Our Priorities

The title of this blog is intended to be descriptive.  But it is possible that some will misinterpret the title, thinking that the term “American” someone how qualifies the term “Catholic”.  Father Richard John Neuhaus speaks of this problem in his recent book Catholic Matters:

“the great thing to discover is not what it means to be an American Catholic but what it means to be a Catholic American. One might think the noun is more important than the adjective, but that is not necessarily so.  The adjective qualifies and, in qualifying, controls.  To say that I want to be an American Catholic assumes that I know what it means to be an American but am uncertain about the Catholic part of ‘American Catholic.’  The goal, rather, is to be a Catholic American; to be a person who knows what it means to be Catholic and is working on what it means to be Catholic in America.” (pp. 166)

Fr. Neuhaus is right.  We are first Catholics, disciples of Jesus Christ.  Our political ideas are not our faith.  Rather, when we are at our best, our political ideas are informed by our faith. And that is perhaps the primary goal of this website: to express clearly and persuasively the influence our Catholicism has on our political life in America. Despite protestations to the contrary, this website is not about the American influence on Catholicism, but the influence Catholics ought to have on America.

A basic way Catholicism can influence politics is in our relationships with one another.  Peter Kreeft says that the most important political act you can do is to be a saint.  What does he mean?  Well, if politics is about how we ought to order our lives together, and saints show us how we ought to live, then saints show us how we ought to order our lives together. And saints don’t just tell us what goodness is, they show us.  And human beings learn better from examples than we do from syllogisms.  So our first political priority should be to work to be saints (I know this isn’t easy!).  For: the most essential element of  a good society is good people.

This picture, while appealing, is incomplete.  We are not all saints, nor will we ever be.  And our political thinking needs to account for this dimension of reality as well. We must try to build a civilization of love, but we should not be tempted by the Utopian promise. History has shown that when men make Utopia their first priority (i.e., an idol) they usually end up ushering in horrible tyrannies.  Lord Acton was right when he said “power [not authority] corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  Our political thinking should try to take this into account as well.

So: I hope it is clear that in terms of our identity, Catholic Christian is first, not American.   And our first priority as Catholics is to be saints.  All of this “blogging” is for nothing if it is not helping each other to become saints.

64 Responses to Our Priorities

  • This forum is a great idea, and I wish its owners well, with one caveat.

    This has the potential to be either a revolutionary idea, or one more really bad one. Most groups who attempt to introduce Catholic values into the electoral conversation, are little more than lackeys for one political party or another. This election year is certainly no exception, and such attempts are usually obvious at first glance. In order for this to succeed, the contributors must go completely out of their way, to avoid so much as the appearance of partisan allegiance.

    One reading of “Challenges of Justice, Peace-Making & Those People’s Endless Conflicts,” and I’m just not sure. First of all, I can barely follow it. Second, to the degree that I can, it suggests that the USA is obliged to be the world’s policeman. Assuming the world could use one, is that included in a soldier’s pledge to defend the Constitution of the United States? Are pre-emptive measures in achieving that end ever justified? How has that worked out so far?

    Oh, and one more thing. Have we figured out how we’re going to pay for it yet?

  • David,

    Thank you for the well-wishes. Why the aversion to political (partisan) convictions?

    Also – I, for one, do not subscribe to an understanding of the United States that says we ought to be the world’s policeman. I recommend you direct your question to that post’s author, Mr. David Curp.

  • I really like Fr. Neuhaus’s point about being Catholics in America rather than American Catholics in a restrictive sense. However, at the same time, I’m wondering about his adjective/noun point.

    It seems to me that if one considers “American Catholic” vs. “Catholic American”, the former suggests that one’s essence is one’s Catholicism, while one’s American-ness is an accident; the latter would seem to suggest being at heart an American, but happening to be Catholic.

    Sorry… Can’t resist a little grammatical pedantry when given the chance.

  • Darwin, oddly enough, I agree. I think Neuhaus is just playing with the words to make a point about what our priorities should be, and maybe trying to provoke those who call themselves “American Catholics” as to distinguish themselves from people who actually accept those “outdated” and “out of touch” teaching from Rome.

    This is perhaps why he says “One might think the noun is more important than the adjective, but that is not necessarily so.“. For some people, the American is more significant than the Catholic.

  • I am aware that we as catholics should informed politics from our perspective. First of all, we should follow and obey the Catholic Social teaching. I fully agree with the following statement ‘We are first Catholics, disciples of Jesus Christ. Our political ideas are not our faith. Rather, when we are at our best, our political ideas are informed by our faith”.

    The rationale behind this point is that we should be aware that our faith should not be misused as a political tool. Therefore, as Pope Benedict XVI stressed once, we should defend some principles that are non-negotiable:

    “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:

    – protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;

    – recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;

    – the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.”

  • As Catholics, we are called to make disciples of all nations. Those of us in the USA wish to make disciples of America. We are one body in Christ, and thus we are Catholic, and this is first and foremost.

    But what does it mean to make disciples of a nation? What should we as Catholics be doing here in America? The primary objective is this: we must make clear what the Church teaches. This involves not just talking the talk, but walking the walk (as we’ve heard so many times in political debates). But our hope here is to expose those efforts in the political domain, be they on the left or the right, which conflict with Church teachings.

    Certainly the Democratic party will draw the most criticism from this site. That is simply reality. The Democrats have become increasingly distant from Catholic thought, more so than the Republicans, though they certainly have their issues.

    Our intent is not to pick sides per se. We’re Catholic. We are in this world, but not of it. If the “wrong” man becomes president and issues in a reign of economic blunders, mishandled foreign policies, and extreme social injustices, so be it. We know there is more than this world, and we value the redemptive aspect of suffering. We can, knowing God’s Word, look at the upcoming recession, the potential depression, and dig in our heels. We will roll up our sleeves and struggle through this mess. It won’t be easy, and it will be painful. But we will endure. And we will keep enduring even if the “wrong” man becomes president in every election from here out.

    Will there be partisanship? It may seem that way. But it will be in the same way that we point out that a significant amount of crime in the inner city is committed by minorities. It is simply a fact. There are certainly reasons why it is true, and there are things we can try to do to effect change, but it is still a fact. Ignoring it, making accusations of “racism”, or even trying to justify it away will not alter the truth.

    The Democratic party supports abortion in its platform. Certain interest groups want abortion on demand. The Catholic Church condemns all abortion, period. That is a hard lesson to learn, especially in the very rare cases of either the child dies, or the mother dies. The Republican party supports the war in Iraq. This is not so clear cut, since there is recourse to the Just War Doctrine. Even so, while the Catholic Church will not condemn the Iraq war simply because it is a war, it can condemn the reasons for going into Iraq as being insufficient. At the same time, it can condemn any reasons for leaving early as potentially making matters worse. But the Catholic Church can condemn both sides of the aisle for promoting birth control, for fetal stem cell research, and a host of other issues.

    Where we can, we want to make the Church’s teachings clear. Where there is room for debate, we wish to propose well-reasoned arguments one way or another.

    I myself am Republican. But I am Catholic first and foremost, and where the Republican party conflicts with Catholicism, you can bet I’ll side with the Church.

    (That is not to say that we will be infallible in our posts. If we say something that is incorrect, we hope that careful readers will be willing to point that out.)

  • Ryan and Mario,

    I find myself concurring largely with your thoughts. Thanks for the comments. I think partisanship simply means having a conviction about the common good. It means having an understanding of the world, the human person, and the good. We should not argue for an end to partisanship, but rather for informed and civil partisanship.

  • Zach, you wrote:

    “Why the aversion to political (partisan) convictions?”

    My aversion (which I would have deemed rather obvious) is the association of “Catholic ideals” solely with a conservative agenda, or with a liberal agenda, inasmuch as Americans understand those terms. To put it yet another way, we must eschew the assumption that a faithful Catholic can only be a good Republican, or only a good Democrat. Our manifesto must transcend party lines.

    I’d love to direct a question to Mr Curp, who no doubt put a great deal of thought into his piece. For the reasons stated, I wouldn’t know where to start.

  • “To put it yet another way, we must eschew the assumption that a faithful Catholic can only be a good Republican, or only a good Democrat. Our manifesto must transcend party lines.”

    PRECISELY. You’ve made my day, David. Literally. I swear I was just debating about this.

  • David,

    I agree with you on this: “we must eschew the assumption that a faithful Catholic can only be a good Republican, or only a good Democrat”. What I don’t see is where you see that assumption. I honestly don’t know any serious Catholic thinker who says that a Catholic can only be a Democrat or a Republican. I also think the diversity in the Catholic “blogosphere” demonstrates this point – that Catholic principles can be applied in many different ways. This is not to say all of those ways are equally valid. There is an insidious relativism that can creep into our thinking if we simply say all applications can be reasonable and valid. Some are more consonant with Catholic teaching, others less.

    But no particular secular order will sufficiently satisfy the demands of Catholic teaching, unless of course we all become saints. Of course all things are possible with God, but not all persons want to cooperate with Him and He will not force us.

  • It seems to me that the important distinction is between being “partisan” in the sense of following the party line no matter what that is, and being “partisan” as in fighting hard in the political arena for what you believe is right.

    I can be fairly partisan about particular issues, but party ID is not necessarily important to me — though I’m a registered Republican because my combination of pro-life views and free market preferences and conservative principles make me fit much better there than in the Democratic Party, and so I want to be able to influence GOP primaries.

    It seems to me that the principled way to vote is, “I’ve voting for party X because it is on my side on the following issues,” while the “partisan” way of voting (in the sense I think is being mentioned here) is, “I am voting for party X because I am on their side.”

  • This sounds like a wonderful idea for a blog I will be adding to my regular daily visiting, thanks for the effort. I know it takes alot of energy to keep things like this going.

    and for David Alexander, tell you what… why don’t you let these guys do their partisan things and you create your own blog where you post on conservative democrats doing truely catholic things, to balance it out. let me know when you update it…

  • Darwin, Zach, Mario, Ryan,

    I agree on all points that you all have thoughtfully expressed in your posts.

    Alexander,

    I completely understand your point of not falling into partison politics.

    All,

    We are first Catholic before anything else. As Catholics in America we live up to the teachings of what Jesus set down. Some values will be supported by either the Democratic or Republican parties. Catholic Social Teaching cannot be classified as “liberal” nor “conservative”.

    We here at American Catholic will have constructive dialogue and criticism of any aspects of American politics and culture that interacts with our Catholic way of life.

    We certainly hope not to be pro-this or that, but sometimes certain teachings do fall under certain parties platforms.

    As Archbishop Chaput wrote in his book Render Unto Ceasar, no American political party can satisfy all of Catholic Social Teaching.

    This blog will flesh out the issues that arise day to day and hopefully make us all better Christians in the end.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito

  • So: I hope it is clear that in terms of our identity, Catholic Christian is first, not American.

    I am glad you are saying this up front, and I think that, of all the contributors, you are the one here who will probably live up to this claim in practice. I’m not so sure about the others.

  • “I honestly don’t know any serious Catholic thinker who says that a Catholic can only be a Democrat or a Republican.”

    Thanks for replying. Concerning political blogs that wear the name “Catholic,” what they DO say tends to fall into one of two categories, that one being to the near-exclusion of the other.

    There are the “moral conservatives” who line up with Republicans for at least paying lip-service to the pro-life movement, but who will defend practically any armed conflict in which America becomes involved, whether or not it fits any “just war” theory, and they will ignore any prudential judgment of the Holy Father concerning the death penalty.

    Then there are the “peace and justice” Catholics who still fall for the worn-out “seamless garment” mentality, using it to bury non-negotiable issues like abortion amidst a host of “life issues” about war and illegal immigration and government give-aways, so they can be seen at Democrat cocktail parties and still sleep well at night.

    THAT… is what I mean. We don’t need any more of either one, and that’s where the opportunity lies for this endeavor.

    Anthony, tell you what. I already have a blog. What I mentioned above, is how I approach the political issues in my own back yard. It is updated every weekday. Not everything is political, not everything is “church chat.” But everything is seen (I can only hope) through a Catholic lens. (See “Raison D’Etre.”)

  • Then there are the “peace and justice” Catholics who still fall for the worn-out “seamless garment” mentality, using it to bury non-negotiable issues like abortion amidst a host of “life issues” about war and illegal immigration and government give-aways, so they can be seen at Democrat cocktail parties and still sleep well at night.

    On the contrary, if you read Cardinal Bernardin’s writings on the subject, as well as church teaching which was clearly inspired by his insights, what the consistent ethic of life theory does is to show the connections between the life issues, i.e. issues where human life is directly at stake. Yes, this means including war because war involves the direct killing of innocent human life, because very few wars have been judged by the church to be just, and because the church clearly teaches that unjust wars are intrinsically evil. The theory would not say that “government give-aways” or issues not directly having to do with the taking of human life are as grave as abortion, euthanasia, unjust war, the death penalty, etc. Bernardin explicitly says that not all issues are equal. But all issues involving the direct taking of human life are not only equal, they are interrelated and share the same cause.

    It would be nice if we could get beyond caricatures, David. I doubt that this blog will help you to do so.

  • “Bernardin explicitly says that not all issues are equal. But all issues involving the direct taking of human life are not only equal, they are interrelated and share the same cause.”

    Oh??? There are never circumstances where either war or capital punishment are justified? Because there are. There are NO circumstances where abortion is justified. If Bernardin didn’t miss that distinction, those who espouse his legacy do not. That is my point.

  • I meant to say “…those who espouse his legacy DO.”

  • Michael,

    I haven’t read much of Bernardine’s actual writing — I just remember hearing my pastor talk about them in homilies. So I would not venture an opinion on how he himself meant the Seamless Garment image. Certainly, Evangelium Vitae, which is sometimes cited as a seamless garment influenced document does a very good and important job of underscoring how all of the “life issues” fit together, while at the same time emphasizing their relative scale.

