Sunday, November 30, 2003

A reader writes:

Thanks for putting together the web page with the official documents and quotes and articles. Very useful.

The biggest worry I have with traditional Catholics supporting the war is that their stance discredits their whole position of standing strictly by Church teaching. It just makes it so much harder for people to see the truth in tradition when its defenders are not consistent.

For example, a web site review in the New Zealand Catholic newspaper dismissed a good US Catholic website because it supported the war. Despite the fact that its other content was very faithful. These kind of reactions don't help.

I understand your concern, although I find fault with a different party.

The rhetorical excesses of the Vatican curia has given rise to a number of mistaken conclusions -- that the Church had authoritatively condemned the war; that those Catholics who "supported the war" were thus acting inconsistently with and unfaithful to the Church; even that the very use of 'just war criteria' is rendered absolete by modern technological weaponry. (Is it indeed true that publications like 'The National Catholic Reporter' -- with a history of dissension with the Church on any number of moral issues -- can claim to be of one mind with the Pope on the war? Or that one can, on that basis, justifiably dismiss as irrelevant the moral advice of those who speak on behalf of the orthodox faith like Fr. Neuhaus, George Weigel, et al.?

Those who support the war are faced with the difficult task of clarification -- clearing the air of the confusion raised by the Vatican curia and other Christian leaders who gave the impression that supporting the war constituted a sin and violation of Catholic teaching (as Fr. Neuhaus has done in "The Sounds of Religion in Time of War" First Things May, 2003), or that the use of military force is contrary to the cause of peace (as George Weigel seeks to do in a number of his articles).

Pacifism & the end of the 'Just War' Tradition?

There are two mistakes made by those criticizing the United States' war in Iraq (and Catholics defending the decision to go to war). The first, and more common mistake, is that of conflating the Church's "official" position on the war with the various statements made by Vatican representatives and scathing editorials in Catholic publications like L'Osservatore Romano, which I have addressed in recent posts to this blog.

A second mistake, greater in its implications for the Church and the role of Catholics in international affairs (particularly Catholics in the military), would be the conclusion that the utter destructiveness of modern technological weaponry has rendered the "just war tradition" absolete -- that the only genuine position Christians should arrive at in this day and age would be the resounding "NO!" of the pacifist. To the extent that these mistakes continue and are not refuted, civilized debate over the justifiability of the U.S. war in Iraq is compromised.

Cardinal Martino, former representative for the Vatican at the U.N. and now head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has given some of fuel to this erroneous conclusion, in one case by referring to the prospect of war in Iraq as a "crime against peace that cries out vengeance before God" 1; and in another, by speculating in an interview with the National Catholic Register (March 23-29, 2003), that there may be "no such thing" as a just war:

Question: "Are you suggesting there is no such thing as a just war anymore?"

Archbishop Martino: "Absolutely. I think with modern weaponry, there is no proportionality between the offense and the reply. It makes much more damage. War is so destructive now. It is not just a fight between one person and another." 2

Martino's speculation prompted a response from Weigel, who in his column took issue with what appeared to be a "repeal fifteen hundred years of settled Catholic teaching with a single adverb." 3 In another interview conducted that same month with Traces, Martino likened the Pope's argument for a development in the Church's position on the death penalty to that of the just war tradition: "[just as] modern society by now has all the means for avoiding the death penalty . . . modern society has all the means for avoiding war: negotiations, dialogue, inspectors -- all provisions that can avoid conflict." 4 At the same time, however, he distinguishes the Holy Father's position and the Church's understanding of peace from the pacifism espoused by the masses, pointing out that "[The Pope] said that military action could be the last resort only when all attempts to avoid conflict have been exhausted, and that the conflict must in any case be proportionate to the harm done, it must take into account the unarmed population, and it must be in response to a wrong and not the possibility of a wrong," -- that is to say, traditional principles of just war which constitute the criteria for debate.

