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Catholic Doctrine and Some Modern Problems

Written by Fr. Juan Carlos Iscara, professor at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, MN and originally published in the July 2002 issue of The Angelus

God at times lets trials befall individuals and peoples, trials of which the malice of men is the instrument in a design of justice directed towards the punishment of sin, towards purifying persons and peoples through the expiations of this present life and bringing them back by this way to Himself.  Pope Pius XII, June 29, 1941

Men have always had an ambivalence, a simultaneous horror and fascination about the violent shedding of blood. Many have reflected on this paradox —that nothing is more contrary to human nature, nothing so abhorrent as violent bloodshed. At the same time, however, nothing we do is done with less repugnance, even with enthusiasm.1

This ambivalence has conditioned man’s reflection on war, leading to two extreme conceptions. The first sees war as an absolute, indiscriminate curse, focusing on the pain, suffering, and physical evil that it entails. Thus, we consider all wars as satanic, without admitting that any motive could justify such suffering, loss and waste. General Sherman —to quote somebody who knew what war was about —said: "It is only those who have neither fired a shot, nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell."

At the other extreme, waging war is conceived as the noblest and most exciting deed that a man can do. In this conception, war, even its very violence and the exhilaration that accompanies the raw physical power exercised in the destruction of lives and things, becomes something to be longed for, and any occasion to fight is good.

There is, however, also a third conception, the Christian understanding of war.

War is still a physical evil, with suffering and loss, and, at the same time, the cause of moral evils which will perhaps accidentally follow —souls will be called before the judgment seat of God without being prepared, or called in the drunkenness of massacre, or in the hatred for the enemy. As such, war is a consequence of original sin, a feature of our present fallen state.

In the Litany of the Saints we pray, "From pestilence, famine and war, O Lord, deliver us." Plague and famine are natural catastrophes beyond our control, and that makes clear that God permits them for His own providential designs. Together with them is included war, an evil of our doing. In this manner, the Church reminds us that as God uses the virtuous acts of men as instruments of His Providence, so also the sins men choose to commit are allowed by God, in respect of the freedom He has given us, and are used as instruments of His design of salvation for other men.

What does it mean to trust in God? …It means believing that nothing in this world escapes his providence, whether in the universal or in the particular order; that nothing great or small happens which is not foreseen, willed or permitted, directed always by providence to its exalted ends, which in this world are always inspired by love for men. It means believing that god can permit at times here below for some time pre-eminence of atheism and of impiety, the lamentable obscuring of a sense of justice, the violation of law, the tormenting of innocent, peaceful, undefended, helpless men. It means believing that God at times thus lets trials befall individuals and peoples, trials of which the malice of men is the instrument in a design of justice directed towards the punishment of sin, towards purifying persons and peoples through the expiations of this present life and bringing them back by this way to Himself; but it means believing at the same time that this justice always remains here below the justice of a Father inspired and dominated by love…. It means believing finally that the fierce intensity of the trial, like the triumph of evil, will endure even here below only for a fixed time and no longer; that the hour of God will come, the hour of mercy, the hour of holy rejoicing, the hour of the new canticle of liberation, the hour of exultation and joy, the hour in which, after having let the hurricane loose for a moment on humanity, the all-powerful hand of the Heavenly Father with an imperceptible motion will detain it and disperse it, and, by ways little known to the mind or to the hopes of men, justice, calm and peace will be restored to the nations. 2

The Christian should see war, then, as a mystery of divine providence: "When you hear talk of war and rumors of war, do not be disturbed: because it is necessary that these things happen…." 3

Firstly, as a providential means of expiation for our sins:  war becomes the opportunity for us to acknowledge the error of our ways, and, perhaps, even the beginning of a conversion.

That there is blessing we have no doubt: such inducements as the urgent putting of our souls in the state of grace if need be; the discharge of some long-neglected duty, such as making a will, paying a debt, forgiving an injury; suffering a salutary reduction of one’s pride of life; being forced to face in a novel, vivid way the four last things; and being so deprived on every side that we are compelled to look to the one thing left to us, the saving of our souls. It may even be that God sends these abrupt blessings for very serious reasons, as when Catholics have grown complacent intellectually and deteriorated morally, and need to be aroused to their true business of salvation by severe awakening. Hora est iam nos de somno surgere….4

War is also a providential means of expiation and correction of the sins of societies, which have to be expiated, not in the next life, but here on earth.

Secondly, war is also the occasion for the practice of virtues in a heroic degree, and among these, piety towards one’s country is not the least, as Charles Péguy5 so beautifully wrote:

Blessed are those who have died for their carnal cities, for these are the body of the City of God. Blessed are those who have died for their hearth and their fire, and the humble honors of their fathers’ homes. For these are the image and the beginning and the body and the shadow of the house of God. Blessed are those who have died in that embrace, in honor’s grasp and earthly faith. Because honor’s embrace is the beginning and the test of an eternal faith. Blessed are those who have died in this crushing, in the accomplishment of this earthly vow. For earth’s vow is the beginning and the first trial of faithfulness. Blessed are those who have died in this coronation and in this obedience, and in this humility. Blessed are those who have died, for they have returned to primeval clay and primeval dust. Blessed are those who have died in a just war. Blessed are the ripe grain and the harvested wheat.

 Finally, in the moral assessment of the concrete wars to be fought, the Christian does not wait until war is declared, and then through the manipulation of propaganda, emotion or slogans, decide whether it is just or unjust–that is, whether is morally good or evil, and consequently, whether it is permissible or not to fight it. He is guided by a body of principles of justice, anterior to any conflict, grounded in the Eternal Reason of God.

 Nevertheless, even for the Christian there exists the danger of exalting war as such, as it is willed and carried on by men. War as such is always a disaster and a crime, at least materially and at least on one of the belligerent sides. Then, the present article does not intend to praise war, but to spell out the circumstances in which a Catholic can participate in it, in any capacity, without sin.


St. Thomas defines war as "a fight in the name of the authority of civil society, against enemies from without." 6

International law (The Hague Convention, 1907) elaborates on this notion, defining war as "the state of armed fight between two or more independent nations, trying to obtain by force of arms what they couldn’t obtain by negotiation, either to make their pretensions prevail, or to defend themselves against the pretensions of others."  In these terms, "war" requires a "state of fight," not just a single combat, a state that may exist even when no actual combat has taken place. War is waged between "independent nations" not between individual citizens of those nations, taken either isolated or collectively, but only between the nations themselves, as polities, public persons.