    However, I think that David Alexander is right that one does often run into (and did even more so in the 80s and 90s) uses of the term “seamless garment” which boil down to: “Okay, sure abortion and euthenasia are bad — but we need a mroe progressive tax system and immigration reform and those are just as much ‘life issues’ so I’ll vote Democrat.” Indeed, it seems to me that it’s exactly that kind of flexibility on the part of some (though certainly not all) Catholics who are Democrats that allowed the pro-abortion lobby to get such a death grip on that party in the 80s and retain it ever since.

    On a side note, I have to call foul on your, “because very few wars have been judged by the church to be just”. The Chuch does not tend to officially score wars as just or unjust. If you can name off ten wars over the last 1000 years that the Catholic Church has picked sides on, I’d be surprised. The Church definitely gives us the tools, in the form of just war doctrine, to examine the justness of individual wars, but it does not tend to rule on which side is just and which unjust in given wars. (I’d say that’s generally a good thing.)

  • There are never circumstances where either war or capital punishment are justified? Because there are. There are NO circumstances where abortion is justified. If Bernardin didn’t miss that distinction, those who espouse his legacy do not. That is my point.

    David, when I say that they are of equal importance I mean just that. I do not mean that there are no distinctions among the issues.

    Bernardin was no pacifist. When he denounced war he was talking about unjust wars. He knew the distinctions. The problem is that when folks like yourself insist that there are “distinctions,” you are looking at war abstractly. Sure, the church says that war is sometimes justifies. But when it is NOT justified — and 99.9% of the time it is NOT justified — then it is just as grave as abortion. Both involve unjustified killing of human beings.

    “Okay, sure abortion and euthenasia are bad — but we need a mroe progressive tax system and immigration reform and those are just as much ‘life issues’ so I’ll vote Democrat.”

    This is a caricature and you know it. The vast majority of “seamless garment” Catholics understand that it is in reference to life issues.

    “Life issues” is understood by the Right to be a very narrow category. We have already seen above that some think war is not included in that category, when the Church believes that it is. The death penalty is often omitted by the Right, but the Church includes it. Issues like hunger, poverty, and extreme pollution should also be included as these involve the slow systematic death of human beings.

    That said, most “seamless garment” Catholics do not think tax policy is among the life issues and it’s unfair of you to make that categorization.

    The Chuch does not tend to officially score wars as just or unjust. If you can name off ten wars over the last 1000 years that the Catholic Church has picked sides on, I’d be surprised.

    Well, right here you show that you miss the entire point of just war teaching. It’s not about “picking sides.”

    The Church definitely gives us the tools, in the form of just war doctrine, to examine the justness of individual wars, but it does not tend to rule on which side is just and which unjust in given wars. (I’d say that’s generally a good thing.)

    Again, here, I have to “call foul.” When the Church makes a judgment on a particular war, it is NOT “choosing sides.” When the Church, for example, denounced the Iraq war unjust, it was not “taking sides” against the U.S. and in favor of “the terrorists.” That, my friend, is Bush-esque thinking. “You are with us, or with the terrorists.”

    I’m also puzzled by your opinion that you think it is/would be a “good thing” if the Church refrained from making judgments about wars. Don’t the human beings involved in the wars matter? Or is fetal life the only life that matters to you?

  • Michael:

    What Darwin said.

    “The problem is that when folks like yourself insist that there are “distinctions,” you are looking at war abstractly. Sure, the church says that war is sometimes justifies. But when it is NOT justified — and 99.9% of the time it is NOT justified — then it is just as grave as abortion. Both involve unjustified killing of human beings.”

    When folks like myself insist that there are “distinctions,” it’s because the lack of them leads to the over-generalizations, that even you yourself take the pains to eschew.

    Having established that there are circumstances where a war may or may not be justified, it is the failure to set a proper criteria that makes people think they can just reduce abortion to just another “life issue.” The problem is, it isn’t. Not in the sense that war or capital punishment are. The former is always wrong. The latter two are not always. Yes, once you determine that the latter are immoral, then they are just as immoral as abortion. But first, you have to make that (here comes that naughty word) distinction — something the “peace and justice” crowd doesn’t always do. So we are (mis)led into believing that all war is immoral, and that the Church can “change” its teaching on capital punishment.

    Which brings me, once again, back to my point.

  • 1. No one “reduces” abortion to “just another life issue.” Life issues are never “just” life issues. They are all gravely serious. If anything, many “peace and justice” Catholics raise up other life issues that are deliberately neglected by the Right. If anyone is “reducing” anything, it is right-wing Catholics who “reduce” issues like war and capital punishment to “just another issue” that Catholics can “disagree” about. And then, of course, they ridicule those Catholics who actually take Church teaching on war and capital punishment seriously.

    2. Many “peace and justice” Catholics are, in fact, not pacifists, so they do not “mislead” anyone into believing all war is immoral. Even as a pacifist, I am open to the Church’s teaching that in theory war could be morally justified. But in practice, that’s another story. In practice, we are talking about the unjust taking of human life, and that is what right-wing Catholics do not want to admit.

    3. The Church did change its teaching on capital punishment.

  • Michael,

    The problem is that when folks like yourself insist that there are “distinctions,” you are looking at war abstractly. Sure, the church says that war is sometimes justifies. But when it is NOT justified — and 99.9% of the time it is NOT justified — then it is just as grave as abortion. Both involve unjustified killing of human beings.

    First off, I’m really unclear where you get your assurance that “99.9% of the time” war is not justified. Do you mean that if one imagined all the possible pretexts for war (“He looked at me funny! Can I start a war?”) that 99.9% of said pretexts would be found to be unjust? Possibly true, but trivially so. Or do you mean that historically 99.9% of wars have been unjust?

    Either way, the fact that abortion and euthenasia are _never_ just puts them in a different league, in that one cannot reasonably be deceived or mistaken into thinking that abortion is justified in a given situation (it never is) but one could be so into thinking that a given war was justified.

    This is a caricature and you know it. The vast majority of “seamless garment” Catholics understand that it is in reference to life issues.

    Only if some people are caricatures. I have had it put to me in debate that immigration reform and increasing the progressivity of taxes (in order to reduce inequality — which some people oddly equate with reducing poverty) are indeed “life issues”.

    The death penalty is often omitted by the Right, but the Church includes it. Issues like hunger, poverty, and extreme pollution should also be included as these involve the slow systematic death of human beings.

    Given that the death penalty is not always and everywhere unjust, and that there is difference between “left” and “right” as to whether it is indeed needed in our current society, one can hardly be surprised that “the right” ommits it. Similarly, I think the issue we run into in regards to hunger, povery and pollution is that there is disagreement as to how to best alleve the problem and (in the case of pollution) the extent of the problem — and so people quite legitimately come to different conclusions. I am not aware of any disagreement in the body politic as to whether we should work to reduce povery and hunger — but there is disagreement as to what policies will in fact achieve that. Giving one particular set of policies (endorsed by “the left”) the blessing of “life issues” thus makes the argument rather disingenuous.

    Those who believe that progressive solutions work best and those who believe conservative solutions work best all have a duty to pursue the policies which in good conscience they believe will serve the common good. But that does not mean that the more politically progressive Catholics are pursuing a “seamless garment” approach any more than the conservative ones. Indeed, in a sense, less so, if they are using that approach to justify packaging some policies which they know to be evil (abortion, euthenasia, gay marriage) with others they believe to be good. Unless conservatives actually believe their policies will hurt the poor, they are the ones with the more seamless approach.

