Causa Belli: Why We Fight

An ongoing survey of the current political, cultural and philosophical debate surrounding the War on Terror. Who are we fighting? Why are we fighting? What are we defending?

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Pope on Church and State

From Zenit, the Pope on the secularity of the state:

Quoting the Second Vatican Council's pastoral constitution "Gaudium et Spes," the Pope recalled that "the Church does not have the vocation to manage temporal realities, as, in virtue of its task and competence, it is in no way confused with the political community and is not linked to any political system."

"But, at the same time, it is necessary that all work for the general interest and the common good," the Holy Father wrote.

That should put a lot of fears to rest.

(Re: those "fears," see the "Death of the Enlightenment" Roundups, Part I, Part II, Part III.)
Let's FINISH the quote from the Holy Father in this article from which you refer.

"The political community and the Church, although with different entitlements, are at the service of the personal and social vocation of man," he stated. "They will carry out this service with that much more effectiveness, for the good of all, the more healthy and better is the cooperation between them."

I would encourage everyone to read the entire text of Guadium et Spes, but especially Chapter V, paragraphs 77-83. These paragraphs deal with fostering peace (77-78), avoiding war (79-82), the horrors of war (79-80), and the causes of war (83).

In this article, the Holy Father refers to new Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Let us humbly refer to what it has to specifically says about war.

"Violence never consitututes a right answer... As to preventive acts of war, launched without evident proof that an agression is about to be set in motion, this cannot but arouse grave questions from the moral and juridical points of view." The Holy See condemns wars of aggression and repeats "rigorous conditions" for the use of force (TRACES, Jan. 2005, p. 45).
Iraq War, Unjust, Illegal and Immoral; Just War Theory Condemns Invasion
The War in Iraq - How Catholic conservatives got it wrong
Why I Do Not Support the Iraq War

By Thomas Storck

I write this as the U.S. war against Iraq is about a week and a half old. Most of the world seems bitterly against this country and Catholics, especially, seem divided on this issue. I wish to state why I do not believe the war is just. Although Catholics belong to many nations and have differing opinions on many issues, I would hope that any Catholic who strives after orthodoxy, that is, who wishes to shape his thinking and acting according to the authentic teaching of the Church, would first of all attend to what the Church teaches. Thus in judging this war, or any war, we ought to look to the Church's teaching, in this case, to that teaching which is usually called just war doctrine. If we do I believe that we will see that this present war cannot be justified. Let us use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as our chief source for this doctrine. The teaching on just war is contained in section 2309 and demands that the following four conditions all be fulfilled: "the damange inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain."

Although Saddam Hussein is without doubt a tyrant and his government and rule often cruel, what "damage" that is "lasting, grave and certain" is he about to inflict on other nations? When he unjustly attacked Kuwait in 1990 his forces were rightfully forced back and that country freed from Iraqi occupation. But since then he has attacked no one. It is widely held that he harbors weapons of mass destruction. This may well be true, but it is not "certain" nor, more importantly, is it "certain" that he will use them against any other nation. Many nations possess weapons of mass destruction, but this has never been thought of as justification for our attacking them simply on that ground. Moreover, some of these nations, such as China or North Korea, are or have been hostile to us and to their neighbors.

If Iraq is a threat to its neighbors, why are most of those neighbors opposed to the war we are waging? They would surely be the ones who would immediately have to suffer from any aggressive acts on the part of the Iraqi regime. Moreover, this first condition for a just war seems to assume that the aggressor has already inflicted damage, but any damage that Iraq might inflict is purely speculative. No connection has ever been proven between that country and those who perpetrated the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. I agree that if a nation were actually in the process of attacking another nation, the latter could very well justify a preventive strike to protect themselves. But nothing of the sort has occurred in this case.