Defensive and Offensive Wars

A just defensive war is one that is made to repel an unjust aggression, and is always permissible. But "defensive" must be understood in a wide sense. A country could go to war defensively for several reasons. Firstly, it might fight in order to impede an imminent violation of rights, or a violation which has already begun, even if the enemy has not actually taken up arms yet. Secondly, it might fight in order to demand compensation and/or reparation for material or moral damage which was inflicted upon it by another country. Finally, it could go to war in order to make certain a more lasting and solid peace, if confronted with a volatile enemy who otherwise would be always dangerous. In the above possibilities, what actually seems to be an aggressive action is in reality no more than a legitimate defense.7

A defensive war is always, in principle, just. An offensive war may or may not be just.8

A just offensive war is one that arises without a present aggression, but is waged in order to obtain satisfaction or vengeance of a past aggression. Such a war is just if it can be ascertained that an injury, an unjust damage has been inflicted in the past. This type of war is in theory permissible, but the application of the theory to the concrete situation is hardly ever so simple. Usually, it would not be permissible in practice, for the insufficiency of motives would not justify it against the grave evils that follow upon war.

An unjust offensive war, on the other hand, is that which is supported by the party whose actions, without any previous provocation, have made inevitable the war, even if it has not made the first material hostilities.

Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello

The criteria to determine whether a war is just are distributed between two sets of conditions, usually called by moralists jus ad bellum ("right to war," the cause of war) and jus in bello ("right in war," the conduct of war).

Jus ad Bellum

Jus ad bellum refers, then, to the reasons that justify a country’s going to war. As laid down in the Catholic tradition and given a definitive formulation by St. Thomas Aquinas, there are basic moral conditions that are required for the justification of war, and these conditions are closely intertwined with each other.

The first condition is a just cause, e.g., the protection and/or preservation of a nation and its values. It is the defense of self or others, done in order to protect the innocents against an unjust aggression. This just cause could also be the retaking of what was unjustly taken, or the punishment of another nation for a grave evil inflicted.

Secondly, it is required that the competent authorities declare the state of war and authorize the use of force. Whether this competent authority is a person or a body of men, it must be the duly authorized representative of a sovereign political entity. This stands to reason, since the authorization to use force implies the ability to control and terminate the same use. So, ultimately, the use of force is reserved to those persons or communities who have no political superior.

The third condition required is a right intention, i.e., the intent is in agreement with the just cause. The intention must not be simply for territorial expansion, intimidation, or coercion. All hatred of the enemy, implacable animosity, lust for vengeance, and desire to dominate are to be avoided. those who are fighting a moral war should never say "vae victis" —"woe to the conquered." The aim of fighting a war should be to obtain peace. Such an explicit and objective aim is a positive indicator of the right intention of the combatant: to achieve a better stability, security, or peaceful interaction that cannot be obtained otherwise.

There are also prudential considerations, which must be applied in order to judge the jus ad bellum.9 The first thing that must be ascertained is whether there will be a proportionate use of means to the end. The overall good that is to be achieved by the use of force must be greater than the harm that will be inflicted upon the community by the war. There must be a reasonable expectation that the means used will be adequate to achieve the end sought. Since the whole rationale for going to war is the preservation of the common good, if the war is going to threaten this good proportionally more, then the war has to be renounced. Prudence, justice, and charity towards one’s subjects must drive all these determinations. Secondly, the war must be a last resort. War may be chosen only when it is reasonably determined that there exists no alternative way to achieve the end sought. Lastly, there must be some good hope or probability of success, of winning the war, since defeat brings such great evils to the common good.

The omission of any of these prudential considerations does not invalidate by itself the moral justification of war arising from the above listed three essential requirements. Extreme cases may exist when the only moral course is to take action that is, in everyday estimation, "imprudent" —such as the Polish or Belgian heroic but doomed resistance to the German aggression in WWII.10

Jus in Bello

By jus in bello we understand the actual moral conduct in a war. The criteria are numerous, and are acknowledged in international law, which is itself usually based upon natural law.

Firstly, a formal declaration of war, which has been preceded by an ultimatum, is required. Secondly, a proportionality of means must be observed in the conduct of war. That is, the country may use no more force than is necessary to vindicate the just cause. Even more, one must avoid all means that will produce unnecessary harm to the foe (for example, no torture is to be used or any other means which are intrinsically evil). Thirdly, discrimination must be made between combatants and non-combatants. War is waged against the juridical person of the enemy state, not against individuals as such. There must be no direct and intentional harm done to non-combatants, and in fact, efforts must be made to protect them.

Finally, since the aim of war is peace, the surrender of the enemy state should be accepted, and not demanded unconditionally. Moderation should exist as to the sanctions and reparations imposed on the defeated parties. Satisfaction of the rights for which the war was started should be secured, and reparation for the damages unjustly inflicted should be made. Moderate precautions can be taken for future security, but more importantly, the restitution of the international order is to be secured by a just cooperation between the nations. The international order must be restored to peace by the humaneness of the victor, who should never force those defeated to despair.

Just War

It is certain that there are some conditions in which war is licit and even necessary. It was not infrequent in the history of the Hebrew people that they received orders from God to wage war against their neighbors. The Tradition of the Church has always held that, under the given conditions, it is licit to take up arms. Even Pius XII, who passes an otherwise severe judgment on the evils of modern warfare, concedes this fundamental right of nations —a right without which their national independence would be more truly an international joke, depending solely on the whim of the surrounding nations.

It stands to reason. If the governing authority in a sovereign state were to lack the means necessary for preserving that state and its common good, then such an authority would be fundamentally flawed. Some nations may be so flawed due to defect (nations with no military power), but to say they are so flawed due to design would be an accusation against the wisdom of God himself, from whom all authority comes. Yet, as recourse to war is sometimes the only way in which the common good can be preserved, it follows that such a war must be permissible in the eyes of God.

It is from this moral aspect —vice or virtue —that St. Thomas considers the question. A nation at war: does it receive God’s benediction or malediction?  St. Thomas briefly considers the topic in his treatise on charity, as war is obviously opposed to one of charity’s effects, that of peace.11  The direct destruction of peace and the indirect attack on charity show the malice of war. This malice is only avoided if the war is ultimately oriented towards peace, as was the rising in the Vendée during the French Revolution in which the Catholic peasantry attempted to restore the king to his throne, to ensure the free practice of the Faith, and to end the terror of the revolutionaries.

