Conversation Corner
St. Francis of Assisi, Patron of Peace

Does the military action the U.S. is contemplating against Iraq meet the standards of a just war?


Date: 3/28/2003 11:30:18 AM
Name or Pseudonym: Chris
Subject: Incorrect

No Mike, you are using the argument of the Pharisees. Obviously everything is God’s, for He created it. But we do owe certain things to others, and in this case, rather than being tripped up by the Pharisees, Christ gives us an example of something we do owe to another. In the greater sense, "Caesar" could mean anyone. For example, we owe our respect and obedience to our parents, yet ultimately all obedience belongs to God. Using your logic, one could argue that no obedience should be given to anyone except God. Can you imagine the chaos that would result with that shoddy thinking? But understanding Christ’s message requires knowledge of much more than a single biblical passage. Christ Himself tells us that no one has authority over anyone if God has not willed it, and in the passage you reference, Christ illustrates that a fair taxation is just, and that God is not personally interested in worldly things.
We owe charity to our neighbor - although our first charity is to God. We are entitled to what we earn; does anyone have a right to take away what is ours in the name of God?

As in so many passages in Scripture, one has to be careful to distinguish between the external, or public, forum and the internal, or private, forum. "An eye for an eye..." governs the individual primarily.

In the external forum, justice is required, both to ensure a proper public morality and to sustain the common good. If we practiced public appeasement what would happen to society? - what is already happening to our beloved Church? God is justice as well as mercy; Christ, therefore, is not advocating lawlessness. Justice is most reflected in matters pertaining to the public forum.

When it comes, however, not so much to public morality, but to one man’s relationship to another, forgiveness comes into play. Although the judge and jury may have to execute a heinous criminal to preserve public morality and the common good, an individual may forgive another individual without the public consequence. What Christ instructs us to do throughout the Gospels is to avoid vengeance, which is a personal matter, against another individual. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord."

Obviously, when Christ speaks of judging not, it is the internal forum that he is talking about. Man does not know the interior disposition of a person - the reasons or circumstances of his acting as he did. He may have acted in ignorance or under some kind of compulsion. God judges the inner heart, not man.

Yet society must certainly judge in the public forum. Otherwise, we should disband all judges and juries and let criminals do their harm to society with impunity to destroy the public good. That is why Catholic moral theology has taught that capital punishment can be just - some theologians say even necessary - for the most serious crimes, in order to preserve the public good.

War is another example of the application of the principle of Christian justice. War is not necessarily wrong; it may be required in justice. Peace is not necessarily right; it could be an unjust peace. When the Crusaders warred against the Infidel in the First Crusade, called by Pope Urban and preached by St. Bernard, a Doctor of the Church, to recover free access to the shrines of the Holy Land and to free Christians who were enslaved by the Infidels, was that wrong? Or did it rather serve the ends of justice, which, after all, apply to countries as well as to individuals?

It is from this principle that the Catholic theology of the just war derives, based upon principles such as those expounded in the philosophy of Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and others. For further information, one could consult Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and St. Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law in the Summa Theologica.

Now, as to Iraqis, there are many who welcome us, or who would like to welcome us. There is no question that Muslims view non Muslims as Infidels, just as we view them - at least as Catholics, we should. That’s not to say that understanding that they are heretics or infidels should cause us to hate them....on the contray, Christ tells us we should love them and pray for them.

I do not believe that the US is anything close to a perfect society. Democracy might have some advantages, but it has serious flaws as well. It’s only as good as the people voting, and in our day the voters want to legalize sin in all of its forms.

Removal of Native Amercans - oh boy. I disagree with the things our government did to weasel the native Americans out of their lands. But that was a very long time ago and no one alive today is responsible for those actions. What would you like us to do, force all of the people out and give the territory back?

Not every US citizen likes the fact that we dropped the A bomb. The ends do not justify the means. However, a case can certainly be made that its use ended the war and saved lives, as the projections were that the US would suffer millions of losses, and the Japanese even more. Then again, projections have been wrong before - just look at this war.

We support Israel - I totally disagree with the UN’s taking away land from the Palestinians to give to the Jews. It was flat out wrong. And the US needs to get tough with Israel to ensure that they play fair too. But almost 60 years later, what are we supposed to do? Force all of the Israelis out? And the presence of the Jews does not give the Palestinians the right to bomb innocent men, women and children simply because they are Jewish.

The best way to live one’s Christian life is to practice Charity - love of God, then love of man for God’s sake. But that would require that we give to God what is His; primarily, the Mass, instead of some vestigal facade of "peace and forgiveness."

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