Martino aside, there has been enough rhetorical excesses by Vatican curia -- including Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Holy See's Secretary of State; Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Secretary for Relations with States; Cardinal Pio Laghi, former papal nuncio to the U.S., who was called to undertake a special embassy to President Bush; and Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the omnipresent Vatican press spokesman -- and subsequent interpretations by the press and the antiwar movement to warrant concern of scholars like Michael Ulhmann, who worried:

. . . more troubling than [criticism of the war by Vatican representatives] was the extent to which their interpretation of just-war criteria reflected the influence of pacifist sentiment. This would be officially denied, of course, but it could be argued that the Church has already moved toward pacifism without explicitly saying so . . . on at least two occasions in recent years, John Paul seemed to go out of his way to deny that the Church was pacifist; but the mere fact that he felt it necessary to say so only served to underscore the widespread inference that the Church is moving along that path. The truth seems to be that while the Church continues to embrace traditional just-war criteria, its understanding of those criteria and how they ought to be applied is being reexamined. 5

This concern was reiterated by George Weigel:

"To judge by the statements of some of its officials and by virtually every bishops' conference in the world, the senior leadership of the Catholic Church is deeply reluctant to acknowledge the legitimate role of hard power under some circumstances; were this reluctance to become further institutionalized, the impact of a fuctionally pacifist Church on the world politics of the 21st century could be considerable." 6

Weigel and Ulhmann may be therefore be pleased to learn that, according to Sandro Magister, the Vatican is bringing a end to the inflammatory rhetoric through some personnel changes. On November 24, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran was reassigned from his post as the Holy See's foreign minister to become the archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, replaced by the seasoned Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo. Magister also reports that Cardinal Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, has "ordered a halt to 'recriminations' over the past." (One of those advised was Cardinal Martino). Apparently even the editor of L'Osservatore Romano was ordered by the secretariat of state to tone down the newspaper's anti-war stance and focus on the "mission of peace" in Iraq. 7

From reading the papers here in the U.S. (particulary the New York Times or the National Catholic Reporter), one might receive the impression that the Catholic debate over Iraq consists of a small band of Catholic 'neoconservatives' in America v.s. the Vatican curia and conferences of Catholic Bishops around the world. But according to Magister, the Italian periodical Avvenire -- "headed by Camillo Cardinal Ruini and its chief editorialist on matters of international politics, Vittorio E. Parsi, a professor at the Catholic University of Milan," -- do not hold the same view of the Bush Administration or the mission in Iraq as the rest of the Vatican curia.

Studi Cattolici ("Catholic Studies"), "directed by Cesare Cavalleri, an Opus Dei numerary, and is printed by Ares, the publishing house that has exclusive rights in Italy for the works of St. Josemarìa Escrivà," published a collection of articles under the title "The American Experiment" critical of the anti-American stance of the Church and the Vatican itself. 8

Also, the weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, a published in the Pope's hometown of Krakow, Poland, is also supportive of the war in Iraq (and according to Magister reflective of the feelings of many Polish Catholics):

While the church and Catholic opinion in Italy and Spain were opposed to the war en masse, the opposite was the case in Poland. The church and Catholics in large part supported it. Without, at the same time, feeling out of step with the pope. There is an important weekly paper in Poland that's editorial line fully represents this sense of balance between support for the war and obedience to the head of the church. Called "Tygodnik Powszechny," it is the voice of a group of very prestigious Catholic intellectuals. It is printed in Krakow, has always had Karol Wojtyla as a supporter and friend and has even had him as a writer before he became pope. In the years of transition from communism to democracy, the paper's main pillar was Jerzy Turowicz (1912-1999), a leading exponent of liberal Catholicism and a great friend of Wojtyla's. The current director is Father Adam Boniecki, former editor of the Polish edition of the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano and someone who is also very close to the pope. . . .

Among the bylines that appear are those of the Americans George Weigel, Michael Novak and Edward Luttwak. The articles don't all take the same line. Those which represent the paper's views are above all those written by the director, Father Adam Boniecki, and one of his main commentators, Wojciech Pieciak [both of whom have argued for U.S. action in Iraq]. 9

I hope to explore a number of tangents in the future -- among them a closer analysis of the Church's conception of peace as distinguished from that of the anti-war pacifist movement; the question of the United Nations as final arbiter of the legality of the U.S.' action in Iraq (both of these points were expressed in greater detail in Martino's interview w/ Traces).

