Holy War, Catholic Style

The headlines are graphic and sickening. Christians are being murdered systematically in the Middle East. It seems that while we look on in horror, the world is simply standing and staring in amazement. Unfortunately in some cases, even apathy prevails.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings on the matter this week, they were interrupted twice by anti-war protestors. Certainly, war is not something that we should seek without just cause. But, what exactly are they protesting? It seems that the war has been brought to us already. We all protest that. But, what should our response be?

Just War and the Protection of Life

Let’s begin by considering life itself. Is it worth protecting? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2319)

All life is willed by God and is sacred in His sight. What obligations follow from that for those that have the means to protect and defend it?

All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed” [Gaudium et Spes 79 #4].

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. (Catechism 2308-2309)

In other words, all life is sacred and worth defending. However, our response must be proportionate to the danger posed and we are obliged to treat our enemy, to the extent possible, with the dignity inherent to all persons. No matter how evil your enemy, they are endowed with the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of our Creator.  They cannot give that dignity away by their evil acts.

The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.” [Gaudium et Spes, loc. cit.]

Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. (Catechism 2312-2313)


What Would Jesus Do?

Unfortunately, our protestors would not settle for the concept of a “just war”. They protest any response at all. They ignore the obvious — our lives are worth protecting.  Some would argue that Jesus Himself said that it is the “meek” who will inherit the land.  Thus, for Christians, we must not respond with force. However, is that the meaning of the word “meek” in its proper context? I would say no.

Sadly, our protestor may take the position that Jesus was not acting like Jesus when He defended and cleansed the Temple from those who defiled it. Why that response? Why not be “meek” and just let it go? Nobody wins when there is anger, right? Not necessarily.

Here is what the protestor fails to see; Responding forcefully when our pride is injured is contrary to meekness. Responding with appropriate force when something holy is at stake is right and just. The Temple was holy and Jesus responded with force to its abuse. The lives of each and every human being is also a temple and deserves to be protected — with force if needed.

No Time For “Meekness”

There is no confusion here. The Church is under attack in many ways and in many places. None is more graphic than in the Middle East, where the temples of our brothers and sisters lives are being systematically destroyed. Our Churches are being taken over by terrorists, and undoubtedly the Blessed Sacrament has been defiled. Meekness as understood by our misinformed protestors is no longer an option.

The prohibition of murder does not abrogate the right to render an unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. Legitimate defense is a grave duty for whoever is responsible for the lives of others or the common good. (Catechism 2321)

Blessed be the peacemakers who defend us against unjust aggressors.