However, making war to make peace sounds like a rather hazy principle. Therefore, in determining whether war is sinful or not, 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. If the conditions of justice are met, then the recourse to armed force is truly an instrument for peace. The Angelic Doctor’s treatment of the subject is contained in one article which should be read.12  He answers the objection sometimes used by those called "pacifists" in which Christ forbids the use of the sword. It is here also that he lays down the conditions that will act as guidelines for determining what does or does not constitute a just war.

These guidelines are very general. Our "quick-fix" mentality may deem them too general because their application requires patience, study, and prudential discernment. But the advantage, as is the advantage of any general guideline, is that they can be applied to many different cases. In this case, the conditions are based on immutable moral principles and are thus applicable to all wars.

Legitimate Authority

When considering the moral problem of war, the first difficulty medieval theologians came across was the fact that, on account of the feudal fragmentation of society, many local authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical, had armed forces at their disposal. In these circumstances, the first moral problem was the determination of who has the right to use armed force against his adversaries. Such is not the case today —except in places as Afghanistan, Central Asia, Africa, where a myriad of tribal warlords exercise the real power, in spite of the democratic illusions of the West —and St. Thomas’s answer seems to us more obvious than it was for his contemporaries. He asserts that the only authority which may licitly draw the nation into war is the public authority, the "prince" –by which he means the head of a sovereign political society. However, it is clear that this right is not granted to the political leader as a private individual, but solely as he is charged with the public power to uphold the common good.

Since the purpose of the public authority is to preserve the direction of society towards the common good, the prince’s exercise of that authority is justified whenever he acts truly for that end. Thus, it is then, in view of the public good, that the prince may use force against any who attempt to disturb the order of his state, whether they be enemies attacking from within or without. This is confirmed by St. Paul who says that, while princes are ministers of God for men’s good, they also act as ministers of God when they "execute wrath upon him that doth evil."13

The great theologians of the 16th century —Vitoria, Cajetan and Suárez —did much to elaborate this thought and explain the reasons behind it.14

A key principle is that the authority of the state is not derived from any pact or contract between men, even though such contracts may determine who will hold the authority. Authority itself, with its corollary right to punish, comes from God alone. The importance of this principle on the source of authority prompts a more detailed explanation. Because man, by his very nature, is made for life in society with others, God has endowed society with all the necessary means for preserving itself. Of these, the existence and exercise of authority is the most important, to coordinate the actions of the individuals towards the attainment of the social aim, the common good, to coerce those who oppose it, and to punish those who violate it. Yet no individual, as such, has any natural supremacy over other men, nor has he as an individual the right to punish. Much less has he the right to punish by killing. Consequently, the state’s power to kill cannot come from men. The state has this power by divine right.15

The right to punish is intended primarily for use against evildoers within the state. However, this same power is extended to cases in which the evildoers are foreigners. In such cases, the first approach is to ask the proper authority to punish the evildoer. If the foreign authority fails to do so, or if that very authority is responsible for the evil done, what then? In justice, the authority that the offending state has refused to exercise passes over to the offended state, and the latter, by its temporal authority, has the right to punish. War is, in this manner, nothing other than the execution of a judicial sentence; it is an act of vindictive justice.

This means that the state which declares war is acting as a judge of its enemies. And although the judging of one’s own enemies may seem somewhat unjust itself (and is open to abuse, as in the Nuremberg trials), it is an indisputable necessity. We know that a private individual is permitted to repel force by force, and no more. How is it that a state may not only do this, but likewise punish the injustice of which it has been the victim? The reason is that each state must be self-sufficient. If it cannot punish foreign evildoers, it would be imperfect, incomplete —because if all foreign evildoers could escape punishment, this would be a defect in the natural order in matters of supreme importance.16 To have peace within the state, there must be a legitimate power to punish crimes of subjects. So too, for peace in the world, there must be a power to punish violations of justice between states. Since there is no superior power to the states themselves, this power to punish must reside in the sovereign to whom the others become subject because of their fault. A war of this kind takes the place of a sentence of vindictive justice.17

Ultimately, the preservation of the common good is the core principle that must determine whether the use of force is permissible. This is true even in modern international law, which acknowledges that resorting to force is justifiable in matters of defense. It also concedes that military force may be used as an interventionary measure in the interests of the international common good, for example, against international terrorism, international drug traffic, systematic violation of universally recognized human rights, etc.18

However, this can also lead to more dubious questions such as intervention under international auspices (i.e., the United Nations) in the affairs of a nation that has not yet committed any wrongdoing. Recent events have given a new urgency to the moral question whether the common good of a sovereign nation should only be considered "in reference to" (i.e. as subordinated to) the true common good of the society of nations.

Just Cause

It was the opinion of Macchiavelli that, in politics, the morality of an action is to be determined in the relation between what it intends to achieve and whether or not it successfully achieves it. In short, "might makes right":  if the action succeeded it was right; if it did not, it was wrong. Hence, the wars that we have won were morally right, and those that we lost were morally wrong.

This is a far cry from Christian thought. As St. Augustine says: "A just war is that which punishes injustice"; those attacked deserve the attack and consequent punishment due to their own fault. Causes for war are endless: human imperfection, insufficient reasoning, ambition, low personal, public, and international morality....Whatever the cause may be, one must be able to say that a fault has been committed; moreover, it must be a fault against justice. It does not necessarily have to be committed by the community as such or by its public powers. A private individual may have perpetrated the wrong. If the society to which they belong refuses to repair the injury, that society itself becomes responsible. There is no other motive that can render a war licit, not even interest or necessity. For neither the community nor an individual can attack the goods of another unless this other has committed an injustice which demands reparation.

The goal of the war must be to restore the due order in the state and to punish those culpable for disrupting it. Hence, the use of force may be rightfully employed in three ways: first, as a defense against an unjust attack; second, for the restoration or recuperation of what was unjustly taken; third, for the punishment of unjust aggressors.

Contemporary international law narrows this notion of "just cause" to defense. This defense may be understood in the traditional sense of one nation or group of nations repelling military attacks made by another nation, or in the wider sense of an internationally sanctioned defense against breaches of international peace.19  Nevertheless, this one concept of "defense" is broad enough to include the other two concepts of recuperation and punishment. Thomistic principles continue to underlie the present international laws on war even though the legal vocabulary has changed, a change that reflects the modern view that the first use of force in a conflict is morally suspect, while the second use is not, and it is simply considered "defense."

Let us consider in a little more detail the three occasions for using force. First, as a matter of defense, war is licit when there is a question of defending the poor or the common good.20  This is simply an application of the natural law: just as it is obvious that every man has the right to preserve his own existence, so too does the state have the natural right to employ a legitimate defense.

Yet, no war is won simply by being defensive. Why don’t the overt attacks on others, ambushes, etc., fall under the sin of homicide? In answer, one must note that not every voluntary killing is sinful.21 Execution (which is a voluntary killing) of an evildoer is permitted to the public authority in view of the common good. The executioner enforcing the sentence of the judge, and the soldier fighting for his country, both act on permission of the public authority in the interests of the common good. Consequently, the position of a soldier on the front and a vigilante at home is not the same, because the former acts on public authority, the latter on his own. The individual can only will his own defense, and can therefore use only those means that are strictly required to save his life. The state, on the other hand, can directly will the death of the guilty (whether criminal or war enemy) for the common good.

This brings us to the second point: war as a means of restoration of a violated right, to regain what has been unjustly taken away. When speaking of defense, we referred to an aggression during the time in which the injury is being committed. Among private individuals, the time for defense is limited to the time of the unjust aggression. For example, a man cannot shoot his neighbor out of "self-defense" a week after his neighbor shoots at him —he must instead have recourse to the authorities. In national security, however, the public authority does not necessarily have hope of recourse. Consequently, its retaliation against a past aggression may still legitimately be called a matter of defense because the injury continues being inflicted (and so violence is still being exercised) throughout the entire time that the aggressor refuses to return what he has taken or to amend the violation he has made. The use of force to recover what was lost thereby becomes legitimate, if force is the only means to do so. From all that has been said it should be clear that the public authority is the only one that can decide that the state must resort to force, no matter how strongly private individuals in the state may feel the injury.

Thirdly, there is the aspect of vengeance —the right, and sometimes even the duty, to punish evildoers.22  Of course, a certain punishment is already included in the very exercise of legitimate defense and the restoration of violated rights. The defeat inflicted on the unjust aggressor, and all that defeat entails, already has some of the qualities of punishment and expiation. However, vengeance can go further —the victor is sometimes entitled to inflict a separate penalty above and beyond that contained in the military defeat and in the vindication of the violated right. This is because justice demands more than simply disarming the aggressor (rendering him incapable of doing further damage) and despoiling him of what he had unjustly taken. This would only be a return to the former status quo, and would effectively argue in favor of statesmen taking whatever they could whenever they could, since the worst that would happen would be that their state would be returned to its present position. Justice requires that the criminal also make satisfaction for his guilt, and this is the object of vengeance.

Vengeance as understood here is not to be taken in the common sense of revenge, of "getting even" by rendering evil for evil -vengeance must not proceed from the malicious will to injure one’s adversary.23  The motive for true vengeance is the good that will result from it, which is manifold. The culpable party makes amendment for his crime, or he is at least kept from doing further damage. The authority maintains public order by repressing evils as they appear. It is a safeguard for future justice since others will be deterred from similar crimes in fear of similar retribution. And it upholds the honor of God, the Just Judge, whom men are called to imitate.

Not surprisingly, vengeance easily lends itself to abuse. The public authority’s right to punish depends on many circumstances which render its practical application extremely delicate; its exercise requires great prudence, and it is, in fact, itself a virtue.24  Man’s irascible appetite is naturally inclined towards it, and thus it seeks that the wicked and violent always be repressed and punished for their actions (hence the innocent love that children have for fairy tales, in which good is rewarded and evil punished). However, the act of vengeance may be warped either by excess or defect.25  The excess appears in cruelty, undue severity, and inappropriate or non-proportionate punishments. Vengeance is defective when there is failure to use required disciplinary measures out of weakness or fear. One should not be surprised at finding these two extremes in one person, as they often are found, because both share similar roots, such as lack of self-control and insecurity.

Other circumstances also arise, which are not considered by St. Thomas, but which add to the difficulty of exercising just vengeance. For example, it is rarely evident when and to what degree there is collective responsibility, or whether the violence was due to a few influential (not necessarily public) figures. What is the risk of reprisals? of injuring the innocent? Such questions must be considered to determine how vengeance will conduce to achieving the common good and how it may impede it.

Moreover, in establishing the existence of a "just cause," the above three motives for taking up arms must be considered in relation to the following four circumstances, which round out the objective morality of the war to be waged. First, there must be a proportional gravity between the good one hopes to have restored and the evils which will follow from war. Second, there must be moral certainty that an unjust injury has been inflicted. Due to the dog-eat-dog nature of international politics and finance, it becomes difficult to determine which nation first provoked the other and where the moral culpability lies. Third, the issue at stake must involve necessary goods such as the integrity of the state or its very existence. Recovery of goods which can claim only minor importance is to be sought by other means, even though these would be slow and tedious. Finally, war is permissible only if it is the only means by which the desired good can be achieved.

Right Intention

An upright intention is the third condition given by St. Thomas for determining the morality of a war. The first principle of the moral order is to do good and to avoid evil. For a war to be just, then, paradoxically, it may only be waged out of a desire for peace, which is effected by repressing evildoers and helping the good.

Modern authors give little mention to this condition, treating it as if it were only a subjective element, having no influence on the objective justice of war. In the mind of St. Thomas, on the contrary, this upright intention goes beyond mere good faith or sincerity. Sincerity refers to a purely subjective disposition which could be erroneous (although if the error proceeded from invincible ignorance, it would at least excuse from sin). The internal disposition must really accord with the external object, not as the agent perceives it, but as it is in reality.26

The end always determines the rectitude of the intention. If this relation is broken, the intention can no longer be considered upright. As was said above, the end or object of war is the state of peace. This being the case, war must be entered into and conducted in view of arriving at peace. Peace in this sense means more than the mere absence of violent conflict. If the absence of conflict were the only goal, it would be a contradiction to take up arms in the first place. Peace is defined as tranquillitas ordinis, the "tranquility of order" —in other words, not only tranquility, but a tranquility that comes from an ordered society, from just relations within the nation and among the nations.

While ensuring the repression of injustice, war must likewise contribute efficaciously to peace. The repression of injustice alone by means of war would not be just if it brought more damage upon the common good, damage not proportional to the good intended to be restored. For this reason, moralists add those prudential tests we mentioned at the beginning of this article, to decide the overall permissibility of the war.

It may be wise here to make a short digression into the paradox referred to above: the achievement of peace by war. St. Thomas says that the causes of peace are charity and justice.27 Charity, being the principle of union among men, is the direct cause of peace, for the greater the charity, the more harmonious the union. Yet justice, too, works toward the result of peace, though only indirectly. It does so insofar as it removes whatever would be an obstacle to peace.

Consequently, love and justice are equally necessary for peace among men: charity as the proper cause, justice as the necessary condition. The union of men’s diverse and deepest inclinations can only be obtained by a common love of the same good. However, this love does not do away with justice, because it unites without confusing —it unites while leaving to each the possession of his own rights. By violating the rights of another, a member of the community separates himself from the whole. His injustice compromises the existence of love and peace which society is entitled to enjoy. A return to the former concord presupposes the cessation of the injustice, i.e., the re-establishment of just order.

However, it would be a mistake to think that justice and charity work only in chronological order, as if justice begins the work of peace and then charity steps in and finishes it. The building of peace, in fact, begins with charity, which is the principle of union. But that charity will, from the beginning, demand the presence of justice as an essential exigency in the formation and preservation of peace. If love is missing, what passes for justice is often simply revenge, disordered ambition, or the like. Even if cruel disorders are not employed and all proceeds according to strict justice, if military action is not inspired by a true charity with an efficacious intention for peace, it may serve only to reinforce hostility (rather than diminish it) between the just defender and the unjust aggressor who is being forcibly returned to order –an example of the axiom summum jus, summa injuria, the strictest justice can cause the greatest injustice.

Defects of the Recourse to Force

A few reflections will serve to stress the need for caution that statesmen must, in conscience, exercise in a matter that will unavoidably have many unwelcome consequences.28

It is a fact of common experience that no one is a good judge in his own cause. Yet, in the act of war, it is the injured state that decides all, namely, whether its rights have truly been violated, whether war is necessary, and what reparation will be demanded from the offending state. It should be clear, then, how difficult it is to make an objective evaluation of the right to resort to the use of armed force and of the just claims to be made if victorious. Proof of this is, once again, from experience. In almost any war, each side is convinced of its right in the conflict.

The uncertainty of the results also merits consideration. Frequently, the unjust aggressor is more capable of overcoming his foes than the defender. It may be wiser to "cut one’s losses" than to lead the entire country to destruction out of wounded pride or vanity.

Finally, there is the objection which is foremost in most minds: the indisputable horror and cruelty of war. How is it possible to ensure that the disorder and suffering caused by the war will not fly out of control and thereby lose all proportion to the original offense? War will always entail the incalculable loss of human lives, moral and material disasters —and these upon people who, for the most part, do not have direct responsibility for the infliction of the original injury. How firm is the hope that, following such suffering, justice, order, and peace will be restored? This danger, which has been present as long as men have been on earth, has increased exponentially by scientific and technological developments in military hardware. Add to this that the solidarity among nations today almost invariably extends military conflicts to several nations, and one sees that evil consequences may indirectly affect generations to come.

Many modern theologians consider that today there is no morally admissible hypothesis by which a state could resort to war. John XXIII accepted this position in his encyclical Pacem in Terris"In this age which boasts of its atomic power, it no longer makes sense to maintain that war is a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice."

Nonetheless, such conclusion is inadmissible, because legitimate defense against an unjust aggressor always remains a natural right. Moreover, since it is impossible to foresee all the concrete circumstances which may arise in the life of nations, such dismissal of even the possibility of legitimate recourse to war is truly extreme. All the same, the general fall of morality and the widespread disregard for the natural law may very easily taint the one-sided decisions made by the members of the state unjustly imposed upon.

In conclusion, one’s recourse to, and acceptance of, war must be cautious and critical, even when the war is justified. The effects of war are too horrific to justify a cavalier attitude, simply because, in recent wars, it is not the United States that has suffered from their full effects. But the abuses to which a thing may lead do not necessarily take away the right to use it. Thus, the Church has always held that recourse to arms, in certain circumstances, may in fact be the lesser of two evils, and even a right of an injured nation and a duty of its public authorities.

Modern War

When the question of what constitutes a just war comes down to specific cases, it is very important to keep in mind a distinction which, at first glance, may appear to be a mere splitting of hairs. In today’s lax moral climate, it is easy (and often accurate) to accuse ethicists and moral theologians of "situation ethics" or of trying to squirm out of making unpopular judgments because of a lack of conviction concerning the principles they elucidate. Still, it must be said that to state the conditions in which a just war is possible is an ethical judgment, whereas to decide that, here and now, war should be declared is a judgment of political prudence.

To know the conditions in which a just war may be fought is one thing; to establish whether those conditions are or are not realized in the present case is a far different matter. To make such a decision is very difficult, given the complexity of actual situations, and it requires the consideration of many factors beyond the field of moral science.

Some of these factors, of which a few examples follow, have been brought into the limelight of moral reflection by recent technological and societal developments.

Modern Weapons

Technological advances have allowed modern states to wage war from afar. This has made moralists reaffirm with a greater urgency the principle that the means used in a war must be proportional to the ends desired. The potential advantages urging the use of certain means must be counter-balanced with the possible threats to one’s own larger objectives and to the non-combatant populations.

The question is important in any assessment of modern warfare, and a glance at the historical development of the "total war" is in order so that an attempt may be made to clarify the idea of just war in the 21st century.29

The revolutionary and Napoleonic wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries ushered in a new era of warfare in which the goals of war were no longer determined by the petty interests of princes but by a grand ideological vision. France (and those areas under French control) became a revolutionary state, fielding huge conscripted armies whose sustenance was provided by a national economy entirely geared to support the military effort.30

From the technological side, the Industrial Revolution provided weapons of far greater destructive power than most of those previously available. It also allowed faster production as well as the accumulation of larger quantities of weaponry than had ever before been possible. The massive destruction thus unleashed, by its startling results of unconditional surrender, convinced many of the mistaken idea that "a briefer war (by whatever means) is always better." This false notion has led to an ever-increasing and immoral devastation in war —witness Maxim’s machine gun in WWI and the aerial "strategic" counter-population bombing campaigns of World War II.

The "atomic revolution" was the next step in this increasing scale of destructive capability. As the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrated, fear of nuclear attack could cut short a war and "save millions of lives." Subsequent events were to show that only two possibilities were open to warfare in the atomic age: a strategy of deterrence or worldwide nuclear devastation. As nuclear technology advanced, the emphasis changed from the initial interest in the heat and blast damage produced by the bombs to the desire to harness radiation itself in its full destructive potential. For instance, the neutron bombs that were developed relied heavily on radiation designed to wipe out all organic life over large areas while causing minimal damage to property.

