In the Modern Era There Is No ‘Just War’

December 28th, 2004 - by admin

The Shrine of St. Jospeh / New Jersey – 2004-12-28 09:52:49

Christian Conscience and Modern Warfare
La Civilta Cattolica

The following quotes are from 4,000-word editorial in the July 6, 1991 edition of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit periodical that is considered to express the thinking of the Vatican.

The proclamation and promotion of peace among people is part of the church’s religious mission. Therefore when the church speaks of the necessity of involving herself in the cause of peace and declares herself against war, she is not invading the field of politics, but is staying within the sphere of her own proper religious and moral mission…Through Jesus, men and women are brothers and sisters of one another, because they are children of God.

This means that they must rid themselves of the categories of “stranger” and “enemy,” categories so basic to the ideology of war. The church has only one intent, which is to strengthen the Gospel call to Brotherhood and sisterhood among God’s people.
Christian Conscience and Modern Warfare, La Civilta Cattolica (Rome, Italy, July 6, 1991).

War almost never ends with a true peace; it always leaves behind a remnant of hatred and a thirst for revenge, which will explode as soon as the opportunity offers itself. That is why the human story has been a series of unending wars. War initiates a spiral of hatred and violence, which is extremely difficult to stop. War is therefore useless, since it solves no problems, and damaging because it aggravates problems and makes them insoluble.
Christian Conscience and Modern Warfare, La Civilta Cattolica (Rome, Italy, July 6, 1991).

In practical terms, it means opposing the idea that war is able to resolve the problems which are at the root of conflicts. It means opposing the idea of war as the last resort, because in practice there is no last resort, because it is impossible to prove that all the means to avoid war were considered and put into action. More than that, the one who decides that there is no alternative but war is the very person who really wants to wage war and is simply waiting for an opportune time to begin. Being against war and for peace also means opposing the idea that war is “necessary” or “inevitable” and that peace is not possible.

Finally, it means opposing the idea the wars are waged for noble motives: to restore a universal order of justice and peace or simply to make amends for injustices. These noble motives — which may be present in a few people — in most cases serve as a juridical and moral cover-up for the true motives of war, which are motives of political domination and economic interests. In other words, to oppose the “ideology of war” is to do what is needed to unmask war by showing it as it really is to uncover its motives and its results. It means to show that it is always the poor and the weak who pay for war, whether they wear a military or belong to the civilian population.
Christian Conscience and Modern Warfare, La Civilta Cattolica, (Rome, Italy, July 6, 1991).

The church maintains that there can be no peace, where situations of grave injustice persist and where the just aspirations of people — for freedom, for self-determination, for a homeland of their own, for the right of live a life worthy of human dignity — are frustrated by force and violence. There can be no peace where feelings of frustration and hatred and vengeance are fostered among peoples, nations and continents.

There can be no peace where mutual trust is lacking and peace is based on “an equilibrium of terror” and is sustained by an on-going arms race, whether conventional arms or nuclear ones. That is why the church — decisively proclaiming herself for peace and against any war – asks that remedies be found for situations of injustice which exists in today’s world and which otherwise will be forerunners of new wars.

Above all, solutions must be found for the radical injustice which has created dramatic conditions of growing poverty in the Southern half of the planet.
Christian Conscience and Modern Warfare,” La Civilta Cattolica, (Rome, Italy, July 6, 1991).

Those who move, either immediately or less rapidly, to the claim that in a given situation of injustice there are no nonviolent options available, generally do so in a way that avoids responsibility for an intensive search for other options…The military option for which they reach so soon involves a very long lead time; it demands the preparation of leadership people by special training, educational institutions, and experiences; it demands financial and technical resources dependent on extensive government funding in a situation of defense; and it demand board alliances.

It includes the willingness to lose lives and take lives, the willingness to sacrifice other cultural values for a generation or longer, the willingness of families to be divided. Yet the decision that “nonviolence will not work” for analogous ends is made without any comparable investment of time or creativity, without comparable readiness to sacrifice, without serious projection of comparative costs.

The American army could not “work” if we did not invest billions of dollars in equipping it and in preparing for its effective use. Why should it be fair to measure the moral claims of an alternative moral strategy by setting up the debate in such a way that the other strategy must produce comparable results at incomparably less cost?
John Howard Yoder, When War Is Unjust. (Minn.: Augusburg Pub., 1984).