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By Fr. Juan Carlos Iscara

Today more than ever when the potential costs of war are so high, and threats to our civilizations are so immediate the world needs the moral guidance that the Church can provide. To abandon that effort at this crucial moment, to substitute bland and pious generalities for the judicious application of just-war principles, to condemn military action without offering realistic alternative means of securing justice and peace would be a serious abnegation of the Church’s mission to the modern world.1

In today’s world, the simple reminder that there is a Catholic just-war theory provokes heated reactions. Many, within and without the Church, criticize it and its practical consequences, as incompatible with the message of peace of the Gospel.

The Church is, indeed, pacific, that is, peace-seeking. She teaches and lives the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the meek, for they will possess the earth….Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called children of God…" She does not ignore that war is a physical evil; suffering and loss, a consequence of original sin, are a feature of our present fallen state. In her liturgy, she prays for the preservation of peace and for the cessation of wars, and she encourages us to pray longingly for the coming of the day when the nations, united in the charity of Christ, would be able to resolve their differences without bloodshed. Realistic as she is, though, she warns us that until that day, until Christian virtue penetrates the hearts of men and the bosom of societies, until human passions are dominated by the spirit of the Gospel, we must prepare to defend ourselves against fierce jealousies and aggressive ambitions.2

In consequence, precisely because of her realism, the Church is not pacifistic. She does not fall prey to illusions. She knows and teaches that the golden age of mankind in Paradise will not be found again upon this earth. She is not blindly optimistic, she does not believe in the indefinite and unlimited progress of mankind that liberal, modernistic delusion! She knows that until the end of times, each man will carry in him the nature inherited from Adam, fallen, imperfect, capable of doing good with the help of God, but always weak, fallible, too easily inclined to evil. She knows that mankind carries, deeply embedded within each one of us, the durable seed of all wars.3

This article, focused on the moral arguments advanced by the Holy See and modern Catholics worldwide to oppose the Iraqi war, contends that although (on the basis of the known facts) they may be right in their moral assessment of this war, they arrive at such a conclusion by virtue of a reasoning that noticeably subverts traditional doctrine.

Traditional Magisterium On War

A rapid examination of the collection of papal teachings on modern war, published by the Benedictines of Solesmes and drawn especially from those Popes who had to confront the two World Wars — St. Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII —gives us a clear outline of Catholic just-war doctrine on the eve of Vatican II allowing, at the same time, a comparison with the post-Conciliar doctrinal drift.

The Root of War

The popes have stressed that, although many may be the avowed or hidden motives for war (political, strategic, social, economic, cultural), the real source of war is the materialistic apostasy of the nations. At the root of every war, the abandonment and contempt of the law of God are always to be found.4

As this abandonment becomes systematized in the social and political institutions of the nations ("laicism"), so the social dissolution that leads to war progresses,5 because the first effect of that laicism is to make a nation lose the sense of a true community, as God has established it, with reciprocal duties and rights. The contempt of the authority of God, foundation of all human authority, causes and increases internal dissensions. And those internal dissensions lead to wars, because as the interior peace of each nation is an essential element of the general security, so the aggressor finds his most powerful weapon in the lack of spiritual cohesion and in the internal crises of his neighbors.

Separated from God, men have overestimated the material world,6 to the point of measuring what is moral and honest by how it is conducive to obtain wealth and pleasures.7 Thus, the insatiable concupiscence of material goods has brought about first competition, then conflict, and finally the contempt of morality and law. This materialistic apostasy bears fruit in the jealous selfishness of each nation, disguising, under the appearance of patriotism,8 their ambition and greed and the rejection of the law of international solidarity.9

Providence and the Evils of War

War, although a scandal, must be considered in the light of Faith, remembering that God directs all events, and nothing escapes His omnipotence. He is a God of peace, Who does not want war, but permits it sometimes, as punishment.10 Therefore, even when war rages, we must believe in God’s love for mankind, and be certain that He will draw good from it, with our collaboration.

As the centuries go by, it seems that the aversion of the peoples for war increases, and that is good.11 But the mere desire for peace and the mere will to protect it are not sufficient to secure public tranquility. Peace can only rest on justice and charity.

Certainly, to consider war without horror is "to have lost all sense of humanity," 12 but to oppose war only for sentimental reasons, only for its horror and destruction, is neither good nor Christian. War must be detested because of its injustice.13

The Divine Precept of Peace

Pius XII stressed the "will of peace of the omnipotent and eternal God." 14 Peace is, therefore, a precept of natural law, coming down from God, the Creator of the world. This divine precept of peace is the moral criterion for war. Force must be at the service of order and law, that is, exercised only to defend them, because sometimes the enemies of the just order cannot be reduced to it except by force.15

A war of aggression is, therefore, a violation of this precept. It is immoral, a sin and a crime against God. On the other hand, a just war is at the service of the divine precept. Order and justice may need the assistance of force to subsist, but force will never create peace, which is union in justice and charity.16

