As I contemplate the spectacle of the comments…

to this thread, particularly the conversation between Zippy and Mr. Lutas here in which Mr. Lutas advocates the “Brutal Advocacy of Mortal Sin Posing as Realism” position and attempts to sneer Zippy out of the “Catholic Moral Teaching for Time Immemorial” position by calling him a “fake Catholic” and generally questioning his integrity and testicular fortitude for saying, as the Church has always said, that you cannot deliberately killing innocent human beings. It is, as I note there, like watching moral theology being done with a meat cleaver and relies in a number of fallacies, strategies of intimidation and rhetorical strategies that, while not at all persuasive, are demonstrative of the parlous state of a lot of American conservative Catholic moral thinking under the toxic sway of consequentialism. Zippy holds his own, so I won’t gild that lily. But I will add a couple of links of my own simply because I am interested in the curious psychology that seems to consistently inform advocacy of grave intrinsic evil: namely, the tendency to call such advocacy “courage”, and the strange love such “realism” has for clinging to fantasy scenarios (such as, in this case, the fantasy scenario of “knowing” what would have happened had we not chosen to murder tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children).

In contrast, reader Secret Agent Man actually attempts to answer the question of What Else Might We have Done in good faith and acknowledges that there were, in fact, alternatives to deliberately murdering children in their beds. Eisenhower agreed:

“During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude.. “

Bottom line: I believe it is extremely dangerous (and may even be gravely sinful) to advocate the position that God makes gravely sinful acts “necessary”. I see no difference between that and saying God is evil and the author of sin.  That may satisfy a Calvinist or a Manichaean. But it is blasphemous for a Catholic. I think Zippy is simply right to say:

If I may, I suggest that folks pray a novena to St. Stephen specifically over the question of how unequivocally we are to call good good and evil evil. Folks really need to get their heads on straight about what the example of the martyrs represents.

And I’ll remind everyone that the Catechism explicitly requires “unequivocal condemnation” in this case. It isn’t enough to merely concede that the Hiroshima bombing was immoral: faithful Catholics are required to unequivocally condemn such actions. This is similar to the discomfort many Catholics on the political Left may feel upon reading Evangelium Vitae: it isn’t enough to concede that abortion is immoral: it must also be made illegal, and it is also immoral to participate in any propaganda against making abortion illegal.

  • Ted Seeber

    I would go so far as to say this theological mistake is one of the *four primary causes of atheism* in Western Culture in the 21st century.

    A God that makes grave sin necessary is not a God that those who have a problem with human suffering can believe in. At all.

    • Ted Seeber

      And I say that s a man who once sinfully suggested we nuke Mecca.

  • Ben

    Been in debate over this issue in several different comboxes over the last few days. Not sure why it is so hard to understand that killing innocent women and children is never right.

    • Andy

      I agree with you it is never right. I think though the answer to why people think it alright is in extreme nationalism. We see it in all countries – I see it in American Exceptionalism – that everyone wants to be like us, that if we don’t respond there will be hell to pay, because we are supposed to repond – therefore what we do does not have to be examined and perhaps apologized for. This form of nationalism which is part of fascism has at its core to me a rejection of God and the teaching of the church and replaces it with a flag and an ego.

      • Oregon Catholic

        I also think ultimate/overkill solutions come from a feeling of helplessness in diplomacy to bring a war or conflict to a definitive end. The same kind of helplessness we feel now about stopping islamic terrorism. And how many years have we been pretending that diplomacy and increasing sanctions will work with Iran while they proceed to build their bomb? Ultimately it will come to a definitive showdown with much loss of life. It calls to my mind the picture of Indiana Jones when confronted with the guy with the sword and he ultimately just loses his patience with the engagement and whips out his pistol and shoots him.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          I also think ultimate/overkill solutions come from a feeling of helplessness in diplomacy to bring a war or conflict to a definitive end.

          Boom. Exactly. It’s impatience mixed with a good dose of impotence. As someone with a magnificent temper, I can sympathize with people who can’t deal with lingering injustice, ongoing war, or general wrong-itude. I’m frequently in the “screw it. Just blow it all up” camp.

          But it’s still wrong.

        • Ted Seeber

          I think the FBI has the best defense against Islamic terrorists yet- fund them, sell them fake explosives, give them plane tickets to America and arrest them. I disagreed the first time it happened in my state with the Pioneer Square Christmas Bomber, but the more I think about it, the better I feel about the tactic (it has been used quite a number of times since then with great success).