    Again, here, I have to “call foul.” When the Church makes a judgment on a particular war, it is NOT “choosing sides.” When the Church, for example, denounced the Iraq war unjust, it was not “taking sides” against the U.S. and in favor of “the terrorists.” That, my friend, is Bush-esque thinking. “You are with us, or with the terrorists.”

    Perhaps you can clarify for me: Let us say for the sake of argument that it same completely unjust for the United States to invade Iraq. If that were the case, could we not assume that it was thus just for the Iraqis to resist them? I would assume that if the aggressor is acting unjustly, than that would almost always set up the criteria for it to be just for the defender to resist.

    The one exception I guess I can see is that winnability is seen as a criteria for just war. If a very small country is being totally crushed by a large one, one might make the argument (though it would be hard to stomach) that people were better off just surrendering rather than making things worse by drawing out the war.

    I’m also puzzled by your opinion that you think it is/would be a “good thing” if the Church refrained from making judgments about wars.

    First, because the Church is guided in teaching faith and morals, but not necessarily in fully understanding the events of the day. At the human level, the Church is made up of ordinary (though often learned and holy) people, and thus when they apply themselves to particulars more than the moral principles at stake, they are more liable to err. (I seem to recall reading somewhere an account of the bishops rushing back from Vatican I to France and Germany as the Franco Prussian War was begginning standing with their backs to each other at the railway station, refusing to speak.)

    Also, people are often afflicted by pride, and find it more difficult to dismiss the Church if it is seen as taking sides on international issues. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it seems to me that if the Vatican were to hand down a pronouncement as to whether each conflict that arose was just (and who was just and who was not within it) people would take it _less_ seriously rather than more.

    Don’t the human beings involved in the wars matter? Or is fetal life the only life that matters to you?

    Of course human beings matter. Come now. Talk about straw men and caricatures…

  • The original post states the issue well. My political identity is shaped by my Catholic identity. Because these days the right is more congenial to people of faith, I find myself on the conservative side of things, and because these days in the USA the Republican party is on the conservative side of things, I find myself within the Republican party. As long as the left and the Democrat party finds itself so wedded to the wrong side of life issues, from which all other rights prescind, it is irreformable. As has been noted, while some conservatives have problematic stands on life issues (such as McCain’s tolerance for embryonic stem-cell research), the Republican party has within it a culture of life that makes it amenable to change. That’s not present in today’s Democrat party, and it doesn’t look likely to change in the future.

  • Either way, the fact that abortion and euthenasia are _never_ just puts them in a different league…

    No, that’s not true. It simply means that they are never justified, whereas war is very very rarely justified. And speaking concretely, the Iraq War, as Benedict has said, was unjustified. The killing involved in this war is NOT “in another league.” Unjust killing is unjust killing.

    Your desire for a church that does not take sides is an illusion. Not taking sides is taking the side of the status quo. Silence is complicity. The church has slowly been learning this, and thank God that it has.

  • “3. The Church did change its teaching on capital punishment.”

    The Church cannot change Her teaching on anything. She can, at most, make a prudential judgment as to how a teaching is applied. Since the state has other means of protecting its subjects from heinous crimes, capital punishment as a means of last resort is not as viable an alternative, and so must be applied more sparingly, if at all. To put it another way, the right to perform any act implies the right to decide not to perform the same act.

    The Church cannot change Her teaching on anything.

  • On capital punishment: What David said.

    On war: First off, I would be curious as to your reaction to what I said about whether one side in a war can always be considered just — to the extent that the other side is unjustly attacking it.

    Secondly, I’m not clear what you’re getting at with your “not it isn’t in a different league” response. I suppose that one can say that as an objective matter it either is just or isn’t just, but when looking at the people involved (unless you reject the importance of the conscience) it would seem that the fact that people may reasonably believe incorrectly that they are involved in a just war when they’re not, while they can never claim to believe that abortion is justified, makes the moral analysis much simpler in one case than the other.

    As for your final paragraph, I can’t tell that it makes a great deal of sense. How is “the status quo” a side? Silence is complicity in what?

    Still, I’m glad that you’re so enthusiastic about “taking sides”. I assume you are thus not one of those who condemns the Crusades, the Holy League against the Turks, etc.

  • The Church cannot change Her teaching on anything.

    This statement is simply ignorant, in relation to capital punishment and several other teachings.

    First off, I would be curious as to your reaction to what I said about whether one side in a war can always be considered just — to the extent that the other side is unjustly attacking it.

    I don’t have a clear sense of what you’re asking.

    Secondly, I’m not clear what you’re getting at with your “not it isn’t in a different league” response.

    I’m not sure that anything I could say would lead you to “get it.”

    I think part of the problem is that you led the discussion with the words “different league” which is tremendously vague. The Church and moral theologians do not use that term, and really it can mean whatever you want it to mean. My point is that unjustified killing is always evil. The fact that one type of killing is always unjustified and another is very rarely justified does not put the killing in different “leagues” at all. In fact, the Church often speaks of unjustified killing in war and abortion in the same sentence as absolutely evil. Read Evangelium Vitae for example.

    How is “the status quo” a side? Silence is complicity in what?

    Take abortion. The status quo in america with regard to abortion is that our laws permit it. If we apply your desire for a Church that does not take sides, the Church would have to be silent with regard to abortion in this society. Of course, the Church is NOT silent, because we know that to remain silent on abortion is to become complicit in its continued existence.

    In Latin America in the 1960s the local Church began to realize that silence in the face of extreme poverty, oppression, and military violence was to side with the status quo of injustice, to side with the oppressors. A silent Church in the face of these concrete realities is complicit. The Latin American church opted for the poor and oppressed and against the status quo. This option influenced the universal Church to adopt the language of the preferential option for the poor which precisely means that the Church is to take the side of the poor.

    Still, I’m glad that you’re so enthusiastic about “taking sides”. I assume you are thus not one of those who condemns the Crusades, the Holy League against the Turks, etc.

    I don’t understand this.

  • “This statement [that ‘The Church cannot change Her teaching on anything’] is simply ignorant, in relation to capital punishment and several other teachings.”

    The Church presumes Her teaching to be that of Christ Himself. Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The Church’s teaching is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. True, there are things that do change, and Christ did give His Apostles the authority “to bind and to loose,” an extension of the rabbinical authority. Her essential teachings, however, those which comprise the Deposit of Faith, do not.

    Having said that, my contention may still make me ignorant. Wanna know what your contention makes you?

  • Her essential teachings, however, those which comprise the Deposit of Faith, do not.

    Ah, yes. Of course. But this is not what you said. You said this:

    The Church cannot change Her teaching on anything.

    With reference to the teaching on the death penalty, we have to distinguish what is “essential” and unchanging about it, and what indeed had changed. The unchanging core is the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God. This unchanging core teaching did, in fact, lead the Church to change its teaching on the death penalty.

    Having said that, my contention may still make me ignorant. Wanna know what your contention makes you?