  1. Military Intervention in Iraq Would Be a Crime. Zenit News Service 3/17/03.
  2. The source of the quote is a citation by George Weigel's column "The Catholic Difference." Unfortunately, the Register does not make available online the full text of the interview w/ Martino to my knowledge.
  3. Hoping Against All Hope. Interview w/ Traces, March 2003.
  4. No just war possible?, "The Catholic Difference". April 2, 2003.
  5. The Use and Abuse of Just-War Theory, by Michael Ulhmann. Claremont Review of Books Summer 2003.
  6. The Morality of War. Commentary Magazine, July-August 2003.
  7. Iraq: The Church Goes on a Mission of Peace L'espresso no. 49, November 28- December 4, 2003.
  8. With the Pope or with Bush? Studi Cattolici Stands with Both, by Sandro Magister. Chiesa. July 29, 2003.
  9. Poland's Catholics Depart for Iraq. With the United States and the Pope, by Sandro Magister. Chiesa. May 5, 2003.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Reason for my extensive quoting of George Weigel's "Idealism Without Illusions" -- I found this to be an interesting read because, composed in 1994, the latter half of the book contained the initial formulations of his thought on "just war and the Gulf War", the limits of national sovereignty with relation to pre-emptive strikes against despotic and aggressive regimes; justification for and reasonable constraints on U.S. "humanitarian intervention"; the necessity of understanding Islam and taking the threat of militant Islam seriously (the chapter "Terrorism and America" was inspired by the first Twin Towers Attack on March 17, 1993).

Many of these issues which would be later "fleshed out" in the debate over the current engagement in Iraq. (Likewise, Weigel's thoughts on the Just War Tradition are layed out extensively in the much longer and more substantial Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace (Oxford UP).

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Weigel - Is the 'just war' tradition absolete?

[Excerpts from Idealism Without Illusions: U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1990's, by George Weigel. 1994.]

The United States cannot be obliged to intervene militarily whenever there are gross abuses of human rights. But . . . a devotion to state sovereignty (on the international legal side) and the parallel inclination to justify military action only in cases of cross-border aggression (on the just-war/moral-reasoning side) are not exceptionless norms; they are not trump cards that override every other consideration. If that were the case, then we would be reduced to arguing, in a grotesque parody of the Just War tradition, that there would have been no cassus belli in the Nazi "Final Solution" had Hitler kept the Wehrmacht and his concentration camps within Germany's borders. Sorting out the meaning of "order" in the post-Cold War world is thus going to require very careful thought about how the world responds to specific cases in which genocide is a real and present danger.

[pp. 157-58].

* * *

Neither the contemporary critics of just war thinking nor its defenders have thought very carefully about the tradition as a tradition of peace. But that is really what it is. The just war analyst tries to order the proportionate and discriminate use of force, in circumstances in which other means of redress have been tried and have failed, to the pursuite of the five great ends of politics: justice, freedom, order, the general welfare, and peace. . . . the just-war criteria are the "moral economy" that tempers and orders the use of force which, this side of the coming Kingdom, is an inescapable part of all political life.

Is the just war tradition absolete? One might ask whether politics, the organization of human life into purposeful communities -- is absolete. What we must do is refine the moral logic of the just war tradition to take account of the new political and technological circumstancs in which we find ourselves. The Gulf War and the world that has emerged from the Cold War demostrated just how urgent a task this is.

[pp. 158-159]

Weigel's argument for pre-emptive strikes (circa 1994)

[Excerpts from Idealism Without Illusions: U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1990's, by George Weigel. 1994.]

Father J. Bryan Hehir, a veteran student of the just war tradition and principle counselor on world politics to the Catholic bishops of the U.S., does not wantto see the world's concern for nuclear non-proliferation become the occasion for stretching the boundaries of just cause. Writing in 1992 in Commonweal, Fr. Hehir had this to say:

I am prepared to argue that only the resistance-to-aggression rational should be accepted . . . as a casus belli. In a world where threats to proliferation are likely to increase . . . the moral arguments should strictly limit what constitutes cause for war. Proliferation, for example, is a deadly serious threat to international order but ther are a range of methods to address the question which are short of war. Establishing a precedent that resort to force is an appropriate method to restrain proliferation erodes the case which should be made about other means to address proliferation, and it increases the likelihood that force will be used.

[To which Weigel replies:] Something seems to be missing in this position, and once again thie "something" is the "regime factor." No sane person, no matter how devoted to the cause of non-proliferation, would suggest a preemptive attack on the British nuclear submarine force or the French nuclear force de frappe, either of which could wreak havoc far beyond anything that Saddam Hussein or North Korea's Kim Il'-Sung is likely to be able to accomplish in the near future. And yet there may be a morally compelling case for preemptive military action against the modest nuclear capabilities that Iraq and North Korea are acquiring. Why? Because of the nature of the regimes in Baghdad and Pyongyang.