The simultaneous advances in missile technology further increased the destructive potential of warfare by offering "precision weapons," guided by computer navigation, laser technology, cameras, etc. Devastation on a pinpoint scale by attacking forces who remained safely out of harm’s way became possible for the first time in history.

Along with these technological advances came a fundamental change in the objective of battle. Whereas in earlier times the aim of waging battle was to destroy men and equipment in order to diminish the enemy’s capacity to continue fighting (attrition and destruction of forces), now the principal objective of battle has become the destruction of the "nerve-centers" (i.e., the command posts, computer and communications networks) which make the enemy’s continued resistance possible. An enemy nation that is "blinded" by the failure of its organizational and technological networks, although it may still have forces to send into the field, will be unable to order them for battle.31 One of the worst results of this new mode of attack is that the distinction between combatant and non-combatant becomes increasingly blurred, resulting in tragic civilian deaths.

Having seen the drawbacks of such advanced technical warfare, it is necessary to connect these means with the traditional moral teaching on the licit prosecution of a just war.

In general, the observance of the proportionality of the means of warfare to the end for which the war is fought has become increasingly rare in the prosecution of modern war. In the past, the problem was simply how to marshal and deploy sufficient forces to achieve the desired ends, and these ends had to be prioritized and sometimes delayed or abandoned. Today, since the destructive potential of advanced weaponry is virtually unlimited, there is a strong temptation to use extreme force (or the threat of it) for any ends at all, even minor ones —for example, the persistent border dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, which regularly threatens to erupt into nuclear war.

On the other hand, the very versatility of advanced weaponry could make the fighting of a just war easier by the adaptability of modern weapons to discriminating uses, i.e., the possibility of selecting the degree of destructiveness of the means employed and thus to spare non-combatants. Moreover, there is a certain degree in the development of weapons in which a balance of forces is reached, either because both belligerents have the same weapons and one can inflict identical damage on the other, or because offensive and defensive means cancel one another.

A new problem, though, is that since the end of the Cold War, no enemy of the United States possesses the means to resist American military power, and thus only "asymmetrical" attacks seem to be viable —terrorism against civilian targets, "cyberwar" against computer systems, etc. Consequently, a new factor enters into the already difficult moral problem of deciding how much force can be said to be proportionate to the attack suffered. The answer to this problem —on which moral theologians are still divided —will be decisive, in turn, in judging whether this concrete action of war is just or unjust.

"Virtual" War

One of the indispensable conditions for a war to be just is that it be exercised with restraint. Modern "smart" weapons and "push-button warfare" threaten to end all restraint in the conduct of war by shielding one side from the realities of the horror of war. Kosovo provides a striking example; the objectives of the "international coalition" were achieved without a single NATO combat casualty. This raises serious questions about the nature of modern warfare. Classically, the moral justification of war is legitimate self-defense (in the broad sense, which includes the redressing of past injustices), in which there is a basic equality of risk in killing or being killed. The legitimacy of self-defense ends when one can kill with impunity. A war risks ceasing to be just when, for the soldier fighting at distance, seeing the effects of his actions on a computer screen, death and destruction have little more reality than an arcade game.32

One facet of this shielding of one side from the horrors of warfare is the refusal by many governments even to use the term "war." The United States serves as a prime example: since the Korean "conflict," all constitutional procedures for war have been bypassed. Vietnam, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, etc., have all seen "police actions" or coordinated operations of the "international community," but, by a linguistic subterfuge, there has been no "war" since World War II. This subterfuge is necessary, since the constitution states that war must be declared in order to be legitimate. The modern world does not fight wars, but it engages in "strikes," "coercive diplomacy," and "humanitarian interventions."33  The media play a central part in this linguistic chicanery, with their frequent touting of "human rights," "democracy," "freedom," etc.

Media War

As technology has opened up for the masses (in modernized countries, at least) an unprecedented level of access to the news media, war has practically become a spectator sport in which the media themselves constitute the decisive theater of operations.34  A startling example of this tendency is the footage, widely shown during the "humanitarian intervention" in Somalia, of the dragging of a soldier’s body through the streets of Mogadishu. The immediate effect of this obscene spectacle was the weakening of consensus in favor of "humanitarian" operations in Somalia, and the military establishment found a new objective in keeping such images away from television screens.35  Such use of the media changes the focus of hostilities from operations in the field to the management of civilian opinion, which alone sustains the will to fight.

One example out of many which could be cited will show the effectiveness of the techniques of "media warfare." During the Gulf War, on February 13, 1991, "international coalition" forces bombed the Amiriyeh Bunker in Baghdad. This was a command and control center of the Iraqi war effort, but the families of many of the military elite were also sheltered there. The carnage was terrible, and Saddam Hussein called in the media, using images so effectively to undermine Western opinion on the war that the bombing of Baghdad was curtailed.36

Objection of Conscience

During the 20th century, a new feature of popular appraisal of warfare solidified in the phenomenon of the "conscientious objector." Based on religious and moral motives, principally charity and peace, citizens of various nations would refuse participation in warfare or even, in some cases, all military service. What is to be thought of this phenomenon? As usual, it is necessary to distinguish between objection to warfare in general (and thus to every war in particular), defensive as well as offensive, and objection to this or that particular war, based on particular circumstances.

To War Itself

The objection to all warfare in principle, considering all wars to be immoral (that is, unjust), exemplified in the Quakers, Mennonites, etc., is inadmissible for a Catholic, and refusal of military service based on such an objection is morally illicit, despite its being the only "conscientious objection" allowed by American law (Gillette vs. United States, 1971). A closer look will show that any justification of this objection must flow from one of two tainted sources: either a vague, naturalistic humanism, or a literal and rigorous interpretation of Scripture, isolated from context.37

The objections based on naturalistic humanism little deserve the time and effort needed to disprove them here, but the misguided religious objections are more interesting. A principal religious objection is that war is opposed to the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the meek, the peacemakers..."). The simple answer is that God, Who cannot command what is intrinsically evil, has commanded warfare in practically every page of the historical books of the Old Testament. Warfare in itself cannot, therefore, be intrinsically evil.

The more complex and revealing answer, focusing on the teachings of Our Lord in themselves, is that Christian moral teaching concerns the individual primarily and directly, and the state only indirectly. 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 eternal calling. 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.

The situation is different with the state, however. 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.

On the other hand, an "objection in conscience" to fighting in this or that particular war may be morally licit, or it may be illicit, depending on the actual circumstances. The general principle is that subjects of the state must, in the interest of the common good, obey the legitimate authority summoning them to war.

