Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Tony Magliano

8/28/2014 (8 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Is there such a thing as a just war? Can the massive death and destruction of armed conflict ever be morally justified by followers of the Prince of Peace?

The horrors of war persist long after the shooting stops.

The horrors of war persist long after the shooting stops.

Highlights

By Tony Magliano

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/28/2014 (8 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Jesus, peace, God of peace, war, just war theory, nonviolence, pacifist, Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, Iraq, Gaza, Catholic Church, Christians, Christianity, early church, conscientious objection, Tony Magliano


For the first disciples of Christ the answer was a resounding "No!"

During the first 300 years of Christianity it was unthinkable for followers of the nonviolent Jesus to kill a human being. They took most seriously Jesus' command: "But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other as well. . Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."

In his book, "Abortion & the Early Church," Michael J. Gorman cites an address of the famous church father Clement of Alexandria to wealthy Christians: "Contrary to the rest of men enlist for yourself an army without weapons, without war, without bloodshed, without wrath, without stain - pious old men, orphans dear to God, widows armed with gentleness, men adorned with love."

Gorman emphasizes that Clement's statement represents the entire body of Christian literature from the first three centuries by affirming Christian faithfulness to Christ's paramount teaching of love which completely rejects violence and bloodshed. 

But later St. Augustine in response to armed aggression against the innocent, set the Catholic Church on the road to the "just war" theory - quite likely borrowed from the ancient Roman philosopher Cicero - which would tragically lead most Christians  to almost entirely forget in practice the pacifist foundation laid by Jesus and the early church. 

In his book "Kill? For Peace?" the late peace activist and theologian Jesuit Father Richard McSorley wrote, "The theory [just-war] never worked in practice . there is no record of any nation ever using it. No nation today accepts it as national policy . it has become a theory used to justify every war that comes along . this theory is unrealistic and is today outmoded."

In their 1983 pastoral letter "The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response" the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote that due to the destructive capability of modern technological warfare the just war theory principles of discrimination and proportionality have special significance.

Discrimination insists that civilians must be protected from the harmful actions of combatants. However, modern warfare kills, injures and displaces far more innocent civilians than combatants - just take Iraq and Gaza as sad typical examples.

And the principle of proportionality demands that the damage likely to be inflicted, and the costs of war, must be significantly less than the harm being done by the aggressor. Modern wars have consistently caused far more harm than good - again take Iraq and Gaza as current examples.

In the "Challenge of Peace" the U.S. bishops quoted St. Pope John Paul II: "Today, the scale and horror of modern warfare - whether nuclear or not - makes it totally unacceptable as a means of settling differences between nations. War should belong to the tragic past, to history; it should find no place on humanity's agenda for the future."

The day after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq ended, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI - then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - prophetically said, "There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war.'"

The Holy See's former permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican attitude for centuries was, "War is inevitable, so let's put some strict conditions to limit its effects. In these last decades we have adopted a different perspective and we say peace is possible, so let's work tirelessly for peaceful solutions."

The questions of pacifism, the just war theory, and war itself are very personal for me. Over 33 years ago, I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector. While firing an M-16 at pop-up targets, I realized as a follower of the nonviolent Jesus I could not aim a weapon at another human being, pull the trigger, and kill him or her.

Within a prayerful, honest and respectful atmosphere, the Catholic Church and all Christian churches desperately need to seriously study, debate, dialogue and reevaluate the just war theory in light of the nonviolent Jesus, the early church's pacifist stance, the impossibility of satisfying all of the just war theory's principles, the immeasurable harm caused by war - including the vast resources wasted that should instead be used to help the world's poor - and the unhealthy nationalism and militarism adhered to by countless Christians.

Now to Pope Francis' recent quoted remarks -often taken out of context - during an airplane news conference in flight to Rome from his pastoral visit to South Korea.

While the pope said it was "licit' to stop an unjust aggressor, he qualified that statement by adding "I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.'"

There are effective nonviolent ways to counter and even sometimes convert an aggressor: international targeted sanctions, a total arms embargo, non-cooperation with an occupying force, civil disobedience, coordinated underground activity, offering emergency asylum to all fleeing refugees, dialogue, negotiations, forgiveness, reconciliation, and of course prayer.

