Fratelli Tutti 258: Justifying War

A heavily footnoted paragraph. We lead off with a reference from the Catechism. It is a truth that people, even otherwise just and good people can make bad decisions, even evil ones. They can be deceived. They can deceive themselves. They can believe the flimsiest of good reasons to justify violence.

258. War can easily be chosen by invoking all sorts of allegedly humanitarian, defensive or precautionary excuses, and even resorting to the manipulation of information. In recent decades, every single war has been ostensibly “justified”.

Yep. Every one. Justified, and yet so many people protest, or send diplomats, or convince themselves. Especially when their own blood is not on the line.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the possibility of legitimate defense by means of military force, which involves demonstrating that certain “rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy” [no. 2309] have been met. Yet it is easy to fall into an overly broad interpretation of this potential right. In this way, some would also wrongly justify even “preventive” attacks or acts of war that can hardly avoid entailing “evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”. [Ibid.]

Rigor is not always present when examining what warmongers and others want to do.

Hanging over all the world’s petty little wars is the development of various weapons that kill by the thousands to millions. Will some rogue agent get hold of such an item and escalate things to impact civilians and other innocents.

At issue is whether the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the enormous and growing possibilities offered by new technologies, have granted war an uncontrollable destructive power over great numbers of innocent civilians. The truth is that “never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely” [Laudato Si’  104] We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits.

The problem is that some few–the one percent–do benefit from the sale of arms, from shifting politics, and looting the losers of an armed conflict.

In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a “just war”. Never again war! [Saint Augustine, who forged a concept of “just war” that we no longer uphold in our own day, also said that “it is a higher glory still to stay war itself with a word, than to slay men with the sword, and to procure or maintain peace by peace, not by war” (Epistola 229, 2: PL 33, 1020)]

So the formulator of so-called just war also spoke out in favor of a “higher glory.” Good for him.

All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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