About Jeannine Pitas
  • Aufidius Jarndyce

    The image I like to use is that of joining a conversation late.

    My conviction is that those clamoring for intervention, in Syria for example, have arrived at the conversation just a little too late. The conversation at which such persons have arrived is one in which rather significant portions have been missed.

    – A part of that missed conversation might recall how the government of one country led the charge to remove a man from his seat of power in another country. A result of the United States leading the intervention to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq has been the creation of a chaos and out of that chaos ISIL has emerged as a dominant player.

    – A part of that missed conversation might recall how the government of the same country leading the charge to depose Hussein once assisted him. Hussein was once the beneficiary of the aid and training and intelligence and weaponry of the United States because, at one point in the conversation, Hussein was seen as importantly counterbalancing the worrisome influence of a man in a country neighboring his own.

    – A part of that missed conversation might recall how this man in a neighboring country – this Ayatollah of Iran – gained the warm reception of the populace upon stepping into the place of the fleeing Shah and this portion of the missed conversation might recall how the repressive Shah was perceived by that populace to be a pawn of an American government whose intelligence agency had worked to overthrow the prime minister of Iran and thus halt the development of Iran as a liberal democracy.

    I feel that what parts of this missed conversation reveal is a pattern and it is a pattern in which intervention occurs and, rather than building the peace that is desired, new enemies are introduced to the scene.

    By joining late to a conversation it is those clamoring for intervention, in Syria for example, who appear rather oblivious to the new enemies their desired intervention will introduce to the region.

    Does that make me a pacifist? I don’t know. What I do know is that the longer I am a part of this conversation the more reinforced my sense is that intervention will not render justice.

    [This comment was inadvertently routed to our spam filter. I neglected to rescue it until today. My apologies to the author. — DCU]

  • Chris Sullivan

    I believe that war is always unjust but I do not believe that it is ever necessary.

    To say that doing what is unjust may be necessary is to abandon the gospel to imperialism.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church states at least 3 times that it is never right to do evil that good might result.

    We have to find non-violent alternatives to violence and war. They do exist.

    God Bless

    • http://anotherliberalcatholic.wordpress.com jeanninemariedymphna

      Chris, I agree with what you’re saying. It should not be necessary to do what is unjust. I hope you are right that war is never necessary. When I look back on the history of the world, it is clear that almost every war could have been avoided. I think the difficulty arises from the human lust for power – all the Hitlers and Stalins and Saddam Husseins of history who have revelled in seizing power just for the sake of it. I cannot understand what it is that leads humans to this mentality, and I wonder what we can do to control this tyrannical impulses.

      • Ronald King

        I believe the answer is in the cross and not suicide although it may seem like suicide.

        • http://anotherliberalcatholic.wordpress.com jeanninemariedymphna

          Ronald, can you explain what you mean?

          • Ronald King

            Jeannine, I am interested in what someone else might think about this. A starting point would be an equal and opposite reaction of love to the action of violence.

  • Julia Smucker

    Like Chris perhaps, I was wondering about the distinction you make between justness and necessity, and whether it can indeed be necessary to do what is unjust. How do you reconcile those ideas morally?

    • Mark VA

      Ditto, Your Majesty ; )

      And if I may add, how are these ideas reconciled logically – break a commandment to keep a commandment?

    • http://anotherliberalcatholic.wordpress.com jeanninemariedymphna

      I’m fortunate to be surrounded by logicians. Looking at the Gospel message, I think we also run up against contradictions – See Matthew 5:9 (“Blessed are the peacemakers), Matthew 10:34: (“I come not to bring peace, but a sword.”) and Matthew 26:52 (“Live by the sword, die by the sword.”) I’d be grateful to hear people’s thoughts on these apparent inconsistencies.

      It is hard for me to ever see war as being just. The World War II example is a challenging historical example suggesting that war might sometimes be as necessary – what would have happened to the world if no one had fought Hitler? Could he have been defeated by nonviolent means?…However, when I look at the past 200 years, I do not see any other comparable examples.

      • Mark VA


        As you’ve noted, these are apparent contradictions – any reliable Bible commentary will put them in the proper perspective (i.e. the literal vs the figurative sword);

        I think you are on the right track by asking what would have happened to the world if no one had fought Hitler. I’m not sure of the significance of the “past 200 years”, though. Was it unjust, for example, to defend Vienna (twice) and Constantinople, all of which took place more than 200 years ago?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

      In Catholic theology we have parsed this problem in terms of the double effect: we do something morally neutral to achieve a good end with the foreseeable but unintended consequence that an evil will also occur. I have discussed this in posts that generated extensive commentary with one repeated concern being that this argument is really a moral fig leaf to let us do evil in order that good may occur. This interpretation is hotly contested.

