catholic peace

One of our stops while at Notre Dame was the opening session of the Catholic Peace Fellowship conference. One of Vanessa’s previous professors gave the opening talk. The conference topic, The Soldiers Came Asking: Christians in the Iraq War, was a time-sensitive topic and it was obvious that the group was not about peace chatter but peace actions.
The conference, which could be seen as part of a Catholic radical movement, professed that war should no longer take place. “Christ said what you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me. Right now, we are going and killing other people in war.”
How much do I personally agree with this? Honestly, I do not know. I do not like to see the death, the bloodshed, the pain, or the after-effects of war. At the same time, there is a need for the “legitimate defense by military force” as cited in the Just War Theory (CCC 2309)
This post is an attempt to crystallize my beliefs on the topic (to steal diction from the DoD, as noted from AFI 36-3204 among others).
First, I am going to look at the broader picture and work my way towards the exact.
Do situations exist which could merit the removal of power of a dictator or the defense of a country against aggressors?
Yes. Men with evil intentions or simply evil men rise up to power. They can and do abuse that power. They commit evil acts upon his people and upon innocents of other countries. Those people should not be in power.
Who should be the ones to act upon such an evil?
As Christians, we are called to action and prayer to end all evil wherever it may be. Our prayers should not be prayers of hate; we should ask God for the conversion of their souls and for the safekeeping of those under their care. Our actions must be in accordance with what the Gospel professes.
Therefore, is a just war possible?
Strictly speaking, yes. The Catechism has a clear-cut rubric for defining whether an act of war is just or not. The standards for a just war, as defined in the Catechism, are for those looking out for the common good, which are the governments. As Christians, however, we must look beyond our heads of state as to determine what conditions exist for a just war.
What other conditions, besides CCC 2309, exist for a just war?
First and foremost, all actions taken in war must maintain the dignity of the human person. Every person must be seen as a member or potential member of the Mystical Body of Christ. Death should be seen as the final and absolute last option. Torture or abuse should never be considered much less carried out. We must take care that if we are forced to act with force, we must- both as a country and as individuals soldiers- act properly. If a military force, at any level, violates the dignity of a human person, then the war is no longer just. This condition may seem overly strict but it is that way deliberately.
In that case, is there ever a just war in reality?
Perhaps not. The European Theatre in WWII may have been the closest if it was not one.
How are we to rid the world of evil?
In our society, law enforcement has progressed past hanging someone in courthouse square a few hours after capturing him. In an equal way, we must advance past the use of deadly force and try to advance global peacekeeping to a new level. In the Prayer of St. Francis, we pray that “where there is hatred, let me sow love.” The use of force does not equal tough love.
What are we called to do as individual Catholics?
We are called to be the peacemakers. What does this mean? That is something for your conscience to figure out.
What about my personal thoughts on war?
A just war could possibly exist. I do not think we are currently engaged in one and doubt that there will be one anytime soon. The outcome might be good; however, the end does not justify the means. No end, no matter how great or glorious, justify the means. Between the warhawk-style of entry without a clear global mandate, no realistic direct threat or action against U.S. by Iraq and a constantly changing reason for sending troops, I think the United States did not go to war in the right manner. With the abuses we have heard about in the mainstream press and those we have not yet heard, the war is not being carried out in a just manner on the front itself. With our government skirting around international treaties, or at the least finding loopholes, the war is not just from an administrative perspective. The defensive characteristic of this war can be questioned as well; it is an argument that I am not prepared to engage myself in though.
Am I going to run to protest the war on the Mall in D.C.? Probably not. Will I aggressively counter-recruit military prospects? Probably not, although, making sure young kids who are signing up know all the options out there is laudable.

It is also true that peace is more than the absence of war or a balance of power (Gaudium et Spes, 78). True peace and justice are in the same spirit. For peace to reign supreme, all men must be equal and must be treated as such. We, as individuals, must constantly be striving towards a mastering of self. Our passions, prejudices and vices must all be mastered so that we can be beacons of peace and love to all that we meet. It is a concept that I fail to live.
Gaudium et Spes says it better than I could:

A firm determination to respect other men and peoples and their dignity, as well as the studied practice of brotherhood are absolutely necessary for the establishment of peace. Hence peace is likewise the fruit of love, which goes beyond what justice can provide.
That earthly peace which arises from love of neighbor symbolizes and results from the peace of Christ which radiates from God the Father. For by the cross the incarnate Son, the prince of peace reconciled all men with God. By thus restoring all men to the unity of one people and one body, He slew hatred in His own flesh; and, after being lifted on high by His resurrection, He poured forth the spirit of love into the hearts of men.
For this reason, all Christians are urgently summoned to do in love what the truth requires, and to join with all true peacemakers in pleading for peace and bringing it about.

When we discuss peace, we can be the “little heads of state” that we all think we are, but first, we must be the head of state of our own hearts. Being an instrument of peace is to be an instrument of love for true peace has origin in God the Father and it is he who is love.






4 responses to “catholic peace

  1. Bryan Sakowski Avatar
    Bryan Sakowski

    I must disagree about the European Theater during WWII. We may have been there for a just cause and in self defense, but there were some not so just actions taken. Dresden, for example. I think in the grand scheme of war, it’s impossible not to violate the dignity of other people. War is too emotional, too brutal, too intense for people to keep cool 100% of the time, if not much less. That said, I do think war is sometimes necessary for the greater good. No comment on Iraq.

  2. Kraft Avatar

    With WWII, I haven’t studied it since high school and frankly, I don’t remember the not-so-pretty sides of it. Perhaps the Kosovo air-war was better? I’m just shooting in the dark. The WWII point of mine is one that I can’t defend so I’ll strike it.

  3. Brandoyd Avatar

    “In our society, law enforcement has progressed past hanging someone in courthouse square a few hours after capturing him. In an equal way, we must advance past the use of deadly force and try to advance global peacekeeping to a new level.”
    In Response to this comment – “In an equal way, we must advance past the use of deadly force”
    Have we truly advanced past the use of deadly force.
    We still currently use the death penalty. Sure there is debate about it, but the Catholic Church does not prohibit it.
    I just wanted to show that you had an incongruence
    in your argument.
    It would be much easier to articuate my position if
    I had use of the home row.
    [Editor’s Note: Brandoyd’s keyboard lacked the use of the ASDJKL buttons. I have gone in and replaced the symbols he used (@$!) with the correct letters.]

  4. Kraft Avatar

    True, we still use the death penality and true the Catholic Church does not prohibit it. My point is that our position on the use of deadly force must advance.
    Even though the Catholic Church does not prohibit the death penality, I don’t know why we should still accept it.
    As CCC 2267 cites: “If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
    “Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
    As the previous paragraph of the Catechism mentions: “…the primary scope of the penality is to redress the disorder caused by the offense.”
    In our society, there exist ways to bring order to the disorder without the death of the one who caused the disorder.
    Back to the point that my argument was flawed in the original post, it was not intended to be a direct comparsion. As a society, we have advanced when and how we use capital punishment. We should as well advance when and how we act in war. The degree of advancement was not the point in question. However, I believe that our stance, as a society, on capital punishment needs to continue to advance.
    We, as a people, still believing that we must kill fellow citizens via capital punishment in order to maintain justice is sad. It’s something that we can do but that doesn’t mean it is something we should do.

Leave a Reply