the rub: Because there are so many different factors operating here, legitimate disagreement can arise between thoughtful Catholics as to how the theory should be applied.

In the affairs of public policy, the bishops are operating with no more authority than the average lay Catholic, and oftentimes with less understanding of the situation. Twenty years ago, when CRISIS was just getting started, the magazine objected to a different letter of the bishops -- this time, one that called for full nuclear disarmament as a response to the Cold War. But it was through the wise leadership of President Reagan, NOT the opinion of the bishops, that the Cold War was won in 1989. Where would we be had we followed the advice of the bishops on a political issue that they barely understood?

In the end, we all have a responsibility to proceed with caution using the Church's teachings as our guide. Of course, this isn't always easy. In the case of the current war debate, the bishops have said that an attack on Iraq doesn't meet "the traditional just war criteria of just cause, right authority, probability of success, proportionality and noncombatant immunity."

But Catholic scholar George Weigel says that this is a backwards approach to Just War. There are actually two separate sets of moral criteria that must be met if a war is just. First, the "ius ad bellum," or "war decision law," must be addressed. The criteria, as Weigel outlines them, are as follows: "Is the cause a just one? Will the war be conducted by a responsible public authority? Is there a 'right intention' (which, among other things, precludes acts of vengeance or reprisal)? Is the contemplated action 'proportionate:' is it appropriate to the goal (or just cause); is the good to be accomplished likely to be greater than the evil that would be suffered if nothing were done, or if the use of armed force were avoided for the sake of other types of measures? Have other remedies been tried and found wanting or are other remedies prima facie unlikely to be effective? Is there a reasonable chance of success?"

Only AFTER these questions are answered positively can one address the "ius in bello," or "war-conduct" issues. Weigel lists these as including "'proportionality,' which requires the use of no more force than necessary to vindicate the just cause; and 'discrimination,' or what we today call 'non-combatant immunity.'"

Weigel explains that, oftentimes, Catholic thinkers have inverted the war-decision and the war-conduct questions, placing all the emphasis on the latter. However, the war-conduct questions deal only with our "conduct" in war, as the title implies. It assumes that we've already "decided" that the war is just, using the war-decision questions.

Reversing the process -- as some of the bishops have done -- turns the whole thing on its head.

Another common concern is that a preemptive strike against Iraq goes against the very foundation of Just War theory, because it would make us the aggressors, and a Just War is always defensive.

Weigel answers this concern as well by pointing out that "when a vicious regime that has not hesitated to use chemical weapons against its own people and against a neighboring country, a regime that has no concept of the rule of law and that flagrantly violates its international obligations, works feverishly to obtain and deploy further weapons of mass destruction, I think a compelling moral case can be made that this is a matter of an 'aggression under way.' ...It surely makes no moral sense to say that the US or the international community can only respond with armed force when an Iraqi missile carrying a weapon of mass destruction has been launched, or is being readied for launch."

In the end, there's still much room for debate. Some scholars think that the Just War theory must be expanded to meet the needs of the modern world where terrorism plays an increasingly large role. Others see little need for strict adherence to Just War principles to begin with. After all, it isn't Church dogma, and therefore leaves room for interpretation.

But whatever decision you ultimately come to, you can rest assured that faithful Catholics can hold different opinions on the matter and still remain in line with Church teaching.

Next week, I meet with top White House officials to discuss the Catholic perspective on the possibility of war with Iraq. I encourage you to consider the facts carefully and thoughtfully, and let me know your opinion on the matter so that I can give the President and his advisers a balanced reflection of Catholic opinion.

I pray that, in the end, our country will come to a just conclusion on the problem of war in our day.