In a June 8, 2014 prayer for peace, Pope Francis prayed "Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!

"We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. . how much blood has been shed . our efforts have been in vain.

"Now, Lord, come to our aid . Give us the courage to say: 'Never again war' . Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace.

"Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be 'brother,' and our way of life will always be that of : Shalom, Peace, Salaam!"

And to that, let the people of God say Amen!


Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, "Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century," has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at: tmag@zoominternet.net

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2015
Universal:
That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
Evangelization: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be ready to proclaim Jesus.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

The Church Needs to Be Baptized Afresh in the Holy Spirit Watch

Image of Do I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for ordinary Christians? You bet I do! I believe that Pentecost still happens. I KNOW it still happens. We can ALL know it still happens because we can experience its effects in our own lives. We should not be afraid of the Holy Spirit! In fact, we should regularly seek to be filled with more and more of the Spirit.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We need to pray for a New Pentecost for the Church in this hour! We need more of the Holy Spirit for the New Evangelization of the Church - so that a renewed Church can engage in the missionary task of the Third Christian Millennium. We need to be baptized afresh ... continue reading


Brotherhood of the Belt: Struggle, Trouble and Failure in the Christian Life Watch

Image of The Martyrdom of Peter

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Peter's wrong choices were not the end of the story of Gods plan for his life. Peter's denial crippled Peter emotionally and spiritually. He lost his way. That was until he encountered the Risen Christ. There, in that encounter, he allowed the belt of ... continue reading


The Purpose of Pentecost is the Birth and Ongoing Mission of the Church

Image of The purpose of Pentecost is the birth - and continued rebirth - of the Church.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently in the midst of a world awaiting the fullness of redemption, to live as a new people to lead the world back to the Father, in and through the Son. Through their experience of the Holy Spirit the early ... continue reading


Top 5 Roman Catholic colleges in the United States Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What constitutes being the best university is oftentimes subjective and usually in adherence to one's beliefs and practices. Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions many people are making. Some opt for those that offer the best training in the fields of ... continue reading


Don't take your children 'hostage,' Pope tells separated couples Watch

Image of Christian communities, Pope Francis says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In discussing the role of parents educating their children, Pope Francis in his General Audience, advised separated couples to "never, never, never take the children hostage!" LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pope spoke on the role of parents in the ... continue reading


A Baltimorean's reflections on the Baltimore riots

Image of

By Tony Magliano

"The God of peace is never glorified by human violence," wrote the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Whether it's on an individual, city, national, or international level, violence always dishonors God, and makes bad situations worse. The recent Baltimore City riots ... continue reading


8 encouraging Bible verses to lift you up Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Sometimes getting up in the morning can be the hardest thing you'll do all day. When life's worries press down on you and take your soul hostage, the most important thing you can do for yourself is turn to God. He will always be there for you, through the good times ... continue reading


Pope Francis tells bishops to act more like pastors - and not 'pilots' Watch

Image of The meeting between bishops will last until May 21. At that time, bishops will discuss how their faithful have received Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, and look at ways to implement its teaching.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Addressing bishops in Italy, Pope Francis told them to act more like pastors than "pilots" telling the faithful what to do. The pontiff said that bishops need "Ecclesial sensitivity." They should remain bold in denouncing cultural trends that offend human ... continue reading


Five-year-old boy brings people to tears with heartfelt act of kindness Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During his meal at a Waffle House restaurant, 5-year-old Josiah Duncan's attention wandered to the man outside the establishment. The man, dirty and holding a plastic bag, became the center of the young boy's curiosity and concern. After learning from her mother that ... continue reading


Amazing 'Bulletproof' cross under construction in middle of Christian-hostile Pakistan Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Everything changed for a Pakistani businessman, trying to build one of the world's tallest and first "bulletproof" cross, after God appeared in his dreams. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - Parvez Henry Gill, a real estate businessman, claimed  God gave ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 17:19-27
19 Their actions are all as plain as the sun to him, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7
1 [Of David Poem] How blessed are those whose offence ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 10:17-27
17 He was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 25th, 2015 Image

St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
May 25: It would be easy to concentrate on the mystical experiences God ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter