While readers on FB and in my comboxes demand to know just when *would* I pluck up the courage to go to war, this wuss is suggesting we should be heading in the opposite direction in our inquiries on such matters:
“There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq,” he said on a press conference in 2003. “To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’“
Fortunately, of course, Benedict XVI is not laying down a dogma (which is Latin for, “the only thing you have to pay any attention to”). But for those of us who think that the whole conversation the Magisterium conducts on the Tradition is of interest and not merely the bits useful to propping up pre-ordained commitments to ideology, his remarks, like his remarks on capital punishment abolition, or torture, or so forth, give you a sense of where the Church is and is not heading in its thinking. Those who dream that the Church will return to the golden age of the auto de fe, or the ghettoization of Jews, or burning people at the stake, or the blessing of Crusades or the headsman’s ax or or the rack are simply delusional. The Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person has already placed it on an irrevocable trajectory away from use of violence in all but the most desperate situations. And increasingly, people like Benedict are now asking whether the appalling consequences of the use of violence (a “tool of Antichrist” is what he calls it) leave us with any wiggle room in claiming it as a legitmate solution to our problems.
Yes. He is merely asking, not codifying. Nor shall the Church ever codify this. But it’s really pretty obvious that the question for the Church is not “How do we figure out as many rationales for the legitimate use of violence as possible without technically committing mortal sin?” but is, rather, how do we keep the choice for violence at bay as long as possible? That’s where the momentum of the Magisterium is heading. If you want to think with the Church about war and peace, start there, not with clever rationalizations for violence.