Talk to you next week,
Deal

Contact

Crisis Magazine
http://www.crisismagazine.com DC, US
Deal Hudson - Editor, 202 861-7790

Email

mail@crisismagazine.com

Keywords

War

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 250 of 4,719

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Priestly Identity: Crisis and Renewal (Part 1)
Catholic Online

Al Qaeda...afraid of Benedict's message!
Hugh McNichol

Benedict XVI...calling all to hope...
Hugh McNichol

Perfect Women
Cheryl Dickow

Papal Palm Sunday Address - 'Enough With the Bloodshed'
Catholic Online

Spotlight on China
Catholic Online

Papal Homily for Palm Sunday
Catholic Online

Holy Week...Holy Time!
Hugh McNichol

Mary and Motherhood
Cheryl Dickow

The Void
Paul Sposite

Islamic violence wounds the global community!
Hugh McNichol

The Seven New Deadly Sins!
Hugh McNichol

Catholic benefits include Catholic principles!
Hugh McNichol

Remembering Father Alfred Kunz
Matt C. Abbott

David vs Goliath
Theresa Lisiecki

Happy Lent!
Paul Sposite

Diplomacy...Vatican style!
Hugh McNichol

Sub umbra Petri! (Under the Shadow of Saint Peter)
Hugh McNichol

Cuba...a neonascent Church!
Hugh McNichol

Kids in Conflict
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On the Writings of St. Augustine
Catholic Online

The Relevance of Lourdes at 150
Catholic Online

Hillary...what would Saint Norbert say!
Hugh McNichol

Lent...questions, answers and involvement!
Hugh McNichol

Mary, Mother of all Humanity, Hic et Nunc!
Hugh McNichol

Catholics...WAKE UP!
Hugh McNichol

Catholic Brotherhood with the People of the Covenant
Hugh McNichol

Have mercy on us O Lord! - Ash Wednesday
Hugh McNichol

Vote early, vote Catholic!
Hugh McNichol

Christ, our global Alpha and Omega!
Hugh McNichol

Being Catholic means...total affirmation of being Catholic!
Hugh McNichol

Seeing the World through New Eyes
Sarah Reinhard

Emulating the Angelic Doctor!
Hugh McNichol

Priests defend, commend Archbishop Raymond Burke
Matt C. Abbott

Saint Paul...a continued example of radical conversion!
Hugh McNichol

A renaissance of faith, reason and global cooperation....
Hugh McNichol

Cardinal Rigali's Homily at Life Vigil
Catholic Online

Angelus: On Christian Unity
Catholic Online

Silencing the Pope
Catholic Online

Papal Homily on Feast of Christ's Baptism
Catholic Online

Education and Gender
Catholic Online

The ignominy of Roe vs. Wade
Hugh McNichol

Papal Message for World Day of the Sick
Catholic Online

Angelus: On Christian Unity
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Planned Lecture at La Sapienza
Catholic Online

Pope's Letter to Jesuits' 35th General Congregation
Catholic Online

Fr. Cantalamessa - Behold, the Lamb of God!
Catholic Online

That We May Be One, and Never Lose Heart
Catholic Online

Sowing Hope in Sierra Leone
Catholic Online

God-incidences are the gift of kairos moments
Mary Regina Morrell

St. Augustine's Last Days
Catholic Online

Liturgy: When There's a Medical Emergency
Catholic Online

Marriage and Celibacy: Love's Link
Catholic Online

Developing a Global Catholic Awareness
Hugh McNichol

Rooms in My Father's House
Cheryl Dickow

Resolutions for New Year 2008
Chris Anthony

Keep teaching Holy Father!!!
Hugh McNichol

Dangers of anti-Catholic academic extremism....
Hugh McNichol

The liturgy war
Matt C. Abbott

Some Answers to a Few Common Questions about Vocations
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Developing a Global Catholic Awareness
Hugh McNichol

Christmas reflections
Chris Anthony

The Lasting Contribution of The Servant of God Pope John Paul II
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

No more bobble-head Jesus'!
Hugh McNichol

Pope's Address to Baptist World Alliance
Catholic Online

The Virgin Without Sin
Catholic Online

Cardinal Vingt-Trois on His New Mission
Catholic Online

Archbishop Forte on Religion & Freedom: Part 1
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Chromatius of Aquileia, Pope, Benedict
Catholic Online

Pope's Address for Consistory of Cardinals
Catholic Online

Trafficking in Lives
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict - On Hope
Catholic Online

The Hidden Costs of Gambling
Catholic Online

A Vital, Life-Giving Message
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Christianity's Contribution
Catholic Online

Youth and Fashion's Modest Twist
Catholic Online

Papal Homily at the Consistory
Catholic Online

Love, Marriage and Happy Kids
Catholic Online

The Virtue of Obedience: Our Duty, Our Crown
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Vere dignum et justum est!
Hugh McNichol

Pope's Address to Bishops of Kenya
Catholic Online

Democracy in Danger in Venezuela
Catholic Online

The Life-Sapping Human Virus
Catholic Online

'You Alone Are The Lord': A Brief Summary of Catholic Teaching
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Sacred Time...Come Lord Jesus!
Hugh McNichol

How Christ-like are we in our lives?
Chris Anthony

A Retreat for Today's Christian Woman
Cheryl Dickow

Pope Benedict - On Trust in God
Catholic Online

God and Caesar Seen From Down Under
Catholic Online

Praying the Luminous Mysteries for our Clergy
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Culture's Pressure on Our Girls
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

Papal Message on the Common Good
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - St. Jerome on the Bible
Catholic Online

What Every Parent Should Know About 'The Golden Compass'
Catholic Online

Cardinal Poupard on 'Populorum Progressio'
Catholic Online

A Richer Liturgical Translation: Interview With Bishop Roche
Catholic Online

U.S. Bishops' Statement on War in Iraq
Catholic Online

The 'Golden Compass' is no treasure for children
Mary Regina Morrell

Bishop Skylstad's Address to U.S. Bishops' Fall Meeting
Catholic Online

Rewarding Failure
Catholic Online

On St. Martin of Tours
Catholic Online

Undermining Parents
Catholic Online

God...our theological E.F.Hutton!
Hugh McNichol

The Secular Vs. Religion?
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Jerome
Catholic Online

The Scourge of Poverty
Catholic Online

Sons and Daughters of God...EQUALLY!
Hugh McNichol

On Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Catholic Online

Why Dads Matter
Catholic Online

Archbishop Chaput on Citizenship and Evangelization
Catholic Online

God Created Man for Life, Not Death
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for November
Catholic Online

Imposing 'Tolerance'
Catholic Online

A Turn to the Fathers: Interview With Father Robert Dodaro
Catholic Online

Evangelizing a Digital World
Catholic Online

Women Religious on Human Trafficking
Catholic Online

John Crosby on Von Hildebrand's Understanding of the Person
Catholic Online

Chicago law firm fights for civil rights, against death culture
Matt C. Abbott

On the Call to Martyrdom
Catholic Online

Media Benefits and Dangers
Catholic Online

Fr. Cantalamessa - The Pharisee and the Publican
Catholic Online

Aborting Viable Lives
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Ambrose of Milan
Catholic Online

'You Alone Are The Lord': A Brief Summary of Catholic Teaching
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Prostitution: Legal Work or Slavery?
Catholic Online

Address of Holy See on Religious Liberty
Catholic Online

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on 'Populorum Progressio'
Catholic Online

Escaping Poverty: Interview With Archbishop Silvano Tomasi
Catholic Online

Christ's Parable About the Need to Pray Always
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On St. Eusebius of Vercelli
Catholic Online

Recovering subtle signs of our Catholic Identity!
Hugh McNichol

On Peace, Missions and Justice
Catholic Online

Congratulations to His Eminence John Cardinal Foley!
Hugh McNichol

Giving Ourselves Completely to Mary
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

The 'Courage' to go 'Beyond Gay'
Matt C. Abbott

When Bioethics Turned Secular
Catholic Online

Confession Comeback
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On Hilary of Poitiers
Catholic Online