The efforts to avoid war are totally in conformity with the spirit and the precepts of the Gospel.17 The attempt should be made to solve divergences between countries by negotiations and loyal agreements,18 because nothing is lost with peace, but all can be lost by war.19

Legitimate Defense

Legitimate defense is a natural right, which may become a duty in case of a grave threat against an essential good.20 The importance of certain goods justifies their defense by force against an unjust aggression.21 The Catholic Faith is the most precious of these goods, and it is therefore legitimate to take arms in its defense.22

But this right of defense has, nonetheless, limits. Not every injustice may be countered by war. The injustice must be, at the same time, evident, extremely grave and otherwise inevitable.23 When the damages that a war will certainly provoke are out of all proportion with the injustice inflicted, it may even exist the duty to endure such injustice.24

True Peace

The ruin caused by war is too terrible for us to add to it the disaster of a failed and illusory peace.25 Many may talk today of peace and of the means to bring it about, but they either neglect or directly oppose the principles which should be the solid basis of peace. As the contempt of the moral law caused the war, only its restoration in national and international life will cause true order, the source of peace.

Peace is the fruit of the public restoration of truth, justice and charity,26 of the reform of morals, and of the liberty of the Church.27 The light of truth is necessary to solve the differences between peoples;28 justice must be rendered to all, to the weak as well as to the strong,29 and charity must temper, perfect and stabilize the work of justice.30

Only Christ, by His law and with His grace, can renew and restore private and public morality, restrain the immoderate desire of conquests, stifle the passions, and moderate and perfect a rigid justice by the breath of charity.31

True peace is, then, essentially, a moral and juridical action. It is not realized without the deployment of force, as a certain measure of power is required to ensure its stability, but such force is at the service of the protection and defense of the order of law.32

Towards the Union of Nations

The contempt of the law of God and the increased surrender of law to force have led mankind to greater and more generalized disasters.33 What is noticeable, though, is an ever increasing aspiration of peoples to a truly stable peace.34 The remedy can be found, as we have already said, only in a return to the previously despised evangelical principles.35

Peace treaties concluded in our times have shown themselves to be sterile and ephemeral.36 In their place, a world organization for peace must rise.37 Such an organization, because of the religious and moral aspects of true peace, cannot be done without the intervention of the Church,38 and to this immense task are called, following the lead of the Pope, all Christians and all just men, even non-Christians.39

Its basic principle should be the acknowledgment of the organic unity of the human family.40

Although mankind, by virtue of the natural order established by God, is divided into social groups, nations or states, independent from one another in what regards their organization and regulation of their internal lives, those groups are nonetheless united by mutual bonds, moral and juridical, in a great community, ordained to the good of all nations, and regulated by special laws which protect its unity and develop its prosperity.41

The Church has therefore refused to countenance the erroneous conception of an absolutely autonomous sovereignty, exempt of any social obligations.42

The lever of action of such an organization should be the moral law43 and the prayer of the Church,44 and its hope, the formation of a true community of peoples, but the great work of a new and true organization of nations is impossible unless our sight is elevated towards God and rests fixed upon Him, the master and director of all human events, the supreme source, guardian and avenger of all justice and all right.45

Can Moral Doctrine Change?

Such were the teachings of the Church. Are they still valid, that is, are they still true? Do they still apply in our modern times? Modernistic theologians readily admit and rejoice in the fact that the teachings of the Church on vital issues have indeed changed.

Catholic Tradition has always admitted that there is development in doctrine. But only in the sense that as time passes, by theological reflection on the data of Revelation, what was before only implicit later becomes explicit. There is an unfolding of doctrine, and a greater understanding of Revelation on our part, but the dogmas themselves do not and cannot change. Modernists prefer to talk of "evolution" of doctrine in a truly Darwinian sense, meaning that a doctrine may become something now that it was not before, and even in contradiction with what it was before. That is impossible: what was true yesterday, if it is true, is still true today "two contradictory statements cannot be in agreement with a single principle derived from Revelation." 46 Such pretension is heresy, as the anti-modernist oath required by St. Pius X clearly states:

I therefore reject the heretical theory of the evolution of dogmas, i.e., that they change from one meaning to another, different from the one which the Church previously held.

Doctrine can only "change" in the sense of a coherent, homogeneous development. Moral doctrine, in particular, develops in this manner: its application to the varied circumstances of peoples, places and times may indeed change and has actually done so many times in the past.

The morality of an action, that is, its goodness or malice and, in consequence, its permissibility or prohibition, is measured by the agreement or disagreement of the object of the action itself, of the intention of the agent and of the concrete circumstances in which such action is performed, with the moral law. The basic principles of morality and the norms that directly flow from them do not and cannot change no more than dogmas can change, but a radical alteration of circumstances and a greater moral reflection may lead to a conscientious awareness of new duties.47

In this sense, then, it can be said that the moral doctrine on just war has indeed developed in recent times. The deeply changed circumstances of modern war, with its new technologies and capacity for indiscriminate mass destruction, have led to a re-evaluation of what is licit and what is illicit, and to the elevation of the threshold of gravity of the threat deemed as a just cause for war and of the means considered proportional to respond to such a threat. And the increased interdependence of nations in our age has made manifest the urgent need for some kind of international organization truly capable of promoting and preserving peace.

