Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The pope next takes up pacifism, which can have its witnesses, but which can also be a mask for not doing what is necessary to protect freedom and justice. Here, he remarks, we have demonstrated "on the basis of a historical event that absolute pacifism is unsustainable." Notice the careful use of these words. The grounds for war are to be demonstrated by what is actually going on in this or that country, in this or that time. It is not an abstraction but a concrete realization of the power and nature of a regime that seems to extend its force and limits. This is why the pope says, as I cited above, "there is no such thing as an a-historical State based on abstract reasoning."

The pope is careful to retain the "just war" context of these considerations. The just war theory was developed in Christian and classical thought precisely to explain why honorable regimes must at times defend themselves or others in the very name of justice. We still must ask if "just war" is possible and a duty in every occasion where use of force arises. The answer cannot ever be an "unequivocal" never. It depends on judgment and prudence. This is how the pope defines a just war: "a military intervention conducted in the interests of peace and according to moral criteria against unjust regimes." This means that "peace and law" and "peace and justice" are connected. "When law is trampled on and injustice comes to power, peace is always threatened and is already to some extent broken. In this sense a commitment to peace is above all a commitment to a form of law that guarantees justice for the individual and for the entire community." Clearly this means that a military and police component to the very possibility of law and justice is presupposed. The allowing of law to be "trampled" on and of "injustice" to come to power is clearly a sign of civic blindness and moral irresponsibility. This position was also the gist of C. S. Lewis' famous essay "Why I Am Not a Pacifist," found in his Weight of Glory.

. . . Referring back to the logic of the cold war, the pope granted that it still retained some intelligible rationale. "As long as this potential for destruction (nuclear and biological weapons) remained exclusively in the hands of the major powers, one could always hope that reason and the awareness of the dangers weighing upon the people and the State could rule out the use of the type of weaponry. Indeed, despite all the tensions between East and West, we were spared a full-scale war, thanks be to God." This passage, I would say, is a belated acknowledgement (though John Paul II said the same thing) that deterrence did work and the fact that increased accuracy of technology and weaponry finally convinced the Soviets that they could not keep up achieved its purpose.

However, the terrorist situation is different. "We can no longer count on such reasoning (mutual deterrence and rational comprehension), because the readiness to engage in self-destruction is one of the basic components of terrorism—a kind of self-destruction that is exalted as martyrdom and transformed into a promise" (91). Presumably, the pope does not equate Muslim terrorists with organized crime in this sense. The gangster or dope runner is not seeking martyrdom whereas the Muslim terrorist, in his own rationale, is. The gangster is in it for power and money, not for religion.

The pope still thinks that this terrorism itself can be met but by careful means. "One cannot put an end to terrorism—a force that is opposed to the law and cut off from morality—solely by means of force. It is certain that, in defending the law against a force that aims to destroy law, one can and in certain circumstances must make use of proportionate force in order to protect it." This is clearly the reasonable, common-sense position. Again the pope adds, "An absolute pacifism that denies the law any and all coercive measures would be capitulation to injustice, would sanction its seizure of power, and would abandon the world to the dictates of violence." Again, these are memorable words much in need of recollection and emphasis.

"No Weighing, No Disputing, No Such Thing": Ratzinger and Europe , by Fr. James V. Schall. Ignatius Insight (Review of Europe: Today and Tomorrow by Benedict XVI. (Ignatius Press, March 2007).