Reemergence of Global Catholic Identity!
Hugh McNichol

Father Cantalamessa on the Leap of Faith
Catholic Online

Month of the Rosary
Catholic Online

Why Technology Needs Ethics
Catholic Online

Cardinal Lozano Barragán on Future of Health Care
Catholic Online

How Can Catholics Understand Mary as Co-Redemprix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate?
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

New Saint Book is Visually Stunning and Filled with Detail
Lisa M. Hendey

Papal Homily in Velletri
Catholic Online

Wednesday'a Audience - On St. Cyril of Alexandria
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa Analyzes Relationship
Catholic Online

Holy See Address to U.N. General Assembly
Catholic Online

Homily From Red Mass in Washington
Catholic Online

Pope Remembers Cardinal Van Thuân
Catholic Online

The brave monks of Myanmar
Chris Anthony

Faith in Politics
Catholic Online

On Lazarus and World Hunger
Catholic Online

Fighting the Good Fight: Resisting Temptation
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Media frenzy buries U.N. goals

Holy See Statement on Climate Change
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On Chrysostom's Social Doctrine
Catholic Online

China's Seven Sorrows
Catholic Online

Vatican Message to Muslims for Ramadan
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa on the First World and Lazarus
Catholic Online

Angels, God's Messengers in a world of fragile peace and Broken promises!
Hugh McNichol

Memo to Mrs. Clinton: Why Not Baby Bonds When Life Begins?
Deacon Keith Fournier

Reorienting the Mass
Catholic Online

Report Card on Religious Freedom
Catholic Online

On Wealth and Poverty
Catholic Online

A Response to Hitchens' 'God Is Not Great'
Catholic Online

Vetoing children's health care?

The ideal family
Joseph Sinasac

Who does the judging?
Dennis Heaney

One mistake away

The Big House ban

In praise of the parish

Text of the USCCB statement for Respect Life Sunday 2007

The Outstanding Purity of Our Blessed Mother
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan

Educated flock

Religion and politics

Facing a door to the future
Dennis Heaney

A long debate

Who Are the True Progressives?
Deacon Keith Fournier

Petraeus offers a dose of reality

Insurgence
Robert Storr

Papal Address at Vespers
Catholic Online

Papal Coat of Arms Still Relevant
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Address at Heiligenkreuz Abbey
Catholic Online

On Loving Jesus as Mary Did
Catholic Online

Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos on 'Summorum Pontificum'
Catholic Online

Wednesday's Audience - On the Trip to Austria
Catholic Online

Father Cantalamessa on the Joy of Fatherhood
Catholic Online

Commentary on Artificial Hydration and Nutrition
Catholic Online

Vatican on Nutrition to Patients in Vegetative State
Catholic Online

Benedict XVI's Q-and-A Session With Youth in Loreto
Catholic Online

Take a Risk, Follow Your Call: the challenge of a lifetime!
Sisters of Bon Secours

Papal lessons

Family matters

Lessons from a tragedy
Dennis Heaney

Shopping blues
Joseph Sinasac

Marriage Breakdown: Expensive and Divisive
Catholic Online

Her darkness was a warning

The Light of Mother Teresa's Darkness - Part 2
Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Historical Jubilee documents on display!
  • Bl. Edward Jones: Saint of the Day for Friday, May 06, 2016
  • Daily Readings for Friday, May 06, 2016
  • Daily Reading for Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 HD Video
  • Daily Reading for Monday, May 9th, 2016 HD Video
  • The gruesome way scientists are killing unborn babies in school ...
  • 'The doctors were shocked': Conjoined twins share unusual bond

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 1:1-11
1 In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
2 For Yahweh, the Most High, is glorious, the great king over all the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:46-53
46 and he said to them, 'So it is written that the Christ would suffer ... Read More

Reading 2, Ephesians 1:17-23
17 May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 5th, 2016 Image

St. Hilary of Arles
May 5: Bishop of Arles, France, and friend and relative ... Read More