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- The Catholic Church and the Just War
War is an ever present reality in our world. Many of our families have been deeply touched by having family and friends deployed in war zones. Does being Catholic and being an American come into conflict when if comes to war?
The Church’s teaching on war is that there is, as a
starting point, a “presumption against the use of force” but also an “acceptance of the position that sometimes the use of force is required.”
(Education for Justice-Just War Theory and Non-Violence)
This position is known as the “Just War Theory” which has evolved a
tradition of guidelines to help determine if a war is justified and how it could be waged in a just manner.
The criteria, in a nutshell, are:
1. Just Cause: There must be a real danger to innocent life
2. Competent Authority: War can only be declared by those who have
responsibility for the common good.
3. Comparative Justice: In the absence of an agreed global
moral/judicial authority, all nations must recognize that their claims to having a just cause are relative and must be compared honestly and fairly to the claims of their opponents.
4. Right Intention: The intention for entering war must be to protect
human life and human rights. Its ultimate goal must be peace and
5. Last Resort: All peaceful alternatives must have been explored and
6. Probability of Success: When the result of entering war will clearly
be disproportionate suffering or obvious defeat, it must be rejected.
7. Proportionality: Requires the assessment that the cost of war in
damage and human suffering must be proportinate to the good expected to be achieved by the war.
This is a skeletal look at the Catholic teaching on war and peace. For more
in depth information go to http://usccb.org/ and search “war and peace”.