Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Tony Magliano

8/28/2014 (2 years 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 (2 years 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'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for NOVEMBER 2016
Universal:
Countries Receiving Refugees: That the countries which take in a great number of displaced persons and refugees may find support for their efforts which show solidarity.
Evangelization: Collaboration of Priests and Laity: That within parishes, priests and lay people may collaborate in service to the community without giving in to the temptation of discouragement.



Comments


More Living Faith

Fr. Stanley Rother becomes first American-born martyr Watch

Image of Father Stanley Rother was proclaimed a martyr.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis has recognized Father Stanley Rother as a martyr. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Fr. Rother was born in Oklahoma City, OK, making him the first martyr born in the United States.In 1986, he was sent to Santiago Atitlan from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma ... continue reading


Pope Francis announces the December prayer intention Watch

Image of Pope Francis calls us to pray for child soldiers.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis revealed his December prayer intention on Thursday, prompting millions to unite in prayer. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis' prayer intention for the month of December is to end child soldiers.End to ... continue reading


Seven bishops, one abbot, and a psychiatrist dialogue with peace activists Watch

Image of During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops  fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, gathered with about 25 peace activists [not pictured].

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, gathered with about 25 peace activists - myself included - to share a simple meal and consider the horrible emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds suffered by ... continue reading


What is the Catholic Church doing in Australia? Watch

Image of The Catholic Church is hard at work.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Catholic Church in Australia has been hard at work to establish a permanent form of change in the community and, if successful, possibly the world. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Catholic Church in Australia established a new independent non-profit to ... continue reading


'We pray with Christian hope' - Pope Francis reminds us to pray for the living AND the dead Watch

Image of Pope Francis asks us to pray.

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

In his last set of catechesis on mercy, Pope Francis focused on the works of praying for the living and the dead, as well as burying the dead, insisting that since we are all part of one family in Christ, we must remember to pray constantly for one another. Vatican ... continue reading


The 100th Fatima anniversary brings with it three ways to obtain an indulgence Watch

Image of Invoke Our Lady of Fatima.

By Maria Ximena Rondon (CNA/EWTN News)

For the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Pope Francis has decided to grant a plenary indulgence opportunity throughout the entire anniversary year, which began Nov. 27, 2016, and will end Nov. 26, 2017. Fatima, Portugal (CNA/EWTN ... continue reading


What happens when an atheist encounters Christ? This poet found out for herself Watch

Image of Sally Read was an atheist, now she is a Catholic.

By David Kerr - CNA

"Until two years ago, I was a really committed atheist and I really hated the Catholic Church," said poet Sally Read, as she explained how all that dramatically changed during nine months in 2010. "The whole process took from March to December, and I was received into ... continue reading


Lost tablets confirmed to speak of Christ, but is the story they tell true? Watch

Image of Do these tablets add a chapter to the Gospel of Christ?

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Researchers have confirmed the authenticity of lead tablets that discuss Jesus Christ and date to the period of His ministry. As genuine artifacts, they serve as an additional, non-Biblical source to reference the existence of Christ. LOS ANGELES, CA (California ... continue reading


Special prayers dedicated for victims of the tragic Colombia plane crash Watch

Image of Join us in prayer for the victims and their loved ones.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During his general audience on Wednesday at the Vatican, Pope Francis called for prayers for the victims of the plane crash in Colombia and their families. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The pontiff shared the crash reminded him of the 1949 Superga air crash, ... continue reading


Choose humility over theatrics - Pope Francis explains the difference Watch

Image of The Pope explains humility.

By (CNA/EWTN News)

Christians must pursue true humility as they remember the "smallness" of Christmas, Pope Francis said in his Tuesday homily. Vatican City, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) - "Humility is the virtue of the childlike and this is true humility and not a rather theatrical humility: ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 11:1-10
1 A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
1 [Of Solomon] God, endow the king with your own fair judgement, the son ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 3:1-12
1 In due course John the Baptist appeared; he proclaimed this message in ... Read More

Reading 2, Romans 15:4-9
4 And all these things which were written so long ago were written so ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 4th, 2016 Image

St. John of Damascus
December 4: Saint John Damascene has the double honor of ... Read More