What wars do Catholics consider to be “justified?”

I have a friend who’s a very strict Catholic. (I’m Catholic, but I also disagree with the Church on some things.) He says a Catholic can only support a just war as defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. According to him, the current conflict in Iraq is not a just war; this Bishop seems to agree.

So this got me thinking… what past wars did Catholics consider to be “justified?” Any at all? Was our Revolutionary War considered a “just war” by Catholics? Who makes the “final decision” on whether or not a war is just? The Pope?

The criteria for a ‘just war’ for ANY group, not just catholics, is: Will it benefit me in some way?

If it does, then yes, it’s certainly just! :rolleyes:

I find it so hipocritical of ANY chrsitian to support war.

I am agnostic, but was raised in a christian family. I was taught and later on read for myself, the teachings of jesus, the man christians are supposed to immitate in their own lives. I certainly don’t believe he was devine, I do believe he was a shrewd, intelligent man however.

And what most right wing chrsitians appear to conviniently forget is that Jesus was the original bleeding heart liberal. His whole purpose was to change the old jewish ways and teachings to bring a message of peace. I’m CERTAIN that were jesus to be alive he would oppose ANY war. He WAS the one who said ‘turn the other cheek’ no?

Obviously his message was “who cares about this life? What matters is what comes after. Suffer now, and be rewarded later.” etc. etc. This worked wonders in the time period in which he lived because most of the population was extremely poor or enslaved. What better way to give these people hope?

Anyway, I realise such high ideals are very hard to live by for anyone (especially, it seems, for the right wing chrstians), but to claim that it is OK to engage in certain wars and call yourself a christian is just plain wrong.

My personal beleif is that defensive wars were you are bgin physically or directly attacked must be fought. Wars for profit, political gain, etc, are deplorable. But that’s just me, and I’m not a christian.

As a Catholic, I asked for and received an honorable discharge from the US Navy as a conscientious objector. (While the Church believes in just wars, it also totally supports COs and even selective COs). So, in my day I did a lot of reading on the Church’s approach to nonviolence. The foundations of modern just war theory within the Church in America come from two encyclicals in the 1960’s. One was a result of Vatican II and issued by Rome, the other a response to the horror of Vietnam and issued by American bishops. I’m several thousand miles removed from these documents ATM, but perhaps this will be enough to help you or other Dopers find out more.


Here’s a website on Just War theory.


It’s legitimate to fight a war if a proper authority declares it, there is proper cause, there is a reasonable chance of success, and proportionality in fighting.

I’ve listened to a couple of lectures on the Just War Doctrine, so I’m not an expert, but I’ve heard of it. I believe that the Church leaves the question of which wars are just, based on the Just War Doctrine, open for interpretation. I think that the tenets are designed such that it’s much easier to declare a war unjust than just. I also think that people who take this doctrine seriously are much bigger peaceniks than your average person, Kinthalis.

I have heard that according to some proponents of this doctrine, every war the USA has fought in (including the Revolutionay War) has been unjust, with the exception of the Second World War. Even so, there are certain WW2 practices which were unjust. WMDs are never justified, for instance, because they’re indiscriminate, and non-combatants have absolute immunity.

As a patriotic American, I find the notion that “the American War of Independence was Unjust” to be completely irrational. I mean, we now have freedom of religion fer crying out loud…

So does anyone know what the Catholic Church’s official position during the Revolutionary War was? Was the church against the war?

Here’s an article I found interesting:

See here’s the thing. Proportionate ends is just one of the things you need for a Just War. I say a Just War is “justified”, but that’s probably misleading. This “justification”, saying that the ends justify the means, is one important point, but it’s not the only important point, and you need all of them for it to count. (Also, I was unaware that we didn’t have freedom of religion before the War, but that just goes to show you how little I know about the situtation. I couldn’t find it mentioned in the DoI, at any rate.)

Was there reasonable chance of success? I would guess that since we won, that’d be a yes, but again, I don’t know enough history to know if the Americans could have known that before the start of the War.

Was it declared by competent authority? This seems a very tricky issue for revolutions, because the side declaring war is necessarily not self-governing. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just tricky. The members of the Continental Congress were freely elected representatives of their constituents, right? I imagine that would probably count.

Was it the last resort? This was mentioned in your article. For a Just War, you have to have exhausted all other means of fixing the problem, and you have to be open to other means while the War is going on. That means the negotiation channels have to remain open at all times.

I don’t think that you’ll be able to find an official church position on this. I don’t think they’re in the habit of condemning actions ex post facto. But you should definitely realize that there’s a lot more to it than “We’re better off now.”

*Originally posted by Crafter_Man *
**So does anyone know what the Catholic Church’s official position during the Revolutionary War was? Was the church AFAIK, the Church did not have a position on the American Revolution. Surprisingly, there were far more important things going on in Europe at the time. And of course, it was involving a largely Protestant colony breaking off from a Protestant kingdom.

During that time, the Church was not as activist in terms of sending out positions on everything going on in the world as it is now. It could be downright insular at times in terms of what it concerned itself with.

Oh for Pete’s sake. That should be -

AFAIK, the Church did not have a position on the American Revolution.

Etc., etc., etc.

*Originally posted by Neurotik *

Although Catholic France was fighting on the US side. Did they have Vatican support?

Well, and besides the fact that, as others have said, there’s more to a Just War than the cause, (and that, while freedom of religion was a result, the call for it wasn’t a cause) I don’t know that desiring religious freedom is sufficient cause for war, in Just War theory.

Pius VI opposed the French revolution, but I can’t find any evidence that he ever commented on the American revolution (he did, after the Revolution ended, create the Diocese of Baltimore ,which at that point consisted of the entire eastern seaboard, up to Quebec, and name as its first Bishop, Bishop John Carroll.)