Bergoglio denies traditional ‘just war’ doctrine…
Francis says “Wars Are Always Unjust”,
contradicting traditional Catholic Moral Doctrine
It is not difficult to see that Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) is no serious theologian.
He himself in fact acknowledges as much, at least when it suits his agenda: “I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand”, he answered in 2015 when asked about permitting “inter-communion” with Lutherans. Bergoglio is also on record saying that “[s]tudying fundamental theology is one of the most boring things on earth”, and his hatred of Scholasticism — characteristic of all Modernists, according to Pope St. Pius X (see Encyclical Pascendi, n. 42) — is likewise not a secret.
Certainly, having no interest in being a theologian while pretending to be the Pope of the Catholic Church is bad enough, but things get really scary when the same individual then nevertheless plays moral theologian on occasion. And yes, we do mean “play”.
We saw this in his exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016), in which he essentially redefined sin from being a voluntary breaking of the divine law to it being an imperfect participation in the ‘ideal’ of holiness. With that sleight of hand, the Ten Commandments became the Ten Suggestions with the stroke of a pen, especially the Sixth and the Ninth.
But now the Jesuit apostate has weighed in on the Russia-Ukraine War. In a video call held on Mar. 16 with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Francis claimed there was no such thing as a “just war”, thereby contradicting traditional Roman Catholic moral doctrine.
CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher provided the following translation of a statement issued by the Vatican press office director, Matteo Bruni, summarizing the call:
Pope Francis thanked the Patriarch for this meeting, motivated by the desire, as pastors of their people, to indicate a path to peace, to pray for the gift of peace, that fighting will cease. “The Church – the Pope agreed with the Patriarch – should not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus.” “We are pastors of the same Holy People who believe in God, in the Most Holy Trinity, in the Holy Mother of God: this is why we must unite together in our efforts for peace, to help those who suffer, to search for the path to peace, to stop the fire.” Both underscored the exceptional importance of the process of negotiations underway because, as the Pope said: “It is the people who pay the price of war: the Russian soldiers and the people who are bombed and died.”
“As pastors,” the Pope continued, “we have the duty to be close to and help all people who suffer from the war. Once even our Churches spoke of holy war or of just war. Today, we cannot speak like that. The Christian conscience has developed on the importance of peace.” And, agreeing with the Patriarch that, “the Churches are called to contribute to reinforcing peace and justice,” Pope Francis concluded: “Wars are always unjust. Because it’s the people of God who pay the price. Our hearts can’t help but weep in front of children, of women killed, in front of all victims of war. War is never the way. The Spirit which unites us asks us as pastors to help the peoples who suffer because of war.”
(Source: Twitter user @deliacnn)
There’s a lot on which to comment here. We’ll start with the easier stuff.
So Francis tells the heretico-schismatic pseudo-patriarch: “We are pastors of the same Holy People who believe in God….” In actual fact, however, they’re not. They belong to two different religions, and for neither of the two is it Roman Catholicism. At least one of them is candid enough to admit it. For that reason there is no “Spirit which unites us”; at least it’s not the Holy Spirit.
Next, one is certainly glad to hear Francis assert that the Church “should not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus” — it’s just not very credible coming from Jorge Bergoglio. For example, when addressing the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017, the false pope unloaded the following “thoroughly Christian” vocabulary on his listeners:
In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the programmatic document of my Pontificate addressed to the Catholic faithful, I proposed four principles of action for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; and the whole is greater than the part. These lines of action are evidently part of the age-old wisdom of all humanity; I believe that they can also serve as an aid to reflection for the Hamburg meeting and for the assessment of its outcome.
Time is greater than space. The gravity, complexity and interconnection of world problems is such that there can be no immediate and completely satisfying solutions. Sadly, the migration crisis, which is inseparable from the issue of poverty and exacerbated by armed conflicts, is proof of this. It is possible, though, to set in motion processes that can offer solutions that are progressive and not traumatic, and which can lead in relatively short order to free circulation and to a settlement of persons that would be to the advantage of all. Nonetheless, this tension between space and time, between limit and fullness, requires an exactly contrary movement in the minds of government leaders and the powerful. An effective solution, necessarily spread over time, will be possible only if the final objective of the process is clearly present in its planning. In the minds and hearts of government leaders, and at every phase of the enactment of political measures, there is a need to give absolute priority to the poor, refugees, the suffering, evacuees and the excluded, without distinction of nation, race, religion or culture, and to reject armed conflicts.
