Tuesday, March 18, 2003

War Musings-Good WaPo poll giving 70%+ approval for Bush's stance on Iraq; Mr. Sullivan had that link, as well as this link showing the British getting behind Blair's stance on the war despite Labour party unrest over Iraq; Social Democrats are strongly opposing the war, but a majority of Labour and Conservative party voter support the war. The Vatican's getting it right, even if it comes off wrong
The Vatican said Tuesday that countries which decided to wage war on Iraq without the consensus of the international community were assuming great responsibility before God and history. "Those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience and history," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
The US and its friends are taking on a grave responsibility. If you're going to war, you're going to break things and kill people, and you'd better be doggone sure you're making the right call. It might be the wrong call in 20-20 hindsight, but it looks like the right call for now, and I'll be comfortable standing before God on it. Not going to Baghdad twelve years ago looked like a good call at the time; that's one that we could have used a mulligan on. However, the people who made the decision felt that a full conquest of Iraq would have been more bother than it was worth. I think Bush 41 can sleep well; even though it proved to be a bad call, it was an honorably bad call. Dubya's taken on this grave responsibility with the proper amount of gravity; he's not trigger-happy, but doing what needs to be done. I'm not sure what to make of this Eastern Rite Catholic bishop, John Michael Botean, who's poised to excommunicate anyone participating in the war (link via the Corner). If he were my bishop, I'd want to be excommunicated. This letter is dated March 7th; I wonder why this took a week to show up on radar.
Beloved brothers and sisters in our Lord, Jesus Christ, Great Lent, which we now begin, is traditionally a time in which we take stock of ourselves, our lives, and the direction in which we are headed. In the common language of the Catholic Church, it is a time for a deep "examination of conscience" as we fast, pray, and otherwise attend to the call for repentance issued by the Church for the forty days before we celebrate the Resurrection of her savior, Jesus Christ. A serious examination of conscience requires that we recognize that there are times in the life of each Christian when one’s faith is seriously and urgently challenged by the events taking place around him or her. Like it or not, these challenges show us just how seriously—or not—we are living our baptismal commitment to Christ. Most of us, most of the time, would prefer to keep our heads in the sand, ostrich-like, than to face truths about ourselves. This is why the Church has found it so vitally necessary to have seasons, such as Lent, during which we must pull our heads out of the sand and take a good, hard look at the world around us and how we are living in it.
So far, so good. Lent gives people who aren't naturally reflective to think about God.
We cannot fail, as we examine our consciences, to take into account the most critical challenge presented to our faith in our day: the fact that the United States government is about to initiate a war against the people of Iraq. For Romanian Catholics who are also United States citizens, this raises an immediate and unavoidable moral issue of major importance. Specifically stated the issue is this: does the killing of human beings in this war constitute murder?
I don't think so, but Mr. Botean's going to disagree.
The Holy Gospels reveal our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ to be nonviolent. In them, Jesus teaches a Way of life that his disciples are to follow, a Way of nonviolent love of friends and enemies. However, since the latter half of the fourth century the Church has proposed standards that, if met, would make it morally permissible for Christians to depart from that way in order to engage in war. These standards have come to be known in popular language as the "Catholic Just War Theory."
Driving the moneychangers out of the temple isn't violent? If he merely shouted them down, the imagery of Revelation 19 shows a Jesus who isn't the second coming of Jimmy Carter
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
That isn't a PC version of Jesus, but it's still a valid one. His first trip was as a lamb, the second will be as conquistador. As far as just war is concerned, Josh Claybourn lays out those standards very well in this post.
According to this theory, if all of the conditions it specifies are adhered to, the killing that is done in fighting a war may be justifiable and therefore morally allowable. This theory also teaches that if any one of the standards is not met, then the killing that occurs is unjust and therefore morally impermissible. Unjust killing is by definition murder. Murder is intrinsically evil and therefore absolutely forbidden, no matter what good may seem to come of it. The Church teaches that good ends do not justify the use of evil means. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this principle succinctly: "One may never do evil so that good may result from it." (1789) One contemporary example of this would be abortion. Abortion is intrinsically evil; hence regardless of the good that may seem to issue from it, a Catholic may never participate in it.
However, not all killing is unjust. You saw plenty of wars in the Old Testament and capital punishment was built into the Mosaic Law.
Paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy" (emphasis added). Since war is about the mass infliction of death and suffering on children of God, Christians can enter into it and fight in it only if the war in question strictly meets all the criteria of the just war theory, and only if these same standards are likewise meticulously observed in the course of fighting the war. Vague, loose, freewheeling, conniving, relaxed interpretations of Catholic just war theory and its application are morally illegitimate because of "the gravity of such a decision."
This is pacifism by micromanagement. The war itself might be just, but our Bishop is looking to check every last detail. Was every shot fired with the right intention? Did every counterattack have a reasonable hope of success? Someone's going to be firing a shot in anger or personal vengeance; does that make the whole war unjust? If so, do we have to have an army of warrior-priests with fully purified hearts before a war is justified? I don't think the Hebrew armies of the OT would have pass those tests.
"The evaluation of these conditions of the just war theory for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good," states the Catechism. (2309) However, the nation-state is never the final arbiter or authority for the Catholic of what is moral or for what is good for the salvation of his or her soul. What is legal can be evil and often has been. Jesus Christ and his Church, not the state, are the ultimate informers of conscience for the Catholic. This is why the Church teaches as a norm of conscience the following: "If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order such arrangements would not be binding in conscience." (Catechism 1903) She also warns "Blind obedience [to immoral laws] does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out" (Catechism 2313). When a moral conflict arises between Church teaching and secular morality, when contradictory moral demands are made upon a Catholic’s conscience, he or she "must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29).
That's solid theology, continue
Because such a moment of moral crisis has arisen for us, beloved Romanian Catholics, I must now speak to you as your bishop. Please be aware that I am not speaking to you as a theologian or as a private Christian voicing his opinion, nor by any means am I speaking to you as a political partisan. I am speaking to you solely as your bishop with the authority and responsibility I, though a sinner, have been given as a successor to the apostles on your behalf. I am speaking to you from the deepest chambers of my conscience as your bishop, appointed by Jesus Christ in his Body, the Church, to help shepherd you to sanctity and to heaven. Never before have I spoken to you in this manner, explicitly exercising the fullness of authority Jesus Christ has given his Apostles "to bind and to loose," (cf. John 20:23), but now "the love of Christ compels" me to do so (2 Corinthians 5:14). My love for you makes it a moral imperative that I not allow you, by my silence, to fall into grave evil and its incalculable temporal and eternal consequences. Humanly speaking, I would much prefer to keep silent. It would be far, far easier for me and my family simply to let events unfold as they will, without commentary or warning on my part. But what kind of shepherd would I be if I, seeing the approach of the wolf, ran away from the sheep (cf. John 10:12-14)? My silence would be cowardly and, indeed, sinful. I believe that Christ, whose flock you are, expects more than silence from me on behalf of the souls committed to my protection and guidance.
The grave evil, the wolf, is the government of the United States of America. Not Saddam Hussein, not Osama bin Laden, the US Government.
Therefore I, by the grace of God and the favor of the Apostolic See Bishop of the Eparchy of St. George in Canton, must declare to you, my people, for the sake of your salvation as well as my own, that any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory.
Note that he doesn't start to show why it doesn't meet just war standards; he merely states that it doesn't. He seems to be of an opinion that no war is just. It would be helpful to see what part of the just war steps aren't met here. Is this a Just Cause? I think so. Stopping a ruthless dictator from threatening the world and from immiserating his people is just. Is there a competent authority? I don't think the UN has been risen to the level of being the only competent authority. A broad coalition of countries looks competent from here. Is there the right intention? There might be some oil greed and some vengeance, but the intentions seem proper. Is war the last resort? Inspections aren't going to get the job done; Saddam doesn't respond to anything but brute force. Is there relative justice? I think we're sufficiently on the side of the angels to justify battle with the Baathists. Is there proportionality? The benefits seem to outweigh the costs when minimizing the threat of WMD and helping the lives of the Iraqi people are combined. Is there a reasonable hope of success?-Hoo-yah!
Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and, in consequence, unequivocally murder. Direct participation in this war is the moral equivalent of direct participation in an abortion. For the Catholics of the Eparchy of St. George, I hereby authoritatively state that such direct participation is intrinsically and gravely evil and therefore absolutely forbidden.
Killing members of a dictator's army on the battlefield's as bad a killing an innocent child. OK, let's crank up the rhetoric. Would you excommunicate any member of the government, or just the soldiers in the Gulf?
My people, it is an incontestable Biblical truth that a sin left unnamed will propagate itself with lavish zeal. We must call murder by its right name: murder. God and conscience require nothing less if the face of the earth is to be renewed and if the salvation offered by Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is to reach all people, including us. We have no choice before the face of God but to speak unambiguously to the moral situation with which we are confronted and to live according to the Will of Him who gazes at us from the Cross (Catechism 1785).
Unambiguously wrong, but never in doubt.
Let us pray for each other and take care of each other in this spiritually trying time. To this end our Church is wholeheartedly committed to the support of any of our members in the military or government service who may be confronted with situations of legal jeopardy due to their need to be conscientious objectors to this war. Let us also pray in earnest with the Mother of God, who knows what it is to have her Child destroyed before her eyes, that the destruction of families, lives, minds and bodies that war unleashes will not take place.
Jesus was killed on the cross for the greater good; had Mary's child not been destroyed, we'd all be on the Highway to Hell. Might not the deaths that come from the war to come also be for the greater good?
Finally, my brothers and sisters in Christ, be assured that Our Lord is aware that our "No" to murder and our prayers for peace are our faithful response to his desires. He will remember this forever and ever, and so it is to him we must now turn, in him we must now trust. Amen. Sincerely in Christ-God,+ John Michael (Most Reverend) John Michael Botean a sinner, bishop
"a sinner, bishop." I'll buy that.

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