Modern Doctrine on War

The declarations of modern Catholic leaders opposing the Iraqi war have shown that the traditional position of the Church on the question has indeed changed, but such change has gone far beyond the legitimate doctrinal developments we have just mentioned. The source for this change is to be found, as for many other matters, in Vatican II, because it is openly acknowledged today that it was the Council’s assertion that we must approach the question of war "with a whole new attitude" that initiated the gradual development of Church teaching on peace, nonviolence and just war.48

Unfortunately, as Vatican II purposely wanted to be historically conditioned for addressing men of a neo- and post-Christian era using their specific categories of thought, the "spirit" that animates the conciliar documents and their sequels is naturalistic, blindly optimistic and humanistic. It has resulted in the exposition of Catholic moral doctrine being reduced, since the Council, to an almost exclusively man-centered discourse, neither moral nor theological or distinctively Catholic, addressed to all men, Christians or not, religious or atheists, all of them presumed of course! of "good will."49

Sacredness of Life

Vatican II and Pope John Paul II assert that "by the Incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being," 50 revealing in this manner not only the love of God but also "the incomparable value of every human person." 51 As the Redemption has thus shown to every man his greatness, dignity and worth, it has become the Church’s mission to make man look within himself, to be aware of Christ giving him meaning.52 Traditional doctrine, on the contrary, teaches us that what the Incarnation truly reveals is the fall of man, because its proximate end is Redemption, the restoration of the supernatural order of grace lost by sin. The Incarnation reveals the value of our supernatural destiny, the Glory of God, rather than the value of our earthly life.

Post-Conciliar theology, following the late Cardinal Henri de Lubac, S.J., blurs the distinction between the natural and supernatural orders. Although theoretically the distinction between nature and grace is maintained, they are, in practice, united: by becoming man, Christ has given grace to the universe and to all men. The supernatural elevation of grace appears thus as implicit in human nature, no more a gratuitous gift infinitely exceeding the natural order. If this is so, then natural life not the life of grace becomes the highest good.

Consequently, the final communication of the meeting between the Pontifical Commission for Relations with Judaism and representatives of the Great Rabbinate of Jerusalem (Grottaferrata, Feb. 27, 2003) affirms the "unique and superior" value of human life:

Any attack against the life of a human being runs contrary to the will of God, is a desecration of God’s Name, directly opposed to the teaching of the prophets. Taking any human life, including one’s own, even in the name of God, is sacrilegious.53

The pope and his theologians speak thus erroneously of the "holiness of life" when referring to natural life, and of "sacrilege" when referring to attacks against natural life erroneously, because they speak thus without any reference to either the preservation or the profanation of the supernatural goods.54

Dignity of the Human Person

Traditional Catholic doctrine has distinguished between the radical, or ontological, dignity of man and his terminal, or operative, dignity. The ontological dignity of man consists in his intellectual nature, capable of knowing the truth and of moving freely towards the good. It is necessary to remember, though, that human nature has been deeply wounded by original sin. "The natural dignity of man has suffered, as a consequence, a universal degradation that not even the grace of baptism can heal completely in Christians." 55 The operative dignity of man, on the other hand, consists in his actual adhesion to truth and good. The true dignity of man resides in his actual goodness, in his moral perfection, in his elevation to and correspondence with the supernatural order of grace.

Departing from these notions, the Conciliar and post-Conciliar doctrine has accepted the Kantian transcendental personalism. Choosing not to make reference to the fact of original sin, it has declared the inviolability of the person, the intangible dignity of man, identical for all, independently of the acts which ordain or should ordain the person to God and to the common good, and it has exalted "liberty of action to the extent of transforming it into the essence of the operative dignity of man." 56

Presumption Against War

On the basis of these erroneous notions, official utterances have condemned without distinction any taking of physical life murder, abortion, euthanasia, death penalty, war as a fundamental violation of the dignity of the human person and of the sacredness of life, and, therefore, as incompatible with the Gospel. Thus, in the worldwide opposition to the war against Iraq, it has been commonplace for Catholic commentators to emphasize that the Church’s moral assessment of the situation starts from a doctrinal "presumption against war."

Nevertheless, voices have been heard rightly pointing out that the "just war" tradition does not start theologically with a presumption against war, but with moral obligations of justice:57 the Catholic moral analysis departs, not from a presumption against war, but from a presumption for justice that is, not from the presumption that war has to be avoided, but from the conviction that justice must be done.