Etc., etc., etc. We won’t quote the whole speech here, but you get the idea!
So instead of the divinely-revealed Gospel, Francis promoted what he called the “age-old wisdom of all humanity”. If this is “speaking the language of the Lord Jesus”, one would hate to hear the language of politics.
Now the biggest bombshells in Francis’ remarks to Kirill are, of course, the following:
Once even our Churches spoke of holy war or of just war. Today, we cannot speak like that. The Christian conscience has developed on the importance of peace. … Wars are always unjust. Because it’s the people of God who pay the price. Our hearts can’t help but weep in front of children, of women killed, in front of all victims of war. War is never the way.
So here we see Francis playing moral theologian. What an utter train wreck this is will become clear in a moment. First, let’s provide an outline of the method he used to drive home the idea that there is no such thing as just war:
- slam the Church’s past doctrine and practice as immoral and repudiate it (“Once even our Churches spoke of holy war or of just war. Today, we cannot speak like that.”)
- provide theoretical justification by making an abstract moral-sounding assertion to justify a change of position (“The Christian conscience has developed on the importance of peace.”)
- engage in moralizing by making a simplistic and false assertion that is politically correct and will make for a great headline (“Wars are always unjust.”)
- provide practical justification by making a concrete moral-sounding assertion to justify a change of position (“Because it’s the people of God who pay the price.”)
- make appeal to the emotions that has no actual relevance to the question at hand (“Our hearts can’t help but weep in front of children, of women killed, in front of all victims of war.”)
- re-assert the false new doctrine (“War is never the way.”)
Now let’s look at each element a little more closely.
(1) “Once even our Churches spoke of holy war or of just war. Today, we cannot speak like that.”
The terms “holy war” and “just war” are not interchangeable; they mean different things.
An example of a “holy war” would be the Crusades, which the Catholic Encyclopedia defines as “expeditions undertaken, in fulfilment of a solemn vow, to deliver the Holy Places from Mohammedan tyranny” (s.v. “Crusades”). In fact, “[n]o war ever had a more legitimate cause than the Crusades, which were undertaken to defend the Christian religion against the unspeakable atrocities of infidels” (Moral Theology, n. 1391b). Although the Crusades as such were not evil, as many mistakenly believe, lamentably, they “increasingly belied their name and degenerated into little more than expeditions of aggrandizement and plundering…” (Catholic Dictionary, s.v. “Crusades, The”).
As to what constitutes a properly so-called “just war”, we will look at that under (3) below. One may surmise that the war in which St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) fought is an example of a just war, and of course the Crusades, being a holy war, were also a just war all the more so.
If Francis is merely saying that today there are no holy wars being fought because none of the armed conflicts in our world meet the criteria for holy war, he is correct. Likewise, if he is saying that none of the wars in our day meet the criteria for just war, he may also be correct. Unfortunately, however, that does not seem to be what he means. Rather, it seems that he is repudiating the very concepts of holy war and just war.
(2) “The Christian conscience has developed on the importance of peace.”
Ah yes, when you don’t know how to justify a change of position, simply appeal to a development, especially when you can throw in words like “conscience”, “consciousness”, or “dignity”. So mankind now has a better understanding of how important peace is, so much so that it affects Catholic doctrine in a major way? It’s too bad the Church’s moral theologians in the 1950s had no inkling of that yet.
When a few years ago Francis had to come up with a reason for declaring the death penalty morally “inadmissible”, he likewise appealed to “development”. And so he spoke of an “increasing awareness” of “the dignity of the person” — he meant the offender, of course, not the victim — that rendered executions morally wrong, something prior generations had clearly missed. He also appealed to a “new understanding … of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state” and pointed out that “more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens”, as if the legitimacy of administering capital punishment hinged on how secure prisons are.