Note also that nothing is said in this condition about attacking another country simply because it is ruled by a tyrant who has perpetrated atrocities against his people. If we were to engage in wars simply on that ground, our armed services would be very busy for years to come, for there are many nations ruled by cruel tyrants, some of this allies of the United States. Moreover, if we think that we can attack Iraq on the ground that someday it might use weapons of mass destruction against us or one of our allies, why cannot India attack Pakistan or vice versa, since these two nations both possess nuclear weapons and have engaged in conflict already with each other. Surely there is enough speculative possibility that one of them might attack the other to justify in the minds of the Indian or Pakistani leaders such an attack. We ourselves are setting a bad example for the rest of the world.

The kind of preemptive strike that we have launched against Iraq is similar to the actions that Germany took in 1914, attacking France and Russia because those countries had mobilized and it was feared that if Germany did not attack first she would be defeated by the enemies that surrounded her. A preemptive strike based on the merely speculative ground that sometime somthing might happen is a recipe for chaos in the world.

The second condition is this: "all other means of putting an end to it [i.e. the "damage"] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective." There is no reason why the United Nations inspectors could not have been given an indefinite amount of time to try to find any forbidden weapons that Saddam Hussein's government might possess. If the inspectors were too few their numbers could easily have been augmented, and if they were ineffectual, then better ones could have been sent. If we uncover any weapons of mass destruction after we have occupied Iraq, why could not we have sent officials to accompany the inspectors to find these weapons without starting a war?

The third condition is this: "there must be serious prospects of success." Although it might seem that this condition is fulfilled, it depends on what one means here by "success." If overthrowing the Iraqi government is the "success" we seek, then doubtless we will achieve that. But if hindering terrorists or making the Middle East safer or promoting the welfare of the Iraqi people constitute "success," then it it not so clear. Although the Iraqi government is a tyranny, it is not an unmitigated evil. Catholics and other Christians enjoy freedom to worship, build churches and educate their clergy, a freedom not enjoyed in every Middle Eastern or Islamic country today, including in that of some of our allies, such as Saudi Arabia. No one can predict what a post-Saddam regime in Iraq would be like. It could turn out less friendly to Christians than the present government.

The last condition stated is this: "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." This condition, when it weighs the comparative gravity of "the evil to be eliminated" against the "evils and disorders" that any war will produce, assumes, of course, that the first three conditions have been met. And, as I said, I do not think that this is the case. But even if somehow the first three conditions had been met, one could not assume that this fourth has been fulfilled. Although our military speaks often of their precision weapons that are aimed only at military targets, there is reason to think that when this same claim was made during the first Gulf War in 1991, the ability of those firing these missiles and bombs to hit only military installations was much exaggerated, however good their intentions.

Although these are the four conditions set forth in the Catechism there is another condition that it often added to these, namely that the war be declared by a legitimate authority. Although the President and Congress are certainly legitimate authorities for initiating military action to repel an attack against the United States, it does not seem entirely clear to me that in the case of a state that is said to be an enemy of the peace and common good of the whole world, that one nation by itself, or a small group of nations, has the right to initiate such a war. If Saddam were really such a clear threat, why are most nations, including his near neighbors, not supporting this war? Thus I do not think that this war fulfills this condition either.

It is true that the Catechism says: "The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good," that is, to political leaders. But they on their part must seriously address these conditions and make serious arguments that they have been met. I do not see that this has been done. Unfortunately, history shows that nearly every country puts forward claims that its warlike actions are just. We cannot exempt America from the state of original sin that afflicts all of mankind.

Lastly, this war cannot be justified on the grounds that it is somehow a continuation of the age-old war between Christendom and Islam. Christendom cannot fight any wars today simply because Christendom no longer exists. Today the West is the post-Christian West and stands for pleasure and money. Islam seems to oppose us chiefly because they themselves understand that we are a force for secularization in the world. This is not a fight for Christ the King. Let us make Him truly King of our own nations and then see what sorts of relations develop with the rest of the world.

(c) Thomas Storck. All Rights Reserved
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