Opposing this notion and in line with its assertion of the sacredness of life, the modern magisterium reminds us that "the fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life." 58 The commandment, although usually abbreviated into "thou shalt not kill," has in fact a more precise formulation in Scripture: "Do not slay the innocent and righteous" (Ex. 23:7).59 The prohibition is not strictly about killing, but about killing the innocent and just, and, therefore, it does not allow us to presume the Church’s radical opposition to the taking away of a man’s life but only to the unjust taking of a life.

In a parallel manner, although the Church acknowledges war as a horror best to be avoided, she also knows that, at times, injustice may be a worse evil than war. Consequently, she does not forbid us to prepare for war, and declares it legitimate when it is necessary, allowing us to resist by force the violation of our fundamental rights to existence, justice and tranquility in order indeed, even demanding the use of military force as the duty of responsible governments.

Thus, the Church does not start with the presumption that the recourse to force is sinful and therefore cannot, in principle, be chosen. The Church, following the lead of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, treats the issue in terms of justice. War is licit —that is, it can be waged without sin —if it is just, and then only if it is just.

The Root of War

Consistent with the post-Conciliar doctrine on the dignity of man, Pope John Paul II asserts that "the spirit of war …springs up and grows to maturity where the inalienable rights of man are violated." 60 He has also succinctly pointed out both what he judges to be the source of war and the means towards a lasting peace:

There won’t be peace on earth as long as oppression of peoples, social injustices and economic imbalances persist. But for these large and desired structural changes, external initiatives and interventions will not be enough; a widespread conversion of hearts to love is needed first and foremost.61

Thus expressed, and compared with the spiritual depth of the preceding magisterium, this judgment, as we shall argue, is both superficial and naturalistic. It is a liberal and sociological explanation without any reference to the deep source from which the unjust acts of man spring the corruption of sin and the apostasy of nations. It expects the advent of peace through a change of social, political and economic structures and an indistinct "conversion of hearts to love" so indistinct that it is likely to be understood in a purely sentimental sense.

Legitimate Defense and Non-Violence

The modern magisterium accepts, in line with immemorial Tradition, that self-defense against an unjust aggression is a natural right, which may become a duty when an essential good is threatened. Traditional moral doctrine has asserted that, although we must always try first dialogue and negotiation as means to avoid the evil of war, the importance of certain goods justifies their defense even by force.

The modern magisterium, on the other hand, emphasizes and praises the non-violent responses to such threats, such as dialogue, negotiation, strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, etc. Vatican II tells us that the Church appears today "less committed to the necessary use of force, and more open to the application of non-violence," although still limiting such commitment to individuals rather than to states.62 The U.S. Episcopal Conference has presented non-violence as one stream of Catholic Tradition and as a valid option for today’s Catholics.63 The Catechism concludes, leaving open the option of non-violence even for states:

Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies.64

To evaluate the question of non-violence, Catholic Tradition has started by asserting that, although the same moral principles bind both individuals and the State, the two are not called to the same perfection, nor do they share the same destiny. Consequently, their rights and duties are not the same. The individual, called as he is to eternal life, may abandon almost all rights, even the right to continued physical existence, in view of his supra temporal end. If he can abandon his right to physical existence, it follows that he must be able to abdicate his lesser temporal rights, such as the right to defend himself and his property, in view of eternal life. Of course, when someone is responsible for the life of others or for the common good, he cannot abandon his right, but has the duty in justice to defend the others and himself for the sake of the others. However, the case of the State is different. Having no future life to look forward to, the state must secure its own well-being here below. Since it exists not for itself, but for the sake of its members, it cannot arbitrarily lay aside its trust. It is bound to labor for the interests of its members and to insist upon their rights being respected. There is thus no right of the state to yield to violence without any attempt at self-defense, and fighting a war may sometimes be not only licit but positively obligatory.65

The modern magisterium stresses the potential efficacy of non-violent strategies, highlighted by the dramatic political transitions in recent history; the independence of India, the success of the civil rights movement, the demise of the Soviet Union….These successes have led Pope John Paul II to affirm the growing suspicion of the Church of even the legitimate uses of force,66 seeing the Eastern European events of 1989 as a rebuff to even Christian realism, proving that in a fallen world justice can be achieved without the use of force: "The way the Cold War ended resulted in a seismic shift in Catholic thinking about non-violence." 67

It is unfortunate that the modern Church, otherwise so eager to stress the dependence of doctrinal formulations on changing historical circumstances, has failed to see what any historian worth his salt would have pointed out that the success of such non-violent responses was due to very precise concrete, historical circumstances, which are by no means universal, that is, which are not necessarily to be repeated in every future occasion. Thus, non-violence cannot be erected into a universal rule for addressing situations of conflict.

