War and Peace – Catholic Teaching (exerpts)

Handbook of Catholic Social Teaching

War and Peace – What is the Catholic attitude toward war?
Pope Benedict on Just War (2001)

War and Peace

  1. What is the Catholic attitude toward war?
  2. Is counter population warfare acceptable?
  3. Is total war acceptable?
  4. What is the Catholic attitude toward nuclear war?
  5.  Is nuclear deterrence an acceptable policy?
  6. Is it ever morally acceptable for a country to make the first strike in a nuclear war?
  7. Why is the arms race immoral?
  8. May governments defend their people against unjust aggression?
  9. Why and when is recourse to war permissible? “
  10. How does the Church view military service?
  11. How does the Church view conscientious objection?
  12. How does the Church view pacifism?
  13. How must a Christian react to an order for him to kill a noncombatant?
  14. What is peace?
  15. What is the relationship between peace and justice?
  16. How are we to build up peace?
  17.  What is the fundamental condition for peace?
  18. Do Christians have an obligation to work for peace?
  19. What is the relationship between personal sanctity and world peace?

Pope Benedict on Just War (2001 interview)

Q: Is there any such thing as a “just war”?
Cardinal Ratzinger: This is a major issue of concern. In the preparation of the Catechism, there were two problems: the death penalty and just war theory were the most debated. The debate has taken on new urgency given the response of the Americans. Or, another example: Poland, which defended itself against Hitler. I’d say that we cannot ignore, in the great Christian tradition and in a world marked by sin, any evil aggression that threatens to destroy not only many values, many people, but the image of humanity itself. In this case, defending oneself and others is a duty. Let’s say for example that a father who sees his family attacked is duty-bound to defend them in every way possible – even if that means using proportional violence. Thus, the just war problem is defined according to these parameters: 1) Everything must be conscientiously considered, and every alternative explored if there is even just one possibility to save human life and values; 2) Only the most necessary means of defence should be used and human rights must always be respected; in such a war the enemy must be respected as a human being and all fundamental rights must be respected. I think that the Christian tradition on this point has provided answers that must be updated on the basis of new methods of destruction and of new dangers. For example, there may be no way for a population to defend itself from an atomic bomb. So, these must be updated. But I’d say that we cannot totally exclude the need, the moral need, to suitably defend people and values against unjust aggressors.

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