The Cafeteria is Wide Open

The Cafeteria is Wide Open July 25, 2012

Compare and contrast:

A trope repeated with disturbing frequency by an awful lot (though not, of course, all) of the representatives of the Faithful Conservative American Catholic[TM] subculture: “if one innocent American life was saved by “THE BOMB”, God blessed Einstein’s work.”

Actual Church teaching: CCC 2314 “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.”

The American Catholic blog, as is their custom, feeds this particular species of dissent against actual Church teaching by the standard method used by all dissenters against Church teaching: they call on some academic somewhere to parrot the approved line of dissent and tell the Magisterium it is all wet. It is the same stupid pet trick used by dissenters on that other form of mass murder of innocents–abortion.  Zippy Catholic (also a conservative American Catholic) shows up in the comboxes to protest this advocacy of abortion by nuke with his customary delphic brilliance and is largely outnumbered with a few exceptions.  Among these exceptions, ironically, is Tom McKenna (still another conservative Catholic, and one who hates me with icy contempt because I oppose his apologies for Bush era torture and his zealous advocacy of death penalty maximalism with death penalty minimalism). McKenna does a fine job of arguing against the raw consequentialism on display in this TAC entry–while laboring to keep his distance from me since I have also argued strenuously against consequentialism and he dreads the thought of standing too close to me.  Very amusing. I think Paul has the right approach to such Strange Bedfellow Moments (Phillippians 1:15-18).  Kudos to him for an able defense of the Church’s teaching in the teeth of these embarrassing attempts to defend the deliberate taking of innocent human life.

In the Church’s mind, it turns out that not just American innocents should not be deliberately incinerated in their beds.  Japanese innocents also turn out to be human beings and their murder is also a crime against man and God.

It’s a special sort of blasphemy to call down the blessing of God on the mass murder of 30,000 civilians.  It should stop.

The most characteristic American heresy, left and right, is the conviction that you can do grave evil to achieve a good end.  The sole difference is which grave evil and which good end these political camps embrace.  And they often justify their preferred evil by comparing it to the really truly grave evil of Those Guys Over There.  Abortionists compare themselves to those truly horrible war criminals and congratulate themselves for saving innocent women.  War criminals and their fanboys compare themselves to those truly horrible abortionists and congratulate themselves for saving innocent troops.  All of them loathe the command against embracing grave evil that good may come of it that has been a core moral teaching of Holy Church ever since Paul penned Romans 3:8.

So: to reiterate, it is always and everywhere, under every circumstance, gravely immoral and worthy of the everlasting fires o hell to deliberately kill innocent human life.  It is immoral for the abortionist and it is immoral for the soldier who deliberately shoots through the innocent civilian to kill the soldier standing behind him.  That, in the final analysis, is what we chose to do at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I defy Catholic apologists to find a single Pope or magisterial authority on the planet who says such an act is not a “crime against man and God”.  It’s high time we stopped making excuses for it, much less celebrating it.

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  • Cinlef

    The single worst comment is this one, and may well be one of the worst and darkly hilariously tone deaf things I have ever seen in all my years on the internet (Open challenge can anyone see a way that this is not precisely al-Qaeda’s justification for 9/11?)
    “Hindsight is 20 20. The Japanese cities were warned. Leaflets were dropped for two weeks before the “BOMB”. Does anybody want America to apologize for the Batan Death March, or Pearl Harbor?

    “All the talk of consequences, leaflets, and such is question begging: it assumes that nuking a civilian city is not, like rape, intrinsically immoral.”

    It was incumbent for the decent citizens of Japan to stop their country from the evil it was perpetrating on the world. The citizens of Japan carried bloodguilt, visited on them by their country and only God knows their innocence. The BOMB cannot be called “intrinsically immoral” because the penalty for bloodguilt is death. Three men rob a gas station. One man kills the attendant. All three are guilty of the homicide. Bloodguilt. Consent to the crime.”

    • Mark Shea

      Those damn Japanese women and children and their bloodguilt. They had it coming. As did the worshippers at Urikami Cathedral, which was used to target the Nagasaki bomb.

      As I told them in their combox, I am embarrassed for them.

    • Jmac

      Good God, that’s hideous. Just like all pro-lifers have blood guilt for every abortion ever performed in the states? And this is JAPAN we’re talking about. Sustained political dissidence just isn’t in their cultural DNA. What were they supposed to do, switch their identities to millennial suburban Americans and stage a bloody coup?!

      These kind of arguments are just beyond parody.

      • Ted Seeber

        I don’t know about you- but yes, as a relatively wealthy American I do indeed feel a guilt about the extreme poverty of economic abortion. So much so that if I ever met a woman who told me “I have no choice but to abort”, I would take her into my own home and raise the child as my own.

        I don’t understand why *any* Catholic would feel differently at all.

        • Jmac

          That… kind of wasn’t my point at all. It was just a reductio ad absurdam of the “bloodguilt” deflection that Cinlef mentioned. FWIW, I do agree with you.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      It was incumbent for the decent citizens of Japan to stop their country from the evil it was perpetrating on the world.

      Therefore, 9/11 was justified. It works for everything!

      • Mark Shea

        Not so! Our entire Middle Eastern foreign policy is just and wise, as is all our foreign policy, therefore it was wrong to murder our innocent civilians. But other nation’s innocent civilians do not enjoy this protection. Also, our cooperation with the abortion regime doesn’t count. So shut up.

  • Mark Shea

    Oh please. “Deceit”? All I mean is that one runs into this sort of stuff in the conservative Catholic blogosphere constantly (and particularly on that site, which is *called* The American Catholic and which characteristically and steadfastly defends this position), not that every conservative American Catholic advocates it. That should be obvious since both Zippy and McKenna most certainly would self-identify as conservative American Catholics.

    • Jmac

      The [TM] on the end there really should have indicated to you that it was meant to be satirical. As in, “we’re well aware that this doesn’t encompass the whole of American Catholic Conservative thought, but it’s a remarkably persistent trope.”

      I know this is the internet, but it’s still possible to pick up on *some* sarcasm.

      • Thank you very much, and please remove my earlier comments (but please do keep my reply to Mr. Ortiz, thank you).

      • Timothy

        No, [TM] is another indication of Mark’s pattern of deceit. I have done the research and there is NO ACTUAL trademark on Faithful Conservative American Catholicism. This is flat out lying to the people, Mark, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

        • Jmac

          My God, the cover-up, it’s immense!

        • Andy, Bad Person

          Besides, “Faithful Conservative Catholic” is a RESTRICTED trademark [R]. He’s probably in violation of intellectual property law, too.

        • Mark Shea

          Now I must kill you for exposing me.

  • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

    I think Mr. Shea has written quite well in this post. But on his statement that “it is immoral for the soldier who deliberately shoots through the innocent civilian to kill the soldier standing behind him”, may I suggest that if that soldier SHOOTS TO KILL the enemy soldier, it is immoral even if no civilian is involved. This suggestion is not pacifist, because it does not suppose that the soldier shooting the enemy aggressor is necessarily acting immorally if he means simply to STOP the aggressor, not to kill him, even if the aggressor-soldier happens thereby to get killed in fact.

    • Ted Seeber

      I was just re-reading a fantasy novel by an atheist this week, Robert Asprin’s wonderfully hilarious Myth Adventures Series. In _Myth Inc In Action_, the organized criminal working undercover in the army makes the following argument in basic training when yelled at by the Drill Sargent for a perfect grouping of crossbow quivers in the SHOULDER of the man-shaped target: “It’s better to disable, but leave the enemy soldier alive, because then you take THREE soldiers out of the fighting to carry him off the field of battle.”

      Makes me wish the Bat Bomb Project had succeeded instead of the Manhattan Project. The idea of very little life lost but Japanese fire departments kept busy for 24 hours trying to protect property in a land where walls are made out of rice paper amuses me.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Thats precisely why we converted from 7.62 to 5.56 in VietNam

        • Ted Seeber

          I had never read that before. My argument about using non-lethal force that I made on Captain Catholic’s facebook page kind of goes out the window with that argument. I never considered an assailant so hyped up on drugs that putting a nice, neat little hole in his kneecap wouldn’t slow him down one bit.

  • Mr. Ortiz,
    I, personally, believe that one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th Century was the acceptance of the idea that civilians are “strategic targets’. Wars should be fought by professional soldiers amongst themselves and only in just circumstances; no ‘collateral damage’, no ‘strategic bombing’ etc.
    Even in a just war the killing of others is, of course, sinful even if it is required to stop a greater evil.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Even in a just war the killing of others is, of course, sinful even if it is required to stop a greater evil.

      Let’s be careful with our terms here. In a just war, assuming it is being carried out justly as well, killing an enemy soldier is not necessarily sinful. I could probably be convinced that it is evil, absent of good, but not necessarily sinful.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        I just realized that by “others,” you likely meant “civilians,” not soldiers. You are correct if you meant “deliberate killing.” Collateral damage is acceptable, I believe, as long as all other routes have been explored and it is not the intent of the attack to take civilian life.

      • Please explain how the commission of an evil act can be somehow not a sin.
        Can you lie to the Nazis to save Anne Frank? Yes, but that lie is *still* a venial sin that needs to be confessed and repented of.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          The killing of a human being is an evil act. It is absent of good. As Aquinas stresses, though, intent matters. If I accidentally kill someone, for example, it is not a sin. I’m not sure if it’s evil (like I said, I could be convinced, but I’m not sure), but an accident is not a sin.

          Let’s assume just war (a big assumption). War itself, however just, is a failure, not a good. It can be justified, but it is not good. Similarly, killing an enemy combatant is a failure, not a good, but it can be justified.

          What I am trying to say (and I lack the philosophical vocabulary to articulate it clearly) is that all sin is evil, but not all evil is sin. Your analogy of lying to the Nazis doesn’t quite fit, because lying is intrinsically immoral, and therefore you cannot do it without sinning. Killing, odd as it sounds, is not intrinsically immoral (in other words, there exist circumstances when it is acceptable).

          • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

            May I suggest that EXPRESS (“deliberate”, “direct”) killing is indeed intrinsically immoral, but that sometimes a circumstance can render a killing moral by rendering it “indirect”, even when foreseen, as when a pregnant woman’s cancerous uterus is removed because the child’s death is not envisioned as either an end or a means to some end.

      • Ted Seeber

        Killing may not be sinful, but it’s horribly inefficient. If you shoot to wound instead, you take three enemy soldiers out of battle instead of one.

  • Harry

    Best bits?
    “A civilian by definition is a person who is civil. Those enabling unjust aggression are not non-combatants but collateral damage for their bloodlust and bloodguilt of their own choosing. World War II was their war. Are you, Zippy on their side? You must choose.”
    Eerily similar to the arguments used by those who fire missiles into Israel.

