Emmitsburg Council of Churches

War and Peace

Father John J. Lombardi

"The Prince of Peace Was a Warrior, Too" …Huh?

I was caught by this editorial-title from the New York Times (Jan. 28). It was a provocative article calling for conversation regarding Jesus and Christians responding to evil in the world.

We have all been thinking about that recently: evil and the proper response to it-regarding Iraq, "weapons of mass destruction" and "pre-emptive strikes"…What should we do? What is morally acceptable? If America does not attack, will it condone evil and, like Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler before WWII, only a moment later destruction? Or, by withholding action will we save innocent lives when there is not any imminent danger to begin with?

Frankly, with all the possible responses, this Chaplain and article ultimately side with the Holy Father: keep working for peace and justice! But, presently, let's explore the issues to understand and appreciate our Faith…

In the Bible the Lord Jesus said, both: "Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you" (Jn. 14:27), and, "I did not come to bring peace but the sword" (Mt. 10:34). Thus, Jesus can be caricaturized--dependent upon your own tendency--as a "peacenik" or a "spiritual warrior".

There's the rub of the Times article-Jesus is not as

wishy-washy and dogmatically captured as people think by extremes. Therefore, Christians thru the centuries

Have justified various vocations from complete pacifism (war under no exceptions), thru chaplains in the military, to GI's fighting on the front lines. The Catholic Tradition has consistently meditated upon a moral theory called the "just war" (many secularists and non-believers also ponder it seriously, too). This theory began formally with St. Augustine (+451), and was refined by St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274), and then passed on the thru the centuries. More recently, in 1983, the U.S. Bishops used the tradition to largely (some say naively) discount nuclear deterrence...

There has been much debate-religious and otherwise--about whether President Bush's administration has fulfilled the just war criteria, and whether he should Wage war without major allies. The Pope has heavily weighed in on this by intimating-and restating--that we should do everything we can do to work for peace-and that peace (thru justice) is still possible. Translation: don't go to war when the conditions are still possible for peace... Others, more vocally or subtly-have opted for this stance.

Q. Just what is the "just war" teaching?...A.

There are five criteria of the just war that are traditionally enunciated: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "+The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration…+The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation must be lasting, grave and certain; +All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; +There must be serious prospects of success; +The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated" (#2309).

Q. Who applies the criteria of the just war to reality?...A..It is up to the "competent authority"--those in charge of the common good (CCC: #2309-10)-which means President Bush and other countries' leaders.

Q. What are some responses to this?: A. Obviously the President is saying that a pre-emptive strike is just and needed because , in crude language, you can't wait for a bully down the street to get too many weapons of destruction to maliciously attack and defeat innocent people. This is a novel--though not impossible-- reading of the just war tradition (the just war theory has always been predicated upon responding to offensive attacks. In a way, ironically, President Bush is doing what the U.S. Bishops did, saying that we are in a new era, upon a new threshold of strategic defense: in 1983 nuclear weapons-provoked the Bishops to challenge the notion of deterrence; and now it is weapons of mass destruction which provoke the President to act.

Q. What are some other responses? Along with the Pope, and varied Catholic Bishops conferences, many have said the criteria for a just war are not fulfilled, largely because a just cause of responding to a presented evil is unfulfilled-(i.e., weapons of mass destruction have not been concretely, positively found, etc.). Others, like the Vatican Official news paper, L' Observatoro Romano, say the proportionate damage which will be inflicted-especially upon innocents--is too burdensome to consider. Still others suggest we are doing it for: oil, Israel, to avenge or finish previous "projects". The Italian Bishops conference basically said there is no such thing as a pre-emptive strike as part of just war theory.

George Weigel-who has written about, and extensively interviewed the Pope -challenges "static readings" of the just war, in an article, "Moral Clarity in a time of War" (First Things: Jan, 2003). He makes the following points: -It is a kind of compassion and obligation, by public authorities, to defend national security` against present evil…It is not true to say that just war is a theory only against the use of violence; it is more true to say it is way of protecting the common good against threatening evil…There is a "forgetfulness" or neglect, by religious leaders, moral philosophers and theologians, of the classic just war theory, and the duty by such "experts" to inform secular and national leaders… The criteria of "just cause" has been confined too narrowly and wrongly when determining "defense against aggression" and needs nuance "in terms of its concept of the relevant actors in world politics" (i.e. terrorists and rogue states are now capable of attacking and waging war, or its near equivalents. Weigel concludes: "Religious leaders and public intellectuals are called to nurture and develop the moral-philosophical riches of the just war tradition. The tradition itself, however, exists to serve statesman."

Weigel has contributed to our contemporary conversation on criteria for a just war with nuance and insight. While many have-and will-disagree with him (including one of his favorite people-the Pope) he shows us we all need to meditate upon these issues more closely And avoid knee-jerk and shallow responses (pure Hawk and pure dove). Pope Paul VI said: "If you want peace work for justice." Weigel informs us justice is the right ordering of each part in a whole system, a tranquilitas ordinis-a tranquil order.

Do we have that now, or, will it come from war?

Conclusions/What to Do:

Pray and Fast for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice: Be a Peacemaker yourself. So often we fail to reconcile with those near us. Take the initiative and seek healing …Go to Mass-offer up your Holy Communion-the graces you would receive-send and apply these to others in need…Pray the Rosary and ask Our Lady Queen of Peace to help…Walk and pray the Stations of the Cross and remember His passion all year!..They're not just for Lent anymore. Pray for our President and all national leaders-for wisdom and insight…Pray for all those who dare use evil means for anything…Pray for the conversion of all terrorists, and all peoples to receive the Graces of Jesus Christ and His Way!...

Pope John Paul's Prayer for Peace


Immaculate Heart of Mary, help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths toward the future…From famine and war, deliver us….From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us….From sins against human life from its very beginning, deliver us…From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us…From every kind of injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver us…From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us…From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us…From the loss of awareness of good and evil, deliver us…From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us…Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of whole societies. Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit conquer all sin: individual sin and the "sin of the world," sin in all its manifestations. Let there be revealed once more in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the redemption: the power of merciful love. May it put a stop to evil. May it transform consciences. May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of hope. Amen

Family Healing: A lady called to ask for a Mass and prayers for her sick son. The son and Mom were to meet me at the Grotto one night. It turns out the Dad and Grandmom, and a brother, all came, too. They wanted to support him and receive their own solace from the Lord and Virgin-and give their support; they were completing a novena of prayers. It was obvious the whole family was inspired, fortified and healed in some way--whether a physical healing comes or not. I was inspired and edified by the family's seeking of healing prayers for the young man-and also by their witness of Faith in God, and their love for one another…

The Supernatural: With instant and consistent access to spiritual phenomenon via computer these days, Catholics need practice the virtue of prudence not to "overexpose" themselves to supernatural phenomenon-alleged and otherwise. Some media outlets may (unknowingly) cultivate inordinate attachments this way. (See CatechismCC: #65).

On Ecstasy, by St Thomas Aquinas: a commentary on a text by Pseudo-Dionysius…Read the passage slowly and meditate upon it frequently… "Love does not permit the lover to be of itself, but of the beloved…(St.) Paul, greatly constituted in divine love as in a certain container, and by the virtue of divine love making him to go out of himself totally, as if speaking by the divine mouth, says, Gal. 2:20 "I live, but not I, but Christ lives in me"…namely since by going out of himself he projected himself entirely into God, as a true lover and as suffering ecstasy…living in God and not living by his own life but by the life of Christ as the beloved, which life was to him intensely lovable."

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi