President Trump has laid down the gauntlet with North Korea saying that if the North Koreans continue to make threats we, the United States, would unleash a "fire and fury such has never been seen in the world." This may just be Trump being Trump and exaggerating, but what if he means it? What if we will send a volley of nuclear weapons upon North Korea if they continue to threaten us? That is the only "fire and fury" that the world has not yet seen. We have seen firebombing of entire German cities in World War II in addition to the use of nuclear weapons against Japan.
The question for Catholics is, how does war with Korea measure up against the just war theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. Let's look at it.
The just war theory has two parts: "jus ad bellum" - justification for the war, and "jus in bello" - how the is conducted.
JUS AD BELLUM - Justification for going to war.
The war must a last resort. All other options must have failed or been proven to be ineffective. At this point it certainly is not the last resort. This was one of the issues that resulted in then Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (later Pope Benedict XVI), to declare the Iraq war unjust in 2003. It was not a last resort war.
The war must be declared by a legitimate authority. One would assume this would be the case.
There must be a just cause. This would be debated on the reason for war. Is it just to be seen as being bold and powerful? That would not do. Would it be to strengthen a failing administration? Certainly not. Just cause amounts to an attack from an unjust aggressor. This is really the bench mark. A pre-emptive strike would not be a just cause. This is the other reason Cardinal Ratzinger declared the Iraq war to be unjust even before it began. There was no attack by an unjust aggressor. Vengeance is not a just cause.
Probability of success. There must be real probability that the war will be successful in creating a peace that would exceed the peace that existed before the war.
JUS IN BELLO - Conducting the war in just manner.
Proportionality. The war must not create evils and disorders greater than the evil to be eliminated. Under this criterion, the Church is clearly stated: "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation." (Gaudium et Spes: Second Vatican Council) This was meant to be a clear condemnation of the use of nuclear weapons. The Catechism further explains: "A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons - especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes." (CCC #2314) Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are always a crime against humanity and rightfully condemned. The use of nuclear weapons by one nation does not justify the use of nuclear weapons by another nation. The use of nuclear weapons because another nations has threatened to use them is beyond criminal. The annihilation of an entire country destroys the very concept of proportionality.
Distinction must be made between civilians and combatants. In modern warfare, this is this criterion that I believe renders almost all modern warfare as unjust.
One should remember that all these criteria must be met without question. You cannot satisfy some or one or two and still have a just war. Violation of one of the criteria in the least renders the war unjust.
Looking at these criteria, for the United States to attack North Korea because of a threat to attack us would be unjust, Jus ad bellum.
For the US to use nuclear weapons at any point would render the war unjust, Jus in bello. This would be true if "fire and fury" means destroying the entire nation of North Korea with its population.
Monday, May 1, 2017
The Unitestates Catholic Conference of Bishops states: "The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative."
Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today's global society, it is essential that "we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone," no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning. We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si'], nos. 127-28)
Monday, October 3, 2016
The bishops break their presentation of Church teaching that are meant to guide us into the four Principles of Catholic Social Teaching: The Dignity of the Human Person, The Common Good, Subsidiarity, and Solidarity.
Under the Dignity of the Human Person, once finds the foundational teaching against abortion. The intentional killing of innocent life is never morally acceptable. Also included this principle are denunciations against euthanasia, assisted suicide, human cloning, in vitro fertilization, and the destruction of human embryos for research. We are also called to oppose among other things, torture, unjust war, attacks against non-combatants, racism, as well as overcoming poverty and suffering. The bishops also repeat the pleas of Pope Francis for the United States to ban the death penalty.
Subsidiarity reminds us that we are social people and that larger institutions should not interfere with smaller, more local groups, including the family. When a local group is not sufficient enough to protect human dignity and the common good it is only then that we turn to larger institutions.
The Common Good reminds us that every human person has a right to such things as food and shelter, education, employment, health care, and freedom of religion. The Common Good calls us to protect the rights of workers and their right to form associations. Finally the bishops, under the Common Good reiterate the Pope's call to care for our creation, especially as it regards pollution and climate change.
Solidarity reminds us that we are all in this together. Regardless of our race, nationality, religion or ideological differences. It is under the principle of Solidarity that the bishops call us to "welcome the stranger", including immigrants. Solidarity is also where the Church's Preferential Option for the Poor finds it basis.
It can be seen in reading through the publication that no one ideology, no one political party and no one candidate fits into all the teachings of the Church. Neither the "left" nor the "right", neither Republicans nor Democrats can claim to hold true to all that these principles of Catholic Social Teaching call us to. Indeed, the bishops state that: "When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths.." (#13) If we fit too well into one ideology or one political party, if we find we reject Church Teaching because it does not conform to what my party of candidate endorses, that we have made our ideology more important than our call to discipleship. We have made our membership in our political party more important than our membership in the Catholic Church.
I urge all Catholics to vote this year and I urge all Catholics to read the entire publication. Please go to the USCCB web site and get a copy of
Monday, August 15, 2016
I RESPECTFULLY DISAGREE
One of the things that really distresses me about our political process is how nasty it has become. Democracy depends upon the ability to discuss, debate, and argue over issues as family and friends. It used to be twe recognized that those we disagreed with politically were good Americans who wanted the best for our country. It was how to get there that we disagreed with. This is no longer true in our current political culture. While this election cycle is particularly nasty, the trend has been moving this way for the past couple of decades. Those who disagree with us politically and ideologically are no longer fellow Americans who want the best for our country but they are idiots because they disagree with me. They are traitors because they think I'm wrong. They are evil and criminal because their ideas are not mine. This dysfunction of our democracy is exasperated by social media. Friends of mine who are very pleasant in person can be very vicious on Facebook, calling people names they would never utter in person.
I enjoy a good argument. When my wife and I were first married, her family still gathered together on Sunday afternoons for a family meal, often with family members from out of town. We would often get into political discussion that sometimes got heated. My wife did not enjoy these discussions but I did. The main reason I enjoyed them was because no one belittled anyone else. No one got nasty and insulting. We disagreed and at the end of the discussion my father-in-law would hold up his glass of wine and say "salute", the Italian version, and we would toast each others' health.
If we cannot discuss politics without becoming nasty and insulting than our democracy is in serious trouble. Calling each other names is childish. Don't do it. Insulting each other's intelligence is counterproductive and also childish. Someone who disagrees with you is not evil or anti-American. Good people can and do disagree. I have many friends that I disagree with on political and ideological issues. Yet I am glad to see them and enjoy their company. Adults should be able to disagree and argue with getting nasty.
Let's debate as adults!
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
POPE FRANCIS ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
When Pope Francis addressed the Joint Session of Congress on September 28, he addressed many issues in a way that clearly showed that the way of the Gospel is not aligned with either political category of "right" or "left", conservative or liberal. At times the democrats applauded his words, at other times the republicans did. Some Catholics were upset that he did not emphasis issues important to them. The pope chose not to berate the men and women of Congress with repeating Church Teaching that they are all aware of. Everyone is aware of what the Church teaches concerning abortion and same-sex marriage. The pope made reference to these issues but did not harangue the men and women present and those listening who were not present.
An issue that Francis did emphasis was the death penalty. He did this because not everyone is clear on where the Church stands on capital punishment. This is because Church Teaching on capital punishment has evolved. When the new CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLID CHURCH was first published in 1994 the paragraph on the use of the death penalty illustrated the traditional teaching: "Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty." (CCC 2266)
However, the following year St. John Paul II issued his encyclical letter Evangelium Veta (The Gospel of Life). In this encyclical John Paul states:
" In the same perspective there is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of "legitimate defence" on the part of society. Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform.
It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent." (#56)
Because of this evolution of the teaching on capital punishment, in the revised CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLID CHURCH (1997) the paragraphs on the death penalty are altered to include St. John Paul II's emphasis:
"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]" (CCC 2266 & 2267)
Pope Francis has moved this evolution further by making it clear the he promotes the global elimination of the death penalty.
Pope Francis has clearly stated that the use of capital punishment by the United States, or any other country, is no longer consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.