    “Zippy, here is a Hypothetical Cold War Scenario that never played out but could have:
    USS Jacksonville SSN-699 is submerged on patrol off the coast of Murmansk, Russia in the Artic Ocean circa 1982. Yuri Andropov initiates a full scale tank attack against Western Europe in fears of Reagan’s installation of Pershing missiles in West Germany. We are ordered to fire our nuclear Subrocs onto the Soviet Naval Port of Murmansk. We will kill hundreds of thousands if not more civilians as well as destroy an important Soviet Naval Base. We will also be detected after the first launch and subsequently destroyed. I slide the Subroc into the torpedo tube, flood the tube, equalize pressure and when given the order, press the launch button. Murmansk dies minutes later. Our submarine is hit by a counter-attack from a Soviet submarine and implodes. All hands aboard are lost. Do I go to hell for my “immoral” action?”
    – From a dude who claims to have served on a Nuclear Sub, and kept telling everyone he would have had no problem nuking population centers with “fear and trembling .”
    “Nuking civilians not city structures is immoral. Nuking a civilan city that civilians should have left is equivalent to nuking empty buildings.”
    – Words fail me.
    “It was incumbent for the decent citizens of Japan to stop their country from the evil it was perpetrating on the world. The citizens of Japan carried bloodguilt, visited on them by their country and only God knows their innocence. The BOMB cannot be called “intrinsically immoral” because the penalty for bloodguilt is death. Three men rob a gas station. One man kills the attendant. All three are guilty of the homicide. Bloodguilt. Consent to the crime.”
    – Someone references the well-known Catholic concept of bloodguilt, which is totally a real thing and not at all a terrifyingly pagan-sounding barbarism.

    These people probably adhere to the Magisterium in every other aspect of their lives- can someone please explain to them what an intrinsically immoral act is? And can someone explain that such things actually exist?

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Nuking civilians not city structures is immoral. Nuking a civilan city that civilians should have left is equivalent to nuking empty buildings.

      Three men rob a gas station. One man kills the attendant. All three are guilty of the homicide. Bloodguilt. Consent to the crime.

      Ah, but what if the three men warned the attendant that they were armed before they robbed the gas station? They should only be guilty of robbery, not murder, since clearly the attendant should have left. Because they told him to.

      There’s really just no arguing with these people.

      • Ted Seeber

        Evil done with warning is still evil. Evil done quickly is still evil.

    • SecretAgentMan

      I can sympathize with the nuclear submariner. It’s tough to realize that your country may be persecuting Christ, and your professional life’s been largely dedicated to perpetrating intrinsic evil. But there’s plenty of moral blame to go around on that score — and most of it’s not on his shoulders.

      • SecretAgentMan

        BTW, it doesn’t help when people who were allegedly upholding the Church’s teaching on nuclear weapons and just war were far more enthused with using the issue to support a) virulent America-hating, b) tacit (and often not-so-tacit) approval of communist atrocities.

    • Elaine S.

      “It was incumbent for the decent citizens of Japan to stop their country from the evil it was perpetrating on the world. The citizens of Japan carried bloodguilt, visited on them by their country and only God knows their innocence. The BOMB cannot be called “intrinsically immoral” because the penalty for bloodguilt is death.”
      By those standards we would have no right to complain or even fight back if Al Qaeda, or China, or whomever dropped nukes on every major city in the U.S. right now… we’d all deserve it purely because of Roe v. Wade and the 50 + million dead babies that have followed, and that’s not even considering other issues. Does anyone really want to go there?

  • Andy, Bad Person

    I think I’m going to start reading the title of “The American Catholic” in the same way I would read a heretical adjective before other groups, like “The Arian Catholic,” “The Donatist Catholic,” “The Nestorian Catholic,” etc.

    It’s descriptive.

    • Jmac

      Give us some credit, buddy. We’ve come up with more than one heresy in the last 250 years.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        We’re productive! USA! USA! USA!

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Americanism is one of only 2 forms of nationalism ever condemned by the Church as Heresy.

      Hold onto your breeches, right wing, the other was France.

      • Ted Seeber

        And both were for upholding as the only virtue individual liberty above all else.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          No, Ted.

          Gallicanism upheld French custom over Roman authority.

          It had nothing to do with individual liberty. Gallicanism was not a theory espoused by revolutionaries.

          • Ted Seeber

            Thanks for saying that. I linked them because they both used the memoirs of a certain American Priest against the Pope- I didn’t realize the philosophies were actually antagonistic to each other.

            I’m still an ultramontaine instead…..

  • Somehow the fact that the technique used is bombs seems to act as a kind of moral disinfectant. Suppose the Allies had developed a kind of autonomous assassination robot, which would indiscriminately seek out any human being – including pregnant women, children, and infants – and inject them with a painful poison, from which the victim would die a horrible death within some period of time ranging from seconds to years. Would they defend releasing a “pod” of a million or so assassin-bots on Hiroshima or Dresden? I really hope that the prospect would bring pause and turn some back from the error they are making.

    But years of discussing the subject lead me to believe that the great majority would, like those at The American Catholic who unite their intentions with Truman’s in dropping the Bomb, formally cooperate with the atrocity.

    I have this inkling – just an inkling – that everyone who formally cooperates with Hiroshima by uniting their intention with Truman’s will, as part of their Purgatory, have to face and experience what each and every victim faced. I tremble when I reflect on the fact that God is just.

  • The last few posts lead me to consider what exactly we’re doing in our online Catholic discussions.

    As I look over the linked discussion, as well as the one unfolding here, it’s possible some are coming away with a better idea of what the Church teaches, and some will be prevented from going in a wrong direction. Some may be informed or reminded that God’s love extends to Japanese civilians (and soldiers!) during WWII as it does to the unborn child in the whom as it does to us in all stages of our lives. And this is a good thing.

    On the other hand, I imagine how these discussions must look to someone who is not a veteran of Catholic combox “dicsussions,” and it’s not a pretty picture. Are we presenting a Church someone would want to join or come closer to?

    Instructing the ignorant and admonishing the sinner are spiritual works of mercy, and it stands to reason that this would be reflected in what Catholics do online. And I’m inclined to think the writer who was scarred by the torture definitions discussion a few years ago is engaged in a bit of flopping. Sill, I think Zippy was correct in noting that this joy we sometimes take in addressing each other’s faults is not something we will take with us to heaven. And I don’t think we should wait for purgatory to shed it.

    So, as for me, I’m gearing my online activity more toward evangelization than correction. I’m not sure everyone needs to do that — some may have a particular charism to confront some of these arguments. But I’m finding myself increasingly repelled by it.

  • Mark, thank you for never letting up on consequentialism in general and the use of nuclear weapons on Japan in particular. These issues are at the very core of Catholic morality (as you well know). Hopefully someday people will start to get it.

  • Dan C

    The immediate era after WW2 had little general dissent from the thought that nuking Hiroshima or Nagasaki was not only morally acceptable but morally praiseworthy. Some lone dissent from the Magisterium of Americanism emanated from the Catholic Worker and some rare obtuse dissent in L’Osservatore Romana are the limited responses immediately. The Catholic Worker retained steadfast opposition over the next decades, as the nuclear proliferations increased, and some other lone dissenters voiced their opinions, usually from religious congregations.

    As a whole, the nation, including nearly all its Catholics, marched down the trail to massive nuclear proliferation applauding and supporting the American nuclear weapon program for decades, until the USCCB, in the early 1980’s, issued a notice that there was little moral ground for such a system. Catholics embraced the whole notion of mutually assured destruction, nuclear weapon proliferation, and the grand and tremendous victory that the wise and terrific use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki purchased. Whether Democrat or Republican Catholic, one had likely no variance on opinion.

    While Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the greatest obvious points of concern, firebombing runs on populated areas in both Germany and Japan marked the last year or so of the war. Clearly, the decision for Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s bombing was already made in an environment desensitized to such concerns as reducing civilian deaths and injuries.

    It should come as no surprise, then, that such a moral environment had Republican appointees from the Greatest Generation craft Roe vs. Wade about 25 years later.

    It should come as no surprise that the faith began to fail from the beginning of the post-War period-that declines in Church attendance and divorce should evolve among in this post-war climate.

    The narrative driven by many is that the sexual revolution drove up divorce and the loss of faith. The numbers suggest the decline started much earlier.

    I trace the collapse of the faith in all its forms, now routinely warned of by the commentaries on the Catholic Right, to this era and the standard Catholic embrace of these Americanist attitudes and ideologies.

  • Chris

    I think the problem is that, as an American, World War II carries a kind of glamour that has those of us removed from the actual event looking at it like some kind of fantastic movie — the kind with incredible villains, underdogs, individual heroism, tragedy, and the mother-of-all climactic endings with the atomic bomb. It’s a lot harder to find people who cheered the use of napalm in Viet Nam, since it was a lousy story with a lousy ending. And maybe the use of cluster bombs in Iraq bothers us because we never found the chemical weapons Saddam ditched. But criticizing the use of the atomic bombing of Japan comes off like criticizing the blowing-up of the Death Star in Star Wars. We don’t think in terms of the human toll because, well, it’s all just a movie to those of us who live in comfort (for the most part) and out of harm’s way (for the most part).

    It’s taken me many years to get beyond this mindset, but the more Mark talks about it, the more I agree. We need to help our fellow Catholics move beyond the win-at-any-cost mentality.

    • Dan C

      The “greatest generation” raised the baby boomers. Hmmmmm…..The reality of the consequences of that war on the humans involved were pretty severe, and echoed through generations.

      The Eastern Church lacks a concept of “just war theory.” They rely heavily on the early Church fathers who found war appalling, if necessary, but that participants in war couldn’t participate in sacraments for an extended period after being a soldier in a war (St. Basil particularly is invoked). This concept for Americans, a society in which soldiers (and, by corollary, the God of the Military) are worshiped, is foreign to us, since we are such advanced, modern Catholics.

      I hate war. I find no glamour in it. I recognize the damage it does for generations as the effects ripples through families.

      • Ted Seeber

        WHICH Eastern Church lacks Just War Theory? I thought they all accepted St. Augustine’s writings.

        • Dan C

          I tread on ignorant grounds here, but I believe the Principle of Double Effect on which Just War Theory arises is based in natural law and is formulated around the time of Aquinas.


          • Hezekiah Garrett

            Yup, you sure do.

            Just War theorizing doesn’t even begin with Christianity. Hindus were working on it centuries before Christ’s birth.

            Augustine very much lays out a theory of Just War.