Nonetheless, it has become also commonplace for the post-Conciliar magisterium to assert that there are two courses of action in situations of conflict, each one the culmination of distinct and even opposed lines of moral reflection, non-violence and just war. The existence of these two streams of thought is said to be attested to already in the writings of the early Christian authors, and in the history of moral doctrines, which shows the tension and periodical shifting between these two streams of Tradition.68 The conclusion is that today, in our post-Vatican II era, given the increasing and improved moral awareness of mankind, there is a shift back to the non-violent tradition.

Vatican II encouraged a "return to the sources" of our Faith, and although it proclaimed itself more concerned with "pastoral" accommodations than with "doctrine," it was always understood that whatever the accommodation deemed necessary was, it will end up in an "evolution" of the traditional doctrine. Consequently, the post-Conciliar magisterium has not lost any opportunity to refer to the real or supposed practices of the Early Church to introduce changes in the received, pre-Conciliar doctrine. In this sense, much has been recently written on the supposed non-violence of the first Christians. But in fact, as Catholic historians can point out, testimonies of a direct opposition of the early Christians to military service or to its correlative, the waging of war, are almost non-existent. Some authors were opposed to the military profession indirectly, because of the pagan rituals and oaths that accompanied it, difficult to avoid in certain periods of Roman history. But the explicit condemnation of soldiering and war came only from a few heretics, as Tertullian, Tatian, and Marcion.

It is therefore excessive and misleading to assert that such non-violence is a long-attested stream of thought in Tradition. As we have said repeatedly, Catholic doctrine thinks in terms of the order of justice, which is the order of truth, preserved in charity. Post-Conciliar doctrine thinks in terms of a charity dissociated from truth and justice a sentimental benevolence, heart-warming of course, but unable to bring true peace into the world.

The Peace to Be Sought

The recent appeals to peace may be unquestionably sincere, but one would have expected that at least Catholic leaders would have seen the unfolding events supernaturally in the light of eternity. Unfortunately, it has not been so for a long time now. Pope Paul VI affirmed that "the new name for peace is development." 69 Pope John Paul II, coherent with his stress on the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person, has affirmed without further distinctions that peace is "the supreme good" to be achieved70 although Catholic Tradition never ceased to proclaim that the supreme good, the only true good, is the salvation of souls.

The source of peace is the redemption, the restoration of the true order between god and men, the reconciliation with God and the rest of the soul, thus received again in communion with God that is "the peace that the world cannot give." Secondarily, therefore, peace is the order of justice in charity in the world, rooted and founded in Christ. For that reason, God has always first demanded conversion and penance, and only afterwards has He promised and granted peace. The Angel in Fatima made this explicit when he demanded reparation for sins and prayer for sinners, promising that, in this manner, peace will come.

Pope John Paul II has pointed out that to attain a long-lasting peace unjust structures must be suppressed and a conversion of hearts achieved.71 Following suit, the U.S. Episcopal Conference has defined peace, not simply as the absence of war, but as the primacy of the global common good for political life, the social and economic development of nations and the solidarity between affluent and poor nations.72 What is that "global common good"? It is a global order oriented to the full development of all peoples; it is the commitment of governments to human rights and the existence of a global authority to solve the problems that individual governments cannot solve. So defined, it is a totally naturalistic "common good" without any reference to God or to a superior moral law, cast only in terms of political, social and economic structures and human rights.

John Paul’s vague call for a "conversion of hearts" to a new set of values in the moral and political order is, moreover, utopian, because it relies on unrealistic assumptions about the behavior of societies and individuals in situations of conflict, assumptions that are more consonant with the blindly optimistic hope instilled by two centuries of Masonic liberalism, rather than with the manifest experience of original sin.73 Even more, it is deceptive, because although the expression "conversion of hearts to love" may be given a Catholic meaning, further explanations are required to fix its meaning. As Pope John Paul II uses it here and in other parallel texts, by its very ambiguity it leads to and authorizes a naturalistic interpretation.

Vain is the attempt of Catholic leaders to obtain peace by diplomacy and change of "structures," without efficaciously invoking God. "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." 74 But far more vain is their attempt to obtain peace even by prayer, if that prayer is, in the spirit of the Assisi ecumenical meetings, the entreaty of all false religions to their false gods. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, in an interview with reporters after meeting with Iraqi officials in Baghdad, considered an auspicious sign for peace the coincidence of his visit with the Muslin festival of Eid, because "the shared respect for Abraham is sign of dialogue and friendship between Christians and Muslims." 75 Pope John Paul II, in an allocution to the North African bishops, encouraged them to work for a lasting peace, not by preaching the Gospel, but by promoting the dialogue with Muslims "to increase religious liberty and mutual respect, which are fundamental elements of personal and social life…." 76

As the great Bossuet said, "God laughs at prayers made to avert public evils, when nothing is done to oppose that which attracts those evils." 77

The United Nations

In reasserting just-war doctrine, Vatican II imposed a restriction, by saying that civil governments cannot be denied the use of force in legitimate defense as long as there is "no competent and sufficiently powerful authority at the international level." 78

It is certainly undeniable that the actual nation-state system is a political structure not necessarily settled down for the ages it did not exist many centuries ago, nothing allows us to presume that it will last forever. It is also undeniable that it is possible to postulate circumstances in which even a state’s rights may be restricted to obtain a higher common good. In a modern world of increased mutual interaction and solidarity of nations, military conflicts have the capacity to expand and to compromise severely the international order. In consequence, today’s threshold of what constitutes the common good must be raised to include, in certain extraordinary cases, the higher common good of that international order.79 To oversee and protect that order, obviously, some kind of organization must exist, and the Popes have joined their voices to those who, in the aftermath of devastating wars, have demanded the establishment of a world organization for peace.

But the goal of modern decision-makers is the realization of the ideal of a single world state, which will, all by itself, usher in an age of peace, perfect and secure life, and the UN was intended to be the first step towards the establishment of one world-state. The radical flaw of such program is that everlasting peace is to be built without Christ, in an ecumenical, indifferentist spirit. The lesser flaw is that all of them have their own political agendas and are only hypocritical supporters of the notion of an "international community."

Success having eluded them until now, the architects of the New World Order have enlisted the aid of the Church, acknowledging her experience in the field of unifying widely diverse peoples in a common aim. Modern churchmen have dutifully complied, creating a new-fangled doctrine of unity without Christ, on the principle of "human dignity" a secularist religion for a secularized world, of which the meetings of Assisi are but the founding stages.

Pope Paul VI, in his historic visit to the U.S. in 1965, endorsed with his authority the UN and its mission:

We are [convinced] that this Organization represents the obligatory path of modern civilization and of world peace…. The peoples of the earth turn to the United Nations as the last hope of concord and peace…. We should almost say that your chief characteristic is a reflection, as it were, in the temporal field of what our Catholic Church aspires to be in the spiritual field: unique and universal. In the ideological construction of mankind, on the natural level, one can conceive nothing superior to this.80

All this being said, making abstraction from the fact that the UN is not inspired by Christian principles and not leading to the building of a Christian world.

In spite of such praises and expectations, the UN, as it exists today, does not have any real power. From its very inception, it has had only the authority that the state-members have condescended to delegate upon the organization, and true power is still wielded by the nations forming the Security Council. The UN itself lacks sovereignty and the consequent capacity to overrule the sovereign claims of the state-members. It also lacks cohesion in its policies and decisions, due to the varying interests of the controlling state-members, and effective independent means to enforce its resolutions in the field.81 And after the face-off with America on the question of the Iraqi war, many are convinced that the UN has to be consigned to the ash-heap of history, restricted to distributing humanitarian aid, or, as Clifford May82 crudely put it, "to handing out cookies and bandages." 83

"Functional" Pacifism

In conclusion, in spite of all the assertions to the contrary, the new Catholic position is functional pacifism.84 What is it? Absolute pacifism is the principled opposition to all use of force, for whatever reason, exemplified in Mahatma Gandhi’s ahimsa, "non-violence." Functional pacifism is not opposed in principle to the use of force, but it never finds its conditions fulfilled in concrete situations.

Archbishop Renato Martino85 has explicitly pointed out that the evolving position of the Church on retributive justice, which has led to the reconsideration of its doctrine on capital punishment, is mirrored in the evolution of the position on war, which perhaps will lead to the discarding of the just war criteria as outmoded86 and to the adoption of a position that may be termed "Christian pacifism." 87

Modern Catholic leaders have already done that in practice. They have substituted bland and pious generalities for the judicious application of just-war principles, and condemned military action without offering realistic alternative means of securing justice and peace.88 Just-war doctrine has been already reduced to de facto pacifism by placing the threshold for just war so absurdly high that no set of facts could ever meet it, rapidly turning it into the unjust war doctrine that is, into a doctrinal proposition that stresses the presumption of the injustice of all wars, rather than the conditions of justice of a morally licit war.

  1. Philip F. Lawler, editor of The Catholic World Report.
  2. Moulard, 21-22.

  3. Moulard, 23.

  4. Leo XIII, Allocution to Cardinals, 1889, Feb. 11 (Solesmes nn. 37, 39). Benedict XV, encyc. Ad Beatissimi, 1914, Nov. 1 (Solesmes nn. 67-68).

  5. Pius XI, encyc. Quas Primas, 1925, Dec. 11 (Solesmes n. 203).

  6. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1941, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 420-423).

  7. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1942, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 433); Pius IX, Syllabus, 1864, Dec. 8 (Solesmes n. 24).

  8. Pius XI, encyc. Ubi Arcano, 1922, Dec. 23 (Solesmes n. 193), and encyc. Caritate Christi Compulsi, 1932, May 3 (Solesmes nn. 210-211).

  9. Pius XII, encyc. Summi Pontificatus, 1939, Oct. 20 (Solesmes n. 282).

  10. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1941, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 401 ff.), and Allocution to the Ambassador of Bolivia, 1940, Aug. 10 (Solesmes n. 354).