    [Yawn]

  • “With reference to the teaching on the death penalty, we have to distinguish what is ‘essential’ and unchanging about it, and what indeed had changed…”

    …which I did.

    “[Yawn]”

    Having trouble keeping up, are we?

  • …which I did.

    Oh, I must have missed it. Did you do it somewhere in this sentence?:

    The Church cannot change Her teaching on anything.

  • No. The part right after that.

    “The Church cannot change Her teaching on anything. She can, at most, make a prudential judgment as to how a teaching is applied. Since the state has other means of protecting its subjects from heinous crimes, capital punishment as a means of last resort is not as viable an alternative, and so must be applied more sparingly, if at all. To put it another way, the right to perform any act implies the right to decide not to perform the same act.”

  • I don’t have a clear sense of what you’re asking.

    I’ll try to be as clear as possible.

    The brief version of just war theory is that a just war must meet the following criteria:

    – the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

    – all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

    – there must be serious prospects of success;

    – the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

    Now let’s say that Country A invades Country B. Country A’s reasons for invading do not even remotely fit the above criteria. Thus Country A’s war against Country B is clearly unjust.

    Perhaps this is because I’m not a pacifist, but it seems pretty clear to me that if A’s case for war is not just, and A is invading B, then it must be just for B to defend itself. (Unless one invoked point three and argued there was no prospect of success.) Because unless one invoked the “there’s no chance of success” point, it would seem pretty clear that having your country violently invaded by an aggressor whose casus belli in no way fit the above criteria would be a slam dunk for fulfilling the criteria for B to fight a just war of defense.

    By that light, it seems to me that in nearly all circumstances one side in a given war is just in fighting. (Though depending on the circumstances it might be rather difficult to know which.)

    I think part of the problem is that you led the discussion with the words “different league” which is tremendously vague.

    Fair enough. What I was attempting to get across was essentially: One should be much more leery about a prospective leader who endorses legal abortion or euthanasia one who supports a particular war — because it is possible that he is right on the war, but obviously impossible that it be right to support abortion or euthanasia. Abortion and euthanasia are _obviously and always_ wrong, while war and capital punishment may be right or wrong depending on the circumstances.

    (That said, I might be more sympathetic to your ranking of war if I agreed with you that 99.9% of wars are unjust — but I don’t.)

    If we apply your desire for a Church that does not take sides, the Church would have to be silent with regard to abortion in this society. Of course, the Church is NOT silent, because we know that to remain silent on abortion is to become complicit in its continued existence….

    “Still, I’m glad that you’re so enthusiastic about “taking sides”. I assume you are thus not one of those who condemns the Crusades, the Holy League against the Turks, etc.”

    I don’t understand this.

    Well, would you really say that the Church “takes sides” on abortion, in the sense that you’re talking about? As we’re all well aware, the Church does not say, “You must not vote for Obama!” or “You must support bill XYZ.” Rather, the Church states the moral doctrines that the unborn human is a person worthy of human dignity and that civil laws should reflect that dignity, and leaves the faithful to make correct judgments on the individual applications.

    Similarly, it seems to me, the Church states the doctrine just war, but generally does not (and should not since She is unerring in her judgment on particular applications) announce, “This side is unjust in this war!” and “This side is just, go join them.”

    Thus the mention of several instances (the Crusades, the Holy League) in which the Church did officially state the cause to be just and openly tell people to go fight on a particular side in a war.

    Now let me be clear, I think the Crusades did constitute in terms of causus belli (though often they were not at all justly carried out) and so did the Holy League in its war against the Turks — but I do _not_ as it happens think that it was good _for the Church_ that She officially blessed those wars, though it was especially in the latter case pretty clearly good for the world that those wars were fought.

    Even in the case of a just war, I’m not sure that it’s a good idea for the Church to officially _say_ it’s a just war.

  • In other words, Michael, your claim that “99.9%” of wars are unjust seems to be sloppy and absurd . . . just a matter of mathematics, then if one allows for the possibility of an unjust aggressor, that aggressor would be counterbalanced by a country that could fight a just war of resistance. It doesn’t make any sense to speak of the war as a whole as just or unjust; if one side is unjust, that tends to imply that the other side is just. (There could be wars where both sides are somehow unjust, I suppose, but not enough to make it add up to 99.9%.)

  • On the issue of capital punishment, I think we must be clear that the Church never changes her teaching because what she preaches are eternal, unchanging truths. In my view, I think that the United States should see an abolition or, at least, a suspension of capital punishment. Why? The Church has taught that capital punishment is a lot like war. It requires prudential analysis. In fact, this very notion has helped me come to terms with the fact that capital punishment is not an intrinsic, in and of itself, evil despite the fact I tend to argue as if it is.

    The State has no right, in any sense, to kill anyone. But the State does have an obligation to protect the common good of society. If there is no credible way of protecting the common good and delivering justice in a nonviolent manner, the State can legitimately deliver execution upon a criminal. The reason I can accept this as true, is that I don’t for a second believe that the vast majority of executions ever reached a point where it was the final option. People were often put to death, in my reading of history, to produce fear or just at a whim rather than a sincere attempt to respect human dignity that cannot be done in any other nonviolent means — that is, all other options are not practical or have been exhausted. This is my understanding of the morality of capital punishment. Should it be applied today? No. Because we clearly have other means of protecting society, therefore, we ought to err on the side of mercy. Or from pure pragmatics, it costs less to hold someone in prison for life than it does to kill them.

    The same thing can be said about war. I think no one disagrees that war is certainly not preferrable. Pope John Paul II once wrote that “humanity should question itself, once more, about the absurd and always unfair phenomenon of war, on whose stage of death and pain only remain standing the negotiating table that could and should have prevented it.”

    Though I am a pacifist, I fully accept the Church’s teaching on the ‘Just War’ Doctrine because I believe, from my reading of history, that most wars were fought for selfish, political motives. It is rarely the last resort after all exhaustive measures have been taken. The two wars we’re fighting now in my opinion have been carried out recklessly and irresponsibly. A lot of people have died because of it. Were our reasons sufficient? God knows. I think they weren’t; perhaps, I’m wrong.

    Another thing to consider. War, even if it is ‘just’, by nature destroys what it intends to preserve or create. War attacks the natural building block of the family. Fathers die. Mothers die. Children die. Resentment lingers on both sides and forgiveness is sometimes very hard. I find it very difficult to believe that little children in the Middle East who see foreign people killing people who look like them, who live in the midst of violence lacking a childhood will see Americans as saviors rather than as enemies who killed their loves ones — perhaps their father. I don’t imagine anyone disagrees with me, but I just think a cold, objective philosophical discourse sometimes fails to capture, or consider fully, the human lives and realities that are effected in such matters.

    Do I think there have been just wars? Yes. Do they happen often? I doubt it.

  • Let me clarify on my statements on capital punishment so my logic isn’t misinterpreted.

    The reason I said I “the reason I can accept this as true, is that I don’t for a second believe that the vast majority of executions…”

    I was trying to (I failed) articulate that the Church has never advocated capital punishment, but has shown that in certain circumstances it can be a morally permissible option. Principle of the double effect. Therefore, given this reality, I can accept this as true and believe that capital punishment was not carried out in this manner, given these considerations rather than rejecting the Church’s teaching and saying she was wrong and changed her view.