          • DTMcCameron

            Mightn’t that glide over into the “tempting another to sin” category much alike the “Lying for Jesus” position that Mr. Shea routinely decimates?

            • Ted Seeber

              I didn’t say it was a moral defense, just a utilitarian good defense.

  • http://catholiccinephile.wordpress.com/ Evan

    I didn’t get a chance to share this yesterday, but here is what I learned in my conservative Catholic history class.
    USA: Japan, surrender.
    Japan: As long as you don’t harm our emperor.
    USA: No, we wan’t unconditional surrender.
    Japan: In that case, no.
    USA drops the first bomb.
    USA: Japan, surrender.
    Japan: As long as you don’t harm our emperor.
    USA: No, we wan’t unconditional surrender.
    Japan: In that case, no.
    USA drops the second bomb.
    USA: Japan, surrender.
    Japan: As long as you don’t harm our emperor.
    USA: Okay, fine.
    The bomb actually prolonged the war and killed many more people than regular attacks and blockades would have.

    • Ted Seeber

      I think what you missed in there was the side conversation, so I’m copying and modifying your script a bit:
      USA: Japan, surrender.
      Japan: As long as you don’t harm our emperor.
      USA: No, we wan’t unconditional surrender.
      Japan: In that case, no.
      Soviet Union: You don’t have the science yet to drop an A-Bomb so we’re taking all of Berlin
      USA drops the first bomb.
      USA: Japan, surrender.
      Japan: As long as you don’t harm our emperor.
      USA: No, we wan’t unconditional surrender.
      Japan: In that case, no.
      Soviet Union: You may have the atom bomb, but you can’t possibly be mass producing them yet
      USA drops the second bomb.
      USA: Japan, surrender.
      Japan: As long as you don’t harm our emperor.
      USA: Okay, fine.
      Soviet Union: Ok, we’re scared to, take half of Berlin.

      Doesn’t make it any more just. Doesn’t make it any more right. But Japan and the United States were not the only countries involved or considered.

      • http://catholiccinephile.wordpress.com/ Evan

        I guess I did oversimplify in making my point. Thanks for the clarification.

        • Dave G.

          Yes, a bit simple, and also not taking into account the last 15 to 20 years of info that other countries have brought up, as well as reformers in Japan who want to see Japan cough up its own part in the war. That simple approach worked back when MTV played videos. It’s long gone away except for some diehards in Japan who still want the ‘all we were saying was, give peace a chance’ version of their part in the war and its ending. Oh, and Ted was right, let’s not forget the USSR. And of course, we can’t forget those who were languishing in the chain of Japanese prisons, dying every day, who were on the minds of many. It was a complex issue. Doesn’t mean the moral teaching changes, but it was still a complex issue.

          • http://catholiccinephile.wordpress.com/ Evan

            Of course it was a complex issue, and as I said, I oversimplified. Mea culpa. My point was to offer a rebuttal to the claim that “we needed to drop the bomb to convince Japan to end the war.”

    • SecretAgentMan

      “The bomb actually prolonged the war and killed many more people than regular attacks and blockades would have.” If that’s what your instructors taught in your history class they should look for other work and you should ask for that part of your tuition back. The Japanese were not willing to accept anything resembling “surrender” until Nagasaki was bombed.

      The USSR invaded Manchuria and would, in short order, have annhialated Japanese forces still in China (about 1 million men). Before the USSR’s broke its non-aggression pact with Japan, Japan might have hoped to avoid an invasion and keep a Chinese / Korean empire of some kind. The USSR’s entry into the war made the second goal impossible.

      But it’s important to know — as the Japanese knew — that the USSR was incapable of defeating Japan. That required a large air force capable of strategic and tactical operations over long ranges and at sea, which the Soviet Union didn’t have and wasn’t going to have — ever. They eventually acquired some strategic bombing capability, but never a carrier-based air force. The USSR’s first first real strategic bomber was a nut-for-nut, wire-for-wire copy of an interned US B-29 (the Soviet-Japanese nonagression pact meant that the USSR captured and interned US personnel, including bombers, which landed in the USSR). The first one flew in 1947 and remained the USSR’s strategic bomber until the mid 1950s. Defeating Japan also required the ability to land millions of troops in Japan, and the USSR never had that military capability at any time in its history.

