To review, the early Church was a pacifist Church. Jesus told Peter to put up his sword and he got the message so well that his only counsel to a viciously persecuted Church under Nero–the Emperor who would crucify him–was “Be sure you die well”. Not a word about “standing your ground” or “hitting them hard before they hit you”:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
“If the righteous man is scarcely saved,
where will the impious and sinner appear?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator. (1 Pe 4:12–19).
And the Church retained this stance for centuries:
I do not wish to be a king; I am not anxious to be rich; I decline military command… Die to the world, repudiating the madness that is in it.— Tatian’s Address to the Greeks
Whatever Christians would not wish others to do to them, they do not to others. And they comfort their oppressors and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies…. Through love towards their oppressors, they persuade them to become Christians.— The Apology of Aristides 15
A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.— Hippolytus of Rome
One soul cannot be due to two masters—God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier. No dress is lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action.— Tertullian, On Idolatry Chapter 19: Concerning Military Service
For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be requited with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another, an ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature.— Arnobius, Adversus Gentes I:VI
Consider the roads blocked up by robbers, the seas beset with pirates, wars scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood; and murder, which in the case of an individual is admitted to be a crime, is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale.— Cyprian of Carthage
Those soldiers were filled with wonder and admiration at the grandeur of the man’s piety and generosity and were struck with amazement. They felt the force of this example of pity. As a result, many of them were added to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and threw off the belt of military service.— Disputation of Archelaus and Manes
How can a man be master of another’s life, if he is not even master of his own? Hence he ought to be poor in spirit, and look at Him who for our sake became poor of His own will; let him consider that we are all equal by nature, and not exalt himself impertinently against his own race[…]— Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on the Beatitudes
The logic of it was not far to seek. What did Christians owe a pagan empire that killed their Lord and his apostles and disciples? Why kill for the Whore of Babylon? As Cyprian of Carthage also said, “[Christians] are not allowed to kill, but they must be ready to be put to death themselves . . . it is not permitted the guiltless to put even the guilty to death.”
I mention this to frame the discussion of Just War doctrine which first started to get ironed out in the fifth century and Christians were now faced with the question of their relationship to an empire that was no longer their pagan enemy but Christianized. What is notable about Just War doctrine is that it does not pronounce a blessing on war (though God knoweth many Christians have done so and few moreso than the cross-bearing Mars worshippers in the MAGA Cult) but instead is conceived in order to make war as hard as possible to launch. In short, it is designed to be 1) a concession to human weakness and 2) a massive hindrance to war.
More than this, since the horrors of the 20th century, Benedict XVI has wondered aloud whether there is any such thing as a Just War anymore. The movement of the Magisterium is decidedly in the opposite direction from the bloodthirsty warmongers in the Cult of Trump,who have given no consideration to this:
CCC 2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
Note that. Rigorous conditions. What we already know is that the Pentagon was in fact shocked by Trump’s capricious decision to show off his manhood by suddenly and without consideration launching a war both his predecessors understood to be insane.
Note also: *all* conditions of Just War must be met–every single one–or the war is Unjust and everybody who supports it is party to mass murder.
“But Mark! That makes it incredibly hard to go to war!”
Now you’re getting it, Spunky! That’s the point. Just War doctrine is not there to pronounce a blessing on your lust for war but to throw up very high roadblocks to it.
– the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
If you think any of these criteria were met because a mob took over our embassy in Iraq for a couple of days, I have a bridge to sell you. If you think that there was an “imminent attack” worthy of a war with Iran because the Liar in Chief says so, I have a bridge to sell you. If you think, “Well, you have to admit Soleimani was a bad guy who killed a lot of people” is a good reason for war with Iran, then explain why you aren’t demanding war with North Korea or Saudi Arabia? If your answer is that they are not the lasting, grave, and certain threats Iran is, I will call you a liar to your face. Iran was less of a threat than both. Trump made it a lasting, grave and certain threat by his stupid act. He did so out of intensely personal spite and jealousy of Obama by systematically undoing his peace treaty and laboring for wholly unnecessary war.
– all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
Funny thing that. Soleimani was in Iraq to try to de-escalate conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Not only did Trump not care about what was a last resort, he made war his first resort.
– there must be serious prospects of success;
The Imbecile in Chief has no plan and has already gone on record to proudly declare that he needs no exit strategy.
He has also told us why:
To quote Orwell, “The war is not meant to be won. The war is meant to be continuous.” Trump, the leader of the Cult where accusation is always confession, always tells you what his own darkest impulses are by accusing those he hates of them.
– the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
Trump has already promised to commit war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian “cultural sites”. In the past, he has also called for torture and even for murdering the families of suspected enemies. Believe him when he tells you that is what he wants to do. Believe his Cult when they cheer for it.
In ordering war crimes, he is deliberately creating a chain of command crisis in which the military will have to either do the honorable thing and refuse to obey or capitulate. So far, the Pentagon have refused and informed the War Criminal in Chief that they will not comply with his threat to commit war crimes. He has been doubling down, to the cheer of his white conservative “prolife” MAGA Cult of Real True Best Ever Christians. Given his multiple pardons of convicted war criminals and his shaming of honorable troops who convicted these murderous thugs the message is loud and clear: he aims to weed out the honorable and turn the military into a praetorian guard personally loyal to him, not the Constitution or the United States. That will be very very bad if he succeeds.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.
The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
In the case of the United States, that competent authority is supposed to be Congress, whom Trump did not notify until after he had notified his real countrymen, the Russians. Trump, meanwhile, is the most manifestly incompetent authority in American history.
In 2003, there was a ton of anguished cogitation over Just War teaching from Catholics. Lots of it was sophistry and lots of it was sincere. But at least it happened. This time what strikes me is that MAGA Catholics are giving Just War doctrine zero consideration at all. None. Not on the radar. They are simply repeating the lies and brutalist pagan rhetoric of their pagan warlord. But then, they were the Court Prophets for torture a decade ago and none of them have repented that either.
On a hopeful note in a bleak warscape of Catholic apostasy to Mars worship, the Holy Father and lots of protesters around the country refuse to bend the knee to Baal.