    I hope that makes sense.

  • What I was attempting to get across was essentially: One should be much more leery about a prospective leader who endorses legal abortion or euthanasia one who supports a particular war — because it is possible that he is right on the war, but obviously impossible that it be right to support abortion or euthanasia. Abortion and euthanasia are _obviously and always_ wrong, while war and capital punishment may be right or wrong depending on the circumstances.

    The difference between us, of course, is that I am looking at a concrete, particular war and wars that are actually being discussed in real life, while you are talking about war in the abstract. It is NOT possible that Bush was right about Iraq. It is NOT possible that McCain was/is right about Iraq and it is NOT possible that he is currently right about Iran. There is NO possibility that McCain is right about war because he is an aggressive advocate of war. This is undeniable.

  • “I am looking at a concrete, particular war and wars that are actually being discussed in real life, while you are talking about war in the abstract. It is NOT possible that Bush was right about Iraq…”

    …and this is based upon….what? Your personal distaste for either Bush or any armed conflict, or something else???

    This is precisely why an objective criteria needs to be spelled out, as Darwin has done, so that it can be applied to a specific situation. WHY is it not possible that Bush was right? WHY is it not possible that McCain is right? WHY is anything you contend “undeniable”? The way to answer these questions, in light of the Faith, begins with the aforementioned criteria.

    To put it another way, we begin by understanding the abstract, so that we can apply it to the concrete.

  • …and this is based upon….what? Your personal distaste for either Bush or any armed conflict, or something else???

    It’s based on Catholic just war teaching. Heard of it? Ratzinger, while cardinal and now as pope, has repeatedly said how obvious it was that the Iraq war was unjust. The objective criteria you seek is right there in Catholic teaching.

    My judgment on the war is not based on a hatred of Bush. I dislike Bush because of my judgment on the war, which is the same judgment as my Church.

    McCain is an advocate of aggressive warfare, as is show in his push for the Iraq war, his connections with the Project for a New American Century, and his repeated comments about attacking Iran. Aggressive warfare is automatically condemned by my Church.

    You are ignoring plain facts.

  • Michael,

    Leaving aside your argument by assertion…

    If you don’t like abstracts, I’ll try to rephrase my question one more time in the specific, though I really don’t see how what I’m driving at can be very unclear at this point:

    Say I am a young Christian living in Iraq circa 2002. The US is poised to invade my country. You tell me that it would clearly be unjust for the US to invade Iraq — an unjust war on the part of the US.

    Would I not then be able to reasonably conclude (again, unless you’re making the argument that the US is so sure to win that there’s no moral justification for resisiting) that it would thus be just for me to sign up with the Republican Guard and fight against the unjust war of the US against my country?

    Taking the US to not have justice on it’s side, it would be pretty clear to me as a young Iraqi man that the damage of the US invading would be “lasting, grave, and certain.” That’s point one. If the US went ahead and invaded, it would be pretty clear that any other means of putting an end to their invasion other than resisting them had been exhausted, that would be point two. One could debate whether there were reasonable prospects for success, but let’s say that as an Iraqi youth I have lots of faith in the might of the Iraqi people, so I at least believe we’ve hit point three. That leaves point four. Now, perhaps you’re thinking that even resisting an invasion is wrong because the modern means of war are so destructive, but if one isn’t a pacifist or functional pacifist, I think a lot of people would agree that the additional destruction of resisting invasion (if one has a chance of success) is not necessarily a greater evil than that of being invaded.

    There we are: a specific example. Can you help me out as to why if it was totally unjust for the US to invade it would not have therefore been just for the Iraqis to resist? I must admit, the argument of, “It’s unjust of the US to invade, but it would be unjust for the Iraqis to stop them” just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Is that seriously what you’re saying?

  • “It’s based on Catholic just war teaching. Heard of it?”

    Yeah, it’s that thing you keep calling “abstract,” and what one needs to understand before one moves on to the “concrete.”

    I’m not “ignoring” anything, including your penchant for ad hominem attacks (like calling me “ignorant” last night). I’m doing you a favor just by dignifying you with a response.

    You’re welcome.

  • And for what it’s worth, I have yet to make any pronouncements in this forum, one way or the other, as to whether any particular conflict fits the just war theory. If I did, I could make a case against not only the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but that of Cologne and Dresden in WW2.

    But I won’t. First there needs to be an understanding of the critera, and we go from there.

  • I’m not “ignoring” anything, including your penchant for ad hominem attacks (like calling me “ignorant” last night).

    I called your statement ignorant.

  • “The statement is simply ignorant.” It implies that the person who said it is ignorant.

  • Would I not then be able to reasonably conclude (again, unless you’re making the argument that the US is so sure to win that there’s no moral justification for resisiting) that it would thus be just for me to sign up with the Republican Guard and fight against the unjust war of the US against my country?

    Yes, it would be reasonable to conclude that, because the Iraq War was unjust on the part of the U.S., an Iraqi would be justified in defending his country against the U.S.

  • Darwin, I’m not sure about the point you’re trying to make. Are you attempting to argue that the Church takes sides in military conflicts?

    “The statement is simply ignorant.” It implies that the person who said it is ignorant.

    Not really. What it implies is that a particular statement was made in ignorance of certain facts. Even if it did imply that you are, generally speaking, ignorant, since the subject of the statement is the statement you made, it’s hardly an ad hominem attack.

  • Michael,

    Actually, if you recall, I said pretty specifically that the Church ought not to take sides in military conflicts — and that it should generally avoid stating clearly that a given war is just or unjust (this is, I think, a bit different from strongly urging countries not to go to war).

    What I’m trying to get some clarity on is how you can insist that 99.9% of wars are unjust, when it seems pretty clear to me that if another country is unjustly making war upon your country, that it is thus just to resist. Thus, nearly all wars are just for one side — or if you think of each sides struggle against the other as one war: nearly 50% of wars are just.

    You seem to be arguing in such as way as to suggest that it is both unjust for an aggressor to invade another country (which seems pretty clear) but also that it is unjust for the victim country to defend itself, which seems very strange.

    Or if you insist on a specific example: If it was totally unjust for the US to invade Iraq (a proposition I disagree with, but let’s grant it for now) then must it not have been just for those in the Iraqi army to resist the invasion?

  • DC,

    I think you’re on the right track… my reading of Michael’s argument is that, in 99.9% of the cases, the party that shot first did so unjustly.

    Michael, I’d like to make clear that I’m a Catholic first, American second… it appears that you have some doubt in that regard (cf. your first comment to this post).

    One thing I’ll be posting on at some point here is something I’ve addressed elsewhere: the failure of Catholics to acknowledge legitimate (i.e. possible) differences in political opinions within orthodoxy. My reversion quickly impacted my politics (I was strongly pro-death penalty before I read EV, and categorically anti-welfare as well) and has impacted my economic views as well. I’d agree that it’s possible for a Catholic to have insufficiently formed their political & economic views according to their faith, but I also would argue that the mere fact of disagreement among Catholics doesn’t mean that one (or both) have insufficiently formed their public policy views.