  11. Leo XIII, Allocution to Cardinals, 1889, Feb. 11 (Solesmes n. 40).

  12. St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, b. XIX, ch. 7, quoted by Pius XII, Allocution to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 1948, Feb. 8 (Solesmes n. 654).

  13. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1948, Dec. 24 (Solesmes n. 695).

  14. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1948, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 689, 694).

  15. Pius XII, Allocution to the U. S. Military Committee, 1947, Oct. 8 (Solesmes n. 632).

  16. Pius XII, letter Dum Diffracta, 1943, Aug. 5, to Cardinal Maglione (Solesmes n. 448).

  17. St. Pius X, Telegram to the International Peace Congress, 1906, Nov. 3 (Solesmes n. 55); Letter of Cardinal Merry del Val to Mr. Moneta, President of that Congress (Solesmes n. 56).

  18. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1939, Aug. 24 (Solesmes nn. 259-261).

  19. Pius XII, Allocution to the Ambassador of Belgium, 1939, Sept. 14 (Solesmes n. 267).

  20. Leo XIII, Allocution to Cardinals, 1889, Feb. 11 (Solesmes n. 42).

  21. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1948, Dec. 24 (Solesmes n. 694), and Allocution to the International Congress on Penal Law, 1953, Oct. 3 (Solesmes n. 793).

  22. Pius XI, Allocution to Spanish Refugees, 1936, Sept. 14 (Solesmes n. 233). Clement XIII, letter De Periculis, 1767, Apr. 30 (Solesmes nn. 4-5). Pius XII, letter Sie Haben, 1955, June 27, to the Bishop of Augsburg on the anniversary of the Battle of Lechfeld (Solesmes n. 831), and Allocution to the Polish in Rome, 1944, Nov. 15 (Solesmes n. 517).

  23. Pius XII, Allocution to the World Congress of Medicine, 1954, Sept. 30 (Solesmes n. 813).

  24. Pius XII, Allocution to Military Doctors, 1953, Oct. 19 (Solesmes n. 799).

  25. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1941, Dec. 24 (Solesmes n. 427).

  26. Benedict XV, Allocution to the Sacred College, 1920, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 159-164).

  27. Pius XII, encyc. Summi Maeroris, 1950, Jul. 19 (Solesmes nn. 739-748).

  28. Pius XII, encyc. Summi Maeroris, 1950, Jul. 19 (Solesmes n. 740).

  29. Pius XII, encyc. Auspicia Quaedam, 1948, May 1 (Solesmes n. 657), and Allocution to the Ambassador of Belgium, 1939, Sept. 14 (Solesmes n. 267).

  30. Pius XII, Allocution to U. S. Congressmen, 1945, Aug. 21 (Solesmes n. 543).

  31. Pius XII, homily Exsultet Jam, 1940, March 24 (Solesmes n. 319).

  32. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1943, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 482-483).

  33. Pius XII, encyc. Summi Pontificatus, 1939, Oct. 20 (Solesmes nn. 276-280).

  34. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1943, Sept. 1 (Solesmes nn. 452-454).

  35. Benedict XV, Allocution to the Sacred College, 1919, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 151-154).

  36. Pius XII, Allocution to the Ambassador of Equator, 1948, Jul. 13 (Solesmes nn. 665-666).

  1. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1944, Sept. 1 (Solesmes n. 509).

  2. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1941, Dec. 24 (Solesmes n. 427).

  4. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1948, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 700-701).
  5. Pius XI, encyc. Ubi Arcano, 1922, Dec. 23 (Solesmes n. 193), and encyc. Caritate Christi Compulsi, 1932, May 3 (Solesmes n. 213).

  6. Pius XII, encyc. Summi Pontificatus, (Solesmes n. 283).

  7. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1948, Dec. 24 (Solesmes n. 686).

  8. Pius XII, homily Exsultet Jam, 1940, March 24 (Solesmes nn. 319-320).

  9. Pius XII, Allocution to the Sacred College, 1946, Dec. 24 (Solesmes nn. 613-614).

  10. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1943, Sept. 1 (Solesmes n. 456).

  11. Coomaraswamy, 67.

  12. Amerio, 441.

  13. Christiansen, After Sept. 11, 35.

  14. See Georges de Nantes, 4.

  15. Gaudium et Spes, n. 22; Evangelium Vitae, n.2. Also John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, n. 22.

  16. Evangelium Vitae, n.2.

  17. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, nn. 25-27.

  18. L’Osservatore Romano (weekly edition), 2003, March 12, n. 11, p.5.

  19. DICI, March 15, 2003, n.72, p.2.

  20. Lefebvre, 20.

  21. Lefebvre, 22.

  22. Weigel, 8.

  23. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2307.

