Of course, Pope Benedict XVI doesn't hate us, not for any reason at all. The title of the post is just a little hyperbole to get your attention.

Would the Prince of Peace approve of the wars that America is currently fighting? Are these wars justified based on our Christian heritage and faith? Or is Christianity something we shouldn't be "ideological" about, after all, it's neither "rational" nor "practical?"

Applying the lessons of Christian Just War Doctrine, the leader the Roman Catholic Church looks at our current wars and provides us with answers, starting with Pope John Paul II.

Vatican Strongly Opposes Iraq War

March 12, 2003

Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials are unleashing a barrage of condemnations of a possible U.S. military strike on Iraq, calling it immoral, risky and a "crime against peace."

"He is looking ahead for the rest of this century where Christian-Muslim relations are key to peace and religious freedom in Africa and many parts of Asia," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

John Paul has insisted that war is a "defeat for humanity" and that a preventive strike against Iraq is neither legally nor morally justified.

Aides have repeatedly said the pope is not a pacifist, pointing to his support of humanitarian intervention to "disarm the aggressor" in Bosnia and East Timor and his repeat condemnations of terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks.

But in some of the Vatican's strongest language against a possible war, its foreign minister Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran said a unilateral military strike would be a "crime against peace" with no justification on grounds of self-defense.

Vatican officials have also spoken of what they consider are the political realities of an American attack on an Arab country.

"We want to say to America: Is it worth it to you? Won't you have have, afterward, decades of hostility in the Islamic world," asked the Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Pope Warns Against War

January, 2003

In an annual "state of the world" address Jan. 13, the pope said the future of humanity depends partly on the earth's peoples and their leaders having the courage to say "no to war."

"War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity," he said.

"And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than 12 years of embargo?" he said.

"War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations," he said.

The pope said the U.N. charter and international law "remind us war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military options."

The pontiff's words, which came as the United States accelerated its military buildup in the Persian Gulf region within striking range of Iraq, were his strongest and most direct to date on the potential Iraqi conflict. In December, he made a general appeal to the world to "extinguish the ominous smoldering of a conflict."

[T]he pope deplored the "constant degeneration of the crisis" and said Israelis and Palestinians are called "to live side-by-side, equally free and sovereign, in mutual respect."

"The solution will never be imposed by recourse to terrorism or armed conflict, as if military victories could be the solution," he said.

Reviewing the world situation at the start of 2003, the pope said he had been "personally struck by the feeling of fear which often dwells in the hearts of our contemporaries."

He cited the threat of "insidious terrorism capable of striking at any time and anywhere," war in the Middle East and the threat of war in Iraq, social turmoil in South America, famine and conflicts in Africa, the spread of fatal diseases, and "the irresponsible behavior contributing to the depletion of the planet's resources."

"Never as at the beginning of this millennium has humanity felt how precarious is the world which it has shaped," he said.

Pope John Paul II calls War a Defeat for Humanity: Neoconservative Iraq Just War Theories Rejected

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXIII, No. 4, July-August 2003

From Iraqi War I to Iraqi War II, he has echoed the voice of Paul VI, crying out before the United Nations in 1965: War No More, War Never Again!

John Paul II stated before the 2003 war that this war would be a defeat for humanity which could not be morally or legally justified.

In the weeks and months before the U.S. attacked Iraq, not only the Holy Father, but also one Cardinal and Archbishop after another at the Vatican spoke out against a "preemptive" or "preventive" strike. They declared that the just war theory could not justify such a war. Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran said that such a "war of aggression" is a crime against peace. Archbishop Renato Martino, who used the same words in calling the possible military intervention a "crime against peace that cries out vengeance before God," also criticized the pressure that the most powerful nations exerted on the less powerful ones on the U.N. Security Council to support the war. The Pope spoke out almost every day against war and in support of diplomatic efforts for peace.

Americans were largely unaware of the depth and importance of the opposition of Church leaders to an attack on Iraq, since for the most part the mainstream media did not carry the stories. In the same way, many Americans were unaware that Pope John Paul II spoke against the first Gulf War 56 times. Media in the United States omitted this from the commentaries on the war. Many have also been unaware of the number of Iraqis killed in that war (not to mention the war which recently "ended"). In February 2003 Business Week published an interview with Beth Osborne Daponte, a professional demographer who worked for the Census Bureau. The first Bush administration tried to fire her because her published estimates of the number of Iraqi deaths conflicted with what Dick Cheney was saying at the time. She was defended by social science professionals and was able to keep her job. Her estimates: 13,000 civilians were killed directly by American and allied forces, and about 70,000 civilians died subsequently from war-related damage to medical facilities and supplies, the electric power grid, and the water system.

John Paul II has sought to distance the Catholic Church from George Bush's idea of the manifest Christian destiny of the United States, and especially to avoid the appearance of a clash of Christian civilization against Islam. Zenit reported that in his Easter Sunday message this year John Paul II "implored for the world's deliverance from the peril of the tragic clash between cultures and religions." The Pope also sent his message to terrorists: "Let there be an end to the chain of hatred and terrorism which threatens the orderly development of the human family."