  • How many times does Michael I. have to have the same question explained to him? Four clearly isn’t enough, although it’s a fairly obvious question.

  • According to John Finnis, the Just War criteria were meant to be applied to the question of whether one should initiate hostilities, it being taken for granted that states had the right to defend themselves if attacked. Darwin’s reasoning would seem to bear this point out, though I can imagine an argument that it might be unjust for Country A to attack Country B *and* unjust for Country B to resist (e.g. if Country A’s attack failed the Just War criteria on proportionality grounds).

  • Having considered the matter, it seems that the hypothetical argument I posed (A’s attack on B is unjustified on proportionality grounds; thus B is not justified in resisting the unjust attack) is correct.

    Consider a parallel case. A group of terrorists has a group of hostages in an abandoned building somewhere. The Police can either enter the building in force, or try to negotiate. It could easily be the case that, given the circumstances, entering the building is unjustified, either because the risk of loss of life in that case is to great, or because there are alternate means of rescuing the hostages, or both. It does not follow from this that if the Police enter the building the terrorists are justified in resisting the attack. What they ought to do is lay down there arms and surrender.

  • Michael, I’d like to make clear that I’m a Catholic first, American second… it appears that you have some doubt in that regard (cf. your first comment to this post).

    I don’t doubt you, no. I recognize your name but I can’t say I recall much about your political views. I know the view of quite a few of the other contributors and have my doubts about whether they are Catholic first. I hope you and Zach, and perhaps others that I don’t know so well, will indeed represent a voice of sanity among what I see as a group strongly weighted toward the americanist side of things.

    One thing I’ll be posting on at some point here is something I’ve addressed elsewhere: the failure of Catholics to acknowledge legitimate (i.e. possible) differences in political opinions within orthodoxy.

    Yes, I agree that a diversity of political opinions is possible, especially considering the global context of Catholicism. Part of this means realizing that “un-American” political positions are often quite compatible with Catholicism. It also means recognizing, though, on the flip side, that not all political opinions are legitimate. The pro-choice position is not compatible with Catholicism, nor is the aggressive warfare position of John McCain and Catholics who think like him.

  • BA & Chris,

    Good, that’s what I thought. I just wasn’t clear why it was so hard to get that agreement out of Michael. Glad I don’t seem to be totally bonkers.

    Michael,

    My goodness, of course lots of “un-American” political positions are compatible with Catholicism. Monarchy, for a start. Indeed, I might argue some time that Catholicism has yet to finish getting comfortable with the intersection of morality and politics when it comes to systems of government other than monarchy and oligarchy.

    But then, I have the feeling that I’m among the group that you’ve already ruled to be more American than Catholic…

  • I just wasn’t clear why it was so hard to get that agreement out of Michael. Glad I don’t seem to be totally bonkers.

    If all you are saying is that Iraq would have the right to resist an unjust U.S. invasion, then yes, I agree with you. But I’m unclear as to why you are asserting this, and what part of my position that you are trying to use it against.

    Monarchy, for a start.

    Monarchy is, of course, both compatible and incompatible with the Catholic faith.

  • If all you are saying is that Iraq would have the right to resist an unjust U.S. invasion, then yes, I agree with you. But I’m unclear as to why you are asserting this, and what part of my position that you are trying to use it against.

    I had said that one dealt differently with a politician who was in favor of a given war than with one who held abortion was a right because there was a decent chance that the politician either was right or thought he was right about the war, while there could be no chance at all that he was right about abortion.

    You countered that war was unjust 99.9% of the time, and so one could treat abortion and war similarly.

    I made the point about the unjustly attacked party in any given war nearly always being just in defending itself because from this we may conclude that if one side in any given war is just in its involvement, there’s roughly a 50% chance that you’re on the right side in any given war. The key question is: are you on the right side.

    Or put another way: You and I both think it was just to fight in the Iraq War. The difference is you think it would have been just to fight for Hussein while I think it would have been just to fight for the US. (Which doesn’t mean we have to dislike each other or anything. Perhaps we can assume a Richard and Saladin dynamic. Which one do you want?)

  • You countered that war was unjust 99.9% of the time, and so one could treat abortion and war similarly.

    No, what I said was that when war is unjust it should be considered as grave an evil as abortion. And I said that there is no way that the invasion of Iraq was just, citing just war doctrine and the view of the popes.

    Or put another way: You and I both think it was just to fight in the Iraq War. The difference is you think it would have been just to fight for Hussein while I think it would have been just to fight for the US.

    There are multiple problems with this. You are conflating two separate judgments into the conclusion “the Iraq War is just”: 1) the judgment about the invasion, and 2) the legitimacy of a country defending itself against an unjust aggressor. Secondly, you are looking at it as if there were only two identifiable sides: the U.S. and Iraq. “Iraq” is far from monolithic. What is clear is that the U.S. was the invader. Beyond that, I’m not sure we can speak of two “sides.” Third, no I don’t think it would have been just to fight “for Hussein.”

    Where does Church teaching fit into your “thinking” on this issue? I see no evidence that it does. What was obvious to anti-war Catholics, including the popes, from the beginning is CRYSTAL clear now in hindsight: the Bush administration lied in order to go to war. The just war conditions were not met, most primarily in the fact that the war was not a defensive one, i.e. preventative/preemptive war is NEVER permissible in Catholic teaching. Plans to invade Iraq were made BEFORE 9/11. As Benedict said, it is OBVIOUS that the war does not meet the criteria.

    On the level of participation by soldiers whose consciences are distorted by their training, the moral issues are complex and the level of personal guilt can vary. But for a person like yourself who has the luxury of researching the issues apart from military brainwashing and social pressures, your continued defense of the war, in light of what we know now to be true, is unconscionable.

  • Most of what you say is, I think, false, and is certainly not necessitated by Catholic doctrine, but one thing that I want to be very clear that I _do_ agree with is that there have been in Iraq over the past six years far more than “two sides”. (Which actually is why I used the phrase “for Hussien” — in order to emphasize both my own belief that defending the Baathist regime would not have been in the best interests or Iraq, but merely it’s dictator, and yet at the same time make clear that I was only imputing to your view resistance to the initial invasion, not participation in the repulsive guerrilla warfare which has been carried on against coalition troops since.)

    What was obvious to anti-war Catholics, including the popes, from the beginning is CRYSTAL clear now in hindsight: the Bush administration lied in order to go to war.

    Actually, I thought the WMD rationale was foolish at the time. The one and only reason I supported the war at that time and continue to is that I think we had the duty to go all the way and remove Hussein back in ’91 with the first Gulf War. Instead, we led the Shiites and Kurds into rising up, and then left them to be first crushed, and then later starved as we attempted to use sanctions to destabilize the regime.

    Given that the Iraq War succeeded in getting rid of Hussein and allowing the Iraqis to form their own free country, which thanks be to God appears to be rapidly stabilizing, I think we did in fact achieve what I at least considered to be the war aims.

    To my mind, getting rid of Hussein and his Baathist regime was something that got rid of an evil that was a lasting and certain threat to the region. All non-warlike means of removing his regime had definitely been tried. There were reasonable prospects of success. And the evil to be removed was greater than the ravages of war.