            Aquinas takes this as his starting point. He fleshes out some of those somewhat empty phrases you strung together.

            IOW, East and West differ slightly in their understanding of Just War.

          • Ted Seeber

            Ok, from that article, that’s in keeping with Augustine’s view of a Just War- in which only one side can be just and in which no modern state has ever engaged in an Augustinain Just War (key is that the victor, even if the originally attacked, can’t invade the enemy to take revenge. Closest the United States ever came was the civil war, and it failed because the Confederate States were invaded and subjugated.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Boromir wanted to use the One Ring to do only good and save Gondor. Turned out not too well for him.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      But he wasn’t allowed to and thousands of Gondorians died in the resulting battles! You’re clearly un-Gondorian.

    • Seamus

      IIRC, Tolkien specifically said that the Ring was not a metaphor for The Bomb. (Which is not to say that it doesn’t work as one nonetheless.)

      • ivan_the_mad

        You are correct. A brief consultation with the oracle at Mt. Google couldn’t find it, but I remember reading a letter by him wherein he said, IIRC, that he didn’t like allegory, and that LotR was definitively not an allegory of the war. He wrote that if it were, Gandalf would have taken the ring to Minas Tirith to be used, there would have had two Black Towers staring at each other across a wasteland, and hobbits would have been universally despised.

      • Beadgirl

        Tom Shippey wrote about this extensively in his works on the LOTR. My main quibble is that both he and Tolkien seem to be using a very rigid definition of allegory, where every element on both sides must match up exactly.

        • But, Ma’am, that is the definition of allegory, which is a technical term in literature, and particularly in the study of mediaeval literature — in which field both Tolkien and Shippey were professionals and professors. If laymen want to use the term sloppily, there is no stopping them; but that does not give them just cause to complain when technical people use a technical term correctly in a technical discussion.

          • Beadgirl

            Ha, I had a feeling that was true, and always meant to look it up in my dictionary of literary terms; serves me right. In my defense, however, not a single one of my very many lit professors used it that way.

            • I’m not surprised. Most English Lit professors nowadays tend to think of anything earlier than Shakespeare as an irrelevancy or an embarrassment. (A few, God help them, seem to think of anything earlier than Maya Angelou the same way.)

              This goes back, as far as I can tell, to the war between ‘Lang.’ and ‘Lit.’ in English studies in Tolkien’s time, which ended with the utter triumph of ‘Lit.’ and the abolition of ‘Lang.’ It is no longer possible to get a degree in English philology at Oxford, for instance; in fact, I have only heard of one university in the entire English-speaking world where one can read philology at all.

              But since Middle English and earlier texts can only be read and understood with the help of philology, out went those babies with the bathwater. And the concept of allegory, properly understood, went out with them. With rare exceptions like The Pilgrim’s Progress, people stopped writing allegories late in the Middle Ages, so modern literary theory simply isn’t familiar enough with the concept to cope with it.

              • Beadgirl

                I actually had an excellent, very smart professor who taught Medieval Fiction. Unfortunately, the year I took it the class was inundated with freshmen and non-lit types looking for an easy A, and the only thing they would talk about was how “unrealistic” the Decameron and the Lais of Marie de France were. The professor later told me he had to drastically revise the lesson plan to take into account their unfamiliarity with literature in general, so maybe that’s why I never got proper instruction in allegory.

  • Ted Seeber

    Americanism is a heresy. Period. Full Stop. It’s the wrongful ordering of patriotism over God.

    • Chris

      I agree. It’s why I love this blog (even though I can be kinda testy at times). My world view has changed, like scales falling from my eyes, and for that I give thanks.

  • A Philosopher

    To reiterate, it is always and everywhere, under every circumstance, gravely immoral and worthy of the everlasting fires o hell to deliberately kill innocent human life.

    I can’t go along with the whole fires of hell bit, but the basic thought seems right here.

    I’m not sure why it’s limited to innocents, though. I can’t think of any reason not to kill innocents that doesn’t easily extend to the guilty, as well.

    • Mark Shea

      The Tradition cuts slack to soldiers in the heat of combat, police snipers who can squeeze off a shot in a hostage situation, and executing prisoners in third world hell holes who are likely to escape and continue campaigns of slaughter with the followers. Seems reasonable to me. But you are right that these situation do not mean we *get* to kill, but that we may regrettably *have* to kill. The goal is always to limit killing and seek peace, not to figure out how to jerryrig an excuse to roll up our sleeves and commence slaughter.

      • A Philosopher


        I think we’re not too far apart here — I agree that there’s a helpful distinction between what’s wrong to do, and what’s reasonable to blame people for doing.

        But: is there slack-cutting for those who choose to kill the innocent in high-pressure situations? (Admittedly: the relevant high-pressure situations may be much rarer.) If not, why not? Why does guilt versus innocence make a relevant difference?

        • Mark Shea

          I certain would cut slack in such a situation. There are distinctions between the gravity of the matter of the sin and the culpability for a sin. Truman was in a pressure cooker and had who knows what moral formation. He committed grave evil, but I have no idea what his culpability for that evil was because I don’t know his interior freedom or understanding. But Catholics, who should know better, do not therefore get to say that a gravely evil act was actually a virtue.

          • A Philosopher

            Thanks, that’s helpful. In that case, we’re very close to the same position indeed. (I’m sure that comes as a great relief to you.)

            • ivan_the_mad

              The phrase “men of good will” comes to mind 🙂

          • Dan C


            From below:
            “Agree that it was morally indefensible, but the bomb drop didn’t occur in a vacuum it was part of a long line of morally indefensible civilian targeting by American forces. IIRC, more Japanese civilians were killed in the firebombing of Tokyo and many other Japanese cities than in the A-bomb drops.”

            The environment in which the decisions were made contributed. The environment was created and inched into, step by step, in which human life becomes a little less valued. And by 1960, there are hundreds of nuclear bombs built for detonation in the Soviet Union.

            We generally do not choose to do evil, but we slide into it slowly.

            It is but for the grace of God, and no intervention by man, that those bombs did not get used.

            • Mark Shea

              Yep. And we’re not out of the wood since both Romney and Obama have made it clear that they are complete consequentialist thinkers. As long as a consequentialist has his finger on the button, he is open to using the Bomb “for the greater good.” And court prophets will hand him a theological rationale for it when he does.

  • The Cathars

    Too bad nobody spoke up for us when we were butchered. 🙁

    • ivan_the_mad

      LOL!!! Unless you’re serious, in which case LOL^LOL.

    • Jmac

      Thanks, The Cathars! This conversation was proceeding a little too rationally for my tastes.

  • Thomas D

    As a Catholic who is American, conservative and a veteran, I’ll comment. Not only where the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki morally indefensible so where the incendiary bombings of Tokyo — which killed as many as 100,000 Japanese civilians.

    War is an unfortunate reality yet wartime conduct (jus in bello) is understood by leaders. The intentional targeting of noncombatants is completely and utterly unacceptable.

    • Chris

      Max Hastings did a very good analysis of the firebombing of Dresden in his book “Armageddon”. Truly horrific how unnecessary it was at that point of the war.

    • ds

      Agree that it was morally indefensible, but the bomb drop didn’t occur in a vacuum it was part of a long line of morally indefensible civilian targeting by American forces. IIRC, more Japanese civilians were killed in the firebombing of Tokyo and many other Japanese cities than in the A-bomb drops.

      And while it was still morally indefensible, it might have been the lesser evil at the time it was used. American generals were already asking, before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if they could get more bombs and how soon. They were contemplating an invasion that would land on the southeast side of Japan, and anticipating massive counterattack by Japanese, they wanted to drop the bomb on the Japanese armies that would assemble to fight the American attack. So it’s entirely possible that a lot more A-bombs would have been used if the decision on Hiroshima/Nagasaki hadn’t come when it did. Again – morally indefensible I agree.

      I recommend checking out the documentary “Fog of War”. It puts Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the context of the unjust actions in the rest of WWII and other wars. It points out that if the Americans had lost WWII, many political and military leaders could easily have been tried as war criminals for all the targeted civilian bombings. Of course when you win, you don’t have to worry about that.

      • Ted Seeber

        I still don’t understand why we didn’t contemplate using the awesome power of the American Manufacturing Industry to build so many Liberty ships that we could keep a constant ring around Japan- aft tied to bow.

    • This is quite true. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while of course evil in itself, was a movement in the direction of good. That is, it was done with a view to making an end of the war, where the carpet-bombing of civilians with conventional weapons was merely a way of carrying on the war. At least some scintilla of moral reasoning was introduced into the deliberations. It was defective moral reasoning, but it was an improvement on what went before.

      What this says about the Allied bombing campaign in general is, of course, damning. In effect, the moral reasoning that justifies the use of the A-bombs is equivalent to Hitler’s dictum, ‘Better an end with horror than a horror without end.’ It is ghastly to think that Truman in 1945 needed to lift himself up to the level of Hitler in about 1938; but one cannot defend him against the charge except by reasoning which is ghastlier still.

      I hope, however, that I am not doing wrong in thanking God that He caused good — the end of the war and the demilitarization of Japan — to arise from that particular evil. At the very least it was a better outcome than the deliberate extermination of the Japanese nation, which both sides were otherwise contemplating.

      • ds

        I can’t find the exact quote, but IIRC Truman once said on getting the bomb, he felt the reassurance of a young man whose girlfriend said that if she ever gets pregnant she would throw herself into the river.

  • It is never permissible to do evil that good may come of it. Nevar, evar, evar.

    If your first thought upon reading that sentence starts with “Yes, but…” you may want to think again before speaking.

    • PJM

      Like the immorality of illegal immigration?

  • caroline

    I’ve always seen arguing about the morality or immorality of nuking Japan as a high school mostly male debate and really big fun for the guys. The useful question is the historian’s question: How necessary was the nuking to end the war? If the answer is not necessary at all, there’s no morality argument on the table. Save the morality argument until the necessity argument is answered. But the head work to do the necessity argument means cracking the books, hard work for high schoolers.

    • Mark Shea

      A gravely and intrinsically evil act–a “crime against man and God that merits firm and unequivocal condemnation”–cannot, by it nature, ever be “necessary”. To say otherwise is to say that God compels us to sin.

      That’s why this is not an academic exercise. Accept so much as the possibility that you have framed the question coherently and we are blaspheming God by saying he may force us to commit grave evil.

    • Jmac

      Yeah, that’s not pathological at all.

    • SecretAgentMan

      I agree. If nuclear bombing of Japan could not have ended the war, then of course nuclear bombs shouldn’t have been used. There’d be no conceivable argument in favor of bombing them. The moral question begins once we realize that we could end the war by using nuclear weapons — that’s the point where we have to ask if what we’re doing is morally allowed.

