“War means innocents will die, women will be made widows and children will be made orphans”

Mark Shea made an interesting post at National Catholic Register on war. I really enjoy the rhetoric he consistently employs against war; rhetoric that we don’t seem to hear enough of in American Catholic circles. My opinion is that too many of us let the foreign policy and ethos of the republican party influence our feelings about war and our application of traditional “just war” doctrine. For this reason, I love what Shea has to say here:

The point is this: just war doctrine has been formulated by the Church, not to give us a trigger mechanism so that we can roll up our sleeves and commence slaughter with a song in our hearts, but in order to make it as hard as possible to go to war—because war kills innocent people.  The point of just war doctrine, in other words, is to set up a series of roadblocks to slow down and restrain the human appetite for mayhem, vengeance, murder and destruction which sinfully yearns for an excuse to be unleashed.  Just war doctrine is formulated in such a way that you have to fulfill all the requirements of just war teaching, not just one or two, in order to fight a just war.  The first requirement is that all just war must be an act of defense against an actual aggressor, not a preventative act of aggression against somebody you fear might be an aggressor one of these days.  Similarly, one of the criteria which must be fulfilled is that war must be a last, not a first, resort.  Therefore, pre-emptive war is necessarily unjust war—because war is not something you “get” to do.  War is something you tragically are forced to do as a last resort: like amputating your own leg.  Pre-emptive war, being neither a response to an actual act of aggression nor a last resort is, itself, an act of aggression.  It should be as morally desirable to Catholics as the thought of amputating one’s own healthy leg because you fear that in five years you might step on a nail and get gangrene.  Not too eager to do that?  Neither should any Catholic be eager to cut corners on just war doctrine—because war mean innocents will die, women will be made widows and children will be made orphans. That is why Joaquin Navarro-Valls, speaking on behalf of Pope John Paul II, said, “He who decides that all pacific means provided by the international law are exhausted, assumes a grave responsibility in front of God, in front of his own conscience and in front of history!”

Though I think he may go too far in condemning any pre-emptive war whatsoever (because an immanent, certain attack might, when all other means have been exhausted, justify a pre-emptive, defensive strike), he is, on the whole, right on the money.

What do you think?

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