      Only US/UK/Commonwealth forces had that capability, and only those forces could have defeated Japan. The plan for doing that, Operation Downfall, had two phases. The first, Operation Olympic, called for the invasion of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. If you think of these islands as large states, you’re not far off from seeing that this is like calling for the invasion of Texas or Pennsylvania. US forces were to fight to a line giving them control of the southern third of Kyushu and dig in, eventually turning the southern half of the island into a giant military base for the second phase, Operation Coronet, which was the invasion of Japan’s main island near Tokyo. There, it was hoped, allied forces would encounter and destroy Japan’s armed forces in a cataclysmic battle which would have left us in control of Tokyo and able to project armed power to any point in Japan.

      Operation Olympic was scheduled to begin in November, 1945. Operation Coronet was scheduled for the spring of 1946. Both invasions were going to be fought in heavily-populated areas. Japanese casualties were going to exceed 5 million civilian deaths. That’s not counting Japan’s military casualties, or US/UK/Commonwealth casualties. If we’re stacking corpses, the civilian and military death toll for Operation Downfall would have made Hiroshima and Nagasaki insignificant by comparison.

      It’s worth pausing, also, to think about Kyushu during these months. Japanese resistance to invasion was going to be fanatical — how fanatical is a matter of debate. But what’s not debatable is that Allied forces occupying Kyushu would have to deal with a starving, hostile civilian population that could produce violent resistance at any time. It’s also not debatable that Allied forces on Kyushu had nowhere to retreat to, and Kyushu was going to host vital Allied air and naval operations requiring a high degree of security. I can’t say for sure (no one can), but this is a recipe for Kyushu’s becoming a charnel house with No Gun Ris and My Lais occurring on a monthly basis.

      This is what we were looking at if the invasions went well. Certainly the Japanese were planning to inflict such massive casualties on US forces that we’d never acquire more than temporary and indefensible beach-heads, resulting in a withdrawal of the Allies from Honshu and Kyushu and a negotiated peace. No one’s sure that the Japanese couldn’t have done that. But even if we’d executed Olympic and Coronet to perfection, what if the Japanese had simply refused to surrender? Years of “mopping up” operations would have followed with death squads roaming Japan, and napalm-on-tap for any village suspected of harboring resisters. It would have been worse than the worst stereotypes of the Vietnam War.

      We didn’t have to drop the bomb to convince Japan to end the war. Japan would have been happy to end the war, provided that they kept as much of their overseas conquests as possible; the quasi-fascist absolutism that enabled the war was continued as Japan’s legitimate social order ; the perpetrators of Nanking and a thousand other war crimes remained respected members of Japan’s ruling class; and Japan remained free to rearm and try their hand at empire-building again when conditions were right. Thinking that the bomb was unecessary because we could have accepted this kind of “peace” is as intrinsically immoral as dropping the bomb is claimed to be.

      We didn’t have to drop the bomb, but we did have to do something to convice Japan to end the war on other terms. That might have been Operation Downfall. It could, possibly, have been a blockade with tens of millions of resulting civilian deaths (starvation and disease in Germany due to the post-armistice British blockade provides an instrutive but pale example of what a blockade of Japan would have to have done). But whatever we did, it was going to be incredibly gruesome.

      All this is by way of saying that if your instructors (or anyone else) says the bomb made things worse, they’re laboring under nursery-school delusions that God doesn’t require heartbreaking choices and the Devil never tempts us with alternatives that appear undeniably “good.”

      • Ted Seeber

        I still think had we continued the liberty ships production for another 2 years, an alternative to either invasion or the bomb would be an isolationist siege.

        • SecretAgentMan

          Blockade was always an option. But the point of a blockade would be to do what the atomic bombs did, but more slowly and to the entire population of Japan. It wouldn’t necessarily need liberty ships. We had a large enough Navy to blockade Japan. Operation Starvation was one example of a blockade strategy the US was already pursuing when the bombs were used that used aerial mines instead of ships. And it’s very doubtful that Japan could have found large-scale trading partners even if a blockade could have been broken. (E.g., the CSA could run the Union blockade, but it was only worth doing because the CSA hadn’t spent 10 years savaging Europe).