His official change to the Novus Ordo Catechism sent his supporters scrambling for explanations because it was obviously not a true development but a corruption of traditional teaching, since genuine doctrinal development clarifies or builds upon the prior position, it does not contradict it.
So just as the “Christian conscience” collectively developed on the dignity of man, Francis tells us, it has now also developed on the importance of peace. That must be the same “Christian conscience” that Francis says can conclude that adultery is sometimes not only morally permissible but in fact desired by God — or, as the false pope put it verbatim, “that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal” (Amoris Laetitia, n. 303). Hey, at least understanding that adultery is “not fully” the “objective ideal” of Holy Matrimony is still required — although one may suspect that it too will quickly be “developed” away by Francis’ successor.
(3) “Wars are always unjust.”
Just two days ago, on Mar. 18, Francis repeated his thesis: “There is no such thing as a just war: they do not exist!” (Address to Participants in Gravissimum Educationis Congress).
Now, the assertion that wars are always unjust can be understood in more than one sense. It can be understood to mean that, although in theory war can be just, if it meets the necessary criteria, in practice these criteria are never actually met, and hence all war as fought is unjust. That is one way to understand Bergoglio’s assertion. However, it can also be understood to mean that there is no such thing as just war even in principle, meaning war is inherently unjust, regardless of circumstances or how it is fought. It is this latter sense in which we must interpret Francis’ words, given what else he actually said in his video call with Kirill.
The Dominican manual Moral Theology by Fathers John McHugh and Charles Callan, published a few years before the Second Vatican Council, explains the two kinds of war as follows:
1377. There are two kinds of war, just and unjust. (a) War is just when undertaken for a right cause (e.g., the independence of the nation); (b) it is unjust when undertaken for a wrong cause (e.g., the enslavement of a nation).
1378. Just war is either offensive or defensive. (a) Offensive war is attack made on an enemy in order to avenge an injury or enforce a right (e.g., invasion of the enemy’s territory to obtain compensation for damages inflicted by him); (b) defensive war is resistance to unjust attack made or menaced by an enemy (e.g., war made on the invader of one’s country).
1379. Just war is called defensive in two senses. (a) In the strict sense, it is defensive when the nation whose rights are unjustly attacked does not initiate hostilities, that is, does not declare or begin the war. (b) In a less strict sense, it is defensive when the nation unjustly attacked declares war or strikes the first blow. Thus, if the innocent nation knew that the enemy was secretly preparing war against its independence, it would be on the defensive, even though it declared war.
(John A. McHugh and Charles J. Callan, Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities, vol. 1 [New York, NY: Joseph F. Wagner, Inc., 1958], nn. 1377-1379; pp. 557-558. The entire content of this book is available for free online at this link.)
Having explained these preliminary distinctions, the same morality manual explains that war as such is not contrary to God’s revealed law, the Church’s law, or the natural law:
1380. War is not against the law of God. (a) Under the law of nature Melchisedech blessed Abraham returning from victory over the four kings (Gen., xiv. 18-20). (b) Under the written law, God many times ordered or approved of war, as can be seen from Exodus and following books in numerous places. (c) Under the New Law, John the Baptist acknowledged the lawfulness of the soldier’s profession (Luke, iii. 14), a centurion was praised by Christ (Matt, viii. 10), Acts, x. 2, speaks of the officer Cornelius as a religious man, and St. Paul lauds warriors of the Old Testament such as Gedeon, Barac, Samson, etc. (Heb, xi. 32-34). Our Lord Himself used physical force against evildoers (John, ii. 14 sqq.).
1381. Certain sayings of our Lord—for example, that those who take the sword shall perish by the sword (Matt, xxvi. 52), and that one should not resist evil (Matt, v. 39)—are not an endorsement of extreme pacifism, but are respectively a condemnation of those who without due authority have recourse to violence, and a counsel of perfection, when this serves better the honor of God or the good of the neighbor. Moreover, these words of Christ were addressed, not to states, which are responsible for the welfare of their members, but to individuals. The Quakers have done excellent service for the cause of world peace, but their teaching that all war is contrary to the law of Christ cannot be admitted. The spirit of the Gospel includes justice as well as love.