      • SecretAgentMan

        I meant that I agree with Caroline, not that I agreed she’s being “pathological” or blasphemous.

        • Mark Shea

          I don’t think she *means* to be blasphemous. However, it seems to me that proposing the deliberate massacres of civilians as a possible “necessity” is like saying it may be “necessary” to rape a child. Moral sense revolts at the proposition and, yes, regards it as a blasphemous thing to say that God would force us to commit such an act, at least in my case.

          • SecretAgentMan

            I see it. We have different connotations of necessity. I don’t associate it with possible or desirable. So when I read X may be necessary to A, to me it just means that maybe A is out of the question.

  • SecretAgentMan

    This subject always irritates me beyond good sense. So rambling thoughts follow.

    I think the quoted exchange is an interesting window into arguments on behalf of ignoring the Church on this issue. The comment makes some important factual points that are relevant to discussing the moral aspects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but bypasses those points and instead runs right off the rails into something else entirely. One actual point is that discussions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as metaphors for nuclear war are strewn with enough apples and oranges to run a farm.

    For example, people arguing for Church teaching take Truman’s post-Hiroshima message to Japan, “If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a reign of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on this earth” as an expression of the same threat that backs mutual assured destruction (“MAD”) thinking. But that’s an absurdly-shallow comparison. MAD has nothing to do with terms, negotiations, and surrender. MAD is a tripwire: “Nuke us, and we will kill everyone in your country without any more ethical deliberation than the Great Powers gave troop-train movements in 1914.” Truman’s ultimatum was the antithesis of MAD in that sense. So were the pre-bombing leaflets — MAD involves no prior warning whatsoever.

    Similarly, there’s a moral difference between destroying a city because it’s a valuable population center and might be a location for hostile military activity (modern nuclear war), and attacking a city that actually hosts military operations — after you’ve warned the city’s inhabitants that you intend to do so, and willing to accept that they might all (including the military personnel) leave beforehand. The moral difference may not be enough to “damn mass-murdering America” or “vindicate God’s chosen American people,” but it’s still there and distinguishes Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the theory by which we automatically annhialate Chelyabinsk because we can’t allow Soviet tanks in Austria.

    Both these issues, and many similar bones of conention, also feature a disconnect in subject matter. What are we trying to establish? Are we trying to establish the guilt or innocence of Harry Truman, the United States, or the Enola Gay’s crew? Or are we trying to pick through the similarities and difference that do exist and examine them in view of just-war teaching? Personal guilt involves more than transgressions of moral rules; a case for the personal guilt of Harry Truman and Paul Tibbets has to contend with a lot of facts that legitimately mitigate or even remove their culpability, but which are irrelevant to the objective morality of bombing cities containing targets of military value. The fact that both issues are still broadly relevant invites more confusion.

    Although it’s not specifically in the comment, there’s always been to my mind an unresolved equation of “consequentlialism” with “doing good and avoiding evil.” It is, for example, a moral certainty that prolonged deployment of troops in a combat zone will result in atrocities committed by those troops against the civilian population. It is an equal moral certainty that dislodging the enemy’s 257th Infantry Division with supporting armor elements from a city will kill civilians. It is inarguable. According to some uses of the term I’ve read, it is “consequentialist” to pretend these certainties can be removed from the moral evaluation of military orders by posturing about the just aims of the war or officially-licensed proportionality of the means.

    Arguments trying to avoid the problem by relying on the free will of the soliders involved, or the idea that commanders ordering the attack don’t “know for sure” that civilians will be killed are beside the point, if not outright ridiculous. Catholic moral teaching is inarguable: The issues of personal guilt and the objective morality of actions are not identical (or, sometimes, even remotely similar) issues. The commanders’ personal responsibility for rape and murder of civilians in the attacked city is not the issue, the commander’s moral responsiblity for issuing orders that will cause the horrid event is the issue. Trying to avoid the objective morality of a military order by interposing individual decisions miraculous imaginings about hand-grenades that only kill enemy soldiers is question-begging. One might as well argue (like the fellow who wrote the comment above) that the residents of Nagasaki “chose” to be killed because they didn’t leave, thereby absolving the US of “guilt” for their deaths — and, by extension, the residents of any city in the world “condone” nuclear holocaust by living in cities, knowing that their leaders are ticking off other countries’ leaders.

    In other words, I’m having trouble figuring out why it’s not consequentialist to order D-Day, the conquest of Berlin, or Operation Downfall. It seems to me that in these discussions the obligation to wage a just war somehow becomes the obligation to ensure that war will not be unjust.

    • Well, I’m not sure exactly where you were going, but I kind of like where I think you were going. In my over eight years of watching this subject hashed about in Catholic Blogs, it almost always devolves into Catholic Group A “damn mass-murdering America” vs. some form or another of Catholic Group B “vindicate God’s chosen American people.” I’m sure there are variables in between, but on one hand, I find out so many things I never knew (and quite frankly, can’t find out apart from the land of a thousand blog links), on the other I scratch my head and say, “it has to be better than this.” You seemed like you were on a better path, I hope more is to follow.

      • Mark Shea

        I’m trying to recall when I ever said anything like “damn mass-murdering America”. I got nothing.

        • I cannot think of any time when you have ever said such a thing, Sir, but I have heard it said more than often enough; and not infrequently by people who were using Catholic moral teachings as the stick to beat America with.

          If Americanism is a heresy, Anti-Americanism is a worse one. By the latter I mean the belief that America, and America alone, is the cause of all the evil in the world; and therefore, that anyone else who appears to do evil must be not only absolved but pitied, and not only pitied but sided with and aided, because they had no choice in the matter — the evil Americans made them do it. I actually know people who profess this belief, exactly as I have described it.

          • My point exactly. Not all Catholics who bring criticism against America fall into this of course. Criticizing America where it counts is fair game. And I hope Mark doesn’t think I meant him. But on his blog, as others, this and similar topics can become a posting ground for “Catholics who hate America.” This has actually been one of the less inflamed discussions I’ve seen, but it does happen.

        • SecretAgentMan

          Sorry, Mark, that’s my bleat of frustration at the debate generally, not directed at what you’ve written.

        • I never said you did. But read the comments here or on any one of a hundred threads about the subject. You almost have to get tickets to stand behind those itching to post ‘and let’s not forget these other millions who were slaughtered by America!’ In fact, I think I’ll start a file to keep track of the listing from these discussions. And that, of course, makes it tough to sift through when there’s obviously folks – on both sides of the debate – who have not a few axes to grind or agendas to push.

      • SecretAgentMan

        LOL! That’s my mind — like Lucy, it always pulls the ball away in the end.

  • Observer

    Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou O’ Prince of the Heavenly host, cast down into hell satan and all the evil spirits which wonder throughout seeking the ruin of souls, Amen.

    A country without a conscience cannot defend itself from any adversary, no matter what. When we’re told to defend our conscience and the institutions thereof, and then doing away with our consciences for the sake of the moral heresy of consequentialism, we’re abandoning our freedom (i.e. sacraficing our souls.) People during WII, as well, in Japan had their souls carved out and conscience thrown away by a lunatic calling himself an emperor. Their souls lay defenselesss and without care (because of their ruler who did nothing to aide the people out of harms way) amid leaflets and warnings upon the uncoming danger. Our country has an attack (very simillarly to those during WWII) on conscience, and thus on the culture, as those people on the other side of Pacific faced. As well, the heresy of consequentialism is not only not a shield, armor, nor a defense against any evil. But rather an invitation and participation to a pagan sacrafice of the human soul. If our defense of conscience means falling into the quick and dirty business of doing evil so that good may come out of it (as well as doing evil under the guise of good – evil coming out in the end), forget it. Our country does not have to cooperate with silly and shallow men who really ought to put themselves in danger rather than other people. I pray God’s mercy extend on us all and save us from wicked men (and the salvation of their souls as well.)

  • It is now 2012 and in three years we’re going to hit the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The anti-nuke solution position adherents have had a lifetime to think through better alternatives and second guess Truman. I must not be widely enough read but while I have heard many criticisms of the decision, I have not seen, read, or heard of a morally just way to end the war to work through events once we’d gotten past Midway and could reasonably foresee a day when we’d actually have to plan for such a blessed day as victory over the empire of Japan. Somebody must have written one.

    Where is it? When was it penned? What was the alternate history where we could have made some changes and improved our moral conduct to the point where we would not have ended up with the results we got or worse? I am curious to read it and learn.

    • Will

      I admit that I am not well read on the topic, either. I would also be interested in hearing the alternative history. In the mean time, I will continue to believe what I believe.

    • Zippy

      For Catholics faithful to the Magisterium the question isn’t even relevant, given that nuking a city is intrinsically immoral. Doing nothing at all may well be the only morally acceptable course in some situations, and when it is, there is no excuse for hand wringing over supposed alternatives. Refraining from acting at all is always available as an option, and if it is actually true that every available positive act is immoral then doing nothing at all is mandatory. (I don’t buy the premise in the case of US options near the end of WWII, but Catholic doctrine makes the whole “what alternative did we have” hue and cry completely moot).

      This is authoritative Catholic doctrine, and dissent from it is heresy:

      [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.

      So the only option for the Hiroshima supporter is to pit himself against the Catechism’s statement that nuking cities is always immoral. All the nonsense about alternatives is completely moot, and it is at least material heresy to propose otherwise.

      • In a nutshell, the first sentence in your answer is why you lose and will continue to lose, Zippy. You are resigning yourself from the world and ceding a part of life as “not relevant” for “Catholics faithful to the Magisterium”. Sorry, but that’s not Catholicism, which is provides a moral guide for one’s entire life. You’re living a fake faith and chiding others for being unfaithful. That’s, frankly, its own special brand of stomach turning.

        Japan attacked Hawaii, invaded our Alaskan territories, and would have continued pushing forward until stopped. The actions of the Empire were morally abhorrent, I hope we can both agree that far. Something should have been done. In almost 70 years, nobody’s gone through the exercise of figuring out how to have run that war justly? I don’t believe it. In fact, I suspect that an authentic Catholic answer comes back rather orthogonal to how we actually ran things but still would have provided pathways to victory.

        These days, I’m a contributing analyst for Wikistrat. We go through all sorts of pretty awful scenarios, looking to provide options for clients to solve serious, sometimes horrific problems. The realistic scenarios for the future look pretty bright because some smart people in the past didn’t resign themselves from the world and set up systems to channel the world from the lousy place it was in to a broadly better place. I can see the fruits of their work in the steadily declining number of wars and atrocities and the creation of new directions. And yes, some of those broad decisions were morally horrific like encouraging China’s one child policy.