The Iraqi and North Korean nuclear-weapons programs do not exist in a historical vacuum. They are the expressions of evil, real-world political intentions whose character has been made plain over many years. Precisely for the same reason that we do not think about preemptive action against Britain or France, we can, without collapsing into the moral vulgarities of Realpolitik, consider proportionate and discriminate preemptive action against Iraq and North Korea to prevent their acquisition of nuclear weapons, should other means of persuasion fail.

[Considering Fr. Hehir's concerns]: Would a discrete use of preemptive force against the nuclear capabilities of a state like North Korea or Iraq weaken the argument for using all available non-military means for dealing with proliferation threats? Would it increase "the likelihood that force will be used" in the future? Perhaps, but I think the opposite is more likely.

Non-proliferation efforts of the sort that have persistently frustrated by Iraq are going to look very much like a paper tiger to comer would-be nuclear powers (Libya? Iran? Syria? Algeria?) unless it is made clear that, should non-military means fail, other forms of non-proliferation enforcement are available and will be used. They will be used, that is, in these limited circumstances, where the weapons threat is amplified dramatically by the nature of the regime involved. If such military action succeeds, it will strengthen non-military non-proliferation efforts in the future, for they will be seen to have teeth . . . preemptive, discrete military action in the case of genuine outlaw regimes (when other reasonable non-military efforts have failed) could actually decrease the "likelihood that force will be used" in the future.

Pre-emptive military action to enforce a global ban on nuclear non-proliferation when the "regime factor" warrants it is no panacea. Military action never is. But if any contemporary circumstances bids us to reopen quickly the discussion of boundaries of just cause, it is this.

[pp. 154-156].

Weigel - On the Limits of State Sovereignty

[Excerpts from Idealism Without Illusions: U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1990's, by George Weigel. 1994.]

State sovereignty, and the consequent immunity of states from interference in their "internal affairs" is not an exceptionless norm. By agreeing to certain international human rights agreements, for example, states have voluntarily limited their sovereign claims to non-interference in their internal practices. The nature of international public life today has also "internationalized" questions that would, in an earlier era, have been regarded as a state's domestic affairs. When innocent citizens of European and North American states are put at risk in European airports because of disputes over "self-determination" in the Middle East, those disputes (and the involvement of other states and terrorist organizations in them) cannot be considered the "internal affairs" of the states (and the organizations) involved.

Moral reasoning, too, leads us to conclude that the principle of state sovereignty must not be considered exceptionless. Suppose that Nazi Germany had forsworn aggression after recovering the Rhineland and the Sudentenland, and had proceeded to implement the "Final Solution" to the Judenfrage within its own internationally recognized borders. Would the principle of state sovereignty have meant that other states were forbidden to interfere in this German "internal affair"?

Most reasonable people today would regard a positive answer to that question as morally absurd. But suppose an Indian government, controlled by militant Hindu nationalists and capable of deploying nuclear weapons, decided to settle the "Pakistan problem" and redress what it considered to be the fundamental injustice of the 1947 partition of the subcontinent, using its claims to sovereignty in Kashmir as the opening wedge for military action. Or at a somewhat less apocolyptic level, suppose the government of Turkey decided to rid itself of the Kurds in the manner in which it had once decided to rid itself of the Armenians. Does the principle of state sovereignty mean these affairs would be no one else's business? Would it constitute a fundamental breach of the principle of sovereignty of an international force -- or an individual state, for that matter -- intervened to stop the genocide of Christian tribesmen in the south of Sudan?

Put that way, the question seems to answer itself: whatever else it might mean, the principle of state sovereignty cannot mean that states are free to engage in the indiscriminate slaughter of religious, racial, or ethnic minorities within their borders. When that is taking place, othes have a right -- perhaps even a duty -- to intervene to stop the killing.

[pp. 99-100]


The chief purpose of this blog is intended for taking notes, jotting down reflections, and recording excerpts from various books during the course of my research into the Catholic Just War Tradition and the arguments advanced by both parties (pro/con) concerning the 2003 U.S. engagement with Iraq.

Although I will post the occasional reflection on the various passages by no means will these posts convey a coherent train of thought but rather, perhaps, a compilation of material for a future essay of some sort.

testing . . .