1382. War is not against the law of the Church. (a) The Church has never condemned war as such. She has always labored for the promotion of peace or for the lessening of the evils of wars that could not be prevented; but her official declarations and the writings of the Fathers and Doctors show that she recognized that recourse to arms by nations is not necessarily sinful. (b) The Church has put her approval on some wars as necessary and laudable. Thus, the Crusades, to which the salvation of Christian civilization is due, were promoted by the Church; military orders for the defense of the Holy Sepulchre were instituted by her, and she has raised to the honors of the altar soldiers like Sebastian, Maurice, and Martin of Tours.
1383. War is not against the law of nature. (a) As the law of nature allows even a private individual to use force to drive off an unjust aggressor, it cannot be unlawful for a nation to have recourse to defensive war when its rights are invaded. (b) As the law of nature allows the individual to seek satisfaction for injury and restitution for loss, it cannot be unlawful for a nation to make offensive war when another nation will not make reparation, unless compelled to it by force. If physical coercion were unlawful, a conscienceless nation would take advantage of this at the expense of other nations, and thus a premium would be set on iniquity.
(McHugh and Callan, Moral Theology, vol. 1, nn. 1380-1383; pp. 558-559)
That is the traditional Catholic moral teaching regarding war. By contradicting it with a simplistic and sophomoric “all wars are unjust”, Bergoglio denies the Church’s perennial moral doctrine.
If Francis merely meant that in our day, no wars are actually being fought in a way that meet the criteria for just war, then he should have said so, but he didn’t. It’s not difficult to speak in accordance with Catholic doctrine, and if he is the Pope (which he isn’t), then he has an obligation to ensure his words are in accordance with orthodox doctrine, lest souls be misled.
For example, he could have simply said: “Let us no longer speak of ‘just war’ in our time, because none of the wars in our world today are just. This world has not seen a just war in a long time.” It’s not difficult to express oneself in an orthodox fashion if only one cares to.
(4) “Because it’s the people of God who pay the price.”
Why Bergoglio sees fit to restrict the victims of war to “the people of God” is not clear, unless, of course, he means that all mankind is the “people of God”. But surely he couldn’t mean that, for that would be contrary to Vatican II: “…the People of God and the human race in whose midst it lives render service to each other” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, n. 11).
In any case, the fact that countless innocent people suffer in war is true and terrible. It does not, however, make all war always wrong; it simply means that war is permitted only as a last resort and for the gravest of reasons:
Since war inflicts grave damage on all people involved and frequently on innocent parties, without a grave and extremely serious violation of rights [as a justification for war], war is not a licit means. The damage consequent on modern nuclear warfare renders the actual reasons for warfare much more serious than previously acceptable causes or motives. Parties engaged in warfare have a great responsibility and obligation to reparation for damages suffered by their own subjects in a just war: soldiers killed or wounded, prisoners, families, cities and countries destroyed.
(Mgr. Pietro Palazzini, ed., Dictionary of Moral Theology [London: Burns & Oates, 1962], s.v. “War”, p. 1297)
The “mere” fact that innocent people suffer, therefore, is not a legitimate argument against the morality of war as such.
To be clear: War is terrible. It entails untold suffering of all kinds, the details of which need hardly be mentioned here. In no wise is it the intention of this post to make light of war or its consequences. We simply wish to juxtapose the traditional Catholic understanding of the morality of war with Bergoglio’s false moralism.