        The answer to that isn’t to wash your hands like Pilate and just take advantage of the demographic bonus such slaughter provided for 4 decades. The answer is to come up with alternative policies that achieve progress but do not involve the moral compromise and sell it as superior to a bunch of self-interested atheists who already have blood on their hands and are looking to keep their advantaged positions and not end up being hung from lamp posts.

        In the end, there is a guy in a uniform waiting for the President’s orders. The President must give him something. The President will choose the best choice on the menu provided him by policy analysts from all relevant departments and vetted by the department hierarchies. So which available choice in 1945 did not involve intrinsic moral evil? Why did that choice fail? Was it even on the menu? If not, what kept it off of the menu and how can Catholic policy analysts make sure that such choices make it on the menu and win the next time a national leader is faced with a similar situation?

        Pouting at the necessity of offering options and quoting Veritatis Splendor means nobody who believes as you do are even in the room to offer your choices. You have none.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          What a load of bollocks.

        • ivan_the_mad

          “You’re living a fake faith and chiding others for being unfaithful.” Thus wrote the guy who dismissed Church teaching because it didn’t agree with him.

          • Funny, since I didn’t actually do that, when did libel become Catholic?

            • Mark Shea

              When you started slinging labels like “fake catholic” around.

              • I think you’re going to have a hard time finding the “making stuff up as revenge” bit in the deposit of faith.

        • Zippy

          Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

    • If I understand correctly, it’s not really a case of ‘if it would work, then it would be OK.’ What the Church says is that it is never OK. Where the problem lies, and I’ve seen this in Catholic discussions in spades, is trying to ‘stack the deck.’ It was a vast anti-Catholic conspiracy! Truman and the Masons were trying to kill Japanese Catholics! Japan only wanted peace, but evil America kept the war going to nuke babies! Harry Truman molested teddy bears! (I’m always taken how FDR almost always gets off the hook on this). Of course it hasn’t hurt the cause that Japan, like most non-Western countries, would rather pull out its own teeth than admit to any wrong doing, and has been more than happy for decades to hide its own atrocious track record behind the America Sucks! billboards.

      Over the last years, especially since the 90s, this narrative has changed. Other countries emerging – especially China – and the legendary ‘Korean Women’ (including others from other countries that came out in the 90s to speak of Japan’s own little Holocaust), as well as younger Japanese reformers trying to hold Japan’s feet to the fire, have – for those who’ve kept up – blown the lid off of the ‘Evil Americans nuking peace loving Japan’ narrative. Fact is, there is little to suggest that any other idea would have worked with what we now know.

      But in the end, that’s not needed to understand what the Church teaches in light of all that. The Church didn’t teach ‘Bad Truman, shame on Truman, Evil America.’ Instead, what the Church says is that it is always wrong to target the innocent, the civilian, the widow and the orphan so to speak. You just can’t. Even if every other conceivable alternative is off the table, that can never be an option. There must be something, some alternative, that needs to be found. Even if the goals are the best (ending war, reducing loss of life), those ends don’t justify it. Well done Harry for wanting to end the war against a horrifying empire of terror, but that doesn’t justify the deliberate targeting of civilians.

      To me, the saddest part of these discussions is how everyone wants to hedge their bets, instead of just keeping to what the Church says and leaving it at that.

      • Hear hear. This is bravely done. But there are little details of what orders to give to the admirals and the generals and what policy to implement when “just keeping to what the Church says and leaving it at that.” Conventional slog through east Asia and invasion of Japan’s home islands? Blockade until starvation weakened them enough for them to give in or at least made invasion a practical option? What were the policy options available to Truman that would not have been intrinsically evil? This is the essential heart that those who object to the bomb so often refuse to come to grips with. And if all of the options were evil, what was the last branch in the decision tree that would have led to a successful conclusion that did not involve intrinsically evil means?

        We are, I suspect, at a phase where we are coming to exactly such a point where ordinary, seemingly banal decisions will take us down to a point where all the choices are intrinsically evil. I’m looking for options to move us out of such moral traps and methodologies to recognize such traps early in time to avoid them.

        • It isn’t easy, because the Church’s teachings are founded on the idea that it’s better to take a bullet in the head for the faith than lose your soul. Since most who post on Catholic blogs have not taken a bullet in the head for the faith (I assume since they’re alive and posting), I’m willing to read their lofty allowance for endless suffering and painful death for the Faith in light of that. What could we have done? Don’t know. Recent understanding of Japan c. 1945 has made the issue more complex, unless you just say we’re suppose to be ready to endure suffering and painful death fo the Faith. Even then, what about a country not at one with the Faith? Lots of questions. Tough ones, too.

          • Zippy

            Those may be tough questions, but specifically for a Catholic evaluation of the morality of dropping the Bomb they aren’t relevant questions.

            Also, it seems to me that you are entering a bit of a moral danger zone by turning the example of the martyrs on its head. The example of the martyrs is supposed to encourage us to do what is right. It isn’t supposed to encourage us to say “yeah, but they were great and holy people, and I don’t know how well I would do in that situation, so I’m reluctant to call good good and evil evil”.

            • Have you beaten that straw man enough? Because it was already conceded at least by me. It’s much more interesting to actually find a solution to tough problems like fighting a just war and, you know, winning against the forces of evil (can we agree that the Empire of Japan was evil at least?) than just pointing to one act and closing the books as if the rest of WW II wasn’t also filled with acts of intrinsic evil and if you just avoided splitting some atoms everything would have been hunky dory.

              • Mark Shea

                Man, you really are a crude polemicist, aren’t you. First, a gripe about straw men. Then a *massive* straw man in which not one single word actually responds to anything Zippy actually said.

                • The one word that I’ve been responding to is Zippy’s fairly consistent position that it is ok to dismiss other questions as irrelevant. All that matters is the one tight question and if you want to go beyond, out comes the “shut up” polemics.

                  • ivan_the_mad

                    You complain below that others are misreading you, yet you persist in doing the same to Zippy.

                    • Go read the followup thread. Progress has been made.

          • Zippy

            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.

            • Aside from the condemnation, there is the actual task of getting in the rough and tumble to fight so that what is condemned by faithful Catholics does not end up as government policy anyway.

              This is what is so frustrating with your approach. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand is true. It doesn’t help in knocking back the advocates of intrinsically evil policy choices in a non-catholic country. For that you need something more, which is what I keep looking for and you keep condemning me for. It’s the detail work that is necessary to both formulate actual policy and to successfully promote a Catholic view in a field that is Catholic neutral at best.

              God forbid that we actually win these arguments and keep soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines from having the stark choice of violating their conscience and obeying orders or spending decades in prison. Martyrdom when necessary is laudable but to not head it off at the pass when you can? Throwing the lower ranks into the UCMJ meat grinder is something to avoid.

  • TM Lutas,

    I would try to find you this explication of just means to a better end.

    Except, we’re not supposed to judge means by ends.

    And here you ask us to do just that.

    • That’s a dodge. I’m looking for some sort of jus in bello that would have led from Pearl Harbor to durable victory over the Japanese Empire and not a nuclear conflict 20 years later in WW III. There is nothing unreasonable in that or in opposition to the Church or the deposit of the faith. You don’t have to even do it yourself. I’m just looking for a name, a body of work, an url that would point me to a better way so that I can incorporate that sort of thinking in my own opportunities to be a policy analyst and steer things to better solutions that would be more consistent with our common faith.

      It’s been near 70 years. Has nobody undertaken this work? Why? I suspect that taken out into the daylight, it would not look so fluffy bunny, hippy dippy. It might, in the brutal math of the body count, lead to more people dead. So be it. That’s part of the consequences of rejecting consequentialism. Sometimes eschewing shortcuts that are intrinsically evil means that more people end up dead in any particular scenario. But pretending that this isn’t so by not examining the consequences is moral cowardice.

      Now it is possible that all the people in WW II in the American command staff missed a few tricks. Perhaps the fatal mistakes that left us with only bad choices were made pre-1941 in which case this scenario might just be very relevant for today. Refusing to go through the exercise remains moral cowardice.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        There simply may have been nothing moral we could have done to avoid Japanese world-domination. I dont believe the historical record remotely shows such, but its a possibility.

        But you want to know what morally good actions would have secured us victory. And if they wouldn’t secure victory…

        The end is all that matters to you. Considering your economic fetishes, it isnt the least surprising.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          But you want to know what morally good actions would have secured us victory. And if they wouldn’t secure victory…

          Then they shouldn’t be attempted under Just War. Just War Theory demands that there be a reasonable chance of success.

          Sometimes eschewing shortcuts that are intrinsically evil means that more people end up dead in any particular scenario. But pretending that this isn’t so by not examining the consequences is moral cowardice.

          And the bravado that aims to commit intrinsic evil could land you in hell. I’d rather be dead with a clean conscience.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            Reasonable, my friend, reasonable.

            And inaction is always allowed, even under Just War Theory.

        • And if they wouldn’t have secured victory, you climb a step up the decision tree and try again. The point is to attempt to figure out at what point do all the choices become bad and take great care not to end up in wide looking but ultimately exclusively dead end branches that end up with intrinsic evil staring at you from all options. The problem isn’t when you are staring at killing cities filled with innocents. The problem is when you’re staring at the oil embargo in 1940 and having the foresight to realize you’re going to end up staring at killing cities full of innocents 4 years later. For God’s sake, make your improvements *there* so you never end up in that room filled with briefing options where it’s all intrinsic evil from first page to last.

          But maybe the oil embargo wasn’t the point. Maybe it was sometime in 1942 when we really went to town demonizing Japan. Maybe it was when the militarist/fascists took over Japan and we turned away because it wasn’t our business. I don’t know the answers and the question is hard. What I do know is that the road to hell is often broad and gentle at first and you often don’t even know you’re on it until it is well past any chance to turn back with a reasonable chance of success. Learning to discern the subtle traps before you’re anywhere near the precipice of city killing is better than letting the devil lead you by the nose to the very gates of hell and then setting your feet and saying no to the final step or two.

      • c matt

        I have not seen a thorough examnation of alternatives (forgive me Zippy for playing the game), but one thing discussed has been the blockade. The argument against the blockade, as I understand it, is that it would have cost more lives (I think starvation would have been greatest cause). I would assume a blockade that crippled military capabilities (ammunition, builidng materials, etc.) but allowed for food, etc. does not seem intrinsically evil, but I am open to correction. But, unlike the bombs, would have given the Japanese people and leadership the opportunity to repent, so to speak, before incineration. It would have been more costly to the US (probably both in blood and treasure), and taken more time. Try selling that to a commander in chief that has to run for re-election.