There are two possibilities on the part of the citizen: either he is certain of the injustice of the war, or he is not certain of it. The justice of a war is to be presumed, in general, because of the great difficulty, for the common citizen, to judge all of the complex issues at stake, especially in the contemporary international situation.38  Thus, there has generally to be a presumption of the rectitude of the war on the part of those drafted.39  This even applies to obligatory military service during peacetime, since, in some circumstances, such service may be necessary for the preservation of the common good. Pius XII asserted that no Catholic could invoke his own conscience to oppose services and obligations imposed by just law for the defense of the common good.40  In an international situation in which the morality of the peoples and the reciprocal loyalty of nations decreases more and more, and in which there is a proportionally greater likelihood of more wars to come, persistent, frequent objection of conscience prepares the way for great damage to the common good.

Having said all this about situations in which the injustice of a particular war is uncertain, what is to be said about participation in a war which, for one reason or another, is certainly unjust? In this case, it is morally illicit either to volunteer or to participate. An example is the Vendée uprising in France in 1793. The region took up arms to oppose the universal and obligatory military conscription mandated by the revolutionary government for the fighting of an unjust war against the other European powers who were attempting to put an end to the revolution, that is, to overthrow a de facto government that had deposed the legitimate monarch and was attempting to uproot the Catholic faith and destroy the Church in France, and, if possible, throughout the world. The Vendéans preferred to die rather than to obey the unjust law of conscription.

In all probability, the most common case of conscientious objection to a particular war will be the case of a serious doubt about the justice of the war. In this case, it would be morally illicit to volunteer for military service, but it would be allowed to trust the authorities if one were drafted. Going even further, one must obey the authority because of the reasonable probability that there exist political intricacies that, although hidden from the common citizens, nevertheless argue in favor of the justice of the war. Before volunteering for service, however, one’s doubts about the justice of the war would have to be solved.41

Except in extraordinary cases, in which exceptional and aberrant circumstances make the immorality of the war manifest, the presumption must be that the competent authority is right in waging war, and citizens must, if drafted, participate in the war. This is true on two grounds —charity for one’s self and piety for one’s country (i.e., patriotism in the true sense, which is a part of the virtue of justice). It is a question of charity for one’s self because of the grave punishments which would result from refusal; it is a question of national piety because of the just demands which the state makes on its citizens for the protection of the common good.

To the Conduct of the War

One serious moral problem remains to be addressed concerning the conduct of a just war. When commanded to commit immoral acts in the conduct of war, what must one do?  Cases will vary greatly in reality, but the general moral principle may be formulated in this way: when an order implies the violation of laws and customs of war in matters which pertain to objective and essential precepts of the natural law, refusal of obedience is licit —and even obligatory.

The rationale for such a refusal of compliance (note that it is not a question of disobedience, since the command under consideration is not just!) depends on two crucial conditions. First, the conscience of the subject who has received the command must have the certain and complete elements necessary to make a sound judgment. In other words, the soldier must know, completely and accurately, the facts about the situation which will determine the morality of the act he is being ordered to carry out. This can be difficult in modern warfare, since a certain "difference of visibility" between what the commander is able to observe and what the individual soldier can observe may introduce a possibility of error in the latter’s judgment.42  Second, there must be no doubt about the intrinsically evil character of the violation of essential moral duties implied by the command. If both these conditions are present, the command in question cannot licitly be obeyed.

Role of International Bodies

As technology has made the world apparently much smaller, and as financial interdependence has united many nations more closely by the strings of a common purse, the idea of stronger international cooperation or even of the fusion of all nations in a "One World" government has become commonplace in contemporary political discussion and planning. What must be thought of the idea of an international government?  The answer to such a question is not at all as simple and straightforward as it may seem at first glance, and, although the questions of the existence of international law and the relationship between such law and national sovereignty are beyond the scope of the present article, it will be worthwhile to examine briefly the two possible concrete realizations of an international government.

The goal of many of the world’s decision-makers is the realization of the ideal of a single world state. The idea is attractive in its simplicity, because wars result from quarrels between states. With only one state, there could be no more wars —a millennial realm of peace, perfect and secure life, would be thus ushered in!  The radical flaw of this ideal is that such everlasting peace is to be built without Christ.

For a Catholic, peace is not only, and not even primarily, a community of nations without wars. 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 –justice and charity rooted and founded in Christ.43

Moreover, serious political obstacles remain in the way of the realization of such an ideal. One such obstacle is the stubborn refusal by those who still have any sense of nationality to yield this sense in the face of "one-world" tendencies. The American national sense has proven surprisingly strong in the face of United Nations’ efforts to control the spread of mass-destruction weapons, to give just one example.44 Robert Wright, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, issued a stern warning to Americans holding obstinately to such "backward tendencies" when he wrote:

To remain attached to national sovereignty at all costs is not just wrong, it is impossible. If governments do not respond with new forms of international organization, civilization as we know it could be over. The question is not whether we should relinquish our national sovereignty. The question is only how, either cautiously and systematically, or chaotically and catastrophically.45

There are several good reasons to oppose such an ideal of international government. Not the least of these is the conflict such an ideal must wage with man’s natural inclinations to true patriotism and true nationalism. The ideal of political citizenship in the universal is chimerical.46 Another contrary argument is that states, like other "organisms," have a certain definite size beyond which they cannot grow if they wish to survive. Despite the fact that this natural limit may vary, and that it is arguably increased by improved means of communication (the "world-wide web" is being used as an instrument for globalization), the true political unity necessary for the maintenance of a healthy state seems impossible beyond a certain limited extension.

In any case, at present, real power is not located in the UN, but remains in the state-members that form it, particularly in the superpowers forming the Security Council, and in groups of states formed around a common purpose. To be subject of the jus ad bellum, the UN lacks sovereignty, cohesion in its policies and decisions, and an effective chain of command for the military forces placed in the midst of a conflict (as has been shown in Kosovo).47

The other possible concrete realization of an international government, and the more reasonable of the two, is the idea of a community of nations. This would be a federation of sovereign states that work closely together in the common interest. Such a federation, to be viable at all, would necessarily be based upon the model of the unity and integrity of the Church. It would thus have to be based on the natural law, even on God and Christ.48 For this type of cooperation to take place, a higher juridical unity would have to be established, on the temporal plane of international institutions. There should be no mistake, however, that the unity of states, languages, customs, civilizations, interests, etc., can only be achieved with reference to a common spiritual truth, that is, in the common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

It should not come as a revelation that such a true international union is unlikely to be realized in the concrete contemporary situation, if the examples of the European Union or the United Nations are the basis of judgment. Having rejected Christ, the modern world still tries to achieve unity and everlasting peace on its own terms. But it is an attempt doomed to ever-recurring failure.

