Last week was a very busy week and there are two thoughts I did not have time or space to share with you. The first is about Election Day. I am writing this on Monday night so I don’t yet know who won, but I know from years of experience that my candidates and propositions don’t all win. This year has seen some very negative campaigns and I am tempted to complain. But in balance, I can’t. My family has only been voting for about 100 years. My grandparents all came from a beautiful little country that was occupied by troops from another beautiful little country. Until they crossed the ocean to America nobody in my family had ever voted. In fact, my grandmothers were not allowed to vote until years after my grandfathers because they were women. So all things considered (and we do need more polite campaigns) being allowed to vote is a blessing.
My second thought is about Veterans’ Day. It is sometimes difficult for me to be a pacifist and the father of a former Marine. I pray for a time when we will settle our differences peacefully, but I know that the young men and women who serve our country deserve my respect and gratitude. One way for me to cope with this struggle is to share with you the Catholic Church Teachings on “Just War.” The Catholic Church begins with a presumption against war, always promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes. However, in extreme cases (like unjust aggression), as a last resort, the Church recognizes that governments have the right and responsibility to pass laws to enlist citizens to help defend the nation. It is possible for Catholics to fight in a “just” war if all the following conditions are met (CCC, 2309):
- There must be a real, lasting, grave, and certain damage inflicted by an aggressor on a nation or community of nations. Examples of these situations include the violation of basic human rights, killing of innocent people, or the urgency of a nation to defend itself.
- War must be a last resort. All peaceful alternatives must have been tried and failed.
- The rights and values in the conflict must be so important that they justify killing.
- A war cannot be just unless waged for the noblest of reasons and with a commitment to postwar reconciliation with the enemy. No just war can tolerate needless destruction, cruelty to prisoners, and other harsh measures like torture.
- Only proper representatives of the people, entrusted with the common good, have the right to declare a war of defense.
- The chances for success must be calculated against the human cost of the war to prevent hopeless use of force and resistance when either will prove futile anyway.
- Armed conflict must not create even worse evil than that to be eliminated. Therefore, military damage and costs must be proportionate to the good expected.
Finally, I ask that we keep in our prayers all who serve our country and their families. And as I’ve learned in these last several years, nobody prays for peace more than the families of our enlisted men and women.
God bless you,