The Dignity of Life, Part II: Just War

Over the years, I’ve become an outspoken opponent of war in virtually every situation. Much like my stance on the death penalty, my beliefs about war were cemented upon discovering the truth of Catholicism.

War is a horrible and evil entity—albeit an unfortunate reality in our world. When it comes to such a thing, there are many philosophical, ethical, and theological questions that arise, and just like every other aspect of life that brings us to a moral impasse, the Catholic Church has an answer.

We call it the Just War Theory.

At a glance, those words seem like a contradiction. Is there truly such a thing as a “just war?” Maybe not, but regardless, the Church has set forth a set of standards that exist to determine the necessity of armed conflict, and regulate how a people should act during and after said conflict.  There are exceptionally strict conditions for going to war, and they require a significant amount of contemplation beforehand.

First and foremost, war, in every case, should be an absolute desperate and last resort. Not the first, or the second, or the third, or fourth, but dead last. 

We should only go to war to counter an unjust aggressor, and for no other reason other than it is the only option left to safe guard peace and innocent life. 

We must know, without doubt, that the damage inflicted by the aggressor will be lasting, grave, and certain. There must also be a serious prospect of success, and the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

Should all the requirements be met, and a nation enters into war, it is still necessary that those involved hold onto a moral integrity. War is not a free pass for destruction. Indiscriminate killing is not permissible simply because one is in a state of war. This would be entirely contrary to the purpose of war to begin with.

Civilians, wounded soldiers, and even prisoners of war should still be respected and treated humanely—not tortured. This means that even blind obedience is not an excuse for excessive, violent behavior towards others.

Even after the conflict is over, and the aggressor is rendered incapable of any more harm, the victor has a moral obligation to help rebuild the occupied society and to give aid to the lives that were affected. 

There are — for the most part — the main points.  The theory itself is fairly expansive, and I’ll provide some links at the end for anyone who wishes to read further into it.

As I stated earlier, my feelings towards war were confirmed after I became Catholic. Even though I tend to lean on the side of a pacificism, I can see a situation where defense becomes necessary.  

Rules of conflict aside, the Church is the reason why I’ve become such a passionate opponent of armed conflict, and it is all part of my commitment to being pro-life.  Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” — it’s high time I took that to heart.

I don’t want to see people suffer.  As I stated in my last blog about the death penalty, I whole-heartedly believe in the dignity and sanctity of ALL human beings. As followers of Christ, it should be a part of our spiritual journey to make a world where war doesn’t have to be necessary.

Reading through the Catechism, you can feel the reluctant nature of legitimate defense. Yet, I worry that not enough people feel that way about war—reluctant—because that’s how we should feel. I fear that ideology combined with our own fickle humanity can cloud our moral judgment and lead us to justify wholly immoral actions.

I do not believe that God wishes any of us to experience the horrors of war, and I think he has tasked us with avoiding that violence at all costs.  As it says in the Catechism, we must turn to God and pray—not just for an end to war, but to seek out what role we can play in bringing God’s peace to Earth. 

 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.—The Catechism of the Catholic Church

If you want to read more about the Just War Theory and Legitimate Defense from the stance of the Catholic Church, you can just click on the following links.



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