We want to introduce here a somehow provocative article that has just been published by the Newsletter BLUEPRINT, December 2002. The author presents an account of the discussions going on in the USA concerning ethical options to international conflicts. Because of the length of the article, We just present a summary edited by our center. The full article can be found in the Web of the BLUEPRINT

On November 12, 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed "serious concerns and questions about a possible war with Iraq". Examining various approaches to "The War on Terror," Mark Mossa, S.J. suggests that there has been a failure of conviction and creativity in seeking alternatives to war as a last resort in recent conflicts.

It's in the Catechism
The just war teaching of the Church is presented in the sections on "Peace" and "Avoiding War" in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Catechism 2309). These are the conditions to be met before undertaking and while sustaining an armed conflict. Briefly, they demand that the damage inflicted by the aggressor must be lasting, grave, and certain (as, clearly, was the death of thousands in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on September 11), that all possible non-violent means of avoiding the conflict are exhausted, that there be a serious prospect of success, and that the evil inflicted (keeping in mind modern means of destruction) not be greater than that to be eliminated.
These criteria can be a great help in discerning for oneself whether a given conflict might be deemed just or not. But mostly they are meant to help guide government authorities, who have a responsibility for the common good, in the decision as to whether or not to undertake a war.

What About Catholic Social Teaching?
Many find the Church's recent social teaching a helpful supplement to the just war tradition. In 1963's Pacem in Terris, John XXIII declared, "Men are becoming more and more convinced that disputes which arise between states should not be resolved by recourse to arms, but rather by negotiation" (126).
Therefore, in an age such as ours which prides itself on its atomic energy it is contrary to reason to hold that war is now a suitable way to restore rights which have been violated" (127).
The Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes affirmed the just war tradition while feeling compelled "by the addition of scientific weapons . . . to undertake an evaluation of war with an entirely new attitude" and warning, "The men of our time must realize that they will have to give a somber reckoning of their deeds of war" (80).
Thus the Council affirmed a "new attitude" and legitimized conscientious objection to war.
Pope Paul VI stresses the urgency of ending war and its causes, beginning especially with disarmament. In Populorum Progressio he proposes a fund, made up of money which would be otherwise spent on arms, to bring relief to the destitute of the world, adding: "When so many people are hungry, when so many families suffer from destitution, when so many remain steeped in ignorance, when so many schools, hospitals and homes worthy of the name remain to be built, all public or private squandering of wealth, all expenditure prompted by motives of national or personal ostentation, every exhausting armaments race, becomes an intolerable scandal" (53).
Paul VI emphasizes that "the development of peoples," not defense budgets, is the best defense against war: "the new name for peace is development" (Populorum Progressio 87).
John Paul II continues the emphases of his predecessors in Centesimus Annus (51). Another name for peace is development. Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development" (52). He also recalls his reaction to the Persian Gulf War: "I myself... repeated the cry:
`Never Again War!' No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war" (52)
There seem, then, to be at least three distinct identifiable trends in the Church's social teaching: 1) A stronger anti-war stance prompted by the destructive potential of modern weapons, especially nuclear arms 2) A call for disarmament which includes a recognition of the role development of peoples, rather than weapons, must play in achieving peace, and 3) Praise for and promotion of conscientious objection and nonviolent alternatives to war. The question is whether, as many claim, these statements represent a shift or development in Church teaching on war.

The State of the Question
Where Catholic teaching stands on this matter today? It is clear that there is more than one morally legitimate response with regard to these matters.
We must heed the words of Pope John Paul II in his message for this year's World Day of Peace, "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness." We must, as he urges, set about the difficult task of cultivating an attitude of forgiveness first within ourselves, and then in our society: "The ability to forgive lies at the very basis of the idea of a future society marked by justice and solidarity. By contrast, the failure to forgive, especially when it serves to prolong conflict, is extremely costly in terms of human development. Resources are used for weapons rather than for development, peace, and justice...Peace is essential for development, but true peace is only made possible through forgiveness."
We are called to dialogue and to contribute to the ongoing conversation about how we as Christians are to promote peace and justice, even if that includes war. Like it or not, the just war teaching is the teaching of the Church and no Catholic discussion of war can take place without it. And while those who choose the path of nonviolent resistance might insist that they have nothing to talk about to those who would allow for the possibility of war, and vice-versa, we all have a Christian duty to do so. "The dread of being open to the ideas of others generally comes from our hidden insecurity about our own convictions," explains Thomas Merton, "The mission of Christian humility in social life is not merely to edify, but to keep minds open to many alternatives" (Merton 24).
Final Thoughts
In fairness to the reader, perhaps I should say a little about my own position in this matter. As far back as I can remember (and perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I was born in the sixties) I have been personally opposed to war. It is indeed a matter of conscience for me and in my life up until now I have yet to find anything to sway me from this position. Yet I do believe that we must take the just war tradition seriously if for no other reason than that it is and continues to be the teaching of the Church. At the same time, however, we cannot ignore the evidence of history and the challenges of the present insofar as they speak to the danger and feasibility of war.
For those, then, who take the just war tradition seriously, I offer a final thought. As much as people claim that it is the case, recent conflicts have caused me to wonder how much more inclined people really are to negotiation over armed conflict. The just war requirement that all other means of resolving a conflict must be exhausted before proceeding with a war seems to be mostly ignored and hardly attempted. I would be inclined to deem most recent wars unjust simply because they failed to meet this one requirement, no matter the other merits of the war. This I attribute to a failure of creativity and initiative, which if one takes time to look at the social encyclicals of the Church, will be found two important requirements for social change. Government officials too often seem to see few alternatives to war beyond ultimatums and limited diplomacy. It seems to me, for example, that the U.S. refusal to negotiate before the attack on Afghanistan at least compromises, if not totally negates, any claim to its being a just war. . . I hope my point is clear. Government officials must be open to new and even radical alternatives to war and be patient enough to see them through. Perhaps this might be seen as compromising political popularity, but humankind will be better preserved by work for peace than four more years of death-bringing compromises.
* About the Author: Mark Mossa, S.J. is the Director of Campus Ministry and Community Service at Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL.
(BLUEPRINT Volume LVI, No 4 / December, 2002)
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