    Certainly, there were many deeply foolish decisions that were made in the interim which made things worse and more protracted than they could have been, but I remain convinced it was a just thing to have done.

    You’re certainly welcome to consider me to lack conscience because of that, though I would myself tend to formulate it as simply being that we disagree in judgment. I would, however, say that claiming that members of the military are generally “brainwashed” gives them far too little intellectual and moral credit — and is also simply false.

    Now since I know that conversation of the Iraq War simply never end (and that wasn’t even remotely the topic of this threat) I’ll commit to making this my last comment on the thread and offer to give you the last word.

  • Actually, I thought the WMD rationale was foolish at the time.

    I’m not sure that “foolish” is a moral category. The Church does not make judgments about whether killing human beings is “foolish” or not. Either the WMD rationale was a lie and morally wrong, or it was not.

    The one and only reason I supported the war at that time and continue to is that I think we had the duty to go all the way and remove Hussein back in ‘91 with the first Gulf War…. Given that the Iraq War succeeded in getting rid of Hussein and allowing the Iraqis to form their own free country, which thanks be to God appears to be rapidly stabilizing, I think we did in fact achieve what I at least considered to be the war aims.

    But see, those weren’t the war aims until the original war aims were proven to be a lie. It doesn’t matter what your “personal” reasons were for approving of the war, as if to say “Well, even though the stated reasons for going to war were a lie and make a mockery of the Church’s just war tradition, the war was a good idea because it ended up resulting in X, Y, Z…” That’s instrumental reasoning. The ends justify the means.

    And the evil to be removed was greater than the ravages of war.

    Only if you disembody the “evil” of Saddam Hussein and abstract it from reality. The deaths that have resulted from the war have far surpassed the numbers that Hussein killed. And countless Iraqi witnesses claim that things are worse now than they were under Hussein.

    You’re certainly welcome to consider me to lack conscience because of that, though I would myself tend to formulate it as simply being that we disagree in judgment.

    Of course we will disagree in judgment when you plainly take a revisionist view of what actually happened and when.

    I would, however, say that claiming that members of the military are generally “brainwashed” gives them far too little intellectual and moral credit — and is also simply false.

    My family and friends who served in Iraq and Afghanistan testify to the results of military training. Even if they disagree with a given war, soldiers are given little support in mustering up the courage to resist it.

    Now since I know that conversation of the Iraq War simply never end (and that wasn’t even remotely the topic of this threat) I’ll commit to making this my last comment on the thread and offer to give you the last word.

    My last word is this: The Church taught us, using the traditional just war criteria, that there obviously was no justification for the Iraq War. Unjustified war is intrinsically evil. It is just as grave as killing a fetus. The burden of proof is on those who disagree with this judgment of the Church, such as yourself. In light of the crumbling of the original reasons given for invading Iraq, exposed as lies, all you have managed to do to that end (i.e. defending your judgment on the war) is to claim “the ends justify the means.” This kind of moral calculus is american moral reasoning, not Catholic moral reasoning. It bears more resemblance to the arguments of the pro-choice ideology than it does to authentic Catholic moral reflection.

  • Either the WMD rationale was a lie and morally wrong, or it was not.

    False dichotomy. Ever heard of a mistake? Or, more precisely, American intelligence overestimated Saddam’s capabilities and intentions given: 1) his past uses of WMDs; 2) the fact that he had tried multiple times on earlier occasions to start a nuclear program, and his program in the early 1990s escaped detection until the first Gulf War; 3) the fact that Saddam and his henchmen deliberately tried to posture as having WMDs to increase their perceived power within the region. Given all of that background, people were too ready to identify ambiguous evidence as proof that Saddam was up to his old tricks.

  • What was obvious to anti-war Catholics, including the popes, from the beginning is CRYSTAL clear now in hindsight: the Bush administration lied in order to go to war.

    A couple things on this, Michael…

    First, S.B. is right: there is a difference between lying and being mistaken. It’s easy to demonstrate the latter, but to demonstrate the former is considerably more difficult. What evidence do you have to back up your assertion? It’s a commonly made one, but usually without demonstration.

    Second, what evidence do you have that the popes said that the President or his administration were lying? I’ve never seen this allegation made, let alone any proof for it.

    I wish anti-war Catholics could acknowledge that it wasn’t just neo-conservatism masquerading as Catholicism that led some of their siblings in the faith to support the invasion… serious intellectuals like Robert P. George thought that it could be justified to shoot first. That’s not a proof that we were right, of course, but just a request to acknowledge that it was possible for thoughtful, serious Catholics to come to a different view.

  • First, S.B. is right: there is a difference between lying and being mistaken. It’s easy to demonstrate the latter, but to demonstrate the former is considerably more difficult. What evidence do you have to back up your assertion? It’s a commonly made one, but usually without demonstration.

    A “mistake.” You guys are too much.

    Second, what evidence do you have that the popes said that the President or his administration were lying? I’ve never seen this allegation made, let alone any proof for it.

    I didn’t say that the popes said the Bush administration was lying.

    …serious intellectuals like Robert P. George thought that it could be justified to shoot first.

    “Serious intellectuals” have supported all kinds demonic things throughout history. Look at Nazi Germany. I’m also not sure Robert George is the kind of Catholic intellectual you want to draw on to prove your point.

    I see Zach is strangely silent on this thread. In a post devoted to this new blog’s Catholic “priorities” several folks here have shown what their real priorities are, and that they are simply amerian right-wing ideologues. Same old same old.

    Good luck with your blog. I have no doubt you will do good work to reinforce the already over the top americanism of the Catholic blogosphere. I’m out.

  • Michael, don’t leave just yet.

    A “mistake.” You guys are too much.

    C’mon… you can do *much* better than this. It’s clear that *plenty* of people — even many who opposed the invasion — thought Saddam had WMD’s.

    I didn’t say that the popes said the Bush administration was lying.

    Perhaps you didn’t mean it, but you certainly said it, in the section I quoted: what was obvious to anti-war Catholics, including the popes, from the beginning is CRYSTAL clear now in hindsight: the Bush administration lied in order to go to war.

    You say here that it was obvious to some, “including the popes” that the Bush administration lied.

    I’m also not sure Robert George is the kind of Catholic intellectual you want to draw on to prove your point.

    Why? Why is *he* suspect now? Geez.

    In a post devoted to this new blog’s Catholic “priorities” several folks here have shown what their real priorities are, and that they are simply amerian right-wing ideologues. Same old same old.

    This is cheap & lazy, Michael. It’s identical to me dismissing you as a socialist pretending to be Catholic (which I don’t believe… I give you more credit than that). I have in no way shown my “real priorities” to be anything other that bringing our common faith to bear on public policy questions. It appears that you cannot accept the fact that someone can be a good Catholic and disagree with you on at least some matters of public policy.

    I think you’re better than that.

  • Michael,

    I’m not sure why you equate disagreement about public policy with disagreement about priorities. What is the reason you question the priorities of the other contributors here? This thread does not give me reason to do so.

    The only reason I can come up with is that you think a faithful Catholic can only be a pacifist.

    And what’s wrong with Robert George!? Thank God for that man.

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