There’s an article today about Pope Francis that leads with, “Pope Francis gives every indication of wanting to go down as one of the great reformers in the history of the Roman Catholic Church” and questions the likelihood of Francis dropping the just war theory and replacing it with a more pacifist approach, you know, one that is more in tune with Jesus Christ.
The problem with the just war theory is that it is the dogmatic equivalent of the constitution, or say, a baseball hall of fame ballot; it’s painfully subjective. It’s a theory that is easily manipulated to accommodate a narrative.
St. Augustine, the Christian father of the just war theory was more so a pacifist than a man looking to create a loophole for hungry conquerors for centuries to come, but remember; no good deed goes unpunished, and so it goes; all conflicts are just, and both sides are just in their efforts, which, of course, cannot be possible.
Some 900 years after Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas picked up the ball and outlined requirements for what qualifies a war to be ‘just’. One of the central tenets is;
“Peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. (Right Intention: an authority must fight for the just reasons it has expressly claimed for declaring war in the first place. Soldiers must also fight for this intention.)”
While I understand this point, it seems that the fabled author who came some 600 years after Aquinas and wrote, ‘War is Peace, Freedom is slavery etc.’ was showing how much a mockery time had made of Augustine’s and Aquinas’ just war theory. We go to war these days on the presumption of a threat, not an actual threat. The Gulf of Tonkin, which set off the disastrous human sacrifice in Vietnam, was predicated upon a lie yet served up at ‘just’. We even entered Iraq on the presumption of illegals weapons, but failed to withdraw when none were found. Russia invaded the Ukraine and did so ‘justly’ according to Putin. Aquinas, let’s not forget, lived in a time of crusades and crusading pope’s wanted some cover, at least for their legacies and what would later become entries on their Wikipedia page.
Should Francis walk the Catholic Church away from the ‘just war theory’? Would that solidify him as one the great reformers? Maybe. Is it somewhat disingenuous? Yes. Francis has in front of him, the greatest responsibility that would label him one of the greatest reformers in papal history but he continues to swing in miss. Every day Francis remains silent on Cardinal Pell is another day that the Catholic Church is ignoring its responsibility to its greatest commodity; its children. Cardinal Pell’s testimony of shielding pedophiles for decades is abhorrent, only to be eclipsed by Francis’ decision to say absolutely nothing. He did, however, join Instagram in the time since the Pell testimony.
What Augustine didn’t realize at the time, is that narcissists. Wait, scratch that; nihilists would be waging wars under the cover of them being ‘just’. I’m not as entirely sold on the fact that Aquinas didn’t know this, but that’s merely speculation.
Two points in closing;
1. Barry Bonds should be in Cooperstown without having paid, and;
2.You’re either on the bus, or you’re not.
Peace be with you.
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