Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Just War" doctrine

TeenAngel wrote, "if someone is in the military, in the middle of a battle, and after he has shot and killed a few enemies, he is shot and killed. I know that killing is a mortal sin, so would that man go to H___? " Thanks, TA, for your question! First, the Church has great appreciation and respect for those who dedicate their lives to defending their country. Second, there are times when the use of military force is justified, morally. That means that there are times when soldiers who, in the course of carrying out their duty honorably, kill "a few enemies" are not guilty of mortal sin.

The Church indicates when those times occur in her "Just War" doctrine. Here are some excerpts from an article by Colin B. Donovan, STL. To see the full article, please click on the title of this post:

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 2302-2317, authoritatively teaches what constitutes the just defense of a nation against an aggressor. Called the Just War Doctrine, it was first enunciated by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). Over the centuries it was taught by Doctors of the Church, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, and formally embraced by the Magisterium, which has also adapted it to the situation of modern warfare. The following explanation of Just War Doctrine follows the schema given in the Catechism...

Just War (CCC, #2307-17)

"All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. Despite this admonition of the Church, it sometimes becomes necessary to use force to obtain the end of justice. This is the right, and the duty, of those who have responsibilities for others, such as civil leaders and police forces. While individuals may renounce all violence those who must preserve justice may not do so, though it should be the last resort, 'once all peace efforts have failed.' [Cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 79, 4]...

"In this regard Just War doctrine gives certain conditions for the legitimate exercise of force, all of which must be met:

'1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

3. there must be serious prospects of success;

4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition' [CCC 2309]...

"The responsibility for determining whether these conditions are met belongs to 'the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.' The Church's role consists in enunciating clearly the principles, in forming the consciences of men and in insisting on the moral exercise of just war...However, she cautions combatants that not everything is licit in war. Actions which are forbidden, and which constitute morally unlawful orders that may not be followed, include:

- attacks against, and mistreatment of, non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners;

- genocide, whether of a people, nation or ethnic minorities;

- indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants.

Given the modern means of warfare, especially nuclear, biological and chemical, these crimes against humanity must be especially guarded against."


Anonymous said...

The Church contradicting itself once again!

Fr Greg said...

Do you have any credible points to back up your general (and misleading) statement?

Anonymous said...


Is it enough that on one side we talk about love and forgiveness and on the other we justify war?

On one side we say that we are children of God and that He loves us all, but then we say that only those who are baptized go to heaven. I do not get this one.

By the way, the other day I saw something at Church that really bothered me (not St.Stephen's Church). The priest changed the holy water that they put at the entrance of the Church, I suppose it was dirty. Well, he just went to the kitchen and filled the vesicle with tap water. Did I miss something? When does the Holy come along?

Thanks, :-)