          The British blockade of Germany was continued after the armistice to force the Germans to be agreeable at Versailles. It starved over half a million German civilians to death, and contributed to more civilian deaths through plague (the influenza epidemic), lack of medical supplies, etc. We might have had to do that for a decade. Look at Israel’s blockade of Gaza, maintained for similar reasons. Is any of that just war?

          One of the reasons I keep writing this stuff is that frequently the case for Church teaching on just war (including nuclear war) is surrounded with legions of inaccurate claims, false assumptions, and outright hallucination about what happens in any war, not to mention what happened in World War II. The rise of Brutal Realism is partly a reaction to the farrago of nonsense often used by some just war advocates.

  • ds

    I like your point Mark about Fantasy Scenarios. Torture advocates will always bring up the scenario of a terrorist who knows where a bomb is hidden that will destroy a city so it has to be tortured out of him. In reality you very rarely know you have the right guy and know that HE knows the information you want. And inevitably this justification for torture gets stretched to he knows where the bombers are, to we think he might know where the bomb or the bombers are, he was once associated with the bombers, he is the second cousin of someone who is a member or associated with a member of the group that staged the bombing, or we think they staged it, and finally to we picked this dude up off the battlefield so now we are going to lock him up anonymously in a prison for a few years and slowly torture/squeeze him with misery to divulge any information that he has (or makes up out of his own desperation) that may prevent some future bombing by, well anybody that we think may bomb us in the future.

    • Mark Shea

      What such fantasist never fantasize about is “What if we have the terrorist’s child but not the terrorist? What if we have a cyberlink set up so that he can see us torture the child in order to get the terrorist to talk?” They don’t like *that* fantasy scenario because it gives the lie that they are just efficiently pursuing information and exposes the fact that the *real* reason for torture is to punish the (assumed) guilty party. The really dark moment will come when we *do* embrace the torture of children and relatives in order to manipulate (assumed) guilty parties. We’re already almost there, because we are quite comfortable will excusing the torture of people we *thought* might be guilty.

      • Oregon Catholic

        That scenario wouldn’t be about punishment per se, it would be about finding what will motivate cooperation when harm to self isn’t enough. I’m not saying it would be right, only that your premise is wrong.

        • Mark Shea

          My point is that when you point out that torturing children is *more* effective, the retort is “But children are innocent!” That’s true, but irrelevent if, as the torture enthusiast maintains, it isn’t torture and it just done to efficiently obtain information. What the reaction reveals is that it is *obviously* torture and is done, in part, to satisfy a lust for vengeance against the victim.

          • DTMcCameron

            Vengeance blindly flails away until a blow connects (frequently on the innocent.)

            I’m particularly susceptible to that cult of the Hard-Man-who-Does-the-Hard-Things-so-we-don’t-have-to. Cowardice, I suppose, is why.

      • Cinlef

        Such fantasists also never realize their scenario is internally inconsistent

        If you have enough intel to know with 100% certainty that person X is a member of terror cell Y and that terror cell Y has a concealed bomb that will go off in city Z at an exact time, then you have a ludicrous amount of intel which certainly provides other avenues of investigation to find the bomb than torturing person X (and risking person X giving you false intel and wasting your limited time)

        • Mark Shea

          Right. But the goal of the scenario is not and never was, “How can we pursue good intel?” It is and always has been “How can we rationalize my tribe’s decision to commit the grave sin of torture?” So it is constructed in such a way as to either lie that it is not torture (just “enhanced interrogation”), that the person being tortured deserves it (“you care more about some terrorist getting splashed…”) or that the ends justify it (“…than you do about the lives of a million people?). Asking the question about torturing the child exposes the sophistry and lies behind this bullshit piece of fear manipulation.

          • ds

            Excellent explanation Mark. It reminds of something I read that most people who pride themselves on being brutally honest are more focused on brutality than honesty.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      No need to look at fantasy scenarios. The actual scenarios that Truman had in front of him as the best options available are declassified. Were any of them not intrinsically evil? Which one(s)? I think that if Truman had non-intrinsically evil options and he picked one that was intrinsically evil, that’s one level of moral failure. If they all were intrinsically evil, then it’s a different problem. Either there was a fundamental failure in the departments that weeded out the morally acceptable alternatives prior to Truman’s brief or nobody in the US government came up with one at all. That should also teach a lesson to faithful Catholics but it’s not exactly the same lesson.

      • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

        And again, in Catholic moral theology, when all available positive actions are in fact evil one is required to refrain from doing anything at all. As Veritatis Splendour puts it:

        [T]the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever. Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids. (Emphasis mine)

        So while talking counterfactuals about ancient history may be interesting to people who are interested in that sort of thing, that discussion isn’t even slightly pertinent to the question of whether or not nuking a civilian city was immoral and deserving of firm and unequivocal condemnation. It was and is:

        “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.” 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.

        • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

          Silly Zippy, my first and so far unanswered by you question was whether all available options considered by the Truman administration were, in fact, intrinsically evil? You’re skipping that part. That’s the avoidance that I’ve been talking about. Honest christians will sometimes pick apart past situations in a process called by some failure analysis to answer the subsequent question, “what went wrong?” and use the process to better discern how to approach similar situations in future. That you seem offended by the process does not make it wrong, or your moral dudgeon admirable.

          The next question, also unanswered by you, was where was the last major decision point where the US actually had a non-intrinsically evil pathway to victory and wasn’t just on the greased skids to hell? And for persistence in this inquiry, I am a major bad guy here.

          So be it.

          • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

            Silly Zippy, my first and so far unanswered by you question was whether all available options considered by the Truman administration were, in fact, intrinsically evil?

            False. I have repeatedly affirmed in many places that it is literally never, ever the case that all options – including the option of refraining from acting at all – are intrinsically evil. If it is literally never, ever the case then obviously it could not have been the case for Truman. Furthermore, I have repeatedly affirmed that it is possible (for example) to engage in a ground invasion morally.

            You are going to have to try some other approach rather than the constant creation of straw-Zippies.

      • ds

        truman had the sign “the buck stops here”. If options presented were unacceptable, coulda demanded more.

        • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

          Yes, he could have. I do not, in fact, know whether he did or not. But ultimately the bureaucracy eventually says “this is what we’ve got, no more”. The problem did not have just a few marginalized analysts working on it. It was the central question of what was left of WW II towards the end. We had our best minds working on the problem.

          So what does that tell us? That morally successful conclusions to total war are not easy to come by seems an easy lesson but is that all there is? I think not. I intuit that between Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima we missed a stitch. What was it and how should we be on watch for the next one?

          I suspect that we’re stumbling towards better answers with the relatively recent trends towards individualizing weaponry effects with very small bombs and UCAV individual assassination of bad actors overthrowing massive area affect weaponry. However, I’m not really that confident of my conclusions yet and the streamlining of justice necessary to make it work on nation-state warfare scale is scary fast. That problem might not be resolvable without opening up the can of worms labeled brain augments and for me, that exceeds my willingness to engage in brain aching speculation in the same conversation.

  • http://lamentablysane.blogspot.com Beefy Levinson

    I have a fantasy scenario I’d like to propose to the Brutal Realists.

    Suppose the president, or a genie, or aliens, or whoever you like promised to outlaw abortion forever. Suppose that not only would abortion be outlawed forever, but that no abortion would ever be peformed anywhere, ever again. The catch, the only thing you have to do in return, is you have to personally abort someone’s unborn child. Would you do it?

    • DTMcCameron

      Oh, that’s delicious. Ye olde “needs of the many,” wrap’t about something so intrinsically evil. A very fair riposte.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      Ok, fair enough. I can’t answer for the “Brutal Realists” because Mark Shea made up the term and he’s going to have to answer for his made up category himself. But my answer is to climb back up the decision tree because somewhere earlier in the exercise things went horribly, horribly wrong. At a certain point there were better answers than that available. The question is how to identify the crucial branch point(s) and ensure that you can know them in time and not end up in this ugly moral cul-de-sac.

      Ultimately if there is no time machine allowed and it’s real life instead of a policy exercise, martyrdom awaits if you’ve gotten into that level of trap.

      • Zippy

        Ultimately if there is no time machine allowed and it’s real life instead of a policy exercise, martyrdom awaits if you’ve gotten into that level of trap.

        Correct.

        • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

          Well, yes, but the isn’t a major point of martyrdom that one is not to seek it out as some sort of pretty heaven bound suicide but to do what one can to avoid it? Thus the need for analysis of past failures and avoidance of future ones. And we’re right back to my questions of were there non-intrinsically evil choices available right next to the bomb option and what were they? And if there weren’t, when did victory become 100% paired with intrinsic evil?