  • Rereading my own comment, I should probably clarify what I meant by “improved our moral conduct to the point where we would not have ended up with the results we got or worse?”. In this context, the result we got was that we committed an intrinsic moral evil. The request is for options that would not have been intrinsically evil. Switching from one intrinsic evil to another is no improvement. So what would have been an improvement on the avoiding intrinsic evil front?

    • SecretAgentMan

      We had three options:

      1). Blockade Japan, with or without continued conventional bombing, and starve the Japanese into surrender.
      2). Operation Downfall
      3). A negotiated peace.

      #3 is/was always an option. In fact we finally accepted #3 — we backed down from our rhetoric about ” unconditional surrender” and agreed that the Emperor (and therefore the basic structure of Japanese society) would remain intact. We only demanded the “unconditional surrender” of Japan’s military forces. (Interestingly, I’m informed by someone who’s fluent in Japanese and very familiar with Japan that the Emperor never “renounced” his divinity — the operative word he used meant something more like, “no longer insists” on his divinity).

      The difficulty is in the kind of negotiated peace Japan’s supreme war council would be willing to accept without a) continued destruction of Japan’s ability to survive through blockade and bombing (nuclear or conventional) or b) the success of Operation Olympic (the first half of Downfall, involving the conquest of southern Kyushu as a base for the second half, Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu near Tokyo). If I recall correctly, before Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese were willing to accept a cessation of hostilities (armistice), allow neutral nations (not Allied belligerents) to conduct a brief “occupation” while overseeing a limited amount of Japanese disarmament, with further negotiations over which of Japan’s oversees territories it would retain. There would be no U.S.S. Missouri-style surrender of the Japanese, only an ackowledgment that (this time) the war had not gone in Japan’s favor. People who claim the Japanese were like the Iraqi army, eager to find someone to surrender to on any terms, are mistaken.

      What would the impact of that kind of negotiated peace have been? Two examples come readily to my mind — Germany after WWI, and the USSR after Communism. In one case, the lack of an acknowledged, utter, military defeat caused a lot of mischief. In the other case, Russia remains anti-American, anti-Western, bellicose, and troublesome — but not nearly the threat she was in the 1950s through 1980s.

      Could we have lived with a Japan like that?

      • Tough questions, and fair ones.

      • Mark Shea

        We lived with a Germany like that.

        What concerns me about Lutas “brutal realist” pose is that it seems to me to come down to a claim of Siger of Brabant’s “two truths” bullshit. In particular, his posture of calling Zippy a “fake Catholic” is odious. Zippy is, like it or not, articulating the immemorial teaching of the Church that we cannot deliberately kill innocent human beings. Lutas is simply shouting that down, calling it panty waist ivory tower theology that may be true for laced clerics somewhere but has nothing to do with real practical everyday truth for soldiers and brutal realists like himself. What he really means, of course, is “Screw the Church’s immemorial teaching and commit murder in order to win.” He is, in fact, flatly rejecting the Church’s teaching about a fundamental aspect of moral law–and sneering at Catholics who will not follow suit.

        Meanwhile, I categorically reject the theory of two truths. When God says something is intrinsically and gravely immoral, that’s that. We live with those limits on our actions. That the US refused to do that in 1945 is not a mark of weakness in Catholic teaching, but a sign that we committed a grave sin and that people like Lutas have been rationalizing and shouting down people who point it out ever since.

        • I had to look up Siger of Brabant and Averroism. I’d never heard of it before. It is not my position in the least and I find it ugly that you reach out for some (now) obscure heresy to tar me with because you don’t like my questions and you twist my positions to meet your preconceptions. Just to be absolutely clear I do not believe and have never believed that I have anything to say about the nature of the soul that is novel and outside the catechism. I believe that Jesus Christ will come again at the end of the world. And I cannot even understand monopsychism and find it bizarre and unattractive, the little I read of it in composing this note. And the bit about one truth and multiple ways to teach it, I also don’t get as it sounds like a pedagogical dispute, something that usually doesn’t rise to heresy. You’re going to have to draw a diagram as to what the issue is there. And those are the Wikipedia assertions of what Averroism was so if I missed a bullet point, feel free to let me know so I can denounce those too.

          I do *not* dispute “the immemorial teaching of the Church that we cannot deliberately kill innocent human beings”. What I dispute is that this is the end of the conversation of the events of 1945. To say that further inquiry as to what you’re supposed to do is irrelevant, now *that* I dispute. I maintain that Zippy stopped asserting the Catholic faith when he started saying, essentially, shut up and don’t think further. The bomb was bad and there’s nothing else to think about, nothing else to discuss. Is a hard siege, nothing in, intrinsically evil? That was one alternative on tap. It would have led to a great deal more casualties but that’s consequentialism. We might have been putting the squeeze on Japan for a decade as we did in Iraq after the Gulf War. Or we might have done it with a harder blockade in a few short years. Was *that* branch of the decision tree intrinsic evil? We wouldn’t have been directly killing anybody. The Empire of Japan would have been picking who was going to live and die. We’d just have been shutting off the supply spigot from outside. Surely somebody in the Church wrote up a position during the long medieval history of siege warfare.

      • Dale Price

        To a certain extent, we are living with a Japan more analogous to 1919 Germany than 1946 Germany. Japan, while suffering gruesome losses, developed something of a victim mentality post-war, which is why it has never fully come to grips with its conduct during the war. At least not to the extent Germany has.

        And the bombs were part of the development of the victimisation narrative, to be sure.

        From my admittedly-incomplete and imperfect read of the historical record, No. 3 was at the lowest end of probability, at least not without the blockade or invasion first. I don’t see any remotely-likely alternative to the bombs that doesn’t involve a lot more carnage.

        Which, if you have been following my disjointed thinking on the matter, does not mean I endorse the bombings.

      • Dale Price

        The best argument for the bombs is to have used them on military targets. The most significant remaining naval bases, largest/most effective troop concentrations, or the like.

        • That’s probably true to an extent, though I’ve seen many condemn the entire bombing campaign no matter how focused on military targets. It could be lack of information on their part, not realizing that the entire bombing campaign wasn’t aimed only at civilian populations. But for me, targeting military targets works, if it could have been done that way.

        • SecretAgentMan

          Hey Dale!
          Interesting thoughts. Downfall commanders were puzzled that the civilian leadership wanted to “waste” bombs on targets that weren’t directly related to the invasion. On the other hand, plans for A-bomb use during Downfall called for as many as 9 bombs, and had US troops moving into bombed areas after a “safe” period of 4-6 hours. There was a lot of confusion about what the bombs actually did; interesting too that Oppenheimer’s crew focused all their efforts on building the thing and gave virtually no thought to the environmental effects of using it.

          Anyhow, for what it’s worth, by international standards accepted by all belligerents by 1945, Hiroshima was as military a target as could be. That’s another confusion — the issue can be weapons technology (the USCCB’s letter on nuclear war dealt with this), or the application of just war theory to modern social conditions. It’s possible that the root problem isn’t using the bomb, but tolerating social conditions that locate military installations among civilians.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      So now you just want to know what would have been moral, regardless of outcome? Victory isn’t so important anymore?

      Fine, you misspoke and I withdraw all my objections.

      Do you really need someone else to lay out for you how Americans might behave morally? I’m perfectly willing to believe it, but do you really want to admit it outright?

      • Even in the most strict restriction of warfare nobody is irrelevant to victory. Everybody would like to win. The question is how to do so without losing your soul. The easiest military solution is quick genocide. We rightly step away and start making life complicated for the soldiers. We still want them to win but without…

        There is a tremendous avoidance pattern by those who criticize the use of the bomb to lay out reasonable, practical alternatives that could have won the war. Few seem to want to do it and it doesn’t make sense unless there is a problem if you do so. I suspect that the problem is that once Pearl Harbor happened, winning the war without engaging in intrinsically evil shortcuts would have lead to a much higher body count, possibly a longer war as well. The Japanese might very well have committed national suicide without some sort of sharp shock to snap them out of their thought patterns.

        To avoid confronting the reality that fighting for victory without taking those shortcuts would lead to more dead, the very idea of questioning further and seeking practical answers must be discredited. Thus Zippy’s declaration that such questions are not relevant and Mark Shea’s diversion into accusations that I hold a 13th century heresy I’d never heard of before.

        Let’s face it. If there were some easy answer, a slam dunk way to win the war that was consistent with what the Church teaches, it would almost be a crime of argumentation not to use it to beat the pro-bomb folks over the head with. Nobody’s coming forward with it. Why?

        I don’t believe that our faith demands that we had to lose WW II. If that’s the case, somebody really has the burden of proof to demonstrate it. It would be obscene in my view to leave the military hanging out on a limb without reasonable guidance and that includes practical matters like area effect weapons, a broad topic that has the nuclear bomb at one end of the scale and tear gas canisters at the other extreme.

        • Let’s face it. If there were some easy answer, a slam dunk way to win the war …

          Straw man much?

          Lets stipulate that all means to win the war other than nuking civilian cities (or other immoral means) were not easy slam dunks. It does not follow that (1) using immoral means is acceptable or that (2) winning without using immoral means was impossible.

          The problem with these sorts of discussions is precisely that nuking two civilian cities is seen retrospectively as “easy slam dunks” compared to morally acceptable alternatives. I stipulate that. I’ve always stipulated that. And it is completely irrelevant in terms of categorizing morally what we actually did.

          There are all sorts of problems with counterfactual post-facto analysis. As Veritatis Splendour puts it:

          Moreover, everyone recognizes the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of evaluating all the good and evil consequences and effects … of one’s own acts: an exhaustive rational calculation is not possible.

          It seems to me that the Pope was being far too optimistic about human rationality when he stated “everyone recognizes”.

          • I do not so stipulate. You’re making the moral issues much harder here than they have to be (see followup thread).

            The argument that is fairly attractive is that killing more people where you are trying to exclusively kill bad guys is better than killing fewer people where you’re indifferent as to the proportion of innocents who are killed. The moral difference is even worth losing more of our own people over.

            I do not, and did not walking in to this conversation, have a problem with that statement. Now go and look at the spectacle of the “peace” crowd that gathers yearly at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and see how many of them would agree with the paragraph above and the associated styles of warfare that we would have shifted to had we followed it into a blockade or invasion. I do not believe they ever examine the rise of Japan’s fascist government and formulate a preferred method of dealing with them. The conversation just doesn’t come up.

            • If all you are looking for is my personal affirmation that the pacifist activists in this argument also tend to be flat wrong in their moral analysis, you’ve got it, and I’ve consistently said it over the years.