Even more appalling, however, is the way in which 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. The secularist one-world advocates have brought the Conciliar Church into the constitution of a "movement of spiritual animation of the universal democracy," 49 and modern churchmen have dutifully complied, creating their own 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.

Closing Reflections

Two final reminders of what our attitude as Catholics should be in times of war: First, we, as Catholics, should never talk of war in terms of freedom or democracy, but always in terms of justice. Our Lord blessed those "who hunger and thirst after justice" and those who are persecuted "for justice’s sake." Of such is the kingdom of heaven, not of those who desire freedom above all, a liberty so elevated and absolute that it will necessarily attempt to free itself from dependence on God. In war, a nation that fights for freedom, without reference to justice, divorced as it were from the strict observance of the moral law, has no right to war, because it does not know why it wants to be free, or why it wants anyone else to be free. Catholics, in opposition to the spirit of the world, should think first and primarily in terms of justice. Whenever there is justice, there is true freedom. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you."

Secondly, since the God of Justice is also the God of Love, it follows that although a war may be justified, it cannot be waged in a spirit of hatred. Because we have been truly injured, we tend to disguise the hatred for our enemies as love for justice. It is precisely because it is so easy to separate in this manner justice and charity that the Church cautions us in time of war: the condemnation of injustice cannot be separated from the appeal for charity and prayer. Justice may demand resistance to the aggressor’s physical assault, but charity demands prayer for his conversion, for his repentance from this onslaught against the justice of God.

As an English Catholic newspaper put it during WWII:

Our Lord tells us not to fear those who can kill the body, and afterwards can do no more, but rather to fear him who has the power to send our body and our soul into the fire of hell. An immediate application of these words to our present situation is that we should not allow our enemy to induce us to fall into sin. It is the supreme issue for us in this war as in everything. The sins to which the enemy is most likely to tempt us are these three: sins of intemperance, sins of doubt, and sins of hate. Sins of intemperance, as when men depressed by war seek distraction in corporeal excess. Sins of doubt, as when men begin to question the goodness of God who allows such evil to befall them. And sins of hate, when men deny the enemy their charity. The important thing for us in these temporal incidents is to be on the side of Christ and of His charity. It is by no means enough that our cause should be just. For one could fight on the right side of this sense and yet defeat its righteous purpose by admitting a decline of temperance or trust or charity….50

Fr. Juan Carlos Iscara, a native of Argentina, was ordained in 1986 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. For the last nine years he has been teaching Moral Theology and Church History at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Winona, MN.

  1. Ortolan, Guerre, col. 1902.
  2. Pius XII, Radio Message, 1941, June 29. In Paix internationale (Solesmes), nn. 403-404.

  3. Mt 24:6.

  4. The Tablet (London), Aug. 3, 1940, p.98.

  5. French poet, Lieutenant of the French 276th Infantry Regt., killed in Villeroy, Sept. 5, 1914, aged 41.

  6. Summa Theologica (hereafter ST), II-II, Q. 42, A. 1.

  7. Cf. Suárez, De Charitate, disp. 13, and De Bello, I, no. 6.

  8. See Ortolan, Guerre, col. 1901.

  9. Johnson, Morality, 28-29.

  10. Ibid., 43.

  11. See Gardeil, Charité, 383-384.

  12. ST, II-II, Q. 40, A.1.

  13. Rom. 13:3-4.

  14. See De la Brière, Derecho, 49-55; Gardeil, Charité, passim.

  15. Francisco de Vitoria, O.P. De Potestate Civili, 7.

  16. Cajetan, Comm. in St. Th. in II-II, Q. 40.

  17. Francisco Suárez, De Charitate, XIII, iv, 5.

  18. Johnson, Morality, 1-5.

  19. Ibid., 29.

  20. ST, II-II, Q. 40, A. 2, obj. 1.

  21. See St. Thomas’s question on homicide, ST, II-II, Q. 64.

  22. ST, II-II, q. 108. After the questions on gratitude, which is the acknowledgment of a good received, St. Thomas considers vengeance, the reaction against an evil inflicted.

  23. ST, II-II, Q.108, A. 1.

  24. ST, II-II, Q.108, A. 2.

  25. ST, II-II, Q.108, A. 2, ad 3um.

  26. Gardeil, Charité, 393-394.
  27. ST, II-II, Q. 29, A. 3, ad 3um. See Gardeil, Charité, 395-397.

  28. See De la Brière, Derecho, 235-244.

  29. See Tillet, Guerre, cols.1981-1982.

  30. Johnson, Can Modern War, 107.

  1. Ignatieff, Virtual war, 169.

  2. Ibid., 161-162.

  3. Ibid., 177.

  4. Ibid., 191.

  5. Ibid., 191-192. In this regard, the repeated airing of images of the World Trade Center’s collapse has caused a psychological damage proportionally greater than the material losses....

  6. Ibid., 192.

  7. See De la Brière, Derecho, 111-117.

  8. "Since the processes of diplomacy are so complicated and obscure in our times, soldiers and inferior officials are scarcely able to judge competently concerning this certainty of the rectitude, generally, as of the rest of the conditions of a just war." Zalba, II, 104 (n. 244); Prümmer, II, 123.

  9. Zalba, II, 104 (n. 244).

  10. Allocution, AAS 49 (1957), 19-20, as quoted in Zalba, II, 110.

  11. "Soldiers, moreover, before offering themselves for war, must possess a positive moral certainty concerning the justice of the war, since it is forbidden to cooperate in an unjust war for any reason." Zalba, II, 104 (n. 244), Prümmer, II, 123.

  12. De la Brière, Derecho, 121.

  13. See Rommen, State, 646-647.

  14. Some ethicists have also pointed out that, after the horrific attack on September 11, there is no moral obligation for the United States to be held hostage to the veto power of the most timorous members of an international body, or of a military coalition. See "In a Time of War," First Things, December 2001, p.13.

  15. The New York Times, Oct. 24, 2001.

  16. "In a Time of War," First Things, Dec. 2001, p.14.

  17. See Johnson, Morality, 58-61.

  18. Pius XII, Allocution to the Sacred College of Cardinals, 1946, Feb. 20.

  19. Fr. Georges de Nantes is the creator of the term.

  20. The Tablet (London), Aug. 3, 1940, pp.97-98.

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