    • ds

      Fantasy scenarios can be so fantastic they arent worthy of discussion

      • ds

        Still I’ll make one reply. This is a large scale (and unrealistic) question of can you do good by commiting evil. The church has long established the answer is no.

  • Dave G.

    “Evangelium Vitae: it isn’t enough to concede that abortion is immoral: it must also be made illegal, and it is also immoral to participate in any propaganda against making abortion illegal.”

    Is that true? Back in the GOP Primary debates, I watched several folks discuss whether making abortion illegal or not (or making any such sins illegal) was the best way. Just getting some clarity on that one.

    • Zippy

      In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it”

    • Zippy

      And just before that one, Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.

      • Dave G.

        So those who were arguing that trying to tackle the issue legally were either wasting time or going about it wrong were wrong?

        • Zippy

          I don’t know why you are asking me to interpret Evangelium Vitae. It is right there at the link., and I quoted it directly this time rather than using my own words, since you questioned the paraphrase-from-memory I already made in my own words.

          • Dave G.

            Sounds good to me. I’ll remember that next time I see supporters of certain politicians claim that it’s OK not to deal with abortion on a legal basis.

            • ivan_the_mad

              “Sounds good to me.” Of course it sounds good to you. You’re only hearing what you want to hear.

              • Dave G.

                What, that we can’t just make up what we want to in order to win the argument du jour? Sorry, but I saw some serious smack downs over that during the height of the primary season, as folks were informed rather authoritatively that there is no reason that the issue has to be a legal one, that there are other ways, that trying to tackle it with other approaches is appropriate. Fair enough. More than one way to skin a cat I guess. But now I see that this isn’t an option. It’s one or the other. It can’t be both. That’s what I’m hearing, and if it can be both, please inform me how.

                • Ted Seeber

                  It can be both, what it can’t be is neither.

                  Safe, legal and rare is neither. If even ONE child loses his life who could have been saved, then that is murder.

                  I’m for replacing *all* medical abortions after 20 weeks with cesarean birth, making all non-medically necessary abortions illegal, and *requiring* any doctor performing an abortion for *any* reason to fill out a triage report and pay for the decent burial and funeral of the fetus, which the mother should be required to attend, and in which the triage report is read into the public record. And Catholic women who find themselves in this situation should go to a Project Rachel weekend as soon as possible.

                  In other words, I recognize in this fallen world, abortions before 20 weeks *might* be necessary in a “save the patient you can because your skills aren’t good enough to save both” scenario. But evil should never be easy, and should always come with a cost.

                  • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

                    Abortion is not morally licit, even when the intention is to save the life of the mother. That is what got that nun in Arizona excommunicated (temporarily IIRC, since she repudiated the decision later).

                    • Ted Seeber

                      I never said it was morally licit. It is always wrong. I’m just not sure we should be throwing people in jail for it. I am absolutely sure that we should do everything possible for the repose of the soul of the child- for even a victim of murder deserves our consideration. Why should an aborted child get any less?

                    • Ted Seeber

                      It is always evil. *But* triage is a good. In the heat of the moment, sometimes evil decisions are made.

                      I just turned this into a blog posting on my own blog. If anybody cares to discuss it further, I’d direct them there:
                      http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/2012/07/triage.html

                      My combox is relatively open, but I do moderate to keep the spam down.

                    • Zippy

                      I was responding to this:

                      I recognize in this fallen world, abortions before 20 weeks *might* be necessary in a “save the patient you can because your skills aren’t good enough to save both” scenario.

                      Doing evil is never “necessary”. Not ever.

                      [T]he negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever. Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.Veritatis Splendour

                    • Ted Seeber

                      And yet, even doing nothing can be an evil action.

                    • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

                      Sure: doing nothing can be, because of intentions and/or circumstances, morally wrong. When a morally licit good action is available to us and we fail to take that action, it is sometimes wrong. If I ignore the homeless man rather than buying a sandwich, I may well be doing evil by omission (depending, again, on intentions and circumstances).

                      But so what? The Magisterium makes it crystal clear that if a proposed action is intrinsically immoral, you are always, without exception, required to choose something else.

                      Veritatis Splendour again:
                      Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.

                • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

                  I’m happy to provide the reference to what the Church actually teaches, and hope you find it helpful in future discussion. (No snark whatsoever intended).