              People who claim that (say) ground invasion is just as immoral as nuking or firebombing cities are wrong. The hawks and the pacifists have a lot more in common with each other than with me. They both are generally incapable of distinguishing between accident (like traffic accidents) and on-purpose (like deliberately bombing those people right there), for example, and between combatants (those engaged in attacking behaviours and proximate preparations for/directing of attacking behaviours) and civilians (everyone else).

              On the other hand, the pacifists are in fact, in my view, morally superior to the consequentialists. Neither one recognizes the relevant moral distinctions in play; but at least the pacifist doesn’t conclude “so lets just kill ’em all and let God sort them out”.

              I wouldn’t want to overstate that last bit though. This isn’t an endorsement of pacifism (understood as a position adopted about moral truth in general, not as a personal commitment never to use violence, since those are two very different things indeed). In fact I think pacifism is wrong, often terribly wrong with terrible consequences, sometimes even soul-destroying consequences because of scandal; and often is in fact a reflection of moral defects in the person espousing it.

  • Vickie

    I think the devil got the Faithful Conservative American Catholic[TM} to compromise on the Life Issues for war and the idea that a martial spirit will save America. And he got the Prophetic Progressive Catholic[TM] to compromise issues of just war and torture to gain traction with the Church on pelvic issues. Bush and his GOP heave congress, did nothing substantial about abortion. Obama has gotten us into even more wars and assassinate people to boot. Both sides have traded life for death so now we have a perpetual warfare state dedicated to bringing abortion and gay rights to the world via drone strikes and torture.

    Time to trade life for life.

  • Zippy

    Rational discussion of hypothetical alternatives is not possible unless and until discussion participants can agree ahead of time that certain concrete actions are out of bounds, no matter the consequences. But supporters of the Bomb don’t want to agree ahead of time to certain actions being out of bounds; because if anything at all is out of bounds, the Bomb is out of bounds.

    • Mark Shea

      What was striking to me about Lutas’ Brutal Realism reply was not that he spoke in terms of right and wrong or good and evil, but in terms of winning and losing. You “lose” (and for an extra body slam are a “fake Catholic”) because you… reiterate the immemorial teaching of the Church instead of simply adopting the Brutal Realist position that, whatever Theology Truth may teach, Real World Brutal Realist Truth is that mortal sin *must* be committed. Face with a choice between Theology Truth and Brutal Realist Truth, Lutas then simply shouts down Theology Truth (meaning “the immemorial teaching of the Church that innocents cannot be deliberately killed”, declares you a ‘fake catholic’ and then trumpet Brutal Realism (i.e., advocacy of mortal sin) as the only game in town. Like watching somebody do Moral philosophy with a meat cleaver. Crude, brutal, ineffective, but persuasive to a certain sort of consequential mindset, I suppose.

      • Zippy

        It is more than a little ironic that the “brutal realist” who refuses to rule out certain actions regardless of consequences is the very sort who makes realistic discussion of moral alternatives impossible.

      • The job of the policy analyst is to find a winning policy for a certain definition of victory within a set of constraints. That’s just the way the job is structured. I’m sorry that the professional jargon tripped you up.

        In a war policy sim, good and evil are a constraint. They are not the victory condition. It’s an artifact of how the US is put together as a society that is broadly tolerant of various definitions of what Heaven is and how to arrive there. To run a holy war where good and evil form the victory conditions would tear the US apart because the country is posited on the polite fiction that nobody with the power of the state can be permitted to set hard definitions of good because it would unravel our religious settlement of tolerance. Perhaps when the papacy regularly put armies into the field things were different. I can’t speak to that.

    • Tell me, was this directed at any particular individual(s), or just a sweeping assumption about anyone who may not see things a certain way?

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Neither. Zippy is the very soul of concision.

        If you want to know what he meant, you need only read his words. He obviously is not directing this at any individual, but rather making a statement about people in general. But he makes no sweeping assumptions about anyone either.

    • Distinguo: Dropping the Bomb on a civilian population is out of bounds. There are cases just imaginable where a nuclear weapon might be used against a military or strategic target without killing civilians — though none of those cases could have arisen at that stage of WWII. For instance, it could in principle be a handy way of taking out an entire fleet at sea, or a remote and well-hardened target like a major hydroelectric dam.

      There is nothing about nuclear energy that makes it per se impermissible to employ it in a weapon, and nothing about bombs above a certain yield that makes them per se impermissible to use in battle. It is the killing of innocent people, not the size of the kaboom, that constitutes the sin.

    • Zippy, I already granted that the bomb was off the table as an intrinsic moral evil a priori. Here, I’ll quote where I granted your position:
      “In the end, there is a guy in a uniform waiting for the President’s orders. The President must give him something. The President will choose the best choice on the menu provided him by policy analysts from all relevant departments and vetted by the department hierarchies. So which available choice in 1945 did not involve intrinsic moral evil? Why did that choice fail? Was it even on the menu? If not, what kept it off of the menu and how can Catholic policy analysts make sure that such choices make it on the menu and win the next time a national leader is faced with a similar situation?”
      Is this really what the pro-bomb crows sounds like? Really? Because what I was aiming for was practical tips and tricks for keeping intrinsic moral evil out of actual policy adopted by government. But that is not a game simulation that very many here seem to want to play.

      • You are quite right that the questions (“What is the moral status of what we actually did” and “what could we have done within moral constraints”) are utterly distinct. So distinct, in fact, that they should be entirely different posts and threads, and pursuing the one question is OT from pursuing the other.

        I don’t agree at all that unequivocal condemnation of the use of the Bomb on H/N benefits by entering the murky waters of counterfactual wild speculation. Many modern people are under the mistaken impression that their ridiculous models, upon which every counterfactual is based, accurately represent reality. They don’t. In fact, I think they provably cannot. Man is far more dependent on Providence than he cares to admit. So mixing speculative counterfactual history in the same conversation as clear and unequivocal moral judgment can only obscure the clarity of the latter.

        I think there are all sorts of jobs in the modern United States that it is impossible for a Catholic of good conscience to hold. (In other cases it may be possible for someone to hold a long standing career morally, but new conditions have made entering that career morally impossible or at least deeply fraught: I am here thinking of the medical fields).

        I am certainly willing to consider that war policy analyst might be one of them.

        • I don’t agree with you that they are so distinct that they do not belong in the same thread. You are weighing down the Catholic position with an extra burden it should not have to bear and turning a series of smaller steps to the truth into a big wall that many will fail to climb. That’s not a moral failing but one of effectiveness in advocacy for the Church’s position. Feel free to continue on that tack even as I continue to find it less than perfectly efficient but grant me a similar freedom as I work through my own method of smaller steps and arguments that run like a gentle staircase.

          I decline to engage you on your ejection of Catholics from medicine or public policy formation. No doubt you’ll utter it earlier in a future thread and we can go at it there.

  • “making a statement about people in general. But he makes no sweeping assumptions about anyone either.”

    For the life of me, I don’t see how you can do one without the other. Unless, of course, he’s including himself in that people in general description. Then maybe.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Again, read what he wrote. “Except me” occurs nowhere in it. If you have some kind of cognitive disorder, please say so. I’ll feel really bad going on and on like this, expecting you to do things you simply aren’t capable of. But barring that, I have to assume you can read, and tease out meaning from the denotation of the words themselves.

      You’ve simply chosen not to do so.

      • Dave G.

        My point is, does he know this:

        But supporters of the Bomb don’t want to agree ahead of time to certain actions being out of bounds

        is true? If it’s not directed at a single person, has he the inside track to the heart, soul, and mind of each and every person who has questioned if there could be a validation for this? See, this statement could actually be a somewhat subtle spin on an old Protestant fundamentalist tactic, and I was wanting to make sure that’s not what was meant. So far, your answers haven’t convinced me.

  • Deadstop

    Mark, your characterization of Mr. Lutas’ position seems at odds with what I am reading in this comment thread. There has been some reference to other or past positions of his, so perhaps you know more of his overall stance than I do based on past interactions.

    However, it seems to me that in this conversation, at least, he is conceding that what the U.S. actually did in 1945 was an intrinsic evil, and asking for discussion on what other roads, however far back, the country might have taken, especially if it was possible to achive the same aim of defeating the Empire of Japan while staying within the bounds of _jus in bello_.

    Perhaps that’s not the discussion that you and Zippy want to have with him, but I don’t see him advocating for the Bomb as a good or even a necessary evil, simply asking at what point we might best have behaved differently. From what he says about his job, he deals with this sort of thing in the modern day, including the question of “How do we make decisions so that we never get to the point of feeling ‘locked in’ to a set of immoral alternatives?”

    It seems he may have vacated the conversation at this point, though, so perhaps there is no use in pursuing that leg of things any longer. It did seem to me you were mischaracterizing his arguments, though.

    • Mark Shea

      Of *course* he is advocating for the Bomb. And he is using sneers, insults and body slams (“fake Catholic”. “you lose”) to try to shout down Zippy as he advocates the obvious and immemorial teaching of the Church that you cannot deliberately kill innocent human beings, as well as the more recent articulation which says the nuking a city full of civilians is a crime against man and God that merits unequivocal condemnation. Who are you kidding?

      • Actually I am doing my best *not* to advocate for the bomb because I pray that there were better solutions then so that we might recycle them to avoid using the damned things again. You have persistently mistaken my position.

        What I foresee is that somebody’s going to kill a city, perhaps several. And if I personally survive, I’d like to have a very well prepared set of positions while I’m arguing for the preservation of a billion souls because as sure as the sun rises in the east genocide is going to be on the policy menu at that point. Because God help me, by some incredible bit of luck, fate, or what have you, I might just be in a position where what I say could possibly matter as to what scenarios get shot up the line for vetting. Personally, that terrifies me because I’m not ready to out argue final solutions and I don’t want to lose that argument.

        I suspect that to take nuclear genocide off the policy table at that crucial moment is going to require a lot of prep work before the mass event. So when the occasion arises I willingly step into the buzz saw here and in other places because staying in my comfy zone isn’t going to get me ready.

        • CJ

          I suspect that to take nuclear genocide off the policy table at that crucial moment is going to require a lot of prep work before the mass event.

          No. To take nuclear genocide off the policy table only requires that you refuse to commit intrinsic evil, regardless of the consequences. It requires that you take our Lord seriously when He said “he who seeks to save his life will lose it.” In short, *it means you must be prepared to lose the war rather than to commit an intrinsically evil act.*

          • Yes, and if you’re President of the United States you get to make that call all by yourself. But if you’re a policy analyst on contract to model out options as a “Team B” effort and you have to have every word that gets in front of the President undergo a darwinian policy option cage match, things get a lot more complicated. All you have is your intelligence, knowledge, preparation, and wit hopefully with a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit on your side.

