A friend observes

regarding the current hoohah about the inclination of the Church’s bishops toward peace…

I think some of this reflects a certain anger at the clerical estate which you’ve eluded to in your blog, and perhaps even a residual clericalism that isn’t willing to shoulder personal responsibility. It would be nifty neeto if we could wash our hands of all moral responsibility by getting the go-ahead for a real honest to Allah jihad (like our enemies believe they have), rather than realizing that we are doing something imperfect but, given what we know, probably necessary. I think to, to be fair, there is a certain innocence bordering on the naïve in some of the Holy See’s pronouncements concerning Islam, peace in the Middle East, etc. which reflects the desperate juggling of pastors who are looking out for the interests of the not-inconsiderable number of Christians in the Middle East (a number of whom live in Iraq) and so are constrained in their comments and assessment by their sense of the complexity of the situation and of all the possible very messy outcomes. What separates us as Americans from the fascists who glory in war in and of itself is that we are making the case that this really is a desperate measure to cope with a too dangerous situation-and that involves making prudential judgments with which it is possible in good faith to disagree.

I think that’s about right. At the end of the day, Just War theory is just that: theory. It’s a conceptual tool for trying to evaluate enormously complex situations in the midst of a gospel that is, so to speak, biased toward blessing peacemakers. As much as my tribe of conservative Catholics would like it to be otherwise, it’s gonna be a very long wait before bishops shout “God wills it!” to a prudential judgment that potentially involves the death of millions of people, should the fog of war descend and the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. The bishops have done pretty much what I would expect a pastor to do: cited their concerns and stated why they are skeptical that this war meets just war criteria. They have bound nobody’s conscience and said we’re free to disagree while leaving it up to Caesar to do his job as he sees fit, within conscience.

This is, paradoxically, one of the things that makes the West so great. We are extremely skeptical that our wars are Holy Wars. We think them humanly necessary, but are not easily persuaded that whatever we want is, of course, What God Wills. So I continue to not begrudge the bishops their opinion, while holding my own.