  24. The same in Jer. 7:6.

  25. Address to the 34th General Assembly of The United Nations, October 2, 1979, in The Pope in America, 14.

  26. Homily on Ash Wednesday, in Santa Sabina (Rome), L’Osservatore Romano (weekly edition), 2003, March 12, p.2. The same in Centesimus Annus and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  27. Gaudium et Spes, nn.78-79.

  28. The Challenge of Peace, (1983) and The Harvest of Peace Is Sown in Justice, (1993).

  29. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.2306.

  30. Iscara, Just War, 13.

  31. Centessimus Annus, n.25.

  32. Christiansen, After Sept. 11, 37.

  33. UCCB/USCC, "The Harvest of Peace Is Sown in Justice."

  34. Encyclical Populorum Progressio.

  35. Address in L’Osservatore Romano, January 6, 1991. Quoted in Documentation sur la Révolution dans l’Eglise, bull. n. 2 (October 2002).

  36. Homily on Ash Wednesday, in Santa Sabina (Rome), L’Osservatore Romano (weekly edition), 2003, March 12, p.2. The same in Centesimus Annus and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  37. UCCB/USCC, "The Harvest of Peace Is Sown in Justice."

  38. See Langan, 89.

  39. Ps. 126:1.

  40. Origins, Feb. 20, 2003, Vol. 32, n.36, p.2

  41. L’Osservatore Romano (weekly edition), 2003, March 5, n. 10, p.3.

  42. Quoted in DICI, March 1, 2003, n.71, p.2.

  43. Gaudium et Spes, n.79.

  44. See Iscara, "Might Is not Right."

  45. Address to the UN General Assembly, October 4, 1965, in The Pope’s Visit, 26-27.

  46. See Johnson, Morality, 58-61.

  47. Former Republican Party official, now president of a Washington think-tank.

  48. See Polman.

  49. Steinfels.

  50. Former Apostolic Nuncio to the US, and now President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

  51. As the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica, connected to the Vatican’s Secretary of State, has also suggested.

  52. Christiansen, "Whither the Just War," 10-11.

  53. See Lawler.

Bibliographical references
Amerio, Romano. Iota Unum. A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century. Kansas City MO; Sarto House, 1997.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1997 (2nd ed.).

Christiansen, Drew S.J., "After Sept. 11: Catholic Teaching on Peace and War." Origins, May 30, 2002 (vol. 32, n. 3).

Christiansen, Drew S.J., "Whither the ‘Just War’?" America, Mar. 24, 2003.

Coomaraswamy, Rama. The Destruction of the Christian Tradition. London: Perennial Books, 1981.

Georges De Nantes, R. P. "L’humanisme chrétien." La Contre-Réforme catholique, Sept. 1972, n.60.

Gregory, Bishop Wilton. "Serious Ethical Questions on War with Iraq." Origins, Mar. 13, 2003 (vol. 32, n. 39).

Iscara, Juan Carlos, SSPX. "Just War. Catholic Doctrine and Some Modern Problems." The Angelus, July 2002.

John Paul II. The Gospel of Life. New York: Times Books, 1995.

Johnson, James Turner. Can modern war be just? New Haven MA: Yale University Press, 1984.

Langan, John S.J. The Western Moral Tradition on War: Christian Theology and Warfare, in: Kelsay, JohnJohnson, James Turner (eds.). Just War and Jihad. Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Lawler, Philip F. "A Lost Chance for Moral Leadership." The Catholic World Report, Mar. 2003.

Lefebvre, Archbishop Marcel. Religious Liberty Questioned. Kansas City MO: Angelus Press, 2002.

Martino, Archbishop Renato. "The Essential Dimensions of Disarmament Today." Origins, Oct. 17, 2002 (vol. 32, n. 19).

Moulard, Anatole. "El beneficio de la guerra." Jesus Christus, May-June 1998.

"On the Eve of War." Inside the Vatican, March 2003.

Polman, Dick. "UN could be latest casualty of Iraq war." Winona Daily News, April 12, 2003.

The Pope in America. The Addresses of Pope John Paul II during his Historic Visit to the United states, Oct. 1-7, 1979. St. Paul MN: The Wanderer Press, 1979.

Simoulin, Michel, SSPXLorans, Alan, SSPX. Le nouveau Catéchisme de l’Église Catholique est-il catholique? Eguelshardt: Fideliter, 1993.

Solesmes. La paix internationale. I: La guerre moderne. Tournai: Desclée, 1956. [Les Enseignements Pontificaux].

Steinfels, Peter. "Beliefs. The Just-War Tradition, its Last Resort Criterion and the Debate on an Invasion of Iraq." The New York Times, Mar. 1, 2003.

The Pope’s Visit. New York: Time-Life Books, 1965.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Harvest of Justice Is Sown in Peace. A Reflection of the National Conference of Catholics Bishops on the Tenth Anniversary of "The Challenge of Peace." 1993, Nov. 17.

Weigel, George. "The Just War Case for the War." America, March 31, 2003. © 2013                    home                    contact