            Believe me, getting “you must be prepared to lose the war rather than to commit an intrinsically evil act” is a tough sell to get into the briefing book. So, for the policy analyst, whose only work product is options that survive to make it into briefing books and doing it well means surviving often and having your policy chosen more frequently than average, could you perhaps share how one is to live out what you are saying? Unless one is on the operational side of things, you have to fight hard to meaningfully participate at all on any side. On the policy side any refusal of involvement is indistinguishable from Pontius Pilate style hand washing.

        • c matt

          If I understand you correctly, what you are looking for is a politically palatable alternative to committing an intrinsic evil because you may be in a position, someday, to make that alternative possible. I appreciate your earnestness in seeking such an alternative. But I think you need to be prepared to defend and argue that perhaps no such alternative exists. What you need to be able to defend is the first principle – deliberately killing innocents is out of bounds. Period. Even if that means failure. Then, you can examine potential courses of action that do not deliberately kill civilians.

          • You do not understand me correctly. What I am looking for is a way to get into the pit fight for policy options and beat the intrinsically evil ones out of the running. Quoting the pope doesn’t cut it in that fight because while having a well grounded understanding is necessary; it is not sufficient.

            • c matt

              What I am looking for is a way to get into the pit fight for policy options and beat the intrinsically evil ones out of the running.

              Beat them how? If you are trying to beat the other policy options by using consequentialist arguments, you will lose because using consequentialist reasoning, dropping the bombs IS the preferred option. Playing the consequentialist game, you will lose. That is why you have to focus on convincing the decision makers of the first principle that consequentialism itself is wrong. Only then could you even have a hope of beating the intrinsically evil ones out of the running. You don’t need to quote the Pope – you can quote the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which hold similar, although not identical positions against targeting non-combatants IIRC.

              If your policy “cage match” is fought by consequentialist tactics, you lose. You need to use other tactics to present your policy – number one being a direct attack on consequentialist reasoning as itself out of bounds based upon GC, UDHR, international public opinion and plain decency (does the Pres really want to be seen in history as the next Hitler?). You have to attack the basis of the reasoning, and only then can you lay out particular options (weapons embargoes, blockades, whatever) that is not intrinsically evil. Demonstrate that consequentialist reasoning is universally condemned, that Policy Choice A suffers from it, Policy Choice B does not. If the powers that be decide to go with consequentialist reasoning anyway, there is not much else you can do – fighting consequentialist policies by trying to show your consequences are better is a fool’s errand.

              • CJ

                Agree with c matt. Our weapons aren’t carnal, so you’ve already lost if you’re in an arena where only carnal weapons are allowed.

                That said, maybe you can make a case for weapons and tactics whose use isn’t intrinsically evil (“smart” sanctions/blockade, conventional bombing, tactical nukes)? Maybe you accept lesser conditions for surrender? If the Japanese are holding out for their foreign holdings, maybe you liberate those holdings so they have nothing to fight over.

                I think you can get involved in the decision making process and bring salt and light, but if they tune you out, and the only way to get them to listen is to embrace consequentialism it’s time for you to go.

                • I can formulate that sort of argument in my sleep. “The US will be under a permanent foreign policy handicap as the only major power to have ever used nuclear weapons and our foreign policy effectiveness will be permanently curtailed due to our use of these city killing weapons.” Give me a budget and 6 months and no doubt numbers and an impressive graph will follow detailing the dollars and cents costs of that handicap. And don’t think that nobody brought that point up during the original debates. At one level or another we probably brute forced all the implications of all the policies considered. That’s why there were such large bureaucracies. You need them to go through all the options to make these briefing books.

                  Don’t confuse spiritual warfare with an inability to engage and advocate the Church’s positions on conventional battlefields. The two do not necessarily follow each other.

                  • You are still raising consequentialist arguments here though. And that misses the point.

                    People who are willing to do evil will often – perhaps more often than not – have a material advantage over those who are not willing to do evil. You seem to be looking for some analysis which can be presented claiming that that isn’t true. But it is true.

                    I am perfectly willing to stipulate (not that anyone could possibly know, any more than closet marxists can “know” that man-made global warming will result in catastrophe if we all don’t become marxists) that dropping the atomic bombs left the world with fewer dead civilians, greater stability, and less tyranny than any and all other options, including the option of doing nothing at all.

                    The reason I am willing to stipulate that is that it makes not one whit of difference. Trying to “engage and advocate the Church’s positions” on grounds other than that — on some analysis that the US lost more than it gained by dropping the Bomb, for example – is NOT advocating the Church’s positions.

  • joeclark77

    The key word in CCCC 2314 you cite is “indiscriminate”. Hiroshima was a rally point for Japanese troops — it was a military target. Nagasaki was something, too, I can’t remember what. It is a left-wing re-write of history that we bombed these cities with the primary goal of slaughtering their citizens. Yes, there was an aspect of showing off the weapon’s awesome power, but it was directed against military targets. The fact that the Japanese used civilians as human shields (by building military bases in dense cities) and the fact that bombs in the 1940s were not precise laser-guided 21st-century munitions, were outside of our control.

    Since I can’t find anything in the just war doctrine that clearly goes for or against Hiroshima, I think a relevant point by analogy is this one from CCC2263 on personal self-defense: “…the act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor…. The one is intended, the other is not.” The just war doctrine seems to agree that “collateral damage” doesn’t constitute “murder” if it’s not the aim of the act. The suggestion that Truman’s purpose in bombing Japan was gratuitous murder of Japanese innocents does him a grave injustice.

    • ivan_the_mad

      This is eminently risible and nonsensical.

      • Mark Shea

        Indeed. I don’t think any sentence after the first one has any truth to it at all.

  • Andrew Goddard

    I agree with you, Mark, that dropping the bombs were immoral.

  • Scott Quinn

    Well-stated. Let the haters do their thing. War is evil.

  • Nick Boggs

    Hey Mark, could you help me understand something… how does the Bomb situation (it being evil) differ from what allegedly Christ/God helped Constantine do? or what the Crusades did (at least the first one)? Weren’t these killings that were either directly or indirectly sanctioned by God? And what of Old Testament war sanctioned by God? Just so you know, I do accept Church teaching and agree with your side of this issue. I’m a Catholic convert, a historian, and a Army vet, so I do at least understand all sides to this topic. It should be noted that the Japanese gov’t had brainwashed the civilian population so much so that had the Allied forces landed on the Japanese mainland, the women and children were actually prepared to use bamboo spears and farm tools to attack the troops in a suicide type manner. That was one of the bits of intel considered when the Bomb was used. I have on the other hand read declassified documents while researching for a paper about the legitimate opposition to the Bomb by many high ranking bishops and scholars. Thank you for your time!

  • Madeline

    My father was stationed on a ship off some of the Japanese Islands, such as Okinawa and Saipan, and observed Japanese soldiers forcing thousands of civilians off cliffs to their deaths. Hundreds of thousands of Japanase and other civilians died at the hands of Japanese soldiers. My father believed that the use of the atomic bombs against Japan was a simple calculus: fewer people, civilian and military, would die if we dropped atomic bombs on two cities than if we fought Japanese troops island by island back to Japan. Along the way we would not be able to prevent the Japanese military from killing more Japanese civilians, foreign-born slave labor (such as Koreans), and wiping out the native peoples of the islands since the Japanese military fervently believed that the death of all concerned was greatly to be preferred to surrender.

  • Jacobum

    Mark is at his best hair splitting navel gazing phoney baloney self again.
    Fact WWII was a just war by anyone’s definition
    Fact: War kills people both combatant and non combatants.
    Fact: War is awful. Therefore don’t get in them unless you are going to win them asap and get the hell out.
    Fact: Japanese started the War. Little place called Pearl Harbor.
    Fact: Japs were brutal. They would/did fight to essentially the last man in every battle. Check out out any of the major battle(s). …. Iwo Jima, Okinawa etc…… and find out how many Jap soldiers surrendered or survived……Answer is very, very, very few….if any.
    Fact: Invading Japan homeland would be considered a “major” battle. I am sure even Mr Shea would concede that point.
    Fact: American Military planners estimated American casualties at a minimum of 1,000,000+ (one million) and another 2 years + of fighting.
    Fact: Good prediction/assumption that if Japan was invaded the “general population” were not going to be bystanders…No more than American citizens would be if the USA was invaded…(But then again comments on this blog lead one to doubt that today)
    Fact: If you are the CIC (Commander In Chief)…al la President Truman and you know you have a super weapon to end the war quickly that will save 1,000,000 US casualties at a cost of several hundred thousand lives of the enemy… are probably going to use it….especially after 3.5+ years of a brutal war(s)
    FACT: Given the circumstances, The man made the correct decision….A theologian he was not. As stated earlier by someone….The cities were warned repeatedly. Ok that didn’t believe it…even after Hiroshima…still wouldn’t surrender….remember! It took bombing Nagasaki to finally get their attention and end the war.
    QUESTION(s)?: (1) Given the facts of the Japanese reaction…Do you really believe that it would have been more humane to incur at least a million American casualties (not to mention Japanese casualties) invading Japan? (2) Are you naive enough to believe that if Russia had nukes and perceived USA as being weak and unwilling to use nukes that MAD would have worked?
    FACT: It is very easy to sit back, pick your nose, scratch you butt, drink whiskey, smoke cigars and sound very erudite….with not a scintilla of common sense evident.

    Finally: For Mr Shea to quote 2341 of the CCC is really rich since it is from the 1994 Revised Edition of CCC. Last time I checked 1994 is a little bit later than 1945. IMHO this is typical MS device…..Lot of heat….but NO LIGHT!
    To paraphrase a famous quote by a famous General….”You never win a war by dying for your country. You win a war by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country”

    In the meantime the professional Catholics have nothing better to do but debate WWII while the Church has self-imploded since Vatican II because of modernist heresy within the Church as warned by St Pius X in 1907. The professional Catholics debate WWII while the “Catholics” elected Obama and could be responsible for re-electing him again. NOW THAT IS A DISASTER THAT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED AND CLOSE TO BEING REPEATED AND AMPLIFIED.

    War is Hell! It always starts from a perceived weakness of an opponent…not it’s strength. It’s the same lesson in everything…..Ya think Obama & Sibelius promulgated the HHS mandate because of the “strength” of the Catholic Church it’s faithful laity and it’s wimped out Bishops and their fearless “leadership”?

    Earth to Shea, Earth to Shea, Earth to Shea…..Head on Crash…Imminent and Straight Ahead! Use your talent and megaphone to WAKE UP THE BISHOPS, CHURCH, FAITHFUL AND ALL PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL Nothing less than the Catholic Church not to mention the Country is at stake…..NOW!