What is a just war?
The Catholic tradition advocates peaceful solutions to conflict whenever
possible and normally counsels against all use of force. But it also
recognizes that, in a disordered world, it is sometimes necessary to use
force for the sake of preserving human rights and human dignity. To help
discern whether a cause justifies a response of force, Catholic teaching has
developed and refined a theory of just war.
In a 1993 statement, The Harvest of Justice Is Sown in Peace, the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops outlined the criteria for a just war:
* Is the offense sufficiently serious? War is acceptable only
when there has been a serious and public evil, such as an act that violates
the basic rights of whole populations.
* Has one side clearly been victimized? There are always
claims on both sides of injustice, but to justify war the injustice
inflicted on one side must be measurably greater than that inflicted on the
* Is the authority waging war legitimate? Only recognized
public authorities or governments may conduct war.
* Is the cause truly just?
* Is there a probability of success?
* Is the force proportional? The good that combatants hope to
achieve must be greater than the destruction they will likely cause.
* Is war a last resort? All peaceful alternatives must be
exhausted before arms are used. have been seriously tried and exhausted.
In addition, if conflict is justified, combatants must observe the following
* Spare civilians from harm when at all possible.
* Use no more force than necessary.
* Avoid vengeance and indiscriminate violence.
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