Pope Lost His Temper Twice

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow, who was John Paul II's personal secretary for more than 40 years, spoke of the two loves of the Polish Pontiff: "God and mankind, and in particular the youth."

He also revealed the two occasions he saw John Paul II "really angry," but with "good reason."

"In Agrigento, [Sicily], he raised his voice against the mafia, and we were all a little scared," he said.

"And the other occasion was during the Angelus, before the Iraq War, when he said with force: no to war, war doesn't resolve anything. I have seen war. I know what war is."

"He sent a cardinal to Washington, [D.C], and another to Baghdad, to say: do not seek to resolve these problems with war. And he was right. The war is still ongoing and it hasn't resolved anything."

Pope Benedict XVI named himself after Benedict XV (1914-1922), primarily because of his anti-war activism. Benedict XV opposed the first "war for democracy," and in 1917 delivered a "Plea for Peace" demanding an end to hostilities.

New Pope Benedict XVI a Strong Critic of War

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXV, No. 4, Special Edition 2005

As a Cardinal, the new pope was a staunch critic of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. On one occasion before the war, he was asked whether it would be just. "Certainly not," he said, and explained that the situation led him to conclude that "the damage would be greater than the values one hopes to save."

"All I can do is invite you to read the Catechism, and the conclusion seems obvious to me…" The conclusion is one he gave many times: "the concept of preventive war does not appear in The Catechism of the Catholic Church."

Even after the war, Cardinal Ratzinger did not cease criticism of U.S. violence and imperialism: "it was right to resist the war and its threats of destruction...It should never be the responsibility of just one nation to make decisions for the world."

Yet perhaps the most important insight of Ratzinger came during a press conference on May 2, 2003. After suggesting that perhaps it would be necessary to revise the Catechism section on just war (perhaps because it had been used by George Weigel and others to endorse a war the Church opposed), Ratzinger offered a deep insight that included but went beyond the issue of war Iraq:

"There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'."

He is skeptical of the view that politics can be done without reference to the Gospel. Appeals to neutral language that does not refer to religion-popular as they are among many neoconservative Catholics-forget some of the "hard sayings" of Jesus that don't seem quite "rational" enough for public discourse. Sayings like "Love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" and "put away the sword," these are dismissed as impractical at best, sectarian at worst.


Good Friday, April, 2011

Above all we want to make the voice of Jesus, whom you also believe in as a prophet, heard. He was always a man of peace. It could be expected that, when God came to earth, he would be a man of great power, destroying the opposing forces. That he would be a man of powerful violence as an instrument of peace. Not at all. He came in weakness. He came with only the strength of love, totally without violence, even to the point of going to the Cross. This is what shows us the true face of God, that violence never comes from God, never helps bring anything good, but is a destructive means and not the path to escape difficulties. He is thus a strong voice against every type of violence. He strongly invites all sides to renounce violence, even if they feel they are right. The only path is to renounce violence, to begin anew with dialogue, with the attempt to find peace together, with a new concern for one another, a new willingness to be open to one another. This, dear lady, is Jesus’ true message: seek peace with the means of peace and leave violence aside. We pray for you, that all sections of your society may hear Jesus’ voice and thus that peace and communion will return.

Benedict XVI Calls for Peace in Libya, Syria

May, 2011

"I continue to follow the armed conflict in Libya with great attention," he said. "This conflict has caused a great number of victims and suffering above all among the civilian population. I renew a pressing call that the path of negotiation and dialogue prevail over that of violence, with the help of international organizations that are seeking a solution to the crisis."

The Holy Father also assured his prayers and support for Christian efforts to help the population, "in particular through consecrated persons present in the hospitals."

"I ask God that there be no more bloodshed in that homeland of great religions and civilization," the Pope said, "and I invite the authorities and all citizens to stop at nothing in seeking the common good and in accepting the legitimate aspirations for a future of peace and stability."

For more information on Christian Just War Doctrine:

  • http://wyblog.us/blog Chris Wysocki

    The Pope is an optimist. Which is good, because the world needs optimists.

    I am a realist. Which is also good. Because the realists protect the optimists when war breaks out.

    Sometimes there are no "good" solutions, only "less bad" ones. And sometimes good intentions lead to bad outcomes. We are, after all, only human.

    • theCL

      There's a lot I could say in reply, but I'll leave it at this. I may not be Catholic, but 1) Catholics have been great friends to us (Lutherans) here in America; 2) there is no reason to believe there is a better authority on Just War than the pope; and 3) Pope John Paul II experienced more war, up close and personal, than anyone you'll know or ever meet. I love you man, but you don't have the experience and wisdom of Pope John Paul II.

      Choosing to obey the word of God has never let me down, it's only when I take another route that things go awry.

  • http://wyblog.us/blog Chris Wysocki

    In reply I'll just say this. Yes, the Pope is of course the highest authority when it comes to matters of religious doctrine. And yes, peace is always preferable to war. But, back in the 1930s the Pope talked peace while a German fellow prepared for war, and as I recall, as events unfolded it was not the Holy See's finest hour.

  • Gene

    I do not believe that just because the Pope or Catholic Church calls war against Iran or any other country unjust, does not make it so. The Catholic church seeks world control and can call war unjust while working to undermine peace.
    I am not fooled.