In our day, many people have probably been led to believe that in war, “anything goes”; and indeed, if that were the case, then all war would be unjust because it would mean that war does away with the moral law. But the truth is that war, too, must follow the moral law:
1402. It is not true that all is fair in war, for even a just cause cannot sanction unjust means. The commandments of God and the laws of nations retain their force even amid the clash of arms. Examples of acts of war that are unlawful, as being opposed to the natural law are the following: (a) acts of irreligion, such as wanton destruction of churches or monasteries; (b) attempts to seduce enemy soldiers from the obedience or loyalty owed their commanders; (c) murder, that is, the direct killing of innocent and unarmed persons, as when one refuses quarter to soldiers who wish to surrender, fires on an officer bearing a flag of truce, sinks passenger ships not engaged on errands of war, massacres the civil population by raids from the air, places a defenceless population at the mercy of savages or criminals employed as soldiers; (d) the dishonoring of women, the establishment of brothels for soldiers; (e) stealing, such as the unauthorized pillage of a town or countryside; (f) lying, such as breaking treaties, not keeping faith with the foe, entering into perjured agreements, circulating false stories of atrocities, forging of documents, etc.
1403. Just war is resistance to unjust aggression, and so the same means are lawful in warfare as are lawful in private aggression. (a) Thus, the means used against an aggressor must not be evil in themselves, as when a person protects himself against a murderer by making an innocent person a shield. Hence, in war one may not use any means that is opposed to the law of God, or to human contracts or other obligations. (b) The means employed must be such as are really necessary for overpowering the aggressor. Thus, it is not lawful to kill a burglar when wounding him will suffice for the protection of one’s property. Likewise, in war it is not lawful to exterminate or depopulate an enemy, if the end of war can be attained by depriving the enemy of his weapons.
(McHugh and Callan, Moral Theology, vol. 1, nn. 1402-1403; pp. 567-568)
As is quite evident here, moral theology is incredibly nuanced and complicated. In fact, the quoted excerpts above from the Moral Theology manual are but small snippets taken from the full treatment, which can be found at nn. 1376-1427. We encourage readers to read those passages in full, as they shed much light not only on the principles involved but also very specific circumstances and questions that may arise regarding the morality of war.
For Francis, none of this has meaning, however. It is pre-Vatican II “casuistry” for him, which he replaces with little more than a shallow greeting-card theology, and that is no mere rhetorical exaggeration.
In 2018, he introduced a “plan” for world peace on Twitter that shows the full brilliance of his intellect: “Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war” (tweet of Apr. 29, 2018):
Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 29, 2018
If a 5th-grader said something so foolish, one would chuckle and move on. But this man claims to be, and is recognized by practically the whole world as, the head of the Roman Catholic Church!
We responded to this idiocy in the following post:
The fact that his own guards carry weapons to protect him is something he left out of the equation. Neither did he explain how, if all weapons are banned, such a ban be enforced. Presumably… with weapons? We weren’t kidding when we said that Bergoglio plays moral theologian.
In any case, Francis’ silly idea is not a new one, of course, and was rejected by real Catholic moralists before Vatican II:
The theory of exaggerated pacifists, who consider war immoral under all conditions and insist that armies and armaments should be eliminated, is an erroneous belief. Of course, war should be eliminated from the face of the earth, but not before more appropriate and effective ways than the elimination of arms are found for settling disputes between nations.
(Dictionary of Moral Theology, s.v. “War”, p. 1297)
It’s too bad these theologians did not have the gifted intellect and shrewd insights of Jorge Bergoglio.
(5) “Our hearts can’t help but weep in front of children, of women killed, in front of all victims of war.”
Yes, our hearts should weep for the innocent victims of war. As clarified under (4) above, however, the fact that often the innocent suffer greatly during war, that alone does not make all wars always morally wrong.
In fact, in his 1948 Christmas radio address, Pope Pius XII pointed out that “neither the sole consideration of the sorrows and evils resulting from war, nor the careful weighing of the act against the advantage, avail to determine finally, whether it is morally licit, or even in certain concrete circumstances obligatory (provided always there be solid probability of success) to repel an aggressor by force of arms” (English translation in Catholic Action, vol. 31, n. 1, p. 18).
In any case, notice how Francis speaks of “all victims of war”, without distinguishing the innocent from the guilty. In fact, it is clear that the guilty and the innocent are the same to him, for earlier in his statement he had said: “It is the people who pay the price of war: the Russian soldiers and the people who are bombed and died”; and we know from another occasion on which he spoke that he believes it is the Russian side in the Russia-Ukraine War that is in the wrong, guilty of “a perverse abuse of power and partisan interests….”