  • Observer

    Brutal realism isn’t really realistic (pardon the linguisitc pun.) When a comparison is used to denounce so-called Ivory Tower Theology as a purely un-obscurred (unrealistic) out-of-touch theoretically moral view to uphold something that justifies a brutal and terrible UFC-like match contending the full purpose, dose, and touch of reality in a given situation (violence is necessary), I think you’re going to go nuts and lose your head.

    Brutal Realism is an abstraction made based on the events which led upto the horrific evil unfolded on Japanese people (it was based in part upon how many they killed of ours and how it will stop them klling anymore of our people.) The error on part of the argument is precisely that: an abstract numbers game which does not look at the people (real, not fake.) and then pursues to be a justification of being real apart from the fake reality of the Church’s teaching. How, then – I beg the question, do you discount people and the horrific tragedy which ended their lives on the basis of justifying an abstract on the number of lives lost from our side to do retribution onto others? The argument is exactly that: an abstract justification taken against the view of another abstract (the so-called Ivory Tower Theology.) Don’t you get it? Lives were lost on both sides. The number of lives wasn’t important (on the basis of brutal realism.) The real importance was they weren’t our own. So, an argument taken on the notion of a given dose of reality (against a supposed moral theory) has completely taken place on an abstract course of justice (which was really a numbers game upon a vendetta to end continuing vendetta’s – to end the number of lives lost on our side.) And, as the Church has conclusively put it in very practical terms: the taking away of innocent lives is always wrong.

    • Dave G.

      That would be true, if it weren’t for the fact that the military planners were actually worried about the casualties that might happen to the civilian population. From the Marianas campaign and the horrors of Saipan, up through Okinawa, when tens of thousands of civilians killed themselves or died in suicide attacks against the US, in addition to putting their own children to the sword, the fear of a mountain of civilian casualties that might happen in a mainland invasion was on the minds of the military planners. Again, we don’t have to change Church teaching all of a sudden, but we do have to make sure we aren’t building a false historical scenario to buttress our arguments.

      • DTMcCameron

        Was there a particular need to invade at all? Couldn’t we have blockaded the island? ‘s how most sieges were one. Not the one’s that get into movies, though…

        • Dave G.

          If we didn’t care about those who were suffering under the thumb of Japan during that time; the POWs, the civilians, the women sex slaves, yeah. That’s one of the oft missed problems with that option, and it’s become a clearer problem largely because of the women who started the ball rolling back in the 90s. First Korean, then others, came forward and began blowing the lid off of Japan’s own little Holocaust. We’ve known for decades what Japan did to its POWs. But Japan had done well keeping it quiet when it came to how those countries it conquered were treated. By 1945, of course, most of those territories were lost to the Allies. But there were still holdings, and Japan maintained a strong set of prison camps along with those remaining who were under their thumbs. So just letting it go wasn’t quite so easy. Plus, those same reformers who have forced Japan’s hand with this issue have also revealed that stories about Japan’s desire in 1945 for peace, love, and John Lennon songs may have been slightly – if not greatly – exaggerated. Without such information, simply holding out and ‘starving them into submission’ might have been an option. But with what we know now? Not nearly as much.

          • CJ

            Dave,

            Thanks for bringing the history. In your opinion, would the following combination of moves have worked?
            1) Instead of invading the home islands, invade and liberate whatever remaining conquered territories there were;
            2) Blockade
            3) Strategic bombing of military targets.

        • SecretAgentMan

          We could have done that, but it would have been as immoral as using the atomic bomb. The purpose of the blockade would have been to convince Japan’s leaders that unless they surrendered, the Japanese people would cease to exist. There’s not much difference between dropping an atomic bomb on a city’s civilian inhabitants and deliberately starving them to death.

          • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

            I’ve never heard of a warlord getting excommunicated for running a tight siege during the middle ages. This is one of those questions that I had hoped I’d get an answer to. This is not really a hypothetical as variations on the theme are happening with food aid in North Korea to this day. We restrict their economic activity and give them limited food aid and they institute a policy of “army first” and starve civilians. I think it’s pretty clear that the resultant starvation is the DPRK leadership’s fault in that case. They’re the ones collecting food from starving families and shifting it to the military. Would the same be true for Japan? Or is it, as you say, intrinsically evil and with the culpability falling on the blockading party? And what is the distinction to be made if there is a distinction worth making here? Would setting up internment in China with adequate food relieve us of culpability? What is the essential characteristic that makes a siege intrinsically evil?

            • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

              This is not really a hypothetical as variations on the theme are happening with food aid in North Korea to this day. We restrict their economic activity and give them limited food aid and they institute a policy of “army first” and starve civilians. I think it’s pretty clear that the resultant starvation is the DPRK leadership’s fault in that case. They’re the ones collecting food from starving families and shifting it to the military. Would the same be true for Japan?

              Yes. If we are not deliberately starving the country of basic necessities, the morality of internal allocation is the responsibility of those doing the allocating.

              • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

                You seem to be arguing that Truman’s available choices included one, the blockade option, that was not intrinsically evil, or could have been made compatible with just war theory with a little work. That’s not actually the no-hope worst case scenario I was most worried about. There is no time machine or climbing up the decision tree needed to solve the problem.

                One of the important tools used to discredit Catholic moral teaching is its impractical nature. This is asserted far more often than it is proven. By identifying a different choice on the available war policy menu, you disarm that particular tool because the best professionals in the business already vetted the menu options for practicality. Then you can get down to the brass tacks of whether this option or that option was really the better one.

                Given this practical difficulty of argumentation that disfavors the Catholic position, why has it been like pulling teeth to get you to this point? I don’t think you really are passive agressive and secretly sabotaging the Church. Something else is going on and for the life of me I don’t know what it is.

            • ivan_the_mad

              “What is the essential characteristic that makes a siege intrinsically evil?” That would likely be the part where you’re making war on a civilian population.

              • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

                If you allow civilians to leave and are aiming as best you can at combatants, I don’t think you’re necessarily waging war on the civilian population. The US’ sieges in Iraq fall into that category, I think. I believe we did a few cities under that sort of rules of engagement. Or were those not sieges?

                And I confess I do not actually know the position of the Church on siege warfare. Do you? We must have one.

            • SecretAgentMan

              Good questions, TM Lutas. I agree with you on the DPRK situation but not sure it’s helpful to examining the morality of a US blockade. First, of course as you note, we regularly supply DPRK with food, but the Japanese blockade would not have done that. Secondly, the DPRK’s allocation of food aid to the military is an intervening act that can relieve us of moral responsibility for the resulting civilian starvation, I don’t think we can broaden the idea of intervening act into “anything the enemy does that makes this strategy look reasonable,” and then conclude that since Japan has made it necessary for us to win the war, we can do anything we like without moral responsibility for it. Saying, “Look what you made me do” isn’t a good tool for evaluating and controlling the morality of our own actions. In the DPRK situation, the entire misallocation of food is caused by DPRK leadership, but in the blockade situation we’d be causing it.

              I wish I had time to write more, perhaps this evening.

              • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

                We supply the DPRK with food because they choose to have an agricultural system that is a known failure (collectivized farming) and you cannot lay the moral blame for that at the US’ feet. Japan did not labor under that stupidity but they did have an ultra-militarized fascist system that basically took things over in the 1930s which likely imposed food creation constraints. If Japanese government had to choose between having a division staying at the ready to fend off invasion vs getting a bigger rice crop in, under what theory is their choice to keep the division in uniform and out of the fields a moral failure of the US?

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Before some get in trouble over poor reading comprehension, there is nothing in EV which requires abortion be outlawed in positive law, for example in a society where no one was even contemplating abortion.

  • JB

    The use as well as the threat of use of nuclear weapons is instrincally evil, and therefore so is their possesion and threat of use by the USA and Israel (as well as all other nuclear armed countries.) Consequently neither of those countries have any justifiable grounds to attack Iran for the purpose of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

    Well, unless the USA and Israel were immaculately conceived.

    • DTMcCameron

      It is really the case that the use, threat and possession of them is evil? It was my understanding that they had some designed to go down into the earth in a focused way, to destroy bunkers. Mind you, still a spectacularly nasty weapon to be sure, but not one which seems aimed at civilians. I guess fallout carries some environmental concerns, and might go on to harm non-combatants.

      • http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/ Zippy

        It is really the case that the use, threat and possession of them is evil?

        No, that is not the case.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      JB – The signature of Iran on the NPT obligates them to not acquire nuclear weapons. The same treaty imposes different obligations on the US and Israel is not a signatory. It is the responsibility of the existing nuclear powers to stop the enlargement of the club. Now the NPT structure may or may not be morally valid in the eyes of the Church and of God but ignoring it as a possible source of justification is not going to work.


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