      However, in the course of those discussions, several people have pointed to the Orthodox example, which takes the argument in a different direction: that sometimes, in a fallen world, we have no choices that do not avoid evil, and so must sin in order to achieve some good. They do not justify the evil action—it is regarded as a sin to be confessed and absolved. I hesitate to say more because I probably do not fully understand this line of thinking, but I find it appealing.

  • Tausign

    Do you make a distinction between being a pacifist and being a peacemaker (instrument of peace)? How would the two approaches differ?

    • http://anotherliberalcatholic.wordpress.com jeanninemariedymphna

      I’ll have to give that some thought. Looking at the connotations of the words, “pacifist” suggests an ideological stance, while “peacemaker” suggests an active way of life.

      I’ve just been shown this lecture by Erica Chenoweth. She seems like a true peacemaker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJSehRlU34w

    • Tausign

      jmd said:I’ll have to give that some thought. Looking at the connotations of the words, “pacifist” suggests an ideological stance, while “peacemaker” suggests an active way of life.

      The ‘peacemakers’ referred to by Christ, (‘Blessed are the peacemakers’) have as their motivation a desire to live in harmony with God, oneself and neighbor, and with Creation. They also have the grace and knowledge to do so in a manner that embraces the gospel. Another way to put this is that the desired harmony (which is peace) reflects an integral relationship with God, neighbor and Creation. This last aspect (harmony with Creation) was brought out more forcefully in Laudato Si and used to reinforce the first two. My own belief is that violence is rarely brought about or conceived for its own sake; but rather emerges out of the disorder and disharmony of our relation to God, neighbor and Creation. Or to put it differently, violence is the result (and manifestation) of our disordered relations. The peacemaker seeks to restore right relations for their own sake and out of love; and in doing so overcomes violence and restores justice.

      It’s important to understand this in speaking of pacifism and nonviolence. They cannot truly exist (nor should they be promoted as ideologies) in any meaningful way independent of the understanding of these disordered relations mentioned above. The main reason is because when and where these disordered relations persist and intensify…the violence will follow…it’s axiomatic. The only way that anyone can resist or overcome violence in such circumstances is to exist in ‘true peace’ with God; which in turn will enable the victim to love the enemy with the help of grace. The alternatives are to be overwhelmed by violence or become complicit with it. In this understanding, violence is never conceived as a remedy to disordered relations. These are the peacemakers that Christ refers to…and they bear the fruit of peace.

      Finally, just as there are distinctions between being a peacemaker and a pacifist…there are also distinctions between being a ‘just defender’ and ‘a violent defender’. The peacemaker understands this…it is not only reasonable, but reason demands it. I think this is where pacifists stumble. This is difficult to see since the use of force seems to be universally accompanied by violence. But this is a sad conflation that needs to be looked at more closely.

      • http://anotherliberalcatholic.wordpress.com jeanninemariedymphna

        ” The peacemaker understands this…it is not only reasonable, but reason demands it. I think this is where pacifists stumble. This is difficult to see since the use of force seems to be universally accompanied by violence. But this is a sad conflation that needs to be looked at more closely.”

        Can you explain what you mean, Tausign?

      • Tausign

        Alas, you make me go on…

        I suppose the CST Compendium is a good place to sort things out. In #496 it condemns violence…Violence is never a proper response…Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings. AMEN. A few sections later is speaks of a) Legitimate defense, b)Defending peace, and c)The duty to protect the innocent.
        Again, AMEN.

        #504 states. The right to use force for purposes of legitimate defense is associated with the duty to protect and help innocent victims who are not able to defend themselves from acts of aggression. In order for these sections to be a coherent topic there must be a way to provide for a legitimate defense and the opportunity to fulfill one’s duty to protect the innocent in a manner that doesn’t destroy what it claims to defend.

        The second half of #496 states: Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risk of recourse to violence with all it’s destruction and death.

        I don’t want to go any further with this because I’m not interested or inclined to defend the use of force, which as I’ve said above is almost always used unjustly and associated with violence (for the record, whatever Mr. Harris had to say about defense…there is no defense of torture). What I was referring to when I mentioned ‘the pacifist stumbling’ is that (IMO) an absolute position that precludes the use of force justlyeven by the victims or legitimate defenders, puts oneself at odds with CST which claims to be the application of the Gospel. The practical outcome of that is that we lose solidarity with less idealistic peacemakers in order to promote an unsustainable position that most often becomes a distraction.