(6) “War is never the way.”
Given all of the evidence presented above, it is clear that Francis’ claim that war is never permissible — “War is never the way” — is false and, ironically, itself immoral.
The Dictionary of Moral Theology, published in Italian in 1957 and in English five years later, outlines the morality of war as follows:
Catholic doctrine regarding the morality of war is ancient and venerable; first proposed by St. Augustine, it was clearly elaborated by St. Thomas Aquinas. Thus war is morally licity: (a) if declared by a person who lawfully possesses supreme power in the State; (b) it is not waged out of evil or personal motives, such as revenge, conquest, ambition, etc.; (c) if it is waged to protect one nation’s rights against violation or, in the absence of an intention to make reparation, for a violation by another nation. The purpose of a just war is the preservation of justice and, consequently, of peace. Peace is not disturbed by the declaration of war but through the violation of rights in the juridical order, which actually makes a declaration of war necessary.
(Dictionary of Moral Theology, s.v. “War”, p. 1297; underlining added.)
The last sentence is an absolutely crucial insight, and it shows that war can sometimes not only be just and justified but morally necessary, as Pius XII had also pointed out, calling it “obligatory”. Could Bergoglio be any further from the true Catholic doctrine on the matter?
It is important to understand that peace, as desirable and important as it is, is not the highest good. It is for a Naturalist like Francis, however, because Naturalism seeks man’s ultimate end and happiness in the temporal world, not in eternity. But man’s temporal existence is snuffed out by death, and so death is the greatest possible evil for a Naturalist.
For that reason, Bergoglio opposes not merely war and capital punishment in principle but also — surprise! — lifelong prison sentences. Because although lifetime imprisonment does not deprive an individual of his life, it does deprive him of a happy life (in the Naturalist sense), and so Francis opposes that too. More “development” of doctrine! Soon he’ll discover that all punishment is “unjust” because it makes men miserable, and of course that would be contrary to human dignity, right?
Francis’ ideas all make sense once you stop trying to reconcile them with Catholic doctrine.
The Pillar comes to Francis’ Defense
Shortly after Francis’ comments to Patriarch Kirill became public, the canon lawyer duo at The Pillar jumped into action and offered a defense of the false pope’s remarks on war:
The authors essentially argue that if you look at what Francis said about war this one time over here and then also that other time over there, and if you take into consideration what the Novus Ordo Catechism says on this, then, if you assume Francis doesn’t hold contradictory ideas, one could understand his statements against just war in a way that does not deny the traditional teaching.
Now, this sort of defense is very typical of Francis apologists — Dave Armstrong once tried really hard to get Bergoglio off the hook for denying Transubstantiation on Corpus Christi, although to no avail — but the approach is unrealistic because it assumes that the “Pope” is incapable of speaking orthodoxy clearly, such that the “correct interpretation” must always (for almost a decade now!) be painstakingly supplied by a third party on blogs or podcasts, all the while the rest of humanity understands his words as he uttered them.
Anyway, The Pillar‘s defense is the following:
Read in full, Pope Francis appears to be saying that what is outmoded is the concept of two countries electing war as a legitimate means of settling their differences, and where war does break out it must be the result of a criminal action requiring a response, namely a police action by the international authorities.
While Catholics and political leaders might disagree with the pope’s assessment of how “effective” the UN and other international bodies have proven to be in avoiding wars or ending them once they have broken out, he isn’t ruling out the just use of force per se.
Rather, the pope seems to be arguing that the international community has established sufficient institutions and norms that war is now a criminal act, its resistance a matter of moral self-defense by the victims, and the necessary intervention of the international community is a kind of “police action.”
Francis’ most recent comments on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, then, shouldn’t be read as a kind of pacifists’ charter, but an explicit articulation of what the Church has been teaching for decades about modern warfare.
Francis’ position, which itself seems like a development of St. John Paul’s own views, seems to be that with the advent of international institutions, nations can no longer lawfully declare war as a means of addressing their grievances since a component [sic] legal forum exists to settle them.
