Just War


kareenlau asked this question on 8/15/2000:

The issue of War touches on the problem of respect for life. The catholic Church has a theory that speaks of a "Just War". If so, why or why not? Can you give some examples to support your claim?


Dear sister in Christ, dear Kareenlau:

The joy of the risen Lord be in your heart.

I tried to compose an answer but all my attempts fell short. So I post you a resume regarding your question from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It’s about self-defense. An individual can abandon his right to self-defense but those responsible for the common good cannot except be they all of one will to die first before killing an other.


2304. "Respect for and development of human life requires peace. Peace is not merely the absence of WAR, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is 'the tranquility of order.'[St. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 19, 13, 1: PL 41, 640.] Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity.[Cf. Isa 32:17 ; cf. GS 78 ## 1-2.]"

2307. "The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all WAR, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of WAR.[Cf. GS 81 # 4.] "

2308. "All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of WAR.

However, 'as long as the danger of WAR persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.'[GS 79 # 4.]"

2309. "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. At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the 'just WAR' doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."

2312. "The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. 'The mere fact that WAR has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.'[GS 79 # 4.]"

2314. "'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.'[GS 80 #3.] 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."

2315. "The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from WAR. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of WAR, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations;[Cf. Paul VI, PP 53.] it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation. "

2317. "Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding WAR:

Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of WAR hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and these words will be fulfilled: 'they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn WAR any more.'[GS 78 # 6; cf. Isa 2:4 .]"

2327. "Because of the evils and injustices that all WAR brings with it, we must do everything reasonably possible to avoid it. The Church prays: 'From famine, pestilence, and WAR, O Lord, deliver us.'"


There is one war that is going on and we all have to wage it. It’s not only just it’s imperative:

2853. "Victory over the 'prince of this world'[Jn 14:30 .] was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is 'cast out.'[Jn 12:31 ; Rev 12:10.] 'He pursued the woman'[Rev 12:13-16.] but had no hold on her: the new Eve, 'full of grace' of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). 'Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make WAR on the rest of her offspring.'[Rev 12:17.] Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: 'Come, Lord Jesus,'[Rev 22:17,20.] since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One."







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