(“‘Just war’ no more? What did Pope Francis say, and what does it mean?”, The Pillar, Mar. 16, 2022)
This is quite an elaborate defense of Francis, but it runs afoul of what he is actually quoted as having said in his video call with the Russian Orthodox patriarch.
Let’s recall what his actual words were, as reported by the Vatican: “Once even our Churches spoke of holy war or of just war. Today, we cannot speak like that. The Christian conscience has developed on the importance of peace. … Wars are always unjust. Because it’s the people of God who pay the price. Our hearts can’t help but weep in front of children, of women killed, in front of all victims of war. War is never the way.”
These words simply leave no room for the interpretation The Pillar wants to squeeze into them because the reasons Francis gives for opposing the idea of just war are that the “Christian conscience has developed on the importance of peace” and that “it’s the people of God who pay the price”. There is nothing in these words about the United Nations, or about war being justifiable under certain rare conditions, or anything of the kind.
Bergoglio is saying, rather, that no war is just because every war involves horrendous suffering, especially of women and children, and we now attach greater importance to peace than mankind did previously. That is what he said and that is what everyone will understand him to have said. But both of these reasons given are insufficient to justify the rejection of traditional Catholic teaching on the morality of war, as we have seen.
Let’s not forget that Francis could very easily have communicated his thoughts without ambiguity, had he really wanted to. It is his obligation to communicate orthodoxy and to do so clearly. It is not his listeners’ duty to “understand him correctly”, which usually just means “bend and twist what he says so that it fits the prior teaching”, anyway.
The Pillar, wishing to put the traditional just war teaching into perspective, notes that
this theory was developed and is rooted in an understanding of war which arose in a different era, when armies met for pitched battles in country fields, before the era of weapons of mass destruction, house-to-house urban combat, and the kind of ‘total war’ which saw entire cities flattened during World War II.
This claim may seem plausible at first, but it leaves out of account that the traditional moral doctrine on war was not touched until Vatican II or thereafter. It was certainly entirely in force during the reign of Pope Pius XII, as we saw in the quotes from the Dictionary of Moral Theology as well as the Dominican Moral Theology manual, both of which were published at the end of Pope Pius’ pontificate (late 1950s).
In addition, Pope Pius himself spoke on the topic several times. Certainly one of his landmark speeches on the matter is the Christmas address he gave in 1948, three years after the conclusion of World War II and the dropping of the first atomic bombs. In it he explained the meaning of the “Christian will for peace”, which is not a “peace at all costs”:
Resting for support on God and on the order He established, the Christian will for peace is thus as strong as steel. Its temper is quite different from mere humanitarian sentiment, too often little more than a matter of pure impression, which detests war only because of its horrors and atrocities, its destruction and its aftermath, but not for the added reason of its injustice.
One thing … is certain: the commandment of peace is a matter of Divine law. Its purpose is the protection of the goods of humanity, inasmuch as they are gifts of the Creator. Among these goods some are of such importance for society, that it is perfectly lawful to defend them against unjust aggression. Their defense is even an obligation for the nations as a whole who have a duty not to abandon a nation that is attacked.
If the traditional Catholic moral doctrine on war was still unchanged and authoritative as late as 1958, The Pillar cannot argue that it is obsolete in our day because it was contingent on a time “when armies met for pitched battles in country fields, before the era of weapons of mass destruction, house-to-house urban combat, and the kind of ‘total war’ which saw entire cities flattened during World War II.”
The whole idea that there is some real theological thought going on behind Francis’ forehead, as The Pillar assumes, is silly and ludicrous anyway. Bergoglio’s Mar. 16 video call with Kirill was just one more opportunity for him to slam the Catholic past, to express his disdain for that Catholic Church that once “even” spoke of just war and holy war.
This traditional doctrine Francis rejects in favor of more “enlightened” beliefs, always “moving forward” towards a world in which “war is never the way” because all weapons are banned and “time is greater than space.”
Image source: composite with elements from Shutterstock (Liu zishan/GYG Studio)